May 19, 2004

Marshall on Bush, Kerry, Polls

Joshua Micah Marshall has a long, but interesting, piece on the latest poll numbers, and what they signify, and whether Kerry is doing the right thing by hanging back for now, rather than going after Bush more aggressively: The one point of solace Republicans find today....

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May 16, 2004

Shenk on the Importance of Storytelling in Politics

Here's a really insightful article by Joshua Wolf Shenk into a crucial difference between Republicans and Democrats (at least lately): Republicans know how to tell a good story, while all Democrats can do is kvetch. Anyway: Get me rewrite!

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May 13, 2004

Strange Bedfellows II: Buchanan on the End of the Neocon Era

Having blown my mind by linking twice unto George Will, I'm going to go all the way to Crazyville and link to Patrick Buchanan. Now, knowing Buchanan's history of isolationism and the dim view he takes of US support for Israel, I really shouldn't be too surprised to see him saying what he says here; I'm pretty sure that if he weren't exercising vast amounts of restraint in order to limit his argument to precisely these points on which I basically agree with him, I'd be recoiling in horror. But as it stands, I basically do agree with everything he says here: A time for truth.

As when Buchanan made his statements during the Florida recount battle about how ludicrous it was that he'd polled well in heavily Jewish districts, I have to give the guy credit for a high degree of personal honesty. And these days, that's worth noting.

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Strange Bedfellows I: Will on Why No, Really, Rumsfeld Needs to Go

This is the second time in a week that I've felt compelled to link to George Will. I'm not sure if he occupies the same position in your world-view as he does in mine, but let me just say that for me, linking to George Will even once is a fairly shocking experience. These days, the field of high-profile conservative pundits (of at least the self-styled variety) is pretty thick, but back in the day when I formed a lot of my opinions about politics, Will was in some ways the voice of erudite conservatism.

Anyway, with the profusion of excellent online dictionaries there's no excuse not to read George Will's latest: Not flinching from the facts.

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May 09, 2004

Zakaria: Responsible for What, Exactly?

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria has a great piece on Rumsfeld, Bush, and the taking of responsibility: The price of arrogance.

Those of you who persist in what Janeane Garofalo describes as the "character flaw" of supporting Bush really have a lot to answer for, and Zakaria's opinion piece summarizes an important part of it. What are you people thinking? You do recognize that things are thoroughly fucked up, right? And that your guy's awful decision-making is at the heart of much of the upfuckery? At what point are you willing to recognize that your ideological predisposition is driving you to support someone who really doesn't deserve that support?

Posted by jbc at 09:22 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

What James Yee Was Really Up To

Scott Forbes follows up on a suggestion from a commenter at Billmon's Whiskey Bar weblog: Connecting the dots. It concerns James Yee, the US Army chaplain who was arrested with certain mysterious documents after returning from Guantanamo, paraded through the media for a few days with lurid charges that suggested he was some kind of al Qaeda mole, and then had the charges against him suddenly dropped for "national security" reasons.

The conspiracy theory offered by the Whiskey Bar commentator is that Yee might have been carrying documentation of prisoner abuse at Gitmo. The whipsawing he received, followed by the abrupt dropping of charges (and the accompanying gag order against him), which seemed so weird at the time, and begged so strongly for some other shoe to drop, would then make perfect sense as a heavy-handed bit of intimidation intended to keep his story under wraps.

I know the universe isn't obligated to twist itself into knots just to make my paranoid fantasies of a global conspiracy of right-wing evil-doers come true. But this particular fantasy does a really good job of explaining a lot of otherwise-discordant facts. And it's consistent with other truths that have emerged since then. Taken together, all this has the needle on my "hidden truth" detector twitching.

Maybe one day we'll know. For now, though, I guess it's just really, really suggestive.

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May 07, 2004

Private Lynch, Meet Private England

In one of those weird correspondences that my brain insists on trying to twist into something meaningful, Pfc. Lynndie England, the soldier with the Dorothy Hamill hair (am I dating myself with that reference?) in the Abu Ghraib photos, turns out to have joined up to earn money for college to escape the limited prospects of her small hometown in the West Virginia coal country. Just like Pfc. Jessica Lynch. From the NYT: From a picture of pride to a symbol of abuse in Iraq.

So now another town has had the media descend upon it, anxious for any scrap of information on the newly famous local girl. How odd, that our national experience of the Iraq war would end up being bracketed by images of these two young women, their experiences at once so similar and so different. Lynch on the stretcher during her rescue ("rescue"?), smiling bravely for the camera; England also smiling (smirking?), pointing at a naked prisoner's Johnson. Lynch's body broken, perhaps permanently damaged, as a result of an accident over which she had no control, elevated to a hero's status despite not having done much of anything beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And England, physically whole (pregnant, actually, according to the article, with the out-of-wedlock child of another soldier being investigated for prisoner abuse), her newfound fame at least somewhat more the result of actions she took consciously.

One a "hero", the other a "villain", but both caught up in a whirlwind they never expected, elevated to symbols, their private lives disappearing behind the very public myths of what they represent.

Like I said, weird.

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Cole on Accountability

Juan Cole has written a great post that gets to the heart of what bothers me about the Bush administration: the profoundly anti-democratic, anti-American values it displays, in deed if not in word. Anyway: The mideastization of the US, or: Rumsfeld must resign.

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May 06, 2004

Draft Registration Form

Reader John writes: Thought you might get a kick out of this...

In this, as in so many other things, he was right.

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May 04, 2004

Abusing Middle Eastern Men Here at Home

From reader Richard comes word of yet another abused-prisoner outrage: 2 men charge abuse in arrest after 9/11 terror attack.

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May 03, 2004

Yeah, About That Token Concession We Gave You...

So somehow Bush and Cheney suckered the 9/11 investigation panel into allowing them to testify simultaneously, behind closed doors, under no oath, without a transcript. They were generous enough to allow the panel to take handwritten notes.

Which they then confiscated.

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April 25, 2004

Richard Clarke on What We're Doing Wrong on Terrorism

The guy served four presidents, the last two in the capacity of chief counter-terrorism person, until this current president drove him crazy with his indifference to hair-on-fire warnings. But if there's such a thing as an expert on the subject, he's it.

Yes, he's something of a prima donna, an alarmist, and may even be (horrors!) gay, for all I know. Doesn't matter. He has the one (1) qualification that in this case trumps all objections, including whatever snark-du-jour the Bush defenders fire off in their ongoing efforts to cut him down personally while avoiding his actual arguments. And that one qualification is this: his Cassandra-esque warnings were proven right on September 11. So cut the crap about how you just don't like his taste in ties, or whatever, and go read what Richard Clarke has to say about how this whole War on Terror thing is going seriously wrong: The wrong debate on terrorism.

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Coors Identified as Klansman. Sort of.

Adam of the currently-on-hiatus Words Mean Things weblog likes to say that even if Bush were to kill a small child on national television, many of his supporters would find a way to explain it away. As far as I know Bush hasn't done that yet, preventing us from testing the theory, but an amusingly similar media event has befallen Pete Coors, who's running for Senate in Colorado. From the Rocky Mountain News: Oops! Coors' photo used in Klan story.

Thursday's New York Times misidentified GOP Senate candidate Pete Coors as a Ku Klux Klan member who murdered a black sharecropper.

The Coors campaign found the error "so outrageous it's kind of funny," said spokeswoman Cinamon Watson.

Janus/onan's reaction to the story? "I want a spokeswoman named Cinamon."

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April 23, 2004

Bush and Kerry and Military Service, Still Yet One More Time Again

Righties are doing their best on Kerry's military record (like this from Donald Sensing, quoting from a Washington Times article: Three Purple Hearts and not a day of duty lost?). And Kevin Drum was goaded into going into a bit more detail about just why it is that Kerry's released documents pretty much slay any questions one might raise about his service, while Bush's do just the opposite: Bush vs. Kerry.

But the best summing up comes from Kos, I think: The shorter Bush/Kerry comparison.

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I See Dead People

Everyone is going to keep mentioning this until I post about it, so here you go: the obligatory acknowledgement of the thing with the pictures of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq: From the NYT: Pentagon ban on pictures of dead troops is broken. From Joshua Micah Marshall: Yesterday I was going to post a link... From Kevin Drum: Coffins. And from the horse's mouth, which in this case is Dover AFB (unfortunately slashdotted, or whatever the equivalent phrase is for when the mainstream media does it to you, so you can also get it from the fine people at Warblogging, here: Dover AFB gallery).

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Vote for a Douchebag This Fall

From Hiro comes word of this site, which really sums things up quite nicely:

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April 22, 2004

Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits

Kevin Drum offers up a nice comparison of the military records of Bush and Kerry, and the atttitude toward those respective records by the right-wing political set: A tale of two soldiers.

I'd say that pretty well sums up what our two presidential candidates were up to 30 years ago.

I really do find the double standard interesting. If Bush had Kerry's military record, the right-wing machine would be engaging in public masturbation over it. But since it's Kerry's record, it's grounds for criticism. (You know, there's a rumor he really didn't get injured all that badly in order to receive that first Purple Heart...) Meanwhile, Bush "served his country with honor and distinction" (by pulling strings to jump to the head of the National Guard line, getting a taxpayer-funded chance to fly jet planes as far from the fighting as possible, then losing interest, going AWOL, and being quietly discharged before serving his full term).

It isn't surprising to see this double standard in action. Given the many other actions Bush and his team have been involved in more recently, things that dwarf, in their seriousness, the charges under which Republicans in Congress impeached Clinton, but that turn out to be no big deal when committed by the Bush people, it isn't surprising at all.

But it sure is unseemly. Guys: you're not fooling anybody. There's no principle involved when you trumpet the one guy's glorious service, while cutting down the other guy based on sly innuendoes. You're just being craven tools of a particular agenda. Craven. Tools. Look the words up.

Oh, don't bother. I'll do it for you.


adj : lacking even the rudiments of courage; abjectly fearful; "the craven fellow turned and ran"; "a craven proposal to raise the white flag"; "this recreant knight" --Spenser [syn: recreant]


3: a person who is used to perform unpleasant or dishonest tasks for someone else [syn: creature, puppet]

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April 19, 2004

McNamara, Morris at Berkeley

Here's a writeup and Real Audio video of a fascinating panel discussion: Robert McNamara, Errol Morris return to Berkeley to share lessons learned from "Fog of War".

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April 13, 2004

Republican Pork in the Highway Bill

Boy, it sure is lucky for us taxpayers that the fiscally conservative Republicans have a hammerlock on both houses of Congress, not to mention a steely-eyed veto-wielder in the Oval Office. Otherwise, we might have to worry about billions of dollars being spent on useless pork-barrel projects in key congressional districts.

Thanks to John Fontana of Stonegauge for the link.

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April 09, 2004

Condoleeza Rice: Still Doing Her Job

President Bush, fiddling around in Crawford while Iraq burns, thinks Condoleeza Rice did a "great job" in her appearance before the 9/11 commission. Which she did indeed do: she clearly was well-coached, well-rehearsed, and used that preparation to good effect, neutralizing hostile questioning with long, torturous responses that obscured and deflected any hint of responsibility for her, and Bush's, failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

For some choice examples of Rice's spin in action, see this hilarious item from William Saletan in Slate: LexiCondi.

Remember when national security advisors were actually responsible for advising the president on matters of national security? Lucky for us the nation doesn't currently face any serious threats along those lines, or Rice's 24/7 focus on political damage control might get in the way of her real job.

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April 01, 2004

Winston Smith: Why The Bush People Keep Lying

Philosoraptor's Winston Smith has a pair of items that really impressed me: Why won't they just tell the truth? and Why won't they just tell the truth, part 2. From the latter: we all know, lies become more difficult to confess the longer one maintains them and the more elaborate they become. Lies tend to accrete; new lies are required to defend the flanks of previous lies, small lies become extensive tissues of lies, and consequently small liars become big liars. And it's harder to confess to being a big fat liar than it is to confess to having told a relatively small, run-of-the-mill lie. Though this doesn't explain why they chose to lie in the first place, it does help to explain why, relatively far down the path of mendacity, they have elected to stick with their increasingly implausible fabrications.

There's lots more, and as I said above, I find it really, really impressive. Not because he's calling Bush and his people liars, though after trolling through some righty weblogs lately, it's comforting to me to return to the land where people aren't busy applauding the beautiful fabric and stunning cut of the emperor's new clothes. No, the impressive thing is the way he goes beyond the snark and vindictiveness that lots of people, myself (obviously) included, feel toward Bush and Co., and focuses on his own attitudes and what it would take to restore civility and honesty to the discussion.

Such willingness to turn a critical eye on onesself is rare, but Winston Smith routinely displays it.

Anyway, like I said: impressive.

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March 31, 2004

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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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.

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March 24, 2004

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.

Posted by jbc at 03:19 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2004

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.

Posted by jbc at 12:50 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Posted by jbc at 06:25 PM | view/comment (0) | 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)

March 12, 2004

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 05, 2004

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)

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 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)

February 29, 2004

Who should you vote for?

So for those of you who don't really know who you SHOULD vote for, based upon your opinions of several key issues, here's a link so that you can find your way.

Or worse, so that you can realise that you're voting for the wrong person.

Or even worse, that the wahoos running the site can influence your opinion because you're not paying attention, so you'll drink their koolaid and then vote the way they want you too.

In the end, I'm still voting for Ross Perot, for the 3rd election in a row.

Posted by jaybird at 11:44 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

February 27, 2004

Kerry's Electability

You know I didn't think Kerry came off all that Presidential until I noticed that he may have already been elected previously.

I guess he won't take any crap from the British...

Posted by ymatt at 09:10 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 21, 2004

Marshall on the Stolen Democratic Memos

Joshua Micah Marshall has some interesting scuttlebutt about the ongoing investigation into the theft of thousands of memos from Democratic staffers by Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee: Bad counsel. Apparently the Republicans on the committee have told conservative activists who were spouting off about how the theft really wasn't a big deal that they (the activists) really ought to cool it, because the investigation is turning up lots of wrongdoing that is pretty clearly illegal, and it's likely to result in criminal charges. And Marshall speculates that that could mean the appointment of a special counsel, with the resulting investigation involving not just Republican Senate staffers, but the office of the White House Counsel as well.


Is it just me, or is the confluence of bad karma coming home to roost in the Bush administration reaching Biblical proportions?

Posted by jbc at 01:08 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2004

Rumsfeld Photo Phun

What are we going to do when we no longer have Donald Rumsfeld to entertain us? Anyway, enjoy him while you can: Rumsfeld fighting techniques.

Posted by jbc at 07:44 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2004

Conason on Coulter on Cleland

There was some great stuff about the Ann Coulters of the world in that David Neiwert piece I linked to earlier today, and here's another item to add to the list of reasons to despise her. From Joe Conason, a debunking of Coulter's attacks on the patriotism and courage of Max Cleland: Vile Ann Coulter smears a war hero.

I so want Coulter to be gone from public life. She just drags the whole species down.

Posted by jbc at 01:33 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

What Did You Do In the War?

I saw this a while back, and meant to link to it, but forgot to. But it's still definitely worth a look. From Mother Jones, a timeline showing what our two favorite Yale men were up to during the time they were eligible for service in Vietnam: Brothers in arms?

Posted by jbc at 01:23 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Neiwert's Political and Personal

I hadn't seen this before, but the Koufax Awards listed it as a finalist in the Best Post category, and I really, really like it. From David Neiwert of Orcinus: The political and the personal.

Posted by jbc at 10:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2004

This Machine Kills Fascists

AlterNet has a nice piece by Siva Vaidhyanathan about failing to live up to the legacy of his idol, Woody Guthrie ... "This Machine Kills Fascists".

This is the third or fourth time I've been forwarded something from David Faber's Interesting People mailing list. I'm starting to think I should just subscribe.

Posted by hossman at 01:22 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 14, 2004

Tyler Cowen on Self-Deception and Political Failure

I'm not sure anyone in my readership is actually going to be interested in this, but that's never stopped me before. One last item (I promise, for now at least) from Prof. Tyler Cowen: Self-deception as the root of political failure.

Granted, I majored in political science, which gave me some exposure to, and resignation in the face of, sentences like, "The endogeneity of voter participation holds back convergence at the median." But even for non-poli-sci geeks, there's some interesting ideas being discussed here, at least if you have a thing about self-deception and politics, which I obviously do.

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Morford: What Are You So Afraid Of?

Columnist Mark Morford has a great piece running at What are you so afraid of? It talks about how artificially enhanced fear is used to sell us everything from politicians to SUVs. And he talks about the antidote to fear, which is, appropriately enough on today's artificially manufactured commercial holiday, love.

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February 11, 2004

Gore on the Politics of Fear

Another great speech from Al Gore: A coalition of fear. (From Salon; subscription or free one-day pass required). An excerpt:

Over the past 18 months, I have delivered a series of speeches addressing different aspects of President Bush's agenda, including his decision to go to war in Iraq under patently false pretenses, his dangerous assault on civil liberties here at home, his outrageously fraudulent economic policy, and his complete failure to protect the global environment.

Initially, my purposes were limited in each case to the subject matter of the speech.

However, as I tried to interpret what was driving these various policies, certain common features became obvious and a clear pattern emerged: In every case there was a determined disinterest in the facts; an inflexible insistence on carrying out preconceived policies regardless of the evidence concerning what might work and what clearly would not; a consistent bias favoring the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the broader public interest; and a marked tendency to develop policies in secret, avoid accountability to the public, the Congress or the press; and a disturbing willingness to misrepresent the true nature of the policy involved.

And no matter what the issue, it is now clear that in every instance they have resorted to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit debate and drive the public agenda.

Thanks to Yian for the link.

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February 04, 2004

Rumsfeld Breakdances at Senate Hearing

You can't really call it "tapdancing," because it's more energetic than that, more exuberant. He doesn't just put his spin on things; he flips himself upside down, flings his legs in a wide arc, and before you know it he's whizzing around like a top, leaving even the most critical onlooker breathless with admiration.

Anyway: Rumsfeld: WMDs may still be found.

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January 29, 2004

Pollitt on Dr. Judith Steinberg

Columnist Katha Pollitt has a great column in The Nation that gets right to the heart of what bugged me about Diane Sawyer's interview with Howard Dean and his wife: Judy, Judy, Judy.

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January 27, 2004

Al Franken, Celebrity Wrestler

It's sobering to think that this presidential campaign is only just beginning, given how ugly things are getting already. Tighten your seatbelts, folks.

Anyway: Al Franken knocks down Dean heckler.

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January 26, 2004

Marshall on the Fragility of US Empire

Besides being a politics-obsessed weblogger, Josh Micah Marshall has a PhD in history, which is very much on display in this review of several recent books on US empire that he has written for the New Yorker: Power rangers.

The basic notion here is that by ignoring the more subtle diplomatic consensus-building that went into creating the current US empire, and opting instead for the naked exercise of military and economic power, the Bush team has dramatically, perhaps fatally, weakened our position in the world.

Interesting stuff.

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January 24, 2004

Lileks' Dean Remix

On some level it pains me to reinforce the silliness surrounding Howard Dean's too-excited response to the Iowa results, but it really is pretty funny: Lileks' Dean remix.

Go on; get it out of your system. There's more here, if you like them: Dean goes nuts.

You might consider viewing this video, too, shot from within the crowd at the event: What we saw. I don't know; viewed in context, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. And Timothy Noah at Slate, after watching Dean's interview with Diane Sawyer, thinks Dean should stop apologizing: Dean, lobotomized.

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January 23, 2004

Is Dick Cheney Senile?

I think it's time that we, as a country, take a serious look at the mental health of the vice president. When an aging loved one clings stubbornly to beliefs that fly in the face of reality, we're inclined to look the other way, to make excuses, to quietly cover up the problem.

But when the person losing his grip is the vice president, it's a different matter. It would be okay if we could just put him into 'safe' mode and have him send beeps back to the home planet every so often. But it's not working out that way; he's continuing to beam corrupted data to the gullible mind at Mission Control. And there's that "only a heartbeat away" thing, too.

Righties will dismiss this as snark, but I'm serious. I think there is real evidence that Dick Cheney is actually, literally, senile.

Something to think about.

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January 22, 2004

Republican Staffers Steal Democrats' Files, Blame Victims

This one is pretty sweet: Infiltration of files seen as extensive. Seems that the ongoing investigation into how some confidential Democratic strategy memos turned up in the hands of Republican congressmen and conservative media mouthpieces has uncovered lots of wrongdoing:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

I especially like this part, near the end:

[Republican staffer Manuel Miranda] also argued that the only wrongdoing was on the part of the Democrats -- both for the content of their memos, and for their negligence in placing them where they could be seen.

"There appears to have been no hacking, no stealing, and no violation of any Senate rule," Miranda said. "Stealing assumes a property right and there is no property right to a government document. . . . These documents are not covered under the Senate disclosure rule because they are not official business and, to the extent they were disclosed, they were disclosed inadvertently by negligent [Democratic] staff."

This reminds me of nothing so much as the 2000 Florida recount, when Gore's people came in with an attitude of, "Whoa; let's slow down here. We've gotta handle this in a way that produces a fair outcome while preserving the principles of our democracy." Meanwhile, Bush's people were going balls-to-the-wall with anything they could think of to get their guy a win, democracy be damned.

Yeah, I realize that restraining yourself in the face of an opponent who isn't willing to play fair is a sucker's game. We've certainly seen that in the media, where we have a more-or-less professional batch of folks who seek to minimize bias on one "side" (really, more in the middle, by design), countered by the over-the-top partisans of the right-wing echo chamber.

I don't want to be a sucker. But I'm a human being, and I want to live a decent life. Sometimes it's better to play by the rules, even when the other side isn't. Sometimes it's better to risk losing than it is to improve your chances by compromising your principles.

I think this is one of those times.

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January 17, 2004

Krugman Gets It

Paul Krugman's latest: Who gets it? An excerpt:

A Democratic candidate will have a chance of winning only if he has an energized base, willing to contribute money in many small donations, willing to contribute their own time, willing to stand up for the candidate in the face of smear tactics and unfair coverage.

That doesn't mean that the Democratic candidate has to be a radical -- which is a good thing for the party, since all of the candidates are actually quite moderate. In fact, what the party needs is a candidate who inspires the base enough to get out the message that he isn't a radical -- and that Mr. Bush is. 

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The US Brain Drain

This article from The Washington Monthly is pretty interesting: Creative class war. It's about how the the US is losing its traditonal role in the world economy as a magnet for creativity and innovation.

Thanks to Tuesday at This Girl Thinks for the link.

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January 16, 2004

Understanding Iowa, Underestimating Iowa

A buddy of mine asked for an explaination of how the Iowa caucus worked, which prompted two URLs: a long boring document, and an insightful explanation from Time Magazine. Clicking arround Time somemore, I noticed another Iowa article, which got my attention quickly with this quote from Dean (circa 1999)...

If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both parties, [and] the special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people,
I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world.

The article goes on to have some pretty interesting comments about how much the media overestimates the importance of the results in Iowa, and some candiates seem to be underestimating it.

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January 15, 2004

Al Gore on Global Warming and the Environment

Gore continues to deliver great, hard-hitting critiques of Bush (better than anything he said when he was actually campaigning against him). The latest is his speech today to members of at the Beacon Theater in New York: Al Gore Speaks on global warming and the environment.


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January 13, 2004

Prieur on the Coming Assassination of Howard Dean

From tinfoil-hat leftist Ran Prieur comes this nifty essay: Howard Dean must die (an endorsement). This will be interesting for righties and lefties both, though they'll have different reasons for finding it so. It's a two-fer!

Thanks to Adam at Words Mean Things for the link.

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January 08, 2004

The _Real_ Bush Ad I'd Like to See

This one starts off sounding like a garden-variety anti-Bush ad, and then, about halfway through, it kicks into another gear entirely. From's Mark Spittle: Bush in 41.2 seconds.

Warning: Describes Bush accurately. Those who are offended by foul language are encouraged to steer clear, unless they're Bush supporters. Heh.

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Dean (John Dean) on the Latest Plame-Outing Investigation Developments

Who better to speculate on what's going on inside the investigation into the felonious leaking of Valerie Plame's identity to reporters than John Dean? He has lots of informed speculation about the possiblity of a low- or mid-level White House staffer with knowledge of the leaker's identity having cut a deal, possibly, leading to the latest flurry of events: Why Did Attorney General Ashcroft Remove Himself From The Valerie Plame Wilson Leak Investigation?

There's something just so, so, um, something, about John Dean giving expert testimony on the actions and motivations of mid-level executive branch lackeys who have knowledge of illegal actions by higher-ups.

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January 06, 2004

Club for Growth, Ralph Peters on Dean

The attacks continue to escalate. The Republican "Club for Growth" is preparing an anti-Dean issue ad to be run in Iowa: Conservatives launch TV attack ad on Dean. And Ralph Peters goes to town in a NY Post opinion piece: Howard the coward.

The two attacks offer an interesting study in comparative bullshit. The Club for Growth just flat-out lies about Dean's alleged raving-leftist pedigree:

In the ad, a farmer says he thinks that "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..." before the farmer's wife then finishes the sentence: "... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."

Peters is a bit more honest, but only in the sense that he begins with some actual Dean statements (basically, all the "gaffes" that have been circulating over the last few weeks) before launching into fantasyland. And he wins points for being the first Dean opponent I've seen to officially lose the debate under the terms of Godwin's Law.

I really am looking forward to this election. It's going to be a perfect test case of whether or not this country deserves to survive. On the one hand we have an incumbent who is an objective failure in every area, who has amply demonstrated his contempt for everything this country stands for, and who seeks to be reinstalled solely with blatant deception, good visuals, and truckloads of money. On the other hand we have a short, unfriendly Yankee who speaks the truth without much, if any, regard for how the other side will twist his words. He just tells it like it is.

Will we, as an electorate, choose the guy who tells us what we want to hear, even when it's obvious with almost any degree of analysis that it's horseshit? Or will we choose the guy who tells the truth, but doesn't bother to sugarcoat it?

We're very much going to get the government we deserve here. And if you choose not to vote, you're going to be missing out on a a great opportunity to help define the kind of country you and your descendents are going to live in.

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January 04, 2004

Krugman Rips Those Ripping Dean

A really fabulous piece from Paul Krugman: Who's Nader now? Seriously, Lieberman and Kerry are pissing me off with this Dean-bashing. Krugman puts it well: "The irony is that by seeking to undermine the election prospects of a man who may well be their party's nominee, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Kerry have reminded us of why their once-promising campaigns imploded."

Posted by jbc at 04:49 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Helen Thomas's Memory

I wonder how many people with "9/11: Never forget" bumper stickers support the Iraq war as an appropriate response to those attacks. I guess it's hard to forget something (like who the perpetrators of those attacks actually were) when you never really knew it in the first place.

Anyway, that's a different issue. In the year-end wrap-up vein, Helen Thomas has a nice column where she lists politicians' statements from 2003 that voters would do well to remember: Some words better left unuttered.

Posted by jbc at 09:10 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Rice Resists Testifying About 9/11

Scott Forbes at A Yank in Oz tries, and fails, to come up with an acceptable reason why Condoleeza Rice might want to avoid testifying before the 9/11 commission: Secrets and lies.

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December 31, 2003

Blue States Versus Red

Daily Kos has an interesting discussion of the upcoming election: Why Dean can win without the South. It's about, um, why Dean can win without the South. Not just links, but links and provocative, stimulating analysis!

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Marshall on Ashcroft's Plame-Case Recusal

So, John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Plame-outing investigation. (No, Hiro, I am not going to explain what it is. Go read the Washington Post, if you must: Ashcroft Recuses Self from Leak Case.)

Joshua Micah Marshall tries to read the tea leaves about what it all means here: A few more quick thoughts. His take seems to be that this may indeed bode something serious, since the announcement wasn't made at a time that would help bury it in the news cycle.

So, what could have led to it? Someone has blabbed to the investigators, and it's pretty clear that someone weighty in the White House is going to be going down for this? And they want to start working on their righteous-indignation act, and get it out of the way sooner, rather than waiting for it to blow up in the middle of the campaign season?

Time will tell, I guess.

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December 23, 2003

Sojourner Interviews Ray McGovern and David MacMichael

Here's an interesting interview from Sojourners. It's with a couple of ex-CIA guys who are mighty displeased about the way ideology is driving the intelligence process these days: The burden of truth.

Thanks again to reader Steve D. for this link, as well as the last two.

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Havrilesky: Americans Love To Be Lied To

A nice piece at Salon on the latest fad in these United States: The year of the liar. Subscription (or free one-day pass) required.

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December 16, 2003

Presents for people you hate.

Have anyone on your list that you're forced to buy a present for but would just has soon alienate? Have I got a deal for you! You can get your very own talking Ann Coulter doll. If you take off the dress does it have a penis? I'm not going to look...

Posted by J.A.Y.S.O.N. at 07:01 PM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

December 10, 2003

The 'Truth Uncovered' Documentary

Available now from a file-sharing service near you, or by sending $14.95 to, or by having attended a house party last Sunday, is a new documentary titled, "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War." I just finished watching it, and it's powerful stuff.

It isn't powerful because it makes any blockbuster revelations. It's powerful because it gathers together, in one telling, a simple, direct summary of the deceptions with which Bush and his handlers led the country to war.

There's nothing in the video, I'm pretty sure, that hasn't been reported already. But pulled together like this, it's just incredibly damning. There's something truly shocking about watching the footage from before the war, as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and Wolfowitz present a coordinated storyline that simply falls apart in the light of subsequent events.

Let's be clear about what this is. This is a president being caught red-handed in the act of lying. In that sense it's reminiscent of Clinton's lying about Monica Lewinsky. But it's fundamentally different.

Clinton's Lewinsky lies were bad. The President abused the power of his office to get blowjobs from an intern (and almost certainly was doing lots more of the same sort of thing -- still is, for all I know). Then he lied about it under oath (yes, it was a pretty pathetic witchhunt that cornered him into doing so, but that's a side issue). He then got in front of the TV cameras and waggled his bent forefinger at the nation and said, "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

And because she kept a dress stained with presidential semen, we all know exactly what he was doing when he did that. He was lying. Liar, liar, liar. You lied to us, Bill Clinton. You took the power of your office and the trust of the American people and your God-given talent for making people like and believe you and squandered it all on a pathetic effort to cover up a tawdry affair. And got caught.

Among the many people your betrayal harmed was your vice president, who lost his opportunity to succeed you in significant part because of the public's revulsion at your moral failings. And all the evils of the Bush presidency followed directly from that, which is really quite a lot for you to answer for.

But Bush's lies are a different sort of animal. Where Clinton's lies were personal and petty, aimed at getting him some illicit tail while continuing to maintain a fiction of personal morality, Bush's lies led directly to the death and maiming of thousands of innocent people. This war should never have been fought, and will ultimately achieve nothing good for anyone (with the possible exception of a small cadre of well-connected corporations and their shareholders). It will increase terror, rather than reducing it. It will make our nation more, rather than less, vulnerable. It will ultimately be recognized, as with the Vietnam war before it, as a colossal national tragedy, a waste, a mistake.

Bush went to war casually, disdainfully. His handlers orchestrated a campaign of coordinated lies designed to frighten the American people into going along with the pre-emptive invasion of a country that represented no real threat to them.

This is the source of the anger fueling the Dean campaign. It isn't the kind of irrational, reflexive hate that gave us Clinton-murdered-Vince-Foster screeds from the right wing. This is justified outrage at real murder on a massive scale, at a systematic, craven, soulless debauching of the principles that underlie everything worthy about this country.

Somewhere out there is a voter who hasn't decided yet who she is going to vote for. She doesn't read newspapers, doesn't watch Sunday talk shows, and doesn't blog obsessively about politics. But she's registered, and she takes her civic duty seriously. And sometime between now and next November she's going to watch some television: some campaign ads, a few convention speeches, and maybe a debate or two. And she's going to ask herself, which of these two men do I trust to run the country for the next four years?

On TV (and, I'm willing to believe, in person) Howard Dean comes off as an honest man. He sounds tough-minded but fair. He doesn't waffle; he analyzes the facts of the situation, and speaks his mind. When he makes a mistake, he acknowledges it.

I think a lot of this comes from his professional training as a doctor. Doctors have to make tough decisions based on murky data, and they have to do it all the time. Sometimes those decisions turn out to be wrong; when that happens they have to deal with the consequences. They have to figure out what went wrong, fix it if possible, and move on.

I think it would be really, really hard to succeed as a doctor using a George W. Bush approach. You can't party your way through a good med school. You can't get well-connected patrons to bail you out when your professional decision-making proves inadequate. The overhead associated with maintaining a fictional façade of competence is just too high for a doctor. In the end, to succeed as a doctor, you pretty much just have to be competent. And achieving and maintaining that competence requires a fundamental degree of honesty, both with the outside world and with yourself, that George Bush simply doesn't have.

In this sense, Howard Dean is the anti-Bush. Just as Carter was chosen to correct the perceived failings of Nixon, Reagan to correct the perceived failings of Carter, and Clinton to correct the perceived failings of Bush's father, Dean will be chosen to correct the perceived failings of Bush.

Those failings of Bush are very much on display in this video.

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December 07, 2003

Kristof on Dean

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof believes Dean is another McGovern: There they go again. In thinking Dean is more or less "unelectable" in the general election, Kristof joins people like Joshua Micah Marshall and Kevin Drum, whose willingness to link Dean with McGovern I previously wrote about here: Howard Dean versus George McGovern.

I'm linking to this Kristof column not because I think he's right (since I don't), and not because I want to further depress Adam of Words Mean Things (though it seems possible that Kristof's column will achieve that). I'm linking to it because Kristof's belief that the upcoming election will be a replay of 1972, and my belief that it won't be, means that one of us is warping reality to match his mental model. Which one of us is it? A year from now I'll know.

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December 06, 2003

Ivins on Dean

Molly Ivins tells it very much like it is: Picking a winner.

Those of you who, like me, were scared into supporting Kerry early on because he was the most "electable," especially compared to that angry little doctor from Vermont, really need to take a closer look at Dean. Because, you know, he's going to be your president for the next four to eight years, and it would make sense for you to have some idea of what the guy's all about.

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December 04, 2003

If Scott Forbes Ran the Circus

Ex-pat American and newly certified permanent Aussie resident Scott Forbes takes on Tacitus' question of just what he would do about Iraq if he were in Bush's position: Custer had a plan too.

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November 22, 2003

Dean vs. Bush on Avoiding Vietnam

Jerome Doolittle makes a great observation about today's front page NYT story on the medical deferment that kept Howard Dean out of Vietnam: The character issue.

Digression: I especially like the image he used to illustrate the item. Heh. You know, I sincerely do not believe those are George Bush's real balls. I don't really care enough to make an issue out of it, and yeah, they certainly could be real. But if so they're definitely the jumbo-economy size. So which seems more likely: That Bush just happens to have a really prominent package? Or that his image team had the great idea of stuffing a sock in his shorts to underscore the manly look they were after?

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November 21, 2003

Bring on the Sludge

I recently linked to an article by Arnold Kling in which he criticized Paul Krugman for making "Type M" (as opposed to "Type C") arguments. By a Type M argument, Kling meant an argument that focused on the other side's motives, rather than the consequences of the other side's proposals. I observed at the time that while Type C arguments were certainly preferable, it was actually Krugman's right-wing opponents who had first lowered the debate to that level, with a steady outpouring of Type M arguments.

Another nice example of that is the Republican party's first campaign ad, due to begin airing this Sunday. It features images of Bush delivering the last State of the Union address (no, not the part of it that subsequent events have shown to be lies, but you have to admire their chutzpah even bringing up the speech at all). As they show Bush delivering lines that absolutely no sane person would disagree with, they run the following words underneath: "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

Note the classic Type M argument. It's all about motivations. And not only does the argument focus on the motivations of Bush's critics, but it also completely mischaracterizes those motivations.

Howard Dean (and others) who have been criticizing Bush's Iraq policy have not been criticizing him "for attacking the terrorists." In fact, their argument has been just the opposite: They have been criticizing him for not attacking the terrorists. By dropping the ball on al Qaeda and going after Iraq instead, Bush gave Osama bin Laden the breathing room he needed to rebuild and reorganize. By alienating our traditional allies around the world, Bush undercut the international cooperation that is essential to effective anti-terror efforts. By overthrowing the Iraqi government without having an adequate plan for the aftermath, he has saddled the US with a costly and deadly quagmire of an occupation that seems likely to increase, rather than decrease, the anti-US sentiment that fuels terrorist funding and recruiting. And so on.

Note what's going on: Bush's critics have been making a nice, rational, Type C argument about the consequences of Bush's policies. But rather than debate with them on that level, the very first Republican campaign ad descends immediately to Type M: Bush's opponents are criticizing him because they don't want him to attack the terrorists!

Which is really a pretty pathetic argument. Were I to stoop to Type M arguments myself, I'd probably observe that the people running this ad must believe they can't win an objective Type C argument, since everyone pretty much knows that Bush's policies are objectively failing, with many of the strongest justifications he previously offered for them having turned out to be lies. As a result, mischaracterizing his opponents' motivations is all they have left.

Posted by jbc at 06:18 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (1)

November 20, 2003

Professional Programmers/Politicians/Soldiers

Some interesting items on "professionalism" crossed my monitor this morning.

First up, an old article from Tom DeMarco: Professional awareness in software engineering. DeMarco describes a hierarchy of different conceptions of professionalism, but the thing that struck me as interesting is that DeMarco believes that true professionalism requires careful and continuous monitoring of one's own behavior to make sure it meets an ethical standard:

There are no simple, general rules in ethics; ethics is about values and value conflict, philosophy and morality, and a willingness and capability to confront intricate and convoluted conundrums. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule may get you to Heaven, but they won't (all by themselves) make you an ethical promise-keeper. The only thing that will do that is to keep yourself in a permanent state of ethical introspection.

In order to make it clear what I mean by this introspection, consider its opposite. The most familiar form of this opposite is what I call:

THE FATAL PREMISE: Evil is done by evil people; I am not an evil person and therefore . . . I cannot do evil.

The Fatal Premise gives you an ethical blank check: If you did it, it must be OK.

It is my opinionated opinion that about half the world's population believes the Fatal Premise. One who is governed by this premise is neither ethical nor unethical, but a non-participant. Such a person can never be a true professional, because his or her introspection mechanism is disarmed. The Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offers a counter to the Fatal Premise in the following quote:

The line separating good and evil passes not between states nor between classes nor between parties [individuals] either, but through the middle of every human heart.

To be an ethical human being you need to be aware of your capacity to be evil, your dark side. To the extent that it is our business to foster professionalism, we need to focus mostly on helping people get past the Fatal Premise so they can deal with the possibility of their own evil. Most meaningful evil on earth is done by good people, not by evil people. The capacity to do evil is in each one of us.

So, when he talks about how it is unprofessional to attribute evil to the other side, and thereby excuse yourself from the possibility of committing evil, were you thinking of the same person I was? I know it doesn't sound quite right to say we need more "professional" politicians, but if you use DeMarco's definition of the term then I think that's exactly what we need.

Continuing in a somewhat-related vein, check out these interesting items from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo on the finger-pointing currently going on as the unprofessional folk currently running things in this country try to divert blame for the now-widely-recognized-as-wrong decision to disband the professional soldiers who made up the Iraqi army: here, here, and here.

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November 19, 2003

Bobby Kennedy, Jr., in Salon

A great interview with Bobby Kennedy, Jr., is currently running in Salon: Save the earth: Dump Bush. Very much worth watching the commercial to get the one-day Salon pass. An excerpt:

I'm not scared of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. They can never hurt America in any fundamental way. As Teddy Roosevelt said, American democracy will never be destroyed by outside enemies -- but it can be destroyed by the malefactors of great wealth who subtly rob and undermine it from within. And I see that process happening today.

Thanks to dangerous free radical Yian for the link.

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November 11, 2003

Howard Dean vs. George McGovern

I'm aware that I'm a fickle linker. Someone catches my fancy, and suddenly everything they write is God's Own Truth, Brought Down From On High. Or at least I link to them a lot.

Lately I've been linking to Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo and Kevin Drum of CalPundit. But now both of them are saying the same thing, and I disagree with them. Both of them are saying they basically think Howard Dean is unelectable in the general election. (Marshall: Okay, have to say it. Drum: Electing Dean.)

Marshall goes on to post an email from John B. Judis of The New Republic, in which Judis writes:

The only thing I'm semi-certain about is Dean's lack of electability in November. I think it is because I lived through the McGovern campaign, as did some of those ex-Clinton people who have tried to pump up Clark. The similarities grow with every day. Not just the insurgent voter enthusiasm, the new ways of fundraising, and the bevy of flummoxed opponents, but also the economy (artificially stimulated by Nixon through the Fed and by Bush through the dollar just in time for election year) and the war (raging, but bound to quiet some by election time, and to raise prospects of peace).

Now, both Drum and Marshall offer some other (fairly vague) reasons besides the McGovern parallel for Dean's supposed non-electability, but when you come right down to it, each of them says it's basically just a gut feeling. And given that it's more their guts than their heads that are talking, I wonder if it might be mostly the subconscious memory of the McGovern defeat that's pushing them in that direction.

I was only 10 years old in 1972; the Nixon/McGovern race is the first presidential election I have any memory of at all, and it's a pretty vague memory. But as I read the history of that campaign, I think those who see another McGovern in Dean are missing the forest for the trees.

Yes, McGovern was an antiwar candidate who swooped in from outside to upset the Democratic machine and take the nomination away from candidates with stronger support within the party, and in that sense he does look a lot like Dean. But there's a crucial difference between the two.

In 1972, McGovern was perceived as a radical, an ideologue, at least by mainstream voters. In the aftermath of the turbulent 1960s, he scared people in the middle. Sure, they didn't like the insane bodycount of the Vietnam war and were looking for a way out, but they weren't willing to put the country in the hands of a moral crusader, the candidate of those campus radicals and drug fiend hippies, in order to get it.

Nixon, on the other hand, was a realist. Though short on details about his exit strategy, he was saying the right things about the war, and winding down US involvement. It wasn't his war, after all, but his predecessor Lyndon Johnson's. Nixon had been a moderate steward of the economy. In an era when people were still very thoroughly scared about superpower confrontation, he had opened a dialog with China. And so on.

I believe this was the dominant factor in Nixon's landslide victory over McGovern. Nixon was the safe choice, the conservative choice (in the general sense, rather than the narrowly political sense). He was the grown-up choice.

But in the looming matchup between Dean and Bush, those roles are going to be precisely reversed. It is Bush who is the scary ideologue, with his go-it-alone pre-emptive wars, overturning of domestic civil liberties, radical re-tooling of the tax code, and exploding budget deficits. Dean is the grown-up, the voice of reason, the candidate of mainstream policies.

Throw away the partisans who will always vote red or blue, regardless of the candidate, and what you have left is a chunk of the country that really doesn't care about all this ideological crap. They just want someone who seems sensible, and responsible, and who will do a good job. In 1972 they looked at the available choices and chose Nixon. In 2004, using exactly the same criteria, I believe those voters will look at the available choices and choose Dean.

So, it's my guts versus Marshall's and Drum's. Whose guts will turn out to be right?

Posted by jbc at 09:25 PM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (1)

November 10, 2003

Rumsfeld Just Flat-Out Lies

Oops. I meant to link to this the other day, when I saw it at Josh Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo, but somehow forgot. Age creeping up on me, probably. Anyway, it's not to be missed: Rumsfeld retreats, disclaims earlier rhetoric.

Posted by jbc at 11:27 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Al Gore: Repeal the Patriot Act

Like lots of other people, I'm finding myself wishing Al Gore had talked more like this during the 2000 presidential campaign. But in all honesty, I don't think he'd be talking like this even now if he were actually running for the nomination. Funny, isn't it? In order to speak the truth, he has to be (to some degree, at least) beyond caring what we think about what he says. And since he feels that way, and speaks the truth, we love him (well, for certain values of "we" and "love").

Anyway, check it out: Freedom and security. I especially encourage those on the Right who consider themselves patriotic Americans to check it out. Ignore, if you can, the person making the case, and just consider the case itself. Some things are bigger than Republican versus Democrat. I think this is one of them.

Posted by jbc at 10:29 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Drum on Barlow on Cheney

Kevin Drum of Calpundit points to the new Newsweek cover story, then continues with a re-running of a really interesting John Perry Barlow piece on the Veep-in-Chief from before the war: A profile of Dick Cheney.

Thought provoking! Yea, verily!

Posted by jbc at 10:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 08, 2003

Presidential Campaign Web Server Software

From my neighbor Doc Searls, and apropos my recent mockery of Kim du Toit for running a pussy server like IIS, comes this revealing comparison of the Netcraft results for the various presidential campaigns: Penguins for president?

Posted by jbc at 09:01 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 07, 2003

Howard Dean: Asshole

Let me repeat myself. You are an asshole.

-- Dennis Slater, in the comments to this item

What is an asshole? As I, and presumably Dennis Slater, use the term, it's someone who has committed a wrong, but has managed to do more than that, adding a layer of gratuitous injury such that I'm well and truly pissed at him. (And it's always a him. If a woman does this I use a different word.) An asshole isn't just in the wrong; by going out of his way to inflict some harm that he could just as easily have avoided he's managed to make it personal. It wasn't an accident; he meant to do it. He acted with malice aforethought, exhibited mens rea, showed what a mean-spirited, vindictive S.O.B. he is. In short, an asshole.

I happen to think George W. Bush is an asshole. A lot of people think Howard Dean is an asshole. I'm pretty sure I'm right in my view of Bush, and I'm willing to stipulate that they're right in their view of Dean.

Some people, like Kevin Drum of Calpundit, think this aspect of Dean's personality will prevent him from winning the presidency. Drum posted about this (without actually calling Dean an asshole) in this item: Why I like Wes Clark. Drum wrote:

I like Dean's energy, I like his passion, and I like the fact that he's obviously not afraid to take on George Bush with gusto. But there's a flip side to this, and I think you can see them both in his "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" remark. On the one hand, he was making a smart observation: these guys ought to vote for Democrats and we shouldn't alienate them. But on the other hand, it was a really, really stupid way to make his point and he was too stubborn to back down from it until it had already done him a bunch of damage.

So while I don't have any huge policy differences with him -- although he's sounding a little too sincere in his opposition to free trade these days -- his character seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Too much of his appeal is built on anger, he often comes across as defensive and perhaps a little bitter to people who aren't true believers in the first place, and I think he'd get flattened by Karl Rove's $200 million war chest. I feel bad saying that, but it's my best guess.

For myself, I think Dean's Confederate flag remark hasn't damaged him much, if at all. For one thing, he's well on his way to steamrolling the Democratic primaries. (This New Republic article on Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, has some interesting coverage of that: Organization man.) I think Dean is already looking forward to the general election, and from that perspective, the Confederate flag comment makes a lot of sense. For every northern liberal it offends into leaving him (if any; what are they going to do, vote for Bush?) it probably makes a half dozen southerners sit up and take notice.

And what will they see? Well, maybe an asshole. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. With the collective store of fear and anger this country has been carrying since 9/11, I think there are quite a few people who are ready to vote for an asshole for president.

In comparing Wesley Clark with Howard Dean on this point, I see an interesting paradox. Clark, of course, spent his professional career rising rapidly within an organization dedicated to killing people. For all that, though, he comes off (at least on TV) as a nice, non-threatening kind of guy. He's smart and incisive, but he's not particularly mean. He seems too rational for that. If you cut him off on the freeway he wouldn't lean on the horn or flip you off. He might shake his head at you, but he'd also carefully reduce speed, put some distance between your car and his, and generally make sure he got the hell away from you.

Dean's professional training was pretty much the opposite of Clark's. As a physician, he took an oath to do no harm, which is about as far away from the Army's raison d'etre as you can get. And yet, watching him talk, you get the sense that if you cut him off on the freeway, that feisty little doctor might very well give you a piece of his mind, or maybe even pull over and roll up his sleeves and settle it man-to-man, should you choose to escalate.

Now, from the perspective of a nice, thoughtful left-coaster like Kevin Drum, that looks decidedly non-presidential. But in the context of a culture where a piece of unapologetic knuckle-dragging like Kim du Toit's The pussification of the Western male can provoke such a response that his Playskool web server has a nervous breakdown (note to Kim: real men use a real operating system on their servers), I think a scrappy Type-A doctor-turned-governor has a way better chance against Bush than a prissy schoolmarm of an ex-general, Karl Rove war chest or no.

Posted by jbc at 10:25 PM | view/comment (19) | TrackBack (0)

November 05, 2003

Senators Hollings, Byrd on Iraq

Here are a couple of items about US senators being critical of the war. First, an article in which Fritz Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) is quoted as not knowing what to tell a constituent whose son died in the fighting: Senator says situation in Iraq 'is, chapter and verse, Vietnam' again. And yet another great speech from Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia), delivered as part of the Senate debate over the conference committee's version of Bush's $87 billion funding request: A high price for a hollow victory. From Byrd's speech:

The President continues to insist that the United States will persevere in its mission in Iraq, that our resolve is unshakable. But it is time – past time – for the President to tell the American people exactly what that mission is, how he intends to accomplish it, and what his exit strategy is for American troops in Iraq. It is the American people who will ultimately decide how long we will stay in Iraq.

It is not enough for the President to maintain that the United States will not be driven out of Iraq by the increasing violence against American soldiers. He must also demonstrate leadership by presenting the American people with a plan to stem the freewheeling violence in Iraq, return the government of that country to the Iraqi people, and pave the way for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. We do not now have such a plan, and the supplemental conference report before us does not provide such a plan. The $87 billion in this appropriations bill provides the wherewithal for the United States to stay the course in Iraq when what we badly need is a course correction. The President owes the American people an exit strategy for Iraq, and it is time for him to deliver.

Posted by jbc at 08:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2003

Russell Baker Reviews Paul Krugman

The New York Review of Books features a great review by Russell Baker of Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century: The Awful Truth. It's nicely uplifting, on some level, that people like Baker and Krugman are out there, speaking the truth as they see it about what's happened in this country over the last few years. Yes, there are still grown-ups out there. They just happen not to be running things at the moment.

Posted by jbc at 08:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2003

The Swing State Project

Some guy with the cryptic name of DavidNYC has a new weblog called Swing State Project, in which he indulges his politics addiction by talking about states that went Democrat or Republican by 6 points or less in the 2000 presidential election. Even if you don't share his addiction, it's worth checking out his swing state map:

As much as I like to hassle my non-voting friends to get their collective asses in gear and participate at the polls, I'm aware that in the practical matter of removing Bush from office next year, my vote (or lack thereof) will have no effect on the outcome. Us blue-staters, along with red-staters like ymatt, already know where our electoral college votes are going next year. In a certain sense we're slaves, in thrall to one or the other of the two street gangs that rule US politics.

But you green and yellow people are another story. You're free to elect anyone you want. What will you do with that freedom? As someone who will be living with your decision, I confess to being really curious what you're thinking these days.

Posted by jbc at 09:02 AM | view/comment (14) | TrackBack (2)

October 21, 2003

Hersch on the WMD Intelligence Failure

Seymour Hersch's new article in the New Yorker provides a detailed version of the events surrounding Bush administration claims of Iraqi WMD in the run-up to the war: The stovepipe. There are some significant new details, and lots of tying together of disparate pieces that have been floating around for the last year or so.

Is all of it true? I don't know. I'd guess that there are some areas where Hersch's information is fuzzier than he's letting on. But most of it sounds pretty compelling. I certainly don't see any way to salvage Dick Cheney, at least, from the charge of wilfully lying his ass off.

Anyway, it's a long piece, but well worth the effort.

Posted by jbc at 12:59 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2003

Byrd: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Robert Byrd gave yet another awesome speech to the Senate on Friday: The emperor has no clothes. It's simple, powerful stuff. No wonder Bush's defenders are reduced to attacking the messenger over his association with the Klan during his first Congressional campaign in the 1940s. They have no response to the substance of his argument.

Posted by jbc at 08:31 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 11, 2003

Soldier's Names Used in Astroturf Campaign

Apparently the US military is taking this "Army of One" idea to new levels. As mentioned at MetaFilter in the item Not very clever, are they?, the same lengthy, text-identical letter is appearing in small-town newspapers all over the country, touting the success of the Iraq operation. An excerpt:

The fruits of all our soldiers' efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops, and children have returned to school. This is all evidence that the work we are doing as a battalion and as American soldiers is bettering the lives of Kirkuk's citizens. I am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq and I hope all of your readers are as well.

That heartfelt missive from Pfc. David Deaconson appeared in his hometown newspaper, the Beckley (WV) Register-Herald, on September 21. Signed by Spc. Nathan Whitelatch, it appeared in the Connellsville (PA) Daily Courier on September 11. Signed by Sgt. Shawn M. Grueser, it appeared in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail on September 10.

The Olympian (of Olympia, WA) was especially blessed; it received two copies of the letter, from different soldiers. They didn't run them in their letters to the editor section, but they did contact a half-dozen soldiers whose names had appeared below the letter in various papers, confirming that the soldiers had not actually written them: Many soldiers, same letter.

Witih Google, these things are pretty easy to sniff out. You notice a suspiciously erudite letter to the editor in the local paper, plug the phrase into Google, and bam: instant debunking. Kind of makes you wonder how many of these passed unnoticed back in the day.

Thanks to Adam at Words Mean Things for the pointer.

Posted by jbc at 08:07 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (1)

October 10, 2003

Silly/Interesting Dialect Variations

From Bravo comes a link to this nifty image that was reposted as The Cellar's Image of the Day: Word usage maps. There's a link to the original source in the comments, with that original source being a Harvard site: Dialect survey results. (Quick digression, apropos the headmaster at my daughter's school's habit of telling everyone he meets about his time at a certain Ivy League location: Q: How can you tell when someone's been to Harvard? A: They tell you.)

Anyway, it's very much worth some poking around. If you do so, you'll learn many fascinating facts about your fellow Americans. For example, there's a cluster of people in and around Rhode Island who call a drink made with milk and ice cream a "cabinet". And nearly 11% of survey respondents call the gooey stuff that collects in the corners of your eyes an eye booger. Who knew?

Posted by jbc at 11:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 08, 2003

Valerie Plame Profiled

Here's a profile of a great American from the Washington Post: The spy next door.

The latest spin from the White House on Plame's outing seems to be that the initial leak to Novak was the work of some obscure flunky they'll never be able to find. But the phonecalls by two top administration officials to at least six different journalists mentioned by the Washington Post was perfectly legal, since at that point her cover had already been compromised by the leak to Novak, even though the Post says those calls were made before Novak's column was published.

To me, this is far worse than the legalistic parsing that gave us Clinton arguing, "I can receive a blow job without my 'touching' the person giving it to me." In this case, we've got the assertion that once someone has committed the felonious, and arguably treasonous, act of compromising the cover of a CIA operative working on WMD proliferation, there's nothing wrong with the White House phoning up reporters in an effort to get the story wider play. Under the provisions of the statute, only the initial revelation is a crime. Trying to push the story after that is perfectly legal.

Maybe it is. But it still sucks. And the people who did it should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of Washington on a rail. There was a time in this country's history when anyone who fancied himself a patriot would have happily volunteered to do just that.

Posted by jbc at 05:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 07, 2003

The Great American Dream

I just read this interesting article over at Buzzflash about the soon to be completed recall election in California, as well as Orrin Hatch trying to push for a constitutional ammendment to enable Arnold to someday run for President.

Who would the VP be then, Sylvester Stallone?

Posted by jaybird at 04:09 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 29, 2003

TPM Does the Plame-Outing Story

Near-continual updates from Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo over the last few days regarding the outing-Joseph-Wilson's-wife story. Especially interesting items so far have been: The Washington Post continues to own Wilsongate (in which he talks about yesterday's WaPo article that confirmed that stuff is going on in the White House behind the scenes, as the Bush people try to contain the growing scandal), Gagglepalooza from this morning, in which he quotes at length from Scott McClellan's daily White House press briefing this morning, at which it was definitely blood-in-the-water time, from the sound of it, and A couple more issues to watch, in which he points out how this has the potential to cut the heart out of Bush's claims to be standing tall in terms of protecting us from the threat of WMD proliferation.

All I can say is, wow. And Janus: I'm trying very, very hard not to use the "g"-suffix.

Posted by jbc at 03:20 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 27, 2003

Minnesota Flag Hubbub

This is almost old news by now, But It's new to *me* -- so I'm going to share. A law recently went into effect in Minnesota requiring: "All public and charter school students shall recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America one or more times each week." Now first of all, why only once a week? I mean, why not every morning? But I digress -- it seems that when passing this law, the state legislature didn't consider that many of the urban schools didn't own flags, and didn't have the money to buy them, so kids are now saying the pledge to a flag graphic shown on the classroom TVs. That's right, they can't afford a $0.95 Flag in each class, but they all have TVs.

Now things are getting even more interesting. A High School student in St. Paul was kicked out of class twice by the same teacher "...for exercising her right not to stand, or participate in any manner in the activity." Even after her school principle acknowledged "...that the law included an “Opt out” provision which meant that she did not have to stand or recite the pledge."

Way to go Minnesota school system, way to be on the ball about this whole flag thing.

Posted by hossman at 06:33 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 23, 2003

Wesley Clark, Phone Home

Raising memories of the "Al Gore lies again!" silliness from the 2000 campaign, righties are making much of Wesley Clark's having been quoted in Newsweek as saying, "I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone callls." (When asked, Clark explained that it was a joke.) For some saner coverage of the issue, I like CalPundit: A modest request.

I'd also like to link to Steve Gilliard's comments on it, but his weblog seems to be permalink challenged at the moment. I guess you can go there and scroll down looking for the headline, "Nonsense about Wesley Clark". My favorite part is this:

George Bush spent his entire career in the service of private gain and failed miserably at it. Wesley Clark spent his career in the service of the public good and succeeded wildly. If I was in the White House, I'd be nervous.

Gilliard makes some nice comments about Dean, too.

Posted by jbc at 05:57 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wilson: Well, I Think We're Fucked

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, of Nigerian yellowcake fame, did an interview with Josh Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo on September 16. The first part of the interview appeared last week, the second part appeared yesterday, and it's all pretty fascinating, at least for a politics junkie like me. Long, but very much worth it. And it certainly starts with a bang. Anyway: Part 1, Part 2.

Update: A shorter version of Wilson's views is available in this opinion piece he wrote that appeared last week, but which I overlooked at the time: Seeking honesty in US policy.

Posted by jbc at 12:45 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2003

Righties Taunt the 'Angry Left'

David Corn has a thought-provoking piece at Anger-baiting on the right. It seems the same right-wing echo chamber that couldn't contemplate anything Clinton did without becoming suffused with righteous indignation is drolly amused at the Left's current inability to control its temper in the face of the Bush administration.

Now, let's see: how would the Right have responded to similar criticism? Oh, wait, I know: "Angry? You bet your ass I'm angry! Your guy is a disaster! What the hell do you think I'm going to feel? I care about my country, dammit. Where's your own anger, you pathetic tool. Gah. Get away from me; you're making me nauseous."

Yeah. That'll work.

Oh, wait: "And guess what? You guys are wimps. Even a 70-year-old liberal can out bench-press Flight-Suit Boy." Heh.

Posted by jbc at 03:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2003

Martin Kelley on Life in the Land of Tinfoil Hats

Martin Kelley at posted an item on September 11 that I didn't notice at the time, but am very glad I noticed now: Big lies & mass hysteria. He sums things up very nicely. Truly, we're living in a land ruled by myths and nutjobs.

Posted by jbc at 01:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Calling Them on It

I recently finished the #1 nonfiction bestseller in America: Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Salon excerpt, Oliver Willis' review). And the book is awesome. It's funny, honest, and well-researched. I'm sure it will come in for a coordinated smear campaign from the right, though the pre-emptive strike by Fox only seems to have helped sales, so maybe they'll figure out that ignoring it would be a better policy. Heh. Which I'm sure will drive some people (like Bill O'Reilly) crazy.

But anyway, it's a great book. I'm going to fair-use some of the conclusion, because it sums up the book's underlying message nicely, and ties in with something I wanted to say:

Yes, I'm a liberal, and I'm proud of it. It's a term we need to reclaim. Because I believe most Americans are liberals just like me. Most Americans believe in helping people. And most Americans believe that the government has a role to play -- to create opportunity, to protect the environment, to provide for the common good.

We are the country, but they control it. Only 7 percent of Americans say they want to weaken environmental regulations. But the 7 percent are in charge.

How do we get it back? We have to fight. But we can't fight like they do. People say that Rush and Fox and their ilk are popular because they're entertaining. And if you can stomach that stuff, I suppose they are. But a part of their entertainment value comes from their willingness to lie and distort. They fight with lies.

We can't do that. We have to fight them with the truth. Our added entertainment value will have to come from being funny and attractive. And passionate. And idealistic. But also smart. And not milquetoast-y. We've got to be willing to throw their lies in their face.

He's right. If we don't, the liars will be happy to take as much slack as we're willing to give them. Like Ann Coulter's comment the other day, mentioned by Adam with the link text Scheming psychotic monster. Or like Dick Cheney on Meet the Press last Sunday (nicely debunked by this article from the Boston Globe: Cheney link of Iraq, 9/11 challenged).

We have to be willing to call them on it. And we have to play fair -- but we don't have to let them use our willingness to be open-minded against us. For example, we don't always have to adhere to self-imposed "fairness" guidelines involving equal time and civil discourse that the other side routinely violates. Sure, we should be polite when it's warranted. And not when it's not. But we decide who deserves which kind of treatment, and how much of it.

I've been thinking about this in connection with some of the responses I've received to a comment I made on Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping weblog (see the original post, Osama bin Laden's strategic plan, and my comments here, here, and here).

Donald Sensing had a distinguished career as an Army officer, and is now an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. He's informed, articulate, and under normal circumstances he displays a high degree of honor and integrity. But if he posts bullshit, I'm going to call him on it. And I kinda think he did in this case. Maybe I'm wrong. If it turns out I am, I'll apologize. But by my standards, the tone I've used is appropriate.

Update: Heh. New record for the elapsed time between my asserting a willingness to apologize if something occurs, and my issuing said apology. Well, not quite that apology, but close enough. Later update: Subsequent post by Donald Sensing, and ensuing discussion, including an apology for reals.

Posted by jbc at 07:05 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 12, 2003

Paine: Have You No Decency, Sir?

George Paine of Warblogging, in ranting about Bush's speech two days ago calling for setting aside the Fourth Amendment, channels Joseph Welch, the attorney who famously asked Sentator Joseph McCarthy, "Have you no decency, sir?": Exploiting September 11.

Posted by jbc at 05:26 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: The Campaign Will Be Ugly

Paul Krugman looks at the Bush team's track record, and their current situation, and draws what looks to me like an inescapable conclusion: the 2004 presidential campaign will be sordid and ugly, even by modern presidential-campaign standards. Which is saying a lot. Exploiting the atrocity.

Posted by jbc at 09:17 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2003

Revisionism by Snopes on the bin Laden Flight

Kynn at Shock and Awe points out that Snopes, those perennial debunkers of Internet myths and rumors, have been going to some lengths to cover up a recent failure. Specifically, Snopes had said that Michael Moore was lying when he said that a planeload of Saudis, including Osama bin Laden's relatives, had been allowed to leave the United States in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Well, it now turns out that that assertion was true. But rather than admit their error, the Snopes folks have gone back and edited their original "debunking", restating the assertion they are countering in order to set up some straw men they can more-easily knock down, and erasing without comment any mention of Michael Moore's role in spreading the "false" rumor.

Interesting stuff. Anyway: Snopes: Suddenly less credible.

Posted by jbc at 08:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2003

American Gulag

Nice piece at Mother Jones rounding up several articles on the extra-legal system of incarceration/interrogation that my country has somehow come to be associated with in the last two years: World behind bars.

This is horribly, horribly wrong. It has to change.

Posted by jbc at 04:57 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 19, 2003

Conason's Big Lies

Joe Conason, Salon columnist and liberal muckraker, has a new book out, and Salon is running excerpts from it. Very much worth watching the Sprint commercial (or whatever) for the one-day pass: Big lies.

Posted by jbc at 08:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: What Caused the Blackout?

Paul Krugman cuts through the bullshit currently being peddled and lays it out simply and clearly: The road to ruin.

Posted by jbc at 07:49 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2003

Pat Paulsen for California Governor

The first record album I ever bought was a Pat Paulsen record (Live at the Ice House, I think). So I've always had a soft spot for the guy. Anyway, someone active in his campaign for California governor sent me an email mentioning it, so here you go: Pat Paulsen for governor.

It's sad that Pat's not here to participate in the campaign more directly. In a very real sense, he pioneered the notion of running for high office as a piece of comedic shtick. He would have loved this. And I would have loved hearing what he had to say about it.

Posted by jbc at 03:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 10, 2003

You Don't Want to Live Here

Heralding in a new era of negative marketting, the Ottawa County Planning Commission in Michigan has harnessed the power of "scratch-N-sniff" to educate would be home buyers about the wonders of living in farm country: New brochure really stinks.
The best part of this story is the quote from another article that mentions working with the Chattanooga company "Print-A-Scent " to create the brochure: "They told us it was the first time in their company's history they had to evacuate the building when they finally got the formula right."
If you'd like a copy of the brochure, you can request it from plan @

Posted by hossman at 06:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2003

Al Gore Tells It Like It Is

Al Gore's speech yesterday to members in New York was a very honest, powerful indictment of just what it is that's wrong with the Bush administration's approach to government: Setting it right. Don't settle for the smallish write-ups in news accounts; read the whole thing.

Posted by jbc at 08:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2003

More on Gilmore, "Suspected Egotist"

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine is ranting some more about John Gilmore's altercation with British Airways over his refusal to remove a "Suspected Terrorist" button. Although I feel Jeff gets carried away with his obvious disgust at the end of his post, I understand his anger. As I mentioned in an earlier post I made on Lies, Gilmore's actions and reactions to the requests and demands of the flight crew indicate to me a person who acts so self-focused on his personal mission to protest the grievous violation of his personal rights that he decides that the rights of his fellow passengers are of lesser importance.

Jeff focuses on one particular section of the justification that Gilmore makes for his actions. I'd like to point out a few other things. First, is Gilmore's smug comment about how he doesn't fly much anymore so he isn't use to"life in a gulag". There is nothing that hits my hot button harder during a political discussion as when someone casually throws out a comparison of a personal experience to something truly sinister like a Russian Gulag!!! Where does this pompous ass get the nerve to dare to put his experiences with airport security at the same level of those who suffered and died in merciless slave labor camps!!!!!! This comment is coming from someone who is privileged and well-off enough to be making all these international trips in the first place, and he dares to align his "indignities" with those innocents who died brutal and senseless deaths!! When I hear self-important elitists of any political persuasion make those kind of ignorant, disrespectful comments, I can chew through concrete!!

Next, is his total shock that HE would actually have some responsibility for causing a safety concern or, by resisting the orders of a flight crew, for causing the plane to turn back to the gate and be delayed. As I mentioned in my earlier post, those who are as self-absorbed as Gilmore, tend to view any perceived interference in what they want to do, say, or wear, as being of paramount importance. While showing no sense of obligation or responsibility to others affected by their actions. Yes, the airline employees had control of choosing to turn the plane around, but GILMORE had control of removing the button to avoid the situation. And yes, he DID bear some responsibility for whatever safety concerns there were, since he was the one implying that he might be a terrorist. As unlikely as it may be, you don't know everyone's health condition, frame of mind or emotional reactions in a potentially anxious or stressful situation. The flight crew didn't create the guidelines for security and safety, but they do have to follow them, and often make judgement calls in enforcing them. Instead of taking his beef to the policy-makers, Gilmore confronts those who are just trying to do what is already a difficult, stressful and often thankless job.

Lastly, he reveals his perceived moral and intellectual superiority over those who may disagree with him by claiming that "you readers" are mere mindless passives of a bullying, fascist US Government, not unlike the Polish Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto in WWII. (Ahhh, another grossly overstated comparison to a truly dark historical period involving REAL despair, human devaluation and death. Someone please give me some nails to bite on!)

It makes me wish that the next time Gilmore relates his most recent horrific experience of suffering through another torturous, demeaning "carry-on bag" inspection, he would suddenly be transported through time to a remote Siberian prison in 1939. But then again, it may look amazingly like Terminal B at LAX.

As I also mentioned in my earlier post, anyone can protest the perceived death of their personal freedoms that current airport security is creating. But what is Gilmore's magical alternative for a massive public transportation system which carries dual high expectations for efficiency and safety, while protecting everyone's real and imagined personal rights of privacy, while operating in an ever more dangerous world?

Posted by Craig at 04:39 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

August 02, 2003

Funny California-as-Iraq Spoof

The wits at the WSJ's OpinionJournal have a funny piece that sends up California's current state government mess by comparing it to Iraq: Left coast quagmire.

Posted by jbc at 08:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2003

American Foreign Policy and the Code of Honor

Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious. Outsiders tend not to be very fine-grained in their analysis, but by the same token, they can be really good at describing the basic outlines of the forest, while we forest-dwellers are all caught up in the specifics of individual trees.

Anyway, that was my reaction to this really interesting piece from Paul Robinson, writing in the Spectator: Sword of honor. Robinson's thesis is that current US foreign policy owes a lot to the same notions of southern honor that fueled the Civil War. And reading his account, I have to admit he makes a strong case. The only thing he misses is that the "insult" that has led to our current belligerent response in Iraq was 9/11. The code duello demanded a violent response to the events of that day. Since Osama bin Laden was unavailable, Saddam Hussein, whose continued existence since the 1991 war constituted an ongoing glove-slap in the face of our collective honor, was forced to serve as his stand-in.

Anyway, it's a good article. Read it and see what you think.

Posted by jbc at 07:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 31, 2003

Stryker on Military Recruiting Practices

Yet another really good item from Stryker: So you want to join the military... Besides the overall coolness of his pointing out how military recruiters are (by intention) indistinguishable from commercial salespeople, I really liked this part:

So you want to join the military? The first question that naturally pops into your head is, "Which service should I join?" Well, what do you want? The answer to that question ought to help put you on the right path. Do you want to get into the thick of it? Do you want to enjoy a structured life or a more lenient one? What kind of job or what type of training are you looking for? Are you looking for a career that'll translate into a good paying job on the outside or do you want to blow shit up?

Heh. Sir! Blow shit up, sir!

Posted by jbc at 10:58 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Boehlert on US Security Post-Iraq

Since you already got the one-day Salon pass to view that excellent James Woods interview (you did, didn't you?), you might as well read this piece, too: Are we safer now? Writer Eric Boehlert wades into some murky territory and emerges with a mixed result: some experts loudly assert that yes, the Iraq war has made the US significantly safer from al Qaeda-style terror. Another batch of experts asserts just as loudly that no, we've been distracted and have squandered vast amounts of money and attention on a side issue, leaving us more vulnerable, not less.

I don't expect this piece to change anyone's mind. There's enough ambiguity there for either side to be able to shore up its position against outside assault. But it's an interesting question, one that will go to the heart of the national referendum on George Bush's leadership we'll be having next year.

Those who take their informed-citizen duties really seriously might also want to hold their noses and dive into the extremely deep pool of facts in this recent New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer: The search for Osama. It includes some interesting speculation on just what's going on these days with the hunt for that other evildoer, the one to whose name Bush seems to have developed an accute allergic reaction in the last year or so, judging by his unwillingness to actually speak it in public.

Posted by jbc at 08:47 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

James Woods Interview in Salon

It's kind of hard to categorize this one. It's an interview with actor James Woods by Salon writer Amy Reiter, and it's definitely worth watching the MCI commercial (or whatever) to get the one-day pass for it: Woods on fire. He's promoting his new movie, Northfork, so it should probably go in the "Movies" category, but the interview actually ends up being about lots of other things, like whether or not George Bush is a moron and why people on the left-wing can't admit that it was a bad thing for Bill Clinton to put a cigar in Monica Lewinsky's vagina and whether it's important that WMD have not been found in Iraq and so on. On balance, I think the thing the interview is "about," more than anything else, is the nature of celebrity and the larger context of people like Woods doing interviews like this, so that's the category I chose for it.

I certainly don't agree with all the conclusions Woods comes to. But I certainly do agree with some of them. And his comments about the frustration of dealing with people whose minds are already made up on every political issue struck a chord with me, given the kind of ranting I've been doing on this site lately.

Posted by jbc at 07:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 29, 2003

Stryker on Conspicuous Displays of Patriotism

Hopefully the display of doctrinal impurity won't cause any of your tiny little minds to explode, but someone else whose commentary I really have been enjoying lately is Stryker, of Sgt Stryker. Including his latest item: We've gotta talk about your flair. Besides the really cool Office Space reference in the title, he just makes a damned good point about something that bothered me in pretty much the exact same way about a post at (The public display of patriotism test).

Posted by jbc at 06:19 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2003

Krugman on Patriotism

Paul Krugman's latest New York Times opinion piece focuses on some of the more questionable actions of Bush & Co.: Who's unpatriotic now?

Update: See also this Newsday piece about the "outing Wilson's wife" issue that Krugman mentions in his conclusion: Columnist names CIA Iraq operative.

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July 21, 2003

RonK on Hastert's, Biden's Nucular Confusion

An excellent piece from Daily Kos' RonK about the misstatements about nuclear weapons made by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Joseph Biden (D-DE) on Meet the Press yesterday: Ignorance reigns.

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Partridge: Liberal Fantasies

Earnest Partridge at The Crisis Papers has written a pair of essays that offer divergent views of the next few years in this country. One is extemely pessimistic: America at mid-century. The other is much more optimistic: A new birth of freedom. Both are informed by an unapologetically liberal point of view.

To my mind they're each pretty remarkable, but not necessarily because they're particularly credible. They're remarkable because of what they reveal about the perceptual map of reality their author uses.

Here's an excerpt from the pessimistic piece:

Soon after the re-election of George Bush in 2004, and the "uncovering" by the CIA and FBI of an alleged plot by al Qaeda to set off a nuclear device in New York Harbor, "Patriot Act II" was enacted by the Republican Congress. With this, habeas corpus, and the constitutional rights of citizens to open trials by juries, access to counsel, were all suspended. On the assumption that "you are either for us or against us," as articulated by George Bush soon after the September 2001 attacks, critics of the government were regarded as "traitors." Mere hours before their intended arrests, dissenters Noam Chomsky and Paul Krugman escaped to Canada and thence to the faculties of Oxford and Cambridge. Democratic presidential aspirants Howard Dean, John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich were not so lucky, and have not been heard from since their disappearance in the summer of 2004.

Here's a chunk from the optimistic piece:

Bush’s approval ratings plunged until, by early August, they finally dropped for the first time below 50%, as more than 50% of those polled reported that they were not inclined to vote for Bush's re-election in 2004.

Facing this loss of public support, Bush reached into his trusty bag of tricks for the device that had previously bloated his ratings: In October, he ordered the invasion of Syria which, he said, was hiding the Weapons of Mass Destruction that the US Military had failed to discover in Iraq.

With that, the iron discipline of the Congressional Republicans collapsed. Four Republican Senators, Chaffee, Snowe, Collins and Voinevich, unwilling to be "fooled twice," declared themselves as Independents, joining Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. The control of the Senate reverted back to the Democrats, who promptly rescinded the war resolution of 2002 and adopted a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops in Syria. The Senate then ordered a series of investigations of alleged abuses of power by the Bush Administration.

Soon thereafter, fifteen moderate House Republicans fled the GOP fold and declared themselves independents. The House of Representatives, reorganized under a Democratic-Independent coalition, set up a parallel series of Select Investigation committees, and drew up Articles of Impeachment against both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Now, despite being basically in agreement with Partridge's values, I can't read either of those scenarios without smiling at how ludicrous they are. And at the same time, I'm grateful to Partridge for putting them out there. Each of us carries around a mental map of reality; each of us embellishes the white spaces representing terra incognita with extrapolations based on what we know, and what we think we know about the extent of what we don't know.

To the timid mapmaker, the unknown is assumed to look more or less like the known. The white spaces on the map get filled in by little islands and cities and coastlines that look more or less familiar. But the person with imagination fills in those spaces with fantasic things: sea montsters and unicorns.

Both maps are right. Both have something important to teach us about the true nature of the unknown. Creating the fantastic version requires more courage, though. I'm grateful to Partridge for that.

Posted by jbc at 11:47 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2003

Gitlin's Advice for Activists

From Salon comes a great raft of advice, courtesy of 60's activist Todd Gitlin: Anyone but Bush.

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July 19, 2003

John Gilmore, Suspected Terrorist

Great story about EFF co-founder John Gilmore's removal from a British Airways flight because he was wearing a button that the airline didn't like: I was ejected from a plane for wearing "Suspected Terrorist" button.

Posted by jbc at 12:42 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2003

Snopes Doubts 'Hunting for Bambi' Is Real

Interesting proto-debunking of the "Hunting for Bambi" story from the other day, via (Inboxer rebellion) Hunting for Bambi. Yeah, now that I look at it, I can see the suspicious parts of the original.

So, I'm a putz. Again. Psych!

Posted by jbc at 08:05 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Team Dean, Team Bush on This Whole Net Thing

Interesting little item that pretty much sums things up: From Howard Dean's official campaign weblog: Morning news roundup for Friday, July 18. Check out the end of the entry, where the following appears:

Finally, Kos points to a NY Times article that reveals how Dean and Bush are polar opposites even when it comes to the minutae of the web:

Under a system deployed on the White House Web site for the first time last week, those who want to send a message to President Bush must now navigate as many as nine Web pages and fill out a detailed form that starts by asking whether the message sender supports White House policy or differs with it [...]

As opposed to, you know, the simplicity of just commenting in the thread below.

I spent the last couple of days reading everything on Dean's web site. It's official. I'm an ex-Kerry supporter. Put me down in the Dean column, right next to Karl Rove. Dean is the man this country needs right now. He's going to be the next president of the United States.

Posted by jbc at 10:49 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Outing Wilson's Wife

I'm not really sure what, if anything, this story means yet. Thanks to Adam at Words Mean Things for the email pointer to David Corn's piece in The Nation about it (Capital Games), but the MetaFilter post (and especially the discussion) about it is awesome: Payback?

It basically asks what Robert Novak was up to in a story he wrote about Joseph Wilson and his wife. But the comments go all over the place, including great stuff like this:

Sometimes, a lie starts off as a mistake. If you fail to acknowledge your mistake, and continue to defend it, it becomes a lie at some point. This happens to children sometimes, when one little "fib" ends up having to be stretched further than the kid intended. Determining the actual moment in which that transition occurs (a process which is ongoing as we speak, because--as someone pointed above--we don't have all of the information yet) is just gamesmanship.

Posted by jbc at 02:47 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2003

Heuvel on the Rational Opposition

The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel calls for the kind of cross-party-lines joining-of-forces that could actually work against Bush come election time: Coalition of the rational.

Not as much fun as crazed ranting, but worth a look.

Posted by jbc at 04:52 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2003

Shooting Nekkid Women... for Fun

This one bugs me in its own, special way. From Daypop: Hunting for Bambi.

Posted by jbc at 11:30 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2003

McGovern: Tell the Truth

Here's a piece that really hit home with me. From George McGovern, writing in the LA Times Opinion section: Ignore pollsters -- Just tell the truth.

Sometimes how you play the game really does matter more than whether you win or lose.

Posted by jbc at 10:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2003

9/11 Commission Bitches About Pentagon and DOJ Foot-Dragging

From the New York Times comes this interesting story about how various parties within the executive branch aren't being helpful in uncovering the truth about what happened on 9/11: 9/11 commission says US agencies slow its inquiry. Interesting, isn't it? You wouldn't think people could get away with impeding an investigation into something so important -- unless the foot-dragging was happening because of, rather than in spite of, the orders coming down from the highest levels of the chain of command.

Posted by jbc at 10:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2003

Find Your Candidate

Interesting survey over at that gives you a chance to see which candidate is lining up closest to your general views on some election issues. I took it and, surprise, my top candidate was George Bush! However, I was mildly distressed to see Kerry as my second choice. I just have too much personal distrust in him, as well as his flaky wife, to ever seriously consider him, despite whatever issues in which we may have common ground. Third though was Lieberman, who, if I were ever to vote for a Democrat, would be someone to whom I would give some serious thought.

Anyway, try it and see if it turns out as you would expect.

Posted by Craig at 08:35 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 02, 2003

Fritz on Dean on Bush's "Clear Skies" Initiative

Ben Fritz of Spinsanity is up in arms about a Howard Dean sound bite re: Bush's "Clear Skies" initiative, which will reduce air pollution less than is called for under the current terms of the Clean Air Act: Dean foggy on "Clear Skies".

Fritz says Dean is implying that Bush's proposal would lead to increasing air pollution beyond current levels. What Dean actually said, in speaking with Tim Russert on a recent Meet the Press episode, was this: "The Clear Skies Initiative which basically allows you to put more pollution into the air..."

Now, as anyone knows who pays any attention to commercials, comparative words like "more" and "less" (or "brighter", "cleaner", "stronger", etc.) are the favorite tools of those who write ad copy, since they are essentially meaningless in the absence of an explicit frame of reference. You can loudly trumpet that your new burger has "Less Fat!!", and as long as the thing is not 100% lard you'll be safe from a truth-in-advertising claim, since you didn't say less fat than what. You're basically enlisting your audience, making them co-conspirators in their own deception, since they will predictably supply a "reasonable" frame of reference in order to interpret your unspecified comparison.

Dean's obviously doing that here. Yeah, if he were being scrupulously honest, and seeking only to inform listeners, he would have been more specific, saying something like, "The Clear Skies Initiative, which basically will allow corporations to put more pollution into the air in the future than the Clean Air Act currently calls for." But that isn't how the game is played. It certainly isn't how Bush is playing it, choosing a label like "Clear Skies" for what is, in its essence, a weakening of the Clean Air Act's provisions for future air clarity.

I guess you could say that what the Bush people meant when they chose that name is that our skies are clear enough already, so let's do away with the stricter air-quality standards that the Clean Air Act will require in future years. But if you said that all the grownups in the room would laugh at you.

So yeah, Dean is spinning. But Bush's spinning in this case is much more blatant.


Posted by jbc at 02:00 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 01, 2003

Balance the CA State Budget in Your Spare Time

A friend of mine pointed out which is currently featuring The Governor's Game ... "Sit in the Governor's Chair & Balance the State Budget." I haven't played with it long enough to confirm that it's possible to "win" (No matter what budget i started with, any changes I made invariable cost me votes) but it's definitely ammusing.

Posted by hossman at 03:46 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Republicans Happy About Dean Strength?

The permalink-challenged wags at OpinionJournals' Best of the Web page make the following observation about Dean's good showing in the recent MoveOn poll, and the relatively large amounts of cash he's pulling in lately:

Karl Rove must be jumping for joy. Apart from the Sharptonkucinichmoseleybraun also-rans, Dean is the best opponent the Republicans could possibly hope for. Can anyone imagine such an intemperate lefty winning a single "red" state? If President Bush merely carries the same states he did last time around, he has 278 electoral votes and a second term. Against Dean he could phone it in.

Dean supporters need to think about this issue seriously. I'm not saying we can't choose to support him even if the above wisdom is deemed accurate. But choosing to do so in that case will carry certain costs, and we should be prepared to pay them.

Of course, the OpinionJournal writers could also simply be wrong. And without the kind of faith that would let us support a supposedly "unelectable" candidate, we'd never find that out.

Posted by jbc at 11:10 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2003

Krugman Follows the Money

Paul Krugman sees a scary pattern emerging in Washington's big-money lobbying (well, scary if a country permanently run by Republicans scares you): Toward one-party rule. He raises the possibility that the system that is scheduled to bring Bush an unprecedented $200 million to campaign with (that is, when he's not using taxpayer money to stage flight-suit photo-ops) is part of a larger pattern whereby an ever-growing percentage of the money that decides our national elections is flowing into Republican hands.

Posted by jbc at 04:57 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Napolitano on Bush's 'Enemy Combatant' Declaration

Listening to people you disagree with can be rewarding. Sometimes you learn something that will help you change their mind. Sometimes you learn something that helps you change your own mind. And once in a while you realize that you agree with each other already, without anybody having to change their mind.

I had one of those moments today, reading the op-ed piece in the LA Times by Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge and the senior judicial analyst at Fox News: 'Enemy combatants' cast into a constitutional hell (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login works). Napolitano hits the nail on the head as to just why it is so dangerous that Bush is claiming he has the authority to declare anyone he wants an 'enemy combatant', and throw said combatant into a military brig forever, incommunicado, without charges.

True conservatives (or those I'm going to characterize as such for the current discussion) are motivated by a deep love of country that goes beyond knee-jerk flag-waving. To truly love something one must understand that something, appreciating and cherishing the things that make it special. Like, in the case of this country, the presumption of innocence, and the notion that courts can overrule executives and legislators when they exceed their constitutional authority.

Posted by jbc at 10:02 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2003

Byrd: Better than Ever

Robert Byrd's latest speech is the best thing I've seen on WMDs so far. It is absolutely spot on. It is an utterly truthful, and utterly damning, indictment of what the Bush administration has done in Iraq. Anyway, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on, you owe it to yourself to read it, and to think about the issues he raises: The road to coverup is the road to ruin.

Posted by jbc at 01:13 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2003

Voting at

So, I cast my ballot in the early "primary" at While it's true my early money was (and still is, probably, if I'm betting) on Kerry, I voted for Dean. That was partly due to Adam's positive influence. It was also the result of a Faustian pact between my naive/hopeful side and my cynical side. The former wanted to vote for the person whose message most closely matches my own feelings. The latter wanted to increase the chances that Dean, generally accepted as the favorite in that race and the candidate who has paid more attention to the net and the blog world than any other, would win 50% of the MoveOn vote, qualifying him for their endorsement and money, thereby validating the significance of the net in the realm of national politics, a realm that has historically treated it as slightly less important than any given local AARP chapter.

Oh, and also thanks to Adam, check out the merry pranksters at Republicans for Sharpton. I'd seen some previous mention of the same notion, that some right-wingers would attempt to influence the MoveOn primary by registering and voting for those whose ideas they find most laughable. Hey. More power to you, guys.

Posted by jbc at 02:58 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

Whitman's Not-So-Comprehensive Environmental Report

Much ruckus being kicked up regarding the New York Times' article, yesterday, that blew the whistle on the White House having so watered down the section on global warming in the EPA's upcoming big-ass report on the state of the environment that it was eventually decided to just remove that section altogether: Report by the EPA leaves out data on climate change. Editorial/opinion pages are pretty universally taking up the call against such politicization of scientific findings. From Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe: Bush fries climate change. SunSpot: More revisionist history. And the NYT itself: Censorship on global warming.

It's part of the same pattern that gave us sexed-up evidence of Iraqi WMDs. Bush & Co. have little use for expert opinion that doesn't square with their political agenda. Yeah, I realize all politicians do the same thing to some degree, but with Bush it's off the charts. And since simply pretending very, very hard that things are true that really aren't, or aren't true that really are, has a poor track-record in terms of actually changing reality, this becomes pretty scary for anyone who has to live with the consequences of the resulting decision-making.

Posted by jbc at 09:55 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Lesh: It's the Security, Stupid

Writing at Democratic Underground, Thomas Lesh makes a case I can pretty much agree with: Carpe Diem. He says the current Democratic leadership is being too timid in attacking Bush's inept foreign policy, that being an effective opposition to the current train wreck of a ruling regime means articulating a credible alternative on the issues people care about. These days, that means national security. Of course, that would entail taking some risks, rather than trying to drift with the current of public opinion, waiting for the polls to change before popping up at the head of the parade. Which basically disqualifies most of the politicians we currently have at a national level.

In reviewing which of the Democratic presidential contenders lives up to this higher standard, Lesh dismisses from the get-go anyone who voted in favor of the war resolution, meaning he dismisses my current favorite, Kerry, and focuses on Dean and Kucinich as the only viable choices. (I suppose you could throw in Wesley Clark, assuming he stops being coy and enters the race.)

I've been leaning toward Kerry mainly for that Clinton-inspired "electability" factor: I've been trained to believe that in order to win the presidency a Democrat has to be a politician first and a leader second. But it's true that Kerry's war resolution vote is problematic. As the anonymous, droll, permalink-challenged foks at the WSJ's OpinionJournal put it recently:

For the sake of argument, let's say Kerry is right and Bush perpetrated a sham. In a hypothetical general-election match-up, who would you rather choose to deal with hostile foreign leaders: a guy who's capable of pulling off such an elaborate deception, or the sucker who fell for it?

I'm not sure how Kerry solves that problem, at least in terms of satisfying someone like me. But then my cynical side observes that it doesn't matter if Kerry can satisfy me; it only matters if he can satisfy enough of Middle America to get elected. And I'm very much in the anyone-but-Bush camp.

Still, it would be nice to believe in somebody for a change. Maybe I'll start paying more attention to Dean.

Posted by jbc at 08:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

Life in These United States (Or Not)

Alan Bisbort, writing in the Hartford Advocate, talks about something that a lot of us have probably been thinking about lately: Luck of the Irish. Basically, he considers some of the costs and benefits, should Bush win (re-)election in 2004, in emigrating to another country.

Of course, I don't see any reason why a recent US emigre would expect to find a particularly warm welcome overseas. What must they think of the US these days in those other countries? Our principal exports to the rest of the world lately are unprovoked invasions and radio DJ prank phonecalls. Polls show that disturbingly large numbers of us are full-on idiots. And so on.

Still, even though the US character can be assumed to lean heavily toward the desire to light out for parts unknown when the going gets tough (such motivations having served as the principal source of US immigrants through the years), I'm not going anywhere. I intend to stay, and to be as annoying as possible while doing so. So there.

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

June 17, 2003

Laughing at Ari Some More

Fun White House press conferences today: Transcript: White House Daily Briefing, June 17, 2003. I especially like this exchange:

Q: Ari, a quick two-part question. You said there will come a time
when the President engages in political activities. How will we know
when that happens? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: You're not trying to lead me somewhere with that type
of question, are you?

Q: Never, Ari.

MR. FLEISCHER: Very judicious of you.

Q: Will you be landing somewhere? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: I hope you enjoyed it. (Laughter.) Your network surely

As I've said before, I really am going to miss Ari. There's lots of other good stuff in the transcript, including hammering on Ari about WMDs, about which the president is sticking to his guns, at least as far as Ari is concerned. And his (the president's) supporters continue to do their best to shore him up; witness the following editorial from today's Washington Times: What credibility gap?

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

Hartmann on the Bush/Adams Connection

Here's a really interesting article by Thom Hartmann on the history of President John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts, including comparisons with what is going on these days: An earlier "Patriot" law brought down a president.

Posted by jbc at 01:38 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2003

Beers on Why He Quit Team Bush, Joined Team Kerry

Lots of people are linking to this article in the Washington Post, according to Daypop: Former aide takes aim at war on terror. Again, I'm seeing a big, powerful criticism of Bush emerging. It's not just lefties concerned about Bush's ferocious assault on progressive causes. It's anyone who's both concerned about terrorism, and smart enough to see that Bush's approach to fighting it basically sucks.

Posted by jbc at 04:42 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Cleland: Immoral, Unjust, and Unacceptable

Speaking to a Democratic gathering in Atlanta recently, former Senator Max Cleland took the gloves off in attacking Bush's record in the "War on Terror." The full text of his remarks is given in the following column at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Max returns, with fire in his eyes.

Cleland, an ex-military man, sounds fairly pissed about all this. He points out that none of the leading lights of the Bush administration (with the exception of Colin Powell) has ever faced combat. He emphasizes the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam. He embraces the president's assertions that we're in a war against terrorism, then lays out how the president is failing to fight that war effectively.

Some of his suggestions for improvement leave me cold (revive the draft?), but I think it's significant that it's not just left-leaning peaceniks like me who are upset about the way things are going. We emphasize different aspects of the Bush train wreck, but we agree that that's what it is.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 13, 2003

Morford: The Impossible Dream of a Kucinich Presidency

Mark Morford has an interesting piece in SFGate: Your vegan, holistic president. He indulges in some heartfelt imagining about a country in which universally-dismissed-as-unelectable Dennis Kucinich sits in the Oval Office.

I remember watching on television as Jesse Jackson delivered his address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention. At the end of it I felt inspired. I felt the stirrings of a hope that eight years of the Reagan presidency had beaten down into a small, stunted thing inside me. And then, moments after the speech ended, the network commentators came on and basically said, well, Jackson has certainly scuttled whatever chances he had in American politics with that speech.

I'm tired of having my hopes and dreams filtered through someone else's idea of what's "possible." I've paid little attention to Kucinich up to now, largely because he's been dismissed by the media as an also-ran. Likewise with Dean; I've shied away due to people arguing that a Dean nomination would be a "disaster" for the Democratic party.

Well, screw that. It may well be that someone more mainstream, like Kerry or Gephardt, ends up getting the nomination. If so, I'll doubtless vote for him. I want Bush gone in the worst way. But in the meantime I want to be a whole person, one not ground down by the certainty that things will never change. I want to decide myself whose vision I believe in, whose ideas I'm inspired by. It's my birthright as an American.

It's important to be practical. But it's also important to dream. Thanks to Morford for reminding me of that.

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June 10, 2003

The CSM on the New National Pastime: Nation-Building

The Christian Science Monitor has a thought-provoking piece on how Fearless Leader, who once mocked Democrats for their nation-building proclivities, has managed to commit us to not one, not two, but three such projects, all at the same time: Building three nations at once (referring to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine).

Bush has high hopes for the last one, at least, despite the events of the last few days (see this piece from the BBC, for example: Bush upbeat on Mid-East peace plan). Of course he does; he's still in that first manic flush of energy, when he believes that his innate Texan directness can cut through all those thorny complications that have thwarted previous efforts. We haven't gotten to the ugly stage when his political handlers begin to separate him from the process, to disassociate him from the emerging failure, to shift the blame, to change the subject, to raise the National Terror Alert Level to REALLY, REALLY BRIGHT ORANGE or maybe even PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN BURGANDY.

Sigh. Someone clearly needs to stop obsessing about this stuff for the day, and take the kids bird watching.

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Latest WMD Developments

It's interesting to watch the process play out. Isolated bitching is turning into a steady chorus: Bush and the members of his team lied shamelessly to exaggerate the Iraqi WMD threat in the months before the war. Those making these claims don't just have a "smoking gun," they have a whole smoking arsenal.

Bush, on the other hand, has bupkis, and has begun the process of backtracking. Answering questions during one of those Reagan-esque not-quite-a-press-conference exchanges that allows him to pick and choose a question or two to answer, then feign deafness to follow-ups, Bush said yesterday he remains "absolutely convinced" that we will uncover evidence that Iraq had a "weapons program." Not weapons, mind you, but a weapons program. He used the phrase three times in one brief response. From the LA Times: Bush tempers talk of weapons.

Right. But see, that wasn't what you said, repeatedly, emphatically, and without qualification, in selling the war.

Checking in with the columnists: From Robert Scheer: Bad Iraq data from start to finish. From Paul Krugman: Who's accountable? And from Geov Parrish: The impeachable offense.

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June 09, 2003

Scary Neocons 101

Jay Bookman has a piece at Information Clearing House (again, suggested by Glen & Pilar), that does a really good job of laying out the background of the PNAC folks, and explaining just why Bush might have chosen to invade Iraq: The president's real goal in Iraq.

It's not as easy to reduce to a picket sign as those "blood for oil" and "he tried to kill my daddy" explanations, but it has the benefit of actually accounting for the available evidence (or, in the case of the WMD justification, the available non-evidence).

Again, this particular piece won't give any shocking revelations to anyone who has been paying attention, but it does a really nice job of "connecting the dots." (Heh. We can use that expression, too.)

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June 06, 2003

Griping About Republican Astroturf

Writing in WeeklyDig, Brandon Keim complains about an RNC campaign to plant faux "letters to the editor" in publications across the country: Insincerely yours. I remember this issue coming up in the last election; apparently it works well enough that we can expect lots more of the same.

Posted by jbc at 04:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Morris on Hillary

Dick Morris isn't buying Hillary Clinton's timeline for what she knew and when she knew it. From the National Review Online: Hillary’s fable: The lie she's sticking with.

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June 02, 2003

Gilliard on Rumsfeld

Nice rant from Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos about Donald Rumsfeld: Secretary of everything.

Posted by jbc at 01:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parry on America's Matrix

If you took just about every political rant I've posted on this site in the past year and tied it together in one article, you'd have... a really long article. Only you don't have to, because Robert Parry already has: America's matrix.

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June 01, 2003

Photography Lib

Legal handbook for photographers includes a downloadable PDF for field use. Thanks to

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May 31, 2003

Chittister On What Matters

Joan Chittister has written a really nice column for the National Catholic Reporter: Is there anything left that matters? When I read stuff like this, it restores some of my faith. Not all of us are overgrown children willing to cheer whomever looks good in a flight suit. Nor have we all been stunned into silence at the destruction of the values our country stands for.

Our country, dammit. We're taking it back.

Posted by jbc at 10:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 30, 2003

Krugman on the Latest Wag the Dog Developments

Paul Krugman is right on, as usual: Waggy dog stories. Hits all the high points: the augmentation of the statue-toppling and Private Jessica stories, the latest developments regarding cooked intelligence and missing WMDs, and finally, the filming of the movie that morphs Bush into a decisive, eloquent leader.

Posted by jbc at 09:39 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2003

Conspiracy Fodder

Haven't seen much mention of this juicy bit of news for the dark conspiracy crowd to chew on. Seems a Republican Congressional committee chairperson thinks it would be a grand idea for the US to get a piece of the Mexican oil business as part of any immigration reform action with Mexico. This story sets up the basic premise of this far-fetched rider to the immigration law (the extradiction rider isn't so bad though). The National Review looks for some merit in the idea, while the Washington Times is appalled at the thought of it. The Chairperson's personal oil interests seem to have gotten the better of his judgement in this case. All sorts of dopey proposals come out of committees like this on a regular basis, and get shot down quickly and quietly. This one will and should go down in a similar fashion (well, evidently not so quietly). But the point is well taken that something needs to be done about the massive inefficiency and corruption within Mexico's business structure. A more stable and growing economy would relieve the pressure of so many illegals risking their lives entering the US.

Posted by Craig at 09:05 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2003

The Weekly Standard on Kennedy Philandering

At a time when many Americans are concerned about the job President Bush is doing, the Weekly Standard wants to talk instead about the Kennedy administration: The president as priapist.

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Arcata Fights the Patriot Act

Cool story from the craptastic-login-requiring LA Times (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works, at least until they move it to their craptastic for-pay archives): Pro-Constitution, anti-Patriot. It covers how former-hippie stronghold Arcata, CA, is leading the fight against some of the more repugnant parts of the Patriot Act.

Posted by jbc at 10:45 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Gwynne Dyer 2/3: 'War on Terror' Isn't War

This is the piece by Gwynne Dyer I was actually looking for when I came across that other one I just posted. This one is a column in which he makes a compelling case that the "War on Terror" cannot be considered a "war," technically, but is, rather, an ongoing law-enforcement effort, in which there can never be a "victory." Definitely food for thought, as politicians attempt to stretch the war metaphor into the basis of actual policy (and actual war, for that matter). Anyway, here it is: A 'statistical' victory over terrorism cannot be achieved.

Posted by jbc at 07:44 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 27, 2003

Sorenson on the Chris Hedges Speech

SF Gate columnist Harley Sorenson has a piece on the Chris Hedges speech: The Rockford files. I love the quote from the campus newspaper that accused Hedges of comparing US foreign policy to "piranhas" (he actually said "pariahs"). Sorenson also points out that heckling public speakers was (is?) a popular tactic of UC Berkeley radicals. Worth a read.

Posted by jbc at 08:09 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on the Real Motivation for Tax Cuts

Paul Krugman does a good job of explaining what the real goal is in pushing for ever-greater tax cuts at a time of record-setting national debt: Stating the obvious.

Posted by jbc at 07:58 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2003

Interview with Chris Hedges re: the Rockford College Speech

Interesting follow-up story from Alternet: The silencing of dissent on graduation day.

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May 22, 2003

RonT Does the Budget Math

In other economic news, RonT of Daily Kos explains in words of no more than one or two syllables how much our collective economic fortunes have changed: How much is ten trillion dollars, really?

Posted by jbc at 11:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schlosser on the Shadow Economy

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, has a new book out: Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. He looks at the free-market side of the marijuana, sex, and undocumented-worker stories, pointing out some interesting facts along the way. Like, marijuana has now passed corn as the US's leading cash crop, and the black-market business in drugs, pr0n, and illegal labor now constitutes nearly 10% of the US GDP. Schlosser's conclusion is that as a country we're deeply screwed up, with high-profile public morality masking a depraved underbelly.

A few links: The book's first chapter, as excerpted by the New York Times, a review in the Times, and an interview with Schlosser at

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The Meaning of Missing WMDs

Still yet again even more commentary on the missing Iraq WMDs, and what their absence means: First up, an op/ed piece from Melvin A. Goodman: Weapons failure. Next, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: Trust in leaders is lost if WMD are not found. Finally, from someone who (yes, I know) supported the Ku Klux Klan in his early politicking in West Virginia 50 years ago, but today is apparently the only person in the Senate to care so little (or so much?) about his future that he's willing to take a moral stand: The truth will emerge.

Thanks to for all three links, and for hosting the text of Byrd's speech.

Posted by jbc at 11:27 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Buffet on Tax-Cut Voodoo

Extremely-rich person Warren Buffet has written an interesting analysis of Bush's obsessively-pursued elimination of the tax on dividends: Dividend voodoo. Cool stuff.

Posted by jbc at 04:54 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 21, 2003

Vicki Gray Stumps for Dean

From's Vicki Gray comes this to-the-barricades call: Where are all the Democrats? Gray argues that those who oppose Bush should rally behind Howard Dean.

Maybe. We certainly need someone willing to stand up to Bush and expose the lies with which he is being packaged and sold to the electorate. Dean would make people like me ecstatic -- but I'm not exactly a mainstream swing voter. I guess it's cynical to buy into the DLC position that only a "centrist" Democrat can win; one example (Clinton) does not necessarily prove the point. But there's a self-fulfilling prophecy involved. If enough of the middle-of-the-country (ideologically, I mean, not necessarily physically) swing voters believe it, it becomes true, at least in terms of the presidential election's outcome.

Time will tell, obviously. In the meantime, I think we who are opposed to Bush need to support a Democratic primary process that focuses on Bush's failures, countering some of the shock-and-awe image-building the White House is doing. I'm personally not that concerned at this point with Who Is Most Ideologically Pure. I think any of the Democratic contenders would be better than Bush. I'd like to see those contenders conspiring with each other to send the same message to the electorate, rather than beating each other up.

But I'm still okay with people like Vicki Gray working to rouse the rabble. Passion = good. Apathy = bad. Woo! Go passion!

Posted by jbc at 07:00 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003

Ari Fleischer Resigns

Someone mentioned this story in my presence the other day, but I was caught up in some heavy deadline pressure and failed to follow up on it. Better late than never, though: Bush press secretary Fleischer resigns. Thanks to The Power Vacuum for reminding me.

I'm going to miss Ari.

Posted by jbc at 06:49 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2003

Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans

Here's a really interesting story from the Observer, as reprinted at Guardian Unlimited: US rivals turn on each other as weapons search draws a blank. It describes the activities of "The Cabal," a shadowy group of intelligence analysts that is part of the Office of Special Plans, an intelligence-gathering body set up in the Defense Department by Donald Rumsfeld in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to the article, Rumsfeld didn't like the intelligence he was getting from traditional sources like the CIA, so he set up the OSP to produce intelligence more to his liking. The OSP apparently was the source for much of the now-exposed-as-fallacious "intelligence" about the Iraqi WMD program.

The article appears to be a follow-on to this earlier New Yorker article by Seymour M. Hersch: Selective intelligence. For a counter-spin, see this piece from Jack Shafer in Slate: The leading indicator that WMD will be found: Seymour M. Hersh says they won't.

Posted by jbc at 12:55 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2003

Public, Dems Don't Care about Missing WMDs

According to this analysis from the Washington Post, most of the US population, and virtually all the Democrats in Congress, have decided that the Iraq war was a great success, even if it turns out Bush lied shamelessly about the Iraqi WMD threat: No weapons, no problem for Bush.

I wonder how many of the people who believe the war was justified even without Iraqi WMDs also believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Posted by jbc at 09:50 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Salon on Teresa Heinz (Kerry)

Here's the last in my current shock-and-awe link blitz, I promise. From Salon, another one worth getting the 1-day pass for: a brief piece on Democratic somewhere-near-the-front-runner John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz (or maybe it's Teresa Heinz Kerry -- though that's kind of the point of the story, or rather, the point is that Heinz/Kerry was willing to get herself quoted in Elle magazine saying she didn't "give a shit" about the whole name thing).

I like this. A lot. I'm leaning more and more Kerry's way all the time, personally, and the fact that he's got an uppity, outspoken, strong, intelligent wife who makes no bones about her Botox injections makes me happy in all kinds of ways.

Posted by jbc at 11:18 AM | view/comment (32) | TrackBack (0)

National Socialism, American-Style

From essayist Douglas Herman, a depressing, if more or less apt, question: Achtung! Are we the new Nazis? As usual, thanks to The Smirking Chimp for the great link.

Posted by jbc at 11:11 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on Bush's TV-Studio Presidency

Another day, another perfect Paul Krugman column in the New York Times: Paths of glory. It looks at the mismatch between Bush's presidential style (big, flashy, production numbers; lame follow-through) and the actual needs of the War on Terror. I know the conventional wisdom, at least in Republican circles, is that Bush rules the roost when it comes to security issues, but I'm not so sure.

Posted by jbc at 10:55 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2003

Would stuff like this happen in a truely free country?

A buddy of mine mailed me this story, and I can't really improve on what he had to say about it... Basically, if you happen to have the same first and last name as someone who's on the secret "suspected terrorist but we have no proof" list, you get harrassed at every airport you go to. And you can't get removed from the list, and you can't complain about it to anyone, 'cause no one will admit to creating the list. Anybody else feel funny about this?

Posted by hossman at 10:58 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2003

The Memory Hole on the Classified 9/11 Report

The good people at are carrying the public (for now) information relating to the 9/11 investigation: Documents from Congress' joint inquiry into 9/11. Note especially in the transcribed statement from Eleanor Hill, staff director of the investigation committee, the following:

According to the White House and the D.C.I., director of central intelligence, the president's knowledge of intelligence information relevant to this inquiry remains classified, even when the substance of that intelligence information has been declassified.
See, if it were widely known that Bush had been personally briefed on the danger represented by al Qaeda prior to 9/11, including specific information relating to plans to hijack airliners and plow them into buildings, people might start wondering why he didn't do more to prevent that, which in turn might hurt his [re-]election prospects.

Fortunately, it has been determined by the White House that [re-]electing Bush is essential to our national security, so any such information can remain classified. Don't you feel safer?

Posted by jbc at 11:05 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2003

Texas Rangers Ordered to Arrest 53 Legislators

Having narrowly won a majority of seats in Congress, the GOP is pursuing a national strategy to widen that majority. But rather than woo voters with the traditional slick advertising and empty promises, the Republican party is going to win seats by redrawing district maps in their favor. (See "gerrymandering".)

CNN is reporting that 53 Democrats have walked out of the Texas legislature in protest of a bill that would cost them 7 House seats. Apparently this drops the legislature below the minimum number of representatives required for a vote, stalling any action.

This seemed like normal annoying political bullshit until I got to the part that mentions "News reports late Monday quoted leaders of the missing Democrats as saying they are gathered across the state line in Ardmore, Oklahoma, out of reach of Texas Rangers who have been ordered to arrest them and return them to the House chamber." Does this peg anyone else's surreal-o-meter? Do the state police usually get involved in Texas politics?

Posted by aaron at 04:21 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2003

Dan Kennedy on the 'Republican Attack Machine'

Clearly partisan, but interesting nevertheless, is this long lament by Dan Kennedy: The GOP attack machine. Kennedy basically argues that Republicans are meanies, and don't play fair, and counters the inevitable observation that Democrats do the same thing by saying, "yeah, but Republicans are much worse." I agree with much of what he says, but I disagree with his apparent conclusion that all we can do is whine about it.

There have always been, and always will be, unscrupulous people willing to lie and cheat and steal in their effort to get and retain power. For a while, within a certain limited frame of reference, it may look like they are succeeding.

Don't let it get you down. This too shall pass, and all that.

Posted by jbc at 07:32 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2003

Conservatives Still Scared of Hillary

Here's an article that I wouldn't have seen if it weren't for the Web Walker's excellent (outrageous, but excellent) links, and the stuff I come across while exploring out from them. From Fred Barnes, writing in the Wall Street Journal, as posted via The Weekly Standard: President Hillary? Say what you will about the helmet hair, that woman continues to scare the pants off conservatives from sea to shining sea.


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May 08, 2003

Efron on the State/Defense War

From the LA Times' Sonni Efron comes an article on how upset the people in the State Department are about the way Rumsfeld and the rest of the Pentagon boys are usurping the conduct of US foreign policy: Diplomats on the defensive (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login works). It's a nice piece, including the most extensive discussion I've seen yet in a mainstream publication of the idea that Colin Powell might resign.

Posted by jbc at 08:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 06, 2003

George Paine Is PISSED

From comes this excellent rant from George Paine, who is mad as hell about what is going on in this country: Anger.

Posted by jbc at 08:29 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

William Bennett, Gambler

Anyone old enough to remember William Bennett's stints as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education and the nation's first "drug czar," and honest enough to have resented the really vicious lies he wielded in those days, will find an extra measure of pleasure in the recent revelation that he is a longtime compulsive gambler. But even those who only know Bennett from his more recent turn as the bestselling author of a string of sanctimonious books on "virtues" can enjoy the news. Anyway, here's a nice piece by Michael Kinsley on Bennett's comeuppance: Bad bet by Bill Bennett.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 05, 2003

Solomon's Radical Proposal

On some level it's sad that this would even be worth mentioning. Normon Solomon, progressive columnist, suggests we try something really outrageous in the 2004 election campaign: telling the truth. Check it out: A different approach for the 2004 campaign.

Posted by jbc at 10:01 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2003

Fireman: Current Status of the War Justification

Okay; I lied. I really wasn't going to post about it anymore, but then I read this really nice wrap-up from Ken Fireman at Newsday: Hunt goes on for war's motives. It covers the whole issue really well, even mentioning the "Remember the Maine" and the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. The difference between this case and those earlier two is that in those cases, it took years, even decades, for the truth to be widely recognized. This time, I think the truth is obvious just a few months later. (Well, I think the truth was obvious before the war even started, but now, with the post-war weapons hunt playing out the way it has, it has become really obvious, to the point where those who support the president are reduced to acknowledging the lie, but claiming it didn't matter.)

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Digby on the Bush Loyalty Oath

From Digby of Digby's Blog, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this really fabulous piece: Loyalty oath. Among the other wonderful things about it is that I now feel there is no longer any need for me to talk about this, since Digby has said it better than I ever could. So there's something we can all celebrate. :-)

Posted by jbc at 11:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 03, 2003

The Super Seekrit 9/11 Report

I know immy2g already linked to it, but I feel compelled to comment on that MSNBC piece about the 9/11 report the Bush administration is trying to cover up: The secrets of September 11.

I think it's pretty obvious why that report is being kept from public view, and the answer isn't "national security." It's just the latest step in the deft tapdance Bush and his handlers have been doing for the past 18 months, as they seek to carry out what has become the prime imperative of the Bush presidency: the deflection of blame for the 9/11 attacks away from the person who was manning the helm at the time they occurred: George W. Bush.

Hey, all you folks loudly proclaiming your elephantine memories of 9/11, along with your willingness to pursue those responsible wherever they may be found: I think you've already forgotten too much about the attacks. You've certainly displayed a pathetic distractibility when it comes to figuring out whom to blame. Bush keeps linking 9/11 with Saddam Hussein, as he did several times during his aircraft carrier speech yesterday, and you keep swallowing it.

Meanwhile, his team is hard at work making sure the public doesn't learn about the mistakes that made the events of that day possible. Since, you know, the public knowing the truth might hurt Fearless Leader's chances in the election. You have to have a sense of priorities about these things.

You know what I call that? I call it dishonoring the dead. Too bad Darryl Worley hasn't written a country song about it. People might actually get upset in that case.

If we let politicians get away with conducting their business in secret, they will be only too happy to oblige. They will conceal, deny, and redirect the blame for every failure, while basking triumphant in a perpetual sequence of staged photo-op "successes." That's just what they do.

Three thousand innocent people died in an attack on US soil. New Yorkers are still traumatized by the memory of sweeping the ashes of dead people from their windowsills and doorways. And now we're going to let some self-serving politician conceal the facts of those events just to protect his reputation?

That's pretty fucked up.

Posted by jbc at 07:45 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2003

12 SARS Patients Report Relapses

Hello. This is my 1st post, so if there are any errors, please forgive me.

Definitly a year in history that will be remembered for a long time: a President of the USA who promotes peace by causing war(?), recession (but finds millions and billions to fight a war), and now SARS (an illness which, with all our technology, is still a myserty to us). In my travels through the world wide web, I came across intresting infomation about SARS, and how people who seem to have defeated the illness are being "re-infected." Could this be the black plague of the 21st century? Only time will tell...

An article from New York Times: 12 SARS Patients Report Relapses. And here is an interesting article from Newsday: HIV/Aids Infected people resistent to SARS?

Here are a few more on other topics:

US Marine investigated for war crimes after newspaper interview

U.S. Tells Iraq Oil Ministers Not to Act Without Its O.K.

Coca-Cola promotes drink with 'swastika' robots

Lawyer: FBI agent's job in jeopardy because she blew the whistle

The Secrets of September 11: The White House is battling to keep a report on the terror attacks secret. Does the 2004 election have anything to do with it?
(I am just glad the terrorists are the only ones who hate our freedom.)

Only on the net you find an article like this one... I won't claim it as fact, but it still is an intresting article: Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult, Concerns Raised by the Vatican

Well I hope it's not too much infomation; if it is, please let me know and I will limit the amount of articles I post.

-- best way to lie, is by knowing the truth

How fortunate for leaders, that the masses do not think.

-- Adolph Hitler

Where the People fear the Government - you have tyranny; Where the Government fears the People - you have rights.

-- Thomas Jefferson

It must never be unpatriotic to support your country against your government. It must always be unpatriotic to support your government against your country.

-- Stephen T. Byingt

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

-- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering

Posted by immy2g at 01:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2003's You're Next Poster

From the fine people at, an updated propaganda poster depicting dubya leading the way into Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Nicely done, though I think I prefer ymatt's Rumsfeld version. (Bias? What bias?)

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

Uppity Women on the Media

Let us all give thanks for people like Janeane Garofalo and Ashleigh Banfield (an interview with the former, a speech by the latter). Or not. But I will, anyway. Lots of good stuff here on the nature of public debate in this country, and the way the war has been presented in the media.

Posted by jbc at 11:45 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

Reid on the Dixie Chicks

Here's a nice opinion piece from focusing on the whole Dixie Chicks thing. By Joy-Ann Lomena Reid: Whistling Dixie. She has a lot of good things to say about the importance of allowing criticism of the president during wartime, including this quotation from Teddy Roosevelt:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
There's also this passage, where Reid hits the nail on the head, at least as far as I'm concerned:
And then there was the hour-long, televised rebuke of the women Thursday night, in which ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer repeatedly pressed, in tisking, school-marm fashion, for just one more apology to Bush. Maines heroically resisted the attempts to reduce her to a wicked child, who surely must realize that it isn't nice to criticize her betters, but the interview ought to go down in history with the House Committee on Un-American Affairs hearings for its daring presumption of guilt. What many of the rest of us still don't get, is just what Maines is guilty of: Feeling ashamed? Being from Texas? Or speaking her mind?
Really. What exactly is Natalie Maines guilty of? Because whatever it is, there's a whole bunch of us who are just as guilty.

Posted by jbc at 11:53 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Jason Halperin, Domestic Security Risk

From AlterNet comes this interesting account by Jason Halperin of being in the wrong place at the wrong time: Patriot raid. Halperin was sitting with a friend in an Indian restaurant in New York City, eating dinner.

All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.

"Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant," they yelled.

I hesitated, lost in my own panic.

"Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down," they demanded.

I complied and looked around at the other patrons. There were eight men including the waiter, all of South Asian descent and ranging in age from late-teens to senior citizen. One of the policemen pointed his gun point-blank in the face of the waiter and shouted: "Is there anyone else in the restaurant?" The waiter, terrified, gestured to the kitchen.

It goes on from there. Over 90 minutes, Halperin and the other patrons and workers in the restaurant were threatened and intiimidated by federal and local agents, acting, they were told, under the authority of the US Patriot Act.
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."
I know the 9/11 attacks were freaky, and constituted a rude awakening not only for ordinary citizens like you and me, but also for law enforcement types, all the way up to Attorney General John Ashcroft, who, prior to 9/11, was explicitly not interested in the warnings coming from the previous administration about this al Qaeda thing, having his hands much too full pursuing important goals like cracking down on Interent smut. In that context, I can see how it was politically expedient to railroad through some dramatic expansions in police powers.

But now is not then. With the passage of time, we have a much clearer picture of the threats we face, not only from terrorists, but also from people willing to trade away our freedoms in pursuit of security. It's time to take a serious look at what we're giving up in our efforts to stay safe, and this experience of Halperin's provides a nice illustration of that.

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Ebert Interview

Something I missed when it first appeared is a really fabulous interview with Roger Ebert over at AlterNet. He talks about Michael Moore's Academy Awards speech, actors and musicians who criticize the war, and whether movies can make us better people. An excerpt:

Q: What do you make of the criticism of Hollywood celebrities for speaking out against the war – the Sean Penns, the Susan Sarandons?

Ebert: It's just ignorant; it's just ignorant.

Q: Why do you say that?

Ebert: I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out. If Hollywood stars speak out, so do all sorts of other people. Now Hollywood stars can get a better hearing. Oddly enough, the people who mostly seem to hear them are the right wing, so that Fox News can put on its ticker tape in Times Square a vile attack on Michael Moore, and Susan Sarandon is a punchline. These are people who are responsible and are saying what they believe. And there are people on the other side who also speak out, and it's the way our country works.

There's lots more good stuff there. Definitely worth checking out, if you haven't seen it already.

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April 28, 2003

Springsteen Supports Dixie Chicks

ymatt pointed me to this story, about how Bruce Springsteen is standing up for the Dixie Chicks: Springsteen backs under-fire Dixies. Even better, the story included a small screenshot of the nude-Dixie-Chicks cover of Entertainment Weekly, which reminded me that I'd wanted to see that (for journalistic reasons only, you understand), which led me to track down a bigger version of it here.

Cheesecake factor aside, it's a pretty cool image. I give Natalie Maines credit for standing up, Bush-like, to her detractors, rather than running off and hiding. Must be a Texas thing. And mad props to Martie Maguire and Emily Robison for standing by Maines, too.

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April 25, 2003

Kuttner: Will the Right Sink GOP's Election Hopes?

Columnist Robert Kuttner writes in the Boston Globe on the various ways in which the far right may be letting the victory in Iraq go to its head: Far right greases skids for GOP fall. Personally, I think it's kind of early to start celebrating, but it's a nice thought. Kuttner talks about Newt's attack on Colin Powell, invokes the shade of Jim Jeffords in discussing the pressure the administration is putting on moderate Republicans over the tax cut, and then mentions Santorum's anti-gay crusade. He concludes:

To win elections, you need swing voters. The hard-core, partisan Republican vote is around 40 percent of the electorate; and the government-bashing, Bible-thumping, nuke-'em far-right electorate is substantially less than that.

In the past, moderate Republicans saved this radical administration from itself - on tax and budget issues, on military adventures, and on tolerance issues. Now, the radicals want nothing less than total victory. They are inviting electoral defeat.

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April 24, 2003

Dare To Be (Not) Stupid

Some interesing stories drifting past my tiny little mind today, many of them having to do with intelligence and our national news and entertainment media.

First, from today's craptastic-user-login-required LA Times Business section comes this story: Those flag-waving hits fly with DreamWorks (you can login with cypherpunk98/cypherpunk, at least at the moment). It seems that good liberals Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen have no problem celebrating the major green they're pulling in from chart-topping patriotic country songs like Darryl Worley's Have you forgotten? and Toby Keith's Angry American, both of which are functioning as unifying anthems for the crowd that believes our invasion of Iraq was a logical, appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not saying those songs shouldn't be recorded, or that people who tend not to think too deeply about international events shouldn't be free to hoist a few Budweisers and feel a surge of patriotic pride while singing along. The freedom to be stupid is, after all, one of the freedoms we hold dear in this country.

But in order for our country to function properly, there need to be some not-stupids participating in the national debate, too. People who realize that this invasion of Iraq was a huge gift to Osama bin Laden, since it a) distracted the US from pursuing him, b) toppled a secular, Socialist Arab dictator who was a hated, entrenched rival, c) paved the way for the rise of a fundamentalist state in Iraq that will be more sympathetic to him and more hostile to the US, d) united the Arab world in opposition to US imperialism, e) indoctrinated a whole new generation of young Arabs in the glory of martyrdom in opposition to the Great Satan, and f) weakened and isolated the US with virtually all its global allies in terms of pursuing the international law-enforcement effort that is the biggest threat to al Qaeda.

On some level what the folks at Dreamworks are doing is just good business, I know, but on another level they're helping to dilute the national IQ when they push music like this. I see it having an impact on the debate at every level, and that concerns me.

Another angle on this is the speech that NPR host Bob Edwards gave at the University of Kentucky recently: The press and freedom: some disturbing trends. Among lots of really great comments about the intelligence (or lack thereof) in the messages being delivered by our news media, he had this interesting observation about the flap surrounding Natalie Maines' remark about being embarrassed Bush was from Texas:

The backlash against the Chicks for making that remark is fine if it comes from ex-fans who say they won't buy any more records by the Dixie Chicks. The marketplace is a respectable forum for freedom of expression. The Chicks have a right to their opinions. Music fans have a right to tell the chicks to go to hell and to boycott their concerts and refuse to buy their records. Free speech is never really free -- it always costs something. But here's what's wrong with this picture. The backlash against the Chicks is spearheaded not by fans, but by Clear Channel Radio, owner of 1,250 radio stations. Clear Channel is based in Texas. Clear Channel loves George W. Bush. Clear Channel would like the administration of George W. Bush to remove all remaining restrictions on the ownership of media properties. That is exactly what the Bush administration is considering. The Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Mike Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is reviewing the last remaining rules restricting media ownership. Before he became FCC chairman, Mike Powell was a communications lawyer, making fabulous sums of money lobbying on behalf of the broadcast industry -- the industry he's now supposed to be regulating. When he is finished regulating the broadcasting industry, Mike Powell will return to -- the broadcasting industry. Now how tenacious is Mike Powell going to be in regulating the broadcasting industry while he is on this temporary hiatus from the broadcasting industry?

But back to Clear Channel, which daily tells Bush and Powell that it loves them. Is Clear Channel's move on those Dixie Chicks an expression of patriotism or a business decision? Should Clear Channel have the right to ban the Chicks from its 1,250 stations? I think what individuals do is fine -- burn the CDs if you want. What industry does is another matter. Clear Channel can say the Dixie Chicks are tools of Saddam if it wants to, but it should not be allowed to kill the livelihood of any recording artist based on politics.

Oh. Side issue: As previously mentioned, I submitted a letter to the editor of the local weekly paper, griping about people lying in support of the war. They published my letter today. Woo! (It's about halfway down, under the Coastal View-supplied headline, "Show me the evidence," which isn't the emphasis I would have chosen to put on it, but at least they didn't introduce any spelling errors or anything.) So, my own tiny contribution to the local debate is on the record now; I'll let you know if anyone mentions it to me when I'm at Vons or picking my kid up at preschool or whatever.

Finally, here's an excerpt from a nice column by Charley Reese: Poor Sean Hannity.

There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism -- so characteristic of fascist states -- in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can't tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them.

Thomas Jefferson, who would have been outraged by the loss of the museum and the library, said, "Those who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be." Amen cubed.

I'm no longer concerned about liberals or conservatives, leftists or rightists. I just pray to God for a non-ideologue with a three-digit IQ. If we don't elevate the level of intelligence and integrity of our government, we are going to end up floating on the cesspool of history.

Posted by jbc at 01:08 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

12 Year Old Boy Rapes 46 Year Old Woman

I don't even know what to say about this ... it's pretty messed up: 12-year-old accused in sex assault -- Boy is charged with attacking woman on Richmond hiking trail .

Posted by hossman at 11:57 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Piling on Newt

From The Smirking Chimp come links to a couple of derisive followups on the Newt Gingrich story. First, from the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson: Neocons run amok! And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: Loose cannon Gingrich finds a new target.

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April 23, 2003

Kristol, Gingrich: It's All Colin Powell's Fault

Here's a story that was starting to make me angry, until I just collapsed in giggles. I know; I need to take these guys seriously; they currently control the white house, and have a pretty good headlock on the legislative and judicial branches, too, but still, it's awfully funny.

For the full humor value, go thou and link unto Fox News: Gingrich slams Powell for failed diplomacy. Among the things I find funny here:

  • Newt's back! Yay!
  • Consider the irony: According to Gingrich, the war happened because of Colin Powell's "failed diplomacy." What sort of diplomacy does Newt think would have succeeded? Given that Bush was already sold on the chickenhawk plan of going to war as early as March of 2002, when he made the "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out" pronouncement.
  • I love the idea of bringing in reigning ideological champion William Kristol at the end of the piece to tell us what to think. Gee, thanks, Fox News! I was getting so confused there, what with those bad people disagreeing with the smart neocons.
  • How scary is it when the voice of reason is represented by Ari Fleischer?
  • Finally, it's quite the incestuous little club they've got going there, isn't it? Everyone they quote (except for Ari and that Very Bad Man at the State Department) is a paid commentator for... Fox News! How convenient to have all the smart people working for the same organization.
Anyway, not to get lost in the absurdity of the messenger, the message itself is still pretty interesting. It's a perfect Catch-22 they've got Powell in. See, we opposed you every step of the way, forced you to knuckle under and play a weak diplomatic hand in support of the pre-ordained war decision, and now, when the aftermath of the war is turning into the clusterfuck you predicted from the beginning, we're going to turn around and blame you for it.

Truly, these people have no shame. And no honor. Colin, wake up and smell the coffee.

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April 22, 2003

Carroll Thinks Deeply About the War

Here's an opinion piece from James Carroll, as published in the Boston Globe: A nation lost. There's some really good, deep thinking here about what's going on with our country these days. His conclusion:

Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform. First they were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing), or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost.

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Scheer: Did Bush Lie to Us On Purpose?

Robert Scheer's latest column isn't the best work I've ever read from him, but it seemed like the kind of thing people would keep suggesting to me if I didn't post it, so here you go: Did Bush deceive us in his rush to war? Nothing really new here, but a decent summing up. Here's the money quote from the end of the piece:

Did our president knowingly deceive us in his rush to war?

If he did, and we are truly concerned about our own democracy, we would have to acknowledge that such an egregious abuse of power rises to the status of an impeachable offense.

I think impeachment talk is a distraction at this point. Yeah, on some level I'd agree that launching a war under false pretenses really ought to be considered a vastly more serious offense than, say, lying under oath about whether you got a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office.

But precisely because it's so much more serious an offense, I think we need to stay focused in terms of our response. We shouldn't waste our time, energy, and credibility pushing for an impeachment that, realistically, is never going to happen. Instead, we need to be talking about how we're going to defeat Bush in the 2004 election.

Posted by jbc at 02:32 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Estabrook: Call It What It Is

Carl Estabrook has a powerful, if disturbing, piece currently running at CounterPunch: Support our euphemism. An excerpt:

The "pro-troops" line echoes what is perhaps the most successful rhetorical strategy in modern politics, "pro-choice." In each case attention is shifted away from a questionable action toward the actor, for whom sympathy is solicited. But everyone knows that "pro-troops" is an assertion of the legitimacy of the war, just as "pro-choice" is a contention that abortion is ethical. In neither case does the argument have to be made explicit. Both involve ending human life (obvious in the case of war, but rejected as a description of abortion by some of its defenders; others however admit that abortion ends human life but is nevertheless justified, and their position is closer to the "pro-troops" position).

There's another similarity. Noting that many of the invading US troops cannot legally buy an alcoholic drink in the US, one commentator has spoken of Bush administration plans' being carried out by "brutalized 19-year-olds." (It's true that the American sniper quoted last week as saying he killed a female civilian because "...the chick was in the way," was a 28-year old Marine sergeant.) The presumed beneficiaries of pro-choice policies could also often be described that way. Most people considering abortion feel that they have little "choice" -- the decision seems necessary in a society that doesn't provide medical care, education, housing or income. In the same way "our troops" are often constrained by economic necessity. Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch from West Virginia was celebrated throughout the media after her rescue; her father was quoted as saying, when he first heard that she had been captured, that she had enlisted only because there were no jobs for 19-year-olds, even at McDonald's...

It's a vicious society that offers abortion and enlistment as palliatives for poverty. To force people young and old into situations in which they have no choice but to stain their consciences with the deaths of others is a great crime, one that can't be covered with euphemisms. The beginning of wisdom is often to call things by their right name.

Posted by jbc at 07:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sugar-Coated Cluster Bombs

Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers sounded particularly lame during yesterday's Pentagon briefing, as he tried to deflect criticism about the thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets we've recently distributed throughout Iraq. From a State Department transcript of the briefing:

Q: Mr. Secretary, prior to the conflict, human rights groups complained about the use of cluster bombs by the United States. Now that the major combat phase is over, we're seeing the evidence that this, in fact, is a weapon that can continue to kill after the hostilities are over. There've been a small but significant number of people maimed or killed, including some children and some American forces as well. Would you consider limiting the use of cluster bombs in the future, or perhaps even eliminating them from the U.S. arsenal in response to this kind of -- type of criticism?

Myers: I think it gets back to -- well, first of all, cluster bombs are not like mines, completely different subject. Cluster bombs are set to go off when they strike their target or whatever they do, so they're not like a mine that lies there until it's activated.

I have not heard of injuries due to cluster bombs, but we'll look into it. It's possible, of course, but we'll have to look into it.

You do that, General Myers. See what you can turn up. Here are some links to get you started. From Newsday: Clusters of death: Bomblets wreak havoc long after their initial deployment. Or from the Dallas Morning News (as reprinted in the Billings Gazette): Toy-like bombs dropped by U.S. kill, maim kids. Or maybe Myers is a Beatles fan? McCartney wants cluster bomb ban.

Posted by jbc at 06:47 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 21, 2003

Children Taken from Couple Over Breast-Feeding Photo

Hiro brought this one to my attention. A couple living in a Dallas suburb have had their children taken away from them because they took a snapshot of one of the children breastfeeding with the mother. It really boggles the mind: 1-hour arrest.

Posted by jbc at 01:28 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

My Coastal View Letter

Here's the letter I'm planning to drop off at my local weekly paper, The Coastal View, tomorrow (actually, today, now):

Two recent letters in the Coastal View bothered me. One said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The other said our troops have found evidence that proves Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction. These statements bother me because as far as I can tell, neither of them is true.

We owe the troops more than yellow ribbons. We owe them the careful, thoughtful performance of our duties as voters. That's the only way to make sure we elect leaders who won't go to war for the wrong reasons.

While this war debate has sometimes been unpleasant, we need to have it, and we need to base the discussion on facts, not propaganda. We owe it to the troops.

Posted by jbc at 12:56 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2003

Media Coverage and the War at Home

I'm thinking this morning about the way the war is being portrayed, and the way people's perceptions are shaped by their biases, and what this all means in terms of the next presidential election, which I'm more or less convinced is going to end up being a referendum on the war.

It's a concern. I believe that a majority of voters in this country, if they have access to a reasonably full, balanced account of what's been happening, will choose to take a step back from the cliff Bush is doggedly determined to march us over. But the chance of their getting that sort of account seems to be diminishing.

A nice article on this, published in American Reporter and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, is Randolph T. Holhut's The war I saw.

According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 70 percent of people the paper polled said they got most of their information from the all-news cable channels such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. But the coverage these people got sounded suspiciously like NBC's coverage of the Olympics, where the United States is the only country that gets covered and the other nations are bit players in a red, white and blue melodrama.

The New York Times is already talking about a "Fox Effect" on television news - what reporter Jim Rutenberg called "a new sort of tv journalism that casts aside traditional notions of objectivity, holds contempt for dissent and eschews the skepticism of government at mainstream journalism's core."

Holhut himself listened to the BBC World Service via public radio. Another good alternative would be the sampling of an array of non-US news sources via the Internet, which is the approach that I, and probably most of you, used to keep informed about all this.

But what about that nearly 70% of US citizens that are getting their news from the cable news channels? It gets worse with the hard-core fans of right-wing talk radio; these people get a non-stop stream of fantasy entertainment, and a lot of them actually believe it, with scary consequences.

Like the consequences seen by John Fleming, as recounted by the Denver Post's Reggie Rivers (again, via The Smirking Chimp): Protests are fine; just not here. Fleming hung an upside-down US flag in his store's front window as a protest against the war; shortly thereafter he received a visit from the local chief of police, along with two other armed officers, who told him the display was illegal, and that he'd have to take it down. Which was, of course, thoroughly untrue, but the police chief still asserted it, and the display still came down.

Multiply that by many thousand times, and you get a picture of what's going on all across the country. Bringing it home, again, to the smallish farming-cum-surfing community I live in, I already mentioned the flap that resulted when the wife of a local right-wing gadfly went around tying yellow plastic ribbons on every tree and lamppost, and a young woman of a different persuasion followed behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The larger context is that going back a number of months, a group of local activists have been gathering for an orderly peace vigil on a downtown corner every Friday evening; since the outset of war they've been opposed by an increasingly large, noisy, and occasionally violent group of pro-war counter-protesters who gather on the opposite corner.

A dialog about the conflict is taking place in the letters to the editor of the local weekly paper. Last week's paper carried a letter from one of the regular counter-protesters that asserted the following:

Anybody who keeps saying that we have no reason for fighting in Iraq keeps refusing to see the facts. It has been stated time and time again Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11, supporting terrorist groups and supplying them. They came and attacked us, killed our men, women and children in an act of war. There is and can never be a reason for doing such a cowardly and terrible act of murder.

Yes, Saddam has brought this war on himself. Thank God we have a president right now who saw what needed to be done and being a leader did the right thing.

I was momentarily outraged at the linking of Saddam with 9/11, and was close to sending in a reply, but I didn't. I figured that such an obvious lie would doubtless draw many such responses.

Well, it didn't. Or if it did, the paper chose not to publish them. Instead, this week's paper contains a new letter, from a different local right-winger, with a new lie:

Sadly, the true agenda of the "anti war" crowd is anti-Bush. Even with the phenomenal success of our military, they refer to our government officials in ways that I will not even dignify by quoting. Even as we find the "smoking guns" that prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate actions of our president.
Sigh. For our system of democracy to actually work the way it's supposed to, the people casting their ballots need a clear understanding of what's going on. I should have written a letter pointing out the lie in the first letter, and I should write one now pointing out the lie in this one. Not out of any delusion that I'll actually influence either of these letter-writers to question their sources of "information," but because left uncorrected, those lies are like a cancer that will spread through the minds of more open-minded people.

Those of us with access to better sources of information have an obligation to share that information. And not just with the other well-informed folk we interact with online, but with people in our own geographic community who don't have access to those sources.

Whew. That was a rant and a half, eh?

Posted by jbc at 08:30 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 18, 2003

Morford: Hail the Great Victory

From SFGate columnist Mark Morford comes this amusing piece of sarcasm: The warmongers were right!

Hail the great victor BushCo! Ha! The U.S. kicked ass! Who's your daddy, beeyatch? Thump thump thump on the manly chest of great liberator America! Liberals suck! Go, war! It's Miller Time.
I think I mostly like the fact that a major newspaper is running a column using the word "beeyatch." Heh.

Posted by jbc at 02:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cheney, Reagan Still Not Dead

You've doubtless heard of this already, but if not, it's worth a quick glance. CNN apparently turned off the password protection on some mocked-up obituary pages for various still-living notables; someone found them and told the folks at, and hilarity ensued for about 40 minutes. Some of them are archived at The Smoking Gun, so go knock yourself out.

Posted by jbc at 08:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2003

Missing WMDs and the 2004 Election

Nice piece in the Boston Globe summing up the current state of the search for those "vast stockpiles" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: Pressure to find weapons mounts. (Update: And don't miss the Onion's new infographic.)

My wife and I had a long discussion last night about the 2004 election, and the chances that Bush would be able to get away with the exceedingly lame lies he used to justify the war. She was feeling depressed, and inclined toward the view that he would succeed. But I don't know. Bush's approval ratings shot up after the quick victory, it's true, but not to the 90%+ levels that his dad enjoyed after Gulf War I; currently I think he's hovering in the 60's or 70's. And even with his dad, those stratospheric approval ratings proved short-lived once a compelling case was made that he was ignoring people's pain on the economy. The current Bush is obviously way vulnerable in that area, too.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think Lincoln was right: you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but eventually a significant number of swing voters are going to call you on your bullshit. Flag-waving yellow-ribbon campaigns aside, I think most Americans have a real problem with the neocons' plans to remake the Middle East via the US military. Bush gets to play the 9/11 fear card only so many times. Eventually, he has to be able to produce some positive results, and uniting the rest of the world (and the rest of the global economy) in opposition to US interests seems like a really poor way to achieve that.

I think dubya's gonna be a one-termer. I hope so, at least, and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to help make that prediction a reality. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and that more will be coming around to that point of view in the months ahead.

This election is going to be interesting. For one thing, it seems like it might actually be about something. Cool.

Posted by jbc at 12:12 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Felten Interview on Slashdot

I've made it a rule to avoid linking to stories if those stories have already been linked to by Slashdot; I guess I figure that everybody reads Slashdot already, so what would be the point?

But in fact I've become kind of spotty in my own visitations to Slashdot lately, so, paradoxically, I guess I'm feeling more free to duplicate their links. This would kind of be a special case, anyway, since it's not a link they're running that I want to point to, but their own content. Specfically, their interview with Prof. Edward Felten. Felten's remarks on (mostly) how to deal with Washington in avoiding stupid legislation like the DMCA are actually really good, and resonate with me as I become increasingly interested in how to deal with Washington in general, not just on stupid tech laws.

Posted by jbc at 10:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2003

Robbins at the National Press Club

Tim Robbins spoke to the National Press Club on Tuesday; here's a transcript of his remarks.

Too bad we don't have any actual government leaders who talk like this anymore.

Posted by jbc at 06:13 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Lind's Neocon Primer

Some strange radio-show host I've never heard of named Jeff Rense has apparently stolen and posted for public consumption an article that appeared recently in New Statesman, a progressive British publication that seems curiously non-progressive when it comes to unleashing its content on the Web, since you have to pay and log in to read that content.

But none of that's important. What is important is the article, by Michael Lind: The weird men behind George W. Bush's war. It's great stuff on just why it is that the US is suddenly going berserk, foreign-policy wise. Lind mentions, and dismisses, explanations that focus on political economics ("it's the oil, right?") and the essentially warlike US nature. Neither of these explanations is correct, he says.

Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: they assume that the recent revolution in US foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies - such as the selection rather than election of George W Bush, and 11 September - the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
Lind goes on to describe just who these people are. And boy, is it scary.

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Current Thoughts, Next Steps for War Dissenters

Here are a couple of interesting opinion pieces. First, from Robert Steinbeck, as published in the Miami Herald, A dissenter looks at war's consequences. And for those who'd like a way to channel their war concerns into action, Elizabeth Ready and John Moyers at have a suggestion: Ballots can keep bullets from flying.

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April 15, 2003

Krugman: The 'Fiscal Dance of the Seven Veils'

From the New York Times' Paul Krugman comes yet another excellent opinion piece: Behind our backs. It describes how the Bush administration's agenda to gut the country's social programs and reward the rich on the backs of the middle class is becoming increasingly clear -- and how the emerging War Without End may well provide sufficient political cover to let them get away with it. An excerpt:

But back to the amazing spectacle of the war's opening, when the House voted to cut the benefits of the men and women it praised a few minutes earlier. What that scene demonstrated was the belief of the Republican leadership that if it wraps itself in the flag, and denounces critics as unpatriotic, it can get away with just about anything. And the scary thing is that this belief may be justified.

For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works -- that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues.

As long as the nation is at war, then, it will be hard to get the public to notice what the flagwavers are doing behind our backs. And it just so happens that the "Bush doctrine," which calls for preventive war against countries that may someday pose a threat, offers the possibility of a series of wars against nasty regimes with weak armies.

Someday the public will figure all this out. But it may be a very long wait.

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Prados on the Eroding Power of the State Department

An interesting analysis by John Prados is running at Affairs of State - and Pentagon. Prados describes how Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice are systematically gaining power in Washington, while Colin Powell and the State Department are steadily losing ground. From his conclusion:

This evolution is disturbing. Rumsfeld and Rice, while ambitious planners, exhibit a peculiar myopia. With Iraq collapsing into chaos and looters trashing Baghdad and other cities, Rumsfeld complained at his press conferences not of these brutal facts, but of the media's reporting of them. In fact, the administration talked as if the chaos would disappear on its own after a day or two, as if it carried no responsibility for order in a post-Saddam Iraq it had itself created.

As we move into the reconstruction period in post-war Iraq and toward a looming conflict with Syria, the seamless transfer of powers from the State Department to the Pentagon should alarm us. Are we to understand that the Bush administration now views U.S. "diplomatic" efforts in the Middle East as a solely military effort?

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Supporting the Troops in the Second America

A really nice piece from Mary Sojourner is running at Support the troops: Catch phrase or cop-out. She reports her experience of going to a local city council meeting where a resolution to "support our troops" somehow slipped into being a resolution to support the war, thereby allowing right-thinking folks to more-easily identify those pink monkeys in our midst who harbor dangerously heterodox thoughts.

It's going on all over. Even in my own laid-back neck of the woods, where the city manager gave in to a woman's request to put up yellow ribbons all over town, and then, as she was doing so, another woman decided to follow behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The subtext is that the woman putting up the ribbons is actually the wife of one of the most rabid right-wingers on the local political scene, a man who, to my way of thinking, is at least as interested in dividing the community and exposing those who don't adhere to his "support our country, right or wrong" views as he is in sending any particular message to the troops overseas. From the LA Times: Town finds skater out of line.

It's very reminiscent to me of the "horizontal prayer" Roger Ebert wrote about in the Chicago Sun-Times column I previously linked to (since removed, but available on the Interesting-People mailing list archive).

These yellow-ribbon campaigns are like Ebert's horizontal prayer in the sense that they don't merely represent a desire to communicate a feel-good sentiment to the men and women overseas. They're also meant to put those who have the gall to oppose Fearless Leader on the defensive, to marginalize them, to exclude them. See: We all support the war. We even decorate our public spaces with symbolic speech to that effect. What's wrong with you peaceniks, anyway? Why don't you all go back to France?

Maybe I should stroll down Carpinteria Avenue, tying blood-red ribbons next to each of the yellow ones, to symbolize the innocent blood our bombs and bullets have been shedding. You think that would go over well? How about if I pick up some spare entrails from the local butcher, and tie those around the lampposts, to symbolize the horrific injuries one Iraqi 6-year-old sustained after an unexploded cluster bomblet went off in his Najaf schoolyard the other day?

Finally, a nice perspective on all this is the following piece from Mike Duncan at The Weekly Lowdown: The second America. Polarization, American-style, courtesy of the policies of our uniter, not a divider, in chief.

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April 14, 2003

Rumsfeld to Syria, Take 2

Good buddy ymatt was willing to have another crack at the update of the Jap... You're Next! poster, so here you go. My intention with the redone version was to be both more direct and more subtle, in the interest of encouraging both pros and antis to embrace the image as representative of their own particular point of view. Sort of like those sex-crazed frat boys at do with their counter-protest signs.

Or something. Mostly, though, I just really like the image, and wanted an excuse to float it past you all again. And, with stories like this in today's (Bush warns Syria not to harbor top Iraqi fugitives), it seems like it remains timely.

Click on it for a larger version. C'mon, people; share it with the world! I want to hear about it being on the wall of Rumsfeld's office.

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Sorenson on the History of US Involvement in the Mideast

Columnist and self-described "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen has this nice little historical summing up in today's Occupational hazard. A sample:

We won the war, but will we win the peace? If you believe George W. Bush, who is saying all the right things, we will. Bush is saying that Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis. And, he says, the U.S. will stay in Iraq "not a day longer than necessary," these words spoken by Bush's puppy dog, Tony Blair.

Unfortunately, Bush himself sometimes seems a bit dyslexic in his public statements. If he says Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis, what he really means is, the Iraqis will get what's left after we skim what we want. As for when we leave Iraq, "not a day longer than necessary" means, in Bush-speak, when hell freezes over.

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April 13, 2003's Handwashing Research

Some scary research into reported-vs.-actual handwashing behavior has been conducted by the American Society of Microbiology; you can check it out at http:/// In particular, see the Executive Summary:

  • There is a huge gap between self-reported handwashing behavior after using public restrooms and actual handwashing behavior - people are less likely to wash their hands after using public restrooms than they say they are. This is consistent with trend data collected four years ago.

    • More than nine in ten (95%) say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However, only slightly more than two-thirds (67%) are observed washing their hands after using public facilities.

  • Among males, nine in ten (92%) report that they always wash their hands after using public restrooms, but only 58% of those observed actually did. This represents a gap of 34%.

    • Interestingly, compared to actual handwashing behavior in 1996, men nowadays are significantly less likely to wash their hands after using public restrooms (58% actually washed their hands in Aug. 2000 vs. 61% in Aug. 1996).

  • Nearly all women (97%) surveyed report that they always wash their hands after using public restrooms, but only 75% observed actually did. This represents a gap of 22%.

  • Similar to 1996, women continue to be significantly more likely than men to say that they always wash their hands after using public facilities (97% vs. 92%).

Link courtesy of gnat's journal at Use Perl.

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Ramzi Kysia's War Reflections

Ramzi Kysia, a member of the Iraq Peace Team currently in Amman, Jordon, has a really nice piece at Electronic Iraq: Where now, America? It's a heartfelt look at what the war means, and where those opposed to war go next, in the big-picture sense. Highly recommended. From his conclusion:

If there is any hope at all, then we ourselves must overcome the institutions within our own society which further violence. We must overcome our own militarism, and the materialism that drives it. We must stop paying taxes, we must risk arrest, we must shut down a government in Washington D.C. that is illegitimate and absolutely out-of-control.

And we must overcome our anger at the mass killers of the world, the Saddam Husseins and George Bushes, even as we overcome their tyrannies. That anger is playing itself out today in the streets of Iraq - further wrecking lives already crushed by violence.

Please God, we must learn how to heal ourselves of all our delusions.

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April 11, 2003

Rumsfeld Gets Pissy

I caught some of the Defense Department briefing today, and boy, Rumsfeld was ready to snap. It's not every day that you see someone at that level of government laying on the sarcasm, openly mocking the reporters looking for his response to the (actually quite real, by all accounts) chaos in Baghdad.

The Reuters account of the briefing described it this way:

In Washington on Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied Iraq was falling into chaos, saying television images of isolated acts of looting and violence were being played "over and over again" for sensational effect.

"It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," stormed Rumsfeld, his hand chopping the air for emphasis in response to reporters' questions at a Pentagon briefing.

"It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out (of a building) with a vase and say 'Oh my goodness you didn't have a plan' -- That's nonsense," he told reporters.

Here's how the BBC's Nick Childs put it in their reporters' weblog:
It was an extraordinary combative performance by Donald Rumsfeld at the latest Pentagon briefing. Clearly exasperated by the new criticisms of US-led forces, the American defence secretary suggested that media reports of chaos and lawlessness in Iraq were exaggerated.

He agreed that US forces did have an obligation to help provide security and said that they were doing what they could to curb the looting where they saw it.

Mr Rumsfeld said no one condoned looting, but according to him much of the lawlessness was a natural pent up response by people to the end of a repressive regime. Any such transition was inevitably untidy, he said.

I find it interesting that even when the press was piling on Rumsfeld a week or so into the invasion, when he was getting all that criticism about the inadquate war plan, he wasn't this feisty. I guess he was confident then that subsequent events would vindicate him, which, in all honesty, they have, at least with respect to his having put sufficient forces in place to topple Saddam.

But now, he's really sounding stressed. I don't think he anticipated this: that having won this great victory, he would immediately get all this flak about the war's aftermath. And honestly, I don't think he has an answer. Which is a pretty scary notion, especially if you live in Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 06:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2003

Rumsfeld's Message for Syria

Updating the Jap... You're Next! war bonds poster seemed like an obvious thing to do, so I did a (fairly lame) version of it, which in turn inspired ymatt to produce this much-more-awesome rendition (click for a larger image):


And, in a less frivolous vein, this piece from Newsday: Hawks in US eyeing Syria as next target.

Update: And now, here's an updated version, with a new, simplified message to help it sneak in under the pro-war-types' radar:

Posted by jbc at 09:00 PM | view/comment (42) | TrackBack (0)

Republicans Want Civil Liberties Restrictions Made Permanent

Lest it get overlooked in all the excitement of at least one actual Baghdadi draping at least one actual flower on a US soldier, I feel compelled to link to this New York Times piece: Republicans want terror law made permanent. Seems those pesky sunset clauses that the few legislators with any spine managed to attach to the "emergency" suspension of our civil liberties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks are due for removal.

Which is only to be expected. There's a ratchet on that particular cog in the machine of government. It tightens down oh-so-easily, but turning it the other way is a real bitch.


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The War at Home: Yellow Ribbons and Election 2004

Here are a few interesting pieces that talk about what's going on inside the US these days. From the Lebanese Daily Star: Pockets of anti-war resistance in America. And from Geov Parrish: Picking a challenger, in which he handicaps likely 2004 presidential aspirants based on (what else?) their fundraising ability. "This is now how America chooses its presidents -- through money, media, polling, and more money. Actual voters are only invited at the very end." Democracy, American style.

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April 08, 2003

Krugman Calls Foul on Kerry-Bashing

One of the better responses to the flurry of Republican outrage over Sen. John Kerry's recent remark that we could use a little "regime change" in this country is this New York Times op-ed piece from Paul Krugman: The last refuge. His conclusion:

For years to come, then, this country may be, in some sense, at war. And all that time, if Mr. Racicot and his party are allowed to set the ground rules, nobody will be allowed to criticize the president or call for his electoral defeat. You know what? If that happens, we will have lost the war, whatever happens on the battlefield.

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Vitello: Powell Should Step Down

This story, from Newsday, caught my attention mainly because it constitutes the most-prominent call that I've seen so far for Powell to step down as Secretary of State: Nation scarred by many wars.

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April 07, 2003

The "Chin" gets time

After pulling off the ultimate lie for over 30 years, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante has finally admitted to faking his mental condition in a plea bargain that will get him off early. Gotta love it when somebody goes so far as to stand buck naked in a shower with an umbrella when being served by the FBI just to stay outta jail.

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McGovern: Bush's Symphony of Falsehood

From George McGovern, via The Nation, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this nice roundup of ways in which the Bush presidency sucks: The Reason Why.

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March 31, 2003

The Coulter Doctrine

I still remember, amid my shock and revulsion at the 9/11 attacks, the additional layer of shock and revulsion I felt when I read Ann Coulter's "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" National Review column. Not only had we been confronted with racial and religious hate raised to the level of mass murder from outside our borders, but now we were facing the same thing from inside as well, since people like this thoroughly vile woman were willing to promote themselves through appeals to the worst in all of us.

Now, Counterspin Central has a link to the following story from Newhouse News: Plans under way for Christianizing the enemy.

So, with the help of a president who doesn't believe in thinking too hard about these sorts of things, Ann Coulter's prescription for our national response to 9/11 has become, quite literally, the actual policy we are pursuing.

It's a nightmare. And I can't wake up.

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March 29, 2003

Powell: War Is the Scourge of God

Excerpted from Colin Powell's US Forces: The Challenges Ahead, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1992:

Military men and women recognize more than most people that not every situation will be crystal clear. We can and do operate in murky, unpredictable circumstances. But we also recognize that military force is not always the right answer. If force is used imprecisely or out of frustration rather than clear analysis, the situation can be made worse.

Decisive means and results are always to be preferred, even if they are not always possible. We should always be skeptical when so-called experts suggest that all a particular crisis calls for is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the "surgery" is over and the desired result is not obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of just a little escalation--more bombs, more men and women, more force. History has not been kind to this approach to war-making. In fact this approach has been tragic -- both for the men and women who are called upon to implement it and for the nation. This is not to argue that the use of force is restricted to only those occasions where the victory of American arms will be resounding, swift and overwhelming. It is simply to argue that the use of force should be restricted to occasions where it can do some good and where the good will outweigh the loss of lives and other costs that will surely ensue. Wars kill people. That is what makes them different from all other forms of human enterprise.

When President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address he compared the Civil War to the scourge of God, visited upon the nation to compensate for what the nation had visited upon its slaves. Lincoln perceived war correctly. It is the scourge of God. We should be very careful how we use it. When we do use it, we should not be equivocal: we should win and win decisively. If our objective is something short of winning--as in our air strikes into Libya in 1986--we should see our objective clearly, then achieve it swiftly and efficiently.

I am preaching to the choir. Every reasonable American deplores the resort to war. We wish it would never come again. If we felt differently, we could lay no claim whatsoever to being the last, best hope of earth. At the same time I believe every American realizes that in the challenging days ahead, our wishes are not likely to be fulfilled. In those circumstances where we must use military force, we have to be ready, willing and able. Where we should not use force we have to be wise enough to exercise restraint. I have finite faith in the American people's ability to sense when and where we should draw the line.

Update: More on the application of this article to the current situation can be found in Nicholas Johnson's War in Iraq: The military objections. Johnson observes that military commanders frequently are more rational about the use of military force than are their civilian overseers. That certainly seems to be the case here. A quotation:

By the time an officer reaches the top of today's U.S. military you can bet that he or she is bright, extremely well educated in the liberal arts as well as military history and other matters, and possessed of a good analytical mind.

As you know, a central principle of American government is what we call "civilian control of the military." Of course, I support that principle. Few would deliberately choose life under a military dictatorship.

But when I compare the approach to war of some civilian politicians with that of the military's leadership I have occasionally commented that what we really need is "military control of the civilians" - at least the civilians' decisions about war.

When evaluating a sophisticated issue involving politics, foreign relations, and the global economy, it is usually the politicians, not the military officers, who are the first to forgo thoughtful analysis for expressions like "send in the Marines," "let's kick some butt," and "nuke 'em."

It is the military that modestly suggests the need for prior application of rational thought.

I love that quote about macho politician-speak for going to war. Especially in light of the recent Time article revealing that the course for war upon Iraq was laid in March of 2002, when Bush told a group of Senators, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." It doesn't really square with the President of the United States' job description to be quoted using the F-word, especially when the President in question likes to claim moral authority as a born-again Christian, but I suppose the White House thinks it's the kind of thing that will actually boost his popularity. But regardless of how it plays with the electorate in terms of making the commander in chief seem like an ordinary guy, the willingness to talk that way about going to war, and what's more, to actually follow through on it without carefully considering the costs and benefits beforehand, reveals a profound unsuitability for the task of wielding US military power.

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NYT on the Evolving Antiwar Movement

Some interesting detail in this article from today's New York Times: Antiwar effort emphasizes civility over confrontation. It goes into the nature of the organizations behind many of the recent antiwar protests, and the shifting of the movement's emphasis from violent confrontation to more peaceful protest designed to appeal to mainstream opinion.

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March 28, 2003

Parrish on the Domestic Protest Movement

Geov Parrish's Dresden-esque Shock and Awe firestorm hasn't come to pass so far, but I still find him a credible voice when he talks about something he has more direct experience with, like the next steps for the domestic protest movement. Like the earlier link I posted from Bernard Weiner, Parrish points out that those opposed to what's happening in Iraq have better things to do now than block traffic and piss people off. Like, thinking about the presidential election of 2004.

Posted by jbc at 12:25 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2003

Wright's Resignation Letter

I wasn't paying attention to this when it happened, but here's another career diplomat who has resigned her position in the State Department to protest Bush's foreign policy. Mary A. Wright's letter of resignation was sent to Colin Powell on March 19.

The idealist in me decided a long time ago that I would never vote for a Republican. But I confess that the realist in me, looking around at the political landscape and wondering where, oh where, are we going to find someone capable of steering us out of the current catastrophe, keeps coming back to one name: Colin Powell. Yes, I know he's tainted by association with a lot of things that left-leaning folks in general and me in particular have a really hard time with: his military service in Vietnam, his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the first Gulf War, his flirtation with the Republican presidential candidacy, and, especially, his willingness to fall into line with the chickenhawks in the current administration after the so-called "diplomatic effort" failed.

But I continue to have this weirdly favorable attitude toward him. It dates to that "first we're going to cut it off, then we're going to kill it" briefing he gave during Gulf War I. My God, I thought at the time, here's someone who is actually willing to tell the truth about what's going to happen.

At first, my liking him was probably mostly a case of my projecting noble impulses and values onto the largely blank image he'd been careful to craft around his public self. But as time has passed, and I've made a point of trying to piece together more of what's going on there, I've found my favorable opinion surviving largely intact. I don't know why, but I've been willing to cut him a lot of slack, to interpret his participation in the Bush presidency as the waging of a long, drawn-out campaign for a more-sensible foreign policy than the one Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz have been pushing. He thinks like a soldier, whose duty is to follow the orders of his commanding officer, even while he's doing his best to give that commanding officer the information and advice he needs to make good decisions.

But there comes a time when a person of principle has to stop following bad orders, and live up to a higher duty. I think that's what the recent resignations coming out of the State Department have been saying.

I think Colin Powell should follow their lead. He should resign as Secretary of State, and run for president as an independent in 2004. If he did, I might very well confound my own ultra-liberal leanings and vote for him. I can't justify it intellectually, really, but I continue to trust him.

Anyway, whether or not I would vote for him is beside the point. The point is this: If he followed this scenario and ran for president, I think he would actually win.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2003

Weiner on Effective Antiwar Protest Strategy

Bernard Weiner has a really fabulous piece running at A Vietnam-era Dad Talks to His Protesting Son. We need more voices with this level of wisdom guiding the antiwar movement.

Posted by jbc at 10:50 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2003

Maloney Videos SF Protesters

Evan Coyne Maloney previously got a mention here for his videotaping of New York anti-war protesters; basically, he used the video to make them look like idiots. He's posted answers to some of the frequently heard criticisms of that action on his Questions about the protest video page; I'd be curious what onan thinks of his answer to the charges that he (onan) made in the comments on the earlier story. Anyway, now Evan has a new video: Protesting the protesters II, which covers similar hijinks with the anti-war protesters in San Francisco on March 15. Apparently in doing so he was aided by the people at, a bunch of screw-loose counter-protesters who like to join anti-war marches carrying signs that mock the actual anti-war folks in a subtle and clever fashion. (Well, the people doing it think it's subtle and clever.) I dunno; with all these folks I get a sense of some sort of psychological need to reassure themselves that they really are smarter/cooler/better than the other side. With the protestwarrior folks it's pretty obvious. Evan's case is tougher; he's clearly got more on the ball than someone who feels the need to post a photo of himself next to a hot blonde in a tight t-shirt to demonstrate that despite being an embittered Dittohead he can still get sex, but the same sort of striving still comes through in things like his choice of opponent and his one-sided presentation. It happens on both sides, of course, but sometimes I just get tired of the whole us-versus-them thing. Why not drop the pretensions of infallibility, and try to find some actual truth? It just seems like it would be a better use of your time and energy.

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

March 21, 2003

Dionne on the Importance of Allowing Dissent During Wartime

WorkingForChange's E.J. Dionne, Jr., has a nice piece on the Republicans in Congress who have made such a fuss about Tom Daschle's criticism of Bush's war-mongering: Hawks flirt with dissent double standard. He points out that some of the same people telling Daschle he's a traitor for not supporting the Commander-in-Chief took advantage of their freedom to offer the exact same sort of criticism themselves when Clinton was bombing Kosovo. Funny how that works.

Posted by jbc at 06:13 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rall: Most Americans Are Idiots

Nice piece from Ted Rall: The Moron Majority. Beginning with the recent poll showing that 51% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Rall goes on to talk about what the future holds for a nation populated by such deep thinkers.

Posted by jbc at 12:02 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2003

Byrd: I Weep for My Country

From one of the few principled people we have left in our government, apparently, comes this speech, delivered late yesterday: The Arrogance of Power.

Posted by jbc at 09:36 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: Things to Come

Another nice piece from the NYT. This one is an opinion piece from Paul Krugman: Things to Come. Yeah, this is pretty much what scares me the most, too.

Posted by jbc at 07:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYT: War in the Ruins

Did you miss me? My power was out for about 55 hours (not that anyone was counting), but the juice seems to be flowing again. Here's a nice editorial from the New York Times to get back into the swing of things: War in the ruins of diplomacy.

Posted by jbc at 07:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2003

The Foundation for a Patriotic America

I honestly can't tell if the Foundation for a Patriotic America is intended to be serious or sarcastic. Which means the people behind it are either really scary or really subversive. Either way, I like it. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:24 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2003

Rall vs. SUV Drivers

It's becoming pretty cliched, but I'm always good for another anti-SUV rant. Like this one from Ted Rall: Big Babies. Favorite quote: "Short of opening a shooting range next door to a daycare center, buying an SUV is perhaps the single most antisocial act an ordinary American can commit."

Posted by jbc at 03:33 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2003

Ivins: Bring Back Bush Senior

Molly Ivins has a cute piece at WorkingForChange: Bring back Poppy, in which she runs through the litany of recent disappointments with dubya and wishes he was more like his dad.

Posted by jbc at 09:53 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2003

Cheney's Lawyer Bitches at Satirist Over Lynn Cheney Clown Nose

Nice story about the Vice President's lawyer trying to stop the fine people at from posting pictures of Lynn Cheney wearing a clown nose. You can read about it at YahooNews, or just go straight to the source, at (Assuming the site is still up. It was having a hard time handling all the traffic, now that it's been singled out for attention by the Bushistas. Nice lesson for them on the Law of Unintended Consequences, eh?) So, when do I get my letter from Dick Cheney's lawyer? I'm totally jealous.

Posted by jbc at 01:19 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2003

The (Non-)Torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Here are a couple of articles speculating on just what the folks holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are doing to him. Since we in the U.S. are good guys, or at least like to see ourselves portrayed as such on TV, "torture" is explicitly ruled out, and has been denied by none other than Ari Fleischer. I'm sure that's quite comforting to Mohammed, wherever he is. Anyway, here are the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and with their take on the subject. My favorite quote (from the latter article): "U.S. officials overseeing interrogations of captured al Qaeda forces at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba can even authorize 'a little bit of smacky-face,' a U.S. intelligence official says. 'Some al Qaeda just need some extra encouragement.'"

Posted by jbc at 11:38 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Man Arrested for Wearing Anti-War T-shirt

Gotta love that mall security. Spotting a man wearing a "Give peace a chance" T-shirt in the food court at the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, they told him to remove the shirt or leave the mall. When the man refused, the guards called the local police, who arrested him and charged him with criminal tresspass. But the man turns out to be a lawyer, and director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, no less. So methinks maybe the boys picked the wrong citizen to come down on. Or maybe not; this is, after all, the Age of Ashcroft. We'll have to wait and see, I guess. Update: And now, 100 activists have descended on the mall to protest the arrest. That'll teach those security guards.

Posted by jbc at 08:53 AM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2003

Smoking-Gun Memo on NSA's U.N. Surveillance?

Your tax dollars at work (again!). The Observer is running the story about a secret surveillance operation that the U.S. is running against key U.N. members: specifically, non-British Security Council members, whose votes on behalf of a U.S. invasion of Iraq we would dearly love to buy, extort, or otherwise add to our column. So let's bug the delegates' home phones, shall we? Maybe one of them is secretly gay, or has a mistress, or something. Update: In actually reading the memo, I'm not sure the "dirty tricks" label can really be made to stick. Maybe the part about bugging "domestic comms" is spooky enough to raise the hackles of British leftists, but in America we typically save the term for more creative knavery.

Posted by jbc at 08:51 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kiesling's Letter of Resignation

From the NYT comes the text of career diplomat John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Colin Powell. It explains that Kiesling can no longer participate in the ongoing train wreck that is the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Posted by jbc at 08:39 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 26, 2003

Laughing at Ari Fleischer

Ovid, over at, made a cool journal entry today, in which he pointed to a couple of places (like the White House site, which has a transcript, and C-SPAN's site, with RealAudio video) where you can catch White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's briefing from yesterday. And the fun part is, at the very end of the briefing, one of the reporters pesters Fleischer about a report that the U.S. is offering to use trade incentives to bribe Mexico (among others) into voting our way on the U.N. Security Council. Fleischer responds, "But think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable. And that is not an acceptable proposition." And the entire room of reporters bursts out laughing. Fleischer gives a curt, "thank you" and leaves the podium, and as the reporters are getting up you can hear one of them joking with another, "Laughed off the stage!" At least you can on the RealAudio clip; the transcript doesn't include that, but interestingly enough, it does include the "(Laughter)". Poor Ari.

Posted by jbc at 06:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 24, 2003

Alternate Interpretation of Iconography

From Janus, who is mourning the appearance of tabbed browsing in the unauthorized Safari release (Janus takes Macintosh UI decisions very seriously), comes word of this fun re-interpretation of an icon from Don't Worry. Go Out and Party.

Posted by jbc at 02:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 21, 2003

Are You

Much fun has been made of the whole "duct tape and plastic" thing lately, but joking aside, if you haven't, you really ought to go browse the calm, sensible advice that the good people at have made available. Not just because it will, as they point out, help you and your loved ones be better prepared for disasters both man-made and natural, though that's a perfectly acceptable reason, too. No, I want you to go check it out so you can appreciate the Strangelove-ian idea that permeates it: that our only real duty as citizens is to calmly prepare ourselves and our loved ones for horrors the like of which we've never seen, and then, when those horrors come to pass, to seal ourselves in our inner rooms and quietly watch TV to find out what those wise men who have everything under control want us to do next. So go out and buy your plastic sheeting and bottled water, but at the same time, consider this: If these threats are real (and I can't see any reason to think otherwise), we have another, even more urgent duty: to work with like-minded folks to send our current leaders back where they came from, replacing them with people of more wisdom and less arrogance who can plot a course to a future in which the innocent don't have to die for stupid reasons like these.

Posted by jbc at 09:19 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

February 13, 2003

Balkin on Patriot Act II

From the popunder-ad-spewing (thank God for Chimera's ad-blocking features) and silly-ass-login-requiring (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk) L.A. Times web site comes Professor Jack M. Balkin's nice analysis of the Justice department's proposed update to the US Patriot Act. Apparently the plan was to introduce the new, much scarrier version of the legislation once we were at war with Iraq, when public support for its "security enhancing" features would be higher, and criticism of its impact on civil rights would be easier to paint as a treasonous failure to "support our troops." Choice quote from Balkin's essay: The Bush administration and Ashcroft have become addicted to secrecy and are drunk on power; the more they obtain, the more they demand. A copy of the Justice department's draft bill (which the folks at Justice repeatedly denied existed, until it was leaked) is available at the web site of the Center for Public Integrity, also. Read it while you can, citizens.

Posted by jbc at 07:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 10, 2003

Conason on the Great Treasury Robbery

Joe Conason, columnist for the New York Observer, does his best to make the looting of the treasury by Dubya and Co. sound interesting.

Posted by jbc at 05:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

David Brooks' Anti-Anti-SUV Rant

From the WSJ, courtesy of Janus, comes this fun essay: The Scarlet SUV. It's about the silliness of railing against SUV ownership.

Posted by jbc at 01:22 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 08, 2003

Ivins on the Great Liberal Conspiracy

Molly Ivins, one of my favorite old-guard Texas liberals (bet you didn't know I had favorites in that category) has a nice new column where she mocks some of the loony goings on at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference. For more on the event, you can check out the free teaser to the full article at Salon that Ivins mentions.

Posted by jbc at 11:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 07, 2003

DeFazio, Paul Sponsor Bill to Rescind Dubya's War Permission

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ron Paul (R-TX) yesterday introduced legislation to repeal the Iraq Use of Force Resolution passed by Congress last fall. Interesting.

Posted by jbc at 04:04 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 26, 2003

Parrish on the Burgeoning U.S. Anti-War Movement

Geov Parrish has written an interesting piece that looks at the growing anti-war movement in the U.S., and asks what effect, if any, it is likely to have on a political ruling class that has grown increasingly deaf to the will of the people, as distinct from the will of corporate and institutional campaign contributors. He tries to put a silver lining on the analysis, holding out the prospect that a sufficiently annoyed populace could convince Bush that war will be bad for his re-election (excuse me, I guess that would have to be election) prospects, but I think he's just whistling past the graveyard. Today's Democratic party, to my mind at least, is more part of the problem than part of the solution. This country is so overdue for real political reform.

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

January 25, 2003

Rall Calls for Draft - With a Twist

My favorite columnist scored again this week, this time with a piece that started off making merry with the whole Rangel-calls-for-draft, conservatives-resist story, and went on to make what is actually quite a good suggestion: That we send draft-age kids overseas to see the world.

Posted by jbc at 09:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 24, 2003

Springer for Senator

Threatening to bring a touch of class to a body that has become characterized by base thuggery and entertainment crafted to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Jerry Springer has let on that he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Which is fine, I guess, but I'm only going to watch if I get to see Hillary Clinton in a hair-pulling catfight with Diane Feinstein.

Posted by jbc at 07:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2003

Check Please!

This isn't exactly breaking news, but when I heard about it I just had to share: A man is facing contempt of court charges for writing "Bullsh*t F*cking ticket" in the Memo box of his check when paying a traffic fine. The same judge has charged at least 2 other people for similar reasosns recently. You can follow the story in the local paper or from the AP (via CNN).

Posted by hossman at 11:50 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 16, 2003

Rall on Ryan

I missed this when it came out earlier this week, but better late than never: Ted Rall gives props to Illinois governor George Ryan over his end-of-term action to empty the state's death row. I especially like the comparison of Ryan's conscience to that of Bush, who when he was governor "allocated a mere 15 minutes to consider the fate of each inmate, on a work schedule which allotted up to two hours to playing video games." That's my dubya.

Posted by jbc at 10:58 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 09, 2003

Hiro Does the Math

I'm not sure you all will find it interesting, but that's never stopped me before, has it? Anyway, Hiro got on one of his intellectual jags yesterday, and the result is a little piece on the United States national debt. Enjoy.

Posted by jbc at 07:43 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 02, 2003

The 9/11 Not-Dead

A nice little story to ring in 2003: From the New York Times, via Yahoo News: Separating Fakes From 9/11 Victims.

Posted by jbc at 03:46 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 27, 2002

Rall on a Roll

I'm becoming increasingly unable to imagine how I got by before I had Ted Rall's weekly columns to read. And I apologize for being behind in bringing you, the loyal reader, up to date on his latest output. Anyway, here are his most-recent two columns: The Lame White Hope, comparing Al Gore unfavorably with Charles DeGaulle for having given up the resistance against the Vichy regime currently occupying the White House, and Another War, Still No Proof, pointing out that the smoke and mirrors Bush & Co. used to justify the overthrow of Afghanistan is, so far at least, failing to sway the nation in the direction of supporting the overthrow of Iraq.

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

Barney Peddling Smut

From Hiro comes word of this fun CNN story about a couple of kids in New Jersey who opened up their new "Sing-Along Songs Barney" book to find a photo of a naked man and woman embracing below the headline "Wilder Sex". Seems the publisher's outsourced Chinese printing operation needs better quality control.

Posted by jbc at 09:45 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 24, 2002

U.S. Experiencing Technical Difficulties

A cool little animation, from the folks at Technical Difficulties. Web-hostile Flash (I'm assuming; I have a hard time caring enough to keep the various 'Why isnt' the Web more like TV?' technologies straight), but otherwise worthwhile.

Posted by jbc at 11:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 18, 2002

Onion: Bill of Rights Streamlined

More great knavery from The Onion: Bill of Rights Pared Down to a Manageable Six. As usual with them, it's not so much the idea, as the execution.

Posted by jbc at 09:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 11, 2002

Peeing Alderwoman Acquitted of Lewd Conduct

It's nice to see, in a time when so many of our cherished national traditions are under attack, that a jury of honest American citizens is still willing to defend the right of local politicians to erect a barrier of sheets and blankets, and pee in a trashcan during a City Council meeting.

Posted by jbc at 10:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Making Fun of the Elderly, Onion-Style

From the newly updated Onion (yay!): the Strom Turns 100 infographic.

Posted by jbc at 08:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2002

Onion: Shocking Revelations on Presidential Lying

Yet another nice piece from The Onion: Report: Presidents Washington Through Bush May Have Lied About Key Matters. As usual, it's the little touches that really set their stuff apart.

Posted by jbc at 11:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rutton: Kissinger Getting a Free Ride

Tim Rutton, writing in the L.A. Times' Calendar section, has some choice words for those in the media who are reporting with a straight face the appointment of Henry Kissinger to head the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks: Kissinger Kiss-Up: Media Not Doing Their Job. Update: More of the same from Joe Conason and David Corn.

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

December 03, 2002

Rice: Bush on Solid Legal Ground with Derwish Killing

Condoleeza Rice has stated that the U.S. can kill whomever it wants in pursuit of al Qaeda, even U.S. citizens. "I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here," she said of the killing of Kamal Derwish, a U.S. citizen who was in the car with Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi when the CIA used a remotely launched Hellfire missile to blow him up in Yemen on November 3. According to the Bush administration, Derwish was an enemy combatant in wartime. Nice. And since our enemies in this war have no recognizable country or uniforms, and fight on no particular battlefield, and since this war, by definition, will never be over, we basically can just take all that crap in the Constitution that limits the power of the government, and throw it away.

Posted by jbc at 02:50 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 26, 2002

Ashcroft: Keep Big Brother's Hands Off the Internet

From Janus comes this cool piece by then-Senator John Ashcroft, in which he argues that letting the Clinton administration have its way with our online communications would be a tragic undermining of our cherished Constitutional freedoms. It's great stuff -- too bad Ashcroft turns out not to have actually believed any of it.

Posted by jbc at 12:23 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 22, 2002

Huffington on Pelosi

Arianna Huffington caught Nancy Pelosi on the Sunday talk shows, and wasn't particularly impressed with the House Minority Leader-elect. "Gone was the bold, combative, impassioned, progressive politician we've come to know... In her place was a soulless pod person -- an empty shell mouthing the kind of pallid, inoffensive, focus group-tested and cringe-inducing platitudes that have driven two-thirds of the American electorate away from politics."

Posted by jbc at 07:53 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2002

Ivins on Total Information Awareness and the Poindexter Menace

Molly Ivins offers some scary-sounding commentary on John Poindexter's plan to help the government mine all our private data, and the whole slippery-slope thing, and the curious irony that liberals, rather than conservatives, are now the ones most concerned with avoiding foreign adventures and limiting the power of big government. She also references the f-word, though in her case the word is 'fascism'.

Posted by jbc at 06:21 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 19, 2002

Ashcroft Hails 'Victory' Over Constitution

What is the sound of one-half a brain clapping? Attorney General John Ashcroft called a press conference yesterday to celebrate what he called a "major victory" in the War on Terra: the decision, by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, to grant the FBI broad powers to wiretap phones and search homes and computers, setting aside all that pesky Fourth Amendment stuff, as long as the FBI alleges some sort of vague, unspecified connection between the target and international terror. The ACLU is upset, but due to the special rules surrounding the terrorism court, it appears that its decision can't even be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Wow. With victories like this, who needs defeats?

Posted by jbc at 07:21 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 18, 2002

Man (and His Sperm) Get Life for Shooting Television

A story that for some reason winds up being more interesting to me than the sum of its parts: William Reno Gerber is serving a life sentence under California's three strikes law for shooting his television. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the appeals court ruling that decreed he could not mail his sperm to his wife, in order for her to be artificially inseminated.

Posted by jbc at 05:44 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 17, 2002

Al Gore: Not-quite Royalty in Exile

Al Gore is in the news. First, a poll of Democratic National Committee members shows only tepid support for a Gore presidential run in 2004 - though Gore still outpaces any Democratic alternative. (Personally, I just want him to run so I can put a "Re-elect Gore" bumper sticker on my car.) More interesting is the Washington Post's look at what Gore's life has been like over the last few years: Mr. Resident.

Posted by jbc at 07:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 14, 2002

Gulf War Movie Poster

Mad Magazine, it looks like, should get credit for the original creation, but in the meantime Hiro's hosting a copy of the very scary/funny movie poster for Gulf War II: Clone of the Attack. Coming soon to a Persian Gulf near you!

Posted by jbc at 04:51 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Safire: All Your Data Are Belong to Poindexter

William Safire has a New York Times op-ed piece called You Are a Suspect, in which he screams bloody murder about one of the riders tacked onto the President's Homeland Security Act. Specifically, a rider that gives the Strangelove-ian John Poindexter, late of the Iran-Contra scandal and now head of the Defense Department's "Information Awareness Office," a large wheelbarrow-full of money to set up a master database linking every conceivable piece of information about every American, for convenient data-mining by the government.

Posted by jbc at 10:44 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 13, 2002

Parrish on the Uncle oSAMa Poster

Geov Parrish offers some interesting observations on's Uncle oSAMa poster, which depicts a finger-pointing bin Laden encouraging the U.S. to invade Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 09:23 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 07, 2002

Arianna Smacks Terry McAuliffe Around

Arianna Huffington, continuing to make me, against all my better judgement, like her, offers this insightful commentary on the beleagured head of the Democratic National Committee: Bring me the head of Terry McAuliffe!.

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

November 06, 2002

Conason: Democrats Have No One to Blame But Themselves

One of the better pieces on the midterm fallout that I've seen this morning is this one, from Salon's Joe Conason: No Excuses.

Posted by jbc at 11:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 03, 2002

GOP, Dems Both Predict Victory

The heads of the both the Democrat and Republican Senate campaign committees appeared on CNN Saturday, with each predicting that his party would win a Senate majority on Tuesday. One of them is wrong, obviously, and while I suppose it's possible that that one just has bad poll data, I think it's much more likely that he already knows his side is going to lose, and is just whistling past the graveyard. Tune in Tuesday to find out which one he is. The article also talks about Clinton's campaigning in Florida yesterday on behalf of Jeb-challenger Bill McBride, and mentions that Al Gore will be doing the same today and tomorrow. Mmm. Gore campaigning against Jeb in Florida. This could be good.

Posted by jbc at 01:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 27, 2002

Parrish, Huffington On Wellstone

Geov Parrish and Arianna Huffington each do a nice job of summing up why Paul Wellstone is being warmly eulogized by people across the political spectrum: Because, in a country where politicians have become uniformly timid, unwilling to take any position without first measuring its effect on likely voters, Wellstone was different. Here's Parrish's version, and here's the one from Huffington (who, interestingly, Janus confessed the other day that he really wants to be when he grows up).

Posted by jbc at 08:27 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 26, 2002

Florida GOP Accuses Democrat of Lawsuit He Wasn't Involved With

Ah, the closing days of campaign season, when the stakes go up and the risks of getting caught in a lie, or of suffering any significant consequences if you do, go down. A nice example (also courtesy of is that of the Florida Republican Party, which recently sent an attack mailer to voters in the state's 27th senate district, urging them to vote against Democrat Dave Aronberg because of a lawsuit he had previously brought against the Palm Beach County school system. Except it turns out that the suit was brought by a different Dave Aronberg, Dave T. Aronberg, not the Dave A. Aronberg who's running for state senate. The Republican candidate, Frank Mann, and the state GOP chairman say they're really sorry, and promise they'll do their best to get in touch with the estimated 50,000 people who received the ad, so they can explain about their mistake.

Posted by jbc at 12:54 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Norm Coleman: Candidate of Destiny

So, Norm Coleman is getting all kinds of help these days. First, a well-heeled national Republican PAC calling itself Americans for Job Security has swooped in to spend $1 million on an advertising blitz over the last two weeks of the Minnesota Senate race, which will be more money than any of the other main participants (the Wellstone and Coleman campaigns, and the state Democratic and Republican parties) had been planning on spending. And now, of course, Coleman's opponent has died in a plane crash, just 11 days before the election. (The conspiracy theorist in me is really interested in what the NTSB has to say about the cause of the crash.) And since the tragedy also included the deaths of Wellstone's wife, daughter, and top aides, it makes it hard for the Democrats to mount a sympathy campaign like the one that carried widow Jean Carnahan to victory over John Ashcroft two years ago in Missouri.

Posted by jbc at 12:13 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2002

White Couple Popular with Black Friends

From (he says), courtesy of Janus, comes this nice little web site showing that America really is making progress with its race problem: Black People Love Us! Thanks, black people!

Posted by jbc at 11:08 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2002

Coverage of the Coverage of the Coverage of the D.C. Sniper

Just so I don't neglect my journalistic duties completely, here's a link to an article describing a forum in which D.C.-area newspaper editors talk about what they did and didn't run as the sniper story evolved. The article also includes some finger-pointing at CNN over its role in promoting both fear and ratings with its handling of the story.

Posted by jbc at 01:53 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2002

Fox News Solicits Expert Insights on D.C. Sniper from Berkowitz

Lending support to Michael Moore's thesis that our news-as-entertainment industry is feeding into the cycle of gun violence, Fox News has solicited the thoughts of convicted "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz on the D.C. sniper, and is running Berkowitz' analysis of the sniper's possible thinking and motivations. I wonder, seriously, how many TV producers are currently working on incorporating the serial-killer angle into a reality-show format.

Posted by jbc at 10:47 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2002

Congress Goes Home Pissy

Congressional leaders, sensing that voters may be looking to punish someone for various failures at home and abroad, ended their session yesterday with a round of finger-pointing. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle gave an angry speech blaming dubya; House majority leader Dick Armey responded by comparing the Senate's record unfavorably to that of al Queda, which he said has been able to re-organize itself because "it doesn't have a Senator Daschle."

Posted by jbc at 07:09 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 18, 2002

Dennis Cleary's Family Baggage

If you haven't seen it yet, check out CNN's coverage of the Dennis Cleary campaign story. Cleary is a Republican running for re-election in the Connecticut state legislature, which is nothing special, but his family has taken out newspaper ads accusing him of being self-serving and corrupt, and encouraging people to vote for his Democratic rival. Ah, election season. I really miss this stuff when it's not around.

Posted by jbc at 09:13 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Homeland Security Store

From Hiro comes a link to the CNN story on Safer America, a high-touch retail outlet where you can buy designer gas masks, hazmat booties, and parachutes for jumping out of high-rises. Sort of a Sharper Image for the paranoid.

Posted by jbc at 06:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 17, 2002

Eve Hibbits Cleared of Charges

Eve Hibbits, the mother of three who was charged with felony child endangerment and jailed for eight days last August when her kids were seen with sunburned faces at an Ohio county fair, has been cleared of all charges. As someone who thought the original charges and jail term were pretty excessive, I guess I'm happy to see that, though the reality is that I have a hard time caring much either way. Still, I'm linking to the story because I think her mugshot is funny (and scary).

Posted by jbc at 11:48 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2002

Simon Twists in the Wind Over Photo Flap

from the lying-is-one-thing;-looking-like-an-idiot-is-another dept.

For those of you fortunate enough not to have been following the California governor's race, we're heading into the home stretch of a contest between Democrat incumbent Gray Davis and his Republican challenger, a political tyro named Bill Simon. Simon is making headlines in the wake of Monday's debate between the two candidates, but not the kind he was looking for. In the debate, Simon accused Davis of having accepted campaign contributions in his state capitol offices while he was Lt. Governor, which would have been a crime. Davis denied the charge. Afterward, Simon showed reporters a photograph that he said showed Davis accepting a contribution check in his offices -- except that reporters know what those offices look like, and the photo clearly wasn't taken there. Oops. Now Simon is backpedaling, and refusing interviews, and Davis has called for him to resign from the race. Ouch.

Posted by jbc at 11:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 07, 2002

Condemned Prisoners Forced Offline by Arizona Law

from the cruel-and-unusual dept.

Janus pointed out this story at Death row unplugged. Can't have those condemned criminals speaking to the outside world, now can we? We might get infected, or something.

Posted by jbc at 12:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 27, 2002

Ted Rall's War Cry

from the war-on-terra dept.

Ted Rall continues to kick ass. Check out his latest piece, in which he spoofs the current round of charges and counter-charges regarding just whose weapons of mass destruction represents a danger to the world community.

Posted by jbc at 02:55 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 24, 2002

Gore's Speech

from the study-in-contrasts dept.

So, the "Gore in '04" campaign got off to a nice, if unofficial, start yesterday, with Al's speech on the dangers of dubya's newly articulated naked-aggression policy. Good stuff. Give us more, big guy.

Posted by jbc at 03:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 12, 2002

We're All Bastards, Part II

from the forbidden-thoughts dept.

From Salon, via Hiro, comes this really interesting selection of emails people sent in describing their secret heresies in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Things like shouting "North Tower" when a stack of Jenga blocks collapsed, and looking forward to all the newly available 212-area-code cell phone numbers.

Posted by jbc at 05:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 11, 2002

Mandela is Sick of the US's Crap

from the cutting-through-the-lies dept.

In words far more direct and well respected than those of most statesmen, Nelson Mandela states bluntly that the US is a continuing force against peace in the world. He cites short-sighted and contradictory foreign policy and pandering to corporate interests.

Posted by ymatt at 11:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2002

Flight 800 Coverup Persists

from the pay-no-attention-to-that-missile-behind-the-curtain dept.

In a nice example of how easy it is to convince people not to believe their own eyes, our government has managed to pretty thoroughly conceal the evidence of a missile having been involved in the explosion of Flight 800 off Long Island a few years back. This article summarizes some of the smoke and mirrors involved in that process.

Posted by jbc at 09:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 03, 2002

Baby NOT Onboard

from the warning-labels-R-us dept.

hossman writes "It's the kind of thing you would never expect, except in Santa Cruz: Trash Bins to Carry Baby-Dumping Warning"

Posted by jbc at 05:44 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2002

Padilla Dirty-Bomb Plot Charges Unravelling

from the creeping-totalitarianism dept.

So, it now seems that Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen who was arrested on U.S. soil, then held in a Navy brig for the last two months without being charged or allowed to speak with a lawyer, probably didn't have any actual connection to al Queda, or to the "dirty bomb" plot the FBI made a big show of having "thwarted" by his arrest. This is a test case, people. You want concentration camps? Families turned out of their homes at gunpoint in the middle of the night? Suspension of rights for anyone even remotely suspected of being a terrorist? A Muslim? An atheist? A civil libertarian? This is how it starts.

Posted by jbc at 02:46 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 10, 2002

Plans for Operation TIPS Updated

from the spies-like-us dept.

The very bad men who are using the terrorist attacks of September 11 to root out the last remnants of what makes this country special have revised their plans for mass amateur domestic spying. Under fire from all over, the Bush administration is now saying Operation TIPS should specifically exclude from the list of people who are encouraged to report on their neighbors those whose jobs require them to frequently visit people's homes (like mailmen and meter readers).

Posted by jbc at 02:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2002

James Traficant Is Gonna Whack All Youse

from the gastric-emissions-on-the-Richter-scale dept.

This being and all, something should probably be said about James Traficant. He's made a number of truly colorful statements before Congress recently. This almost makes me feel good that we still occasionally elect old-style corrupt organized crime type guys instead of just your average corporate lackey white dudes.

Posted by ymatt at 05:02 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2002

Relax: Swarthy Furriners Under Control

from the well,-*I*-feel-better-now dept.

Fighter jets were called out to escort an ATA flight into La Guardia Tuesday night when some passengers performed the aggressive acts of having dark skin, speaking an unrecognized language, and pointing excitedly at several tall buildings. The police questioned them for several hours before establishing that they were Hindus rather than Muslims, and could therefore be safely set loose. Said one far-too-forgiving victim: "America is good country, and I understand people are afraid of people who look different."

Posted by onan at 09:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2002

Passenger Removed for Pilot-Sobriety Joke

from the don't-mess-with-the-airlines dept.

Janus brought this one to my attention: A story about a woman passenger who was removed from an America West flight after she jokingly questioned whether the pilots had been checked for drunkenness. "We take any comment regarding safety seriously," explained America West spokesperson Patty Nowack. "Also, as I think everyone is well aware by now, our air crews, just like those of other airlines, are pretty much ready to snap at any moment. Humor has no place in that environment."

Posted by jbc at 07:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2002

Congress Up In Arms Over Pledge Ruling

from the one-nation,-led-by-idiots dept.

The House and Senate, sniffing an issue sure to be a slam-dunk with voters, and happy for anything that diverts attention from the need to deal with terrorist threats or reign in the fraudulent excesses of corporate contributors, are falling all over themselves to denounce yesterday's federal appeals court ruling declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. I guess it's indicative of how far outside the mainstream my views actually are, but this just lowers my opinion of our elected leaders, something I never think is going to be possible, but somehow always turns out to be.

Posted by jbc at 04:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2002

Sartwell: 'No Child Left Behind' an Empty Promise

from the creeping-cynicism dept.

Not having read Crispin Sartwell before, I was pleasantly surprised by his refreshingly pissed-off rant in the L.A. Times op-ed section today. The piece offers a criticism of the vacuous banality of the handy catchphrase "No child left behind," uttered by every empty-headed politician from Elizabeth Dole to dubya to Al Gore. Good stuff (and, thanks to Sartwell's personal web site, linkable without having to suffer the tortures of the L.A. Times' Web-hostile required login).

Posted by jbc at 03:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 25, 2002

Woman Sues DJ for STD Prank Call

from the crossing-the-line dept.

A woman in Florida has filed suit against Bruce Da Moose, a disk jockey at a hip-hop/R&B station, for having a faux doctor call her up and tell her, live on the air, that she had been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, in the process getting the woman to divulge details about her sex life.

Posted by jbc at 05:25 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2002

John Dean Fails To Out Deep Throat

from the I-didn't-believe-him-anyway dept.

John Dean, former Nixon lawyer turned felon turned informant, has now given us another reason to look down on him: Today's deadline for his widely pre-publicized identification of who Deep Throat really was has come and gone, and Dean still doesn't know. Supposedly, says Dean, Deep Throat is almost certainly one of the following five people: Pat Buchanan, Steve Bull, Raymond Price, Ron Ziegler, or Jerry Warren. Hey, great, whatever.

Posted by jbc at 11:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2002

Kuro5hin on the Judi Bari Verdict

from the so,-whose-bomb-WAS-it? dept.

Kuro5hin has a nice round-up of information about the recent $4.4 million jury award to Judi Bari (well, her estate) for being framed by the FBI in the wake of being blown up by a "homemade" bomb while en route to an Earth First! meeting. Too bad we can't fast-forward to 30 years from now, or so, when our descendants will finally get to see the FBI files showing who really planted that bomb.

Posted by jbc at 12:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2002

Ex-Convict Impersonates Special Forces Officer at Bridge Collapse Site

from the anything-for-attention dept.

Investigators have identified the man who showed up in fatigues and a green beret at the Tulsa bridge-collapse site hours after the disaster, claiming to be an Army Special Forces officer and seeking (with at least some success) to take over various aspects of the operation. He was Billy Clark, a 36-year-old ex-convict from Tallapoosa, Mo. Clark apparently commandeered a pickup from a car dealership in order to travel to the site, then arrived on the scene telling anyone who would listen that he was "in charge". He subsequently rented eight rooms in a nearby hotel (only one of which he used; the rest were for his "team", which never arrived), and ate lots of free food. Police have issued a warrant for his arrest.

Posted by jbc at 02:53 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecution: Moussaoui Competent To Defend Himself

from the bring-on-the-circus dept.

The trial of Moroccan-born Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker" who was in jail on a visa violation on 9/11 and so far is the only person to have been charged in the attacks, is only going to get wackier, apparently. Yesterday prosecutors argued in favor of Moussaoui's request that he be allowed to fire his court-appointed lawyers and represent himself. Seems a psychiatric evaluation showed he was competent, and prosecutors prefer the idea of facing off against a rabid, anti-American zealot to arguing their case against actual lawyers, who presumably would have a good chance of preventing Moussaoui's execution, seeing as no one has ever been executed in this country merely for planning to participate in a heinous crime, as opposed to actually doing so. Judge Leonie Brinkema is scheduled to rule on Thursday, but experts are saying she will have few options other than to grant Moussaoui's request. Fasten your seatbelts, America.

Posted by jbc at 02:39 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2002

Conservative Republicans Take the Point on FBI/CIA Criticism

from the wacky-world-of-politics dept.

Ronald Brownstein at the L.A. Times (login required; cypherpunk/cypherpunk) has an interesting story about how the political assault on the FBI and CIA over missteps leading up to 9/11 is being led by an unlikely trio of senators, all of them conservative Republicans: Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. The three have a history of annoyance with federal law enforcement that dates to the Clinton/Janet Reno era. Also, I have to wonder if they're going after FBI Director Robert S. Mueller in order to keep the blame from working its way up to Mueller's boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is both a darling of the right and a former senator himself. My favorite quote from the article is the one where an unidentified "senior Senate Democratic strategist" says "I am more than comfortable letting the Republicans stake out this turf... It is just much, much safer." Safer. Right. Don't run any political risks to protect your constituents from terrorism; it's much more important to ensure your own re-election. I know that makes me feel safer.

Posted by jbc at 02:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scheer on Racial Profiling

from the evaporating-freedoms dept.

Robert Scheer had a nice piece yesterday, which, since I held off on linking to it until now, I can point to on his own site, rather than on the (grumble) registration-required L.A. Times site. Titled We've Had Enough Witch Hunts, it questions the wisdom of letting freedom-hating folks like John Ashcroft and Dianne Feinstein push through racial profiling as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Posted by jbc at 12:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2002

Al Queda Threatens New, Improved Terror

from the where-we-least-expect-it dept.

According to an al Queda representative, the organization is planning new terror attacks against the United States. Said spokesman Abu Ghaith, "Let America be prepared to fasten its seat belt because, thanks to God, we are going to surprise it in a place where it is not expecting." Hm. I'm not expecting a global outbreak of peace, love, and understanding; do you guys think you could manage something in that area? No, I guess not.

Posted by jbc at 02:26 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 31, 2002

Kansas Prosecutors Told To Play Nice

from the no-using-the-'L'-word dept.

I missed this story when it first came out, but figured it's still timely enough for posting: Appeals courts in Kansas are increasingly overturning convictions on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct when prosecutors go too far in their closing arguments. Repeatedly calling the defendant a "liar", for example, is apparently a no-no, even in cases where the defendant admitted lying to police during his own testimony.

Posted by jbc at 02:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2002

Goshute Tribe Seeks To Open Utah Nuke Waste Dump

from the sovereign-means-sovereign dept.

Some of the Goshute Indians, a smallish tribe in Utah, are apparently seeking to open a nuclear waste dump on the tribe's land, which would both provide an interim storage location while Nevada's Yucca Mountain facility is being prepared, and would make many of the impoverished Goshute fabulously wealthy. All kinds of stereotypes being stood on their heads here; as usual, reality turns out to be messier than the "all Indians are Iron Eyes Cody, solemnly crying over highway litter" circuitry some of us have hardwired into our brains. Anyway, links: the goddamn-registration-required (cypherpunk/cypherpunk) L.A. Times story, and a shorter, but in some ways more informative, piece from Alternet.

Posted by jbc at 02:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2002

Scheer: Time For Ashcroft To Go

from the religoius-fanaticism dept.

Arguing that the Attorney General is a dim bulb fanatic who was only appointed as a sop to the religious right, Robert Scheer says it's time for John Ashcroft to be replaced. (Stupid registration required at the L.A. Times site, dammit. 'cypherpunks/cypherpunks' works for now, at least.)

Posted by jbc at 02:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2002

Ashcroft's Pre-9/11 Terror Stance Questioned

from the 20/20-hindsight dept.

The Guardian Unlimited has an interesting piece on Attorney General John Ashcroft's resistance to putting resources into anti-terrorist efforts in the months leading up to the September attacks. Oops.

Posted by jbc at 03:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2002

Army To Use Video Games As Recruiting Tool

from the bang!-you're-dead! dept.

Struggling to compete for the attention of the crucial late-adolescent-male demographic, the U.S. Army has announced a new tool in its recruiting efforts: a "sanitized" version of Unreal Tournament that puts players in the role of an army soldier getting headshots on terrorists and so on and so forth. Sign me up!

Posted by jbc at 03:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Justice Dept. To Investigate Florida Vote

from the delayed-reaction dept.

Justice Department officials told a Senate committee yesterday that they intend to file lawsuits in three Florida counties. The suits charge the counties with voting rights violations in the 2000 presidential election, and are intended to correct the irregularities in time for the 2002 midterm elections. Nice response time, eh?

Posted by jbc at 02:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2002

Abraham: Yucca Mountain Inadequate

from the glow-in-the-dark-desert dept.

In addition to offering no practical solution for the long-term storage problem represented by our radioactive garbage, the Administration-backed Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste storage facility will be too small to hold more than a fraction of our projected nuke waste, according to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Abraham was being grilled by pissed-off Nevada Senators at a hearing yesterday. In more upbeat news, ymatt pointed me to this cool photo of Yucca Mountain: The Ride, a theme-park-style attraction designed to offset operating costs at the facility by taking visitors on guided tours, complete with animatronic tourguides and faux "accidents," with flashing lights and alarms. Take the whole family!

Posted by jbc at 03:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2002

Juked: Life In The Navy

from the anchors-away dept.

From Juked, courtesy of Janus, comes a sordid-enough-to-be-true account of life aboard a fighting ship in the U.S. Navy. Yo ho, yo ho, and all that.

Posted by jbc at 09:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2002

ABC Gives 'Millionaire' the Old Heave-Ho

from the thank-God dept.

ABC, reeling from a 23% drop in its ratings over the past year, has instituted a major shakeup in its just-announced fall schedule, including cancelling "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," the Regis Philbin-hosted primetime game show whose precipitous ratings plunge was a big part of the network's overall drop.

Posted by jbc at 02:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2002

Ambrose's Love Song to America

from the one-last-book dept.

Historian Stephen Ambrose, a celebrity both for his popular accounts of such subjects as World War II and the Lewis and Clark expedition and for the plagiarism charges that surfaced in recent years, is dying of lung cancer. Now he is racing against time to complete his most personal book yet, A Love Song to America. The L.A. Times has the story.

Posted by jbc at 01:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 10, 2002

Dan Quayle Praises Osbourne Family Values

from the okay;-maybe-NOW-I'll-watch-it dept.

Dan Quayle has apparently joined the ranks of those who love The Osbournes, the MTV reality show that focuses on the wacky home life of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne. The poor-spelling veep from the elder Bush's presidency praised the show during remarks to the National Press Club yesterday, then explained afterwards, "In a weird way, Ozzy is a great anti-drug promotion. Look at him and how fried his brains are from taking drugs all those years and everyone will say, 'I don't want to be like that.' Which I can totally relate to; I can't tell you how many wealthy, academically indifferent white kids have contacted me over the years to thank me for saving them from pursuing a career in politics."

Posted by jbc at 07:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Washington Post on Maryland's Death Penalty Moratorium

from the disproportionate-application dept.

There's an editorial in today's Washington Post that makes some good points in favor of going beyond Maryland's newly announced temporary moratorium on executions, and just going right to abolishing the death penalty altogether. An interesting statistic it mentions is that although 80% of murder victims in Maryland are non-white, 9 of the 13 people currently on death row in the state are black, and all but one of them was convicted of killing a white person. Advocates of state-sponsored killing are encouraged to offer their defense of such practices via the site's comment system.

Posted by jbc at 07:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2002

Republican Party Sues Over Campaign-Finance Reform

from the money-equals-speech dept.

Now that a suitable interval has passed during which politicians were able to bask in the glory of their righteous vote to limit soft-money contributions, the political machine has shifted into gear to dismantle campaign-finance reform. Arguing that they have a constitutional right to buy politicians, the Republican National Committee filed a federal suit yesterday seeking to overturn key provisions of the recently enacted measure. Not to be outdone, Democrats crossed the aisle to join a state-court lawsuit in California that is aimed at overturning state- and local-campaign fundraising limits in the same law.

Posted by jbc at 02:06 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2002

Convicted Murderer Acquitted at Retrial

from the another-narrow-squeak dept.

Thomas H. Kimbell Jr. is a free man today, four years after he was convicted of the brutal murder of a woman and her three children. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had previously ruled that his original trial judge erred in not allowing the defense to present testimony raising doubts about his guilt. As a result, Kimbell had been convicted despite the fact that there were no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence linking him to the crime. After a two week retrial, Kimbell was found not guilty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, this represents the 101st time that a person has been exonerated and released from death row since the death penalty was re-instituted in this country in 1973.

Posted by jbc at 01:59 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2002

Clinton Pursues Talk-Show Gig

from the help!-he's-feeling-our-pain-again! dept.

Ex-Commander-in-Chief Bubba is apparently getting tired of the $250,000-a-pop public speaking grind, and is exploring the possibility of hosting a daytime talk show. Word is he has being doing meetings with NBC, and is asking for $50 million a year. Note the leading choice in the poll at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site linked above for the person we'd most like to see as his guest: a certain big-haired former intern.

Posted by jbc at 05:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mandatory Life Sentence Overturned

from the second-chance dept.

Here's a scary one: Theresa Wilson was a first-time, nonviolent drug offender. Basically, the 34-year-old mother of two tried to sell some prescription medication to an undercover police officer for $150 to pay an overdue electric bill. Her mandatory minimum sentence, under Alabama's strict narcotics laws: life in prison. On Wednesday the state Supreme Court upheld an appeals court's reversal of the original sentence as "grossly disproportionate." She's now a free woman. Um, could our friends in the legislative branch please stop playing "dicklier than thou"? These are people's lives we're talking about.

Posted by jbc at 04:39 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2002

Ashcroft Slapped for Rights Violation

from the pesky-Bill-of-Rights dept.

The L.A. Times has the story of a federal judge's dismissal of perjury charges against Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian college student, and the judge's ruling that the FBI erred in holding numerous innocent people in jail (in Awadallah's case, for nearly three months) as "material witnesses" in its 9/11 investigation. John Ashcroft, speaking at a press conference in Washington, criticized the ruling, saying, "I'm the Attorney General of the United States, for Christ's sake. I'll jail whomever I damn well want to. If Judge Scheindlin doesn't watch herself, next time there's a terrorist attack I'll throw her ass in jail."

Posted by jbc at 01:47 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2002

Majority Believes in ESP

from the watch-me-bend-this-spoon dept.

A new survey conducted by the National Science Foundation finds that belief in "pseudoscience" is relatively widespread and growing among Americans. Among the other goodies contained in the results is the interesting factoid that only 45% of those surveyed knew that the statement "Lasers work by focusing sound waves" is false. (Hint: Think light, people.)

Posted by jbc at 11:55 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

'Bondwoman's Narrative' Authorship Researched

from the slavery-from-the-inside dept.

An interesting (to me, at least) story is the effort to identify the author of The Bondwoman's Narrative, a novel written in the 1850s that describes the life of a fugitive slave. Although accounts of slave life have a long history in this country, with early works like Uncle Tom's Cabin having been among the bestsellers of their day, nearly all of those books, even those purportedly written by blacks, were actually written by whites. The Bondwoman's Narrative is different, though; experts believe the novel may actually have been written by an escaped slave. One of the most interesting pieces of evidence: the way the author introduces black characters simply as people, not bothering to mention their blackness until subsequent events in the story make it clear.

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

Jesse Ventura On the Ropes

from the schadenfreude dept.

Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler and political independent who won the Minnesota governor's race a few years back, has been facing some political setbacks lately (budget problems, a disdainful legislature, and low poll numbers), and his opponents in the mainstream political parties are piling on.

Posted by jbc at 01:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2002

Dean To Out Deep Throat

from the silly.-everyone-knows-it-was-Hal-Holbrook. dept.

John Dean, the Nixon lawyer who served four months in prison for his role in the Watergate cover-up, has announced that on June 17, the 30th anniversary of the break-in, he will spill the beans on who "Deep Throat" really was. (For those of tender years who don't remember Watergate, Deep Throat was the shadowy guy in the parking structure who gave sinister dramatic hints to Redford - er, Woodward - on where the bodies were buried in the White House, allowing the Washington Post to keep the story in the headlines until Nixon went batshit and resigned.)

Posted by jbc at 08:48 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2002

NRA Claims Responsibility for Dubya Election

from the bragging-or-complaining? dept.

The National Rifle Association claimed responsibility for the latest Bush presidency at the organization's annual convention yesterday. By denying Gore votes in gun-happy states like Arkansas, West Virginia, and Tennessee, the theory goes, the NRA played a critical role in conveying the election to Bush. True enough, I suppose, but no greater a role than was played by Ralph Nader, Jeb Bush, Kathleen Harris, and the U.S. Supreme Court in giving dubya that little Florida "victory." Anyway, the story reminds me of the child-gun safety lecture I attended the other day, and the funny/scary bumper sticker my friend Conner told me about: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my curious 8-year-old's cold, lifeless fingers."

Posted by jbc at 02:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2002

International Spy Museum to Open

from the spy-vs.-spy dept.

Coming soon to the nation's capital: the International Spy Museum, where visitors will reportedly be assigned new identities upon arrival, then will be quizzed during their visit to see how well they remember their cover stories. Mm, okay.

Posted by jbc at 03:02 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 24, 2002

Atlanta Police Consider Buying Segways

from the stop-or-I'll-scoot! dept.

From CNN comes this story about various groups in Atlanta that are considering buying Segways, the pricey scooters that fueled widespread speculation as to their nature (when they were just a rumored society-changing invention) and then a collective head-scratch (when they were actually unveiled). The Atlanta PD actually isn't one of the groups listed in the article, but the accompanying photo shows two police officers testing Segways, and I'd already written my headline, so I just said fuck it, and left the headline unchanged. Don't you hate me sometimes? Oh, and I also like the comment late in the article about how the Georgia state legislature has passed a law limiting Segways, which have a nominal top speed of 15 mph, to no more than 7 mph when traveling on sidewalks. The new law joins earlier laws, still on the books in Georgia, limiting horseless carriages to the average speed of a horse-drawn cart, and limiting flying machines to flying no higher than an adult man can jump from a standing start.

Posted by jbc at 04:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Elmo Testifies Before Congress

from the symbolic-on-more-levels-than-one dept.

Sesame Street's Elmo, the perpetually three-year-old Muppet with no impulse control, testified before Congress yesterday, telling the House's Education Appropriations Subcommittee that funding for children's music education was an important issue. As ymatt, who brought the story to my attention, observed, "I guess Congress is used to having puppets give testimony." I also like the nice angle the photographers got as Elmo tried to eat his microphone; makes a nice followup to yesterday's photo of Christie Kerr kissing her golf trophy, don't you think?

Posted by jbc at 04:12 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 23, 2002

Moussaoui Trial Opens with a Bang

from the one-out-of-two-ain't-bad dept.

The trial of suspected 9/11 collaborator Zacarias Moussaoui opened in Alexandria, VA, yesterday, and things immediately became interesting as the Moroccan-derived Frenchman asked to be heard, then launched into an hour-long diatribe against his jailers, the prosecution, his defense lawyers, the judge, prospective jurors, the U.S., Israel, and Russia. Claiming he could not be represented properly by his non-Muslim court-appointed defenders, he asked to be allowed to use the $30,000 he has in the bank (currently frozen as suspected al Queda assets) to hire a Muslim lawyer, or, barring that, to be allowed to represent himself. He also asked for a computer and better lighting in his jail cell. Finally, he asked that he be allowed to waive trial by jury, instead having his case (and potential death sentence) decided solely by Judge Leonie Brinkema. Brinkema said okay on the computer and better-lighting requests, ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Moussaoui was fit to represent himself, and said she'd get back to him on the waived jury thing.

Posted by jbc at 01:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2002

Dubya, Gore to Deliver Dueling Earth Day Speeches

from the round-one-of-the-rematch? dept.

As described by this story from SF Gate, dubya and Al Gore will both be delivering Earth Day speeches today, providing a cool opportunity to compare the presidential candidate who won the popular vote with the one who won the vote in the Supreme Court. Speaking of the upcoming verbal duel, dubya spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "The president has a strong record on the environment, and the environment is one of the reasons he defeated Al Gore in the election of 2000." Really.

Posted by jbc at 01:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 20, 2002

Kissinger's Lies on Angola

from the falsehood-is-the-ultimate-aphrodesiac dept.

An historian from Johns Hopkins named Piero Gleijeses, working with newly obtained documents, has exposed an official U.S. lie from the 1970s: that South African troops invaded Angola on their own, without our help, and only in response to a prior, Soviet-backed invasion by Cuba. Actually, according to the evidence turned up by Gleijeses, and published in his new book Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, the truth was exactly the opposite: the U.S. helped plan and carry out the South African incursion, and the Cuban troops arrived only afterward, and without prior Soviet knowledge or assistance (though the Soviets did help later on). Kissinger, as Gerald Ford's Secretary of State at the time, was the Administration's point man on spreading the official version of reality, a lie to which he has never admitted, and probably won't have to now. Which is pretty much the way these big lies work: you don't have to keep the truth secret forever, just long enough (25 years, in this case) so that the only people who still care about it are stuffy academics and conspiracy junkies.

Posted by jbc at 02:15 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2002

Panel Calls for Illinois Death Penalty Reforms

from the oops,-goofed-again.-sorry dept.

From Reuters comes the story of a report to be issued soon by the Illinois commission charged with coming up with reforms to reduce the number of innocent people executed in the state. Among the suggestions are the outlawing of convictions based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of accomplices and jailhouse informants, and the videotaping of the entire police interrogation process, rather than just the confession obtained at the end. The commission unanimously concluded that no reforms would eliminate the possibility of innocent people being executed (no reforms short of doing away with the death penalty altogether, that is, a step that a majority of panelists reportedly supported). The commission, which spent two years preparing its report, was impaneled by Illinois Governor George Ryan after DNA testing led to a wave of overturned death-penalty convictions in the state.

Posted by jbc at 02:30 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2002

Balzar to Suckers: Tax Code Is Broken - Badly

from the gubment-do-take-a-bite,-don't-she? dept.

Again from the L.A. Times Opinion section comes this story by John Balzar, titled Only Suckers Pay Taxes. Balzar lays out in painful detail just how badly the tax code in this country is broken, and who's paying the price. Hint: It's not the fat cats. So, anyone remember Jerry Brown's flat-tax proposal? Filling out the back of a postcard looks pretty good right now.

Posted by jbc at 02:58 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Al Gore Re-enters Political Arena

from the new,-IMPROVED-Gore dept.

As reported in the Nando Times, Democratic hearts (well, some of them) are a-flutter in the wake of Al Gore's speech yesterday to the Florida Democratic Convention. Gore was clean-shaven and feisty as he offered his support for Bush's ongoing War on Terra, while criticizing the administration on issues like the environment and the squandering of the Social Security surplus.

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

April 13, 2002

Pentagon Confirms Souvenir Photos of Lindh

from the life-during-wartime dept.

As legal maneuvering continues in the upcoming trial of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, Pentagon sources have acknowledged that they possess souvenir photographs showing a shackled and blindfolded Lindh being "posed" alongside his Special Forces jailers. Lindh's lawyers say the photographs, which have not yet been provided to them, demonstrate that Lindh was not treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and that statements obtained from him therefore should not be admissable in court. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, bristled at the suggestion that Lindh was mistreated. "Hey, give me a break. We're trying to fight a war here. Sure; we put his nuts in a vise until he talked. You happy now?"

Posted by jbc at 02:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 12, 2002

Traficant Convicted

from the bribery,-extortion,-racketeering,-tax-fraud... dept.

A jury in Cleveland has found U.S. Representative James Traficant (D-OH) guilty of a host of corruption charges, according to this CNN report. Traficant added to the news value of his conviction by his characteristically "flamboyant" behavior during the trial; representing himself (though not a lawyer), yelling at the judge, questioning a prosecutor's manhood, vowing to "kick their [the prosecution's] ass", etc. Traficant, who faces up to 63 years in prison, has vowed (profanely) not to give up his House seat, despite House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's (D-MO) call for him to step down in the wake of his conviction.

Posted by jbc at 02:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2002

Military Breakthrough: The Indestructible Sandwich

from the meals-ready-to-mutate dept.

From ABC News comes the story of a breakthrough at the Army Soldier Systems Center: a sandwich that remains edible (for certain values of the term) for up to three years. The secret? Control of the "water activity" of the included meat, achieved via an "array of chemicals". Yum.

Posted by jbc at 03:36 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2002

Overturned Conviction Marks 100th Death Penalty Exoneration

from the oh,-gee,-sorry-about-that dept.

The LA Times has the story of an Arizona man who has been freed from prison after DNA evidence showed he could not have committed the murder for which he had been convicted and sentenced to death. Death penalty foes say this marks the 100th time since the death penalty was revived in the mid 1970s that a person sentenced to death has subsequently been found to have been wrongly convicted. Ouch. So, anyway, sorry about the 10 years you spent in prison and the messed up life and all that, but hey, it could have been worse, right?

Posted by jbc at 06:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2002

US Losing Spy Satellite Edge

from the backyard-sunbathers-take-note dept.

The Guardian is one of several outlets carrying an AP story documenting the end of the U.S. government's traditional dominance in spy satellite imagery. Between the national programs of countries like China and India, and commercial entities like Ikonos, satellite surveillance is increasingly available to anyone who wants it. Speaking in a recent Senate hearing, CIA Director George J. Tenet gave a glum assessment of the situation: "The bottom line is, this is going to make it much more difficult for us to lie to other nations - and even to our own people. Frankly, it sucks."

Posted by jbc at 02:05 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 03, 2002

Rudeness on the Rise

from the screw-you dept.

A majority of Americans believes society is getting ruder, a new survey finds. Citing things like reckless driving, cell-phone use in theaters, and poor customer service in retail stores, 61% of those surveyed said they'd noticed a definite trend toward ruder behavior in recent years. "Americans have always had a reputation for being self-centered and ignorant, which foreigners sometimes interpret as rudeness," observes Mark Ornosky of the National Rudeness Council. "But as a nation, the knock on us has always been that once you get to know us, we're actually fairly nice folks. What this survey shows is that we're making real progress in erasing that stigma, at least among ourselves." The challenge now, according to Ornosky, will be to turn that rude behavior outward, displaying it consistently in our interactions with others around the world. "Like the French," he says. "Those guys are assholes to everyone."

Posted by jbc at 03:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Get Hillary" Campaign Continues

from the bring-it-on,-Mr.-Nutty dept.

Anonymous nonbelieverineveryemailtrashtalkingidiot writes Subject: By Paul Harvey - Conveniently Forgotten Facts, and goes on to submit the entire Paul Harvey/Black Panther/Hillary Clinton hoax. Which is cool with me; anti-Hillary rants have a long and entertaining history at, dating back to the Web Walker's postings on the way old version of the site. But before anyone's blood pressure gets too high, I feel compelled to point to this more or less thorough debunking of the story.

Posted by jbc at 02:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 02, 2002

Programmer Wins Right to Use F-word

from the Thomas-Jefferson-would-be-so-proud dept.

Striking a blow for coders everywhere, Timothy Boomer has won on appeal a case defending his right to curse like a sailor, in the process overturning a 105-year-old state law under which he had been ticketed in 1998.

Posted by jbc at 02:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 29, 2002

US Seeks Death Penalty for Thoughtcrime

from the desperate-times-call-for,-uh,-something dept.

The U.S. Justice Dept. has announced it will seek the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, an alleged accomplice of the 9/11 hijackers and the only person so far to be charged in the attacks. Moussaoui's defense immediately cried foul, pointing out that the French citizen was in jail on a visa violation on 9/11, and that there is no legal precedent for executing someone merely for preparing for a crime, rather than actually committing it. At a press conference, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft justified the government's position, saying, "Hey, cut us some slack. We just really, really, really need to kill someone here, and unfortunately, all the actual perpetrators are already dead."

Posted by jbc at 02:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2002

Johnny Rico Does Homeland Security

from the the-future-as-directed-by-Paul-Verhoeven dept.

ymatt introduced this Salon photo of Tom Ridge to me the other day with the comment, "the world continues to look more like Starship Troopers." Eerily true.

Posted by jbc at 06:34 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2002

Hoagland on Government Lies

from the pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain,-part-II dept.

Columnist Jim Hoagland wrote a piece called The Limits of Lying that appeared in the Washington Post last week. In it he mentions Solicitor General Ted Olson's recent argument before the Supreme Court that there are any number of situations "where government officials might quite legitimately have reasons to give false information out." That Supreme Court case concerns Jennifer Harbury, who is seeking the right to sue the government for lying to her about the status of her husband, who apparently was tortured and killed by our good friends in the Guatemalan army. An earlier story from the Post has more detail about the case.

Posted by jbc at 03:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2002

Ken Starr to Lead Attack on Campaign Finance Reform

from the best-government-money-can-buy dept.

So, I'm sure I'm not the only cynic who views the recent passage of campaign finance reform by the U.S. Congress as an event destined to be less than earthshaking in its longterm effects. Like state legislatures passing laws setting pi equal to 3, it just ain't gonna happen. Ken Starr will lead the counterattack, apparently, serving as the legal equivalent of a Presa Canario for Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). "This is a mission to preserve the fundamental constitutional freedom of all Americans to fully participate in our democracy," said the Senator yesterday, of his planned legal challenge to the reforms. Right.

Posted by jbc at 03:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 21, 2002

The Hall of Marion Barry Quotations

from the open-mouth,-insert-foot dept.

According to someone who goes by the name ironburl, former DC mayor Marion Barry has delivered some really choice sound bites over the years. Check them out at the Hall of Marion Barry Quotes. Personal fave: "I am clearly more popular than Reagan. I am in my third term. Where's Reagan? Gone after two! Defeated by George Bush and Michael Dukakis no less." We need more politicians like that.

Posted by jbc at 07:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2002

Things Not To Do in the U.S. Army

from the yes-sir,-sir dept.

He doesn't mention it until the bottom of the page, but supposedly nearly all of the 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do in the U.S. Army are things he was actually commanded by higher-ups not to do. Which makes it fairly, you know, funny. At least to me.

(Update: URL pointed to new home for Skippy's List, thanks to Hiro.)

Posted by jbc at 12:47 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)