The Sideshow

Archive for November 2003

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Sunday, 30 November 2003

Like it is

Bush frequently makes me think of Imelda's shoes, but Billmon calls the Republicans' policies "Peronist".

I'm with Emma: I think if the Democrats don't fight back now, it won't matter anymore.

At last! Someone is taking the war against fundamentalist terrorism seriously!

Dana Rohrabacher sure knows a good deal when he sees one.

Lambert recommends a book to the Democrats.

Two presidential candidates who want the Constitution back.
22:23 GMT


Nico Pitney is waxing enthusiastic about the idea of Jesse Jackson, Jr. as the VP candidate. It could work, but here's something to think about:

One of the most interesting points that Trippi made at the Grassroots Summit came after he was asked how Dean would appeal to the Midwest's NASCAR dads. He answered the question, but also argued that the critical swing vote in '04 wouldn't be NASCAR dads or security moms - it would be the youth. Moreover, he said, if the Dems lose the large and affluent generation now coming of age, the Party really would be lost in the wilderness for years and years to come.
I think that's right.

Naomi Klein in The Guardian tells a scary story from Miami about the policing of demonstrators at the FTAA negotiations in Florida. The police state stuff is frightening enough, but look at this:

With the activists recast as dangerous aliens, Miami became eligible for the open tap of public money irrigating the "war on terror". In fact, $8.5m spent on security during the FTAA meeting came out of the $87bn Bush extracted from Congress for Iraq last month.
You know what to do, right?
12:52 GMT

He read my mind

Jon Carroll gets it:

I have always wondered about that "Defense of Marriage" title. Is the idea that heterosexual marriages are somehow endangered by homosexual marriages? Those must be pretty wispy unions, if they can fall apart because the lesbians across the street decided to get married.

"I know I should stay and work this out, Martha, but that dyke union has convinced me to go shack up with Linda, my receptionist at the office. Hey, and you've always had your eyes on Biff the brawny construction guy; go for it. "

Does that bear any relation to the real world? Not that I can tell. Maybe the idea is that gay people, faced with the bleak prospect of no marriage ever, will be scared straight and enter satisfying heterosexual marriages just the way Jesus intended. Again: real-world scenario? I think not.

Anti-gay arguments make so little sense that you just have to wonder how bad these Good Christian Marriages must be to generate such nonsense. You want to ask these people: If marriage is so good, why can't it be good for everyone? Did you get married because you wanted to get married, or just because gay people can't?

I mean, what kind of experience must you have to come up with this stuff? Did they just get married for show? Are they really gay and just, y'know, trying to pass?

Anti-gay types always seem to make heterosexuality sound like such an uninviting lifestyle choice, one you only make because being queer is off the table. "If homosexuality becomes acceptable," they say, "the race will die out." Oh, yeah, and men will stop looking at women's chests, too.

I once caught some talk show where the host had found a family where all the kids were girls and they were all gay. Some "Good Christian" stood up in the audience and asked one of them, "Have you ever had sex with your sisters?" She should have said, "Have you?," but she wasn't that swift. It would have been a good question. Is sex with siblings normal in Good Christian households? Why else would he ask?

Christianists perpetually talk like there was never any question of heterosexuality being the preferred choice. It's like they do it because they have to rather than that they want to. I get the feeling it has never occurred to them that, out there in the world, millions of people are married to each other because that's what they actually want.
11:16 GMT

Saturday, 29 November 2003

Bush the ideologue - or not

I'm with Kevin Drum; I don't think George Bush has conservative principles. I think he's just basically out for himself and his friends and family. I'm not entirely sure what it will mean for his Iraq policy in the future, but Kevin is probably also right when he says electoral politics will probably play the largest role in what he does next. I certainly don't believe his economic program is in any way shaped by a belief that it is good for the country; rather, it seems to be motivated by Karl Rove's belief that it is good for the big donations in the campaign coffers.

(Kevin also has a great photo he took of a sunset - have a look. Oh, and then there's this item, about which I disagree.)

(And they don't call Bush Bunnypants for nothin'.)
13:38 GMT

Friday, 28 November 2003

Some links

No, I'm not away for Thanksgiving weekend, obviously, but I am a bit busy, so here's some fast links from the Salon newswire list:

Stigma weakens for pols who smoked pot

Rocker Joan Jett a Howard Dean delegate

And I want to read the Studs Terkel piece when I get back to my desk.

And yes, I do approve of Bush going to Iraq to be with soldiers on Thanksgiving, as presidents have historically done when we had soldiers in the field. But, like Atrios, I don't think he's some kind of hero for doing it, especially the way he did it.
19:15 GMT

"New ideas" and other stories

I guess the Liberal Oasis take on the Medicare bill suggests I could be over-reacting, but that still doesn't mean you shouldn't push your reps to talk loud and kill the beast.

And maybe they can explain this piece of crap.

Kos says that the (very nasty) Republican threat-and-bribery maneuver to get GOP reps to vote "yes" might very well have stirred up some resentment in the GOP ranks.

Bob Harris over at This Modern World with something disgusting: Oh, this is just whole new levels of unexplored wrongness: according to the New York Times, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Innovative Corruption) has set up a charity for abused and neglected children -- which will funnel at least some of the money to the 2004 GOP convention..

Jack Straw went on Radio 4 to defend George Bush's preemptive invasion, and managed to completely misrepresent Article 51 of the UN Charter to do it. Eli has the goods.

Lots of people have mentioned the latest story of how we held another family hostage in order to blackmail an alleged "top Iraqi fugitive suspected of masterminding attacks against coalition forces." That the US is engaged in this is shocking enough, but Jim Henley noticed an October story in The Washington Times that said he couldn't be doing this stuff because he's dying of leukemia. Hmmm. Don't ask, "Evil or incompetent?" when the answer is, "Both."
14:14 GMT

Honest hardball

Josh Marshall has an article up at The Hill about how Democrats can take advantage of Bush's nasty campaign ad by addressing it directly, and of course he's quite right. The problem is the article has the title: On terror, Dems should go after Bush from right. That doesn't mean Josh was responsible for the title, of course, but I really wish people wouldn't get confused like this. Anyone who steps aside from partisan games long enough to pay attention knows that Bush hurt the cause of fighting terrorism with his invasion of Iraq, and that is hardly a new criticism from this side of the spectrum. Some of you may even remember that this is what Al Gore said about the invasion beforehand.

By the way, I hadn't previously noticed the picture that's up there with his column, all tidied up in a suit and tie. I don't like it, and prefer the ones he's had on his page at TPM. In fact, I don't even think this picture looks much like the same guy. And something about that expression makes me think of Michael Moore.
00:50 GMT

Thursday, 27 November 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

BLACKLIST by Sara Paretsky

Center for American Progress has an article by Sara Paretsky talking about why and how she ended up writing this book: I don't know when I started feeling afraid. It might have been in October 2001 when I read about a 55-year-old Pakistani waiter who died after weeks in a U.S. prison. His crime: overstaying his visa. He hadn't been allowed to call his family, his consulate, or a lawyer. The government – my government – agreed he had no connection with terrorists, but we continued to hold him until he died. (Via Talk Left.)

Off the Kuff continues its invaluable coverage of the case of the extraordinary redistricting. Tom DeLay is contesting the subpoena, and things continue to be...interesting.

I decided to lower myself to look at The Washington Post earlier, and I was going to write something about the editorial criticizing the way the Republicans forced the evil Medicaid bill through, Government By Juggernaut, and about the op-ed piece on the same subject - and in the same vein - by Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. Yes, that's right, someone from a right-wing think-tank actually thought it was bad enough to write about. Well, anyway, I had some computer problems that sort of short-circuited my plans, but now I've found that Digby covered them both in a single post, so check it out, as well as the one about how Tom Friedman overreacts.

It's a good week to be thankful, and these folks have been good to some friends of ours, so we're grateful to them.
15:03 GMT

Hate speech

Distinguishing fringe factions from the progressive majority is essential to wiping away the "anti-American" smear against liberals. It is a task complicated by the fact that, as a matter of constitutional principle, liberals consistently uphold the civil liberties of radicals at both ends of the spectrum. It's simple for conservatives to look patriotic by threatening dissenters or amending the Constitution to ban obnoxious behavior like flag-burning. But what could be more fundamentally American and patriotic than the liberal commitment to defend all of the freedoms symbolized by the Stars and Stripes?

The relentless disparagement of liberal patriotism by right-wing ideologues is an attempt to punish that commitment to free speech, and an abandonment of traditional American values of fair play and civic decency. There is nothing truly conservative about the conservatives' compulsion to divide the nation for their own political gain. There us nothing patriotic about perverting the natural love of country into suspicion, bitterness, and hostility. (Strangely, many of the conservatives who seek to inflame hatred against their liberal neighbors would describe themselves as devout Christians - but then some of our most jingoistic warmongers also claim to be true disciples of the Prince of Peace.) - Joe Conason, Big Lies (p53)

He's right, you know. Not just about the last bit, but about how an enormous amount of conservative "argument" is just an attempt to punish us for defending freedom of speech. They also like to pretend that they are defenders of freedom of speech by equating mere argument from us with "censorship". At the same time, it's fairly obvious that trying to prevent us from expressing an opinion at all is more important to them than actually discussing issues and figuring out what the best course is. They don't want to know, and they don't want anyone to be able to suggest that their own answers may not be correct.

This is why I have trouble accepting the idea that it is appropriate for actual libertarians - that is, civil libertarians who honestly believe in a free-market - to be called "conservatives". Leaving aside the fact that an actual free-market is less a "conservative" idea than simply an economic theory that is as much in opposition to traditional (conservative) economic theory as it is to communist theory, what real libertarians are really in support of is liberal values, but like the commies, they don't understand how money and power work. Socialists understand the criticisms of corporate power and libertarians understand the criticisms of government power but neither have yet figured out that both are right. (You can't, ever, just set up a system and expect it to run perfectly without continuous attention. That's what that "eternal vigilance" thing is all about.) But real libertarians, by and large, tend to be socially liberal in terms of the law and often in terms of lifestyle. They defend personal liberty and the whole of the Bill of Rights (not just the 2nd Amendment). If they'd just read Adam Smith a bit more carefully, they could be proper liberals.
11:35 GMT

Wednesday, 26 November 2003

Lying Liars, again

The Daily Howler has continued to find knee-slappers in Bernie Goldberg's latest hatchet-job, although he appears to be taking a break to go after some Dean-bashing just now. But never fear, Conwatch has the dirt behind the dirt, not just about the magical 28-page ellipses, but the real source of Goldberg's "research".

Ann Coulter just invents the stuff she says; David Corn catches her making it up about US history and Christianity - again. (And on that subject, I know it's getting to be Pandagon day, but dig this little surprise package.)

A recent article in Vanity Fair summed up some of the hits of our Liar-in-Chief; linklessly, alas, the conservatives' bogeywoman, Barbara Streisand, reports.

Arnie is also a big-time liar, right in the Bush mold.

It's amazing how the dittoheads swear blind that Rush Limbaugh's calls are not screened and that anyone who wants to argue with him has a fair shot. (Of course, many people who've tried can tell you otherwise - and, as Scoobie Davis so often reminds us, even when the calls aren't screened, the mike gets turned off just as you're making your point.) But if those calls aren't screened, why does it deserve a news article when a "crank caller" gets through? And what does Rush mean by "prepared"? (And speaking of Scoobie and lying liars....)

The biggest lie of all is that the media is or ever was particularly liberal. Over to you, Skippy.
22:12 GMT

Fair and Balanced

Jesse spells it out for Howard Kurtz, who actually appears to think that the "liberal media" should treat every piece of rubbish the RNC comes up with as if it's really important:

Some people have been saying for months that X is true. Someone in the government lists a whole bunch of reasons why they think X is true. Someone predisposed to believe X is true takes this list, and publishes it. The person in the government is already in hot water for other bogus assertions, and the publication in question has a notoriously unstable relationship with the truth. To top it off, the organization that would verify the validity of the assertions steps forward and says that the document in question asserts no facts.

Why would I waste my time reporting on this, except as a meta-story about reaction to the list in question? And the response to this has been insane - unless the "liberal" media reported this as absolute fact, none of the dwarves trying to prop this thing up would accept that. The media coverage would *always* be bad, regardless.

The other two memos (the Senate Intelligence Committee memo that says, God forbid, Democrats want to investigate the people responsible for handling intelligence because the Republicans likely won't, and a memo that I'd never heard of about Miguel Estrada being Latino) probably were covered far more extensively by partisan conservative media, because they don't cover the news.

None of the people who are covering any of these "scandals" (which does a disservice even to the word scandals in scare quotes) are covering them because they believe that they're actually objectively newsworthy and important - they're covering them for political gain. The mainstream media has thankfully looked at these memos and decided that there's really not much to them outside of partisan cheap shots, and so they remain "under the radar".

As a media critic, Kurtz is recommending that the media treat stories that don't have any legitimacy outside of partisan battering rams as legitimate stories, thereby conferring a false legitimacy on them, basically for the purpose of those selfsame partisans declaring that the stories *have* to be important if an oh-so-hostile media will cover them.

Of course, you can write to Mr. Kurtz and tell him he's a dope.
20:01 GMT

And let's get rid of...

This analyzes the debacle behind the Medicare vote. Note this quote:

"It's totally beyond me," Ickes said. "I think it has seriously undermined our ability to change occupants of the White House next year. Republicans will make it sound like they invented Medicare. That's a big piece of political real estate to give up."
And how are the Republicans going to make it sound like they invented Medicare? Because people who think like this won't stand up and call a spade a spade. They won't shout from the rooftops that this bill was intended to wreck Medicare and funnel more of our money to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Which they should have been saying as soon as they saw the damn thing, and saying it loud. People who just don't want to address the issues need to retire from government and spend more time with their families.

This is how the Senate voted, and these are the Democrats who voted for it:

Lincoln (Ark.), Feinstein (Calif.), Carper (Del.), Miller (Ga.), Breaux (La.), Landrieu (La.), Baucus (Mont.), Nelson (Neb.), Conrad (N.D.), Dorgan (N.D.), Wyden (Ore.).
Did you get that? Feinstein. Does anyone still doubt that this woman really, really, really needs to be sent back to private life?

Oh, yeah, Lieberman and Kerry were elsewhere. (Jesse also has a really good question about this bill. You can ask your reps when you write to them about it.)
19:02 GMT

Musical interlude

At Busy Busy Busy, where Elton Beard likes Bush's poll numbers so much that he is singing a Beatles song, and provides the Shorter David Ignatius to the tune of Julie Andrews.
17:54 GMT

You gotta have heart

I went to bed depressed over impending elimination of Medicare and made the mistake of reading Body and Soul when I got up. Post after post of reasons to feel sick to my stomach. The Republicans push through so many insane things that it's just not possible to keep up with them all. But the lackluster performance of the Democratic leadership in the face of these overwhelming assaults on the Constitution and our nation is starting to make me more furious at them than I've been at the Republicans. Yeah, they know we will vote for them because we have no place else to go, but if they're not going to do anything to even try to stop this juggernaut, what the hell is the difference? Here's Jeanne:

Count me as one of those naive people Jeralyn mentions in an excellent post on looming civil liberties threats who was under the impression that things were getting better, that with even Fox News running stories about Patriot Act abuses, momentum was on the side of the opposition.

Maybe not. Last night the Senate gave final approval to the expansion of the Patriotic Act Jeralyn mentions. The bill expands the number of businesses from which the FBI and other agencies can demand information without a subpoena. The Senate approved it on a voice vote -- the same method they used to appropriate funds for Iraq -- which is pretty good indication of how much they believe in the bill, and how popular they think it will be at home.

Jim Lobe notes some encouraging opposition, but, as Jeralyn explains, there's more in the pipeline -- the very creepy Victory Act.

And who's to stop the Victory Act if they couldn't even be bothered to stand against expanding the Patriot Act at a time when there is an increasing groundswell of opposition from both left and right to Patriot as it already stands?

Oh, sure, most of them vote against this stuff, but with a minority in Congress that isn't good enough - they already know they will lose. Their only remaining weapon is the filibuster, and if they don't use it, they might as well not come to work.

Yes, yes, it's a wonderful thing that they are filibustering four of the farthest-right crackpot judicial nominees the administration has sent them. But, frankly, I don't see what difference it makes who is on the bench if the laws are so Draconian that even the most liberal judge would have to admit that profound abuses of our (former) rights are now fully within the law.

They "compromised" on overturning the FCC rules-change that nobody but Bush wanted. Despite the fact that it's just a giveaway to Bush's most important campaign organization and will make it even harder for Democrats to campaign, they gave it to him.

They let them kill Medicare.

They stood aside while the Constitution was twisted into a little ball and tossed on the fire.

They didn't even scream.

Well, somebody has to. Write to your local paper. Write to Daschle, write to your local Democratic Party, write to your reps. Demand to know what the hell they are doing in politics if they can't be bothered to stand up for your rights. And, oh, yeah, don't put it in e-mail, for godssakes. Fax them, or send postcards, but send them something they can't dismiss as spam.

Now I'm going to go listen to some Fats Waller, because this stuff takes the heart right out of me and only Fats can bring the spirit back.
15:03 GMT

Stuff I saw

Lisa English on why AARP has turned into just another bunch of insurance peddlers. And the horrific Medicare-killing bill is a done deal now, thanks to those pink-tutu Democrats we know and love so well. Get Daschle out of there! Well, now that they've let it happen, the Democrats better start pushing for universal healthcare, and for real, this time.

Paul Krugman has a good come-back to all those calls for Democrats-only civility.

If you haven't yet seen David Niewert's take on Coulter, Brownshirt Barbie, do that now, and then read Leni Riefenstahl redux: This is, throughout, a column reptilian in its nastiness. Its core thesis is that Democrats try to score political points by exhibiting compassion. What she clearly misses is that Republicans fail to do likewise not out of principle, but because, frankly, they rarely bother to exhibit much in the way of compassion themselves, unless it is for environmental polluters, Enronesque corporate outlaws and drug-addicted right-wing talk-show hosts. And, just in case you forgot, he reminds you about the sort of terrorist you are most likely to encounter.

Amy Sullivan had a look at the poll on America's attitudes toward gays.

Nachi worm infected Diebold ATMs. Amateurs.

The Bush-UK Free Speech Zone. (Via Electrolite Sidelights.)

The disgrace of neglect by Gerald Plessner, on this administration's ill-treatment of our military personnel.

I actually approve of Richard Cohen's The Patriotism Refuge.

TBogg learns that the Queen is "furious" about the mess George Bush and his entourage made of the palace and grounds.

Rob told me about this guy, but I like the way Teresa put it: "Dr. Doom: better-looking than you'd think."

No, it's not my code, something seems to be wrong at Jason Branz's site, which is a real shame because those pictures are neat.
02:39 GMT

Tuesday, 25 November 2003

News to read

Tapped was pretty good yesterday for a good view of the landscape. Here's Nick Confessore on The Anger Industry:

I can't help but notice that the good people at Time only felt the need to do a cover package on the "Anger Industry" -- that is, the apparatus that puts out books by the likes of Al Franken and Ann Coulter -- once lefties started getting into the game. But James Poniewozik's piece is still worth reading.
Matthew Yglesias on The Spam Scam:
Congratulations are in order to whichever clever congressman or congresswoman figured out that he or she could write a pro-spam bill, label it an "anti-spam" bill, get the media to refer to it as an anti-spam bill and then watch it sail through Congress.
This legislation overrides states' anti-spam provisions, which are of course more strict than the federal bill.

Matt also explains some facts of life to Andrew Sullivan about Medicare, privatization, and how the Republicans persistently seem able to get the Andrew Sullivans of the world to blame Democrats for crappy Republican legislation.

Democratic opposition to cost-cutting Medicare measures really would be shameful if the "cost-cutting" White House proposal would actually cut costs. But it will do no such thing -- it's just a giveaway to insurance companies that contribute big bucks to the Republican Party. An awful lot of time and energy has been spent during the past 15 years looking for a "third way" that will provide health insurance to all Americans without burdening the taxpayer with ever-higher bills. That's a perfectly laudable goal, but pursuing it by dogmatically insisting that more markets must be the answer is getting us nowhere.

In fact, "new ideas" on how to provide cheaper, more comprehensive health care are easy to find. As I pointed out on Thursday, countries such as England, France, Germany, Canada and Sweden manage to cover all their citizens while spending less per capita than the U.S. government spends on our current health-care patchwork. This isn't just some crazy notion I dreamed up, either; none other than Milton Friedman says single-payer health care would be cheaper than the status quo.

Confessore declares the Republicans The Party of Bloated Government, and here's something illuminating (written under the cloak of editorial invisibility):
RECALL REDUX. Katherine Harris is making noises about running for Bob Graham's Senate seat in Florida. This isn't good news for either of the Bushes -- the president or the governor. Conventional wisdom holds that it's not in the Democrats' interest to rehash the 2000 election controversy in 2004. But as the Bushes seem to realize, it's not in the GOP's interest to refight 2000 either. Today at TAP Online, Mary Lynn F. Jones explains why Republicans are so desperate to block Harris from running.
Meanwhile, Matt brings you up to date on what you missed while distracted by Michael Jackson:
The Columnists
  • David Brooks. Marriage is even better than Internet dating -- we should let gay people do it, too.
  • Nicholas Kristof. I like free trade, but these intellectual property rules are killing people.
  • Maureen Dowd. Why compare the situation in Iraq to Algeria when I could compare it to a movie about Algeria?
  • Thomas Friedman. The real problem with terrorism is that it's inconvenient for Marshall Scholars.
  • Jim Hoagland. The time has come to ignore the fact that the president doesn't have an actual democracy-promotion policy and to blame Joschka Fischer for Arab authoritarianism instead.
  • George Will. I'm pretending to say good things about Dick Gephardt, but really I'm condemning him and all other Democrats.
The Op-Ed You Actually Need To Read
  • Max Holland in The Washington Post says Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories were part of a KGB plot.
Matt mentions the Sunday shows as well but of course if you really want to know what happened there, Liberal Oasis is the place to go, and Bill says that Daschle and Kennedy were both pretty weak on the subject of Medicare. Fortunately, however, the other side didn't quite have its act together, either. But Daschle really needs to get out of the way if that's the best he can do.

(That snarky Shorter Maureen Dowd up there does remind me that I wasn't firm enough when I addressed Glenn Reynolds on the subject earlier. I should have said, "Why would conservatives want to replace Maureen Dowd when you already have Maureen Dowd?" I mean, my god, it wasn't liberals who gave her a Pulitzer for trashing Clinton, and she didn't exactly thrill us when she announced that Al Gore was boring because he talked about [*yawn*] issues. She ain't ours, guys.)
19:20 GMT


Cool pictures of lightning by Jason Branz

The Agonist says the energy bill has hit a snag.

Allen Brill finds more evidence that Bush-style "Christians" don't know their Bible. Or their God.

Nigel Richardson observes another few words that mean different things in America than they did back in Britain. Like "liberal". Oh, and he doesn't like Britney, either.
13:59 GMT

It's worth the money

I admit it: I think Salon is good enough to pay for. They have a lot of good stuff, relatively cheap, and I want someone to keep paying Conason and Boehlert so they can keep doing what they do. Here's a sample of what I found there on my very-early-morning trawl:

From the news wire: Democrats complain about Bush campaign ad implying that they are traitors; Republicans pretend it's just a policy difference.

The funniest thing about that ad is this bit: Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? Er, well, actually, Osama bin Laden himself announced that he had something "big" planned against the United States in 2001. And allied intelligence from all over the world was warning us that there really was something going on. So a better question would be: Who would ignore those warnings? And the answer, of course, is: George Bush. (Actually, we're criticizing Bush for attacking Iraq instead of going after the terrorists, anyway.)

There's a front-page link today for Scott Rosenberg's Salon blog, and I recommend his comments on both the Bush ad (and read the excellent comment from Mark!) and the War on Terra.

Joe Conason's Journal: As the Washington Post reports today, however, the Medicare bill that is about to become law "would steer at least $125 billion over the next decade in extra assistance to the health care industry and U.S. businesses." The legislation's lavish provisions benefiting insurance companies, HMOs, hospital corporations, and other allegedly efficient providers tacitly acknowledge the unspoken truth about healthcare: Turning healthcare over to the private sector will probably cost taxpayers more, not less. Rather than encouraging savings, the bill actually guarantees higher costs.

A bunch of timely Thanksgiving recipes

The always-excellent Eric Boehlert with some good news on the fight against the FCC rules-change - and a couple of surprises.
12:46 GMT

Iraqi "freedom"

Arab TV network banned for airing Saddam Tape. Al-Arabiya, this time. Well, that's an improvement on what they did to Al-Jazeera, anyway.
11:59 GMT

Monday, 24 November 2003

Vitally important

56K writes:

On Dec 10 and 11 the National Insitute of Standards will be running a symposium on voting machines.

Dec 12 is the anniversary of rhe Bush vs Gore decision.

That might be a good time for a blogosphere Flood the Zone event on touch screen voting.

If the blogosphere doesn't care, there is no possibility that the mainstream media will care.

Now I don't have a blog, so those who do must judge for themselves, I am just suggesting.

Good idea.
23:59 GMT

Frog a la Peche

This Slaktivist post has a good round-up of commentary on the new Republican attack ad campaign that advertises the delightful idea that it is treason to be a Democrat. That's right, folks, it's now treason not to believe in a one-party state. Welcome to the New American Century! Come to think of it, you probably also want to check out these two posts on marriage, civil and otherwise. And picking up the religion-funding thread we've referred to earlier, a bit of history on a creepy Christianist group.

Why Howard Dean is doing so well: Slams on Dean Make Him Stronger.

In an article I meant to link ages ago, Richard Blow asks, Why has Paul Krugman become the Right's whipping boy? And Groupthink Central says, Ah, So That's Why They Hate Krugman So Much: The reason why righties like Bernstein get so histrionic about this topic is not because campus leftists stifle debate or impose their worldview on everyone else (trust me, they don't) but merely because they exist. Oh, wait, there's something even scarier: Indeed, even Justices Rehnquist and Scalia have acknowledged that Lochner was improperly decided, and that the Court should generally defer to Congress and the states with regards to economic regulations. Thus, for Brown to come out in favor Lochner actually puts her to the right of Rehnquist and Scalia.

I've got to agree with Buzzflash, Tom Daschle is the worst Democratic Minority "Leader" in modern history, and should resign.

The 10 Biggest Spam Myths (via Epicycle).

Just my opinion, but: Mickey Kaus is a dope. You can tell him I said so. Atrios tells you why. (For Kaus' words and what it refers to, go here and search on "Atrios". I can say no more.)
23:49 GMT

Left, right; right, wrong

If you get there soon, Talk Left has posted an excerpt from David Cole's article in The Nation that Jeralyn doesn't plan to keep there long, for people who don't have a subscription to the mag but who want to read something good from a really ace civil libertarian about the outrageous abuses of the law that the US has been committing in order to violate rights and to allow the torture of people who in theory should be safe in our hands. If you're not familiar with some of these cases, you really should take advantage of this moment to play catch-up. I confess to having been so sickened by the whole thing that I've tended to avoid posting about the details, but here is a bit about Maher Arar:

Second, what right did the United States have to take a Canadian citizen and put him on a government jet to Syria? The technical justification is that Arar had dual citizenship, and the government had the option to send him to either place because he was denied entry to the United States. But Arar was seeking entry in only the most technical and transitory sense, in order to catch a connecting flight out of the country. He had no desire to stay or even to visit. Yet as it has done so often since 9/11, the government exploited immigration law for purposes it was never designed to serve.

Finally, and most troubling, why did the United States care whether Arar was deported to Syria rather than Canada? We surely have better relations with Canada than Syria. The only possible reason is that federal authorities felt that the Syrians, who have a record of torture, might be able to extract information from Arar that US and Canadian authorities might not get. There is simply no other reason the US government would insist on redirecting Arar--it wanted him tortured but was unwilling to do the dirty work itself and knew Canada wouldn't do it either.

You know, it seems to me we used to have a whole lot more real moral clarity about aiding and abetting torture than we do now.

Jeralyn also linked to a post by Glenn Reynolds that is actually sensible - and for which his right-wing readers are naturally giving him flack. Responding to David Brooks' claim that, "Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide," Glenn insists that, on the contrary, having that experience under your belt (so to speak, as it were, if you will...) actually contributes to a better long-term relationship later on when you finally meet someone who is really right for you.

I agree! Virginity isn't just over-rated, it's entirely counterproductive to the project of understanding relationships and recognizing what is important in choosing a partner to build a life with.

On the other hand, Glenn has clearly failed entirely to understand the right-wing nature of the media when he agrees with Jonah Goldberg that:

If conservatives have such a lock on the culture these days, as Al Gore, Al Franken, and others keep insisting, why don't we just switch sides? The Left can have Fox News, the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, the lavish offices of National Review and The Weekly Standard, as well as Sean Hannity's and Rush Limbaugh's airtime. The gangs at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation will clear out their desks, give John Podesta the code to the Xerox machine, and tell Eric Alterman where to buy the best gyros.

In return, we'd like the keys to the executive bathrooms at ABC, CBS and NBC, please. We'd like the cast of Fox and Friends to take over The Today Show's studios ("and tell Couric to take her Cabbage Patch dolls with her!"). We want Ramesh Ponnuru as the editor of the New York Times and Rich Lowry can have his choice between Time and Newsweek. Matt Labash will get Esquire and let's set up Rick Brookhiser at Rolling Stone (that way they won't have to change their drug coverage). Andrew Sullivan can have The New York Times Magazine. Robert Bork will be the dean of the Yale Law School and the faculty of Hillsdale and Harvard will simply switch places.

Guys, conservatives already have the keys to the executive bathrooms at ABC, CBS, and NBC. (And I see there's no mention there whatsoever of AM radio.)

The reason The New York Times is more important than the other newspapers listed is because lots of people want to read it - it has to get by on subscribers and advertising and cannot depend on the largess of people like Murdoch, Scaife, and the Messiah of the Unification Church. Those right-wing papers wouldn't exist at all without huge subsidies from their right-wing benefactors, because there are still not enough deranged crackpots out there who want to read such utter rubbish. There are already enough universities to serve the number of people who would rather pay to be fed right-wing propaganda than actually learn anything. And you don't need Maureen Dowd's column (and why should you have it, when she hates everyone?) when you've already got people like George F. Will, Robert Novak, Krauthammer (and for a while, the late Michael Kelly, who would still be there if he hadn't died in Iraq), all of whom are well to the right of the mainstream and frequently have outbreaks of sheer crackpottery.

The closest we get to a progressive was Frank Rich, who has been demoted to the gossip section. And, no, leave it out about Krugman, who is a fiscal conservative with views that a mere 20 years ago would have fit comfortably in the center of the mainstream Republican Party. (The only reasons the right is attacking Krugman are partisan and have nothing to do with his being "liberal". He is liberal only in contrast to the right-wing crackpots who are clearly in the business of dismantling the Republic and turning it into a monarchy. Any fiscal conservative, any believer in small government, would be attacking Bush's policies if they had any principles.)

This is the market reality: You are not mainstream, no matter how much you think you are. The subsidized right-wing media has forced Big Media over to the right - farther to the right, in most cases, than the public really is - and you are so out of the mainstream yourselves that you don't even realize that NBC is run by right-wingers. And that the only liberal on TV to have had his own show was Phil Donahue - on cable - who was fired for being a liberal. And that the only person who gets to produce his own politically-biased show on network TV is John Stossel, a raging right-winger. But if you were genuinely dependent on the market, you wouldn't even have your tacky little newspapers. A handful of very rich men support your media because no one else wants to pay for it.

But give me Scaife's money and control of GE (and thus NBC), give Conason and Alterman ABC and CBS, give Mike Malloy control of Clear Channel, and maybe then we can talk.
20:35 GMT

Too rich

Via Josh Marshall, I learn that The Washington Post thinks it's a bad thing if a rich person like George Soros gives a lot of money to progressives to help fight political maniacs:

For Democrats thrilled with the Soros millions, imagine conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife opening his bank account on behalf of Mr. Bush.
Can someone actually work at The Washington Post and not know that we are already aware of how Scaife's money funded the Arkansas Project and was substantially responsible for the impeachment? Can they really not know? Do they imagine that having Scaife doing this while Soros has not been counteracting it has been a good thing for the country as a whole, let alone for liberals? No one is going to stop Scaife from doing it, so what is the point of warning liberals against accepting the Soros dime?

And isn't it strange that Post circulation has declined since they moved to the right? (Thanks to 56K for that link.)
12:19 GMT

Sunday, 23 November 2003

Music news

Thom Yorke of Radiohead

This Yahoo article reports that Thom Yorke of Radiohead made his feelings known to NME about Bush's visit:

Yorke said he was enraged that authorities were using "the threat of terrorism to suppress whatever they choose, intimidate and arrest whoever they wish."

Yorke concluded by suggesting that members of the British Royal Family protest Bush's visit as well, saying that "now is a good time to remind Blair that he's on very very very very very very very very thin ice."

Members of other British bands, such as Blur and Travis, have also spoken out against the President's visit to London and both leaders' stance on the occupation of Iraq.

It's nice to see a bit of that. I've been annoyed as long as I've been here at how few performers have the guts to speak out - worried, I guess, about the threat of being banned by the BBC. *sigh*

Via Bartcop.
23:44 GMT

Good news, good mind

I am relieved by the news that Arthur Silber is blogging again, and for reasons which I hope will be obvious, I have finally decided he belongs with the Loyal Opposition over there on the blogroll.

I have mostly stayed out of the emerging conversation about James Lileks, a blogger of conservative stripe who I think I have linked once in history because, frankly, his occasionally amusing personal writing is vastly overshadowed in my view by his utter lack of comprehension of the many honorable reasons why many of us cannot support the Republicans in their project to make life hell for millions of people who really didn't need that kind of help. But recently he wrote an indefensible post attacking Salam Pax's letter to the Guardian (in the 60 Letters to George Bush column I linked to earlier). Others have made mention of this but Silber has taken great pains to explain why the entire Iraq project horrifies so many people, and even if you already agree with that position his words are well worth reading.

To make life easier for people who don't like to click on links, Silber quotes his sources in some depth, so be assured that if you follow this link to YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY THEY HATE US? YOU'RE THE REASON THEY HATE US, you can just read straight through and be well rewarded.

One point Silber stresses, and which I believe I have addressed before, is this: Iraq was not a nice, civilized democracy before Saddam Hussein came along, and thinking that just getting rid of Saddam would make it so was sheer idiocy. Yet it is clear that this is essentially what the Bushies were selling and, in many cases, actually believed.

There's lots of good new stuff up on Arthur's site, including how Bush's current Iraq policy resembles a Marx Brothers song and the choice between Matt Drudge and France. Welcome back, Arthur.
22:19 GMT

The United States of Amnesia

In 1960 the Democratic National Committee sent out a good deal of advice to the party congressional candidates. I remember nothing they sent me except the warning: Don't mention Nixon's slush fund or the Little Dog Checkers speech or anything else to do with Nixon's past, because the voters have forgotten and if you try to remind them they'll become seriously annoyed and think they are back in school trying to recall who Alexander Hamilton was. This made a great impression on me. Although only eight years had passed since Nixon had celebrated his love for what I had always thought was quite a decent spaniel (despite the kind of rumor you are apt to hear about any dog in public life), the subject was taboo. Nixon - we - had no past.

Over the years I have spoken about politics to quite a few audiences and I'm continually struck by their collective ignorance - or perhaps lack of memory is a more tactful way of putting it. They don't know who did what last week much less ten years ago, and they don't want to be told. This of course, plays into the hands of the politician, He can reinvent himself every morning. Edward Kennedy's Presidential campaign will doubtless feature him as The Hero of Chappaquiddick - the man who swam twenty miles with a wounded secretary under one arm. CHAPPAQUIDDCK AND HUMPHREY, TOO! - Gore Vidal, An Evening With Richard Nixon, Introduction (1972)

(The book's dedication, by the way, reads: "For J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson, With Appreciation.")

I guess the irony here is that he used Kennedy as his imagined example. Was it a deliberate joke or just an error? After all, it's only the high crimes and misdemeanors of Republicans that we are allowed to forget. Apparently, the Democratic Party thought that was a good idea. And still does.
16:39 GMT

A couple of good ones

Jim Henley (who I would have quoted, but something weird about his code makes it difficult to simply copy and paste his text), discusses his reservations about Howard Dean but reminds readers that on the lesser-of-two-evils score, Bush isn't lesser by a long-shot.

Vaara provides a reminder to Andrew Sullivan on why he really shouldn't be so thrilled about Michael Howard.
16:00 GMT

What time period are you?

You are're all about efficiency,
convenience and comfort. You enjoy taking
advantage of innovations and try to be
progressive and experimental.

****** What Time Period are You? ******
brought to you by Quizilla

Translation: You are lazy. (Via Arthur Hlavaty.)
14:51 GMT

Recommended reading

I've been busy this weekend so I haven't done a lot of reading, but Cowboy Kahlil has done a bit of analysis of the results of polling on issues, with some recommendations on how Dems could present those issues to the public. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions, there's plenty of meat there for considering your approach to those issues.
12:14 GMT

Condi's love life

Some folks have been accusing Aaron McGruder of sexism lately because the kids in Boondocks are trying to write a personal ad for Condi in the hope that getting her laid might improve things. A letter to The Washington Post (from Richard Mereand) defends the strip:

Satire is not usually a personal attack, although it can be used that way. In this case, I think McGruder was critiquing United States foreign policy, not Rice's personal life. Satirists use the ridiculous to make a serious point. The idea that United States foreign policy would be kinder and gentler if Rice had a boyfriend is clearly ridiculous. And yet, subtly buried in the humor is a serious question: Why does the United States seem so bellicose, even shrill these days? It is a question that is being asked across America and around the world.

Rice, as the manager of the White House's foreign policy shop, makes a good stand-in, a sort of literary symbol, for the United States. Does America "need a boyfriend"? Would that make the United States nicer, friendlier, easier to deal with? Perhaps, in McGruder's view, America is like a lonely woman -- paranoid, lashing out in anger, alienating her friends.

It's a neat analogy, and frankly a bit kinder than the assumption that America is instead just a grandstanding frat-boy who plays wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am with every girl on campus. But I'm still not sure which one is more apt.

In other letter-writing news, Charles Kuffner reads The Houston Chronicle, where a reader has contributed a critique of Tom DeLay's interesting fund-raising activities.
11:15 GMT

Saturday, 22 November 2003

Trying to cheer up

Well, sure, it's not gonna be available in my size, but it's cute all the same.

Neil Rest sent me a link for this article about bras, which is decent but she's wrong about getting the band size, you only add two to the ribcage measurement, not five, and of course you go to the nearest even number.

Here are a couple of good new pictures of Northern Lights in Scotland.

But my heart doesn't seem to be in it for the last couple of days. It's that bombing in Istanbul. I don't know why, but it got to me in a way nothing else has since the start of the invasion. You'd think, with my background, I could manage to have been freaked out by a bombing almost anywhere else. But I can tell the difference between what Turkey was to the Armenians in 1914 and what Turkey is today, and ... Istanbul, for godssake!

Oh, god, it's all so wrong....
04:57 GMT

Friday, 21 November 2003

Bra news

Max Sawicky on Trade Policy:

The Bush administration, already under attack for its steel tariffs, added to worries that it will take additional trade protection measures ahead of next year's elections by saying it will impose temporary quotas against a surge of bras . . . made in China. -- Wall Street Journal, 11/19/03
The threat of foreign bras has finally been grasped by this Administration, although at some risk of creating a cleavage among conservatives committed to free trade. A feel for this issue is important in holding up America's vital economic interests and preventing sagging employment growth, or even a domestic bust in textile manufactures. Fortunately, efforts in this area are being pushed up. A special bipartisan commission co-chaired by President Bill Clinton and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be formed to keep abreast of the problem. Senator Santorum has asked to participate, the better to pursue his interest in making sure that every bitch is suitably furnished with a bra made in America.

Coordinating energy policy with trade policy, the Congress has provided for tax incentives that will benefit the Hooters' Restaurant in Shreveport, LA.

Max also has a post up giving a quick-and-dirty explanation of what that stupid Medicare bill says and what he thinks of it.
14:27 GMT

Thursday, 20 November 2003

They must be "centrists"

The theory I keep hearing is that the mainstream press is just mainstream, and if you think it's slanted, it's because you are out of the mainstream - that is, if you think it's too far left, it's because you are out on the right-wing fringe, and if you think it's too far right, that's because you are too far left. So, what does the real ideological far right say about the press?

Before the [1990] study came out, the editor of Policy Review, the monthly journal of the Heritage Foundation, had already candidly assessed the opinion landscape. "Journalism today is very different from what it was ten or twenty years ago. Today, op-ed pages are dominated by conservatives," said Adam Myerson. "We have a tremendous amount of conservative opinion, but this creates a problem for those who are interested in a career in journalism after college.... If Bill Buckley were to come out of Yale today, nobody would pay much attention to him. He would not be that unusual...because there are probably hundreds of people with those ideas [and] they have already got syndicated columns."

Nothing much has changed, except that the opinion environment is even less diverse. In 1999, syndication statistics compiled by Editor & Publisher showed that the four top-ranked columnists were all on the right or extreme right: George Will, Robert Novak, Cal Thomas, and Focus on the Family president James Dobson (who threatened to bolt the Republican Party several years ago because of its left-wing excesses). According to the stats, each of those top four writers appeared in about 500 newspapers. Of the top fourteen columnists, whose work then appeared in 250 dailies or more, nine were conservative, three were liberal, and two were centrist.
Ralph Reed acknowledged that reality when he was invited to lunch with the L.A. Times editors in 1996. "I'm probably less of a media basher than probably some in our community because my sense is that it's probably never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think," the former Christian Coalition director said amiably. "I think if you look at the way Clinton's been treated, for example, I think you'd be hard-pressed to say that the personal liberal ideological views of most reporters...have somehow led to a free ride for Bill Clinton. - Joe Conason, Big Lies (pp42-43)

I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that the Heritage Foundation and Ralph Reed are middle-of-the-road, and yet they seem to think that Big Media is at least Fair and Balanced and possibly even tilted in their favor.
14:31 GMT

Medicine ball

As has been well-said by the usual suspect, there are more important things to talk about than Michael Jackson. And few are as important as the Medicare bill sleazing its way through the Hill at the moment. Even the leadership at AARP seems to have found the price to sell out for:

"Critics say AARP, which formally unveiled its new headquarters building in downtown Washington last month, has softened its earlier militancy because it is preoccupied with its profit-making enterprises, including $100 million in earnings from the sale of insurance, mostly Medicare supplemental policies."
- Newsday, 10/21/2000

"AARP's receives more than $100 million in revenue from health insurers."
- Denver Post, 5/21/96

"Critics suggest that AARP's substantial profits from the sales of Medigap and other insurance policies, drug company advertising in its magazines, and investment schemes conflict with its interests on behalf of seniors...AARP President William Novelli acknowledged complaints from members that AARP has been too timid in the political battles to defend Medicare and Social Security. He conceded that AARP has pulled its punches since right-wing groups and members of Congress criticized it as too liberal."
- Newsday, 2/19/02

CalPundit can tell just how bad the bill really is by noticing how much its Republican "supporters" like it:
Two Republican senators are seeking to shelter their states from part of an emerging Medicare bill, fearing their constituents could face higher premiums because of competition between traditional coverage and new private health plans for seniors, officials said Friday.

...."I ... strongly protest the possible use of my constituents as a testing ground for premium support," Specter wrote top Republicans recently. He noted that Pittsburgh and Johnstown in his state meet the criteria for an experimental program under discussion, and added that those "who are negatively affected by this proposed demonstration must be indemnified."

In much the same way that Republicans "support" vouchers but don't want voucher programs tested in their states, they also "support" Medicare competition but want no part of it for their constituents.

And you have to love the call for "indemnification." Translation: we already have to bribe the healthcare providers $12 billion because they don't want to participate in this program, and even then the program sucks so bad that we need to bribe the participants too. Give me a break. If we're going to pay the providers an extra $12 billion and Specter still thinks his constituents are likely to get crappier service than they do now, what does that tell you about Republican faith in the wonders of competition?
Republicans seem to have a disturbing lack of faith in free enterprise whenever there's a chance that it might actually affect them. Perhaps from now on they should simply make it a standard feature of their legislation that it never applies to states or districts that vote Republican. Unless it's pork, of course, in which case it applies only to states and districts that vote Republican.

But we already knew that. There seem to be two types of "free-marketeers" - those who believe the unmitigated bollocks the right-wing leadership sells them (people I think of as "the bridge-buying public"), and those who know none of it will ever be applied to them.

Matt Yglesias complains that the blogosphere isn't paying much attention to this subject, and his readers, who largely seem to be free-marketeers themselves, leap in to say that there's not much to say. And they believe some interesting things:

We do not believe that government management will make health care more timely, cost-effective, or advanced. The best that we can hope for under government-managed health care is that the poor will have the same slow, crappy health care as the rich, along with much higher taxes to pay for it. I understand that some regard such a system as an improvement (and I say that without sarcasm). But we do not.
Posted by Registered Independent Joel
Many Americans like to dazzle themselves with the idea that they have really advanced medicine available to them that the rest of the world doesn't get. I'd be interested in seeing some evidence of that, since (a) no examples are usually given and (b) on the rare occasion when they are, they turn out either not to be true or about things that are only available because NIH made them available - that is, they are the product of tax-payer supported programs and not at all owing to the market - and they will be available in Europe a year or two later if not immediately.

I certainly have had my complaints about various aspects of the NHS, but most of them are complaints I had about American health-care when I'd never known any other kind. The remainder are "innovations" brought in by first the Thatcher government and then her successors in an attempt to try to wreck the NHS. (That's how they do this thing - you starve services, run them down, throw in a bit of absurd bureaucracy to make everyone even more frustrated with the system, and then announce that privatization will make it all run so much better, and more cheaply. Then the new "private" concerns introduce loads of "investors" and middle-men and overpaid execs who cheap out on actually running and maintaining the service, and who rake off all the money for their own pockets, and of course the customers still end up paying more - and taxes are still being fed into the machine because you can't just let those services die.)

By the way, there is private healthcare available in the UK - it's just that, most of the time, most of us get by just fine with the NHS. Doctors like it, too; how better to serve your country than by serving its people?

Another comment (from "Scott") says:

but if you want to talk about healthcare solutions, i would start with tort reform, which would drastically reduce malpractice insurance and lower health insurance premiums to a point where far more americans could afford them.
30 states have malpractice caps, and none of them have cheaper medicine - or cheaper insurance. "Tort reform" is a scam intended to prevent ordinary people from being able to challenge companies that break faith with them. Free-marketeers imagine that we will be able to enforce contracts against big companies just because, oh, big companies are good and honest and moral, I guess. Now, why would Republicans want to make it harder for private citizens to want to see their rights enforced?
secondly, we have to invest heavily in disease management in this country. if we changed the focus from treating the existing illness to preventing illness in the first place (usually through simple routine physicals and screenings) you would, again, lower the cost of medical coverage per person in this country, which is absurdly high. this would then lower insurance premiums further, again allowing more people to afford insurance and more employers to provide health insurance to their employees.
Aside from forcing people to quit smoking, I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. A relatively small percentage of people a year discover an illness they didn't know they had because of routine physicals, but for the most part it's a waste of time and money. And if people have to shell out money to visit the doctor, they are still going to delay going. (Hell, I don't have to shell out money to visit the doctor and I still don't want to go.) The people with the most urgent need to have their health monitored regularly - because of income and environment - are still going to be the people who can least afford it.

By the way, I just love the idea that your health insurance is tied to your employer. God forbid you should be in a position to walk out on a job where you are abused, eh? Especially if you're someone with a pre-existing condition. That's what conservatives call "freedom". Oh, here's some more:

so thirdly, if you even want to start talking about some sort of universal healthcare system, and you want someone like me to support it, you'd have to separate preventable illness from unpreventable illness. there's no way in hell you're EVER going to convince me i should subsidize smokers, drinkers, overeaters, etc. for the massive health costs associated with what clearly are personal lifestyle choices. if you're idiot enough to play russian roulette with your own life, you don't deserve my money to bail you out.
Ah, yes, the lifestyle police. No wonder conservatives are always warning us about "the nanny state" - it's the only way they can think of to provide for the general welfare. God forbid we should let people have a little privacy and dignity. (And by all means let's let armchair medical experts decide what lifestyle choices are acceptable.)

(You know, what really gets me is that my libertarian friends are forever going on at me about how "the left" started all this "anti-smoking nazi" stuff. How did that happen? The first obnoxious anti-smokers I ever met were conservatives. How did it get to be our fault? Why burn Hillary Clinton in effigy when you have all those young conservatives you can blame?)

I wonder what it says that this is the way the conversation - which started off as one about Medicare - developed on a leading liberal site.
01:24 GMT

Wednesday, 19 November 2003

Don't bring 'em on

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber on our Coward-in-Chief hiding from the public and crapping out on his address to Parliament:

Needless to say, the spin on the visit--see the same ABC news story-- is that Bush is in London to "address" and "confront" those who doubt his policy in Iraq. He'll just be doing this without, you know, addressing or confronting anyone.
If it was up to me, every sign or banner at the demonstrations would say, "Don't widdle your panties, George."
21:11 GMT


Dear George (60 letters to George Bush): What we hated was the way you failed to understand the inheritance of the west. It was not a birthright of absolute superiority, but it was the best thing we had; it was something that went, as Mr Blair put it, to the "heart of our credibility as a nation". And this credibility, for which so many millions died - you have let it run through your hands. - Sebastian Faulks, Novelist. Harold Pinter has a nice one, as do John Mortimer, Jenny Colgan, Polly Toynbee(!) and Salam Pax. Andrew Motion wrote a poem. Frederick Forsyth and Michael Portillo, on the other hand.... I'm sure "Mickey (12)" speaks for a lot more people.

The New York Times has a story about a new group being put together by William Sloan Coffin and others to represent mainstream Christians to counteract the Christianists. The Right Christians thinks it's a good thing. Matt Singer thinks it's a bad thing. Personally, I think Matt should read what David Neiwert has to say at Orcinus about this.

Josh Marshall has more on GOPUSA: Also, it's not like the site is some obscure outlet with no mainstream conservatives connected to it. In addition to the author of this particular column, James Hall, the site's other regular columnists include Austin Bay, Linda Chavez, David Horowitz (a TPM fav), Alan Keyes, and Star Parker.

In case you missed it, this is the Ted Rall article that for some reason the right-wing of the blogosphere appears to think is some sort of championing of the slaughter of American troops. Or whatever it is they think. I don't know, I thought it was a pretty obvious "walk a mile in their shoes" piece, but I could be wrong. Maybe I'm just prejudiced 'cause he looks so cute in that picture.

Jesse and Ezra at Pandagon parse a criticism of Ted Kennedy.

You might not want to look at this video if someone judgmental is looking over your shoulder, but it amused me: Ad of the week - from Trojan. (Via Epicycle, where Bush's visit is not playing well.)
14:33 GMT

Tuesday, 18 November 2003

The Martin Chronicles

Rob's series of articles featuring Bloody Martin Smith from Croydon has been made available at efanzines, for those who are interested. My personal favorite is the one where he's French.
22:57 GMT


The Daily Howler has taken a look at that hack Bernie Goldberg's new book. You know Bernie, he is always "proving" that the media is "liberal". One of the exhibits in Goldberg's gallery involves how gushingly adoring the media were toward...Hillary Clinton.

Atrios has an extravaganza today, starting with this amazing thing from GOPUSA's website that somehow omitted to accuse "Shylock" George Soros of using the blood of gentile children to make his bread. I know, I know, you're asking how close these whack-jobs are to the actual Republican leadership. Well, Atrios lists some of the people who spoke at their conference, and they ain't just fringies - along with the Heretige Foundation types and Grover Norquist, there are elective officials and even some folks who are attached to the White House. Atrios also noticed a rather amazing letter that Eric Alterman posted from his mailbag, which you can read at the end of today's column. And while you're there, check out Pierce's letter about his very own Bernie Goldberg experience.
22:07 GMT

Peche a la Frog

LiberalOasis and Pundit Pap both reckon Wesley Clark did well against Tim Russert on Meet the Press. LO isn't sure that's enough, but JJ Balzer really seems to have enjoyed watching it. All in all, Tim was no match for Clark -- who was far more courtly but just as tough as Howard Dean can get. Sounds like Clark was ready for Tim's handy RNC talking-point attacks and came back with the stiletto.

Roz has more on Britain's hideous government, the death penalty, and ID cards.

Brendan Nyhan at Spinsanity discusses the RNC's strategy of labelling criticism of Bush as "hate speech", and John Dean says Three cheers for the Democrats' filibuster (both via Summary Opinions).

Showing the world what it means to live in a free country: Delmar, NY, Nov. 16 - Owners of Getty Stations in the Capital Region say they have been threatened and victimized for speaking out against the owner of the stations.

Charlie's way of dealing with the Bush visit is to enjoy the weird, such as Ugly Wedding Dress of the Day.

Speaking of weird, Mark has discovered turkey-and-gravy soda. More usefully, he says a new DVD of You Bet Your Life is now available, and you can even preview it here.

Britney's sex tips.
15:50 GMT

Monday, 17 November 2003

Something more pleasant

Elaine Normandy has some neat photos up at Five Acres with a View. I particularly liked the sky in this one, and Morning Clouds is quite striking.

The subject of the invasion of Iraq may not be pleasant, but it's nice to know that Diana has not only seen the light, but that she's willing to admit up front that she was conned.

Richard E. Grant is the latest Doctor Who - sorta.

Aaron McGruder tells it like it is at America's Black Forum. (Via Elayne Riggs.)
23:36 GMT

Well, that sure woke me up

(This is copied from the print edition. It appears to have been edited for the online edition and has an amended title as well.)

Bush tells US firms to take British jobs home
By Robert Lea

AMERICAN companies in Britain have been told by George Bush's administration to relocate jobs back to the US in what is feared to be the first shots in a trade war.

Oh, it's a good deal more than that. Why, it's breathtaking. This publicly humiliates Tony Blair in thanks for his support for the Iraq invasion and creates the killer economic issue for the right-wing parties on both sides of the Atlantic.
Multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in the UK and take jobs back home, according to Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI.

"We have evidence of three or four major employers being told this," Jones said at the opening of the CBI conference today.

The revelations - on top of the recent ruling that US steel tariffs are illegal - could lead to a trade war between the US and the European Union, which might result in a global recession to match the 1930s Depression, said Niall FitzGerald.

Is anyone else completely blown away by this? I sure am.

And I think this seals it: If Labour doesn't get rid of Blair right away, Howard (who has appointed a really creepy shadow cabinet) has a fair chance. And that means Labour voters will have nowhere to go but to the LibDems.
18:39 GMT

I am boring today, go read someone else

Seeing the Forest on "productivity".

Suburban Guerrilla, feeling a draft, and thinking about whether the Democrats want to beat Bush or just other Democrats.

Digby on Why You Shouldn't Vote For A Callow, Empty-Headed Bimbo, Part XXIV.

E.J. Dionne asks Is Dean Goldwater?

I'm going for some exercise, we'll see if my brain returns later.
16:22 GMT

Sunday, 16 November 2003

The News

A new Al Gore website, for those who refuse to give up

And you thought you'd heard the end of this: Terror market will reopen in March, according to Kos: Amazing to believe, but a sharp-eyed reader has found that the Policy Analysis Market -- that Pentagon-funded and Pointexder-led futures market -- will reopen in March. Also, Meteor Blades tells you just how bad the Bush-Cheney energy bill is.

Nick Confessore has a good post up at Tapped defending the Democratic filibuster of whacko judicial nominees, and he has a tempting solution to the problem: Personally, I'd like to see the two sides work this out. A solution that makes sense to me is a new Senate rule that would actually require a supermajority -- a two-thirds vote -- to pass any judicial nominee.

Via Altercation, Matt Yglesias with the anatomy of another Bush regime "mistaken impression". Also via Eric, Bill Moyers' Keynote Address to the National Conference on Media Reform: The Carnegie Corporation conducted a youth challenge quiz of l5-24 year-olds and asked them, "Why don't more young people vote or get involved?" Of the nearly two thousand respondents, the main answer was that they did not have enough information about issues and candidates. Let me rewind and say it again: democracy can't exist without an informed public.

He's been missing since February, but now, William Burton is back! (The excuse we had from Punditwatch, on the other hand, has gone way past its sell-by date.)

Professional hack Dick Morris is spinning the Democratic race for all he's worth, but Alex Frantz isn't falling for it.

The Washington Post does its article on blogging.

Sidney Blumenthal on what Bush promised Blair - and didn't deliver. And who was responsible? Well, Elliot Abrams sure helped. You remember him, don't you? During the Iran-contra scandal, Abrams had helped set up a rogue foreign policy operation. His soliciting of $10m from the Sultan of Brunei for the illegal enterprise turned farcical when he juxtaposed numbers on a Swiss bank account and lost the money. He pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and then spent his purgatory as director of a neo-conservative thinktank, denouncing the Oslo Accords and arguing that "tomorrow's lobby for Israel has got to be conservative Christians, because there aren't going to be enough Jews to do it". But ultimately, of course, the man who broke his own word was George W. Bush, and it wasn't just Blair he betrayed.
23:59 GMT

A good week for hate

CalPundit wonders why deploring partisan "hate" has suddenly become the rage now that someone has noticed that Democrats/liberals might be doing it, too. Skippy says:

we'd have to agree. why is it that the democrats are supposed to be "above it all" and not roll up their sleeves and engage in the same passionate discourse that the repubbbs have been getting away with since newt "who needs a wife with cancer" gingrich started ten years ago?
Bob Somerby thought more of this Nicholas Kristof article than I did. (I sent Kristof an e-mail reminding him that many Christians don't happen to be blasphemous right-wing fruitcakes who hate liberals.) Somerby does, however, take Kristof to task for being the latest on the hate-equivalency bandwagon:
But Kristof makes a familiar point which needs to be challenged once again. "Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives," he writes. His proof? Needless to say, Kristof cites the foolish piece in which Jonathan Chait announced his Bush-hatred. But Kristof, scrounging hard for proof, is soon forced to fall back on this foofaw:
KRISTOF: I see the fury in my e-mail messages. In a fairly typical comment, one reader suggested that President Bush and his aides are "lying, cynical greedy pirates who deserve no better than a firing squad." At this rate, soon we'll all be so rabid that Ann Coulter will seem normal.
How does Kristof know that libs are as bad as those cons? He knows it from reading his e-mails! We're sorry, but this just won't do.
Sorry. No public liberal resembles Ann Coulter, and nothing like the hounding of Clinton has yet been aimed at President Bush. That Clinton era was uniquely deranged. Why can't Nick Kristof just say it?
Instead Kristof gives us someone we can presumably compare with Ms. Coulter: Molly Ivins. No, really.

Archpundit got the raw end of some of the real heart-and-soul of the conservative movement, but we already knew about them, though perhaps not that they were being allowed to serve on school boards.

But wait. OK, we all wonder, from time to time, why the good die young and the not-so-good seem to go on forever. And we all generally harbor the wish that it could be the other way around. And yes, we sometimes speculate - privately - on how much more convenient it would be if certain individuals would be hit by a truck. Come on, you know you do. But we don't usually do it in public, and especially not in writing to more than the very closest intimates. Well, most of us don't, but, as we've recently learned, there are "Christian" preachers who lead prayers for the deaths of Democrats, and Ann Coulters who publicly bemoan Tim McVeigh's failure to bomb The New York Times and who also cheerlead the idea that we need to kill a few liberals, and now we have the detailed good Christian fantasy of commandos taking out all the Democrats in the Senate and a substantial portion of the Supreme Court. This goes way beyond the idle wish for a convenient act of god.

Down in the comments, I was astonished to see the allegedly "reasonable conservative" Tacitus refer to David Neiwert's recent Creeping Fascism as "paranoid". Neiwert is no alarmist, and he backs up his statements with facts. Worse, you could delete every one of his own words from "Creeping Fascism" and just read the originating texts and still end up coming to the same conclusion he does - assuming you ever believed in the idea of America the Democratic Republic in the first place. If Tacitus didn't feel that same chill going up his spine, I can only assume that his nerve endings are shot.

Of course, when they aren't simply hating us outright and calling us traitors or evil, they declare us crazy when we say perfectly normal and obvious things. Neiwert is "paranoid", and, according to Andrew Sullivan, Wesley Clark is "Perot-crazy" for having said that invading Iraq actually made us less secure than we were before and distracted our attention from Al Qaeda. And now Mark Kleiman finds that the formerly reasonable Glenn Reynolds is even quoting Sullivan approvingly and says this to boot:

The real problem with the Iraq war is that it's (1) waged by a Republican President; and (2) obviously in the United States' national interest. To some people, those characteristics are enough to brand it evil.
God only knows where Reynolds must be coming from if he imagines that we question the Iraq war because it is "obviously in the United States' national interest." Leaving aside that there's no "obvious" about it, he's talking about Americans who very much care about our national interests. How dare he suggest otherwise?

After all that I need some cheering up. Maybe it's true that laughter is the best medicine. I hope so. Jesus' General should serve as an analgesic at least. Or more Skippy. And speaking of fantasies, how about FOX News Admits Bias?
21:30 GMT

Saturday, 15 November 2003

Foreign Policy


Suddenly just about everyone in their right mind is entertaining the thoughts that liberals have so far been too much on the defensive to even think about: getting out of Iraq. Max is thinking it. Even Josh Marshall is thinking it. And Atrios says:

I have to admit I basically agree with Max. The "we broke it we bought it" crowd assumes that somehow if we just stick it out things will get better. Whether we're concerned about our national interests or the interests of Iraqis, I just don't see how staying furthers either of those.

The truth is, this position isn't any different than that of the Democratic candidates or the Bush administration's official position. They simply have higher hopes about what can be accomplished, but unless we plan to make Iraq an American colony the position of just about everybody is "let's get out as soon as we can." The Max view is that there's nothing much to be accomplished by staying, and I tend to agree. We may be wrong, but the view that we just have to try and make things better presupposes that there's much we can do.

...Josh Marshall says:

But first there's got to be some accountability, a threshold recognition that the people who navigated us into this mess aren't the best suited to help us find our way out of it.
He's right, but we already had one round of this. Remember, these were the people who backed Saddam in the first place. Jolly old pals, remember? In the warped universe of Christopher Hitchens, for some reason this meant that these idiots had a moral obligation to right a wrong. They do have a moral obligation - to step aside and let somebody competent take over.
Steve Gilliard (whose archives are abnormal so go to Friday, 14 November and scroll down), has some Questions for the pro-war set, and Charles Dodgson, in what has got to be the best (and most convincing) of the pieces on this subject, pretty much agrees with the Bagdad cab-driver who said, "They must get out, they must get out."
One answer would be in Centcom briefings, which recount Americans doing things like painting schoolhouses to improve the lives of Iraqis. I seem to have a different reaction to these stories than what Centcom intends. I want to know why that American soldier has been dragged away from his family, halfway around the world, to take a job away from some now-unemployed Iraqi who would be at least as capable of wielding a paintbrush. A complaint which extends to our larger reconstruction efforts as well, as in the case of an Iraqi cement plant, now running after being fixed up by the workers for a quarter million dollars, over the objections of occupation authorities, who wanted to do the Iraqis a favor with a gold-plated repair proposal that would have taken a year and $23 million, leaving the Iraqis themselves completely idle in the meantime.

So, Americans are not providing sound business practice or know-how; they are not providing security (not even for their own allied agencies, which are rapidly being chased out by bombings, much less for the Iraqi population at large), but they are very clearly serving as a magnet for terrorists from all over.

It's been clear for a long time that when the Bushies said they were going to run America like a business, we really should have said, "Which one?" I mean, the Mafia is, after all, "a business", and so is every con game going. A business that is both corrupt and inefficient isn't really the sort of thing people like to put their pension plans into. But now, apparently, they are running Iraq in much the same way and they don't even have to scam the press there since apparently their answer to criticism is just to bomb broadcasters and shoot reporters. (Anyone who thinks this is an exaggeration really should pay attention to the fact that Al-Jazeera stood up to Saddam when Fox News did not, and that it was the Americans who bombed Al-Jazeera.)

I suppose it would be helpful if we could just figure out what we invaded for, and then we might be able to do it. And the evidence, according to Bill Scher at Liberal Oasis, would seem to be that it's not as hard as everyone's making it sound if democracy is what we really want. The CW is that if we let the Iraqis vote in a free and fair election, they'll vote for some sort of Wahabbist theocracy, but:

Is it fair to be worried about such a set-up resulting in an oppressive Shiite theocracy? Not really.

The recent Gallup analysis of a poll of Baghdad residents (posted at the occupation authority's website, aren't these Bushies supposed to hate polls?) shows a rejection of Iranian and Taliban styles of government.

Gallup says the clear winners are "either a multiparty parliamentary democracy, or a system based on the Islamic concept of shura (whereby leaders work through a process of consultation and public consensus)."

Of course, to let the Iraqis themselves make that call cuts out of the action a little guy named George W. Bush.

A really good business consultant will tell you that their greatest frustration is that when they are called in to help an ailing company, what they usually find is that the company's problem is at the top, but fat chance convincing the executives to fire themselves.


Some people have a really short memory, and, unbelievably, there are already people who are willing to argue with Josh Marshall when he says that our approach to Korea has been "aggressive and unilateral". Josh re-hashes the sorry story of how Bush decided to tear up a policy that was working and publicly humiliated the architect of that policy, and now is trying to undo the damage. And then he says:

You don't need to know too much about foreign affairs to know that the term for such an approach isn't multilateralism but desperation, or perhaps multilateralism used in desperation after unilateralism has created grave damage.

There is of course a telling and unfortunate parallel with the current situation in Iraq. Now that things are going south we're looking for help from anyone and everyone there too. But, again, that's desperation, not multilateralism. Does trying to get the South Koreans to send us a few troops change the fundamental character of our policy? Of course not. Everybody goes begging for help when they run out of options. That's human nature. The key is to avoid pursuing a policy based on recklessness and swagger that gets you into such a position in the first place.

And the sticking point is that that's the way Bush operates all the time. So the key, obviously, is to get rid of the Bush administration.
16:38 GMT

More horrible UK stuff

Need to Know tells you we've had a bad week:

Think you had a bad week? Well, you did. You just didn't hear about it. First up: after extraordinary scenes in the House of Lords on Wednesday, the government managed to push through its five standing orders of the apocalypse - to let a smorgasbord of local authorities monitor email and phone traffic, plus proposals to force ISPs to retain traffic data. All the proposals have been watered down a little since they were first aired. But it's all still pretty bad, as was indicated by the Tories' desperate attempt to introduce a "fatal amendment". Fatal amendments - which basically add "This house believes the following law should be taken outside and shot:" - are the Nuke-From-Orbit of the Lords' arsenal. They haven't been successfully used in the House for thirty years. Taken aback by this approach, the government went on the offensive, threatening to use similiar tactics on future Tory administrations. It all got a bit nastily party-political from there on in. When the mist cleared, the Lib-Dems had caved on data retention, the Tories went off muttering about doing some angry squeaking in the Commons, and we got a fistful of bad law. Worse: you didn't know any of it was happening until it was far too late.
That's usually the way, yeah.

More locally, I would really like to know what is wrong with my computer. I can't afford to replace it.
14:36 GMT

Friday, 14 November 2003

Life in the 51st State

Via Epicycle

We had no sky so we didn't see the eclipse, but some people did and had their cameras ready.

Modern technology is a good way to create a false sense of security at great expense. David Blunkett, a Home Secretary so loathsome that even Jack Straw disagrees with him, has now put out his detailed proposal for ID cards that include biometric data and will be required for all sorts of things. Which means they will be bloody expensive, for one thing. They'll also create a bit of a problem for the whole question of the rights of the Irish in Britain. Guardian readers write in with their objections, along with someone who obviously was working from the same talking-points that Fiona Mactaggart is using to sell out her alleged principles this week:

There are few things more risky in politics than admitting you have changed your mind about a policy you have always vehemently opposed. If you have recently become a minister as well, you can expect the sneers to come thick and fast that your principles have been squashed under the weight of the red box.
Translation: The leadership wants it and I'm pig-ignorant about technology so I don't have to listen to all the warnings about the likely technological problems and impending civil liberties nightmare.
My admission is this: like many people I know, I have gradually changed my mind on ID cards. For an ex-chairwoman of Liberty and contributor of plenty of damning articles on the subject over the years, this is not easy to say. But the world has changed with the development of biometric technology. Now, those of us on the left who have always led the charge against previous plans, need to stop and ask ourselves whether the steamroller of hi-tech identification which is heading our way will make matters worse for the poorest and most excluded people in our society if we do not go ahead with a compulsory scheme.
It will be expensive to do it voluntarily so lets make it compulsory and still just as expensive.
So what has changed? In a word, biometrics. The development of these hi-tech identifiers of your unique personal characteristics; an iris print, fingerprint or face scan, will revolutionise the way in which we identify ourselves over the next 10 years.
Magically, this technology will actually work without being subject to all of the corruption, hacking, and error that affects everything else. Because it is really high-tech and modern, cops won't harass minorities like they would with low-tech ID cards. (My god, doesn't this woman watch TV?)

Fiona inspired some more letters, including a good one from the current director of "Liberty" (the National Council for Civil Liberties), who referred readers and the author to earlier NCCL documents on why we should oppose ID cards - by Fiona Mactaggart. There are some other good letters, too.

Meanwhile, here's the real answer to that crackpot Krauthammer and his idiotic idea that the international sympathy Americans had after 9/11 never existed:

The British abandoned their stiff upper lips and hugged Americans after 9/11. Now much of that goodwill has evaporated and the blame is being laid firmly at the door of George W. Bush.
Now with President Bush heading to these shores next week to see Tony Blair for what should have been a triumphal reunion with his closest ally, the 200,000 Americans living in London are reflecting on how times have changed.

They recall with wonder how the British dropped their innate reserve after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

But now, after wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where British and Americans fought side by side, they face a wave not of anti-Americanism but anti-Bushism.

"It's tougher being an American in London than it used to be. Our President has made it so," said Newsweek Magazine's London correspondent Stryker McGuire.

I was so touched by the kindness of anyone who heard my accent after 9/11. That's all gone.

I want to make it clear that I have experienced no anti-Americanism whatsoever. But what I have experienced is that moment of hesitation from people while they try to find a way to avoid expressing their views of the current US government - until I say something that assures them I regard Bush as a disaster. Even so, none of them - including my Iranian dentist and my Muslim neighbors - is as scathing toward Bush as I am. But they know that he is not us.

(That article is via Epicycle, where there is also some commentary on Bush's impending visit to London, with a quote from HST.)

And Happy Birthday to The Sideshow: The Terrible Twos.
15:13 GMT

A few things

Bush says he welcomes protests in London: "I'm so pleased to be going to a country which says that people are allowed to express their minds," Bush said. "That's fantastic. Freedom is a beautiful thing." Yeah, right.

How we won in Vietnam

I was listening to this story on This American Life about Diebold (about six minutes in) when I noticed a post on Electrolite linking Dan Gillmor saying that "... 61 Democrats in the U.S. House have cosponsored a bill requiring voter-verifiable paper printouts, but not a single Republican has signed on -- and the bill is buried in committee." And he also linked to Julian on touch-screens.

Bill Frist feels the sting of Atrios and ends up looking dumb on Yahoo! News.

Take Mark Fiore's Are you a Patriot? quiz. (Via Wendy McElroy - and you might want to check out her Veteran's Day post, too.)

The last thing we need is the silencing of the voices of smart folks of good will. I may not always agree with their political theory, but there are more important things.
03:34 GMT

Thursday, 13 November 2003

You can worry, now

From Josh Marshall:

We all know there were no WMD in Iraq. We thought there were. But there weren't. Some GOP dead-enders still want to pretend that it's still an open question. But it's not.

And yet we know there were active WMD programs at one time.

That's not relevant to the debate about why we went to war, our whether intelligence was manipulated. But it is relevant for another reason: those scientists who did the work are still there. And the knowledge for how to make all sorts of nasty stuff is still in their heads.

It would sort of be a bummer if they ended up putting that knowledge to work for al Qaida or the Syrians or anyone else for that matter.

Yeah, I liked it better when they were working for a guy who never did anything without the approval of the United States.
17:12 GMT

Talking Back

On Framing: But the thing is, it's not their forte - it used to be ours. We had the best bumper-stickers, the best slogans, the best songs. We've let them out-strip us at it because suddenly we decided we were too good for that sort of thing.

On Dean and pick-up trucks: Hesiod, I understand the point all too well, but don't you think it's time we acknowledged that those Confederate-flag wavers don't really want a return to slavery? (And how come Soros didn't do that before? I've been waiting years - literally - for him to wake up and do something like this.)

Actually, I think Dwight's post may be the definitive one on the du Toit essay. (Meanwhile, Mary Beth tells you what those "great" economic figures really mean.)
16:23 GMT

Stuff from around

Tom DeLay, Telemarketer (Via Electrolite Sidelights.)

American Workers can safely say, Bye, Bye to the Slice of the American Pie - American Dream outsourced.

The Indy celebrates all the different reasons to hate George Bush and screw up the traffic in central London.

NPR interview with Gore Vidal about his new book, Inventing a Nation.

Braesdemblog has the article about Gertrude M. Jones's last wishes, but my favorite bit is this: "When I saw the obituary I thought, 'That's pretty cool.' She's not here in this life anymore, but she's keeping going with something she feels deeply about," said Susan Crites, an online bookseller in Colorado who was moved by the obituary to add an extra $10 to the approximately $350 she has sent to Howard Dean. Because, of course, Susan Crites is personally known to The Sideshow as a former Official Editor of A Woman's APA.

The Rapture - or is this just a Beatles movie?

Don't I know that nun from somewhere?

Somebody get Jim Cappozola a job, he's going a little weird.
13:21 GMT

Wednesday, 12 November 2003

Entertainment news

Joey Ramone to be honoured in New York: Officials in New York are to honour the late Joey Ramone, by naming a street in his memory.

From The Scotsman, Lillian Edwards is the 47th most eligible woman in Scotland.

Mark Evanier has some great stuff up in tribute to the late Art Carney, a wonderful actor who was, among other things, the first to play Felix Unger opposite Walter Matthau. Mark knows lots, and I have nothing to add, but that, like a lot of people, I enjoyed him whenever I saw him. Thanks, Mark.
22:47 GMT

Life's little absurdities

1978, Dolly Gilliland's kitchen

We would like to apologize for a further lack of lingerie. I realize this isn't the same, but it's a picture I'd never seen before.

Altercation has tons of links in his 11 November entry. He was pretty hot the day before, as well, and he found the article that proves to my satisfaction that Charles Krauthammer is out of his mind: It is pure fiction that this pro-Americanism sentiment was either squandered after Sept. 11 or lost under the Bush Administration. Look, Charlie, you're wrong, OK?

TBogg has found a little list.

Democrats are having trouble getting those big donations, but Republicans are getting this.

Colin Powell, drug addict: You don't use Ambien? Everybody here uses Ambien. That would explain a lot. (Ambien is alleged to be a habit-forming drug that causes confusion, euphoria, and amnesia.)

Jobs aren't just disappearing off to China - they're disappearing into productivity. (Via Ann, who is way Peevish on Terrible Tuesday.)
14:59 GMT

Legal news

I'm watching the news on Auntie Beeb and have just seen an item announcing that the Licenced Taxi Drivers have lost their case against rickshaws in the High Court. The basis of their case: They're losing business. Doesn't seem like much of an argument to me. I like the guy who is quoted as saying, "We're not a third world country but we're moving in that direction with this judgment."
13:37 GMT

Tuesday, 11 November 2003

On the web

Patrick sent me the link for that Evening Standard story I couldn't find before, here: American officials want a virtual three-day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protestors. They are demanding that police ban all marches and seal off the city centre. But senior Yard officers say the powers requested by US security chiefs would be unprecedented on British soil. While the Met wants to prevent violence, it is sensitive to accusations of trying to curtail legitimate protest. I'm glad someone is.

And while you're at the Standard site, you might want to read A.N. Wilson's review of John Garth's Tolkien And The Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth.

The whole time I was reading that silly du Toit article, I kept thinking, "Is that a fake name, or was he teased unmercifully at school and now he has to show how manly he is?" Anyway, Sadly, No had a different response: The Dickification of the Western Female.

Cowboy Kahlil wants some inspiration. (I wish I could remember where I saw the figure recently, but Al Gore still has pretty impressive poll numbers. There's a reason for that.)

I am a bad person but this joke made me laugh out loud. Via Steve Bates, but you should probably be reading Steve's more enlightening piece on black box role-reversal. Hey! Republicans! Are you listening, now?
23:08 GMT

Ostrich meat

David Neiwert has now published the the first installment of his new series, Manifestly Unfit: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. He begins by quoting the opening skit for the pre-election edition of Saturday Night Live, which he describes as "remarkable, mostly, for its eerie prescience" in portraying a hopelessly over-his-head President Bush who has brought us to a disastrous course and offers a senseless curative prescription in response. David then provides a rough outline of Bush's "accomplishments" in office that shows this flight of whimsy to be far closer to the truth than we might have imagined, and then says:

The record is unmistakable: George W. Bush's presidency has been an unmitigated disaster from nearly the day he took office, and it has compounded exponentially with every week the man occupies it. Even if he is defeated in 2004, Americans will be paying the price for his spectacularly misbegotten ascension to the nation's highest office at one of the most critical junctures in history for years, perhaps even generations, to come. Which makes the thought of him winning election for the first time, thereby handing him another four years in which to deepen the problems beyond the point of recovery, even more chilling.

Bush's tenure to date have been three of the most tumultuous and divisive in American history, and his responsibility for the chaos is inescapable. The image of Bush ducking under his desk while the Capitol burns behind him may have been funny in November 2000, but in November 2003, it is all too real.

Viewers may remember that in contrast, the same Saturday Night Live skit also showed "our possible future" under President Al Gore: A schoolmarmish Gore lecturing Americans on economics, while Bill Clinton wanders in and out of the picture. Annoying, tedious, boring.

If only we had been so lucky.

If only.
17:08 GMT

Bush tries to bring Free Speech Zones to London

And Ken isn't happy:

The Guardian learned last night of tension between US security agents, who want an exclusion zone round the president, and the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, who wants the demonstrators to be guaranteed as much freedom as possible. The Metropolitan police are caught in the middle.
In a story I can't find at the Standard website, Team Bush is demanding that US security agents be allowed to shoot anyone who they think looks suspicious.

Well, this will damn sure look suspicious.
14:05 GMT

Music section

MadKane's latest is St. Reagan's Song.

Alan Brill got some friends to work up a version of his "Maggie's Farm" re-write that you can download and listen to instead of just reading it. Or both.
13:44 GMT


Via ErosBlog, Eric Raymond on Naomi Wolf's dumb pornography article - but I still think I was meaner.

Over the weekend, Sidney Blumenthal looked at Howard Dean's little Confederate flag problem and decided it was time to talk about race and the south. (Via Pacific Views.)

Zell Miller's Trent Lott moment

David Horsey: Fox News: Fair and Balanced
12:33 GMT

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States

In a one-hour speech , the man we elected to the presidency said:

I want to challenge the Bush Administration's implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.
In a revealing move, just three days ago, the White House asked the Republican leadership of the Senate to shut down the Intelligence Committee's investigation of 9/11 based on a trivial political dispute. Apparently the President is anxious to keep the Congress from seeing what are said to have been clear, strong and explicit warnings directly to him a few weeks before 9/11 that terrorists were planning to hijack commercial airliners and use them to attack us.

Astonishingly, the Republican Senate leadership quickly complied with the President's request. Such obedience and complicity in what looks like a cover-up from the majority party in a separate and supposedly co-equal branch of government makes it seem like a very long time ago when a Republican Attorney General and his deputy resigned rather than comply with an order to fire the special prosecutor investigating Richard Nixon.
They have even taken steps that seem to be clearly aimed at stifling dissent.
And at the same time they are breaking new ground by prosecuting Greenpeace, the Bush Administration announced just a few days ago that it is dropping the investigations of 50 power plants for violating the Clean Air Act – a move that Sen. Chuck Schumer said, "basically announced to the power industry that it can now pollute with impunity."
It is an approach that is deeply antithetical to the American spirit. Respect for our President is important. But so is respect for our people. Our founders knew – and our history has proven – that freedom is best guaranteed by a separation of powers into co-equal branches of government within a system of checks and balances – to prevent the unhealthy concentration of too much power in the hands of any one person or group.

Our framers were also keenly aware that the history of the world proves that Republics are fragile. The very hour of America's birth in Philadelphia, when Benjamin Franklin was asked, "What have we got? A Republic or a Monarchy?" he cautiously replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

And even in the midst of our greatest testing, Lincoln knew that our fate was tied to the larger question of whether ANY nation so conceived could long endure.

This Administration simply does not seem to agree that the challenge of preserving democratic freedom cannot be met by surrendering core American values. Incredibly, this Administration has attempted to compromise the most precious rights that Americahas stood for all over the world for more than 200 years: due process, equal treatment under the law, the dignity of the individual, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from promiscuous government surveillance. And in the name of security, this Administration has attempted to relegate the Congress and the Courts to the sidelines and replace our democratic system of checks and balances with an unaccountable Executive. And all the while, it has constantly angled for new ways to exploit the sense of crisis for partisan gain and political dominance. How dare they!

You really ought to hear him say it.

To hear the audio version of the unadorned speech, click here.

Click here to see the full video presentation, with introductions and all the other junk.
02:07 GMT

Monday, 10 November 2003

The Wimpification of Conservatives

Boy, there's nothing like critiquing a hefty piece of conservative writing to bring out the Eureka! moments and great lines. Via Atrios, another good one from Winston Smith at Philosoraptor that's long and smart and funny:

But du Toit's essay is brilliant in a way he probably never intended—it's a masterpiece of self-confirmation. His main thesis is that Western males are becoming wimps, and his essay itself proves that there is at least some truth in the thesis; never before in human history has there been so much puling and whining about such inconsequential irritations. Du Toit's groundless blubbering is, in the end, itself a partial confirmation of his point. In fact, du Toit's essay probably deserves to spawn a neologism: duToitification and its cognates. You become duToitified when you've got it so good that you lose all perspective on the world and as a result exaggerate minor unpleasantries into vexations of Biblican proportions. That is, you become an insufferable weenie.

What duToit's essay proves is that the more important problem we face is the duToitification of the Western conservative. Conservatism is currently the Colossus of American politics. Extremist conservatives control the Presidency and both houses of Congress, and conservatives exercise virtually unchallenged control of the political agenda; conservatives control their own massive network of media outlets (talk radio, Fox news, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, etc.); they have convinced most other media outlets to shift their message to the right by relentlessly repeating the "liberal bias" mantra; they have established a massive and incredibly well-funded network of think-tanks and institutions to develop, distribute, and defend their message; and they have underway a long-term plan to take control of the judiciary. Never in my lifetime has one end of the political spectrum so dominated American public life. And yet, even given their almost unchallenged hegemony, they just can't seem to stop their damn whining. To make this all even more insufferable, their whining often has a bizarre, self-reflexive nature. What they whine about is the fact that they are too masculine, too stoical, too heroic for this imagined age of liberalism. Picture one of those movies in which, through time-lapse photography, a character seems to physically regress farther and farther through less and less highly-evolved forms—but in this case, the character simultaneously becomes emotionally more dainty and easily offended until what remains is a kind of effete caveman. A Neanderthal crybaby. This process of political devolution and moral sissification is the duToitification of the Western conservative.
In the end, the essay does promote a caricature of masculinity, a caricature that’s tied up with disrespect for both women and homosexuals (raising the question: who’s left for this guy to have sex with, anyway?). And, to top it all off, du Toit apparently lives in some weird, right-wing dream world in which Republicans are upstanding defenders of the good and the true, Democrats are pansies, and liberal women are just waiting around to be ravished by Donald Rumsfeld. No, I'm not making this up. Read on, reader; you are about to be amazed. You are about to enter…The DuToit-light Zone…

To correct the record, however, I would like to point out that not only is Bush a wimp (as stated), but Gore isn't the wimp the conservobats have painted him, either: The alleged "Alpha Male" memo from Naomi Wolf was a speculative rumor never shown to have existed. Gore did not revamp his wardrobe on Wolf's say-so - he just happens to own some clothes other than the dark suits he wears for formal occasions. Howard Fineman's obsessions to the contrary, George Bush is not the only guy in the world who changes his clothes to suit the occasion, but he's more likely to be changing into costumes than other politicians. (OK, there's Rudy Giuliani, of course....) George Bush isn't a fighter pilot and he can't ride a horse, but he is constantly dressing up to appear as if he could. Presidents should never wear military garb while in office, even if they were once entitled to; it is a matter of pride for democracies that we have civilian leadership. (Dwight Eisenhower was a real general, but once he was elected to the presidency that suit stayed in the closet.)

(Another non-wimp Winston Smith left off his list is the guy who was the Supreme Commander over a successful war of liberation, General Wesley Clark.)

Both du Toit and Smith seem to have forgotten that the west wasn't won without women who had no time to be wimpy and feminine, who worked hard and earned their own keep (as did the kids). Wimpy femininity is largely a phenomenon of the privileged and has mostly been a periodic aberration rather than the norm. A farmer's wife was a farmer, a shopkeeper's wife worked in the shop, and it's only since industrialization pulled a lot of women's work out of the home that most women have had the time and money to worry about having fancy underwear. If conservatives really want women to spend more time being feminine, the first thing they need to do is make us all rich so we can devote our resources to having our legs waxed and maintaining our manicures. Most women, most of the time, have to work, both outside the home and inside it, in capacities that don't actually permit the kind of mental laxity of which du Toit is guilty.

Nor have fathers ever really ruled the roost, either - the guy who worked outside the house while his wife stayed home was really little more than a guest when he returned, somewhat pampered by a woman who tried to keep him out of the way so she could get the real work of homemaking done. (Inside the house, the difference between the kids and Dad is that Dad takes out the trash but the kids get yelled at to clean their own rooms.) Taking care of a home, even if you don't have to work outside as well, has always been work that requires a certain hard-headedness and a load of diverse skills; men have had the luxury of ignoring that fact, which I guess is why some of them haven't noticed that modern women keep looking for some way to escape it.

Smith is right about du Toit's misogyny, and a rather large strain of it tends to run through conservatism altogether. A lot of whining goes on about how when men and women compete for jobs it means men have fewer jobs to choose from, but that's because it means women have more choices, and for some reason these people who keep touting "choice" as a virtue of their ideology only want "choice" (such as it is) to be available to men. (And, if they were honest, only to certain men, at that.)

Basically, "conservatism" is an ideology of guys who want the rest of us to adapt or die, to fight hard for a living and grit our teeth and bear it when things don't work out - so they don't have to. Wimps.
15:43 GMT

Talk Left highlights

Someone who was in on the planning left an interesting comment to a post at Talk Left about the Jessica Lynch rescue fraud, and Jeralyn has posted it as a separate entry. Basically, it says, Yep, it was planned as a PR stunt from the start. Go read.

Talk Left also has a good response to a half-right editorial in The Washington Post. The Post seems to be forgetting about little things like due process a lot, lately.

Also, check out the entry on the latest Newsweek poll, which shows Bush's numbers down even more and Democrats making a strong showing against him.

And Al Gore calls for the repeal of the Patriot Act.
13:49 GMT

Places to be

Last May, Dave at Seeing the Forest predicted that the Republicans would weasel out of the 9/11 investigation by claiming the Democrats were politicizing it. He was right.

Begging to Differ on Safer Sex Night at college. Boy, these kids today have it easy. We used to have unsafe sex nights all the time, and frequently had to have them in our cars.

James Traub does the Bush-haters spin for the NYT, Gil Christner dissects it, and I found out about it from Skippy.

Greg Beato teaches Irony 101 - Bush gives college students the shaft, and they love him for it.

Rumsfeld claims he never said it.

3-D Tube Map (thanks to Mary Kay Kare for the tip).
03:05 GMT

Sunday, 09 November 2003

"Dean" Broder v. Howard Dean

David Broder's forte is crystallizing the buzz on the Hill and repackaging it as "wisdom". He has the occasional insight, but a lot of the time he's just repeating a milder version of what everyone else is already saying. The trouble is that usually the people he's listening to have no idea what's going on out there in the real world.

The cues in this article are in the part where he states as fact that Howard Dean put his foot in his mouth when he talked about being a party that included people with Confederate flags on their pick-ups. Dean could have been smoother (like including the context that gives the remark it's weight), but he was right in essence; one of the things people like me despise about the current occupant of the White House is that he is not a president for the whole country, but just for his narrow range of supporters.

As a Democrat, I already understand that not everyone in the party agrees with each other, so Confederate flags by themselves don't get my blood up much. What interests me is policies that will work for us all, and the guys with the Confederate flags actually have nothing to lose by abandoning the Republican Party, and Democrats lose nothing by letting those guys feel like they can be Democrats. The trick is to stop pretending that those damn flags are more important than whether people can feed and clothe their kids, plan for their futures, and take advantage of being citizens of the richest country in the world.

Meanwhile, blacks don't benefit from losing elections over trivia like flags and decals and then ending up with their economic choices and chances being slashed. The food on the table, the roof over your head, the places in the classrooms, the jobs - those are the things that matter. Crap like the Confederate flag is a distraction, and makes people take their eye of the ball.

Democrats really, really do have to stop attacking red-neck culture and working-class "luxuries" (beer, big boobs, & butts) and start paying attention to the things that really matter. If you're going to introduce gun laws, they'd better not be really stupid ones. Don't confuse "I don't like the taste of Budweiser" with "I'm intellectually superior to you." Quit pretending that there's something perverted about men who like to look at women. It's all divide and conquer crap, and it's not doing us any good to lord our middle-class tastes over those Hustler-reading, pick-up truck-driving, smoking drinkers of lager. They're not so dumb - they know when they're being insulted. And they don't need David Broder to tell them.
13:23 GMT

Sunday Morning

Three studies to ponder: 1. "Of all the reasons people don't vote, here's a surprisingly simple one: The polling place may be too far away." 2. "If you're poor, it pays to be smart. You live longer." But stupid rich people survive just as long as smart ones. 3. "Rosalie Liccardo Pacula of the RAND Corp. and Harvard University graduate student Beau Kilmer found that crooks who were under the influence of marijuana were more likely to get caught, though pot smokers apparently were no more likely to commit a violent crime in the first place." How do they know?

Monkey Media Report is still pretty irritated with the Democratic Party leadership, and slams them for their tepid political ads.

Blah3 catches the US violating a UN resolution in Iraq. Does that mean it's time for regime change? Stranger also has some uplifting music for you.

And for more music, click here to download a rare Hollies demo cut, courtesy of Moose & Squirrel.
11:58 GMT

Saturday, 08 November 2003


Last night I was bored at work so I went over to Electrolite and found this item from PNH saying he was busy and would get back to posting as soon as he can but in the meantime recommending this absolutely smashing piece by John Halbo in which he reviews and dissects David Frum's Dead Right, and with it most of the conservative movement. It's a long piece but it's readable as hell despite the typos (Spellcheck! Proofread!), and I beg you to read it all (and the comments). Here's a paragraph where he kind of sums up:

In short, Frum actually thinks that conservatism means forcing the poor and middle-class to sacrifice government programs whose existence is, or may be, in their economic interest. And why? Near as I can figure, for the sake of making over the poor and middle-class into more agreeable objects of aesthetic contemplation for (wealthy) conservatives, whose tastes run to: Donner party-like look-alike doughty leatherstocking hard-bitten frontier-type workers (respectful hats in hand.) And the word for this aesthetic transformation is: making people free. And somehow the economy is going to be OK.
I think this also sums up most of the conservative movement. It's long been obvious that much of its rhetoric, including its libertarian rhetoric (which, you may note, often comes from people who don't in the least believe in libertarian values), comes largely from people who are just looking for a way to say, "I want blacks and women and the hired help to know their place the way they used to (and I don't want to have to think about queers at all)," without actually having to tip their hand that that's what they're saying.

But it's what they mean. It's what's in their hearts. But they know they won't get too far just admitting that they want to be able to say "nigger" again, or at least be sure that when they see a black guy in public he's a waiter or janitor and not the mayor. In Frum's case, he probably doesn't want to be able to say "nigger" again, because it's, you know, vulgar, but I betcha a dollar he'd love to be able to keep the help in their place.

Actual libertarians are another matter, but even there it's hard to escape the impression that they just haven't thought it through. Patrick also links to this piece by Arthur Silber, who is another guy I've been vetting for placement in the "Loyal Opposition" category over on the blogroll. The piece is a defense of the existence of the Harvey Milk High School as a place for gay kids, and having read it, I am stuck with the question: And what do you think will happen to these kids if the school system is privatized? Because none of the values Silber expresses in the piece will be served for the kids he's talking about - or for poor kids in general - in the privatized system he says he wants.

Yet I have a lot of respect for Silber, and I think his is a smart and honest voice, so I concur with Patrick that those of us who can help him out with his current dilemma should pay a visit to his tip jar.
17:41 GMT

Take the best from everywhere

From Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped:

TRAIL MIX: EDWARDS ON PREDATORY LENDING. I once criticized John Edwards for having only second-term-Clinton-style small-bore intitiatives. During the past six months, though, what's become apparent is that if you propose enough of these kinds of things, it adds up to a comprehensive agenda that can really make a difference in people's lives. One of the great ironies of our economic system is that it's much more expensive to be poor or lower-middle-class than to have money, because lenders charge lower-income individuals higher fees for services in order to mitigate the extra risk associated with lending to them -- and so those on the low end of the economic spectrum often wind up at the mercy of whatever firms or banks will deign to deal with them. Yesterday, Edwards gave a speech in New Hampshire that tied together opposition to a number of predatory practices by financial services companies with his broader themes of helping the middle class and creating incentive programs for savings and home-ownership. It's good stuff.

Now, I happen to think that this election is not going to be decided on things like reducing credit-card late fees and fighting price-gouging in the sub-prime lending market. That said, the series of small steps Edwards outlined yesterday to make life less expensive for those without a lot of money is exactly the kind of thing Democrats should be pushing.

I happen to agree with this. I really wish all of the candidates would take Edwards' focus on board, because I think if we could put this stuff on the front page we'd have a winning combination. The trouble is that the press doesn't really seem to be interested in Edwards and alone he can't get these issues the attention they deserve. And anyway, all Democrats should be talking about these things.
01:07 GMT

Friday, 07 November 2003

Accuracy in media

In an article that could very much have used a proofreader, Eric Alterman writes:

Amazing but true, the far-right media machine has successfully held CBS entertainment to a higher standard of truth regarding the docudrama, "The Reagans" than the news media manages to hold the Bush administration regarding the war in Iraq. The ability of these would-be censors to "work the refs" on the issue of the CBS movie, "The Reagans" is truly impressive. Setting a new standard for accuracy in TV docudramas - something that never troubled them, for instance, when a network had to invent a voice of morality in the Reagan White House for an Ollie North biopic based on Guts And Glory: The Rise And Fall Of Oliver North by Ben Bradlee Jr.'s, because none existed in real life - the right not only got CBS to walk away from its $9 million investment, it got them to excise a statement emanating from Reagan's mouth that was largely accurate.

In the miniseries, scriptwriters had President Reagan saying to Nancy, as she tries to get him to demonstrate a bit of compassion towards people dying of AIDS, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." Yet according to the authorized biography, "Dutch" by Edmund Morris, what Reagan really said was "maybe the Lord brought down this plague" because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."

(Which, by the way, it isn't. Adultery is the only kind of sex that the Commandments prohibit. It wouldn't surprise me to know that Reagan was ignorant of this fact; an awful lot of his "Christian" admirers seem to be.)
The idea that these parties were genuinely interested in preserving the accuracy of the historical portrayal of the Reagans is almost too laughable to be taken seriously. Remember we are talking about a president whose own authorized biographer, Edmund Morris even called an "apparent airhead." I did not see any of the right-wing food chain members agitating for the inclusion of such well-documented events as Reagan dishonestly claiming that he liberated concentration camps; of inventing what he called "a verbal message" from the Pope in support of his Central America policies, news to everyone in Vatican City; of lying to the nation about selling arms to terrorists; of announcing, back in 1985, that the vicious apartheid regime of P.W. Botha had already "eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country"; or of justifying genocide in Central America. (Note: I do not use the term "genocide" lightly. The official Historical Clarification Commission of Guatemala charged its own government with a campaign of "genocide" in murdering roughly 200,000 people, mainly Mayan Indians, during its dictatorial reign of terror. The commission's nine-volume 1999 report singled out the U.S. role in aiding this "criminal counterinsurgency.")
CBS was staring at a ratings gold mine with "The Reagans" given the controversy it managed to produce. Imagine a campaign that began, "Watch the movie that powerful forces don't want you to see!" Instead, it bowed to something in America that turns out to be even more powerful than the promise of a single-night's killing; a well-organized movement of pressure groups willing to threaten its advertising base. Liberals should take heed. As a historian with a newly-minted Ph.D., I am in favor of historical accuracy in all matters. But as a student of the tactics of right-wing media manipulation, I know there is only one way to fight such fire.
It's not just TV movies, of course. The right (including some pretty respected right-wing bloggers) has a rather annoying tendency to overlook enormous lies on their own side while attacking even minor errors of fact by anyone else. Al Gore, you will remember, was called a liar for citing a newspaper article from the day before as if it were still current, although a detail had changed in the interim - a detail that didn't change the substance of his statement at all. A technical lie about sex was the worst sin ever when it was Bill Clinton's doing, but serious lies about policy on the part of George Bush are no big deal. He lies about everything from Bible study to war, and even perjury isn't worth mentioning when it's Bush doing it. And let's not forget, Bush's lies get people killed.

From top to bottom, the Republicans rely on lies to stay in power and to smear Democrats, liberals, and even conservatives who disagree with them. So far, the only time they seem to tell the truth is when they really shouldn't - but it does appear to be a fact that Valerie Plame was, indeed, a CIA operative. Funny, that.

Meanwhile, there is a Biblical Commandment against bearing false witness, but that doesn't seem to stop them.
15:35 GMT

What I've been reading

A Channel of Our Own: Dan Carol (no relation) says there are better things to do than holding your breath for a liberal counterpart to Fox, and also recommends you check out the Media Reform site.

In a recent speech, Zbigniew Brzezinski remembers when America had international credibility: Both together can be summed up in a troubling paradox regarding the American position and role in the world today. American power worldwide is at its historic zenith. American global political standing is at its nadir. Why? What is the cause of this? These are facts. They're measurable facts. They're also felt facts when one talks to one's friends abroad who like America, who value what we treasure but do not understand our policies, are troubled by our actions and are perplexed by what they perceive to be either demagogy or mendacity.

David Corn catches lying liar Ann Coulter in an on-air lie, and even Chris Matthews doesn't fall for it.

Atrios has "cobbled-together" a Wingnut Dictionary, which has been posted off Blogspot as well by Ethel the Blog. Acoulteration (n.) - The act of adding copious endnotes in an attempt to give the sham appearance that one's writings are scholarly, methodically researched and based in fact. From Coulter, Ann.

An Age Like This picks up the cry: The Republicans are mounting a serious effort to turn this country into a functional one party state. I do not believe that that is an exaggeration. We have to stop them. One way you can do your part is by volunteering as a Democratic poll watcher in your area. Look into it. And as for electronic voting, oppose, oppose, oppose.

The Horse is on holiday for the rest of the year. That gives you plenty of time to read their current page.

Can anyone tell me why suddenly I can't open the Skimble page? Been trying all week, I know there's something there I wanted to link and now I can't get back to it.

Bush signs another unconstitutional act.
14:44 GMT

Thursday, 06 November 2003

Our apologies

The Sideshow wishes to apologize for the lack of lingerie over the last week or so. We hope the current image will rectify this failure.
16:54 GMT

It's a tax hike

From the Prince George's Journal Margie Burns on The anatomy of 'Not a tax cut':

Perhaps the biggest single frustration involved in hearing about a "Bush tax cut" is that it's not a tax cut.

With very few exceptions, the purported tax "cuts" can more accurately be characterized as a tax shift. They shift, or further shift, the nation's total tax burden (1) from the wealthy to the middle class; (2) from the federal government to states and localities; and (3) from somewhat more progressive taxes to the most regressive forms of taxation.

Admittedly, these processes were already well under way before Bush came into office, aggravated by the corporatist "tax reform" of the 1980s. Now, however, the redistribution of wealth upward through taxation is more pronounced than ever and will become more pronounced over the next 12 months.

These three kinds of tax shift actually overlap. Indeed, all three could be argued to be versions of the first: Shifting the burden of taxation from the federal government to states, counties, cities and towns almost always results in more regressive taxes. The more regressive taxes - sales tax being the most obvious example - always hurt poor and middle-class people worst, and draw mostly from the bottom 90 percent of the population. Consequent cuts in fire departments, police, schools, roads and libraries, etc., which take place in an effort to stave off raising taxes, also take a worse toll on the poor and the middle class.

Not that sales taxes are by any means the only form of regressive taxation, or comparatively regressive taxation. Every kind of license or fee paid to operate a vehicle, obtain a professional license, open a business or even own a pet exacts a higher toll from those least able to afford it. The so-called "user fees" taxed against anyone using a toll road, parking at an airport or renting a car results in costs either absorbed by an individual or passed on to the next tier of consumers by a business.

Airport car rental at one airport, she points out, comes with a fee of over 70%.

Now here's the deal: If taxes for "the general welfare" are collected at the federal level, the whole country is covered, the blame is spread around, and it doesn't pit the states against each other. But if each state individually has to raise taxes from within its borders, you run into governors trying to hustle business to come into their state and create jobs by offering them tax breaks that are not available in another state, and offering similar deals to local business to try to discourage them from leaving - which means taxes will have to go up somewhere else and services are likely to go down as well.

The entire process is destructive: As businesses move from state to state, they leave trails of destruction behind them as local economies that depended on those businesses fall apart. And with each move, these businesses are of course putting less into their new locations than they did into their old ones - that's the point of the move.

So your federal taxes actually help protect your state from this kind of plundering - if enough of what you pay out is being returned to your local economy. What the Bush "tax cuts" really do, therefore, is raise your local taxes and user fees, make it harder to start new businesses, allow your infrastructure to decay, reduce your services, and make sure less of the federal tax bite you do pay in comes back to you.

I recommend turning Ms. Burns' article into a flyer, printing out lots of copies, and distributing them to all your neighbors, your fellow students or workmates or parishioners or members of your knitting club, so that everyone knows just what these "tax cuts" are costing them.
16:44 GMT

More compassion

We were moaning about this story in the Bartcop IRC channel when one of the participants said:

Dear Mrs. _SMITH, JOHN H.___ :
The army is inconvenienced to inform you that the material was placed in the transfer tube and disposed of in the middle of the night. Keep your mouth shut if you're loyal and know what's good for you.
Because that's about how much respect the administration is showing to our troops. "The material".... It's all about image. (And here's an editorial cartoon that Atrios found on the same subject - and just to make you feel even more confident of the grave sense of responsibility our legislators are showing, check this out.)
12:11 GMT

Securing the ballot

Press release from the Foundation for Information Policy Research:

New campaign calls for safe e-voting

A coalition of technical, legal and political experts has today launched a campaign to ensure that electronic voting can be trusted by voters and politicians across Europe.

Voters and candidates must be able to feel certain that voting intentions are accurately recorded. If any doubts do arise then all stakeholders must be able to verify and audit all aspects of the election. Without these protections, debacles such as the count of votes in the US presidential elections of 2000 are likely to be repeated on this side of the Atlantic. This could destroy voter trust in the electoral system and politics more widely.

Computerised voting is inherently subject to programming error, human error, equipment malfunction and malicious tampering. Due to the opaque nature of the technologies involved, which few understand, it is crucial that electronic voting systems provide a voter-verifiable audit trail. This is a permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy by the voter before the vote is submitted, and is difficult or impossible to alter after it has been checked. This must be achieved without compromising the secrecy and integrity of the ballot.

E-voting systems lacking these safeguards are being rushed upon voters across Europe with little regard for the risks and the costs to our democracies. The UK has held e-voting trials in local government elections, and will hold more as part of the 2004 European elections. France, Spain and Ireland have also held trials. E-voting is already established in Belgium and Switzerland. The European Commission is looking at introducing e-voting across the EU, and the Council of Europe is developing guidelines for elections involving e-voting.

The campaign is calling on all concerned European citizens to sign up to a resolution demanding a voter-verifiable audit trail. This can be done online at the following address, which also contains more information on these issues: [Link]

FIPR is also keeping track of stories on the issue on their e-democracy pages.
11:13 GMT

Midnight snack

Skippy says: a new abc/washpost poll finds that an amazing 51% of americans disapprove of awol's iraq policy. the amazing part is that 51% of americans actually think awol has an iraq policy.

Your government at work: making sure you don't know what's going on, another website shut to hide the facts.

Jeanne D'Arc finds out what Dennis Kucinich is actually saying about Iraq: I'm sure he's been saying this all along, but in what's filtered through in the media, that hasn't come across. All I've heard is a too easy "get out." It's really unfortunate that Kucinich has to try to run for president in a sound-bite world, because he's right: The need for reconstruction shouldn't be controversial. The corruption surrounding it certainly should be. Keep scrolling for more on the Diebold story.

Jesse Taylor on good news and bad news: What worries me is that the Bush Administration and many of the war supporters seem to care more about Iraq being spun as a happy-go-lucky neoconservative nirvana than about making Iraq safe for the Iraqi people. All the schools in the world don't mean a thing if you've got to worry about someone driving a truck bomb into the hotel next door. I am not convinced that Bush is serious enough or capable enough to bring an actual peace to Iraq, and the whole "every dead American is a victory for America" line isn't exactly helping matters much. Bush isn't a leader, he just happens to be the guy in charge.

From Epicycle: In the wake of yesterday's Gartner report on the myths of desktop Linux, comes a remarkable statement from Red Hat's Matthew Szulik, CEO of one of the original and foremost distributors of pre-packaged Linux. The Linux operating system just isn't suitable for the desktop, he says, and consumers should stick to Windows for the foreseeable future... and he's putting his money where his mouth is, too, announcing in an email to existing users that his company is ending production and maintenance of the workstation-orientated builds and concentrating only on the enterprise level server releases.

SFWA tribute to Harry Stubbs (Hal Clement), who has died at the age of 81. Harry was a good guy and Hal was a respected sf author, and neither one of them put up with Jerry Pournelle's anti-fan campaign. (I'm not too pleased that an undated post announces that Harry died "last night". Which night was that, guys?)

From Ananova, Elvis toy dog to go on display in Liverpool: A toy dog with which Elvis Presley simulated sex during a concert in Los Angeles is to go on display in Liverpool.
00:02 GMT

Wednesday, 05 November 2003

What's free speech?

Here's a letter I saw at

Subject: Clear Channel

There is something odd about the GOP's inability to understand free speech.

Advocating the murder of bikers seems to be a common way to drum up controversey at Clear Channel. In 1998, Ed Tyll was basically run out of his daytime FM slot for saying on the air (during bike week) that he was going to start running motorcycles off the road when their bikes are too loud.

By the way, this is the same Ed Tyll who was suspended by WGST Atlanta in 1987 for spending about an hour on the air comparing Congressman John Lewis to Buckwheat. Then he complains that his "free speech" was violated.

We will have to say it again. "Free Speech" means that you are allowed to voice your stupid opinions without going to jail. When you get fired for it, that is not a "free speech" issue, that is a "responsibility for your own actions" issue.


Dave Hardison

Actually, I see this point made by libertarians all the time, and it's wrong. Being fired for saying something your boss doesn't like isn't a violation of the 1st Amendment, but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't a free speech issue.

In this case, it's neither of those. When some jerk advocates doing physical violence to bicyclists with your car, I'd say it's an issue of editorial decisions, professional behavior, and good public relations, which is something else altogether.

The 1st Amendment specifies that a particular type of legal restriction on speech may not be practiced by the state. That means that people can disagree with you all they like, but they can't have you arrested for it. They can refuse to hang out with you, they can tell you you're a jackass, they can refrain from buying your paper or listening to your radio show, they can write complaining letters to the editor and they can even make public statements sneering at you, but they can't expect the cops to do anything about you.

And radio personalities, newspaper columnists and other types of journalists are not just representing themselves, but representing the organs they work for - as are most of us if, in the course of our jobs, we address clients or meet the public in any way. So it's not unreasonable for employers not to want to, in essence, sign their name to your public statements when those statements are anathema to them and can really piss their customers off and make them not want to do business with your company anymore. It's unprofessional to put your employer in that position.

But that doesn't mean that firing a radio personality for saying something their employer doesn't like can't also be a free speech issue. Many AM talk radio hosts made their names by saying things that were challenging to the public, so the fact that content is offensive to some members of the public isn't, alone, a sufficient explanation for getting rid of them. Remember when guys like Imus, Stern, and the Greaseman were routinely referred to as "shock jocks"? It'd be ludicrous to fire someone like Howard Stern after years of service just because some people said they found him shocking. I mean, what, is that supposed to be new?

It might be a free speech issue if journalists all over the country suddenly start getting fired for, say, writing or broadcasting things that are critical of a particular elective official, or supportive of their opponents. It is certainly a free speech issue if only those voices that represent the wealthiest and most powerful interests in the nation are represented while others are squeezed out of the public airwaves. The fact that it is managed commercially rather than by sending the police after you doesn't really make any difference at that point - especially when the state itself already has the power to determine who gets use of the public airwaves to begin with. And making that decision based on who already has the money and the power to buy up the airwaves does mean that some free speech may be suppressed, some views may be unheard or so misrepresented that they are as good as silenced - the views of the rest of us.

The powerful always have free speech, no matter what the law says. And your right of free speech isn't worth much if it is stipulated that it's okay for you to say things they don't like only as long nobody hears you.
16:19 GMT

Some stuff I saw

Get past the spin machine: Check out Eric Alterman on the real skinny on Linda Tripp's criminal record. And he recommends Eric Boehlert's latest, Mission demolished. Hey, remember when Rummy tried to down-play the number of dead since the war "ended" by comparing the figures to those for DC? Haha. Rumsfeld shouldn't have been so glib. Last year there were 262 murders in the city of Washington. As of Monday afternoon, 262 coalition troops had died in the six months since Bush's May 1 proclamation. And that's just one little thing.

Oh, yeah, Eric also says you can watch the video of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band doing "Diddy Wah Diddy" here. (Hm, I guess he's over that "And don't call me Boss!" thing, then?)

Elsewhere, Eric reminds us that, "We've seen this movie before" - with the USSR, for example. There's a rather unsettling punchline - but maybe it explains some things.

There is no kind way to speak of Ann Coulter. (Thanks to Hal Davis for the tip.)

Dwight Meredith examines Jane Galt's claims about "racism" on the part of Democrats who oppose nominations to the court of right-wing crackpots - some of whom are not white.

David Broder says: The mere fact that a student of national security as dispassionate, nonhysterical and informed as Ernie May would not reject the Vietnam comparison out of hand speaks volumes. It adds to the impression left by Bush's news conference that we have entered a new and politically risky stage of the Iraq conflict.

Auntie Fashions

A bunch of art.
13:36 GMT

Letters to The Washington Past

Frank Blechman, the vice chair of the Springfield District of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee has written to The Washington Post with 10 Questions for Virginia's Republicans:

The 10 questions Melanie Scarborough posed ["Close to Home," Oct. 26] would be excellent if any of the premises on which they were based were true. Unfortunately, all were based on demonstrably false statements. Each begs for a comparable question for Republicans. Here goes:

(1) Ms. Scarborough charges that welfare benefits in Virginia are high and that the working poor subsidize the nonworking poor. Truth: In Virginia the working poor pay a high proportion of their income in taxes. Republicans: Do you believe the wealthiest 10 percent of taxpayers in Virginia should pay half as much as a proportion of their income in taxes as the poorest 10 percent do?

(2) Ms. Scarborough charges that the education system is bloated with unneeded personnel. Truth: In Fairfax, 85 percent (not 50 percent) of the budget goes directly to support instruction. Only 15 percent goes to overhead and administration. Republicans: Do you believe that the administrative costs should be reduced by eliminating some of the endless testing mandated by Republicans? Do you believe that education would be better if we didn't have school buildings, maintenance of them, heat, lights, food services, computer systems, school buses or physical education?

(3) Ms. Scarborough claims that Democrats voted against the estate tax, which punishes senior citizens. Truth: Democrats voted for fiscal responsibility and against repeal without a plan to balance the budget. Republicans: If the estate tax were eliminated, what taxes would you raise, and what services would you cut, to balance the budget?

(4) Ms. Scarborough charges that Democrats who opposed parental notification for abortions should also oppose statutory rape laws. Truth: Virginia law is filled with inconsistencies. Republicans: Do you believe that a young woman in Virginia should be able to get married or bear a child at age 12 without parental consent?

(5) Ms. Scarborough claims that Democrats support illegal immigrants. Truth: Democrats voted to keep the Department of Motor Vehicles focused on safe driving, not immigration law. Republicans: Should employers (like Wal-Mart) who employ illegal immigrants go to jail?

(6) Ms. Scarborough claims that Democrats have opposed vouchers to pander to the "education lobby." Truth: There is no research that shows that vouchers improved the educational performance of all children in a jurisdiction. Republicans: Do you support taking money from the Defense Department because it is supported by the "defense lobby"?

(7) Ms. Scarborough charges that Democrats voted to remove penalties for "crimes against nature." Truth: There has been no such vote in Virginia in the past 10 years. Republicans: What is Ms. Scarborough talking about?

(8) Ms. Scarborough claims that poverty is entirely voluntary. Truth: Most people who fall into poverty for a time do so because of temporary change in circumstance or macro-level economic shifts, not their own choices. Republicans: Are you opposed to all corporate bailouts? (Surely the corporate problems are the result of their own bad decisions.) Would you prefer that people fall into poverty for a few years or forever?

(9) Ms. Scarborough claims that Democrats care more about criminals than honest working people. Truth: Republican governors pardoned their friends and ignored petitions for restoration of voting rights from people who had paid their debt to society and were living clean lives. Republicans: Do you believe government should benefit only the well-connected?

(10) Ms. Scarborough claims that Democrats have favored regulation in almost every area. Truth: Democrats have supported sensible regulation and have engineered most of the deregulation of the past 30 years, including that of phones, airlines, the trucking industry and the utilities. However, Democrats have done it sensibly. Republican deregulation has turned the chickens over to the foxes, with disastrous results, such as California's utility crisis. Republicans: Can you name an area other than abortion or homosexuality in which you favor regulation of private activity?

Republicans, including Ms. Scarborough, have the right to their partisan ideas. But The Post shouldn't print them without a clear explanation of their stake in the issues.

I reproduced the whole thing because the letters links seem to be unreliable, but if you can get them, here is one from a woman who was told by a guard that she had to remove a shirt that bore an anti-war slogan before she could enter the Ronald Reagan Building - which is federal property. Hmph.
12:22 GMT

Moral purity

Slaktivist has a big round-up of news and articles (with appropriate commentary), but item 6 in particular caught my interest:

Mother Jones doesn't have it's November/December issue online yet, so I'll have to type in this quote from Tony Kushner:
Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country's future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate. And if Ralph Nader runs -- if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate -- don't give him your vote.

Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

And, of course, more on rapture fiction, and other good stuff.
11:49 GMT

Tuesday, 04 November 2003

The big issue

The question I've now seen several people ask is, "Why aren't Republicans worried about the voting machine problem?" Or some variation thereof. Why aren't they worried that the machines may be used for rigging elections? Why aren't they worried about people actually hacking the vote - whether from Diebold itself or from outside in Hackerland? Do they really not care as long as the probability is that whatever "errors" come up will favor the Republicans? Do they accept that their party wants to overturn Democracy? Are they certain that whoever hacks the system will be on their team?

Well, it's starting to look like a good question.

Meanwhile, Diebold wants to make the problem go away by suing its critics. And Lisa English wants people to pay attention and to do something:

It's like this: with systems that are vulnerable to computer hacking of election code, and hardware boasting zip in the way of verifiable ballot counts, we're looking at a significant issue - one that goes directly to the sanctity of the American vote. And guess what? The issue is not about to disappear - no matter how hard outfits like Diebold press their lawyers to convince us otherwise, or how many threats they level against activists. In fact, I'd bet the ranch that this issue is only going to loom larger as we approach the 2004 presidential election. Folks don't seem to like the notion of outsiders messing with their vote. You know what I mean?

Unless something is done - and soon - to retrofit these machines with verifiable paper trails and open source code, Americans are going to be fighting mad as it comes time to cast their ballots. You can bank on it. And at that point, I'd sure not want to be the politician who stands opposed to accuracy in electronic voting systems. I'd not want to be the candidate who sees no cause for verifiable recounts.

Personally, I don't want a mere "paper trail", as you know - I want the machines to be nothing more than printers that output a readable paper ballot, and I want the ballots to be hand-counted. But if you want to save democracy, you still need to contact your legislators and the press and let them know that this is an important issue for you. Lisa tells you how.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall has this:

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the other state holding a gubernatorial election today, there are reports of voting irregularities, including poll watchers videotaping voters in predominantly black neighborhoods, in direct violation of the law.
Like I say, there are some good questions about why the Republicans don't seem to mind all this real and potential interference with democracy.
22:27 GMT

Channelling Emily Litella

Roger Ailes (the good one):

What's all this I hear about Don Luskin and stockings? If a man wants to put on some silky hose, oil himself up and fantasize about what it would be like to be a respected economist, I say it's no one's business but his own. If he doesn't want to, fine. The point is that it's his choice.
Oh. Well, that's very different.

14:00 GMT

Another planet heard from

And on that planet, young women in the '50s and '60s were always sexually confident, and could ask for what they wanted, and never worried that they weren't perfect enough and that their ass was too big.

And then, one terrible day, Internet porn came along, and after that, men lost all interest in having sex with real women. By 2003, college-age women were actually worried about whether they could keep a man, and worse - they sometimes did things they didn't want to do.

Anyway, Matt Yglesias found this stupid article by Naomi Wolf, and I was so irritated I left a comment.
03:04 GMT

Guess who

I have just noticed while reading this Sidney Blumenthal article that on the Salon sidebar it says, "Hack the singularity: Who is Charlie Stross?" Hahaha! I know! I know! He's an Evil Overlord!
00:40 GMT

Monday, 03 November 2003

And the Lie Will Set Them Free

Here's an article to go with that revolting picture of Bush I soiled my page with below. Aside from other disgraceful details, there is this:

Among Mansfield's revelations is his insistence that Bush and Tony Blair have prayed together at a private meeting at Camp David. Blair has previously denied this.
We already know Bush lies about his daily prayers, so it's not too far-fetched to believe that the author of this book about what a true believer he is was able to make up some stuff to appear to back up one of these claims. But Tony Blair's credibility is no longer any good, either. Obviously, one of these guys is lying, and that's another good game these folks have trapped us in - not having to guess whether someone is lying, but just which one. Sometimes, of course, they all are, but this is one of those things where you have to figure they can't both be doing it.

Look, I take for granted that there's a great deal of exaggeration going on when politicians run around invoking the name of the Lord and all that stuff, but I'm kinda grossed out by this really explicit lying about prayer and Bible study. Not that I'm thrilled if it's true, but to me it feels particularly icky that they are even lying about this.
22:01 GMT


Okay, I've gotten totally pissed off with Hotmail and I think I've fixed the problems I was having with my Cix account, so I'm going back to my original address so I can try to keep better track of my mail. Both addresses will still exist but it just takes too much work to stay organized with so much stuff coming to a mailbox that has to constantly be emptied to keep working.

Also, I know I've kind of lost track of some dead links and updated URLs on my blogroll, but things being what they are it now takes me longer to notice these things, so if anyone wants to nudge me and point out the rust spots, I won't complain.

And yes, I've put a donation button down there at the bottom of the blogroll. No, I don't think you should have to pay for my blogging habit. On the other hand, it occurred to me that, in exchange for absolutely nothing, you might be willing to contribute a little toward my expenses as an unpaid shill for freedom of speech. I normally pay as much as I can out of pocket and charge FAC for the rest of what I spend on their behalf, but things are tighter and tighter all the time so, if you want, you can pitch a little cash in this direction. Every little bit helps and all that.
20:06 GMT

Top Ten Lies

David Corn continues to update his The Lies of George W. Bush page.

10. "I have been very candid about my past."
9. "I'm a uniter not a divider."
8. "My [tax] plan unlocks the door to the middle class of millions of hard-working Americans."
7. "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research."
6. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th."
5. "[We are] taking every possible step to protect our country from danger."
4. "I first got to know Ken [Lay in 1994]."
3. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda."
2. "We found the weapons of mass destruction."
1. "It's time to restore honor and dignity to the White House."
And don't forget to buy the book.
16:37 GMT


From the Sunday Herald: Five Israelis were seen filming as jet liners ploughed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 ...

Hesiod is right about this: Zell Miller isn't just a DINO, he's nuts. And he shouldn't be in the Democratic leadership.

Natasha is posting again at Pacific Views, and went to see Bill Gates, Sr. talk about taxes.

The Republicans have been taking the military's support for granted - and they may just start to lose them as a result.

Nathan Newman takes The Volokh Conspiracy to task over their defense of the Lochner decision and it's effect on child labor laws.

At Talk Left, more mistreatment of the troops - a soldier accused of cowardice for asking for help, and another declared AWOL for complying with a court order. And more that shouldn't happen in America: indigent defendants who don't get lawyers and may languish in jail for months or even years without trial - and no, this isn't about the so-called Patriot Act.

Studs Terkel is the scheduled guest for Thursday's Thom Hartmann show.

16:16 GMT

Sunday, 02 November 2003

Quick ones

Via Bad Attitudes Journal

You know, this really is too much.

Tristero reports Congressman Dingell's advice regarding "The Reagans": "As someone who served with President Reagan, and in the interest of historical accuracy, please allow me to share with you some of my recollections of the Reagan years that I hope will make it into the final cut of the mini-series: $640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; union busting; firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; retreating from terrorists in Beirut; lying to Congress; financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; visiting Bitburg cemetery; a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; shredding documents; Ed Meese; Fawn Hall; Oliver North; James Watt; apartheid apologia; the savings and loan scandal; voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; farm bankruptcies; trade deficits; astrologers in the White House; Star Wars; and influence peddling."

Josh Marshall finds that just shaking Wesley Clark's hand can get you fired.

Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian on Bush's other war: In advance of the war, Bush (to be precise, Dick Cheney, the de facto prime minister to the distant monarch) viewed the CIA, the state department and other intelligence agencies not simply as uncooperative, but even disloyal, as their analysts continued to sift through information to determine what exactly might be true. For them, this process is at the essence of their professionalism and mission. Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a threat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to the doctrine. So those facts had to be suppressed, and those creating contrary evidence had to be marginalised, intimidated or have their reputations tarnished.

Eric Alterman examines The New Know-Nothingism: Whether the problem is global terrorism or anti-Semitism, the message is the same. "It's bad. It must be condemned. That's all we need to know." If explaining something is confused with justifying it, you can never try to understand anything.
22:58 GMT

They don't count

Helen Thomas wants to know Who's counting the dead in Iraq?

I asked Pentagon officials: "How many Iraqis have been killed in this war?" The answers were given "on background" -- meaning that the Pentagon spokesmen requested anonymity. The spokesmen were honest. They clearly were following orders from the policymakers when they replied that the Iraqi fatality toll was simply not our concern.

The reply to my first Pentagon call was: "We don't track them (Iraqi dead).

"Weeks later I pursued the question and was told by a Defense Department official: "They don't count. They are not important," meaning the casualty figures.

And if they don't count, it doesn't matter if they are dead.
21:35 GMT

It's the real economy, stupid!

South Knox Bubba isn't impressed by the supposedly wonderful new economic figures in which the GDP has edged up a little toward the much higher figures we had three years back. Remember next November, he says, and spells it out like this:

Let's say you hired some guy to manage your store. In the past year, every employee has quit. Sales are off 90% despite marking everything down 50% and selling it at a loss. Meanwhile, half your inventory has mysteriously grown legs and walked out the back door. Your credit lines are maxed out and you owe everybody in town. Nobody wants to do business with you. To top it off, your manager is under indictment for setting fire to a competitor's store across town.

It's annual review time. Your manager has sobered up and sales were up a modest 10% for the previous month. The cops have agreed to drop the charges on a technicality as long as you agree to pay for rebuilding your competitor's store. Your guy promises everything is going to be great from now on. Do you give him a raise, or do you fire his sorry ass?

OK, then.

The numbers have swelled and dropped and swelled and dropped a couple-few times in the last three years, and each time they've swelled the Republicans told us Bush's tax cuts had cured the economy, and then we lost a whole lot more jobs. Jobs. When we talk about "the economy", that's what we really mean. Like Krugman says:
This can't go on — in the long run, consumer spending can't outpace the growth in consumer income. Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley has suggested, plausibly, that much of last quarter's consumer splurge was "borrowed" from the future: consumers took advantage of low-interest financing, cash from home refinancing and tax rebate checks to accelerate purchases they would otherwise have made later. If he's right, we'll see below-normal purchases and slower growth in the months ahead.

The big question, of course, is jobs. Despite all that growth in the third quarter, the number of jobs actually fell. And new claims for unemployment insurance, a leading indicator for the job market, still show no sign of a hiring boom. (By the way, for the last month there's been a peculiar pattern: each week, headlines declare that new claims fell from the previous week; a week later, the past week's number is revised upward, and the apparent decline disappears.)

And unless we start to see serious job growth — by which I mean increases in payroll employment of more than 200,000 a month — consumer spending will eventually slide, and bring growth down with it.
To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off.

It's Still the Economy, Stupid asks the right questions:
There's really only one response to this. So where are the jobs?

Seriously, because if GDP is growing at the fastest rate in 20 years, where are the freaking jobs? Doesn't that seem rather strange to everyone?

How do we get 1.3 million more in poverty with this kind of growth rate? How do we get 2.4 million more uninsured? Are we really in some type of Bizarro Economy now?
And through all this, isn't it odd there is no inflation? The GDP deflator was 1.7% for the third quarter. Housing prices up 10%, the Nasdaq up 40%, the CRB index up 20%, but GDP inflation is running at a 1.7% annual rate. I have to say that seems weird.

It's doubly weird that the Federal Reserve, despite the best growth in 20 years, has no plans to raise interest rates from the lowest levels in 50 years for for the foreseeable future.

I'm not going to try and spin this. Normally, this kind of GDP growth is fantastic. We've been successful at reinflating our economy, and even better doing it for most of the rest of the world. Look at global industrial production statistics out this week: Portugal up 2.3%, Philippines up 7%, Singapore up 3.9%, Chile up 5.8%, Japan up 3%. In addition, we've done this with money growth practically stagnant, which is clearly out of the norm for the past two decades.

But it really begs the question of how this could be with unemployment claims just a whisker below 400,000? It also begs the question of what happens next? We get a huge boost from a tax cut this quarter, a war the quarter before, a big jump in homebuying thanks to people rushing in to buy homes before rates go too much higher. As a country, we're borrowing like gangbusters to finance all this.

What all this means is that money is not moving around the economy fast enough. The reason it's not moving is that too much of it is in too few hands that have no need or incentive to spend it. Tax breaks targeted at job-creation are how we normally fix something like this, but that assumes existing tax rates in the upper/corporate brackets that make such tax breaks attractive - and with Bush's tax cuts having made things way too cushy already for the moneyed, they aren't even that hungry for more.

Money only works when it's actually working, and the Bush tax cuts mean it's idle. That's why most of the expenditure you're looking at right now has been borrowed - it's not really coming out of the spots where it's all piled up. And unless someone starts taxing those big piles heavily in a hurry, it seems unlikely that there will be any way to make it up. And if the immorally wealthy aren't paying it, who does that leave?

PS. I hope you weren't waiting for this to solve your problems.

(Also from SKB, another leaked memo.)
17:36 GMT


The Aurora, Finland, 14-15 October

If you haven't been to The Right Christians lately, now would be a good time. For one thing, there's Maggie's Farm Updated, along with a timely plea for progressives to recognize Allen Brill's sort of Christian as being (a) on our side and (b) a whole different item from those other "Christians". And there's also a useful history lesson on labor laws, the courts, and why we really don't want Bush's latest nominee on the federal bench.
03:36 GMT

How about Protection from Spam Week?

Alice Marie Marshall writes:

Most of the spammers who send out obscene material reside in the US. Most of them in a small section of Boca Raton Florida known as spam beach. Yet somehow Attorney General Apocalypse never gets around to prosecuting them, although sending unsolicited pornography is a federal offense and the depiction of juveniles in the production of pornography is also a federal offense. But somehow the Busheviki are not interested in prosecuting.

Oh, and have you noticed the whole spam thing got MUCH worse after the 2002 election?

So Alice has written an article called Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Blues which reminds you of the politics of the problem, and Alice, please, if you absolutely can't get yourself a better mail-reader, you should at least read this and take it to heart.
03:14 GMT

Saturday, 01 November 2003

Readers' Lettuce

On Protection from Pornography Week:

I wouldn't worry too much about this event. I am quite confident that it's the work of corporate lobbyists from DuPont, makers of ScotchGuard(TM) brand fabric treatment.

Then, too, when "Protection from Pornography Week" is over, it's really over. The decorations go back into the box in the attic, the wrapping paper into the rubbish bin, and all you're left with is a fond memory of the good fellowship, a breathless anticipation of the next "Protection from Pornography Week," and an array of greeting cards--all from Salt Lake City print shops--above the hearth. That, and a lot of spam requesting the number of a major credit card. At least, though, then we men can take solace in knowing that every day can be "Prostate Cancer Prevention Day."

Brian Broadus

[And wasn't that prostate cancer thing just the best health news since seminal fluid became the world's most well-known source of Vitamin E? (Hey, at least now that you know it's supposed to be good for you, no one can expect it to taste good.) (And speaking of taste, I should really get out of these brackets before I get really carried away.)]
14:47 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, November 2003

October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
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.