Archive for July, 2004

Jeanne on Faith and Politics

Friday, July 30th, 2004

Jeanne of Body and Soul has some wise words for politicians who would casually throw a few coded buzzwords into their speeches to appeal to people of faith: You who build the altars now.

Ron Reagan Jr. on Bush

Friday, July 30th, 2004

From Esquire magazine, Ron Reagan Jr. tells it like it is: The case against George W. Bush.

Politicians will stretch the truth. They’ll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken “normal” mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

EFF on JibJab’s ‘This Land’ Cartoon

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

I meant to link to it, because it was pretty funny, but then it got slashdotted, and then they were charging donations to access it, so I said, eh, whatever. But now they’ve straightened out their hosting issues, just in time to be threatened by the lawyers of the company that owns the copyright to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” and the EFF has taken them on as a client. So check it out: Update on JibJab’s ‘This Land’.

Cole on Cheney on Terra

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Juan Cole makes a strong case that Dick Cheney isn’t serious when he talks about terror: Cheney watch.

Ted Turner on the Media

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

I don’t know how you argue with Ted Turner on this subject. I don’t think you do: My beef with big media.

Lowry on Obama

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Huh. I normally keep Rich Lowry firmly filed in my “partisan tool” category. So what’s up with his unqualified admiration for the Obama speech? I mean, I listened to the speech and loved it, too, but Rich Lowry? Anyway: Rich Lowry on Barack Obama & Democratic Convention 2004.

Update: The speech is available, if you missed it, in this transcript or from C-SPAN in the Web-hostile RealPlayer format at: rtsp://

Borchers on Coulter on USA Today

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

I meant to point to that recent “rejected” piece about the Democratic convention by Ann Coulter (the piece she ostensibly wrote for USA Today), but forgot to follow through. But now I can point to the helpful Daniel Borchers commentary on it at Who’s Lying? instead: On the right track.

Tom Tomorrow on the Giant Mutant Lizards of Iraq

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World cartoon sums it up nicely for me: Our story so far.

Holland on the White-on-the-Inside Black Conservative Movement

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

Courtesy of Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes, this story from Joshua Holland of Gadflyer is pretty amusing: Blackwashing.

“Black Conservative to Rebut NAACP Leader’s Remarks in C-SPAN Interview,” read the press release from Project 21, an organization of conservative African-Americans.

I had read in Reuters that Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, had called groups like Project 21 “make-believe black organizations,” and a “collection of black hustlers” who have adopted a conservative agenda in return for “a few bucks a head.”

So I tuned into C-SPAN with interest to hear what a leading voice in the black conservative movement had to say. But then a funny thing happened: The African-American spokesperson for Project 21 caught a flat on the way to the studio, and the group’s director had to fill in. And he was white.

As the segment began there was an awkward Wizard of Oz moment as C-SPAN’s Robb Harlston — himself black — turned to Project 21’s Caucasian director, David Almasi, and said, “Um…Project 21… a program for conservative African Americans… you’re not African American.”

Ritter on the Inevitable US Defeat in Iraq (Again)

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

Nearly a year and a half ago, as US forces closed on Baghdad, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter made a bit of a splash by predicting that we would lose the war (see US defeat in Iraq ‘inevitable’). He was quoted then as follows:

“Every time we confront Iraqi troops we may win some tactical battles, as we did for ten years in Vietnam, but we will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost,” Ritter added.

Well, he’s still saying pretty much the same thing: The Saddam-ist / Islamist resistance will win.

The transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi government of Iyad Allawi is a charade that will play itself out over the next weeks and months, and with tragic consequences. Allawi’s government, hand-picked by the United States from the ranks of anti-Saddam expatriates, lacks not only a constituency inside Iraq but also legitimacy in the eyes of many ordinary Iraqi citizens.

The truth is that there never was a significant people- based opposition movement inside Iraq for the Bush administration to call on to form a government to replace Saddam. It is why the United States has instead been forced to rely on the services of individuals tainted by their association with foreign intelligence services, or drawn from opposition parties heavily infiltrated by agents of Saddam’s former security services.

Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi’s government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people – all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit.

We will suffer a decade-long nightmare that will lead to the deaths of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. We will witness the creation of a viable and dangerous anti-American movement in Iraq that will one day watch as American troops unilaterally withdraw from Iraq every bit as ignominiously as Israel did from Lebanon.

Food for thought.

Jessica Suarez Channels Martha Ballard, 18th-Century Midwife and Heavy Metal Groupie

Monday, July 26th, 2004

Another one of those McSweeney’s things that I really love, for reasons I can’t explain. From Jessica Suarez: Martha Ballard, Enlightenment-Era Midwife, Reviews Mötley Crüe, a Musical Group.

Oliphant on Kerry

Monday, July 26th, 2004

It’s convention time. Do you know who your candidate is? Thomas Oliphant weighs in with an explanation of why he likes John Kerry, zits and all: The Kerry I know.

Lessig on O’Reilly on Glick

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Extremelly cool lawyer Lawrence Lessig says Bill O’Reilly is lying about Jeremy Glick, the 9/11 orphan who appeared on O’Reilly’s show in February of last year: Mr. O’Reilly, please just stop. Good stuff.

So, You Want to Be in a Moveon Commercial, Huh?

Friday, July 23rd, 2004

Long-time reader, first-time poster yian tells us about what it’s like to be in’s next commercial, where they have solicited average Americans who voted for Bush in 2000 to tell why they aren’t voting for him this November. Here’s the blow by blow:

Heh. They think I’m talent.


Annie Jacobsen: National Security Threat?

Friday, July 23rd, 2004

Goodness. Just when I think the whole “Terror in the Skies!!” story is done, it takes another turn. Check out this reporting from LA radio station KFI, as quoted by Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping (Air marshals “not worried” aboard Flight 327):

Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger “overreacted,” to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.

The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service. …

“The lady was overreacting,” said the source. “A flight attendant was told to tell the passenger to calm down; that there were air marshals on the plane.”

In subsequent commentary, Reverend Sensing writes:

Also, I now retract my previous claim that in fact “nothing actually happened” aboard Flight 327. It’s now obvious that something did: an American husband and wife panicked for no reason whatever and potentially put the flight in jeopardy.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think it’s pretty sweet that the whole story finally makes sense, including the really weird part about the flight attendant revealing the presence of air marshals on the plane and enlisting Jacobsen’s husband in writing down a description of one of the musicians. It’s standard practice for dealing with wigged-out delusionals at 30,000 feet: don’t challenge their delusion. Give them something to do, agree with them, just keep them from making a more-dangerous disruption until you can get them on the ground.

I originally said this story reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but now I realize that it reminds me even more of that Twilight Zone episode, “Terror at 30,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner gets carried off the plane in a straitjacket after grabbing a handgun and shooting at the hairy gremlin on the wing. I guess it’s lucky Annie didn’t know who the armed marshals actually were, eh?

Den Beste and Williams vs. Marshall on the Coming Bush Landslide (Or Not)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

Here’s another one of those fun cases where different webloggers look at the same evidence and extrapolate to radically different outcomes.

First up, a couple of Bush supporters look at the current political landscape and predict that their guy is not only going to win, but win big. Michael Williams talks about the coming Bush landslide, and links to Steven Den Beste’s A masterstroke? for the explanation of how it will happen. Both of them seem pretty well convinced that Bush is just biding his time, setting Kerry up for a brutal bloodletting sometime around September.

Meanwhile, Joshua Micah Marshall sees evidence that the Bush camp, looking at their guy’s perpetually falling poll numbers, and facing the cruel reality that late undecideds almost never break for the incumbent, are in fact reaching the desperation stage: Apropos of my earlier post about Republican desperation…

Both assertions can’t be true. If the evidence truly supports the assertion that Bush is sitting pretty and will crush Kerry in November, then Marshall is letting his wishes thoroughly cloud his perceptions. If the evidence actually points the other way, then it’s Williams and Den Beste who are lying to themselves.

And I suppose there’s that third option, that a truly objective analysis would predict a close contest, with both sides being guilty of shading reality in keeping with their wishes.

More Details on the Scary Syrians of Flight 327

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

This seems to wrap things up pretty neatly: The Syrian Wayne Newton. Clinton W. Taylor, writing for the National Review (yeah, I know) identifies the actual musicians who were on the flight.

Okay, people. Move along, nothing to see here…

The White House’s Pro-Family Value: Lie to Your Kids About Drugs

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

The thing about lying is, it has a way of taking over your life. It’s the old slippery-slope thing. You tell a little white lie because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and you find out hey, that was actually pretty easy. And then you tell another one to save yourself embarrassment. And another because you just really, really want the shiny happy outcome that telling it will help you achieve. And another one because you were too lazy to tell the complex, messy truth when a simple lie would work just as well.

And then you start telling them automatically, just because.

My wife and I are dealing with this issue with our daughter these days. She isn’t so much lying as just being dishonest with herself about whether or not she really looked for the shirt before complaining that it wasn’t in her drawer, or had time to pick up the dog poop before going to see her friend, or really is (or isn’t) willing to make the commitment to continue with her piano lessons. And then, having lied to herself, she tells us what she now honestly believes (for certain values of the term) to be the truth. I mean, if it was good enough to get past her own bullshit detector, shouldn’t it be good enough for ours?

Well, actually, no.

An interesting case that kind of goes the other way is this one, in which the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy presumes to tell parents how they should talk to their kids about marijuana: Your government wants you to lie to your kids.

As the debunking by AlterNet’s Bruce Mirken amply demonstrates, many of the things the White House drug czar wants you to tell your kids are blatant falsehoods. But I think parents willing to take the current administration’s assertions on pretty much anything at face value, and then pass it on to their kids, are guilty of the same kind of failure as my daughter is when she lies to herself, and then expects her parents to believe her.

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Free the Rogersville Four!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

From Janus/Onan comes word of this fun story: Four inmates flee jail, return with beer

ROGERSVILLE, Tennessee – With their cell doors accidentally left unlocked, four county jail inmates escaped only to return the same night — with beer.

I feel a Coen brothers movie coming on.

Insider Account of Child Prisoners’ Treatment in Iraq

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

I know reader Thom is following this story, so here’s an interesting data point: From Sadly, No!, an email from someone named John Heacock, who spent a year in Iraq with the Tennessee National Guard: Iraqi prisons, continued.

I hopped a link from Alterman’s blog and saw your publicizing of alleged children imprisoned and abused in Iraq. I spent almost a full year at the main prison in Iraq, Camp Bucca, which is near Um Qasr on the SE Iraq-Kuwaiti border.

There was a special compound for kids, defined as younger than 18, mainly those who were picked up with adults (generally relatives like Dads) for crimes or suspicions of crimes. I think the # peaked at around 60 or so.

There’s lots more. Definitely provides a useful perspective.