Thursday, May 06, 2004


My beloved powerbook mini-me went down for the count and I'm at a gig. Between the two, there will be a hiatus of at least week or so.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Why Does Disney Hate The Constitution?  

Disney forbids Miramax from distributing Michael Moore film. They're afraid that the Bushites will take revenge in Florida on Disney World.

Perhaps Good News?  

But if you read carefully, it's a bit overblown:
Representatives of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders met here on Tuesday and demanded that Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, withdraw militia units from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, stop turning the mosques there into weapons arsenals and return power to Iraqi police and civil defense units that operate under American control.

The Shiite leaders also called, in speeches and in interviews after the meeting, for a rapid return to the American-led negotiations on Iraq's political future. The negotiations have been sidelined for weeks by the upsurge in violence associated with Mr. Sadr's uprising across central and southern Iraq and the simultaneous fighting in Falluja, the Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad.

On Tuesday, the Shiite leaders including a representative of a Shiite clerical group that has close ties to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani effectively did what the Americans have urged them to do since Mr. Sadr, a 31-year-old firebrand, began his attacks in April: they tied Iraq's future, and that of Shiites in particular, to a renunciation of violence and a return to negotiations.
Notice: "close ties" to al-Sistani. But not al-Sistani.

E-Vote Problems Overwhelm Feds  

This is convenient:
As alarm mounts over the integrity of the ATM-like voting machines 50 million Americans will use in the November election, a new federal agency has begun scrutinizing how to safeguard electronic polling from fraud, hackers and faulty software.

But the tiny U.S. Election Assistance Commission says it is so woefully underfunded that it can't be expected to forestall widespread voting-machine problems, which would cast doubt on the election's integrity.

How Kerry Earned His Decorations  

From Time:
Silver Star
What is it for? Gallantry in action

Secrets of the Teen Brain
May 10, 2004

 Style & Design: Retro Modernism
 Tech TIME: Music on the Go
 Election 2004
 Innovators: March 2004

 Inside the Adolescent Brain
 Reduced Carb vs. Regular
 Poll: Bush and Iraq
 Streets Of Fire
 9/11: What They Said
 The Veepstakes
 Quotes of the Week

More photos >>

Notebook: Contradicting Bill
World: Life on the Front Lines
Movies: Troy Story

More Stories >> Latest News

Why did Kerry get it? Kerry led three swift boats up a canal on Feb. 28, 1969, and ordered a daring attack on Viet Cong positions. When his boat took rocket fire, Kerry directed his crew to head straight for the beach, taking the guerrilla with the rocket launcher by surprise. Kerry jumped ashore and killed him

Bronze Star
What is it for? Heroic or meritorious service

Why did Kerry get it? On the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969, a mine exploded under Kerry's boat, driving shrapnel into his arm and knocking Green Beret Jim Rassmann overboard. Despite heavy fire, Kerry turned the boat around and pulled Rassmann back on board with his good arm

Purple Heart
What is it for? Being wounded in action

Why did Kerry get it? He earned three Purple Hearts (the second and third are represented by gold stars), all for shrapnel wounds. His arm was scratched during a night patrol in December 1968. His left thigh was hit during a V.C. attack in February 1969. The March 13 injury, his third, entitled him to return home, and he did

Combat Action Ribbon
What is it for? Ground combat while serving in the Navy

Why did Kerry get it? As the commander of a Navy swift boat, he went ashore several times in pursuit of Viet Cong

Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon
What is it for? Heroism of a unit in combat

Why did Kerry get it? For participating in Operation Swift Raider, a campaign of boat attacks on enemy strongholds and sanctuaries

Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
What is it for? Heroism of a unit

Why did Kerry get it? For participating in the Rach Gia interdiction, river patrols aimed at stopping Viet Cong infiltration from Cambodia

National Defense Service Medal
What is it for? Honorable active-duty service

Why did Kerry get it? For his service on the U.S.S. Gridley, a guided-missile frigate, from 1967 to 1968

Vietnam Service Medal
What is it for? Six months service in the Vietnam conflict

Why did Kerry get it? For his tour on the Gridley, which supported an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin

Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross
What is it for? Awarded by South Vietnam to U.S. units for valorous combat achievements

Why did Kerry get it? For service on the swift boats

Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions
What is it for? Awarded by South Vietnam to U.S. units for meritorious civil-action service

Why did Kerry get it? For service on the swift boats

Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
What is it for? Awarded by South Vietnam for six-months service in Vietnam

Why did Kerry get it? For his tour of duty aboard the Gridley

Iraqi Human Rights Minister: Bremer Didn't Care About Torture Allegations  

From the vital Juan Cole:
Abdul Basit Turki, Iraq's first Minister of Human Rights, had his resignation accepted on Sunday. He had tendered it in response to the way the US dealt with the situation in Fallujah, among other issues. He maintained that he had heard horror stories about abuses at Abu Ghuraib last fall and had briefed American civil administratrator Paul Bremer about them, but that Bremer took no action:

' In November I talked to Mr Bremer about human rights violations in general and in jails in particular. He listened but there was no answer. At the first meeting, I asked to be allowed to visit the security prisoners, but I failed," he said. "I told him the news. He didn't take care about the information I gave him." '
One more Bush administration scandal. And one more Bush administration scandal that is already horrible even though only the tip of the iceberg is being seen right now.

Run, Roy, Run, Run!  

Please, pretty please!
Alabama's renegade Chief Justice Roy Moore was already the darling of the far right when he rallied cheering supporters on the steps of the state courthouse last August. Nationally known as the "Ten Commandments Judge," Moore had installed a 5,280-pound granite sculpture of an open book inscribed with the commandments shortly after he was elected in 2001, and then defied a federal court order to remove it. Observers couldn't help being reminded of Gov. George Wallace's infamous stand in the schoolhouse door, rallying Alabama segregationists in defiance of a federal court order to integrate the University of Alabama.

Now, almost everywhere Moore goes, people ask him to do something else Wallace did: run for president.

The possibility that Roy Moore could challenge President Bush in November may not be costing Karl Rove any sleep -- yet. But the chance that the popular conservative judge could do to Bush what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in 2000 -- split his ideological base, and cost him the presidency -- has analysts crunching numbers and weighing Moore's chances.
You gotta run, Roy. In your heart, you know you should.

[UPDATE:] Dave Neiwert speaks to our better instincts about Roy's possible candidacy.

Krugman On Iraq  

Such a smart lad:
Much has been written about the damage done by foreign policy ideologues who ignored the realities of Iraq, imagining that they could use the country to prove the truth of their military and political doctrines. Less has been said about how dreams of making Iraq a showpiece for free trade, supply-side tax policy and privatization — dreams that were equally oblivious to the country's realities — undermined the chances for a successful transition to democracy.

And Krugman reminds us of one more idiotic quote from Administration fluffers, when they still were under the delusion they had harnessed the wind, not inherited it:
Last November the top economist at the Heritage Foundation was very optimistic about Iraq, saying Paul Bremer had just replaced "Saddam's soak-the-rich tax system" with a flat tax. "Few Americans would want to trade places with the people of Iraq," wrote the economist, Daniel Mitchell. "But come tax time next April [ie, April, 2004], they may begin to wonder who's better off."
Two questions:

1. Was there any American taxpayer this April who wondered who's better off, we, or the Iraqi taxpayer?

2. Wanna bet that Heritage Foundation was so embarassed by Senior Fellow Daniel Mitchell's idiotic prediction that they fired him (or rescinded his fellowship, whatever), and fired the guy who hired him?

Monday, May 03, 2004

Did I Say Bush? I Meant Clinton!  

Bremer bends over, lubes up, and Rove shoves it all the way in:
At a McCormick Tribune Foundation conference on terrorism on Feb. 26, 2001, Bremer said, "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'

"That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it."

Bremer made the speech after he had chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed by the Clinton administration to examine U.S. counterterrorism policies.

In a statement Sunday, Bremer said his remarks three years ago "reflected my frustration" that none of his commission's recommendations had been implemented by Clinton or the new Bush administration.

"Criticism of the new administration, however, was unfair. President Bush had just been sworn into office and could not reasonably be held responsible for the Federal Government's inaction over the preceding 7 months," Bremer's Sunday statement said.

"I regret any suggestion to the contrary. In fact, I have since learned that President Bush had shared some of these frustrations, and had initiated a more direct and comprehensive approach to confronting terrorism consistent with the threats outlined in the National Commission report.

"I am strongly supportive and grateful for the President's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security throughout his first term in office."
Translated: Bush is blameless. Clinton's entirely at fault. That's right. That's exactly what the statement said; read it closely.

Paul, Paul...Even if you never saw this statement before they released it, you've just lost the final tatters of any claim to integrity. What will you tell your children? That Bush was worth it?

NY Times Promotes Lying To Children  

The moment I read this NY Times article on a Creationist theme park, an article with hardly a word of response from the scientific community, I wrote a furious letter to the editor.

Now, via Atrios, who deserves an extra cloud in heaven for his efforts on behalf of world sanity these past coupla years or so, I learn that the head of this theme park for corrupting children is considered a virulent anti-Semite by SPLC. And that's for starters:
[Kent] Hovind, who runs the Creation Science Evangelism ministry from Pensacola, Fla., says the whole Bible is literally true and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. While that may seem par for the creationist course, Hovind also sells anti-Semitic books like Fourth Reich of the Rich and has recommended The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book blaming the world's problems on a Jewish conspiracy...

Creationism is a fundamentalist issue with wide appeal. By tying it to more radical antigovernment and conspiracy ideas — for instance, the "unregistered church" movement (see article Church vs. State) — Hovind is attempting to draw conservatives into a world of far-right conspiracy-mongering and anti-Semitism.

Hovind does allow for loose interpretation of the Bible on at least one issue, though. His Web site,, suggests that "the mark of the beast" from Revelations 13:16 is actually the UPC bar code.

"Four people have called me from Arkansas and Missouri," writes Hovind, "to report seeing customers at the grocery store pay for purchases by scanning their hand."
A summary of a sermon Hovind gave in 1999, helpfully referenced by one of Atrios's commenters, gives some indication of exactly how bizarre this fellow is ("Warning Satan may be driving around in a UFO!"). For those interested in learning more about Hovind, go here.

Time to write Okrent.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Ch - Ch - Chalabi  

Hoo, boy, Richard Perle has strange friends:
Then there's the matter of the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on August 7th, 2003. I'm told that the Jordanians have phone intercept intelligence, which they shared with the US government, showing that Chalabi had advance warning of the bombing, which he chose not to share with the Jordanians or the Americans.

Of course, we still fund Chalabi to the tune of some $340,000 a month. So don't think your tax dollars aren't being well-spent. And that does not include the various highly-lucrative contracts doled out to his family members, political associates and cronies.

11 More Troops Died Today  

Of course, everyone's happy that Mr. Hamill escaped his captors. But given short shrift today was that once more 11 US troops died in a single day:
Meanwhile, 11 soldiers were killed in separate attacks, the military said, raising the U.S. death toll to 151 since a wave of violence began April 1. At least 753 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Six U.S. service members were killed and another 30 were wounded in a mortar attack near the western city of Ramadi.

The city is about 60 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah. A military spokeswoman gave no further details and did not say whether the victims were Marines or Army soldiers, but most Americans stationed there are Marines.

Another U.S. soldier was killed and 10 were wounded in a bomb and small arms attack on a coalition base near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Overnight, Shiite militiamen attacked a U.S. convoy with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades near the southern city of Amarah, 180 miles south of Baghdad. Two soldiers were killed, the military said. Through the night and into Sunday morning, Iraqis set fire to the long line of abandoned vehicles, jumping on the hoods and beating them with sticks.

An attack in northwest Baghdad killed two other soldiers and wounded two Iraqi security officers and another American, the military said.

Reading Bush Closely: The Comments On Torture Of Iraqi Prisoners By US Troops  

Many folks have made the point that Bush's obscene perversions of the English language, when analysed, actually reveal his actual thoughts and intentions. I'd like to go further and state that at least some of them seem almost deliberately crafted to provide multiple messages. Take Bush's recent comments on the Iraq torture photos:
"Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people,'' President Bush said Friday. ``That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit.''
If read casually, it sounds as if Bush simply deplores the torture, an admirable sentiment that one would think everyone shares. But, read closely, that is not what he said at all.

Since "the nature of the American people" does not allow for torture of prisoners, the question comes up: "So how come American people are doing the torture?" Bush answers this in the next sentence: The torture did not take place in America. The conclusion is unmistakable: "Good Americans" were corrupted by the evil ways they encountered abroad. (No wonder Bush himself went abroad only twice before he was president!) In two succinct sentences, Bush reinforces the myth of American superiority, the evil of foreigness by locating evil deeds outside the country.

But wait! There's more packed in the first two sentences. To remind you, we are led to believe by Bush that the subject is Iraqis tortured by Americans, but that is not necessarily the only subject, or perhaps even the principle subject.

The assumption many of us make is that remarks such as this are addressed to an international audience, to assure the world that Americans don't act like this. But why do we think that Bush suddenly cares what the rest of the world thinks? He hasn't cared at all so far, right? From Kyoto through the Bush/Iraq war and its aftermath, he has completely ignored international opinion, even when some 10 million people worldwide took to the streets on February 15, 2001, in the largest mass demonstration in history.

No, Bush's audience is, as always, American voters and no one else. And what is he telling us? Well, as we all know, the Bushites have gotten flack from everyone, both the left and the right for their wanton assault on civil liberties protections. These two sentences address critics of Bush domestic policy, specifically those who are alarmed at potential abuses of the Patriot Act, or the imprisonment of Jose Padilla. Bush is trying to reassure us: Okay, yes, we do torture prisoners overseas, but don't worry, we don't do it here in America. We will never torture people here, so worries about Patriot Act abuses are unfounded.

And yes, there's still more. Notice the weird personalizing in the last sentence, in a way that implies that while he didn't like it one bit, someone else might. Also implied is that sometimes actions like torture -personally distateful for real Americans like Bush- are necessary (but only in the Land of the Evildoers, not in the Land of Milk and Honey).

Yes, I know, it sounds like postmodernist hoo hah. But before you dismiss these interpretations as just malarkey, contrast what Bush said with Blair's recent remarks about recent photos that appear to show British torture in Iraq (there are some serious questions as to whether they are authentic, however):
`Let me make it quite clear that if these things have actually been done, they are completely and totally unacceptable. We went to Iraq to get rid of that sort of thing, not to do it,'' Blair said Saturday.

``I think in fairness however, we should say that there are thousands of British troops in Iraq doing a very brave, extraordinary job on behalf of the Iraqi people and on behalf of our country to make the country better.''
Direct and blunt. Notice that he is actually making the points we think Bush is making: it's unacceptable, and not the way Brits are supposed to act. Also notice that the reversal of Bush's priorities: First, Blair calls the behavior unacceptable, then makes it clear that the point of Iraq was to remove torture, and only after all that does he defend the British Way.*

I'm sure someone truly versed in postmodernist analytical techniquest could deconstruct even Blair's remarks, but to this reader, what Blair says is as close unequivocal as one can get, focused carefully on the subject at hand. Bush's remarks, on the other hand, are vague, evasive, hedged within an inch of their life, and narcissistic. They invite alternate readings and so I'll stand by my main claim, that Bush was responding as much to critics of the Patriot Act and other domestic abuses as he was to the actions taken on his behalf in Iraq.

*Yes, Bush's remarks began with this:
President Bush has condemned the mistreatment, saying he shared ``a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated.''
But notice the difference between Blair and Bush's language. Blair condemns it. Bush simply is revolted and doesn't want to hear about it or see it. Blair accepts that, as a leader, he must lay down clear boundaries. Bush accepts no responsibilities to lead, he sets no clear boundaries; he just wants people to know that he's disgusted.

The Real Thing  

Over 15 years ago, I asked a friend of mine to premiere what I thought was a major piece of mine, a violin solo, at a hip bookstore in Hoboken, NJ. I just loved the informality of it all and the immediate connection with the audience. The piece, and my friend, have since travelled all over the world, on major concert stages like the Theatre Chatelet in Paris, where "The Rite of Spring" was heard for the first time. To say the least, those fancy events have been thrilling experiences, but that first, utterly obscure performance in front of maybe 8 or 9 people remains one of my happiest memories and most enjoyable settings for listening to my music.

Naturally, I wasn't the first composer to explore "alternative" venues. Philip Glass, Mother Mallard, and many other folks had been playing for years in art galleries, lofts, rock clubs, anywhere they could get a gig.

Now, a world-class performer, cellist Matt Haimovitz, is touring the US, playing anywhere and everywhere, including pizza parlors in Jackson, Miss. It's about time. The author of the article, Jeremy Eichler, describes a transcendent coda to the gig:
But the most magical moment came after the show, when Mr. Haimovitz had started packing up and two middle-aged women came rushing into the room. They had read in the paper that he was in town, and they were crestfallen at having missed the show. Could he perhaps play something short for them? Mr. Haimovitz agreed and planted himself in a chair next to a table littered with beer bottles and an empty pack of cigarettes. The half dozen remaining audience members gathered around him in a semicircle.

Mr. Haimovitz closed his eyes, put bow to string and laid into the Prelude of Bach's First Cello Suite. He did not stop at the end of the movement but went on to play the entire work, about 20 minutes of music. It was some of the most moving and soulful playing heard by this listener in a very long time. The music seemed to pour out of his cello and wash over the huddled group, over the sea of empty tables and flimsy plastic chairs, over the bar and over the television flickering quietly in the opposite corner of the room.

What came through in that moment was the simplicity of the basic musical connection, and how it requires so little of the glittery packaging that can often pass for the concert experience itself. Ultimately, Mr. Haimovitz's tour may be proving the under-recognized value of new music in attracting new audiences. But the enraptured faces in the semicircle suggested an equally important insight into the power of smaller numbers, the richness of direct contact.

Perhaps classical music's audience problem could be solved if there were more living, breathing, palpable moments of exchange like the one that took place in this beer-drenched corner of a Mississippi pizza parlor.

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