Archive for May, 2004

Eric Idle Sings the “Fuck You Very Much” Song

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Here’s a long list of topical allusions from Monty Python’s Eric Idle, in the form of a song with lots of good, clean, R-rated fun: FCCSong.mp3.

Who knew he was so into US politics?

The Wedding-cum-Safe-House Attack

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

I’ve been following this story, but I just haven’t felt like posting about it. I guess I haven’t felt like I have anything in particular to add to it. If you look at things they way I do, you probably have a certain opinion about what this story means. If you don’t, you don’t.

Maybe I’ve gotten tired of the way those who interpretations of events have been proven wrong so many times over the course of the war persist in arguing that this time the facts on the ground will surely bear out their side’s version of reality. Yeah, well, whatever. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see about that, won’t we?

Anyway, we blew up a compound near the Syrian border where a bunch of foreign terrorists were hiding out on their way into Iraq. Or maybe we killed 40 or so innocent wedding guests, including many women and children. Or just maybe, per military spokesman Mark Kimmitt, we killed a bunch of terrorists who just happened to be attending a wedding. For those still capable of being influenced by evidence, video footage has been released that seems to bear out the wedding part of the story, at least: AP: Video shows Iraq wedding celebration.

The Not My Desk Somewhat Daily Journal

Monday, May 24th, 2004

Good lord! Chris of NotMyDesk is back, this time with a Blogspot blog: The Not My Desk Somewhat Daily Journal.

This is very, very good news.

The Bush Autobiography Emails

Monday, May 24th, 2004

From McSweeney’s comes this great piece by Robert Boswell: The making of the autobiography of George W. Bush (an excerpt).

The Logic of Occupation: We Are the New Romans, the New Nazis

Monday, May 24th, 2004

Here are a couple of items that reveal how some of us in the US, along with some of our increasingly indistinguishable allies the Israelis, are having problems maintaining a morally superior self-image in the face of the latest news.

First up, from Jeanne at Body and Soul: And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. She meditates on the Abu Ghraib abuses, and the reaction they produce in a thoughtful Christian like herself. Under the recently released image of the naked Iraqi, coated in shit, his arms stretched out to either side while an American soldier leers at him, she quotes from an essay at beliefnet (Jack Miles explains why Christian ethics demand we treat prisoners as we would the Lord):

Prisoners have a special place in the Christian imagination. It matters that Jesus himself was a prisoner. To speak the language of American law enforcement, his death was a death in custody. His most influential followers, Peter and Paul, were also prisoners. They too died in custody. John the Baptist, who first acclaimed Jesus as Messiah, was beheaded in a Roman prison. Christianity is a religion founded by men in deep trouble with the law, men familiar with the inside of prisons, whose message was “the last shall be first, and the first last.”

Jeanne continues:

The images of sexual humiliation and words describing sadistic abuse have been horrifying. But a naked, shackled and filth-splattered prisoner, arms outstretched, speaks to the imagination of someone raised on the stations of the cross in a unique way. It makes demands on the soul that I don’t know how to meet.

On a related theme, I noticed the following story, about how an Israeli politician has sparked controversy by criticizing home demolitions in Gaza. From Lapid calls for end to Rafah demolitions:

“The demolition of houses in Rafah must stop. It is not humane, not Jewish and causes us grave damage in the world,” Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told the cabinet yesterday.

Lapid added that he had seen a picture of an elderly Palestinian woman searching in the debris for her medication, and had been reminded of his grandmother [who perished in the Holocaust].

His remarks sparked an uproar in the cabinet since Lapid is a Holocaust survivor and his words were interpreted as a comparison between the IDF and the Nazis.


But Lapid said his comments had been misunderstood.

“I’m not referring to the Germans. I’m not referring to the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “When you see the harm done and you see a helpless old woman, you think of your grandmother.”

I don’t know; I think some comparisons are too apt to be easily unspun. We’d all like to think we’re more like Christ than his tormenters, more like the innocent victims of the Holocaust than the men who carried it out. But the seeds of evil are in all of us, just waiting for an opportunity to grow. And those who deny that the loudest are the ones doing the most to bring it about.

Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy

Monday, May 24th, 2004

I always hate posting links from other “meta-news blogs” — but FCC regulations is a topic that tends to irk me, so this seems like just the kind of thing to share with the world: Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy.

Chocked full of simple, easy to follow explanations of how radio frequencies are regulated, and why it may not be the best way to do things. This was prepared by the “New America Foundation”, an organization I’m not familiar with, but they seem to have quite a collection of articles under their belt, that I’m going to try and remember to check out later.

Good Afternoon Graduates…Bush Sucks…Have A Nice Life

Monday, May 24th, 2004

I just knew one of these stories would pop up again this year. Another self-important speaker decides to treat a commencement address like a lecture series and spews a strictly partisan and divisive political rant to satify their own personal agenda . These students have just graduated from four(ish) years of studies which included world events, have attended classes discussing the pro and con of issues such as the current Iraq situation, and have encountered guest speakers who have been invited to specifically address issues of the day, such as the war. In other words, they already have, and will continue to be, engaged in meaningful dialogue about important issues affecting their lives. Commencement speeches are either boring, entertaining, or occasionally, enlightening, but are meant to focus on the actual event, by congratulating the graduates and giving some form of wisdom or advise to carry with them for the future. And as much as it is a day to symbolize the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of the graduates, it is also a day for the families of those graduates who often made sacrifices in their own lives to allow their children to obtain this accomplishment. They too should be able to bask in the reflected glow of their family members’ achievement.

Then along come the Chris Hedges’s of the world, who feel it is beneath them to give a speech that is fitting to the occasion and, instead, decide that a political lecture is in order, and effectively ignore their audience and the purpose of the day.

Some may say that they are fine with the message, and are, convieniently, in agreement with what was said. I frankly wouldn’t care if a speaker for such an event gave a strictly political speech supporting either the right-wing view or the left. Both would be insensitive and inappropriate for the occasion.

Forbes on Sensing on Liberals and Conservatives on Berg and Abu Ghraib

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Scott Forbes (of A Yank in Oz) has a lengthy post on a lengthy post by Donald Sensing (of One Hand Clapping): That I will bear true faith and allegiance…

I have something of a love-hate relationship with Donald Sensing. On the one hand, his credentials (as a former high-level PR flunky in the US Army, who then became a Methodist minister) make him someone whose opinions on the subject of our shared obsessions ought to be interesting to me. On the other hand, his actual opinions frequently strike me as being less-interesting than his background would lead me to expect. Many of the things he has written lead me to suspect him of harboring a deep-rooted anti-Arab racism, for example. And there’s an element of pomposity in his bio, and a tendency to bristle at criticism (he huffily polices his comments for characterizations he deems insulting), that signifies, at least in my mind, a surprising degree of narcissistic insecurity.

With Reverend Sensing, it’s not so much his stated opinions that I find interesting, as it is the inherent contradictions he represents. He’s interesting to me on a meta-level. It’s a tamer version of the fascination Janus/Onan has with Adam Yoshida, I think.

Anyway, to stop rambling and return to the subject of Scott Forbes’ response to Sensing’s post, he (Forbes) is responding to Sensing’s assertion that the media, and online pundits, reveal their biases in how they treat the competing stories of the Berg beheading and the Abu Ghraib abuses. And for Sensing, it’s apparently a pretty short step from there to asserting that those who play down the former and play up the latter basically hate America and want the terrorists to win.

I’m reminded of Al Franken’s comment about the difference between how conservatives and liberals love America. Conservatives, says Franken, love America the way a child loves his mommy: with a belief that nothing America does could ever be wrong, and with anger toward anyone who is critical of her. Liberals, on the other hand, love America the way a grown-up loves somone: aware of the other person’s flaws, and willing to tell her when she isn’t living up to her highest, best nature.

Like Knightly to Emma:

Emma recollected, blushed, was sorry, but tried to laugh it off.

“Nay, how could I help saying what I did? — Nobody could have helped it. It was not so very bad. I dare say she did not understand me.”

“I assure you she did. She felt your full meaning. She has talked of it since. I wish you could have heard how she talked of it — with what candour and generosity. I wish you could have heard her honouring your forbearance, in being able to pay her such attentions, as she was for ever receiving from yourself and your father, when her society must be so irksome.”

“Oh!” cried Emma, “I know there is not a better creature in the world: but you must allow, that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately blended in her.”

“They are blended,” said he, “I acknowledge; and, were she prosperous, I could allow much for the occasional prevalence of the ridiculous over the good. Were she a woman of fortune, I would leave every harmless absurdity to take its chance, I would not quarrel with you for any liberties of manner. Were she your equal in situation — but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case. She is poor; she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and, if she live to old age, must probably sink more. Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her — and before her niece, too — and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her. — This is not pleasant to you, Emma — and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will, — I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.”

(I love Austen. And in this case, it’s much more the way a child loves his mommy, so don’t say anything mean about her.)

The Blogroll

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Listed below are some of the sites I’ve been visiting lately.

(more…) Now Running on WordPress

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Well, what with the new pricey licensing from the folks at Six Apart, I decided to give Movable Type the old heave-ho, and have now re-implemented in WordPress.

Everything should work pretty much the same; the biggest difference is that I’ve enabled comment moderation, which means new comments will have to be approved by me before they appear on the site. I apologize for the inconvenience factor. Fucking comment spammers.

But anyway. If you notice problems or have feedback on the change, please let me know. Thanks.

Plain Talking on the Iraq Upfuckery

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Just one more war item before I head off for some peace (!) and quiet at anchor off a desert island for a few days. Check out Senator Earnest Hollings: Bush’s failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism. Yeah, what he said.

Also, even Wolfowitz seems to be unable to avoid acknowledging that up is up and down is down, at least in some cases: US faces growing fears of failure.

Marshall on the Iraq Blame Game

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Excellent commentary today from Joshua Micah Marshall, as he dissects the blame that some (former) Iraq-war supporters are aiming at war opponents these days: It’s an obvious question, really.

Public Defender Dude on the Sivits Trial

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Always nice to have an expert’s opinion on things, even when his expertise is somewhat peripheral to the matter at hand. Because, you know, even a little bit expert is way more expert than not expert at all.

Anyway, I was interested in Public Defender Dude’s comments on what he perceives to be going on in the Sivits court martial (the first court martial to come out of the Abu Ghraib scandal): Court Martial Conspiracy Take II.

Neiwart: Let Lolita Go

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

David Neiwart of Orcinus has a lengthy but very interesting-to-me discussion about the orca Tokitae (or Lolita, if you prefer her stage name): Freeing Lolita.

Marshall on Bush, Kerry, Polls

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

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….

Provance: Definitely a Cover-Up

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

From ABC News, via Hiro, comes this interesting item: Definitely a cover-up.

May 18, 2004 — Dozens of soldiers — other than the seven military police reservists who have been charged — were involved in the abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, and there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it, a key witness in the investigation told ABCNEWS.

“There’s definitely a cover-up,” the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. “People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet.”

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

“What I was surprised at was the silence,” said Provance. “The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something.”

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.

He said that while he did not see the actual abuse take place, the interrogators with whom he worked freely admitted they directed the MPs’ rough treatment of prisoners.

So, I can see two ways to explain this: Either Provance is a publicity hound who’s willing to put himself in a world of hurt by lying to get his face on camera. Or he’s telling the truth, and there is in fact a concerted effort under way to limit the damage of the Abu Ghraib scandal by covering up the extent to which Military Intelligence folks were involved.

On the face of it, I’d say the latter explanation is more likely.

Lisl Auman: Murderer?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

I just read the article about the Lisl Auman case in Vanity Fair (which, as an aside, is perhaps the most web-challenged magazine in America). Auman is a young woman currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for a murder that was committed while she was in police custody.

For more detail, see the not-quite-as-challenged (though guys, ease up on the animated GIFs) site for her legal appeal ( or this Denver Post article by Ed Quillen: Lessons from Auman case.

For me, this story ends up being about slippery slopes, and the importance of having people running the system who are willing to draw the line somewhere short of perversions of justice like this. It’s somewhat like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal: We start off with Bush declaring that prisoners captured in Afghanistan are “enemy combatants” without protection under the Geneva Conventions. Then, gradually, the desire to apply the same no-holds-barred approach spreads to the interrogation of Iraqis who clearly are covered by the Conventions.

So with Lisl Auman. Some bright politician decides that he can look tougher-on-crime-than-thou by pushing for a law that says if you are commiting felony burglary, and an accomplice kills someone in the course of that burglary, you can be charged with murder. And there’s a certain logic to that, but then we start tobogganing down the slippery slope, and end up sending a woman away for life for a crime she quite clearly didn’t commit.

I mean, where does it stop? Just because the authorities really, really want to punish someone, and the actual guilty party is already dead, doesn’t mean they get to grab whomever happens to be standing around and charge them instead.

The Auman case is currently before the Colorado State Supreme Court. Here’s hoping they fix this.

John Brady Kiesling: Victory Through Defeat

Monday, May 17th, 2004

I get a fair number of reader submissions, most of which I choose not to run. That’s not meant as a knock on the submitters; their submissions are often interesting and noteworthy, but they just fail to get me inspired enough to go through the effort of posting them.

This one came in this morning from reader Alex, and I just now got around to checking out the links he sent. And was promptly blown away.

Hi, thanks for an excellent site!

Did you read an article by John Brady Kiesling in May 9th Washington Post (Outlook section)? I loved it, it has dozens of very insightful observations, and most importantly, it presents the only more or less realistic plan of ending this war with minimal damage. Here’s the URL:

And here’s online discussion with the author:


Kiesling’s voice of reason is a reminder that there are actual grownups, people of intelligence and experience and integrity, in this country. Just not so much in the ranks of our current political leadership. But they do exist, and there’s hope in that.

The Strange Case of… Strangelets

Sunday, May 16th, 2004

I hadn’t heard anything about strangelets (tiny, superdense, hypothetical objects) before, but according to this two-year-old article, Earth may occasionally be getting pummeled by them: Earth punctured by tiny cosmic missiles.

I like stories like this because they remind me how weird and unexpected reality frequently turns out to be. I mean, if I read this story on April 1, I’d be pretty sure it was a hoax. But it appears to be legit.

Thanks to Bravo for the link.

Hersch on Cambone and the Black-Ops SAP

Sunday, May 16th, 2004

Seymour Hersh continues his series of New Yorker articles on the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal with The gray zone. It describes how Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone led the process of applying outside-the-rulebooks interrogation techniques to get intelligence on the Iraq insurgency. The operation was conducted under the authority of a “special-access program”, or SAP, a super-secret Defense Department program for situations deemed too sensitive to handled by the normal classifed-secrets procedures.

Hersh bases his story on the accounts told to him by several former intelligence officials and by a former Pentagon consultant “with close ties to many conservatives.” None of the sources are identified by name.

It’s a compelling story that Hersh tells. Is it true? I dunno. But it certainly explains recent events much more elegantly than the nonsensical fairy tale that Cambone and Rumsfeld have been telling about a few misguided MPs going off the reservation within an otherwise-professional and well-led operation.