The Sideshow

Archive for June 2003

Check box to open new browser windows for links.

Monday, 30 June 2003

A Democratic Contract With America

That's what Rich Proctor is suggesting. I think I can easily get behind most of them, but I absolutely disagree with the first one:

1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: "A balanced budget amendment to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses."

Thanks, Newtie. This is a proposal whose time has clearly come, with the wildly irresponsible Republican wastrels approving billions in new spending even as they destroy America's ability to raise money with insane "breaks for billionaires" tax cuts.

Sure, the Republicans are going to say, "Gosh, we can't have another tax cut, or we'll have to reduce services to children, old people, and the poor." Yeah, right. Might as well call it "The Kill Social Security at Last Act." Sure, Rich wants to include Social Security in the guarantees of this Contract, but since even the Constitution itself doesn't stop these people, I don't see why anything else would.

Besides, it's the job of Congress to decide when we need to run over budget - and sometimes we may really need to. I don't want to let them off the hook that easy.

... or the Republican Contract on Americans

Also at the Chimp (from American Reporter), Randolph T. Holhut offers The explanation that John Ashcroft doesn't want to hear:

Attorney General John Ashcroft believes the press needs to do a better job explaining the USA Patriot Act to the American people.
Americans have no need to worry that their freedoms are being eroded, or so Ashcroft believes. But an honest explanation of the Patriot Act and post-Sept. 11 law enforcement tells a different story.
Both current law under Patriot and the proposed Patriot III are explained simply enough that even Ashcroft can understand them.

You really ought to read Rage. Mistrust. Hatred. Fear. The US is crushing its citizens' rights, too, which includes evidence that the Homeland Security cops themselves are terrorists.
22:25 BST

But you knew that, right?

Ampersand has the short version:

Or, at least, Christ doesn't keep people from returning to prison. Mark Kleiman has an interesting post on how studies are spun. A study found that attendees of a special prison program for born-again Christian prisoners were a bit more likely to wind up back in prison than a control group which did not attend the program.

However, the folks who run the program have managed to spin this into saying that folks who take their program do much better than those who don't. Neat trick. Consult Mark's blog for the details.

Also consult it for some vigorous criticism.
21:58 BST

MoveOn Primary

I haven't said much about this, but just FYI, here are the results:

DEAN        139360 43.87%
KUCINICH     76000 23.93%
KERRY        49973 15.73%
EDWARDS       10146 3.19%
GEPHARDT       7755 2.44%
GRAHAM         7113 2.24%
BRAUN          7021 2.21%
LIEBERMAN      6095 1.92%
SHARPTON       1677 0.53%
Okay, it's only a bit over 300,000 people, and it was conducted entirely online, but it tells you a lot about where the fire is burning - and it sure ain't under Lieberman. Nathan Newman observes that just about everyone was pretty enthusiastic about Kerry as a second choice, which is definitely good news for his chances.
21:06 BST


If you're not worried about the economy yet, let Nathan Newman explain to you about the 401(K) problem.

In the mail, Allen Brill responds to my post about David Neiwert's article about Fascism and Fundamentalism by referring me to a post at The Right Christians: Another component of this is the Reconstructionist wing of the Christian Right. These folks want to take us back to the world of the Late Bronze and early Iron Age with laws taken from the first five books of the Bible. They claim considerable influence in the GOP, especially Tom DeLay. See [link].

Cowboy Kahlil says: The viciousness of the current Republican extremism cannot be repulsed by squishy centrism that abandons the lower middle classes and those marginalized by race, gender, sexual preference, neglect of political commitment to fair educational opportunities, and exported corporatism promoting the cause of underpaid labor. Centrist positions are the end results of negotiation and compromise. If you begin at the center with the Republicans at the extreme Right, the end result will be much further right than can be healthy for all but the privileged few.

From Doug Hamlin: Under the Supreme Court ruling, awarding "extra" points to whites is okay while awarding "extra" points to minorities is illegal. So, the Michigan selection index, after Monday’s ruling, amounts to nothing more than affirmative action for whites.
13:00 BST

Sunday, 29 June 2003

Hate speech

"The attitude (among lawmakers) is castrate them, poke their eyes out, whatever you do, it's OK, because they're sex offenders," said Fred McCaw, president of Iowa's district attorney association, to the Los Angeles Times. "But this law protects nobody."
The law in question is a "safety zone" requirement that prevents any sex offender who has returned to society from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care center. In Iowa, that leaves them almost no place to live.
23:29 BST

The American Traveler International Apology Shirt

Via Monkey Media Report.
09:26 BST

Saturday, 28 June 2003

Racist shoots self in foot

Jerome Doolittle at BadAttitudes Journal found another one:

Take Alabama governor Bob Riley. Please.

Riley won the office by campaigning in the GOP’s autopilot mode: Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. But once he got into the governor’s mansion and took a look at the books, he realized he would instead have to raise taxes. His own party wouldn’t be of any help, but Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature after all.

Only now it looks as if they’re not going to help him either, and all because he can’t bear the thought of blacks voting. No Republican can forget (and no Democrat should) that Gore would be president today if Jeb Bush hadn’t illegally purged thousands of blacks from the voting rolls.

And so:

On Tuesday, Mr. Riley vetoed the prize legislation of the Legislature's Black Caucus, a long-sought bill that would have eased the restitution of voting rights to felons who have served their sentences. Now, black lawmakers are threatening to abandon Mr. Riley's tax plan in retaliation.
The governor argued that keeping felons from the polls after they had completed their punishment was racially neutral because "Over the last four years, those convicted of felonies in Alabama were almost statistically evenly divided by race. Fifty-four percent were African-American, and 45 percent were white."
That's a knee-slapper. Who thinks 54% of Alabamans are black? Who thinks cops are as likely to trawl white neighborhoods looking for drugs? Yeah, that's racially neutral.
20:48 BST

The one-party state

K Street is where the lobbyists hang out. Lobbyists for corporations and business groups used to be from all over the chart, but the Republicans are sewing them up. Here's Nicholas Confessore, in The Washington Monthly:

Welcome to the Machine
How the GOP disciplined K Street and made Bush supreme.

When presidents pick someone to fill a job in the government, it's typically a very public affair. The White House circulates press releases and background materials. Congress holds a hearing, where some members will pepper the nominee with questions and others will shower him or her with praise. If the person in question is controversial or up for an important position, they'll rate a profile or two in the papers. But there's one confirmation hearing you won't hear much about. It's convened every Tuesday morning by Rick Santorum, the junior senator from Pennsylvania, in the privacy of a Capitol Hill conference room, for a handpicked group of two dozen or so Republican lobbyists. Occasionally, one or two other senators or a representative from the White House will attend. Democrats are not invited, and neither is the press.

The chief purpose of these gatherings is to discuss jobs--specifically, the top one or two positions at the biggest and most important industry trade associations and corporate offices centered around Washington's K Street, a canyon of nondescript office buildings a few blocks north of the White House that is to influence-peddling what Wall Street is to finance. In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."
Indeed, it's striking how openly and unapologetically Bush and his party have allied themselves with corporations and the wealthy. The rhetoric of compassion aside, no one who pays attention to what goes on in Washington could have much doubt as to where the Bush administration's priorities lie. If the economy doesn't improve or unemployment continues to get worse, the GOP may find it's not such an advantage to be seen catering so enthusiastically to monied interests. But most Republicans seem confident that the strength they gain by harnessing K Street will be enough to muscle through the next election--so confident, in fact, that Bush, breaking with conventional electoral wisdom, has eschewed tacking to the political center late in his term. And if the GOP can prevail at the polls in the short term, its nascent political machine could usher in a new era of one-party government in Washington. As Republicans control more and more K Street jobs, they will reap more and more K Street money, which will help them win larger and larger majorities on the Hill. The larger the Republican majority, the less reason K Street has to hire Democratic lobbyists or contribute to the campaigns of Democratic politicians, slowly starving them of the means by which to challenge GOP rule. Already during this cycle, the Republicans' campaign committees have raised about twice as much as their Democratic counterparts. So far, the gamble appears to be paying off.

It wouldn't be the first time. A little over a century ago, William McKinley--Karl Rove's favorite president--positioned the Republican Party as a bulwark of the industrial revolution against the growing backlash from agrarian populists, led by Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. The new business titans flocked to McKinley's side, providing him with an extraordinary financial advantage over Bryan. McKinley's victory in 1896 ushered in a long period of government largely by and for industry (interrupted briefly, and impermanently, by the Progressive Era). But with vast power came, inevitably, arrogance and insularity. By the 1920s, Republican rule had degenerated into corruption and open larceny--and a government that, in the face of rapidly growing inequality and fantastic concentration of wealth and opportunity among the fortunate few, resisted public pressure for reform. It took a few more years, and the Great Depression, for the other shoe to drop. But in 1932 came the landslide election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the founding of the very structure of governance today's Republicans hope to dismantle. Who knows? History may yet repeat itself.

I'm not the only one who finds this scary. Read Paul Krugman, for example:
In principle, Mexico's 1917 Constitution established a democratic political system. In practice, until very recently Mexico was a one-party state. While the ruling party employed intimidation and electoral fraud when necessary, mainly it kept control through patronage, cronyism and corruption. All powerful interest groups, including the media, were effectively part of the party's political machine.

Such systems aren't unknown here — think of Richard J. Daley's Chicago. But can it happen to the United States as a whole? A forthcoming article in The Washington Monthly shows that the foundations for one-party rule are being laid right now.

In "Welcome to the Machine," Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation — from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.

It's funny how conservatives rave about the wonderful '50s and forget that one of the good things about the '50s was that we could look back at this type of government and say, "Thank god we've stopped doing that!
16:59 BST


Donna Brazile has an article in the WSJ called "What Would Scoop Do? that advises Democrats on how to address the national security issue. What interested me about it was the by-line info:

Ms. Brazile, who served as the campaign manager for Gore 2000, is a political strategist and a member of the board of advisers of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank on terrorism. Mr. Bergreen served in the State Department during the Clinton administration and is the founder of Democrats for National Security.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, eh? Man, I knew there was a reason I didn't like that woman.
15:42 BST

Summing it up

And Mark Evanier does:

Odd Thought

At some point during his long, intolerant career, Strom Thurmond must have said, "They'll legalize homosexuality over my dead body."

I can't improve on that.
02:10 BST

Friday, 27 June 2003

Business as unusual

The Daily Howler is interested in the way Bush's lying is being spun for us by the press:

Read Rosenbaum's article—and study his steps. As we'll see in the next few days, others are taking the same slick approach to this serious question.

Step 1: Set up the straw man. Instantly, Rosenbaum fashions a straw man. Here is his opening paragraph:

ROSENBAUM (pgh 1): The hunt for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq has been fruitless. The tax cut turns out to give no break whatsoever to millions of low-income taxpayers. In the view of some Democrats, President Bush has been lying about these and other matters, the way Lyndon B. Johnson lied about Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon about Watergate and Bill Clinton about his sex life.
As Somerby points out, not a lot of actual Democrats have been coming out and using The L Word. Rosenbaum then goes on to say that Bush only "exaggerated" rather than lied; this is the morality game, of course. As I believe I've mentioned before, this confuses the question of whether we can rely on Bush to give us adequate information with whether we can judge his immortal soul. The real issue here is that, for whatever reason, Bush delivers untruths to the public that have the real effect of deceiving the governed into appearing to consent to what we do not, in fact, consent to. Whether he is a deliberate liar or simply incompetent does not invalidate the observation that he cannot be trusted.

Of course, we have the "everybody does it" ploy:

ROSENBAUM (7): Mr. Bush is not alone in selective emphasis. Robert Dallek, the presidential historian, recalled that in the 1940 election campaign, President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted he would not take America into war unless this country was attacked by a foreign power. Toward the end of the campaign, when his Republican opponent, Wendell L. Willkie, seemed to be gaining, Roosevelt simply dropped the "unless" line.

(8) When presidents are trying to make fundamental changes in national policy as Mr. Bush is, said Donald F. Kettl, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, "they've got to find a way that's powerful and persuasive and politically attractive and tap into what the public can grab."

Two interesting games: One is to compare ordinary political hedging with an outright lie on policy. Roosevelt said he wouldn't make war unless we were attacked, then he stopped phrasing it that way. This doesn't actually constitute an undertaking not to defend the United States if we were under attack, a campaign promise that would not have gone over big with the public. Roosevelt did not, in any case, initiate a war, but simply responded to the fact that war had been declared on the US.

Rosenbaum, like other Bush defenders, is also playing the "it's necessary to lie to change policy" game. This might be true if there were a larger truth that the public simply refused to believe, or to which the public would react in thoroughly counterproductive ways, but there's no evidence that this is the case. Americans want to be reasonably safe from terrorism or from outright war against us, but all the evidence says that what Bush really did was put us in greater danger than we were in before and, worse, alienate the nations that might otherwise come to our defense if such a need arose. Bush did not lie in order to protect and defend our nation and its laws as he swore to do on 20 January 2001; rather, he lied because what he planned to do was violate that oath and do something that was indefensible. He has been stomping all over the Constitution and betraying America's faith for his own ends and without regard to the reasonable desires of the citizens of our country.

In his first paragraph, Rosenbaum attempted to equalize all hedging or untruths by presidents with Bush's outrageous refusal to be honest about his policies.

But let's be perfectly clear, here: Bush has been lying in ways we have never seen before, and in some cases they must be deliberate, outright lies that he knew perfectly well could not be true. For all the claims that the untruths he utters are always someone else's fault, can anyone really believe that he is so stupid that he did not know, in the first presidential debate with Al Gore, that his claim to have been outspent by Gore in the campaign was diametrically opposed to the truth? Bush's entire campaign for the first year was based wholly on the fact that he had broken all records in fund-raising. Everyone knew those funds were coming from major corporate donors and not from "the little people". Yet Bush used the lie that Gore had received twice as much funding as he had in order to deceive the public into believing that it was Gore, and not he, who was most beholden to corporate interests.

This is very different from your standard campaign dissembling. A candidate may talk about presenting legislation that they know the public wants but that they also know (and don't say) that Congress will never pass. They may actually present such legislation. They may even fight for it. But they don't really expect it to happen, and that's something they aren't going to admit. In the end, when it fails, they can blame the other guys; the point is that they try, that they keep it in the public mind, and that no one is allowed to forget that it's an issue. If they win the election based on such "promises", at least people should be aware that it is a position the public supports, even if the other party does not. (That's the theory, of course. According to that theory, the Republicans should still be wearing the albatross after having deliberately killed the health care program Clinton had promised and that the public had endorsed.)

As for "everybody" doing it, this was legitimately a defense Democrats made of Clinton over his slutty behavior. It was legitimate because, as far as we know, most presidents have been adulterers, including during their time in office, and no president has ever been officially investigated for it. It has never been treated as worthy of that kind of attention, and generally has been off-limits. While the press may sometimes have directed questions to the White House about presidential affairs, evasions and even outright lies from the executive have been acceptable - unless it was Clinton. But both of Clinton's predecessors in office were known adulterers, and so was his opponent in the 1996 campaign. Both Reagan and Dole had ended up leaving their wives for their lovers. Bush had lied to the press when asked about his affair. None of this was ever regarded as a big enough deal to turn into a federal case, and with good reason: The simple fact is that if having sex and lying about it is the worst thing we have to worry about in a president, we're not in terribly bad shape. The problem is that the only president this was possibly true of was Clinton; in the cases of Bush and Bush, we're talking about lies that cost lives and have devastating consequences for America.

Clinton and Gore, constantly accused of being liars, were actually minimalists when it came to campaign exaggerations. Of course, most human beings are reticent to shine a spotlight on their own errors and weaknesses, and these two men were not exceptions to that rule, but we're not talking about that. When Bush doesn't want to talk much about his history as a law-breaking inebriate, that's understandable; when Bush tries to pretend he is invading a country to protect us when in fact that country poses no threat to us, and pretends he supports the public school system, a patients' bill of rights, and low taxes for ordinary working people, that's something else. He's lying about who he is and what he stands for, and the first lie was when he claimed to stand for honor and dignity in the White House. His version of "honor and dignity" has meant that if America is as good as its word, it's no good.

So let's see. Bush didn't lie, like Dems have said. No, he just exaggerated. And other presidents have done the same thing—indeed, a president has to! Finally, Rosenbaum applies the coup de grace, right at the end of his article:
ROSENBAUM (pgh 21): The question on Iraq…is whether Mr. Bush stepped across the line dividing acceptable politicking from manipulation. Some critics hold that Mr. Bush twisted intelligence to conform with his policy goals. This can probably be answered conclusively only by historians when all the evidence and consequences are known.
Did Bush "twist intelligence?" We won't know for years. Translation? Don't even ask.
Nixon's and Bush's lies are significant. We need to know what Bush's White House has been up to, just as we needed to know what Nixon and his plumbers were up to. Clinton's unwillingness to admit to his dalliance with Monica Lewinksy was not significant. It is reprehensible to pretend these are equivalent.
15:37 BST

Stuff to read

The Smirking Chimp has posted Gene Lyons' latest, Back to Basics, in which Gene discusses the recent revelation by Wesley Clark that the White House tried to press him into helping them fabricate connections between Iraq and the terrorist attacks on 9/11 ("starting immediately after 9/11"), and wonders why it isn't big news.

Bush's re-elect numbers now well under 50%.

FCC muzzles independent radio station

Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post points out that there is a big downside to bipartisanship, which can result in ugly concoctions like the prescription drug plan currently making its way through the Hill.

Epicycle has an entertaining exploration of the unfriendly relationship between Budweiser (the original) and Budweiser (the Johnny-come-lately).
02:18 BST

Thursday, 26 June 2003

Unfriendly Skies

A letter to The Washington Post says:

President Bush is probably not even aware of it, but his fundraising junkets and vacations are disrupting the lives of thousands of Americans -- including general aviation pilots such as myself -- and costing many small businesses big bucks.

Until recently, the standard radius of a "presidential movement" temporary flight restriction (TFR) was 10 nautical miles. The Secret Service and the Defense Department have increased it to 30 nautical miles. Thus the number of square miles covered by each TFR has increased from 314 to 2,827.

When the president went to Maine for Father's Day weekend [news story, June 14], the TFR affected at least 450 aircraft based at more than a dozen airports that collectively have more than 200,000 operations a year. Affected airports included Pease International, just north of Boston, and Bangor International. The TFR basically cut off the coastal corridor to general aviation traffic.

More than 20 airports are within the TFR for the president's ranch in Texas. Many of these are private strips owned by neighbors of Mr. Bush who use light aircraft to manage their livestock. If a 30-nautical-mile TFR becomes common around Camp David, it will essentially shut down Frederick Municipal Airport, the second busiest in Maryland.

Neither the Secret Service nor the Defense Department has given any justification for this change. Maybe if the president sees this letter, he'll remember that he works for the citizens whose lives he is disrupting and he will order a reinstatement of the 10-nautical-mile TFR. [David Reinhart]

15:14 BST

Wednesday, 25 June 2003

Last words to live by

Robert of Soapbox Canyon has burnt out on blogging, but he's left a final message that we should all take to heart.
23:04 BST

If you sleep, you'll just have nightmares

The Poor Man says:

Well, I'm confident that will all work out for the best. Liberals may complain that giving so much power with no transparency to people with a track record for distorting the truth for political ends may be both unwise and unAmerican, but if we'd listened to those crybabies Osama would still be on the loose and Saddam would still have his nuclear weapons. Now, in honor of Brad DeLong, I am going to bang my head against the wall.

UPDATE: After studying the sturdy state college construction of the cinderblock walls here, I have resolved instead to ponder the eternal mystery: "why we are ruled by these idiots?"

22:13 BST


My apologies for the glitch with the June archive yesterday. Don't know what happened, there, but it was fixed when I retransmitted the page. is doing The L Word: IN BUSH WE TRUST? by John Moyers (This administration is built on lies, and the granddaddy of them all is Mr. Bush's promise to restore "honor and integrity" to the Oval Office); ALL THE PRESIDENT'S LIES by Drake Bennett and Heidi Pauken (Bush's rhetoric bears no resemblance to his policies. How does he get away with it?); and THE RECKONING by William Rivers Pitt (The Bush administration owes an explanation to the American people and to the world for the carnage it caused with its lies and exaggerations.).

Other rights are hanging by a thread, says Robert Kuttner.

Via Buzzflash, A top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons told Congressional committees in closed-door hearings last week that he had been pressed to tailor his analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views, several Congressional officials said today, says The New York Times. Also, remember those Predator drones Bush pulled out of the sky prior to 9/11?

It is in the compelling national interest to examine what we were told about the threat from Iraq. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was faulty. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was distorted. From another good speech by Senator Robert Byrd.

War Profiteers Card Deck
20:13 BST


MoDo says Clarence Thomas is halfway to Upminster:

Justice Thomas's dissent in the 5-4 decision preserving affirmative action in university admissions has persuaded me that affirmative action is not the way to go.

The dissent is a clinical study of a man who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received.

It's poignant, really. It makes him crazy that people think he is where he is because of his race, but he is where he is because of his race.

Y'know, this is probably true. And to her final sentence, I can only say, "Amen."
19:41 BST

Sobered up

Science fiction is full of stories in which Our Hero, by some accident or other, fails to get his state-mandated dose of mind-altering drugs and therefore his IQ rises to the point where he can see what is actually going on, including the fact that he is drugged up in the first place. The few journalists who have these moments of clarity are still unlikely to take that last step, although we do get the occasional epiphany. In most cases, though, they get dosed-up again and seem to forget that insight; the David Brocks are rare.

In any case, it looks like someone forgot to give Richard Cohen his dose before he wrote yesterday's column, because it seems to have worn off again:

Sidney Blumenthal titles his account of his White House days "The Clinton Wars," but it could just as easily be called "The Blumenthal Wars." Reviewers have called him a Clinton "courtier," "Sid Vicious," a "lady-in-waiting" and, by the strongest of implications, a liar. Yet to actually read the book brings another term to mind: "mad." This is what Washington was during the Clinton years.

I do not mean all of Washington. After all, many Democrats fought valiantly for Bill Clinton -- or, if not for him, then against Ken Starr, the moralistic prig of a special prosecutor. Ditto some members of the press, who realized that no matter what Clinton did, what was being done to him -- and the presidency -- was far, far worse.

But you would get little of that from most of the reviews. Barely mentioned are the censorious comments of Samuel Dash, Starr's ethics counselor, who, in the book, characterizes the special prosecutor as a morally obsessed inquisitor. "He lacked a lot of judgment," Dash told Blumenthal. "Starr didn't see the difference between a sin and a crime. His judgments were distorted." Dash says that Starr could have ended his investigation much earlier than he did. He had, really, nothing.

The same has to be said about Filegate, Travelgate and all the other scandals, including the overriding influence China supposedly exercised over the Democratic Party. In each and every case, there was a nugget, an infraction, something suspicious. But now, all these years later, it is hard to recall just what these scandals were about. That's hardly the case, say, with Watergate. To this day I can tell you it was about abuse of power by the Nixon White House -- and White House aides went to jail. None of Clinton's White House aides was even indicted.

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Starr was preceded by Robert Fiske, who was removed from office by Republican judges on account of a disabling conflict of interest -- experience as a prosecutor, fair-mindedness and estimable professionalism. Starr, in turn, was succeeded by a third prosecutor, Robert Ray, another pro. The FBI was in the hands of Louis Freeh, who loathed Clinton. Various congressional committees were run by the likes of Al D'Amato, who -- in the manner of naming a nunnery after Hugh Hefner -- just got his name put on a Long Island courthouse. As for the news media, they went after both Bill and Hillary Clinton full time. The result? Zip.

Most of the country did not need Sid Blumenthal to tell them this, of course; a considerable number of us were simply astonished every time we picked up the papers, not to mention horrified. The press corps was obviously nuts, and by behaving this way, they empowered a historic abuse of power by Congress, the judiciary, and Ken Starr himself.

Cohen does have these occasional moments of clarity, as he did when he acknowledged his failure to filter Colin Powell's "convincing" presentation of phony WMD evidence against Iraq through the lens of some healthy journalistic skepticism. But here he fails to mention that he, too, was drinking from the same heavily-dosed waters as the rest of Washington's blitherati. (That would explain why he can no longer remember what "Filegate" and "Travelgate" were about. I certainly remember, because they were scandals - press corps scandals, that is.) And, chances are, he'll be back on his meds by tomorrow. But we can always hope.
13:36 BST

Cookin' with gas

Hesiod supplies the recipe for the Heavenly Omelet, in between a lot of interesting political posts at Counterspin Central. Meanwhile, he mailed out a pointer to this little item in Flablog:

When US Rep. Mark Foley said Democratic Party operatives spread stories that he was gay to destroy his US Senate bid, I didn't buy it. One: Foley is not a contender the Dems particularly fear. He's not much known outside of South Florida; the Republican base won't turn out for him; and there's this issue of sexuality which just won't go away. Two: the first stories that appeared about this tended to quote conservative activists. Well now a Republican aide concedes she had helped circulate the rumors.
Ho ho ho.
13:19 BST

Privatized hell

From Crisis Papers

In colonial Philadelphia, firefighters were employed by private insurance companies which, of course, had financial incentives to minimize damage to their clients' properties. Plaques with the insurance company's insignia were placed on buildings, so that the fire fighters would know whether or not it was their "business" to put out the fires on the premises. (These plaques are often found today in antique shops). If the "wrong" plaque was on the building, well, that was just tough luck. Of course, with their attention confined to a single building, fire fighters were ill-disposed to prevent a spreading of the fire to adjacent "non-client" structures.

Occasionally, when the building's insurance affiliation was in some doubt, competing fire companies would fight each other for the privilege of putting out the fire, resulting in more water aimed at fire fighters than at burning buildings.

Eventually, the absurdity and outright danger of this system led one prominent Philadelphia citizen to come up with the idea of a publicly funded and administered fire department.

His name was Benjamin Franklin: America's first anti-free-enterprise commie pinko nut-case.

Franklin's subversive left-wing ideas were extended to include libraries, post offices, and public schools, and, if we are to believe some of today's self-described "conservatives," [Note 1] it's been downhill ever since.

And that's what the Republicans want to "fix".
12:54 BST


More from Danny Goldberg's book, where he tells us: How the Left Can Get Its Groove Back. Well, actually, he really tells us how the Democrats have been losing it, but that's the title of the piece, anyway.

This is weird: The headline at Peter Werbe's website says he was fired from I.E.America immediately after his show Friday, with no warning.
12:30 BST

Weasel words

Paul Krugman says:

For example, some commentators have suggested that Mr. Bush should be let off the hook as long as there is some interpretation of his prewar statements that is technically true. Really? We're not talking about a business dispute that hinges on the fine print of the contract; we're talking about the most solemn decision a nation can make. If Mr. Bush's speeches gave the nation a misleading impression about the case for war, close textual analysis showing that he didn't literally say what he seemed to be saying is no excuse. On the contrary, it suggests that he knew that his case couldn't stand close scrutiny.
In other words, he deliberately weaseled, he was "economical with the truth", he dissembled. Or, in the Republican phraseology, he was "Clintonian". After all, the man used "evidence" that was seriously dated - a good ten or twelve years old - to make a case for a war now. So I guess it depends what the meaning of "is" is.
12:10 BST

Tuesday, 24 June 2003

Watching the censors

Mark Evanier says that this Doonsbury strip was censored by The Westchester/Rockland NY Journal News, who deleted Bill Bennett's name from it. And he also reports that a prominent French anti-porn campaigner "has been accused of attending sadomasochistic orgies and conniving in the murder of a transvestite prostitute who threatened to expose him and other pillars of the establishment in the city of Toulouse." I tell ya, those anti-porn types just can't be trusted.
22:56 BST



Buckingham Palace says, "utterly appalling".

Marvel editor- in- chief Joe Quesada said: "Princess Diana is a mutant. Like every good superhero, she's coming back from the dead. She's going to join one of the X-Men teams.
19:06 BST

Even scarier

Earlier we looked at Fascism and fundamentalism by David Neiwert with some alarm. David has been warning us that, while fascism has not exactly arrived, the pieces are starting to line up. But after posting that piece, he ran into something that made him wonder if he'd been too hesitant to see how far it's all gone:

'The Hitler concept'

A couple of months ago, Harper's ran a story by Jeffrey Sharlett, a religion writer, on a secretive Washington, D.C., group that calls itself 'The Family':

Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats

It was chilling, particularly considering the way these supposed Christians let slip their underlying, and apparently undying, admiration for Adolph Hitler:

"Yes," Doug said, "it's good to have friends. Do you know what a difference a friend can make? A friend you can agree with?" He smiled. "Two or three agree, and they pray? They can do anything. Agree. Agreement. What's that mean?" Doug looked at me. "You're a writer. What does that mean?"

I remembered Paul's letter to the Philippians, which we had begun to memorize. Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded.

"Unity," I said. "Agreement means unity."

Doug didn't smile. "Yes," he said. "Total unity. Two, or three, become one. Do you know," he asked, "that there's another word for that?"

No one spoke.

"It's called a covenant. Two, or three, agree? They can do anything. A covenant is . . . powerful. Can you think of anyone who made a covenant with his friends?"

We all knew the answer to this, having heard his name invoked numerous times in this context. Andrew from Australia, sitting beside Doug, cleared his throat: "Hitler."

"Yes," Doug said. "Yes, Hitler made a covenant. The Mafia makes a covenant. It is such a very powerful thing. Two, or three, agree." He took another bite from his plate, planted his fork on its tines. "Well, guys," he said, "I gotta go."

The story details the Family's incredible wealth of genuine power connections, as well as its thoroughgoing fundamentalism, coupled with its steely intentions to run the world. It's fascinating and disturbing.
It sure is, and David was even more disturbed after reading another article that spelled it out some more:
I read this last night after posting "Fascism and fundamentalism" and thought I was being slapped upside the head. I'm aware that I suggested that fascimentalism was largely only latent in the landscape. The existence of this group, however, makes me wonder if it isn't fully active now. Certainly I can't think of a group that better fits the description:
"A political movement that claims to represent a Phoenix-like resurrection of a true national spiritual identity, focused on building a theocratic state that receives its imprimatur from God, ultimately adopting a rule based on scriptural inerrancy, and intent on dominating and imposing its will upon the rest of the world."
From reports of what's been going on at the Department of Justice these days, I can't help wondering just how far that wealth of power connections David talks about really goes. Certainly John Ashcroft's crackpot theories and behavior seem to fit very neatly into this mold. Why, if one were prepared to give any credence to the incoherent acid-dream that makes up the grand finale of the New Testament, one might just get the impression that The Beast is already on the prowl....
15:35 BST

Blog bits

Dennis Kucinich is running on the Harry Potter platform.

Via Oliver Willis, an article on another stupid Supreme Court decision, upholding a requirement to use online filters. Vote against them in the poll on the same page. (Read this if you don't already know why.)

TBogg catches Glenn Reynolds making another objectively pro-dishonesty statement, this time about George Galloway.
11:01 BST

Department of Tell Us What You Really Think

This from Leah at Eschaton:

In our lifetime, has there ever been a more duplicitous, puffed up, putrid, scummy, oily, mendacious, sluggish, thuggish, lying, thieving, conniving, political SOB than Dick Morris?
I gotta admit, this guy is not on my greeting card list. Meanwhile, Treasy has a few choice words for the Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action. (Also see Talk Left, How Appealing, and Scotusblog.)

And Talk Left doesn't mince words on John Ashcroft:

Nat Hentoff's new column in the Village Voice, Justice Denied at the Source is a must-read. He begins,
"The clear lesson is that the government, in its understandable and laudable resolve to protect our security, cannot be relied on to protect our basic rights and liberties." Lawrence Goldman, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, responding to the Justice Department inspector general's report on the post-9-11 mass imprisonment of immigrants with roots in this country

"We did not violate the law." Attorney General John Ashcroft, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on June 5.

The column addresses the Inspector General's report on the treatment of detainees and the mounting evidence that Ashcroft is unfit for the office he holds. Congress may be beginning to take note.
Actually, we had a mountain of evidence that Ashcroft was unfit to hold any office back when he was still in the Senate. We're past "mounting" and on to "overwhelming" evidence.
00:48 BST

Monday, 23 June 2003

Where's the anger?

That's what Jimmy Breslin is worried about:

Friday, the newspapers and television reported the following matter with no anger or effort to do anything other than serve as stenographers for the government:

On March 1, give or take a day, in Columbus, Ohio, the FBI arrested an American citizen they say is Iyman Faris. There wasn't a word uttered. He vanished. No lawyer was notified. He made no phone calls and wrote no postcards or letters.

He was a United States citizen who disappeared without a trace into a secret metal world.
In mid-April, again in deep secrecy, the government says Faris was allowed to plead guilty to plotting to pull down or blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. He was in a sealed Virginia federal courtroom. If he had a lawyer, that was some lawyer.

After that, he was sentenced. We don't know what the sentence was because it is sealed.

I don't know what Faris looks like or sounds like or what he thinks and what he was doing. He could be the worst. I don't know. Prove he wanted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and let him paste a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cell wall for inspiration over the next half a century. But first bring him into open court and try him. Pretend you live in America. Even pick a jury. I don't know. What a thing it would be if he comes up not guilty.

What we do know is that this is your country now.

Once before this, in 1942, we detained Japanese-Americans in secrecy. The nation swore never to do it again. We haven't. This case is out of the old Soviet Union. He was neither booked with television watching nor arraigned in front of a judge. Anybody concealed by government agents and guards for more than three months could have marks on him somewhere. And our newspeople write like the worst of the old Pravda. I read in papers from everywhere yesterday morning, "After Mr. Faris was secretly arrested three months ago... " and "court papers this week said that Mr. Faris secretly pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism last month." They say. They were simply typed out, as if to report the guy getting a parking ticket. Now, the FBI doesn't even tell you the right name of a kidnapped man and makes the news reporters love it.

This isn't your country. Not anymore.
17:04 BST

What you need to know

The Republicans claim to be better at running the country fiscally. They claim Democrats are budget-busters while they are "fiscally responsible". They claim to keep inflation and unemployment down, and to be the party of small government. Dwight Meredith checked the numbers and posted his findings at P.L.A. in a series of posts. But man, you know what a drag it is digging up a whole series of posts on Blogspot. So I decided to put them together on a single page at The Sideshow Annex. Go read Just For the Record right now, and then fax it to every Democrat you can think of.
01:24 BST


Quoted by Jerome Doolittle: "Sixty of the 62 international terrorists, according to a March story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, turned out to be Middle Eastern students who had cheated on a test; specifically, they had paid others to take an English proficiency exam required for college or graduate school."

You never know what's going to show up in your referrer logs. Is this the result of someone still using Netscape?

Zap your brain and be a "Savant for a day".
00:39 BST

Sunday, 22 June 2003

It's no secret

Over at The Smirking Chimp, Rich Proctor lists Seven true things you can't say on television (or anywhere else):

3) THE BUSHIES ARE DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO COVER UP THEIR COMPLICITY IN THE 9-11 TRAGEDY - The Democrats know it. The families of the 9-11 victims know it. Hell, even the Republicans know it, and the Bushies MUST know it, because they're doing it right under our noses. I mean, c'mon, 70 plus million to investigate Clinton's dick, and a measly FOUR million to investigate the most heinous act of terrorism in American history? The Bushies classify every relevant document, and censor every report, and stymie every lead.

But you can't say that on television. On television, what gets said and repeated is, "The Bush Administration is pressing for a thorough investigation that doesn't compromise national security." They're not pissing on your head. No, that warm yellow stuff is rain. Really.

4) THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS MAKING US MORE, NOT LESS VULNERABLE TO ATTACK FROM TERRORISTS - The Bush Administration certainly has its priorities in order. Two million dollars for a Super Bowl ad telling pot smokers they're aiding terrorists? Yeah, that's a great use of tax dollars. Funding "first responders" and making sure they have the communications gear to handle a terror emergency? Naaaaaah, cut that line item. Spend two billion to secure our ports so terrorists can't smuggle in a suitcase nuke? Slash that bit of pork barrel nonsense. Provide funding for airlines for equipment to detect and divert a shoulder-fired infrared-homing missile, of the type favored by terrorists? What a waste of money! ("CONDI - Gin up a memo saying, 'We had no idea that could possibly happen' in case it happens. That'll cover us good. Dubya. P.s. destroy this memo")

Of course, you can't say this on television. What you can say, "The Bush Administration is taking all sensible, reasonable precautions against future terror attacks." Fox News - We Deceive, You Believe.

And why can't you say it? Why, because it's Politically Incorrect, of course. As you already knew if you clicked on that link to Palast's The screwing of Cynthia McKinney, now also re-posted at The Smirking Chimp:
I suppose it's my fault, McKinney's electronic lynching. Unlike other politicians, McKinney, who's earning her doctorate at Princeton's Fletcher School of Diplomacy, enjoys doing her own research, not relying on staff memos. She's long been a reader of my reports from Britain, including transcripts of BBC Television investigations. On November 6, 2001, BBC Newsnight ran this report with a follow-up story in the Guardian the next day:
Probes Before 11 September

Officials Told to 'Back Off' on Saudis Before September 11.

FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the US before the terrorist attacks of September 11. US intelligence agencies have come under criticism for their wholesale failure to predict the catastrophe at the World Trade Centre. But some are complaining that their hands were tied.

FBI documents shown on BBC Newsnight last night and obtained by the Guardian show that they had earlier sought to investigate two of Osama bin Laden's relatives in Washington and a Muslim organisation, with which they were linked.

And so on. There was not one word in there that Bush knew about the September 11 attacks in advance. It was about a horrific intelligence failure. This was the result, FBI and CIA/DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) insiders told us at BBC, of a block placed on investigations of Saudi Arabian financing of terror. We even showed on-screen a copy of a top-secret document passed to us by disgruntled FBI agents, directing that the agency would not investigate a "suspected terrorist organization" headed in the US by a member of the bin Laden family. The FBI knew about these guys before September 11 (with their office down the street from the hijackers' address).

The CIA also knew about a meeting in Paris, prior to September 11, involving a Saudi prince, arms dealers, and al Qaeda. Although the information was in hand, the investigation was stymied by Bush's intelligence chiefs. This is what McKinney wanted investigated.

Why were the Saudis, the bin Ladens (except Osama), and this organization (the World Assembly of Muslim Youth) off the investigation list prior to September 11, despite evidence that they were reasonable targets for inquiry? The BBC thought it worth asking; the Guardian thought it worth asking – and so did Congresswoman McKinney. Why no pre-September 11 investigations of these characters?

And what was the reason for the block? According to the experts we broadcast on British television, it was the Bush Administration's fanatic desire to protect their relations with Saudi Arabia – a deadly policy prejudice which, according to the respected Center for Public Integrity of Washington, DC, seems influenced by the Bush family ties, and Republican donors' ties, to Saudi royalty. McKinney, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, thought the BBC/Guardian/Observer investigation worth a follow-up Congressional review.

According to NPR, her "loony" statement was made on the radio news show Counterspin. (Not incidentally, Counterspin is produced by an NPR competitor, the nonprofit Pacifica Radio Network.) I have the transcript; it's on the web. Her charge that Bush knew about the September 11 attacks in advance and deliberately covered it up can't be found.

What can be read is her call for a follow-up on the revelations from the BBC and USA Today on the information about a growing terror threat ignored by Bush . . . and whether the policy response – war, war, war – was protecting America or simply enriching Bush's big arms industry donors and business partners. Fair questions. But asking them is dangerous . . . to one's political career.

See, that was Politically Incorrect. And, to pick up something I mentioned earlier, so was this:
The New York Times wrote about McKinney that Atlanta's "prominent Black leaders – including Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP and former Mayor Maynard Jackson – who had supported Ms. McKinney in the past – distanced themselves from her this time."

Really? Atlanta has four internationally recognized black leaders. Martin Luther King III did not abandon McKinney. I checked with him. Nor did Julian Bond (the Times ran a rare retraction on their website at Bond's request). But that left Atlanta's two other notables: Vernon Jordan and Andrew Young. Here, the Times had it right; no question that these two black faces of the Atlanta Establishment let McKinney twist slowly in the wind – because, the Times implied, of her alleged looniness.

But maybe there was another reason Young and Jordan let McKinney swing. Remember Barrick? George Bush's former gold-mining company, the target of McKinney's investigations? Did I mention to you that Andy Young and Vernon Jordan are both on Barrick's payroll? Well, I just did.

Did the Times mention it? I guess that wasn't fit to print.

Meanwhile, back at 9/11:
The BBC report which got McKinney in hot water mentioned the Bush Administration's reluctance to investigate associates of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which the FBI secret document termed "a suspected terrorist organization." They may be. They may not be. McKinney's question was only, Why no investigation?

Just after McKinney's defeat, the courier of Osama bin Laden's latest alleged taped threat against the United States was busted in Africa: He was on the staff of WAMY. Shortly thereafter, Prince Abdullah, the Saudi dictator, invited WAMY leaders to his palace and told them, "There is no extremism in the defending of the faith."

So if you listen to U.S. radio and read U.S. papers, you are told this: Abdullah's protector and godfather, George W. Bush, is sane and patriotic, and McKinney, who wants to investigate these guys, is a loony and a traitor. Got it?

Just how "loony" is McKinney? Hell, I don't know, but compared to an establishment that doesn't consider the background to 9/11 worth investigating, she's not the one who sounds like a loony.

Back in the '70s, when we used the term "Politically Incorrect", we were joking. (I mean, c'mon, we were talking about shaving our legs.) But now, it's all too serious.
15:46 BST

Quick, who wrote this?

An antidote for grand imperial ambitions is a taste of imperial success. Swift victory in Iraq may have whetted the appetite of some Americans for further military exercises in regime change, but more than seven weeks after the president said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," combat operations, minor but lethal, continue.

And overshadowing the military achievement is the failure -- so far -- to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption -- the core of the president's foreign policy -- is in jeopardy.

To govern is to choose, almost always on the basis of very imperfect information. But preemption presupposes the ability to know things -- to know about threats with a degree of certainty not requisite for decisions less momentous than those for waging war.
For the president, the missing weapons are not a political problem. Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, says Americans are happily focused on Iraqis liberated rather than WMD not found, so we "feel good about ourselves."

But unless America's foreign policy is New Age therapy to make the public feel mellow, feeling good about the consequences of an action does not obviate the need to assess the original rationale for the action.

Until WMD are found, or their absence accounted for, there is urgent explaining to be done.

Okay, I omitted some paragraphs where he hedges and offers Bush an out, but still, this is pretty heavy criticism, coming as it does from George F. Will.
13:52 BST

"A crook-coddling pinko"

That's William Saletan's paraphrase of a characterization of George W. Bush in a recent speech by John Edwards in which the presidential hopeful attacked Bush's economic policies - and, friends, Edwards is right on the money. So to speak. Saletan refers to the speech as "audacious", and I guess if you consider how few are coming and saying it, he's right. It's a simple statement of the obvious, and about bloody time:

More than anything else, what's holding our economy down is the callous view of a few at the top in Washington and in the corporate world that the values that got us here can now be left behind.

American's small businesses create jobs better than any government program. Our markets allocate capital more efficiently than any bureaucrat.

Yet our free enterprise system also depends on values: innovation, integrity, hard work, and great rewards for honest success. When those values disappear, our country suffers. The flood of corporate scandal in these past few years has not only torn at the roots of public confidence, but washed away the financial security of millions of Americans through layoffs, bankruptcies and destroyed pensions.

Our economy, our people, and our nation have been undermined by the crony capitalists who believe that success is all about working the angles, working the phones, and rigging the game, instead of hard work, innovation and frugality.

And these manipulators find comfort in an Administration which, through its own example, seems to embrace that ethic.
America can withstand a plunge in corporate valuations, but we cannot abide a plunge in corporate values. We can overcome the worst job market for people seeking work since the Depression, but not an economic theory that says work doesn't matter.
The President and I agree on one thing: this campaign should be a debate about values. We need to have that debate, because the values of this president and this administration are not the values of mainstream America, the values all of us grew up with – opportunity, responsibility, hard work.

There's a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner.

For a man who made responsibility the theme of his campaign, this president sure doesn't seem to value it much in office. We've lost 3.1 million private sector jobs. Over $3 trillion in stock market value lost. A $5.6 trillion budget surplus gone, and nearly $5 trillion of red ink in its place. Bill Clinton spent 8 years turning around 12 years of his predecessors' deficits. George Bush erased it in two years, and this year will break the all-time record.

Yet even with all those zeroes, the true cost of the administration's approach isn't what they've done with our money, it's what they want to do to our way of life. Their economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work.

Make no mistake: this is the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism a century ago. Like socialism, it corrupts the very nature of our democracy and our free enterprise tradition. It is not a plan to grow the American economy. It is a plan to corrupt the American economy and shrink the winners' circle.

This is a question of values, not taxes. We should cut taxes, but we shouldn't cut and run from our values when we do. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan argued for tax cuts as an incentive for people to work harder: Americans work hard, and the government shouldn't punish them when they do.

This crowd is making a radically different argument. They don't believe work matters most. They don't believe in helping working people build wealth. They genuinely believe that the wealth of the wealthy matters most. They are determined to cut taxes on that wealth, year after year, and heap more and more of the burden on people who work.

How do we know this? Because they don't even try to hide it. The Bush budget proposed tax-free tax shelters for millionaires that are bigger than most Americans' paychecks for an entire year. And just last week, Bush's tax guru, Grover Norquist, said their goal is to abolish the capital gains tax, abolish the dividend tax, and let the wealthiest shelter as much as they want tax-free.

Look at the choices they make: They have driven up the share of the tax burden for most working people, and driven down the burden on the richest few. They got rid of even the smallest tax on even the largest inheritances on earth. This past month, in a $350 billion bonanza of tax cuts on wealth, they couldn't find $3.5 billion to give the child tax credit to poor people who work. Listen to this: They refused to cut taxes for the children of 250,000 American soldiers who are risking their lives for us in Iraq, so they could cut dividend and capital gains taxes for millionaires who were selling stocks short until the war was over.
It is wrong to reward those who don't have to work at the expense of those who do. If we want America to be a growing, thriving democracy, with the greatest work ethic and the strongest middle class on earth, we must choose a different path.

That's right. These people have said outright that people who work for a living are not worth much to the country, that only the rich people who run things provide anything of value - so the rest of us should have to pay taxes, and they shouldn't. What they can't get from us at the retail level they want to funnel back to themselves through the government, by taxing us and spending the money on programs that provide them with billions of dollars in lump sums.

By cutting the taxes on their own unearned income, they are not "cutting taxes", they are shifting the tax burden so that working people carry a heavier load.

A country where the sweat and toil of mill workers can give a boy the chance to one day run for President is a far different place than a country that says how you're born, not how hard your work, is all that matters. I owe everything I am to the America I grew up in. I hope you'll join with me and fight with all we've got to save it.
Not a bad description of liberal capitalism, and certainly mainstream.
12:40 BST

Saturday, 21 June 2003

The Vision Thing

LiberalOasis recommends:

The Right Christians pens a 5-part series on the importance of dreaming of a better future, and how the Christian Right doesn't
Back when everyone was talking about the Columbine killings, I observed that the young men who murdered their classmates saw this event, and how they would be remembered for it, as their only future - that they saw no living future for themselves; this kind of thinking leads to appallingly destructive actions.

The Christian right in America similarly sees no earthly future, and this means they have no stake in it, and no committment to it. Thus, as we saw with James Watt, gutting our resources is not "a problem" - vandalizing them for the sake of fighting Armageddon is the real goal.

So we leave planning for our future in the hands of people who want to live like there's no tomorrow because they don't think there is one.
19:35 BST

Blog news

Dwight has some great stuff up at P.L.A., like the hilarious news that Ann Coulter has joined the pile-on over the "inaccuracies, lies and distortions" of Jayson Blair, and an evaluation of Dick Morris as "more pathetic than Keith Richards" for continuing to fabricate Clinton scandals, and just FYI, this:

Playing chess, bridge or a musical instrument significantly lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, according to the most comprehensive study to examine the benefits of challenging intellectual activity among the elderly.
No real surprise, but it should make a few people feel better. And maybe make it easier to find a fourth for bridge.

Digby has been missing in action at an undisclosed location for over a month. He's finally returned, but we still don't really know where he was or why.
15:16 BST

Music news

Eric Alterman says:


Quick, somebody get Radiohead a copy (four copies?) of What Liberal Media? Here's Thom Yorke in Spin: "I absolutely feel crazy at times. Anybody who turns on the TV and actually thinks about what they're watching has to believe they're going insane or that they're missing something everyone else is seeing. When I watch the Fox News channel, I can't believe how much nerve those people have and how they assume that people are just going to swallow that s**t."

Also, if you're one of those evil people who thinks, "The U.S. is being run by religious manic bigots that stole the election," you're in good company.

14:01 BST

Seeing the sites looks pretty interesting this weekend: WHOSE MEDIA? by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney ("The Senate Commerce Committee has bucked the FCC. What happens next depends as much on the public as it does on members of Congress"); FREE SPEECH, INC. by Lisa J. Danetz ("Should Nike have the same First Amendment rights as you?"); and DEMOCRACY'S TRUST FUND by William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins; and on their weblog, Take on the News, a possible presidential primary run by Ralph Nader - as a Republican.

In Salon, Eric Boehlert talks to survivors of those who died in the 9/11 attacks, now frustrated by the fact that no one is asking the necessary questions.

Roger Ailes (the other one) reports that Jeffrey Archer's wife has hinted her husband may go save Iraq when he gets out of jail.

MadKane has written The Democrats' Anthem for the 2004 election, to the tune of "Blowin' in the Wind".

Skimble reacts to the return of Chuck Colson (R-jailbird) to the White House to join his fellow Watergate criminals and their successors. ("This is Bush's America, the Peter Principle writ large: not so much an avoidance as a hatred of competence — a culture and a national economy of meritopathy, nominally led by the AWOL business-failure son of a one-term president.")

The Rapture Index (via Naswol Press Online).
12:20 BST

Local news

The sunlight's streaming through the windows; Happy Solstice. Sure beats the grey, chilly, rainy weather we had 18 years ago when we got married. Bet no one expected it to last this long.

People were queuing up at the bookshops waiting for the latest Harry Potter novel to go on sale at midnight, but we didn't. Anyway, if you went to Tesco's this morning, you could just pop it in your basket with your groceries, which is why there was a copy sitting on my desk when I woke up today.

And if you happen to be in England and have never seen the movie that's sometimes referred to as "Lust in the Dust", Channel 3 is showing Duel in the Sun this afternoon at 1:10.
11:55 BST

Friday, 20 June 2003

"Sounds like influence peddling to me."

That's the word from Lisa English on the cozy relationship between Louisianna Congressman Billy Tauzin and the Big Media Lobby. A major problem, as Lisa reminds us:

Now, you might say that these things are done all the time, and you might then just be inclined to dismiss this information as more of that Same Old, Same Old, but I encourage you to stick with me.

The American media is not just any industry. Our media shapes public opinion. They wield greater power than any other business, and many believe the media lobby in Washington is the most powerful and influential in the land. How powerful? Well, they were strong enough to defeat a universally popular Clinton proposal that broadcasters provide free airtime for all candidates. Broadcast airtime is the single most expensive ticket item in a candidate's budget. Without money, there's no airtime. Without airtime, a new face - yours, mine or his - on the political horizon has virtually no chance of defeating an incumbent. Once you're "in," you're "in" unless someone can come up with enough money to outshine you on TV, radio and print. Without free airtime, politicians become beholden to special interests as they beg for more and more money in order to pay the broadcaster's bill. It's pretty incestuous stuff. As Lewis notes...

The dirty little secret is that from 1996 through 1998, the NAB [National Association of Broadcasters] and five media outlets -- ABC, CBS, A.H. Belo, Meredith Corp., and Cox Enterprises -- cumulatively spent nearly $11 million to defeat a dozen campaign finance bills mandating free air time for political candidates.
In a nut: they were mighty successful. This industry, that publicizes itself as replete with integrity and stands bias-free is anything but. The spookiest part, is that our lawmakers are petrified to do anything about it. You'd be scared too, if raising your voice in favor of Free Airtime meant an opponent got as much spotlight as you. You'd be scared too, if fighting Big Media's assault on democracy meant that the camera steered clear of your face in political retribution. Is that a valid fear? Were I a politician, I'd venture to say, "yes."

Rep. Tauzin leads one of the most powerful committees in Congress and it's looking as if he's not going to permit a bill that rescinds the FCC's Giveaway to Big Media to reach the floor of the House.

Why should he?

Of course, the straight answer is that he should because the airwaves belong to the people, and because an informed public is necessary to give government the legitimacy of coming from the consent of the governed. But that's the last thing Tauzin and his cronies want. Read the whole story and follow Lisa's advice on taking action now. Don't let this issue die.

Lisa also offers the chance to play Greedy TV.
14:42 BST

Democrats need to get it, Part 116

Many people have been linking to the excerpt from Danny Goldberg's How the Left Lost Teen Spirit in Salon, and for good reason. There are several fine things about this piece, not the least of which is a clear expression of mainstream liberalism:

Dispatches From the Culture Wars

Even though majorities of the American public regularly tell pollsters they want national health insurance, tighter gun control, better pay for schoolteachers, energy independence, and stronger environmental regulation, advocates for these causes seem unable to translate this public support into political results. Not only has the Democratic party grown considerably weaker over the past few decades, but mainstream Democrats have moved steadily away from progressive causes. The 2002 election was merely the latest example of Democrats walking away from millions of their supporters and potential supporters, supposedly for politically pragmatic reasons, but with toxic political results.
What exactly is "my" side? In previous eras there were more clear-cut definitions of what "left" and "right" were. Today there are dozens of variations. On economic issues I'm a typical liberal. Having run my own businesses and having worked for big corporations, I have a basic belief in capitalism, but I think that government, representing the collective will of the citizens, has a special obligation to balance out the excesses of the marketplace. I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes to have national health care, better paid schoolteachers, smaller class sizes in public schools, and more jobs programs to help get people out of poverty and help average-income people deal with their lives more easily.

It seems to me that many Western European countries have been better at supporting people on the low end of the economic spectrum than Americans have, and the extent of poverty in America seems immoral to me given our country's wealth. Although I've never been a member of a labor union, I believe they should be stronger. Corporations have so much power that it seems healthier to me for there to be a strong counterweight on behalf of workers. I also think our country should be more generous with foreign aid given the immense poverty around the world.

Conservative rhetoric that implies that private charities can replace government doesn't ring true to me. I know that governments tend to be inefficient, but there are some things that only government can do, such as build highways, protect the environment, provide police protection, etc. The environment is an area where it's particularly important for government to enforce the public interest when it clashes with the economic interest of businesses.

And by the way, there's plenty of corruption and inefficiency in the business world as well. I'm fascinated by the antiglobalization movement and I suspect that important moral leadership will emerge from there, but I'm not particularly sophisticated about many of the underlying issues.

See how easy it is? That's probably more of a forthright expression of liberal values than most of the current crop of presidential contenders have expressed in the last few years, and the remarkable thing about it is that it's not the main thrust of the article - that is, he's said all that (and more) virtually as an aside to his real focus, which is addressing the weaknesses in the Democratic leadership's current way of expressing itself to the public. One obvious problem:
Not surprisingly, cultural conservatives frequently bemoan the state of the popular entertainment culture. It was ever thus.

Most of my own battles, however, have been with liberals and Democrats, many of whom I've supported in political campaigns. Starting in the mid-1980s, Democratic politicians and left-wing intellectuals began agreeing with cultural conservatives about the supposedly negative effects of popular culture.

The Democratic party's commitment to culture bashing was exacerbated during the Clinton era and reached a new pinnacle with the national ascendance of Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. But it's not only so-called New Democrats who have embraced attacks on pop culture. So have important voices on the political and academic left, including, at times, Ralph Nader and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Most liberal snobs are from my own generation, the so-called baby boomers. Cultural conservatives want their children to grow up like they did; liberal snobs are afraid theirs will. Conservatives attack pop culture going back to the turn of the last century. Liberals will extol the virtues of pop culture well into the Sixties and conveniently claim that "something changed" shortly after they themselves came of age.

Liberal snobs tend to focus on violence and bigotry, cultural conservatives on sex. There are virtually no Democratic voices sticking up for youth culture. Although conservative Christians are a vital part of the national Republican coalition, many Republicans are actually more open-minded on the issue of free speech and pop culture than many Democrats, and I'm not just talking about libertarian conservatives such as P. J. O'Rourke and Ann Coulter. President George W. Bush was seen on magazine covers with U2 lead singer Bono following a meeting about debt relief in the third world, and Bush cracked jokes while welcoming rock/reality-TV star Ozzy Osbourne to a White House dinner. There are no policy implications to any of this, but politically it sends a message that Bush is a "regular guy," whereas Democrats, whose actual agenda is far more relevant to young people, come across as uptight, preachy elitists.
When I interviewed Gary Hart for this book he speculated that American politics was less progressive now because more of the public was "less compassionate" than they had been in the 1960s. If this were so, Republicans would have increased their share of eligible voters. Instead, the big increase has been among nonvoters, and more recently, Nader voters.

If Hart were correct, George W. Bush would not have described himself with the poll-tested phrase "compassionate conservative." The moral lessons of the 1930s and 1960s have been ingrained in the majority of the public. There is a consensus against racism and for fairness. The debate that conservatives have cleverly constructed is not about compassionate goals but about whether or not progressive programs actually work. The failure of progressives has been their inability to explain to average Americans why their particular solutions are better or even how their ideas are different. On the weekend before the 2002 election, the New York Times published the results of a poll of Americans in which they asked people about their sense of the vision of each major political party. Forty-two percent felt that the Republicans "had a clear plan for the country," if they gained control of Congress. Only 31 percent felt that the Democrats did.
A big part of the problem for Democrats is that they keep narrowing the spectrum of political debate, fearful of alienating anyone. In 2000, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg urged Democrats to run a campaign stressing moral and religious values, because he said that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had "again associated Democrats with Sixties-style irresponsibility." This argument ignored poll after poll showing that most Americans were not as offended as Washington pols and pundits by Clinton's sexual misconduct. This sort of advice helped persuade Al Gore to choose culturally conservative moralist Joe Lieberman as his running mate, and to run a shambles of a campaign that reduced the Democratic margin of young voters (ages eighteen to twenty-four) from 19 percent in 1996 to zero in 2000. It was as if the Democrats had written off the young vote, so important to them in the past. Because of the shibboleth that "young people don't vote," younger voters are rarely included in the focus groups that drive campaigns. This has created a vicious cycle of self-destructive thinking by the Democrats: Young people don't vote, so don't bother with issues and techniques that might attract young votes.
Another vicious cycle was created. Bush gains popularity as a figurehead after a national tragedy. Democrats don't criticize him for fourteen months. Bush, uncriticized and unchallenged, remains popular. Bush uses that popularity to defeat Democrats. It's not just the loss of younger voters that should concern Democrats, it's the loss of youthful energy and innovationthe loss of teen spirit, embodied in a popular culture that almost inevitably is created by the young and then spreads into the rest of the population. It wasn't just voters from ages 18 to 24 who were turned off by the sanctimonious yet wishy-washy Gore-Lieberman campaign. Millions of Americans who believe in free speech and who want universal health care and gun control and higher public teacher salaries and tougher environmental regulations were not convinced that the Democrats agreed with them, because the party's message was so cautious and muted and clumsily presented.

Given the intricacies of public policy, it seems trivial to some of my political friends that I spend so much time and energy worrying about "packaging" instead of "substance." But in a democracy, politics without communication is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest without a witness. The unseen and unheard message might as well not exist.

And there we have the bottom line: the Democratic leadership is simply not communicating because it is afraid to seem...liberal. It's as if from the moment Republican spinners started using the word "liberal" as a pejorative, the entire Dem leadership fell into a mass hallucination in which the country had suddenly rejected everything that most people obviously believe in. And the weird thing is, they know the public believes in those things; somehow, they think, they have to allow Social Security, public schools and Medicare to be dismantled but they can't allow anyone to know they are doing it. But they think the country is "more conservative" so that's actually what people will vote for. What kind of thinking is going on there?

Most of us recognize that Lieberman is dead but just doesn't know it yet, but why does the DLC join him in this fantasy that he is a viable candidate? Well, because they believe the lies they hear from the inside-the-Beltway hallucination zone which is led by wealthy conservatives; indeed, many of them are wealthy conservatives. The only vaguely oppositional views they are likely to hear come from the "balance" of the Republican leadership itself, which is actually very far to the right. And they've invented for themselves an idea that it is now "hip" to be turned-off by "old-fashioned" ideas like, well, progressivism, and that it's somehow cool to be some sort of modern idea of a conservative. (I mean, really, "Hipublicans"? Shouldn't the very coinage of such a word make the country ring with derision?)

A while back I wrote to my Senators and told them how alienating it was to have the party represented by the likes of Lieberman and Fritz Hollings who were ranting against pop culture content while at the same time attacking the means by which young people communicate with each other. I don't imagine they took any notice, of course, but at least one of them eventually sent me a thank you note. (Though I can remember the days when all letters to my reps were acknowledged within a few weeks. I guess e-mail killed the feasibility of that kind of thing.)

Hey, here's an idea: Why not fax Danny's article to all your Dem reps, your local Democratic party headquarters, and the Democratic leadership? Maybe if enough people do it, it'll help break the spell.
12:52 BST


Smythe's World notices another creepy nominee:

Blocking the confirmation of a number of judicial nominees has become the painless way for Democrats to act out the role of an opposition party, to paint the President as an extremist without having to take any hard positions on their own. The pending nomination of former Ken Starr protoge/hatchetman Brett Kavanaugh is a sign that the Bush Administration is no longer serious about significantly altering the ideological position of the federal courts: by picking a nominee who has no chance of confirmation, and who can be filibustered even easier than Charles Pickering or Miguel Estrada, he sends a message to his base that he's on their side, without having to concern himself with the possibility that his nominee will embarass him with a controversial ruling from the bench before the next election.

For Democrats, this will be like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Besides writing the Starr Report, Kavanaugh was one of the more obsessive investigators hunting leads on the death of Vincent Foster, at one point arguing before the Supreme Court that the attorney-client privilege expires upon the death of a client. This nomination allows Senate Democrats the chance to conjure up the spectre of Kenneth Starr, a prospect that already has the party base salivating. Bush, on the other hand, appeases his base, then gets the political benefit of nominating a less reactionary candidate when a Supreme Court vacancy opens up. Both sides win by this doomed nomination; the only loser is the hapless Mr. Kavanaugh.

This assumes, of course, that the Bushistas don't just find some way to ignore Senate rules or by-pass them. Why should they care? No one's going to be verifying the ballots....
11:58 BST

Who's serious about national security?

At the pub I realized no one else had noticed the Rand Beers story, so for those of you who fit in that category, here it is:

Five days before the war began in Iraq, as President Bush prepared to raise the terrorism threat level to orange, a top White House counterterrorism adviser unlocked the steel door to his office, an intelligence vault secured by an electronic keypad, a combination lock and an alarm. He sat down and turned to his inbox.

"Things were dicey," said Rand Beers, recalling the stack of classified reports about plots to shoot, bomb, burn and poison Americans. He stared at the color-coded threats for five minutes. Then he called his wife: I'm quitting.

Beers's resignation surprised Washington, but what he did next was even more astounding. Eight weeks after leaving the Bush White House, he volunteered as national security adviser for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a Democratic candidate for president, in a campaign to oust his former boss. All of which points to a question: What does this intelligence insider know?

"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

And Matt Yglesias says:
Seems to me that this is about where the Bush administration is on foreign policy and counterterrorism: Either you're really working on Bush's re-election campaign or else you're serious about getting things done and you're leaving to work for someone else.
11:09 BST

Thursday, 19 June 2003

Scary stuff

I know I linked it earlier on, but the more I think about it, the more I want everyone to read David Neiwert's piece on Fascism and fundamentalism at Orcinus, so here's a teaser to try to encourage you non-clickers:

Over the past two decades, the most important meeting ground for the broad range of rightist beliefs has been in the field of fundamentalist Christianity. Extremists frequently organize around an arcane brand of fundamentalism like Identity; mainstream conservatism has become increasingly identified with mainstream fundamentalism; and even ostensibly secular conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush pay great obeisance both to its belief system and its political agenda.

When brought together, the coalescence has consequences: mainstream conservatives commingling with theocratic ideologues and extremists. The former has real-world power; the latter have agendas. To the extent that connections are made, the more likely those agendas are to actually be enacted. It becomes especially problematic as extremist elements exert an increasing influence on the broader fundamentalist sector.

The danger arises when someone like George W. Bush makes overt political appeals to the fundamentalist views of his followers -- particularly in portraying himself as receiving divine guidance. This gives him not only a kind of immunity from fault, giving his every step the Lord's imprimatur, but places him in a charismatic position of dual political and religious leadership. It has the effect of leading individual followers to identify their religious beliefs with Bush's political agenda. It also draws the entire fundamentalist bloc behind him politically. The more we hear talk about Bush leading a national political and religious rebirth, the more we approach the conditions needed for a genuine fascism to arise.

There's a lot of interesting discussion here about the history of far-right groups that were openly admiring of Hitler and also had a distinct "Christian" image of themselves, and then:
Through most of the intervening years, these extremists were relegated entirely to the fringe. It was easy to distinguish between mainstream conservatives and the participants in the Identity and Posse movements, and only at the edges of both sectors (see, for example, the colorful career of former Rep. George Hansen, R-Idaho) was there much exchange of ideas and agendas. Likewise, there was a tremendous gulf between mainstream Christianity, even the fundamentalist variety, and the Christian fascists.

That began to change in the 1990s, thanks to the confluence of two forces: the emergence of the Patriot movement and the growing revolutionary fervor of conservatives in their drive to dominate the halls of power. The proto-fascist Patriots represented the efforts of Christian fascism to mainstream itself, and their relative success, though fleeting, gave a surprising indication of the presence of a totalist mindset in America, particularly among conservative fundamentalists. Conservatives, looking to broaden their appeal and undercut mainstream liberalism, began adopting more ideas and memes that had their origins in the Patriot movement, thereby blurring the barriers that had once clearly delineated the mainstream and extremist right.

This is important stuff, go read it all.
17:25 BST

Ever wonder what kind of information Bush based his denials of death penalty appeals on? Alan Berlow got the details.
Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.

Thanks to Leah at Eschaton for providing yet another invaluable link.
16:42 BST

I saw this quoted at Bartcop:
"Well spank me with a haddock and call me Maureen. Who could possibly have predicted this? It turns out that "Halliburton's contract to restart Iraq's oil production has doubled in cost over the past month, and the no-bid work may last longer than expected," according to the AP. Oh, and while the Army originally said that a new contract would be awarded through competitive bidding by August (since Halliburton got the gig without having to compete) they've suddenly changed their minds. You know, I'm stunned. I would never in a million years have guessed that Dick Cheney's former company would somehow manage to get a non-competitive, open-ended, no-ceiling contract to rebuild the country that their ex-CEO just destroyed. I mean, how could an administration of such honor, ethics and integrity possibly allow this to happen?"
16:29 BST

Liberal TV is something that's gotta be done; naturally Al Gore is on the job.

Huey gets e-mail.

Suburban Guerilla wonders how, without Greg Palast, we would know the real reason that Cynthia McKinney had to be shafted.

Mark Fiore cures what ails ya.

South Knox Bubba discovers an interesting new BDSM event.

Jim Capozzola bows out of Senate race.

I'm proud to say that Ken McLeod followed a link from here to another link and was made to think about his spooky past. (Glad I could help, Ken.)

The 2000 Election: In your heart, you know Gore won.
09:49 BST

Wednesday, 18 June 2003

You should be screaming

And you definitely should read Jim Henley today:


What has the appeals court authorized?

Secret detentions.

Please say those words aloud. "Secret detentions." Now use them in a sentence:

The US government engages in the practice of secret detentions.

The US government has broadly asserted its right to engage in the practice of secret detentions.

A federal appeals court has affirmed that the US government may engage in secret detentions.

Here's a more complex sentence, for the bonus section: There is nothing in the logic of Judge David Sentelle's affirming opinion that the United States government may engage in secret detentions that would limit the practice to illegal aliens, naturalized aliens or foreign visitors to our shores. And another: With its decision allowing the US government to engage in the practice of secret detentions, a federal appeals court has left citizen and non-citizen alike at the mercy of federal discretion.

Secret arrests obviously require arrestees. There is a term for these people, ready for use:

The Disappeared. Desaparecidos in the original, though we will likely want to learn the arabic term. (Another sentence while we're practicing: The Mothers of the Plaza probably never dreamed that their group would one day be the model for American families coping with the US government's secret detentions of their loved ones. Keep this one handy.)

Please go read the rest. I think the 3rd Amendment is the only one we've got left. Maybe.
23:34 BST

Jesse bravely provides Shorter at Pandagon. And more.
22:56 BST

From Dwight at P.L.A.:

Here's a story I doubt you'll see in the American press, US Turns to Taliban.

KARACHI - Such is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, compounded by the return to the country of a large number of former Afghan communist refugees, that United States and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with Taliban leaders in an effort to devise a political solution to prevent the country from being further ripped apart.
Go read. A somewhat different view of what is happening than you'll see from FOX News.

The Bush administration in talks with the Taliban. Try telling an average American about this and they'll think you're crazy -- sort of like a few years back when it was discovered that Reagan was giving missiles to Iran. Of course, the difference is that was investigated and this will never be.

For all the real difference that will make....
15:18 BST

Untelevised has typed up some illuminating quotes from The Clinton Wars, well worth your time to read.

Bernard Williams is somewhat revered in our circles for being responsible for the report on pornography that recommended making it legally available to adults (ignored, alas, by the PM). He has died at the age of 73.

Tarek has a great post up about the Supreme Court over at The Liquid List.

Orcinus examines Fascism and fundamentalism.
14:51 BST

TBogg is watching:
Everyone is all atwitter over Babblin' Jed Babbin's column over at NRO where he says that Osama Bin Laden will attempt to "interfere with Mr. Bush's reelection", even though George Bush is the best thing that ever happened to Osama. Rile up the Middle East against the US? George did it. Pull the troops out of Saudi Arabia? George is doing it. Decrease freedom in America? George is on it. Recruit more followers to al Qaeda? George is the poster boy.
Also from Tom:
If I'm ever arrested for a particularly heinous crime, say, siccing a pack of rabid ice weasels on Ann Coulter, and I'm arrested outside her apartment at the Spinster Arms with a handful of muzzles and a pocket full of Purina Weasel Chow...I want Nicholas Kristof to be on my jury. He has all the evidence he needs to prove that the President lied to the country...and then he lets him off the hook.
Boy, that moral clarity thing sure is catching on.
14:24 BST

Legalizing corporate vandalism

Yep, the Republicans are protecting your rights again:

Hatch Takes Aim at Illegal Downloading
By Ted Bridis

WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.

The surprise remarks by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a hearing on copyright abuses represent a dramatic escalation in the frustrating battle by industry executives and lawmakers in Washington against illegal music downloads.

During a discussion on methods to frustrate computer users who illegally exchange music and movie files over the Internet, Hatch asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.

"No one is interested in destroying anyone's computer," replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds technology to disrupt music downloads. One technique deliberately downloads pirated material very slowly so other users can't.

"I'm interested," Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights."

The senator acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, "then destroy their computer."

"If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize" the seriousness of their actions, he said.

"There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws," Hatch said.

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who has been active in copyright debates in Washington, urged Hatch to reconsider. Boucher described Hatch's role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee as "a very important position, so when Senator Hatch indicates his views with regard to a particular subject, we all take those views very seriously."

Of course, somehow they will try to make this sound like it's all the Democrats' doing, as usual.
02:29 BST

Tuesday, 17 June 2003

I've finally decided to add Julian Sanchez to the tiny category at right of Loyal Opposition - that is, convincingly honest libertarians of a genuinely liberal disposition. The tipping point was this article, in which Julian defends free-markets but points out that:
Well, true enough. But what, again, is "the market?" People talking, sharing information, comparing alternatives. So criticism of some private firm’s behavior isn’t somehow a symptom of hostility to the market. It is the market.

There’s an additional point to be made, though, that is more directly political. Good political structures don’t sustain themselves in a vacuum; this is something conservatives understand well enough, even if their particular notions of what that implies are misguided. Certainly, if the state’s not going to regulate people’s behavior, then to some extent private parties must, by means of owners and organizations placing conditions on their association. But I don’t know that we can ultimately say that legal control is to be avoided but any sort of private control is fine and expect that the private and public spheres won’t affect each other.

Attitudes spill over. A culture in which people become accustomed to employers dictating the minutiae of their lives off the job is unlikely to nurture the kind of love of autonomy that’s conducive to the maintenance of a free political system. A community in which bigotry in employment practices becomes, not an aberration that a few cranks are permitted to engage in, but the unremarkable norm, won’t be apt to see all that much wrong when racial distinctions creep into law. In short, caring about human autonomy means your concern shouldn’t stop at the boundary between public and private. When liberal attitudes die on the private side of that line, the line itself doesn’t have much chance of holding.

Now, personally, I think regulation is potentially a good and frequently necessary thing, but if the environment is one in which the kinds of regulations that are being introduced actually hurt, rather than help, the individual, I can go into as passionate an anti-regulation rage as anyone left or right. But here is a point libertarians and liberals can certainly agree on: If the social and business environment contains no criticism of socially noxious activity by businesses, those socially noxious activities will increasingly become more common, more accepted, and ultimately they may even be enforced by law. So whether or not you think the force of law should be used to, for example, eliminate racist practices, you are under no obligation to refrain from criticizing a company whose practices are racist. You still have to talk up the kind of society you want to have.
23:34 BST

Here and there

I believe Atrios once told me that he had lived in London for a while, so he's not just experiencing the rosy glow of a first-time visitor to Europe when he says:

I'm no Europhile - it's fair to say I choose to live in the US for a variety of reasons over and above the simple fact that it is where I grew up. But, it's hard for me to understand how anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in one of the better European cities to not come away with a sense that they're doing something right and we're doing something wrong. The reverse is true on other issues, of course, but the point is that to some degree it's simply a matter of preference. In many ways, it's hard to beat the urban Yurpean lifestyle.

For all our yammering on about "freedom," it's difficult to argue that day to day personal freedom is somehow more pronounced in the U.S.

Yes, it's all true: On a day-to-day basis, you find no more interference with your personal freedom here than you do in the US. There are things you can get there that you can't get here, and there are things you can get here that you can't get there. There are trade-offs one way or the other: I miss saltines, but I love Rich Tea biscuits and Boasters; the Italian restaurants don't serve manicotti, but the puttanesca is great and there's always some nice crespolina. And so on. As to the evil NHS, I chose my own doctor and no one ever hands me a bill. As usual, most of the worst problems with living here have nothing to do with the government and a lot to do with businesses being able to get away with too much (not too little) - like that extra 50% mark-up on goods. Problems that do come from government are more likely to come from local government than from the state, and reflect whatever the current passion is - just like where you live.

Personally, though, I'd say I have considerably more freedom to dress the way I want, say the things I want, and do the things I want. In many respects, I even have more free speech than I did back home.

None of this means I don't still miss America or that I don't passionately love my country, of course. Truth is, I get homesick just about every day. But lately I have the impression that a lot of people who still live in America feel much the same way....
15:06 BST

The world is waiting for the sunrise counsels:
Former Dennis Miller fans perturbed by his recent swing to the right are advised to look at this. Now. I mean it.
"This" being Rick Chandler's dialogue between Dennis Miller of 1988 and Dennis Miller of 2003. I rather liked this bit:
DENNIS MILLER (1988): We were all scared when those planes swan-dived into the towers, OK? But what separates real Americans from the faux variety is that real Americans don't turn in their spines to the hatcheck lady in times of stress. People in this country today hear the word terrorist and immediately snap into action -- which means locking themselves in the loo, defecating on the Constitution and using the Bill of Rights to wipe their ass. We're made of better stuff than that, and all the shrieking Rush Limbaughs in the world are not worth one brave man who will stand up and say, "hey, the emperor is starkers, and besides that, he wants all of Yemen's oil." I wasn't around, but I'm pretty sure the guys at Valley Forge weren't eating sautéed rat three times a day so that a future president could attempt a three-point landing on an aircraft carrier moored three miles off the coast of Catalina Island. We have to respond to terrorism, but the problem is that we're running around like the lynch mob in The Ox-Bow Incident, and when Hank Fonda stands up and says we got the wrong guy, Jane Darwell whacks him on the head with a gun butt and the next thing you know you wake up behind barbed wire at Guantanamo. All I'm saying is that it's time to scrap the Merle Haggard diplomacy, OK? Oh, and the reason we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction is that they're all in a warehouse in Topeka waiting for the next right-wing militia asshat to work his hatred of the federal government to a sufficient boiling point due to the fact that the local TV station has once again cancelled Dukes of Hazzard. While we're running around the world like Barney Fife at a jaywalkers convention, it's good to know that our schools are shit, our economy is floundering, and they'll have universal health care in Kabul before we have it here. The only good thing to come out of this is that Ari Fleischer took the honorable way out before Bush made him put on the jaunty Iraqi Minister of Information beret and tell us the moon is made of Sonoma Dry Jack. Ah fuck it, where's my propeller beanie?
11:03 BST

Charlie Stross explains:
Reasons this century is broken:

  • A smirking chimp sticks one finger up at the public and says "you don't count", as he walks away with a constitutional coup and the keys to the last remaining superpower in his pocket.
  • A camera looking up at bright sky and tall buildings, as an airliner streaks in from one corner of the frame.
  • Cops clubbing journalists trying to monitor demonstrations against the Owners. We've been bought and sold like cattle and most people don't even realise there's a price tag stapled to their ear.
  • Oligopolists make a power grab while the watch geese sleep uneasily, their gizzards stuffed with stolen corn.
  • Space shuttle breaking up, magnesium-bright shards peeling away from the re-entry trail.

Can I have the real twenty-first century back now, please? I don't want this one; it stinks and bits keep falling off it.

10:22 BST

I saw Tony Benn on TV plugging his new rap record, and they said you could listen to it at his site, but I couldn't find it.
10:08 BST

Monday, 16 June 2003

I'd like to congratulate the folks who are helping Atrios keep Eschaton ticking over at speed while he is on the road, with particular kudos to Leah for a number of fine, substantive posts like Tell Us Something We Don't Know:
The Hill kindly informs us that thinks tanks have displaced academia as shapers of political policy and opinion.

What on earth did they think all those culture wars were all about?
When the final wave of the invasion hit the beaches in the early nineties, Michael Berube, then a young assistant professor, shot back in the Village Voice; it remains one of the best discussions of what was actually going on behind the war cries of "political correctness," "speech codes," "multiculturalism," and "curriculum review."

Ten years later, as Bush began his presidency, Berube took another look at what had happened in the intervening years and came to some surprising conclusions. Both articles are well worth reading. In addition, Seeing The Forest has a lot of excellent analytic and activist posts about countering the influence of rightwing think tanks.

By the time of the Clinton presidency, the banishment of academics from public discourse in the media was almost complete. Oh sure, there were a few token academics, like Presidential Historians, Douglas Brinkley and Michael Bechloss, but such exceptions quickly learned the cardinal rule if you want to be asked back: never contradict the prevailing journalistic CW.

Here was Bérubé in 1991:
Readers who've followed the tortuous course of political correctness (p.c.) in the national press now know that there is no American intellectual community so benighted and blinkered as that of young faculty members in the humanities. If deconstruction is nihilism, if multiculturalism is barbarism, and if feminism is the annihilation of all we hold dear, well, then, you can just imagine what happens when today's newly-tenured and untenured professors put all these things in their big iron cauldrons, together with liberal doses of Foucault Helper. Let's just say that if we young whelps aren't quite the Great Satan, we're what one pundit calls "the new fundamentalists"—or worse yet, in Dinesh D'Souza's catchy phrase, "Visigoths in Tweed." But strange to say, though we're always mocked, derided, and reviled, we untenured radical Gothic fundamentalists are never quoted directly, in speech or in print, in any of the articles we "appear" in. It is as if, as Marx said (in another context, I think), the fundamentalist Visigoths cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.

Well, ich bin ein young faculty member. And what's more, I know a lot of young faculty members. We've been talking a great deal lately, trying to figure out what we think about this p.c. flap. If you've been hearing about us, though, you already know what we talk about. we "reduce" knowledge to power, we read "narrowly" for the ideological ramifications of literary texts. Yes, we plot no less than the destruction of the West. Just the other day a friend and I came up with the most pernicious academic scheme to date for toppling the West: he will kneel behind the West on all fours. I will push it backwards over him.

I remember years ago reading an article by Jonathan Yardley in which he complained bitterly about young academics who were dredging up authors of no talent at all because they had to have something to write about if they wanted tenure, and Shakespeare was already pretty well covered. So they'd come up with all these people you had never heard of - and, Yardley was suggesting, you'd never heard of them for good reason. One of the no-talent authors he named was Zora Neale Hurston. Zora Neale Hurston, whose prose is for me so evocative that I can smell the air when she describes that southern spring day. Yardley wanted to prove, I suppose, that he wasn't just a raving sexist who hated female authors, so he threw out the name of Willa Cather as someone we should, instead, have been studying.

Only one problem: Yardley knew so little of what was really going on at college campuses that he was unaware that, all over the country, even in very liberal areas, Willa Cather had become unknown to anyone who wasn't taking women's studies courses. In the year when I took the course on women's literature and learned about both Cather and Hurston from the same (female) professor - an established Shakespeare scholar who was by no means "young" - the male professor I had for an English comp course used to come into the room carrying all of the books he was using for another course he taught, on American literature. There was not a single book by a woman in the stack. Other students I knew who were taking AmLit from other professors gave me the impression he was not unusual. Women's studies courses weren't there to help female professors cheat to get tenure, they were there to redress the balance. Yes, of course Willa Cather should be taught in college, along with a whole passel of white male authors and the very fine authors of the Harlem Renaissance like Zora Neale Hurston (whether Yardley appreciates them or not). Though conservatives might pretend that the works of "dead white males" were being banished from campuses, what was really happening was the introduction - or reintroduction - of other voices that enriched the curriculum.

The same phenomenon could be seen throughout the social sciences; the conservatives were already there in abundance, but other voices were being added.

And conservatives, in fact, are still there. For all that the right likes to attack what they regard as far-out lefties ruling the academic sphere, they don't bother to mention the conservatives who are seldom publicly railed against because they are so taken for granted as part of the landscape. What conservatives have accomplished is to substitute ignorance and lies for the simplest and most obvious facts. It's all just part of the program.

Special thanks to Leeh for reminding us of the Bérubé article, which definitely belongs on the Essential Unspinner's Reading List.
14:12 BST

Paul Corrigan at K Marx The Spot on Bush Family Irony:
George W. Bush is driven, in part, by a desire to protect his father's legacy. Despite his failed one-term presidency, George Herbert Walker Bush remains popular. However, his legacy has been stained by the popular opinion that the first President Bush blundered when he decided against moving to overthrow Saddam at the end of the first Gulf War. At the time, the Bush administration believed that Iraq was ungovernable. George W. Bush, a man who sees himself as a modern-day Winston Churchill, clearly wanted to remove this Neville Chamberlain-like stain from the Bush family name. Is it not ironic that in his attempt to clear the family name the younger Bush is proving the wisdom of his father?
And Tim Francis-Wright has an interesting suggestion for a presidential candidate.
11:25 BST

Patrick recommends an article by Andrew Reding that reminds readers that the flag amendment passed by the House not only violates the 1st Amendment, but also the 1st Commandment. Says Reding:
By elevating the flag to an object of transcendent veneration -- an untouchable idol -- the proposed amendment strikes at the core of Jewish, Muslim and Christian belief systems.
And Patrick says:
I'm particularly struck by the news that "efforts to use a less loaded term [than "desecrate"] were explicitly rejected by the amendment's sponsors." Well, in a world where "conservatism" stands for record deficits and Federal pre-emption of the states, I guess we have to expect "Christian" politicians to be opposed to that tired old First Commandment. Excuse me while I go outside to stare at the three moons as they race across the green sky.
I believe I've mentioned before my disgust with the people who keep insisting we need to post the Ten Commandments on the walls of courtrooms and classrooms, yet they seem not to have read them themselves. While they were ranting about Clinton's sinfulness for lying, they were apparently unable to understand that it was they and not he who were violating the only Commandment that prohibits lying - specifically, bearing false witness against your neighbor. Having already proved their adherence to Christian doctrine to be a sham, they don't really surprise me when they treat the other Commandments to similar contempt.
11:17 BST

The BBC says Huge van bomb intercepted. "A bomb found in a van at Londonderry was one of the biggest ever found in the UK, police have said."

A little blast from the past.
11:06 BST

Sunday, 15 June 2003

The era of responsibility

William Rivers Pitt:

After several years teaching high school, I've heard all the excuses. I didn't get my homework done because my computer crashed, because my project partner didn't do their part, because I feel sick, because I left it on the bus, because I had a dance recital, because I was abducted by aliens and viciously probed. Houdini doesn't have as many tricks. No one on earth is more inventive than a high school sophomore backed into a corner and faced with a zero on an assignment.

No one, perhaps, except Bush administration officials forced now to account for their astounding claims made since September 2002 regarding Iraq's alleged weapons program.

20:25 BST

Jim Capozzola has posted a little tribute to the women of the blogosphere, and particularly to my partner in crime Lisa English, and to Mary Beth Williams, who certainly deserve it. However, I am dismayed to note that Senator-to-be Capozzola (D-PA) has misspelled my name, the bastard.
19:53 BST

Eric Alterman recommends Today's Papers and offers these quotes:
The Pentagon said a key target in the ongoing Iraq operation is "a terrorist training camp" housing "Baath Party loyalists, paramilitary groups," and maybe some foreigners. Now, Today's Papers wouldn't want to attend camp with any fedayeen, but their recent attacks have been guerrilla actions, not terrorist attacks: They're targeting soldiers, not civilians. Despite that, the Wall Street Journal and USAT adopt the Pentagon-preferred language. The other papers use scare quotes.
This too:
According to USAT's lead, "IRAQ WAR COSTS LESS THAN WAS EXPECTED." That's odd, because $60 bil is right on target with what the Bush administration, after much prodding to make its estimates public, predicted it would be. The White House has declined to release estimates about how much the occupation and reconstruction will cost.
Actually the rest of TP is really smart today too. Read the stuff about Sharon and the tax credit in the House and the Post’s whiff on that, too.
Eric's also got an insightful new piece up at The Nation about Howell Raines and what conservatives really hate about The New York Times.
02:00 BST

Video Game reviews

From Through the Looking Glass

With all the gangster shoot-em-up video games coming out these days, how's a body to know which ones are really any good? decided to ask a genuine expert. They had Henry Hill, the federally protected witness whose memoir was the basis for the movie Goodfellas, try out four games: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, a third called The Getaway, and just for laughs, Animal Crossing, a game in which the player makes friends with furry little forest animals.

The result? Suffice it to say that if the teenager in your life can be persuaded to like the same games as the real tough guys, you might have a much more peaceable household...

Of course, you should also read the more serious post on how we lost the war in Afghanistan, and this one on the wit and wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld and how the administration wants to be unaccountable as it spreads terrorism. Also, more on the products of those special moron-growing tanks.
01:48 BST

Knowing and not knowing

Cheney and his staff continued to get intelligence on the matter, but the vice president, unlike other senior administration officials, never mentioned it in a public speech.
That understated nugget is not explicitly connected to any other dot.

But it's another big fat finger pointing to Cheney as someone who was actively seeking to know, to not know, and maybe to protect others.

That's LiberalOasis on BushCo's's very own Nigerian scam and how it is that "no one" in the administration ever seemed to have learned that the envoy who was sent to scope out whether it was true that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger came back saying it looked fraudulent - despite the fact that he was sent by order of Cheney himself.
01:29 BST


Charles Kuffner says more $2 bills are going to be printed.

Hillary Clinton's book reviewed as a political document.

Josh Marshall discusses the distinct lack of moral clarity about George Bush's lying.

Good review of Blumenthal's book in The Washington Monthly.

Patrick discovers that even the conservative New Republic is cheesed off at the Bush administration's prevarications over WMD. (Some great lines in this one.)

John McCain rehearses RNC spin-points. So much for "straight talk".

How to make friends
01:15 BST

Saturday, 14 June 2003

Last words

I'd never seen the full quote from Vince Foster's note before he killed himself, but Bob Somerby has quoted it in his take-down of Margaret Carlson, so here it is:

No one in the White House, to my knowledge, violated any law or standard of conduct, including any action in the travel office. There was no intent to benefit any individual or specific group

The FBI lied in their report to the AG

The press is covering up the illegal benefits they received from the travel staff

The GOP has lied and misrepresented its knowledge and role and covered up a prior investigation

The Ushers Office plotted to have excessive costs incurred, taking advantage of Kaki and HRC

The public will never believe the innocence of the Clintons and their loyal staff

The WSJ editors lie without consequence

I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.

That pretty much sums things up, doesn't it?
11:38 BST

I decided to take a little holiday Friday afternoon and watch a bunch of Angel episodes instead of writing anything. Then I played with this virtual theramin I found via Wallybrane's Martian Adventures. And of course, got the goods on Lieberman from astute political commentator Huey Freeman.
11:02 BST

Friday, 13 June 2003

Good-bye, Atticus

Gregory Peck

"Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog."

I loved this guy.

He was good in Gentleman's Agreement, he was hot enough to singe your cheeks in Duel in the Sun, but oh, my, he was Atticus Finch, always.

It was my favorite book, and he starred in the movie. And in his real life, he did a lot of other things I was grateful for. Besides, there was that whole thing about him being a song and dance man....
03:40 BST

Blair's reforming reshuffle
Tony Blair revealed a renewed thirst for radical constitutional reform yesterday when he swept aside 1,400 years of history by abolishing the post of lord chancellor and setting up a new US-style supreme court in place of the law lords.
02:18 BST

A warning from Scoobie Davis:
Jack Chick Is Back!
The Chickster has a truly demented comic tract Here He Comes. As the character at the end of the tract warns: "This is no joke!" Enjoy.
Scoobie also takes Hannity's book apart.
02:10 BST

Nobody important

Joseph Duemer at Reading & Writing:

Listening to NPR this morning, both Carole & I were flabbergasted to hear Justice Department spokesperson Barbara Comstock respond (audio link: Patriot Act Faces Opposition) to a question about opposition to the Patriot Act by noting that most of the communities that have passed resolutions in opposition are "in Vermont" or are "college towns in California." (I'm quoting from memory, but the link will give the exact language & context.) Two things stand out about this statement: 1) If you live in Vermont or a college town in California, your opinion is irrelevant; 2) Ms. Comstock would never have included, say, Wyoming in her dismissal of opposition to the act, despite the fact that there is as much right-wing opposition to the Patriot Act as there is left-wing. The reporter went on to interview Bob Barr, who said the act "basically throws out the Fourth Amendment." In fact, there is wide conservative opposition to the Patriot Act; for a Justice Department Spokesperson to imply that the only opposition comes from a few fringe leftists ought to infuriate principled conservatives.
Also a link to this story about how useless Bush is on security.
01:39 BST

Thursday, 12 June 2003

Draft him

I guess of all those who appear to be running at the moment, Dean still looks the best to me. But isn't it strange that the press is now completely ignoring the real front-runner?

A new Time/CNN Poll released May 23 shows that Al Gore remains the overwhelming favorite for the nomination. When his name was added to the mix, Gore garnered 40 percent, with Kerry, Lieberman and Gephardt trailing at 7 percent each.

Specifically, Time/CNN asked: "As you may know, Al Gore has said he will not run for president in 2004. Now suppose Al Gore changes his mind and runs for the Democratic nomination for president -- who would you vote for?"

Gore 40%
Kerry 7%
Lieberman 7%
Gephardt 7%
Graham 5%
Dean 4%
Mosely-Braun 3%
Kucinich 2%
Unsure 32%

He leads polls of likely primary voters in New Hampshire, polls of activist Democrats, and even Zogby's poll. And, let's face it, he's the best man for the job. He spoke up against the invasion before it was even fashionable; he was telling the truth when no one else could be bothered. And not just on the war - on media concentration, on health care, and of course, always, on the budget. He has a long, proven record of integrity. Yeah, the press hates him and will continue to make up lies abouth him, but they're already doing that to Dean and Kerry and all the rest, and at least we already know the anti-Gore lies and what the real story behind them is. Maybe if everyone sent him some money with a note telling him, "We need you. Run," it could happen. Beats hell out of the alternative. Remember, this is the one guy who we know can beat Bush, because he already did.
23:57 BST

Serious business

Take Back the Media is in trouble:

What is the Weiner lawsuit against TBTM really about?
Don Waller

Here's a hint - if they could, they'd stop me from telling you.

As many of you may know, I co-founded the web site Take Back The Media with Mike Stinson and Julie Sigwart in December of last year. We saw a void - a lack of calling the American Media on its acquiescence/complicity in pushing a hard-right agenda in return for the promise of relaxed FCC ownership rules, and we filled that void. TBTM has gone on to become a media watchdog and a valuable news source for others who view the corruption of the media in this country as a direct and imminent threat to democracy.

We feel that the media in this country is - either through ignorance, incompetence or malevolence - systematically silencing and/or marginalizing voices of dissent in this country. Look back at the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and you'll see a path littered with the bodies of dissenters of many different types. You've got informed insiders (Scott Ritter), entertainers with social conscience (Sean Penn, Jeanane Garafalo, Martin Sheen), recording artists who speak their minds (Dixie Chicks, Madonna), entire countries and cultures (France, Germany, 'Old Europe') and patriotic Americans with dissenting points of view (John Kerry). All spoke out aganist the occupation of Iraq, all had one manner or another of hammer fall on them.

Those who spoke out became fodder for shrieking heads on cable TV and hate radio. On a nightly basis, partisan hacks like Joe Scarborough and Bill O'Reilly vented their outrage that there were those in this country who didn't fall on their knees and pledge life-long fealty to an ex-drunk deserter who was placed in position to wage war on the world by a group of partisans in black robes. And talk radio, unbelievably, was even worse.

The Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs and Michael Savages of the world went even further, calling dissenters unpatriotic and Un-American. 'Pro-troop rallies' (which consisted mainly of complaining about those who dared criticize the government) were assembled by Clear Channel Communications, and there were calls from the most hateful fringe to try and imprison dissenters under the Sedition Act (never mind that it was repealed). Pretty perverse - but the festering sewer known as right-wing talk radio somehow found a way to pervert the situation even further.

While Limbaugh and Beck kept the rabble-rousing on a general level, Michael 'Michael Savage' Weiner took things to an absurdly personal level. Weiner's response to a boycott by GLAAD led him to spend hours on his marginally-rated droolfest threatening those who would try to boycott him. In the rush to war, Weiner somehow made the situation all about him, and made threats to go after those who criticized him and make them pay. A Goliath in search of a David, he railed against GLAAD - and then trained his sites on an entirely different target.

Weiner filed suit against 3 small web sites -,, and Take Back The Media.

We should get something straight here - this isn't about any of the charges in the lawsuit. It's not about loss of revenue, it's not about trademark infringement or defamation or damage to Weiner's reputation. It's not about any of these things.

It's about a large corporation attempting to take away the free speech of regular Americans with a point of view. It's about people with deep pockets using money and influence to run roughshod over people who don't agree with them.

Check out the full article for information on how you can help.
13:40 BST

It's not just "history"

Joe Conason, one of a handful of journalists who were brave enough to actually investigate the real Whitewater story and tell the truth about it during the '90s, writes this week in The New York Observer about the bizarre press reaction to Sid Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton's books. And in Salon, historian Sean Wilentz notices an interesting thing:

Five years ago, I testified before Congress that history would harshly judge the unconstitutional impeachment drive against President Clinton. My position was fairly mainstream among American historians. By the time I testified, nearly 500 had signed a letter I helped to write with the distinguished scholars Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and C. Vann Woodward, deploring the impeachment on historical and constitutional grounds. Soon thereafter, a group of more than 400 leading legal scholars, including Cass Sunstein and Laurence Tribe, issued a similar statement.

Not surprisingly, Republicans lambasted both the historians' letter and my testimony, as did journalists and pundits playing amateur historians inside the right-wing media echo chamber. The historians' verdict was clear: The impeachment drive against President Clinton lacked constitutional and political legitimacy. The media's opinion was equally clear: The impeachment was legitimate, and the historians were a fusty collection of liberal elitists who had no business sticking their noses into public affairs.

Now an extraordinary thing has happened. Journalists from across the political spectrum are finally acknowledging that impeachment actually was a partisan crusade on trumped-up charges to bring down a popular president. But they're attacking the book that proves it as ancient history.

And yes, it's really worth clicking through the little ad to read the full article (which I found via Suburban Guerilla).
12:30 BST

Michael Winerip in The New York Times:
In the Affluent Suburbs, an Invisible Race Gap

His research shows that in the years before school, white parents spend more time reading to their children, while blacks devote more to song and play — the start of the Gap. Professor Ferguson writes, "As a black parent, I acknowledge there might be differences in what we do with our preschool children that would put them on a more equal footing with whites on the first day of kindergarten."

While he practices that at home, quizzing his 3-year-old with math problems, he is hesitant to speak too much publicly about advising black parents.

"If it shows up in The New York Times, it's like, wait a minute, here's another guy saying to black parents, 'It's your fault.' This needs to be done within the community."

In this community, Robert Marchman, 45, a lawyer with the New York Stock Exchange, has taken on the Gap. He is chairman of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, which has been sponsoring discussions on the Gap and helped bring Professor Ferguson here.

Mr. Marchman is one of a dozen black dads who run a mentoring program for 30 black eighth graders. "We talk about stuff you hear, like, 'being smart is acting white,'" Mr. Marchman said. "I'll say to them, 'So what does being black mean? To be an idiot?'"

One of my little fantasies is to produce a series of films or television shows about the tradition of intellectual achievement, of Black Excellence - slaves risking their lives to teach themselves and their kids how to read, ghetto blacks doing the dozens, the underrated innovations of George Washington Carver's genius, the founding of black universities, and so on....
12:08 BST

Wednesday, 11 June 2003

Two at TomPaine.Com: Drowning, First-Class Style, by James K. Galbraith:
The fact is, we are acquiring an empire. But the men in charge do not want to pay for it. They have no serious interest in providing security, infrastructure or civil administration to the territories they have conquered. And indeed none of these things are being provided. Yet the burdens of empire can only grow as time passes. Sooner or later, we will have to choose between leaving our conquered territories or putting in the full force required to control them. One way we lose control, while the other can only add to the miseries of our balance of payments. How can the cost be met, especially, if the coin of our realm, the U.S. dollar, is at the same time losing its position? It won't be easy. The problem of empires, historically, is not military defeat. It is bankruptcy. Empires do not tend to business at home, and they tend to lose out to rivals who do. As once with Britain and America, so now with America and Europe? That could be how it will turn out. Do we want this? Much as we may admire and like our European friends, I don't think we do.
Declaring Independence by Senator Jim Jeffords:
Yet the reasons for my switch, while apparent to me then, have become painfully clear to me now. The events of the past two years have only heightened my concern over the president's veer to the right, and the poisoning of our democratic process of government.

The promises of candidate Bush, who pledged to bring a new tone to Washington and packaged himself as a compassionate conservative, are unmet. On issue after issue the Bush administration is not what it claims to be. Since coming into office, the president has dragged the Republican Party into short-sighted positions that maximize short-term gain while neglecting the long-term needs of families and the nation.

Pundits asked after last November's election: will the president over-reach with his Republican majorities in the House and Senate? Well, President Bush hasn't just over-reached, he has set a new standard for extreme partisan politics that on many occasions has been supported by the Republican-controlled Congress.

In place of thoughtful policy we now have superficial and cynical sound-bites. Instead of confronting pressing national problems, our president lands airplanes while Rome burns.

While our troops search for WMD in Iraq, we have found our own WMD right here in Washington -- at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They are President Bush's weapons of mass distortion, or better, distraction. The Bush administration says one thing and does another to take the focus off the present realities.

Does he think we don't notice?
Well, we do notice. We do care. And it does matter.

Some people might not have agreed with my decision to leave the GOP two years ago, but at least I did it for the reasons I said I did. I was honest about what brought me to that decision.

What makes the actions of the Bush administration so troublesome is the lack of honesty.

It amounts, in the end, to a pattern of deception and distortion; ultimately that does not respect the wisdom of the American people.

Man, that guy is not happy.
23:52 BST

Paul Krugman is asking, Who's Accountable? while even William Raspberry is having qualms: The entire administration seems to be singing out of the Billie Holiday songbook: "Them that's got shall get; them that's not shall lose."
23:31 BST

I'm pleased to see that some people are finally complaining about the stupidity of the new Sex Offenses bill:
Editors of teen magazines fear their agony aunts could be jailed for offering responsible sex advice to under-age girls, under a bill now passing through parliament.
Celia Duncan, the editor of Cosmo Girl, a monthly magazine whose average reader is aged 15-16, said she feared the consequences. "This bill is unclear. Agony aunts could be prosecuted."

She said that for many teenage girls, magazines were their only sources of information on relationships. "We get about 500 texts, emails and letters a week. They ask things like, 'How do you know when you are ready for sex? Does it hurt? What does it feel like?'

"We did a survey and 73% said they didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone about these issues. They write to us because it's anonymous. At the moment, we make clear that under-age sex is illegal, but we ask them if they are ready for it, and if they are aware of contraception. How will we answer these letters in future?"

It is a welcome change unless you are under 16, in which case you will not be deemed capable of freely consenting to any kind of sexual activity at all, even with someone of your own age, however ardently you might choose it. What is more, those who aid and abet a criminal act, perhaps by allowing a bunch of 15-year-olds to have a party in their house, could also be breaking the law.
And letter-writers:
Angela Phillips writes that the bill already includes a list of circumstances in which consent would be "presumed to be absent" - for example, when the subject was physically disabled. I am quite severely disabled by multiple sclerosis but quite capable of giving my consent to a whole range of sexual experience in the right circumstances and with the right person. If the bill is passed will I be in breach of the law? And might this add a new frisson? [Meg Taylor]
11:43 BST

A reminder from Eschaton:
June 19th is the magic date That's when John McCain has scheduled a committee vote on legislation that would override the FCC ruling.
Read the whole thing and then write to your representatives!
11:56 BST

Look at this beautiful aurora. And doesn't this one look like a swan?
11:39 BST

Only a teaser for The Worst Bush Tax Cut Yet, by Jonathan Chait, is available online, but this is an informative paragraph:
To understand how deeply the United States has descended into fiscal madness, compare the present situation with the last time GOP tax-cutters ran Washington, the Reagan presidency. Just like George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan used his first year in office to enact a series of tax cuts tilted toward the well-off that helped plunge the nation into debt. For this, Reagan is remembered by both the right and left as an unflinching avatar of supply-side economics. But, in truth, Reagan reacted to the consequences of his 1981 tax cuts in a way that would have put him far out of step with Bush's Republican Party. When the scope of the budget deficit became apparent, Reagan acceded to a series of tax increases in 1982 (in the midst of a severe recession, no less), 1983, and 1984. In 1986, reacting to complaints that his 1981 tax cuts opened too many loopholes for the rich, Reagan enacted a sweeping tax reform that liberals, including this magazine, hailed for making the tax code more progressive. Reagan's record on taxes, in short, consisted of one year of unvarnished conservative ideological warfare followed by seven years of retreat and consolidation....
10:28 BST

Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Like I said, they elect their loonies

As usual, Orcinus is utterly essential on Christianist terrorists:

Eric Rudolph and the face of terror
The arrest of Eric Rudolph has made for some interesting stories afterward. I especially was interested in the New York Times piece about the local reaction to the arrest, which opened with this nugget:
"He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."
Coming from the mouth of someone who lives in a backwater, this kind of sentiment sounds like something from Deliverance. But Davis in fact was expressing a view not far from that voiced by prominent Republicans in key positions.

Rep. Porter J. Goss, R-Florida and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said more or less the same thing during hearings on the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The trouble is, 'terrorism' is a very broad word, and it lends itself to a lot of mischief for people who would abuse common sense," Goss said. He then cited bombings of abortion clinics. "To me, that's not the kind of terrorism I'm talking about."

"That's criminal law enforcement," Goss said. "But it would fit most broad definitions of terrorism because the purpose [of those attacks] is to scare people."

Yep, sounds like terrorism to me. (But do go read the rest.)
18:28 BST

At The Sunday Times, things are not looking good for Tony
As 62% of people find Tony Blair's government untrustworthy, David Cracknell and Nick Fielding examine his 'blunder' on Iraq

It has all the intrigue of the greatest political crisis in modern American history: the anonymous "Deep Throat" briefings to journalists, the accusations of a coverup — and even a leader who sweats in front of the television cameras.

Three decades on from the crisis faced by Richard Nixon, the British prime minister is embroiled in a scandal which, as one Labour backbencher put it, may be "more serious than Watergate".

The allegations that Downing Street embellished raw intelligence material in order to legalise the invasion of Iraq simply will not go away. Tony Blair has been accused by two former cabinet ministers of "duping" colleagues over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and of making a "monumental blunder" over the war.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, told the prime minister last week that "no one believes a word you say".

Via Jerome Doolittle.

15:43 BST

Man, people are stealing my lines again.
15:07 BST

Monday, 09 June 2003


From The Left Coaster:

Your Neighbors May Really Care About the Bush WMD Lies After All

For those of you who question the effectiveness of sending letters to the editor of your local paper to complain about their coverage or to provide anti-Bush comment on opinion pieces or stories run it the paper, I give you this as Exhibit A as to why it is important to do it anyway. Over the last two and a half years, I have ceaselessly been writing letters to the Sacramento Bee complaining about pro-Bush bias in their news coverage and story placement. For the most part, I have written every thirty days and have been published over a dozen times in the last two and a half years. Initially, my letters were the lone anti-Bush letters in the paper on the days that they were published. Then as each month passed, I was joined by one, then two, then four more letters making the same points I was.

If you don’t think people are paying attention to the WMD deception issue, and if you think the polls accurately depict the public’s total acceptance of the “we won, all is well in Iraq and Afghanistan, who cares about WMDs” mantra from the White House, then check out these letters. I also believed these polls until today when I saw this. (There had to be one or two pro-Bush letters on this subject, right? Where are they?) This was from today’s edition of the Bee, and look past the nimrod that wrote the second letter. Keep in mind that the city of Sacramento is the lone Democratic stronghold, except for Davis next door in Yolo County. The rest of the surrounding suburbs, especially to the east are GOP strongholds.

Folks, the WMD story may have legs after all. Write those letters to your local papers and TV stations and let them know it is a big deal to you. You may be surprised how many of your neighbors agree with you.

22:59 BST

Barney Frank speaks:
People say that liberals don't understand the importance of prosperity. I not only understand the importance of prosperity, I miss it since Bill Clinton left office.
21:48 BST

In the Independent:
Spies threaten Blair with 'smoking gun' over Iraq
Senior intelligence officers kept secret records of meetings after pressure from No 10

Intelligence officers are holding a "smoking gun" which proves that they were subjected to a series of demands by Tony Blair's staff in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The officers are furious about the accusation levelled by the Leader of the Commons, John Reid, that "rogue elements" are at work in the security services. They fear they are being lined up to take the blame for faulty intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

The intelligence services were so concerned about demands made by Downing Street for evidence to use against Iraq that extensive files have been built up detailing communications with Mr Blair's staff.

Stung by Dr Reid's accusations about misinformation over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, intelligence officials have given veiled warnings about what may emerge in the two official inquiries into the affair.

"A smoking gun may well exist over WMDs, but it may not be to the Government's liking," said one senior source. "Minuted details will show exactly what went on. Because of the frequency and, at times, unusual nature of the demands from Downing Street, people have made sure records were kept. There is a certain amount of self-preservation in this, of course."

20:31 BST

From The Daily Dystopian:
Scarborough Laughs About Dead Staffer

Conservative MSNBC news host Joe Scarborough was a guest on MSNBC's Imus show last Thursday, May 29.

In complementing Scarborough on his sense of humor, Imus said, "Don't be afraid to be funny, because you are funny. I asked you why you aren't in Congress. You said that you had sex with the intern and then you had to kill her." To which Scarborough laughed, "Yeah, ha, ha ha, well, what are you gonna do?"

That would be Lori Klausutis, the intern who was found dead in Scarborough's office.
20:23 BST

From Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky's Remarks at the Conference of the Campaign for America's Future
This President is seriously undermining the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States, precious civil liberties and doing it all in the name of patriotism. So where are the lawyers and judges? Why am I not hearing your protests, your e-mails and phone calls, your letters to the editor, your calls to talk radio, your high profile law suits? This could be a bi-partisan effort, one that stretches from left to right. Privacy is a major concern for average Americans and Big Brother is mining our most private information as we sit here. I realized how serious this was when a woman asked me how she could get another perspective on the Iraq war and I suggested a few web sites. She asked me if she went there if she would find herself on a list. In all honesty, I found that I couldn't say with confidence, "Absolutely no; this is still the United States of America and you can look at anything you want." Lawyers, judges, where are you?
20:18 BST has republished a piece by George Soros that originally appeared in The American Prospet, Opening America's View:
Yet I am profoundly opposed to the Bush administration's policies, not only in Iraq but altogether. My opposition is much more profound than it was in the case of the Clinton administration. I believe the Bush administration is leading the United States and the world in the wrong direction. In the past, my philanthropy focused on defeating communism and helping with the transition from closed societies to open societies in the former Soviet empire. Now I would go so far as to say that the fight for a global open society has to be fought in the United States. In short, America ought to play a very different role in the world than it is playing today.
20:04 BST

The gang that couldn’t think straight By D. Allan Kerr:
The problem with poking fun at the Bush Administration is it’s becoming just too damn easy. I keep telling myself it’s time to move on to different topics, but then a shiny new gem is uncovered. Sure it’s like picking off the proverbial fish in a barrel, but I lack the willpower to stop. And really, who can resist such obscenely tantalizing material? Consider the following roster of missteps, most occurring just within the past couple of weeks:
[List of things that would be funny if it wasn't so disgusting]

Now some U.S. lawmakers are calling for congressional hearings to find out whether the Bush Administration truly did overhype the threat posed by Iraq. Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former secretary of the Navy (as well as one of Liz Taylor’s ex-husbands), has said his panel will take part in such a probe. But somehow House Majority Leader Tom DeLay thinks this is all unfair.

"They pick at every little thing they can to try to undermine this president and where he is taking us on this war on terror," he said of Bush’s critics. First, let’s get it straight - the Bush team created its own problems. With few exceptions like Sen. Robert Byrd (how ridiculous is it when a reformed Klansman has to carry the banner of moral courage for the Democratic Party?), Congress has rolled over for the White House on the Iraq issue. With even fewer exceptions, the mainstream American media (especially the network news teams) have been gutless sycophants.

19:07 BST

Sunday, 08 June 2003

You tell 'em, girl

Nasty Riffraff says:

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to overturn the FCC's gift to Big Media

As you all know, yesterday (6/2/03) the FCC ignored the will of the American people and gave a gift to Big Media, ceding all information to us to them. It's tempting to throw in the towel, but we're not done yet.

Message to Michael Powell: It ain't over yet. Far from it, you corrupt pondscum. In the words of a real patriot: We have not yet begun to fight.

Powell and his media friends were startled when 97% of the responses they had from real people were against the FCC's and Big Media's attempt to take over the public's airwaves (we OWN them, folks). They should be even more startled by the fact that many in Congress are prepared to challenge this attempt to steal what We, The People, own.

Most of those in Congress are Democrats. But they have some unlikely Republican allies, including (and I admit, my surprise is enough to almost take me to my bed with the vapors) Trent Lott, who seems to be finding a new career in tweaking the Republican leadership who "abandoned" him in his hour of need. No matter, I'll take his support in this; I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not about to speculate on his reasons. (Psst Trent: Welcome to the fold!)

Write your Congresspeople; encourage them to fight this theft of OUR airwaves:

Tell your Congresspeople to overturn the FCC's decision

21:38 BST

Consultation Scam

From Random & Irrelevant:

ID Card Consultation scandal

Anyone following the ID/Entitlement Card issue here in the UK might have been aware of the Stand campaign to get people to feed into the consultation process that closed early this year. At the moment it appears that all 5000 submissions made via the Stand website are being treated as one submission, which enables the government to claim that the consultation resulted in 2:1 in favour of the cards.

According to this BBC report , there is a response being prepared by the government to a question concerning the Stand responses, so it will be interesting to see what they have to say. At least this is being reported by larger media companies.

Danny O'Brien, one of the volunteers who run the Stand project, has written an open letter to Beverley Hughes, the government minister who made the announcement, asking why the Stand responses were not included in the count. He sent his letter two weeks ago and as of yesterday hadn't had a response.

21:10 BST


Counterpoint 2004 is "A New Blog Dedicated Specifically to the Issues Surrounding the '04 Presidential Election."

I wish someone would explain this to me.

Who Owns You has lots of links on media issues.

The Gunther Concept has an explanation of that pesky graph of political blogs.

The Iconochasms quiz was fun, but it didn't actually tell me anything about my heroes.

Fox News: Keeping you stupid

Come back, Christine!

What, you mean I'm not sweet and cuddly? (Damn, I guess that means I retrieved all those pretty bras for nothin'.)
20:08 BST

Sauce for the gander

From Max:

LITTLE BLUE SOCCER BALLS. (Warning: post depends on arcane blogocentric references.) Well they finally caught another one of them. What is up with those white Christians and their so-called "Prince of Peace"? Isn't it time to start focusing on them at airports? Should we let them buy firearms or take flying lessons without extra background checks?

I used to be a leftist, although I have no way of actually confirming this. That plus the fact that I'm a rock musician means I can't be a bigot.

If they aren't blowing up Federal buildings, they're setting off bombs in Olympic Parks, murdering physicians, and terrorizing women who go to family planning clinics. Now you may say, why demonize the group for the actions of some isolated individuals. But we don't see Puerto Ricans fire-bombing clinics, do we? If I wasn't so lazy, I would post some photographs to help emotionalize my pathetic argument without providing any substantive support for it. Don't you know the world has changed? Just look at the hole in the ground in Oklahoma City and you know all you need to know in order to rant like a moron.

Please patronize the vendors who advertise on this blog (i.e., me).

Now feel free to post 150 comments reflecting your galloping stupidity and prejudice.

Max also has some great stuff up on the DeLayatollas and the Child Tax Credit.
19:26 BST

Boy, Robin Cook is really, really pissed off

He's going everywhere saying what he thinks these days. Here's some of what he said in The Los Angeles Times:

You have to admire Rumsfeld's effrontery. But not his logic.

The least plausible explanation is that Hussein destroyed his means of defense on the eve of an invasion. The more plausible explanation is that he did not have any large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

When the Cabinet of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government discussed the dossier on Hussein's WMD, I argued that I found the document curiously derivative. It set out what we knew about Hussein's chemical and biological arsenal at the time of the 1991 Gulf War. It then leaped to the conclusion that Hussein must still possess all those weapons.

There was no hard intelligence of a current weapons program that would represent a new and compelling threat to our interests. Nor did the dossier at any stage admit the basic scientific fact that biological and chemical agents have a finite shelf life — a principle understood by every pharmacist. Go to your medicine chest and check out the existence of an expiration date on nearly everything you possess. Nerve agents of good quality have a shelf life of about five years and anthrax in liquid solution of about three years. Hussein's stocks were not of good quality. The Pentagon itself concluded that Iraqi chemical munitions were of such poor standard that they were usable for only a few weeks.

Even if Hussein had destroyed none of his arsenal from 1991, it would long ago have become useless.

So why did Rumsfeld build a case for war on a false claim of Hussein's capability? Enter stage right (far right) his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, a man of such ferociously reactionary opinion that he has at least the advantage to his department of making Rumsfeld appear reasonable. Wolfowitz has now disclosed: "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on weapons of mass destruction because it was the one issue everyone could agree on."

Decoded, what his remarks mean is that the Pentagon went along with allegations of weapons of mass destruction as the price of getting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the British government on board for war. But the Pentagon probably did not believe in the case then, and it certainly cannot prove it now.

Cook is widely regarded as perhaps the most astute mind in the Labour Party, and he saw through the whole scam from the first. And what he's saying here boils down to: We were never presented with any good evidence that there was a threat, although Bush and the PM just kept saying there was. And they'd present us with what they called evidence, and it was obviously rubbish. And it's still rubbish. Basically, the Bush administration wanted a war, Blair wanted to do whatever Bush told him to do, and now we've ended up murdering thousands of people for a "reason" that didn't exist.

What is perhaps most interesting about this is that cabinet-level ministers were given no more compelling information than the public was; whether they believed Blair depended not on the quality of the data, but whether they wanted to believe Blair. Whether they publicly supported him was, of course, as likely to be a matter of politics as of belief; if they valued their careers, they could only stray so far from the path the Prime Minister had forged for them.

But I've been saying for over a year much the same thing that Cook is saying now: the shelf-life of the chemical and biological weapons is too short for Saddam's old stocks to have posed any continuing threat, and absent nuclear capability, there was never any reason to buy Bush's story. The idea that Saddam could be nuke-ready in 45 minutes when there was no evidence he had appropriate delivery systems or that he'd ever tested nukes was simply ridiculous. If I could understand this, where was everyone else?

As Rumsfeld might express it, we Britons have been suckered. Britain was conned into a war to disarm a phantom threat in which not even our major ally really believed.

This leaves the British government in an uncomfortable position. This week, Blair was pleading for everyone to show patience and to wait for weapons to be found.

There is a historical problem with this plea. The war took place only because the coalition powers lost patience with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and refused his plea for a few more months to complete his disarmament tasks.

There is also a growing problem of transatlantic politics. The more time passes, the greater the gulf will widen between the obliging candor on the U.S. side that there never was a weapons threat and the desperate obfuscation on the British side that we might still find one.

There is always a bigger problem in denying reality than in admitting the truth. The time has come for the British government to concede that we did not go to war because Hussein was a threat to our national interests. We went to war for reasons of U.S. foreign policy and Republican domestic politics.

One advantage of such clarity is that it would help prevent us from being suckered a second time. Which brings us to Rumsfeld's latest saber rattling against Iran.

And there it is: The Bush administration are proven liars; no nation can ever take their word again for any of their claims, and chances are good that next time the US wants something from anyone else, they won't get it from any democratic country. Tony Blair squandered his credibility on behalf of a lie; now everyone knows it. The probability is that, even this time, the Bushies only got what they wanted with bribery and threats. Next time, they'll have to personally bribe or blackmail every single member of Parliament to get them to go along with the leadership. That's a pretty expensive proposition.

This isn't rocket-science, folks, and it's not "partisanship". The facts are on the table. There's really only one way to add them up.

Despite what some people may think, this isn't anger talking. I'm not sitting here frothing over this stuff. 2+2=4, the grass is green, and Bush is a liar. This is just calling a spade a spade. I'm resigned to the fact that it's going on; it's frustrating that some people still refuse to recognize reality. But stating the facts is not a matter of anger; it's just how it is.
10:34 BST

Saturday, 07 June 2003

On the presidency

...he thought of the presidency as his "job" not as an exalted title. In private, he spoke frequently about how he wished to demystify the office so that people would always see the president as someone who was working. He saw himself operationally as the opposite of Reagan. He did not intend to strip the presidency of its accoutrements of grandeur as Carter had done, but he wanted everyone to understand that it was what the president did that mattered, not how he posed near the presidential seal. - S. Blumenthal, The Clinton Wars (p.25)
I like the fact that Clinton didn't do the photo op until after he did the job. I miss that, even if I wasn't always crazy about what he did. We needed a working president in the White House then, and we need one now. Instead we have a guy who uses the White House as his personal gym. I particularly hate the idea that if he ever leaves office, taxpayers are going to have to pay him a pension for doing this while he has orchestrated the removal of the Social Security that working Americans have already paid for.
18:02 BST


Someone just told me they saw Greg Palast on Free Speech TV last night and he said Andrew Young is currently "heading up" Barrick. Wow.
16:03 BST

Food is addictive. So you could have a cheese-monkey on your back.
15:59 BST

The Road Back from the Dark Side

Arianna Huffington on how it happened:

Having spent my college years at Cambridge, studying under John Maynard Keynes' disciples, I found myself inhaling a healthy skepticism of the power of the free market to bring about the good society. When I later rejected Great Society-style government programs, it was because they did not achieve the social justice they sought, not because they were expensive. But I never endorsed trickle-down let-them-eat-cake solutions, either. Indeed, right after the 1992 election, I gave a speech in Washington challenging conservatives to remember the biblical admonition that we will be judged by how we deal with the least among us--and to bring this to the very heart of public policy.

It was then that Newt Gingrich, who happened to catch the speech on C-Span, called and asked me to speak at the Republican congressional retreat. As he put it to me then and repeated two years later in his first speech as speaker, there was greater "moral urgency" in "coming to grips with what's happening to the poorest Americans" than in balancing the budget.

I admit: I was seduced, fooled, blinded, bamboozled--call it what you will. But it didn't take long before I recognized that the Gingrich spiel was only empty rhetoric. And readers of my column were made privy to each realization as it occurred. Disillusioned with the right, did I fall in love with the left? No, because the path I was searching for would take us beyond the standard left-right paradigm and provide new solutions to the greatest crisis America is facing today: the fact that we have become two nations, one basking in unprecedented prosperity, the other left to choke on the dust of Wall Street's galloping bulls.

What continues to astonish me is that anyone ever thought the Republicans could be the answer to this problem.
15:51 BST

Avebury (which is much cooler than Stonehenge).
15:39 BST

Really, it's worth it to read every single thing that Elton Beard posts. He doesn't post as frequently as some people, but I never want to miss it when he does. He has a nice collection up on the WMD lying, including such gems as:
Shorter William F. Buckley Jr.:
Who Screwed Up?

Those who take the easy path of reasoning from actual facts deduce that George Bush and Dick Cheney are, very simply, liars, but I don't like that conclusion and hope to find a better one.

And another round-up on who's been taking down that hack Safire this week.
14:08 BST

So...what if Bush lied?

The Agonist points to this very interesting piece by John Dean discussing Bush's claims, which now appear to have been "economical with the truth", that they knew with a certainty that Saddam had WMD:

When these statements were made, Bush's let-me-mince-no-words posture was convincing to many Americans. Yet much of the rest of the world, and many other Americans, doubted them.

As Bush's veracity was being debated at the United Nations, it was also being debated on campuses - including those where I happened to be lecturing at the time.

On several occasions, students asked me the following question: Should they believe the President of the United States? My answer was that they should give the President the benefit of the doubt, for several reasons deriving from the usual procedures that have operated in every modern White House and that, I assumed, had to be operating in the Bush White House, too.

First, I assured the students that these statements had all been carefully considered and crafted. Presidential statements are the result of a process, not a moment's thought. White House speechwriters process raw information, and their statements are passed on to senior aides who have both substantive knowledge and political insights. And this all occurs before the statement ever reaches the President for his own review and possible revision.

Second, I explained that - at least in every White House and administration with which I was familiar, from Truman to Clinton - statements with national security implications were the most carefully considered of all. The White House is aware that, in making these statements, the President is speaking not only to the nation, but also to the world.

Third, I pointed out to the students, these statements are typically corrected rapidly if they are later found to be false. And in this case, far from backpedaling from the President's more extreme claims, Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer had actually, at times, been even more emphatic than the President had. For example, on January 9, 2003, Fleischer stated, during his press briefing, "We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

In addition, others in the Administration were similarly quick to back the President up, in some cases with even more unequivocal statements. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly claimed that Saddam had WMDs - and even went so far as to claim he knew "where they are; they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."

Finally, I explained to the students that the political risk was so great that, to me, it was inconceivable that Bush would make these statements if he didn't have damn solid intelligence to back him up. Presidents do not stick their necks out only to have them chopped off by political opponents on an issue as important as this, and if there was any doubt, I suggested, Bush's political advisers would be telling him to hedge. Rather than stating a matter as fact, he would be say: "I have been advised," or "Our intelligence reports strongly suggest," or some such similar hedge. But Bush had not done so.

So what are we now to conclude if Bush's statements are found, indeed, to be as grossly inaccurate as they currently appear to have been?

After all, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and given Bush's statements, they should not have been very hard to find - for they existed in large quantities, "thousands of tons" of chemical weapons alone. Moreover, according to the statements, telltale facilities, groups of scientists who could testify, and production equipment also existed.

So where is all that? And how can we reconcile the White House's unequivocal statements with the fact that they may not exist?

There are two main possibilities. One that something is seriously wrong within the Bush White House's national security operations. That seems difficult to believe. The other is that the President has deliberately misled the nation, and the world.

I don't think that's an either/or choice.
Krugman is right to suggest a possible comparison to Watergate. In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.
And Dean, of all people, ought to know.
As I remarked in an earlier column, this Administration may be due for a scandal. While Bush narrowly escaped being dragged into Enron, it was not, in any event, his doing. But the war in Iraq is all Bush's doing, and it is appropriate that he be held accountable.

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

Hell, he's been doing that since he first entered the race for the presidency back in '99.

And, just for the record, as Anne at Peevish says, it matters.

Bartcop keeps asking, "Would evil men kill to steal the world's oil?" (He even has coffee mugs, t-shirts, mousepads!) It's looking like a good question.

Jeff Schalles said in e-mail:

They don't care. They don't have to care. They're sociopaths.

The main battle is still going to be centered around their touchscreen voting and other poll rigging initiatives. I guarantee their operatives are working around the clock to get this stuff online. We need to be working around the clock to identify and stop them.

We also need to get a shitload of international poll monitors in here for the next election. I bet there will be plenty of volunteers. How does one organize such a thing? And can't you just see the W junta coming down really, really hard on Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and the Pope, for doing this? And possibly actually getting away with it? It's a heads up ball game, folks.

Jeff is right. There's a reason why before the 2002 election I kept saying it was important to watch the exit polls - and why it was chilling when there suddenly were no exit polls on the day. Absolutely everyone needs to actively work in their locality to demand paper ballots they can read before depositing them in a box. And everyone who can should be volunteering to do general poll-watching and exit polls.
12:57 BST

Brian Linse spells it out:
This Eric Rudolph capture story has made highlighting bigotry and hatred on the religious right as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
"To tell you the truth, I wish they hadn't caught him," Franklin Holloway said, pausing before voting this morning in a town referendum to allow restaurants to serve beer and hard liquor. "Look at those abortion doctors. They kill innocent babies."

"If he did that Olympic bombing he should be punished," Linda Holloway added. "But as far as those abortion clinics and the gay club is concerned, he shouldn't be punished for that. You see, those things are not right in the sight of God."

Well shit-howdy! You think them folks realize that they's the same as them there Mooslum fy-natics blowin up shit in Israel cuz Allah toll 'em to? Same as them crazy fuckers what flew 'em planes to the towers?

The truly scary reality is that they actually just think our god can beat up their god, and our god-fearing president is just doing the work for Him here in the garden. Falwell and Roberts spoke it after 9/11, and these pathetic "believers" are back to remind us that fundamentalism is still going strong in the religious right wing.

I wonder if Mickey Kaus and Andy Sullivan are still more worried about violence from the fringe Left?

Brian also has a good post up about media deregulation; you know who to send faxes to, right?
12:02 BST

Friday, 06 June 2003

Return of the Robber Barons

From Tapped

CLASS WAR -- WAGED BY THE RICH. When Michael Kinsley is on, he's on. Kinsley's latest column explains how the wealthy, via George W. Bush and the GOP, have welched on their half of the social contract. To see Kinsley, who has always shied away from calling himself a liberal, go in for this kind of rhetoric is unusual, and significant. Like Paul Krugman, who wrote in eloquent detail here about the steepening decline of equality in America, Kinsley understands that something important and disturbing is happening in this country today.
15:57 BST

Reading matter

Joe Conason has a good piece in The New York Observer on New York's drug laws and how Russell Simmons may finally have created some movement on reform.

Josh Marshall debunks Rush Limbaugh's claim that "you can debunk Hillary's new book with passages from Sid Blumenthal's new book -- a sort of inverted harmonic convergence of Clinton-hating, you might say."
15:33 BST

Where we live

I think Tom Tomorrow started it, but I've seen the phrase turning up all over the net in the last few days, like this piece at Consortium News:

Some living in this "American Matrix" are like the everyday people in the movies, simply oblivious to what's going on beneath the surface, either too busy or too bored to find out. Others appear to know better but behave like Cipher, the character in the original movie who chooses the fake pleasures of the Matrix over what Morpheus calls "the desert of the real."

Many Americans so enjoyed the TV-driven nationalism of the Iraq War, for instance, that they didn't want it spoiled by reality. During the conflict, they objected to news outlets showing mangled bodies or wounded children or U.S. POWs. Presenting the ugly face of war was seen as unpatriotic or somehow disloyal to "the troops." Only positive images were welcome and dissent was deemed almost treasonous.

But it seems to have crossed the pond, judging from this piece by Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian:
Perhaps we live in the Matrix after all. Wherever we turn, we find a politics of manufactured reality that recalls the world of that cult film. How can we, the citizens, unplug ourselves and fight it? Take three of the main media stories of the last week. It turns out that we went to war with Saddam Hussein on the basis of Anglo-American intelligence reports that were, at best, politically misrepresented, or, at worst, falsified. The world leaders' summit in Evian produces stage-managed photo-opportunity smiles between President Bush and Chancellor Schröder that reflect the precise opposite of the truth about their relations. The British rightwing press paints a picture of a steamroller European federal superstate that stands to the reality of what is happening in the constitutional convention in Brussels as a Salvador Dali sculpture does to a plain metal saucepan. This systematic attempt to fool most of the people most of the time is the work of some of the most intelligent, best-informed and highly paid men and women in western societies: spin-doctors, PR consultants, hacks and spooks. Like the Inner Party member, O'Brien, in George Orwell's 1984, they know better. They have seen the photograph, tape or transcript that shows the public claim is wrong, but then, like O'Brien, they have dropped it down the memory hole: "'Ashes,' he said, 'Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed.'"

In Orwell's centenary year, the "war against terrorism" takes us to an Orwellian world in a quite unexpected way. We are told that Oceania (America, Britain and Australia) must go to war against Iraq, or, as it might be, Orwell's Eastasia or Eurasia, on the basis of reports from secret intelligence sources. One of the strongest passages in Tony Blair's powerful speech to the House of Commons justifying the war was his rhetorical reiteration "I know ... I know ...", followed by claims about dictatorships being "a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon" that the ordinary citizen has no way of checking.

It seems that lately everyone talks about politics in terms of fantastic fiction: Orwell, Strangelove, now The Matrix. Life has just become unbelievable.
13:47 BST

From Barry Crimmins:
Not since the original Ghostbusters have so many spooks surfaced from the sewers as they have over past few weeks. It seems these noble spies are tired of taking the blame for all the false information Bush used to trump up his unnecessary war. When the CIA distances itself from the Oval Office to protect its reputation, it's time to fumigate the facility.
(Via The Smirking Chimp, which also has an amusing piece by David Wildman about why he's going to become a Republican so he can say whatever he wants without being DLC'd to death.)
13:01 BST

Thursday, 05 June 2003

Another Republican faces reality

Mainstream America does not hate gays. They are often uncomfortable about homosexuality, and most people don't want their kids to be gay, but then, most people don't even want to acknowledge that their kids have sexuality; even when their daughters are married, they don't want to have to think about it much. There are an awful lot of parents who would like to think their grandchildren arrived via virgin birth, if the truth be told; in fact, the only reason they accept the idea that their daughters have sex at all - when they have to think about it - is for the sake of those grandkids.

Sex confuses people. We're a society that desperately wants to talk about sex but at the same time doesn't, so we convey a whole passel of mixed messages that make the whole thing even harder to deal with. Homosexuality makes things even more confusing, and of course confounds the whole program of producing grandkids. Yes, gays have kids, but in a society that doesn't want to face up squarely to these things, that little fact just gets lost in the emotional backwash. Parents are also scared for their kids, and as long as they know there is prejudice out there, they want their kids to be immune from it; the best way to be immune to homophobia is to be manifestly straight. So yeah, homosexuality makes a lot of people nervous.

But that doesn't mean those people think gays should be discriminated against in employment. It doesn't mean they think homosexuals should be kicked out of the armed services. It doesn't even mean they don't want gay teachers to be able to teach their kids. Repeated polls of the American public have shown this: By the usual two-thirds majorities, we don't want gays harassed, abused, prevented from "the pursuit of happiness", and we sure don't want the force of law used against them.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has been demonstrating for a very long time that their "base" is people who hate gays. Their officials hate gays, their Supreme Court justices even hate gays and actually believe that the government has a right to harass and even jail gays. So you gotta wonder why it takes Rick Santorum to give gays the wake-up call. But, apparently, it does:

The National Stonewall Democrats, a gay political group, on Monday welcomed New Hampshire state representative Corey Corbin of Rockingham as the newest member of the NSD Elected Officials Caucus. Corbin, who was previously a Republican, changed party affiliation last week in the wake of the well-publicized antigay comments made to the Associated Press by U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

"Being a gay man and, up until this week, a Republican, those comments truly summed up for me the attitude of the GOP toward the millions of gay men and women who work, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to our society," Corbin said. "We are hated, we are marginalized and are basically unwanted by a party that has forsaken the principles of Abraham Lincoln and become dominated by a right wing that falls far short of representing mainstream America."

Corbin was first elected to the New Hampshire house of representatives in 2000. There, he was appointed the Republican whip of the house labor and industry committee. At 33, Corbin is one of the youngest members of the state legislature.

Corey Corbin, welcome to the real world.
17:26 BST

Atrios is still doing a bit of posting from the road, just in case you missed the fact that Krugman is channeling me again:
It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted.

(By the way, here's a tip about just how "embedded" American media is, folks: Britain's best newspaper to my mind is the Telegraph, even though they are well to the right of me, probably more often referred to here as "the Torygraph" conversationally than by it's actual name. When Conrad Black decided to come out in support of the war, it turned into a raving loony right gung-ho war-mongering paper that twisted its coverage so that it was virtually in sync with the US media. But now it's started to hammer Bush and Blair for lying us into war. That's how bad things really are: lacking a partisan dedication to supporting Bush at all costs, no one is willing to stay on board with his shamelessly corrupt administration. The Telegraph is certainly partisan, but they are partisan Conservatives who supported the invasion. If they are in agreement with Paul Krugman and me, you can be sure it isn't Paul Krugman who is being "partisan".)

Meanwhile, Atrios has minions helping him out with stuff like this from UPI:

The CIA has internal documents that make clear Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is alive and hiding in greater Baghdad, protected by an underground resistance network of tribesmen and former Baath officials, administration officials told United Press International.

"There is a resistance network and it is stronger than we originally thought," one administration source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Saddam is moving around inside Iraq and he's got a lot of support," another U.S. government official said.

He added: "A lot of what is being reported in the press as 'looting' is in fact sabotage by Baath party stay-behind groups."

The underground Baath resistance is made up of former party officials who are funded with money looted from the Iraqi treasury, this source said.

"There is credible evidence that Saddam is still alive and being sheltered," said former CIA chief Vince Cannistraro.

This isn't what matters to me, though. What matters is that by invading Iraq and not even bothering to demonstrate any serious desire to preserve civilization for the Iraqi people, Bush has cemented the image of America as a ruthlessly aggressive and acquisitive barbarian state.
12:47 BST

For the life of me, I can't figure out how "right" and "left" are being defined on a graph that puts me to the right of Atrios, Tapped, and the Howler. Jeanne D'Arc is mostly correct about this.
12:19 BST

Streaming video: Molly Ivins, Al Franken, and Bill O'Reilly, not particularly moderated by Pat Schroeder. Watch O'Reilly respond to evidence that he's a liar by shouting, "Shut up! Shut up!"
12:06 BST

11:38 BST

Wednesday, 04 June 2003

Stupid editor tricks

I see that The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has come out of its churlish phase and is making Gene Lyons' excellent column available on its site again. However, because I know so many of you don't click on the links (and because I worry that it won't stay available), I'm putting this one right here so you can cut & paste and send it to the NYT, who clearly need to have it shoved down their throat. "Watching editors squirm provides good sport" shows Gene's enjoying himself with the Jayson Blair story, and well he should:

As one with firsthand experience of The New York Times' arrogant condescension, I've enjoyed watching its editors get a comeuppance. Back when the newspaper invented the Whitewater hoax, executive editor Joe Lelyveld accused me of "wild and shoddy journalism" for deconstructing its coverage. Declining to appear at a Harper's magazine forum at the National Press Club, he maligned my work in a privately circulated letter to Times subscribers alarmed by its revelations. Typical. In the end, my reporting held up. Badly written Times dispatches filled with semi-facts and half-truths did not. Reporting a $200,000 real estate deal ain't brain surgery. Correct the errors, fill in the blanks and Whitewater's "scandalous" aspects disappeared.

But Times editors chose to help GOP partisans hogtie a president rather than write a correction. Had Lelyveld paid attention, he might have been spared the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, among others. Alas, for years the newspaper's unvarying response to outside criticism has been, "We're The New York Times and you're not."

Well, former Times reporters Jayson Blair, Rick Bragg and, some say, columnist Maureen Dowd have certainly taken care of that.

But enough is enough. Blair's apparent plagiarism and fabrications were embarrassing, but trivial in effect. Bragg's use of an unacknowledged stringer to conduct interviews was reckless and arrogant, but the Times uses reporting by unacknowledged stringers all the time. The difference is that editors make the assignments and the newspaper pays them. Bragg's assistant was off the books.

But if we're going to talk about phony New York Times bylines, let's turn the wayback machine to 1996—specifically to May 4, when The Associated Press filed a story accurately pointing out that Kenneth Starr's prosecutors rested their case against Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Jim and Susan McDougal "without showing how [Bill] Clinton benefited from a $300,000 loan as another witness had claimed." That witness was David Hale, the noted embezzler.

The AP even quoted prosecutor Ray Jahn acknowledging that an FBI agent's failure to link the $300,000 loan to Clinton damaged Hale's credibility, but not his case. Indeed, Jahn's closing argument portrayed Clinton as an innocent victim of Jim McDougal's schemes, as the Times and others failed to report.

But the AP dispatch got turned inside-out at The New York Times. When it appeared in the nation's newspaper of record, the article claimed that "jurors heard an FBI agent testify that nearly $50,000 from a $300,000 loan was used to cover Whitewater expenses." Jahn's explanation of why the agent's testimony didn't hurt his case vanished, replaced by a detailed summary of testimony that hadn't been given.

The byline crediting the AP with the story that appeared in the Times was misleading, also. Contacted by former Des Moines Register editorial page editor Gil Cranberg, the AP stood by its story. It had no idea where the "information" in the Times rewrite came from. (Probably leaks from the Office of Independent Counsel.) Needless to say, the mighty Times refused comment. A stickler for accuracy and proper sourcing, Cranberg wrote it up for Harvard University's Nieman Reports.

In short, the famous "$50,000 benefit to Whitewater" cited in many articles, columns and TV news shows over the next few years was as fictive as anything invented by Jayson Blair. The Associated Press byline was more misleading than Rick Bragg's, putting the AP's imprimatur on erroneous information neither reported nor written by its reporters. (If anybody wants to argue, I have the agent's testimony on a floppy disk.)

Imagine the uproar on the right if somebody made up "FBI testimony" hurtful to President Bush, then hid behind a bogus byline. The offender would be hunted down and driven from journalism—and properly so.

Under what I called "the Clinton rules," however, things were different, and it was mainly The New York Times and Washington Post that made them so. Read Sid Blumenthal's engrossing book, "The Clinton Wars," to find out why.

Did Times columnist Maureen Dowd alter a statement by Bush to make him appear more callow and boastful? Clearly, she did. Under the Clinton rules, however, such trickery was commonplace. This column once exposed a 1995 "Nightline" broadcast that deleted 39 words from a statement by Hillary Clinton, then accused her of covering up the material it cut. Last week, Chris Vlasto, the show's producer, was quoted questioning Blumenthal's ethics in The Washington Post. Also criticizing Blumenthal was Michael Isikoff, the Newsweek sex sleuth whose book "Uncovering Clinton" reveals in a footnote on page 365 that, having examined her employment records, he concluded on the day she filed her lawsuit that at least one of Paula Jones ' claims of job discrimination against Bill Clinton—that she had been denied a merit raise—was false, precisely the grounds on which it was eventually dismissed. Yet he kept that knowledge to himself and spent years attacking those who doubted her of a "cultural double standard" and an "elitist attitude." Would that be the elitist prejudice in favor of reporting the truth?

Or just projection. Those guys hated Clinton for being a hick from Arkansas who got above himself.
22:09 BST

Patrick quoted something from a (very neat) weblog I hadn't seen before by David Scott Marley, and while I was there I also found another good post on Faith-Based Intelligence:
Newsweek's report on why the White House believed Iraq had WOMDs is interesting, if not terribly surprising stuff. Not a case of intelligence failure, as some have claimed. No, if Newsweek has the right take on it, this was a case of our intelligence people being ignored because they weren't saying what the White House wanted to hear.
Well, it's an intelligence failure, it's just not a failure of intel.
12:42 BST

The Wooden Periodic Table, via Iain Coleman, who also finally explains why they call him Mr. Happy.

Flash movie: There must have been a military order.
12:02 BST

Tuesday, 03 June 2003

Digby has a fine post up about The Hips vs The Straights, congratulating Tapped on their take-down of Joel Klein and piling on with them. Some great comments ensue, as well. As a baby-boomer who was in the '60s, I gotta say I'm baffled by people my age and younger who try to present themselves as cool young things with smarts but rally round a guy who clearly represents anything but cool youthfulness. Except that he hasn't aged in office the way every other president does....

Digby also reminds us about Operation Strangelove. Well, actually, you would be well rewarded if you just read everything Digby posts.
22:56 BST

In The Guardian, Transcripts raise alarm across Nato: Transcripts of a private conversation between Jack Straw and Colin Powell expressing serious doubts about the reliability of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme are being circulated in western government circles where there is a growing feeling that officials were deceived into supporting the Iraq war.
18:56 BST

I was having trouble with my PC all day, so I've been having a panic attack instead of posting. Our normal services will resume shortly.
18:40 BST

Monday, 02 June 2003

Why Blair supported the invasion

Atrios points to this interview with Robin Cook from Newsweek:

Are you saying that the Blair government itself never believed in the existence of these weapons of mass destruction?

I never saw any [cabinet] briefing or other evidence that suggested that there was an urgent or compelling threat from Saddam Hussein. I am not going to comment on the motivation or sincerity of others, but I am rather puzzled that people who went to the same briefings as me and saw the same material could come to such radically different conclusions. To be fair to the United States administration, it never made any bones about the reasons why it went to war. It wanted to carry out a change of regime in Iraq. And many of the proponents of were lobbying for it long before September 11.

And that's also why the British government went to war?

No, but they were madly keen to prove that they were reliable allies of President Bush—and there were those around President Bush who were determined to have a war.

There are those in Washington who now appear to see the weapons issue as irrelevant.

It was their decision to put this at the heart of their case. It cannot be a side issue after the war when they made it a central issue before the war.

There's a lot more and well worth the read.
23:04 BST


Sasha takes note of a family tradition: Prescott Bush, the grandfather, as an investment banker with Brown Brothers Harriman helped finance the Nazis. George Herbert Walker Bush, the father, toured Auschwitz and in a more intelligent moment said "Boy, they were big on crematoriums, weren't they?" Our President touring Auschwitz turned to the senior curator and asked "Do people challenge the accuracy of what you present?" Couldn't he just keep his mouth shut?

I have no new excuses to put cheesecake on the front page, but go see the Uniblogger if you want some more.

American Politics Journal's Pundit Pap takes another swing, noting that not a lot was said on the Sunday shows about the capture of Rudolph, but at least there was more acknowledgment of Bush's credibility problem.
19:37 BST

Dwight Meredith, seeing the suggestion that Clarence Thomas should replace Rehnquist when he retires as Chief Justice, can only think of one good thing about it:
A nomination of Clarence Thomas to the position of Chief Justice may help us determine if he committed perjury.

If there is one thing the Republicans believed in during the Clinton wars of the 1990s, it is that there is no limit to lengths we should go to discover if high officials committed perjury.

Republicans cheered as Ken Starr required a mother to testify against her daughter. The confidentiality of communication between White House counsel and the President could not stand in the way of a search for evidence of perjury.

Secret Service agents could be compelled to testify against a President. If that precedent causes future Presidents to make sure that Secret Service agents are not always available to protect the life of the chief executive, that is a small price to pay.

As people of my age will recall, Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of crude conduct, amounting to sexual harassment, which, if true would have disqualified him from serving on the Supreme Court. In one particular, Ms. Hill accused Thomas of making reference to having seen a particular pornographic movie. Thomas categorically denied the charge.

Republicans then attacked Ms. Hill's credibility alleging, in David Brock's memorable phrase, that she was "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty." The attack worked and Thomas was confirmed.

For some reason I could never fathom, the United States Senate never subpoenaed Mr. Thomas' video rental records. If that particular tape, which Thomas denied under oath ever having seen, had been listed among his rentals, Ms. Hill's credibility would have been greatly enhanced and Thomas would have been proven a perjurer.

Given that history, there seems little reason why a nomination of Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice should not result in the subpoena of his video rental records to see if he is a perjurer. If the search for the truth permits Ken Starr to rummage through the First Lady’s underwear drawer, surely having a look at Justice Thomas’s video rental records to see if a felon is about to ascend to the highest position on the highest court in the land is justified.

Of course, you'd have to have a Congress who really cared about little things like perjury. Alas, we have no reason to believe they ever did.
17:39 BST

Tales from the Insect Trust

Warren claimed Nathan was well over a hundred. I'd been hearing about him for months, so I was in a "What can you show me?" state when I watched a young woman lead this rickety old blind guy onstage to a folding chair and, when he sat down, hand him a big old electric guitar. Wow. Anyway, last night, Moose&Squirrel pointed me to a URL and much to my surprise I found The Real True Story of How I Found Nathan Beauregard and Got Him to Play Music Again, by Bill Barth. Of course, I'm just astonished to find something on the web by Barth....
11:55 BST

Honey, do ya have to ask?

Now here's an odd question: Why do liberal bloggers seem so angry? You'd think after a decade of inexplicable anger at Clinton, righties would be embarrassed to ask such a thing. But I can give you all sorts of reasons.
11:29 BST

I must be a number 'cause I'm not a free man

LJ Barcode
LJ username:

(Via Arthur D. Hlavaty's Journal.)
11:09 BST

Rich Procter says Bush has jumped the shark with his flight-suit stunt, and is ripe for this campaign ad:
SPOT #1 -- OPEN with black-and white slo-mo footage of Bush on the deck of the aircraft carrier, giving that fatuous "thumbs-up."

Anncr--Lucky thing George was a passenger when he landed on that carrier. You see, George lost his flight status back in his National Guard days when he wouldn1t take a drug test. That was before he went AWOL


ANNCR--That's right, AWOL from his military duty in time of war. Seems to be a habit for George.


ANNCR--He's AWOL in the fight for American jobs--his administration has lost over two million in four years, the most since the Hoover Administration.


ANNCR--He's AWOL in the search for Osama bin Laden. Said he'd get him dead or alive, but then guess he just lost interest.


ANNCR -- just like he lost interest in investigating what really happened on 9-11. Starved the investigators of money, and then stonewalled them.


ANNCR--And he's AWOL in the fight to demand integrity from American businesses. Of course, how can he slap handcuffs on the folks who paid to put him in the White House?


ANNCR--Bush has been grounded for 32 years, and AWOL for 30. Isn't it about time America had a President interested in serving his country?


I hereby donate this ad copy, or any variation of it, to any candidate that has the guts to run it. Unlike the Willie Horton ad that Bush's father used on Dukakis, this one is nothing but the truth. George is asking for it. He "jumped the shark" when he put on that zoom bag. So let's give it to him.

(Via the very fine Jerome Doolittle.)
10:13 BST

Sunday, 01 June 2003

Do it now!

It's your last chance to fax your reps about the FCC before decision time. If you need inspiration, just go read Ruminate This right now. All of it.
10:39 BST

Stupid story of the week

David Wilford tipped me off to this one:

Terrorism fear derails train-spotters

Train-spotters are being told to leave stations as rail bosses tighten anti-terror security, BBC News Online can reveal. To many people, train-spotters are a joke.

To Network Rail, the company which now runs the UK's train network, they are potential terrorists.

The firm is telling train-spotters who are standing on platforms at its stations noting down names and numbers of locomotives that they must leave, or move to the station concourse.

You can monitor the movement of individual trains on the web - which is, I suspect, what terrorists would figure out how to do if that's what they wanted. More likely, they don't care about individual trains and would merely need to pick up a schedule.

My god, the people who run big companies these days must come from a special moron-growing tank.
10:28 BST

Iraq and a hard place

From The Charlotte Observer: Some of President Bush's top advisers now fear the war in Iraq is becoming a political, diplomatic and military mess, instead of being the centerpiece of the president's re-election campaign that they had hoped for.

In The Guardian: Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned. Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5. (Further commentary from David Marsden in Nothing Like the Truth: Only now, almost two years later, are the most insidious ramifications of September 11, 2001 becoming clear.)

Another movie from Take Back the Media (a bit longer than usual): Triumph of the Wimp
09:41 BST

From Josh Marshall in The Hill: At 34, I thought it'd be a while longer before I'd have to say that I hailed from a bygone era. But in my day, if a House majority leader was directly involved in a scandal that triggered a potentially criminal investigation at one cabinet department, an administrative review at another, and a grand jury investigation in his home state, he'd be in some trouble. Members of the opposition party might even push to get to the bottom of it.
08:58 BST

From Richard Reeves: That could mean that if eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, we're in trouble. Or, it could mean that significant numbers of us are not paying any attention to the war, to the Pentagon or to the media -- at least not since we declared victory. There is another possibility, and that is that the press and television just do not have the attention span to cover events of such serious moment.
08:47 BST

From Sean Penn in Salon: Following the printing of that letter, my public flag, I was hit by a tidal wave of media misrepresentation, and even accusations of treason. I experienced firsthand the repressive condition of public debate in our country, as it prepared for war. I was beginning to feel the price to be paid by a citizen exercising a position of dissent.
08:32 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, June 2003

May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
Is the media in denial?
Back to front page

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