March 31, 2004

Prankster Engineers Restaurant Strip Searches

In these dangerous times, it's comforting to know that so many people have taken to heart our government's admonitions to cooperate with law enforcement authorities whenever possible. People like Allan Mathis, former manager of a South Dakota fast food restaurant, who, at the request of a police officer who phoned him up one day, held a 19-year-old female employee in a back office against her willl for three hours, forcing her to remove her clothes and have her body cavities searched. Well, except that it wasn't actually a police officer who phoned him; it was some random prankster who apparently has been phoning up restaurants from Arizona to Massachussetts, successfully getting managers to search female employees and patrons: Bizarre hoax leads to strip searches.

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Corn: What To Ask Rice

As long as you're getting the one-day pass at Salon, check out this excellent item from David Corn: Condi's conundrum. It covers the questions he'd like to see the 9/11 commission ask her when she gives her much-resisted public testimony.

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Dean: I Know Creepy. And These Guys Are Creepy.

Watergate stool pigeon John Dean has a new book out. It's titled Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, and over at Salon David Talbot has an interview with the author: Creepier than Nixon (subscription, or watch-the-commercial one-day pass, required).

Thanks to Yian for the heads up.

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March 30, 2004

Teen Arrested for Sexually Abusing Herself

From the AP, via USA Today: "A 15-year-old girl has been arrested for taking nude photographs of her self and posting them on the Internet, police said. ... She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography."

What's next, arresting a 14 year old boy caught masturbating for child molestation?

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March 29, 2004

Rice's Credibility (Or Lack Thereof)

Nice summary from the Center for American Progress on the various ways in which Rice is dangling out in public, having asserted things that are not quite factual lately: Condoleeza Rice's credibility gap.

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March 26, 2004

Condoleeza Rice: Doing Her Job

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Like this one, swiped from the AP:


There's Condoleeza Rice watching Bush speaking at some press event. Doesn't her expression, and the way she seems to be trying to merge herself into the flag, speak volumes about what she's been going through lately?

Here are a few interesting links on the embattled national security advisor. From Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz: Witness protection. From Ryan Lizza at The New Republic: Logic jam. And from Joshua Micah Marshall: How low will they go? (Also from Marshall, though it focuses more on Clarke: Last night I heard...)

There are more good links at the Center for American Progress: Bush admits negligence.

Republican Senator Bill Frist is apparently among those encouraging Bush to have Rice testify publicly, under oath, for the commission. And I have to say, that would certainly help clear up a few things. At this point, Rice is the one most directly damaged (well, beyond Bush himself, I guess) by Richard Clarke's testimony. He pretty much called her a liar.

From his 9/11 commission testimony:

GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Clarke, for your testimony today. You have talked about a plan that you presented to Dr. Rice immediately upon her becoming national security adviser, and that in response to questions from Commissioner Gorton, you said elements of that plan, which were developed by you and your staff at the end of 2000 -- many elements -- became part of what was then called NSPD-9, or what ultimately became NSPD-9.

When Dr. Rice writes in the Washington Post, "No Al Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration," is that true?

CLARKE: No. I think what is true is what your staff found by going through the documents and what your staff briefing says, which is that early in the administration, within days of the Bush administration coming into office, that we gave them two documents. In fact, I briefed Dr. Rice on this even before they came into office.

CLARKE: One was the original Delenda Plan from 1998, and the other document was the update that we did following the Cole attack, which had as part of it a number of decisions that had to be taken so that she characterizes as a series of options rather than a plan. I'd like to think of it as a plan with a series of options, but I think we're getting into semantic differences.

GORELICK: Thank you.

I'd like to turn NSPD-9, the document that was wending its way through the process up until September 4th. The document is classified so I can only speak of it in generalities.

But as I understand it, it had three stages which were to take place over, according to Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, over a period of three years.

The first stage was, we would warn the Taliban. The second stage was we would pressure the Taliban. And the third stage was that we would look for ways to oust the Taliban based upon individuals on the ground other than ourselves, at the same time making military contingency plans.

Is that correct?

CLARKE: Well, that's right. The military contingency plans had always been around, but there was nothing in the original draft, NSPD, that was approved by the principals to suggest U.S. forces would be sent into Afghanistan on the ground.

GORELICK: In addition to that, Director Tenet was asked to draft new additional covert action authorities. Is that right?

CLARKE: That's right, in part because Mr. Hadley found the existing six memorandums of covert action authority to be talmudic -- it's actually I think Mr. Hadley who gets credit for that word.

But it wasn't really meant to expand them significantly other than providing direct aid to Afghan factions.

GORELICK: Now you have just described, then, the skeleton, if you will, of what was approved by the administration as of September 4th. And we know that no further action was taken before September 11th.

GORELICK: And so I would read to you -- and these are questions I would have put to Dr. Rice had she been here, and I will put to her, the White House designee, Secretary Armitage. She says our strategy, which was expected to take years, marshalled all elements of national power to take down the network, not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement measures. Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets, taking the fight to the enemy where he lived.

Is that an accurate statement, in your view?

CLARKE: No, it's not.

Personally, I don't think there can be any serious doubt that Clarke's version of events is much closer to the truth than Rice's. I mean, it's documented. So what is Rice going to do?

Well, she can go on like she has been, using executive privilege as an excuse to avoid testifying, while peddling spin to the media. Or she can reverse herself, and go ahead and testify. In that case, though, she'll have to walk a very fine line. Democratic members of the commission, at least, will be in a position to make her time in the witness chair a living hell. She'll be extremely hard-pressed to avoid saying things that are demonstrably false (and hence would be perjury) while still defending and burnishing Bush's reputation.

And as we all know by now, protecting Bush's reputation is Job One for Condoleeza Rice these days. It's a much more important part of her job than thwarting terrorists, or helping the 9/11 commission get to the bottom of the events that led up to that day. If you want a national security advisor who'll spend her time on those sorts of things, you're going to have to elect a different president. Because George Bush isn't about to get rid of Condoleeza Rice. Not while she's doing such a good job.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Rock Against Bush

I really love the whole concept of HyperText.

As a member of the Sum41 Fan Club, I got an email the other day letting me know about Rock Against Bush Vol .1. It sounds like it will be a sweet rock/punk CD, packed full of some great songs you know, and a ton of new tracks written by bands who (as Canadian Sum41 put it in their newsletter) feel they "just can't sit quietly and watch that idiot fuck up your country and the rest of the world."

So why do I love HyperText?

While preparing this little blurb, I noticed the link to, where I discovered:

God bless the Internet, and God bless America Burma

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March 25, 2004

Daschle on the Bush Mafia

I feel like my country is being run by an organized crime syndicate. Here's what Tom Daschle has to say about it: Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth.

You know what Daschle's enumeration of grievances against Bush reminded me of? It reminded me of that central part of the Declaration of Independence when they're griping about all the crap George III had been pulling.

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March 24, 2004

I was flying back from Vegas this afternoon, and I found a copy of AA's AmericanWay Magazine in the boarding area for SWA. I flipped through it while waiting to board (because I was too lazy to get my book out of my carry on bag), and found the most compelling argument against online music downloads (legal or otherwise) I've ever heard.

I think more people should apply this argument to more things.

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Kaplan on Clarke

So, I caught most of Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 commission today. That guy is so credible, it's not even funny. Everything the Republican members of the commission tried to use to pick him apart, he just demolished.

I can't overstate the significance of this factor, too: Everyone else I saw testify before the commission over the last two days went to great lengths to insulate themselves, or their bosses, from criticism; talking about what a fabulous job they'd done, how the attacks were completely unpredictable, and so on. Clarke got up there and said to the families of the victims, I'm sorry. I failed you.


Anyway, here's some more good stuff, pre-testimony, from Slate's Fred Kaplan: Dick Clarke is telling the truth.

Update: More Kaplan on Clark: Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies. Which is pretty much how I saw it, too.

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March 23, 2004

March 22: Bullshit Day

I think we should henceforth enshrine March 22 as "Bullshit Day", the day on which members of the Bush administration fanned out across the media landscape, saying anything and everything they could think of to try to blunt the impact of Richard Clarke's charges that Bush ignored the threat of terrorism in the months leading up to 9/11, and was obsessed with constructing false-to-fact links to Saddam Hussein after the attacks.

There's a nice roundup of yesterday's hijinks in the Washington Post: White House counters ex-aide. And insightful analysis is available from Kevin Drum (Bush's secret plan and Panic mode) and from Joshua Micah Marshall (A request... and Alright, I promise...). And if you prefer your bulllshit straight, no chaser, you can go right to the source of some of the best of it: Cheney to Rush: Clarke "not in the loop".

The interesting thing here isn't that the Bush people are hitting back hard; that was predictable. The interesting thing is the nature of the response. They're trying to slam Clarke as an unreliable partisan. They're claiming this is just politics as usual. They're hoping they can get Joe Sixpack disgusted enough from campaign-season name-calling to tune the whole thing out; affter all, that worked pretty well on the Valerie Plame thing.

They're not actually refuting Clarke's charges. Because they can't. They're too well-documented, too consistent with other things we already know. The few attempts to undercut them have been laughable. So they're left with trying to smear the messenger.

And note that it isn't just angry lefties like me who see their response this way. The other side essentially acknowledges that this is what they are doing. From the Washington Post article I linked to above:

Clarke's allegations come after two weeks in which Kerry (D-Mass.) struggled for footing and the Bush campaign enjoyed what his aides believed was their best run of the year. But by Friday, a Republican official said the campaign was bracing for a tidal wave of negative publicity from Clarke's book. The campaign's defense strategy was that although Clarke could not be roundly refuted on the facts, enough doubt about the issue could be raised by portraying him as reckless and partisan.

You catch that? We can't dispute the facts (that Bush ignored repeated warnings about al Qaeda in the months before 9/11, and sought to tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks afterward, even when all the experts insisted to him that where was absolutely no connection between the two), because, well, unfortunately, those facts happen to be true. So instead we're going to take a guy who is pretty much the definition of non-partisan sobriety, who served under four presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, and whose pre-9/11 warnings and proposals for dealing with the threat of al Qaeda make him look like the most prescient person since Nostradamus; we're going to take that guy, and make him out to be an unreliable party hack, disgruntled over having been turned down for a promotion, who as a result is trying to hurt Bush with hateful lies.

Bullshit Day! Hooray!

Update: See the great Tom Coles cartoon about this (link courtesy of Talking Points Memo).

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March 21, 2004

Al Franken Profiled

From tomorrow's (oops; today's) New York Times Magazine: Al Franken, seriously.

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March 20, 2004

Marshall on Clarke, Zelikow

Joshua Micah Marshall writes more about the significance of the Clarke revelations (that Bush's people wanted to bomb Iraq immediately after 9/11, and had to be talked out of it by the terrorism experts who pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks). There's also some good stuff about Philip D. Zelikow, who was a member of the Bush transition team, and sat in on the anti-terrorism briefings at which the outgoing Clinton people begged the Bush team to pay more attention to al Qaeda. And, surprise, surprise, he's now executive director of the 9/11 commission. Can you say "conflict of interest"? What do you think the chances are that Zelikow will probe deeply into the question of whether he made a horrible mistake in ignoring the warnings of the Clinton folk? Anyway: Richard A. Clarke said in a television interview...

This is the big one. This is the granddaddy of Bush's accountability problems: The way he ignored the threat of al Qaeda in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Marshall writes:

It is fair to say that anyone who has seriously reported on this issue, or has read a lot of the good reporting on it, already knows this: namely, that the incoming Bush administration downgraded the attention given to terrorism and al Qaida specifically in the last years of the Clinton administration, and this after being warned by out-going members of the Clinton team that combatting al Qaida should be at the top of their agenda.

In short, they pushed al Qaida and a lot of resources aimed at fighting al Qaida to the backburner until the whole thing blew up in their faces on 9/11.

Their focus, as we've noted before, was on the centrality of states rather than shadowy transnational terrorist groups -- thus their preoccuption with issues like national missile defense.

In any case, as I say, we've basically known this.

But it's another thing to have the person who was there at the center of the action as NSC counter-terrorism czar -- both under Clinton and Bush -- saying on camera that the president ignored terrorism and al Qaida right up until the day of the attacks. Clarke was there. In fact, to the extent that Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest of the team were ignoring the issue, it would have been Clarke's urgent warnings they were ignoring -- since he was the head of counter-terrorism on the NSC staff.

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Riverbend on Iraq, One Year Later

An important perspective -- and in a certain respect the only important perspective, given that liberation of the Iraqi people appears to be the sole survivor of the many justifications Bush has offered for the pre-emptive Iraq war -- on what has been accomplished in Iraq over the last year: The war on terror...

But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist- you're a liberator.

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Dear Mr. President Letters: Parts 5 and 6

The good people at the Dear Mr. President Letters Project have done some updates lately. I confess I'd totally forgotten about it, but then a wave of nostalgia had me re-reading my posts from March of last year, and I came across my second posting about the project, which referenced my original item about it. Anyway, there's some good stuff in the latest batch; see Part 5 and Part 6.

My favorite is from Part 5:

Dear Mr. President,

You can be walking down the street and suddenly bump your head into someone else's thought. Sex thoughts are the biggest. They come in the shape of toast, or falling leaves.

I used to skip along on a beautiful song called dirt. Once some big boys beat me up and kicked the song in my face.

Our tree house was the closest point to the moon.

Eric Morgan

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Marshall to Kerry: Time to Live Up to that Reputation as a 'Fighter'

Joshua Micah Marshall has a lengthy, and really interesting, piece this morning on the current state of the Bush/Kerry battle: Listen carefully to these passages... Basically, Marshall, who has been pulling for Kerry more or less from the beginning, says it's time Kerry joined the fight in earnest, doing the sorts of things he's going to need to do if he's going to beat Karl Rove's dirty tricks and Bush's mountains of TV-advertising money.

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'Against Us' Gaining in the 'With Us/Against Us' Equation

Kos has an excellent piece today: Losing allies on the WOT. It runs through some of the bad news that has come out in the last few days regarding the rapidly thinning ranks of Bush's "Coalition of the Willing".

It's not just lefties like Kos, and craven appeasers like the Spanish, who are increasingly having a problem siding with Bush in his "with us or against us" world. Check out the following from the Los Angeles Times editorial writers, a group that tends to be pretty little-c conservative, at least from my perspective: A war's woeful results. An excerpt:

At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein. But he's the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it's fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not. Although ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was the administration's major selling point for the war, it is now clear that Hussein's regime no longer possessed those weapons. And European allies, including Poland -- which Bush on Friday used as a post-communist model of how Iraq could evolve -- feel misled and more worried than ever about their security.

Hussein's Iraq played no part in 9/11, even as the administration insisted that the war in Iraq was an inevitable consequence of the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda followers, perpetrators of the assault against the United States, were and still are more likely to be found within the borders of U.S. ally Pakistan than within the borders of Iraq. Islamic radicals were able to portray the war as an imperialist ploy of the U.S. and its reluctant followers, invading Iraq because it was a Muslim nation with a stand-up Hussein as leader. That propaganda, which the Bush administration helped mightily to feed through its hubris and miscalculations, has spawned a new generation of recruits for terror. Those recruits have joined Hussein's followers to kill U.S. soldiers and Iraqis cooperating with the occupation forces. More than 570 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, along with soldiers from Britain, Spain, Italy and other nations. The war has killed thousands of Iraqis as well. Nations must retaliate for attacks like those on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and expect casualties in war. But the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- a nation that did not pose an imminent threat -- and the shameful underfunding of homeland security have not lessened U.S. vulnerability. The U.S. grows increasingly isolated from its allies, and that gives comfort and strength to its enemies.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

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Clarke on the Immediate Response to 9/11

I've noted before how with the passage of time, the disagreements and confusions of the present get clarified. So with the Bush people's immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks. If you folllow the angry yapping lefties, as I (obviously) do, the following isn't really news. But the interview with Richard Clarke, former top White House terrorism advisor, that CBS is running tomorrow on 60 Minutes, will probably raise a few eyebrows among those who either haven't given the question much thought until now, or who have been giving Bush & Co. the benefit of the doubt so far.

Anyway, as submitted by reader Barry Ritholtz: Sept. 11: Before and after.

Some choice quotations:

Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

"They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12," says Clarke.

The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

"Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'"

And there's this one:

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," says Clarke in Sunday's interview. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know."

Righties will be quick to smear Clarke. I'm guessing they'll try to link him with Clinton, or will focus on the fact that he's trying to drum up sales for his new book. They can't dispute his facts, so raising a smokescreen of irrelevancies is all they have. But Clarke is a top terrorism expert, advisor to four presidents, who was there, in the room with Bush and his staff, as the response to the 9/11 attacks was put together. He's rock-solid credible. And the picture he's painting isn't pretty.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

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Milbank and Wright's Iraq Post-Mortem

So, it's one year later, and Bush gave a speech about Iraq today (well, yesterday, now). I assume he wanted to talk about how great things are going, but it ended up being a speech more about the importance of not letting the terraists win, a goal we can achieve, apparently, by not questioning his ongoing foreign policy failures.

In the meantime, Dana Milbank and Robin Wright have an excellent article in the Washington Post: Off the mark on cost of war, reception by Iraqis. It reminds us what Bush & Co. were saying about the upcoming war this time last year, and details the many ways in which their predictions have failed to come true.

I note that the story appeared on page "A01", according to the slugline. It's nice to see this kind of thing on the front page, rather than buried on A20.

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March 19, 2004

Krugman: The Illegitimacy of Criticism

Nice piece from Paul Krugman: Taken for a ride. The conclusion:

This week the Bush campaign unveiled an ad accusing John Kerry of, among other things, opposing increases in combat pay because he voted against an $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Those who have followed this issue were astonished at the ad's sheer up-is-down-ism.

In fact, the Bush administration has done the very thing it falsely accuses Mr. Kerry of doing: it has tried repeatedly to slash combat pay and military benefits, provoking angry articles in The Army Times with headlines like "An Act of `Betrayal.' " Oh, and Mr. Kerry wasn't trying to block funds for Iraq -- he was trying to force the administration, which had concealed the cost of the occupation until its tax cut was passed, to roll back part of the tax cut to cover the expense.

But the bigger point is this: in the Bush vision, it was never legitimate to challenge any piece of the administration's policy on Iraq. Before the war, it was your patriotic duty to trust the president's assertions about the case for war. Once we went in and those assertions proved utterly false, it became your patriotic duty to support the troops -- a phrase that, to the administration, always means supporting the president. At no point has it been legitimate to hold Mr. Bush accountable. And that's the way he wants it.

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Dennis Miller: Um, Why, Exactly?

Dennis Miller is my neighbor, loosely speaking. A mom whose kid went to the same preschool my son went to has an older kid in the school Dennis Miller's kid attends. She tells the story of how Miller screamed profanities at her in front of the children in the parking lot at pickup time one day, clearly stressed out, presumably not just by her having made some driving decision too slowly in the presence of unpredictable four-foot pedestrians.

Another time, my daughter performed in a Bach festival at which Dennis Miller's kid also performed. I didn't realize Miller was there, but after the event, as we were driving away from the church where it took place, I needed to hit the brakes to avoid the mammoth black SUV that whipped out of the parking lot into the street in front of me, and then, when I gave an eyebrow-raise to the other driver, was surprised to see Dennis Miller nodding back at me, his look seeming to say that yes, I really had had a close encounter with a real-life celebrity, and didn't I feel special?

There may be other points at which our lives have come close to touching, but those are the only ones I'm aware of.

I've seen him on TV for a number of years, of course. I watched him during his stint as the semi-funny anchorman on SNL's weekend update, during that long dry spell when I watched the show in the vain hope it might one day live up to its past. I caught his broadcast once, I think, on Monday Night Football. And I watched his HBO show several times, though I can't say I was a fan; it was more that I was unable to look away from the car-wreck-in-real-time of his segue into the monologue-ending rant, in which he would trot out his one trick for the knee-jerk applause of that part of his audience that sees the trappings of thought, and assumes (too hastily) that there's something real behind it, hastening to add their stamp of approval so that they, too, might appear thoughtful.

Miller was visibly tired of the schtick then, but apparently it has gotten much, much worse since his political conversion. Witness the following clip, in which Miller "interviews" Eric Alterman on the lies of the Bush administration re: Iraq: Dennis Miller. Notice how he doesn't even bother to parody having actual insights. He just slumps in his chair, makes a few incoherent verbal jabs (calling them "half-hearted" would be dishonest; I don't think they make fractions small enough to measure that amount of heart), and, when the second hand reaches the magic point when he can end the interview, abruptly does so.

So, car-wreck-in-progress aside, is there any reason at all to still watch him? He comes off as profoundly depressed, or over-medicated, or both. I was reminded of nothing so much as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, in the part of the movie where he has been crushed by the weight of repeating the same hateful routine over and over and over and over, and he finally snaps, breaking character and babbling incoherently into the camera before saying goodbye to Rita and stealing the groundhog.

If he wasn't a neighbor, I'd say screw him. He needs more (or better) therapy, some near-death experience to snap him out of his midlife crisis, maybe. Whatever; it's not my problem. But he is a neighbor, and neighbors look out for each other.

Get help, Dennis. Before it's too late.

Posted by jbc at 09:16 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Michael Caine: Soldier

From The New Yorker, check out Dan Baum's up-close look at what it means to be a young amputee back from Iraq: The casualty.

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Marshall on Bush's Anti-Accountability Causality Loop

As long as I'm pointing to Joshua Micah Marshall, I have to mention this item, which really sums things up nicely: Again and again I read...

Again and again I read -- or hear directly from administration supporters -- this excuse that any questioning of the administration's record in foreign affairs, or Iraq, or even on other matters is just a deplorable focusing on the past, a distraction, when the nation faces grave challenges which we need to focus on solving.

This is more than just simple buck-passing. It is a sort of through-the-looking-glass version of how problem-solving and accountability are supposed to work. It also has the perverse benefit of allowing the scope of the administration's failures to become reasons for not discussing those failures -- a sort of self-reinforcing anti-accountability causality loop, with all manner of moral hazards built in.

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Marshall on the Very Bad Bush Ad

Joshua Micah Marshall really doesn't like the latest ad from Fearless Leader: As you know, it's now been revealed..., and Let me follow up on last night's post.... The thing that's driving him nuts is the brazen way Bush is not only trying to make it seem as if Kerry voted on a line-item basis against flak jackets and higher combat pay and whatnot (which Kerry didn't do), but is actually accusing Kerry of the same things the Bush administration was caught red-handed trying to pull themselves just a few months ago.

Which really is pretty brazen, after all.

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March 18, 2004

Chait on Ari vs. Scott

Here's a fun piece from The New Republic's Jonathon Chait. It compares presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan with his predecessor, Ari Fleischer: Honest mistake. An excerpt:

Fleischer could spin elaborate webs of obfuscation, leaving the press corps mystified and docile, albeit somewhat resentful as well. Every sentence he uttered came out in the same bored affectation. The most outrageous lie sounded, in his telling, like a truism so obvious it barely deserved mentioning. Most people find such behavior deeply unnatural. When asked a direct question, our natural impulse is to answer it honestly. The capacity to do otherwise is useful for any press secretary but particularly so for the current administration, whose domestic agenda has never commanded popular support and which relies heavily upon secrecy and message discipline. Fleischer was in this sense the perfect Bush press secretary. His ability to prevaricate and dodge, without betraying himself through physical or verbal tics, represented a kind of genius. Alas, what came so easily to Fleischer utterly eludes McClellan. If the two of them ever sat down at a poker table, Fleischer would probably walk away with all of McClellan's money and the shirt off his back.

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Gwynne Dyer Continues to Make Sense

More very worthwhile discussion about the larger context of this whole "War on Terra" thing from historian Gwynne Dyer. First, from a few weeks back: It was an unlucky day when the neocons met the Islamists. Second, from a week or so ago: The UN is not a morality play.

Posted by jbc at 06:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 15, 2004

Klein: What the Commission Should Ask Bush About 9/11

From Time's Joe Klein comes this excellent set of questions that Bush should be required to answer about 9/11: Bush and 9/11: What we need to know.

Posted by jbc at 07:36 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2004

Überbloggers Urge Kerry to Engage Bush on National Security

Much talk these past few days about the Kerry response to the second round of Bush ads; Kerry so far has responded more to the "he'll raise your taxes!" part than to the "he'll go easy on swarthy foreigners!" part.

Joshua Micah Marshall thinks Kerry needs to engage on national defense: The Kerry campaign went up with an ad today... And Kos of Daily Kos has an assessment of Bush's actual weakness on the issue that I pretty much agree with right down the line: Reframing Bush's national security record.

Posted by jbc at 01:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Big Brother Wants Your Email

...and your web-browsing history, your IRC utterances, screen captures of your multiplayer Halo sessions... Easier Internet wiretaps sought.

Posted by jbc at 01:09 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

ymatt's Wyld Ryde

Sometimes I think ymatt has too much time on his hands. But I also think Edward Tufte should use this image as an example in his next book. (Update: Tufte apparently disagrees. I asked him what he thought of the diagram in his question forum, and the question was promptly deleted. Oh well; his loss.)

Anyway, click for a larger version:


Posted by jbc at 12:43 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Riverbend in the the Spring

I haven't linked to Riverbend in a while, and this seemed like a good item with which to resume: Spring...

Basically, an occupying power brought in a group of exiles, declared Iraq 'liberated', declared the constitution we've been using since the monarchy annulled and set up a group of puppets as a Governing Council. Can these laws be considered legitimate?

Posted by jbc at 12:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2004

The Poor Man's Bush Campaign Ad

I like this a lot. But that's the kind of sick bastard I am. Anyway: New Bush ad. And don't miss the old ad, either.

Posted by jbc at 06:57 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Meyer: Welcome to Bushworld

On the subject of mainstream media realizing that "balance" doesn't preclude calling a lie a lie, here's a powerful editorial piece from Dick Meyer of Welcome to Bushworld. Does a really nice job of connecting the dots. The picture that emerges isn't anything really new, but again, it makes me happy to see mainstream voices willing to talk about this.

Posted by jbc at 04:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Ads Bend Kerry Truth

So, the official Bush campaign is about two weeks old, and they're already rolling out the B.S. attack ads. Among other interesting reactions to this is the following article from the Washington Post: Bush exaggerates Kerry's position on intelligence budget.

I have to say, I'm really happy to see some of the mainstream media willing to immediately come out and call this ad misleading. Hopefully that's a sign of a larger unwillingness to let the echo chamber frame the debate this time around. We'll see, I guess.

Posted by jbc at 03:59 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2004

February Death Toll Down for Us, Up for Them

I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead in Iraq during the month of February, and the news is good, at least for our loved ones currently stuck over there: only 20 US war dead last month. That's the best month since the start of the war. On the not-so-great side, at least for those who still believe Bush's assertions that the outcome of all this will be a democratic and stable Iraq, the downturn in US fatalities doesn't seem to have been so much the result of the people blowing us up having been defeated, as their having switched to blowing up other Iraqis.

If you're interested in the total deaths for US troops so far, it comes to 544. One way of looking at that is to realize that at its peak, the Vietnam war was killing nearly five times as many US soldiers each month as in the entire first year of the Iraq war. From a less-optimistic point of view, Bush's elective war so far has managed to kill off as many of our youth as the first three and a half years of Vietnam.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first year of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory note: I am not claiming any military significance in this particular comparison. I'm just talking about the wars' respective political histories. See lengthy discussion in my previous postings here, here, and here, for example. Or don't bother, and just spout off in the comments about what an idiot I am; you'll have plenty of company.

Posted by jbc at 01:12 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2004

Alan Greenspan: What's Wrong With Corporate America

I started this site partly to showcase glaring examples of high-profile falsehood. But paradoxically, I also wanted to showcase high-profile truth-speaking, a phenomenon that in its own way can be even more glaring (and is certainly a good deal rarer). Anyway, a fine example of the latter is on display here: From Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, via the Price of Loyalty, a sober, hard-hitting indictment of the dishonest way CEOs have inflated their corporations' apparent worth, at the expense of long-term viability: Greenspan memo: What's wrong with corporate America.

One thing I find interesting about this is the way the problem of dishonest CEOs gaming the accounting system is mirrored by the problem of dishonest politicians gaming the electorate (though here, sadly, Greenspan seems to have a harder time staying honest; see this recent item from Paul Krugman, for example: Greenspan dabbles in bait-switch).

Anyway, fellow shareholders in the American dream, arise! It's time for a hostile takeover.

Posted by jbc at 10:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush's 9/11-Investigation Testimony

You may (or may not) have been following some of the ruckus surrounding Bush's foot-dragging with respect to being questioned by the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks; see this fun transcript of the morning White House press gaggle from Joshua Micah Marshall if the sound of one press secretary flapping is the sort of thing that brings you enlightenment: "Full cooperation" is a many-colored thing.

But for a more imaginative reaction to all this, try the following, from Ted Barlow of Crooked Timber: DC 5/11: Day of Inconvenience.

Posted by jbc at 10:37 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scott Forbes Compares Blair, Bush

Here's an interesting item from a few days ago: Why words matter. It compares Tony Blair and George Bush in terms of their respective justifications for the war on Iraq, a comparison that doesn't reflect at all well on Bush.

Posted by jbc at 10:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2004

Calvin and Hobbes, Searchable

If you haven't seen this, you should: Cavin and Hobbes: Stripsearch.

Posted by jbc at 02:34 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Bill Clinton for Veep

This op-ed piece from Stephen Gillers really cracked me up. Sure, bring it on: The next best thing to being president.

Posted by jbc at 02:21 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marshall: Getting al-Zarqawi (Or Not)

Interesting talk from Joshua Micah Marshall about how the Bush White House apparently was pressured on three different occasions to go after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the year before the invasion of Iraq, but each time shot the idea down because eliminating an al Qaeda operation from Iraq (though admittedly, the part of Iraq that Saddam Hussein didn't control, thanks to our efforts) would have made it harder to push the bogus claim that Hussein and bin Laden were in bed together: What to make of this...

Yet another opportunity for Bush supporters to display their patriotic double-standard, giving Bush a pass for behavior that, if engaged in by a Democrat, would be eliciting words like "outrage," "treason," and "impeachment."

Posted by jbc at 07:27 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kos: Just Like the Last Election, Only Worse

Over at Daily Kos is some discussion of a truly horrific notion: That in the upcoming presidential election, Kerry might hold all the states that went for Gore, with the addition of NH and WV. Which would mean a perfect electoral college split: 269 for Kerry, 269 for Bush: The 269-269 scenario.

Remember when presidential elections were boring?

Posted by jbc at 07:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2004

Why Karl Rove Is Worried

From some random ex-lawyer and arbitrage-gamer named Barry L. Ritholtz who somehow got the idea he should drop links to his latest blog entries in my inbox... (Update: the foregoing was intended as humor. Barry L. Ritholtz is welcome to drop stuff in my inbox anytime.) Anyway, here's a discussion of an interesting (subscription-required, sadly) article in Barron's Online, showing that at least for the moment, the electoral map seems to be leaning more Kerry's way than Bush's: Projected electoral college vote, 2004.

Apparently the solid-blue states have gotten bluer, the solid-red states have gotten redder, but in the all-important purplish states, blueness is winning out over redness.

Yee ha.

Posted by jbc at 09:00 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 02, 2004

12 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage will Ruin Society

One of the advantages of working at a really large company is finding interesting stuff in the printer bin.

This particular item apparently made the blog rounds allready, but just in case you missed it: 12 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage will Ruin Society. The Gator Gay-Straight Alliance "Flash!" site is fairly intolerable, but I think I might be Straight is easily the best flyer I've seen from a college organization, and the Not-A-Cutout project seems pretty cool.

Posted by hossman at 11:56 PM | view/comment (18) | TrackBack (2)

March 01, 2004

I know how much money you have

(I generally hate to blatently repost things Ii saw on another blog but this is just too damn fascinating not to spread the word.)
I have a vague memory of an elementary school teacher telling our class that we should all pay close attention to the laws that congress considers, because you never know what they might do. For example, she said, every year congress re-considers a bill to change US Currency so that the FBI can drive down your street in an unmarked van and detect how much money is in your house: "so they can track down drug dealers".
It seems I should have paid more attention to that teacher. Alex Jones has found that not only can the security features in new bills allow stores to detect your money, but if you try to nuetralize them your money will explode.

Posted by hossman at 11:30 PM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)