The Sideshow

Archive for September 2002

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Monday, 30 September 2002

02:01 BST: Permalink

What if your 21st birthday were a death sentence? Nick has 145 days left.

Republican Don Nickles of Oklahoma said the Democrats in Baghdad sounded like "spokespersons for the Iraqi government."

Gore to give new policy speech.

Lego Star Wars! (Via Greg Greene.)

Sunday, 29 September 2002

17:10 BST: Permalink

Thank Gore!

I don't know much about Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton, and for all I know he's been saying Go Slow on Iraq all along, but now it's in The Washington Post:

What a difference an administration makes.

Congressional leaders who are hurrying votes on Iraq had very different views when the president was a Democrat named Bill Clinton. They made more sense back then.

After Saddam Hussein bounced U.N. inspectors in January 1998, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said on Feb. 12: "I had hoped that we could get to the point where we could pass a resolution this week on Iraq. But we really developed some physical problems, if nothing else. . . . So we have decided that the most important thing is not to move so quickly but to make sure that we have had all the right questions asked and answered and that we have available to us the latest information about what is . . . happening with our allies in the world.

"The Senate is known for its deliberate actions. And the longer I stay in the Senate, the more I have learned to appreciate it. It does help to give us time to think about the potential problems and the risks and the ramifications and to, frankly, press the administration."

The Republican-controlled Senate took five more months to pass a resolution that year, and it did not authorize President Clinton to use military force. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Senate also deliberated five months before authorizing what became the Persian Gulf War.

Yet now Congress is being rushed to pre-approve whatever President Bush decides to do, which includes something no president has done before: start a war. According to researchers at the Library of Congress, the United States has never in its 213-year history launched a preemptive attack against another country.


During the past 50 years, our leaders have confronted dangerous dictators who possessed weapons of mass destruction. Yet they protected our country and the planet by preventing war, not by starting one. Some members of Congress and the administration are now demanding that we rush to vote so that we can rush to war. Such haste is unnecessary, reckless and foolish.

Gore's speech was one that had to be made, and it had to be made whether Gore is planning to run for the presidency again or not. It had to be made because the principles our country stands for matter, and because too many people had forgotten that. And because it's insane to rush into potential bloodbath without stopping to ask if it's a good idea. Although Gore has been accused by the Republicans of political opportunism, it's a silly charge - especially coming from them; their reaction to 9/11 has been political opportunism, but Gore has done what had to be done. Rob Humenik made a quick analysis after the speech:

In effect, Gore provided the blueprint for the Democrats to take a stand on the issue of Iraq and pre-emption (though he received scant coverage from major media outlets). I wonder if it will be enough to motivate the Democrats to begin questioning the administration more frequently and forcefully. This is not to say that a war with Iraq should be out of the question, rather that Congress should not rubber-stamp the President's Iraq resolution or accept Bush's new pre-emptive doctrine without question.

On a more political note, there was a lot of talk on MSNBC as to whether this speech means that Gore is officially in the ring for 2004. I am not convinced that his purpose was to deliver this speech as candidate Gore. As I mentioned before, this speech is a good read, but Gore’s delivery of the speech did not seem to be an attempt to drum up campaign support. In fact, the actual delivery of the speech was not impressive. I think Gore, who is essentially the leader of the Democratic Party, was trying to get his fellow Democrats to wake up and start asking questions. If the purpose of Bush's speech to the UN was to make a case for going to war, Gore's purpose was to provide a rebuttal.

It does seem to have done the trick. Amusingly, the right-wing hate machine, by reacting with such venom and derision to the speech, gave it the publicity the "respectable" media had not - although, to be fair, The Washington Post does have Dan Balz's story listed as a front-pager. (But I see when I actually go to the page it's in the Federal Page section. Where did it actually appear in the print edition? In the IHT it really was on the front page, above the fold, with a good photo.) But Wednesday's paper had this:

Dozens of congressional Democrats are frustrated with their leadership for rushing to embrace President Bush's Iraqi war resolution and fostering an impression the party overwhelmingly backs a unilateral strike against Saddam Hussein.

Some are now looking to former president Jimmy Carter and former vice president Al Gore to help generate significant public opposition to unilateral action in Iraq, which they concede is an uphill and likely unwinnable battle. They also are drafting alternative congressional resolutions that would require Bush to win United Nations approval before attempting to oust the Iraqi leader.

Why do they "concede" that generating significant public opposition to unilateral action in Iraq is "an uphill and likely unwinnable battle"? And why would a reporter use that verb? These lawmakers may think it, but the use of the word "concede" instead suggests that they were pressed to say so against their wills and in the face of overwhelming fact. What overwhelming fact says that there isn't significant public opposition to unilateral "action" (invasion)? It doesn't appear to me that support for invasion is all that strong - indeed, the problem isn't the public at all, it's the media, who are still too often unwilling to acknowledge that Bush is being rash and careless (to put it charitably). The poll numbers reflect far more thoughtfulness on the part of the public than we have seen from politicians and the press.

And then in Friday's IHT I found this editorial which originated in the NYT:

President George W. Bush and the Democrats in Congress are suddenly in meltdown mode over the issue of who is playing politics on the eve of a possible war with Iraq. Bush has begun using the campaign against terrorism in his stump speeches, declaring that Democrats are "not interested in the security of the American people." On Wednesday Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, fired back with an impassioned denunciation of Bush. Meanwhile, Al Gore is accusing the president of being political, and being accused of the same thing by the White House. None of this is unhealthy. We just wish that all this intensity was being directed at the issue of Iraq instead of at people's political motives.
That might have been fair comment if they'd left out the sentence about Gore, but the fact is that Gore's speech was about the issues of terrorism and Iraq, and it wasn't until the Q&A afterward that someone asked Gore if he thought the administration was motivated by politics. (He seemed reluctant, but said he thought that might be true.) And then they say:

Gore no doubt made a political calculation in deciding to attack the war against Iraq. The mere impudence of his thinking that he might have something to say has alarmed many let's-change-the-subject Democrats and sent Republicans into a gleeful litany of personal attacks against a favorite enemy. But the fact is that many Democrats in Congress who are rushing to get a resolution passed say privately they agree with Gore, who accused the White House of botching the campaign against terrorism and mobilizing the United States for war with Iraq to avoid having to talk about its economic failures.
Pardon me while I gape: "impudence"? It's hard to tell whether the NYT was making an ironic comment about the behavior of Democrats or actually saying it was impudent of the man the people elected to the presidency to actually speak on a subject of vital importance to the nation, but it's certainly not too much to expect The New York Times to refrain from allowing room for such an inference. Every politician makes "a political calculation" before making a public statement on any even mildly controversial issue, and it would be silly to expect Gore not to have considered both the advantages and disadvantages - to himself, to the party, and to the nation - of his making such a statement. It is downright sleazy of the NYT to have pointed it out as if there is something special about Gore having done so.

Nevertheless, it's nice to see newspaper pieces, including this one, that state forthrightly what the rest of us already knew:

It is not, and should not be, possible to debate sending troops into battle without people getting passionate and angry. There is no more grave obligation for members of the House and Senate than to look carefully at such a question. The Bush administration has to recognize the legitimate concerns of lawmakers who do not want to give the president a blank check to wage war wherever he wants in the region and without any initial steps being taken to try to avoid a conflict. Casting slurs on the patriotism of anyone who raises a question is unfair and borders on un-American.

Saturday, 28 September 2002

21:00 BST: Permalink

The Polls

Over at The Hill, James G. Wieghart asks, Bush’s high approval rating — Is it for real?

LAKE, Mich. — The big mystery out here in the land of woods and lakes is: Who are the pollsters polling when they keep coming up with such high numbers for President Bush’s approval rating?

The people I talk to around here — farmers, insurance salesmen, factory workers, food service employees and retirees — have very little good to say about the president’s performance thus far.

In general, they regard him as a lightweight, out of his depth, a show-and-tell president who scares them with his constant talk about widening the “War against Terrorism” and his repeated assurances that the economy is basically sound when it is obviously in the tank.

This is not partisan carping either. While Bush failed to carry Michigan in 2000, mid-Michigan is hardly a Democratic stronghold. It is an area that voted solidly for our outgoing three-term Republican governor, John Engler, and has consistently elected Republicans to Congress and the state Legislature.

Like most Americans elsewhere, people around here rallied around the president and his War on Terrorism after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. But serious questions are now being raised as to the pace and scope of that war, and the effectiveness of the steps taken thus far to make Americans more secure from terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, Joan Walsh is ready to re-elect Gore in 2004:

The last week has turned me around. If Gore keeps hammering Bush, he'll have my vote, and plenty of others, too. Give-'em-hell Al is reasserting his claim on the Democratic nomination. If he's playing politics, that's fine with me. This is the way politics is supposed to be played: with conviction, and to win.
I love the picture at the top of that one, too.

20:30 BST: Permalink
DC DEMO: Max has your free speech right here:

This story also makes clear the police intent to prevent assembly. Now the unsympathetic may find it amusing that demonstrators were foolish to trust that the police would keep to their word. What a hoot; trusting the police. But this episode will be remembered and cooperation next time will not be an important objective of protestors. Illegal activity beyond civil disobedience is logically the responsibility of the police at this point, since they have shown their disinterest in cooperating with non-violent protest. Up to now, despite Chief Ramsey's babbling about the threat of violence, the only such incidents was one episode where some windows at a Citibank were broken and some smoke bombs set. Perhaps the Chief was referring to the threat of violence by his own men, which has not proved to be lacking.

I will not hold my breath for an explosion of dismay by those on the Right who profess to love liberty. They have not figured out that liberty includes the right to be unlike themselves.

20:00 BST: Permalink
Alex Frantz has a little primer on how to smear Al Gore, and raises an interesting question: What can we make of the likes of Instapundit, who continue to purvey these smears? Surely Glenn Reynolds cannot possibly be so ignorant that he still doesn't know that you can't believe a single thing the right wing says about Gore, especially if a lot of people on the right wing are saying it. When someone - particularly a right-wing source - tells you about the latest evil by Al Gore, you'd have to be a real idiot to respond with anything other than a lot of distrust and questions about what the real story is.

15:21 BST: Permalink
Dwight Meredith makes a thorough analysis of the coursening our public discourse that is well worth reading:

It is not our intention to rehash any or all of those charges. It is not our purpose to decide if any of those attacks were parody, comedy, fair comment, justified by conduct on the other side, responses to the Bork hearings or any other justification. We have opinions as to which side was the larger offender and so, probably, does each reader. It is not the purpose of this article to settle those debates. Our point is that the political culture was rotten and George W. Bush rightly promised to clean it up.

With the passage of almost two years since the election, it is possible to assess whether or not George Bush kept his promise to change the tone and be a uniter and not a divider. The evidence to date suggests that President Bush has broken his promise. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that the Democrats have attempted to dampen the divisive rhetoric while the administration tends to whip up divisiveness.

15:10 BST: Permalink
On the Radio

I've actually started building my page on media concentration, which hasn't come very far but if you have good links on the subject, by all means send them.

Meanwhile, has two items on doings on the radio:

13:15 BST: Permalink
Spine sighting:

Democrat Mike Feeley vowed Wednesday night to single out "every chicken-hawk Republican running for office" if President Bush doesn't apologize for making political remarks about the possible war on Iraq.

Feeley, who is running for the 7th Congressional District, followed the lead of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who earlier in the day harshly criticized Bush.

An emotional Daschle demanded that Bush apologize to the American people for saying that the Democratic-controlled Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Daschle misstated comments Bush made earlier this week. Fleischer said Bush believes that if the Senate does not pass legislation to create a new Department of Homeland Security, "the security of our country will not have been protected."

Feeley, a former Marine, came out swinging at an evening debate at Red Rocks Community College, saying he was "really upset with our president right now."

"It is not the time to play politics with the possibility of going to war with Iraq and the possibility of losing young American lives," Feeley said.

If he doesn't get an apology, Feeley said, "we'll play politics.

"I'll talk about every chicken-hawk Republican running for office - who never served a day in uniform defending this nation - asking for your vote so they can go to Washington and send someone else's child to war."

Not enough spine. Time to call 'em what they really are. Then again, Alan Bisbort at American Politics Journal has this diagnosis:

Whether George W. Bush is or was an alcoholic is not the point here. I am taking him at his word that he stopped what he termed "heavy drinking" in 1986, at age 40. The point here is that, based on Bush's recent behavior, he could very well be a "dry drunk." Of course, he may just be an immature bully who will gladly sacrifice thousands of lives to get his way even against the advice of the most respected and mature members of his own party.

Still, Bush's past battles with the bottle are worth pondering at a time like this, one of the most dangerous in the nation's history. When a recovering alcoholic begins to engage in what AA calls "stinking thinking," he or she begins to exhibit the old attitudes and pathologies of their drinking years. These include an increase in anxiety, mild tremors, mild depression, disturbed sleep patterns, inability to think clearly, craving for junk food, irritability, sudden bursts of anger and unpredictable mood swings. According to AA literature, "Boredom and listlessness may alternate with intense feelings of resentment against family and friends, and explosive outbursts of violence."
The question is then begged, and seems to at least deserve some pause for pondering: how did he, at age 58, get so fumble-tongued, incapable of stringing more than two coherent sentences together, snippily irritable with anyone who dares disagree with him or even ask a question, poutily turning his back on the democratically elected president of one of our most important allies because of something one of his underlings said about him (Germany's Schroder, of course), listlessly in need of constant vacations and rest, dangerously obsessed with only one thing (Iraq), to the exclusion of all other things (including an economy that is slowly sucking the life from the nation as ! well as the retirement savings of anyone reading these words)?

Furthermore, why is Bush so eager to engage in violence and so incapable of explaining why?

For drunks to function for any length of time in the world, they need enablers. Congress is filling that bill splendidly right now for Bush. As BuzzFlash put it about the recent corporate scandals, "For most of his adult life, those people around him enabled Bush's alcoholism. Now the Democratic Senate is enabling the corporate corruption problem of his administration by not using their Constitutional powers to demand the truth."
But we can't look away. George W. Bush needs an intervention. Let's be his interveners. Let's raise our sober voices. Let's ask questions, demand more than temper tantrums and pouting from the Commander in Chief. Let's do this before it's too late and a dry drunk's dream of glory becomes our national nightmare.

Friday, 27 September 2002

14:16 BST: Permalink has a video link for Gore's Iraq speech, now. And meanwhile, he's made a new speech - no transcripts or video, yet, but it's their top story:

WILMINGTON, Del. - - Former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday that some of the Bush administration's security measures in the past year amount to an "attack on civil liberties."

In his second strong criticism of administration policies this week - - he said Monday that moves toward war with Iraq harm the anti-terror effort - - Gore said "highly questionable" decisions are being made in the criminal justice system.

"What's going on nationally, with the attack on civil liberties, with American citizens in some cases just disappearing without right to counsel, without access to a lawyer, I think that is disgraceful," he said.

"I think we need to stand up for our principles in this country and stand up for what this nation represents, even as we face the terrible dangers that we have to confront in the world today."

Salon also has the story (I know 'cause Atrios said so) with more details:

Speaking at a Democratic fund-raising breakfast in Wilmington, Del., Gore took issue with the administration's handling of intelligence information prior to the Sept. 11 attacks and for its treatment of some terrorism suspects since then.

"The warnings were there" before the attacks, Gore said. He asserted that Bush's Justice Department had devoted more time and agents to investigating a suspected brothel in New Orleans than to monitoring bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.

13:52 BST: Permalink
The amazing Mike Ford, whose moving "110 Stories" you may remember, has produced a response to the thread about Frank & Jessie James at Electrolite - which cracked me up. Go enjoy it, and then remember that sf authors with pre-existing conditions, no matter how brilliant they are, have lousy medical insurance. Isn't it time you contributed to the Mike Ford Trust?

13:15 BST: Permalink
War on Terra

Bush's reprehensible document is so appalling that even Molly Ivins is at a loss for jokes:

No. This is not acceptable. This is not the country we want to be. This is not the world we want to make.

The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood.
"The National Security Strategy of the United States -- 2002" is repellent, unnecessary and, above all, impractical. Americans are famous for pragmatism, and we need a good dose of common sense right now. This Will Not Work.
This creepy, un-American document has a pedigree going back to Bush I, when -- surprise! -- Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz were at the Department of Defense and both were such geniuses that they not only didn't see the collapse of the Soviet Union coming, but they didn't believe it after they saw it.

In those days, this plan for permanent imperial adventurism was called "Defense Strategy for the 1990s" and was supposed to be a definitive response to the Soviet threat. Then the Soviet threat disappeared, and the same plan re-emerged as a response to the post-Soviet world.

It was roundly criticized at the time, its manifest weaknesses attacked by both right and left. Now it is back yet again as the answer to post-Sept. 11. Sort of like the selling of the Bush tax cut -- needed in surplus, needed in deficit, needed for rain and shine -- the plan exists apart from rationale. As Frances Fitzgerald points out in the Sept. 26 New York Review of Books, its most curious feature is the combination of triumphalism and almost unmitigated pessimism.

Until Friday, when the thing was re-released in its new incarnation, it contained no positive goals for American foreign policy -- not one. Now the plan is tricked out with rhetoric like earrings on a pig about extending freedom, democracy and prosperity to the world. But as The New York Times said, "It sounds more like a pronouncement that the Roman Empire or Napoleon might have produced."

And Richard Cohen is worried about the historical perspectives of Bush's advisors:

The breach between Germany and the United States has produced an odd but possibly illuminating rewriting of history. I am referring not to the stupid remark of the German justice minister in which she purportedly likened President Bush's tactics to those of Hitler but to the response that came from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: How could any German say such a thing after all the United States had done to liberate Germany from Hitler?

The problem is that Germany was not liberated. Instead, Germans fought on behalf of a criminal regime until the bitter end. They fought even after defeat was certain. They fought after U.S. troops had crossed into Germany from the west and Soviet troops from the east. They ceased fighting only after Hitler killed himself. Then and only then was Germany "liberated."

Rice made her remark to the Financial Times, a British newspaper. She understandably expressed dismay at what the German justice minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, had said, because it truly was in rotten taste. Even that opportunistic critic of U.S. policy, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, felt obliged to write Bush a letter of apology, and yesterday he accepted Daeubler-Gmelin's resignation.

But Rice went on: "How can you use the name of Hitler and the name of the president of the United States in the same sentence? Particularly, how can a German [say such a thing], given the devotion of the U.S. in the liberation of Germany from Hitler?"

Coming from a student of history, this is bad history. It happens to coincide with what the Communist East German government once held: Hitler was imposed on the German people. This is why the Communist East, as opposed to the democratic West, paid no reparations to Holocaust survivors. What happened, the Communists contended, wasn't the fault of Germans.

A single remark does not a doctrine make, and it's possible Rice merely misspoke. But I cannot overlook how much Saddam Hussein is being likened to Hitler (and Bush to Churchill) and how some influential people are arguing, in essence, that the United States will not be making war on Iraq, it will be liberating it. The personification of that thinking is the defense intellectual and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle: "If I had to guess, I would predict that Hussein ultimately would be destroyed by his own forces, whose loyalty he has good reason to question."

And Selig Harrison says in the IHT that The Bush team is letting Pakistan drift toward chaos:

As evidence mounts that Pakistan is now the global hub of Qaeda operations, Musharraf is raising his price for cooperation with Washington, demanding large-scale military aid, including F-16 fighter jets, on top of the bonanza of economic aid already showered on Islamabad since Sept. 11.

Equally important, he made clear during his U.S. visit last week that he plans to perpetuate his military regime indefinitely and expects Washington to look the other way when he rigs the Pakistani elections next month.

So far the Bush administration has allowed Musharraf to call the tune. The Pentagon has just approved $230 million in subsidized military sales to Pakistan and has opened a dialogue with Islamabad on its military needs in a newly reactivated Defense Consultative Committee.

At the same time, the White House has been craven in its tacit approval of Musharraf's steady assumption of dictatorial powers during recent months, climaxed by his promulgation of 29 constitutional amendments that allow him to dissolve an elected National Assembly at will and to make all important appointments to the armed forces, the judiciary and provincial governorships without legislative approval.

The Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has predicted "an inevitable political crisis, either before or after the elections," pointing to increasingly bitter opposition to the military regime from all political parties, outraged by election rules that bar most established political figures from running for office.

At best, Pakistan is likely to be engulfed in growing instability in the months ahead that will make it easier for Islamic extremists to operate. In the worst-case scenario, Musharraf's fellow generals will decide that he is more of a liability that an asset, opening the way for a series of military coups in which a hard-line Islamic extremist sympathizer such as General Mohammed Aziz, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could well come out on top.

Thursday, 26 September 2002

14:50 BST: Permalink

"Gore Nails it," said Liberal Oasis Tuesday in response to the President-elect's speech on Iraq. And more than that, despite the usual alleged sniping from unnamed Democrats (and named Joe Liebermans):

The fact is, Gore saved the Democratic Party yesterday, even if the party doesn't realize it.
I agree. There is a later post talking about the problem of those anonymous snipers, who are actually damaging the Democratic Party greatly. It's about time someone told the party leadership that there are an enormous number of Democrats - probably more than half the party's base - who just about throw up when they see the Dem leadership trying to act like Bush clones. People who are not so faithful to the party - those much-sought-after swing voters - see only the attacks on Democrats and don't contextualize it, so it just makes the party and all its candidates look bad. If Democrats are actually saying these things, they should indeed shut up.

(And I can't help but wonder if they are the same people who also say this stuff publicly, who then give anonymous quotes to make it look like there are more of them than there really are. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find the likes of Howard Fineman aiding and abetting such dishonesty. I'd like to see members of the press challenge those people - like Lieberman - to confirm that they have not been the source of such unattributed sabotage.)

Meanwhile, Gore and Daschle aren't the only ones to have spoken out, now, and Howard Dean is actually stepping up:

Dean, who spoke Monday night at the Iowa Memorial Union, also said he would endorse a pre-emptive strike against Iraq if it can be proven that Saddam Hussein has access to weapons of mass destruction and the means to discharge them. He said President Bush has never proven that case.

"Pre-emption is not off the table, but the moral high ground does matter," Dean told the audience of roughly 60 people. "It's important that others respect our decision, and it's important that we respect our own decision."
"I'm tired of being bullied by the right wing," he said. "We're going to bring this country back to the middle. Our president has taken us so far to the right, we've forgotten what the middle looks like."

There are stirrings in even the Washington press corps, and I really recommend reading the transcript of Wednesday's briefing:

Q The President, whenever he talks about homeland defense on the stump, says something to the effect of the Senate is more interested in special interests than in the interests of the security of the American people. On Monday, and at least one other time this month, he has said instead that the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people. When he said that Monday, and he said it in Kentucky, did he misspeak? Or does he really believe that Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people?

MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, this is a policy debate, where people have said of the President, in terms of his positions on these flexibility measures that I just cited, they have differences with the President. And the President has differences, and he's working with the Democrats and Republicans to bring people together so that we can have a homeland security department. And that's where the President is on this.

Now, in terms of what the President said, I'm aware of the debate that is taking place on Capitol Hill, and the accusations that have been made about the President on this. And now is a time for everybody concerned to take a deep breath, to stop finger-pointing, and to work well together to protect our national security and our homeland defense.
[more Ari-babble]

Q I appreciate that. But the question wasn't about what Senator Daschle said; it's what the President said in that speech and in one in Kentucky, where he says -- I'm taking his words literally -- "the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people." Did the President mean to say that the Senate is not interested in the security of the American people, or did he misspeak?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no doubt about it. If this does not pass into law because special interest provisions will have prevailed, the Senate will not have acted in the best interests of the American people. And the interests of the special interests will have been put ahead, and the result will be that the Senate will not have acted in that interest, for the national security.

Q Sorry, I don't want to be argumentative here, but you're not responding to the question, because that's not what the President said. The President said, "the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people." Did he mean to say that the Senate is not interested in the security of the American people, or did he misspeak? It's one of the two.

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is stating the fact that unless and until this passes, the Senate will not have acted in the interests of the security of the American people. Homeland security is just that; it is the security of the American people.

Q That's not what he said. He said, "the Senate is not interested in the security of the American people." He didn't say "if" or "whether" or "but."

MR. FLEISCHER: He made that --

Q He said, "the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people." Did he mean to say that, or did he misspeak?

And the amazing thing is, that's only one of the exchanges, with one reporter, among several at this session. And none of them appears to be Helen Thomas.

13:06 BST: Permalink
There's a maddening lack of permalinks on Headblast's broadsheet-style front page, but it's fun to read and a bit too quotable. Wow, I can remember when I had that kind of energy - and coffee can compensate for only so much. Much is quotable, so here's just one:

Nixon Rises From Hell

Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, speaking out against Bush administration attempts to seize autocratic power and conduct a war with no consent, said, "For all of their blustering about how al-Qaida is determined to strike at our freedoms, this administration shows little appreciation for the constitutional doctrines and processes that have preserved those freedoms for more than two centuries ... I have not seen such executive arrogance and secrecy since the Nixon administration, and we all know what happened to that group." Interesting choice of words. What indeed did happen to that group? Some of them -- Cheney and Rumsfeld for example -- have resurfaced and are in control of the government right now. See The West Virginia Gazette.

12:00 BST: Permalink
Dick Cheney spot

Cheney responds to Iraq's agreement to weapons inspections


Wednesday, 25 September 2002

23:24 BST: Permalink


Bush said: "The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people."

Daschle said: "That is wrong. We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death."

And: "You tell those who fought in Vietnam and World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people because they are Democrats. That is outrageous. Outrageous."

And: "I didn't make up those quotes from pollsters and from Karl Rove about how important the war is as a political issue."

And then the Republicans complained that Daschle's response was "unhelpful".

You know, I am running out of vocabulary. I just don't seem to have enough words left to characterize these nasty, mendacious little weasels who are infesting the White House.

18:31 BST: Permalink
Tapped has an interesting entry about Bill Keller's article on Wolfowitz, in which they refer to an old piece by Jonathan Chait about confusing personality with political stance. The Chait piece is one I didn't see at the time, so looking at it two years later I was interested to see that he, too was talking about how Bush was conveying the impression that he was moderate while, in fact, telegraphing that he was a rightwing fruitcake. A lot of centrists, alas, were picking up the former message rather than the latter.

Last Monday, George W. Bush visited a retirement home to discuss Medicare and prescription drugs. On Tuesday, his topic again was health care. On Wednesday, he turned to the environment. On Thursday, it was education and the achievement gap. The theme, his campaign explained, was "Real Plans for Real People."

Or, put another way, "I'm a moderate"--which has been the message behind practically every Bush slogan for the last year. "Compassionate conservatism" meant "I'm different from the Republican Congress." "Reformer With Results" meant "I'm as different from the Republican Congress as John McCain is." Bush's convention refrain--"They have not led. We will"--meant "I'll pursue the same goals as the Clinton-Gore administration, only more effectively." "Real Plans for Real People" means "My policies are as mainstream as Al Gore's."

Given the political landscape--most voters support the Democratic positions on major issues--Bush's message of moderation is good strategy. It is also a lie. In the substance of his program, Bush is running to the right of Bob Dole in 1996 and to the right of today's Republican Congress. His proposed policies, if enacted, would alter government more dramatically than anything in the last three generations. "We will look back at the Bush years," predicts GOP activist Grover Norquist, "as moving the country further and faster toward individual liberty than the Reagan years." Conservative columnists George Will and Lawrence Kudlow have independently hailed Bush and Dick Cheney as the Republican Party's most conservative ticket since Calvin Coolidge. Accordingly, conservatives--the same cantankerous bunch that castigated stalwarts like Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott as apostates--have fallen behind Bush in lockstep.

And yet Bush's true radicalism has not been wellunderstood outside the right. The mainstream media generally describes W. as a Republican counterpart to Bill Clinton--a moderate who, as USA Today put it, will "govern from the center, rejecting the shrill conservative absolutism that turned off swing voters after Republicans won control of Congress in 1994." And so, by this interpretation, the right's embrace of Bush is a calculated compromise born of desperation for victory.

But the proper ideological analogue for Bush is not Clinton in 1992 but Michael Dukakis in 1988. Clinton captured the center by confronting his party's base on issues such as the death penalty, welfare, and tax cuts. Dukakis, by contrast, hewed to liberal policies but tried to escape liberalism's stigma by emphasizing his personal qualities. He sought to allay fears that he was a big spender, for instance, not by proposing domestic budget cuts but by stressing his personal frugality. Bush, similarly, has upheld conservative dogma while stressing his tolerant and compassionate style. The mystery is not why conservatives see Bush as a man of the right but why so many moderates and liberals do not.
But the stereotype has stuck, and Bush's masterstroke has been to embrace it. He has invoked conservatism and compassion as a kind of yin and yang, as if merging the two concepts into a Republican third way. He surrounds himself with African American and Latino children, thereby illustrating his promise to "leave no child behind," while steering clear of the Republican Congress, which presumably wants to do just that. When Bush unveiled his prescription-drug plan two weeks ago, he began by praising Medicare, the quintessential Great Society program, and implicitly acknowledging that past generations of Republicans had erred in trying to tear it down. But, if you listen closely, it becomes clear that Bush believes traditional conservative policies have been compassionate all along. "It is conservative to cut taxes," he has said. "It's compassionate to let people keep more of their own money." Bush's frequent declarations of kindheartedness do not represent a break from right-wing policies; they represent a new way of portraying them. Bush has said it himself. "The Republican Party," he once declared, "must put a compassionate face on a conservative philosophy."

There's much more in the article, and it's a shame its content wasn't more widely known in 2000. Still worth reading, though.

18:02 BST: Permalink
Maureen Dowd is using her powers for Good, again:

Don't feel bad if you have the uneasy feeling that you're being steamrolled. You are not alone.

As my girlfriend Dana said: "Bush is like the guy who reserves a hotel room and then asks you to the prom."

As the Pentagon moves troops, carriers, covert agents and B-2 bombers into the Persian Gulf, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld continue their pantomime of consultation.

When Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota asked the defense chief on Thursday, "What is compelling us to now make a precipitous decision and take precipitous actions?" an exasperated Mr. Rumsfeld sputtered: "What's different? What's different is 3,000 people were killed."

The casus belli is casuistry belli: We can't cuff Saddam to 9/11, but we'll clip Saddam because of 9/11.

Mr. Rumsfeld offered sophistry instead of a smoking gun: "I suggest that any who insist on perfect evidence are back in the 20th century and still thinking in pre-9/11 terms."

Ah, Rummy. Evidence, civil liberties, debating before we go to war . . . it's all sooo 20th century.

17:19 BST: Permalink
Adam Cohen in the NYT last Sunday: Justice Rehnquist's Ominous History of Wartime Freedom

When America is at war, according to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, people have to get used to having less freedom. There is a limit to what courts will do to help those deprived of rights, he says, because judges have a natural "reluctance" to rule "against the government on an issue of national security during wartime." In fact, there is "some truth," he concludes, to the Latin maxim "inter arma silent leges" - in time of war, the law is silent.

With all of the war talk today - the so-called war on terror and the prospect of a real one in Iraq - it may sound as if the chief justice is laying the groundwork for a drastic rollback in civil liberties. But these reflections come from a history book, "All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime," that he wrote four years ago. When it came out, "All the Laws but One" seemed like an academic exercise. But with several major terrorism cases headed to the Supreme Court, court watchers are starting to pick it up as a possible guidebook.

If Mr. Rehnquist the jurist sees the world as Mr. Rehnquist the historian does, there is cause for concern.

The Supreme Court term that begins next month could prove momentous. It will be the justices' first chance to rule on the impact on civil liberties from the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath. The court could resolve several key questions: whether American citizens can be held indefinitely without access to lawyers simply because they have been labeled "enemy combatants," whether terrorism suspects can be held in secret detention and whether their deportation hearings can be closed to the public.

"All the Laws but One," which discusses civil liberties during the Civil War and World Wars I and II, does not answer those questions. But its central message is that in wartime, the balance between order and freedom tips toward order. In recounting the history, Justice Rehnquist gives all the arguments for order, and far too few for freedom. The people whose liberties are taken away are virtually invisible.
Justice Rehnquist's eagerness to see things from the viewpoint of those charged with keeping order - and his relative lack of concern about their victims - could have important implications for the cases the court hears this term. If the justices think only of terrorism and the threat to national security, they may be inclined to uphold whatever restrictions the Bush administration imposes. The more they actually consider the people being held in secret, or denied the right to see a lawyer, the more likely they are to appreciate the costs of those policies.

Another problem with "All the Laws but One" is its contention that presidents cannot be reined in during wartime, so it is pointless to try. Justice Rehnquist quotes, with approval, Francis Biddle, President Franklin Roosevelt's attorney general, who said, "The Constitution has not greatly bothered any wartime president." The opposite case can be made. When President Harry Truman tried to seize the nation's steel mills during the Korean War - arguing that an impending strike threatened national security - he backed down when the Supreme Court objected. Other presidents would probably be just as compliant.

But the most disturbing aspect of Justice Rehnquist's book is the lack of outrage, or even disappointment, he evinces when rights are sacrificed. The greatest American patriots have been eloquent about the danger of letting freedom lapse even briefly. Benjamin Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." There are times when Justice Rehnquist sees the wisdom of standing up to wartime fervor - he is particularly good about the importance of freedom of speech and assembly. But too often, giving up essential liberty for temporary safety seems an easy call for him.

Shortly after "All the Laws but One" came out, in an interview on C-Span, Justice Rehnquist was asked what he thought of writing books. "It's very nice," he responded, "to be able to write something you don't have to get four other people to agree with you [on] before it can become authoritative." This may be the term when we see which of these views he can get four justices to agree with him on. His colleagues should be cautious. If we keep sacrificing "one" law to save "all the laws," there will eventually be no laws left to save.

Tuesday, 24 September 2002

22:54 BST: Permalink

Pardon me if I understated the case earlier:

U.S. sent Iraq germs in mid-'80s

WASHINGTON - American research companies, with the approval of two previous presidential administrations, provided Iraq biological cultures that could be used for biological weapons, according to testimony to a U.S. Senate committee eight years ago.

West Nile Virus, E. coli, anthrax and botulism were among the potentially fatal biological cultures that a U.S. company sent under U.S. Commerce Department licenses after 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president, according to the Senate testimony.

The Commerce Department under the first Bush administration also authorized eight shipments of cultures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later classified as having "biological warfare significance."

Between 1985 and 1989, the Senate testimony shows, Iraq received at least 72 U.S. shipments of clones, germs and chemicals ranging from substances that could destroy wheat crops, give children and animals the bone-deforming disease rickets, to a nerve gas rated a million times more lethal than Sarin.

Disclosures about such shipments in the late 1980s not only highlight questions about old policies but pose new ones, such as how well the American military forces would be protected against such an arsenal - if one exists - should the United States invade Iraq.

17:38 BST: Permalink
Josh Marshall has a thoughtful post at Talking Points Memo on language, Iraq, Orwell, "regime change", and the debate about the war. He notes that lots of people are quoting Orwell, often in ways that seem inconsistent with Orwell's own writings. The favorite, he notes, is the 1946 article 'Politics and the English Language', in which Orwell calls a euphemism a euphemism. Says Orwell:

Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
Marshall says:

Which brings us back to 'regime change.' Like many phrases Orwell had at, 'regime change' is one that comes with the evasion and concealment prepackaged within it. We all know more or less what the phrase means: the violent otherthrow of one government and its replacement with another, chosen by the power which overthrew the first one, or, in other words, by us. So why not say so? Using an abstract and antiseptic phrase like 'regime change' for a process which is neither abstract or antiseptic is corrupting.
Actually, I think overthrow of government is still euphemistic; what we've clearly been asked to support, above anything else, is the idea of getting rid of one man, and his probable replacement with another who is not necessarily much different. Assassination, in other words, seems to be the priority. (Unless, that is, you think making all-out war to boost Bush's power and poll numbers is what we're really being asked to support.) This is one of the things that sits badly with some people who are watching the debate: if the target is Saddam Hussein, which it really does seem to be, why are we preparing to make war on an entire country? (And, for that matter, what makes anyone so sure the new boss will be all that much better than the old boss?)

I don't pretend that the short-hand of 'regime change' is the end of the world in itself. But it is the exposed tip of an extremely dishonest public debate -- one in which assertions which are widely understood to be false are stated and not corrected, in which important distinctions are clouded with obscuring phrases, and in which discussion of the long-term consequences of specific actions are trumped by slogans. And that's a very big deal.
Well, yes, it is, but "weapons of mass destruction" is one of those slogans, and it is hardly opaque. But it is waved in our faces a lot in order to make us forget that we are supposed to be at war with extremist Islamist fundamentalists, not just some despot who happens to have fallen out of favor with the Bush family. In the hands of this administration, "Let's Roll!" is used for this purpose. We are supposed to be whipped up into a mindless frenzy of grief, anger and fear so overwhelming that we forget who actually did this thing that launched us down this road in the first place.

The lack of serious debate is not limited to the hawks. The opponents of deposing Saddam are often similarly muddled. Many Democrats have busied themselves with asking good questions rather than proposing a credible alternative policy. Meanwhile, many people in the peace camp are simply not willing to face seriously the belligerence, recklessness and brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime. They are not willing in most cases to consider the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iraq under Saddam Hussein's control. They often won't face the pressing nature of the issue, one in which time is not necessarily on our side. But mostly these are simply matters of evasion, an unwillingness to seriously consider the issue. There's little of the casual making up of stories that is the staple of this administration's arguments.
I confess to being unfamiliar with any peace-nick apologists for Saddam Hussein, Benevolent Ruler. What I see is mostly people who don't think getting rid of Saddam actually is more important than dealing with Al Qaeda, and many of whom think invading Iraq has too much potential to make the fight against terrorism harder rather than facilitating it.

And then there's this other question: What made Saddam so much more dangerous now than he was not that long ago when he was good pals with the Bush administration? Or even more recently, when he was doing deals with Dick Cheney? (Should we be asking what Cheney sold him that makes Cheney think he's so dangerous now?)

Personally, I have other questions: When has Saddam ever done anything really awful without the permission of the United States? Oh, sure, he invaded Kuwait, but only after Bush's mouthpiece-in-situ, April Glaspie, said it was okay. Yeah, he used WMD against his own people, but that, too, was with the knowledge and lack of objection of the Reagan-Bush administration, who he was chums with at the time. Yes, he doesn't actually have our permission for exploiting the current sanctions as an excuse to starve his people and pretend it's everyone else's fault, but when has the US ever gone to war with someone for letting their people starve?

(Of course, there is always that paranoid little voice in the back row that says, "And wasn't the invasion of Kuwait convenient for a president who was pretty unpopular even with his own base? A little war to make the numbers shoot up? Hmmm...")

It's that feeling that, once again, we are being jerked around by the Bush Family Empire while they play dangerous games in the rest of the world - in our name. And, seriously, while we're all in favor of re-thinking our policies in the region, we see not one reason at all to let Bush, Inc. be in charge of the re-thinking.

12:54 BST: Permalink
Well, looks like Liberal Oasis rendered my entire rant from yesterday pointless:

On the Sunday shows, there was no discussion of last week's House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Iraq, the concerns raised at the hearings by Dems and GOPers, and the holes in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's testimony.

Right now you might be saying, "What hearings? I didn't see any media coverage about any hearings."

That's right, you didn't. But they happened.
This is what everybody wanted. The Administration making the case. Democrats asking questions. And the media yawned.

Damn, I really should know better by now.

12:20 BST: Permalink
The top story at MWO might end up being re-titled, "compassionate conservatives kill my mother." MWO says:

In the latest outrageous assault on ordinary Americans, the White House has announced a proposal for deep reductions in Medicare payments for a wide range of drugs and medical devices which untold numbers of Americans seniors need just to stay alive.
12:01 BST: Permalink
Here is the complete transcript of Al Gore's speech (Via Atrios), and here is how much room Reuters and The Washington Post had for it. I think you'll have to find the whole thing archived on video at C-Span to get the Q&A part after the speech - that's the part where the man who was chosen by the voters to be President of the United States was asked, and answered, questions of real substance - answered them in good humor, thoughtfully, and without dissing any reporters. (But it wasn't one of Al's "on" nights. Still, his delivery was a damn sight better than George "I can only memorize the words in groups of three" Bush ever gives.) Here at The Sideshow, we have room to quote this much:

To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away with it. The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.
On the domestic front, the Administration, having delayed almost ---months before conceding the need to create an institution outside the White House to manage homeland defense, has been willing to see progress on the new department held up, for the sake of an effort to coerce the Congress into stripping civil service protections from tens of thousands of federal employees.

Far more damaging, however, is the Administration's attack on fundamental constitutional rights. The idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without recourse to judicial process or remedies, and that this can be done on the say-so of the President or those acting in his name, is beyond the pale.

Regarding other countries, the Administration's disdain for the views of others is well documented and need not be reviewed here. It is more important to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy that not only celebrates American strengths, but appears to be glorifying the notion of dominance. If what America represents to the world is leadership in a commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legion; if what we represent to the world is empire, then it is our enemies who will be legion.

At this fateful juncture in our history it is vital that we see clearly who are our enemies, and that we deal with them. It is also important, however, that in the process we preserve not only ourselves as individuals, but our nature as a people dedicated to the rule of law.
I believe that we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home without dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in defending ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand for.

Not bad, but I think Gore needs to read more weblogs. Although this speech puts him well ahead of most Democrats who are in office right now, I think he needs to see more of the debate on that "regime change" thing.

11:54 BST: Permalink
Sam Heldman eschews a vow of poverty. This is good, righties want us to prove our virtue by being they can have it all. Stupidly, a lot of lefties have actually let themselves get guilted into that way of thinking. (Wake up, Dems! Make money! Buy out all the shares in media companies and take them over!)

11:22 BST: Permalink
Bob Somerby sounds like he's having more fun:

Exactly! Why are conservatives Having More Fun? Because it's easy to Have More Fun when the rules are all stacked in your favor. In the late 60s, Abby Hoffman was Having More Fun — because the weltanschauung of the era allowed pseudo-liberals to say any dumb thing they liked. Now, the same red carpet is rolled out for pseudo-cons, who are allowed to just make their sh*t up. When Coulter tangled with Couric, for example, Mickey Kaus politely pretended that Coulter had won the big battle of words (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/20/02). Kausfiles readers were encouraged not to know the truth about Coulter's — yes — lying.
And Max - oh, well, this is just priceless.

Monday, 23 September 2002

16:59 BST: Permalink

Politics and Partisans

Well, Broder is right for a change, except that he leaves out the fact that all the Democrats have done is join the Republicans in putting Politics Over Principle. Single-minded partisanship has long been the Republican strategy, even when their principles all seemed to be in direct conflict with each other's. (Well, except for shared hatred of programs for the poor, affirmative action, and women's equality.)

One of the most instructive parts of my schedule is the hour spent every other week or so with fellow citizens in the chats that appear on

They are not a cross section -- these are people seriously engaged in politics and public policy -- but the shifting tone and content of their questions and comments offer important clues to the trend of opinion, at least in that influential segment of the population.

Last week's chat was, of course, dominated by the topic of Iraq, with probing questions about U.S. strategy and its chance of success. But a provocative second theme emerged: Where are the Democrats on that issue -- or, for that matter, on any other?

Here are a couple of samples. From Philadelphia: "I'm a Democrat. Considering that talk of an attack on Iraq has dominated the news, I'm really upset that Democrats have done so little to try and neutralize the Republicans on national security issues. Is there any way they can do that? Are there any prominent Democratic politicians who could give their party credibility on foreign policy or national security? Our party should not be at the mercy of the news media by hoping that domestic issues lead the news."

And here's another, from Madison, Wis.: "During the Vietnam War, antiwar forces were vocally represented by Sens. Morse, Gruening, Fulbright, McCarthy, McGovern, Robert Kennedy, etc. But we do not hear antiwar voices in the Senate today. . . . The Democrats are even less likely to voice critical views than the Republicans. . . . Whatever the merits, the restriction of the legitimate boundaries of debate does not seem to be in the interests of our democracy. What's going on?"

Good question. The party certainly has potential spokesmen, including the chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and veterans of the Clinton administration Cabinet and National Security Council. Several things are going on, specific to Iraq. First, Saddam Hussein has no defenders in American public life. Almost everyone would like to see him gone. Second, there's a strong feeling he has been thumbing his nose for years at the United Nations and its inspectors. Third, no alternative strategy to reduce the threat of his using weapons of mass destruction is obvious. Fourth, the president, as commander in chief of the war on terrorism, has a standing that makes almost every politician wary of challenging him.

But there is something deeper -- and less justifiable -- at work. The Democratic leaders in Congress, in both the House and Senate, largely have abandoned principle and long-term strategy for the short-term tactics they think will help them in this November's election.

Well, yeah, you can understand that at this point reducing the Republicans' power really is that important (and since David Broder and his kind appear to have given up principle a long time ago, it's a bit late to suddenly start expecting the Dems to tread a moral high ground that for the last decade got them nowhere. (There seem to be an awful lot of people at The Washington Post who think that only Democrats are obliged to be chaste, principled, honest, and always 100% right. What's up with that?)

Except that I'm not so sure the Democratic leadership has picked such a good strategy. This idea that principle and pragmatism must always be in conflict is, well, lame, and it hasn't worked for us all that well in the past - why cede to the Republicans all the terms of debate, even going so far as to accept the idea that morality (outside of presidential blow-jobs) is a dead issue that is always trumped by bombs and money?

Thing is, everyone has figured out that we are contemplating the invasion of a foreign country, and that lots of people are going to get killed - you know, all that war stuff that might not be good for children and other living things. And even the Republicans are arguing about it. So folks can't really help but notice that the Democrats aren't saying much. It smells bad.

I don't think it would hurt Democrats all that much to keep asking, "What about Al Qaeda? What about finishing what we started in Afghanistan?" and pointing out that when the administration tries to suggest Saddam is in possession of a working nuclear arsenal (or will be before November) this is, well, not likely to be true.

Maybe if David Broder and his colleagues were prepared to show some principle, it would embolden the Democrats. It's not exactly a secret that Bush, Inc. has no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 and that Saddam is not known to have any good reason or ability to start a nuclear exchange. The idea that Saddam would give WMD to religious fanatics is actually pretty whacky, and starting a war against him when we have so little support from other nations has real potential to blow up in our faces - not to mention the faces of our friends who are actually in bombing distance of these people. So how did the American people get the impression that this is not the case?

Well, they got it from the Stepford Press, who happily carry every lie the administration spills, leaks, or states outright in front of god and everyone with a straight face, as if it were undisputed gospel. Perhaps Mr. Broder would like to point out in his columns, and encourage his colleagues to point out (on the front page would be good - above the fold), that as far as anyone knows Iraq is not really all that close to being a nuclear power and they don't have the delivery systems even if they had the bombs.

All that aside, though, Broder is absolutely right that it's past time for the Democrats to stand up, and there are some issues on which their cowardice is not even a little bit justifiable on pragmatic grounds:

An even clearer case is the Democrats' rollover on taxes and the budget. On the same day that the Philadelphia Democrat said Democrats should not rely on the news media to put domestic issues to the fore, Daschle took the Senate floor to start a concerted effort to put Bush on the defensive on the country's economic performance.

The Democrats do not lack for ammunition on that front. From the losses in retirement funds to the scandals in corporate suites to the unwillingness of House Republicans even to risk a vote on the inadequately funded appropriations bill for health and education and welfare, there is plenty for Democrats to criticize.

But the single biggest economic decision Bush has made was to push through a massive tax cut -- and his insistence that its future largess to high-income families not be touched, even though budget surpluses have melted into deficits.

Daschle targeted that Republican policy in his speech, saying, "They have one economic all-purpose antidote for everything, and that is tax cuts -- tax cuts largely dedicated to those at the top." But he and Gephardt made the tactical decision early this year not to challenge those tax cuts, lest the minority of Democrats who voted for them be embarrassed and potentially weakened in their reelection bids.

The Democrats' refusal to face up to that fundamental issue leaves them without credibility for their entire critique of Bush's economic policy.

No wonder those Democrats who contacted me are upset.

Too right. And what's wrong with those Democrats who voted for that tax cut in the first place? And why can't they just now say, "We were wrong"? Gee, it would be embarrassing. Well, that's just too bad. Should the nation be bankrupt because someone might be embarrassed?

And should we be dragged into a war - unnecessarily, and against every principle we have stood for in the past - because the Democrats are afraid to lose seats in an election? The time to attack the Republicans' credibility is before their lies get accepted in the mainstream as "facts". It's hardly as if we don't, as usual, have the evidence on our side. Though the rightist hawks have tried to discredit him, Scott Ritter has been a pretty strong example of principled pragmatism at the expert level. Here he is talking to William Rivers Pitt:

Pitt: Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? Ritter: It's not black-and-white, as some in the Bush administration make it appear. There's no doubt that Iraq hasn't fully complied with its disarmament obligations as set forth by the UN security council in its resolution. But on the other hand, since 1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed: 90-95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability has been verifiably eliminated. This includes all of the factories used to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range ballistic missiles; the associated equipment of these factories; and the vast majority of the products coming out of these factories.

Iraq was supposed to turn everything over to the UN, which would supervise its destruction and removal. Iraq instead chose to destroy - unilaterally, without UN supervision - a great deal of this equipment. We were later able to verify this. But the problem is that this destruction took place without documentation, which means the question of verification gets messy very quickly.

P: Why did Iraq destroy the weapons instead of turning them over?

R: In many cases, the Iraqis were trying to conceal the weapons' existence. And the unilateral destruction could have been a ruse to maintain a cache of weapons of mass destruction by claiming they had been destroyed.

It is important to not give Iraq the benefit of the doubt. Iraq has lied to the international community. It has lied to inspectors. There are many people who believe Iraq still seeks to retain the capability to produce these weapons.

That said, we have no evidence that Iraq retains either the capability or material. In fact, a considerable amount of evidence suggests Iraq doesn't retain the necessary material.

I believe the primary problem at this point is one of accounting. Iraq has destroyed 90 to 95% of its weapons of mass destruction. Okay. We have to remember that this missing 5 to 10% doesn't necessarily constitute a threat. It doesn't even constitute a weapons programme. It constitutes bits and pieces of a weapons programme which, in its totality, doesn't amount to much, but which is still prohibited. Likewise, just because we can't account for it, doesn't mean Iraq retains it. There is no evidence that Iraq retains this material. That is the quandary we are in. We can't give Iraq a clean bill of health, therefore we can't close the book on its weapons of mass destruction. But simultaneously we can't reasonably talk about Iraqi non-compliance as representing a de facto retention of a prohibited capability worthy of war.

It sure sounds to me like there's an important case to be made. The administration and their supporters have made it clear that they don't give a damn, but the only reason anyone has to vote for the Democrats is because we do care. If, that is, we really do.

Or are Democrats hinky about all this for another reason? Ritter continues:

R: When I left Iraq in 1998, when the UN inspection programme ended, the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There's no debate about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor - both from vehicles and from the air - the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything. We can say unequivocally that the industrial infrastructure needed by Iraq to produce nuclear weapons had been eliminated.
What happened later is that the weapons inspectors were pulled out - by the US, who didn't want to hit them when we bombed Iraq. And, um, who did that? Well, for once, it appears, we are not talking about something that didn't happen during the Clinton administration.

03:01 BST: Permalink
Question Mark #18: 'It's Time For Every Son To Be A Soldier'

02:29 BST: Permalink
This story is actually from the NYT but since it may disappear before you read it, check out Atrios, who copied much of it:

Criminal justice experts say they have become increasingly concerned that the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft is moving to exert political control over previously independent agencies within the department that collect crime statistics and grant crime research awards.

At stake, they say, is the integrity of statistics about whether crime is increasing or decreasing and the findings of scholars about what causes crime and how to reduce it.

We will soon be hearing that all crime is caused by pornography and marijuana.

02:16 BST: Permalink
Blog reading

Demosthenes has an interesting thought:

Pretty much everything that the warblogger/neo-conservative right have been calling for is pretty much exactly what Osama wanted, so much so that I wonder whether he wasn't much, much smarter than we've given him credit for. After all, he wanted the U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia, he wanted the House of Saud overthrown, and he wanted war between the west and Islam... and by inflaming the rage of Americans with his attack and then making sure that Al Qaeda is too difficult and diffuse a target to satisfy that rage, he's moved a lot closer to those goals than anyone would have dreamed a while ago.
Toby's Political Diary says Those Who Benefit from the Denial of Freedom are the Enemies of Freedom.

A Level Gaze indicts the administration.

Dwight Meredith doesn't just explain a whole lot about politics and issues, but also compares the GOP to the Mets. Of course, there is one big difference: I have sometimes been known to root for the Mets.

Take it as Red has the story about how a venerable old London bookshop, Housmans, is being squeezed out of business as a result of Britain's stupid libel laws.

The Agora is on the same page with me on where to go looking for terrorists. How come no one else seems to be?

Do not drink anything (especially Pepsi) while reading this post, or indeed anything else Northrup posts.

02:00 BST: Permalink
The righties love to pick on Sebastian Mallaby, which may all by itself be a good reason to read him. Here he is with War, Then It Gets Hard:

The Bush folk have been justly whacked for fighting a war in Afghanistan and then fumbling the reconstruction. But if they repeat this formula in Iraq, their mistake won't be equivalent. It will be worse, much worse. Indeed, it will undermine the whole argument for attacking Iraq in the first place.

Sunday, 22 September 2002

22:00 BST: Permalink

A useful piece by Michael Kinsley, in his capacity as Man Who States the Obvious 'Cause No One Else Will at The Washington Post:

Of all the explanations for Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent alleged war on terrorism, the least illuminating is that it's all about evil. We didn't know or didn't appreciate that there is evil in the world. Now we do know, or ought to. In President Bush's "axis of evil" speech last January, the first item on his list of truths "we have come to know" after 9/11 is that "evil is real, and it must be opposed."
Well, yeah. Of course, these are people whose base definition of "evil" roughly translates as "liberals" on most days of the week, so they probably haven't noticed that there's always been a liberal discourse on evil in which the definition is a little different from theirs. Strange as it may seem, a thing doesn't have to outrage right-wing fruitcakes in order to fit our definition.

In fact, the very reasons we are "evil" to them are part and parcel of the constellations in which we find evil. Racism, for example, is one of the things we find evil - and that's one of the first things about liberals that really outraged the right-wing. These are people who call themselves Christians but somehow think that being white or rich makes them superior to anyone else, despite the many passages in the Bible (and particularly the teachings of Jesus) that pretty clearly say otherwise.

Kinsley names an evil, too:

Bennett's evidence that the concept of evil is endangered is pretty thin. He scrounges up a couple of professors making moral-relativist noises about understanding terrorists as people and the possibility that America's own actions may have contributed to America's current dilemma. Neither of them is actually quoted as dissing the word "evil." My own impression, for what it is worth, is that concepts such as "bad" and "wrong" did pop up occasionally before 9/11 and that there has never in our history been a proposition from which fewer Americans dissent than, "Osama bin Laden is evil." Calling terrorists "evil" requires no courage and justifies no self-congratulatory puffing. It's just not a problem.

But it's also not a solution.
If the great essential truth about terrorism is that some people just hate the United States, the obvious next question is: Why? But that is precisely the question that offends the All-About-Evil crowd, because it leads in two unacceptable directions. One is toward psychology, trying to understand how a human mind could plot the deaths of so many innocents and gladly die in carrying it out. "Root causes" is what this kind of thinking is called in the context of domestic social issues such as crime and welfare, and conservatives regard it as a major liberal disease, with symptoms that include coddling criminals and forgiving sloth.

If the subjective basis for terrorists hating America is off-limits for consideration, that would seem to leave the objective basis: Is it something we did, or didn't do, to them or theirs? But this violates the ancient conservative taboo against "blaming America first." So check and mate: Terrorism is evil, evil, evil -- gosh, it's evil -- and there's nothing else to discuss.

This is an astonishingly philistine, know-nothing posture for a group of people (mostly neoconservative would-be muscular-intellectual types) who generally preen as the guardians of intellectual standards. They are so afraid of the fallacy of tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner that they fall right into it: In order to avoid the danger that understanding terrorism might lead to excusing terrorism, they put understanding itself beyond the pale. This is not just anti-intellectual but actually a hindrance to the war on terrorism. Blocking any deeper understanding of the terrorists' mentality and motives cannot be good for the war effort.

It's a long habit of the right wing to dismiss any examination of root causes as mere excusing, of course. If you try to explain that most violent offenders start out as victims of violence (or repression) themselves, they claim you're excusing violence, though in fact you're doing nothing of the kind.

Something I used to run into on alt.feminism a lot was guys saying, "Why do women do X?" or "Why did this woman do X?" and of course some of us would try to explain the thinking behind that kind of behavior, and then be accused of "siding with" the women who do X. But we hadn't been asked, "Is this behavior good and justifiable?" but rather why it is done at all, and it's the latter question we were answering. How you respond to such questions depends an awful lot on whether you are in pursuit of understanding in order to solve the problem or just looking for an excuse to condemn others.

In the discussion of racial issues, there are serious consequences to asking a question and then refusing to understand the response as an answer to that specific question. Racists ask, for example, why blacks are disproportionately poor and disproportionately represented in prison populations, with the clear intention of implying that this is evidence of moral and mental inferiority on the part of blacks. When you try to explain the myriad ways in which these numbers represent the results of racism and poverty, you're accused of excusing every act of murder and mayhem ever committed by a black person.

If Americans are asking, "Why do they hate us?" - why do they hate us enough to murder thousands of ordinary Americans who, as far as they know, have never done a thing to them? - glib answers about "evil" really don't get us anywhere. Something focused their rage on us, something made us a target. These things don't just come out of nowhere. And it's simply not good enough to say, "We're basically a good country, even if our foreign policies haven't always been perfect." Our foreign policies don't have to justify Osama bin Laden in order to deserve re-examination as potential causes of anger and resentment.

In the end, of course, the individual choices of the people who hijacked planes for the sole purpose of committing the enormity of 9/11 didn't really begin with political reasons. Everything we know about them says that at least a few of the ringleaders were men who had started off perfectly willing to go to the West, enjoy its fruits, embrace it. But they felt rejected, rebuffed, excluded, when they came to our cities. The West did not embrace them in return, and in their isolation they became vulnerable to the proselytizing of those who promoted a hateful, anti-western ideology.

But the ethnocentrism and racism of the West that those men met here is not unique to us; in America, it is largely an import from every part of the world, including theirs. Yes, it is an evil, but it is not an especially American one, or even a western one. Their choice, to hate us, to see us as the source of their pain, was ignorant at best.

In fact, most of the people who "hate us" don't hate us at all; what they hate is the activity of many of our business and political leaders - activity which is not, in fact, endorsed by most Americans (who are not normally kept apprised of these machinations outside of our borders) - that often directly harms them. Out there in the rest of the world, most folks understand all of this, but they also know that until Americans wake up to what is done in our name, it will not stop. How can they wake us up? They would not have wished for 9/11, and many of them cried and mourned with us (although, interestingly, the American news media chose to be remarkably selective in showing it). But if we refuse to let even this great horror open our eyes, we can drive them to despair. And despair, I'm sure, is an evil.

21:02 BST: Permalink

IT'S MORE THAN putting a flag on your front porch

"The highest form of patriotism," says U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, "is a willingness to challenge the direction the country is going at a moment of fear and fury."

The one-time boy mayor of Cleveland turned congressman, whose emotional "Prayer for America" speech stirred rumors that he might be the next Democratic candidate for president, is talking about the nation's outpouring of patriotism since terrorists hijacked four jets and plowed three of them into their intended symbolic targets last year.

"Patriotism is a love of country," Kucinich says. "I have a very strong love of this country. But I believe that if you love your country and see it going in a direction you don't like, then it is an obligation to say so."

20:45 BST: Permalink
Rafe Colburn struggles with a common problem:

That's my problem in a nutshell. I know for a fact that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man, and that he poses a threat (to some degree) to me, and a much greater threat to every one of his neighbors and to all of the citizens of his own country. This man really should be behind the walls of a prison somewhere, or dead. Certainly he shouldn't be the totalitarian ruler of a country with the fate of millions in his hands. At the same time, I don't trust George Bush. I don't trust Dick Cheney. I don't trust Donald Rumsfeld, and I certainly don't trust Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. They hold the lives of millions in their hands as well. Not only the lives of every Iraqi, but the lives of every American soldier as well. And to be frank, I feel like this is a group that feels the need to have an enemy with a return address. They're a bunch of nonreconstructed cold warriors who aren't comfortable with the challenges that the war on terrorism really poses. Iraq is important, and something has to give in our current relationship with Iraq, but is it the most important thing right now? I don't know. But more importantly, I don't trust the powers that be to figure that out, or to tell me the truth even if they do figure it out. These are trying times.
A couple of weeks ago, The Arkansas Times said, in an editorial:

One thing that has changed about this country since 9/11/01 is that we now have a commander-in-chief who threatens pre-emptive war. This is a concept American leaders used to renounce. If somebody else started something, we'd finish it, that was understood, but the United States would not be the aggressor. It was a point of honor.

After two world wars that began with pre-emptive strikes, most other nations came to understand that the American position was sound practically as well as morally. The United Nations charter, which the U.S. signed (and wrote, mostly) after WW II, does not condone pre-emptive war. As French President Jacques Chirac told The New York Times last week, "As soon as one nation claims the right to take preventive action, other countries will naturally do the same. If we go down that road, where are we going?"

Where indeed? China taking pre-emptive action against Taiwan? India against Pakistan, or vice versa? The whole world like the Middle East, where Israeli and Arab have been pre-empting each other for half a century, and the end is not in sight?

Reportedly, President Bush and his advisers have been trying for more than a year to connect Iraq with the terrorist attack on this country. Iraqi involvement in 9/11 would be cause for war, if there was proof. There is not, not a shred. In America, punishment is reserved for the guilty, not administered to those we wish were guilty, or those we think might be guilty someday.

That, of course, is a point of honor, too.

10:59 BST: Permalink
The Bloviator discusses, "A disastrous trend that can't help but have a tragic ending," in state policies allowing Medicaid to pay only for the higher dosage of an antidepressant, to save money, and requiring poor folk to cut the pills in half in order to get the proper dose.

Want to know how they came to the decision that it was OK to force the state's poorest, most vulnerable (not to mention depressed) patients to do this? Here's policymaking at its finest, folks:
Illinois Medicaid officials, however, said they have studied the issue and tested the ease of splitting a Zoloft tablet.

"We sat around at a conference table breaking them in half and decided it would work with this drug to require that they be prescribed in this manner," said James Parker, deputy administrator of medical programs for the Illinois Department of Public Aid. "It cuts the [state's] cost of their prescriptions in half."

10:30 BST: Permalink
Mark Crispin Miller says that Bush's inability to utter the last part of the adage that starts, "Fool me once, shame on you," is scarier than it sounds:

Sure, it's funny, even the toadies of the TV news were chuckling over it. But let's not laugh so long and hard that we don't notice what that moment really tells us. That gaffe did NOT reveal that Bush is simply stupid. In fact, it tells us something much more worrisome.

What was it that the president just could not bring himself to say? "Shame on me." The president could not say "Shame on me," not if his life depended on it -- an inability that's perfectly in character. Search all throughout the mammoth archive of his off-the-cuff remarks (and his scripted statements, too), and you won't find a single moment of self-criticism, self-doubt, ambivalence, or even open-mindedness or simple curiosity. You'll find a lot of pseudo-Christian boilerplate, but not a hint of genuine contrition. Hence, Bush's tongue went AWOL at the prospect of admitting error, weakness, or shame -- and so he had to quote The Who instead.

That bias is very telling: Bush actually believes that he can do no wrong. This fixed conviction of his own infallibility has come out often, in remarks not laughably sub-literate or confused. He's boasted that he knows what he believes, and that he never changes his position, or his mind, and that he sees the world in black and white, and so on. He's made it clear repeatedly: George W. Bush is always right, George W. Bush can do no wrong. And now he's accidentally made the point again, by showing himself incapable -- psychologically, and therefore physically -- of saying "Shame on me."

It's time to see the man for who he is, and to pay close attention to his moves, and to the moves of his cabal. While Bush's grandiosity -- and shamelessness -- have been apparent all along, since 9/11 he's been acting on them big-time. This so-called "conservative" wants absolute and total power to fight whatever war he wants, and in whatever way he wants, and for as long as he may want. That way, he won't be the only one incapable of shaming him -- for everybody else will be too scared to speak the truth. And so it really isn't very funny after all.

Unless he's speaking from a script, Bush is at grave verbal risk whenever he must feign emotions that he doesn't really feel.

01:04 BST: Permalink
Tbogg says:


Very important article in The Nation

If you need only one reason to make sure that the Democrats hold the Senate, this is it.

Man, he is not kidding, you really gotta read The Right's Judicial Juggernaut by Jack Newfield, which is a meaty and frightening look at both the substance and process of how the far right is taking over our judicial system, with chilling evidence like this on a Bush nominee:

Perhaps the most damaging evidence against Estrada comes from two lawyers he interviewed for Supreme Court clerkships. Both were unwilling to be identified by name for fear of reprisals. The first told me: "Since I knew Miguel, I went to him to help me get a Supreme Court clerkship. I knew he was screening candidates for Justice Kennedy. Miguel told me, 'No way. You're way too liberal.' I felt he was definitely submitting me to an ideological litmus test, and I am a moderate Democrat. When I asked him why I was being ruled out without even an interview, Miguel told me his job was to prevent liberal clerks from being hired. He told me he was screening out liberals because a liberal clerk had influenced Justice Kennedy to side with the majority and write a pro-gay-rights decision in a case known as Romer v. Evans, which struck down a Colorado statute that discriminated against gays and lesbians."

I also interviewed a young law professor and former Justice Department attorney who told me a very similar story. "I was a clerk for an appeals court judge," the professor told me, "and my judge called Justice Kennedy recommending me for a clerkship with him. Justice Kennedy then called me and said I had made the first cut and would soon be called for an interview. I was then interviewed by Miguel Estrada and another lawyer. Estrada asked most of the questions. He asked me a lot of unfair, ideological questions, a lot about the death penalty, which I told him I thought was immoral. I felt I was being subjected to an ideological litmus test. Estrada was being obnoxious. He was acting like it was his job to weed out liberal influences on Justice Kennedy. I was never called back by anyone."

And that's just one little thing. Definitely read the article now.

00:18 BST: Permalink
Joe Conason chimes in on the question of invading Iraq, and he's pretty sure the reasons the White House has been giving actually have nothing to do with why they think it's so urgent. The article is behind the Premium wall at Salon, so non-subscribers might want to look at MWO for some excerpts, like:

It certainly isn't to prevent proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, current U.S. policy is actually designed to thwart completion of a new international regime against biological weapons. ...
MWO also provides a link to the Jon Stewart segment on the Bush reaction to Saddam's announcement that weapons inspectors would be allowed to return to Iraq, complete with Breaking News. Click here for RealPlayer clip.

00:01 BST: Permalink
Epicycle has been fun the last few days, with an important link to a page conclusively proving that the moon landings were faked (genuine must see stuff, as he advises), a link to another useful article at Dan's Data, a groovy picture of the computer Epicycle's proprietor has been building which is getting to look downright spooky, and this:

So, another Linux worm... And a very interesting one, too, in that right now nobody knows quite what it is going to do! Slapper infects Linux servers via the well-documented OpenSSL vulnerability in the Apache web server, forming them into peer-to-peer networks with each infected machine sharing data with it's peers and capable of assuming control over the network as a whole.

Saturday, 21 September 2002

23:00 BST: Permalink

I be grumpy

As I have mentioned earlier, I'm stingy about adding new links for blogs, in part because I know that adding new links diffuses the impact of the existing links, and one reason those links are there in the first place is that I'd rather like people to click on them. (And not everyone reads as fast as Gary Farber.) I also claimed that I have a secret formula for adding new links, known only to me. Actually, this isn't true, because I don't know what it is, either. There are weblogs I really like that aren't there yet, and I'm not entirely sure why. But, obviously, the best way to get there is to keep doing things that call my attention to you in a positive way. Naturally, one of these is to come to my notice via other blogs I read, but if you're really interested in a link from me you'll aim your method at me personally. One of these is to drop me a line saying you've posted an article that is likely to appeal to me, of course; people who I link here in main-text a couple-few times stand a pretty high chance of showing up on the right eventually. (This only applies to people who I don't think are idiots, of course.) Another is to link to me in such a way that I start to notice your URL showing up in my referrals.

But, I'll tell ya, I really dislike it when people write and ask me to trade links. Maybe I'm a tight-ass, but I find this a bit, I dunno, wrong. I mean, if you like The Sideshow enough to link it at all, why didn't you link it already? That's what I did. I didn't run around asking people to put those links there in exchange for a link I wanted to post anyway. Sure, there are weblogs out there that I think ought to be linking to me (because we are obviously playing on the same team), but I usually find that if I link to them, a link from them to me usually appears within a matter of days. If it doesn't, well, it doesn't, but that doesn't mean I think their weblog is any less worth reading, so the link stays. Note, for example, that I continue to link to Jim Henley even though he has only a short list of links that doesn't include me. I don't mind; Henley is a good and thoughtful writer who says a lot of things that I regard as useful contributions to the discourse, in addition to the fact that his heart is in the right place and he frequently links me in his main text. (Look now! Good stuff there!)

Yes, there have been a couple of times when someone nudged me about linking to them, and that pushed me over to sticking a link up, but they were already linking to me. And yes, there has been an occasion where I asked someone why he wasn't linking to me - but, of course, I was already linking to him. In both cases, it was that little nudge that was needed to make it happen. (When Alterman was having his little link contest, I did write and offer a list of a few weblogs I liked, and suggested myself as well, but again, I was already linking him.) But that's not the same as asking for a trade. Asking for a trade feels to me like saying, "This isn't about me wanting to support and recommend something good, it's about me wanting to promote myself, and assuming you want the same." Maybe that's an uncharitable interpretation, but that's how it feels. And, see, my priority isn't about hustling up links for myself, it's about trying to offer people information and share some thoughts with those who want them. Sure, I've got an enormous ego and all that, but I'm old enough to know that not everyone's gonna love me - and anyway, with an ego this size, I always get to rationalize that if they don't love me, it's just 'cause I'm too smart for them.

Anyway, I am posting this link purely out of sheer egomania, and because you can't let something like that go unthanked. So, thanks, Crazy Soph!

01:04 BST: Permalink
Tbogg says:


Very important article in The Nation

If you need only one reason to make sure that the Democrats hold the Senate, this is it.

Man, he is not kidding, you really gotta readThe Right's Judicial Juggernaut by Jack Newfield, which is a meaty and frightening look at both the substance and process of how the far right is taking over our judicial system, with chilling evidence like this on a Bush nominee:

Perhaps the most damaging evidence against Estrada comes from two lawyers he interviewed for Supreme Court clerkships. Both were unwilling to be identified by name for fear of reprisals. The first told me: "Since I knew Miguel, I went to him to help me get a Supreme Court clerkship. I knew he was screening candidates for Justice Kennedy. Miguel told me, 'No way. You're way too liberal.' I felt he was definitely submitting me to an ideological litmus test, and I am a moderate Democrat. When I asked him why I was being ruled out without even an interview, Miguel told me his job was to prevent liberal clerks from being hired. He told me he was screening out liberals because a liberal clerk had influenced Justice Kennedy to side with the majority and write a pro-gay-rights decision in a case known as Romer v. Evans, which struck down a Colorado statute that discriminated against gays and lesbians."

I also interviewed a young law professor and former Justice Department attorney who told me a very similar story. "I was a clerk for an appeals court judge," the professor told me, "and my judge called Justice Kennedy recommending me for a clerkship with him. Justice Kennedy then called me and said I had made the first cut and would soon be called for an interview. I was then interviewed by Miguel Estrada and another lawyer. Estrada asked most of the questions. He asked me a lot of unfair, ideological questions, a lot about the death penalty, which I told him I thought was immoral. I felt I was being subjected to an ideological litmus test. Estrada was being obnoxious. He was acting like it was his job to weed out liberal influences on Justice Kennedy. I was never called back by anyone."

And that's just one little thing. Definitely read the article now.

00:18 BST: Permalink
Joe Conason chimes in on the question of invading Iraq, and he's pretty sure the reasons the White House has been giving actually have nothing to do with why they think it's so urgent. The article is behind the Premium wall at Salon, so non-subscribers might want to look at MWO for some excerpts, like:

It certainly isn't to prevent proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, current U.S. policy is actually designed to thwart completion of a new international regime against biological weapons. ...
MWO also provides a link to the Jon Stewart segment on the Bush reaction to Saddam's announcement that weapons inspectors would be allowed to return to Iraq, complete with Breaking News. Click here for RealPlayer clip.

00:01 BST: Permalink
Epicycle has been fun the last few days, with an important link to a page conclusively proving that the moon landings were faked (genuine must see stuff, as he advises), a link to another useful article at Dan's Data, a groovy picture of the computer Epicycle's proprietor has been building which is getting to look downright spooky, and this:

So, another Linux worm... And a very interesting one, too, in that right now nobody knows quite what it is going to do! Slapper infects Linux servers via the well-documented OpenSSL vulnerability in the Apache web server, forming them into peer-to-peer networks with each infected machine sharing data with it's peers and capable of assuming control over the network as a whole.
23:00 BST: Permalink
I be grumpy

As I have mentioned earlier, I'm stingy about adding new links for blogs, in part because I know that adding new links diffuses the impact of the existing links, and one reason those links are there in the first place is that I'd rather like people to click on them. (And not everyone reads as fast as Gary Farber.) I also claimed that I have a secret formula for adding new links, known only to me. Actually, this isn't true, because I don't know what it is, either. There are weblogs I really like that aren't there yet, and I'm not entirely sure why. But, obviously, the best way to get there is to keep doing things that call my attention to you in a positive way. Naturally, one of these is to come to my notice via other blogs I read, but if you're really interested in a link from me you'll aim your method at me personally. One of these is to drop me a line saying you've posted an article that is likely to appeal to me, of course; people who I link here in main-text a couple-few times stand a pretty high chance of showing up on the right eventually. (This only applies to people who I don't think are idiots, of course.) Another is to link to me in such a way that I start to notice your URL showing up in my referrals.

But, I'll tell ya, I really dislike it when people write and ask me to trade links. Maybe I'm a tight-ass, but I find this a bit, I dunno, wrong. I mean, if you like The Sideshow enough to link it at all, why didn't you link it already? That's what I did. I didn't run around asking people to put those links there in exchange for a link I wanted to post anyway. Sure, there are weblogs out there that I think ought to be linking to me (because we are obviously playing on the same team), but I usually find that if I link to them, a link from them to me usually appears within a matter of days. If it doesn't, well, it doesn't, but that doesn't mean I think their weblog is any less worth reading, so the link stays. Note, for example, that I continue to link to Jim Henley even though he has only a short list of links that doesn't include me. I don't mind; Henley is a good and thoughtful writer who says a lot of things that I regard as useful contributions to the discourse, in addition to the fact that his heart is in the right place and he frequently links me in his main text. (Look now! Good stuff there!)

Yes, there have been a couple of times when someone nudged me about linking to them, and that pushed me over to sticking a link up, but they were already linking to me. And yes, there has been an occasion where I asked someone why he wasn't linking to me - but, of course, I was already linking to him. In both cases, it was that little nudge that was needed to make it happen. (When Alterman was having his little link contest, I did write and offer a list of a few weblogs I liked, and suggested myself as well, but again, I was already linking him.) But that's not the same as asking for a trade. Asking for a trade feels to me like saying, "This isn't about me wanting to support and recommend something good, it's about me wanting to promote myself, and assuming you want the same." Maybe that's an uncharitable interpretation, but that's how it feels. And, see, my priority isn't about hustling up links for myself, it's about trying to offer people information and share some thoughts with those who want them. Sure, I've got an enormous ego and all that, but I'm old enough to know that not everyone's gonna love me - and anyway, with an ego this size, I always get to rationalize that if they don't love me, it's just 'cause I'm too smart for them.

Anyway, I am posting this link purely out of sheer egomania, and because you can't let something like that go unthanked. So, thanks, Crazy Soph!

04:57 BST: Permalink
Jeff Cooper has some thoughts on judicial nominations, and on one nomination in particular.

This link is for a Liberal Desert item explaining just why the Bush rollback on air-conditioner standards is not a trivial problem...but there's lots of other good stuff on the site, too.

In Arguendo has a good little piece on the story about Clinton's request for reimbursement of Whitewater costs...and the mysterious silence of the press about Richard Mellon Scaife's reimbursement request. (Also a link for voting on Rudy Giuliani's new hairstyle!)

Patrick has been rounding up the scores on the Iraq debate, here and here and here and here. I don't feel any better about the war, but I do feel better seeing more people inching around to the "maybe not" side.

This time you're wrong, Rob.

And today's movie: Mark Fiore's Protect 09/18/02

Friday, 20 September 2002

15:41 BST: Permalink

Another interesting item from Nathan Newman on a subject close to my heart:

Rhetoric and Nominations- It's all part of the game, as conservatives vent with Casablanca-style outrage that they are shocked, shocked to find politics involved in the judicial nominations process. See here for one example. Now, if Bush was regularly sending up Lani Guinier lefties in his mix of rightwing nominees, this whole rhetorical debate wouldn't be so silly. But Bush is picking judges because they are hard-line pro-life and pro-corporate and the Dems are knocking them down for the same reason-- "advise and consent" at its best. The inevitable result is not gridlock, since the Dems have approved many of Bush's more moderate nominees-- it just means that the most conservative judges get knocked out, just as the Gingrich-Dole Congress knocked off any of Clinton's more liberal nominees.
Too liberal for the Contract on America crowd, but most of them weren't too liberal for most Americans when you get right down to it.

The result is no doubt a blander judiciary, but that's what the voters ordered when they voted in divided government. The third branch is inevitably going to reflect the same stalemate.
I have to disagree that "that's what the voters ordered" or that they were voting for this kind of government. The vast majority of Americans are unlikely to be in favor of Heritage Foundation types on the bench.

And right now the judiciary isn't all that divided - the Republican court-packing campaign has been going on for a long time and has been pretty successful in ensuring that a significant majority of new appointments are of right-wing judges, most of them much younger than Democratic appointees, who have tended to be much more centrist than Republican appointees. Let's not pretend this is a matter of simply maintaining balance on the bench - we need to fight to bring back even a semblance of balance, and that requires more than simply filling vacancies with moderates. Those young right-wingers are going to be there for a long time.

15:00 BST: Permalink
Charles Dodgson has been very hot for the last few days, and provides a particularly interesting response to the use of the term "Elders of Zion" in reference to arguments for a war on Iraq at USS Clueless - disagreeing with it (and, says Atrios correctly, he's right), but then going on to find the real problems with Den Beste's approach:

What den Beste's essay does represent, which I think is important, and worrisome, is the return of the White Man's Burden. Historically, that was all too often just an excuse for commercial exploitation of the weak. And there are certainly people playing that tune on Dubya's war drums, what with his economic advisor, Larry Lindsey, suggesting that the war would be so cheap that it would effectively pay for itself in reduced petroleum prices --- implying that he expects a replacement regime in Iraq which is so thoroughly a U.S. puppet that it will pursue American interests in preference to its own. But that's not den Beste's argument, so let's put that aside and return to den Beste.

The striking thing to me about den Beste's essay is the lack of connection between the ends, elimination of the terrorist threat from Islamist radicals, and the means, a military attack on, and defeat of, the secular Baathist regime in Iraq --- a regime which the Wahhabi-inspired religious fanatics who drive al-Qaeda view as an ally of convenience at best. (If at all; Dubya's crowd is soft-pedaling the argument that Hussein has something to do with al-Qaeda, because they haven't been able to show convincing evidence).

So, suppose we fight what den Beste views as the battle of Iraq in the War on Islamia, or something like that, and suppose we win. Will that, in fact, refute any of the arguments of the Islamists? No. It will play into their hands. We will show them an Arab country which has adopted a secular regime, with no religious trappings, getting the pants beat off of it in a conflict with the actual West, which will only reinforce their argument that religious revival is a road to glory. And, as Demosthenes points out, it will play into their own "clash of civilizations" rhetoric. The mere fact of a military defeat, particularly of a secular regime, won't dampen their movement --- in fact, by den Beste's own argument, it is a sustained record of military defeats at the hands of the West, over hundreds of years, which has given rise to it.

Dodgson makes his own suggestion about how to deal with the culture that creates anti-American terrorists, and while it may or may not be the best of ideas, I think it deserves discussion a lot more than invading Iraq does.

If Bush's "convince them I'm a madman" sabre-rattling gets inspectors into Iraq, hey, that's a good thing, I'm all for it. Inspectors did a lot to reduce the latitude Saddam had for creating WMD last time, and they destroyed a lot of his stuff, too. If we can prevent Dick Cheney and his friends from selling him any more materials, the threat from Saddam may be entirely defused.

And then we can talk about why the Republicans have this nasty habit of actively working in opposition to US government foreign policies whenever they are out of office.

14:26 BST: Permalink
Thanks to Lenny Bailles who sent a link for free music downloads at Lojo Russo, and to Jim Sweeny who provided this link for future celebrations of Talk Like A Pirate Day.

And here is a short Crab Nebula Time-Lapse Movie (RealPlayer).

Hey, could someone please tell me where Ally McBeal's daughter came from? Someone around here who isn't me messed up taping that episode.

12:55 BST: Permalink
Nathan Newman notes that:

One of the bigger recent defections from the Right is Glenn Loury, one of the stars of the black conservative intellectual elite that came to prominence back in the 1980s.
Nathan cites an article in which Loury cops to sheer careerism as his reason for going GOP, being able to get noticed in return for giving the right what they wanted. Nathan continues:

But this sellout to reactionaries took its personal toll, leading to a coke addiction and eventual arrest. Says Loury, "I was troubled by these feelings of, well, deep down I'm a hypocrite, right?" This period was followed by a religious conversion and his present commitment to write about the ongoing racism by whites, not just act as a GOP mouthpiece for scolding the black poor.

Thursday, 19 September 2002

Avast, me hearties! Arrr!

17:17 BST: Permalink

Look, guys, I'm afraid I'm all too well aware that Daschle has done little more than wimp out. But...a girl can dream, can't she?

Damn, I should know better than to joke around about stuff like that in public. No one ever gets my jokes anyway.

Maybe I'm beginning to panic - I'm so looking forward to World War Three, y'know?

And I simply do not understand how anyone can think fighting terrorism (for real) is important and yet not important enough to take the utmost care with, not important enough to put into the hands of people who actually mean it and won't just use it as an excuse to pursue their own agenda. This isn't anything to do with "moral equivalency" between Al Qaeda and Bush (and I can't imagine how anyone could be so screwed-up as to get that impression), but a simple, practical acknowledgement that if a thing is worth doing at all, it's worth doing well (and in good faith).

And then there's Israel. I'm one of those people who feel that, regardless of the various arguments over the wisdom of creating Israel in the first place, there can be no argument about whether the US and any other people of good will should be protecting Israel; we should. Period. And while I know that Israel is pretty good at defending itself, I'm a little bit terrified about the potential outcome of a real war in the Middle East in which Israel is an obvious target for anyone who wants to take it out of America's hide and in which Israel's most powerful defenders are an army under the command of a bunch of people who think that fighting a war against Israel's enemies is the same thing as defending Israel.

Even if you stipulate that the Bush administration is composed only of people of good will, you have to acknowledge that they have been doing an absolutely horrendous job of protecting America and conducting foreign policy. They seem to think that only pansies resort to diplomacy when they could fight a war instead. It really doesn't matter if they mean well when what they do turns out not so well. You don't hand someone the keys to your car when you know they have a tendency to drive into walls.

And, of course, I don't think they are people of good will. But I'm willing to suspend disbelief long enough to consider that they at least hope to create some sort of stable situation in the Middle East. And I just can't see them doing it. I'm willing to suspend disbelief and entertain the possibility that they really do want to root out Al Qaeda and their horrible little friends. And I can't see them doing it. What I can see is them doing exactly what they've been doing, which is making things that much worse as every day goes by.

This isn't even about the election, it's about performance, and their performance has been frighteningly bad. Although, truth to tell, we would certainly be better off if what the rest of the world saw was not the most powerful nation in the world being dragged into war by men who took power illegally. Even so, a landslide win in 2000 wouldn't really make a "because I said so" invasion of Iraq all that attractive in any case.

If George Bush had ever gone to AA meetings, he would have been told that spending your time drunk means you haven't been growing emotionally all those years. George Bush quit drinking when he was 40. That means he's effectively a 15-year-old. And he acts like one. Do we really want someone like that running our country? And leading us into war?

03:25 BST: Permalink
I've decided that since I want to support artists who put their music on the web for people to listen for free, I'd put links on the right for those who do. I don't have that many yet, but it's a start. If you have any good suggestions, you could let me know. I'm talking about artists who let you listen to their stuff - complete - from their own sites.

Anyway, listen to their stuff, and if you like it, buy their music, go to their performances, give them your support, too.

Wednesday, 18 September 2002

22:42 BST: Permalink

Mark Crispin Miller, last week, at

What has happened to the press in the United States? Certainly it wasn't anything to brag about ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, but now its irresponsibility is simply staggering. Why? A proper answer to that question has to be complex, entailing many factors - corporate concentration, radical deregulation under Reagan, Bush and Clinton, TV's touchy-feely influence, the laziness and (yes) conservatism of a corporate press corps grossly overpaid, the fervent, brilliant rightist propaganda drive against "the liberal media," and so on. While all such factors surely have a lot do with it, however, 9/11 clearly made a very sudden difference, turning a bad situation even worse.

Although the press was always marvelously soft on Bush - reveling in his ignorance, saying not a word about his many scandals past, approving his bald theft of the election - after 9/11 such mere protectiveness mutated swiftly into a demented Caesarism, such as one would once have found among the Soviets, or as one finds today in places like Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba (and Iraq). At first, this sort of thing was understandable, if nauseating, the fearful pundits and reporters - as usual excessively responsive to the mass hysteria, and at the time also hysterical themselves - exalting Bush into the leader that a stricken nation dearly wished it had. Thus Bush was hailed as "eloquent," "commanding" and "astute," "Churchillian" and "another Roosevelt," etc., although he clearly wasn't ever any of those things. Such rapturous delusion was a sign of the horrific times just after 9/11, and therefore would have been forgivable as a mere human failing - if the reporters had just knocked it off once everyone recovered, more or less, from that first shock.

The fact that they did not, but kept on treating this Bush as a god - even after he began descending in the polls, and notwithstanding the abundant evidence that he was not at all divine but barely human - makes it quite clear that the press was transformed big-time by the shock of 9/11. Although the evidence of our own senses tells us otherwise - after all, he's right there on TV - the press accounts routinely fix his grammar (he said "gooder" several times at one recent event, but that weird goof was not in any transcript), and sometimes even call him "a six-footer," which is very clearly not the case. Such frank cosmetic touches are, to put it mildly, un-American, more reminiscent of the cult of Stalin than of anything in US journalistic history.

And yet such frank improvements of the president's own voice and person are not half as troubling as the journalists' refusal to stay with those major stories that pertain directly to the ugly fix that we are in today: Dick Cheney's criminal involvement in the arming of Iraq (against which brutal nation he now urges us to war); John Ashcroft's kid-gloves treatment of the robber barons at Enron - and that firm's many links to the administration (a scandal from which Gulf War II might help distract the rest of us); the abject failure of the "war on terrorism," as bin Laden walks (or sits) at liberty, along with most of the al Qaeda leadership (a big distraction would help there); and, speaking of the bombing of Afghanistan, the ruinous effect of that impulsive move on our attempts to nab the terrorists. (There's no distraction needed there, because the press has barely mentioned it.) Raining bombs down on (or near) the Taliban was comparable, as one intelligence insider put it, to "hitting a bee-hive with a baseball bat." Despite their clear importance, such expert views are quite unknown to most Americans, because the press, since 9/11, evidently sees it as somehow unpatriotic to report the hard, cold truth.

And then there's 9/11 itself - the day that knocked the US press clean out of its collective mind, and into full-time propaganda mode for this war - hungry president. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate that day's disastrous impact on the pundits and reporters than their mawkish exploitation of this anniversary. As they repackage the catastrophe as tearful patriotic super-spectacle, the journalists persist in not reporting any aspect of the story that might somehow spoil the solemn mood of awesome ceremonial that both the White House and the media's parent companies have planned for us. And so George W. Bush will come and flex his gravitas before the cameras, with certain "heroes of 9/11" at his side - and most of those Americans who watch won't even know, or won't recall, that this same president, abetted by Dick Cheney, has done everything he can to thwart a full inquiry into how and why that worst of crimes occurred.* Such obstruction is, at best, completely indefensible, since it prevents our grasping what occurred, and how we might best keep such things from happening again. At worst, it indicates that Bush and Cheney must be hiding something - something that we have the right to know. In any case, their interference ought to be sufficient grounds for their immediate impeachment; and yet our journalists have been so dazed by 9/11 that they have failed to call for a commission looking into it - an investigative body of the sort that we have had before, and that the government of any normal country would have organized at once. Over-eager, even now, to help prop up this failing president (and, of course, to keep their ratings high), they display no interest in enlightening us, but are intent on dunking all of us in an immense "emotional bath" (a phrase Tom Brokaw used not long ago, approvingly). They seem to think that such submersion is a patriotic act - but nothing could be further from the truth.

*Nor will they know that Bush just cut the funding to monitor the health of 9/11's rescue workers, all of whom were long and heavily exposed to many toxins.

16:25 BST: Permalink
Lynn Landes on elections in America, says Assume Crooks Are In Control:

Don't blame the poll workers in Florida. The facts, supported by voting machine experts and numerous newspaper articles, have made it clear. Computerized voting machines that were certified by the state of Florida, caused most of the problems in Florida's primary election. In the absence of paper ballots, the damage is now irreversible. This was no accident. It's not new. And Florida is not alone. "The concept is clear, simple, and it works. Computerized voting gives the power of selection, without fear of discovery, to whomever controls the computer," wrote the authors of VoteScam (1992), James & Kenneth Collier (both now deceased). It's a 'must read' book about how elections have been electronically and mechanically rigged in the United States for decades, and with the knowing and sometimes unknowing support of media giants and government officials, including... ironically... Janet Reno.
ES&S supplied the touch screens for Miami-Dade and Broward counties where the worst machine failures occurred. But the debacle was nothing new for ES&S. Associated Press (AP) reporter Jessica Fargen wrote in June 2000, "Venezuela's president and the head of the nation's election board accused ES&S of trying to destabilize the country's electoral process. In the United States, four states have reported problems with equipment supplied by the company. Faulty ES&S machines used in Hawaii's 1998 elections forced that state's first-ever recount."
13:43 BST: Permalink
Kevin Raybould notes that Bush personally ordered the arrest of the those five guys in Lackawanna, and has some questions:

Could this be why the FBI appeared to have so little information to present?
You know, just on practical terms, why the heck is Bush making these decisions? Shouldn't they be left to someone with actual law enforcement experience? Aren't they in best position to know when to pull the trigger?
This story is pretty spooky from top to bottom. The article cited says that Bush, "told agents to move ahead with arrests," "after briefings from the FBI and Justice Department," which some might take to mean that Justice needed presidential authority before doing so. Of course, this isn't true at all, or law-enforcement would grind to a complete halt. So why even ask him, unless the question is: We have no probable cause to arrest these guys, but can we do it anyway?

I seem to have this vague memory of a time when warrants were issued by judges rather than politicians. I have a feeling we had some reason for that...oh, like trying to minimize the degree to which arrests are made for political reasons rather than because the targets of those warrants actually have committed, or are in the process of committing, actual crimes.

George Bush has frequently "joked" (for anyone who still thinks these people are joking) that he'd prefer to be running a dictatorship. Well, he seems to be getting his wish.

Meanwhile, says Kevin, Bush's actions - or, rather, inaction - in Afghanistan amount to throwing away victory.

03:44 BST: Permalink
I was just ego-scanning the web for my name, and imagine my surprise when I got this page.

Meanwhile....Queston Mark #17: Friends.

02:26 BST: Permalink
Who we are.

02:00 BST: Permalink
From Sore Eyes:

BBC News Online has a fascinating article about the lengths mobile phone networks go to in hiding the increasing number of masts they need to provide the level of coverage their users demand. Some companies actually go to the trouble to design fake chimneys in which they can hide their masts - complete with fake bird crap. Amazing.
01:45 BST: Permalink
William Burton said:

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Though I am not Jewish, nor religious at all, I do feel that I have something to atone for. Until I stumbled across the homepage of Shiri Negari (pictured in my last post), I had not truly thought about Israeli victims of terror as individuals. Yes, I wanted the attacks to stop. Yes, I felt bad when Israelis died. But I never thought of them in the same way as I thought of the victims of Sept 11th.
01:22 BST: Permalink
Phil Leggiere at Noosphere says:
I'd been convinced that academic PoMo cultural theory was naught but convoluted bullshit, (I still think most of it is) but, thanks to Wood s lot, I now know there's at least one journal out there that's well worth a read. M/C wonderfully, and plausibly (with good writing no less) connects hip-hop, software design, electronic music, "street speech", cognitive science, childhood development and much else in a special issue on "Loops".
He also says Edge is back, with an interview with Steven Pinker.

01:17 BST: Permalink
The Lefty Libertarian smells a rat:

Special bonus link Rebuilding America's Defences. A blisteringly imperialist defense review paper written by none other than Cheney, Wolfowitz and the rest of the shiney happy marauding gang.

Filled with plans for war with Iraq, "just as soon as we can".

Now, put this beside Halliburton (Cheney's company) trading with Iraq via subsidiaries and what do you see?

Rotten, rotten, rotten.

And he links to a blog called Radio Free Albemuth, which says:

Have your people sue my people ARE your people!
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once stated that the record business is the only industry in which the bank still owns the house after the mortgage is paid. Artists are demanding copyright reform and a reasonable means of reacquiring their master recordings.

Audits routinely detect unpaid royalties. Music industry lawyer Don Engel, who estimates that labels misreport and underpay artist royalties by 10% to 40%, says industry accounting practices are "intentionally fraudulent."

Music writer Dave Marsh describes the process as "an entrenched system whose prowess and conniving makes Enron look like amateur hour." Royalties, based on complex and antiquated formulas that favor labels, are disbursed only after artists pay back advances, recording costs and other expenses. [USA Today]

01:02 BST: Permalink
Did anyone beside Elton Beard note that Tom Daschle challenged the Democratic Party to "show some backbone"? Not only that, but:

Daschle said that "enough is enough. We can't let this un-elected administration continue to walk all over us or the public will lose all respect for our party."
My god, a member of the Democratic leadership using the U-word?

[Update: Yes, dammit, I know - but I can dream, can't I?]

00:50 BST: Permalink
IWT Bans RIAA From Accessing Its Network:

Information Wave Technologies has announced it will actively deny the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) from accessing the contents of its network. Earlier this year, the RIAA announced its new plan to access computers without owner's consent for the sake of protecting its assets. Information Wave believes this policy puts its customers at risk of unintentional damage, corporate espionage, and invasion of privacy to say the least.

Due to the nature of this matter and RIAA's previous history, we feel the RIAA will abuse software vulnerabilities in a client's browser after the browser accesses its site, potentially allowing the RIAA to access and/or tamper with your data. Starting at midnight on August 19, 2002, Information Wave customers will no longer be able to reach the RIAA's web site. Information Wave will also actively seek out attempts by the RIAA to thwart this policy and apply additional filters to protect our customers' data.

Meanwhile, the very fine Ross Anderson explains TCPA and Palladium. (Via Utility Fog.)

00:32 BST: Permalink
John Nichols on a recent concern of Bernie Sanders:

US Rep. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who has for years been one of the Congress' most consistent critic of corporate excess, is worried about the current controversy about corporate governance. Don't get Sanders wrong: He's delighted that revelations about wrongdoing by executives of Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom and other corporations -- not to mention the whole Martha Stewart insider-trading scandal-- has forced everyone from President Bush to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, to recognize that government must reassert itself as a regulator of business behavior.

The problem, says Sanders, is that, while today's corporations are just as bad as the trusts that needed busting at the start of the last century, Bush is no Teddy Roosevelt and Daschle is no William Jennings Bryan. Instead of real reform, Republican and Democratic leaders are proposing half-steps aimed at requiring accountants to produce better balance sheets. While Democrats and Republicans frequently stop Sanders in the halls of Congress these days to tell him they should have listened to his complaints about corporate misdeeds, most refuse to recognize that the corporate crisis is about a lot more than accounting.

00:15 BST: Permalink
The Agora tried to read a new Salon columnist:

Unlike most liberals, I didn't have an opinion on Andrew Sullivan. I knew what others thought, and I always meant to check him out, but I never quite got around to it. So, when Salon announced that Sullivan had been added to their lineup, I looked forward to reading his column and finding out what all the hubbub was. When I saw that his first column dissected and attacked a Susan Sontag opinion piece, I was intrigued, since I really admire her work.

I never got past the first paragraph.

00:06 BST: Permalink
The Media Horse says:

Bill O'Reilly is "unhinged" -- a "blowhard" who "bullies" his guests and should "go to hell."

Notes from an angry MWO supporter?

No: It's from the Wall Street Journal editorial page director and a gaggle of other wingnuts who are furious at Bill O'Reilly for stating the truth, and calling the notorious right-wing gay hater, Stephen Bennett, exactly what he is, and to his face: "a religious fanatic."

You know, those guys at the WSJ editorial page deserve a spanking - and I don't mean that in a good way.

Elsewhere on the page, they report that conservative writer Christopher Caldwell has exposed a Plaid Scandal - yes, it's our friend Lamar:

-- In 1981, "Easy Money" Alexander, Howard Baker and other Tennessee notables received a $1 option to buy the Knoxville Journal. One measly buck. Later, Alexander cashed in his option for $620,000 worth of Gannett stock.
A dollar! Damn! I actually had a dollar in 1981! Why didn't someone get me in on this deal?

And one of their readers wrote in with another scandal:

"A spokesman for the Republican National Committee said party officials had no idea that a government agency's Web site had a link to the party's site."
Did I hear someone talking about "partisanship"?

Tuesday, 17 September 2002

19:56 BST: Permalink

Scoobie Davis takes the Limbaugh Challenge:

Vice-President-select Dick Cheney had planned to spend the first year anniversary of 9/11 on the Rush Limbaugh's radio show (He didn't appear because of security concerns). Some people such as DNC's Terry McAuliffe vigorously objected to Cheney using this solemn occasion to appear on Limbaugh's radio show, citing Limbaugh's record of being "an irresponsible and divisive figure."
Let me state for the record that I don't for a minute believe that "security concerns" prevented Cheney's appearance, unless you define "security" the way Bush, Inc. does, which is their political security. I'm sure Cheney delayed his appearance because too many people were objecting to it.

The Cheney appearance on Limbaugh show would have been just one event in a long line of efforts by the Bush regime to polarize people. I say it was perfectly fine for Cheney to go on Limbaugh's show. Limbaugh, like Bush and Cheney, was a Vietnam Chickenhawk (I prefer the term "Chickenshit"). The meeting would have been a chance to exchange battle stories—on battling any attempts to get them to Nam.

On his 9/11 show yesterday, Limbaugh had some challenging observations about the flap. He read McAuliffe's statement (and laughed while he read it). Limbaugh then made a challenge to McAuliffe:

I'll tell you what, I'll stack my so-called responsibility and unity characteristics up against Tom Daschle's any day, Mr. McAuliffe--even yours. I'll be glad to compare the record of my public statements and actions up against yours any day and we can decide who is divisive and who's partisan—and there's nothing wrong with partisan anyway, but we can decide who's irresponsible and who's divisive... If that A-B comparison is ever made, that would be fine.
Limbaugh threw down the gauntlet. I'm picking it up. I'm taking Limbaugh up on his offer to determine who make more divisive and irresponsible statements.
And he lists a few.

But I did want to say something about the "chickenhawk" discussion, which seems to have been misunderstood by some commentators, who apparently believe (or pretend to) that this is solely about one's experiential knowledge of war, that the fact that these people have never served means they do not have the expertise to understand the details of what they are advocating.

Well, maybe partially, but that's not really a big part. The big part is that these are people who see our soldiers in the field as pawns, who cheered sending others to face maiming and death for a cause they were unwilling to commit themselves to. The excuses they have offered for their failure to serve in Southeast Asia while they eagerly encouraged sending others there tell us all we really need to know about them: Cheney had better things to do, he believed - he was too important to be subjected to those kinds of risks - but others were mere cannon-fodder to him; Tom DeLay was fighting the war on bugs, claiming he was unable to find a place in the armed services because they had all been filled by minorities....and so on. One was eight pounds overweight.

This isn't the only thing that says it, but an awful lot of these people do express, continually, the belief that service to their country is for others - and how those lives are to be used, on the other hand, should be their call. When people like you and me contemplate the carnage of war, the maiming and death to real people, they neither know nor care what we are talking about. Who are those people who will come back missing limbs, shying at every loud noise, or in bodybags? Nobody. They are the people who did not have "other priorities", the people who were not too important to serve their country. They were you, and they will be your children, your siblings, your friends or their children, or my two precious nephews who will be old enough to be drafted in a few short years.

But they won't be anyone important.

(More evidence here.)

Monday, 16 September 2002

22:59 BST: Permalink

A bumper crop of rwingers out there today:

Nick Kessler found a couple of whoppers from Gary Aldrich:

"I am not happy with what my father's generation did to groups such as the Blacks, Hispanics, women and Asians. … However, the Boomer generation, my generation, changed all that, and we should get the credit. As much as I loath the politics of the New-Left, it was their activism and their radical politics that finally tripped the wire and caused much needed change. The New-Left did it for the wrong reason - to increase political power."
Yeah, I got lots of political power from being in the civil rights movement. (And he wants credit. Boy!)

Meanwhile, Atrios and Patrick Nielsen Hayden are feasting on a blog called Whigging Out that claims Democrats are just balking at rushing to invade Iraq because they're hustling for the Muslim vote. (Yeah, well, I'm sure Tom Daschle has a huge Muslim constituency.)

Patrick has added another few good posts as well, and one of them is his own comment on Warren Zevon's recent announcement of his terminal cancer. And Jim Henley has been on this subject too, and has posted a bunch of good Zevon Links. Everybody's been quoting him. I'll just say that while "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" was the first song that made me into a Zevon fan, this lyric kills me:

And if California falls into the ocean,
Like the mystics and statistics say it will,
I declare this hotel will be standing
Until I pay my bill.
18:09 BST: Permalink
Reading The Washington Past

Over the weekend, William Raspberry said:

President Bush, playing prosecutor before the "court" of the United Nations, did a splendid job of proving the defendant a murderous, lying and unremorseful slimeball. But he made no headway in proving what badly needs proving: that the slimeball did the particular crime with which he is now charged -- and for which the prosecutor is demanding the death penalty.

The Bush administration has been at great pains to make the case that Saddam Hussein is such a threat to the security of the United States as to warrant a unilateral U.S. assault with the implied intention of killing him.

I can't help thinking that if Saddam is on trial for doing things like, oh, using nasty weapons, then surely those who aided and abetted him - like Bush1 and Dick "Hey, let me sell you more stuff" Cheney - deserve to be in the dock with him.

Marshall Wittmann said:

If it is true that life is a journey, then my political voyage has been the mother of all odysseys. I am perhaps the only American to have worked for both Cesar Chavez (1975 grape boycott) and Linda Chavez (1986 Senate campaign). As a Jew who served as the legislative director of the Christian Coalition, I embodied the question, "What is a nice Jewish boy doing in a place like this?"

Now I have reached yet another destination. After being a conservative Republican for the past 16 years, I am leaving the GOP. Before you conclude that this is merely one of those 180-degree, born-again conversions, please consider my tale. I do not entirely renounce the right or wholeheartedly embrace the left. I find myself now part of the most dynamic part of the electorate -- the independent center, which is not represented completely by either of the major parties.
However, just as I had become uncomfortable with Democratic orthodoxy and liberal political correctness, I began to have severe misgivings about Republican and conservative dogma. It all began when I signed up as an adviser to Sen. John McCain's campaign for the presidency. I was attracted by his straight-talk approach to issues and by his courage and character. But to my conservative brethren, it was as if I had enlisted with the enemy. I became an apostate in their eyes simply because McCain supported campaign finance reform. I was now considered in league with a clear and present danger to the sacred cow of the modern Republican Party -- soft money.

What I was discovering was that the only real heresy on the right is opposing the power of big money. A conservative can be pro-abortion rights or even a peacenik on Iraq. But dare to object to six-figure checks from special interests to the party or challenge the unquestioning defense of tax-dodging corporations, and you are banished from the fold. While conservatives constantly carp about political correctness, the right is as annoyingly dogmatic as its liberal adversaries when it comes to defending the holy dollar.

Another one joins Jeffords and the Bullmoose. [Update: Yes, people did write to tell me that it's an open secret about the Bullmoose... See, this proves I'm not really a Beltway insider hiding behind a fake identity. Unless, of course, that was my CLEVER PLAN.]

And Jeffrey Rosen said:

In the weeks and months after 9/11, we repeatedly heard that civil liberties in America would face their greatest challenge in a generation. Recalling the mass arrest of anarchists after World War I and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, civil libertarians predicted similar excesses. While nothing quite so dramatic has materialized during the past year, many defenders of liberty on both the right and the left have assailed the administration's actions and arguments.

Their fears raise a question: Will this period be regarded by future historians as another dark age for the balance between liberty and security? It's true that the Bush administration, like its predecessors in wartime, has pressed for sweeping increases in executive authority, based on the novel argument that the president has the unilateral power to detain and investigate American citizens and alien residents without oversight from Congress or the courts. But the more surprising development is that the courts and Congress, unlike their predecessors in wartime, are rejecting the president's most extreme claims.

16:29 BST: Permalink
Earlier on I briefly linked Adam Shatz's The Left and 9/11, but looking at some other people's remarks about it I'm drawn back to it by a section I haven't seen many comments on (of course, that could just be me - almost everyone reads faster than I do). It's this bit at the beginning:

Some of the people I interviewed opposed going to war in October because they feared a bloody quagmire and didn't trust the Bush Administration, but changed their minds a month later when the Taliban unexpectedly fell. Others went in the opposite direction, coming out against the war only after US bombing began to inflict heavy civilian casualties. A few people supported targeted strikes against Al Qaeda training bases, but not the overthrow of the Taliban--not because of any sympathy for the regime but because the Bush Administration might be emboldened to overthrow other governments. Others argued, in contrast, that we shouldn't be bombing Afghanistan unless we were willing to send in ground troops. Some said that a struggle against radical Islam is necessary, but that we should be waging it in Saudi Arabia, not in Afghanistan. And many of the people who cautiously supported the Afghan intervention passionately assailed the war on terror as a new cold war, a danger to both American democracy and security.

To be honest, I've held a number of these positions myself. There may not be thirteen ways of looking at "America's new war," as CNN almost instantly (and vaguely) named it, but there are certainly more than two.

Reading the left press, however, you wouldn't necessarily know this. Since September 11, the debate on the left has been framed by the extremes of pro- and antiwar opinion--that is, if you can call it a debate. It's more like a shouting match, with accusations of treason of one kind or another being flung by both sides.

Two thoughts:

1. I've got to admit, it bugs me when I see pictures from demonstrations where the signs protesters are holding up seem to be dominated by simple anti-war messages. I see those anti-war slogans as far too simplistic and unhelpful, detracting from, rather than adding to, the larger debate about the way the Regency is running both the specific response to 9/11 and the country's policies in general. And:

2. As the first paragraph quoted above suggests, the discussion is far more nuanced and complicated than pro-war v. anti-war. I suspect that the problem is less one of the debate within the left itself as the preference of so many editors to resort to simplicity and polarized questions rather than to examine the complexities of people's responses. I have no doubt that it's much the same with this issue as it is with the ones I deal with as a sometimes talking head and quotomatic source: The less polarizing, the more complex and nuanced my answers to a journalist or television researcher are, the less likely I am to be invited onto a show or quoted in an article.

I get phone calls all the time asking me if I object to a certain ad campaign, if a particular movie is sexist, or women or men should be doing one thing or ceasing to do another. People want me to either say that pornography is wonderful and non-sexist and everyone should use it or be in it, or else that pornography is horrible and sexist and should be banned. I get the same about violent media, or stupid comedy, or the IRA, or what-have-you. (I'm a bit miffed that no one has called to ask me anything about George Bush or any of America's policies. I wouldn't mind so much except that if they are going to pay J. Pilger to write about America, I feel I deserve equal time. I certainly know more about it than he does.) Although most shows' researchers are still fascinated by my explanations of what the real skinny is on media effects research and crime statistics, I still find that they fall into a state of confusion when they can't pigeon-hole me into one extreme or the other, and in fact their producers often decide not to use me as a guest when I turn out not to be extreme enough for their purposes. There seems to be an assumption that intelligent television isn't good television.

When Adam Shatz says he has himself held a number of those positions he mentions, I know exactly where he's coming from, although his list isn't even close to being comprehensive. He does, thankfully, address the fact that one of the "anti-war" positions is about what to call the campaign. Is it a war? Are we really "at war" against Al Qaeda, or is it something else? Should it be "war", or should it be regarded as a crime-fighting exercise? Is fighting terrorists the same as fighting "a war"? For many people - people who really, really want to get rid of Al Qaeda and Islamofascism - answering those questions has to precede any further issues about the campaign. Do we still need to ask what would be the most effective position - not for acquiring the moral high ground, but for actually protecting us from terrorism?

It's the practical aspects that hold a strong interest for me. I've mentioned before that I live in shaking distance of the Docklands - that is, when the bomb went off there, we not only heard it, but felt it. I've worked in that neighborhood, and I have friends who work there, and I know how close it was. On a previous occasion, it was only by accident that I wasn't in the John Lewis store the night I'd planned to go there to buy a coat - the night another bomb went off there. And the people who set those bombs off were not dark people, did not wear turbans, did not use alien words or read Arabic. They could not be identified by unusual clothing, swarthy complexion, foreign-language books; they looked like everyone else: white English-speakers in a white, English-speaking country. (Their funding, it is well known, has come in large part from Americans.)

So I want to know how you fight terrorism and win, how you make your people safe while keeping to the highest moral and ethical standards possible, yet still securing your nation, your neighborhood, your future. I'm not interested in figuring out who gets to go to Hell as a result of each terrorist act; that's not my call. While it's true that I have the deep-down feeling that you damn yourself when you choose to commit such acts, the immortal souls of terrorists are just not a question for me; I am more concerned with my own responsibility to affect the decisions that will make further such acts less likely. I know that no one individual is responsible for the fact that the war in Northern Ireland has gone on for hundreds of years, but many people bear the burden of responsibility for that fact, and those people aren't necessarily all career terrorists. What an awful lot of them are is politicians whose decisions have more to do with retaining their seats in office or consolidating their own wealth and power than they do with actually eliminating the causes of terrorism.

So we come to our present set of questions in the usual way, half-uncrystallized, often beyond the reach of our powers of articulation, always wondering, like any child who is victim to a schoolyard bully, at what point we hold responsibility for our situation, and which of the numerous cliches and instincts telling us to fight, call for help, flee, hide, or turn the other cheek we should be listening to. When someone asks us for our opinion, when we write the words down, are we attempting to collapse the wave, to force a single choice, or are we only just groping ourselves for the insight that will make sense of things for us? Do you know?

Truth: On 11 September 2001, as I sat here watching the Towers burn, trying to absorb that this was real, not a movie - the growing fear I felt was not of terrorists, but of what the Bush administration would do to America. While some were saying, "This means war!" I was thinking, "This is their Reichstag fire." As time has gone on, that fear has only been compounded by my fear of what they will do to the world. Nothing they have done has even remotely lessened that fear. If what I felt in those first hours might have seemed paranoid to some, I know now that I wasn't paranoid enough.

I wanted to get rid of the Taliban - have wanted to for many years, of course. But I knew that a good deal more than military action was needed to prevent the conditions that allowed the Taliban to gain power from recurring. The Russians had early victories in Afghanistan, too. Toppling the Taliban is not the same thing as liberating Afghanistan's women, nor of winning the peace. George Bush has shown no willingness to make the real commitments that are necessary to those goals. He'd telegraphed that well before 9/11; he hasn't risen above it.

In all of this, in the back of my mind, there have always been these questions: Aren't we tired of decades of bearing the responsibility for the way the Bush family and their friends play around with the rest of the world? Isn't it them who got us here? Can we trust them to get us out of it?

No, I don't think we can trust them. Do you?

01:42 BST: Permalink
Smoking gun

From the Sunday Herald, Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President:

A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001.

The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a 'global Pax Americana' was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: 'The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'

The PNAC document supports a 'blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests'.

This 'American grand strategy' must be advanced for 'as far into the future as possible', the report says. It also calls for the US to 'fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars' as a 'core mission'.

Wait a minute - "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein"? Oh, really?

But wait, there's more! The document also:

l reveals worries in the administration that Europe could rival the USA;

l says 'even should Saddam pass from the scene' bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently -- despite domestic opposition in the Gulf regimes to the stationing of US troops -- as 'Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests as Iraq has';

l spotlights China for 'regime change' saying 'it is time to increase the presence of American forces in southeast Asia'. This, it says, may lead to 'American and allied power providing the spur to the process of democratisation in China';

l calls for the creation of 'US Space Forces', to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent 'enemies' using the internet against the US;

Oh, yes? Gee, isn't that a little worrying? And:

l hints that, despite threatening war against Iraq for developing weapons of mass destruction, the US may consider developing biological weapons -- which the nation has banned -- in decades to come. It says: 'New methods of attack -- electronic, 'non-lethal', biological -- will be more widely available ... combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes ... advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool';
Whoa! Who is this guy - Magneto?

Sunday, 15 September 2002

22:53 BST: Permalink

I love it when someone else says all the stuff I decided to skip this time. Talk Left, where they know about this stuff, has picked up the thread on the Central Park Jogger, responding to various comments throughout the Blogosphere. Picking up my point, Jeralyn writes:

Defendants don't all say they are factually innocent. In fact, very few do. Many will say they were not caught fairly, their rights were violated or they are less culpable than the state or government is making them out to be, but not many assert their complete innocence.

As a matter of law, defendants are innocent at the time they enter not guilty pleas and all the way through trial. They remain cloaked with the presumption of innocence until and unless a jury or judge finds them guilty after a trial or until a judge accepts their guilty plea after a hearing at which they demonstrate their plea is made knowingly, voluntarily and has a factual basis.

Defendants enter pleas of "not guilty" and proceed to trial because it is the state's job to prove them guilty by introducing evidence that amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Every person has the right to make the government meet that burden by testing the government's evidence in court. In most places, defendants don't even have access to the state's evidence against them at the time they are required to enter a plea. What lawyer would advise a client to plead guilty before reviewing and evaluating the state's evidence? If there is one, we wouldn't recommend hiring him or her.

Which leads me to one of those civil liberties points us liberals like to make:

To some people, it's a waste of the court's time to plead "not guilty" on such "technicalities", to go through the motions when they really were guilty. But if we don't go through those motions, we have no way to keep the cops and prosecutors honest. Every time someone goes into court and forces the authorities to justify your arrest and prove their case, they are reducing the likelihood that you will be stopped or arrested without probable cause, wrongly accused, fitted up, falsely convicted. Because if the cops can get away with those things in cases where people are guilty (e.g., "framing the right guy"), they can do it to the innocent as well.

But go read the whole post, which covers more territory than just the point I raised.

20:34 BST: Permalink
Toby's Political Diary says Bush is selling The Big Lie on Iraq:

Why the Big Lie?

  • Bush is a fundamentalist. Like his Arab enemies, he has a rigid system of beliefs, and once he "learns" something, he never questions it again. He wanted to attack Iraq as early as 1999, according to George Will. His "war on terror" provided the excuse.
  • Bush's administration is an oil administration. The man who has represented oil interests his whole life has not changed. A frightening story in Sunday's Washington Post details how American oil companies are planning to carve up Iraq the second richest oil country after Saudi Arabia, and kick out French and Russian companies.
  • Bush has failed in Afghanistan. He has not eliminated Al Quaeda, stabilized the country, or captured bin Laden. So he wants to divert attention.
  • Bush is politically desperate to shift the election away from economic problems and corporate scandals at home.
20:05 BST: Permalink
Lean Left notes that FCC regulations are under review again and it's pretty obvious that Michael Powell is inclined to loosen them further:

This is just more payback to the corporations that put Bush into the White House. Do you really, really think that its a good thing that only a handful of companies determine what news you hear? Do you really think that a democracy can survive only one voice in the debate? Does anyone in this administration- anyone in the Republican Party - care at all about democracy and civil society?

I am not being overly concerned. The reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution is because of the obvious fact that a democracy cannot survive of debate is choked off. Media consolidation chokes off debate.

Kevin also remarks on the curious fact that while even left-leaning critics have been complaining that the Democrats aren't doing anything to expand the debate on Iraq, not much is really being said about the big action in the Senate at the moment:

You know, this also goes to demonstrate how far our national media has sunk. We have a respected Senator on the floor of the Senate who, for two days running, has publicly defied the President, demanded debate, and spoke eloquently about the need to retain the separation of powers in government. He has turned a sure passage into an uncertain future, is trying to turn the vote into a debate about Bush's attempt to take Congressional power, and has done it using the Homeland Security bill - one of the Congresses top priorities and an issue all Americans care about.

This is our democracy in action, dealing with the rules of the Senate, the nature of debate, and the proper relationship between the Legislative and Executive Branch. Yet I have heard nothing about this on the news.

19:50 BST: Permalink
Uggabugga has a cool diagram of the possible results of a war in Iraq.

11:37 BST: Permalink
Another day, another shameless editorial in The Washington Post in which we claim that all actions are equal regardless of the circumstances:
THE SENATE Judiciary Committee's rejection last week of President Bush's nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Priscilla Owen, opens a distressing new chapter in the war over judicial nominations. Justice Owen was not rejected because she is unqualified for the post; she has served for the past several years on the Texas Supreme Court. She was rejected on a party-line vote because she is a conservative, on the right flank of the Texas court. Her opponents, co-opting the term of opprobrium normally hurled at liberal jurists, branded her a judicial activist. Ethics allegations were brandished as well. But at the end of the day, the objections to Justice Owen were almost purely ideological and dominated specifically by the politics of abortion. This is a dangerous road, one that will harm the judiciary and come back to bite the Democrats who rejected Justice Owen.
Once again, we see that Democrats are expected to be better than reality when the price is a uniformly right-wing conservative judiciary, a prospect we can ill afford. The machinations of the Republicans over the last decades have assured that the overwhelming majority of judges now serving at the federal level are Republican appointees, and increasingly hard rightists. Democrats have no obligation to allow the right-wing court-packing plan to prevail; in fact, it is their duty to prevent it.

Saturday, 14 September 2002

16:55 BST: Permalink

Prove Ginger wrong.

16:06 BST: Permalink
Jeanne D'Arc gets a chuckle out of this quote:

George Bush: "I'm deeply concerned about a leader who has ignored the United Nations for all these years, refused to conform to resolution after resolution after resolution, who has weapons of mass destruction."
She also continues thinking about the Central Park Jogger story and the fate of the young men who spent years in jail for something they didn't do. And, as usual, she's worth reading. But I want to take exception to one truism that appeared in her post:

The fact that the boys said at the time that the confessions were coerced and everyone assumed they were lying does not speak well for us as a society. Yes, every criminal says he's innocent, but the case was weak from the beginning and liberals especially should have been paying attention, should have noticed that something didn't smell right here. I didn't. We didn't.
I have no argument with Jeanne's point, but it's that "every criminal says he's innocent" thing that bugs me every time I hear it. In fact, it is nowhere near true that every criminal claims to be innocent. You might get that impression by looking at trial records, because at trial, defendants claim innocence; if they don't, there is no trial to determine their guilt. The big news stories aren't about the guys who just say, "It's a fair cop, guv," but those guys are not a rarity. Plenty of people admit they are guilty, plenty of people do not contest the facts, and even those who attempt to evade responsibility via the courts usually stop claiming innocence the moment they are convicted. When people have been in prison for years and are still claiming their innocence, there is actually a reasonable possibility that they are saying so because they are. That doesn't mean that everyone who does so is innocent, but that whole "that's what they all say" canard doesn't deserve the respect it so easily gets; it's not what they all say. Dump it from your cliche module.

15:40 BST: Permalink
MWO reports that, among other disgusting features, Dick Cheney's appearance on Rush Limbaugh's show included his use of the phrase "the Democrat Party". I'm sorry, I don't care how many excuses they come up with, a person using that term is always going to sound illiterate to me. The actual name of the party is, of course, "The Democratic Party" - and it's the adjective form, and anything else sounds wrong. Having someone who claims to be the Vice President of the United States publicly speaking this way is at the other end of the spectrum from dignity in office. Verdict: Dick Cheney is just a creep.

MWO also has an audio clip of an interview with Hunter S. Thompson on the "shameful" performance of the press. He's not kind to the current occupants of the White House, either.

05:42 BST: Permalink
Music News

Lenny Bailes writes:

I just heard the title song "My Ride's Here," from his latest album.

I'll mumble prayers to whatever is out there that it is.

And supplies this link to an article about Warren Zevon's music. But here's the man himself proving just how cool he really is.

Meanwhile, Jack Heneghan alerted me to another article from Janis Ian updating her previous piece on .mp3 file-sharing. She got a lot of mail on the first one. This one is called Fallout:

I am in no way qualified to answer most of the questions I received, though I did my best, or referred them to someone else for discussion. The issues here are much, much bigger than I can encompass. I only wrote about downloading, record companies,and music consumers; within a few days, I found myself trying to answer questions like "Who owns the culture?" for myself. Length of copyright, fair use on the web, how libraries are being affected - these are all things I hadn't given much thought to before.

When I began researching the original article, I was undecided, but the more I researched, the more I reached the conclusions stated in the Debacle article. I've had only a few weeks since that article was published, and I've been on the road the entire time, so I haven't had the opportunity to research most of these questions. I want to thank Jim Burger and other attorneys and fans who kindly sent me articles and court cases to read off-line, while I was sitting in the car en route to the next city.

Do I still believe downloading is not harming the music industry? Yes, absolutely. Do I think consumers, once the industry starts making product they want to buy, will still buy even though they can download? Yes. Water is free, but a lot of us drink bottled water because it tastes better. You can get coffee at the office, but you're likely to go to Starbucks or the local espresso place, because it tastes better. When record companies start making CD's that offer consumers a reason to buy them, as illustrated by Kevin's email at the end of this article, we will buy them. The songs may be free on line, but the CD's will taste better.

Janis suggests an experiment for the music industry that I'm not so sure about, but I'll think about it for a while. Meanwhile, she's putting free music on her site, which sounds pretty smart to me.

Friday, 13 September 2002

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Happy Friday the thirteenth.

I woke up today and thought, "Wasn't there some article in the IHT I was gong to look up last night?" I hate going online during the day at metered phone rates, but I looked, and found it. But while I was looking I accidentally found this quote from last week:

Nothing to say
By James Carroll (The Boston Globe)
Thursday, September 5, 2002

Washington is avoiding the need to explain its positions with the clarity and logic necessary to change minds and win support. Washington apes the style of a president who has no capacity for the use of language as a mode of leadership. The problem comes when, having sought to lead through the imperative voice instead of the exhortatory or the explanatory, nothing changes. The world is beginning to act like America's sullen teenager, refusing to obey orders. As a candidate, Bush [was] at a loss for words, and proud of it. Many voters were charmed. Others were appalled. Few understood, however, that this abdication of leadership by the intelligent use of language would be dangerous.

Actually, I think Bush has communicated quite well. He has said to us, and to the world, exactly what he means: "Who cares what you think?"

It's about time people stop fooling around and do likewise. Say it loud and clear: Invading Iraq is insane.

I've mostly been waiting to be convinced that this wasn't so, but no matter how smart and reliable the best defenders of the pro-invasion side are, I've had to conclude that their best case is no case at all. You're kidding yourself if you think there is a plan within this administration to bring democracy or any version of higher civilization to Iraq, or that even if there was one this administration could carry it off. These people are the worst combination of stupid, dishonest, and crazy, and the most important thing we can do right now - more important even than stopping Al Qaeda - is to take power away from Bush, Inc. as fast as we can.

Meanwhile, the completely different article I was looking for, which is by John Brandon and is called It's a connected world, so watch your language:

WASHINGTON: Little has been done to explain to Americans what Muslims, Christians and Jews have in common. All believe themselves to be the spiritual offspring of Abraham, recognize Jesus as a prophet and worship the same divine being.

There is a tendency to equate Islam with Arab culture and repressive authoritarian regimes. But in the country with more Muslims than any other, Indonesia, Islamic groups are actively promoting human rights, democratization, civic education and gender equality. The Muslim-majority nations of Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia have elected governments. American media have persistently misused two words, "jihad" and "fundamentalism." The word "jihad" has been distorted by extremist Muslim elements for their own political purposes. The term "holy war" was coined in Europe during the Crusades to mean war against Muslims. There is no counterpart for the term "holy war" in an Islamic dictionary, and "jihad" is certainly not its translation. For most Muslims it means striving for spiritual good.

Use of the word to mean holy war is insulting to all Muslims who faithfully adhere to the tenet of Islam wherever they may live. Failure to understand this perpetuates the widespread belief among Muslims worldwide that the America is at war with Islam. The word "fundamentalism" was invented in the 1920s to help describe the Christian evangelical movement in the United States, whose orthodox religious beliefs are based on literal interpretation of the Bible. Although the fundamental principles for Christians and Jews are embodied in the Ten Commandments, believing in the Ten Commandments does not necessarily make one a fundamentalist.

The concept of fundamentalism for a Muslim is that he or she adheres to the five pillars of Islam - to believe in Allah as the one true God and that Mohammed is His messenger; to pray five times daily; to help the poor; to fast during the month of Ramadan in the quest to attain piety; and to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

On the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, America is properly mourning for those who tragically lost their lives at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But whatever our differences, the peoples of the world are bound much more by their common fate than by their separate identities. We all need to bear that in mind.

Distortion of the terms "jihad" and "fundamentalism" does not help to build bridges of understanding between world's great faiths. Perhaps Muslims, Christians and Jews should look to Confucius, who may have said it best: "If we use the wrong words, we cannot derive the right conclusions."

The writer, a Southeast Asia specialist, is associate director of The Asia Foundation in Washington. He contributed this personal comment to the International Herald Tribune.

Of course, one could quibble that the fundamental principle for Christians is not the Ten Commandments, but John 3:16, the explicit contract Jesus made with everyone.

02:35 BST: Permalink
I'm so bummed out:

Warren Zevon has announced that he has untreatable lung cancer.
02:15 BST: Permalink
Okay, this guy's got my vote (via MWO):

Al Gore warned yesterday that American democracy is facing a dangerous threat from media conglomerates.

The lecture, delivered to an overflowing room of students and professors in the John Bragg Mass Communication Building, focused on upcoming Federal Communications Commission commentary regarding the dismantling of media ownership regulations.

"The FCC proposal to eliminate all of the restrictions on highly concentrated ownership of multiple news outlets is a dire threat to the survival of democracy in the United States of America," Gore said.

The FCC is investigating the merit of keeping its regulations in place regarding how many television and radio stations any one individual or corporation can own in any given media market. The current limit is three.

"They are not asking for comments on why the limits should be removed," Gore said, "they're asking for comments why they shouldn't be removed."

According to Gore, there is a two-fold danger when one group owns a substantial portion of a region's media outlets.

First, politicians will naturally cater to that group's interest in order to gain favorable press coverage for their campaign or cause.

"Look at the ability that television has to grab people's attention and hold their attention. And you think about a single individual owning all of the major broadcasting stations in Nashville, Tennessee, and what would the attitude of the elected official representing Nashville be toward the individual owning all of the broadcast news and cable news outlets in Tennessee? Might it be obsequious?" asked Gore.

Profit motive is the force behind the second danger, Gore explained.

"When there is too much concentration of ownership, the potential for expansion and the opportunity to continue earning profits tends to depend more and more on government policy. What's that person's policy concerning the governmental body that has to make those decisions? Might it be fawning?" Gore asked.

This relationship of obsequiousness and fawning will be responsible for an eventual blandness that threatens the democratic process. "It has already created a timid media that refuses to question governmental decisions," Gore challenged.

01:45 BST: Permalink
Alex Frantz has a priceless response to Ben Shapiro and Michael Kelley:

I bet that was just the way the discussion went:

Mullah Omar: But Sheikh, consider the dangers of attacking a nation as powerful as the United States.

Osama: Don't be ridiculous. Haven't you heard that some schools are banning Boy Scout activities until gay scouts are admitted? What do we have to fear?

Omar: Then surely it is as you said, and their lives have no value.

Osama: Even so. Our jihad shall triumph, for our prophet has said so.

Omar: Really? I must have missed Oprah that day.

00:35 BST: Permalink
"You know what I think? I think you may still be President." -- David Letterman to Bill Clinton. (RealPlayer)

Vicki Rosenzweig found a study that says there's no evidence that stretching before exercising reduces soreness or injury.

William Burton is all over Iraq.

Jack is sure - and so am I!

Thursday, 12 September 2002

13:12 BST: Permalink

I was interested in seeing how everyone commemorated the day yesterday, so that's what I was looking for last night. A number of people chose to say nothing at all, or to use a simple graphic, or to commend the words of others. I made note of some and was planning to upload them before I went to bed, but then I suddenly couldn't keep my eyes open and went to bed. Don't know if this will still be there today but found it eloquent. As well, there were these:

Dave Barry gets serious.

An annoncement for Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers

The State Of Our Constitutional Liberties: One Year After 9/11/01. Only one paragraph of this article is completely insane.

9-11: A RADICAL RANT by Max. (And also a link to this Donahue transcript with Ollie North.)

RAWA's 9/11 statement (via Soapbox Girls).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden with our real national anthem.

Oliver Willis gets it just right.

Wednesday, 11 September 2002

23:09 BST: Permalink

Tonight's movies

Flight of the Chickenhawks (Via MWO.)

Question Mark #16: 'Anniversary' (featuring Marvin Gaye).

18:21 BST: Permalink
There was an interesting editorial in The New York Times Monday. It appeared in The International Herald Tribune, where I saw it, under the title An uncertain trumpet:

George W. Bush was hardly alone in hoping that America would emerge from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 a stronger and more cohesive nation. Yet nobody framed the challenge better than he did in his State of the Union address last January: "In the sacrifice of soldiers, the fierce brotherhood of firefighters and the bravery and generosity of ordinary citizens, we have glimpsed what a new culture of responsibility could look like. We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self. We've been offered a unique opportunity, and we must not let this moment pass."

In later speeches the president pounded on the same theme, urging Americans to forswear the "culture of selfishness" and embrace a "new ethic of responsibility."

What has Bush made of that moment of opportunity, which may have passed by? Sad to say, not much. Most Americans had expected the country to be in a different place by now, and the fact that it is not can be attributed largely (although by no means exclusively) to Bush's failure to leverage the political and moral capital that Sept. 11 provided.

Bush had the words right. His problem was his failure to give them meaning, because he did not know what had to be done or because what had to be done exceeded his political will.

Maybe part of the problem is that anyone thought there was something new in firefighters risking their lives for the community, in neighbors coming together in time of need, in people giving of themselves for the benefit of others. Yet that is the America I have always known, always been proud to be a part of. Oh, yes, we certainly do have our faults, our pettiness, our too self-righteous anger, and our selfishness, but we've always done all the good things, too - cooking for the family next door when we knew there was illness in the house or someone had died, contributing to a whip-round for people in need, doing our bit to make our world a better place, defending not just what's mine, but what's ours. In times of peace or in terrible poverty, we have done these things, and god knows those firefighters didn't just come out of nowhere - they had been there every day prior to 9/11/01, risking their lives.

Mr. Bush apparently associates regularly with those people who live in the "culture of selfishness" and do not hold "an ethic of responsibility", but I do not. The people I know do what they can for others and for their community, and they know there is no choice but to be responsible; after all, if we screw up, no one bails us out with a few million bucks - rather, we lose our jobs. Not only that, but when our bosses screw up, we also lose our jobs. But aside from that, we know that if we do not take responsibility, no one will. We've made sacrifices, knocked ourselves out sometimes to exhaustion, often taken enormous amounts of flack in defense of the world we want to live in without expecting a penny in return, because we regarded it as our job as citizens of that world. We did not need buildings to fall on us to believe in those things.

No one can tell me that last September 11th "changed everything". For me, it changed nothing, because the things that were important then are important now. Americans, given a chance, are pretty good people, and our Constitution is our prize. George Bush's contempt for both was hidden in those pretty words.

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This is more like it - Todd Gitlin overviewing some books in The Globe and Mail, America -- love it . . . or dump on it :

In Granta's special spring issue, What We Think of America, the same Ziauddin Sardar contributes a fine, observant, funny first-person essay on Mecca, where he did research for five years. In the co-authored cartoon under review, however, his delicate skepticism toward tradition is not in evidence. Most of the 24 contributors to the Granta symposium, however, draw on experience and display curiosity about the actually existing America, where people live. The Canadian Michael Ignatieff praises America's "democratic reinvention." The Indian Ramachandra Guha recalls that the sight of the dean of the Yale Law School carrying his own baggage "was a body blow to my anti-Americanism." The Chilean Ariel Dorfman indispensably warns "how comfortable it is to employ anti-Americanism as a way of avoiding the faults and deficiencies of our own societies, even though such self-criticism should not prevent us from assigning blame to Americans when that blame is due, which it often is." To the contrary, Harold Pinter contributes the sort of rant that one of his stumbling, punch-drunk characters might commit, to the effect that the United States is murderous, period, so there.

Almost all the other contributors, writers from many countries, display some or much grace striving to navigate through America's contradictions. Their political positions are less significant than their attentiveness. Blessedly, they look the abstractions up and down -- and dance away from them.

In a terrible time, as the Washington putschists in power busily dare the world to hate the country they bestride, this is a bright achievement. Americans need to hear more in this vein from our exasperated friends. The small-minded, bullying Bush cadres are so benightedly self-interested, so contemptuous of world (and American) opinion, so heedless of argument, they will for the next 28 months pose an immense challenge to people of good will everywhere -- to resist their barbarous designs without succumbing to barbarism. A goodly proportion of Americans -- on many issues, a majority -- are straining to leave them behind. The challenge is to sustain complexity of thought about the America these plutocrats command. Quite literally, they do not represent America. There is a fighting chance that they will not have their way, and that the America that will succeed them will be more thoughtful and constructive. Intellectuals must not permit sloppy thinking to cede these usurpers an American future they have not earned, and that, with luck, they will not inherit.

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How I spent Tuesday

I went to the eye hospital. It was the day I was supposedly getting an eye angiogram to locate a leak that was distorting the vision in my right eye. Except when they looked this time, they came up with a whole new diagnosis.

It hadn't occurred to me last time to look at my eyes in the mirror after they put all those drops in, but this time I did and it's spooky to see your iris opened up so wide. There was just this big black circle with a little brown line around it. (And despite my first experience with the stuff, I forgot to bring shades. Naturally, both of these occasions happened on rare sunny days. It was glorious weather today, in fact.)

Anyway: "The macula lutea is the small, yellowish central portion of the retina, and it is the area providing the clearest, most distinct vision."

Mine has a hole in it.

But they can fix it! With surgery. ("This isn't laser surgery you're talking about, is it?" "Nope, surgery surgery." "That's what I thought. Eeyewww.")

This is good news and bad news. When it was supposed to be a leak, there was a 50% chance it would drain away by itself - and whether it did or not, it was untreatable, so (a) I didn't have to make any decisions and (b) no one thought I should decide to do something scary.

But the worst part is that by the time they do it, it will be too late to have an eye-patch for September 19th. Damn!

Anyway, then I went to some French restaurant and had a kangaroo steak. Yes, that's right, I ate Skippy!

The drops are wearing off and I can mostly see now, but for a while I couldn't read or anything and stuff was deeply blurry, in unprecedented ways. So now I can go read the web.

Tuesday, 10 September 2002

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September 10th, 2001: A Memorial.

Monday, 09 September 2002

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Yes, that's right, I just haven't felt inspired to write anything of substance lately. Don't worry, something is bound to set me off again soon. Meanwhile:

Who wants a war? - a clickable map of how the rest of the world feels about a US invasion of Iraq. (Via Skippy).

Ignatz explains what it means if a president (or unreasonable facsimile thereof) orders the troops in to interfere with labor negotiations. And also provides a link to listen to previews of Beck's new songs.

Bartcop claims to have an IQ of 64, and god knows he can't proofread his own work, but he's smart enough to know what's wrong with the press.

The morning of 9/11, with help from Mozart. (Flash animation.)

Click here to download an .mp3 of Scott Ritter laying it out on weapons inspections. And here is a transcription of excerpts from his address to the Iraqi Parliament (from the BBC).

14:28 BST: Permalink
I've just been out to the Post Office, and it's definitely London out there - dreary, rainy, grey, chilly, etc.

I had to go out to post my ballot, which just arrived this morning. In the same post were a flurry of letters and leaflets from various Democratic contenders. I confess to not knowing as much about these people as I ought to and in one case voting for someone on the basis of certain key words included in his leaflet. One leaflet said, "I haven't changed just to appeal to voters in this election," which suggests that someone else has, and I wonder who he might mean. One guy's campaign cleverly included a little wallet card that lists the deadlines for registration, changing affiliation, voting, etc, and a couple of useful phone numbers for voter information and the Board of Elections. But all of them were talking the liberal talk and emphasizing what are basic liberal positions. Only one of them mentioned gun control. All of them wanted to improve early childhood education, reduce class sizes, etc.

I'm afraid this time I won't even be thinking about voting for Connie in the General Election. I realize that for years she has been our last, best hope against Jesse Helms, but since he's leaving he won't be as much of a threat anymore, and the real threat is Republican control of Congress. Yep, I've become one of those people who would vote for a yaller dawg if it was the Democratic nominee, rather than do anything that would help a seat go to a Republican. I'm pretty angry about having to be a party-line voter, but the Republicans have really pushed me to it; voting for individuals in the general election is a luxury I can no longer afford.

The primaries, of course, are another matter. There, you do your best to figure out who really is the best person for the job and make every effort you can to get that person the nomination. Even school board elections are important (remember Spiro Agnew?); at the lowest, local levels you have the most power. Seats really have been won by only one vote, so people who moan about the nominees in the GE frequently have only themselves to blame. If you think about all those people who voted for Nader in 2000, imagine what they could have accomplished if they'd put their efforts toward getting progressive Democrats onto the ballots and working for them throughout the campaign. To win, candidates need more than just people who will vote for them in November; they need people who will work for them long before the general election. One reason progressive candidates have been doing so badly in the Democratic Party is that so many progressive activists have abdicated in favor of spoiler politics or even just staying home. (As I keep reminding people, Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 with fewer votes than George McGovern received when he lost to Nixon.)

Liberals and progressives need to nominate real Democrats and then get behind them all the way. Anyone who believes in democracy, anyone who believes in civil liberties, needs to get on board. The Republican leadership has made it clear that the only thing they care about is their own power. They'll protect their own property, but not yours. They will talk about "rights" when it suits them, but they won't enforce your rights because, frankly, they don't believe people like you are entitled to rights.

The Daily Kos, by the way, has been keeping track of a lot of primary politics for you, including that business with Harris in Florida:

Waiting until after the election would give both parties ample time to file appeals before the November general election. Had the judge ruled before the primaries, the losing party would've been unable to appeal.

And the judge is probably hoping Harris loses, rendering a decision moot and sparing him from a great deal of inevitable grief, regardless of how he rules.

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I find it amazing that this is actually being said in public, even though we knew it all along:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 — The Bush administration is shifting its emphasis in seeking exemptions for Americans from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, telling European allies that a central reason is to protect the country's top leaders from being indicted, arrested or hauled before the court on war crimes charges, administration officials say.

In most of their public utterances, administration officials have argued that they feared American soldiers might be subject to politically motivated charges. But in private discussions with allies, officials say, they are now stressing deep concerns about the vulnerability of top civilian leaders to international legal action.

As an example of the fear, one senior official pointed to the legal actions brought against former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in Chilean and American courts. The actions were brought by people who accused Mr. Kissinger of aiding in the 1973 coup in Chile and in the ensuing 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"The soldiers are like the capillaries; the top public officials — President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell — they are at the heart of our concern," the senior official said. "Henry Kissinger, that's what they really care about."

"They don't really care about the Lieutenant Calleys of the future," added the official, referring to Lt. William Calley, who was given a life sentence for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, but was then paroled.

Officially, the White House today repeated what its spokesmen have said in public speeches and statements: that their primary concern is that American soldiers, and not public officials, would be brought before the court on politically motivated charges.

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John Nichols is in favor of Standing Up for Dissent:

Every year Greensboro, North Carolina, holds a Fourth of July parade in which local organizations form the units. This year members of the Greensboro Peace Coalition decided--"after some hesitation," admits chairman Ed Whitfield--to join the line of march. They bought an ad in the local paper, printed leaflets and developed their own variation on this year's theme of "American Heroes": large posters of Americans, including Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who have spoken out against the folly of war.

Though members had been participating in vigils since last October, when the bombing of Afghanistan began, many expressed qualms about marching into the thick of their hometown's annual patriotic celebration. But fifty activists showed up on the Fourth and got the surprise of their political lives. Along the mile-and-a-half parade route through downtown Greensboro, they were greeted mostly with applause, and, at the end of their march, they were honored by parade organizers for "Best Interpretation of the Theme."

Says Whitfield, "There is a real lesson in this. If you scratch the surface of the poll numbers about Bush and Ashcroft's overwhelming support, you get down to a lot of people with a lot of questions. Some of them are afraid that they are alone in what they are thinking. What it takes to get them excited and to get them involved is for them to see someone standing up so that they will know they are not alone."

(Via T.C. Mits.)

02:11 BST: Permalink
Chris Floyd knows at Global Eye -- Speak, Memory:

As the world prepares to mark the anniversary of one of history's great turning points, we would be remiss if we failed to make our contribution to the sad memorials. And so, we return to that fateful moment when the forces of violent extremism struck a cowardly and deceitful blow against the cause of freedom.

We refer, of course, to the weekend of Oct. 18-19, 1980, when a former and future head of the CIA met in Paris with representatives from a terrorist regime to plot the cynical manipulation of an American presidential election.

It is an act of treason for private American citizens to cut political deals with foreign governments. But that didn't stop George Herbert Walker Bush and William Casey from sitting down with the Ayatollah Khomeini's mullahs to discuss a matter of mutual interest: making sure the 52 American hostages being held by Iran stayed locked up until after the November election contest between President Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

The Republicans were terrified of an "October Surprise" -- a move by the Carter government to free the hostages before the vote. So former CIA chief Bush -- now Reagan's vice-presidential candidate -- and Casey were dispatched to Paris to offer the Iranians a covert deal to keep the Americans in chains until Reagan was safely in office. The proposed payoff? A newly elected Reagan-Bush administration would supply Khomeini's military with a secret supply of American weapons.

The deal provoked furious debate in Teheran. The secular revolutionaries who helped topple the U.S.-backed tyranny of the Shah wanted to wash their hands of the hostages, who had been seized by Khomeini's fanatical talibs. But the religious extremists who held ultimate power liked the cut of that Reagan-Bush jib.

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She's good.

There's something I've been wondering about. Many times I've heard Republicans make a conservative point and argue that it must be true because the idea was acknowledged even by the "liberal Washington Post." I was just wondering if anyone had ever read the liberal Washington Post. Where I live, they only seem to sell the conservative one. If you know anything about the liberal version, let me know. I'd like to take a look at it.
01:06 BST: Permalink
Ted Barlow on Sullivan: Game, Set, Match.

Sunday, 08 September 2002

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A worthy cause we can all contribute to. Remember, 19 September.

Question Mark #15: 'Freedom'

In honor of Atrios, I will linklessly state that Lindsey Graham is not gay. No, really. I mean it! No way!


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I have been taken to task for a post below in which I apparently praise Max for his disagreement with Todd Gitlin. Except that, in fact, I didn't really praise Max - I just recommended reading his posts and the discussion in the comments. (Well, really, not even that - I just quoted him, said the comments were interesting, and expressed delight with the very last sentence of his second post, because I thought that sentence was amusing.)

There's this tricky problem with trying to find a clean path between lefty-bashing and finding The Truth, and everyone, including me and Max and Gitlin, stumbles all over the place looking for it. Personally, I can't help being impatient with almost everyone from time to time, but I must admit that I feel twitchy about Gitlin attacking a portion of the left in The New York Times as opposed to in a less public forum. Note I said "attacking a portion of the left" rather than "attacking certain ideas that seem to be floating around on the left," which is something else. Sure, I want to smack "the Nader left" sometimes, but I don't think I'd write that article in the NYT. The article I'd write in the NYT would be, perhaps, the one in which I said, without naming any names, that it's naive to pretend there is no difference between Bush and Gore, and then explain very clearly why. (And that no one worked harder than the Republicans to create that confusion.)

But of course [heavy sigh], it's all an argument that's been going on a long, long time. Long enough to remind me of Phil Ochs....

Yes, once, I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to socialist meetings
Sang all the old union hymns
But now I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in!
So, love me, love me,
Love me, I'm a liberal.
(Gah, I just noticed that Jello Biafra wrote his own lyrics to that song and they scan like crap. He's better when he just talks.)

09:40 BST: Permalink
Kim Osterwalder wonders:

I've always wondered why liberals like to ignore what happened at Ruby Ridge. Okay, the guy was a member of the Aryan Nation, but still. Liberals like gun control, but those further to the left realize that we can't have a government (law enforcement and military) that has all the weapons. You might need to protect yourself from them someday. I love that Clash song that says "When they kick out your front door/How you gonna come?/With your hands on your head?/Or on the trigger of your gun?" Now, I've met Joe Strummer and he's no conservative. (I know, pick up that name you've just dropped, etc. Well, still, it's pretty cool to have met someone like that, eh?)

If you're a liberal in favor of gun control, please tell me why.

I can't answer for people who push gun control, but on the other question, hey, it's not as if anyone has been knocking down my door to find out my liberal opinion on the Ruby Ridge (or Waco) issue. What I mostly see is opinions being attributed to liberals, and the whole of Ruby Ridge/Waco blamed on liberals, the Clinton administration, and Janet Reno as if, uh, it was all our idea and all our fault. The fact that both of these fiascoes were put together during the Bush1 administration has been so obscured that even most liberals don't know it.

Journalists decide whose opinion is going to be quoted in the media. If they wanted to know what actual liberals thought about these things, they would phone up some known liberals and ask them. If they phoned me, I would tell them that both operations were outrageous from start to finish, but they haven't called. I guess you'll know when that happens.

Saturday, 07 September 2002

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Of course, to many conservatives, the dawn of the Progressive Movement was the beginning of depravity in American political life. However, conservatives dare not state as their goals rolling back child labor laws, food and drug safety regulations or the New Deal and Great Society innovations such as Social Security, Medicare and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although conservatism claims to be more than a defense of property, the protection of money power is the prevailing ethic. Truth be told, the 19th Century Robber Barons are revered among the conservative Illuminati.
From that well-known raving lefty....The Bullmoose?

20:50 BST: Permalink
Oliver Willis says:

War On Thursday
Looks like BushCo is prepared to declare war one day after we remember those lost on 9.11. It's a bloody shame when a president uses his country's emotions to further an ill-advised agenda. Hey, at least this will put him ahead of his Daddy and Ronny "I Don't Recall A Thing About Those Contras" Reagan.

You can see the great job we're doing in charge of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Iraq: you're next! Remember, we wouldn't want to do anything f-cking sane like nation-building. You know, to ensure that the Afghan people won't come to resent us down the line. You see, I have no doubts America could beat the hell out of Iraq without batting an eyelash. It's what happens post-Hussein that bothers me. Killing terrorists is the first step, ensuring democracy for the remaining people is the next. Nothing helps a nation succeed more than democracy. Example? America. And even though their populace can be... off-kilter, democracy ain't doing too bad in countries like England, Germany. Even France.

If I thought George Bush had the brains or cojones to ensure democracy in Iraq - I would be much more for this action. But he hasn't done it in Afghanistan, and he can't even stop his subordinates from publicly squabbling. Why should I believe he will do it now? Also - where is the connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda? Next week it will be one year since we got the holy crap kicked out of us - and beyond "well, this one guy may have met with an Iraqi guy" there isn't much to go on. Certainly not the kind of material one starts a war on.

Well, yeah, that's my feeling. If we're going to try to do anything about Iraq, I think it would be real smart to wait until we had some regime change in the US, first.

19:09 BST: Permalink
From Chris Nelson:

Is there a point where we can actually call the Bush administration negligent for ignoring warnings about September 11th? Because here's news of another warning, this from an emissary of the Taliban.
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Freedom Chained In Pittsburgh:

I got a first-hand lesson on Labor Day on what the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly mean under the regime of George W. Bush. Americans who support Bush and his policies can raise signs in his praise and line the streets when his limousine passes by. Americans who do not support Bush and his policies must stay far away from the president by judicial decree or risk arrest.

That's what happened to a small but committed band of demonstrators who wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights at a by-invitation-only appearance by Bush at a picnic sponsored by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners at Neville Island, PA, just down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. The Carpenters and Teamsters Unions are the only labor organizations to support Bush.

While between 200 and 300 invited guests filed into the picnic grounds, police ordered between 60 and 70 protesters to stay four blocks away inside a sun-baked, chain-link fence-surrounded park. Anyone with a protest sign who stood one foot outside that fence would be arrested. A 65-year-old man who did stand just outside that fence with a sign was, in fact, arrested, along with his sister, who came to his assistance when Allegheny County police put handcuffs on him.

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Where else but MWO could I learn that rejected court-nominee Pricilla Owen looks exactly like John Ashcroft in drag?

Oh, and they've also got a link to this post 9/11 restrospective by Gary Kamiya:

Venerable hawks brought in by President Bush as wise men used the attacks -- and their callow, ill-educated leader's sudden, religiously mediated intoxication with "moral clarity" -- to seize complete control of his administration, pushing through draconian security laws, using patriotism as a political bludgeon, siding with the might-makes-right policies of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon in the crucial Middle East arena, withdrawing into haughty unilateralism and advocating an unprecedented new doctrine of preemptive American military action, with Iraq as the first target.
Leaving aside the larger consequences of the Bush administration's move to the hard right, it is difficult to assess its effects on the outcome of the so-called War on Terrorism (a term that led former Monty Python member Terry Jones to observe, "Can you wage war against an abstract noun?"). The failure of al-Qaida to strike again has suggested to optimists that perhaps they have shot their bolt, but it is impossible to say that with conviction -- just as it is impossible to say whether the events of a year ago represented the first battle in a "clash of civilizations" that could threaten our nation's very existence, or were essentially a fluke, never to be repeated on this scale. The uncertainty over this -- just what happened to us, anyway? -- leaves the entire episode murky, impossible to pin down. Rarely if ever before in our nation's history have personal obsessions, religious zealotry, geopolitical issues and pure happenstance combined to wreak such deadly havoc: Trying to unearth the meaning of Sept. 11 is like diving into a psychotic's subconscious.
It will be noted that all of the above analysis is harshly realistic, concerned with cold calculations of power and self-interest. Sept. 11 gave the Bush administration license to bury the last remnants of the derided idealism of Clinton, with his language of altruism and morality. The world envisioned by the ascendant Rumsfeld/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Ashcroft cabal within the Bush regency is one where a righteous America, its superiority sanctioned both biblically and by the Calvinist proof offered by our bulging bank accounts, lords it over the world. Sept. 11, the national pain and anger and yes, understandable self-righteousness that followed it, allowed those who cling to this dream of American righteousness and domination to take control of the American government. Will the fading of the emotions stirred by 9/11 cause them to fall from power?
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Max takes issue with a recent piece by Todd Gitlin:

LEFT WING JINGOISM: AN INCONTINENT DISORDER. One of my all-time favorite Far Side cartoons shows two bears in the cross-hairs of a gunsite. One has taken notice of the hunter while the other is distracted. The first is pointing discreetly to his companion with a shit-eating grin on his face. That's what I thought of after reading Todd Gitlin in today's NY Times. He trots out the slanderous box fabricated by the Right in the wake of 9-11 and neatly drops what he calls "the American left" into it. Left analyses of the event were simple-minded, leftists were "disconnected" from the human tragedy, patriotism was anathema. No evidence is offered; no names are advanced. I am not familiar with his media books, but to the best of my knowledge Professor Gitlin has yet to offer a profound work of political economy himself.

In the middle of his screed, perhaps sensitive to its lack of objective foundation up to that point, TG segues into an attack on the Nader movement. Anger at Nader's role in the election is used to fit him into the anti-American box too. I do not recall any statements by Nader pertaining to 9-11 that proved to be fodder for the usual right-wing slanders of disloyalty, nor does Gitlin remind us of any.

Gitlin closes with a litany of progressive causes and opposition to an Iraq campaign, but I fail to see whom he expects to take the lead in these endeavors. He has just tried to flush the most likely candidates down the toilet. I have to wonder if the Times would have been interested in a column devoted to Gitlin's explication of patriotic social democracy, minus the slam on "the American left" that occupies the bulk of the published piece.

There's an interesting discussion in his comments afterward, followed by a later, longer post which contains the delightful statement: "I'm the thinking person's Wavy Gravy."

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Judah Ariel has posted some helpful poll results:

80% of Palestinians would support a large-scale non-violent protest movement and 56% would participate in its activities.

78% of Israeli Jews believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to seek a Palestinian state, provided that they use non-violent means.

A strong majority (62%) of Palestinians thinks that a new approach is needed in the Intifada and overwhelming majorities (73-92%) approve of Palestinians using various methods of nonviolent action.

So, like in most places, the majority of people are more rational than their leaders.

15:18 BST: Permalink
As you may have noticed, I hide from pop culture a lot of the time, and anyway a lot of stuff that's going on in the US is invisible to me on that score. It's amazing how much you lose when you are no longer driving around the Beltway with the radio on. So I have no idea who Flaming Lips are or why drbeeper thinks it worthwhile to post a link to the extended mix of "Do You Realize", but I listened to it - sort of, with all the pauses and drop-outs from my dial-up connection - and it sounds like it might be okay if I could tell what it was about.

There's also a link there for Crazy Browser, which reminds me that I ought to report back since I recommended it earlier on, now that I've been using it for a while. Basically, I find that it works very well for my needs, although there is no substitute for more RAM (which, as far as I know, I can't get without simply getting a new computer, but I'm not much of a hardware geek). The only mystery it has introduced is that for some reason when I try to open MWO's page in it, Download Demon rises out of the depths and tries to download it as a file. It still opens the page in the window, it's just that DD is one annoying hell of a pop-up - so I use IE for that page. Of course, this is likely another one of those local phenomena that never happens to anyone but me.

15:02 BST: Permalink
Jeanne d'Arc says Ann Coulter has shot her wad and maybe editors will start to realize there's a diminishing returns calculation to be considered.

Oh, and you really must see the Shocking Clinton Revelation.

Pigs & Fishes says look here for some good free fonts.

Also noted: The retirement of Blind Lemon Northrup.

Friday, 06 September 2002

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Greg Greene has a good little comment on the sleazy, underhanded Ashcroft method of "justice":

Ashcroft's Little Black List
For Steven J. Hatfill, the Justice Department's perennial 'person of interest' in the anthrax case, life keeps getting worse. Agents searched his girlfriend's apartment over the weekend, and on Thursday the New York Times reported that the Justice Department told his employer to have him fired.

Louisiana State University, its federal grants in jeopardy, dutifully complied -- leaving the uncharged non-suspect out of a job. Whether he committed the crimes, I can't tell you; considering the glacial pace of the investigation, I doubt the FBI could either. But just as with supposed wannabe dirty bomber Jose Padilla and 'unlawful combatant' Yasser Hamdi, Justice would rather bypass the courts of law in favor of a trial in the court of public opinion. If, that is, Justice deigns to go public at all.

We can't consider this a surprise. Given the high standing of indefinite jailhouse vacations in Ashcroft's vision of justice, he probably sees measures like public shaming and blacklisting as the picture of restraint. Bringing a life to casual ruin, though, is just wrong, flat-out wrong, whether it's done in the quiet of a brig or the hothouse of a media fury.

If Justice has evidence, it should show it. If it doesn't, it should get it. If it can't, it should investigate somebody else. This is a murder investigation. The government has more pressing business at hand than having a non-suspect fired out of spite.

15:15 BST: Permalink
I came home last night and looked at Altercation, MWO, and Eschaton, felt completely superfluous as well as strangely exhausted, and went to bed. Eric's got a great reading list down at the bottom of the entry, by the way.

I confess to being entirely boggled by Salon hiring Andrew Sullivan. What are they doing? It seems to have pushed Eric over the edge, and I don't blame him.

MWO carries the very good news that the judiciary committee has voted down Pricilla Owen's nomination.

Meanwhile, Jim Henley says he beat me on the story of the premature anti-wahabbism of feminists by days.

Thursday, 05 September 2002

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First there was Rehnquist and his stupid stripes, and now Rumsfeld is protecting the royal Bush:

One might have expected Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be too busy for such matters. After all, there's a global war on terrorism under way.

Even so, he wanted himself understood by Tommy Franks:

There is, Rumsfeld stressed, only one commander in chief.

That already might have been obvious to many. No lesser authority than the U.S. Constitution establishes that the president is the ultimate boss.

But aides say that wasn't enough for Rumsfeld, troubled with Franks' title: "Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command."

Henceforth, Rumsfeld let it be known, Franks and other generals in the chain of command just below him and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff would have new titles.

The dozen-plus generals at the top of the unified armed forces - all called commanders in chief, or CINCS (as in "sinks") - would become known as "combatant commanders."

02:35 BST: Permalink
I have been trying to come up with a response to this rant from Den Beste but I just keep sputtering. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Gah! is it wrong! Back in the '70s when I used to try to warn folks about the increasing danger of Islamofascism, the only people I could get to listen to me were the women's libbers and a few other lefties. And where were the conservatives? Why, they were telling me that all that abuse and oppression was the way things should be.

The people who are suddenly talking about the oppression of women as an excuse for war are, to my mind, coming awfully late to the cause - and not, I think, in good faith. I'm not going to jump on their bandwagon just because they are trying to hitch a ride on mine.

This is serious business. We really don't need this kind of sophistry thrown into the mix. I want to see people freed, but I don't think rewriting history is going to achieve that.

(Sorry to disappoint, Ginger, but I'm just inarticulate with disgust.)

02:10 BST: Permalink
From The Globe & Mail, The Saudi Arabia dilemma:

George Bush Sr. fears a Saudi collapse in another war with Iraq. George Jr. doesn't and will go to war, says security analyst EDWARD LUTTWAK

The current sharp quarrel between the two George Bushes over the wisdom of attacking Saddam Hussein is much more than just a disagreement over policy for the Middle East. It reflects radically divergent conceptions of strategy and energy economics. There is even a basic difference in cultural values -- most unusual between father and son. What complicates matters is that the subject of the debate is Iraq, but the disagreement is really about Saudi Arabia.

The elder Mr. Bush, his former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, former secretary of state James Baker, and others like them, not only consider the Saudi ruling family one of the most important allies of the United States, but actually have a Saudi-centred view of the Middle East. Therefore they vehemently oppose a war to remove Saddam Hussein because their sources, chiefly Prince Bandar bin Sultan, long-time Saudi ambassador to Washington, tell them that the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, and other prudent members of the family are terrified of the Arab and Muslim reaction if bombs start falling on Baghdad.

The Saudis have a point. Having indoctrinated their population in the strictest variety of Islamic fundamentalism that prohibits any form of amity with Christians or Jews (pagans must convert or die), they are of course bitterly criticized for relying on the protection of the "Christian" United States, which supports Israel, a.k.a the Jews, and which just recently defeated the impeccably fundamentalist Taliban of Afghanistan.

01:04 BST: Permalink
MWO is linking this good article that clears up some confusion about the 2000 election, but I have a quibble:

Q: Why were more errors like this made by Democrats than by Republicans?

A: The social characteristics of Florida Democrats. The two groups making the most errors were African Americans and seniors, who are core constituencies of the Florida Democratic Party. Seniors probably made errors because of weak eyesight and other physical limitations caused by aging. African Americans may have made errors because of the anxiety they are likely to feel at the polls, where in the not-very-distant past they would have routinely faced threats, violence, police harassment, and worse.

There's actually a much better reason: Bush's name appeared first on the ballot.

Candidates whose names are listed first always have an advantage, but that advantage increases when ballots are made more confusing. In the case of the "butterfly" ballot, Bush's name came first, and so did his punch hole, making it harder to mistake the correct punch. But Gore's name came second while the punch hole came third, so it was much easier to make an error.

Well, that and the fact that the machines that didn't let you make errors were only available in Republican-leaning counties.

I no longer consider it an accident that ballot re-designs that were more confusing were introduced just in time for the 2000 election in Florida.

00:40 BST: Permalink
Bill Humphries reports that Neil Gaiman had a Jon Singer moment as he arrived at the Worldcon.

And also:

Over at Lake Effect (which is great to see back in business) Dan Hartung explains the seemingly contradictory term 'libertarian-socialist'.

Wednesday, 04 September 2002

20:15 BST: Permalink

The Daily Telegraph (registration required) is pretty sure that Bush has already decided to invade Iraq and that Blair is all for it:

By convention, the British prime minister has freedom of action in matters of foreign affairs and defence, always provided that he acts in concert with our principal ally, the United States, and, of course, that the war does not go disastrously wrong.
I have the feeling from this editorial that the Telegraph thinks it won't.

Of course, some people don't want to stop there....

19:50 BST: Permalink
Eric Alterman, who is really in my good books today for a number of reasons (hey, thanks! Er, this doesn't mean I have to get serious now, does it?), says this:

I understand why a senate candidate in Idaho would want to cut Bob Beckel loose after this kind of publicity, but why is CNN being so priggish? Beckel has not been charged with anything. Is CNN saying nobody there ever solicited a prostitute? Who made them holier than the pope?

One more argument for legalization, by the way and the destigmatization of prostitution. It’s the world’s oldest profession for a reason. Personally, I wouldn't want my daughter or my sister to make their living that way, but I don't see what is so dishonorable about it. It’s the hypocrisy that’s dishonorable.

I used to think being a prostitute was the worst thing in the world, until one took me to lunch one day and let me vent about the situation at the job I had at the time, working for lawyers. So there I was, whining about how creepy and sexist and demoralizing it all was, and she says, "That's why I got out of that kind of work." At that moment, I began to suspect I had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

(I'm restraining myself from quoting several more neat bits from Altercation today - go read 'em yourself. Oh, one note, though: At least Atwater said he was sorry.)

19:14 BST: Permalink
Josh Marshall can deconstruct the jazz:

Consider the administration's conceit: the president's leadership is so vaunted, they say, that when he makes up his mind the allies, who oppose us, will support us. The public, which is ambivalent, will overwhelmingly endorse his policy. But how will he bend the world to his will when he can't even get his own cabinet secretaries to endorse his policy?
19:06 BST: Permalink
Hey, Farber says Warren Ellis has a weblog. Hm, I bet this is even allowed in my diet, too.

15:13 BST: Permalink
Once more, with feeling

1. I know how to write my own name.

2. No, it is not safe to assume you can address me as, "Dear Sir," without me thinking you're a jerk.

3. When in doubt, "Dear Dr. Carol," will do just fine.

14:45 BST: Permalink
From an editorial at Consortium News: What to Do About the Media Mess

Periodically, we've made recommendations about what can be done to address the mess that is today’s U.S. news media. In that spirit, here is another suggestion: a television outlet that devotes a major portion of its daily schedule to covering what potential Democratic presidential contenders are saying and doing.

Currently, almost every word uttered by George W. Bush -- no matter how repetitive -- is carried live by major cable outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and C-SPAN. A great deal of attention is given, too, to speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials of the Bush administration.

Yet, the man who got more votes in Election 2000, Al Gore, rarely gets to make his case directly to the American people. Indeed, most of what the public hears about Gore’s speeches is filtered through the hostility and ridicule of cable-news TV commentators and other pundits. Unwilling to admit how unfair their coverage of Gore was in 2000, these high-paid talking heads are picking up where they left off -- and the American people have no TV outlet to turn to for relief, with the possible exception of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Beyond the virtual black-out of Gore's speeches, the public gets only occasional talk-show snippets from other potential Democratic candidates – the likes of Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Gov. Howard Dean. The American people also rarely hear from former President Clinton.

To level the political playing field somewhat, doesn't it make sense to create a television outlet that covers what these politicians are doing and saying? This TV station – which could be distributed via satellite, digital cable, the Internet and possibly other means – would have cameras following Gore and other leading Democratic politicians as they make their way around the country. The station also could report other news and events that get short shrift in the current American news media.

Really, this is something that has to be done - but no one is doing it. Yeah, ol' Barb put it round at one point, but nothing happened - and after 9/11 she's been awfully quiet. Someone ought to light a fire under the people with bucks, that's what I say. (Hey! George Soros! Are you paying attention? You're a big fan of democracy, I hear.)

14:15 BST: Permalink
Calling Gary Farber: Oliver Willis has some news for you.

00:35 BST: Permalink
The Chicago Tribune says Government should pay the Clintons' legal tab:

Wiping out a large part, if not all, of the Clintons' Whitewater-related legal debt would bring a measure of redress for an unwarranted investigation. Investment by the Clintons of $37,000 in a small tract of Ozark real estate was made a dozen years before Clinton ran for the White House. But Clinton's enemies and the press created such a fuss about the so-called Whitewater scandal that he bowed to pressure and, in 1994, requested appointment of a Whitewater special counsel. Only last March, in the five-volume final report by the independent counsel who took over the investigation, did prosecutors admit how feeble the case was against Clinton. It rested almost entirely on the worthless testimony of a couple of corrupt characters, David Hale and James McDougal, whose crimes cost taxpayers millions. Prosecutors acknowledged that the pair's charges against Clinton were made in hopes of leniency for their felonies.

Historians who revisit Whitewater will have to untangle a mystery: What possessed the country to devote so much time, attention and resources to what was essentially a non-issue? Especially puzzling is how even much of the ordinarily responsible press lost its collective head.

Anthony Lewis, a former columnist for The New York Times, wrote of Whitewater a couple of years ago, "The press, or much of it, can only look back on its performance with embarrassment ... A number of reporters and editors owe their readers or viewers apologies."

00:15 BST: Permalink
Max says:

From the standpoint of economic security for people not privileged to be near the top of the income pyramid, the 1990s were a total bust. Seeing as how this period was the best we are likely to see in terms of private sector vitality, the inescapable recourse for the vast majority of Americans in pursuit of ensuring their ability to meet basic needs, provide for their childrens' future, and retire in dignity is through "Big Government."

Tuesday, 03 September 2002

21:47 BST: Permalink

Atrios has a pointer to this Mark Crispin Miller post to a Salon Tabletalk thread about his own book, but it's too good not to post:

Caitlin, you hit the nail right on the head. Many of the vitriolic types whom rightists bring up as examples of the hateful Other Side are, in fact, also rightists—but the right is, by and large, so deeply racist that its tribunes automatically see every non-white in the world as "on the left," regardless of the latter's ideology. Yes, Farrakhan is a right-winger, offering up a sort of Africanized version of National Socialism. (Likewise, of course, for the Islamists, who are as hostile to communism as they are to all other secularist movements—just like Ashcroft, Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, et al.)

On the other hand, the rightists also like to point to leftists who were never, ever darlings of the media, but always on the margins. In that ridiculous defense of Coulter on, for instance, the exculpatory catalogue of mean-mouthed communists included Angela Davis—as if she'd had a national radio talk show, a mainstream newspaper column, or been prominently featured on the TV news. The comparison to Coulter is absurd (and not just for that reason).

But that preposterous use of Davis's name does help illuminate the issue, albeit inadvertently, by making clear the great importance of the Sixties in the minds of the apologists for Coulterism. As they see it, the vicious ranters of the right are only doing what "the left" did in the Sixties—"those yippies did it FIRST, and now we're giving them a taste of their own medicine," is the substance of their rationale. What that position fails to note is that the frequent nastiness and crudeness of Sixties rhetoric had no place in the mainstream. It came out only at the podium at some events, and only in the pages of such rags as RAMPARTS—which was edited, let's not forget, by David Horowitz, who was as big a putz back then as he is now. As obnoxious as his work was then, it is a lot worse nowadays, now that the largesse of his twisted angel, Richard Scaife, has amplified his voice a thousandfold.

Thus the right's use of "the Sixties" as a permanent excuse for their inflammatory rhetoric serves only to re-emphasize their actual nihilism and destructiveness. If the crassness of some campus radicals back then was something bad, it must be vastly worse today, now that the rightist megaphone has made it inescapable. (Notice that I haven't even mentioned the immensely different _aims_ of the two movements. That's because there were some thuggish types among the anti-warriors back then—their thuggishness not lessened by the fact that they were celebrating "peace and justice.") The new trash-mouths and their apologists don't seem to grasp the all-important fact that two wrongs never make a right.

Indeed. And, let's remember, the Yippees were not just treated as clowns, but they were clowning around and painting their faces, too. They weren't writing in The Washington Post or hosting a news-talk show, they weren't wearing suits, they weren't expecting to be seen as "respectable". I mean, c'mon, they called themselves "Yippees". They said things like, "Freedom of speech is the right to yell, 'Theater!' in a crowded fire." They chose a pig as their presidential candidate by chasing it around the Mall and arguing about whether they should eat it or (in deference to Tuli Kupferberg, who was a vegetarian) not.

Oh, yeah, and instead of rioting to stop people's ballots from being counted, they threw dollar bills around at the New York Stock Exchange. I mean, jeez, there's a little difference, here.

The poster after Miller quotes from a piece at Democratic Underground by Pamela Troy, Just Kidding...:

I think the problem is that many liberals mistakenly believe that the right wing has an emotional investment in the logic of its own claims and, as a result, is due any day now to simply die of embarrassment. Much has been made of the decline in American political debate, with the left often expressing bafflement at the increasingly senseless and inconsistent arguments offered by the right. In fact, it all makes sense if we take seriously some of the statements that have so far been dismissed as outrageous flights of rhetoric.
Modern right-wing rhetoric becomes much less irrational if it's seen as the last gasp of the right's pretense of commitment to political freedom. Rather than self-destructing or imploding, it's quite possible that many conservatives are on the verge of moving from the covert to the overt rejection of this ideal.
It's less and less covert every day. You don't stop ballots from being counted, for example, if you believe in democracy.

21:30 BST: Permalink
Matthew Yglesias dug up an old Alterman piece that's well worth revisiting. He quotes:

How odd it is to note, therefore, that this nascent leftist movement has virtually no support among African-Americans, Latinos or Asian-Americans. It has no support among organized feminist groups, organized gay rights groups or mainstream environmental groups. To top it all off, it has no support in the national union movement. So Nader and company are building a nonblack, non-Latino, non-Asian, nonfeminist, nonenvironmentalist, nongay, non-working people's left: Now that really would be quite an achievement.
20:00 BST: Permalink
Tenants and Offices of the World Trade Center as of September 11, 2001, and the status of missing employees.

05:53 BST: Permalink
More things to read

The Gadfly Buzz looks interesting.

drbeeper has found many odd things, such as this pornographic cartoon.

Here is a rant from Plastic Language that I should have mentioned earlier.

Paul Orwin has found an interesting article on sexual selection in the animal world.

Steve Chapman at asks: Who made Bush supreme generalissmo? (Via Ross Nordeen.)

The One True Bix wants to talk about weblog ethics.

Corante on what's been said about blogging lately.

Nigel Richardson discovers a new conservative publication.

PNN has the Hugo winners up, and Ted Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God" from Starlight 3 - edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden - won for Best Novella.

Friends and allies wonder what's happened to the United States, says Helen Thomas.

Myths & Legends

"The real question is whether an attack now, especially if we would have to go it alone, would be a net increase in the security of the United States and our friends and allies," Clinton said.

Seeing the Forest knows some good questions to ask.

Medical Marijuana Barbie

Monday, 02 September 2002

20:45 BST: Permalink

Life's too quiet while everyone else is at WorldCon. Well, there's still other stuff to read:

Demosthenes examines the Big Lie.

Get Your War on.

Julian Bond on "blackness" as a political issue.

From Hesiod:

JEB CLAMP IT: Jeb Bush is putting a zillion anti-McBride ads on the air. And, national Democratic fundraisers are starting to re-assess the Florida Governors race, and will begin to pour money into McBride's effort.

See an analysis of Jeb's "Tap Dancing McBride" negative ad from the Palm Beach Post.

And here's that analysis.

18:10 BST: Permalink
Woodrow Mann
Little Rock mayor whose fateful stand undermined American apartheid

Woodrow Mann, who has died aged 85, was an unlikely hero of the American civil rights movement. It was Mann, who, as mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, asked president Dwight Eisenhower to send in soldiers to ensure the integration of the town's Central High School.

17:45 BST: Permalink
From Joe Conason's weblog:

Aug. 8, 2002 | Shrinking Ann

It's probably time for a break from Ann Coulter's inaccuracies and distortions. But an email forwarded to me by a friend notes an interesting Freudian slip on the final page of "Slander." The book's last three words are "lie for sport" -- as in what those "strangely cruel [liberal] bigots" do habitually. If that phrase sounds faintly familiar, it's because those were precisely the words used by Vince Foster in his suicide note nine years ago -- to describe the Wall Street Journal editorialists who had vilified him. That's a spooky reprise, especially when one of the few honest passages in "Slander" describes Christopher Ruddy's conspiracy book about Foster as a "hoax." Mere coincidence or guilty conscience? We report, you decide.
17:30 BST: Permalink presents Question Mark #12.

Sunday, 01 September 2002

23:29 BST: Permalink

William Rivers Pitt on The Other American Dream:

No other nation on the face of the earth uses the words "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" as the premise for their foundation in government.

America does, and scads of Constitutional law have been written and re-written, debated and considered, because a long time ago the Founders decided to base everything upon the absolute necessity of those three concepts. America is and has always been a nation of immigrants, because the promise of these simple ideals has lured millions of people from every corner of the globe to these shores.

These words are the basis of the American Dream, a concept so simple and yet so huge that it is difficult to define. How does one encapsulate the concept of "the pursuit of happiness" in so diverse a nation? The answer to that question lies in the interpretation of the word that comes before it, "liberty." Above all, and first in line, is "life." Americans have the right to be alive, free, and to pursue fulfillment in whatever way suits them, so long as that pursuit does not grossly interfere with the life, freedom and happiness of a neighbor.
There is another American Dream which lurks in shadow, and speaks only in whispers of its designs. This other American Dream runs dark and silent, on rails lubricated by oil, blood and power. It works at all hours of the day and night to achieve its goals. It does not sleep. The existence of this other American Dream places the first one, the real one, the true one, in terrible peril. If this other American Dream is allowed to blossom into its intended potential, the American Dream we speak of to our children will cease completely to exist.

23:18 BST: Permalink
As I understand it, Bruce Springsteen said he didn't think Bush had done as bad a job in Afghanistan as Bruce had expected. Some of us would not describe that as "support" for Bush. On the other hand, some would:

To the consternation of his leftist allies and admirers, Springsteen is actually a supporter of America's war on Afghanistan, and has mostly praise for the administration's conduct of it.
18:26 BST: Permalink
Scoobie says this article by John C. Cotey in St. Petersburg Times ain't bad:

Slander, conservative Ann Coulter's bestseller about "liberal lies" gets counter-punched by the left at the hands of fact-checking critics on the Web. Bob Somerby says it's easy enough to find mistakes in the New York Times best seller Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, by conservative columnist and pundit Ann Coulter.

"Just pick any page and start," says the political comedian, who runs, a liberal Web site devoted to media criticism. "Within five minutes you'll have something that is weirdly inaccurate."

To do this, of course, you actually have to care whether the book is accurate, and plenty of offended liberals do. Finding mistakes in Coulter's book, atop the bestseller list since its debut seven weeks ago, has become an obsession for certain wired lefties.

Myriad Web sites have mined Slander (Crown, $25.95), to undercut what they feel is a scathing, prejudiced and inaccurate attack on liberalism and the media. Among the critics are Somerby's,; the American Prospect's daily Web log Tapped;; Scoobie Davis Online; columnist Joe Conason and a Dr. Limerick.

18:00 BST: Permalink
Mike Shannon on The Smirking Chimp, The parallel presidency:

There are two kinds of liars. There is the larger group that bends, twists, embellishes and otherwise reworks the truth into something that either makes for a better story or helps to cover a dangerously exposed posterior. Then there is the thankfully smaller group; these are the people who takes positions or make statements that are completely contrary to reality. Like this guy I used to work with. When this guy told a fish story it wasn't like when you and I do. He didn't just make the fish bigger or the fight to land it more exciting, he never even went fishing. The problem was he was the boss so in order to maintain a tranquil work environment we all had to stand around as he told these tales of his forays to some parallel universe with a bemused look on our faces. Unfortunately, and with far more grave consequences, that same principal is now on daily display by our parallel President.

Watching Bush and Rumsfeld stand there in hot dusty wind of Texas and look into the cameras and ask -- with a startling decree of sincerity and incredulousness -- how this "churning/frenzy" of speculation regarding Iraq came to be was just such a moment. I imagine it must have taken enormous self control -- if it didn't require such an effort than those present truly are lap dogs -- for the reporters on hand not to laugh (or cry) as their President so blatantly disregarded the truth.

The other day I realized that Bush really does talk in Bizzarro-speak. "Me help education," he says, before trashing schools. "Me will get Osama." "Me will restore honor and dignity to the White House. Now watch this drive."

17:05 BST: Permalink
This power can be used for good

Spinsanity has an easier time of it when they critique spin from the right-wing, because there's so much of it and it is so, so far from the truth - like when they look at Bob Novak's phony conspiracy -- that Clinton "cooked the books" on the U.S. economy -- falls apart on scrutiny:

BEA reported on July 31 that corporate profits for 1999 and 2000 were substantially lower than it had previously estimated. Since actual data from the Internal Revenue Service is typically not available for about a year and a half after it is filed, forecasters use other publicly available sources to make early estimates of corporate profits (the bureau's methodology is also publicly available). For 1999 and 2000, data from the IRS indicated that corporate profits were much lower than BEA's previous estimates, which had been based on overly optimistic projections. Given that both the data and the method used in calculating the estimates are entirely transparent, however, falsifying them for political purposes is virtually impossible.

Yet some commentators took those revised numbers to mean that the earlier estimates had been intentionally fabricated. Chicago Sun Times columnist and "Crossfire" co-host Robert Novak led the charge with a column on Aug. 8. Novak wrote: "Hidden in the morass of statistics, there is proof that the Clinton administration grossly overestimated the strength of the economy leading up to the 2000 election. Did the federal government join Enron and WorldCom in cooking the books?" Novak suggested later in the piece that "although a political motive for Democratic cooking of the government's books is there, nobody -- including Bush administration officials -- alleges specific wrongdoing ... Nevertheless, such discrepancy in earnings statements by corporate executives today would warrant a congressional subpoena." Novak repeated the charge -- and the insinuation of illegality -- on CNN's "Crossfire" that night, asking, "Was the Clinton administration cooking the books, or was it just incompetent bureaucrats? ... The motive: Claim a fictitiously vibrant economy for Al Gore to run on. Private corporation executives who cooked the books that way are called to account, and may do the perp walk to prison."

And when they have a read through that new book by Sean Hannity:

Distortions and lies are par for the course throughout Let Freedom Ring because, without them, Hannity wouldn't be able to make the continual stream of over-the-top accusations against liberals: They "loathe and ravage so many of our core values and traditions"; they "told us global warming and gays in the military were top priorities, well above securing our nation"; and "after we defeat our last foreign enemy, we will still face threats to our freedom, largely from left-wing extremists in our own country."
But of course, this just underlines why Spinsanity still owes a big apology to MWO after falsely accusing them of using the worst tactics of their opponents.

00:37 BST: Permalink
George Orwell's terrifying vision lives on
James Pringle

ISLE OF JURA, Scotland It seemed just as it must have been 56 years ago when George Orwell first made the grueling journey to Barnhill, an isolated two-story farmhouse that he occupied when he wrote "1984," his devastating critique of totalitarian communism, from 1946 to 1948.

Then, Orwell struggled to finish the novel against the ill health that would end his too-short life at age 46 in 1950, the year after his terrifying vision of the future was published with its stark opening line about the clocks "striking thirteen."
Over mugs of strong tea, Damaris spoke of how Orwell had entered world popular consciousness. "Newspeak" words like "thought police" and "unperson" had become part of the language, as well as "Orwellian" itself, used to describe claustrophobic Stalinist tyranny.

Damaris recalled that Orwell had foreseen the world divided into the three superstates of Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, forever warring and changing alliances.

I had been present in 1972 in the Chinese capital's Great Hall of the People as the band of the People's Liberation Army played "Home on the Range," when Premier Zhou Enlai toasted President Richard Nixon in an unforeseen rapprochement between the two hostile superpowers.

Oceania - "paper tiger" America and its British "running dog" - and Mao Zedong's Eastasia had now ganged up against Eurasia, Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

A well-thumbed copy of "1984" had been useful as a rough guide to whether the mainly Communist states one reported from were "Orwellian" or not - China, North Korea and Pol Pot's Cambodia felt "Orwellian," but Cuba and North Vietnam somehow did not.

During the Vietnam War the Orwellians seemed to be those who pulverised villages from high-flying B-52 bombers and who had their own newspeak involving "body counts" and "kill ratios."

Burma's xenophobic military regime is ramshackle Orwellian. I had been in Rangoon this May to interview the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on her release from her latest long house arrest. No mention is now made of her in Burma's controlled media - the Nobel peace laureate has become an "unperson."

It had always seemed that the most inspiring figure of "1984" was not the repressed protagonist Winston Smith but Julia, his girlfriend, who scorned the terror apparatus to attempt to lead a meaningful life. Against the odds, one had encountered Julias in China and North Korea.

In the Cultural Revolution, a young married woman told me, as the Chinese thought police listened in, that the happiest day of her life was when she was accepted into the Chinese Communist Party. "But what about the day you married?" I queried.

She paused. "The first time I heard my baby cry I felt very happy," she replied, slashing through the Maoist newspeak. "The day I joined the Communist Party was the happiest day of my political life."

In North Korea, a young woman guide in militia uniform at a Great Leader monument moved momentarily out of earshot of the North Korean thought police, then murmured: "Do you know this?" She hummed the opening bars of "Silent Night."

It reminded one of Winston Smith's musing about echoes of a lost past. Here were people in the nightmare world of Big Brother who knew there was another reality out there and risked labor camp to show they knew. Pyongyang's denizens were not quite the Orwellian automatons they seemed.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, September 2002

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