Archive for June, 2003

Krugman Follows the Money

Friday, June 27th, 2003

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.

Napolitano on Bush’s ‘Enemy Combatant’ Declaration

Friday, June 27th, 2003

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.

Time Gets Antsy About War’s Duration

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Continuing my wacky linking behavior today, I’m going to link to that ultimate in mainstream media: Time Magazine. Specifically, to their current lead story, which asks what I think is actually a really good question: Iraq: When can we go home?

Hello? Mr. President? Middle America is on the line. They’d like to know when their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers are coming back. They’re asking politely, for now, but I think they really want an answer, preferably something more specific than “as long as it takes.”

Stories I Am Not Posting About

Friday, June 27th, 2003

I’ve got a big raft of Actual Work to do in my Actual Life right now, so I’m not really able to obsess as much as I’d like to about a bunch of stories getting lots of coverage. And somehow, given said high levels of coverage in everything from mainstream news outlets to leetle teency blogs, I suspect you, the loyal reader, won’t suffer too much if I fail to link to any of these stories.

I realize this lays me open to bitching about fairness. I mean, how could I make such an insanely big deal about every single lefty rant on the non-discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for months, and then suddenly claim boredom when righties are making a ruckus about some Iraqi nuke scientist who buried some centrifuge parts under his rose bushes 12 years ago? Don’t I know that this is The Smoking Gun That Proves Bush Was Telling The Truth All Along?

Well, no, I don’t know that. In fact, I think that’s a fairly ridiculous assertion. But having gone through all the lies in so much detail for so long, I find myself unable to summon the energy required to go through them all over again, just to refute someone who wasn’t paying attention the first time, and who, honestly, isn’t going to pay attention this time, either. So whatever, yeah, knock yourself out. My tiny little attention span has moved on.

Let’s see; what else? Oh yes. The Supreme Court overturns Texas law banning same-sex sodomy. Woo! Go Supreme Court. You rock. (Except for dissenters Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. You guys suck! Heh.)

Um, Nike got rejected in their appeal claiming they had a First Amendment right to lie about conditions in their Asian sweatshops. Sorry, no.

Am I missing anything? No, I think that’s it. Those are all the stories I was feeling guilty about not linking to. Oh, wait: That Memory Hole thing Tom Tomorrow is up in arms about: the video showing Bush’s five-minute deer-in-the-headlights performance just after he was told about the second plane crashing into the WTC on 9/11. Yes, I watched it, and yeah, it’s kinda shocking, or would be if I gave any weight at all to his media team’s ongoing efforts to protray him as a purposeful Man of Action. But the main thing I felt in watching that was to cringe at the ruler-slapping teacher leading the kids in reading aloud. Jeez; what kind of HitlerYouth program are they running down there? You will read now! You will pause for the comma! Louder!

So. Anyway. I am not linking to any of those stories. If you’ve somehow missed them, and you’re feeling deprived by my failure to link, talk to the hand. Or just go find them yourself; it’s not hard. Thanks.

National Do-Not-Call Registry

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Lots of people are linking to the National Do-Not-Call Registry at Now I am, too. Yay for me!

Cool Tee for Americans Abroad

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Item #27 in a list of Things to Do When You’re Bored: Buy an American Apology Shirt and wear it to a Toby Keith concert. Guaranteed fun.

Collection of Derivative Cover Art

Friday, June 27th, 2003

From the subversives at BlueDisguise Records comes The Knockoff Project, which offers side-by-side comparisons of “album cover spoofs, goofs, tributes, send ups, near misses and coincedences.” Interesting, though maybe it helps to be old enough that you remember when an “album cover” was larger, and carried more of a visual impact, than is possible to achieve in something the size of a CD case.

Link courtesy those hunter/gatherers at Yahoo! Pick of the Day.

Kynn on the Iraq/Palestine Parallel

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

Kynn of Shock & Awe points to a Yahoo! News image of the US Army destroying Iraqi homes, and constructs a thought-provoking comparison between the US and Israel as occupying powers: Home demolitions.

I think he’s got a good point. Pay attention to what life is like in and around Israel these days. Because George Bush is absolutely following in Ariel Sharon’s footsteps. That’s our future as a nation we’re looking at, the logical end of countering force with more force, random violence against innocents with still more random violence against innocents, death with more death.

We need another way. We need to find a path to a world where differences with our neighbors don’t have to be capital offenses. I know that the right-wing types, especially those who have had their values systematically dismantled and re-assembled as part of their service in the military, will dismiss such talk as hopelessly naive. I understand where they’re coming from. They’re absolutely right — from a certain point of view.

But so am I, from a different point of view. We need a new, larger frame of reference that encompasses both truths. Resolving this ambiguity, the ambiguity between short-term realism and long-term idealism, is our main challenge as a species right now. It will absolutely determine the kind of world our descendants live in.

We need to move beyond our current system. We need another way, a different future. We need leaders wise enough to see that future, brave enough to commit to it, and skilled enough to actually take us there.

George Bush is not that leader. I’m still not sure, in all honesty, that any of the current Democratic challengers is, either, but I know for a fact that George Bush isn’t. He’s at the opposite pole. In his lack of insight, his blunt willingness to reduce complex issues to the simplest formulations, and, especially, in the darker undercurrents of his personality that lead him to set his jaw and dish out righteous vengeance to those he too-quickly identifies as the source of his troubles, he is absolutely taking us in the wrong direction. It’s the same direction Ariel Sharon has been taking Israel for the last few years, and it’s not hard to see where it leads. It’s a downward spiral of ever-increasing violence. It’s a tunnel with no light at the end, a hole, a pit, a collective mass grave.

It’s a good place for us not to be going.

Byrd: Better than Ever

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

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.

Fritz: WMD Debaters Talking Past Each Other

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

Ben Fritz at Spinsanity has the following cool analysis: What’s at stake in the WMD debate. His basic assertion is that both sides are making statements that are literally true, while neither is really engaging the other. On the one hand are people arguing that Bush & Co. lied about what secret intelligence showed in order to sell the war. On the other side are those arguing that Saddam had a long history of WMD production and use, and of non-cooperation with those trying to disarm his regime, as acknowledged by everyone from UN inspectors to Bill Clinton.

Really, says Fritz, it boils down to two separate, but related questions: Did Bush lie to build support for the war? And given the failure to find predicted WMDs, was the war in fact justified? By focusing on those parts of the debate where their own arguments are strongest, while ignoring the parts where they are weakest, each side does a disservice to the actual determination of truth.


Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

At the Pentagon news briefing today Donald Rumsfeld was in fine form, spinning the WMD issue for all it’s worth. As Janus/onan so-aptly paraphrased the Secretary of Everything: “WE WILL FIND WEAPONS (orevidenceofweaponsprograms).” Anyway, see Yahoo! News for the Reuters report: Rumsfeld says US will find Iraqi WMD evidence. Or go to the State Department for the full transcript, which, for a WMD-controversy fanboy like me, makes for fascinating reading: Defense Department briefing transcript.

The best part is this:

Q: And, Secretary Rumsfeld, can I just ask you — follow-up on your statement about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You said that — in your opening statement, that there was no doubt before the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction “programs,” was the word you used.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: I’m just wondering, when I hear you say “programs,” are you signaling at all that Iraq may not have had actual weapons or weaponized forms of this, but simply the programs to produce them? Or am I reading too much into what you said?

Rumsfeld: You may be reading too much. I don’t know anybody that I can think of who has contended that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons.

Q: I didn’t say nuclear —

Rumsfeld: I’m saying that. I’m trying to respond to your question.

I don’t know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons. That’s fact number one.

If you go back to my statement, we also know that the Iraqis did have chemical weapons. They confessed to having had all of these weapons over a sustained period of time. I brought something along. In the ’90s, Iraq admitted having 8,500 liters of anthrax and several tons of VX. Iraq admitted producing 6,500 chemical bombs containing an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical agents, none of which have ever been accounted for. In 1998, President Clinton said Saddam Hussein possessed 5,000 gallons of botulin, 2,000 gallons of anthrax, and 177 Scud warheads, and bombs filled with biological agents.

We know he used chemical weapons against the Kurds and against the Iranians in the war. So you had a country that had these weapons and programs, a country that used those weapons, a country that by everyone who had reason to be knowledgeable believed filed a fraudulent declaration to the United Nations. And it seems to me that that speaks for itself, that they —

Q: But isn’t it possible, now in retrospect, that Saddam Hussein could have destroyed the weapons — that is, destroyed the evidence — while maintaining the programs to produce them in the future, in an effort to ride out the sanctions, and that as a result, you may never find any actual weapons in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I’m not going to get into the various possibilities. They’re fairly self-evident as to what the possibilities might be. I have reason, every reason, to believe that the intelligence that we were operating off was correct and that we will, in fact, find weapons or evidence of weapons programs that are conclusive. But that’s just a matter of time.

It’s just a matter of time, all right.

Anyway, it’s all revisionist history from here on out. Thanks to Daily Kos for being on top of the story (Rumsfeld: ‘really, we will find something!’), including the item from the comments pointing out the Meet the Press statement by Cheney on March 16: “And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Voting at

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

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.

Spinning Bush’s Lies

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

Interesting crop of stories this morning, most of them pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, about Bush’s lies on Iraqi weapons. They cover an interesting spectrum.

On the one hand is Geov Parrish’s column at Working for Change: Eying lies. Parrish cuts Bush and his supporters no slack, which won’t surprise anyone who’s read his columns in the past. The lies themselves aren’t at issue for Parrish; the more interesting question is the possible motivations of those driven to actually believe them.

On the other hand is David E. Rosenbaum, writing in the New York Times Week in Review: Bush may have exaggerated, but did he lie? I doubt that Rosenbaum is one of those who actually believes Bush; unlike those Parrish writes about who take the president’s statements at face value, Rosenbaum obviously has a more discerning judgement. It’s an interesting irony: in order for Rosenbaum to be someone who can present the best possible case for Bush’s truthfulness, he pretty much has to be informed and clever enough to recognize those statements’ essential falsity.

Which may be unfair, but that’s the nature of such Catch-22s. Anyway, in his audacity, his willingness to employ every trick in the book to obscure the underlying reality, Rosenbaum reminds me of Bill Clinton in some of his post-blue-dress statements on Monica Lewinsky, when he could both acknowledge his previous lies and at the same time minimize their significance, building clouds of confusion in the minds of uncritical listeners before slipping artfully away.

Timothy Noah in Slate is one who isn’t confused by Rosenbaum, ripping the piece in his Chatterbox column: Can Bush be both ignorant and a liar? Noah answers that question with an emphatic yes, observing that it really doesn’t matter if Bush is ignorant enough to actually believe some of the false statements he’s made on Iraqi WMDs; if those statements were the result of ignorance, then it’s a willful ignorance that offers no excuse from the charge of lying, unless one is willing to descend to the sort of sophistry exemplified by Clinton’s own “it depends on what the definitiion of ‘is’ is” arguments.

On the most fundamental level, all the above pieces are partisan arguments directed at the opposing side. Paul Krugman’s latest New York Times opinion piece, though, rises to a higher level, talking in a more general sense about the significance of Bush’s lies, and peoples’ willingness to make excuses about them: Denial and deception. Krugman’s conclusion:

But even people who aren’t partisan Republicans shy away from confronting the administration’s dishonest case for war, because they don’t want to face the implications.

After all, suppose that a politician — or a journalist — admits to himself that Mr. Bush bamboozled the nation into war. Well, launching a war on false pretenses is, to say the least, a breach of trust. So if you admit to yourself that such a thing happened, you have a moral obligation to demand accountability — and to do so in the face not only of a powerful, ruthless political machine but in the face of a country not yet ready to believe that its leaders have exploited 9/11 for political gain. It’s a scary prospect.

Yet if we can’t find people willing to take the risk — to face the truth and act on it — what will happen to our democracy?

Balkwill on Bush’s Cowardice

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

Jack Balkwill went to Vietnam — in his view, in place of George W. Bush — and he’s got his own take on what it is that disqualifies Bush as president: Bush is a coward.

Gilliard, Pitt on Quagmire

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

Here’s a piece by Daily Kos’ Steve Gilliard that surveys the weekend news stories about how crappily things are going in Iraq: War by other means. He doesn’t mention whether he still thinks Iraq will be in a state of “civil war” by the fourth of July, but he doesn’t mince words about who he thinks is responsible for the mess.

In a similar vein, William Rivers Pitt at truthout takes a blunt approach to laying out the costs of the ongoing occupation: Slaughtergate.

Saddam May Be Paying For These Sins As We Speak!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

This isn’t a particularly new story on the darkness that Saddam cast upon his people during his reign, but it certainly casts a damming light on the western media that chose to take the moral and ethical low road in not only failing to report the truth about the cause of hundreds of children’s deaths in Traq, but also were participants in validating the lie.

I didn’t want to link to this latest rumor of Saddam’s “untimely” death, since it was only being reported in the Guardian. But now the international version of the NYT has added their two-cents worth, so I’ll allow myself to start to hope its true.

Sartwell Reviews ‘Shattering Illusions’

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Art-school philosophy prof and generally fun smart-ass Crispin Sartwell has a review of Jamy Ian Swiss’ Shattering Illusions: Essays on the Ethics, History, and Presentation of Magic in today’s LA Times book reviews: Entertaining deception. It actually sounds like a pretty cool book; maybe I’ll pick it up when I finish The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which just arrived today.

LAT on Jessica

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Today’s Los Angeles Times has a decent summing up of the current state of the Jessica-Lynch-and-the-media story: Lynch now networks’ objective (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login works). The article points out how interpreters of the story have tended to fill in the fuzzy parts based on their own ideology, and also touches on the Jessica/Shoshana thing. I especially like this part about NBC, which is scurrying to get an unauthorized made-for-TV movie about Jessica out this fall:

At NBC, executives are aware of the turmoil over the truth in the Lynch story and are philosophical. Much of the BBC report has been discredited, said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment. “All made-for-TV movies based on fact have some fiction in them.” In any case, the lure is unchanged. “She is a heroic figure,” he said.

Yeah, that’s what I’d call that: philosophical.

Hadden Sentenced in California

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Tanya Hadden, the California science teacher who previously served 6 months in Nevada for running off with her 15-year-old student, has now been sentenced in California. In return for guilty pleas, she received a 2-year sentence: Teacher gets 2 years for sex with student.

In related news, the boy’s family seems to have upgraded to a more-ambitious kind of lawyer. After initially filing a claim with the El Cajon school district for $1 million for the original incident, they’ve now filed a claim for $350 million for an incident in February when the boy was allegedly attacked by another student: District denies $350M claim by SB boy’s family. Both claims have been denied by the district, but filing such claims is apparently a precursor to filing a civil lawsuit.

Interestingly (or not, depending on how you view such things), the way I found out about this latest sentencing was through a sudden influx of sex-obsessed teenage males posting comments to this earlier story on the case. I checked my referrers to see if some high-profile site had linked to us, but no, it turns out to just be the result of the page’s #1 googlerank in the search for “Tanya Hadden”. Woo. Go!

Gilliard Says WMDs Still Matter

Saturday, June 21st, 2003

An excellent commentary from Daily Kos’ Steve Gilliard on why the lack of WMDs is still important: Eight reasons why WMD matters.