The Sideshow

Archive for December 2003

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Wednesday, 31 December 2003

Frog or Peach?

Paul Krugman notes that the high-end stores saw better Christmas sales than the low-end stores did, and says: Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right. [...] Calculations by the Economic Policy Institute show real wages for most workers flat or falling even as the economy expands.

Kevin Drum likes Dean's proposal to raise the minimum wage, noting that it did no harm back in the 1950s when it was the equivalent of $8.00 an hour in 2003 dollars. And should we index the minimum wage to inflation? Of course. But I'll renew an even better idea I proposed a year ago: index it to congressional salaries. Assuming a normal 2000-hour work year, congressmen make about $75/hour right now. How about simply making the minimum wage equal to 10% of that? Congress can then increase their own salaries anytime they want, but only if they're willing to help out the working poor at the same time. Seems fair to me. (And does anybody remember this?)

The year of the liar

E.J. Dionne: Conservative critics of "Bush hatred" like to argue that opposition to the president is a weird psychological affliction. It is nothing of the sort. It is a rational response to getting burned. They are, as a friend once put it, biting the hand that slapped them in the face.

Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped: Indeed, everything I've seen from the DLC in the past eight months suggests to me that its leaders are more interested in whining than in winning. I have never been so certain that the Democratic nominee will lose the 2004 general election than I was after attending the DLC's highly depressing annual conference in Philadelphia last summer, where it became clear to me that the DLC is more interested in seeing Dean lose than in seeing Bush do so. (And even then it was clear that Dean would become the Democratic frontrunner.)

Blast from the past
23:47 GMT

Not out of the woods

A Level Gaze has a word for George Bush: There isn't a lot of sophistication in Bush's public statements. He talks in front of curtains(?) emblazoned with repeating two- or three-word slogans that are merely cosmetic, and which claim results yet to be achieved. Simplistic.

And a question about those paperless voting machines:

While he's at it, I'd also like to know why Diebold and the other electronic voting machine manufacturers so stubbornly refuse to admit that auditability is a desirable attribute of electronic voting systems. If they were concerned with the bottom line, like, say, businesses, they could turn this controversy into whole new contracts to retrofit their machines to generate paper. If, as Cringely posits, the companies adapted voting machines from existing systems, every one of which already leaves a trail, it should be a very lucrative piece of cake. Why aren't they chasing this easy money?
Dave is quoting from the 4 December Cringely column, No Confidence Vote: Why the Current Touch Screen Voting Fiasco Was Pretty Much Inevitable; the promised follow-up is Follow the Money: Why the Best Voting Technology May Be No Technology at All. (Ah, someone else who agrees with me!)

And an all too believable analysis of Bush administration policy in Afghanistan.
20:45 GMT

It was a crime

In The Atlantic, George Soros agrees with me:

The terrorist attack on the United States could have been treated as a crime against humanity rather than an act of war. Treating it as a crime would have been more appropriate. Crimes require police work, not military action. Protection against terrorism requires precautionary measures, awareness, and intelligence gathering—all of which ultimately depend on the support of the populations among which the terrorists operate.

Declaring war on terrorism better suited the purposes of the Bush Administration, because it invoked military might; but this is the wrong way to deal with the problem. Military action requires an identifiable target, preferably a state. As a result the war on terrorism has been directed primarily against states harboring terrorists. Yet terrorists are by definition non-state actors, even if they are often sponsored by states.

The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush Administration cannot be won. On the contrary, it may bring about a permanent state of war. Terrorists will never disappear. They will continue to provide a pretext for the pursuit of American supremacy.

And Uggabugga agrees with Soros:
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: al Qaeda is not a state power. In fact, taking the adminstration at its word, the most recent alert was triggered by the concern that al Qaeda would hijack an airliner (or two). What more proof do you need that these guys don't have any weaponry? Sure, they are a menace with truck bombs, but the Bush adminstation has been treating al Qaeda as if they had submarines and jet fighters and laser guided bombs. They don't. The core is about 2,000 guys, mostly in Afghanistan. They were not captured when there was the opportunity (immediately after September 11), and now, two years later, it will be much harder to get them - partly because of the Iraq invastion, partly because the global (and expecially Islamic) community is less likely to go along.
As we have seen, the "War on Terrorism" isn't about fighting terrorism at all, it's about making war on pre-chosen targets that may have nothing to do with terrorism. In the meantime, the world has become a more dangerous place than it was before, and a breeding ground for terrorists.
19:58 GMT

Harvey Milk School

The American Federation of Teachers asks: Are schools for gay students a good idea? Gay activist Bill Dobbs doesn't think so, but Alan Ettman (of the AFT’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus) says, "Yes."
19:39 GMT

A la blog

First National Bank of the Living Dead: What we needed to resist was rebranding the estate tax as a "death tax," instead of a "lazy parasite tax" or a "crazy-assed worthless motherfucker tax." [...] But the various forces of the Republican right are well-practiced muddiers of mortality. We're supposed to feel helpless sentimentality toward the poor defenseless "dead person" as we do toward the poor defenseless "unborn person," in both cases overlooking life as an essential attribute of personality. (Live people, presumably, are able to defend themselves. Live non-rich people, anyway.)

Xymphora does a little reading: Wow! This is, I remind you, the freaking Washington Post! This editorial is one of the most insane things I've ever read in an American newspaper, and that's really saying something.

Demosthenes finds a really totally supawhacky right-wing crackpot plan for China.

Atrios says, "Steve Gilliard's right. It's time to take the gloves off," calling for an "adopt a journalist" program - you choose your scribe (a reporter, not a mere pundit), and document their abuses. Atrios suggests two particularly dangerous creatures, Kit Seelye and Ceci Connolly, who you remember I regard as being among The Spite Girls. Check out those Somerby links for a good look at these beings; they were instrumental in chipping away at Gore's lead, and reputation, in 2000 by spreading a load of smoke.

The Religious Left, in praise of doubts.

MaxSpeak has made the changeover to Movable Type, thank goodness, and I am so relieved. Change your blogroll link for him if you haven't already, and check out the Deathburger Party post.

Patrick must have run out of Buffy DVDs, and been forced to return to blogging.
02:13 GMT

Tuesday, 30 December 2003


Art by Nathan Horner

It's my birthday, I'm 152 in Delany years.

Talk Left has posted a bunch more important posts: Army Preventing Soldiers From Leaving ("Sounds like involuntary servitude to us. We just hope it's not another sign the draft is coming"), Pain Doctors Under Fire ("Doctors charge they are the target of overzealous prosecutors and DEA agents"), Bush Signs Anti-Terror Bill, and FBI Alert for People Carrying Almanacs kind of leave you reeling. Also check out the interview with Maher Arar, and there's a heads-up for TV shows highlighting the negative side of mandatory minimum sentences coming in the new year.

Barry (Ampersand) has been doing some heavy blogging on gay marriage (and a lot of other things) at Alas, a blog, and by the way links to the alternative to Jack Chick.

I can't help the feeling that Melanie really wants us to read this piece.

Daze Reader has the dope on a lawsuit by Acacia threatening a university (and more reasons to be ticked off at RealPlayer), and a review of a curious piece of art.

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla got this idea to become advice columnist of the blogosphere.

Lisa English at Ruminate This visits The Dept. of My Dog Ate My Homework, and recommends some holiday activism.

A nice galaxy, which I found buried in Ayn Clouter's CENOZOIC PARK.
13:24 GMT

Don't forget to Joss!

(Okay, the Mayor was one of my all-time favorite Buffy characters.)

Firefly Film Details Hinted:

Whedon declined to say which of the series' many loose threads he would tie up in the movie. Some of those include the secret behind the Blue Sun Corp. and its interest in River (Summer Glau); the secret behind Shepherd Book's (Ron Glass) past; the unresolved romantic tension between Capt. Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and Inara (Morena Baccarin); and the unresolved romantic tension between Simon (Sean Maher) and Kaylee (Jewel Stait).
Meanwhile, Julian Sanchez discovers that Joss was existentially inspired when he wrote the episode Objects in Space. (Both via Amygdala.)
11:45 GMT

Monday, 29 December 2003

They'd rather switch

Changes in Episcopal Church Spur Some to Go, Some to Join:

Even for some heterosexuals, the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality was the main reason for switching. Mr. El-Naggar, a retired C.I.A. officer and college instructor, said that when he read the news about the church's decision to back Bishop Robinson, he got out the Yellow Pages and phoned the closest Episcopal church.

He said he was pleased to discover that the rector at Calvary Episcopal Church was a woman, because he had always questioned the Catholic Church's opposition to ordaining women. He now attends Calvary Episcopal and said he had been stunned at the open theological debate there over homosexuality and other issues.

"I am trying to be a good Christian, and I have never felt that spiritual freedom I feel now in the Episcopal Church," Mr. El-Naggar said.

Those actually sound like better - more Christian, more spiritual - reasons to change churches than the ones given by those who left for the Catholic Church. (Via Atrios.)
23:50 GMT


Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Jim Capozzola are talking about a school in New Jersey where half the kids are knitting. It doesn't appear to be sex-typed.

In the small boarding school I went to in the sixth grade, it was. For the first time in known history, a sex-typed event was taking place at Green Chimneys: the older girls (fifth and sixth grade) were informed that we were to come to evening teas to be held by the school nurse, because we were supposed to learn to be young ladies or something. And mostly, we knitted.

As soon as the boys found out we were learning to knit they insisted that we teach them. The hell of it was, they were better than us at it. That was the thing I always remembered about it, which I guess is why it took me years to realize that it was also at these "teas" that they gave us "the talk", and that of course that had probably been the real purpose of the exercise. And it's taken me until just this moment to realize why they were doing this for the first time in history: because girls hadn't previously hit puberty by the sixth grade, but that was changing by the '60s, and suddenly they had one sixth-grader whose shirts weren't lying flat over her chest anymore. (Have I mentioned that I was the only girl in the sixth grade? I guess I should be damned grateful that they found this wonderfully casual way to impart the information to us - to me. And it was timely, too, and saved me from having a Carrie event a few months later.) (I originally wrote "bloody grateful" up there but decided that would be going too far.)

More: Via Teresa's Particles, [oops!] Electrolite Sidelights I found a really old photograph. Also at Rittenhouse Review, Are you a neonconservative? and more reasons to think about hitting Jim's tipjar.
20:54 GMT

The Good Guys

God is not a right-wing zealot

This one is worth clicking through the ads for the free Salon day pass:

In the heart of the Bluegrass, a Bible Belt preacher is rallying people to political action around what he calls "basic religious values." Think you can describe his politics? Think again. This man of the cloth wants "regime change" in Washington.

The Rev. Albert Pennybacker, a Lexington, Ky.-based pastor, is head of the Clergy Leadership Network, a new, cross-denominational group of liberal and moderate religious leaders seeking to counter the influence of the religious right and to mobilize voters to change leadership in Washington. Pennybacker, affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a pastor of 35 years, is tired of the conventional wisdom that equates religiosity with conservatism. Nationwide, he says, the religious right often squeezes out the left in public debate.

Now is the moment for liberal religious voices to make themselves heard, Pennybacker says. He believes the Bush administration's record runs contrary to the core values of America's religious communities, and, as examples, he points to what he says are deceptions about war in Iraq, economic programs that favor the wealthy and destructive environmental policies.
Would you talk about some of the specific issues you're focusing on?

One of the things we're very concerned about is the economic impact of policies in this administration. When people lose jobs, we see it as pastors and religious leaders. It means that families are shortchanged. It means that domestic violence increases. It means that alcoholism increases. And then we're very concerned about the international policies. This administration has set us against the world. From 9/11 to now, we've done a 180-degree turn with our relations with the world. In a very profound way our democracy is at stake.
Most religious leaders are moderate to progressive. [William Sloane] Coffin has written this wonderful book where he quotes an archbishop in South America who says, "God's given us two eyes, two ears and two arms and two hands, but only one heart. And it's in the center and a little bit to the left."

And, of course, Allen Brill at The Right Christians is also one of the good guys, and talks about what he believes.
12:34 GMT

On the tracks

Joe Conason and Atrios both have a few words about Democratic infighting.

Talk Left has the word on a New Report on Felon Disenfranchisement, and a piece on how the Bush/Ashcroft administration is moving toward martial law.

Eric Boehlert was four years old during The greatest week in rock history in the Billboard album charts:

That's why, for me, Dec. 20, 1969, represents rock's summit:

No. 1, "Abbey Road," the Beatles
No. 2, "Led Zeppelin II," Led Zeppelin
No. 3, "Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas," Tom Jones
No. 4, "Green River," Creedence Clearwater Revival
No. 5, "Let It Bleed," the Rolling Stones
No. 6, "Santana," Santana
No. 7, "Puzzle People," the Temptations
No. 8, "Blood Sweat & Tears," Blood Sweat & Tears
No. 9, "Crosby, Stills & Nash," Crosby, Stills & Nash
No. 10, "Easy Rider" soundtrack (featuring the Byrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf)

Says Eric: "There's never been another lineup quite like it -- and there will never be again."
12:11 GMT

Sunday, 28 December 2003

On the blog

It's a good time to read Pacific Views, where Magpie says Ooooooh, shiny! about the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day of The Pleiades, and Mary has posted a round up of the good stuff that she found during the quiet Christmas period, recommending How to Save the World and a post there called WHAT KEEPS EXECUTIVES AWAKE AT NIGHT that outlines current nasty market "solutions" and recommends some better ones:

Before we can restore the upbeat 1990s business climate, two things need to happen:
  1. We need to oust the Bush regime, and replace it with a government that encourages innovation, entrepreneurialism and small business, instead of corporatism, oligopoly, and more rights for corporations than for consumers.
  2. We need a citizen-consumer rebellion against corporatism, and against businesses who lie to customers, sue customers, sell poor quality, uninnovative products, mistreat employees, offshore jobs, and are socially and environmentally irresponsible. That rebellion will produce both changes in spending habits and new laws.
But in the meantime, those of us that advise businesses need to (at least for now) set aside the 'nice to do' business improvement ideas of the 1990s, and develop some hard-nosed new ideas that address the 20 stay-awake issues above in more creative and positive ways than the 'Usual Solutions' that prevail today. Because these issues are real, and until we come up with better answers, the 'race to the bottom' will continue.
And let me join her in recommending this outstanding post from Whisky Bar in which Billmon recaps the history of the neocon emergence as the failed criminals who gained another shot at wrecking the world after having already screwed it up before.

I love watching the slow evolution of Josh Marshall as he begins to see the things that were obvious to me all along:

I finally finished this empire essay which I've several times mentioned I'd been working on. I found it much more taxing and draining than I'd imagined. And it’s made me question and rethink a number of my assumptions about America’s place in the world today, her relative power, and the underlying domestic changes that are shaping the way she acts today on the world stage.

Is it really reasonable to expect that the values which undergird liberal democracy in America will be effectively spread abroad by the most illiberal people in America? It's a good question. Think about it.

And an unusual Christmas visitor at Uncle Hugo's bookstore.
16:12 GMT

Saturday, 27 December 2003

Dept. of Who is the Economy For?

Bob Herbert in The New York Times, Bracing for the Blow

Years ago, when concern was being expressed about the shipment of factory jobs to places with slave wages, hideous working conditions and even prison labor, proponents said there was nothing to worry about. Exporting labor-intensive jobs would make U.S. companies more competitive, leading to increased growth and employment, and higher living standards. They advised U.S. workers to adjust, to become better educated and skillful enough to thrive in a new world of employment, where technology and the ability to process information were crucial components.

Well, the workers whose jobs are now threatened at I.B.M. and similar companies across the U.S. are well educated and absolute whizzes at processing information. But they are nevertheless in danger of following the well-trodden path of their factory brethren to lower-wage work, or the unemployment line.

Meanwhile, from Digby:
This "Ownership Society" gambit is another of those slick sell jobs that Americans love to buy into since it gives them an illusion of guaranteed upward mobility by dint of their own special talent and superior moral values. Most people would rather hear that, I'm afraid, than hear that they are a bunch of rubes who've been sold down the river by a rich, elitist snake oil salesman. It will take a serious economic catastrophe to get people to admit that their belief in the "low-taxes-will-make-you-rich" American Dream was a scam.
People of unsullied reputation will still be able to fight over good jobs as maids, butlers, and gardeners.
17:05 GMT

Homeland insecurity

From the PATRIOT Acts I & II: The New Assault on Liberty? conference, Margaret Russell:

About a week ago I got a telephone call from a former student of mine at Santa Clara, and he was very concerned and left a couple of voicemail messages. I called him back, and it turned out that he had been contacted by the FBI here in Oakland. And all that they would tell him was that they wanted to talk to him, that he shouldn't worry. The agent said, "You don't need to flee the country or anything. You are not suspected of anything, but we just want to ask you a couple of questions. We're doing an investigation." So needless to say, he was very concerned.

He is a United States citizen of Iranian descent. He was on the eve of studying to take the Professional Responsibility Exam, which is part of the examination process that law school graduates go through before they can be sworn into the bar, the California bar among others. And he just repeated over and over how concerned he was, despite the fact that he could think of nothing that he had done that was wrong. He could think of nothing that anyone he knew had done that was wrong. But he remembered from having taken my constitutional law class that there might be a problem here, and so he called to ask for some advice about how he should answer these requests.

I'm sure you'll all sleep better now.
15:34 GMT

Some things

P.M. Carpenter: 'How the Democrats are helping Karl Rove do his work for him' - not that they don't have all kinds of help.

This guy nearly ran for governor of California, and would have made a great one. (It has been said that he is "why Playboy was so liberal for all those years." And he is still liberal.) Hey, it's not too late for him to run.

Roger Ailes has the nominee!

The current terror alert level is Ernie. You can set it up for your own page but I elected not to on the grounds that orange clashes with hot pink. (Psst! Fix your mail!)

Mike Palecek writes for peace.

Let it Bleed.
13:34 GMT

Friday, 26 December 2003

Where I've been

Ken Lay, at Skimble: 'It's 2003...Shouldn't I be in jail by now?' At Skimble, there's a bit of anger over the fact that Ashcroft hasn't really been investigated, and a good nutshell quote on the updated War on Some Drugs: All roads lead back to 9-11. See TalkLeft on the administration's support for the proposed Victory Act and its war on bogus narcoterrorism. Equating routine drug offenses with the activity of Al Qaeda serves as another false, preemptive linkage to further a preordained agenda that has nothing at all to do with 9-11-01. Oh, yeah, and some publishing news.

Paul Krugman lays out New Year's Resolutions for journalists. The Daily Howler will be there to give us the blow-by-blow as they break every single one of them.

Anne Zook: Atrios says the DLC seems to want Dean to lose more than they want to beat Bush. I always like it when someone points that out. We need to add "DLC" to the places/organizations requiring a little regime change. I certainly agree about those first two sentences, but "regime change" for the DLC doesn't actually make any sense, since the DLC is those people. Their purpose is to drag the Democratic Party to the right. We can't stop them from associating with each other and making stupid pronouncements. What we need to do is make sure no one in the party takes them very seriously.

Photos from Brazil
16:30 GMT

I never do this, but....

A guy in a chatroom says to me,

What happens when you have:
  • 1) nothing to do
  • 2) a sharp knife
  • 3) a large lime
  • 4) a patient cat
  • and too much tequila?
And then he sends me this:

Thanks to DrBill at Bartcop chat.

04:23 GMT

Thursday, 25 December 2003

Around the web

Sorry, got distracted. Santa brought me the DVD of the second X-Men movie because I couldn't go see it when it was out in the theaters due to having my eye gouged out that business after the surgery. Also, we ate a lot of food. Santa was very fannish this year, brought some Buffy stuff and also the DVD set of Fellowship of the Ring. Oh, and the Led Zep concert DVD.


Someone called them "a Republican nightmare".

All week I have been trying to figure out why this quote is supposed to demonstrate that Dean is anti-religious: "We are not cogs in a corporate machine," he preached last month in Iowa. "We are human, spiritual beings who deserve better consideration as human beings than we're getting from this administration." That sounds downright Christian, to me.

How your state could save money

Liberal Oasis considers a liberal takeover of the Democratic Party, and says that with great power comes great responsibility.

Jesus' General tells you Why Rush is a hero and how to improve Angels in America.

Mark Evanier on A Christmas Carol on film, which adaptation is the best, and the one we never got to see.

Nathan Newman says that Howard Dean's positions are more sensible than the spin would have you believe, and that John Edwards has his eye on the ball. And talks about actually bringing murderers to justice. (And that's what I want to hear.)

Detailed maps and charts in the very neat Election Atlas, via Matthew Yglesias.
23:39 GMT

Merry Xmas

As always, for those who missed it previously, Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol, from an ancient Xmas edition of Ansible.

I saw Sir Cliff doing his new Christmas song the other night. It's called "Santa's List", and it's a peace song.

Tom Spencer (formerly of Thinking it Through) has lately been posting over at Dave Johnson's Seeing the Forest, which was already good with just Dave. Tom made a Christmas Eve visit to his relatives, former humans who are now apparently among the Cloud Minders of Stratos. Maybe he should send this to them as a New Year's greeting.

Teresa takes us back to Christmas past, Season 5. (Why do you think there's so little blogging at Electrolite, lately? Yes, they are late to the party, but now they've got the whole damn series on DVD and are watching it all for the first time.)

Arthur Silber wishes everyone a peaceful, happy, joyous holiday, even the comic book barbarians.
04:00 GMT

The early morning run

Via Bartcop, an article in USA Today looks at the relationship between journalists and the White House.

Washington Post editorial, Punished for the Truth. I guess protecting G.W. Bush is the only thing government is for.

Federal 9/11 Detainee Abuse Caught on Tape; Men Falsely Held as Terrorists Were Beaten, Humiliated: WASHINGTON - In a surprise development, hundreds of videotapes that were originally said by the Department of Justice not to exist were discovered recently by its own internal affairs bureau and document many of the detainee abuses listed in an earlier internal report.

Ralph Nader Rules Out Green Party Run.

Jim Henley warns that it's only the Sunday Mirror and not really all that trustworthy, but still... BUSH AND BLAIR: THE BIG FALL-OUT

Get Your War On.
03:16 GMT

Wednesday, 24 December 2003

Theocracy in action

Pacific Views learns about faith-based parks, where books explain geological development of our natural wonders in terms of creationist theories.

And via Atrios, some faithless history:

All images of gay gatherings at national sites, including the Millennium March on the Washington Mall have been ordered removed from videotapes that have been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 according to a civil service group.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says that the directive came from National Parks Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy. Murphy is said to have been concerned about pictures in the video that showed same-sex couples kissing and holding hands after conservative groups complained.

The Millennium March held in 2000 to bring attention to LGBT civil rights issues drew tens of thousands of gays and their supporters to the mall for one of the biggest demonstrations since the civil rights and anti-war marches of the 1960s.

Also ordered cut from the tape were scenes of abortion rights demonstrations at the memorial, and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations "because it implies that Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion rights as well as feminism."

In their place, the Park Service is inserting scenes of the Christian group Promise Keepers and pro-Gulf War demonstrators though these events did not take place at the Memorial in what Murphy calls a "more balanced" version.

"The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks."

So important events that actually took place there have been deleted from the record, replaced by what we are now expected to perceive as the much more significant flexing of religiously-inspired masculine muscles.
12:35 GMT

Some holiday blogging

Mr. Sideshow has run off to the comic shops, but that'll be the last excursion into the outside world for the next couple of days. We're spending the holiday at home, where we expect to catch up with some movies we'd videoed off the TV and never got around to watching, and of course play with our computers. The Sideshow will not be running off on holiday, therefore.

We've already started the movie thing, with Bowling for Columbine, which is much better than we'd been led to believe. Although Moore does focus on guns, he by no means emphasizes them as the cause of violence in America, and looks to other likely suspects, like America's bizarre resistance to the sensible social policies that can be found elsewhere in the First World, along with the continuous media promotion of fear. America is the advanced country where it is most terrifying to be short of money; any decent criminologist can tell you what that means.

But what even Moore doesn't mention is something that's really unique in the First World: the breadth and influence of reactionary religious doctrine. That's the big open secret of crime in America, and anyone who has studied sex crime and serial violence knows that homes where restrictive, anti-sexual religion is taught are the ones most likely to produce rapists and compulsive serial killers. (In Third World countries you don't have to be a criminal, you just join the police.)

Anyway, a few things I saw before I went to bed last night:

More on the DLC wars from Big Media Matt.

Sore Eyes says John Varley now has an official web site.

Via Epicycle, a cool, super-high-res photograph of the view from Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, and X-ray posters.

The Gender Genie thinks I am a boy. (Via Amygdala.)
11:02 GMT

Tuesday, 23 December 2003

FAC mail

Oh, look, FAC got some fan mail!

go there
its a website
u might have heard of it
Well, how could I resist? I actually did check out the site, and it was full of the predictable rubbish about how feminists should shave their legs and wear bras. So I wrote a reply:
We don't shave our legs, we wax them.

I rather like this site, although it is a bit pricey:[Link]

So I'm more likely to get my bras at [Link]

However, you'll never get to see it, because a guy who can't be bothered to type all three letters of the word "you" is damn sure too lazy to be any fun in bed.

Eat your heart out.

This is actually fairly typical of about a quarter of the mail we get from the website. And not entirely atypical of the way I usually respond. Once, believe it or not, I ended up in a fairly civil exchange with one such correspondent, who in the end said, wistfully, "I guess I've ruined my chances with you, huh?"
22:54 GMT

A couple things

Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped recommends an article by Paul Glastris outlining a genuine family values agenda for the Democrats.

And: Ogres! (Thanks to Randolph.)
22:10 GMT


Katharine Seelye and Robin Toner wrote another offensive Dem-bashing article last week, with the fashionable stuff in it about how "some" Democrats are "uneasy" about Dean's candidacy. The Agora responds:

Jesus, this pisses me off.

I have been uneasy about every Democratic presidential candidate in the last 15 because they ran screaming away from real liberal positions, and never bothered to articulate a vision of a government that used the vast wealth of modern society to make life less precarious. Damn New York Times never interviewed me about that

Yes, and it's all the DLC's fault. Back in June, Norman Solomon talked about that:
In a 1992 book, "Who Will Tell the People," political analyst William Greider noted that the Democratic Leadership Council's main objective was "an attack on the Democratic Party's core constituencies -- labor, schoolteachers, women's rights groups, peace and disarmament activists, the racial minorities and supporters of affirmative action."
And they were doing pretty well at it, too. And in so doing, they've let us come to this place where the debate is between a "left-wing extremism" characterized by a Rockefeller Republican (Howard Dean) and a "conservatism" that is led by raving far-right loonies who differ only marginally from the KKK and who appear to be trying very hard to follow in Hitler's footsteps. (Ooooh, she said "Hitler"! Well, c'mon, they're asking for it.)

Who are the people who are "uneasy" about Dean and want someone more respectable on the ticket? Let's see:

One of the key "New Democrats" is DLC favorite John Breaux, a senator from Louisiana who distinguished himself by trying to protect deregulation measures approved in early June by the Federal Communications Commission. Breaux unsuccessfully proposed amendments to help TV networks to further consolidate media ownership. His efforts were even too flagrantly corporate for many Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee.
I suspect that even Breaux knows that Dean is really a conservative, although he doesn't let that stop him.

Unfortunately, what I worry about is the same thing Douglas Anders was talking about there at the top: I'd like to see real liberals on the ticket. Dean is liberal on a few social issues, but the truth is that he, too, is not really behind a liberal economic agenda. Edwards has a good approach toward some of the more outrageous attitudes toward working people that inhere in the "conservative" agenda, but he's a liberal only in the sense that he's not a theofascist or raving neoroyalist. Clark actually calls himself a liberal, but he did pander a bit on the flag-burning amendment (even though he believes such an amendment will never be passed). Kerry lost all of my remaining respect once he started attacking Dean for being honest about how little good Saddam's capture does American security.

The truth is, I was already seeing the candidate I really wanted to vote for last year, when he made all those great speeches about Iraq, the media, and so on. But he's not in the race.

But you gotta love Dean's campaign, and I wish a real liberal had done it first. Meanwhile, getting back to that NYT article, I know I'm not listening to Breaux's counsel:

Senator John B. Breaux of Louisiana, who has long sought to push the Democratic Party to the center, said Dr. Dean's remark about Mr. Hussein's capture was "not the smartest thing to say." Mr. Breaux added, "Most people in my part of the country think the world is indeed safer without a ruthless dictator."
Gee, he makes it sound like Saddam, who was apparently the only dangerous person in the world, was still in power right up until he was back in US hands. What a jerk.

And Kit makes it sound like Breaux is a centrist. She's an even bigger jerk.
20:19 GMT

It came in the mail

Ulrika O'Brien writes with some further thoughts on the purpose of sex:

There is a real irony in using "naturalness" as the basis for arguing a single true reason for sex, since if one is going to go that route, examining evolutionary mechanisms is only sound direction to seek in. In which case, the obvious conclusion is that if there is a "purpose" to sex, it is to promote genetic diversity. Asexual reproduction generally produces no genetic diversity, and so the evolution of sex seems to have been "for" gene-swapping. Sex being "for" gene-swapping in the sense that the original sport generated a means of reproduction that was wildly successful in permitting future adaptability, especially in larger animals. So much so that it's the predominant means of reproduction in both animal and plant kingdoms.

Absent a deity, looking at evolutionary success in the bearers of a trait or mechanism is about as sensible a way as is available for assessing what any biological mechanism is "for," i.e. what does it do that aids evolutionary success? What is it that allowed the trait to be propagated in subsequent generations to the exclusion of competing traits? From there, if there is some sort of virtue in using an evolved mechanism only for the "purpose" it evolved, it's a short hop to say that the only virtuous sex is promiscuous, procreative sex, i.e. that sex which produces the greatest genetic diversity. In other words, unwed mothers with lots of children by maximally multiple fathers are among the most sexually virtuous people possible. Needless to say, I don't think this is the conclusion that is wanted.

In the end, I think arguing "natural" virtue is just a mistake, especially in the sense of arguing virtue in using evolved mechanisms only for what they are evolved "for". It presupposes a sort of teleology that really works (and then, only sort-of) if you have a deity that sets the purpose of things. I think these nature teleology arguments are mostly a way of theists trying to sneak in god without too much idea of how "nature" actually is conceived, in the absence of god. If this sort of argument were sound, it would be equally wrong or selfish to use your eyes for close work (e.g. reading) when after all, what they're "for" is tracking moving objects at a distance, and evil and selfish to use your arms to move a wheelchair since what they're "for" is brachiation. And so on.

A bit of potentially good news from Gene Lyons:
It's with mixed feelings that I let you know I won't be sending my column around by e-mail after this week. The reason is that I've agreed to a syndication deal with United Media (NEA), which gives newspapers from sea to shining sea an opportunity to turn my immortal words into birdcage lining.

Those of you who have come to rely upon me to provide your weekly quota of spleen, sarcasm, bile and invective have three options. One, you can persuade your local newspaper to carry the column. Two, you can google up a paper that does carry it and (unlike the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) doesn't charge online readers. Here's hoping there will be a lot of them. Three, you can wait a few days and read it on the United Media website.

As we've all known for some time, Gene's column is too good and too important to languish in the wasteland of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, so syndication has been breathlessly-awaited. Y'all be sure to write those letters to your local papers - and especially to the Newspapers of Record - and tell them that their pages sorely need Gene Lyons. (In the meantime, go to Moose & Squirrel for links to current pages for Gene and a lot of other good columnists.)
16:15 GMT

You couldn't make this stuff up

The Daily Misleader looks at the truth about medical malpractice costs, saying: "Statistics Don't Support Bush's Claim that Tort Reform Will Minimize Costs." (Via Atrios.)

In the wake of Saddam's capture, a Christian expressed actual Christian sentiments, and a CHINO just couldn't hack it. Mark Kleiman meditates on the nature of Christianity and the problem of Christianists: Now for all I know Bainbridge is right about Martino, and Martino wouldn't feel, or express, compassion for someone whose behavior Martino really disapproved of. But Bainbridge does seem to be saying that, although Jesus of Nazareth was and is God, doing what Jesus said everyone should do makes Martino a bad person. He has further thoughts here in response to some e-mail he received. (Mark also looked at 20 of the entries for Bush in 30 Seconds, and listed as the best of those Baby Johnny's Stolen Future, Thank you, Rebuilding Iraq, and What Has He Done for You.)

The Invisible Manifesto (via Elayne Riggs).

At Tapped, absolutely do read Matt Yglesias' report on Tom DeLay's performance on Meet the Press, which is a truly astonishing compendium of outright lies, not to mention the disgusting liberal-bashing and, let's face it, dyed-in-the-wool America-hating. Matt generously credits Tim Russert with simply being overwhelmed in the face of such non-stop dishonesty, but this is really just Russert being, as always, willing to let the Republicans get away with murder.

On a somewhat related topic, Confessore, again at Tapped, on Sam Donaldson's ridiculous explanation for why it is Dean and his staff, rather than everyone else, who should be taken to task for Dean's utterly true statement that the capture of Saddam does not make us safer. We have gone past the point where Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh pretends that a Democrat is stating falsehoods when he or she is not; we now have Sam Donaldson telling us that telling the truth is "a gaffe".

Here's a little something to use to vent your frustration.
14:40 GMT


Confined Space looks at New York Times articles about workplace-related death: The first article is a story of a young man, Patrick Walters, killed in an unprotected 10-foot deep trench, only a couple of weeks after OSHA had cited the same company for sending workers into unprotected 15-foot deep trench. It's the story of OSHA refusing to issue a willful citation despite proof that the hazards were well known to the company, and finally the story of a federal workplace safety agency that wouldn't even refer this case to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation.

Remember last month when I was saying Bush's so-called tax cut is really a tax hike? Well, I'm pleased to see it's catching on. Nico Pitney at Not Geniuses has taken a look at Howard Dean's domestic policy speech and finds that Dean is referring to it as "the Bush Tax". Pitney says: This is potential genius, but it's only going to work if we all work together to spread and develop the meme... So spread that meme!

From Consortium News, Do Democrats Need the South? and, more recently, Bush & Democracy Hypocrisy: George W. Bush is now presenting the War in Iraq as a noble plan to bestow democracy on the Iraqi people. But there are troubling indications that Bush's pro-democracy rhetoric may be just a new sales pitch to justify the war to the American people, after the collapse of other rationales, such as trigger-ready weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda.
01:10 GMT

Monday, 22 December 2003

Happy Solstice

LaurenYou know when your friends have a kid, and you haven't seen the kid for a while, and then one day her father says, "She's a model now, just google on her name"? Well, I just did that, and I am boggled.

Just a Bump in the Beltway completely grossed me out with some quotes from a David Brooks column in which he reveals that, "he has completely gone over to the Dark Side." And things are so bad that people actually say this stuff in public, in the so-called liberal New York Times.

At Talk Left, the Disappeared - in Britain. Two years ago the security services broke into his family home at 5:30 in the morning, and he hasn't been seen since. But now he has smuggled a letter out to The Guardian (here). And I guess this stuff shouldn't surprise me: Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have teamed up to sponsor a terrible bill--one that panders to irrational fear but resonates politically. It is the "Gang Prevention and Effective Deterrence Act."

If you're tired of hearing me harp on e-voting, go read J.B. Holston on the subject instead.

The two big questions of the year - "Why do they hate us?" and "Why did we really invade Iraq?" - have the same answer. Lisa English is back, thank goodness, and she has caught that maniac Michael Ledeen answering them in a moment of honesty.

Josh Marshall has a nice little example of a deranged neoconservative, with a short but telling quote from Richard Perle. And here's Michelle Goldberg with the extended version. These people really have some astonishing mental short-circuits in place.

Bush in 30 seconds entry: Imagine.
13:19 GMT

Sunday, 21 December 2003

I blame Thomas Aquinas

If there was one thing we could be sure of, it was that the decision of the Massachusetts court would be the occasion for some stupid arguments against gay marriage. And these arguments, of course, are never any better than the arguments against masturbation, and sometimes even worse. Or sometimes they're just the same ones taken out for another ride. Like Jennifer Roback Morse at National Review Online saying:

So, what is the meaning of human sexuality anyhow? Sexual activity has two natural, organic purposes: procreation and spousal unity. Babies are the most basic and natural consequences of sexual activity. "Spousal unity" means simply that sex builds attachments between husband and wife.
I really wish people wouldn't say "sexual activity" when they really mean penis-in-vagina activity. I was having the former long before I'd even heard of the latter and I can promise you that babies would not be a natural consequence of this extremely frequent form of sexual activity.
Many people celebrate the uncoupling of sexual activity from both of its natural functions, procreation and spousal unity. But by doing so, we have capsized the whole natural order of sexuality. Instead of being an engine of sociability and community building, sex has become a consumer good. Instead of being something that draws us out of ourselves and into relationship with others, our sexual activity focuses us inward, on ourselves and our own desires. A sexual partner is not a person to whom I am irrevocably connected by bonds of love. Rather, the sexual partner has become an object that satisfies me more or less well.
Another thing I wish is that complete strangers would not try to tell us how our motivations differ from what they believe their own are. This is a kind of expertise from ignorance: I assume that my reasons are better than your reasons, even though I don't even know you, and I therefore make up the reasons you do the things I think you do, from what I imagine to be bad reasons, and therefore I am morally superior to you. I have sex for reasons of "sociability and community building", but you are just using a consumer good. I am connected by bonds of love to my sexual partner(s), but you look at your partners as "an object that satisfies [you] more or less well."

And when people throw these constructions at me, I can't help the feeling that they are trying to reassure themselves that they really are unselfish in their motivations rather than just users. Either that, or they are trying to console themselves that they have virtuous reasons for their choice of putting up with some pretty crappy sex.

This difference in worldview is at the heart of the culture wars. One side believes the meaning of human sexuality is primarily individual. Sex is a private activity whose purpose is individual pleasure and satisfaction. The alternative view is that sex is primarily a social activity. Sex builds up community, starting with the spousal relationship and adding on from there.
I actually don't know anyone who claims that sex is not a social activity, but we'll let that slide for the moment. The author appears to be suggesting that sex should be for people other than the sexual actors themselves - that somehow we are to be engaging in sex for the benefit of others who don't even know whether we are actually doing it. And that somehow it is these private, often invisible, sexual acts that build "community". (It's unclear whether we have to enjoy the sex, or be "above" such petty concerns, for this to work.)
The law of marriage is not the only social structure that creates the context for socially acceptable sexual behavior. But the law does play a key part. This is why it is utterly reasonable for the law of marriage to take into account the natural purposes of human sexuality. And it is utterly unreasonable for the law to treat all sexual unions as though they were equivalent.
So whatever is not compulsory should be prohibited, I guess.

Will Baud has a neat response to this view that sex is anything in particular:

This is, of course, ridiculous. Yes, sex can definitely make babies. And sex can certainly build attachments between married people, but it can just as easily serve as a wedge to drive them apart. And sex can also build attachments between unmarried people (one does not forget one's first lover). Morse herself says that "Science can now tell us how the hormones released during sex help to create emotional bonds between the partners."

Hormones do not recognize marriage contracts.

Indeed. Because sex is, like verbal communication, an activity that can be fun, infuriating, frustrating, bonding, exciting, alienating, boring, and so on. Sex is a form of communication, and what it communicates can vary enormously between any two individuals; there is no reason to assume that it will be a positive communication just because the two people are married, or of two different sexes, or the parents of the same children, or living in the same house, or even in love. Hell, even the two people (or three, or more, but let's keep it simple) can be having entirely different experiences of the same sex act. And the same person can experience two similar sexual occasions with the same partner differently on each occasion. It's bloody hard to define what sex is to any one person at any particular moment, let alone what sex is altogether. All we know is that it can be an awful lot of things, and some of them are things we do sex for, and some are happy or unhappy byproducts. But of the former, there are so many that it seems silly for Morse to declare only a tiny number of them to be "the" purpose of sex. And, as Baud says:
But even if we agree that sex does have a purpose, and that some of the things humans use sex for are somehow inorganic or unnatural, Morse's "spousal unity" declaration comes out of nowhere. Why should the organic and natural purpose of sex not be pleasure just as much as procreation? How else to explain the immense quantities of non-procreative non-marital sex that people have (and often enjoy!)?
Things can have more than one purpose in differing contexts, and, as Matt Yglesias points out, "the" purpose for which something was originally designed isn't always the best use of a thing. Not that - as Matt also points out - "design" is an issue we can easily parse. Thomas Aquinas tried this trick and made rather a mess of things, too. He was arguing against masturbation, partly on the laudable grounds that having sex with other people was a good way to promote socializing, although he seemed to have been ignoring the fact that this option isn't always open to everyone (and that sometimes sex is how people avoid having to talk to each other). So Aquinas got tangled up in the stupid trap of defining the "purpose" of, of all things, the penis itself, and said that since it was made for reproductive sex, it shouldn't be used for anything else.

There is an obvious mechanical flaw in this reasoning that, for me, underlines why people shouldn't get carried away with trying to invent "the" reason for anything in aid of supporting their prejudices. I mean, it should be obvious to anyone that Aquinas did not survive to adulthood without using his penis for anything other than penis-in-vagina activity. (I suppose that with enough use of modern technology it could be achieved, and the Gents would be a lot tidier as a result, but it seems an awful lot of bother to no good purpose.) And yet, here was a grown man who used his penis for something other than sex every single day, probably several times a day, and it doesn't appear to have occurred to him that there is a far more crucial use of the penis than for sexual activity of any kind.

(It's a bit of a puzzle, really. It might have made sense if it was a woman saying this - a woman who was unaware of the existence of the clitoris, that is - because our reproductive organs are separate from our organs of elimination. And you could perhaps forgive Aquinas for not wondering what the clitoris was for, since even in 2003 people still seem largely unaware that, for women, there's little biological connection at all between sexual response and reproduction. But even Thomas Aquinas must have been familiar with the phenomenon of a piss-hard.)

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying that the anti-sexual agenda produces a lot of cocked-up reasoning.

For more sex, Will has a follow-up post in which he revisits his statement in the earlier one cited above that: "Some people (like, presumably, Ms. Morse) are against premarital sex. Other people (like myself) are against presexual marriage." I heartily concur with his sentiments.

[Update: Further thoughts from Ulrika O'Brien above.]
12:36 GMT

Saturday, 20 December 2003

Look what we found

Thanks to Robert Licthman for the tip.

Check out this post at Altercation for, among other things, a very fine take-down of yet another dopey Friedman piece and other evidence that The New York Times has some bloody sorry stuff in its pages. Thank goodness for that glaringly shrilliant exception, Paul Krugman. And there's another lie quoted from lying liar Bill O'Reilly, along with the soon-to-be classic O'Reilly quote, "There is no other cure than to kill Matt Drudge." (In a later post, Eric briefly links to this piece on the Hardball "Battle for the White House" series that you really ought to read.)

Steve Gilliard says Dean will have to address religion at some point, and considers the approach. (And if that link doesn't work for you, just search on "Dean and religion".)

William Burton on Dean: Not the Lefty They Think He Is: What does all this add up to? Dean is a pragmatic centrist, but one who has been adopted by the left for his willingness to rail against George Bush. There's a very good chance that if more prominent Democrats hadn't spent the last two years sucking up to Bush, Dean would, in fact, be the Bruce Babbitt of this election.

Please tell this man to go fishing.
16:43 GMT


Tapped, as usual, has some great stuff from Nick Confessore and Big Media Matt Yglesias. Confessore observes another unfair and unbalanced article appearing right smack dab in the mainstream media:

"LAWSUIT HELL?" NOT QUITE. I was pretty surprised two Mondays ago when Newsweek came out with a cover package on lawsuits. It struck me as one-sided and, worse, prone to the same sorts of exaggerations and overdependence on anecdotal evidence that plagues much journalism on the subject. Co-written by Stuart Taylor, Jr., a legal pundit of demonstrable conservative persuasion and a longtime proponent of tort reform, the article was presented as a piece of straight reporting instead of the opinion journalism that it actually was. Taylor's no hack, but I don't think he tried to present both sides. So in that light, I'd recommend the following reading. Both reports are from activist groups, but I've looked through them and they appear well-annotated (unlike the Newsweek article). One is this report from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. The other is this long rebuttal by Public Citizen. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about, from the latter report:
[Confessore quotes from it here, but no link is provided, alas.]

Those who've been paying attention to this issue know it is fuelled by a deluge of anecdotes that purport to show "frivolous" lawsuits that should never have been filed, and judgments that should never have been awarded. The only trouble is that when you look into the cases, you usually discover that they are not quite what they seemed. Even in the famous McDonald's hot coffee case, it turns out that McDonald's was really asking for it.

"Conservatives" do a great deal to promote those specious stories, in an effort to eliminate the means by which ordinary citizens can find redress against wealthy bodies that are negligent toward, or defraud, the public. What they want is not justice, but a license to evade all liability - and responsibility. The real problem is not that it's too easy for ordinary citizens to file lawsuits against wealthier entities, but that it's still too difficult.

Another meme conservatives don't want you to look too closely at is upward mobility in our classless society. Confessore again:

THE END OF MOBILITY? Paul Krugman has a piece in The Nation titled "The Death of Horatio Alger." It's quite good, and between Krugman's piece and BusinessWeek's recent article "Waking Up From the American Dream," you have a pretty good debunking of conservative efforts to deny that class mobility is on the wane.
When your basic liberal (i.e., me) or, at the other end of the spectrum, your basic Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, Sr., talks about how successful people owe big tax money to the general pool as payment back into the system that allowed them to become successful, this is what we're talking about. Bill Junior had the resources to become as wealthy as he is today because his father was able to generate wealth in a system that offered him that shot, the same way my own parents were able to rise from immigrant poverty and Depression-era deprivation to comfortable middle-class status.

That kind of opportunity is becoming a whole lot more rare as wealth accumulates at the top and fails to move through the system; even the brightest and hardest-working middle-class kids are finding it's all the running they can do to stay in the same place - and some of them still can't stay in the race. You can't really measure the losses to society from this because you simply don't know how many smart kids with bright ideas just don't ever have the resources to develop them. In the meantime, the positions they should occupy are inhabited instead by the mediocre offspring of those who were able to become wealthy in earlier generations - people like George W. Bush, who is where he is today despite his utter lack of quality only because his forebears had the smarts he lacks.

Confessore also recommends a Prospect article by Chris Mooney on sunsets - the built-in provisions of (potentially bad) legislation that allows bills to expire, or at least require review prior to renewal, when the people who pass them aren't so sure they're a good idea. "Turns out it's yet another area in which George Bush has rewritten the rules of Washington politics," says Nick.

Matt Yglesias thinks Kean's declaration that 9/11 was avoidable may finally be what's necessary to break through the illusion that Bush is any good on national security and counterterrorism:

Even more so than the Iraq intelligence inquiry and the Valerie Plame leak investigation, which the administration has also been trying to stonewall, I think this one has the potential to do some very serious damage. The president continues to receive very high marks for his handling of counterterrorism -- significantly more people approve of his policies in this regard than of his conduct in Iraq or economic policy -- making his record on this score the linchpin of his re-election hopes.

The main problem here, from the president's perspective, is that this approval is largely unwarranted. As has been pointed out in the Prospect and elsewhere on any number of occassions the administration has seriously shortchanged homeland security and programs like Nunn-Lugar aimed at WMD counterproliferation as well as pulling intelligence assets that could have been used to capture Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and into Iraq. It's a pretty sorry record when looked at objectively, but so far the American people don't seem receptive to the message.

So there you go:

  • Tort reform - a scam to solve the wrong end of a problem.
  • American mobility - defunct.
  • Sunset clauses - will be deleted before bad legislation has a chance to lapse.
  • Bush's strength on security - the opposite of the truth.

Now all we have to do is work like hell to try to get people to notice.
14:44: GMT

Friday, 19 December 2003

It's all about Dean

In The Washington Post, Dean Assails 'Washington Democrats' on Iraq - his response to the slams he's been getting from the likes of Lieberman and Kerry for acknowledging that the capture of a man who was hiding in a hole in the ground doesn't actually make Americans safer.

E.J. Dionne, in The Politics of Positive Thinking, observes that some candidates - especially Clark - have been staying above the fray, letting others do the damage (and hurt themselves as well). But he also has a few good words for John Edwards and his policies, and thinks he's positioning the policies, rather than himself, to be part of the Democratic campaign, whoever wins the nomination.

And Howard Kurtz says he can't seem to get Wesley Clark's campaign to mention Dean at all.
18:18 GMT

A few hits

So Digby wrote a satirical piece the other day about how, hey, with Gore's endorsement of Dean, we should cancel the primaries. And now Ted Rall has written a serious piece about how we should cancel the primaries. Digby's response.

From The Independent: "The National Theatre is being accused of blasphemy for producing an adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy at Christmas time." (Via Arthur Hlavaty.)

William Pfaff says Saddam's capture bodes ill for Bush's re-election.

The British Board of Film Classification is taking a poll on their guidelines. If you go to the site it gives you a pop-up window to participate. Have fun.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Why we hate America. "We don't, of course, but dweeblings from the far right keep saying we do. It's a bizarre but persistent habit of theirs." But then, we know how the Republicans project.

Queer Eye for the Extremely Straight Guy.

Buzzflash interviews Arlie Hochschild: "Why are 50% of Blue Collar White Males Planning to Vote for Bush in 2004, Even When He is Picking Their Pockets and Stealing the Futures of Their Children?"
12:29 GMT

Thursday, 18 December 2003

More reasons to love weblogs

Microphotos of snow crystals via Pacific Views

Also at Pacific Views, there's a photo of an impressive lenticular cloud, Joe Trippi standing up for some truth, and Natasha's own reasons for preferring Dean to Kerry.

South Knox Bubba has a pointer to a Clark rally report from Bizarro World.... There's a post on John Edwards talking about tort reform, too. Oh, and this amused me.

Liberal Oasis is on that Diane Sawyer interview of Bush:

A fair amount of it was the typical softball questions we have come to expect.

But for about five minutes, Sawyer pressed Dubya on the question of the Phantom WMD harder than anyone has, perhaps harder than anyone has pressed him on anything since 9/11.

And in response, Dubya was defensive and evasive, clinging tightly to his talking points.

Judging from the wire reports of the interview, it doesn't look like anyone in the mainstream media is going to pick up on the fact that when faced with such questions, Bush has no good direct response.

Bill has presented his own transcription since ABC took their sweet time getting theirs up (and edited them when they did). And it's all there - the arrogance, the willingness to conflate things that are not alike as if there is no difference between them, the whole arsenal of specious "fact" and sophomoric argument, and of course the persistent non-answers:
SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn't have weapons of mass destruction?

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

(Pause, as both smile.)

SAWYER: And if he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction --

BUSH: You can keep asking the question. I'm telling ya, I made the right decision for America.

Because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait.

But the fact that he is not there, is uh, means America is a more secure country.

Of course, Bush can't tell you why America is supposedly more secure (because it isn't), but it doesn't even appear to occur to him that such an explanation is called for. Bush clearly expects "Because I say so" to be explanation enough. As Bill notes, Bush actually signaled during the interview that he doesn't feel any obligation to answer press questions. If I'd been in Sawyer's shoes, I would have taken that as a sign that if I didn't ask those questions now, the press might never get another shot at it. Sawyer was harder on Bush than anyone else has bothered to be in face-to-face, but not hard enough. Still, the truth about Bush was there for anyone who wanted to see it, and Bill reckons that if the Democratic nominee starts to push him, the public may finally get a chance to see what sort of creature really occupies the White House. And maybe he'll say more things like this:
SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

(Smile's gone.)

Bill also notes that the "bounce" in the polls for Bush after Saddam's capture was negligible and in fact within the margin of error.

Meanwhile, Gary Farber takes David Brooks apart for his stupid attempts to imply that Howard Dean is more of an upper-crust city boy than George W. Bush. I disagree with Gary's apparent belief that the quote he offers in this post is suggesting that anti-semitic activity in Europe is "no problem"; on the contrary, I think it says something much scarier than that. (However, I've only read the quote, not the originating article.) But do read this post in which Gary asks, "What goddamn, wimpy, Euro-loving, soft-on-the-UN, Donk cheese-eating surrender-monkey liberals wrote this trash?" if you didn't already know that William Kristol and Robert Kagan have lately been making the same criticisms of Bush that liberals have been making all along. And, of course, Gary reports on more dildos arrested in Texas.

I didn't get this one from a weblog - someone in a chatroom mentioned it - but Mario Cuomo is suing Greg Palast:

New York - In a weird and unexpected repetition of Fox News versus Al Franken, ex-Governor Mario Cuomo this week filed suit against Franken's publisher, Penguin, over the ex-politico's mention in the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Mario also sued the author, journalist Greg Palast for $15 million. Palast, whose award-winning stories appear on BBC television and in Harpers Magazine, is known in Britain as, "the most important investigative reporter of our time" (Tribune Magazine).

In an ironic twist, Al Franken, subject of the last lawsuit against Penguin, is one of the celebrities who have recorded the audio version of Palast's book.

Palast said, "This is Fox and Franken Part II. It's goofy. Katherine Harris called me, 'twisted and maniacally partisan.' Well, now it's Mario gunning for me - all for reporting the news."

Obviously, Cuomo doesn't think Palast's excellent book has received enough publicity, and is hoping that he can do for Greg what O'Reilly did for Franken. Thanks, Mario! Hope it works....
17:26 GMT

Verifying the vote

The NYT's piece from Monday on the Gaithersburg conference on "Building Trust and Confidence in Voting Systems" didn't appear until today in The International Herald Tribune, on the Business/Technology page. In The New York Times, it was in Technology.

Considering Computer Voting

HIGH-TECH voting is getting a low-tech backstop: paper. Most new voting machines are basically computers with touch screens instead of keyboards. Their makers promise that the new machines will simplify voting and forever end the prospect of pregnant and hanging chads. But as the market for computerized voting equipment has intensified, a band of critics has emerged, ranging from the analytical to the apoplectic.

I don't think I can approve of this use of the term "apoplectic" until I can see someone who actually is. The implication is that anyone who doesn't see this issue as a mere technical problem is overwrought; they're not. This isn't just a serious problem, it can mean the difference between whether we have a democracy or a dressed-up dictatorship. And the idea that we should relinquish democracy calmly should make people furious. I have no patience with anyone who doesn't View With Alarm the potential for the complete corruption of the democratic process.
Now a growing number of election officials and politicians seem to be agreeing with the skeptics. Last week, Nevada said it was buying voting machines for the entire state, and it demanded paper receipts for all voters. Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller said he received an overwhelming message from voters that they did not trust electronic voting. "Frankly, they think the process is working against them, rather than working for them," Mr. Heller, a Republican, said. Last month, the California secretary of state, Kevin Shelley[,] said that his state would require all touch-screen voting machines to provide a "voter-verified paper audit trail."
Nevada, no less - land of casinos. I'd take Nevada standards seriously. (I take the absence of that comma in the NYT seriously, too, by the way. I hate the fact that the low standard of punctuation that annoys me daily in the British press has crept into The Newspaper of Record. So there.)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, has introduced a bill that would require a paper trail and security standards for voting machines. Her bill is similar to an earlier entry sponsored by a fellow Democrat, Representative Rush D. Holt of New Jersey. "What's required for money machines should be required for voting machines," Senator Clinton said in introducing the bill. "We must restore trust in our voting, and we must do it now."

Rebecca Mercuri, an expert on voting technology who is affiliated with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and attended the symposium, said the tone of the discussion had changed from acrimony and accusation to the beginnings of civil conversation. The old corporate view, she said, was that "we have the safest, most secure voting machine - and by the way, it's a secret," Ms. Mercuri said. But that "is not going to provide the trust and confidence that we need," she said.

Yeah, well, congratulations to these women for going this far, but I don't want a mere audit trail, either. I want printed ballots. I want people to be able to confirm with their own eyes that the thing that is actually going to be counted initially says what they meant it to say, and receipts are not the same as input. It's the input to these computers that is actually being counted, not the piece of paper. There's no reason to think that someone who wants to fix an election won't just jimmy the input totals enough that there's no "close" election to require a recount.
The industry insists that its systems are secure and trustworthy, with or without paper. Harris Miller, who leads a new trade association for the industry, said that the group had no position in favor or against paper trails, but dismissed the issue as a "theological debate within the academic community." Mr. Miller, who is also president of the Information Technology Association of America, called some opponents of electronic voting "black helicopter theorists" and Luddites who "want to go back to the bad old days" of stuffed ballot boxes and chad wars.
Now there's a deflection of focus, for you. The "chad wars" were an issue in 2000, not so long ago, and the real issue was the same issue that is being addressed here: an active program by Republicans and their supporters to fix the vote. That the people who own and program the machines largely fall into that camp is reasonable cause for worry. It's not "black helicopter" stuff.

And don't you love that "Luddite" thing? I've been in love with this technology since I used my first mag-card typewriter, and started saving up for my very own PC before most people knew such a thing existed. The people who have been criticizing touch-screens aren't people who fear technology - they are the techies and power-users themselves.

But some of the critics know a lot about computing, security and elections - like Prof. Aviel D. Rubin at Johns Hopkins University, who led a team that analyzed purloined code from Diebold and found flaws that he said even basic training in secure coding would prevent. His work was cited in Nevada's decision to choose Sequoia's machines over Diebold's. "The only way that vendors are going to produce auditable machines is if they are forced to," Professor Rubin said. "So the recent moves of California and Nevada to require voter verifiable paper are huge steps in the right direction."
See what I mean? (I bet I had my own PC while people like Harris Miller still thought the only person who would ever touch a keyboard was a secretary.)
A spokesman for Diebold, David Bear, said that the company did not oppose the idea of voter receipts, and was happy to sell whatever kind of voting machine election officials wanted to buy. "We're in the business of providing products that our customers need," he said. In fact, the company's machines already have thermal printers that are used to produce end-of-day reports, so providing individual receipts would not necessarily require an enormous change.
With a wink and a smirk, I bet. I imagine these folks at Diebold relaxed quite a bit when they realized they were only going to be asked to print receipts and not actual ballots.

I was interested in seeing a line I hadn't seen before quoted from the now-famous e-mail:

Not all of Diebold's employees are so supportive of change, as Web sites that have sprung up in opposition to the machines have shown. Among the thousands of internal e-mail messages from the company that have made their way to anti-Diebold Web sites is a Jan. 3 message to colleagues by an employee identified only as Ken. Referring to criticisms of the Diebold, he wrote that news articles about a paper trail missed an important point, which he italicized: "they already bought the system."

"At this point they are just closing the barn door," Ken wrote. "Let's just hope that as a company we are smart enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and legislate voter receipts." In a later note he explained that he meant, "Any after-sale changes should be prohibitively expensive."

"At this point they are just closing the barn door." The suggestion here is that if they are using the machines at all, the fight is already lost. I suspect that "Ken" fully understands that receipts aren't what's needed to protect voting accountability.

Pay attention: You want the machines to print out the actual ballots. And you want to count them by hand.
15:06 GMT

Campaign Finance

This is a bit of lazy blogging on an important issue I should have been addressing more seriously. The Supreme Court decision was, of course, a travesty, and even David Broder knows something could be wrong with it:

The reason that backers of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill are likely to be disappointed in its results can be found right at the start of the majority opinion last week upholding the law. Quoting the 1896 words of that icon of the Progressive era, Elihu Root, Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor, the authors of the 5-4 majority opinion, said the new law is designed "to purge national politics of what was conceived to be the pernicious influence of 'big money' campaign contributions."
Far more troubling are the law's restrictions on broadcast advertising about federal candidates in the period leading up to a primary or general election. Such ads -- "Tell Senator Jones he's wrong on this issue" -- are indistinguishable in effect or intent from ads saying, "Vote against Senator Jones," the court ruled. So it upheld the new restrictions, saying that groups of any sort that buy them must adhere to the same limits on contributions and disclosure requirements as parties and candidates.

Such independent ads are a pain to the candidates -- a wild card in their election campaigns. But I must agree with Scalia that the restrictions Congress has placed on them are a boon to incumbents and a limitation on core First Amendment rights of speech and association. If I join the National Rifle Association or the Friends of the Earth and find that they cannot use my annual dues to say in a TV spot that Representative Smith has been voting against our interests, but first must solicit me for a PAC contribution, my rights have been restricted.

In a letter, Eric Wang says:
While the court acknowledged that "money, like water, will always find an outlet," the justices punted that problem "for another day."

Yet, without the national parties channeling campaign expenditures, unaccountable, shadowy "Section 527" groups will fill the void. What we probably will see is an explosion of sham organizations such as Republicans for Clean Air, which distorted Sen. John McCain's environmental record in a 2000 Republican primary.

Mr. McCain's experience should have taught him not to sponsor such bad legislation, and as the only member of the court having elective office experience, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor should have known better than to offer the deciding vote endorsing it.

I know I've seen and forgotten better articles than this that I ought to have linked to, but these were in Wednesday's paper. Those better links will, of course, be welcomed.
00:55 GMT

Wednesday, 17 December 2003

Bits and pieces

Blimey!  And thanks to Steve Legg for the tip.

John Nichols: Lieberman doesn't deserve pity party. Holy Joe's break with Al started way back during the 2000 campaign, so why should anyone feel sympathy for the man who sabotaged his own ticket and now is doing the same to the Democratic field?

Unthinkable: How the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works. Actually, it was always thinkable and I said so at the time; it was pretty naive to think that business and government wouldn't conspire to take away this free space.

Wow, someone is actually writing about Phil Ochs.
15:31 GMT

Finding the center

A lot of people have been citing this Ruy Teixeira piece entitled "Can Dean Move to the Center?" which says:

But that means it’s more vital than ever to think through the question of whether and how Dean will be able to move to the center in the general election. And make no mistake about it: he will need to do so. In the Gallup poll linked to above, Dean does way better among liberal Democrats than any of the other candidates, receiving 40 percent of their support, compared to just 11 percent for Clark and 9 percent for Gephardt.

But when you look at moderate and conservative Democrats, it’s a different story. Dean receives only 17 percent of moderates’ support, running slightly behind Clark at 19 percent. And with conservatives, he does rather poorly, receiving 11 percent of their support, running behind Gephardt (25 percent), Clark (17 percent) and Lieberman (13 percent).

Okay, one of the issues where Dean is weak with voters is security - but that, of course, has more to do with the press than with Dean's position. Pretty much all of the Democrats are appalled by how poorly Bush has addressed national security - Al Qaeda, first-responders, and any other matter that would help address the threat of terrorism has gone by the boards while Bush has been busy destabilizing the Middle East. Worse, he has clearly weakened our armed forces, which can hardly be helpful. The idea that Dean - or any other Democratic hopeful - could do worse on national security is just plain silly.

Unfortunately, rather than underscoring that point, other Democrats have instead exploited the "Dean is weak on security" meme to attack him, preferring a weapon for the circular firing-squad to an arsenal for beating Bush. The result is that the public sees not just Dean but all of the Democrats as weaker than Bush on this issue. But the crux isn't becoming better on security, it's getting the word out that we already are.

Next we get:

The Pew poll also finds that just 36 percent of these likely Democratic primary voters favor repealing all of the Bush tax cuts, as Dean does. This is actually less than the number (42 percent) who would prefer to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy, while keeping the rest of the cuts in place. And this is among Democrats. It’s a very fair assumption that Dean’s position will be an even harder sell among the general election electorate–particularly the moderates and conservatives mentioned above.
The trouble with the analysis here is that there's an implication that Dean's position is too liberal. Obviously, a return to taxing the wealthy is a more centrist (and more liberal) position than what we have now, but there's nothing particularly leftward per se about removing the "cuts" for the middle class. What would be leftish would be if Dean wanted to restore the same amount of income to the Fed without bringing middle-class taxes up - which would mean further raising taxes on the wealthy. But Dean, so far at least, is more conservative than that.

And his liberal supporters know this - that Dean isn't a liberal in any substantive sense. Oh, he is "like us" in that he appears to regard anti-gay bigotry and other aspects of the anti-sex agenda as a waste of resources, but that's about as far as it goes. Sensible people realize that invading Iraq made no sense, and what really matters right now is putting people in the White House who are capable of making sense. Dean made sense on that issue and a number of others, and the White House did not. Overturning the Bush tax program makes more sense than leaving it in place. Fighting real, known terrorists makes more sense than fighting with France.

Could Dean be better? Sure. But so could they all. That doesn't change the fact that Bush is worse than any of them - and that all of them are closer to the center than Bush is.

This doesn't mean that I'm convinced Dean will beat Bush in the general election, but it does mean that this kind of "Dean is too liberal" talk sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy that hurts all Democrats. We really do have to keep our eyes on the prize. Alex Frantz says something very serious, and very true, about this at Public Nuisance:

It's tempting to look at Bush's evident lack of curiosity and failed record in office and assume he'll be equally incompetent in the campaign. But Bush and his circle are bad at governing for the same reason that Tiger Woods is probably lousy at chess - it isn't their interest. They care about power, they know politics is a necessary skill to gain that power, and they are very good at it. They use it to reward their friends and punish their enemies, something this administration has probably done more effectively than any in history. By the standards of those of us who see government as a tool to solve societal problems they look much more like failures than they really are. This is particularly so since, for political reasons, they pay lip service to those standards themselves. But they don't believe a word of it. The Bush administration hasn't failed at improving the economy, they simply never tried. To this day, Bush has never even proposed a serious policy for job creation, or energy, or health care. He's only collected proposals to reward his campaign contributors out of public funds and labeled the results as an 'Energy Bill' or 'Growth Policy' or 'Medicare Drug Benefit'.

Bush hasn't failed at solving the country's problems because he hasn't tried. He has tried to be seen as somebody who has proposed solutions for the problems that don't interest him, and he has succeeded. What he cares about, he does well, much better than we are generally willing to admit. And he cares very much about winning the election.

Now that's something that everybody had better keep in mind.
14:38 GMT

Tuesday, 16 December 2003

Real liberal media

Send the One True Josh a get well card, and if you can (I couldn't), you might want to have a look at his panel discussion on the future of neoconservatism on C-Span, here.

Josh also posted a letter from a "former high-level Democratic executive branch appointee" about what the appointment of James Baker means to American dreams about Iraq:

What about the liberal dream of an Arab democracy that entranced many Democratic opinion-makers to support the Iraq war? Elections, in Baker’s experience, are not about fairly casting and counting votes; they are about who gets to rule. If a fair election was an indulgence not appropriate in Florida 2000, certainly Iraqis are not going to be allowed to vote for a freely chosen self-government in 2004. For that matter, we cannot be sure that the United States will have a fair vote count in 2004. You never know what exigencies may arise in a close election.
Eric Alterman's Target: George Soros looks at the attacks on Soros now that he has promised to throw some money into democracy in America. My favorite laugh-line: A writer in Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times complains jingoistically that "the Hungarian native anointed himself a major player in American politics." Definitely worth reading.

And speaking of Eric, some of you may not have noticed that his page has been moved to Slate's pages (and loading a whole lot faster here, I've noticed - faster than Slate's pages have ever loaded before, too). I can still find it because I've never used the numerical address to begin with, and use this one, which always forwards to Altercation, wherever it is. Apparently, a lot of other people can't get to the page because they only have the other URL.
23:24 GMT

A Saddam/Iraq round-up

No More Mister Nice Blog made this observation yesterday:

The front page of today's New York Daily News screams,


I'm shocked that I can find no online confirmation of this, but I'm certain that I've seen this tabloid headline before -- I've been chuckling over it and quoting it to people for years. As I recall, it first appeared after the capture of Manuel Noriega.

Which is interesting because back then, under a president named Bush, we worried about the scourge of drugs almost the way we now, under a president named Bush, worry about the scourge of terrorism. And it may not have been said in so many words, but we were led to believe that the capture of Noriega was a huge victory in the war on drugs.

Remember how, after Noriega was captured, no one in this country used illegal drugs ever again?

No, I don't remember it either.

What? Are people still taking illegal drugs? I am shocked.

(Note to Steve: Al Gore did not bring up Willie Horton. But this was a good little media note about liberal-hating, and thanks.)

Also, on the administration's phony reasons for the war, Steve has Iraqi Agent Denies He Met 9/11 Hijacker in Prague Before Attacks on the U.S..

Remember this from 2 December?

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood held his thumb and forefinger slightly apart and said, "We're this close" to catching Saddam Hussein.

Once that's accomplished, Iraqi resistance will fall apart, said the five-term Republican congressman from Peoria who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

A member of The Pantagraph editorial board -- not really expecting an answer -- asked LaHood for more details, saying, "Do you know something we don't?"

"Yes I do," replied LaHood.

DEBKAfile has a suspicion: Indications Saddam Was Not in Hiding But a Captive.

Hesiod says, The next time you hear a Bush supporter claim we had to liberate Iraq on Humanitarian grounds, show them this.

From Florida Today, Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

And check out if you haven't had enough of this subject, yet - they're all over it, too.

Update: I forgot to check to see whether Roz has posted her promised comment about Saddam at her Live Journal, and she has, and it's worth reading.
21:20 GMT

Peace on Earth

When Atrios celebrates "Write Like Nedra Pickler" day, he neglects to mention that she is a wholesale invention of a Freshman Comp. professor as an example of rhetorical inanity and other features of right-wing reportage.
says "Mr. Upright" in a comment to this post at Eschaton. Here is Atrios' more straightforward introduction to Ms. Pickler's work.

But here's something else I found in the comments, from someone called "Cynical":

Has anyone noticed how few xmas cards in the stores say "Peace" or "Noel" this year? Guess it's too political to send to the whole list. Plenty of "Joy" and stuff about xmas presents and eating. Couldn't find a single plain "Peace" or "Peace on Earth".

If I look on the bright side (which I never do, come on... get real...) maybe there was so much demand they all sold out before I could get my act together.

I haven't really noticed, myself, but I'm now wondering if others have been seeing seasonal "Peace" cards.

Atrios is on another little holiday at the moment, and has enlisted frequent commenter Thumb to pick up the slack.
20:38 GMT

Know your terms

I sincerely apologize for having failed to link, on the day, this excellent 12 December anniversary post from Long Story; short pier, which provides a vocabulary of terms for methods of stealing an election. For example:

Rehnquist v. tr. To purge voter rolls of blocs designated as likely to vote Democratic, whether by excluding anyone with the same last name as someone who might be a felon, or directly intimidating minority voters at the polls. Usage: "Katherine Harris really rehnquisted Florida in 2000."
Of course, we already had another usage of "rehnquist", but this'll do.
12:43 GMT

Liberal media

Bartcop was none too kind to Walter Shapiro Friday about some excuses he made for his performance covering the 2000 presidential campaign. He's right about that, but reading the transcripts of that 7 December appearance on Reliable Sources, I notice Michael Isikoff isn't too adorable, either. For example, he's very concerned about Howard Dean's sealed gubernatorial records, although for some reason he felt no such concern over George W. Bush's sealed records.

KURTZ: You have any reason to believe that there's anything embarrassing in these Dean Vermont records?

ISIKOFF: Well, who knows? I mean, that's -- it's always the case in records that you can't see. But look, Dean has only recently emerged in the last few months as the clear frontrunner in this campaign.

Isikoff, you will recall, made a big deal about something called Whitewater, which he never stopped finding sinister, although $70m later it still turned out there was nothing there.

Then Howard Kurtz brought up Dean's successful avoidance of the draft over a bad back (after which he went skiing in Aspen):

KURTZ: Walter Shapiro, is this another media-driven scandal? Something happened 30 years ago during the Vietnam era.

SHAPIRO: I think to some extent it is. I come out of a personal point-of-view that we should just have a general statute of limitations on dredging up "what did you do in the war, candidate?" Because Vietnam was a terribly wrenching period.

And in the same way I don't think George W. Bush's interesting attendance record with the Texas Air National Guard is relevant. And in the same way, I don't think that -- Howard Dean did something totally legal. He didn't play fast and loose. There were no self-serving letters...

Catch that? What Dean did was legal, we won't even mention that what Bush did was not only illegal but desertion, and the only thing that's truly bad, apparently, is that Bill Clinton wrote a "self-serving" letter. (Let's see, wasn't that the letter in which Clinton spelled out the fact that he didn't support the war? Not all that self-serving, if you ask me.)

Back to Spikey:

KURTZ: Doesn't the public resent the press when it seems to be prosecutorial, digging into everybody's background, dredging up issues from 30 years ago?

ISIKOFF: Right. But that's not the way these stories were written. They were just sort of -- look, here is one facet of his life we've written about, you know, facets of every other candidate's life. Dick Cheney doesn't fare too well when you put this kind of lens under where -- what did you do during the war?

That -- also, I don't think it's going to be a big political issue, but that doesn't mean you can't write about it or say what happened.

But you don't do that when it's Dick Cheney or for that matter George W. Bush - who is also a candidate in the race for '04.

Here's the bit that set Bart off:

KURTZ: You write that you felt snookered by George Bush in 2000.


KURTZ: How so?

SHAPIRO: Because I really took that campaign on the surface. I did not do the homework. I was not -- I mean not I didn't do the homework. I mean, I did not camp myself in Austin, Texas in 1999. And to a large extent I accepted too much of the compassionate conservatism packaging of the campaign. And there's a level at which we all make mistakes. I'm not saying my coverage was factually wrong of Bush, but it was -- I didn't pick out the nuances.

Bart isn't satisfied with that. Me, I find it incomprehensible. Nuances? Bush was lying through his teeth. The evidence wasn't that hard to find, either - it was in his record in Texas, and it was in The New York Times. I was thousands of miles away and I noticed it, so why couldn't Walter Shapiro?
02:30 GMT

Monday, 15 December 2003

Good stuff

I just got back from a pretty good party and I'm still getting settled.

I could just not write anything and simply post links to Liberal Oasis and save us all a lot of time - and save myself a lot of angst, too. Here's his take on the Dem debate, and though we are in concert on a number of points, it seems to feel better the way he says it.

And then he tells us What The Capture Means, and what needs to be done. And here's a quote for ya:

The urgency of this may be politically motivated.

But as Karl Rove likes to say, "good policy is good politics."

Personally, I'd like to think that good policy is our politics. But I don't think it's true for Rove.
23:49 GMT

Yawning at the headline

I think I haven't wanted to write write much because the arrest of Saddam seemed to me like one of those black hole things that people would make too much of. I mean, it makes no difference to the war on terrorism since:

  • Saddam had nothing to do with 9/ll, and
  • it seemed unlikely that Saddam was directing the resistance (that guy had too many enemies - he couldn't trust anyone once he lost control).

What did seem likely was that a lot of people would make this out to be a big deal, and a considerable number of them would be the very same people who would like to treat all liberals and Democrats pretty much the same way that Saddam treated "his own people" when he gassed them or tortured them or arrested them for being dissenters. (David Neiwert has the latest outbreaks of this covered here and here - along with the usual life-style advocates he usually talks about, of course. [And he also took a cool photo of Keiko the killer whale.])

And, as usual, it just happened to occur at a point in the news cycle when AWOL(TM) was about to get hammered.

And for anyone who's asking, yes, I do think it is a bad thing if inconsequential things like the capture of Saddam deflect attention from scrutiny of Bush's criminal and anti-Constitutional activities. Bush poses a considerably greater threat to you, me, and the rest of the world than Saddam has for quite some time. Revenge against Saddam is a lot less interesting to me than protecting myself, my loved ones, my country, and even complete strangers from the continuing depredations of the Bush Regime. I'm not a death-penalty advocate anyway, and frankly, I don't see that Saddam was any better off living in a hole in the ground than he would be in some special prison for the rest of his life, so who cares? What will make me feel that we have had a true victory over the forces of evil is getting these maniacs out of the White House.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair's disgusting lack of opposition to the death penalty proves once again that his so-called morality is just more empty words. (Roz says she will be writing about that later on her Live Journal.)
16:12 GMT

Field of vision

Obviously, I'm in that kind of a mood.

Cool EPOD photo (via elise). Ohh, this one is neat, too.

Great White Shark photo (via Brisingamen).

02:04 GMT

Get me re-write

Stephen Savage travels and takes pictures. I liked this page in particular, not just for the neat photo at the top, but also for the one of Dave, the best re-write man ever. (I'm not joking. It was painless, even though he made a number of changes in my copy. That never happens; usually they make two changes and you want to kill them for each one. But Dave didn't introduce a single mangling! He actually made it smoother. Wow.)

Fannish Dave note: Once upon a time he was riding back to Baltimore from a Washington Science Fiction Association meeting with two other Baltimorons, Jack Chalker and Roger Zelazny, and right there in the bus they formed the Baltimore Science Fiction Society together.

I met Dave at my first sf convention, Disclave '74. He was a reporter then, and he used to love to tell us about all the weird murder stories he worked on. Or maybe "stupid" is a better word - people could make quite a mess without realizing they just might get caught. Years later I was walking through the newsroom and overheard a group of reporters talking and one of them said, "I want to write it! 'The Man Who Laughed at Death.'" I knew what that was about - he was already a bit of a legend.

Dave is all grown-up now and is the night editor, but if you're ever watching the DVD of Homicide: Life on the Street, and see that reporter phone in and ask for Dave on re-write, that really is him she's calling. (The original script had her using his last name, but she couldn't pronounce it.)
01:23 GMT

Sunday, 14 December 2003

Saddam Hussein arrested in Iraq


Timing is everything.
13:35 GMT


Hesiod Theogeny (of Counterspin Central) sent me a heads-up on another one of those e-mails to the RNC's "grassroots" that just makes you sit up and marvel at how dishonest these people can be. It claims to be from Marc Racicot, who is not exactly a fringe supporter.

I don't want to sully The Sideshow with it, but if you'd like to have a look at the hideous thing, I have posted it here at Avedon's other weblog. Blogspot's permalinks seem to be working at the moment but if they're not when you go there just use the main page link, it's currently at the top of the page - and feel free to leave a comment!
12:52 GMT

Don't trust Lucy, Charlie Brown

Mark Evanier has posted a retraction of the post I referred to earlier that said there is one good thing about California's new governor. Now Arnie seems to have done a 180 on his indication that he would let the parole board do their job:

Actually, the only change in the governor's mansion has been that our chief exec now has biceps, an accent and sexual harassment lawsuits. Otherwise, it's still Gray Davis in there. (Thanks to Tom Hegeman, creator of the immortal comic character "Shyster" for the link.)
I have to take issue with the belief that, "it's still Gray Davis in there," though. Gray Davis is the guy who was suing for the $9bn in oil overcharges that California was ripped-off for. I haven't yet seen any evidence that Schwarzenegger is that guy.
12:02 GMT

Picture this

At Pacific Views, Mary has provided a smashing photograph of the coastline at the end of a post about Lewis & Clark and what they found - and what they missed. Less locally, Magpie links to that neat picture of Saturn from the Cassini robot ship. Magpie also drew my attention to a post I'd somehow missed earlier at Wampum in which Mary Beth gives an eye-witness account of another infuriating piece of legislation:

However, I learned of an interesting factoid this week while staffing the phones. Recently, Congress passed a law which allowed credit card companies two months leeway in crediting an account. Which means, in essence, that if you accidentally order, say a size 10.5 Bean, er, generic "Legume" boot versus a size 10, and do a "quick exchange", where the new item is sent at the same time you send back the old one, good ole MBNA can sit on both purchases for two months, meaning while they immediately charge your card for the replacement item, they don't have to credit your account back for the old one, even if it's the seller receives it three days after the original purchase date.
Yes, that's just the sort of benefit consumers were clamoring for, isn't it?

Yin & Yang: The adorable Skippy points us to some real good dick and also reminds us to have a look at Blog Sisters, where we found this post recommending this "painfully true" piece by Ellen Goodman, which says: All the supposedly terrible consequences of an ERA are here -- just not the rights.

(Lisa, I miss you!)
01:40 GMT

Two from Salon

Janeane Garofalo was more than a little bit disappointed to see how Salon's reviewer treated the "Tell Us The Truth Tour": To recap: In a program involving a collaboration between eight artists it is unfair to define the content of the show by the stand-up comedy of one. And to diminish the tour's message of "no power without accountability" to a "Bush bash" is either intentionally misleading or the reductive conclusion of a journalist who somehow fails to understand the fundamental role that critique and social commentary play in the democratic process.

Sidney Blumenthal explains why the DLC types are wrong about Dean, and says that, "Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean gives voice to Democratic voters' outrage over the 2000 election -- and the spineless conduct of their party since then," in A rising sense of injustice.
01:06 GMT

Saturday, 13 December 2003

WashPost editorials

From this morning's paper:

Is Secrecy a Progressive Value? This piece views with alarm a mysterious group putting big money behind anti-Dean ads that attack him for not being progressive - but no one seems to know who they really are, or where the money is coming from.

Test it, Mr. Warner discusses the Virginia Governor's recent interest in DNA-testing the evidence in the case of Roger Coleman, who was executed in 1992 in a rape-murder case long after even the jury had concluded that Coleman was probably not guilty. The so-called "early form of DNA testing" the Post cites, I seem to recall, was just an ordinary blood test that revealed Coleman to have had the same blood type as his sister-in-law's assailant - him and at least 50,000 other men in the area. This was the only real physical evidence they had against Coleman, by the way.
16:03 GMT

Manifestly unfit

Paul Krugman: In short, this week's diplomatic debacle probably reflects an internal power struggle, with hawks using the contracts issue as a way to prevent Republican grown-ups from regaining control of U.S. foreign policy. And initial indications are that the ploy is working — that the hawks have, once again, managed to tap into Mr. Bush's fondness for moralistic, good-versus-evil formulations. "It's very simple," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "Our people risk their lives. . . . Friendly coalition folks risk their lives. . . . The contracting is going to reflect that."

Another fine triumph for Warrior-hero Bush: U.N. May Have to Abandon Afghan Effort: KABUL, Afghanistan - The United Nations (news - web sites) — already forced out of Iraq (news - web sites) by suicide bombers — may have to abandon its two-year effort to stabilize Afghanistan (news - web sites) because of rising violence blamed on the Taliban, its top official here warned Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Here is an entry in the Bush in 30 Seconds contest. I rather liked it, but I haven't seen any of the others yet. Found it via The Left End of the Dial.
12:34 GMT

Some news

MS Swastika news

Man on dog news
11:56 GMT

Friday, 12 December 2003

Scotching a rumor

The Note corrects the record:

Again: Contrary to the impression many of you have, ABC News has devoted more time and expense covering the Kucinich campaign than has any other news organization.

Contrary to what some of you have been led to believe, we continue to have a reporter assigned to cover the Congressman, covering his major events and staying in touch by phone and e-mail, the way other news organizations do on many stories.

Well, that's reassuring. I think.
19:07 GMT

Count the vote

At The Smirking Chimp: ANNAPOLIS -- An e-mail found in a collection of files stolen from Diebold Elections Systems' internal database recommends charging Maryland "out the yin-yang," if the state requires Diebold to add paper printouts to the $73 million voting system it purchased.

Also, Granny Rants about touch-screen voting. (And she includes a link to this interview of Sid Blumenthal by William Rivers Pitt, with lots of choice quotes.)

Even in my most paranoid moments in 2000, I never envisioned anything this bad - and I knew that having Bush in office would be bad. But even though I saw him telling outrageous lies during the campaign, even though he revealed astonishing levels of ignorance as well as dishonesty, I never imagined that they'd actually get the Supreme Court to block the vote-counts, and even when they did I never was so paranoid that I thought they might prevent the FBI from investigating Al Qaeda, or invade a nation without provocation even though everyone knew it.

I have a number of nightmares about next election day, and most of them involve a combination of what happened in Florida in 2000 and some additional cheating with those touch screens. But let's say that even with all that, the Democratic candidate wins by such a landslide in every state, regardless of what machinery they use for ballot-counting, that no one can pretend it's even a question. What if, in that case, the Republicans do exactly what they accused Gore of in 2000? What if they claim that between the black boxes and god knows what-all else, the vote is unreliable, and demand lots of recounts, and maybe even re-votes, trying to get what they want? What if they claim it's a fix? And if they can't pull it off, they hold the hand-over up for months, maybe even years, while they "investigate"? Yeah, that sounds incredibly paranoid. Except... that's what I thought last time, too.

This has to stop. A lot of people are doing what they can to prevent a repetition of last time. They're trying to make sure ballots can be counted, they're working to get the word out, and to get the vote out. They plan to be poll-watching on election day. Whatever they can do, they will do. Make sure you're one of them.
16:29 GMT

Promise breaker II

Mark Kleiman has two looks at Arnie's problem with the truth: Will someone please explain to me, slowly and carefully, why we're supposed to be "civil" about this sort of shamelessness? The Governor of California is a serial sexual batterer whose word isn't worth the spit behind it. That's not partisan ranting; that's just a simple statement of fact.

But Mark Evanier finds one good thing about Arnie. However, given the foregoing, how much can we expect?
15:40 GMT


Now that I've read the debate transcript to see what I missed, I've been catching myself seething over that creepy bit at the beginning where Koppel asked everyone to raise their hand if they thought Dean could beat Bush - and nobody did. What a bunch of highschool putzes! Atrios is right:

...and another thing. Stop ceding the goddamn debate. Who here thinks Howard Dean can beat Bush? Why Ted, you ignorant slut, Fred Flintstone could take Bush with Barney Rubble as his campaign manager. Wesley Clark should stop saying that he needs to be the nominee because someone needs to be able to match Bush at foreign policy. What Clark should say is that Joey Tribiani could match Bush at foreign policy, though he, Clark, has the most experience. Stop acknowledging that Bush is strong on anything. He's a big loser. He's a miserable failure. He's lost 3 million jobs. He got us into a screwed up war. Our soldiers are being killed by terrorists. The Middle East is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess. OBL is alive. Hussein is alive.
That's right, George W. Bush is unelectable.

Ah, I see Patrick has chimed in as well.

Meanwhile, at Just a Bump in the Beltway:

I'm toggling between CNN and a Brookings Institution briefing on the SCOTUS campaign finance reform decision on the TV. Listening to the usual pretty, empty heads at CNN repeat all of the CW, the media myth, about Howard Dean and Al Gore got my back up. One of the memes I heard repeated endlessly is that White Bread Howard has no support among black voters. I thought, well, the question is worth asking and then realized, "it's Thursday." That means the new issue of The Black Commentator is up. At the top of the site was this new commentary, Howard Dean's December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years.
That's right, Howard Dean is electable.
12:45 GMT

All the news that's bits

This is good - Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred From Iraq Deals. Way to go, George.

Richard Morrison is planning to try to unseat Tom DeLay. Few causes are more worthy. Charles Kuffner got a chance to interview him recently and published the results on his weblog. It probably wouldn't hurt to send this guy some money.

I love this: Carter: Miller's Senate appointment was 'mistake': WASHINGTON -- Former President Jimmy Carter says the appointment of Georgia's Zell Miller to the Senate was a mistake because his fellow ex-governor "betrayed all the basic principles that I thought he and I and others shared."

Dumb grown-ups spread a meme: Hey, let's write articles about how when kids wear a popular fashion accessory it really is an invitation to sex! (Via Pandagon.)

It looks like the Sideshow Annex is up again, so I suppose it was just a glitch. Or if I'm lucky, they were tweaking the system and maybe I'll be able to upload to it again. That would be nice. Must check....
04:49 GMT

Thursday, 11 December 2003


I've been recommending the Slaktivist series on the Left Behind novels all along, but this one you really should read, because he's talking about why he considers it important to examine this stuff, as well as what's wrong with these Old Testament Christians. (Well, because you can't really be an Old Testament Christian, basically. That's what the Gospels are all about.) As such, L&J ultimately are like any given set of villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They want to open the Hellmouth and bring about the end of the world. Stopping them, as always, begins with research.

From The Independent: "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people," Dr Roses said.

Last night I clicked for The Sideshow Annex and it claimed not to exist. ("The DNS for a domain points at this server, but no virtual host has been created.") Never seen that before. When I log in to the account from the portal it still claims it exists. This is an account I never had trouble with until their upgrade in August when I stopped being able to FTP, though everything else still worked. E-mail to support seemed okay at first and then I just stopped hearing from them. I could phone them, but that would be expensive and annoying. Not sure what to do about this.
14:36 GMT

War zones

From Common Dreams: GULFPORT, Miss. - An influential Mississippi congressman has raised the possibility that the Pentagon has undercounted combat casualties in Iraq after he learned that five members of the Mississippi National Guard who were injured Sept. 12 by a booby trap in Iraq were denied Purple Heart medals.

From Cursor: CNN reports on the just-launched "Operation Avalanche," which U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty described "as the largest ground operation yet in Afghanistan." Earlier: 'Rumsfeld Announces End of Afghan Combat.'

Another similarity with the Vietnam war: GI Junkies
12:21 GMT

The Note spreads some spin

The Note has a whole bunch of stuff about how "the Bush campaign is trying to stay poker faced regarding how badly they want to face Dean in the general election." All of this stuff, however, seems to come from people who actually regard Lieberman as more electable than Dean. That they regard Lieberman as electable at all tells me everything I need to know. (And check out The Right Christians on the subject.) The Republicans, remember, think Lieberman is great stuff.

Anyway, there's also a link to the debate transcript (but take my advice and go to the print version), and kudos to Braun for her refusal to play "Let's you and Dean fight" on the first questions: I think it's important that in the memory of Paul Simon and all the Democrats who are looking to us for leadership, that we turn toward each other, not against each other, and take on the real enemy here.
11:38 GMT

Wednesday, 10 December 2003

Like Minds

Hugo has also written about the Dem debate. He may have been paying closer attention than I was to Dean's answer about Iraq. (Well, f'sure, the two people who definitely lost the debate were Ted Koppel and Scott Spradling.)

Gene Lyons thinks Krauthammer's column represents evidence of "the real problem" in modern journalism: "the abandonment of all but the pretense of professional standards of evidence and elementary intellectual honesty among the Washington press elite."

Richard Blow: 'Campaign clichés: The media invents its Democratic story lines' And after discussing those trivializing images, he says: But they're all interesting voices. And who do you think would win a debate between Sharpton and George Bush?

Buzzflash asks: Whatever Happened to the Plame Investigation? An Act of Treason by the Bush Administration Gets Buried Alive. We can't afford to stop talking about this.

Also via Buzzflash, UAW about to pull the plug on its liberal talk-radio network. That's bad news for us fans of Mike Malloy. The I.E. America network was also using Take Back the Media for its news, a refreshing change from other AM radio news feeds.

Julia and Jeanne remember John Lennon, too, and why we are better for having known him.

Sickening: Hesiod (of Counterspin Central) sent along a link to this story: For her on-the-streets stance, she has been yelled at, told to "Get a job," and branded a "traitor." Vicky says that when she told one angry grandmother she hoped her grandson stationed in Iraq would get home safely, the woman responded, "Well, I hope your son dies!"

And the number one best way to lose the war on terror is....
22:33 GMT

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation - or not

Here and here, Patrick Nielsen Hayden quotes articles discussing how unions are vital to unifying a people behind democracy, and why dictators always destroy unions - and how the Bush administration is doing the latter.

The articles in question talk about Japan and Iraq, but it shouldn't be surprising given that this is precisely what Bush is doing in the US - that is, doing everything he can to undermine unions.

Think about that: We're supposedly trying to unite the Iraqis together in a democracy, but not allowing them to create the kind of organizations that would help bind them together in a democratic cause. At the same time, Bush has been working to destroy organizations and structures that have given America that kind of unity - and democracy. Is it an accident that an administration that is already systematically depriving us of our Constitutional rights and freedoms and has shown open contempt for electoral integrity, even coming to power by spitting on the people's method of choosing our leaders, is also doing its best to destroy unions? I don't think so.
21:23 GMT

Dems debate

I meant to take notes while I was watching on C-SPAN (where it may be archived), but I didn't. I missed the beginning, but, as Atrios notes, it took a bloody long time before the moderators decided to ask a question that came remotely close to addressing issues. Everything was about the political process and spin for the longest time - can Dean beat Bush, what about Gore's endorsement of Dean, is Wesley Clark the favorite of the Clintons and would he accept their endorsement, are you any better for changing the tone in Washington than George Bush was, will Dean's statements about separation of church and state hurt the Dems in the south, have you been in New Hampshire enough or are you insulting its voters by not being here as much as others, blah blah poll numbers, blah blah fundraising, etc. - all of it offensive, and all of it from right out of the RNC playbook, of course - because, no matter who may have raised these questions, it benefits only the Republicans to consume most of the debate time with things that have nothing to do with policies on issues.

As I say, I missed the beginning so I hadn't realized just how bad it was until Kucinich finally complained about the nature of the questions - and good on him. In fact, I was impressed with Kucinich's performance on that count and also on his answer to a question about his apparent change of heart on the abortion issue: basically, he said that after talking to women in his life and in Congress, and looking at the way the Republicans kept passing anti-abortion bills that did not allow for the protection of the life and health of the mother, he'd concluded that the way to deal with abortion was to reduce the need for it with sex education, but not to interfere with the right to choose.

On the other hand, the candidates were asked a question, starting with Dean, about whether they agreed with Hillary Clinton's statement that there would probably be a US presence of some kind in Iraq for quite a while. Although Dean's answer was not substantively different from Kerry's or Kucinich's, Dennis characterized Howard as advocating "occupation" and Kerry seemed to pick up that theme - but all of them seemed to be saying that the UN should take over (and that of course US troops would be involved under the aegis of the UN). (I must be wrong, but that's how it sounded to me.)

I can't remember now what Kerry said that offended me but I sat up and said, "That's it - he's not thinking about the importance of beating Bush, he's just thinking about how much he wants the nomination." He sounded like he was quite prepared to sabotage any other candidate's chances of beating Bush.

So did Lieberman, but that's par for the course. Later, someone on the Lieberman team explained, without a trace of shame, that their strategy hinged on the fact that New Hampshire's rules allowed for open voting and that Republicans might pick up ballots to vote for Lieberman. It seems to me that that pretty much spells out what success Lieberman has had all along - he alienates Democrats to appeal to Republicans. Hands up if you think this is a useful formula for winning the nomination or beating Bush.

All of this was followed by a rebroadcast of Gore's nominating speech for Dean (which is archived and worth seeing). Gore said that he had promised to endorse a primary candidate and saw no reason to wait now that he felt enthusiastic about Dean. He said that getting rid of Bush was vital and he thought Dean was the one to do it. And he was passionate to the point of hoarseness.

In that way that we've become used to, the media had to go into Deep Spin to make Gore's endorsement appear unseemly, and of course they had no trouble encouraging the opposing camps to express a few sour grapes. But, frankly, the detractors sound absolutely lame.

I mean, just how politically dumb do you have to be to complain that the endorsement came before anyone has voted? Endorsements always come before the voting, because they are entirely useless afterwards. And in this case, Gore's endorsement serves several purposes that are all useful to the Democratic Party as whole - it stops a lot of phony back-room speculation about who Gore "really" supports, it focuses people's attention on someone Gore actually agrees with, and it helps unify the party behind, at the very least, a smaller number of candidates.

Joe Trippi has explained that they were trying to keep the impending endorsement quiet until Gore had the chance to privately warn the other candidates that he'd be endorsing Dean, but that the rumors escaped before Gore could get hold of Lieberman. Nevertheless, complaints about Gore's bad manners in not warning Lieberman beforehand continue to fuel the spin.

That the endorsement is "a slap in the face" to Lieberman is overstating the case, since it's been obvious for some time that Gore and Lieberman are not in agreement on a number of vital issues - particularly healthcare and Iraq. Given Lieberman's whole-hearted support for the invasion and his public attack on Gore for having made a speech advocating a more cautious position, we should all remember where the slapping started. And after Gore's announcement that he had concluded we need to move to a single-payer healthcare plan, it was never likely that Lieberman, who is beholden to the insurance industry in Connecticut, was going to be on the same team.

Lieberman's public profile, from the moment he publicly castigated President Clinton, has been based largely on his willingness to attack Democrats; you'd have to be mad to think he is the right man for the Democratic nomination, and if it's true that he actually asked Gore for his endorsement, he is suffering from serious delusions. Given their publicly expressed positions and the fact that Lieberman has already attacked Gore for them, why on earth would he expect Gore's support? This is just more evidence that Lieberman is way too out of touch to be president and it's about time someone told him.

Based on the candidates' positions and their standing in the polls and public support, it was always obvious that Gore really had to be making a choice between Clark and Dean - the two most likely winners, neither of whom had tainted themselves with support for Bush's premature and unilateral invasion. Since Dean's decision to come out against the invasion was cemented by Gore's Iraq speech, their closeness politically isn't too surprising, despite the fact that Dean is now to the right of Gore's current positions on a number of issues.

The only real strategy-related questions that mean anything are who should drop out of the race and how the nominees should treat each other. While I can see the point of those who think the weakest left-ward trailers - Braun, Kucinich, and Sharpton - should quit, I'm not sure that's true. They all make some useful points and having them out front making them - showing people both that they are farther to the left than the others and not as weird and radical as the Republicans make them sound - can actually help solidify the likely Democratic nominee's position as more "mainstream" while showing that Democrats as a group are less threatening than they have been painted.

But this only works if they don't spend too much time attacking other Democrats, and if they are prepared, when they do finally quit, to throw their wholehearted support to the front-runners and make clear that they believe that any of these people are good candidates who can do a much better job than Bush.

And the fact is, none of the Democratic candidates could possibly be worse than Bush, and all are more qualified - which is to say that they have at least a few qualifications, and that's more than Bush has.

Obviously, the guy who needs to quit is Lieberman, who contributes nothing. He attacks the other candidates more than he attacks the Republicans and implies that the others shouldn't be president. That's a poison pill we don't need. Lieberman is draining energy, draining votes, draining money, and associating the Democratic Party with a lot of alienating positions. Young people who would ordinarily support the Democrats can't stand Lieberman, and with good reason. Most importantly, he drags the discourse within the party too far to the right and stands as a symbol of everything Ralph Nader tried to say about the closeness of the Republicans and the Democrats. He's not doing us any favors and should get out of the way.

The remainder (Clark, Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, and Kerry) should stay in the race if they honestly believe they have a reasonable chance either to win the nomination or to be chosen as the other half of the ticket, and if they are prepared to treat the primary as a team sport with the other nominees as being on their team. They should focus on how they differ from Bush rather than how they differ from each other. And when they mention the other nominees, they should never hesitate to praise the good things about their positions - it would hurt none of them to say, "I like the way John Edwards talks about the value of the work ordinary people do every day and the importance of protecting the dignity of people in their jobs. I like the way Howard Dean emphasizes the vital contribution - the power - of ordinary voters to the political process in a democracy. I like the way Dick Gephardt thinks union rights are worth fighting for. I like the way Wesley Clark understands the real nuts and bolts of national security and the place of the military in the arsenal of diplomacy, as well as the beauty of liberal democracy." And so on.

Because if they do that, it's still enough of a race to get some media attention, and it doesn't hurt to have the media covering sound-bites that are positive for Democrats. But if they are attacking each other while doing Bush no harm, they are only doing Bush's job for him.

We have maniacs in the White House who are bankrupting the country and destabilizing the world for their own benefit, who treat working people with contempt, and who offer no more than lip-service for our troops during time of war while sending them into battle ill-equipped and taking away their pay and benefits - just like they offer no more than lip-service to education and other popular programs while trying to dismantle them. We need candidates who make cleaning those rats out of our government a priority.
20:36 GMT

Stuff I saw

Every year when December rolls around, I plan to say something to commemorate the occasion, and every year midnight of December 8th slips by without my having written anything about it. I guess Jeralyn Merrit is a little more motivated - her son came into the world just about the time John Lennon left it. Thanks, Jeralyn, and happy birthday to Nic.

As always, David Neiwert has posted many good things at Orcinus, but I'm pleased to see that he was as impressed with Charles Krauthammer's Derangement as I was, and has written a piece about conservatives and projection.

TBRNews received a pile of memos that demonstrated that, yes, the news really is being managed, and not in an unconscious or haphazard way, either.

The Left Coaster: One does wonder why people haven't figured out that corporate welfare leads to a culture of laziness and entitlement. The fact that so much of our taxpayer dollars are going to the defense budget leads me to believe that our economy is much sicker than we are being told. (You bet: the Republicans have increased the pork load by about 50% since they took over Congress.)

At Interesting Times, a contribution from Alice Marie Marshall has some good advice about getting the vote out.

Ayn Clouter has moved her weblog from Geocities to Blogspot.
14:50 GMT

Tuesday, 09 December 2003

Fiscal conservatives

We already know that Republicans have a tendency to be too expensive for the country - as is deregulation. But these paragraphs from Joe Conason explain an awful lot:

An amazing episode of conservative stupidity at its most costly was the now-forgotten savings and loan fiasco, which bled the Treasury of hundreds of billions and imposed unknown costs on the national economy. Young taxpayers who have never heard the S&L scandal mentioned on cable TV don't realize that they're paying for its cleanup, hidden under the category of interest expenses. Reagan and his advisers believed that in every sector government was the problem, and that if they simply deregulated the financial industry, a bonanza of growth and investment would soon follow. (As usual, the worst Republican ideas attracted a number of foolish Democrats as well.)
To paraphrase George H. W. Bush, the economic legacy of the Republican years from 1981 to 1993 left America in deep voodoo. The combined effects of irresponsible tax cuts, unrestrained spending, and the deregulation disaster were left for Clinton and the Democrats to clean up. The Republicans brushed off their responsibility for the fiscal debacle, briskly insisting that they were the party of balanced budgets when they unveiled the "Contract with America."

When Clinton entered the Oval Office and peered into the bare cupboard left by his "fiscally conservative" predecessors, he toted up the full price of the Reagan binge. In his 1992 campaign, Clinton had promised a vague "middle-class tax cut." Surprised to learn on taking office that the '93 deficit had passed $300 billion, he felt compelled to raise taxes instead.

His change of direction - necessitated by the reeling financial markets and an insupportable $3 trillion national debt run up during the Reagan years - set off a monumental tantrum on the right. "Largest tax increase in history" became the mantra of conservatives, repeated so often by so many that it may be possible to find that phrase quoted by almost every Republican politician and pundit sometime between 1993 and 1996. Conservative agitator David Horowitz continued to repeat the same accusation as late as March 2001, when he wrote that Clinton "engineered the largest tax increase in history." That charge was a lie the first time anyone said it, and remained a lie eight years later.

The truth about history's largest tax increase was widely available to anyone who could read and use a calculator. In October 1994 the Wall Street Journal explained: "Contrary to Republican claims, the 1993 package is not 'the largest tax increase in history.' The 1982 deficit reduction package of President Reagan and Sen. Robert Dole in a GOP-controlled Senate was a bigger tax bill, both in 1993-adjusted dollars and as a percentage of overall economy." The New York Times and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reached the same conclusion, which required no formula more difficult than translating 1982 dollars into their 1993 equivalent. In other words, a year after passing his tax cuts, Reagan signed the largest tax increase in history. The Gipper still holds that record today.

The Republican distortion of reality had two distinct purposes. Conservatives tried to prevent Clinton from passing his first tax-and-budget package because they hated its progressivity. The tax increases affected only the very wealthiest Americans, or about 1.2 percent of the top taxpayers. Certain corporate executives, notably the ultra greedy Jack Welch, still haven't forgiven the former President for raising their taxes. Clinton's budget cuts affected a much broader segment of the population, but he believed that was a fair social contract if the deficit was to be reduced quickly.

Although the Republicans couldn't block Clinton's historic budget, they inflicted a severe political price for its passage. As he noted with great regret in later years, his tax increase was at least partly responsible for the heavy Democratic congressional losses in the 1994 midterm election. Few voters understood that their taxes had not been raised. In political campaigns, a lie backed by enough money effectively becomes truth. - Joe Conason, Big Lies, (pp75-78)

The GOP-controlled Senate was happy to quietly pass the largest tax hike in history, but under Clinton, they made quite a fuss about a smaller tax hike. Why? Because Reagan's tax increase hurt the rest of us, but Clinton's did not.

But it inconvenienced Jack Welch. Conason doesn't say so here, but it certainly couldn't have done Clinton much good to have infuriated a man who ran the company that controls one of the three major television broadcast networks.
17:24 GMT

The roller-coaster

Photogenic drawings, via Electrolite Sidelights

David Brooks seems to think that there is something unusual about our military being expected to take and hold territory. Jerome Doolittle thinks that's pretty much what soldiers are supposed to do. A Boston Globe columnist detects from Dean's strategy an evil attempt to actually win the nomination; "Horrors!" says Jerry. And "Welcome aboard," to another conservative who is finding out what happens when your criticisms are not aimed at liberals. And don't miss the excellent post on the horrors of the Medicare bill. Ah, why fight it, just read everything that's posted at Bad Attitudes.

The torture never stops: Bob Somerby finds more "liberal bias" at the NYT, where a headline suggests that Joe Leiberman is the only candidate in the race who isn't "extreme". And he finds another lie in that same Krauthammer column I had so much fun with the other day - about what Barb Streisand didn't say. Not that this isn't an epidemic or anything....

Did The Poor Man find the Greatest Instapundit Posts of 2003, or have Ted Barlow and others out-done him in the comment section? It's true that Glenn's post about how opponents of the invasion are "objectively pro-Saddam" was a classic, and the thing about how we're at war with France was outstanding, but are they really any better than the one about how saying that we haven't found any WMDs is anti-Semitic? You be the judge. (And oh, what a nice take-down of Hitchens' Iraq arguments!)

Declan McCullagh once misrepresented Al Gore as having claimed to be the inventor of the Internet. Lawrence Lessig is getting a taste of Declan's talent now, and has posted a response.

Two from Atrios:
Al Franken interviewed in The Star Tribune: After the BookExpo, O'Reilly went on his radio show and said that if this had happened in the Old West, we would have to have had a shootout. And oddly enough he guaranteed his audience that he would have won this shootout, telling them -- and this is a quote -- "I would have shot Franken between the head."
And then, of course, the big news of the day: Al Gore to endorse Howard Dean. Well, all right, then.
05:24 GMT

More reasons to arrest Kissinger

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles (as opposed to the Duncan Campbell who also writes for the Guardian but isn't in Los Angeles) writes:

Kissinger approved Argentinian 'dirty war'

Declassified US files expose 1970s backing for junta

Henry Kissinger gave his approval to the "dirty war" in Argentina in the 1970s in which up to 30,000 people were killed, according to newly declassified US state department documents.

Mr Kissinger, who was America's secretary of state, is shown to have urged the Argentinian military regime to act before the US Congress resumed session, and told it that Washington would not cause it "unnecessary difficulties".
According to a verbatim transcript of a meeting on October 7 1976, Mr Kissinger reassured the foreign minister that he had US backing in whatever he did.

"Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed," Mr Kissinger is reported as saying. "I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems, but not the context.

"The quicker you succeed the better ... The human rights problem is a growing one ... We want a stable situation. We won't cause you unnecessary difficulties. If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better. Whatever freedoms you could restore would help."

But, of course, they hate us for our freedoms.
02:00 GMT

Monday, 08 December 2003

Literary experts

I have to admit, one of my favorite regular Ansible features is the "As Others See Us" section, and the current issue (197) has a bumper crop, with three separate entries plus this:

NEAL STEPHENSON received an approving thumbs-up from Word magazine (December 2003): "Neal Stephenson doesn't deal in science fiction -- what he writes is fiction with science in it.'
In the previous issue:
As Others See Us. Radio Times invited alleged celebrities to comment on the BBC 'Big Read' longlist of the public's 100 favourite books. Which clunkers should have been excluded? 'All Terry Pratchett's novels,' according to Jo Brand: 'It's a bit unfair of me because I've probably only read the first page of one of his books, but sci-fi is a genre that really makes me want to bang my head against a wall.' Her personal favourite novel on the list: Nineteen Eighty-Four. [DH] The Pratchett-free shortlist of 21 included this and seven other sf/fantasy titles: Harry Wossname and the Goblet of Fire, His Dark Materials, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, The Wind in the Willows, and Winnie-the-Pooh.
I like Jo Brand's stand-up routines (or at least I used to - haven't seen her do one lately), but it is just the sort of thing she'd say.

Back in August Dave received this little gem:

Lisa Goldstein had an 'As Others See Us' moment at a class on copyediting fiction: 'The instructor handed out a leaflet, and the first thing on it was a list of the different types of fiction we will have to copyedit. First there was "Art", then "Entertainment", then "Dreck". And "Dreck" consisted of -- you guessed it -- "fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, suspense ... "After the class I went up to her and told her I was a writer. "And I guess I write" -- big show of looking at leaflet -- "here it is, dreck." She did apologize, which I suppose is progress. Later, though, studying the leaflet, I realized that "Entertainment" is dreck that she likes to read.'
One of my all-time favorite stupid articles on a related subject (which I'm not going to bother to locate, because it's far enough back that I'm not even sure it'd be on the web) was the time the Guardian assigned some woman whose name I don't remember to write an article about Terry Pratchett's books. She confessed that she couldn't be bothered to read them but asked a friend, who said it was boys' stuff and she wouldn't like it.

Speaking of which, I have just read the most enjoyable book....

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

21:25 GMT

Watching the defectives

Disabled vet Terry Dobbelaere paid a visit to the VA hospital and, while he waited with many other vets, George W. Bush came on television to make a little speech: Then it started. First, a veteran around 50 years old in my area said, "I can't believe he has the guts to wear that uniform!" Others around the room started making remarks like, "Count the lies!" and "Didn't he learn anything on that aircraft carrier?"

Josh Marshall: We'll be talking more about this in coming days. But there are more and more signs of the IRS and other arms of the federal government taking a conspicuous interest in the finances and political spending of Democratic-leaning organizations.

Gregory Harris at Planet Swank quotes David Boaz's libertarian critique of "compassionate conservatism", disagrees with some parts of it, but says: But he's spot-on in his recognition -- even if he can't bring himself to say it -- that it's the Democrats, not the GOP, that's the party of personal liberty. Well, it's the Democrats if it's anyone, but I'm not sure I would go that far; it's just that the Republicans manifestly are not the party of personal liberty. Greg also says that the real unelectable candidate is George W. Bush.
14:08 GMT

What Dean really said

Bill Scher (of Liberal Oasis) sent me some mail about my Derangement Syndrome post:

I was just reading your post on the Krauthammer column. Just before, I happened to be listening to the audio of the Rehm interview to hear Dean's words for myself.

Krauthammer quotes Dean accurately, but he leaves out the next few sentences. In case you care, here's the whole thing.

REHM: "Why do you think he [Bush] is suppressing that [Sept. 11] report?"

DEAN: "I don't know. There are many theories about it.

"The most interesting theory that I have heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't think -- it can't be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is.

"But the trouble is by suppressing that kind of information you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not. And eventually, they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear -- the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission."

Basically, he was making the point that without a thorough investigation, disturbing conspiracy theories inevitably crop up. He was not peddling his own pet theory, or encouraging anyone to subscribe to a theory.

At worst, you can knock Dean for saying something unnecessary that the Right can quote out of context and try to screw you with. Though outside of Fox, I haven't seen this picking up much traction.

The interview is here: [link]. The passage above is about 42 minutes in.

And lots of folks have had a few words to say about Krauthammer's interesting behavior.
02:03 GMT

The cheatin', lyin', heretical Resident

Juan Stam in The Nation, on Bush's Religious Language: Manicheism This ancient heresy divides all of reality in two: Absolute Good and Absolute Evil. The Christian church rejected Manicheism as heretical many centuries ago. But on the day after 9/11, the President first stated the position he would continue to maintain: "This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail." Later Bush defined his enemies as the "axis of evil," a term that is theologically and morally loaded.

Bush cheats at math.

He's resisted saying so for a long time, but now, David Corn asks: Is the President a Pathological Liar? Which is funny; Corn has no trouble saying Bush lies, but he hasn't previously said it was a pathological thing....
01:15 GMT

Sunday, 07 December 2003

Stuff I saw

Ah, that's more like it.

Bra of the week, a tasty plunge number. Check out the matching basque.

"I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything'? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f - - - it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did," Kerry told the youth-oriented magazine. Oh, my my. Conservatives are, of course, in a tizzy over Kerry's language in the Rolling Stone interview. Lean Left thinks it's no big deal, and reckons the old double-standard is still in place anyway: The cynic in me also thinks that if this were a Republican using such language to attack a Democrat, it would be lauded as "straight talk" or some such baloney. That should be the spin on this - it is straight talk.

"I'm so tired of this crap," says Atrios, who goes on to quote an astonishing article from The New York Times revealing that "Pentagon officials" have been in contact with our old pal Manucher Ghorbanifar, Iran-Contra fabricator.

Elizabeth Edwards, who apparently has a touch of blog fever and posts comments to the weblog of her husband's presidential campaign, also wrote a letter to Monkey Media Report in response to one of MMR's many anti-Edwards posts.

Nick Confessore in Tapped: FREE-LUNCH CONSERVATISM. This piece in next week's New Republic, by Jonathan Chait, is important reading. It eludicates some common misunderstandings of President Bush's ideology and that of the current Republican Party. If you want to understand the pattern behind the current GOP establishment's manueverings during the past three years, this will help. And Chait agrees with The Sideshow that it's all about making his friends richer and winning elections, and not about conservative ideology or security or making America strong or anything else that a president ought to be doing. But then, he's not a president.

Arthur Silber has learned that The Christian Science Monitor has a blog, which reports a story from The Times where we see that once again the Bushies are looking to play footsie with a "strong man with a moustache." Arthur says: Furthermore, if this story is true, so much for building "democracy" in Iraq, so much for the ridiculously uninformed, and historically ignorant, "reverse domino" theory -- and, I devoutly hope, so much for the neocons' dangerous fantasy of remaking the world, one geographical area at a time, in defiance of history, of facts, and of logic.

Liberal Oasis says the turkey-surge for Bush's poll numbers hasn't lasted even this long, and Dems are pulling ahead.

ACLU Represents Student in Download Case - but what's interesting is that this is a suit to quash an action by the RIAA. (Via Epicycle.)

A new way of being holier than thou, from Feoreg (and it was nice to see her and Charlie in London the other night).

Wouldn't this guy make a great Doctor Who?
14:01 GMT

Saturday, 06 December 2003

Derangement Syndrome

The Delusional Charles Krauthammer has written another dishonest and loony piece inappropriately placed on the op-ed page of one of our Newspapers of Record. In it, he displays the increasingly common Liberal Derangement Syndrome so frequently observed these days among conservatives - that is, they just get deranged whenever they think about anyone who is even vaguely more liberal than they are.

At this point we are all familiar with the symptoms of this disease, beginning with:

  • a bizarre propensity for completely misrepresenting the statements and actions of Democrats or liberals (or even moderates and conservatives who don't support Bush in every particular);
  • an unreasonable blindness to the fact that people criticize Bush for his economic policies because those policies, proposed and defended with blatant lies, were obviously going to be, and have demonstrably been, a disaster for the country;
  • an inexplicable resistance to recognizing that criticisms of Bush's "security" program or "war on terrorism" are made because that program has been characterized by mendacity and irresponsibility that have had terrible consequences for America and for the world;
  • a Tourettes-like repetition of the incredible claim that the media is "liberal";
  • a disturbing tendency to deny that any Democrat is ever telling a joke, and a consequent insistence that what looks for all the world like a joke is in fact a "misstatement" of pathological proportions; and
  • complete and utter denial of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it is not too much to expect the White House to have known, and been prepared for, something that our allies had warned them about in numerous instances, that was even broadcast worldwide on the radio, and which we even know - the White House has admitted - was in a presidential briefing shortly before September 11th: that Osama bin Laden was planning (and had publicly announced) a major attack on the United States, that it probably involved hijacking airplanes, and that it would be unsurprising if the target was the same one they had tried and failed to bring down previously, and which our intelligence knew they were still obsessing on, at the World Trade Center.
I don't actually know what Howard Dean said about the Saudis warning Bush about 9/11, but as Bob Somerby (incomparably) points out, Krauthammer used the ever-popular conservative ellipses to misrepresent something Dean said jokingly on Hardball, and the statement about the Saudis is from a show that is not easily available to check - so he might not have said that, either.

However, even if Dean said what Krauthammer claims he said, why would that be a big deal? He did not say that the Saudis had specifically told Bush that a group of Al Qaeda operatives planned to hijack planes and fly them into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on the morning of 11 September 2001. Lots of people had warned the US, in various ways, that something was up and was likely to happen before the end of 2001. Intelligence services from all over the world were sending information to Washington that supported this. Both the director of the CIA and the director of the FBI (Louis Freeh!) were begging Bush to pay attention to terrorism concerns. And, as I keep saying, Osama bin Laden himself had announced on the air that he was planning an attack on America.

In other words, everyone was warning Bush that something was up - and that something turned out to be 9/11.

So why should the Saudis have been any different? Maybe they were among those who sent intelligence to the White House. The only thing special about this is that the Saudis do seem to be the one group that Bush seems insistent on protecting.

In any case, at least one Saudi did warn us about 9/11. Alas, no one seemed to be listening.
17:23 GMT

Seduce me, baby

As someone who still hasn't picked my Democratic primary dance partner, I'm interested in pieces like Andrew Sabl's How I became a Clark supporter, which suggests that Clark might be very good indeed for a spin on the floor. I mean, Sabl had all the standard suspicions of Clark but decided to read his book and found just the kinds of things that he wasn't expecting to see. (Two points: Mixing up homonyms is not uncommon even for the most literate folks as we get older, and that's one good reason why publishers are supposed to have things like copy-editors and proofreaders hanging around between the author and the reader. And: The same White House that just can't figure out who has been on the phone with Robert Novak had no trouble finding out within a couple-few days that Clark hadn't phoned Karl Rove, so yeah, I think he was joking.)

Alex Frantz (who also turns out to have read the article mentioned above) has a nice long post on Clark's positives and also says there's a whole page of people saying why they switched to Clark.

I haven't forgotten that exchange between Clark and Bill Maher back in September, either.

And, like I say, I still haven't joined a team, and all I know is that when November rolls around again, I'm going with The Democrat, whoever that is - but it's looking like I won't have any trouble smiling if Wesley Clark is our date for the prom.
14:32 GMT

What it is

I'm a bit late to the party, but I guess I should say: George Bush is a miserable failure. Here's why.

In The Washington Post, George Soros: Why I Gave: If Americans reject the president's policies at the polls, we can write off the Bush Doctrine as a temporary aberration and resume our rightful place in the world. If we endorse those policies, we shall have to live with the hostility of the world and endure a vicious cycle of escalating violence.

Hmph, I don't appear to be getting lots of votes in the Wizbang Poll, but then I didn't even notice it existed 'til now. I guess, given the company I'm in, I should be proud to rate in the top 20 liberal blogs, anyway.

Leah at Corrente has an outstanding piece on our national gossip pundits starting with the phony speculations about Teresa Heinz-Kerry and going back all the way to phony speculations about John Glenn.

William Burton finds a scary quote and goes on a short but very effective little rant. (Right, so would you vote for me?)
12:12 GMT

Friday, 05 December 2003

Is it frog soup yet?

At The Liquid List, Tarek has a few things to say about the administration's about-face on an "enemy combatant", starting with these:

Analyses by the New York Times' Neil Lewis and the Washington Post's Dan Eggen amount to the same conclusion: the Bush administration switched its policy on the messy constitutional requirement that the accused, Yaser Edam Hamdi, shall "have the assistance of counsel for his defence" not out of deference to the document that has kept this nation running 215 years but out of political expediency. It turns out that even the Supreme Court that gave us Bush v. Gore would have trouble looking an American citizen in the eyes and telling him that, without a chance to contend his innocence, without the constitutional guarantees of due process or an attorney to aid in his defense, he was going to go to jail forever, or be put to death (which hasn't been ruled out anywhere).
And Oliver has a nasty story about teaching 'em a lesson in Iraq, and a lot of depressing environmental news.

At Scratchings, David Scott Marley isn't too pleased about the Pentagon firing of the lawyers recruited to defend our guests at Guantanamo:

The dismissal happened on the lawyers' very first day of work, when they objected to the restrictions they'd have to work under -- including that the government could listen in on all attorney-client conversations.
Fits the pattern, don't it? Somebody tries to tell the Bush government something it doesn't want to hear, they aren't heard. A bunch of lawyers they've hired tell them that what they're doing is illegal, and what's their answer? Stop doing it? Change the law?

Nope. Fire the lawyers.

A Google News search shows that the story is being picked up by papers around the world -- everywhere but in the United States.

According to discussion on the WELL, this happened some eight or nine months ago, but it's only made it into the papers now.

And, oh, there's so much more on this unsavory bill of fare.
18:08 GMT

Catch of the day

Today I'm in love with South Knox Bubba, who quotes the Cassandra Generals. Among other things. And don't miss Soylent Dean.

Our favorite pharmaceutical house, War Liberal, is selling drugs.

Notes on the Atrocities with a definition:
bizarro world (n) The alternative reality created by the Bush administration in which logic runs backward or forward, or both, in order to justify whatever it is the Bushies are trying to justify at the moment. Bizarro world logic is not beholden to the laws of physics or scientific fact. In a triumph of appropriation, the Bush administration is the first, truly postmodern regime: everything is subjective. And don't miss the series of posts on the Cheney dossier.

Charles Dodgson tells you how not to invest your money.

See MoveOn's $87 billion ad.

Via Oliver Willis I learn that seven in ten Americans say the invasion has not made us safer.
15:16 GMT

A quick look at the web

The last thing I need is another coffee mug, and yet - aw, c'mon, don't we all need one of these?

Ralph Nader is a mirage.

One More Week This Year to Help the Voter Confidence Act, HR2239.

Benedict@Large discusses An invitation to violence.
02:18 GMT

Thursday, 04 December 2003

Maybe I owe Daschle an apology

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) responds to that article in The Washington Post about the Medicare vote:

David Von Drehle's Nov. 26 front-page article, "For Democrats, A Wake-Up Call," missed the mark in two important particulars.

Yes, congressional Democrats are unhappy that the White House and the Republican Party will try to steal the Medicare stage with the passage of recent legislation. And "steal" may be the operative word because many Democrats believe that the architects of this bill are spending billions not to reform Medicare but to dismantle it.

But Mr. Von Drehle must not have been fielding phone calls from seniors on this so-called Medicare reform. My office has been swamped with calls opposing this bill, and I can find no evidence of gushing gratitude for the GOP's legislation. After a round of self-congratulations, the Republicans will have to take this awful proposal to skeptical and angry seniors across the nation.

Second, the criticism of Tom Daschle for not closing ranks on the Democratic side to stop the Medicare bill is misplaced. Mr. Daschle engaged the Democratic caucus in an effort to understand the complexity of this bill and persuade our colleagues to stand together in opposition. We never had the votes on the Democratic side to sustain a filibuster, as the 70 votes for cloture demonstrated. Still, the Democrats came within a single vote of stopping the bill on a point of order.

Mr. Daschle is the captain of a small boat filled with titanic egos. He has kept us on course despite a Republican White House and Republican Senate majority. It has been no small feat.

OK, apologies to Daschle (maybe), but one vote. And Feinstein voted for the damned thing, and Kerry and Lieberman weren't there. (Well, Lieberman is from Connecticut...)

Update: I seem to owe everyone but Feinstein an apology. Scott Hamilton says in e-mail:

It's my understanding (based on Tom Daschle's comments on "The Daily Show with John Stewart" 12/2/03) that Kerry and Lieberman were present for the 'point of order' vote that failed by one vote.

But they could read the margins and knew their votes wouldn't matter on the final approval vote, so they didn't have to be present for that.

I'm not into legislation in any professional level (I'm just an engineer who follows this stuff) but I think the vote in question is Senate Vote 00458; see [link].

As an aside, I saw Trent Lot on MSNBC last night complaining about how bad this bill was. Sure enough, he voted against it. But on the closer vote, the 61-39 vote, he was in the majority on that one. Gosh, a two-faced politician.

Whatever will they think up next...?
15:44 GMT

Here's the beef

Suburban Guerrilla has found some good stuff, such as some couples counselling by Dr. Phil, why it's getting to be like a war zone for public servants, and why Bush doesn't have an unshakable grip on "the heartland".

Reading this rant at Epicycle got me all totally irate at the Royal Mail. (Also... click on this thing and report back to me.)

Josh Marshall has an interesting piece up saying that maybe the Geneva Accord is really going to happen. Josh also points to this article detailing how at least one incident of arm-twisting on the House floor during voting was felony bribery, and he's posted a letter from Terry McAuliffe to John Ashcroft calling for an investigation. And there is this item about how the Bush administration is insisting that Wesley Clark's testimony at The Hague must take place in secret, "which is entirely unprecedented for high government officials and is normally reserved for individuals who fear retribution for their testimony." Josh speculates on the reasons, none of them honorable.

Henry at Crooked Timber finds Glenn Reynolds straining once again to make it all spin in the administration's favor - this time pretending that what Valerie Plame does today somehow retroactively makes it okay to have blown her cover in the past.

But plastic turkey: So, aside from the made-up story about the BA pilot sighting Airforce One, it now turns out the bird was fake. (And Mike Malloy is wondering if the trip even really happened at this point.)
05:00 GMT

Getting "shrill" at the WSJ!

Brad DeLong has the news:

From my perspective, the remarkable thing is not how many sober, centrist, policy substance-oriented commentators and analysts sound like Paul Krugman--"shrill"--in their assessments of George W. Bush. The remarkable thing is how long it took so many of the great and good to wake up and smell the coffee--and how many continue to tiptoe around reality out of fear of offending Karl Rove and company.

Here the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray joins the ranks of the shrill: he compares George W. Bush's level of concern for what is good for the country with that of Richard M. Nixon:
[Quote elided - read Brad's post to see more.]
Remember: Paul Krugman is not by nature an extraordinarily partisan guy. His only government service came as a staff member of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan Administration. He has been attacking supply-siders and deficit-mongers for twenty years, yes. But he also--before 2000 and the rise of George W. Bush--was careful to devoting equal time to attacking industrial policy-advocates among the Democrats, plus writing withering critiques of Clinton administration policy toward Japan and toward the developing world in general.

There's also a good post on what the Medicare "victory" means about Republicans.
02:32 GMT

Wednesday, 03 December 2003


This knee-slapper appeared in The Washingtonian last week:

To the outside world, Post executive editor Leonard Downie is a mild-mannered working stiff who will never be Ben Bradlee. Inside the Bush White House, he's a journo-terrorist.

One senior administration official called him "Osama bin Downie" and said the Post was "leading a jihad against the Bush administration."
"Enemy is way, way too strong," says Perez. "We don't have enemies in the press."

But she adds: "We expect skepticism—but the Post has skipped skepticism and moved to cynicism—do not pass go."

So, a few (far too few) members of Post staff merely ask for accountability, and Downie gets the "Osama" label. Nice. (Thanks to 56K for the pointer.)

I'd somehow managed not to notice that Randolph Fritz has a Live Journal, where he's writing some political posts. Recently, he considered these questions:

  • How did it happen that we invaded Iraq, a country that was no danger to us, and that we are now looking for ways to extricate ourselves from?
  • How did it happen that our national police are now disappearing people?
  • How is it that the US has adopted tax policies that will raise the national debt to banana-republic levels—after the administration that wrote them is conveniently out of office.
  • And how is it that there is so little outrage?
He agrees with Paul Krugman that the media is part of it, but he sees other structural problems that haven't really been as obvious until now.

Via Atrios we learn that The Amarillo Globe News has printed a letter advocating hanging for people who disagree with the administration:

There are some, though, who do not appreciate this freedom. I call these people traitors; they call themselves protesters. They are nothing more than an infectious disease that infests the minds and hearts of the Americans we are defending. It consumes the honor and courage within its host until it kills the very patriotism that made this country.

There is no cure for this disease. Never will everyone be satisfied. But let it be known what this guardian of America's freedom thinks of these protesters: Traitors should be hanged. I hold our enemies in higher standing. At least they are willing to fight for their beliefs and the country they love. [Derik L. Jobe, U.S. Navy]

Just what is it we are supposed to have freedom from, again? "I love my country and I'd get hanged for saying otherwise," just doesn't have that Sweet Land of Liberty ring to it. And I'd expect a "respectable" newspaper not to print rubbish like this. Or I did, once.
22:47 GMT

War crimes

"The Bush gang should be sharing a cell with Slobo," says Atrios. He's understating the case. What they deserve is a cell at Guantanamo:

But, as US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the military in a revealing slip in April 2002, "We have been successful in not eliminating al-Qaida." Having failed to find the suspected mastermind behind 9/11, Osama bin Laden, his Taliban ally, Mullah Omar, or much in the way of terrorist infrastructure, the US set about constructing, behind razor wire on a secure Caribbean island, an incarcerated model of what its "war on terror" rhetoric implies. It has gathered terrorism suspects from all over the world, imposed discipline and order on them, encouraged them to hate the US and kept them together for years. It was as if the Bush administration so wanted the Hollywood fantasy of a central terrorist campus to be true that they built it themselves.
Even those who detained these people don't appear to know why. Some aren't even interrogated in any meaningful way. They have been subjected to sleep-deprivation and other recognized torture methods, in addition to just plain callous brutality.

This is evil. The Good Guys just don't do this.
21:18 GMT

Three bad things

It's a lot harder to gain your freedoms when they are gone. In Saudi Arabia, it's a long, hard slog. Mansour Al-Nogaidan writes while waiting for 75 lashes.

Hell freezes over again, and I agree with Phyllis Schlafly - that H.R. 3261, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act, is a terrible, terrible bill. Can you believe there are companies that want to prohibit publication of building safety codes that they also happen to have published? Believe it. Congress intends to extend copyright to all sorts of people who really shouldn't have it - to your detriment and the detriment of free speech.

I've been disgusted by Tim Russert for a long time, so it's fun to read this Daily Howler take-down of his pandering to Bernie Goldberg and blowing wind about how wonderful he thinks himself.
15:32 GMT

Tuesday, 02 December 2003

Points of interest

Bill Scher says the Sunday talk shows look like our side is still doing well on the Medicare spin, and congratulations to Bill, Josh, and Mike for those name-checks in USA Today.

Research on Ecstasy Is Clouded by Errors is the polite title of this NYT piece about phony research results that miraculously "prove" the case against drugs for Drug Warriors.

Tom Tomorrow with some Pretzel logic.

Have a jolly time with Strindberg and Helium.
23:43 GMT

Liberal Hawks apologize, sort of

But I'm tired of having legitimate concerns about Bush and his policies ignored as the product of "bush loathing" or dismissed as illogical because they contain a component of "loathing," says a commenter calling herself "aimai" in the thread at CalPundit where Kevin seconded Matt Yglesias' mea culpa for supporting the war.

Matt's original post seemed to be saying that liberals who opposed the invasion were right, but only because our "Bush hatred" blinded us to why the invasion was such a great idea.

There are, of course, two things wrong with that approach: One is that our reasons for distrusting Bush are founded in his irresponsibility and mendacity - the same qualities that have made such a mess of the response to terrorism. (It's not blind hatred, boys, it comes from somewhere.)

But the other thing is that invading Iraq because you've decided it should be a democracy is a stupid idea in the first place, and no one responsible would have chosen it.
23:06 GMT

The Royal Chicken

Nathan Newman on the flight of the turkey

Some national leaders are braver than others.

What is the matter with those guys? asks Mary Kay, wondering why there seems to have been so much approval of Bush's little trip to Baghdad from people who normally know better than to approve of anything Bush does. I'm not sure "approval" is the right word - it's just that, for a change, Bush actually did something presidents are supposed to do (visit the troops on Thanksgiving), even if, as usual, he did it in the uniquely annoying GWB way.

Jerome Doolittle is one of many unimpressed with the flight of the chickenhawk. In A Chickenhawk's Thanksgiving, he says:

The interesting thing about George W. Bush's Thanksgiving trip to the Baghdad airport isn't whether its purpose was political. Come on.

No, the interesting thing is how hard the president fought his handlers before agreeing to this particular photo op. And way beyond interesting — fascinating — is the openness with which he discussed his fears once the ordeal was over.

Have I mentioned lately that one reason to pay attention when Jerry says something unusual is going on in the White House is that Jerry is a lot more familiar than most of us with what is usual in a White House? As a former member of the Carter administration, he is one of the real grown-ups.

But you don't have to be that much of an insider to know that there is something strange about this self-coronated Leader of Men who seems to be constantly wetting his knickers for all the world to see and then telling us how brave he is.

In March of 2001 he cancelled the annual Easter-egg hunt. March. The man admitted himself that on 9/11 his first concern was getting himself "out of harm's way" - saving his own hiney, even though he wasn't really in any danger. But then, if he'd been doing his job instead of just looking out for number one, there's a good likelihood that those two buildings would still be towering over New York. He's closed the White House to the public, kept Americans out of our tree-trimming. And when it came to the traditional Thanksgiving visit to the troops, he wasn't even going to go.

But it doesn't matter. He can leave a yellow puddle wherever he goes and just tell us how important he is later, and his supporters will eat it up. They'll even make up reasons why we should believe that his obvious cowardice is really bravery.

You know what's really scary? The thought of what those people will do if they ever realize how they've been played.
17:42 GMT

Boiling frogs

Jim Henley:

There's an important point here: "sober" defenders of the administration (any administration) admonish us not to be "hysterical" because, whatever we're complaining about, it's not as bad as the depradations in actual totalitarian countries. Therefore we must be reasonable. But I figure the object is to not become as bad as actual totalitarian countries. And the time to do that is this side of totalitarianism. Now is precisely the time for hysteria because, should we reach a state when even our critics concede that "Now it really is bad" we'll be past the point of being able to do much about it. Their own hysteria, like Gorky's, will come too late.
That's right. That's the point. We may not be the Fourth Reich yet, but there's no proof that we're not on the path to it, and the way you avoid getting there is to take active steps to avoid getting there. Saying, "We're not there!" doesn't mean we won't get there eventually if we keep on pretending we're not heading there. We're not there yet.

And when we get there, we will get there in such a uniquely American way that it won't look exactly the same. But to Muslim Americans who are trying to enjoy a meal in a Halal restaurant which is interrupted by officers acting under the Homeland Security laws, asking questions that no American has ever had to answer before, when they already know that people like them have been arrested for no apparent reason and held indefinitely without trial, the difference may already be a bit obscure.

They call them "Muslims" instead of "Jews", and dissenters are called "traitors" instead of "communists". But our leaders have already invaded other countries. Travel is already harder for some people who the government doesn't like. Unions are regarded as a threat to the government. People have been arrested and charged simply for demonstrating peacefully. Money slated for "The War on Terrorism" is used inside the United States to aggressively interfere with ordinary political demonstrations. Corporate cronyism and corruption has been made the law of the land. Violence against the opposing party is openly advocated. Do you really want to wait until they start making lampshades out of your personal friends before you finally admit something is wrong? Because this is how it starts.
15:01 GMT

Freeper crack-up

Nathan Newman:

Reacting to a Fred Barnes article- Hey, Big Spenders! criticizing GOP spending, Freepers are actually talking about the advantages of voting Democrat or third party. They'll all mostly end up voting Bush in the end, but it reflects how disaffected many in the base are with GOP corporate welfare-- and will translate to less mobilization at the grassroots.

Of course, the conservatives equate government spending with "liberalism", as if big fat subsidies for agribusiness, pharmaceutical or oil companies has anything to do with progressive values. They just don't want to admit that their corporate allies have rolled them with a bait-and-switch. All the "small government" rhetoric was just campaign rhetoric to pull the rubes in to the tent.

Well, no one thought the Freepers would ever find enlightenment, but the idea that they won't be so willing to pull together for the naked emperor is a hopeful thought indeed.
12:10 GMT

On the blog

The Colorado court threw out the mid-decade gerrymander in that state. Josh Marshall takes a look and says: Now for the court case in Texas, where we're still waiting to hear whether House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be able to avoid being deposed about his role in the redistricting battle.

Kieran Healy addresses an incident of Godwin's Law, and explains the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

Many good things at Skimble, such as the discovery of an organization called POGO and this: Victory, irony, tragedy. As John Ashcroft plans his next attack on domestic "narco-terrorists" (via the so-called Victory Act, his planned sequel to the Patriot Acts designed to nab pot smokers with cell phones and any swarthy-looking Arabs with cash), the irony is that his petulant boss has set the stage for the biggest opium crop ever — by ignoring the aftermath of his fruitless excursion into Afghanistan.

Melanie is interested to learn that staunch Patriot Act-defender Viet Dinh has changed his tune.

Jesse has some suggestions for the Democrats to get more people on board and voting. They really ought to pay attention.

Stephen Hawking action figure
00:51 GMT

Monday, 01 December 2003

Real Good Blogs

It's all good at Wampum, and do take note of Dwight's post on Congressional Arrogance.

Gail Online has the word on Medicare covered.

The Talking Dog is in full Beatles mode and has not forgotten which administration did the worst job at fighting terrorism.

I was going to quote at length, and write about, David Neiwert's The Political and the Personal, but eventually realized there was nothing I could add and you really need to read it yourself. But then, that's pretty much true of everything at Orcinus.

Take an Anger Management Course on, among other things, how George Bush is supporting the troops - again.
14:48 GMT


Demagogue has some good posts up about gay marriage and the stolen Democratic memos. On the latter, this amusing little item:

Today, GOP hack Byron York has a column in The Hill in which he decries the media's focus on the possible theft of Democratic memos regarding judicial nominees instead of on the actual substance of those memos. Unfortunately, whatever point he was trying to make was destroyed by the following paragraphs
At the moment, there's no evidence to suggest that the memos were stolen.

Democrats allege that the memos were hacked out of Democratic computers but have no proof that that actually happened.

In addition, the only names that are blacked out on the memos are those of Democratic staffers. If Republicans had stolen the documents, why would they go out of their way to protect Democrats?

As Eugene notes, this was the same day that Orrin Hatch admitted that members of his own staff were in fact responsible. (And I can think of at least one sneaky reason for blotting those names out, too.)
13:06 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, December 2003

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Is the media in denial?
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.