Archive for August, 2005

Right-wing Mob Drives Off Protest Warriors

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Check out Norm of Onegoodmove’s account and re-hosted video of a hilarious turn of events at the “Cindy Doesn’t Support Us Rally” in Crawford: We don’t do irony.

It seems the good subversives of Protest Warrior, who like to stage counter-demonstrations with signs bearing clever (well, at least they think so) slogans like, “WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING (except for ending slavery, fascism, naziism and communism)”, carried said signs into a pro-Bush rally, and were driven off by angry Bush supporters who mistook them for Cindy Sheehan fans.

The poetic justice is really too, too much. I love the part of the video where they are trying to explain, and one or two of the crowd get it, and are saying to their angry brethren, “No, wait, read the sign, see? They’re on our side.” But the crowd looks at the sign, and squints for a few seconds at the big print (“WAR NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING”), and decides that nope, these smart-ass kids are making fun of us, and screams and yells at them until they’re forced to leave.

If you Protest Warriors want to do humor and irony and subtle/clever mocking, you probably should stick to counter-protesting against us leftists. We may argue with you that you’re wrong, but at least we get the joke.

Face it: You have more in common with us than with them.

More on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

From Ivory-billed Woodpecker Bureau Chief Ethan P comes this latest New York Times update on the big question at the AOU meeting held last week in my neck of the woods: Ivory Bill or not? The proof flits tantalizingly out of sight.

Hitchens Rages Against the Dying of the Light

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Christopher Hitchens was on the Daily Show last week, and the interview included one of those great moments when Jon Stewart gets serious about what he’s looking for, and failing to find, in the public debate on the Iraq war. (Video available from One Good Move.)

One downside to having Hitchens interviewed by someone as rational as Stewart is that he (Hitchens) is prevented from really spinning out into the convoluted combination of misplaced self-loathing and desperate blather that has become his stock in trade lately. But when he’s talking to himself (in effect) when writing an essay for the Weekly Standard, he’s free to indulge: A war to be proud of.

Basically, as near as I can tell, Hitchens really, really hates the positions he used to espouse, and is on a one-man jihad to expose everyone stupid and evil enough to hold such positions in the post-9/11 world. Which, when you get right down to it, is a jihad against his own former self, and which, as such jihads tend to do, has become pretty nasty.

Bush: Seeking His Level

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

There was an interesting post the other day by Cenk Uygur comparing Bush’s latest approval numbers (36%) with those posted by Bill Clinton on the day of his impeachment (72%): Big Media lie: People like George Bush.

You know me; I can’t resist a picture. So here you go, from Professor Pollkatz. First, Bush’s approval numbers to-date:

Bush approval as of August 2005

Next, Bill Clinton’s approval numbers (second term only):

Clinton approval numbers (second term)

(Note the y-axis scales, by the way. Bush’s goes from 20% to 100%, with gridlines every 20%. Clinton’s goes from 20% to 80%, with gridlines every 10%. Someone’s sure to accuse me of making an apples-to-oranges visual comparison here, but that’s the way Pollkatz made the graphs, and I don’t want to spend the time to make them conform more closely to each other.)

Individually, people can be pretty stupid. Collectively, they can be pretty smart. And in those numbers you see a collective judgement of Bush and of Clinton.

Competence matters. Character (as revealed by a willingness to get blow jobs from interns and lie about it under oath) matters, too, but on balance, much of the country basically approved of the job Clinton did. Meanwhile, Bush’s numbers sink lower and lower, as people realize that even if he seems like a nice guy to have a beer or ride a bike with, he’s got a real knack for making bonehead decisions.

Clark: Face Facts on Iraq Before It’s Too Late

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

From an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Wesley Clark has a plan: Before it’s too late in Iraq.

The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn’t enough to mend a flawed approach — or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won’t adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.

Percentage point by percentage point, more and more of the country is reaching the conclusion that Bush made a mistake by invading Iraq. By repeating the same tired phrases this past week to hand-picked crowds of supporters he hasn’t bolstered his case; he’s weakened it, by reminding people that he’s pathologically incapable of admitting error, and so will never be able to get us out of this.

Yon’s Gates of Fire

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

I hadn’t read Michael Yon before, but this item is pretty amazing: Gates of fire.

There’s a total Starship Troopers feel to it (the movie, I mean, not the book, though I guess the particular sensibility I’m talking about is common to both).

Michael Yon appears to be something of a darling of the Fighting Keyboardists of the right-wing blogger brigade. As near as I can tell, he’s not actually a journalist, but is instead an ex-Green Beret who self-published an autobiographical account of his acquittal on murder charges after he killed someone in a bar fight in 1983.

Anyway, he sounds like a serious adrenaline junkie who identifies more or less completely with the soldiers he’s embedded with, and provides what is probably the closest thing we’re going to get to a first-person account of what it is like to be a US soldier fighting in Iraq these days.

It comes off as about as one-sided as it’s possible for an account to be (notice, for example, how the Lieutenent’s “sixth sense” for bad guys is infallible, and leads to “random Iraqi standing on the street” instantly transforming into “terrorist”, without even the possibility of doubt), but again, I think that’s actually a feature, not a bug. This is how soldiers in a war-zone think, and operate; this is what distinguishes military operations from police work.

I don’t believe that the laws of the universe so faithfully assign moral virtue and heroism and noble sacrifice solely to one side of a conflict, but I recognize that those engaged in killing people (for either side) have a powerful need to believe that it does, and that it is their own side that possesses that virtue.

Anyway, if you bear that in mind, it’s interesting stuff.

McSweeney’s: Klingon Fairy Tales

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

I really like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. There’s often an oddly engaging quirkiness to the items that really sucks me in.

Anyway, here’s a good example: Klingon fairy tales.

Fish Story

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Some fishermen in the Mekong Delta pulled something really big out of their nets back in May: Truly, it was a whopper, but are there bigger fish? The view of the researcher quoted in the story is that no, as of now, he doesn’t have evidence of any bigger (freshwater) fish.

A very big fish

The monster fish was one of just three giant catfish caught in Thailand this year.

Before he headed out on May 1, one of the men who caught it, Thirayuth Panthayom, 29, made sure luck would be on his side. He said he prayed at the shrine of the God of Catfish and begged his boat to help him, “Please, Miss Boat, let me catch something today and I’ll sacrifice a chicken for you.”

He said he had only been out for 15 minutes when he saw the fish smack the water four times with its tail – “Pung! Pung! Pung! Pung!” It took his crew an hour to pull it in.

His father, as owner of the boat, earned nearly $2,000 for the fish from the village fishing association, a fortune in rural Thailand. Mr. Thirayuth, like the other four members of the crew, got $175 of this, which he said he gave right back to his father.

As required by its permit to fish for these endangered catfish, the village association then sold it to the Department of Fisheries, which harvests their eggs and sperm as part of a captive breeding program.

After that, the fish are to be returned to the river, but few have survived the harvesting process, in which hormone injections are administered and the belly is vigorously massaged and manipulated.

The monster fish was returned dead to the fishermen, who cut it into giant steaks and sold it.

When he tried a bit, Mr. Thirayuth said, it tasted soft and sweet and mild.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “You have to try it yourself.”

Unforutnately, I seem unlikely to get the chance. Even more unfortunately, the rest of the world’s fish-eaters seem unlikely to have the chance for much longer.

Heinrich: About Animals, About Us

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

I really liked this op-ed piece from Bernd Heinrich, in which he praises the documentary March of the Penguins, while addressing the broader issue of what it means to anthropomorphize animals in movies, and where one might usefully draw the line between things like Bambi and things like Winged Migration: Talk to the animals.

Paradoxically, the cartoonish anthropomorphism of “Bambi,” although it entertained the youngsters, blocked rather than promoted an understanding of animals. In “Bambi” we do not see other creatures. Instead, we are presented humans with antlers, and with our thought and speech. This is what the traditional idea of anthropomorphizing is – expecting animals to feel and behave like humans, which they never will. One look at that penguin with the egg on its toes shows the inadequacy, the outright folly, of wishing they “were more like us.”

Nature is the greatest show on earth, and reverence for life requires acknowledging the differences between ourselves and the animals as well as seeing our relatedness.

Krugman Followup on Florida Voting

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

I know it’s an issue that some of those around here like to comment about, so here you go: another opportunity to comment on Paul Krugman’s assertions about what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential election: Don’t prettify our history.

Lance Armstrong: New-Old Doping Scandal?

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

So, a French sports magazine is saying that Lance Armstrong’s old (circa 1999) urine, which originally tested clean, now fails a more-sensitive, modern test for EPO, a banned substance.

From VeloNews:

Update: Here’s the transcript of Armstrong’s appearance on Larry King where he responded to the allegations.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker I.D. Questioned, Bolstered

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Birds are so cool.

First, a quick update on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, the long-believed-extinct Liberace of the bird world recently rediscovered (or so we hope) in Arkansas. Tom Nelson has his doubts: my thoughts: Was “Elvis” just a partially leucistic Pileated Woodpecker? But meanwhile, the NYT has an article about how some early skeptics are coming around to the “yup, probably an Ivory-Billed” position based on some interesting sound recordings: Sound files ease doubts on elusive woodpecker.

Meanwhile, if you want a well-written and entertaining insight into what it means to be a birder, check out this piece from Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker: My bird problem: Love, grief, and a change in the weather.

Another Iraq War Reader

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

No real time for a proper obsession, being busy with various things, but here is a quick roundup of items on Iraq that I’ve been accumulating for the last week or so, and meant to pass your way:

Finally, let’s end with a few visual notes. First, from Salon, a collection of disturbing images of the sort that, for whatever reason, seldom make it into the mainstream media in the US: Iraq: The unseen war (one-day pass required).

And from the latest issue of The Onion, this informative infographic:

The Onion\'s infographic

Whew. Linking to relevant content in big, soggy bunches since 1996!

Krugman on ‘Steal This Vote’

Friday, August 19th, 2005

Paul Krugman talks about the 2000 and 2004 elections, and about what might happen in 2008: What they did last fall.

In his recent book “Steal This Vote” – a very judicious work, despite its title – Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I’ve seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: “Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election.”

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris’s “felon purge,” which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

More on Cindy Sheehan and Israel

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Cindy Sheehan offered some additional detail about the alleged email to Nightline in her DailyKos diary entry today: Vigils.

Another thing is that the Israel thing has not died. I did not say that my son died for Israel. I have never said it, I don?t think it, I don?t believe it. It is just another lie, smear tactic from the right. It needs to die right now. It?s not the truth. I stand by everything that I have said. But I will not stand by things that I haven?t said. I am not anti-Semitic. I am just anti-killing. George Bush is responsible for killing so many people, but nobody scrutinizes anything he says, especially leading up to the war. Since there is nothing to smear me about with the truth, they have to tell lies. A former friend who is anti-Israel and wants to use the spotlight on me to push his anti-Semitism is telling everyone who is listening that I believe that Casey died for Israel and has gone so far as to apparently doctor an email from me. People have to know that he doesn?t speak for me. ABC Nightline can?t confirm his email is real and therefore any reporting on it is irresponsible. That is not my issue. That is not my message and anyone who knows me knows it doesn?t sound like me.

I’m focused on my mission in Crawford: to meet with the President and demand answers. That?s it. I have spent enough time on that. Enough is enough.

Later in the same entry she includes a letter allegedly from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, vouching for her and bolstering her version of events.

As I was saying to Janus/Onan in Ishar earlier today, I feel like I’m perfectly poised between skepticism and credulity on this one. Both explanations (that she’s telling the truth, and the person who forwarded her email to Nightline doctored it to inject an anti-Israel screed; or that she’s spinning about a statement she actually made, but now realizes could undercut her efectiveness) seem pretty much equally plausible to me.

Which means, of course, that both the pro- and anti-Cindy people will be confident that the facts support their position, with at least one of those groups being wrong.

I’m really curious which one it is.

Update: Stephen Spruiell on National Review Online (which it must be said is only a step or two above places like in my personal trustworthiness scale) says he has some information that would tend to undercut Cindy’s “my ex-friend doctored it” explanation: Sheehan herself sent “Israel” letter to friend.

Of course, this is the beauty of the right-wing echo chamber: Even if Cindy’s version of events is perfectly true, this kind of stuff will predictably succeed in changing the subject and distracting people from her actual message. Whereas if she is trying to spin away earlier statements she actually made, they just get to push it that much harder.

It’s the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth all over again.

Later update: MSNBC: Antiwar mom leaving camp to aid ailing mother. Cindy’s mother is in the emergency room in Los Angeles after a stroke, apparently, and she’s left the camp to be with her. Ymatt’s instantaneous comment:

Yserbius . o O ( rove killed mrs. sheehan! )

Let the conspiracy theorists commence theorizing!

Walken: If Nominated, Will Not Run; If Elected, Will Not Serve

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Sometimes I link to things that you wouldn’t think I would, and sometimes I don’t link to things that seem like they’re right up my alley. I don’t know why that is. It’s a complex equation.

For example, I saw everyone linking to that site a week or two ago, and I took a look at it, but said, meh, not interested. It’s not that I necessarily believed it to be a hoax, but there really just didn’t seem to be any there there. I guess I figured if it was real, there’d be time to talk about it later, and if it wasn’t, I didn’t want to waste my time.

Anyway, a few days go by, and the word is out: Walken presidency site a hoax ( See also’s Mike Yamamoto: Christopher Walken for president!

To you more-credulous types, see? That’s what you get for jumping into something before it has received the imprimatur of authenticity.

Christopher Hitchens: Annoying Tard

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Here’s some interesting controversy surrounding Mr. Public-Meltdown-in-Progress, Christopher Hitchens. First, his rant about Cindy Sheehan in Slate: Cindy Sheehan’s Sinister Piffle – What’s wrong with her Crawford protest. Then, a nice, snarky debunking from Dennis Perrin in his Red State Son weblog: Even lower.

Of particular interest to me is the part where Hitchens says he is quoting from a statement that “comes from Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. It was sent to the editors of ABC’s Nightline on March 15.” Hitchens quotes Sheehan as follows:

Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy… not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.

Now, I don’t find that statement, in and of itself, all that ridiculous, and one could have a spirited discussion about the extent to which US support for Israel helpd to bring about the 9/11 attacks, or was a motivating factor in Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. But according to Perrin’s debunking:

Sheehan apparently told CNN that she never wrote those words about Israel, and I’ve been informed that the entire quote is a fake, intended to smear Sheehan, for rather obvious reasons (the evidence of this, I’m told, will soon appear, and I will link to it when it does).

As of now I don’t have any other evidence that this alleged Nightline letter is a fake, but I’d be interested in learning more about it. Anyone know about this?

Update: Well, of course someone knows about it. The answer (as it frequently is), is “look it up on Wikipedia.” So: Cindy Sheehan (Wikipedia), which discusses the issue, including linking to the following three items: ABC confirms: Sheehan wrote the letter (, Cindy Sheehan’s diary (, and A copy of the (alleged) original email (Google groups).

Hard to tell, at this point. Either Cindy wrote the email as quoted, and she’s willing to lie a little bit about it (or at least buy more or less sincerely into her own flawed, emotionally tinged recollection of it over the evidence of others), or a somewhat-unlikely, but not-impossible scenario has taken place, in which an email she sent (and which she apparently doesn’t have an original copy of) was doctored by her enemies after it left her hands in order to make it just a little more damning. Though in the latter case, the doctors were impressively subtle, making such a small change.

On balance, I think Cindy is just misremembering what she wrote, either intentionally (as part of her makeover into media-savvy activist), or unintentionally (as part of just doing her best to deal with the tornado of bullshit she’s currently at the center of). And again, I don’t think the statement as given is especially damning, anyway. Though certainly, if it’s accurate, and she’s now making a point of lying about it, that would tend to undercut her moral authority some in my eyes.

It’s an interesting paradox: I agree with her views, for the most part. And I applaud the political damage she’s inflicting on Bush. Given those facts, which would I prefer: That a media-savvy Sheehan lies in order to increase her effectiveness? Or that she undercuts that effectiveness by clinging to a scrupulous, and politically naive, honesty?

Good question.

More on the Menezes Shooting

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

More details are emerging about the Brazilian man gunned down by authorities on a London Underground train. From The Guardian: New claims emerge over Menezes death.

Basically, the guy we were told a) emerged from an apartment that was under surveilllance because it contained dangerous Muslim radicals, b) wore a heavy winter coat with wires dangling from it, c) refused orders to stop, d) was not recorded on closed-circuit TV due to mechanical problems, e) vaulted the turnstile, and f) ran to the train with officers in hot pursuit, actually didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, he a) was not seen emerging from the suspect apartment (because the officer in question was taking a leak around the corner), b) wore a light denim coat with no wires, c) was never contacted by officers on his way to the train, d) was recorded on closed-circuit TV, e) did not vault the turnstile, but paid with his pass, and f) entered the train and took his seat (though he apparently did run at the end, presumably to catch the train), before plainclothes cops burst onto the train and shot him.

This is preliminary, being based on leaked documents from the official investigation. But it’s interesting how thoroughly the official version of events told by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the shooting is being contradicted.

Fred Brito: Con Man

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

I enjoyed this article in the LA Times the other day, and feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to it from, the weblog-of-record for shameless deception: Fred’s storied career (login required, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works).

Brito, 49, has spent his adult life using aliases and phony credentials to pull off one elaborate deception after another. He has lied his way into jobs as a Catholic priest, a youth counselor for a foster care agency and executive director of the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, among many others. He once convinced a judge he was a psychiatrist in order to testify in a friend’s criminal trial.

With the Times’ web-hostile archive policy, the story won’t be there for long, but it’s available for now.

Ceglowski on the Shuttle

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Maciej Ceglowski of Idle Words lays bare the sad truth at the heart of the space shuttle program: A rocket to nowhere.