Archive for September, 2003

LA Times Editorial Critical of Administration Spin

Friday, September 19th, 2003

I realize that it’s an article of faith for those who live inside the right-wing echo chamber that any article or editorial that says something disagreeable is merely a manifestation of the media’s liberal bias. Yeah, well, whatever. The fact is, the LA Times editorial writers come off as more conservative than not, at least from where I sit. Less so now than when they were into union busting, maybe, but still, it was pretty shocking to me to see their lead editorial today: So which story is it?

It takes Bush to task for administration deceptions on Iraq, in particular recent statements by Dick Cheney linking Hussein with 9/11, as well as Cheney’s pouring more salt into the wound that is US/European relations at a time when we desperately need more international help for the Iraq reconstruction. They also chime in on the side of Republicans in Congress who say that the reconstruction should be taken out of the hands of Rumsfeld and given to Colin Powell.

Warblogging on Bush’s Failure to Protect the Constitution

Friday, September 19th, 2003

Back on March 10 I posted an item about Bush’s March 6 press conference. I’m going to repeat something I said there, and amplify it a bit.

George Paine at has an excellent rant on how Bush has failed in his promise to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution: The presidential oath. (Nice use of the ‘sieg heil’ photo, btw.)

Anyway, one of the commenters there said this:

Yes, Bush has violated his Oath of Office. Because of poor education, you know the average American does not care.

I think that’s true. And what’s more, I think George Bush himself falls into the category of people so ill-educated that they don’t realize he’s violating his oath of office.

If you go back and watch the March 6 press conference, when he was laying out his reasons for going to war, he made some very revealing comments about what he thinks his job is. At one point, he said:

My job is to protect the American people. It used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we’re now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home.

So, therefore, I think the threat is real. And so do a lot of other people in my government. And since I believe the threat is real, and since my most important job is to protect the security of the American people, that’s precisely what we’ll do.

Later, he said:

My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I’m going to do. People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that’s what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Especially if you watch the video, or listen to the audio, you get a really powerful sense that in Bush’s mind, those two things (protecting the American people, and protecting the Constitution) are absolutely synonymous. He makes no distincation between them whatsoever. He has no conception that on some level the two goals might be in conflict with each other.

But in some cases they clearly are. Presidents are required to make difficult judgements between enhancing security on the one hand, and preserving Constitutional liberties on the other. But with Bush, no judgement is required. In his mind, “protecting the Constitution” (what he actually swore to do) just means “protecting the American people” (as in, protecting them from physical harm). So the Constitution gets shredded on his watch, but he sees absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sweet!

Very Expensive, and Slightly Obscene, Plate

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

This isn’t really “medical science,” but that was the best I could come up with from the current list of categories. It’s a photo of a plate that is believed to have been made by Italian Renaissance ceramicist Francesco Urbini in the 16th century; apparently a British museum just paid 240,000 pounds for it. It depicts a man’s head made entirely of, um, well, penisis.

Which is pretty cool. But not as cool as the little fantasy I just played in my head, in which a sweet, grandmotherly woman brings it in to be appraised by the experts on Antiques Roadshow, and they have to decide whether or not they can air it.

Funny Sieg Heil Bush Photo

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

I saw this a few days ago, but was too caught up in various other stuff to post it. But the Jason who is really called Jason told me I should put it up, and he’s right, I really should.


Bush Sieg Heil

Kobe Bryant and the Hit Man

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

I hadn’t noticed doing anything consciously, but apparently I’ve been expending considerable energy avoiding any information at all about the Kobe Bryant rape trial. But then this story floated past me, and I admit even I was titillated at the idea of the handing over of a big bag of movie money: Police say Swiss man solicited murder of Bryant’s accuser.

So, if the extensive comment haul that resulted from my earlier “Kobe Bryant: Adulterer (+Rapist?)” piece’s Google footprint is still in effect, throngs of concerned obsessives will be showing up to add their $0.02. So have at it, throngs. Knock yourselves out.

So, Getting Back to That Iraq-Vietnam Comparison

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Those who are fully onboard with the Bush administration’s grand plan for defeating evil think things are going really well in Iraq. Austin Bay, for example: A war we are winning. (Update: See also this AP story: U.S. moves in Iraq, Afghanistan commanding respect of foes even as old allies alienated by aggressive superpower.)

Obviously, I’m not so sure. To me, this thing feels more like Vietnam all the time. Yes, I realize we are way short of where Vietnam ended up. But this sure looks to me like the path that leads there. Consider this article from Knight-Ridder’s Ron Hutcheson: Some see troubling parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

See also this opinion piece from former Senator Max Cleland: Mistakes of Vietnam repeated with Iraq.

(Cleland, by the way, is the triple-amputee Vietnam vet who lost a narrow re-election bid to Saxby Chambliss, after the latter ran ads questioning Cleland’s patriotism and equating him with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein because Cleland had voted against Bush’s version of the Homeland Security bill. More on how Cleland is feeling about that is available in this Washington Post article from a few months ago: Political veteran; there’s also some interesting discussion in the comments on this piece at Hit & Run: The lighter side of Max Cleland.)

Righties Taunt the ‘Angry Left’

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

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.

The Nation on the WaPo’s Editors

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Here’s a really interesting look at the way coverage of the Bush administration’s lies and misstatements on Iraq in the Washington Post changed over the last six months. From The Nation’s Ari Berman: The Postwar Post.

It isn’t so much that the stories themselves changed; it’s that the placement of those stories in the paper changed. At first they were being buried way back. It was only as time went on and the truth about administration deceptions became more obvious that the paper started running the material on the front page.

Note that this makes pretty much no difference to people like me, who tend to read their newspapers online, where any story you can link to is pretty much just as prominent as any other. But in the real world I guess it matters a lot.

Anyway, like I said, it’s interesting. I especially liked this quotation from the end:

The newfound intensity of the press brings to mind, Pincus says, something Gene McCarthy told him years ago. “The press is a bunch of blackbirds,” McCarthy mused. “All are on a wire and one will go to another wire and when that bird doesn’t get electrocuted, all the birds will go to that other wire.”

Bush Joins the Chorus

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

So, the circle is complete. George Bush now echoes the statements made by Rumsfeld and Rice in the last few days, that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the events of 9/11.

(But see, it’s all still part of the war on terror. Iraq is the geographic center of the region from which these threats came. By which I guess they mean that it’s located approximately midway between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two countries that, despite being ruled by antidemocratic regimes friendly to the Bush administration, have far more substantial involvement with al Qaeda than Saddam’s Iraq ever did.)

Anyway. From the Toronto Star: No proof Iraq tied to 9/11: Bush. And from the Chicago Tribune: Bush: No Iraqi link to Sept. 11.

Look at them blinking innocently into the TV lights. “Us? Try to mislead people into thinking that Saddam was involved with 9/11? Never! Why, the 70% of the country that currently believes in that just got the idea on their own. We certainly had nothing to do with it!”

It’s fascinating to see the degree of coordination on the spin coming out of the White House. Say what you will about their near-total lack of honesty, morality, and patriotism, the members of the Bush administration do know how to read from the same script. It’s almost like ballet, the deft way they all pivot and leap into the air together. When the lie has served its purpose, they do away with it, like a retreating army blowing up bridges behind it. Jerome Doolittle comments on this in his Badattitudes Journal: Why keep old lies around?

Franken on Religion

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

The good people at have an interview with Al Franken, as he does the buy-my-book circuit. In this case the interview focuses on God and spirituality. Good stuff: Why would the anti-Christ write Chorus Line?

Martin Kelley on Life in the Land of Tinfoil Hats

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

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.

Rumsfeld Denies Knowledge of Iraq-9/11 Link

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Rumsfeld denies knowledge of Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and any direct involvement by Saddam Hussein in 9/11. Film at 11:00. Defense chief sees no link between Iraq and al-Qaida’s Sept. 11 attacks

Calling Them on It

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

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.


Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

I know this is going to bug some people. Actually, I think it bugs me, on some level. But I think I have to link to it anyway: Fetopia. Thanks (I think) to Tuesday of This Girl Thinks for bringing it to my attention.

Orson Scott Card on File Sharing

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

I remember the August, 1977, issue of Analog magazine. I read it in my bedroom, upstairs at the back of my father and stepmother’s condo, the same room where I listened to Bad Company’s Running with the Pack and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis. I remember that issue for just one reason: it contained a really cool short story called “Ender’s Game” by a first-time author named Orson Scott Card.

Wow, I thought. This guy is awesome.

He’s still awesome: MP3s are not the devil (part 1).

Angle-Grinder Man

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

This is so cool. You may remember the earlier item on the strange tale of Terrifica vs. Fantastico. Well, there’s a new real-world superhero in the news: Angle-Grinder Man, who wears a blue leotard and gold boots while he patrols the streets of Kent and London, removing wheel clamps from the cars of those victimized (er, victimised) by an oppressive government.

Marshall Debunks Cheney on the Saddam-9/11 Link

Monday, September 15th, 2003

Good lord; Dick Cheney’s Sunday appearance on Meet the Press was really shameless. Josh Micah Marshall discusses it in detail: Apparently he can’t help himself.

A Quick Quiz on Arabs, Islam, 9/11, Racism, and Ignorance

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Here’s a fun little item from Counterpunch’s Gary Leupp: The matrix of ignorance. It features the following pop quiz:

Which of the following best indicates the relationship between Arabs and Muslims?

  1. All Muslims are Arabs.
  2. All Arabs are Muslims.
  3. Most Muslims aren’t Arabs.
  4. Most Muslims are Arabs.

In which Muslim countries do Christian churches and Jewish synagogues operate legally, as well as mosques?

  1. Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq.
  2. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Somalia.
  3. Pakistan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates.
  4. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. government (which may or may not be accurate in its report), the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were of what nationalities?

  1. 15 Saudis, 4 Iraqis.
  2. 14 Iraqis, 3 Saudis, 2 Yemenis.
  3. 15 Saudis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Lebanese, 2 from union of Arab Emirates.
  4. 14 Iranians, 2 Afghans, 2 Lebanese, 1 Iraqi.

Scroll down, or follow the link below, or just see the whole Counterpunch article at the link above, for the answers. (Note me smirking smarmily at my 3-for-3. See? That Poli Sci degree and the obsessive news-junkie behavior was good for something.)

It’s all fun and games, until someone gets hurt…

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

…then it’s just fun — er … wait a minute … acctually this doesn’t sound fun at all, this sounds seriously messed up: “A man was hospitalised with torn intestines after a friend, attempting a practical joke, pressed an air compressor to his…” Ouch.

Buzzflash Interviews Krugman

Friday, September 12th, 2003

Buzzflash has a good interview: Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist and Author of “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century”.