Archive for September, 2004

Russ Meyer, R.I.P.

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

From Roger Ebert (who, I just found out, co-wrote the screenplay for Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens) comes this fond farewell to moviemaker Russ Meyer: King of the funny skin flicks.

Cole’s What If?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

Professor Juan Cole offers a wee thought experiment: If America were Iraq, what would it be like?

Lorentz on Exactly What Is Going Wrong in Iraq

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Al Lorentz is a 20-year reservist currently serving with the US Army in Iraq. And he’s not happy: Why we cannot win.

(As posted to the comments on an earlier item by helpful reader PR.)

Kerry on Kerry

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

From Kerry’s speech today (hm. yesterday, now): Speech at New York University.

George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so.

I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror — and make us safer.

Today, because of George Bush’s policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.

If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are …that we can make America stronger and safer than it is… then November 2 is your chance to speak… and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.

The whole speech is really impressive. Thoughtful conservatives like Craig, who object to emotion-laden, misleading arguments, are encouraged to read it and see what they think.

Basically, Kerry is now making the argument that caused me to switch my allegience to Dean back in the day. According to a Newsweek article (Kerry’s new call to arms), Republican strategists are happy about the new, more-aggressive Kerry:

The reaction from Camp Bush was gleeful. “Good,” said one senior Bush aide. “We’re glad he’s talking about Iraq.” It remains Exhibit A in the flip-flopping case against Kerry, built around his prewar nuances and his postwar votes. Moreover, the Bush campaign sees Kerry’s attacks as a sign of weakness and as an attempt to shore up his base — a leftward tilt that could alienate “persuadables” in battleground states. Bush’s advisers are confident that their candidate can win any contest of straight talk, pointing to a series of polls that give him a big lead on questions of honesty and consistency.

Well, maybe. But truth matters. The world is not under any obligation to rearrange itself to match up with conservative or liberal political ideologies; it just is what it is. And on Iraq, Bush’s position is a fantasy, while Kerry’s critique is rooted firmly in reality. Maybe voters will see that. Maybe they won’t. But I’m glad Kerry’s finally making the case.

Michael Moore Slaps Some Sense into the Troops

Monday, September 20th, 2004

Michael Moore doesn’t want any more of this defeatist whining: Put away your hankies…

Klein: Bush Is Being Dishonest About Iraq. And He’s Probably Going to Win

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

This opinion piece by Joe Klein in Time magazine is pretty intense: Bush’s Iraq: A powerful fantasy.

It’s intense (for me, at least) because he sums up what’s been kicking around in my own head as the essential story of the US presidential campaign at this point: The US situation in Iraq is fucked, and getting moreso. Bush, in defiance of the evidence, is denying that, and Kerry, stymied by Bush’s dishonesty and the moral murk of his own past positioning on the war, is flailing. Then comes Klein’s thoroughly depressing conclusion:

And so there is only one significant question left in this presidential election year: Can John Kerry hold George Bush accountable for this mess? My guess is, probably not. The Republicans, with a strong assist from Kerry, have successfully painted the Democrat as a flip-flopping incompetent when it comes to national security. It will be hard for Kerry to change that impression. In fact, he has only one chance remaining, in the presidential debates.

And that won’t be easy: I’ve never seen George Bush lose a debate. He is a brilliant minimalist. Kerry by contrast is all oratorical flab — although he did begin to show some signs of life last week in a solid speech to the National Guard convention, in which he blasted Bush’s “fantasy of spin” about Iraq. It is a powerful fantasy, though. And it is easy to predict Bush’s response to any Kerry criticism about Iraq: “My opponent is too pessimistic,” the President will say. “See, what he doesn’t understand is that the President of the United States has to stand firm. We can’t show weakness. And we won’t on my watch.” Unless Kerry can come off with a succinct, and lethal, response to those vaporous but compelling platitudes, he will lose this election.

I really, really don’t want this to be true. I still have hope that enough of the electorate will see through Bush’s bullshit, that his cynical strategy of lying and evading responsibility for his messes will fail.

But this election will be huge. It is a cusp of historical possiblity, a pivot point on which the country’s, and maybe the world’s, future will turn.

If we lose, we lose. But it’s not over yet. We’ve got 44 days.

Waldman: Bush Is a Coward

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

From Paul Waldman of The Gadflyer comes this nice summing up of Bush’s cowardice: Girlie Man.

sffreeways Tries to Get on the Bush Enemies List

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

From Democratic Underground comes this letter by sffreeways: On behalf of Mrs Niederer.

There is an irony in this particular aspect of your presidency that is stark and troubling and this incident draws a dramatic parallel. It is that this woman’s son was killed in Iraq so that the people of Iraq might taste the freedom denied by a dictator is arrested while exercising the very definition of freedom in America. This arrest was most definitely made because of her views and not because she was any threat to Mrs. Bush. She was arrested for speaking out against a war her son lost his life in. Her son was fighting that war according to you because the people of Iraq weren’t free to speak out against a tyrant. He died so that America can bring Democracy to the Iraqi people and his mother was arrested for exercising Democracy here in America on his behalf.

Teach Your Children Well

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

Republican child abuse

One day, I’ll be old enough to vote. And my parents will pay for this.

Warning: This Bookmark is Registered as a Lethal Weapon

Saturday, September 18th, 2004

Another great link from the Interesting People mailing list: Katheryn Harrington is a 52 year old teacher from Florida who flies on a regular basis. On her last trip, she was stoped by TSA employees, handcuffed, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon: her leather bookmark. (They claimed it resembled a sap) The charges have been droped, but she still faces up to $10,000 in civil fines.

Here’s the part everyone should read and think about fully:

According to the TSA’s official prohibited items list, anyone who brings any banned item to a screening checkpoint, even accidentally, may be criminally or civilly prosecuted. Even items that are not specifically listed, but could be considered dangerous, are illegal.

So it’s not enoough that you have to surrender your knitting needles and nail clippers — you can be criminally charged for bringing any item, listed or otherwise, into an airport if someone in the TSA happens to be having a bad day and decides it might be dangerous.

Krugman on Bush’s Catastrophic Failure in Iraq

Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Apologies for my dereliction of duties the last week or so; the real world has been intruding on my weblog obsession. Thanks to hossman and Craig for picking up the slack.

In the meantime, I was meaning to write a piece on what I wish the presidential campaign was actually about at the moment, rather than being about the intereseting, but ultimately more or less completely irrelevant question of why anyone pays any attention to Dan Rather.

Except I don’t have to write that piece, because Paul Krugman already did: Taking on the myth.

So there you go.

Does The End Justify The Means?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

For some reason, there is a pretty big apparent fraud going on in the media world right now that John isn’t inclined to address, so I guess I will.

Here is my take on this whole “CBS-National Guard document” fiasco. CBS, has had knowledge of this story, in one way or another, for years now. They, along with many others, fully believe that Bush got preferential treatment to get into the Guard, and was protected while serving, and then was quietly exited out with an official blessing. Hearing that someone out there has personal documents that “prove” what many already believe to be true, they have slowly developed a trust with the source, likely through a third party, and eventually were able to review, and then “independently authenicate” and finally, use, the damming documents. The level of belief that CBSNews had in the sincerity of the people involved and the basic authentic wording and “look” of the papers was likely in direct negative correlation to the rigorousness of the effort used to verify them. Did they pass the “sniff test” and could CBS get some kind of document authority to pass positive judgement on them? (Even without, apparently, being able to view all the documents first-hand!) In the end, they felt so.

Remember, the powers behind this investigation were likely all working under the same assumed reality that Bush is guilty of receiving and taking improper advantage of special treatment in connection with his Guard service. Now they felt they had the smoking gun to prove their belief. All the dots seemed connected, in terms of who had the documents in their possession, the time period that was involved, why they weren’t available as a part of any legal public disclosure, and in the affirmation by other people associated with the source who agreed that he could have plausibly created and maintained such documents. This belief was now strong enough to discard conflicting evidence, such as skeptical family members and some relevant expert authorities.

Now, faced with overwhelming criticism over not only their claims, but also in the way they went about their investigative process, CBS is in full panic mode. They insist on the authenticity of the papers and scurry to find new “proof” and corroborating authorities and associates of the source (although saner minds at the network managed to get a small retreat position built into their official statement, regarding the “redoubling” of their efforts to insure accuracy).

The underlying rationale that Rather and the Gang seem to be holding onto is this: Regardless of the ultimate fate of the documents themselves, the “truth” is still unchanged. That is, that Bush’s Guard service is full of fradulent actions and improper favoritism. That “truth” should therefore overarc the legitimacy of the process used to present it.

In my opinion, that mindset will ultimately result in the discrediting of the main message that the powers behind this news story wanted to bring in front of the voters in this election. I believe that once the documents are given up as illegitimate, the point that the documents were meant to prove will become jointly discredited in the minds of a great many of the voting public who may have otherwise been swayed by the information that suggested Bush’s dishonesty about his service. And, if a “DNC operative” connection can also be proven or made plausible, then the Kerry campaign takes an even bigger hit.

To what point does the future integrity of a Network News icon get put at risk in order to support a strongly-held belief that is being pushed by some power players within the organization? And what will the fallout have on the already sagging influence of Network media, as well as the Presidential campaign?

And at what point will the focus be put on issues that directly matter for this country’s future, rather than decades-old Guard service or Swift Boat activity and the validity of Purple Heart medals?

You Missed Your Chance: Necrophilia Is Now Illegal In California

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

There are certain things in this world that I just assume are illegal without anyone ever explicitly telling me so. Apparently I assume too much, because last week, if you worked in a California morturary and had sex with corpses you weren’t breaking any laws. But not this week — this week it’s a felony.

Martha Mendoza’s Dead Fetus

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

From Ms. Magazine comes this succinct example of why having a president who bases his decisions solely on political calculation, rather than considering what experts think about the impact the resulting policies will have, may not be the best way to run a country: Between a woman and her doctor.

Link via Rivka of Respectful of Otters.

Your Photo Here: Kramer is Former Mayor of Phoenix

Saturday, September 11th, 2004

Props to my buddy Wess for pointing me to this AZCentral story about Phoenix Arizona having no pictures whatsoever of C.J. Dyer — the city’s 15th mayor (for 5 months in 1899). So, doing what few cities in the country would do, they hung a picture of Seinfeld’s Michael Richards in it’s place.

Hasbro Lawyers Send Cease-and-Desist to Fenslerfilm over G.I. Joe PSAs

Thursday, September 9th, 2004

I’ve linked before to the hilarious remixed G.I. Joe public service announcements that Fensler Film has done. Well, a random user informs me via the comments that Fensler has received a cease-and-desist letter from Hasbro’s lawyers.

Hasbro is claiming copyright infringement as a derivative work and possible trademark infringement. From where I sit these things are a fair-use parody. But then, I’m not a lawyer, nor am I in a position to pay Fensler’s legal bills so they can make that argument.

One thing I do know, though: If Hasbro succeeds in getting these things yanked, it will impoverish society in a measurable way. I’ve never been able to explain why these strike me as funny; some of them are just weird. But when that boy hits the ice and says, “Aw, fuck!” it cracks me up every time.

Update: Oh, they appear to be down already; is giving out 404s for the videos. Hm. You can still get many of them from Edited GI Joe service announcement overdubbed clips. Here’s my favorite:

Boehlert in Salon on Bush’s Guard Duty

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

This is actually kind of fascinating. Not that there still are stories appearing about Bush’s National Guard duty; that’s pretty much the opposite of fascinating, at least for me these days, and almost certainly for most of you. But this latest piece in Salon by Eric Boehlert manages to be both interesting and relevant, and that blows me away: Stung!

If you care at all about the truth of Bush’s time in the Guard, or the way he’s continued to misrepresent it to this day, you really should read this. Very much worth watching the commercial for the one-day pass.

Jeanne: Actually, Bush Could Be Worse. He Could Be Putin.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

Jeanne of Body and Soul does a sobering compare-and-contrast: Putin and Bush.

To Smear or Not to Smear

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

I think it’s a classic example of the difference between Democrats and Republicans that there’s currently hand-wringing in the anti-Bush community over whether or not to attack Bush in a manner similar to the way Kerry has recently been attacked.

Tom Shaller provides a convenient blueprint at Daily Kos on how to our-Rove Karl Rove: Closing time. And David Corn talks about biographer Kitty Kelly’s quoting of Neil Bush’s ex-wife that Bush did cocaine at Camp David during his father’s presidency. Corn wonders if he should follow up on a story he once heard from someone who knew someone who claimed to have done coke in the White House with Bush during the same period: Did Bush snort coke? Does it matter?

It really gets down to a fascinating (to me, at least) question about personal values. Is it better to “play fair” (in the sense of living up to a higher standard of ethics and honesty), even if that increases the risk of losing? Or, confronted by an opponent who is willing to fight dirtier than you are, do you need to hold your nose and get down there in the swamp and wrestle alligators?

It’s a question that can never really have a final answer. It’s up to each individual whether to be idealistic or pragmatic in each particular set of cirumstances, whether to stand on principle or compromise in the name of achieving some “greater good.” And while there are doubtless many principled Republicans and many unprincipled Democrats, overall I think it’s true that Republicans, generally, are less-apt to worry about such things, at least in the heat of battle, than Democrats are.

I’d babble about this some more, but I see that I already did back in January, in this piece: Republicans steal Democrats’ files, blame victims. So go read that if you want more babbling.

You! Stop Reading This Weblog!

Sunday, September 5th, 2004

Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. The John Aschroft-headed Justice department has got to be stopped if we are to preserve the things that make (made?) this country special. From the Memory Hole, via Janus/onan: Justice department censors Supreme Court quote.