The Sideshow

Archive for June 2002

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Sunday, 30 June 2002

20:20 BST: Permalink

Somebody Gimme a Cheeseburger!

Andrew Marlatt (of SatireWire) graces The Washington Post:

"The phrase 'under God' clearly violates the First Amendment's separation of church and state," said McDonald's CEO Jack Greenberg. "However, there is nothing in the Constitution that separates chicken and state, which is why we're proposing, 'One nation, six chicken McNuggets and a medium Coke, all for $1.99.' "
01:54 BST: Permalink
Junius links to an article on Pornography - or, rather, an article that correctly points out that it's not bad for a politician to take money from a pornographer, but it's bad to take campaign contributions from Richard Desmond because he owns a newspaper and it corrupts the news-gathering and reporting process. Not that I really see a difference between overtly partisan newspapers that don't give money to politicians and those that do, really. I mean, I've seen with my own eyes people in public life who quite seriously say that they can't stand up for principle on some issue because, "You can just imagine what News of the World would say."

However, the author, John Lloyd, is entirely wrong when he claims that the anti-pornography position was held by the entire feminist movement - it never was, not even a little - and he's way behind the times if he thinks it still is. There are only a small number of people appearing in British media in any capacity today who are publicly identified as feminists, and most of them are members of Feminists Against Censorship. (I'm probably on the air at least as often as Germaine Greer, but she gets to do Have I Got News For You while I have to do late-night discussion shows that actually talk about pornography.)

Which reminds me: Last winter I mentioned that FAC did a submission to the British Board of Film Classification disputing their position on female ejaculation. Well, the BBFC responded with some codswallop, and more recently a documentary maker sent us a letter that contradicts the BBFC's claims. The submission page has been updated with this material, so go here and scroll down to see those letters.


Saturday, 29 June 2002

18:11 BST: Permalink

Links to The Washington Post letters pages are sometimes a bit unreliable, but if you're reading on the day you can get them by going to the relevant link on the dynamic editorial page I don't know why a link that works from that page doesn't always work from somewhere else.

Anyway, some Post readers were none too pleased with an article sounding a False Alarm About Undereducated Men:

Michael Fletcher's article is interesting, but the impression that male college attendance is declining is not true. Deep into the second page we read that the "number of male college graduates has increased . . . to 529,000." We never hear what that means in terms of percentage of increase, although the quotations suggest dramatic changes. All this article tells us is that more women are going to college -- not exactly news. Without some knowledge on the trend for men, we can't tell whether the percentage of men who seek higher education has leveled off (perhaps "maxed out") or whether it is, in fact, dropping. And, if the latter is the case, how steadily, for how long and among what groups?

Furthermore, the claim that this represents a "seismic shift in the nation's social norms" is also misleading. Having grown up in Iowa, I can testify to a long Midwestern tradition in which men went from high school to tractors, while their sisters became teachers and nurses. Change occurs and is newsworthy, but let's have the facts along with the commentary. [Roseanne Kane]

One of the advantages of having parents who are old enough to be your grandparents is that you get a longer view of things. When my parents were in school, my father was able to drop out to get a job. This poor kid from an immigrant family - he did not even speak English until he entered school - was making $50 a week during the Depression. My mother, who had no such job opportunities, stayed in school and graduated. But my dad "went to war" (sort of - his version was, "I rode around on a train" - but he did it in uniform!) while the woman he would eventually marry kept working, and for the first years of their marriage, she made more than he did. Of course, he shot ahead of her when she quit for a few years to have three kids. She never caught back up with him.

Another reader says:

Although many of the statistics cited in the article "Degrees of Separation" are accurate, the way in which Michael Fletcher chose to frame his review of college education is misleading. While women do earn more bachelor's degrees than men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics women are still far behind men in engineering (only 17 percent of graduates are women), computer and information sciences (27 percent) and the physical sciences (38 percent).

As for "a dwindling share of men to fill top corporate jobs," in 1997-98 only 38.6 percent of master's degrees in business management and administrative services were earned by women. One must also ask, why focus on finding men for these positions?

Finally, I share Christina Hoff Sommers's curiosity as to what would happen in a country where women are "significantly more literate" and "more educated" than men. Rather than assuming a host of social problems, I anticipate that the pay gap between men and women might decrease (women currently make 76 percent of what men do), more women might hold political office (only 14 percent of members of Congress are women), and fewer women might live in poverty (in 2001, 12.5 percent of women in the United States lived in poverty compared with 9.9 percent of men). [Alesha Durfee]

I guess it depends on how you define "literate" and "educated". If you mean better at reading comprehension, writing, language/communication skills generally, and more likely to do a lot of reading and writing, well, hasn't that always been true of women? Even in grade school, girls tend to do better in these areas. In maths and sciences, males do better, and in those professions men are still ahead of women.

It's worth remembering that degrees don't necessarily translate into better jobs and higher pay for women and minorities. I haven't checked the figures in a while, but last time I looked, men with only highschool degrees generally made more money than women who finished college. This was even true when comparing black male highschool graduates with white female college graduates. The only area where this wasn't true was for black women with Master's degrees, who did better than almost anyone. (My statistics professor was of the opinion that this was because black women represent less of a threat to white men, who feel that powerful black women are black men's problem and not theirs, while black men represent direct competition. It's a believable theory, but I have no useful evidence to either support or question it.)

Three of the four letters the Post printed on this subject today look like they were written by women. Let's see what a letter signed with what looks like a man's name says:

I am not the least bit worried about "the gender gap among college graduates." I know landscapers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and pest-control experts who make a great deal more money than I, a high school English teacher, ever will with my BA, MA and teaching certification on top of that. (You could say I have higher education coming out of my ears.)

Perhaps rather than trying to cajole more men into attending college, we need to figure out a way to make these incredibly important and necessary occupations more attractive and accessible to female candidates, whom I often see go to college without any set goal merely because they "don't know what else to do."

After you send everyone to college, who is going to fix cars, build beautiful decks and ensure that the lights work and the water flows? And who is going to make all that money? [Ken Kraner]

16:05 BST: Permalink
Over at Nth Position, Robert Jensen is talking about moral clarity:

AUSTIN, Texas - A history professor of mine once returned essay exams with the comment that some students' attitude seemed to be, "Don't bother me with the facts - I'm going for the bigger picture."

George W Bush wasn't in that class, but I thought of the professor's sardonic comment as I read the commencement address the president delivered at West Point earlier this month.

In addition to restating the Bush Doctrine (the United States has the right to destroy any society anywhere for whatever reason it chooses regardless of international opinion, law, or basic morality), Bush at West Point used one of the popular contemporary buzz phrases, "moral clarity."

Given that no one really argues for moral unclarity, claiming moral clarity is really just a cheap way to dismiss other points of view without providing a compelling argument or dealing with the messy world of facts. The West Point speech shows just how morally murky the president is.
[...]
The point is simple: Calls for moral clarity, if they are to be more than empty rhetoric, require that we bother ourselves with the facts and pay attention to history.
[...]
What seems to make me a relativist in the eyes of politicians such as Bush and intellectual attack dogs such as William Bennett is that I believe the United States should be as accountable to those standards as other nations. In other words, in this odd political climate, a relativist is someone who argues for moral consistency.

If moral judgments are applied consistently, it's clear that the United States, like other great powers, has much to answer for. Making this simple point these days leads to further accusations that I must hate America, another curious claim. How is it hateful to apply moral standards to one's own nation? If I articulate clear moral standards and try to apply them to myself as an individual, it is usually taken as a sign of maturity. But when done at the level of a nation, it is widely condemned as a sign of insufficient love of country.

Also at Nth Position, Decker; or, The Klan and I - personal social history, from Joe Palmer:

Hooded Klansmen and women, a dozen of them in white, three of them in purple robes, walked silently and slowly in single file up the central aisle of the American Methodist Church in Decker, Indiana, under the awed gaze of the congregation, who stood in respect and fear as the Klansmen took their seats, filling the front pews. As the last one walked up the aisle, the shrill voice of a little girl broke the solemn silence.

"Oh, there's Ellie Pea. I can tell from her new shoes!"

03:28 BST: Permalink
Welcome to Theocracy

A New Slugfest, Under God, Howie Kurtz calls it:

The culture wars, after a brief time-out for such mundane matters as fighting terrorism, are back.

The left and right are once again raging rhetorical war over the star-spangled banner and the subsidizing of private schools.

Even as lawmakers everywhere can't wait to be filmed reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, everyone knows that debate is somewhat bogus. The three-judge appeals court ruling that the "under God" part makes the pledge unconstitutional -- which was stayed yesterday -- is never going to become the law of the land. Federal and state lawmakers would sustain injuries elbowing each other to amend the Constitution if need be.

But politicians won't pass up a chance to wrap themselves in red-white-and-blue religion, no matter how minor the threat.

A Supreme Court decision yesterday upholding Cleveland's school voucher program, on the other hand, is hugely important -- and set off the usual ideological wrangling. The court also upheld random drug testing of students yesterday.

(Pet peeve department: The Supreme Court saves its most important rulings until the end of every term, then dumps them out two or three at a time. This not only screws the press -- which can barely digest what would otherwise be a series of front-page stories -- but the public, which is deprived of a broader debate over the justices' handiwork. You'd think they'd want lawyers, scholars and others to have enough time to pour over the rulings.

No you wouldn't. Lots of fine lawyers took a good look at, for example, Bush v. Gore and the overwhelming majority of them noticed that it doesn't hang together as anything other than a partisan travesty. You don't want scrutiny when you're committing criminal acts. But Howie continues:

(Maybe the robed ones have other things on their minds. Drudge says the White House is preparing for a high court resignation, maybe in the next few days. Eventually, of course, that story will become true. Paging Al Gonzalez!)
Uh oh. And just when (I learn via Atrios) George Bush says:

Yesterday a court in America made a ruling that I want to comment on. America is a nation that is -- a nation that values our relationship with an Almighty. Declaration of God in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't violate rights. As a matter of fact, it's a confirmation of the fact that we received our rights from God, as proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence.

I -- I believe that it points up the fact that we need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. And those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench.

US Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
From Atrios' comment section:

If he intends to reject all non-Christian judges on the basis of their lack of faith how is that not a "religious test"? [A. Dershowitz]
Max has declared Cal Thomas to be King Stupid for his remark suggesting that the 9th Circuit decision might be "a greater injury than that caused by the terrorists". In the comments section, "G.O." expresses awe at seeing a statement even dumber than one he saw earlier from Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll saying that the school voucher decision is, "the greatest civil rights victory since Brown v. Board of Education."


Friday, 28 June 2002

16:37 BST: Permalink

House passes ban on "morphed" erotica:

The 413-to-8 vote aims to circumvent a recent Supreme Court decision that nixed an earlier ban on "morphed" erotica. A similar proposal has been introduced in the Senate. With the enthusiastic backing of both Democrats and Republicans, final passage of a bill this year is all but certain.

"This bill closes the door left open by the recent Supreme Court decision," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said at a press conference Tuesday. "I urge the Senate to take action immediately."

Only one Republican voted against the bill, libertarian Ron Paul, who said:
Mr. Speaker, as a parent, grandparent and OB-GYN who has had the privilege of delivering over 4,000 babies, I share the revulsion of all decent people at child pornography. Those who would destroy the innocence of children by using them in sexually-explicit material deserve the harshest punishment. However, the Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act (HR 4623) exceeds Congress' constitutional power and does nothing to protect any child from being abused and exploited by pornographers. Instead, HR 4623 redirects law enforcement resources to investigations and prosecutions of "virtual" pornography which, by definition, do not involve the abuse or exploitation of children. Therefore, HR 4623 may reduce law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute legitimate cases of child pornography.
* * * * *
Patrick approvingly quoted Jim Henley as follows:

Wild-eyed antigovernment extremist Jim Henley holstered his gun, stubbed out his dollar-sign cigarette, and made a rather telling point about the Librarian of Congress's recent ruling that Internet webcasters shall be forced to pay higher royalties than conventional broadcasters. Having cited the concept of "regulatory capture," the phenomenon by which regulatory agencies eventually become the tools of the businesses they're supposed to be reigning in, Henley observes:

Good thing we have an author of books on Russian history deciding what new-technology business structures will be "fair!" (One might wish he knew a little more Russian history.) And a good thing he's making decisions based on which medium supposedly best serves the pecuniary interests of existing conglomerates!
But I don't get it. What does his having been the author of a book on Russian history have to do with it being a stupid decision? Does writing about Russian history disqualify him from being able to make intelligent decisions? Or is this meant to suggest that he must be sympathetic to communism and so could be expected to side with "the people" or "the workers" and, boy, aren't the libertarians disappointed in him for just becoming another corporate lackey?

Okay, Jim explained further later on, but still. Yes, the guy who made the decision worked for the government and wasn't, in theory, just a corporate lackey. But let's be honest, the free market isn't exactly working hard to keep information free, folks, and every effort on the part of this administration has been to reduce the degree to which you and I, ordinary users/content providers, have control over the corporations that would like to take away our authority over our nifty little toys to get our free speech out into the air. What that means is that the government used to at least slow them down, and now it's not doing that job so well.

Does anyone really think that, absent government protections, big corporations won't go back to their old tricks of hiring private armies of thugs to prevent individuals from interfering with their dominance and control of what they regard as "their" turf? (Tell me, do you think your right of free association is (a) a good thing and (b) a guarantee of your right to join a union?) I think it would be good if libertarians read some books on US industrial history, myself.

And I still don't get the Russian history book thing, but then I'm just the author of a book on pornography, so what do I know?

* * * * *
Via MWO, this Salon review of Anne Coulter's book, where I found a choice quote:

I could go on, citing claims and quotes, but since I do believe in fact and truth, I don't believe anything Ann Coulter says without seeing it in its original context. The following passage gives a good example of how "Slander" works:

"After Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion contrary to the clearly expressed position of the New York Times editorial page, the Times responded with an editorial on Thomas titled 'The Youngest, Cruelest Justice.' That was actually the headline on a lead editorial in the Newspaper of Record. Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy. He is called 'a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,' 'race traitor,' 'black snake,' 'chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom,' 'house Negro' and 'handkerchief head,' 'Benedict Arnold' and "Judas Iscariot'."

The passage is conveniently phrased to make it look as if the quotes, as well as the headline, appear in the Times editorial. They don't (notes in the back of the book identify the sources as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elder's interview in Playboy, and Joseph Lowery at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference quoted in the New Yorker). Coulter sets up the passage to give the impression that the Times called Thomas a "lawn jockey" and a "house Negro" and hopes that we won't notice that she's fudged it.

* * * * *
Hm, here's that article on women's buns, but without the accompanying photos, alas. (Thanks to Dominic, who is much better at finding things than I am.)

* * * * *
Amnesia
Permalink
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said:

"There may have been a more senseless, ridiculous decision issued by a court at some time, but I don't remember it."
Robert Lichtman wrote to the Chron (don't know if they printed it) to say, "I can," and MWO said, "Think hard, Mr. Vice President," but I reckon the decision they are thinking of was not so much "ridiculous" and "senseless" as, say, calculated, cynical, criminal, and evil. Be that as it may, Lieberman's comment does invite the comparison and he's a twerp for phrasing it in a way that's a smack in the face to those of us who still feel traumatized by the selection.

Though highly critical of Lieberman's comment, MWO is saying that the Democrats in Congress were right to distance themselves from the 9th Circuit's decision as fast as they could, on pragmatic grounds. Of course, responding negatively to queries from the press about the decision is probably all a Democratic politician can do to avoid wearing the Cynthia McKinney mantle, but I wonder: Would Blogospherians, were they in that position, have the integrity to make the truly principled response, instead?

Because, of course, the 9th Circuit had no choice. They could not refuse to hear the case, and the Constitution is pretty clear: the government is forbidden to encourage Americans to make an affirmation of monotheism.

And every single argument I have seen in favor of the 9th Circuit having said otherwise has been, well, ignorant and stupid. These range from the fantasy that the Founding Fathers wanted it this way (which, I suppose, is why they explicitly said we must not do it?) to the rather remarkable proposition that these are just ritual words so it doesn't really mean anything.

Oh, there's a good idea, let's teach kids that it doesn't actually matter what they make oaths to because the words don't "really" matter. So we're now saying that we not only want to teach kids that it's okay to lie, but okay to lie on oath about their belief in a god. And does that mean we don't take their pledge of allegiance to their country seriously, too? And we don't expect them to, either?

A related argument says, "Just leave those words out." Uh huh, so you're supposed to pretend to be taking this oath in front of God and everyone, but you're just faking it - and that's okay.

As to, "You don't have to say the Pledge at all," I can only say that honest proponents of this excuse have far too weak an understanding of childhood to be competent to comment on this discussion. Which leaves us with the dishonest ones: What they really mean is, "Tough on you if you don't believe in God the way you should." In truth, they are well aware of what kind of a challenge refusing to recite the Pledge imposes on schoolchildren, and they want kids to feel ostracized if they dare step out from the herd. They also know quite well that being propagandized with religion from an early age is effective and they do indeed hope that wider dissemination of their religious beliefs in public life will indoctrinate America's children with monotheism. They are deliberately attempting to use the public school system to force their religious beliefs on other people's children.

Last night someone said to me, "I want my daughter to say 'the Pledge' every day." I asked her why she couldn't do that before class. Oh, it's not the same, she said, it's different when it's with the whole class. Ah, she wants her kid to say it in a group, so she wants to force the rest of the kids to do it just for her. "Why not get together with all the other kids who want to before class, then?" "Because it's not gonna happen." Even better: She knows it won't matter enough to them or their families to arrange to do it before class, so she wants to force them to do it in class, on the taxpayer's dime.

Of course, the old libertarian saw has been trotted out that public school isn't mandated by the Constitution so if we just get rid of public schools we won't have these arguments. I'm quite willing to believe that destroying our once-magnificent public school system is precisely why conservatives come up with destructive arguments to turn it into a Christian indoctrination network just so they can trot out "solutions" like this when people balk at the idea of sending their kids to religious schools for beliefs they may not share. However, the Constitution does in fact instruct the government to provide for the public welfare, and if you don't believe an educated populace is necessary to the public welfare, you're going to have to explain that one a whole lot better than you've been doing.

Oh, and: Just stay off the ballot next time, Joe.


Thursday, 27 June 2002

13:57 BST: Permalink

Elton Beard says the 9th Circut was right but they will be overturned. He's right, too:

In Fantasyland, where bold and principled Democratic politicians get elected, those Democrats would probably calmly make the winning logical case -- that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to our beloved Constitution clearly prohibits the government from selecting, or even recommending a religion for its citizens to believe in. That you can believe what you want to believe, but should not force others to profess to your beliefs or to any beliefs. That the state should not be in the business of indoctrinating children in the proper choice of gods.
We can but dream.

* * * * *
Alex Frantz has a question:

Why is it that we can put together $15 billion on the double for an airline bailout but find it so hard to come up with 1% of that to keep Amtrak running or maybe 5-6% to allow real improvements to the outdated equipment and better service?

If I didn't know that our devoted public servants are solely concerned with our best interests I'd tend to suspect that maybe the big campaign donations from airline companies had a lot to do with the airline bailout.

I might even be crazy enough to think that maybe those air carriers don't want to compete against a really good inter-city rail service and use their influence in Congress and the Administration to keep Amtrak on the edge of bankruptcy, and Amtrak is unable to fight back since, being government funded, it can't make the big PAC and soft money donations that the airlines do.

Of course the airlines needed that bailout because they were hit by a disaster that they weren't at fault for. And I'm sure that airline lobbyists sinking the Gore Comission's proposals to improve security, as well as any other attempts at better security for years, had nothing to do with 9/11.

Warning: Don't read the post below it if you don't want to see spoilers for Buffy seasons 6&7. Shame on me, I couldn't resist.

Alex also talks about the recent Supreme Court decision on the death penalty as applied to retarded criminals. I have a comment on this myself, but I'm a bit baffled by the idea that applying the death penalty to the retarded is especially "cruel and unusual". I'm not entirely sure that it's any more cruel for them than it is for anyone else, but that isn't where I'm confused. I'm pretty sure that that's never been the real reason that we try to be sure we're dealing with people who know what's going on, and that's because they must understand the trial, and they must understand why they have been sentenced and the meaning of their sentence. Ricky Ray Rector knew what he was doing when he shot that cop, for example, but after his arrest he was so brain-damaged that he thought Kennedy was still president and, at the last, he saved some of his Last Meal "for later". Not much cruelty involved in his execution, given that he didn't seem to be aware what he was losing - which, come to that, wasn't much - but how on earth can anyone claim that he understood what was going on? He could not confront his accusers or defend himself in any meaningful way, nor understand the meaning of the judgment against him.

* * * * *
Jim Henley differs with Professor Reynolds on the superiority of a "war" (against a country) over a "war on" a concept, like "terrorism" or "drugs", the latter being open-ended and thus never over:

Well now he tells us, the cynic might say. But believe it or not, UO is not a cynic. And it's nice to see a pro-war libertarian making an argument on the basis of concern for - American liberty. But Unqualified Offerings thinks that, while Reynolds' concerns about an unending "war on" are acute, that the expansive war he favors - against Iraq and the Saudis, with occasional other targets thrown into the mix too - doesn't avoid the "war on" problem. UO thinks that the war has structural requirements that will make it as endless as any "war on." UO furthermore believes that US policy, particularly Bush administration policy, is being made by people for whom the endless part is a feature rather than a bug. Spelling out some of the reasons why will have to wait until tomorrow, though. (It's UO's gaming night.) So all readers, new and old, are invited to return.
* * * * *
Blowback is not pleased by the decision to price web radio off the air:

Where do all those smug, self-satisfied techno-libertarian weasels stand on this? This issue illustrates the vacuousness, and the subservience to the whims of Big Capital, of their nonsensical positions. Their triumphalist rhetoric is a masochist moan, delighting in submission...
And he also says Save Internet Radio.

* * * * *
Special Cheesecake Section

I wish I could link to ES magazine's feature on the new fashion in women's backsides, but I don't think they have it online (there's no visible link at This is London). It's got pictures. Most of the pictures aren't very helpful - the picture of Britney doesn't really tell you much about her ass, but she seems to have great legs. There's one woman I've never heard of (because I don't notice celebrities much) who is certainly wearing a dress that shows off every curve...except, well, she doesn't have much in the curve department. Then again, Kylie's dress (which is dead sexy) doesn't hide the fact that she doesn't have a lot up front but sure makes her backside look curvacious as all hell. The famous Lopez hiney is covered in fitted satin but blatant as can be.

Anyway, this article babbles about the reason women's bums have become fashionable being that the fashion business relies on changing the focus and it was this body part's turn, but I don't think this one is led by the fashion industry (which has had plenty of opportunities to rediscover the female bottom over the last 40 years and failed to find it). The entire fashionable set in London went into total shock at the discovery that men found the Caboose de Lopez sexy, and fashion is trying to catch up. (Surprise! Heterosexual men prefer women who are shaped like women to women who are shaped like men!) So now even actresses and models who look like a dress on a hanger are posing with their bums pushed out for the camera in an attempt to catch the eyes of the cheek-gazing public.

I find it all very cheering, and I'm happy for all those guys who get to enjoy it all, but I still want to know why this couldn't have happened when I was 15 so I wouldn't have had my classic figure compared with Twiggy's lack of one. Damn.

Oh, yeah, ES also has a flawlessly perfect cover portrait of SMG herself (no hiney shot), and she's interviewed inside in that empty way that British interviews explore complete triviality. Did it say one thing you wouldn't already know if you had any idea who Geller was to begin with? News: She likes her boyfriend and plays Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Anyway, nice cheesecake issue, I thought. Too bad you can't run out and buy a copy.

(Update: Here is the link to the story on women's backsides, but without the accompanying photos.)


Wednesday, 26 June 2002

15:09 BST: Permalink

I guess I should point out before any more people congratulate me that I had nothing to do with the recent victory of sense over paranoia in regard to the UK government's aborted attempt to expand invasions of privacy under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000). While I did some work on trying to stop the bill during it's early phases, I can't take any credit for what happened last week. The real heroes of the day are Stand and most importantly the Foundation for Information Policy Research:

The Home Office is reported to have postponed its proposals to amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act to allow a huge increase in the official that can access personal details of phone calls and emails.

Attention was first drawn to the highly technical Regulations encapsulating this change by an FIPR Press Release on 10th June. The story has since become headline news and the Government has now decided not to proceed with these changes.

Ian Brown, Director of FIPR welcomed this news, "these proposals were poorly considered, poorly justified and over the past week have been condemned by almost everyone outside of Whitehall. The Home Office must now tear them up and start again from first principles."

He continued, "we are as keen as anyone else in seeing wrongdoing investigated, but we don't think that handing out such wide-reaching powers to every bureaucrat in the land is compatible with living in a free society. The Government needs to carefully consider whether self-authorisation can ever be appropriate for this type of invasion of privacy and they need to pay a lot more attention to the oversight regime. An Interception Commissioner who doesn't have the resources to open all his mail is no credible way to ensure that abuse is detected."

* * * * *
Tuli Kupferberg sent a copy of his book and says the Fugs are still performing and recording and to check out their site at www.thefugs.com.

* * * * *
E.J. Dionne has a firm grasp of the obvious:

What was once obvious is becoming painfully obvious again: The doctrine of states' rights, so often invoked as a principle, is almost always a pretext to deny the federal government authority to do things that conservatives dislike. These include expanding claims to individual rights, increasing protections for the environment and regulating business.

How do I know this? Because when states have the temerity to try doing the things I just listed, conservatives are quick to use federal power to stop them from exercising their right to act.

Big government in Washington is bad, in other words, unless it can be used to quash progressive state action. And "judicial activism," long a target of polemicists on the right, is becoming the movement's weapon of choice whenever it can muster five votes on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seems a few of the most states-rightsy Supreme Court justices opined that the rights of states (and of individuals) should not override, say, the rights given to HMOs by the Fed. And:

What does this argument have to do with the law? Nothing. It's ideology. You might even call it judicial activism. It's a perfectly respectable case for the HMOs and their political supporters to make. But if these four justices want to get into the thicket of policymaking, they should quit the court and run for Congress. In fairness, these justices are not the only conservatives who dislike states' rights when they get in the way of their preferences. As The Post reported last week, major Wall Street firms have drafted amendments to federal law that would block state securities regulators from investigating whether stock analysts misled investors. They're responding to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who forced Merrill Lynch & Co. to pay $100 million to settle charges that its analysts derided stocks privately that they were publicly touting to investors.

Rep. Richard Baker, a Louisiana Republican who chairs the House financial services subcommittee on financial markets, derided Spitzer's effort as "a failed attempt to usurp federal rulemaking and oversight of capital markets."

"If 30 different states come up with 30 different sets of rules regulating financial service firms," Baker said, "that's a calamity."

In other words, states' rights are great until Wall Street firms or HMOs decide they don't like them. Then they're a calamity. So much for states' rights.

* * * * *
From Slashdot:

Shocked, Shocked at Payola
[Music] Posted by jamie on Tuesday June 25, @12:00PM
from the chess-piece-face's-patience-wearing-thin dept. "It costs a record company about $250,000 just to launch a single on rock radio today. That doesn't guarantee success; it just gives the single access to the airwaves. If the song catches on and eventually crosses over to the mainstream Top-40 format, indie costs balloon to more than $1 million per song." Salon.com has a pair of articles on payola today: one on the widening scandal and one specifically on a curious Clear Channel case. For context, here's our latest payola story, or if you want the background on why the labels hate the promoters but can't shake the habit, my writeup from a year ago. (If you want some beach reading on this topic, go check out "Hit Men.")
* * * * *
Dana Milbank seems to have gone back to normal. Karl Rove, Adding to His To-Do List, he says, noting that Rove is expanding his role even further. And:

President Bush often tells the story these days about the time, during the campaign, when he vowed he would keep the federal budget balanced unless the nation found itself in a war, a national emergency or a recession. "Never did I dream we'd have a trifecta," Bush then says, to audience laughter. Sometimes, he adds that he made this statement to a reporter while campaigning in Chicago.

Problem is, nobody can find evidence that he actually said this during the campaign. (In fact, Bush often said his tax cut could be done without causing a deficit even in a downturn.) The New Republic magazine first pointed out the problem, and NBC's Tim Russert earlier this month told Bush budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. that NBC could find no evidence Bush said such a thing. Daniels replied that he's "not the White House librarian."

A group called Spinsanity did some library research of its own and found that the president, who first mentioned the mysterious Chicago campaign interview last Oct. 3, has used the "trifecta" joke at least 13 times since Feb. 27 -- even after Russert put Daniels on the spot -- and the war, emergency and recession lines another two dozen times. But Spinsanity found no recorded mentions from the campaign.

Asked about this, the White House press office referred your correspondent to a Sept. 6, 2001, Bush appearance at the White House with President Vicente Fox of Mexico. "I have repeatedly said the only time to use Social Security money is in times of war, times of recession or times of severe emergency," Bush said. That was before war and emergency, but already in an economic downturn -- and it was well after the campaign.

The White House also suggested supporting evidence might be found in GOP presidential primary debates on Jan. 7 and Jan. 10, 2000. But a search of the transcripts of those debates finds no exculpatory information.

And if he had been making such statements in January, why was he saying that his tax cut created no such problems during the first presidential debate for the general election, months later? The fact is that during the campaign Bush was responding to suggestions that his tax cut was "risky" by insisting that it would not require raiding Social Security or deficit spending even in the event of economic downturn or emergency needs. It was all taken care of, he insisted, even going so far as to suggest that Al Gore was a liar for saying otherwise.

The claim that Bush made these allowances during the campaign is a nice bit of spin, I suppose, if you are willing to laugh at his creepy jokes, but I think it's really meant to cover up the fact that he made the trifecta joke in the first place. The first time I saw it, back in early December, it was not so carefully phrased:

"Lucky me. I hit the trifecta," Bush told Daniels shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the budget director.
As Brad Carlton noted, the trifecta is something you bet on, a good thing. Every time he repeats this phrase, he seems to be saying that he was banking on having something really awful happen, and boy was he lucky when those planes hit the World Trade Towers. You don't need paranoid theories about how the Bushies planned the 9/11 attacks to find this worrying: There is something seriously wrong with a man who keeps repeating a phrase that has such implications and thinking it's a good joke - and something equally wrong in the fact that his partisan audiences keep laughing at it. This is the same man who said that 2001 was a great year for him, at a time when the rest of us were still reeling in shock and unable to get our bearings over a starkly transformed New York City that was missing a major compass point. "Gee, lucky for me 3,000 people got killed, buildings were destroyed, and god-knows-how-many-others were put out of work! Lucky for me the economy is tanking and New Yorkers are in post-traumatic shock!"

Yeah, I guess it must be pretty funny, if you're him. Thank God George W. Bush has the moral clarity to know that his poll ratings and his ability to raid the treasury and Social Security are more important than the lives of thousands of Americans.

Oh, yes, here's one worrying item from that same Milbank column:

Turnover has been particularly high in speechwriting, where Matthew Scully is following David Frum out the door. In the White House counsel's office, Rachel Brand has gone to work for Kennedy -- Justice Anthony, not Senator Ted; also in the counsel's office, Robert W. "Moose" Cobb has left to be NASA's inspector general. The highest turnover has been in Bush's faith-based office, where deputy director Don Eberly left earlier this year for the U.S. Agency for International Development and Don Willett joined the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy; the office's first director, John DiIulio, departed last year.
There's one popular sf trope in which an evil alien attaches itself to a part of your body and then spreads its filaments deeper and deeper into your central nervous system. This reminds me of that.


Tuesday, 25 June 2002

00:04 BST: Permalink

Mail Call

This is one I didn't see when it came in amidst the spam a few months ago, and I only saw it because I made a new folder and re-sorted some mail. Keith Thompson wrote:

I was just reading a CNN transcript of a town hall meeting held in Florida on December 4, 2001. Bush is talking to a third-grader, so the unsophisticated wording, for once, actually makes sense.

The transcript is at [link]. Search for "Jordan" and scroll down a page or so.

This is the one where he claimed to have seen the first impact on live television, which is clearly impossible -- but we've heard about that one before.

But take a look a couple of paragraphs below that:

And Jordan (ph), I wasn't sure what to think at first. You know, I grew up in a period of time where the idea of America being under attack never entered my mind -- just like your daddy and mother's mind probably.
George W. Bush was born in 1946, and he says the idea of America being under attack never entered his mind. I think I believe him.

I knew he was oblivious to the world around him; I'm not quite sure why I'm so suprised.

He does say some very odd things, doesn't he?

Jim Henley didn't like the sources The Scotsman is using:

I'm temperamentally inclined to believe that the anthrax attacks are domestic and that the FBI is dragging its feet for any number of reasons (including not just the usefulness to the War Party of a live "Iraq did it" thesis, but also and importantly the "greymail" angle).

But the fact that the Scotsman relies on someone from the Federation of American Scientists gives me pause. Bruce Rolston just caught them out on hyping the "dirty bomb" threat to an almost absurd degree (link).

I have to admit, I was wondering what kind of an organization it was and what that meant about their representative's credentials, too.

Philippe Richards thinks Dana Milbank might not have gone over to the dark side:

I dunno, seems to me that paragraph has a rather dubious tone to it. First, he gently contradicts Bridgeland by pointing out how none of the "inspirations" were actually named in the speech. Then there's the weird juxtaposition between the discussion of Niocmachean ethics and the Henry-Madison debates on the one hand, and the fact that Bush was a C student on the other, and never mind the use of the word "actually" by Bridgeland suggests that the flack may believe it, but is surprised. The whole paragraph has a raised eyebrows, staring over the reading glasses kind of feel to it.

And the next one is even better. A flourish reminiscient of JFK? That's got to be some kind of joke, right? Is Milbank serious when compares that clunker with "ask not what your country can do for you..." I, seriously, doubt it.


Monday, 24 June 2002

18:40 BST: Permalink

When I got to the middle section of this article, I couldn't help remembering that Kenny Lay told Dick Cheney who to push out of gorvernment jobs. Nat Parry on Bush's Grim Vision :

Targeting Individuals

Beyond those policy rebuffs to multilateralism, Bush went on the offensive against individual U.N. officials who have not conformed to his administration's desires. These officials, who insisted on holding Bush to standards applied to other leaders around the world, soon found themselves out of jobs.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary C. Robinson, was the first to experience the administration's displeasure. The former Irish president's efforts had won acclaim from human rights groups around the world. But her fierce independence, which surfaced in her criticism of Israel and Bush's war on terror, rubbed Washington the wrong way. The Bush administration lobbied hard against her reappointment. Officially, she was retiring on her own accord. [link]

The Bush administration also forced out Robert Watson, the chairman of the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]. Under his leadership, the panel had reached a consensus that human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, contributed to global warming. Bush has resisted this science, which also is opposed by oil companies such as ExxonMobil. The oil giant sent a memo to the White House asking the administration, "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?" [link]

The ExxonMobil memo, obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council through the Freedom of Information Act, urged the White House to "restructure U.S. attendance at the IPCC meetings to assure no Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in decisional activities."

On April 19, ExxonMobil got its wish. The administration succeeded in replacing Watson with Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist. Commenting on his removal, Watson said, "U.S. support was, of course, an important factor. They [the IPCC] came under a lot of pressure from ExxonMobil who asked the White House to try and remove me." [Independent, April 20, 2002]

The next to go, on April 22, was Jose Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW]. Bustani ran into trouble when he resisted Bush administration efforts to dictate the nationalities of inspectors assigned to investigate U.S. chemical facilities. He also opposed a U.S. law allowing Bush to block unannounced inspections in the United States.

Bustani came under criticism for "bias" because his organization had sought to inspect American chemical facilities as aggressively as it examined facilities of U.S.-designated "rogue states." In other words, he was called biased because he sought to apply the rules evenhandedly. [link]

The final straw for Bush apparently was Bustani's efforts to persuade Iraq to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which would allow the OPCW to inspect Iraqi facilities. The Bush administration denounced this move an "ill-considered initiative" and pushed to have Bustani deposed, threatening to withhold dues to the OPCW if Bustani remained.

Critics said Washington's reasoning was that Bush would be stripped of a principal rationale for invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein if the Iraqi dictator agreed to join the international body designed to inspect chemical-weapons facilities, including those in Iraq. A senior U.S. official dismissed that interpretation of Bush's motive as "an atrocious red herring."

Accusing Bustani of mismanagement, U.S. officials called an unprecedented special session to vote Bustani out, only a year after he was unanimously reelected to another five-year term. The member states chose to sacrifice Bustani to save the organization from the loss of U.S. funds. [Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2002]

"By dismissing me," Bustani told the U.N. body, "an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors." He said that if the United States succeeded in removing him, "genuine multilateralism" would succumb to "unilateralism in a multilateral disguise." [link]

Reading the whole of Parry's article, it is hard to escape the feeling that Bush is truly attempting to become not just dictator over America, but of the whole world. Certainly his actions are consistent with such a program. Most importantly, they are not consistent with a desire to protect our cherished American freedoms, or even our physical safety.

So what does it take, folks? How far does this administration reallly have to go before so-called libertarians refuse to excuse them anymore? What will it take to make Greens realize it's time to stop playing around? When will "centrists" acknowledge that what we have is a dangerously illegal, unconstitutional infestation in the White House that must be removed?

12:30 BST: Permalink
Dan Perkins reminds you:

Regular readers will remember that this space has referenced a book by two French intelligence analysts, "Bin Laden: the Forbidden Truth," on numerous occasions. The book alleges that the Bush Administration was negotiating a pipeline deal with the Taliban during the summer of 2001, and that the State Department actually stymied FBI investigations into al Qaeda.

Now, there's a story on the front page of the Times this morning about a different French conspiracy-theory book called "The Horrifying Fraud," in which it is alleged that Sept. 11 was actually masterminded by the U.S. government.

I just want to be clear: that is not the book to which I have been referring. Though, unfortunately, I suspect that the two will become confused in the public mind, defeating any attempt to draw attention to the very plausible allegations of the former.

Of course, there's a conspiracy theory about this, too, that The Horrifying Fraud was released to create confusion with Bin Laden: the Forbidden Truth.

* * * * *
John Dean has written a letter to Karl Rove:

It's unimaginable that the Bush Administration would want to risk repeating the mistakes of the Nixon presidency, yet the continuing insistence on secrecy by your White House is startlingly Nixonian. I'm talking about everything from stiffing Congressional requests from information and witnesses, to employing an executive order to demolish the 1978 law providing public access to presidential papers, to forcing the Government Accounting Office to go to Court to obtain information about how the White House is spending tax money when creating a pro-energy industry Vice Presidential task force. The Bush Administration apparently seeks to reverse the post-Watergate trend of open government.

As you are the President's top political adviser, let me draw to your attention the political wisdom of a man who served in the cabinet or sub-cabinet of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford, and then eighteen years as the U.S. senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He's not only an able politician but a student of government secrecy, most recently serving as chairman of a bipartisan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. You might want to take a look at his recent book, entitled Secrecy. Senator Moynihan sums it up nicely: "secrecy is for losers."


Sunday, 23 June 2002

10:43 BST: Permalink

Remember when I hoped it was just an April Fool's Day story? Well, now The Washington Post is asking, Curtain Call for Webcasts? Only the misleading sub-head suggests someone is listening to too many industry shills:

Some Decry Order to Pay Royalties to Musicians

Thousands of Internet radio stations may find their transmissions financially jammed after the Librarian of Congress yesterday adjusted the royalty fees that the webcasters must pay musicians and record companies for broadcasting their songs online.

Librarian James Billington cut the fees proposed by an arbitration board in half, but many of these fledgling firms say they will go out of business even under the reduced royalty regime.

Billington is charged by Congress with administering copyright laws for the printed word and sound recordings. He ruled yesterday that Web sites that broadcast music over the Internet must pay record companies and musicians 0.07 cents per song per listener. The arbitration panel set a per-song fee of 0.14 cents per listener late last year.

The panel had also proposed a 50 percent discount on that rate for FM stations simulcasting their broadcasts over the Internet, but Billington did away with that distinction.

"This will put us out of business," said Kevin Shively, director of interactive media for Beethoven.com, one of the most successful webcasters. "This is going to destroy Internet radio."

Shively said paying the fee would eat up almost all the gross revenue of his service, which reaches 200,000 listeners each month. After the initial decision by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, Shively said he was forced to lay off several staffers; he is now the site's only full-time employee.

Internet radio stations must pay two sets of copyright fees. One royalty, set at 3.5 percent of total revenues, goes to the songwriters and publishers of a piece of music. The other fee –

the one decided yesterday by Billington –

is shared equally by the performers and the record company.

Radio stations pay only the music publishing fee, not the royalties for musicians and record labels.
[...]
Record companies said the new fee isn't enough to compensate them for the value broadcasters derive from their creative work. "The import of this decision is that artists and record labels will subsidize the webcasting businesses of multibillion-dollar companies like Yahoo, AOL, RealNetworks and Viacom," said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America.

There is, of course, a very good reason why broadcast radio doesn't pay a "compensation" fee to the record companies (and make no mistake: it's to the record companies, not the musicians; it's promotion, and musicians are forced to pay the record companies for that out of their royalties, the record companies don't pay musicians for it). Let's go back to that article in the NYT last April:

In a 1998 copyright law, Congress gave Webcasters an automatic license to stream copyrighted music so long as they paid a royalty fee to be agreed on later. Like broadcast radio stations, Webcasters already pay about 4 percent of their revenue to compensate composers and music publishers. But American broadcasters have never paid a royalty for using sound recordings, which are typically owned by a record label, successfully arguing that record labels are already compensated by the promotional benefits of having their music played over the air.

Webcasters argue that the recording industry should recognize that it derives a similar benefit from music that is streamed over the Internet. In an arbitration panel proceeding supervised by the copyright office, the Webcasters proposed a royalty rate about equal to those paid to composers and publishers, 5 percent of revenue. The recording industry asked for 15 percent of revenue, or a comparable per-performance fee.

A considerable proportion of the material in question is music that would never be broadcast at all in this Clear Channel world, and therefore has negligible promotional opportunity. Many of these webcasters are offering online sales of the music they play and therefore moving thousands of dollars worth of CDs that would otherwise not be sold. In other words, it's free publicity, and the record companies are actually asking to be paid for it!

The musicians themselves can only benefit from the wider profile the webcasters offer them. Radio play is what sells their CDs and makes people buy tickets to their concerts. But the tiny number of companies that own radio stations these days play a very limited range of music, leaving most musicians - and audiences - out in the cold.

Since the record industry presumably knows this (that's why they hustle so extravagantly for air-time), one wonders what agenda they are really pursuing when they go to court to foreclose on free promotion for their performers.

There is, of course, a way around all this. Independent performers could band together to create their own web radio stations where they air music by themselves and other artists who are not bound to record companies. By producing, packaging, and promoting their own music via the web, they can retain control and never have to give the bulk of their profits to industry middle-men. Although web radio will never have the kind of access to large audiences that broadcast radio does, it can ultimately provide even more money to musicians while reaching an audience that is not satisfied by modern Top 40 radio.

I believe that the best way to break the industry's lock on stealing both careers and money from musicians is for performers to acquire independent bandwidth for this purpose now, before the record companies figure out a way to make that illegal. I also think there is real money to be made by a serious effort to by-pass the industry altogether via the web. In fact, I like this idea so much that I'd even be prepared to advertise them. Wouldn't you?


Saturday, 22 June 2002

18:17 BST: Permalink

Web access is intermittent at best, with attempts to reach any blogspot site timing out frequently. Not just on Demon, either. So I've created a page for something interesting I found on rec.arts.sf.fandom. It started in a thread called "now the CIA", in a post from Lucy Kemnitzer, who wrote:

I'm frightened: I think of my country's actions and positions in the world, and I wonder how long the rest of the world will put up with it. I do not want to be Carthage.
Ken MacLeod followed with a poem of his, which inspired Lucy and then a couple of others to add their own bits. It was rather wonderful, and I say this as a person who most often cringes at the sight of poetry springing up in public. Click here for the whole thing.

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Ah! Okay, I've managed to get through to the blogosphere, and I just found Barry's priceless response to this question from Atrios:

Could one of you Randroid zombies please explain to me how a retail (residential) spot market for electricity would work, precisely?

Thank you.

It begins:

It's simple, if you would only pull your letist islamofascist head out of your marxist books of lies, and actually bother to take Econ 101 (and pass it). If you'd stop reading Krugman, all of whose columns are lies, and who is considered laughable by every anonymous Chicwhore whom I won't quote by name, you'd realize how:
Go read and enjoy.

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Nathan Newman answers a question:

Auditors Selling Tax Fraud Advice- What's the difference between corporate America and the mafia? Mob leaders are held accountable for failing to pay taxes. The Times reports that auditors are selling tax avoidance schemes that help corporations massively conceal income.

Friday, 21 June 2002

16:22 BST: Permalink

Sex & Violence

Glenn Reynolds points to what he says is the "bottom-line reason why you may soon see less of both on TV" - an article in The Washington Post:

Watching a movie or TV program with strong sexual references interferes with people's ability to remember the commercials in such programs, according to research announced yesterday.

In the first study to empirically measure whether sexually explicit programming helps or detracts from marketers' messages, researchers found that people watching shows packed with sexual innuendo, performers with revealing clothes or sexual scenes were much less likely to remember the ads both immediately after the show and a day later.

The steep declines in memory after the explicit shows were seen among adults of all ages, among men and women, and among those who liked the programs and those who did not.

I don't care. I can't remember a single advertisement I saw all week. It doesn't matter whether I'm watching Buffy (which is full of innuendo and violence, with occasional sightings of skin &etc.) or a cooking show (although some might argue that that's sex, too), I don't remember the ads. Sometimes I may remember seeing an ad, but I don't remember what show I was watching at the time. Mostly, I remember ads when I am standing in front of the shampoo rack at SuperDrug and I see all these highly-promoted shampoos and remember that that's the one with the phony "scientific" spiel that goes along with the animation, and that's the one where the model's hair seems to be sort of metallic-looking. I remember some memorable ads independently - like all those cool Budweiser ads in black & white with nifty blues tunes in the background, which does Budweiser no good with me since I can't stand lager. And, of course, you can still get a laugh out of me with a couple of those late-night ads, like the one for Ginsu knives: "You can break a board in half with your hand! [crack!] But NOT a TOMATO! [splat]" - great knives by the way, but I only found that out because they came as a "free gift" with something my mom mail-ordered; or my all-time favorite, THE AMAZING EGG SCRAMBLER! ("Thwipthwipthwipthwipthwip!") But I have no idea what show I was watching when I saw them.

But what the advertiser wants from me, and gets, is this:

  • I'm standing in the drug store trying to find something to deal with adolescent acne that is extending it's reach well into adulthood, and my eyes light upon that familiar blue jar I've seen in all those ads. Yes! It's gotta be worth a try! (It works.) I never would have bought it if I hadn't recognized it from seeing the ads.
  • I'm watching TV with my father, and am astonished to notice that this 75%-deaf man is singing along with a Nat King Cole tune from an album that's being advertised in the break - one of those Xmas collections. "I didn't know you were a Nat King Cole fan," I say. "It's a good song," he replies, almost defensively. I go out the next day and pick it up. (When he unwraps it on Xmas morning, he immediately takes it to my room, puts it on my turntable and plays "Nature Boy", looking really misty-eyed. ("That's so true," he chokes out, as the song finishes.) (I have other stories on the gift-idea theme from advertising.)
  • I'm watching TV with my sweetie when we see an ad for a movie. "Wow, we gotta see that!" one of us says.
  • I've been getting tired of eating the same old Shreddies when I'm in the mood for cold cereal, and I see a silly add for Sugar Puffs. "God, I'd forgotten all about those! I want some!" "You like them? Good, I noticed they have some sort of Buffy trinket enclosed but I don't eat them so I didn't get them." "Oh, yes, get them, I like Sugar Puffs!" (The Buffy thing was definitely not something worth buying a cereal you don't want for, BTW.)
If you'd asked me the day after seeing any of those ads what advertisements I could recall from the previous 24 hours, I might have remembered the Nat King Cole ad, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have remembered the others, or any other ad that, ultimately, might influence my future buying. And studies like this one tell you nothing about how people's purchases will actually be affected by the ads they see or what shows they saw them in.

Max has been going after Instapundit all week for not being as good as his rep, and I can't help but agree after seeing some of Glenn's mischaracterizations of what he appears to think of as "the left" (including that crazy bomb-throwing hippie Dan Rather).

One does often get the feeling that "thoughtful conservatives" think that anyone on the left who criticizes the way the administration is prosecuting the war is against going after Al Qaeda at all. The other day Patrick quoted Glen as saying this:

But while I believe in prosecuting the current war against Islamist terrorists to the utmost, I feel absolutely sure that if the U.S. government is given power to act in ways for which it is unaccountable, it will act badly. Our entire Constitution is based on the notion that unaccountable power cannot be trusted. That's more than a notion, really: it's a certainty, on a par with the law of gravity.
And, you know, that's precisely how most of the liberals/lefties I know feel about it, the only distinction being that we think this administration came into office with the goal of taking precisely that kind of power, and that they have already demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Rumsfield and Cheney, as Bruce Shapiro reminds us, have been trying to do that throughout their careers:

Recently I found myself contemplating this photo, taken shortly after the Watergate scandal forced President Nixon from office. The two would-be hipsters -- Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney -- were aides to the new president, Gerald Ford. At that time Rumsfeld and Cheney were persuading Ford to veto one of the most important Watergate-inspired reforms, an enhanced Freedom of Information Act, designed to guarantee public and media scrutiny of the FBI and other agencies. FOIA, the two aides warned, would take too much power from the executive branch. Ford indeed vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode the veto and the FOIA became the law of the land -- at least until last October, when Attorney General John Ashcroft fulfilled Cheney and Rumsfeld's three-decade-old wish by pledging to fight any FOIA request that comes over the transom.

With the political aftershocks of Sept. 11 only now beginning to be felt in Washington, it's especially important to recall the real lessons of Watergate. Thirty years on, it is easy to forget that "Watergate" was really misleading shorthand: It was shorthand not only for the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters and Nixon's subsequent coverup of campaign shenanigans, but also for a vast array of domestic spying and other executive-branch abuses, which the Nixon crew perfected but did not invent.

It is fashionable now to blame Watergate on Nixon's paranoia and rogue personality. But the crimes of Watergate grew directly from the kind of unchecked presidential powers now sought by the Bush administration both at home and abroad. FBI spying on political rallies and religious communities? The White House plumbers practiced their tradecraft breaking into the psychiatric records of dissident Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg. The "enemies list" grew from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's decades of spying on religious, civil rights and peace groups.

Expanded paramilitary covert operations abroad? The Watergate break-in team was conscripted from the CIA squad for covert Cuban operations. Restrictions on the flow of information to Congress and the public? The direct complicity of Nixon and other high officials in Watergate was proved only because senators who had subpoenaed White House records refused to knuckle under to claims of executive privilege -- a drama being replayed this month with Sen. Joseph Lieberman's subpoenas regarding the involvement of Cheney and other White House officials in Enron.

One particular lesson of Watergate deserves close attention these days, and that's the lesson we learned about the power of the attorney general. Actually, we learned two contrasting lessons.

Start with Nixon attorney general John Mitchell. From the moment of Nixon's inauguration Mitchell was obsessed with partisan secrecy, with a crabbed and narrow vision of law enforcement, and with the intimidation of critics. His Justice Department fought the New York Times' publication of the Pentagon Papers, the internal secret history of the war in Vietnam; concocted fraudulent charges to jail antiwar dissidents like Jesuits Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, absurdly accused of plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger; wiretapped aides suspected of disloyalty; launched a doomed war on drugs; and tried to pack the Supreme Court with conservative ideologues. Up to his eyeballs in Watergate sewage, Mitchell claimed it was all in the interests of law and order, and to the bitter end of his tenure used his office to intimidate opponents and keep information from Congress.

The lesson: Without the active collaboration of an attorney general, Watergate would never have happened. Mitchell gave law-and-order cover to a lawless administration.
[...]
It is really only in the light of Watergate that the Bush administration's actions since Sept. 11 make sense. Just as the Reagan administration saw its job as undoing New Deal-descended corporate regulation, so has Bush & Co. systematically exploited the terror attacks to undo Watergate-era reforms reining in the executive branch. Each day's tit-for-tat, blame-the-other-guy leaks from the FBI and CIA make it more and more clear that prior to Sept. 11 neither agency suffered from an inability to spy, wiretap or otherwise collect information. Instead, the administration has shrewdly manipulated public opinion to accomplish something sought by Watergate-era Republicans like Cheney and Rumsfeld ever since: a restoration of the imperial presidency.

There's more, go read the rest.


Thursday, 20 June 2002

12:48 BST: Permalink

Kathy Kinsley notes that Jose Padilla was originally hoping to build the bomb from The Journal of Irreproducible Results.

* * * * *
Avram Grumer has posted some pointers to his drawings strewn variously around the web. Even if you don't look at any of the others, go to this page and search on "Avram".

* * * * *
Buzzflash has nabbed a new columnist:

Let me introduce myself. I am a partisan Democrat who has something to say. And as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill, I have a perspective that may be different than the one provided by the mainstream media. But, due to my position, I run the risk of my views being attributed to my employer. So, I offer this anonymously-written weekly column and speak only for myself.
* * * * *
The Christian Science Monitor weighs in on The politics of fear:

In playing to our fears, Ashcroft does not let consistency, any more than the law, interfere with his actions. He prefers to appeal subliminally to racism as well as xenophobia.
[...]
Ashcroft says the fight against terrorism is a fight for human rights, but he is not the only administration official whose pronouncements would make George Orwell blush.
[...]
But if this is war, ask yourself what you have done to help. Have you paid more in taxes, bought war bonds, planted a victory garden, been drafted or called up (or even know someone who has)? Or have you simply remained silent while Ashcroft decides whose rights have to be sacrificed in the name of protecting us all?

If so, you are not in the minority. A new Gallup poll shows that 4 out of 5 Americans are ready to give up some of their freedoms in return for more security; nearly half worry about becoming victims of a terrorist attack. Ashcroft has done his work well.

* * * * *
Permalink
You'd think even conservatives would understand why, at this time, coalitions with Islamic fundamentalists might have the stink of, well, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. For the two of you who missed that story, here's The Washington Post version:

UNITED NATIONS -- Conservative U.S. Christian organizations have joined forces with Islamic governments to halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences.

The new alliance, which coalesced during the past year, has received a major boost from the Bush administration, which appointed antiabortion activists to key positions on U.S. delegations to U.N. conferences on global economic and social policy.

But it has been largely galvanized by conservative Christians who have set aside their doctrinal differences, cemented ties with the Vatican and cultivated fresh links with a powerful bloc of more than 50 moderate and hard-line Islamic governments, including Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Iran.

And yet, when Charles Kuffner wrote about this on his page, he got comments from people explaining that it's all perfectly okay to join forces with enemy nations in order to promote anti-American values. Not like those nasty lefties who actually criticize foreign policy, f'rinstance.

See, even the Axis of Evil is okay when they're trying to suppress the freedoms of gays, women and children. (Hey, it's not just about oil and/or drugs, it's about repression, too!)

Even the Bull Moose can see what's wrong with this:

The Moose sympathizes with much of the agenda of the religious right, but this new alliance undermines their moral authority. Just as liberals weakened their case when they joined hands with the Communists, the religious right's moral standing is severely weakened by working with states that enslave women, promote extreme anti-Semitism and support terror against America and the West.

What's next? A strategic alliance with Satan? A religious right conference on Hezbollah family values?

Apparently, the Bush Administration is promoting this coalition. According to the Post, "U.S. and Iranian officials even huddled during coffee breaks at the U.N. summit on children in New York last month." So much for the Bush Administration's PR gambit to protest the radical Islamic treatment of women!

These have not the best of times for the religious right. Falwell and Robertson both embarrassed the movement with their absurd comments after 9/11. The Christian Coalition is only a shell of its former self. This new alliance with the axis of evil cannot help its standing among the American people.

The Moose wonders whether there is anyone in their ranks who will speak truth to power?

The Moose has things to say about the GOP's political strategy, too:

The Moose suggests that the President should also tell his top political adviser to be a bit more careful about employing the rhetoric of war on behalf of the trivial. Real soldiers are in harm's way defending our real lives and liberty. The Moose realizes that defending the rich has become a theological cause for the modern GOP. But it is not the crusade that concerns the American people.
* * * * *
Excellent entry by Gary Farber, who is spot on:

And that's why the US made a deal with the devil, Syria, because the purer Germans respected their own laws.

This is truly dark territory, and I fear it.

And more: It isn't the best way to get good intelligence, either.

* * * * *
From The Guardian, Long spin, gentle press:

The Bushies, however, are now accompanying their quasi-legal behaviour with news manipulation of a particularly shameless type. Indeed, we can perhaps see why the president has been so anxious to consult Tony Blair so often.

It is mildly gratifying for a small nation, otherwise pathetic enough to regard football matches as the major benchmark of national self-esteem, to be a world leader at anything at all, especially in an American-invented sport like spin-doctoring (the term is believed to date back to the Reagan-Mondale debates of 1984). But though Britain has achieved excellence in this field, the Americans are quietly fighting back. Fleischer is a world-beater.

Actually, it seems even easier to dupe the American press than our lot. The daily inquisitions of Fleischer, which look so grand on CNN, actually take place in a tiny subterranean annexe resembling a converted potting shed. Those attending are the White House correspondents, their average age surprisingly young, whose job - though involving some exotic travel and hobnobbing - tends toward a form of stenography. The stern and formulaic rules of American news reporting make scepticism difficult to express. And those who do prove awkward can be punished by the removal of access and favour. The nation's most skilled interrogators are not there, anyway. And European correspondents are effectively barred, partly by the effect of the time difference on deadlines, partly (under Bush) by maladministration of the pass system. No sane person would go twice anyway, since it is far harder for a journalist, denied the luxury of a little light torture, to extract information from Fleischer than for the CIA to get the facts from an al-Qaida hard case.


Wednesday, 19 June 2002

13:05 BST: Permalink

Sports News

Istanblog tells me that the US made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. So now you know where to look for that. I'm not a good person to ask, I've always hated football games of all sorts. I like to watch Jimmy White play snooker, but the game has become a bit less interesting now that all the mechanics have moved in. (Also: Go, Mets!)

* * * * *
I love it when Richard Cohen gets a visit from his grandpa's ghost.

* * * * *
Even I have trouble believing what amazing scam artists the Republicans are. Krugman talks about Politicians on Drugs:

Why should we have prescription drug insurance in the first place? One answer is that the voters want it. A better answer is that it is needed to preserve Medicare's original mission: to ensure that all retired Americans have access to necessary health care.

The omission of prescription drug coverage from Medicare was less a policy decision than an oversight; when the program was created, prescription drugs were not a major expense. But since then there has been a pharmacological revolution in medicine, especially for the elderly. And with sustained use of expensive drugs so essential to millions of people, what was a small omission has become a gaping hole.

Patching that hole would be expensive, but not prohibitively so. The Senate Democratic plan would cost about $500 billion over the next decade; if we could afford that $1.35 trillion tax cut, we can afford prescription drug coverage — and if we can't afford both, why not reconsider some of the tax cut? Just by canceling future cuts for the top income tax bracket, and retaining current taxes on estates over $3 million, Congress could save enough revenue to pay for the Senate Democrats' plan — and adversely affect only a handful of very affluent families.

Of course, the House Republican plan, with a price tag of $350 billion, looks even more affordable. What's wrong with it?

One answer is that in order to save that $150 billion, the Republican plan leaves many truly needy retirees behind. The Senate Democratic plan imposes fairly hefty co-payments, but then covers all subsequent expenses. The House Republican plan provides pretty good coverage for the first $1,000 in expenses, much less coverage for the next $1,000, and nothing at all after that until you reach a $4,500 annual limit. So a retiree with, say, $6,000 in drug expenses would find himself paying the full $4,500 — a crippling expense for many families.

Anyway, all that is hypothetical, because according to early reports the House Republican plan has an even bigger flaw: instead of providing insurance directly, it will subsidize insurance companies to provide the coverage.

What? Even on its face, a measure like that can only be one of two things: either it's a flat-out poison pill, or it's there to make a space at the trough for middle-men who can scoop off lots of money before delivering (not even minimal) services.

The theory, apparently, is that competition among private insurance providers would somehow lead to lower costs. In fact, the almost certain result would be an embarrassing fiasco, because the subsidy would have few if any takers. The trouble with drug insurance, from a private insurer's point of view, is that some people have much higher drug expenses than the average, while others have expenses that are much lower — and both sets of people know who they are. This means that any company that tries to offer drug insurance will find that if it tries to offer a plan whose premiums reflect average drug costs, the only takers will be those who have above-average drug costs.

A similar problem of "adverse selection" affects all insurance, but in the case of ordinary health insurance the differences in predictable expenses among individuals are narrow enough that companies can still design policies that both protect individuals and pay their way. In the case of prescription drug coverage for the elderly, insurance companies have decided that there is no viable business model — and there is no reason to believe that the House Republicans have found a way to change their minds.

Grrrrrrr.

* * * * *
I found this Political Quiz at Curmudgeonry.


Tuesday, 18 June 2002

22:47 BST: Permalink

The story in The Washington Post says:
Lieberman Positions Himself Out Front
Presidential Ambitions Not Hidden

And I say:

Dear Democratic Party,

Want to increase that Nader vote? Go right ahead and nominate Joe Lieberman, why don't ya?

Your friend,
Avedon

* * * * *
Christine Quiñones is hot again. Here's a sample :

Ever since 9/11, potential critics of the administration -- those with mainstream press coverage, anyway -- have bent over backwards to say how good a job they think the president has been doing, that whatever offense to the Constitution the administration has in store in any given week must be a shortsighted act but certainly not a purposeful attack on our democracy, that the misfeasance or malfeasance in intelligence that led to the attacks is on the part of subordinates with never a hint of real accusation against the men at the top. Admittedly, whenever there's been a real threat to Cabinet-level officials or higher, a new terror alert or other distraction has arisen, and now people are beginning to see how convenient this is. But could there be more to the walking on eggshells?

Richard J. Ochs has posted a chronology that shows how the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill coincided with the debates on the USA PATRIOT Act. So apparently Congressmen passed the bill without reading it too closely because they were too scared of possibly getting killed by their mail to pay adequate attention to the legislation they were reviewing. Once USA PATRIOT passed, the anthrax attacks stopped as suddenly as they started.

So is it possible that Congress, and the major news organizations who also received anthrax letters at that time, are pulling their punches because they're aware that someone, who the FBI knows works inside the government, may try to off them with some other less conspicuous biological agent if they get too far out of line? Given the administration's obsession with secrecy, I can imagine that even talking about a threat of this sort might constitute cause for arrest and indefinite military custody. Recall the constraints on librarians even saying they've been served with a USA PATRIOT search warrant.

* * * * *
In the Amygdala comment section, Charlie Stross offers a defense of Chomsky :

The second point, however, is more important: whatever you might think of his conclusions or ideology, he brings some very useful analytical tools to the political debate. Tools which anyone can use, for any ideology -- you don't have to agree with him to use them.

What tools are these?

Well, the first insight he came up with is that repressive regimes that want to look free need to employ much more subtle tools of censorship than old-fashioned monarchies or dictatorships. (Heads up: this also goes for corporations that want to look accountable and friendly to the public interest while behaving badly -- like Enron.) Just because the propaganda doesn't come under a masthead labelled Volkisch Beobachter and isn't delivered by a guy in a brown shirt and jackboots, it does not follow that the propaganda isn't there.

The second insight he came up with is that most of us fall, at one time or another, for the "eat shit -- a trillion flies can't be wrong" fallacy; and indeed, this is the key mechanism used for propaganda in democratic societies or by corporate spin doctors. "Use Microsoft Office -- everybody else does", is one particularly unsubtle variant. More subtly, by excluding the hostile fringe from one end of a polarized debate, the impression can be generated that the centre of a debate lies elsewhere than it does in reality. (Right wing talk show host introduces barking-mad neo-nazi as "Mr right-wing", and middle-of-road Republican as "Mr left-wing". Where is the centre of this debate? And where does a socialist fit on this scale?) If you can convince people that the centre lies somewhere else, if they're hostile to your position they'll scratch their head and assume they're an extremist, so far off the map that they're marginal.

The final trick is to manufacture consent -- that is, to generate the appearance that a majority of the public favour as policy whatever unnatural perversion you're trying to run past them. Companies do this with "astroturf" campaigns, fake grass-roots write-ins to convince legislators that actually, the public _don't_ mind having a toxic waste dump on their school playing fields.

Having invented these analytical tools, Chomsky then expended about six billion words tediously applying them at length to his particular political hobby-horse. Here's a clue: you don't have to! You can make them your own. They're tools, dammit, not an ideological stance, and refusing to use them is like refusing to shop at the co-op where the food prices are cheaper because they're run by evil communists, dammit.

* * * * *
FBI ‘guilty of cover-up’ over anthrax suspect says The Scotsman:

AMERICAN investigators know the identity of the killer who paralysed the US by sending anthrax in the post but will not arrest the culprit, according to leading US scientists.
[...]
At a time when the Bush administration is beefing up America’s Homeland Security defences any indication of progress by the FBI should be good news, but one prominent and well-respected biowarfare expert believes the FBI has not only known the identity of the terrorist for months but has conspired with other branches of the US government to keep it secret.

Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the biological warfare division at the Federation of American Scientists, first accused the FBI of foot-dragging in February with a scathing investigation that included a portrait of the possible perpetrator so detailed that it could only match one person.

Rosenberg said she knows who that person is and so do a top-level clique of US government scientists, the CIA, the FBI and the White House.

"Early in the investigation," Rosenberg told Scotland on Sunday, "a number of inside experts, at least five that I know about, gave the FBI the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect. That person fits the FBI profile in most respects. He has the right skills, experience with anthrax, up-to-date anthrax vaccination, forensic training, and access to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) and its biological agents through 2001."
[...]
Most crucially, she believes the suspect has in the past actually conducted experiments for the government to test the response of the police and civil agencies to a bioterror attack.

"It has been part of the suspect’s job to devise bioterror scenarios," Rosenberg said. "Some of these are on record. He is known to have acted out at least one of them, in hoax form, perhaps as part of an assignment to test responses. Some hoax events that have never been solved, including several hoax-anthrax events, also correspond to his scenarios and are consistent with his whereabouts."

The question she wants the FBI and the Bush administration to answer is, why it has taken so long to arrest this man? In the unlikely event that the government divulges all it knows about what she now believes to be a full blown cover-up, Rosenberg said responsibility can be expected to fall on a number of government agencies, all with a vested interest in shielding the truth.

"Either the FBI is under pressure from the Pentagon or CIA not to proceed because the suspect knows too much and must be controlled forever from the moment of arrest," she said, "or the FBI is sympathetic to the views of the biodefence clique or the FBI really is as incompetent as it seems."

Rosenberg’s analysis suggests a combination of all three. The American defence establishment guards its secrets well and given the suspect’s covert work on their behalf their reluctance to see him publicly exposed appears natural.

Equally there is evidence that some of the suspect’s colleagues are not unhappy with the fallout from his terror attacks. Rosenberg cites David Franz, a former commander of USAMRIID who earlier this year said of the anthrax campaign: "I think a lot of good has come from it. From a biological or a medical standpoint, we’ve now five people who have died, but we’ve put about $6bn in our budget into defending against bioterrorism."

12:50 BST: Permalink
Tim Francis-Wright was kind enough to send me the Washington Post debate link I was looking for, and the link for their index page for all of the presidential (and vice presidential) debates. It's really worth reading them to see how often Bush either implies or states outright that Gore is lying whenever Bush is challenged to defend (or, in some cases, identify) his own policies.

* * * * *
Jeff Hauser on what it means to have the promised war without end:

So, the conclusion is that if we are sufficiently frightened NOW to undermine the Constitution, we need to recognize that logically, those Constitutional protections are never going to return. Never. We will never be comfortably, knowably safer than now, because enemies of the US will always exist. That's the problem with defining war so broadly -- the tradeoffs we might make for anomalously threatened circumstances during a legitimate state of war invoke far greater threats to liberty when that status WILL NEVER BE REVOKED.
* * * * *
Gloria R. Lalumia watched the FOX interview with Bill Clinton, and you can see the transcription and her analysis here, but what interested me was this from her recollection of a later discussion on the show:

And frankly, I was fed up, too. There was no way I was going to stick around for Cosby and the Catholic bishops! The only good thing about this program was that I got to see and hear Bill Clinton and then got to hear a preview of the GOP smear campaign that we will be seeing when the time is right. It was also good to see Eleanor Holmes Norton stick to her guns and go after Ashcroft, or as Dreier called him, "The General."
When did this "General" thing get started? The first time I noticed it, a Repubican partisan assured me that it's a "traditional" term, but I lived in Washington for 33 years, I even worked on newspapers, and I can't remember ever hearing the AG referred to that way. "Attorney General Ramsey Clark", "Attorney General John Mitchell", "Attorney General Edwin Meese III" (or "3d", in that strange construction the NYT came up with) - and I'm sure I never heard anyone refer to Janet Reno as "the General". It seems to me that the Republicans keep discovering a lot of "traditions" that no one ever noticed before - and which the Republicans themselves certainly do not apply on behalf of Democrats.

* * * * *
Here's the Finder's guide to Deep Throat, detailing the sifting the students did to determine that Deep Throat might very well be Pat Buchanan, and here's Josh Marshall saying Oh, Man, is Deep Throat ever Pat Buchanan!!!. It all looks pretty believable to me.

* * * * *
Dominic has the most totally sci-fi movie-looking computer photo on his June 16th entry at Epicycle.


Monday, 17 June 2002

22:48 BST: Permalink

Brad Carlton in The Baltimore Chronical says that while it might be unthinkable, we have to think it, in How Bush Hit the 'Trifecta' on 9/11--and the Public Lost Big-Time:

Whenever someone is suspected of a crime, investigators look for a motive in addition to actual proof of guilt to determine, a posteriori, whether there was malice aforethought. In cases of criminal negligence, motive must also be deduced, a priori, to answer the question: were preventive failures due to craftiness or mere cluelessness?

The serial apologists of the Bush Is Not Stupid crowd are rather incongruously opting for the latter, this in the wake of the scandal about pre-9/11 failures to issue precisely the kinds of public warnings and security directives that accompanied the also "non-specific" Y2K threats. For now, it is difficult to say who knew what when because the administration is not exactly being forthcoming, preferring instead to use the scandal as an excuse to broaden the FBI's snoop powers. However: there was a potential motive for the administration to sit on perceived terrorist threats.

Think back to the days before 9/11. The topic on everyone's lips (Condit aside) was: what will happen when budget realities force Bush to raid Social Security? He had explicitly promised during his campaign to establish a contingency fund for severe emergencies that would keep Social Security untouched. But the economy was tanking and the costs of the tax cut made the raid inevitable. Even Daniels acknowledged that the government would be forced to tap Social Security to the tune of $14 billion to fund pending legislation. Strangely, Bush kept insisting, "We can work together to avoid dipping into Social Security." But, beginning August 24, he gave himself an escape clause: "I've said that the only reason we should use Social Security funds is in case of an economic recession or war." (Three days earlier he had said that there should be "special consideration" in the budget for these contingencies. Otherwise, this was completely new rhetoric.)

September 4: businessman and commentator Ben Cohen ran a mock "help wanted" ad reading, "Serious enemy needed to justify Pentagon budget increase. Defense contractors desperate." Same day: a CBS poll found that 66 percent of Americans did not think a recession (extant, but not yet confirmed) was reason enough to tap Social Security. September 6: Bush invented another exception. "The only time to use Social Security money is in times of war, times of recession, or times of severe emergency." September 11: he had all three. Lucky Bush.

Then, on the morning of September 12, Bush announced his very first post-9/11 policy move. Because the attacks were "more than acts of terror; they were acts of war, this morning I am sending to Congress a request for emergency funding authority." On cue, pundits like Tim Russert chirped, "Suddenly the Social Security lockbox seems so trivial." Since then the trust fund has been strip-mined to subsidize pork barrel and deficit spending with no political fallout for the president.

These extraordinary coincidences have gone unremarked in the media, who have entirely missed that the terms of the "trifecta"--note that the word connotes something you bet on--was never mentioned until two-and-a-half weeks after Bush's August 6 briefing and days before 9/11. (He has since claimed the 'trifecta' was a campaign promise. This is a lie.) It is sickening to contemplate an administration intentionally looking the other way while terrorists scheme so that whatever havoc they wreak can provide cover for the president to raid Social Security. But we journalists are paid to have strong stomachs, and we should be hardy enough to admit that the scenario is conceivable, for three reasons.
[...]
Third, and by far most importantly, Bush needed to save his presidency, which by August was already in serious danger of sinking into fiscal chaos and one-term ignominy. This is a viable motive. Whether or not Bush or someone in his administration acted on it by winking at hijacking threats remains to be seen.

But it was unsettling, though still inconclusive, to read in the May 17 Washington Post , "Members of congressional committees investigating the pre-Sept. 11 warnings said yesterday that there is far more damaging information that has not yet been disclosed about the government's knowledge of and inaction over events leading up to Sept. 11."

* * * * *
Eric Alterman says it's conservatives, not liberals, who advance their least admirable members by affirmative action. Well, anyone who tried to figure out how Clarence Thomas got nominated knew that. Alterman's favorite nominee is Ann Coulter:

By the time she finally got herself fired from MSNBC, Coulter was a star. (No man, or ugly woman for that matter, would have lasted remotely as long.) She found herself celebrated by the likes of John Kennedy Jr., who gave her a column in George, as well as bookers for talk shows with hosts like Wolf Blitzer, Larry King, Geraldo and Bill Maher, and quoted by ABC's George Will with the same deference usually reserved for Edmund Burke or James Madison.

Lately Coulter has gotten herself in the news again by calling for the wholesale slaughter of Arabs, the murder of Norm Mineta and the use of mob violence against liberals and Muslims. Perhaps she's kidding, but it's hard to know. We have, too, another book-length screed, Slander, this one bearing the imprimatur of Crown Publishers. As with her entire career in the punditocracy, it is a black mark on the soul of everyone associated with it. Here is Coulter's characterization of a New York Times editorial criticizing John Ashcroft: "Ew yuck, he's icky." She worries about "liberals rounding up right-wingers and putting them on trial." One could go on, and on, and on.

13:12 BST: Permalink
The truly remarkable thing about Along Via Ferlinghetti, the Beat Goes On is that it is by George F. Will:

SAN FRANCISCO -- America's gauzy popular culture has the power to envelop even its perfervid critics in a tolerant, domesticating embrace. If they live long enough, these critics run the risk of winding up full not only of years but of honors. They can, like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 83, become tourist attractions.

These tourists, he notes, are intellectually upscale. They come in a small but steady trickle, from across the country and around the world, to his City Lights Bookstore, next door to a street named after the most famous of the writers who have hung out there -- Jack Kerouac. The store, which is a short walk from the street -- actually, an alleyway, which seems right -- named Via Ferlinghetti, has been designated by this city a protected landmark. This is not because the wedge-shaped structure built in 1907 is a gem (it is not) but because of its cultural significance, which is primarily its association with Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other designated voices of the Beat Generation.

* * * * *
I really like the new look and feel of Jim Henley's site, and he's being very linkable at the moment, too. Here he's discoursing on the discourse about civilian casualty figures and how they are discussed, and here he says:

Of course, Unqualified Offerings has played some fairly frank numbers games itself, and been willing to rely on utilitarian arguments. It has taken pains to deflate the portentous term "weapons of mass destruction" because it thinks that inflated danger estimates are being used to stampede the American people over the cliff of endless war. In taking these pains, it is responding to enthusiasts for empire and intervention making a "pragmatic" case - "We'll all die!" - for the United States abandoning a prudent reluctance to engage in major wars.

Utilitarianism is dangerous, but it has a role to play.

* * * * *
Alex Frantz addresses a critique of Rachel Carson:

Of course, these aren't those squishy, soft-headed, statistics that relativistic, Luddite, anti-Enlightenment liberal environmentalists love to terrify the innocent with. A good conservative/libertarian writer would never resort to such tricks, especially after just attacking an environmentalist for them. These are firm, trustworthy, conservative statistics with rock-hard pecs and abs, ready to stand up to the toughest challenge.
* * * * *
Ethel the Blog looks at peer-to-peer news:

Such a refreshing example has been provided by Stan Liebowitz (via Slashdot), usually one of the house hacks at the Cato Institue who can be counted on to churn out report after report affirming the house ideology. It seems that Stan, who wrote a report back in May assuring his paymasters in the recording industry that peer-to-peer file sharing would eventually leave the industry in ruins (and the poor executives unable to afford a coca leaf much less a mountain of snow), is losing his religion. Here's Stan on why he's no longer certain that what the record industry paid him to say will happen will indeed happen.
The interview with Stan Liebowitz is not behind the Premium wall at Salon and is well worth having a look at.

* * * * *
Atrios recalls some real White House vandalism, quoting from a 1993 WP article:

WASHINGTON -- When President Clinton's top aides moved into the White House in January, many of them had trouble getting their computers to work.

That's because during the night of Jan. 19 and into the next morning -- President Bush's last hours in office -- officials wiped out the computerized memory of the White House machines.

* * * * *
Rebecca Knight discusses The Media's Violation of Public Trust:

In our society, large corporations are a more common source of censorship than governments: Media outlets killing stories because they undermine corporate interests; advertisers using their financial clout to squelch negative reports; powerful businesses using the threat of expensive lawsuits to discourage legitimate investigations. The most frequent form of censorship is self-censorship: Journalists deciding not to pursue certain stories that they know will be unpopular with the boss. Those reporters who have the courage to buck the pressure from the top run the risk of losing their jobs as corporate media conglomerates are getting rid of the few remaining aggressive television investigative reporters.(5)

One of the best reports I have read about behind the scenes manipulation of the media is an account put together by makethemaccountable.com that details the interference of Jack Welch, then head of GE, on the reporting of all the media outlets under the GE umbrella.(6) Welch was contacted by Karl Rove in 1999 and was convinced by Rove that it would be financially beneficial for GE to have Bush in the White House. Welch had long believed that it was ludicrous for news organizations to work in conflict with the best interests of the corporations that own them. Welch proceeded to influence the news from GE sources to promote GE's financial well being.

Imagine that the only reporting you read or saw about the two candidates for president in 2000 came from your local newspaper or the big three networks. If you did not have the Internet with which to explore the facts, would your opinion have been skewered by the news media reports that Al Gore was an accomplished liar and George W. Bush was a "compassionate conservative?" See the difference?

Of course, if you actually believe that Gore is a pathological liar and Bush is "compassionate", you probably don't see the difference.

[Editorial kvetch: This is the third time in a single week I have seen someone haplessly reach for the word "skewed" and miss. Is our children learning?]

* * * * *
Send a Voodoo Curse. Or do some Very Virtual Voodoo.


Sunday, 16 June 2002

17:42 BST: Permalink

Public Service Announcement

I used to be a singer - a good one. I haven't done it much lately. And here I am with the sort of thing someone like me dreams of - the new Buffalo Springfield boxed 4-CD set with demo versions of some of their stuff without back-up vocals. What that means is that I can harmonize bare with Neil on "Out of My Mind", right? Ah, glorious! Except...it's not, because I'm so out of practice that I'm missing the notes, losing the flow. And it hurts. I thought it was hard-wired, y'know? I could never not be able to do it. And yet.... Well. Any ex-musician in the world probably has encountered something like this and knows what I mean, but: Don't let this happen to you.

* * * * *
Airport profiling:

Private citizen Al Gore learned that last week - not once but twice. Traveling to Wisconsin, the former vice president was pulled aside for random security screening at Reagan National Airport before boarding the 7:15 p.m. flight to Milwaukee on Friday. Passengers sharing Flight 406 were startled to hear Gore being told, "Sorry, sir, you have to go through extra screening," and to witness security personnel rifling through his briefcase and suitcase, a witness said.
[...]
On Saturday afternoon, when Gore was leaving Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, he was taken aside for some extra scrutiny at a Midwest Express gate before boarding a flight to New York, said Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera, who accompanied him during both checks.
[...]
"Despite the fact that he won more votes than anyone else in the history of America, except for Ronald Reagan, he is more than happy to do his part for airport security.

"As I recall, he shook the hands of all the airport screeners afterward and thanked them for doing the jobs that they're doing and asked them to keep up the good work."

* * * * *
Mark Morford gets fan mail:

I am an utter moron. I am a total imbecile. I am the enemy.
[...]
I am apparently many, many very unpleasant things that can't be printed here, but simply recall all the absolute crudest, most juvenile curse words you ever heard from the thickest jock in junior high (don't forget the gross bodily functions) and rearrange them at will à la magnetic refrigerator poetry, and you'll have some idea of the feedback I often get.

But more than anything else, the absolute worst thing that can apparently be said about me among the spurts of hate mail I invariably receive whenever one of my more politically charged columns pokes at the oozing sores of rage over at some right-wing Web site, is this: I must be gay. Really, really gay.

No, not gay. A fag. A world-class spineless AIDS-ridden dope-smoking rainbow-flagged liberal whiner super-fag, one who lives in a city and in fact an entire state that apparently a very large contingent of "real" Americans genuinely wishes would "get bombed by the terrorists and fall off into the ocean after you all get f--king AIDS and die you liberal pussy faggot traitors." That is pretty much a direct quote.

I bet Aaron Brown is glad he doesn't get his mail.

* * * * *
Reading The Washington Post

What has happened to Dana Milbank? I'd been getting the impression that he was the designated "guy who doesn't just write PR for the Bush White House" for The Washington Post, but he seems to have been demoted:

The president who spoke here today was not the same president who spoke in New Haven a year ago. Bush aide John Bridgeland told reporters this morning that the president's speech, serious and grave, was inspired by the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pope John Paul II, Aristotle, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Cicero -- although the president mentioned none of them by name. The former C student, Bridgeland said, "actually discussed Nicomachean ethics" in the Oval Office, not to mention the Patrick Henry-James Madison debate.
Can there honestly be anyone in the press corps who believes Bush is familiar with the writings of these people? And:

"Today I'm making an appeal to your conscience, for the sake of our country," Bush said, in a flourish reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's inaugural appeal. "America needs more than taxpayers, spectators and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens."
Somehow when Kennedy spoke it didn't have quite the same reek of hypocrisy. George Bush's idea of sacrificing for his country seems to mean staying up past his bed-time so he can insult national leaders of other countries while suffering from jet-lag.

Curiously, Milbank also seems unaware that students who attended the speech were threatened with expulsion if they protested, and were instructed to applaud thunderously. Hm.

As you know, the letters page of the WP is my favorite reading matter. Here's some:

From Thursday's paper, Inappropriate War-Making:

The Bush administration's alarming new strategic doctrine permitting preemptive strikes against other nations [front page, June 10] represents a major deviation from U.S. precedent and is the clearest evidence yet that Congress needs to reassert its constitutional war-making authority.

If presidential war powers can be justified, it is only by the need to react decisively and quickly to an attack upon this country; the power to launch a premeditated attack against another country cannot be granted to this or any other administration, no matter what the justification.

At the least, the instigation of war requires the sort of national debate intended by the Founders of our Republic, and that requires returning the power to declare war to Congress, as the Constitution requires. [Jim Cornelius]

And from today's "Outlook" section, No Ordinary Vandalism:

I am disgusted -- and disturbed -- by the behavior of President Clinton's aides who vandalized the White House when they left, causing some $19,000 in damages [front page, June 12]. According to a 217-page General Accounting Office report -- which cost $200,000 to produce and untold hours of costly interviews -- the vandalism included such juvenile stunts as gluing desk drawers shut and popping the "W" key from computer keyboards. Apparently this kind of misbehavior has also taken place during transitional periods in the past.

The former Clinton aides say that the GAO report proves that "the damage was minor and ordinary." Nineteen thousand dollars in damages is ordinary? It's ordinary to trash a room when you leave it? It concerns me that such childish men and women with little respect for public property are aides to presidents. I prefer my president to be "aided" by responsible adults.

As Tapped points out, $19K amounts to $2 per room over the course of an eight-year occupancy. That doesn't sound terribly high to me. And, of course, the Clinton administration appears to have left the White House in better shape than they found it. The difference is that they didn't whine and complain about it, unlike the Bush administration that slandered the out-going administration and generated an investigation that cost the taxpayers $200,000.

Grown-ups, of course, don't do that sort of thing. At least one editorial writer at the Post is beginning to wonder if that's what we've got:

FROM THE BEGINNING, the Bush people promised, and prided themselves on, an "adult" administration. They meant that, in what they saw as pointed contrast to their predecessors, they would run a disciplined, businesslike, leak-free shop. As aspirations go, there's nothing wrong with that. But adult ought to mean something more: a government in which senior, competent officials debate and disagree; in which those disagreements are eventually resolved; and in which everyone then carries out the agreed-upon policy in pursuit of common overall goals. By either definition, the administration lately has not been doing as well as the self-congratulation might have you believe.

Last week was particularly ragged. Monday saw the disquieting spectacle of Attorney General John Ashcroft trumpeting a version of the uncovered dirty-bomb plot that differed sharply from the versions offered by other senior officials. Then Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a vision of an interim state for Palestine, only to be slapped down by the White House press secretary as though he, Mr. Powell, were just one more think-tank analyst offering advice. Nor was it the first time the secretary of state had found himself handled in this way.

Of course, the White House isn't the only problem, as David Broder notes:

It is not often that one hears a United States senator confess in public that he was "truly dumbfounded." That was the phrase Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd applied to himself the other evening as he contemplated the fact that most of his colleagues were about to open a three-quarters-of-a-trillion-dollar hole in the nation's future finances.

I can't improve on Dodd's language. It is truly mind-boggling that majorities in both the House and Senate have voted to compound the budget problems of the nation by making permanent the abolition of what they choose to call the "death tax," more commonly known as the tax on large estates.

Last year, along with a reduction in income tax rates, Congress approved a gradual phase-out of estate taxes, wiping them out for everyone by 2010. But in order to stay within the budget ceilings, they pretended that in the following year, the taxes would revert to their 2001 level. They didn't mean it. And this year, at the first opportunity, they have sought to make the elimination of "death taxes" permanent.

By margins of 256-to-171 in the House and 54-to-44 in the Senate, majorities agreed. The only thing that kept the bill from going straight to the White House, where President Bush was eager to sign it, was the Senate's technical requirement under budget rules that it have 60 votes, not just a simple majority. So the budget busters will have to try again.

The estate tax was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, who was stunned by the vast fortunes being accumulated in the first decades of the industrial age. Roosevelt had the quaint notion that great inequality of wealth was unhealthy for a democratic society, and -- foolish man -- he even believed that young people were better off making their own way than living off the fruits of their parents' success.

Today's Republicans -- and a few Democratic allies -- think they know better. In a brilliantly orchestrated public relations and lobbying campaign, business groups have convinced lawmakers that it is, as sponsors put it, downright "immoral" to tax a family or business on its earnings each year and tax the heirs again when the original owners die.

Current law acknowledges that point and provides such generous exemptions that fewer than 2 percent of estates pay any tax at all. The Democratic substitute, voted down in both the House and Senate, would have raised the exemption for a married couple to $6 million, leaving only three-tenths of 1 percent of estates subject to taxation.

But that was not enough to satisfy Bush and the Republicans.

Michael Getler actually sounds like an ombudsman for a change:

Post editors felt that Rowley did not break much new ground in her testimony, and readers did not call to complain about this placement. But I felt that this rare and candid public event was news in itself and should have found a place on the front, as it did in most big papers. The Post is a tough-minded newspaper. But the comparison in display made me feel the paper had been swept along by a well-timed administration disclosure. I'm sure that's not the case, but that's what it looked like.
Well, almost like an ombudsman.

Dennis Pluchinsky is not so forgiving:

I accuse the media in the United States of treason.

I have been analyzing terrorism for the U.S. government for 25 years. My specialty is "threat analysis." This is a rather difficult field that requires the imagination of Walt Disney, the patience of a kindergarten teacher, the mind-set of a chess player, the resolve of a Boston Red Sox fan, the mental acuity of a river boat gambler, and the forecasting ability of a successful stock market analyst.

While the media have, over the past several weeks, written extensively on alleged intelligence "failures" surrounding the events of Sept. 11, I want to address the media's common-sense "failures." As a terrorism analyst, I am both appalled and confused by many of the post-9/11 articles published at home and abroad, in newspapers, news magazines and academic journals, as well as on the Internet.

Many of these articles have clearly identified for terrorist groups the country's vulnerabilities -- including our food supply, electrical grids, chemical plants, trucking industry, ports, borders, airports, special events and cruise ships. Some of these articles have been lengthy and have provided tactical details useful to terrorist groups. No terrorist group that I am aware of has the time and manpower to conduct this type of extensive research on a multitude of potential targets. Our news media, and certain think tankers and academicians, have done and continue to do the target vulnerability research for them.

Imagine that you are a supporter or sympathizer of a terrorist group and you have been tasked to identify and collect tactical information on potential U.S. targets. Consider some of the following headlines that have appeared since 9/11: "Private Plane Charters: One Way Around Air Security," Suicidal Nuclear Threat Is Seen At Weapons Plants," "Priority Required for Protecting Utilities," "NRC Warns of Missing Radioactive Materials," "Freight Transport: Safe from Terror?" "Chemical Plants Are Feared As Targets," "America's Roads May Be Just As Vulnerable As Its Skies," "Study Assesses Risk of Attack on Chemical Plants," "Terror Risk Cited for Cargo Carried on Passenger Jets: 2 Reports List Security Gaps," and "Truck Terrorism Possible, U.S. Says: Investigation Finds Lack of Licensing Safeguards."

I do not understand the media's agenda here. This country is at war. Do you honestly believe that such stories and headlines, pointing out our vulnerabilities for Japanese and Nazi saboteurs and fifth columnists, would have been published during World War II? Terrorists gather targeting information from open sources and field surveillance. What other sources do they have? Do they have a multibillion-dollar intelligence community with thousands of employees? Do they have telecommunications satellites to intercept communications?
[...]
So why do the research for the terrorists? For example, "vulnerability" articles appearing in the media always contain interviews or comments from three or four experts or specialists. It could be the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an American Trucking Associations official, a union leader, technician or consultant. These experts will talk to reporters. None of them would ever talk to a terrorist. Therefore, if not for the media, terrorist groups would have no access to the insights and wisdom of these people. What also infuriates me is when the media publish follow-up reports noting that security measures or procedures around a specific target or system still have not been implemented. Not only do the media identify potential target vulnerabilities for the terrorists but they also provide our foes with progress reports!

I've alluded to this problem before - there really are things that don't belong in the papers. I'm a big supporter of open government, but I've seen far too many pieces in the media that exposed details that should have been kept out of it. If I'd been one of the reporters who heard the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee explain that we got information from tapping Osama's cell phone, my story the next day would not have included that detail, but instead would have been about the scandal of Orrin Hatch talking way too much to the press.

I don't believe that the government should have veto power over what the press reports, but I do believe articles dealing with national security issues at a time like this should be looked at with real care, not just by the people whose job it is to protect the nation (although I see no harm in consulting them - always bearing in mind that some of their caution should also be treated skeptically and vetted for political motivation), but by editors who should remember that their job is to serve the public interest, not just sell papers.

It's ironic that our news media place the public interest so low on their list of priorities that they do not question it when even politicians themselves reveal secrets of this nature to the press.

11:15 BST: Permalink
Farber is back, with lots of stuff, and the the word on playing politics with the security of the nation:

This is not a surprise, but it makes me feel unclean. You can't ask for bipartisan support on your bipartisan plans to protect the nation, and then do this. It's sickening, and, of course, breathtakingly hypocritical.

But far worst of all, it's so bad for the nation, words fail me. It's the opposite of asking people to act in the best interests of the nation over political advantage. It's completely destructive to that.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, truly moves me to feel that, if this play continues, these people should be thrown out of office, and people who actually place the interests of the nation first, installed.

And that's a pretty big "if". This administration and its friends have so far shown no willingness whatsoever to place the nation's interests above their own; quite the reverse, actually.


Saturday, 15 June 2002

18:32 BST: Permalink

Eric Alterman has been talking about the Nader vs. Democrats and Nader+Norquist issue and posted letters from his readers. I'm finding the whole thing pretty thought-provoking and in this case I want to thank Eric in particular for printing those letters, which are in some cases illuminating. Like this one from Shawn Redden:

I'm not a fool. I was not duped. I stand by my choice in 2000 because this country needs to be a democracy.

I was a Nader supporter in 2000 not because I loved him. Al Gore, not Nader, turned me away. As soon as Holy Joe (Enron whore) was named the Vice Presidential nominee, my support for Gore ended.

[Incidentally, I can put together a pretty compelling case that Holy Joe's nomination cost Gore the election every bit as much as Nader did. Why do you pick Clinton's biggest Democratic critic? Gore chose to run on the Holy Joe moralist platform rather than Clinton's legacy. A more foolish decision in Presidential politics I cannot recall. It would be like choosing Spiro Agnew to run with instead of Eisenhower.]

I have some sympathy with this feeling, certainly; I do find Lieberman pretty offensive, and his attacks on Hollywood alongside his willingness to fall for Republican spin on two significant occasions, including during the arguments about the absentee ballots in Florida, unquestionably hurt Gore. On the other hand, I have no idea how many people voted for Gore because of Lieberman's presence on the ballot, and until someone can supply that data, it's very hard to say that it was the choice of Lieberman that cost Gore the election. (However: I remember during 2000 reading articles by conservatives about how religious conservatives were feeling very comfortable with Lieberman's religiosity and perhaps more willing to vote for Gore on that basis. But conservative columnists were writing a lot of articles like that at the time that often turned out to be quoting people who in fact were not going to vote for Gore or any other Democrat if their lives depended on it. Like those articles about how "women" hated Hillary Clinton that turned out to be quoting only women from some Republican kaffee-klatch. Huh.)

I simply couldn't handle seeing George Bush, a complete imbecile, sit on those podiums, telling lie after lie, making ignorant comment after ignorant comment, and then see Gore actually address him as if he was speaking truthfully or reasonably.
Actually, Gore spent much of the first debate showing Bush up for being both an ignoramus and a liar. (I've lost the link I had for this. One of the better ones was on The Washington Post online pages, complete with little lie-detector pop-ups, but I can't find it in their index since they reorganized the site. Anyone know how to get it?) The trouble is, the media had a field day with the Republican "Gore the Liar" spin in the following week and by the next debate Gore appeared to be unable to figure out how to combat it. But it's not really true that he started off letting Bush get away with it at the podium. What is true is that he could have fought back harder, and I sure wish he had. I've said before that Gore's campaign people were really lousy at knowing how to make lemonade from the lemons the Republicans kept handing them.

Redden also makes a plausible case for including Buchanan and Nader in the debates. Well, it's a good case if his conjecture is true, but perhaps not so good if Nader couldn't be trusted to use the occasion to attack Bush, rather than Gore.

Meanwhile, here's Robert Kuttner on the real evil in the Democratic Party, the DLC:

The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was organized by southern governors, business Democrats, defense hawks, and social conservatives to push the party to the center. The theory was that this repositioning would win presidential elections (and also raise a ton of corporate money). Bill Clinton was taken as the DLC's vindication. But how is the DLC doing now that the Democrats are in opposition?

Mostly, the DLC is up to its old habits of splitting the difference with a Republican administration. This is not exactly useful either in energizing the party base or in helping congressional Democrats resist the Bush onslaught. For instance, the 1996 welfare-reform program is now up for renewal. Welfare reform worked better than expected, partly because a strong economy provided plenty of jobs; the ensuing surplus could then be spent on job training, wage subsidies, and child care so that former welfare recipients could succeed in the workplace.

The Republicans and their DLC allies are stuck in a 1996 time warp, in which the issue is who can be tougher on the poor. The Republican House bill increases the percentage of welfare recipients who must work 40 hours a week (some short-term education and training also counts) to qualify for government help. As Mark Greenberg demonstrates in our forthcoming special supplement on reforming welfare reform, this screw-tightening will make it harder for welfare recipients to succeed at work; and more families with serious problems will just be dumped.

The DLC bill sponsored by New Democrat Senators Bayh and Carper basically accepts the harsher Republican work formula and adds more child care money. It's actually to the right of a "tripartisan" plan co-sponsored by Senators Breaux, Hatch, and Jeffords. The Senate bill, of course, must ultimately go to conference with the Republican House. One could imagine a final deal that reluctantly traded draconian work requirements for better child care. But why give away your final compromise as the opening gambit? You can understand the White House using salami tactics on the Democrats. But why are New Dems doing it to their own party? Aren't we macho enough on the poor?
[...]
The DLC's New Dem Daily Web feature even counsels Democrats to avoid pushing popular liberal issues such as Social Security and prescription drugs. "This is the same bad advice President Clinton rejected in the 1990s," declares the anonymous DLC commentator, urging Democrats instead to demonstrate toughness on national security. But are these two postures mutually exclusive? I recently debated Bill Kristol before an audience of prominent conservatives. Several expressed real worry that Democrats will eat the Republicans' lunch on Social Security in this fall's midterm elections. If they do, it will be no thanks to New Democrats.

* * * * *
Been wondering about all the Clinton-team's vandalism in the White House that the Republicans reported? I really like this one:

I got one here. Hold on, a T-shirt with a tongue sticking out was draped over a chair. The "Rolling Stones" were apparently in the house. I don't really understand ...
That's Paul Begala having lots of fun with Bob Barr on Crossfire. Puts Jerry Falwell right on the hotseat about some of his public statements, as well, like his famous 9/11 remarks and the one about how the prophet Mohammed was "a demon-possessed pedophile". (Via MWO.)

* * * * *
Keven Maroney alerted me to this post from Mark Evanier

In 1959, MCA/Universal purchased a number of film libraries, including Paramount's, to put on television. In 1960, the Screen Actors Guild went on strike over residuals and wound up making one of the worst deals in Hollywood history -- one that meant billions to MCA and nothing to actors whose pre-1960 films were run on television. The head of the actors' negotiating team who rammed the deal through S.A.G. was Ronald Reagan. (And Reagan performed other services for Wasserman: In 1962, when MCA was the subject of a government anti-trust probe, Reagan was called as a witness and developed total amnesia. Shortly after, MCA got involved in a number of real estate transactions with Reagan that made him a multi-millionaire.)

This is why we have dishonest government in this country: Because guys like Reagan not only get away with such deals but wind up claiming that they stand for honor and integrity. This also applies to various deals by presidents named Bush, our current vice-president and many others including -- to be fair -- a hefty number of Democrats, as well. I think I would have been more willing to believe that Bill Clinton was morally unfit to be president if any of the folks claiming this had any problem with the way some of our other elected officials have become very, very wealthy.

* * * * *
Yellow Times asks: How stupid is too stupid?
Granted, with all that's going on today, it might seem trivial or untimely to focus on the President's IQ. After all, we still have terrorists to kill. But if George W. Bush can leave America in the middle of a "war" for European photo-ops and a meaningless treaty, we can take a little time away from criticizing his policies and get down to the man himself.

What better time to demand a smart president than when America needs one the most? Besides, I've always been a big fan of getting to the source of a problem. It must be the Libertarian in me.

Before the war, back when you could criticize the President without being condemned as an enemy of the state, public questioning about his IQ usually resulted in one of two responses: supporters defending him by claiming that he really was smart, in his own special way; and everyone else excusing his lack of intelligence because he appeared to be surrounded by brainy subordinates. Now, thanks to the war on terror, people aren't being bothered by those pesky IQ questions anymore. Even when the evidence of Bush's fourth-grade intellect smacks us in the face, we ignore it.

Take Bush's recent trip to Europe, where he visited several world leaders, signed a nuclear treaty with Russia's President Putin, and had an audience with the Pope. The administration, its proponents, and the American media have hailed Bush's trip to Europe as a great achievement on every level.

As Bush's tour concluded, Colin Powell proclaimed that it had been "a most successful and historic trip." They must not have been paying attention. Bush's behavior in Europe, while historic, cannot possibly be considered a success.

While meeting and greeting our nation's most important allies and negotiating with our former nemesis, President Putin of Russia, President Bush's behavior ranged from the frat-boy humor that left many people awkwardly staring at the ground - like his thanking President Putin for mowing the lawn - to repeatedly forgetting what country he was in.

Some of his minor screw-ups included his declaration on day two of his trip that he intended to "securitize" Russia's dismantled nuclear weapons. Other blunders were a bit more profound as exemplified by a video clip widely played in Europe that shows the President of the United States spitting out his gum into his hand before signing the "historic" Treaty of Moscow. This must be the simple, down-home brand of skill and grace his supporters refer to.
[...]
The man who clumsily speaks of bringing free trade to the world and the importance of a global coalition just does not seem to find other countries or cultures very interesting. Not as a flunking undergrad or flunking graduate student, not as the CIA Director's son or the President's son, not as a rich drunk or Governor of Texas. Not exactly the best characteristic for the leader of the free world. A world that is quickly getting smaller as it watches India and Pakistan rush closer to a nuclear war. Remember that it was only last year that Bush could not name the president of Pakistan.

The author, Sean Monkhouse, goes on to explain why Bush's question about whether there are blacks in Brazil really is way too stupid for "the leader of the free world", especially given the importance of diplomacy with Brazil at this time. And finishes:

On some level I can sympathize with Bush because I like to consider myself a moderately intelligent person, but I'm not so good with remembering detail and I am by no means a public speaker. But then again, I don't have to be - I am not the President of the United States.

I don't want or need to be smarter than the man who runs my country and my 11-year-old son should not be able to top his knowledge of world geography, English grammar, or basic etiquette. I happen to believe that America's President should be smarter than the average Joe and Jane Q. Publics. Hell, he should be one of the smartest. We Americans seem to have a choice, either we dummy it down quite a bit, or we start electing smarter Presidents.

* * * * *
Ashcroft reminds Richard Cohen of someone....

My lonely campaign to wipe the name of J. Edgar Hoover from the FBI building may yet bear fruit. It is not, alas, that Congress has finally recognized Hoover for the racist and scoundrel that he was, it's rather that in one respect at least he has met his match. Someday the FBI building, or maybe the Justice Department across the street, will bear the name of John Ashcroft.

Not since J. Edgar has Washington seen such a publicity hound. With Hoover, there was nothing the FBI could do that was not announced in the director's name. Yet from somewhere -- and I have my guess -- Hoover must have watched in absolute awe as Ashcroft announced that the government was holding an ex-con named Abdullah al Muhajir, the former Jose Padilla of Chicago, for allegedly plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb. Ashcroft did it all the way from Moscow, in a hastily arranged video hookup that shows the government can act fast when it has to.

In both form and substance, Ashcroft was merely doing what Hoover did back in 1942, when four German saboteurs landed on a Long Island beach (four others landed in Florida), buried their explosives in the sand and were instantly discovered by the Coast Guard. The Germans were not immediately detained, but one of them went down to Washington and tried to turn himself in to the FBI. It apparently took some doing but the Bureau, after what we now know were SOP delays, made the arrest.

Hoover dashed to New York to make the announcement. Somehow he forgot to mention the Coast Guard. Somehow he forgot to mention that one of the Germans had come to the FBI -- and not it to him. Somehow he left the impression that the FBI was waiting for the Nazis on the beach, and somehow he failed to consult with military intelligence, which wanted to wait until two more teams of saboteurs were expected to come ashore.

It was this World War II incident that served as a precedent for President Bush's Nov. 13 order authorizing the government to establish military tribunals to try terrorists. Such a tribunal did try the eight Germans, and six of them were promptly executed. It was the outcome that President Roosevelt wanted.
[...]
But Ashcroft's incessant grandstanding makes me wonder if sometimes some of what goes on is more about politics than national security. He personifies the suspicion that terrorism alerts, even arrests, are being timed and manipulated for the nightly news. It seems every revelation of some FBI or CIA screw-up is followed by yet another terrorism alert of one color or another.

It makes him wonder. *sigh*

02:10 BST: Permalink
CBS news editor Dick Meyer on John Ashcroft: Minister of Fear:

Who needs terrorists when we have John Ashcroft to scare us out of our pants? The way the attorney general detonated the “dirty bomber” case this week completes his metamorphosis from a common press hog to a genuine fear monger.

That Ashcroft insisted that he had to scoop all the other terror warriors (Mssrs. Mueller, Wolfowitz and Thompson) and make the announcement about Jose Padilla, a.k.a. Abdullah Al Muhajir, in a panicky performance from Moscow shows what a camera-moth Ashcroft is.

That Ashcroft overstated the threat of the Padilla Plot and of “dirty bombs” as weapons of mass destruction, shows with egregious clarity how willing Ashcroft is to use scare-tactics to grab headlines, control the news agenda and make himself look good.

Well, at least he failed at the latter.

The Washington Post on Detaining Americans (Cont'd):

If Mr. Padilla is, as Mr. Bush said, "a bad guy," then it's a relief to have him behind bars. That said, we had thought that it took more than the determination by the president that someone was a "threat to the country" before an American could simply disappear and be locked up without charge or trial or prospect of release.
[...]
The government's position would be easier to swallow were it not actively seeking to frustrate judicial review of the president's designations. When the government detains a citizen as an enemy combatant, that person must be permitted to consult with counsel and challenge the lawfulness of the detention in court. Without that, every citizen is at the mercy of presidential whim. Formally, the government recognizes that federal courts have jurisdiction to consider the legality of detentions -- including military detentions -- in this country. Yet in Mr. Padilla's case -- as in that of Yaser Esam Hamdi, another detainee with likely citizenship -- it has thrown procedural obstacles in the way of efforts to adjudicate detentions. After whisking Mr. Padilla to military custody in South Carolina from civilian custody in New York, it has prevented him from consulting with the lawyer who had been appointed to represent him. Similarly, the government refused to let Mr. Hamdi meet with a federal public defender interested in representing him. And when that lawyer sought to file a case on his behalf anyway, the government then contended in a Kafkaesque twist that, having had no prior relationship with Mr. Hamdi, the lawyer could not do so.

The idea of indefinite detentions of Americans who have not been convicted of any crime is alarming under any circumstances. Without the meaningful supervision of the courts, it is a dangerous overreach of presidential power. If such a thing were happening in any other country, Americans would know exactly what to call it.

And Jim Hoagland says If It's War, Spread the Sacrifice:

NEW YORK -- Lyndon B. Johnson wrecked his presidency and the nation's economy by hiding the moral and financial costs of his war in Vietnam as long as possible. Rather than acknowledge the enormous burden he had undertaken in their name, Johnson kept Americans in the dark about Vietnam and helped foster a generation of cynicism about government.

George W. Bush's fiscally relaxed approach to paying for the war on terrorism risks repeating some of Johnson's mistakes. By pretending that Sept. 11 changed everything except his tax-cutting priorities, Bush ventures onto the path of well-intentioned deception traveled by his Texan predecessor.

As a candidate, Bush spoke eloquently about returning "the people's money," which at the time was piling up in federal budget surpluses. But as a wartime president, Bush does not speak of paying "the people's bills," which exist, mount in times of crisis and produce prolonged national deficits that drag the economy downward.

Business Week asks, What Corporate Cleanup?

Despite a stream of unsettling news from boardrooms, Washington is dithering -- and financial reform is going nowhere fast
Just four months ago, bipartisan outrage over Enron's shady dealmaking and Arthur Andersen's lax auditing practices raised hopes that Washington was on the verge of a sweeping overhaul of Corporate America's financial practices. Subpoenas flew, and for a time, CEOs, corporate lawyers, accountants, and Wall Street financiers lined up to testify on Capitol Hill. But now the drive for post-Enron legislative reforms is stalled, victim of Presidential indifference, Republican hostility, fierce business lobbying, and disorganization among reform-minded Democrats.

The paralysis comes despite a steady stream of unsettling news from boardrooms that is sapping investor confidence. Almost daily, investors have been stunned by abrupt CEO departures, earnings restatements, and Securities & Exchange Commission investigations of corporate highfliers. Revelations that Wall Street analysts and traders have put their own interests above those of their clients have made things even worse. With the corporate crime wave showing no signs of abating and Washington gridlocked, investors who normally would be plunging back into the stock market by now are sitting it out.

* * * * *
A site for sore ears: Clear Channel Sucks

* * * * *
Lloyd Grove doesn't appear to feel Bob Barr's pain:

We never realized that that Rep. Bob Barr -- the Georgia Republican who so despised Bill Clinton that he demanded his impeachment before the Monica Lewinsky scandal -- was such a delicate hothouse flower. Well, it turns out that Barr was deeply hurt by all those slings and arrows during his 1998 ordeal as a Republican impeachment manager.

Barr was so wounded, in fact, that he has filed suit in a Washington federal court against the former president, Clinton loyalist James Carville and politically active pornographer Larry Flynt seeking compensatory damages "in excess of $30 million" for "loss of reputation and emotional distress" and "injury in his person and property" allegedly caused by these three -- who Barr claims conspired to "hinder [the plaintiff] in the lawful discharge of his duties."


Friday, 14 June 2002

16:12 BST: Permalink

Here's Steven den Beste responding to Eric Raymond's reasons why he's not a Liberal and not a Conservative, and deciding that he himself (den Beste, that is) is something else:

But part of the problem is that the terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" are nearly useless now. There isn't any consensus as to what they really mean, or rather the consensus for each has been created by their opponents as ugly caricatures. I gave up on both words a long time ago, and I used to refer to myself as progressive until that term got coopted by some lunatics whose program I found repulsive. The technical meaning of "libertarian" (one who believes in liberty) is also decent, but Libertarian has also been coopted by lunatics. One of the participants in my forum coined the term engineerist to describe me, and I'm happy with that.

Engineerists are socially liberal, economically conservative and politically libertarian. Note the use of lower case letters on all of those words; I'm "socially liberal" but damned well not "Socially Liberal".

Social liberalism to me means tolerance of differences, a general attitude of leaving other people alone and not judging them just because they act in ways I would not. Social liberalism embraces the idea that left to themselves people will follow different paths, and this is a Good Thing.

Economic conservatism to me means that I prefer to let the private sector handle things unless I'm convinced they cannot, and that private wealth is also a Good Thing. I think there should be a social safety net, but it should only keep people alive, not keep them comfortable. It's not that I want to punish them, just that we can't afford any more than that. I don't go all the way to Economic Libertarianism which declares that all government control over the economy is automatically evil, if for no other reason than because government regulation is the only solution I've ever heard of which can deal practically with the problem of the tragedy of the commons. (Libertarians will tell you they have an alternative, but I've looked at it and I don't believe it.)

I'm politically libertarian because I believe that governments should be constrained, and given only as much power as they absolutely need in order to achieve the goals they are intended to serve. More than that is tyranny. I believe in constitutional guarantees of civil rights, and I believe in constitutional limits on the power of government. I believe that government should serve the people and not the other way around.

We Engineerists are intensely pragmatic. We don't try to come up with overriding philosophies ("wealth is evil", "Government regulation is evil", "America is evil") and then judge everything based on it. Individual cases are taken as they come, and the only criterion for any given proposal is practical: will it work better than the alternatives?

I suspect that the majority of people would classify me as being more Conservative than Liberal, and that's part of the problem. There seems to be more than one kind of Conservative. In particular, there is a strain of Conservatism which is based on fundamentalist protestant Christianity, and as an atheist I find its policies intensely distasteful. A lot of the Eric's anti-knowledge, anti-liberty, anti-free-speech comes out of that lot, and I want nothing to do with them.

Engineerists believe in freedom, and if we have any kind of aphorism, it's this: "Leave me alone!" The world is best served when as many people as possible make as many decisions as possible for themselves.

The annoying thing about all this is that almost everything Steven says above is pretty much a description of an ordinary liberal. Hey, don't most of us believe that the government should do only those things that can't be done effectively any other way? And don't most of us believe the government should leave us alone and not be in the business of passing judgment on us for things that don't actually harm our neighbors? Sure. It's just that we don't always agree on what those things are.

What's happened to the political discourse in America is that the vast majority of people in the middle of it have been excluded from our definitions - but most of those people are liberals, including quite a number who think they aren't. The liberals they're not, you see, are people like Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, or people who are desperate to ban guns. Of course, most liberals find MacKinnon and Dworkin utterly distasteful (and, really, conservative), and much of the anti-gun fever would disappear about 15 minutes after the War on Some Drugs ended. The Republican leadership, by the way, is far more ardently in support of the War on Some Drugs than pretty much anyone in the Democratic Party or on any part of the left.

Another problem is that there are a few issues that only a Republican can get away with promoting - such as, for example, legalizing marijuana. It's pretty much like the reason only Nixon could go to China: he was the only person who could do so without being called a communist by Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton said he actually supported changing the drug laws, but it was pretty much obvious to everyone, after the way the Republicans went after him and his administration for being druggies, that he could never get away with that.

Have you noticed what happens? When Republicans act in favor of reducing the restrictions on marijuana, it charms lots of liberally-minded folk and the rest of the Republican Party stays fairly quiet about it. There is no huge groundswell of outrage in the press, and what articles do appear merely describe, without editorializing, the particular politician's stance or action. On the other hand, if a Democrat is associated with anything even remotely similar, Republicans are all over them for being crazy liberal druggies, and the media is full of the attack - and then, of course, members of the Democratic leadership do everything they can to distance themselves from whoever let all this ugly liberalism raise its ugly head. What? You say you don't remember that happening? Well, you're right, I don't remember seeing it, either - because no leading Democratic politician has dared address the issue. (The Clinton White House got attacked without ever even having had to raise it first. Unfortunately, he tried to neutralize all that by going in the other direction.)

But it does happen on other issues, and the most unseemly aspect of it is not so much the phony Republican outrage as the cowardly distancing by fellow Democrats. David Corn was quite right about the disproportionate level of invective launched against Cynthia McKinney when compared to far more outrageous statements made regularly by leading Republicans such as Inhofe. Let's face it, McKinney is just a back-bencher compared to raging fruitcakes like Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, and John Ashcroft, but you never see that same kind of distancing by members of their own party when they go on another insanity tear. And, friends, I'm sorry, but if you want to tear up a crazy commentator, the right wing has so many more than just Noam Chomsky, and they are crazier, too. We have no one to compare to Ann Coulter, for example - it's certainly not Chomsky, or even Atrios or Bartcop, who has been running around suggesting that Americans with different political philosophies should be killed. And which one appears most often on television? Bill Maher was happy to compliment Coulter on the air over her "bravery" for her anti-human screechings; I'm not seeing a lot of that kind of support for liberals who get out of line.

Waitaminute, I hear you say, it's not like no one is condemning Ashcroft. Why, even Bill Safire has taken him to task, after all. Yeah, now that he's displaying his insanity as the Attorney General. But he was like that all along, and where were they then? Why is it that we know more about what a crazy over-the-top loon Cynthia McKinney is than we do about Ashcroft's remarkable history of proposing stupid Constitutional amendments and general hostility to almost any idea that might make life a little more livable? How did that man get to be Attorney General in the first place?

It simply should never have happened. And yet, at the time he was nominated, all we heard were a lot of lies about how he had "integrity" and even Declan McCullagh was sending out letters (on what used to be known as the "Fight-Censorship" mailing list!) telling everyone Ashcroft probably wasn't going to be anything to worry about. Why wasn't anyone in the Republican Party willing to admit that this man was the worst nightmare of anyone who believed in the 1st Amendment?

We didn't even need to see the quotes from Southern Partisan, friends. This is a man who used the legislative process itself to promote a wholly reactionary and frankly unconstitutional agenda. He's also perhaps one of the most zealous anti-drug warriors to hold a Senate seat in the last decade - so much so that he introduced an anti-drug bill that forbade talking about drugs. It's on the record, it's not buried in some magazine that nobody reads. Why wasn't that an issue? Why did the whole damn Senate - Republicans and Democrats alike - fail to notice this? How could libertarians overlook it? What's going on, here?

Well, one thing that's going on is that Republicans/conservatives reserve their criticism for the left, for liberals, and for Democrats, while the left, the liberals, and the Democrats can't wait to level their criticisms at each other. This is true on so many levels that I hesitate to write these words because in some ways it feels like more liberal-bashing. And another part of what's happening is that the current Democratic leadership is run mostly by centrists, Southern Democrats (the ones who decided they could live with integration), and ex-Republicans (the people who left the party when they couldn't stomach the Southern Strategy). But the net result of it all is that:

* even people who are really liberals think they are not liberals;

* even people who know better than to support the Republicans are unwilling to face reality about the current administration;

* and Noam Chomsky, who is actually pretty marginal in the mainstream political discourse, gets turned into the Osama bin Laden of the left when it's as plain as the nose on my face that the most hatefully anti-American invective in the US today is coming from the right-wing - by which I do not mean just the Aryan Nations and KKK, but also widely-heard AM talk radio shows, news-talk shows on television (not just cable, but even broadcast), and members of Congress.

(Look, folks, if you think it's more important to condemn Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag than it is to condemn the likes of Bill Bennett and, yes, George Bush, well, I just don't know what you're thinking. But Chomsky and Sontag were not responsible for the policy screw-ups that ultimately shattered the air over Manhattan, and I think everyone really needs to remember to keep their eye on that ball.)

12:10 BST: Permalink
Patrick on AIM took issue with Max's inclusion of Matt Welch and TNR in his list of Simu-libs. I have to admit, I kinda wondered what they were doing there, given his "corporate media-manufactured" description. But I understand the feeling of frustration at how there's a pseudo-balance between "right" and "left" in which centrists represent the "left" or "liberals" in the mainstream media and anyone who isn't working in lock-step with the right-wing automatically becomes some sort of wild-eyed liberal. Seems like all those years of watching Michael Kinsley provide the "counterpoint" to Pat Buchanan, or, worse, Alan Colmes "balancing" Sean Hannity, has given people some very strange notions of how far left one can be before one is beyond the pale (and to some people, even Kinsley is far, far left).

Truthfully, though, Welch and TNR can justifiably be called liberal, in the old-fashioned sense of not being segregationists who want to censor sex and arrest pot-smokers. I think. Richard Cohen, on the other hand, is so locked into "inside-the-Beltway" mentality that one hardly knows what he is anymore. He's certainly not an Ashcroft-style conservative, but that's not really saying much, is it?


Thursday, 13 June 2002

22:28 BST: Permalink

Max provides a word I've been looking for:

*Simu-lib: Corporate media-manufactured fake liberal; pretender to liberal label while purveying centrist, center-right, "non-partisan," or libertarian claptrap, especially in hoked-up phony teevee debates. Examples: Richard Cohen, Alan Colmes, Sam Donaldson, Morton Kondracke, The New Republic, Matt Welch, Michael Kinsley. Only Kinsley redeems himself by admitting he's not much of a liberal, and by writing very smart things.
19:40 BST: Permalink
Democratic Underground's digest advises me of the following articles now on their site:

You're Losing, Mr. Ashcroft
For a man who buys so heavily into the NRA argument that gun laws only punish legal gun owners, Ashcroft sure doesn't seem to apply the same logic to immigration policy. By Jeff Crook

Stop Chasing Bush, Go After Dick
Would Nixon have resigned if his VP hadn't already fallen in disgrace? Hard to tell. Yet, I think that once you prove that there are crooks in the administration the press has an easier time associating criminal behavior and branding the head with similar accusations. By Scaramouche

Hmm. I think that last is wishful thinking; the current administration is full of known criminals and it doesn't seem to have woken the press up.

Meanwhile, Buzzflash says they've got the video:

What Happened at Emma E. Booker School on the Morning of September 11th?

Have you wondered if there was a videotape of Mr. Bush's visit to the Florida elementary school reading class?

Well, BuzzFlash did some web surfing and found, much to our amazement, a video account of Bush's September 11th morning. Where did we discover it? On the Emma E. Booker Elementary School website, that's where.

(more)

For the link to the movie and complete article, visit BuzzFlash:
http://www.buzzflash.com/analysis/2002/06/11_Booker.html

This is something I missed from earlier in the year, from Democrats.com:

Explosive Report: Did the CIA Bring the 9-11 Terrorists to the US through a 'Jeddah Connection'?

Canadian Broadcasting Corp's "Dispatches" show recently interviewed Michael Springman, a former US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Springman was outraged in 1987 when he discovered CIA officials were arranging US visas for middle eastern men to be sent to the US to be trained for terrorist operations in Afghanistan. Springman kept a file until he was fired, but this file was then mysteriously "shredded." Springman filed whistleblower complaints with every possible US agency, but no action was taken (except for his firing and file scrubbing). Springman says the "Jeddah Connection" continued operating until 9-11, citing reports that some of the 15 Saudis who participated in the 9-11 attacks got visas in Jeddah. Springman says, "For all we know, it could have been an effort to get the US directly involved in some fashion. I mean, it's only a few thousand dead and what's this against the greater gain for the United States in the Middle East?" We demand an investigation of 9-11!
RealPlayer link

14:35 BST: Permalink
Losing the War on Terra

Kevin J. Maroney sez:

You wrote:
"A month-old arrest is the top story?"

It should be, but not for the reasons that it's getting coverage.

As nearly as I can tell, Jose Padilla is the first American citizen to have been subjected to the Administration's new self-declared powers to arbitrarily revoke the protections of civil law. Unsurprisingly, that aspect of the case is getting very little coverage.

On the contrary, here's Michael Kelly, a conservative who cares about your rights:

Now, that is what I call a violation of civil liberties. I am sorry about it, and I will be even sorrier in the unlikely event that al Muhajir is innocent and should not have been locked away. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Joe Conason, a liberal who "hates America":

It's hard not to wonder about these questions, even at the risk of being deemed unpatriotic by Vice President Dick Cheney and other self-styled sentinels of acceptable opinion. While there’s reason to believe that Mr. Padilla is a bad guy, there is equal reason to wonder whether arresting him without sufficient evidence to indict was the wisest law-enforcement decision.

News reports suggest that American intelligence officials have been aware of his existence and connections to Al Qaeda for weeks and possibly months. They knew enough to detect him well before he tried to enter the country. But that raises the intriguing question of the opportunities lost by seizing him so quickly. With proper surveillance of his movements and contacts, the F.B.I. might have rolled up not just Mr. Padilla, but also whatever Al Qaeda confederates he'd been instructed to contact upon his return to the United States. He might even have committed an overt act that would have permitted his arrest on conspiracy charges.

Perhaps those who gave the order to grab Mr. Padilla hope to coax (or coerce) important information from him now that he's in custody. Unfortunately, however, they’ll be doing so under the color of authority that violates basic civil liberties and constitutional traditions.

Suddenly, an American citizen can be detained indefinitely without being accused of any statutory offense, and can be deprived of all the rights previously afforded him under those lawful traditions, which date back beyond the beginnings of this Republic. To hear the Attorney General describe this situation is to realize that under certain circumstances, a citizen has fewer rights than an alien, who would at least be given the opportunity to defend himself in a military tribunal. Suddenly, the United States looks a little more like Castro’s Cuba or Pinochet's Chile than it did a week ago.

Abrupt as this departure from normal constitutional processes is, freedom won't disappear overnight in this country. In an atmosphere of terror, however, it can be eroded gradually, until the day arrives when critical viewpoints are delegitimized, important decisions are taken in secret, accountability is nullified, and democracy is eviscerated.

And it's not all that good for the War on Terra, either. At Slate, William Saletan might as well be asking, Ascroft: Total Incompetent or Out-and-Out Traitor?

Any cop who's ever worked a case involving more than one conspirator knows that you never want the bad guys to know how much you know. Once the second conspirator knows that you've caught the first, he might bolt or change his routines. Once he knows what the first has told you, he knows how to change his plans and his story.

Thanks to Ashcroft's announcement and additional leaks by administration "officials," Padilla's co-conspirators now know plenty about what we know. They know that we have Padilla. They know that we know when, how many times, and in what city he met with al-Qaida leaders. They know that we know exactly what technologies he studied there. They know that we know he "used the Internet at a home in Lahore, Pakistan" to do some of his research. They know at what point in his travels we got wise to him and began tracking him. They know that we're tracing his money trail in Switzerland. They know that we're interrogating an associate abroad who helped him research radioactive bombs in Lahore, and that this associate has told us about meetings between Padilla and al-Qaida leaders in Karachi, Pakistan, three months ago.

Why did we divulge all this, through the press, to Padilla's co-conspirators? The explanation given by Ashcroft, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and other U.S. officials is that the government had held Padilla for 30 days and was legally obliged either to charge him with a crime, justify in court his confinement without charges under civilian law, or transfer him to military custody. According to this rationale, one way or another, his detention was going to become public, and the government had to get out in front of the story in order to persuade the public that the detention was justified.

It doesn't add up. By declaring Padilla an enemy combatant and transferring him to military custody, the government bypassed the court hearing that would supposedly have forced the detention into the open. At that point, the only danger of disclosure was that members or staffers of the congressional committees that deal with military affairs might leak the story. They never got that chance because Ashcroft beat them to it. Moreover, the government's stated reasons for choosing military detention rather than civilian prosecution directly contradict its rationale for releasing the story. The government's stated reason for avoiding civilian prosecution is that we couldn't prove Padilla's criminal guilt without divulging "intelligence sources" and "investigative details" we dare not expose. In the absence of such prosecution, its stated reason for detaining Padilla anyway is that we need to keep interrogating him and others to unravel future plots. "We're not interested in trying him at the moment," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We're interested in finding out what in the world he knows" and obtaining information to "protect the American people from future terrorist acts."

The Soviet Union had to pay Robert Hanssen a million bucks to spy on us for them. But even he didn't give away American secrets on television.

And from Tapped:

THE DIRTY BOMBER SCAM. We expressed some skepticism on Monday as to whether Jose Padilla was really the lead man for a credible plot to explode a dirty bomb in the U.S. or just a minor operative with delusions of grandeur whom John Aschroft had inflated so as to distract the country from his own screw-ups and get the Democrats back on the defensive. (A couple of readers thought we meant that this was important in a legal sense, but we're more interested in the politics.) Turns out we were right. Read this USA Today report to watch first Paul Wolfowitz, then Ari Fleischer back away from Ashcroft's comments. Here's the key passage, from the lede:

"I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and (Al Muhajir's) coming in here obviously to plan further deeds," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told CBS on Tuesday.
Between this, Ashcroft's comment to Democratic senators that not passing his anti-terrorism would give aid and comfort to terrorists, and assorted other incidents, it's more and more clear that Ashcroft is a bully and a thug who has no business being attorney general of the United States. And given that pretty much everyone in the Bush Administration except Tom Ridge commented publicly on the initial dirty bomb warning, it's also pretty clear that Ridge is toast.
Democrats.com says "NY Times Admits Scrubbing Its Own 911 Warning - Which Cost Innocent Lives":
"Nearly a month before Sept. 11, terrorism analyst Peter Bergen told a New York Times reporter that he should write about an al Qaeda propaganda videotape that Bergen had obtained. 'Clearly, al Qaeda was and is planning something,' [he told reporter John Burns]. Burns, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote an article that appeared on the Times's Web site Sept. 8. But Burns's prescient piece about Osama bin Laden never appeared in the newspaper, [which claimed it ran out of space - yeah right!], and the Times quickly expunged it from the electronic archives... Bernard Gwertzman, editor of Nytimes.com, calls the incident 'a bad screw-up.'" This "screw-up" cost innocent lives - if WTC workers had read Burn's warning on 909, they might have understood the significance of the first attack and left the building more quickly. NY Times readers deserve an APOLOGY from the editors!
Howie Kurtz has the story, The News That Didn't Fit To Print.

Just to let you know how serious the administration is about making sure those who left us vulnerable on 9/11 take responsibility, this won't reassure anyone:

WASHINGTON – The FBI supervisor who allegedly hamstrung the pre-Sept. 11 Minneapolis investigation into the alleged 20th hijacker has been transferred to a position where bureau sources say he'll actually have more authority.

Michael Maltbie, the FBI supervisory special agent accused of blocking field agents from obtaining a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui's computer, has been moved out of the counterterrorism division at bureau headquarters to the Cleveland office, where he'll work as a field supervisor, sources say.

"That's really a promotion," a bureau veteran told WorldNetDaily, "because a field supervisor is a big notch over a headquarters supervisor."

"He'll actually be directing investigations, rather than twiddling his thumbs half the time," he explained.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter told WorldNetDaily that the bureau will not be opening an internal investigation into complaints about the Minneapolis investigation. That means Maltbie's conduct and that of his boss, David Frasca, the FBI's Radical Fundamentalists unit chief, as well as their section chief, will not be reviewed by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, the bureau's version of internal affairs.

03:56 BST: Permalink
Uh Oh

From Junkyard Blog:

Here's the thing: This morning I was watching Fox & Friends while getting ready for work, and the hosts were taking callers for comment. Just before I clicked off, a caller said in passing that this dirty bomber guy sure does look like John Doe #2 from the Oklahoma City bombing. Being an enterprising blogger, I got online and checked into it--sure enough, they could be twins, or scarier still--they could be the same guy. So I snagged a photo of each, labelled them appropriately and posted them. I was half kidding, but the comments posted on the original post and the stories I've read about the guy(s) do make you think. The timeline between Padilla's jail time, his conversion to Islamofascism, the bombing, his travels abroad and his arrest on May 8th seem to work out. And John Doe #2 just went down the memory hole shortly after McVeigh's arrest. Maybe the memory hole has finally spit him back out.
Mac Thomason has his doubts. Me, I couldn't help thinking the picture I saw looked like Freddie Mercury.


Wednesday, 12 June 2002

15:24 BST: Permalink

Accountability

Hey, what if JennyQ, the mysterious editor of MWO, decided to take advantage of the curiosity about who she is by writing (under the name of Jennifer Liberto) the article in Salon that attempts to expose her identity? And, cleverly, she wrote all that creepy stuff about why she is "unaccountable" while quoting all the people who dismissed the charges? And filled it with a whole lot of errors so it would be easy to laugh at? And Bartcop and Perkel are in on the joke, pretending to be ticked off at it? I mean, come on, "Liberto" has to be a fake name, right? (Yeah, yeah, I know, people are claiming to have found some sort of journalistic history for her, but it's so tiny it could have been made up, y'know?)

Speaking of accountability, do you really have to be a liberal to be annoyed at the way the Republicans keep picking presidents who can't be accountable because anyone can see that they don't have a clue what's going on? First Reagan with his visible Alzheimer's (anyone who says this wasn't obvious during the first year of his administration is in denial), and now Vacationing George, who, mysteriously, even his own Attorney General doesn't bother to inform. Everyone in Washington knew Don Regan was running the Reagan White House, and everyone knows that the Bush White House has been a creation of Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. And, of course, GHW Bush was famously "out of the loop". Okay, no one believes that last one, but it's their gimmick, isn't it? They aren't accountable because they don't know anything. Wow, now there is a recommendation for letting them run the country.

* * * * *
This is from The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but the original article isn't freely available online so I won't bother. I know some of my friends read The Sideshow but don't click on links or check out other sites that don't belong to their friends, so I'm just going to give you the whole thing:

HOLDING BUSH ACCOUNTABLE
Gene Lyons
May 29, 2002

In his patriotic essay "England, Your England," George Orwell turned a famous aphorism inside-out. "Probably the battle of Waterloo WAS won on the playing fields of Eton," he wrote "but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there." Writing in 1941 with German bombers overhead and his country's very survival at stake, Orwell felt no compunction about speaking plainly. The nation's strength, he believed, lay in the ordinary Englishman's deep commitment to democratic values, but the "military incompetence which has again and again startled the world" was a direct consequence of England's feckless aristocracy. Until the country quit recruiting it s leadership from the society pages, it would court disaster.

Seventeen months into the administration of George W. Bush, the United States' first hereditary president, Americans face an analogous situation. Military competence isn't a problem, nor is the nation's survival at stake. The al-Qaida terrorists who struck on 9/11 have the capacity to inflict terrible suffering and pain, but not to threaten our independence. Rather, it's the nation's POLITICAL will that's in doubt: its ability to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the nation's vaunted intelligence agencies, to mend what's broken, and to hold our leaders accountable.

Maybe nobody could have prevented 9/11. But it doesn't follow that Americans should give in to fatalism. For almost nine months, we have been given repeated assurances: first, that the Bush administration had "no warning" of the impending terrorist attack, then that such warnings as the White House did, in fact, receive were too "vague" to be of any real use, and finally that to ask further questions would be somehow injurious to the campaign against terrorism, if not downright unpatriotic. Only secrecy and unquestioning faith in our annointed leaders, we're told, can save us.

An administration that came to power on uncounted ballots now argues that a public inquiry might tempt politicians to seek partisan advantage. Very well then, let them try. Answering legitimate questions is precisely what the democratic process, a bit like the adversarial process in a courtroom, was designed to do. While emotionally appealing, the idea that we should be above politics is an argument for monarchy--an attempt to avoid scrutiny and accountability by an administration which insists upon strict performance standards for welfare recipients, schoolteachers and the nation's fourth graders.

Only the mood of craven power-worship among Washington pundits and the rabbit-like timidity of congressional Democrats makes something so elementary worth saying. Another truism: people who lie usually have something to hide. The most telling part of Minneapolis FBI agent Coleen Rowley's courageous open letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, published on Time's website, was why she was putting her career on the line: "I feel that certain facts...have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mischaracterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even FOR IMPROPER POLITICAL REASONS." [my emphasis]

It's symptomatic that most press accounts failed to cite that part of Rowley's letter. Nevertheless, a circumstantial case can be made that the intelligence agencies failed to "connect the dots" with regard to al-Qaida for pretty much the same reason the CIA failed to anticipate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989: not because they lacked the data or expertise, but because documenting the advanced debility of the Soviet Empire during the Reagan administration was the quickest way to destroy one's career.

Whatever its shortcomings, the Clinton administration took Osama bin Laden seriously. If it failed to capture or kill him, it wasn't for lack of trying. Spending on anti-terrorist measures more than doubled. Clinton devoted many speeches to the problem, including a major address to the U.N. General Assembly upstaged by Congress's same-day release of his grand jury testimony in the Lewinsky fiasco. Following the 1998 African embassy bombings, he held cabinet-level meetings "nearly weekly" to direct the fight against bin Laden. "'Candidly speaking," Army intelligence specialist Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick told the Washington Post on Jan. 19, "' I didn't detect that kind of focus' in the Bush administration. 'That's not being derogatory. It's just a fact.'"

It's obvious the Washington bureaucracy got the message loud and clear. As the un-Clinton, Bush didn't want to hear about al-Qaida. Newsweek reports that Attorney General John Ashcroft had an "extraordinary confrontation" with then-FBI director Louis Freeh, informing him that drugs, violent crime and child pornography were the agency's new priorities, not counter-terrorism. Agents in Minneapolis, who correctly believed they had an al-Qaida suspect in custody, met so many bureaucratic roadblocks they joked that bin Laden must have infiltrated FBI headquarters. The Bush administration's determination to avoid a probe of intelligence failures appears to have less to do with protecting national security than hiding its own blunders.

00:36 BST: Permalink
Dan Perkins posted Monday about Mr. Ashcroft's marvellous announcement, and was less than enthusiastic about an American citizen being deprived of his Constitutional right to a trial in a US Court. Later he got some mail on it that he tacked on for the rest of us to enjoy:

why always concerned about the rights of a terrorist. you assume that he's entitled to a civilian jury trial simply by being a citizen. if you really think a terrorist bent on mass murder is entitled to a jury trial w/ all the rights under the US Constitution, you're more insane than your sick America-hating comics lead a reader to believe. also, don't pretend you really think a terrorist is a"bad-guy": he's just like you except you think you're a real "dissident" and performing a noble service.
Hey, it's Ashcroft's America, only Republicans have rights.

* * * * *
Max has been saying, "Thanks, Ralph!" a lot lately, and here's another reason why:

I LIED FOR THE FBI. A Federal jury has awarded $4.4 million to two Earth First! environmental activists who sued the FBI and Oakland police for "false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy." The AP story is here. This problem has been fixed for the War on Terror, since now agents of the USG don't need to make false statements when they arrest and detain someone. If you'll excuse me now, I have to go find my passport and Groucho glasses.
So much for the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

By the way, I would like my Green friends to understand something. When Democrats lose elections, it doesn't teach them to move back to their progressive roots, it makes them think they have to lean farther to the right. It gives the press an excuse to say that the Democrats lost because they were "too liberal" for the public. The DLC is still yammering about how Gore "lost" the election because he moved too far to the left during the campaign. Yes, anyone who was watching the numbers go up for Gore after his leftward swing knows the DLC is hallucinating, but that's beside the point. The point is that the conventional wisdom will always be that if the Republican beat the Democrat, it's because the Democrat was too far left. And the party leadership will listen to the conventional wisdom, and enough people will believe it to make it even harder to elect progressives.

* * * * *
BusyBusyBusy did the research and confirmed my suspicions:

Wouldn't it have made sense to continue tailing Mr. al Muhajir until some concrete evidence of an "actual plan" turned up? Could it be that that administration, desperate to display any sign of success in fighting terrorism, has issued a premature incarceration?
And follows later with a note on how the illiberal media is, once again, cleaning up for the administration:

Backing away from a story. While assembling the previous article, our intrepid research team found at the CBS News site a page featuring as its top and only item a report headlined "What Was Terror Suspect Up To?":

(CBS) U.S. officials are backing away from assertions that a man arrested last month in Chicago was plotting a 'dirty' bomb attack on the United States, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

U.S. officials now admit they're not sure what American-born Abdullah al Muhajir's plans were when he returned to the U.S. last month.

But a few hours later, the headline had been changed to "Bush: 'Full-Scale Manhunt' For Terrorists", and the top item was about Mr. Bush promising reporters that "We will run down every lead, every hint". The Jim Stewart story was not only pushed way down the page, but re-written to eliminate Mr. Stewarts' observation that "U.S. officials are backing away from assertions":

But CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports some U.S. officials now admit they're not sure what Padilla's plans were when he returned to the U.S. last month.
Did the administration lean on CBS News to obscure the story?
* * * * *
Blowback finds an oddity on 60 Minutes noted at Counterpunch:

a clip from "60 Minutes", which aired on May 12, 2002. Correspondent Steve Kroft interviews President Chavez of Venezuela.

KROFT: Do you like the United States? There are many things that you don't like about the United States, I think.

CHAVEZ: No. Me gustan los Estado Unidos. Disfruto las poemas de Walt Whitman. New York, New York, la cancion....Frank Sinatra. Me gusta beisbol, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, el hot dog, la libertad.

VOICE OF TRANSLATOR: No. I do like the United States... I enjoy the poems of Walt Whitman, "New York, New York" the song, Frank Sinatra. I love baseball, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, hot dogs.

[edited out: la libertad / "the freedom"]

Which reminds me, I neglected to notice that the item from American Samizdat I quoted on Friday was in fact from Blowback as well.

* * * * *
Buzzflash has weighed in on the Liberto fluff:

When Condoleezza Rice held a news conference to declare that the administration could not have prevented the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, she gave as an excuse that the President had only been warned of the strong likelihood of "traditional hijackings." Now let's set aside, for the moment, that the statement was itself a lie. So, did the White House press corps, national television news, and newspaper editorial boards, in general, take issue with this amateurish excuse? Not a chance.
[...]
How could the Bush administration get away with this (as one among an unrelenting barrage of daily evasions and lies that wouldn't go unpunished by any American parent with "Heartland" values of honesty and responsibility)? Well, that exactly is the question that MediaWhoresOnline.com asks on a daily basis. They begin with the premise that the national press corps has undergone a frontal lobotomy -- and that regardless of their impaired ability to think independently, the media should nonetheless should be held accountable -- because the future of democracy and our country is at stake.

So what is Salon's take on MediaWhoresOnline in its June 3rd article? That the creators of MediaWhoresOnline.com aren't credible because they won't come forward and be harassed by the right wing. Salon proclaims: "Of course, it's hard to take MWO seriously as a media watchdog, when it remains completely free of any accountability."

Excuse us, Salon, but it's hard to take the mainstream media seriously when they imperil the future of our country by letting blatant deceptions and lies by the Bush administration go unchallenged. We all have an interest in being protected from terrorists. When the "paid" media allows the Bush administration to get by with its botched, bumbling efforts at protecting our nation pre-and post-September 11th, that's the real, life-threatening issue of accountability for our nation.

And former Republican candidate Mark Perkel corrects an error, in a letter to Salon:

In the article I am mentioned by name as hosting/supporting Media Whores Online. Here's part of your article.

As best can be determined, Media Whores Online originated in Tulsa, Okla., in 1996, ...when BartCop took on right-wing agendas...he received financial help from Marc Perkel
First - as I made it clear to Jennifer Liberto who interviewed me, I do not know who Media Whores Online is - and I certainly do not host their web site, nor to I support them financially. I do host Bartcop.com - but he is not Media Whores Online.

What you have published here is a total fabrication and you are using my name in the article and what is published is not what I said. Besides the false facts - I would like to add that this article is an example as to why sites like Bartcop and Media Whores Online exist. This article goes beyond mere incompetence. Obviously Jennifer has an agenda here to create a slant against we few real journalists who are actually reporting what really is happening here in America. But - you have the right to print anything - no matter how poor the quality is - but you don't have the right to falsely claim that I am hosting this - and that bartcop.com is Media Whores Online.


Tuesday, 11 June 2002

17:30 BST: Permalink

Two big stories I'm not going to dig up links for:

1. Chess-player beats Mike Tyson.

I was, of course, delighted to learn that a quiet and apparently civilized human being had gone into the ring with the animal and beat him, but not enough to hunt for the story on the web. Okay, I'm not a fight fan, I'm just glad to see someone who can think get a victory over someone who thinks thinking is beneath him.

2. Ashcroft wags dog.

I watched this on TV and was astonished that even the BBC seemed to be treating it seriously. A month-old arrest is the top story? An arrest of a guy who was "exploring" exploding a "dirty" bomb in the US? You mean they arrested one guy who hadn't even reached a dangerous stage in his plans instead of keeping an eye on him and finding out who his contacts were? And then announced it to the world? What are these people playing at?

Well, of course, we know what they're playing at: People are starting to ask questions again, we have to distract them. Is it any wonder people look at the timing of all of these events - right up to 9/11 itself - and ask whether it's a coincidence that everything seems to happen just when the Bush administration needs it the most?

I still don't think the Bushistas planned, or had precise knowledge of, the 9/11 attacks, but I can hardly blame people for thinking there is something fishy about the fact that it happened when it did. Bush's numbers were sinking like a stone, the NORC report was about to come out - and let's face it, if 9/11 hadn't happened there is a decent chance that some of the outlets that created the vote-count consortium would have reported the results more honestly, which might actually have snow-balled into a much more serious investigation of the malfeasance that brought Bush to the White House. But 9/11 made that just about impossible. And then when the NORC results finally were released - delayed, it was claimed, by the fall of the Towers - the story was upstaged by a convenient plane crash in New York on the same day. At the time, I remarked that Bush was the luckiest man in the world. A Goldwater Republican of my acquaintance responded, "I was taught that you make your own luck."

We dismiss that kind of thinking only because, frankly, we really want to. We'd like it to be unthinkable, but we could just be naive. The horrible fact is that it is possible. We know that something like this has indeed been put on the table before, as Eric Alterman noted at the top of his entry yesterday. Quoting Body of Secrets, he reminds us that:

"According to secret and long-hidden documents obtained for "Body of Secrets," the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the US government. In the name of anti-communism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba.

Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, DC, Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro…." (p. 83)

Remember, the Joint Chiefs themselves drew up and approved this plan. It was stopped at the very top, by an administration that had balked at the previous administration's plans to invade Cuba. Which type of administration do we have today? Do you think this administration would have rejected Northwoods if the Joint Chiefs had brought it to them? I don't have that much faith.

Okay, so actually instigating something like we saw on 9/11 does seem over the top, even when compared with Northwoods. But when time after time announcements are made, warnings are given, at precisely the moment it is most politically convenient for this administration - when things are going badly for them in the polls and on the domestic agenda - people can't help but wonder: Just how far can the shameless manipulation of the terrorist threat to Americans for partisan gain and expansion of Republican power go?

* * * * *
At the end of the same Alterman entry cited above, he reproduces whole a paid letter to the NYT from last Friday, which is apparently not online. It begins:

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
AN OPEN LETTER FROM AMERICAN
JEWS TO OUR GOVERNMENT

In the wake of the recent bloodshed in the Middle East, many Israelis and Palestinians — and their supporters in the United States — have reverted to an us-versus-them thinking in which they see themselves as righteous victims and ignore or minimize the injustices they have done, and continue to do, to the other people.

In fact, both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have suffered great wrongs at the hands of the other, albeit in different and unequal ways; both have legitimate grievances, legitimate fears, and legitimate distrust of the other people's willingness to compromise for the sake of peace.

Though the signers of this letter have a wide range of views about the blame for the present situation, we have a common view of what a solution will have to consist of incremental attempts at building trust have reached an impasse. The only alternative to endless war is a comprehensive settlement based on simple but radical principles:

- Israeli and Palestinian lives are equally precious.
- The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to national self-determination and to live in peace and security.
- The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to a fair share of the land and resources of historic Palestine.

They go on to provide their prescription:

Fair-minded people throughout the world have long understood with some precision what a tenable solution, respecting these principles, would entail:

- Two national states, Israel and Palestine, with equal sovereignty, equal rights and equal responsibilities.
- Partition along the pre-1967 border as modified only by minor mutually agreed territorial swaps.
- Israeli evacuation of all settlements in the occupied territories except those within the agreed swapped areas.
- Palestinian and Arab recognition of Israel and renunciation of any further territorial claims.
- Palestinian acceptance of negotiated limitations on the "right of return" in exchange for financial compensation for refugees.

And then they talk about how to get there, finally saying:

There is no guarantee that this approach will work; but it is virtually guaranteed that all alternatives will fail.
I can't help feeling they are right.

* * * * *
Marc Ash at Truthout asks, 'Will Bush build an East German Stasi?

Where are we going here? This man who could not manage a majority at the polls is back once again, asking us to abandon everything we know about the way the country is run and follow him. It's not clear exactly what he has planned this time, but if recent history is an accurate guide Bush, Ashcroft, Mueller and whoever is guiding them from the shadows will undoubtedly move to attack every thing they have always despised in the name of safety from renegade Arabs.

I have an idea; we may want to wait until we find out what the Bush Administration knew about the Sept 11th attacks before they occurred, and for that matter who attempted to kill Senators Daschle and Leahy before we sign on for years of social repression at the hands of these people who seem to have materialized out of nowhere with a script that appears to be running like clockwork -- for them. Until now, we as a nation have been prepared to assume all the warning signs about the Bush Administration, could not possibly, be leading where they surely appeared to be. God help us if we are wrong.

Courage is often found in the least likely places. One might think the average Israeli would be frightened to the point of hysteria by now. Applying Tom Ridge's Pavlovian "terror warning color scheme" to the situation in Israel, it would be fair to say that every day is a "Flashing Red Day." Surprisingly, they're really quite laissez faire about the prospect of dying. The average Israeli is more than willing to carry on without feeling any particular need to destroy Israeli democracy as a remedy to the violence. There is a lesson in that. Bravo, Israel.

What Bush, Mueller and Ashcroft seam to be proposing bears an unsettling resemblance to the dreaded East German Secret Police Agency, the Stasi. As a matter of fact most of the key elements are already in place now: discretionary surveillance of anyone at any time, defacto suspension of probable cause, open-ended discretionary detention outside the jurisdiction of the courts. These are powers that a democracy should resist yielding to the state -- at all costs.

Benjamin Franklin once said; "He who would give up essential liberty in order to have a little security deserves neither liberty, nor security." Mr. Bush proposes that, what we fight for, is freedom itself. Very well then -- let's have at it.

Moshe came back from the West Bank Friday and said that pizzaria is now doing business as normal again. He said he found the calls to prayer throughout the day from the Arab town on the other side of the hill quite comforting, really.

Americans, at least, should be getting back to the normal business of demanding that our freedoms be protected, not stolen out from under us by people who hated those freedoms in the first place.


Monday, 10 June 2002

14:04 BST: Permalink

The Campaign Trail:
McKinney in the primaries:

Since 1964, when Barry Goldwater drew Southern whites with a "states' rights" campaign to block racial integration, the GOP has drawn more and more of its support from the states of the Old Confederacy.

To keep that support, the Republicans have believed it necessary to play the race card, whipping up fears of black crime (Willie Horton), portraying the welfare system as overwhelmingly benefiting blacks (the majority of recipients are actually white), rejecting affirmative action, downplaying the need for diversity and generally ignoring the aspirations of African-Americans. They call that the "Southern strategy."

Progressive Republicans counter suggestions of lingering racism in the GOP by pointing to the diversity of the Bush administration, with prominent black appointees such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Attorney General Larry Thompson. President Bush does deserve credit for raising the bar: He has given blacks more power than any predecessor, Democrat or Republican.

But a diverse Bush Cabinet hardly changes the complexion -- or the politics -- of the GOP. Bush's efforts to make his party colorblind have not had much success beyond the Beltway around Washington.

Just look at the Georgia Legislature. Last year, Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, persuaded the Legislature to end a lingering controversy by endorsing a new state flag. But most members of the Republican minority refused to go along, instead standing by a 1956 flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle insignia. They couldn't resist once again showing their solidarity with whites who remain hostile to black advancement.

So when McKinney tries to smear Majette by calling her a Republican, she knows what she's doing. In McKinney's district, which includes many well-educated black professionals, a hostile, race-baiting GOP may still be more frightening than a loose-cannon congresswoman.

The President-Elect speaks:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Don't get mad, get elected, former Vice President Al Gore counseled Wisconsin Democrats on Saturday.

"Think about how you felt the morning after the Supreme Court decision in December," Gore told delegates at the state Democratic convention. "Take that feeling you have inside and use it."


Sunday, 09 June 2002

20:15 BST: Permalink

Media Protect Bush On 9/11 Security Failure says Edward Herman:

The successful terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, represented a spectacular failure of the U.S. national security establishment. But from the very beginning there was very little media interest in examining that failure, although the attack involved extensive terrorist preparations within the United States and although the federal government (and taxpayers) are paying some $30 billion a year on security services, not including the armed forces.
[...]
In sum, there was a three-pronged security failure of great seriousness: a failure to take obvious leads and do something about them; a possible conflict of interest that may explain this foot-dragging; and a day-before-9/11 budget decision that shows a degree of incompetence and misplaced priorities that is staggering.

The media have failed to discuss two of the three prongs in the story, which has helped them minimize the seriousness of this Bush failure, just as they downplayed his election theft and dealings with Enron.

The system works, but not in the public interest.

The Daily Brew says:

We've done our part. We've published all of the evidence we could find that Bush was at a minimum grossly negligent in allowing the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to take place. It is up to the Congress to sort through it all now. So let's turn our attention to the new measures that the Bush administration has proposed to enhance our security. Because in many cases, if not most, they actually make us less secure.
They didn't do their job and they're still not doing it.

* * * * *
The Daily Brew's weblog prints an e-mailed article that makes a good case that Jennifer Liberto wasn't so much doing an article about MWO as stalking whoever runs the site:

After contacting numerous Washington 'insiders' who all denied having any connection to the owner of MWO, the author then contacts every MWO contributor she can find, and questions them about who owns the website. After an exhaustive search, Ms. Liberto is unable to find any MWO contributors who share her extreme concern of 'who owns the MWO website' and is left with this quote from a contributor: "You definitely get the impression that she's [MWO owner] just an angry citizen, like the rest of us."

The Salon author then goes on a detective research project to find the name of the website owner from .com registration records and anything related to purchasing a website.

After this detective work fails, Ms. Liberto then researches the 'legality' of someone owning a website anonymously. She contacts an intellectual property attorney at the New York law firm of Gibney Anthony and Flaherty for advice on why it is wrong to be an anonymous owner of a website.

Again, Ms. Liberto is left with this quote from the expert attorney: "Any person can publish anything anonymously any time in any medium," and "That is a very fundamental corollary to freedom of the press."

Unhappy with that response, Ms. Liberto then queries her legal source about a possible lawsuit to force the owner of MWO to be revealed, and gets this reply: "You've got to do more than merely file a lawsuit and use it as a fishing expedition."

Still unhappy with here findings the author obviously checked with more sources on filing a lawsuit when she states: "Besides, as several experts also pointed out, a miffed journalist would have a hard time proving that being labeled a "media whore" constitutes defamation."

Hmmm, go figure.

Undaunted, the author continues here research quest to get the answer she desires. Ms. Liberto then contacts Verisign, who handles .com registration on the Internet, and inquires about the legality or a possible 'false identity' lawsuit against the MWO owner. But the Verisign spokesman tells her "the requirement is in effect voluntary".

Still unhappy with the response of yet another source, Ms. Liberto then contacts Chris Hoofnagle, legislative counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. Who tells her: "Many, many people provide false information to the registry, even those who are not publishing anonymous Web sites, simply to avoid spam".

But this sources next comment does, finally, provide a slim ray of light for Ms. Liberto .. "Verisign hasn't the time or the energy to verify a few million sites, Burns said, so false domain contacts are usually only examined upon inquiry by a third party, often an attorney."

Having finally found a source who reveals a longshot chance at a lawsuit, Ms. Liberto runs off to research this and comes up with proposed legislation that would make false .com registration a criminal offense. But after looking into this bill she unfortunately finds that "Passage, however, appears unlikely."

An interesting angle to be taking in an article ostensibly about MWO itself. All this seems to have been Liberto's priority, and it's easy to wonder who would find that important, and why. MWO calls media hacks "whores" and makes a good case that at least some, if not most of them, really are that cynical - deliberately publishing biased and inaccurate "news" that enhances their careers, their celebrity, and their bank accounts, rather than doing a good job. MWO exposes the bias - and the lies - of both the journalists and, very often, the people they pretend to report on. As a sometimes journalist and life-long reader of newspapers and magazines, I find MWO's work quite valuable, although I'm not entirely comfortable with the smear of sex industry professionals by equating them with professional liars.

But I suspect that there are some people who are pretty uncomfortable with the fact that MWO exposes the hackery we have been seeing in the press and among our politicians. And I suspect that those who are most uncomfortable with them are the same people who have been spending the last decade using lawsuits, Congressional hearings, and the media to promote the right-wing fruitcake political agenda, install an unelected ignoramus in the White House, and overturn all but one of the amendments to the US Constitution.

I believe that the same people who tried to lawsuit Bill Clinton out of the White House and into oblivion, fuelled first by millions of dollars in private funds and ultimately more than $70m of taxpayers' money, and whose supporters publish personal information (home addresses, credit card info, etc.) about anyone who crosses them, would very much like to know exactly who is behind MWO - and how to destroy her.


Saturday, 08 June 2002

19:22 BST: Permalink

Alert reader Dwight Van Winkle notes that the Arlen Specter quote has been excised from both the side quote (which I used) and the body of the CBS article cited below, so I have given it its very own internal link in case anyone wants to find it again. And of course, the body quote can be found at Electrolite . (Patrick says he's seen it elsewhere since then, possibly at The Washington Post, but I don't have the link, so if anyone else does I'd appreciate getting it.)

* * * * *
Kill Your TV points me to Salon, which continues its series on my personal nightmares:

The trend profoundly concerns consumer advocates and some Internet policy experts. They warn that if the FCC goes through with its plans, cable companies and the Baby Bells will quickly establish a monopoly on broadband service over their own networks. Consumers accustomed to thousands of competing ISPs to choose from for dial-up narrowband Internet access will be left with just one or two options for broadband service. One worry is that the lack of competition will yield high prices and poor service. But the far more urgent concern is that media conglomerates will use their control over broadband pipes to restrict access to content, information, or technologies that compete with their own content or otherwise threaten their interests.
Salon. Dammit, they have some brilliant stuff there, still, and I wish they hadn't wasted space on that stupid piece about MWO - a story you can follow via Atrios, Tamara Baker and others, but do read A Remarkably Magnanimous Open Letter From Media Horse, currently at the top on their site.

I still can't get over the fuss about MWO's "credibility" based on the fact that the name/names of whoever runs the site isn't easily available. Their credibility must be based on their performance, and their performance is actually damned credible. They aren't funnelling secret information or untraceable libels to the public, they're just linking to, and critiquing, material that is widely available in print and/or on the net. They publish under the same name every day, and they are more responsive to their public and more accessible than any number of news sources that come from people whose real names are on the masthead or whose faces appear at important public events. Anyone who thinks MWO is less accountable than The Washington Post or Tim Russert or Fox News has no idea what's going on.

As Charles Utwater II says in a very good, detailed take-down of the Salon article:

Liberto constructed and incinerated a straw man on the issue of quoting an anonymous web site. MWO supplies substantiation and sourcing for most of its material. Very little of the content is actually unsourced. MWO is increasingly quoted because, like any popular human source, it has a good track record.
Usefully, having bothered to read the documentation, Utwater provides the most concise version I've seen yet of the whole MWO/Aaron Brown flap that Liberto used as a smear in the (Premuim-walled) Salon piece:

Brown criticized White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. MWO readers wrote to express approval. Brown apparently took issue with the fact that some writers used, however innocuously, the word "whore" in relation to the corporate media. According to the record presented in MWO, he then wrote nasty, accusatory one-liners to many people. Basing it on the one mean letter he got, he vented on all letter writers, tying them all together as to blame for the dissing of his daughter by one writer. And he rubbed in the sense of powerlessness that people feel in the face of the corporate media by calling those who speak back to it "small".
And he also follows his article with a sidebar consisting of quotes from the people Liberto interviewed, about what she left out of the article . Well done.

* * * * *
What is this?.
IS AMERICA READY FOR A DICTATOR?
Moral Chaos, Family Breakdown, Dependency, Ignorance Suggest Inevitability of 'Strong Man' to Impose Order

WHAT A BENEVOLENT DICTATOR WOULD DO

A benevolent dictator would immediately shut down the institutions that are draining the lifeblood out of this country.

He would suspend immigration from third-world countries, close down the subversive media, eliminate gender integration of the military, dismiss all radical judges, outlaw the ACLU, and privatize the education system.

He would bring back American manufacturing from overseas to provide jobs for all Americans, including those who lack the education to participate in the "high-tech" economy.

There are already many areas of government that operate as dictatorships- the courts, the IRS, and other agencies.

For those who have lost the capacity for self-government, there is no other way to restore this country to its former glory.

Okay, so they're fruitcakes. Obviously. And we mustn't worry about that little quote from Bush about how it would be better if he could be the dictator. Or anything. And then again, there's this article from non-fruitcake John Dean entitled Could terrorism result in a constitutional dictator?

We've been blessed with strong presidents in times of national crisis. They were men who demonstrated a capacity for leadership, and men who acted undemocratically, but only to preserve our democracy.

We've been fortunate, for the distinction between a "constitutional dictator" and a strong president is remarkably thin, if not non-existent. As Writ columnist Michael Dorf has noted, there are few checks on our Commander in Chief.

Thing is, the strong presidents he's talking about there haven't been named George W. Bush. (But then, he's no president at all.)

Fortunately, Charlie Stross has come up with the formula to solve all our problems:

I would like to propose the following deal to our trans-Atlantic cousins, as a way out of the current political impasse: that we should swap Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, for George W. Bush, President of the United States.
* * * * *
Some commentary by Bill Seamans from the Vermont Public Radio site:

Dan Rather was right. He accuses the news media of not being aggressive enough to penetrate the fog of vagueness obscuring the information coming from the White House. Rather argues that the reluctance of the White House press corps to fight for substantive answers from the Bush administration has, in effect, turned some of the country's top reporters into mere stenographers repeating Bushite spin.

I cannot help but agree with Rather after watching briefings by Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who is the regular source of administration non-information. Any reporter who tries to illuminate the White House briefings is literally disinformed by Fleischer's sometimes arrogant evasions and they don't fight back. How I wish the very combative Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson were back in the White House press room.

A basic technique of incisive journalism is the tradition of the follow-up question. Helen Thomas, the venerable dean of the White House press corps has repeatedly tried to penetrate the fog of vagueness by asking tough follow-up questions to dig substantive news out of the grossly generalized Fleischer rhetoric. At a recent briefing, Fleischer tried to put Thomas down by virtually ridiculing her follow-up question which was insulting not only for Thomas but for the press corps veterans who share a profound fondness and respect for her.

So I think that it's about time someone like Dan Rather charged that the White House press corps, with some noble exceptions like Helen Thomas, has in effect been turned into a pack of journalistic lapdogs. As for Fleischer's function as White House press secretary, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls him "opaque" and progressive commentator Michael Kinsley says Fleischer is "a great evasive bore." President Bush defends his man saying , "Ari Fleischer understands the fine line between the need to know and the need to say."

On a related subject, Steven C. Day is a lawyer who has concluded from personal experience that All reporters need to question what they're told:
Whether or not George W. Bush wants to admit it, he owes the news media a lot. On issue after issue -- increased government secrecy, tax cuts for the wealthy, broken promises on issues like the environment and Social Security -- the media has largely given Bush a pass by failing to challenge the official administration line. Even with Enron and the possible botched opportunities to prevent Sept. 11, the press, after brief initial feeding frenzies, quickly redirected the stories away from Bush.

If we are to judge journalism by the Washington press elite, it would appear that the art of honest-to-God investigative journalism is in retreat -- and has been for some time.
[...]
The trial stage of a lawsuit is incredibly busy. So it isn't as though I spent a lot of time discussing the press coverage while it happened. But when I talked to people later, it became clear that virtually everyone who had followed the case in the newspaper had been convinced that the hospital was going to lose and lose big.

But it didn't. The jury concluded that while there was no question, in retrospect, that the patient had been critically ill when he arrived at the hospital, his symptoms didn't suggest that to the triage nurse. She reasonably concluded that he could safely wait to be seen while other critically ill patients were cared for. While his death was a tragedy, it wasn't caused by negligence.

I obviously have no way of knowing how much, if at all, the chumminess I perceived between the reporter and the opposing lawyer played into the one-sided nature of the coverage. Perhaps the reporter, or his editor, just thought that painting the hospital as the bad guy would give the story more appeal, a classic re-telling of David vs. Goliath. Or it’s possible they really believed that the hospital deserved such treatment.

But by latching onto the easy good guy vs. bad guy angle, the reporter missed the opportunity to write about the real story of the case, which should have been the national crisis of emergency room overcrowding -- a crisis brought about in large part by our society’s shameful failure to address the need for universal health insurance. To cover the trial from that perspective would have required hard work, research and the necessity of explaining a concept involving more than a third grade level of complexity. And, sadly, such things are rarely the stuff of journalism today.

Am I stretching too far in trying to compare the actions of this Midwest legal reporter to those of the journalistic royalty of the presidential press corps? I don't think so. The truth is, the relationship between the White House and White House correspondents is every bit as symbiotic as the associations legal reporters build with certain lawyers. The Bush administration, like others before it, provides reporters with information and inside access that is critical to their jobs. By all accounts, Bush himself also provides them with a much-appreciated salve to their well-developed egos, by handing out nicknames and engaging in friendly chit-chat. In exchange, the reporters disseminate the administration’s point of view to the public.

* * * * *
From The Des Moines Register, your tax dollars at work:

Harkin is expected to show up for the president's remarks at the World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, where Harkin has a booth. However, Harkin aides said Thursday night that White House officials told Harkin he could not appear with the president because he did not vote for the tax cut. White House officials confirmed that Harkin was not invited.

"Sen. Harkin didn't support tax relief for hard-working Iowa families," said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman.

Harkin aides questioned how Bush could refuse to invite Democrats to a nonpartisan event paid for with tax money. White House officials said they invited members of Congress who backed Bush on tax relief.

* * * * *
Texas Fruitcake:

Texas Republicans are poised to convene in Dallas to celebrate a self-proclaimed "Year of Emergence" as the majority party in the state. But proposed rule changes to enforce ideological purity have sent shivers of fear through some GOP delegates.

The changes are pushed by Robert X. Johnson, a conservative San Antonio furniture dealer and former state GOP party parliamentarian. The symbol for his campaign is a rhinoceros inside a red circle with a slash mark. His message: Stop Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).

Johnson circulated an e-mail to convention delegates last week pointing out that "some candidates running for office on the Republican ticket have blatantly ignored the Platform. They have called themselves Republican but have acted independently to selectively ignore longstanding planks of the platform." Johnson wants to set up a mechanism for the party faithful to decertify such candidates, even if they've already won their nominations in the Republican primary.

It's a sign of just how dominant the GOP has become in the Lone Star State, when conservatives have the luxury of turning their guns against the politically incorrect souls in their own ranks. At the same time, Texas Democrats have gone in the opposite direction. They are trying to broaden their base by fielding a color-coordinated statewide ticket and blanketing the airwaves with appeals to independents stressing nonpartisan issues such as education and health care.
[...]
Houston GOP activist Maureen Mulroony fired back at Johnson after receiving his e-mail. She asked what will happen to Republicans who support the right to choose abortion, live alternate lifestyles and are not Christians.

"Obviously, we will not fit this new definition of Republican purity," Mulroony wrote, "and as there are so many of us, you may want to consider what will happen to your 'Party,' because it certainly isn't the GOP anymore, and is sounding a lot like the beginnings of a Hitler-like purge."

Although the state party leadership has not endorsed the proposed changes, delegates to the biennial convention are far more conservative than average GOP voters. In the confab's ideological hothouse, appeals from fringe players like Johnson could corral a majority vote.

"Nobody I know would support it," says former Harris County GOP chair Betsy Lake, who will miss the convention for the first time in 24 years. "But the problem is that not very many people I know are going to the convention. I just got off the phone with a friend in Austin, and there are a lot of people over there extremely concerned about it."

* * * * *
I thought this AP article was funny:

Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, noted administration officials said last fall that some White House staff had begun taking the antibiotic Cipro on Sept. 11, weeks before the anthrax attacks were made public.

"We believe that the White House knew or had reason to know that an anthrax attack was imminent or under way," Klayman said. "We want to know what the government knew, and when they knew it."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe denied it categorically. "We did not know about the anthrax attacks. Period!" he said.

* * * * *
BusyBusyBusy is surprised by Glenn Reynolds:

No one bleats more loudly than a critic who's been critiqued. So says Norah Vincent, who must have been hard-pressed to fill her column-inches on deadline when she wrote this piece entitled "Media Can Dish It Out but Can't Take It" for yesterday's LA Times. Ms. Vincent's recycling of the "liberal media bias" canard would be unremarkable, except that it was remarked upon favorably by a certain famous professor who claims to not be a conservative.
* * * * *
I read Patrick's entry and followed the links about Rowley's schoolmarm appearance, and looked at the comments. Then I talked to Patrick and we considered the possibility that it could be very subtle irony. But I have a sneaking suspicion it's just garden-variety sexism.

Then he showed me what I looked like as a South Park Character.


Friday, 07 June 2002

16:10 BST: Permalink

The Truth Laid Bear has done a "roundup" of liberal or lefty blogs. Thanks for the kind words, Bear, but it's just The Sideshow, she said. I suppose it's my fault for not being more clear. Maybe I should change the header. Hmmmm....

* * * * *
Brad DeLong has switched to a more conventional format and run a couple of items that had me laughing out loud, like this attempt to work out what kind of thoughts might have inspired a certain well-known blogger's reaction to an article in The Economist:

Look! The Economist thinks it should report on something happening to Zambians! Ha, ha, ha! Look! The Economist thinks somebody wants to read about copper mines! Ha, ha, ha! What a joke! 15000 of the highest-paid workers in Zambia about to lose their jobs! How rich! What wonkish fools those writers and editors at the Economist are! Why are they writing about the failure of neoliberal development strategies in southern Africa when they could be writing about my career as a Shakespearean actor? What pathetic weenies they are!!
Obviously, Brad took the article on Zambian copper mines much more seriously, and he's right.

He also was entertained by this entertaining item from The Poor Man:

Recently, the NR's "The Corner" was crowned the 3rd-best right-wing blog in a lavish ceremony presented by the Right-Wing News. The Poor Man did not rate, perhaps due to the fact that it contains no news, or that I'm not right-wing, or perhaps because this page sucks Satan's left nut like it's on a mission. In any case, I'm not going to ignore a successful formula, so I'm launching a special Corner-esque feature, where I try to Corner-ize my content to increase my synergistic B2B click-through. As near as I can tell, this involves having incredibly long and tedious minjing sessions where you dispute the hit counters of more successful or ideologically impure commentators. Without any further ado:

The Cornier

THE NEW REPARATIONS DEBATE[J. Nordstrom]

I think that conservative students on college campuses are the unsung heroes of modern America. They are forced to put up with dirty looks from white people with dreadlocks and very wide trousers. Not to be overdramatic, but isn't this really exactly as bad as Blacks had it in the segregated South? Didn't they get their student newspapers burned by hippy anarchists or something? Aren't Universities the new plantations, Professors and long-hairs the new slave masters, and acceptance letters to B-school the new lynching? Anyway, I think we should think about some kind of reparations for the abuses that Young Republicans have had to put up with all these years. Perhaps a national fund that could be used to buy them gift certificates to Tucker Carlson's Maison de Bow-Ties. What'd'ya think?
Posted 3:55 AM | [Link]

RICHARD NIXON RECONSIDERED[Trevor Shropshire]

I became an American citizen hoping to escape the tyranny and oppression of my home country of Great Britain. Hoping to breathe free, out from under the Stalinist yoke of the NHS and the semi-nationalized rail system. And yet, people in this country seem to take these freedoms for granted, even denegrating the people who gave them these freedoms, like Richard Nixon. He gets a lot of bad press, but ever notice how you've never hear about what Bill Clinton was doing at the time. Actually, have you ever seen "Deep Throat" and Clinton in the same room? And Bob Woodward looks suspiciously like Chelsea, if you drink six bottles of sherry and squint. And I do. Liberal media cover-up? Yes. Posted 3:00 PM | [Link]

A lot of other, more serious stuff on Brad's site, but these were more fun (and easier) to quote.

* * * * *
MWO is linking this story in The New York Times by Christopher Marquis...

WASHINGTON, June 5 — Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, is anguished over the announced departure of the presidential adviser Karen P. Hughes, saying she had been an essential counterweight to Karl Rove, a hard-charging and more ideological adviser, according to Esquire magazine.

In extensive remarks in the magazine's July issue, Mr. Card said Ms. Hughes's departure would deeply disrupt a tenuous balance of power among President Bush's closest associates. "Listen, the president's in a state of denial about what Karen's departure will mean, so is the first lady, and so is Karen herself," Mr. Card told Esquire.

"The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush, is gone, simply gone," he said. "My biggest concern? Want to know what it is? That the president will lose confidence in the White House staff. Because without her, we'll no longer be able to provide the president what he needs, what he demands."

Mr. Card's remarks are notable not only for what they reveal about the personal and ideological conflict within the senior White House staff, but also because so few Bush advisers have been willing to talk openly about internal matters in the highly disciplined Bush White House.

Ms. Hughes, whose formal role involved overseeing White House communications and speechwriting, is expected to return to Texas this summer so she can spend more time with her "homesick" family.
[...]
Mr. Rove told Esquire that Ms. Hughes usually won in their showdowns, saying, "For every 10 battles we've had, she's won nine of them." He denied that his more conservative views would now hold sway.

With Ms. Hughes gone, Mr. Card fretted that he would be held responsible if the president's high approval ratings begin to slip.

Mr. Card mentioned a few officials who might mitigate the influence of Mr. Rove, including news media and message advisers like Tucker Eskew, Dan Bartlett, Mary Matalin, Ari Fleischer and Michael Gerson.

"They are going to have to really step up, but it won't be easy," Mr. Card said. "Karl is a formidable adversary."

Mr. Bartlett, the White House communications director, said the writer of the Esquire piece, Ron Suskind, had a "hyperactive imagination." He said the article was "not an accurate representation of this White House," but he did not deny that Mr. Card had made the comments.

But MWO says that the NYT omits both a scoop - that Hughes left because of internal White House conflict rather than the claimed reason of a homesick family - and some of the most telling quotes from the Esquire article, which is unfortunately not yet available on line:

-- Mark McKinnon: "President Bush often says that the most striking difference between being governor and president is the volume of decision making. There are a hundred decisions he has to make every day, big decisions, with a lot riding on each one. So he'll give twenty of them to Karen to make. He trusts her completely. He trusts here like he trusts no one."

-- Dan Bartlett: "She [Hughes] can literally manufacture him [Bush], the only one who can do it. She knows how he talks, but also how he thinks. It's like they're one person. Over time, people have better understood that if you have an idea, a proposal, Karen better like it or it won't have a chance in any event."

-- Karl Rove, laughing: "[Author Suskind] asked him about whether Hughes's day-to-day absence will mean his more conservative agenda will now have free rein. He paused. 'Well, I certainly hope not,' he said after a moment. 'I certainly hope not,' and then he howled with laughter."

* * * * *
Paranoia Report:

Most internet surfers are aware of the Internet Archive, a 501C(3) foundation located at San Francisco's Presidio that maintains a continuous "snapshot" of internet websites (including this one).

But in the weeks leading up to the attacks of 9-11, during the very weeks that foreign nations claim they were warning the US about a possible terror attack, something very odd has happened with the archive.

[annoying screenshot]

As the above chart shows, the almost daily snapshots of news organization web sites stop in mid July, appear only sporadically throughout August and early September, and resume daily snapshots only after 9-11.

Now you think about that one for a while.

And if you have an archive of news articles for August 2001, hang onto them.

Don't ask me, I'm not even one of "most internet surfers" who "are aware of the Internet Archive".

* * * * *
American Samizdat says, "Sometimes I read something that convinces me that I really am a hopeless pinko..." and quotes this:

* The complaint: Consolidation has made radio even more cookie-cutter bland, with narrow, unimaginative playlists. Demographic targeting and audience testing eliminate variety, stifle regionalism and foist the least objectionable music on the public.

Failing to recognize that an individual's tastes are broader than a narrow format, stations avoid adventurous artists and diversity. Music's presence is being eroded by gabby DJs and juvenile morning shows.

..."More and more, radio is programmed literally by machine, hurting the limitless potential that makes radio special," Light says. "All the great things about radio, including identity and community, are being devalued. In places that kind of station still exits, people hold onto it with religious fervor."

* The defense: As quirky outposts merged into titanic corporations, radio became a big business beholden to Wall Street's profit standards.

"The stakes are higher," Light says. "One genre is now bigger than the whole industry used to be. It's absurd to think that corporations are going to value artistic merit and innovation. That's not what the game is."

And goes on to say, "I suppose only a rigid ideologue such as myself can't distinguish between the indictment and the defense..."

* * * * *
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan protests that Italy doesn't really like Bush all that much:

Avedon, Italy was too busy laughing itself silly over Berlusconi's creative re-writing of basic history (among other things, he called the twin brothers whose myth is at the heart of the foundation of Rome "Romolo and Remolo" instead of "Romolo and Remo", kinergarten stuff here), his papier-mache statues and the determination to have the media devote virtually all their time to the Historical End of the Cold War Brought About Single-Handedly by the Best Politician Ever to Grace This World, i.e., Berlusconi himself, obfuscating this way the fact that said best polician in the world had just signally failed to win the local elections, to pay much attention to Bush.

As far as I can say, Bush is not really popular here outside Berlusconi's fond wishes. If anything, there is a pervasive and deep-rooted anti-Americanism that distress me greatly in its knee-jerk nature and in its peculiar marriage to an uncritical idealization of most things American (as well as, of course, in it being a fundamental dumb-assed generalization as all kinds of nationalism are).

Let's not confuse the scary scoundrel we have had elected over us with the totality of the nation, please. We're much better than that.

* * * * *
Jane Mayer, who was on the receiving end of what David Brock feels is one of his most egregious lies in the matter of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, has written a review of Brock's Blinded by the Right (with full disclosure). Since The Washington Post has chosen to have the book reviewed (without disclosure) by someone who was actually disparaged in Brock's book, this is a refreshing bit of balance from The New York Review of Books:

The question is: Should readers believe David Brock now?

This is a particularly complicated question for me. Jill Abramson (now the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times) and I were among the first to write about Brock's earlier credibility problems, in a 1993 review of The Real Anita Hill in The New Yorker. We wrote the review because we felt we were obliged to correct the record. At the time we were both newspaper reporters for The Wall Street Journal and were working on Strange Justice, a book on the Hill–Thomas confrontation which asserted that the weight of evidence suggested that Hill had been telling the truth but had been discredited by Thomas's political backers. Because of the research we had done, we recognized the extent to which Brock was twisting the truth. Our piece on Brock's false reporting, which exposed many of the dubious techniques that he confesses to now, was met by fierce political attacks on us by Thomas's supporters. Brock retaliated against us himself in 1995, shortly after our book came out. The American Spectator published his scorching 22,000-word "review" in which, he now admits in Blinded by the Right, he lied about the accuracy of our reporting to protect his reputation and hurt ours. Although he says he had often printed misleading information without bothering to check whether it was true, in our case he knew that what he was writing was false. "I had to win one more for the movement," he confesses. "I crossed a line I had never crossed before.... I put a lie in print."


Thursday, 06 June 2002

13:48 BST: Permalink

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern says in The Miami Herald, Signs of attacks well-known:

No one wants to believe that the attacks of Sept. 11 could have been prevented, but we do a disservice to our country if we stay in denial. No one wants to believe that President Bush had more forewarning than he acknowledges, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that he did.

Reviewing that evidence on May 26, The Washington Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler, alluded to one very telling sign from a conversation between CIA Director George Tenet and former U.S. Sen. David Boren over breakfast on Sept. 11. When an aide rushed up to tell Tenet of the attacks, Tenet's immediate reaction was: "This has bin Laden all over it. . . . I wonder if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training?"

And here's a truly stunning quote from Arlen Specter (R-PA):

"I don't believe any longer that it's a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable blueprint and we want to know why they didn't act on it."
Update 08/06/02: Since this quote has disappeared from the original CBS page, I'm providing an individual permalink for it: Specter

Joe Conason notes that someone was too busy worrying about pornographers and cancer patients who smoke dope when his attention was needed elsewhere:

A former F.B.I. official told The Times back in February that it was Mr. Ashcroft's attitude that "really undermined a lot of effort to change the culture and change the mindset" of the bureau. It should be recalled, too, that during the crucial months leading up to the Al Qaeda attack, Mr. Freeh had quit and Mr. Mueller had not yet arrived. In a real sense, Mr. Ashcroft was in charge of domestic security while warnings were ignored or misplaced and opportunities to prevent tragedy were lost.

Now the Attorney General has rewarded his own errors, and those of the agencies under his command, with greatly expanded power to conduct surveillance on the rest of us. Although there's no reason to believe that the 1976 restrictions on domestic political spying hindered the apprehension of the Al Qaeda killers, such curtailments of civil liberty are what Mr. Ashcroft prescribes for the problem he formerly ignored. In a bureaucracy that was already inundated with information that couldn't be sorted into the categories of useful and useless, he proposes to collect still more.

Last year, Mr. Ashcroft challenged the patriotism of anyone who dared question his incursions on traditional freedoms, and his critics quickly backed down. Now it is he who should be challenged, to explain his past approach to terrorism and to justify his present assaults on liberty. And he should not be allowed to hide his answers behind closed doors.

I think schoolchildren should donate their connect-the-dot books to the administration..

* * * * *
More reasons Ken Starr should be in jail.

* * * * *
From Reuters, "Bush needed war" says suspended Air Force officer:

MONTEREY, California (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force officer has been suspended from duty after he wrote a letter to a California newspaper accusing President George W. Bush of allowing the September 11 attacks to happen "because he needed this war on terrorism", a military official has said.
[...]
Butler's letter accused Bush -- the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces -- of allowing the September 11 attacks to occur for his own political ends.

"Of course Bush knew about the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. His daddy had Saddam and he needed Osama," Butler's letter said.

"His presidency was going nowhere. He wasn't elected by the American people, but placed into the Oval Office by the conservative Supreme Court...the economy was sliding into the usual Republican pits and he needed something to hang his presidency on."

Butler, a 24-year Air Force veteran who served as a combat pilot during the 1990 Gulf War, was not immediately available for comment.

An MWO reader says he hopes that if they court martial the guy they do it on television so everyone can hear what he has to say.

* * * * *
Bonus section:

From MWO, a Flash documentary of the voyages of the USS Enron's Prize.

And Patrick gave me this one.


Wednesday, 05 June 2002

22:55 BST: Permalink

Philip Pullman (who was critical of C.S. Lewis) and Mo Mowlem both spoke at the Guardian Hay festival. (I didn't like typing "the Guardian Hay festival" but that's how they wrote it in the Guardian.) Anyway, somes quotes from the article:

Asked about his concept of a republic of heaven, Pullman said: "When it was possible to have a belief about God and heaven, it represented something we all desired. It had a profound meaning in human life.

"But when it no longer became possible to believe, a lot of people felt despair. What was the meaning of life? It seems that our nature is so formed that we need a feeling of connectedness with the universe. If there is no longer a king, or a kingdom of heaven, it will have to be a republic in which we are free citizens. We ourselves as citizens have to build the republic of heaven."

The Labour ex-cabinet minister, Mo Mowlam, drew a sell-out audience of 1,100, the biggest so far, for an interview session with the Today programme presenter James Naughtie. To applause, she fended off efforts to cajole her into discussing tensions between the prime minister Tony Blair and the chancellor, Gordon Brown. "If I breathe in the wrong direction in relation to either of them, it's a story."

But she was more forthright when asked about Mr Blair's long-term strategy. "I am not sure that the long-term strategy is any longer viable," she said. "I assume it was to move the [Labour] party to the centre, form a coalition and get rid of extremes. This strategy is no longer workable because he has not formed a coalition."

16:24 BST: Permalink
We went to Wales. And then to Basingstoke on the way back. When we got home, we turned on the TV and Steve Winwood was doing "Gimme Some Lovin'" at Buckingham Palace. Then Clapton did "Layla" and Davies did "Lola" and McCartney did "Her Majesty's a Pretty Nice Girl." Then Clapton and McCartney did a little tribute to George.

Anyway, there's a lot of catching up to do after being offline for so long. Let's see....

* * * * *
Here's a good letter I found in The Washington Post about teen sex and abstinence:

The abstinence-only view on nonmarital sex advocated by Sandy Rios and Robert Knight [Free for All, May 25] has long proven impractical. In World War I the U.S. Army was appalled at how many of the recruits, serviced in an age of Victorian chastity by a large sex industry, were contaminated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It urgently promoted a "just say no" policy to the troops sent to France, where so many said "oui" to sex (for free or for fee) that the war effort was significantly impaired by STD-induced illness. Having learned its lesson, the U.S. military adopted an extensive protection campaign in World War II, including the notorious VD shorts, de facto regulation of brothels and the establishment of post-sex cleanup stations with helpful explanatory films for the patrons. The military shows no sign of adopting abstinence-only for its unmarried youth.

In Europe teen sex is considered normal, so abstinence is not emphasized and explicit sex education inoculates preteens with the facts of prevention before the hormones start raging. Condoms are so aggressively promoted that American visitors can find it unsettling. Advocates for Youth observes that Euro-teens "far outshine those in the U.S." by being less sexually active, starting sex later, having fewer partners and being much more careful when they are active. So teen abortion rates are always higher in America than in Western Europe -- in some cases twice as high. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy and birth rates are two to 30 times greater in the United States than in other democracies. Among Americans, STD-infection rates are chronically higher than across the ocean.

Rios and Knight believe a more chaste youth will wed earlier, which was true of the World War II generation, which later started the divorce boom. A smaller percentage of married couples divorce in more sexually liberal Europe than in America.

Rios and Knight note that some opponents of "just say no" are biased, but the charge can be reversed. Strict abstinence is being advocated by conservative religious ideologues who imagine that democratic citizens can have so little out-of-wedlock sex that STDs are no longer a serious problem. As a member of Baltimore Secular Humanists, I believe the consequence of such unrealistic, one-size-fits-all policies is teens too ashamed of their sexual behavior to be prepared for what many youth inevitably do, leaving them completely exposed to impregnation and pathogens. In less religious Europe, a more pragmatic and successful strategy is producing superior results.

Abstinence is a sound personal choice, and teens should know how to say no to peer pressure. But don't count on abstinence to solve societal problems associated with youth sex. [Gregory Paul]

Too right.

* * * * *
And Molly Ivins with a Scam Alert:

It is raining evidence these days. The newspaper business sections are turning into the Daily Fraud Update. Deloitte & Touche is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its role in the unpleasant doings at Adelphia, energy CEOs keep biting the dust -- first at CMS, then at Dynegy -- the Arthur Andersen trial in Houston gets more depressing by the day, and corporate evildoers are suddenly ubiquitous.

OK, I promise that I'm only going to do this once, but ... we did tell you so. Three years ago, I wrote a column explaining why I thought the high-tech market made Las Vegas casinos look good. One reader was so amused by this ludicrous display of ignorance he sent me an enormous flower arrangement -- the thing had to have cost a couple hundred bucks -- saying I'd given him the best laugh he'd had in years. I bring this up because I think it's important to remember the degree of triumphalism that raged among free-market fundamentalists during the short-lived "New Economy." So if we ever smell it again, we'll know to hunker down.

* * * * *
Alicia Mundy in Editor & Publisher says Press Must Be Tougher On FBI:

"Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart -- or if you are William Safire." No, that wasn't what songsters Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh wrote, but hey, they would have, if they had seen Safire's May 20 column in The New York Times. The man known as one of the most cynical of Washington pundits produced a stunning homage to the FBI that seemed so out of character for the normally suspicious Safire that I called his office to ask what was happening. He had no comment.

However, my concern isn't just about Safire's perception, but about Washington reporters and book writers who have been suckered into praising the FBI over the years. Many of them defended the bureau after the Sept. 11 disaster. In fact, The Washington Post produced a puff piece the size of Iowa on the FBI's official tip-keeper and his difficult job.

I don't disagree, but all this makes me think about who is going to end up being the scapegoat for this. Yes, it looks like the FBI messed up, but there's this cynical little part of me that keeps noticing that I'm always seeing things about how this or that piece of intel wasn't taken seriously enough by someone called "his superiors" or "her superiors". Why aren't these superiors ever named, or even given a title? Who are they? Who were the superiors of John O'Neill who wouldn't listen to him? Could they have been the same people who wouldn't listen to the director of the CIA when he was trying to get people to pay attention to the threat of Al Qaeda, by any chance? Are they even in the FBI?

The cynical part of me also can't help recalling that as far back as Nixon, Republicans have liked the CIA more than they like the FBI. George H.W. Bush used to be the director of the CIA. Nixon used the CIA to interfere with the FBI's investigations of the Nixon White House. (That's what we mean by "abuses of power", for those who were confused by the Whitewater persecution.)

As noted earlier, the Bush administration itself had pulled the FBI off of Al Qaeda shortly after arriving in office. The game now is to pretend this was the FBI's fault, and maybe, if we're lucky, their boss, John Ashcroft. But I don't think the CIA reports to the Attorney General, do they? If the director of the CIA was trying to get "his superiors" to listen, who were those people? Anyone want to connect these dots, please?

Istanblog is connecting some other dots:

The Bush administration's fixation on the Axis of Evil Rogue Nations appears to have distracted the FBI and CIA from al-Qaeda prior to 9/11. Will this fixation hurt us again?

Cheney says we shouldn't question what went wrong because we're at war, but is he talking about the war on al-Qaeda, or Iraq and the Axis? When the Bush administration's awareness that al-Qaeda might hijack planes became a public topic, they bombarded the media with apparently every rumor of terrorist attack they had in their files.

They seem to regard anti-terrorism, Islamic ultra-fundamentalism, and the Palestinian conflict as a distraction from the war they really want to fight. Unfortunately, even if they are able to persuade the American media and public that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are the most important threat facing this country, that doesn't mean the remnants of al-Qaeda and whatever evolves next out of ultra-extremist Islam will agree, and idly wait for us to finish before continuing their fight.

And earlier, he pointed out another wrong turn:

OK, I'll take just one hit off the pipe before I get some paying work done. Joshua Marshall has devoted a lot of space to the Intelligence-Gate scandal, bringing up a lot of good points and some stuff I didn't know, e.g. that the Bush administration had scaled back anti-terrorism from the levels of the late Clinton administration, at least until 9/11. A good point was that, given that so much intelligence related to the attacks was floating around ahead of time but not tied together, was it really necessary to pass the Patriot Act so more intelligence could be gathered? It doesn't appear that due process and other civil rights were what kept us from preventing the 9/11 attacks.
* * * * *
Ted Barlow is talking about the environment:

Similarly, I keep coming across the assumption from bloggers on the right that "environmentalism" is just anti-capitalism by other means. People who want cars to be more fuel-efficient, or want clean air or water, or don't want the tops of mountains dumped into rivers- i.e., the large majority of Americans- aren't motivated by the wish to live longer lives with fewer environmental toxins, or by a love of nature, or by the wish to forestall disaster by delaying the exhaustion of irreplaceable natural resources. Rather, they must be motivated by a loathing of capitalism, progress, and success. What else could it be?
They don't put it in such stark terms, of course, but I think a lot of people who sneer at environmentalism have bought a phony dichotomy. "Capitalism vs. environmentalism" is a scam. Free-marketeers aren't good capitalists; good capitalists know that markets need to be regulated and that without regulation you just get a lot of high-rolling vandalism. No one wants to live in a waste dump, and neither do the rich guys who insist that someone has to live in them if we are to have progress and prosperity - they just know that that someone isn't going to be them. Watch out for folks who say that "a price" has to be paid for what we have, because most days the people who decide the price are not going to be the ones who pay it. (George Bush, for example, keeps saying that sacrifices have to be made, and I'm still waiting to see him make one that actually hurts him and his aristo pals.)

* * * * *
Bush really wowed 'em in Europe, according to Yahoo. This photo is captioned:

A man reads a copy of the left-leaning German newspaper "Tageszeitung" in Berlin May 24, 2002, one day after U.S. President George W. Bush gave a key note speech in the German lower house of parliament Bundestag. The front page of the Friday edition is almost completely blank and shows a cartoon of Bush with an empty speech bubble under the headline "Bush's historic speech".
Richard Reeves also reports on Bush's diplomatic mission:

PARIS -- "How did he ever get to be president?" asked a French reporter watching George W. Bush in a joint press conference with the president of France, Jacques Chirac, in the splendor of the Elysee Palace last week.

"Just like that," was the appropriate answer from an American reporter. At the end of his first trip to the major capitals of old Europe, Bush was obviously exhausted and perhaps confused, too. "That's the fraternity boy we covered in the 2000 campaign," said the American reporter. Bush was slow, forgetful, smirky and downright nasty -- as he often was as a candidate. It was as if Sept. 11, 2001, and all the wars since had never happened.

Chirac was amused, at least on the surface. When Bush could not put together an answer to a complicated question, the Texan, as they like to call him here, smiled and said: "That's what happens when you're over 55." He turned to Chirac and said, "You know what I mean?" This time Chirac, who is 69 years old, did not seem amused at all.
[...]
The most shocking thing to many Europeans about the trip was that Bush chose not to make an issue of open Soviet aid to help Iran build a nuclear army. "Dumb Quixote" was the title of a cartoon in the Observer in London, showing Bush riding off on his old horse in the direction of Iraq, which they consider a far less powerful and dangerous country than Iran.

In Germany, where Bush was well received -- he won a standing ovation from the German Parliament -- the head of the European Affairs Committee there, Friedbert Pfluger, still had this to say later: "All over Europe, people look at Bush and think, 'There's someone who just does what he wants, who talks about crusades and divides the world into good and evil. ... We're going to get drawn into something big and awful that's beyond our control."

Well, yes, it's as plain as the nose on my face. The question is, why didn't the American press tell the truth about this guy when there was still a chance to keep him out of the White House? And why won't they face it now? It may be too late to undo the disasters of the last 19 months, but it's still not too late to get these people out of the government. All it requires is that the press finally start saying what needs to be said.

But instead, we just get Bush continuing to embarrass our country by saying things that really need not to be said. As Robert Reno observes, Bush Should Keep Faith to Himself:

Someone must tell President George W. Bush that there are reasons why the Founding Fathers separated church and state and that one of them was that they wanted to avoid the faith-based bickering that drenched Europe in blood after 1517 and eventually led to a conflict known as the Thirty Years' War.
[...]
Anyway, if there's one cat fight Bush might have stayed out of, it was the controversy in which the U.S. Catholic Church is threatened with bankruptcy by lawsuits. After all, he's a converted Methodist raised in the Episcopalian household of a father-president who must be able to trace his Anglo-Saxon lineage at least to the reign of Henry VIII. In the wary civility separating America's Catholics and Protestants, Bush had every reason to declare that the church's troubles, any church's troubles, were none of his business.

Before Bush left for Europe his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, seemed to rule out any reference to church scandals.

"The president's view, of course, is that this is a matter for the Catholic Church, the clergy, Catholics worldwide to resolve." But by the time Bush got to Rome, he seemed ready to jump into the issue with both feet and to shower the pope with advice.

"I will tell him that I am concerned about the Catholic Church in America," Bush said. "I am concerned about its standing. And I say that because the Catholic Church is an incredibly important institution in our country."

The meeting with the pope lasted barely 20 minutes, hardly enough time for Bush to give the him a long-winded Methodist lecture or for the two men to swap recipes for frying fish. The president called the pope "your holy father," which, if anything, was a quaint but respectful departure from normal Vatican usage.

So Bush went to Europe and insulted national leaders, was downright nasty to a reporter (who had committed the terrible crime of addressing the French head of state as "Monsieur le President Chirac"), announced policies that scared the pants off of nearly everyone, and then decided to meddle in the Catholic Church's problems. Well, it may not be diplomacy, but ya gotta admit, that's entertainment! And it's okay, anyway, because the one country that matters thought he was just great. I am speaking, of course, of Italy.

* * * * *
Note to people looking for liberal talk radio: Mike Malloy's radio show gets posted to alt.binaries.sounds.radio.misc by Ben from Elgin, for those who miss them when they air.


Saturday, 01 June 2002

04:00 BST: Permalink

Interesting item on Talking Points Memo that begins:

A few days ago I did a radio interview where I went head to head with another one of these ridiculous conservatives who -- when thrown on the defensive about some aspect of Bush administration policy -- immediately launches into a tirade about how Bill Clinton is actually responsible for virtually everything that happened on September 11th.

(Did you know that Bill Clinton was actually the barber for three of the 9/11 terrorists!?!!? Or that he vetoed a bill which would have made it a felony to fly commercial jets into tall buildings??!?!!?)

In this particular case, the guy went on a tear about the Sudan-bin Laden handover fiasco, but he clearly didn't understand some pretty elementary details about what had happened.

In any case, clearly, by definition, we were not as prepared as we should have been for September 11th. And there's plenty of blame to go around. But one of the true ironies of the relationship between Clinton administration responsibility and Bush administration responsibility is this: most of the Clintonite policies which really were screw-ups were precisely those the Bush administration was most intent on continuing.

Marshall follows with a good example that makes me feel like maybe the administration isn't really serious about national security (and you really should read it).

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Ted Barlow is watching the SEC investigation of Dick Cheney and quoting Liberal Desert, where it is noted that what Haliburton did and what the Bush administration based its tax cut on are not a million miles apart. And, says Ted:

These stories are appearing on the business pages of the NY Times, and pretty much nowhere else. The Times explained to a letter writer that they won't treat it as a political story unless the Democrats say something about it.

I can't fault the decision of the Times, but I can fault the Democrats for sleepwalking. Why hasn't anyone on Capital Hill grabbed this issue? Jesu bambino, guys, you're supposed to be the opposition party. Go oppose!

(And if your reps aren't doing that, fax them!)

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Nick Denton has a link to the transcript of last week's hilarious episode of Have I Got News For You, in which Angus pays for his crimes.

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I found this at Bartcop and couldn't help thinking that everyone should put together a letterhead and dress it up as a press release, and then fax it to your local paper and your reps in the House and Senate:
In addition to the voter purge, Palast has documented the tribulations of African American voters in attempting to cast their ballots and have them counted. After reviewing the Justice Department's information, Palast stated today, "The US Justice Department's suit is a sham - the beneficiaries of the voting disaster, Bush's agencies, have figured out a way to do the least possible political damage to candidates Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush. They have aimed their fire at blameless county officials when the disaster was created in Tallahassee - a disaster for Black voters, though a blessing to the highly partisan Secretary of State's office. I fear this is an attempt to undercut the suit by the NAACP against Harris and others more directly responsible."

Palast has also investigated similar misdeeds in Tennessee and elsewhere.

Also via Bartcop: How much would you pay for what's in Dick Cheney's pants?

But getting back to the investigation of the vote scandal, The Boston Globe on that story:

"I welcome the news that the Department of Justice will soon begin actions to address the voting rights abuses in Florida and other states that occurred during the 2000 election," Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts said in a statement. "But I question why these investigations have taken 18 months and why, with the primary season only a few months away, the Department of Justice has not mobilized a plan to make sure these voting rights abuses do not occur again. The administration claims that it is committed to civil rights, but very little is being done to enforce the laws that protect our civil rights."
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Matt Welch wants to recommend an article:

Excellent Hitchens, on the Ongoing Suck-up to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: With some well-placed kicks to every U.S. government agency and politician that failed, and may continue to fail, to protect the country. I've run out of patience with Bush’s policy toward Saudi Arabia. Is there any reason to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one? Has there been any evidence that points to a reversal in decades’ worth of cushy oil-biz relationships, ambassadors who don't speak Arabic, and opportunistic backing of shameful despots? Bush has had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seize the moral high ground, convince friends and enemies alike that there was a principle worth fighting for after the Sept. 11 massacre … but between his Saudi-coddling and domestic-industry protection, I'm afraid that moral capital is being squandered. The United States is, and should be, more than a nation-state that uses its power to maximize short-term national self-interest.
But it was hard to get through the first couple of paragraphs of Hitchens' article without going, "Oh, no, more of this." But once you get past that, it's okay. The trouble is that Hitchens has a personal thing about Clinton, and I can never believe a single sentence he writes that contains that word. But perhaps he felt obliged to attack Clinton in an article that, really, attacks the Bush Family Empire. I'm just not certain he knows that's what he's doing.

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Max goes through the transcripts of the exchange between Bill Bennett and Noam Chomsky on Paula Zhan's morning show, which certainly kept me entertained. (Max, I mean; I don't get CNN.) Then he responds to some of the comments he received:

Sooner or later, however, a rational discussion of 9-11 must consider any possible roots of the attacks in U.S. policy. Moral equivalence is not at issue. Moments in cycles of violence are the issue. So are the motives of our enemies. Understanding is not the same as justification. If I take extra-legal steps to expel a gang of drug-dealers from my neighborhood, I can understand why they might put a brick through my window. That doesn't mean I put us all on the same moral plain, much less that I forgive them. Nor would I feel reluctant to retaliate in some way. Boiling down their retaliation to basic immorality just fogs up the situation.

Why do I get involved in all this? For the reasons at the end of my post of the transcript. U.S. foreign policy needs all the criticism it can get, even when it is wrong. That's the nature of the beast, as far as I am concerned.

"Understanding is not the same as justification." Some people need to have that sentence written on the inside of their eyelids so they don't forget it.

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Alterman recommends The Note at ABC's news site for interesting political stuff, and now that I've seen it (registration required), so do I:

First, and probably most importantly in the politico-economic scheme of things, it's just not a good day for the Bush Administration's economic team, as far as the Wall Street Journal is concerned.
Heh heh. And:

True or false, Note readers: Ari Fleischer began his morning press gaggle on Thursday by calling on David Gregory with a simple "Monsieur?"

Once, in fact, the Note went to Fleischer's gaggle and learned, through the course of several answers, that he won't answer questions about the past ("we are beyond that"), the present ("let's wait and see what happens with that"), or future ("too speculative" and "hypothetical"), which even the Gene Roddenberry in us says doesn't leave too much to ask about in any time/space continuum.

And The Note recommends this piece by Krugman:

Which brings us back to the Bono-O'Neill tour. The rock star must have hoped that top American officials are ignorant rather than callous — that they just don't realize what conditions are like in poor countries, and how foreign aid can make a difference. By showing Mr. O'Neill the realities of poverty and the benefits aid can bring, Bono hoped to find and kindle the spark of compassion that surely must lurk in the hearts of those who claim to be compassionate conservatives.

But he still hasn't found what he's looking for.

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Kevin Maroney gave me a heads-up on this remarkable WSJ piece by Peggy Noonan in which, among other things, she interprets Crowley's memo to be saying maybe there were spies in the FBI who were stopping them from investigating Al Qaeda. She appears not to know that the order to pull back on such investigations came from the White House. She also says:

It is true, as Slate's Mickey Kaus and the columnist Ann Coulter have pointed out in different ways, that the long political-media campaign against "ethnic profiling" had an impact on this case and a bad effect on the FBI. It is true that many Democrats and Republicans who now criticize President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for not combing the flight schools for possible Arab terrorists were previously complaining about profiling.
And who was campaigning against "ethnic profiling" of Muslims? Well, it wasn't Al Gore....

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Some interesting articles:

Buzzflash interviewed David Brock.

Sam Parry says Bush Did Try to Save Enron.

And if you haven't checked out Demosthenes yet, it's worth a look.


Avedon Carol at Sideshow, June 2002


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