Saturday, September 27, 2003

Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt  

Read Umberto Eco on Fascism.

The Edison Outrage  

Josh Marshall has the whole sickening story:
So, you start a company to privatize education and take on the teachers unions. Your company fails miserably both in terms of the market and academic success. Then after you've hollowed the company out to cover your other bad debts friendly pols come along to bail you out with a couple hundred million from the teachers' (and other public employees') pension fund. I love symmetry.
And of course there's at least one Bush involved in this catastrophe.

Uh, Tom, Like Who Pays For This?  

From the latest:
There is a move in Congress to fully finance that part of the $87 billion for U.S. troops in Iraq, but to slash the $20 billion for Iraqi schools and reconstruction. That would be a big mistake. It is that $20 billion that is the key to getting out and leaving behind a reasonably stable, self-governing Iraq.
I can think offhand of another country that could really use that dough for education and infrastructure. Of course, the leaders don't believe in public education in that country. As for infrastructure, leave it to the provinces.

Now, of course the US can't shortchange the rebuilding of Iraq. But the US can't afford it either.

That's called a serious problem.

[UPDATE] Kos has a roundup of what the money being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan could do for the US. It's sobering.

Dowd On Wolfowitz  

Some mathematician:
The whole attitude of Rummy and Wolfie at Congressional hearings was "Barbie hates math." They couldn't come up with a concrete number for anything.

Skeptical, I checked and discovered that Wolfie's father was a mathematician from Cornell who specialized in probability and statistics; he hoped his son would follow in his footsteps, considering political science on a par with astrology.

Instead, his son chose the field of obscuring probability and statistics, refusing to cooperate with lawmakers to add up how much the war was going to cost in dollars and troops and years, or to multiply the probable exponential problems of remaking the Middle East, or even to subtract the billions that were never coming from snubbed allies.

I guess Wolfie never calculated the division in America his omissions would cause when we finally got a load of the bill — including $100 million to hide the families of 100 Iraqis in the witness protection program, $19 million for post office Wi-Fi, $50 million for traffic cops and $9 million for ZIP codes. At these prices, the Baghdad ZIP better be 90210

Anne Lamott Seeks Sainthood  

She tries to love Bush:
The sermon ended; people were crying. My mind was boggled. Veronica asked if anyone wanted to come forward for special prayer. No one did. I struggled to keep myself in the chair, like a Jim Carrey character, but I found myself lurching forward. She asked me quietly what I needed, and I whispered that I so loathed George Bush that it was making me mentally ill. She put her arm around me, and the church prayed for me, although they did not know what was wrong. I felt a shift, a softening in my heart, an experience I've had often in church. The fly in the ointment is that at some point I have to walk back out the church door, and into the world, and that's when I usually get into trouble again.

But this time, I tried to live in what I'd heard that day, that to love your enemy meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weaknesses. It didn't mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior -- they were still accountable for the atrocities they'd perpetrated. But you were accountable for yours, and you worked at doing better, at loving them, because you were trying not to make things worse.

Day 1 went pretty well. I e-mailed Veronica that night, and I said that I'd heard her, way deep down; that I didn't know how it would change my behavior, but that I had heard. She wrote back that this was a powerful beginning, to hear the truth, and to tell the truth. She said that we don't transform ourselves, but that when we hear, the Spirit has access to our hearts.

I felt better. I lay in the dark and thought about this amazing moment I'd had in church. It had felt transforming at the time, like when I first converted, like when you stick a needle into another hole in the knot, and poke -- poke, tug, feel, and if you stay with it, you have something to show for yourself at the end -- gold! (Then you hang it up immediately, you don't put it back in a drawer, because the tangle is waiting to happen again.)

I have to admit, though, that Day 2 has been a bit of a disappointment.
It's worthwhile finding out what happened.

Proverbs For Democrats  

Rational Wonkism is not an effective counternarrative to Apocalyptic Rightist Populism.

From Mondo Dentro writing in Atrios

I'll Save You Some Money. The Answer Is...  

The CIA has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the White House broke federal laws by revealing the identity of one of its undercover employees in retaliation against the woman’s husband, a former ambassador who publicly criticized President Bush’s since-discredited claim that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium from Africa, NBC News has learned.

Pity. It Was Such A Cool Logo!  

Howler On Bush Haters Vs. Clinton Haters  

And boy, he's right on the money. Now, believe it or not, I'm not a Bush hater. I just don't like the guy. A lot. What I hate - and hate with a passion - is that he is the White House ruining my country, spending my tax dollars in a wasteful way, and lying, lying, lying about it all in order to stay in the White House and continue to ruin my country.

So, it is purely situational. When he's back puttering around in Crawford, I will simply continue to dislike him. A lot.

To Learn What Said Said  

Yesterday, in the comments section of Kynn Bartlett's excellent blog, Shock and Awe, he and I got into a bit of tussle over the legacy of Edward Said. Briefly, I was and remain disgusted by the rock throwing incident and Said's indefensible defense of it. While I respect the depth of his passionate love of classical music, I've always found his taste limited, indeed conservative. He knows music well enough so that his opinions can't be dismissed entirely as philistinism, but his interests remained focused on late 18th/early 19th century classical music and he exhibited little desire to learn more about, let alone appreciate other great western "art" traditions, such as the medieval and renaissance polyphonic masses, or contemporary music. About his other work, I've read some interesting articles and learned that I share his revulsion for Chinoiserie and "Orientalism." But my mind keeps returning to that picture, to the stupidity and ugliness of an intelligent man throwing rocks at other people.

At dinner after Kynn and I finished, we had several friends over who were somewhat more familiar with Said's work and writings than I. They told me I was quite mistaken about his importance. Ok. Between them and Kynn, point taken. I'd like to find out more about him.

Certainly, he was a complicated man. I don't follow Israel/Palestine very closely because it is too, too depressing. I think some of the leaders are either wrong or crazy but most of them are both. They all have blood on their hands, and I can't imagine a practical solution that will work. Certainly Said's prescription, a joint Israeli/Palestinian state is an academic pipe dream, so out there in the blue that, whatever its merits in a perfect world, it's not worth entertaining as a practical goal. Here's one of the many recent examples of how monstrously complicated the situation is. It illustrates, for me at least, how preposterous Said's suggestion seems:
Two winters ago, with Israel mired in the bloody and unrelenting intifada, a group of leading politicians, artists, academics and rabbis gathered to draft a sort of peace treaty. This one had nothing to do with the Palestinians. It concerned a different enduring and embittered civil war: between secular and religious Jews, specifically the ultra-Orthodox. After 16 drafts, the delegates produced a document espousing the seemingly uncontroversial premise that Israel is both a democratic and a Jewish state. Predictably, it managed to enrage extremists on both sides.
And that's just between two of the many different Jewish factions.

Anyway, my friends recommended Said's autobiography to me. Since I gather that he couldn't resist padding his resume a bit - not the sign of a totally honest man, but certainly behavior that doesn't affect the quality of his ideas - I'll forgo its pleasures. But I've ordered what are apparently two of his masterpieces, Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism. Glancing at their descriptions makes it pretty clear that I probably agree with many of their basic propositions. What I'm curious about is how deeply they go.

Regardless, Said seems to have been a complicated man with many great flaws. Perhaps there's more greatness than I've discovered in my cursory look into his thought and his life. Certainly enough folks whose opinions I trust - Kynn, my real-life friends - think he very much deserved his enormous reputation. So I'll back off my dislike of him and retreat to an agnostic position for now, until I've read more.

RE: David Brooks A Letter to the Times  

To the Editor,

It is one thing to have an opinion. It is quite another to propagate outright falsehoods merely to provide ideological red meat for radical extremists. David Brooks has demonstrated that he does not know, or at the very least respect, the difference. He should be fired.

His latest column, Lonely Campus Voices, sites not a single statistic to support his case that there is discrimination against conservatives in universities. Why? He knows for a fact that that is not the case, that conservative ideologues infest business schools, schools for foreign affairs, science departments, and even many humanities departments, including history departments. Case in point: University of Chicago. Another case: Dartmouth. The last I heard these were both pretty good schools despite much of its faculty being far to the right.

As for career opportunities for rightists, the outlook for conservatives must be 5 to 10 times more lucrative than it is for moderates and left of centrists (never mind liberals).

Brooks's column is typical right wing propaganda: distorted, inaccurate, and slimy. He has wasted his opportunity to reach and persuade NY Times readers and should be removed from your roster of op-ed columnists immediately.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Homer Meets The Spirit of Isabella v.  

“..tell me Sir, how I can make her know me.'

"'That,' said he, 'I can soon do. Any ghost that you let taste of the blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if you do not let them have any blood they will go away again.' “

The Odyssey, Chapter XI

We begin long before Salman Rushdie fled to Sweden and became a buxom blonde (as rumor had it), a time when the cyclopean Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were inconceivable for most folks. Yes, there was Patty Hearst, and the hermetic author of Gravity's Rainbow had just sent Professor Irwin Corey to pick up his National Book Award, but The Underground was far less a part of aboveground consciousness back then. There wasn't even The X-Files or Buffy (they don't need links, do they, folks?).

Just after dawn one day in Los Angeles, just before the bicentennial, Michael Shamberg, a young video journalist, picked up a ringing payphone on the corner of Sunset and Las Palmas, Moments later he told his companion, New Times reporter Ron Rosenbaum, to rummage around in a nearby dumpster. Rosenbaum pulled out from the mess two airline tickets to Sacramento made out in the names of J. E. Ray and Arthur Bremer.

Back then, of course, IDs were never checked before boarding planes and iris scan identification technology was a Philip K. Dick amphetamine nightmare, not a like-totally-serious R&D Defense Department project. Therefore, when “Ray”and “Bremer” checked in at the airport, the odd fact that Martin Luther King’s accused killer and the man who shot and paralysed Governor Wallace were sitting next to each other on the same flight raised not the slightest suspicion from anyone on the airline.

When the two “assasins” deplaned in Sacramento, they were met by the ominously non-descript Bruce and Marilyn Harlow, who gave them sunglasses whose insides had been painted black, then led them into a van, strip searched the two men for concealed weapons, and drove them to a house somewhere. Escorted into a room, their blindfolds were removed, video equipment was set up and the two waited.

A door opened, and a strange living caricature of an oddly familiar man in his forties entered with a huge grin. He was wearing a brown, curly wig and a fake nose built up from putty and he said something like “I suppose I should sign in, huh, like on What’s My Line?” and wrote on a blackboard Abbie Hoffman which he underlined with a melodramatic flourish.

This was perhaps the first postmodern retelling of Odysseus In The Underworld, an interview with an inhabitant of a seemingly hip, glamorous spirit-world, a realm populated by those who both ironically parody the paranoid rituals of The Hunted Fugitive, yet who also recognize full well that the stupid Game is just about as fucking real as it gets. And someone is bound to get hurt.

Abbie, you may recall, had been busted back in ‘74 trying to set up a coke deal (a setup, sez he) and gone into hiding. Left behind in consensually verifiable reality was his beloved wife Anita and their kid America. No one, except maybe a Warhol hanger-on or two, knew where Abbie was, but everyone was pretty sure that it was a place where the pot grew copiously well, the sex was equally smoking, and the social causes were ripe for the picking.

During the interview, Abbie picked at his putty nose, told Jewish jokes, and flacked for the Weather Underground - that’s right, Kathy Boudin's old buddies, initially part of a group of sincerely committed activists who spent a little too much time with the wrong company - themselves - and went violently bonk. The interview was intercut with Shamberg’s recollection of the whole strange experience, the plane tickets, Abbie’s disguise and the sneaking suspicion that the disguise itself- to hide his recent plastic surgery - might be fake - that Abbie hadn’t changed his appearance at all, but wanted everyone to think he had.

Most folks remember what Abbie said as it was portrayed in the mainstream, as a pathetic sell-out to the Weatherpeople. But I, being all of like 22 when I saw it broadcast on WNET (can you imagine that happening on PBS today???) remember it differently. Abbie was still alive, thank God, I thought to myself. Not because I closely agreed with his politics, or really ever had. But I certainly loved his theater, his passion and his craziness. And he was still with us, through the horrible Ford years (when Cheney and Rumsfeld as well as other clowns with politics far more immature and ridiculous than Abbie Hoffman’s started holding down important jobs), making it impossible to take the deadly serious that seriously.

What Abbie said was less important to me than the fact that he was still there. And the interview was important because it gave one the sense that there really were ghosts out there, renegade spirits whose real secrets would never be known and whose intentions were not aligned with the Forces Of Order. And these spirits were self-conscious and playful enough to poke fun at the pretentious Romanticism of it all. One didn’t want to be Hoffman, hell no, it sounded awful being Underground, but one couldn’t help being fascinated by this first hand report from Another World, a real life Pynchonia.

I was reminded of the Hoffman interview as I read John Richardson’s Esquire article on the strange, heartbreaking saga of Isabella v.. I’ve posted about Isabella before (here and here) and then, when she stopped posting for a while, stopped reading her blog. Big mistake. Isabella’s back and I have a lot of catching up to do. Isabella, I know, does not like compliments but for those who don’t know her writing I can only say you should stop reading this blog now and go read hers immediately.

I dunno what Isabella herself thinks of the article: as Janet Malcolm once wrote to her everlasting regret, every journalist when he interviews a subject and writes about her commits an act of betrayal. One hopes that whatever distortions Richardson introduced to Isabella’s narrative -and there is much missing or clearly obfuscated, as much as there is in Isabella’s writings herself- he gave away nothing and knows nothing that could lead to her being caught. "Fame", as Rilke said, "is the sum of the misunderstanding that gathers about a new name." One hopes that Richardson’s misunderstandings, whatever they might be, are not scary ones now that Isabella v.’s story breeches the blogosphere and she flirts with widespread fame.

For Isabella is quite real, glimpsed, as all of us are, through numerous faulty narratives, misremembered, disguised, bent, made greater and smaller than she is to herself and her friends by the numerous texts collected around her. All biography is, in a very real way, a palimpsest welded to a forgery; if the combination is done well, the reader gets a sense of the loneliness and the fear that's often at the heart of the subject. And if it’s done really well, the subject’s redeeming wit can shine through.

Richardson does well, his story activates the "damsel in distress" gene that most people have, but perhaps he lacks the comic sense of the macabre that his subject possesses and that makes her blogging so compelling. The “blood” Richardson offers to entice Isabella into an interview (see opening quote) is, of course, a narrative, a story of his obsessive quest to meet another woman he corresponded with online. Isabel drinks of the story and... well, read it yourself.

A few random comments: No, John Richardson did not make up Isabella or his experience (but some of the details are almost certainly disguised or slightly blurred). I was friendly at one point many years ago with one of the people mentioned in the article and I can attest to that person’s reality (and skill with a squash racket). The way that person acts in Richardson’s tale is quite consistent with my recollections.

The portrait Richardson paints of Isabella jibes with my own, limited experiences with the Old Money very rich. I was once being considered for a film directed by the Harvard friend of a cellist I produced. The director came from a wealthy Virginia family with roots back into the 18th century. I was flown down, partly by private plane, to her estate in the horse country, where the film had been shot and was currently in the process of editing. Her assistant, probably her boyfriend, was drop dead gorgeous (thankfully, unlike “David”, however, he was unarmed). Her next door neighbors were Senator John Warner and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The particular combination of natural charm, intelligence, imperiousness, vulnerability and sheer likeable loneliness that Richardson describes and Isabella displays on her blog were also true of the woman I met, who was then about Isabella’s age. She did not seem so tired and stressed, however.

All a roundabout way of saying that I have no reason to disbelieve Isabella’s story. And the reason for the flight, the arranged marriage, is just improbable enough to make sense, given what one can glean about the kind of sensitivity the person who writes the blog must possess. Whether it is the entire story, what led up to the straw that broke the camel’s back, is anyone’s guess.

A few random observations: We are not told about Isabella’s accent or, if I recall rightly, what she sounds like. It must be striking. Also, curiously, Isabella is described exactly as I imagined her to look like, astonishingly so; and as I suspected nothing like the pic at the top of her blog (a fairly recent addition; it was not there in the first few months). The altered self-portrait accompanying the article confirms this.

Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom...

The Odyssey, Chapter XI

There’s a part of me, of course, that wants to know precisely who she is and wants to at least talk to her, if not meet her. She is, like all benign spirits, fascinating. But there’s a stronger part that refuses to pry further (and more cynically, knows I'd have to stand in line!). Even if I had the connections, it would be morally reprehensible to try. Abbie Hoffman was finally betrayed by Viva, a Warhol star who blabbed a little too much; much later, Abbie succumbed to his bipolar disorder and died. It is a tribute to his fugitive craft that he managed to turn the situation from being a disaster into a triumph for himself for so long.

Isabella’s situation, in real life, is a lot more dicey. And Isabella, unlike Abbie, fell into the postmodern media game. And for Isabella, this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around. So good luck, Isabella. And stay well hidden as long as you have to. Trust no one. Except the ones who you trust completely.

...and the soul flits away as though it were a dream.

The Odyssey, Chapter XI

Quote of the Day  

My sides hurt from laughing at this one:"here's the short answer to [Rush Limbaugh's Civil War] analogy: If you want to compare Clark with Gen. George McClellan, then you have to think of George W. Bush as Abraham Lincoln. "

Lotsa Poor  

Since the people running this country have chosen to release the poverty numbers on Friday, when they get the least attention, I will do my eentsy little bit to publicize what they mean, courtesy Kos:
32.9 million live in povery. And what's "poverty"? A family of four with annual household income lower than $12,207.

Congratulations Mr. President, your war on the poor (or "lucky duckies" as your pals at the Wall Street Journal like the call them) is progressing splendidly!
[UPDATE] And CalPundit: The Rich Really Are Kevins' got some sobering charts up about who are really the beneficiaries of the Bush tax cut. You'll be quite surprised, I'm sure.

One More From Seraphiel  

Bush's UN Speech  


And The War Goes On - U.S. soldier killed in attack in Kirkuk - Sep. 26, 2003:
A member of the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade has been killed and two others wounded in an attack in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the Coalition Public Information Center said Friday.

The vehicle the soldiers were riding in was hit in a rocket-propelled grenade attack at 11 p.m. local time on Thursday. The wounded were evacuated for treatment.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Bush rating lowest ever  

It's not low enough by half, tho.

Voting Machines: WTF Is Going On????  

This is the tip of a huge iceberg of concerns:
Electronic voting machine technology used nationwide is 'at high risk of compromise' because of software flaws that could make them vulnerable to computer hackers and voting fraud, according to a review released yesterday. The report also said, though, that proper safeguards could help to mitigate the risk.

The new report, the second concerning voting machines from Diebold Election Systems, was conducted for the state of Maryland after researchers warned this summer that the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machines, more than 33,000 of which are used in 38 states, may be vulnerable to manipulation. Maryland is adopting the machines for elections...

"In an interview yesterday, Mr. Rubin said he was mystified to see that the state planned to use Diebold machines despite the report.

"It almost seems as though the people writing the Maryland action plan either did not read or did not understand the S.A.I.C. report," he said. "What they should say is, `We're going to put these systems on hold until they say that these things are safe to use.' "

James T. Smith, the Baltimore County executive, who has opposed the move to electronic voting, said the new report should stop the state from using the machines.

"For two years, Baltimore County has warned, `Iceberg ahead!' and now independent experts have warned that it's a gigantic iceberg," Mr. Smith said. "Maryland should not say, `Damn the iceberg, full speed ahead.' "
SAIC, whose report it is, is a defense/government contractor with a finger in a lot of pies. To say the least, a bill of health on voting machines from them is of dubious value.

For guess who is associated with both SAIC and VoteHere, an election systems company?
Admiral Bill Owens, who is now Chairman of the Board for VoteHere. Owens also served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was a senior military assistant to Secretaries of Defense Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney. Carlucci's company is Carlyle Group, while Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer is Halliburton.

Another former SAIC board member, also on the board of VoteHere, is ex-CIA director Robert Gates, a veteran of the Iran/Contra scandal.
According to Scoop. Dick Cheney, Dick where did I hear that name before?

[UPDATE] Edited after original posting to improve formatting. No content added or deleted.
[UPDATE] This link will take you to a pdf of a censored copy of the SAIC report. Link courtesy Slashdot


Electronic paper fast enough to show videos. Can you imagine flipping through a book, each page, a different video?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Clark On Jobs Creation Plan  

Go here for the whole speech.

the workers have no jobs, and this White House has no plan. They say tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. They say drilling in the arctic will create jobs. They say a new energy plan will create jobs. They say easing environmental regulations will create jobs. They are flailing. They are desperate. They know they have a problem, and they know they don’t have a solution. They came into office with one answer to everything. Tax cuts for the rich. But three years later – tax cuts for the rich have made us poor.

The most effective way to help an unemployed worker is not to run out and borrow billions of dollars to give to millionaires. That’s what they’re doing when they pass these massive tax cuts for the rich that deepen the deficit. They’re borrowing billions of dollars to give to millionaires. It ought to be obvious by now – it just doesn’t work. In the area of economics, this White House still needs some basic training.

My Job Creation Plan will directly fund job creation in a fiscally responsible way. Fiscal discipline requires not only reducing the deficit. It requires moving money from areas where it isn't advancing national goals, and directing it to areas where it is. So I will reduce the tax cuts Mr. Bush gave the richest households - those making more than $200,000 a year, and directs [sic] that money to three job-creating funds.

First: The Homeland and Economic Security Fund would invest $40 billion over two years to directly fund jobs that immediately improve our security. The Bush Administration has shortchanged vital areas of homeland security. The Council on Foreign Relations released a bipartisan study this summer that said that the nation is dramatically underfunding efforts to prepare police, fire and ambulance personnel for terrorist attacks. This fund would improve our defenses against terrorist attack by paying to train more firefighters and police officers, hire more Coast Guard, customs Service, and law enforcement personnel. The fund would also pay for construction projects to safeguard bridges, ports and tunnels; and fund high-tech efforts to develop ways to detect biological and chemical weapons and materials.

Second: Another $40 billion will go to the State and Local Tax Rebate Fund. Mr. Bush's tax cuts have had a brutal effect on state governments. In some states, their tax code is linked directly to the federal tax code, so a tax cut at the federal level translates into automatic tax cuts at the state level. But the states, unlike the federal government, must balance their budgets - so the Bush tax cuts force state budget cuts in areas such as education and health - even in prisons. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded that state budget cuts could push nearly 2 million people off Medicaid – denying poor mothers the chance to take a sick baby to the doctor.

My plan will give $20 billion to states to help keep tuition increases down and help state and local government train workers for new jobs. Another ten billion will go to states to help them meet the increasing cost of health care. The final ten billion will help states fund important jobs in law enforcement, corrections and social services.

Finally, my plan will set aside $20 billion over two years for Tax Incentives for Job Creation. Businesses are not hiring new employees even though the economy is growing, partly because the growth is weak and businesses aren’t sure it will last. I'm proposing a new job creation tax credit that will reduce the cost for a business to hire a new employee. The plan will offer up to $5,000 tax credit for each additional full-time employee any business hires in 2004 and 2005. The plan will also encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in new equipment by allowing these firms to write-off up to $150,000 in investments over the next two years.

If any businesses are thinking of buying major new equipment over the next several years, this tax change will encourage them to do it now, and create the stimulus when the economy most needs it. As President, I will also order an immediate review to determine whether any tax and spending provisions provide manufacturing firms an incentive to move jobs overseas. No tax incentives offered by the government of the United States should harm the workers of the United States. At the same time, we will review trade agreements to make sure our trading partners have opened their markets to our goods. We will insist that China should play by international norms and not set its currency at artificially low levels that give their exports unfair advantage, and we will reverse the cuts Mr. Bush has made to the Manufacturing Extension partnership - a project that is shown to help firms increase or retain jobs.

Again, this $100 billion, two-year Job Creation Plan will not increase the deficit. It simply moves $100 billion from tax cuts for households making more than $200,000 a year and directs it to job creating funds that will help middle-income and working class families.

The next President will have to restart the economy and improve our security; this Job Creation Plan will help do both. It’s a good idea that can get quick results, and I’m eager to talk to the voters around the country about it.

Bush At the UN; The Short Version  

Via LiberalOasis:
We were right. You were wrong. Give us money.
-- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show 9/23/03

Bad Ruling  

Get the judges' home phone numbers. Swamp 'em with calls at 7:00 pm.
In a victory for telemarketers, a federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority in creating a national do-not-call telephone registry, which was to have gone into effect on Oct. 1.

"Admittedly, the elimination of telemarketing fraud and the prohibition against deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts or practices are significant public concerns," Judge Lee R. West wrote in a ruling handed down on Tuesday and made public today.

Nonetheless, the judge held that "an administrative agency's power to regul

Hate The Sin, Bomb The Sinners  

I wonder, do Christianists approve of this as a way of enforcing public morality? I suppose they'll just have to take a very, very careful look at the films the cinema was showing to determine how pornographic they really were.
n explosion has ripped through a cinema in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing two people and injuring up to 20 others.

The cinema was showing a pornographic film at the time of the explosion, witnesses said.

Islamic militants are known to oppose what they call "immoral" movies and have attacked some cinemas in post-war Iraq for showing them.

President Clinton's Efforts to End Terrorism  

In the effort to weasel out of responsibility for the September II attacks, Bush and Co. have tried to blame Clinton (as they have for all sins in the world including the Fall of Man). Here's a typical example of the "it's all Clinton's fault" meme. Well, they're wrong. Buzzflash has a roundup that tells the truth about the Clinton record.

Virus Takes Out Visa Computers At State Department  

Just great.
The State Department's electronic system for checking every visa applicant for terrorist or criminal history failed worldwide late Tuesday because of a computer virus, leaving the U.S. government unable to issue visas.

The virus crippled the department's Consular Lookout and Support System, known as CLASS, which contains more than 12.8 million records from the FBI, State Department and U.S. immigration, drug-enforcement and intelligence agencies. Among the names are those of at least 78,000 suspected terrorists...
78,000 suspected terrorists???? Holy patootie!
Such an outage would represent the most serious disruption in years to U.S. government computers from an Internet infection...

Every visa applicant is checked against the names in the CLASS database. The State Department's automated systems are designed not even to print a visa until such a check is completed.

It was unclear which computer virus might have affected the system. But a separate message sent to embassies and consular offices late Tuesday warned that the ``Welchia'' virus had been detected in one facility. Welchia is an aggressive infection unleashed last month that exploits a software flaw in recent versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software.
For heaven's sake, folks, get a Mac.

So There Aren't Any. WMD, That Is  

If so, a lot of people died for a delusion.
No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq by the group looking for them, according to a Bush administration source who has spoken to the BBC.

This will be the conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group's interim report, the source told the presenter of BBC television's Daily Politics show, Andrew Neil.

Downing Street branded the story "speculation about an unfinished draft of an interim report".
Notice that Downing Street didn't deny the substance of the source's info.

Salon On Voting Machines  

Go and read it. Now!
Not only is the country's leading touch-screen voting system so badly designed that votes can be easily changed, but its manufacturer is run by a die-hard GOP donor who vowed to deliver his state for Bush next year.

Finally! Bush Admin Challenged On Padilla  

Via Lisa Rein, comes this link to a Nat Hentoff article:
Ignored by most media, an array of prominent federal judges, government officials, and other members of the legal establishment has joined in a historic rebellion against George W. Bush's unprecedented and unconstitutional arrogance of power that threatens the fundamental right of American citizens to have access to their lawyers before disappearing indefinitely into military custody without charges, without seeing an attorney or anyone except their guards.

The case, Padilla v. Rumsfeld , is now before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In a compelling friend-of-the-court brief on Padilla's behalf by an extraordinary gathering of the aforementioned former federal court judges, district court judges, and other legal luminaries of the establishment bar, they charge:

"This case involves an unprecedented detention by the United States of an American citizen, seized on American soil, and held incommunicado for more than a year without any charge being filed against him, without any access to counsel, and without any right to challenge the basis of his detention before a United States judge or magistrate . . .

"[We] believe the Executive's position in this case threatens the basic 'rule of law' on which our country is founded, the role of the federal judiciary and the separations in our national government, and fundamental individual liberties enshrined in our Constitution."

ACLU Sues Secret Service On Behalf Of Right To Dissent  

Here's the story.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked the federal courts Tuesday to prevent the U.S. Secret Service from keeping anti-Bush protesters far away from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages up close.

The civil liberties group filed the lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania on behalf of four advocacy organizations that claimed that the Secret Service forced them into protest zones or other areas where they could not be seen by President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney or be noticed by the media covering their visits.

"The pattern we found was at presidential and vice presidential appearances, protesters were restricted to areas where they were out of sight, out of earshot and often out of mind," said Witold J. Walczak, legal director for the ACLU's Greater Pittsburgh chapter.

"Protecting our nation's leaders from harm is important. Protecting our nation's leaders from dissent is unconstitutional."
If you want to donate to the ACLU to encourage this initiative (I have), click here. You can also join, if you are not a card-carrying member already (I am).

Voting Machine Controversy  

To say the least, the Diebold voting machine story stinks to high heaven. No paper trail, no examining of the innards, and a prominent Republican (Chuck Hagel) is financially associated with Diebold's parent company. I've been avoiding the story 'cause it's complicated and there's a lot of potential to tin foil hat theorizing, but Blackbox Voting was covering the story in detail. Until yesterday, when as Kos reports, lawyers for Diebold shut the site down.

This is a story the sclm should be all over. Why the blazes not? Too complicated for them, too?

This may be one time to write to one's local newspaper.

[UPDATE] The Agonist promises to post a mirror Bev Harris's site today. And Salon has a big article about it as well.

Origins Of The Separation Between Church And State  

The New Yorker, in the print edition, has an interesting letter from law professor Llloyd Burton which gives some indication of how embedded in American tradition is the notion of a separation of church and state:
[Thomas Jefferson, in writing of a "wall of separation"] was, as it happens, drawing on an earlier tradition. In 1643, Roger Williams, a clergyman and founder of Rhode Island, who had been banished from the Puritan Colonies for challenging theocratic authorities, wrote that there should be "a wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world" - by which he meant the predations of sectarian political leaders. The difference between the two is that, while Williams felt the wall necessary to protect the church from the sate, for Jefferson the greater need was to protect the state from the church.
They were both right. See the post immediately below for one good reason why.

Your Tax Dollars Are Going To Moonies  

Mine, too.
Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave a $475,280 grant to fund Free Teens USA, an after-school celibacy club in urban New Jersey. Free Teens USA, like other Moon civic organizations, claims it has no ties to the Unification Church. But according to documents obtained by Salon under the Freedom of Information Act, the director and chief finance officer of the Free Teens USA club, as well as others listed on the group's board of directors, are former or present high-ranking Unification Church officials who omitted those leadership roles from their applications for the federal grant...

The men of Free Teens are not the only ones with Moon affiliations to benefit from Bush largesse. Josette Shiner, who rose up through the Moon organization first as a Washington Times reporter and Moon disciple and later as editor of that newspaper, was named deputy trade representative earlier this year. In 1982 she told the Washington Post, "I joined the church full well knowing it is something not yet understood by society." In the 1990s, she claimed to have broken ties with Moon and to have become an Episcopalian. Her press secretary, Richard Mills, refused to comment on whether Shiner had rethought Moon's political views.

And in December of last year, Bush appointed David Caprara, a top official for Moon in Washington, to head the War on Poverty program AmeriCorps VISTA. Caprara had been director of Moon's American Family Coalition and was one of the Unification Church's top political operatives...

...Caprara, according to a report on another Unification-affiliated site, is involved in the "effort to reach ministers" as well as "educating political leaders" about Moon's beliefs. Asked whether Caprara is presently opening doors for Moon, AmeriCorps spokesman Sandy Scott replies: "The premise of your question is wrong, and the answer to your question is no."
You might want to read the entire article before believing Sandy Scott here. It will also refresh your memory regarding why the Moonies are both a joke and exceedingly worrisome.

Times' Editors Refuse Bush's Kool-Aid  

Perhaps they've begun to get it?
His address seemed aimed more at a domestic audience than the world community, given how sunny a picture he painted of a situation in which the administration is finding almost nothing as easy as it had hoped.

The United States clearly fears that if the United Nations takes over the job, it will make a mess of things. We are in a mess already. What's needed now is an international plan for dealing with it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Digby's Great Rant  

The links are bloggered but go here and it's in September 23, 2003.
I still believe in the dream of a progressive, liberal nation in which everyone has opportunity and security, freedom and equality. And, I would love to see our politics move beyond the canned soundbite and the market tested message so people can debate civilly and sincerely about policies and philosophy, vote their conscience and elevate the discourse, secure in the knowledge that no matter what, America as we know it will continue to thrive.

But, right now I am scared to death that things are changing so fundamentally that not only will I not see any more progress in my lifetime, but that this country is undergoing a radical and perhaps irreversible, right wing revolution that will reverse most of the progress of the last 100 years.

I wish it were 1972 again or even 1992 again and I could feel sanguine that the United States was going to toddle along, for better or worse, under a basic bipartisan consensus that recognized certain constitutional boundaries and limits that could not be breached. I wish that we had an independent media that was less focused on entertainment values and instead recognized that it had an intrinsically important role in democracy. I wish that we were not in the grip of a revolution in technology and communications at the same time as a radical group of idealists have seized power. I wish we had the luxury of choosing candidates purely on the basis of their commitment to a bottom-up revolution of the people and progressive ideas.

Unfortunately, it is not that time. The modern Republican party presents a clear and present danger to everything we hold dear --- the social safety net, the rule of law, civil liberties, consumer protection, a clean environment, international legitimacy --- everything. They envision a one-party state. They mean to completely and thoroughly change the way this country works.

It’s important to recognize that major revolutionary change can happen slowly at first and then all at once in a civilized democratic society through sophisticated propaganda and by undermining the principles of democracy.
Exactly. Digby goes on to recap the history of Hitler's rise to power. I don't think the analogy quite fits. Bush is not Hitler, as I've said many times.

But we are indeed living in very precarious times.

And it is important to remember that the term "liberals" is shorthand for "defenders of liberal democracy." When scoundrels like Coulter shout "treason" at liberals, they have a profoundly different view of what America should be, and a liberal democracy is nowhere in sight. At the very least, no liberals need apply for citizenship in Coulterstan.

What A Shoddy Thing To Lie About  

Courtesy Jeanne d'Arc comes this sad, pathetic story:
There’d been this article about Bush & God in Newsweek. It describes this Bible group that Don Evans [Bush’s Commerce Secretary and longtime friend] got Bush into when he stopped drinking. [Newsweek writer Howard] Fineman describes it as scriptural boot camp. Ten guys and each week they’d study a chapter of a book over two years and analyze them line by line. Over two years, they read Luke and Acts.

So I was at the White House Correspondents dinner and found myself seated at the table next to Don Evans. I was all set to ask about the tax cut. And I said, “So you know what Acts is about?”

And I saw sort of this blank thing go over his eyes and then sort of a quick look of panic and he said, “No.” And I was absolutely shocked. And I said, “Well your tax cut so heavily favors the rich, and Acts is so socialist almost.”

And he said, “But, ah! Acts contains the Parable of the Talents.” Now just as it so happens, I knew that actually wasn’t true. I knew the parable of talents was from Matthew. And he said, “Are you sure?” And I said, “Yeah.” It was just a complete fluke that I knew that. My son the year before had been assigned some New Testament reading in high schools as part of a civilization class and talents was part of what he was assigned.

But I realized that these guys didn’t read these books line by line for two years and discuss them for two years –- they couldn’t have! I know these guys aren’t the smartest guys in the world but they’re not that dumb. I remember stuff I read in high school that I didn’t really read that well but we discussed in class for a like a week—-ya know what I mean?

I just have to believe that what he told Fineman was a lie. That was the only conclusion I could come to. Then I talked to Fineman and he remembered talking to Bush during the primaries in New Hampshire. Howard asked him what selection of the Bible he’d read that day because the campaign was saying that Governor Bush read the Bible every day.

And we tracked down the transcript and Bush was totally defensive and it seemed to me from the transcript that he really didn’t read the Bible every day. He just said he did –- which is, like, a very weird thing to lie about. -- Al Franken

Schopenhauer's Art of Controversy  

Here it is folks, the ultimate guide to using rhetoric to bash unfairly your opponents' arguments. Schopenhauer's Art of Controversy makes for wonderful reading:
This is the argumentum ad verecundiam. It consists in making an appeal to authority rather than reason, and in using such an authority as may suit the degree of knowledge possessed by your opponent.

Every man prefers belief to the exercise of judgment, says Seneca; and it is therefore an easy matter if you have an authority on your side which your opponent respects. The more limited his capacity and knowledge, the greater is the number of the authorities who weigh with him. But if his capacity and knowledge are of a high order, there are very few; indeed, hardly any at all. He may, perhaps, admit the authority of professional men versed in a science or an art or a handicraft of which he knows little or nothing; but oven so he will regard it with suspicion. Contrarily, ordinary folk have a deep respect for professional men of every kind. They are unaware that a man who makes a profession of a thing loves it not for the thing itself, but for the money he makes by it; or that it is rare for a man who teaches to know his subject thoroughly; for if he studies it as he ought, he has in most cases no time left in which to teach it.

But there are very many authorities who find respect with the mob, and if yon lave none that is quite suitable, you can take one that appears to be so; you may quote what some said in another sense or in other circumstances. Authorities which your opponent fails to understand are those of which he generally thinks the most. The unlearned entertain a peculiar respect for a Greek or a Latin flourish.

You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something which you have invented entirely yourself. As a rule, your opponent has no books at hand, and could not use them if he had. The finest illustration of this is furnished by the French curé, who, to avoid being compelled, like other citizens, to pave the street in front of his house, quoted a saying which he described as biblical: paveant illi, ego non pavebo. That was quite enough for the municipal officers.

A universal prejudice may also be used as an authority; for most people think with Aristotle that that may be said to exist which many believe. There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is generally adopted. Example affects their thought, just as it affects their action. They are like sheep following the bell-wether just as he leads them. They would sooner die than think. It is very curious that the universality of an opinion should have so much weight with people, as their own experience might tell them that its acceptance is an entirely thoughtless and merely imitative process. But it tells them nothing of the kind, because they possess no self-knowledge whatever. It is only the elect who say with Plato tois pollois polla dokei; which means that the public has a good many bees in its bonnet, and that it would be a long business to get at them.

But to speak seriously, the universality of an opinion is no proof, nay, it is not even a probability, that the opinion is right. Those who maintain that it is so must assume (1) that length of time deprives a universal opinion of its demonstrative force, as otherwise all the old errors which were once universally held to be true would have to be recalled; for instance, the Ptolemaic system would have to be restored, or Catholicism re-established in all Protestant countries. They must assume (2) that distance of space has the same effect; otherwise the respective universality of opinion among the adherents of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam will put them in a difficulty.

When we come to look into the matter, so-called universal opinion is the opinion of two or three persons; and we should be persuaded of this if we could see the way in which it really arises.

We should find that it is two or three persons who, in the first instance, accepted it, or advanced and maintained it; and of whom people were so good as to believe that they had thoroughly tested it. Then a few other persons, persuaded beforehand that the first were men of the requisite capacity, also accepted the opinion. These, again, were trusted by many others, whose laziness suggested to them that it was better to believe at once, than to go through the troublesome task of testing the matter for themselves. Thus the number of these lazy and credulous adherents grew from day to day; for the opinion had no sooner obtained a fair measure of support than its further supporters attributed this to the fact that the opinion could only have obtained it by the cogency of its arguments. The remainder were then compelled to grant what was universally granted, so as not to pass for unruly persons who resisted opinions which every one accepted, or pert fellows who thought themselves cleverer than any one else.

When opinion reaches this stage, adhesion becomes a duty; and henceforward the few who are capable of forming a judgment hold their peace. Those who venture to speak are such as are entirely incapable of forming any opinions or any judgment of their own, being merely the echo of others' opinions; and, nevertheless, they defend them with all the greater zeal and intolerance. For what they hate in people who think differently is not so much the different opinions which they profess, as the presumption of wanting to form their own judgment; a presumption of which they themselves are never guilty, as they are very well aware. In short, there are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready-made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself?

Since this is what happens, where is the value of the opinion even of a hundred millions? It is no more established than an historical fact reported by a hundred chroniclers who can be proved to have plagiarised it from one another; the opinion in the end being traceable to a single individual.16 It is all what I say, what you say, and, finally, what he says; and the whole of it is nothing but a series of assertions: -

 Dico ego, tu dicis, sed denique dixit et ille;
 Dictaque post toties, nil nisi dicta vides.

Nevertheless, in a dispute with ordinary people, we may employ universal opinion as an authority. For it will generally be found that when two of them are fighting, that is the weapon which both of them choose as a means of attack. If a man of the better sort has to deal with them, it is most advisable for him to condescend to the use of this weapon too, and to select such authorities as will make an impression on his opponent's weak side. For, ex hypothesi, he is as insensible to all rational argument as a horny-hided Siegfried, dipped in the flood of incapacity, and unable to think or judge.

Before a tribunal the dispute is one between authorities alone, - such authoritative statements, I mean, as are laid down by legal experts; and here the exercise of judgment consists in discovering what law or authority applies to the case in question. There is, however, plenty of room for Dialectic; for should the case in question and the law not really fit each other, they can, if necessary, be twisted until they appear to do so, or vice versâ.

President Bartlet On Canada  

Link courtesy a friend:
Every time I cross this border I feel like I've left the land of lunatics,' [Martin] Sheen said Saturday in Windsor, Ontario, where he was receiving an award as a Christian role model.

'You are not armed and dangerous. You do not shoot each other,' Sheen said. 'I always feel a bit more human when I come here.'

The Revision Thing  

From Harper's comes this masterpiece, "A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies. All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity." A short excerpt:
Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before. For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them. It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

Betty Bowers For Bush  

There's more where this one came from here.

Perle Meets Medea Benjamin  

Who knew the NewsHour could get so testy?
RAY SUAREZ: So you would suggest immediate turning over of authority to the U. N. Does the U. N. have a track record in these matters that's more encouraging than America's thus far?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it certainly has a track record that's more encouraging than the Americans. It's been six months since this occupation, and even the Iraqis who welcomed the U.S. with open arms and were so happy to get rid of Saddam Hussein are now extremely bitter and angry. The resentment will only grow unless the U.S. turns this over to a legitimate authority, which is the United Nations, which will have a quick time line for Iraqi self rule and that the money that is pledged by the U.S. and the international community -- and let's remember the international community will not pledge money unless it is in the hands of the United Nations -- and that money should go directly to Iraqis and not to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel that are profiteering from this war.

RICHARD PERLE: What you just heard is a tirade against American companies in the left-wing tradition that she represents. Her characterization of the situation in Iraq is not at all borne out by many conversations I've had with Iraqis, including members of the governing council she's been referring to.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I challenge to you go there with me, Mr. Perle, because I was there in July, I was there in August, I don't stay in the presidential palace, I don't go around with bodyguards and helicopters and sniffing dogs like Paul Bremer and Colin Powell. I challenge to you go with me, without any bodyguards and let's walk around the streets of the cities of Iraq and see what it looks like six months after the U.S. occupation.

RICHARD PERLE: With all due respect, your sojourns in the cities of Iraq are hardly the appropriate measure of how well we have done in restoring electricity and getting water back on track. I don't think --

MEDEA BENJAMIN: You know better sitting in Washington, D.C.?

RAY SUAREZ: Let him finish, please.

RICHARD PERLE: Let's be clear. This is a massive undertaking and very significant progress has been made, and it makes no sense for to you sit there and say nothing has been accomplished when a great deal has been accomplished.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: It's an absolute disaster, Mr. Perle, and I think you know it, but go with me and you'll see with your own eyes.
via Arms And The Man

From The Bill Bennet Museum Of Public Morality: Mrs. Satan Vs. Reverend Beecher  

Public moralizing by prigs has a long, hoary, history in this country. So does hypocrisy. Here's a blast from the past, the story of Victoria Woodhull and the Reverend Ward Beecher. A little bit of prehistory on these folks.

Victoria Woodhull was one of the most extraordinary women in American history. She was the first woman to hold a seat on the stock exchange, the first woman to run for President, a clairvoyant, a publisher, and a vocal advocate of women's suffrage. She was also prominent in the Free Love movement in many different ways, for which the press called her Mrs. Satan.

Reverend Ward Beecher, brother of the famous Harriett (as in Uncle Tom's Cabin) was a prominent clergyman in the 19th Century. He was an abolitionist and supported women's suffrage. He was also a temperance advocate and firm opponent of Free Love. Now, let a site from Brown University explain what happened.
The scandal first erupted publicly in 1872, when women's rights advocate Victoria Woodhull published an article accusing Henry Ward Beecher, a well known and widely popular [sic] Brooklyn, New York, clergyman, of adultery. It was charged that, in the late 1860s, Beecher had conducted an affair with Elizabeth Tilton, wife of Theodore Tilton. Both Tiltons were members of Beecher's Plymouth Church, and Tilton was editor of the journal Independent, which Beecher had formerly edited.

In 1870, giving in to her husband's suspicions, Elizabeth Tilton confessed the affair to Tilton, and soon the incident was well known among a small circle of influential Plymouth Church members. Various individuals mediated the matter, succeeding in keeping it out of the public eye for some time. Elizabeth Tilton was badgered, successively, by Beecher, to write a retraction of her confession, and by Tilton, to write a retraction of that retraction.

In 1873, Plymouth Church withdrew Tilton's membership in the church, owing to his attacks on Beecher and relationship (of whatever nature) with Woodhull. By this time, various documents and letters relating to the matter had appeared in the press. Articles appeared in the Independent (with which Tilton was no longer associated) highly critical of Tilton and his attitude toward Beecher. Angered, Tilton published replies in several major papers, and the matter became the subject of intense public interest.

Beecher then directed a Plymouth Church committee to investigate the matter; despite much published evidence of the affair (supplied by Tilton and others), Beecher was exonerated by the committee of his close supporters. Subsequently, Tilton brought suit against Beecher, and the trial in 1875 became a became a national sensation. At the end of a six month trial, the jury could not agree, and Beecher was acquitted.

The following year, a second church committee again exonerated Beecher; in 1878 Elizabeth Tilton, in yet another reversal, admitted to the affair, and was dismissed from Plymouth Church. Theodore Tilton, unable to earn a living because of the scandal, ultimately moved to Paris. Beecher continued to be popular, but never again received the widespread uncritical adulation that had been his prior to the scandal.
Was Beecher a "bad guy"? Of course not. Like everyone, he was flawed. But his hypocrisy was inexcusable and led to the decline of his influence and power.

[UPDATE] Slightly edited after original post.


Good News: Poll Says Bush Approval Is Dropping Fast  

Thank goodness:
President Bush has the lowest approval rating of his presidency and is running about even with five Democratic challengers led by newly announced candidate Wesley Clark, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Why Dave Neiwert's Blog Is Dope  

Dave Neiwert, over at Orcinus has just logged its 200,000 hit, for which we congratulate him. Dave focuses on a subject which he knows intimately: American right wing extremists and their strategies. If I read his bio right, he grew up in an environment of Birchers, fundamentalists, and worse and came to reject it all. But that is not all. Dave is, I gather, one of those special people who can establish a rapport with folks who would normally not give the time of day to people who are not true believers. His book, In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest is a riveting blend of the history of the movement and personal stories of his encounters with some of the important leaders of the movement. He just finished up a new book which I await eagerly.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about both the scope and the strategies of the extreme right in the US. I could blather on, but Dave says it most succinctly:
[The extreme right] are in fact much more significant than the establishment-media view will admit. I think Tucker Carlson summed up neatly exactly what that view is the other day in his Salon interview with Kerry Lauerman:

The classic flipside, which I've seen much more, is that you get some 62-year-old, semi-retarded cracker whose like the lone member of his chapter of the KKK, and he represents white supremacists. How many white supremacists are there in America? There are about nine, and they're all mentally retarded.

As regular readers of Orcinus know, this view is simply counter to the known facts. Of course, this kind of argument is not merely self-serving, it is precisely the kind of camouflage that enables the flow of extremist ideas and agendas to flow from the far right into the mainstream.

Hate The Sin, Kill The Sinner: Christianism In Action  

John Ashcroft's tough love:
Attorney General John Ashcroft today made it tougher for federal prosecutors to strike plea bargains with criminal defendants, requiring attorneys to seek the most serious charges possible in almost all cases.

The policy directive issued by Mr. Ashcroft is the latest in a series of steps the Justice Department has taken in recent months to combat what it sees as dangerously lenient practices by some federal prosecutors and judges.

The move also effectively expands to the entire gamut of federal crimes the attorney general's tough stance on the death penalty, which he has sought in numerous cases over the objections of federal prosecutors.

"The direction I am giving our U.S. attorneys today is direct and emphatic," Mr. Ashcroft said at a speech in Cincinnati. Except in "limited, narrow circumstances," he said, federal prosecutors must seek to bring charges for "the most serious, readily provable offense" that can be supported by the facts of the case.

But critics in the defense bar and some federal prosecutors said the new policy would serve only to further centralize authority in the hands of Washington policymakers, discourage prosecutors from seeking plea bargains and ratchet up sentences in criminal cases that may not warrant them.

Monday, September 22, 2003

What It's Like To Be A Soldier In Iraqmire  

Great article in The Nation this month. Subscribe if you don't already.Here's what it looks like to the Joes on the ground:
The military treats these soldiers like unwanted stepchildren. This unit's rifles are retooled hand-me-downs from Vietnam. They have inadequate radio gear, so they buy their own unencrypted Motorola walkie-talkies. The same goes for flashlights, knives and some components for night-vision sights. The low-performance Iraqi air-conditioners and fans, as well as the one satellite phone and payment cards shared by the whole company for calling home, were also purchased out of pocket from civilian suppliers.

Bottled water rations are kept to two liters a day. After that the guys drink from "water buffaloes"--big, hot chlorination tanks that turn the amoeba-infested dreck from the local taps into something like swimming-pool water. Mix this with powdered Gatorade and you can wash down a famously bad MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).

To top it all off they must endure the pathologically uptight culture of the Army hierarchy. The Third of the 124th is now attached to the newly arrived First Armored Division, and when it is time to raid suspected resistance cells it's the Guardsmen who have to kick in the doors and clear the apartments.

"The First AD wants us to catch bullets for them but won't give us enough water, doesn't let us wear do-rags and makes us roll down our shirt sleeves so we look proper! Can you believe that shit?" Sergeant Sellers is pissed off.

The soldiers' improvisation extends to food as well. After a month or so of occupying "the club," the company commander, Captain Sanchez, allowed two Iraqi entrepreneurs to open shop on his side of the wire--one runs a slow Internet cafe, the other a kebab stand where the "Joes" pay US dollars for grilled lamb on flat bread.

"The haji stand is one of the only things we have to look forward to, but the First AD keeps getting scared and shutting it down." Sellers is on a roll, but he's not alone.

Even the lighthearted Howell, who insists that the squad has it better than most troops, chimes in. "The one thing I will say is that we have been here entirely too long. If I am not home by Christmas my business will fail." Back "on earth" (in Panama City, Florida), Howell is a building contractor, with a wife, two small children, equipment, debts and employees.

Perhaps the most shocking bit of military incompetence is the unit's lack of formal training in what's called "close-quarter combat." The urbanized mayhem of Mogadishu may loom large in the discourse of the military's academic journals like Parameters and the Naval War College Review, but many US infantrymen are trained only in large-scale, open-country maneuvers--how to defend Germany from a wave of Russian tanks.

So, since "the end of the war" these guys have had to retrain themselves in the dark arts of urban combat. "The houses here are small, too," says Brunelle. "Once you're inside you can barely get your rifle up. You got women screaming, people, furniture everywhere. It's insane."

By now this company has conducted scores of raids, taken fire on the street, taken casualties, taken rocket-propelled grenade attacks to the club and are defiantly proud of the fact that they have essentially been abandoned, survived, retrained themselves and can keep a lid on their little piece of Baghdad. But it's not always the Joes who have the upper hand.

Clark's Beating Bush  

Excellent, excellent.
Democrat Wesley Clark, in the presidential race for less than a week, is tied with President Bush in a head-to-head matchup, according to a poll that shows several Democratic candidates strongly challenging the Republican incumbent.

From the Never Miss A Single Trick Department  

Courtesy Daily Kos:
For the past 15 years, the Census Bureau has always released the report on a Tuesday or Thursday. This year, in order to mask the bad news buried within the report, the report will be released on a Friday .

Is Simplism the New Integrity?  

So asks Josh Marshall, bemoaning the carping about Wesley Clark's position about the war. Well, Josh is right to object to the failure of the press to perceive nuance, but to answer his question: No. Simplism has been hip and groovy in the US since the earliest days.

And it was Bush's plain talking rhetoric -whoo boy, what a misunderstanding- that sounded to the political press so "real." Good, evil, wanted dead or alive, axis of evil. The rest of us knew it for what it was, of course.

Stupidity. Rigiidity. Magical thinking. Duplicity.

Uh Oh  

When Bush mentions nukes, I worry. A lot.
President Bush will tell the United Nations on Tuesday that he was right to order the invasion of Iraq even without the organization's explicit approval, and he will urge a new focus on countering nuclear proliferation, arguing that it is the only way to avoid similar confrontation
What is this about? Iraq wasn't even trying to get nukes. Iraq had no nukes. The mind boggles at what the possible connection could be.

And let's not forget Bush is pushing for nuclear proliferation. Proliferation of nukes he controls. He says all he wants to do is study nukes, but who can believe him?

Sunday, September 21, 2003


Virginia Tech PowerMac G5 Cluster Photos. Whoa!

Saddam Killed JFK On Orders From Bill Clinton  

Not really, but what Laurie Mylroie actually believes is at least as bizarre. Who's Laurie Mylroie? I've blogged about her before but the link above has some more detail about just who takes her seriously.

She's a scholar at American Enterprise Institute. Her work has been publically, and loudly, endorsed by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle. She effusively acknowledges the direct influence on her work of Wolfowitz's wife as well as John Bolton and Scooter Libby, the latter being Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Oh, and former CIA director James Woolsey, currently on the Defense Policy Board, wrote a foreword when one of her books was reissued.

Impressive, eh? She must be hot stuff. So here's a summary, by Jay Bookman, of Laurie's thinking on the '93 WTC bombing:
According to the official explanation, the bombing was the work of a terror cell of Palestinian and Egyptian radicals, most of whom were convicted by a federal jury. They were led by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti-born Pakistani, who was sentenced to 240 years in prison.

But according to Mylroie, the man known as Yousef was actually a secret Iraqi agent who was sent to New York by Saddam to exact revenge after the Gulf War.

Mylroie believes that the real Yousef happened to be in Kuwait when Saddam invaded that country in 1990, and that Yousef could have been killed. Iraqi intelligence might then have doctored Kuwaiti government files, right down to inserting false fingerprints. Their agent then could have assumed Yousef's identity and eventually made his way to New York.
Well...anything's possible, you know.

And of course, Saddam was the real force behind September 11, Laurie sez.

And by the way, remember poor Tim McVeigh, who made the mistake of blowing up the Murrah Building instead of the New York Times, as Ann Coulter had hoped? Well guess what, Tim was also working for Saddam. And the reason you don't know about it is that Clinton suppressed the ties.

Hey, look it up in Laurie's books if you don't believe it. There it is in black and white.

Thanks to Atrios for the link to the Bookman article above.

[UPDATE:] As early as October, 2002, Laurie's theories were debunked, WorldNetDaily: Secret report undercuts
according to a leaked secret report

It's The Lying, Stupid.  

Atrios has a great quote from the Star Tribune that makes a similary point to one I've been making (and that everyone should be making):
Defenders of the administration want to label those who have doubts about the truthfulness of the White House as "liberals" or "anti-American" or "unpatriotic." Those labels are just so much name-calling. There's nothing liberal or conservative, unpatriotic or anti-American about being upset that those who hold the highest offices in the land somehow find it impossible to level with the American people on such serious matters as national security and foreign policy.
The lies are just part of a record of such incompetence on the part of the Bush administration that opposition to them really is not -or least should not be -a left/right issue at all.

More On Lewis From David Neiwert  

Dave won't let the story go and he's 100% right. A nice collection of quotes and links about just how criminal and contemptible Jean Lewis's behavior has been. She has no business taking our tax dollars for a salary.

True Words of Wisdom From Tom Friedman  

"Non-Arabic-speaking Americans cannot fight an urban war in Iraq."

Tom's absolutely right. You simply can't conquer a people successfully unless you know how to talk the language.

Of course, Tom's just a tad slow on the uptake. Some of us figured this out well over a year ago. And we didn't need to see the proof. Elementary mentation was all that was necessary to conclude that invading Iraq for no reason whatsoever - not to mention with Bush as Commander In Chief - would lead to catastrophe.

Iraqmire: 3 More US Soldiers Die  


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?