Archive for January, 2004

Military Lawyers Challenge Bush on Guantanamo Detainees

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

Here’s an item from Salon that is worth sitting through the one-day-pass commercial: A legal black hole. Seems the military lawyers tasked with defending the rights of detainees at the Guantanamo detention facility see something familiar in the Bush administration’s latest arguments:

In the Declaration of Independence, the American colonists listed their grievances against King George: He had attempted to “render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power,” he had deprived the colonists “of the benefits of trial by jury,” he had “made Judges dependent on his Will alone,” and he had transported colonists “beyond Seas to be tried for pretend Offences.”

In an extraordinary brief filed with the United States Supreme Court this week, five experienced U.S. military lawyers have leveled precisely the same charges at another would-be King George: the current president of the United States. Only this time, the oppressed citizens aren’t American colonists; they’re detainees being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Republican Staffers Steal Democrats’ Files, Blame Victims

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

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.

SOTU of Mass Deception-Related Blogging Activities

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

Atrios points out that the artless phrase “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” wasn’t original, but actually appeared last October in an OpEd piece written by Republican congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Actually, the lifted quotation goes farther than that; both speech and article talk about “dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.” No, really.

Winston Smith of Philosoraptor doesn’t think much of the phrase.

Kevin Drum of CalPundit (whose post provided three of the four items mentioned here – plagiarism runs wild!) has this nifty timeline:

March 2003: Weapons of mass destruction.
June 2003: Weapons of mass destruction programs.
October 2003: Weapons of mass destruction-related programs.
January 2004: Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.

Finally, USA Today offers some actually-really-good contextualizing of Bush’s statements in the speech.

A Jab at

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

So I was listening to an NPR interview with the founder of on the way home, hoping to hear a thoughtful counterpoint to’s stance and getting a little annoyed at Terry Gross’ bad interview style. I was pretty severely let down by the guest though and decided to take a look at RightMarch since I actually hadn’t heard of it before. I was greeted with this image on the homepage:

… referring to the couple of Hitler-related entires to the “Bush in 30 Seconds” competition of course.

Now I’m the first one to dismiss anybody using an argument that involves Hitler, but the visual argument made by that image on RightMarch’s homepage was exactly the kind of logically worthless “common sense” criticism that the founder was indulging in on the air. So in response, I give you (un-photoshopped):

Is that a vacuum cleaner in your gut, or are you just happy to see me?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

I’m not sure what to make of this, … the first thing that jumps out at me, is that calling it “X-Ray Vision” is missleading, since it claims she is “capable of distinguishing even the tiniest pathology on a molecular level … which sounds a lot less like the science-fictiony concept of “X-Ray Vision” and more like the Fantasy-ic concept of “Being in tune with the Universe, and every living organism”. But for what it’s worth: The Girl With X-Ray Vision

Why Does This Make Me Laugh?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

On the subject of hilarious things connected with last night’s State of the Union address, check out this little ditty from Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes: Fashion and grooming, state of. I don’t know why it’s so funny. Maybe it’s just me.

“For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible. And no one can now doubt the word of America.”

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

Krugman Gets It

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

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. 

Same Story, Different (Virtual) Reality

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

Last net.kooks entry for now, I promise. From The Independent, here’s a story that I’ve read at least ten times since I first began using bulletin boards back in the day: Blood on the virtual carpet: tempers flare as ‘editor’ is thrown out of online town with 80,000 inhabitants.

Okay; maybe I haven’t read that exact story ten times, but pretty close: Human participants find way to inject their individual personality into a collaborative online experience in ways that the architects of the system didn’t anticipate. Hilarity ensues.

Still, it’s interesting, at least if you’re wired the way I am.

Attack of the Fifty-Foot Roosters

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

Item 2 of 3 in my net.kooks extravaganza: An illustration of spam…. From Tom Coates of

The Website Mixmaster

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

Perl goddess Mina Naguib has this really well-done tool for mixing the content of one web site with the layout of another: website mixmaster. Browse the pre-packaged links at the bottom of the form if you can’t think of anything to run through it yourself, and don’t shy away from the naughty ones: they’re fun!

The US Brain Drain

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

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.

Hoagland Finds Machinery on Mars

Friday, January 16th, 2004

I don’t know why this cracks me up so much, but it does. Richard C. Hoagland, popularizer of the “Face on Mars” thing, looks at the imagery being returned by the Spirit rover and sees something amazing: A gallery of cased objects and machinery at the Spirit landing site.

Dunno, Richard; they kinda look like rocks to me.

Interesting background info available here: A skeptical look at Richard C. Hoagland.

Thanks to my new idol, Winston Smith at Philosoraptor, for the link.

Understanding Iowa, Underestimating Iowa

Friday, January 16th, 2004

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.

Rebecca Lawton Paddles the Sea of Cortez

Friday, January 16th, 2004

Just a random thing I came across while googling for stuff to help me better differentiate between an American Oystercatcher and an American Oystercatcher x Black Oystercatcher hybrid: Rebecca Lawton’s Life list: My log from the Sea of Cortez.

A little reminder of what the Web used to be, and still is, all the pop-ups and pr0n and brochureware notwithstanding.

Philosoraptor on Bush’s Lysenkoism

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Speaking of Philosoraptor, here’s a really fantastic piece where he (that is to say, “Winston Smith”) goes into depth on the ways in which the Bush folks pervert data to match their ideological preconceptions, on everything from global warming to Iraqi WMD evidence: Bush’s Lysenkoism and the distortion of intelligence.

Philosoraptor at its best.

(Update: See also the version of the story at Blogcritics, which has nifty followup discussion with responses by Winston Smith. That guy rules.)

Interview Hijacking 101

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

As linked to by Winston Smith of Philosoraptor, here’s a fairly interesting article from the Columbia Journalism Review on the ways in which politicians and CEOs deliberately avoid responding to interviewers’ questions: Answer the &$%#* Question!

Al Gore on Global Warming and the Environment

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

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.


The Corporation As Psychopath

Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

From frequent link-suggester Steve D. comes word of this interesting-sounding documentary: The Corporation. The basic concept is that when analyzed by the same criteria used to evaluate real humans’ mental health, corporate ‘persons’ turn out to be indistinguishable from raving psychopaths.

Worth thinking about, eh?

Star-Tribune Editorial on the Iraq War

Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

Here’s a great editorial from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: The wrong war/Why Iraq was a mistake. Really gets to the heart of the matter.

Bigtime thanks to Mark Richter for the link.