The Sideshow

Archive for December 2001


Monday, 31 December 2001:

04:00 GMT: Permalink
There are not a lot of times when I find myself agreeing with Julie Burchill. This is a woman who said horrible things about fat women when she was thin, and now says horrible things about thin women since she's gained weight. This suggests a poor learning curve. And yet, somehow, I found myself laughing and nodding when I read her year-end piece this weekend. Julie is always coming off like she thinks she's too cool, so it all comes as a bit of a surprise....
Of course, I realise that I'm nominating myself for the Pseud's Corner Lifetime Achievement Award here, but I'm never one to shirk the idea of inviting public ridicule. And I really do believe that Bin Laden and Kylie represent the polar opposites of human nature; the first all about cruelty without beauty, the second all about beauty without cruelty.

* * * * *
On the fruitcake front, the religious nuts are burning Harry Potter again:
ALAMOGORDO, N.M., (Reuters) - A New Mexico church plans to burn Harry Potter books because they are "an abomination to God," the church pastor said Wednesday.

Pastor Jack Brock said he would have a "holy bonfire" on Sunday at the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo in southern New Mexico to torch books about the fictional teen-age wizard who is wildly popular with young people.

"These books encourage our youth to learn more about witches, warlocks, and sorcerers, and those things are an abomination to God and to me," Brock, 74, told Reuters.

"Harry Potter books are going to destroy the lives of many young people."

I found that link over at the Fortean Times site - they're good at keeping track of, um, oddities. Their upcoming issue will feature a story on the Mahikari, a Japanese group that discovered the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and not only believed it was true but decided that the Jews had dropped the ball and it was up to them to pick it up.


Sunday, 30 December 2001: Celebrating half a century of talking too much.

18:30 GMT: Permalink
Yep, it's my birthday, and I still have long dark hair, flashing dark eyes, and a low sexy voice, so I don't mind. It's a bit of a pain to have your birthday on New Year's Eve eve, of course, since it's a lousy time to throw yourself a party, but I still got some neat presents and it's a great time of year to receive a Buffy wall calendar. Not only that, but my favorite lithe and lovely geek gave me my very own domain name and now I R an .org! I still haven't put much together yet but there's a sort of a homepage, so you can have a look at avedon.org.uk if you like. More to follow....

* * * * *
Here's some nice, serious news from Andy Borowitz:
No one could have predicted that Geraldo Rivera would jump from CNBC to Fox in order to become a war correspondent -- just days before the war suddenly ended.

Nobody, that is, except Nostradamus (1503-1566), the French physician and astrologist known for his uncannily accurate prophecies. In recently discovered writings by the noted seer, Nostradamus predicts Rivera's boneheaded career move in the following passage:

"Geraldo Rivera will make the dopiest decision of his career, going to Afghanistan to cover the war just days before it suddenly ends."

"What a bogus jerk," Nostradamus continues.

While the exact meaning of the passage is, to some extent, open to interpretation, Nostramaus scholars do not question its authenticity.

"It's highly unusual for Nostradamus to single out someone by name and call him a bogus jerk," said Dr. Thomas Crogan of the University of Minnesota. "But let's face it, Geraldo was asking for it."


Friday, 28 December 2001:

14:45 GMT: Permalink
Richard Cohen wonders Who Failed At the FBI?:
Since Sept. 11, Congress has held off investigating the intelligence failures that led to the worst attack on U.S. soil in history. That's about to change. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) want to establish a 14-member bipartisan commission, Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) wants a 12-member board. But in the GOP-controlled House, and especially in the Bush administration itself, inaction seems to be the order of the day. "The president is focused on the war on terrorism," a White House spokeswoman said.

Fine. But as long as this is a long, continuing war, then it makes sense to have intelligence agencies that are up to the job. Manifestly, that is not the case now. But the Bush administration, which came to Washington like the Romans to Carthage, has become the captive of the very agencies it once was determined to smash. To criticize the intelligence agencies has become the functional equivalent of stepping on the flag.

As the catastrophe of Sept. 11 and the Hanssen case make clear, the FBI and the CIA simply did not do their job. That job is hard, but failure is simply not acceptable. Robert Hanssen, for one, was allowed to spy for a full decade before he was caught. Terrorism crisis or not, it's time to catch the people who didn't catch Hanssen.

Cohen says no more about the idea that the GOP doesn't consider our intelligence services to be a part of the war on terrorism, but he's hesitantly raised another interesting subject - the fact that the GOP promoted the idea that government was untrustworthy right up until they got control of the White House. Now, suddenly, no power is too great to put into the hands of government.

Anyone who has paid attention to the news over the last few years knows that if the right-wing has been accusing the Democrats of something, it's probably something the Republicans really did. Throughout the years of the Clinton administration, for example, revelations came to light about how China had somehow managed to get its hands on a lot of US military intelligence. What was grossly underplayed in the media was the fact that this happened during the 1980s; somehow, the Republicans managed to promote the idea that these leaks were the product of President Clinton's corruption. The disasters at Ruby Ridge and Waco have both been treated as some sort of liberal conspiracy by President Clinton and Janet Reno when in fact the first took place during the Bush administration and the second was planned before Clinton took office and occurred when Reno was still green and trusting the people who were already in place to know what they were doing while she learned her way around her new job.

These and other acts of incompetence and malfeasance were all treated by the right-wing as evidence of abuses of power and sell-outs to the reds by liberals, Democrats, Clinton, "the government", and evidence that "the government" could not be trusted. The irony, of course, was that they pinned these Republican disasters on the one administration of the last 20 years that had nothing to do with them. William Jefferson Clinton, the most investigated president in history, turned out to be guilty of no greater "abuse of power" than a failure to announce to the world that he'd cheated on his wife, and yet somehow this fact has been used as "proof" that he's personally responsible for everything that has ever been wrong with government - and now that he's gone, we can trust the same people who in fact handed the Chinese our military secrets and set up Ruby Ridge and Waco.

So government abuses of power and suspension of our civil liberties were only a problem because a Democrat was in the White House. Now those things are okay, because Republicans are in charge. We shouldn't worry about whether known perjurers George W. Bush and John Ashcroft might abuse the new powers they have already illegally given themselves.

Nor should we worry, I suppose, about the way official acts by the Bush administration have combined with "civilian" pressure to create what Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive calls The New McCarthyism:
"I'm terrified," says Ellen Schrecker, author of Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Princeton University, 1999). "What concerns me is we're not seeing an enormous outcry against this whole structure of repression that's being rushed into place by the Bush Administration."

"I've been talking a lot about the parallels between what we're going through now and McCarthyism," says Nadine Strossen, president of the ACLU. "The term 'terrorism' is taking on the same kind of characteristics as the term 'communism' did in the 1950s. It stops people in their tracks, and they're willing to give up their freedoms. People are too quickly panicked. They are too willing to give up their rights and to scapegoat people, especially immigrants and people who criticize the war."

As the article details: Secret Service agents are knocking on the doors of student artists who are critical of Bush's stand on the death penalty; an officer of the United States Institute of Peace is fired for talking about peace; a 15-year-old highschool student who wears a tee-shirt to school saying, "Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, I'm So Proud of People in the Land of the So-Called Free," is suspended by a principle who falsely tells the press that the tee-shirt said, "I hope Afghanistan wins," and "America should burn," thus exposing her to threats of violence; several journalists have lost their jobs after writing articles that were critical of Bush or of administration policy; university professors are accused of being "unpatriotic" by a group founded by Lynne Cheney and Joseph Lieberman; and so on, and so on....

Make no mistake: I objected to a number of violations of civil liberties that happened under the Clinton administration, some of which I attribute at least partially to Clinton himself. But I know that none of those things could have happened without the connivance of the Republicans, and in any case Bush and conservatives have already far surpassed any of Clinton's - or liberalism's - errors:
"What's analogous to McCarthyism is the self-appointed guardians who are engaging in private blacklisting," says Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University. "That's why the Lynne Cheney thing is so disturbing: Her group is trying to intimidate individuals who hold different points of view. There aren't loyalty oaths being demanded of teachers yet, but we seem to be at the beginning of a process that could get a lot worse and is already cause for considerable alarm."

We've been here before. From the Alien and Sedition Acts to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and his imprisonment of anti-war editors, from the suppression of speech during World War I and the Palmer Raids to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the repression of the McCarthy days, the government has seized upon times of peril to scapegoat immigrants and to suppress liberties.

"We're talking about exactly the same phenomenon," says the ACLU's Strossen.

"No analogy is ever perfect, and history doesn't repeat itself exactly, but there's a pattern of the government restricting freedom of expression and running roughshod over traditional protections for the accused," Foner says. "Anybody concerned with freedom of expression and civil liberties should be very, very concerned."

Oh, yes, we are concerned. Unfortunately, with so many Americans getting their information from television sets, our concerns aren't getting out to the American people with any strength - which is just how the Bush administration likes it, and indeed how they've arranged it. As Mark Crispin Miller points out in What's Wrong With This Picture?, the needs of a democracy are ill-served by media that recognizes no obligations to the public:
And having justified Bush/Cheney's coup, the media continue to betray American democracy. Media devoted to the public interest would investigate the poor performance by the CIA, the FBI, the FAA and the CDC, so that those agencies might be improved for our protection--but the news teams (just like Congress) haven't bothered to look into it. So, too, in the public interest, should the media report on all the current threats to our security--including those far-rightists targeting abortion clinics and, apparently, conducting bioterrorism; but the telejournalists are unconcerned (just like John Ashcroft). So should the media highlight, not play down, this government's attack on civil liberties--the mass detentions, secret evidence, increased surveillance, suspension of attorney-client privilege, the encouragements to spy, the warnings not to disagree, the censored images, sequestered public papers, unexpected visits from the Secret Service and so on. And so should the media not parrot what the Pentagon says about the current war, because such prettified accounts make us complacent and preserve us in our fatal ignorance of what people really think of us--and why--beyond our borders. And there's much more--about the stunning exploitation of the tragedy, especially by the Republicans; about the links between the Bush and the bin Laden families; about the ongoing shenanigans in Florida--that the media would let the people know, if they were not (like Michael Powell) indifferent to the public interest.

In short, the news divisions of the media cartel appear to work against the public interest--and for their parent companies, their advertisers and the Bush Administration. The situation is completely un-American. It is the purpose of the press to help us run the state, and not the other way around. As citizens of a democracy, we have the right and obligation to be well aware of what is happening, both in "the homeland" and the wider world. Without such knowledge we cannot be both secure and free. We therefore must take steps to liberate the media from oligopoly, so as to make the government our own.


Thursday, 27 December 2001:

03:55 GMT: Permalink
I don't know about you, but I made out like a bandit for Xmas - books, CDs, chocolate, a cuddly Cthulu. I'm pretty excited about my first birthday present of the season, too, but I think I'll wait 'til it's officially my birthday (and I have more to say about it) to tell you what that was. Meanwhile, I am pleased to see that Bartcop is back in action with another spectacular image of nature's wonders.

* * * * *
Just another in a long list of promises the Bush administration has reneged on: Program for DNA testing of inmates is scrapped. Remember during the debate when Bush told us he'd get it done? Sure. If he feels like it.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has scrapped plans to offer $500,000 in federal grants to pay for DNA testing of some inmates so that prosecutors could verify their convictions, law enforcement sources say. Attorney General John Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials were lauded by defense lawyers across the nation when the pilot program, which would have paid for the testing of about 250 inmates, was made public in August.

* * * * *
And let's see how the Bush administration is scoring on free trade. Hm, according to this editorial in The Washington Post, not too well:
If the administration now goes ahead and imposes tariffs anyway, it will do so without the fig leaf of respectability that it donned six months ago. It will merely be selling out to the steel lobby, which naturally likes the idea of exporting its trouble. But the American steel industry employs only 200,000 people, far fewer than the steel-consuming industries that would pay the price for protectionist tariffs. Mr. Bush needs to focus on the national interest in free trade, not on a special interest group that happens to matter in a few swing states.

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Here's an amusing little blast from the past: On election day, President Clinton called WBAI radio in New York on the air to tell people to get out and vote. What he got was a tough interview from Amy Goodman and Gonzalo Aburto. Check out the transcripts (and laugh yourself silly at the thought of George Bush handling a hostile interview like this):
AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton, UN figures show that up to 5,000 children a month die in Iraq because of the sanctions against Iraq.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: (Overlap) That's not true. That's not true. And that's not what they show. Let me just tell you something. Before the sanctions, the year before the Gulf War, and you said this ... how much money did Iraq earn from oil? Answer -- $16 billion. How much money did Iraq earn last year from oil? How much money did they get, cash on the barrel head, to Saddam Hussein? Answer -- $19 billion that he can use exclusively for food, for medicine, to develop his country. He's got more money now, $3 billion a year more than he had nine years ago.

If any child is without food or medicine or a roof over his or her head in Iraq, it's because he is claiming the sanctions are doing it and sticking it to his own children. We have worked like crazy to make sure that the embargo only applies to his ability to reconstitute his weapon system and his military statement. This is a guy who butchered the children of his own country, who were Kurds, who were Shi'ites.

He used chemical weapons on his own people, and he is now lying to the world and claiming the mean old United States is killing his children. He has more money today than he did before the embargo, and if they're hungry or they are not getting medicine, it is his own fault.

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Here's a little Xmas present for folks in Arizona: the Arizona Democracy Group.


Wednesday, 26 December 2001:

01:02 GMT: Permalink
News flash: What kind of man reads Playboy? A gay man, apparently:
What kind of man is this?

He is fastidious about his appearance, his home and his possessions. He wants as much sex as possible and chooses sexual partners mostly on the basis of appearance. He is self-absorbed and doesn't want emotional involvement or commitment. He thinks a woman would stifle him and children would be a burden.

Does this sound like gay behavior?

It is also the masculine ideal purveyed by Playboy magazine to men since the 1950´s.

At the End of Time, when they open the envelope labeled "What is the essence of manhood?" I suspect it will say: “Looking after women and children. Men act as G-d´s agent by creating and supporting new life. The family is the cellular unit of human life.” However, in 1972, 3 out of 4 male college students got their ideas about masculinity from Playboy, at an incalculable price to themselves, women, children, and society.

The similarity between the Playboy and homosexual ideal is no coincidence. The Kinsey Report (1948) shaped current mainstream attitudes to sex. It championed unfettered sexual expression and became the manifesto of the counterculture and the sexual revolution. It inspired Hugh Hefner to start Playboy in 1953. Essentially it said that aberrant sexual behavior was so common as to be normal. Thanks to psychologist Dr. Judith Reisman, we now know that Alfred Kinsey and the "Kinsey Report" were frauds. Kinsey, a zoologist at the University of Indiana, pretended to be a Conservative family man. In fact, he was a child molester and homosexual pervert who seduced his male students and forced his wife and associates to perform in homemade pornographic films.

Ah, Judith Reisman, one of my favorites. This is a woman who was given an enormous research grant by the Reagan administration - by Alfred Regnery, in fact - and even he wouldn't touch it afterwards. In those days she was saying Playboy was full of child porn. Her assessment of Kinsey is no more reliable.

* * * * *
The weekend's gross-out rape story ended with some good news - the 15-year-old victim got together with a girlfriend and set up a sting that kept the guy in jail over Christmas.
Irvine -- He beat her with a silver belt buckle, police say, carved a swastika into her face with a knife and sexually assaulted her in the back of a car.

Police didn't have many clues about the man who lured a 15-year-old Orange girl from an Internet chat room to a desolate UC Irvine parking lot.

So the victim teamed up with a friend, logged back onto the Internet and set up the rendezvous that led to an arrest.

Police credited the teen-agers Monday for taking the initiative.

Smart kids. But as a long-time student of sex crime, here's the part I look for in one of these stories:
Dance, enrolled in the university's School of Social Ecology, lives with his parents in Newport Beach and worked part time as a campus parking attendant, said stepfather Larry Dance.

"He's never committed a crime in his life," he said. "I don't believe he's that type of person."

Larry Dance and Brian Dance's mother sat in shock in their Newport Beach apartment Monday. They had just come back from church, where they had prayed for their son, Larry Dance said.

They more I study sex crime, the more I think it's safer to have Playboy than the Bible around the house.


Tuesday, 25 December 2001: Merry Xmas

15:50 GMT: Permalink
Personally, I'm having a nice time, but for all those who aren't, there's this:

TRUCE
by Tom Robinson

Truce... call a truce ...
Stop all the firing and the fighting
Christmas morning, 1914
What would the Good Lord say?
Truce ... let's all have a truce ...
Stop all the shelling and the shooting
Frohliche Weihnact..Kamerad..Freundschaft
Let's all be friends for a day
In the man-made hell
In the putrescent smell
In the mines and mud and trenches
The men from the Rhine crossed over the line
For a truce ... with the Tommies and the Frenchies

But the very next day there were hand grenades
There was gunfire, gassing and slaughter
As we blasted the Hun to Kingdom Come
With machine guns, shelling and mortars
Well it was nice to pretend
We could love our fellow men
With the Christmas angels calling
But the dream turned sour in a matter of hours
And we made it all up in the morning.

Truce ... call a truce...
Stop all the bitching and back-biting
Who'd leave their lover or send in the bailiffs
This one day of the year?
Truce... let's call a truce...
Stop all the sackings and the stealing
Who'd rape a schoolgirl, or cut off someone's pension
And spoil all this Christmas cheer?
There's a couple of days when all the bashers of gays
Who all press and arrest and charge us
All leave us alone to return back home
For a truce..with our mothers and our fathers

But the very next day it's back to the fray
And setting our homes in order
Bashing lesbian mothers and under-age lovers
Disowning gay sons and daughters
Well it's quaint to pretend
We could all live as friends
With the Christmas angels calling
But the dream turns sour in a matter of hours
And they make it all up in the morning.


Monday, 24 December 2001:

23:30 GMT: Permalink
I'm so glad I don't use Outlook Express. You're not still doing that, are you? Here's one more reason not to from The Daily Rotten:
The FBI is asking for access to a massive database that contains the private communications and passwords of the victims of the Badtrans Internet worm. Badtrans spreads through security flaws in Microsoft mail software and transmits everything the victim types. Since November 24, Badtrans has violated the privacy of millions of Internet users, and now the FBI wants to take part in the spying.

Victims of Badtrans are infected when they receive an email containing the worm in an attachment and either run the program by clicking on it, or use an email reader like Microsoft Outlook which may automatically run it without user intervention. Once executed, the worm replicates by sending copies of itself to all other email addresses found on the host's machine, and installs a keystroke-logger capable of stealing passwords including those used for telnet, email, ftp, and the web. Also captured is anything else the user may be typing, including personal documents or private emails.

Coincidentally, just four days before the breakout of Badtrans it was revealed that the FBI was developing their own keystroke-logging virus, called Magic Lantern. Made to complement the Carnivore spy system, Magic Lantern would allow them to obtain target's passwords as they type them. This is a significant improvement over Carnivore, which can only see data after it has been transmitted over the Internet, at which point the passwords may have been encrypted. [more]

* * * * *
Religious Right Finds Its Center in Oval Office, says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.
Pat Robertson's resignation this month as president of the Christian Coalition confirmed the ascendance of a new leader of the religious right in America: George W. Bush.
[...]
"I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled," said Gary Bauer, a religious conservative who challenged Bush in the Republican primary. Bush "is that leader right now. There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9-11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it's heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House."

Well. One hardly knows what to say.


Sunday, 23 December 2001:

18:20 GMT: Permalink
Today's big story: TIME bottles out!

You already know the drill: Every year TIME picks what used to be called their Man of the Year and is now their Person of the Year, and there's always controversy because they often pick people who are pretty revolting and they get lots of complaints and they always claim it's because this isn't about the most wonderful person of the year, but about the person who had the most impact. That, they explained over and over, was why Newt Gingrich got to be Person of the Year, and nothing to do with the fact that he's such a magnificent bottom-feeder.

Well, you know and I know who had the most impact on the world in 2001. And I must heartily concur with Joshua Mica Marshall when he says that, no, it wasn't Rudy Giuliani.
But Time's decision to make Giuliani its Person of the Year represents a colossal failure of nerve and honesty. And it may even be a small sign of the baleful effects of media industry conglomeration.

* * * * *
And speaking of media industry conglomeration, The Nation currently has a feature on just that subject:
After compiling our guide to the "Big Ten" media conglomerates, we shared it with cultural producers and critics in a range of fields: music, journalism, television, publishing. Following are their comments.
--The Editors

Quite an interesting collection, too: Al Franken, Ani DiFranco, Phil Donahue:
Until the 1980s one company could legally own no more than seven AM and seven FM stations. In 2001, one company, Clear Channel, owns more than 1,200. Profit at many stations is promoted by stripping staff to the bone; some of these places have barely any employees and no local programming. They are computerized corporate jukeboxes, reverse ATM machines. Their broadcast day is filled with the canned and the bland, a puree prepared at a place far away. Now we have hundreds of radio stations creating a profit with virtually no on-air personnel and no newsroom, no Associated Press wire, no birth announcements, no obits. And not least, no coverage of the police, the PTA or the Lions Club and no high school football scores.
[...]
The brokers of America's AM and FM stations argue that the reality of economics in today's radio market mandates consolidation. Nonsense: Consolidation is mandated by the greed of the broadcast lobby. Speaking of mandates, we once believed that the great promise of broadcasting mandated diversity, an ideal that dissolved along with the rules of limited ownership, an idea that came, went and should come again. It's the only way to provide a chance for brash young broadcasters who, equipped with an audio tape recorder, just might discover the power of journalism and practice the noble work of serving the public interest.

And Nancy Kranich, the last president of the American Library Association:
Within hours of the terrorist attacks on September 11, people rushed to libraries and cleared the shelves of materials about the Taliban, Islam, Afghanistan and terrorism. The most obscure books on these topics had close to 100 holds pending at just one small branch library in downtown Manhattan. Most remarkable, few of these titles were produced by any of the Big Ten media corporations. In fact, most were published by university presses, the federal government or small independents. During such a crisis, the public sought background materials, not bestsellers, to foster understanding and cope with this horrific event by leaning on a trustworthy, reliable source--the library.
[...]
The spiral of declining library budgets and disappearing small-media producers carries with it more than the loss of esoteric titles. Democracy itself suffers. The debates yet to come--on the Taliban, on Afghanistan, on terrorism and on any new order to emerge--will thrive or founder on the quality of the ideas brought into the arena. As fewer conglomerates dominate the mainstream media market, we cannot assume that libraries will be able to continue offering alternatives. Robust public debate depends upon the survival and symbiosis of libraries with small-media producers. Without the ideas from these sources, public discourse will languish in conventionality and ignorance.

Former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson sums it up:
Editors and journalists don't have First Amendment rights. Freelance writers sure don't. Unless you have billions in spare pocket change and buy one of the Big Ten for yourself, you're out of the game. Silenced.

The changes in the law have been devastating, allowing individual entities to control whole markets. Broadcasters no longer feel any need to act in the public interest on what used to be understood to be the public's airwaves.

It won't be easy to get them back, but one thing that ought to be on your list of things to write to your representatives about is that they are ours, dammit, and we want the airwaves!


Saturday, 22 December 2001:

14:40 GMT: Permalink
"Taliban John Walker" has the right-wing media furiously scribbling away, using him as proof of the evil result of a liberal upbringing in liberal Marin County by permissive parents who didn't stomp all over his desire to pursue a spiritual path that led to Islam. Richard Cohen has already noted in The Washington Post that a sample of one isn't very convincing, and Ben Fritz has gone into broader detail in Spinsanity about the larger generalizations involved.
Steele is not the only writer to take this tack. Andrew Sullivan wrote on his website that "the connection between a certain leftist relativist subculture (e.g. the New Age parenting of Walker) and actual treason is now no longer an abstraction. It's real. It's called John Walker." (Sullivan later partly retracted this view, saying "it's much more complex and interesting than my original impression.") Claudia Rosett made a similar argument on OpinionJournal.com, writing, "What jumps out is a sorry sketch of the real world colliding with American culture at its most neurotically all-validating no-fault New Age nadir of nattering nonsense." John Walker's case has clearly turned into another political Rorschach blot of vague facts that pundits interpret according to their predilections.

In fact, as Fritz details, conservatives have made a lot of bizarre assumptions about Walker based on the sketchy background facts the newspapers have reported. One thing that interested me was that everyone assumes Marin County is "liberal". I wonder if that's true, though. The liberals I know who come from or live in Marin complain that it's really pretty conservative. And I've noticed, increasingly, that quite a number of people who live what we would regard as "liberal" lifestyles and espouse what were certainly once regarded as "left-wing" views now vote Republican and support distinctly conservative economic policies.

Of course, I'm hardly the first person to note that the line between "liberal" and "conservative is pretty blurry these days. But when someone like Andrew Sullivan is riffing on a "leftist relativist subculture" as evidence that Walker is a product of same, you have to wonder what on earth he's talking about. Is this the same sort of moral relativist liberalism that says we probably shouldn't stone Sullivan to death for being homosexual? I'm afraid he overlooks the fact that the answer is: "Yes."

The truth is, it's a bit of a stretch to assume that the "blue states" are particularly liberal, or that Democrats are. You don't have to be especially liberal to be a Democrat, even now when the distinctions between the parties are so much greater than they once were. Most (but not all) of the really rabid pro-slavery types who used to infest both parties (and, in the south, the Democratic Party in particular) have swung over to the Republicans where they are lately more welcome. So have most of the people who think that only rich people deserve to vote, or deserve rights. So have most of the people who want to kill queers and force women out of the workplace (except in extremely low-paid, low-prestige jobs and office-whore jobs that they are uncomfortable giving to men). "Conservatism" today isn't conservative in the old-fashioned conservative sense, it's actually extremism that is much apart from the mainstream. You don't have to be liberal to want to keep your distance from modern "conservatism".

It's actually a rather hilarious idea that John Walker is someone who can be blamed on "liberals". I don't know of a single liberal anywhere who cheered when those planes hit the Twin Towers, but the far-far right in America actually did cheer. Nor do I know of a single liberal who would wage war to convert someone else to their religion - indeed, while Al Qaeda's belief in theocracy is not a million miles away from the beliefs of the American far-right, up to and including many in the Republican leadership, it's anathema to liberals.

There's another way to look at the John Walker story, of course. One might point out that his parents were religious and encouraged their son to pursue relgion as well. They certainly weren't atheists. Walker's father's "New Age" religion is called Catholicism.

And as for moral relativism, just what do you call a belief system that promotes a repressive theocratic agenda under the guise of "Christianity" while simultaneously condemning remarkably similar views merely because they name themselves "Islam"? "Allah", after all, is just another word for "God".


Thursday, 20 December 2001:

16:35 GMT: Permalink
As everyone already knows by now, Bernard Goldberg has written a book called Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. We all know it because the "liberal" media is full of people talking about it and about how true it is. Bartcop has a somewhat different take on it:
If Goldberg had written the truth, that the media is nothing but right-wing pimps working for Bush, it would sell about as many copies as Fortunate Son and be withdrawn from book stores right away. But since he's selling the LIE that left-wingers control the media, something very different will happen to Mr. Goldberg and his book.

Bartcop then enumerates all of the conservative radio and TV shows he'll get to go on where everyone will agree that conservatives have no voice in the media, followed by all the conservative pundits whose articles we will see agreeing that conservaties have no voice in the media. It's an impressive list.
Isn't it a shame that the radical right-wing has no way to get their message out?

...and Mr. Goldberg? He's going to make millions selling red meat to the dittoheads

03:15 GMT: Permalink
Is it really unfair to call them "the Taliban wing of the Republican Party"? I dunno, but I don't think these people vote Democratic:
The Rev. William Einwechter has a novel solution to the problem of incorrigible juvenile delinquents -- stone them to death.

Einwechter says the stoning penalty is clearly called for in the Bible (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), and he’s not ashamed to say that the punishment should still apply today.

"Properly understood," the Pennsylvania pastor argued in a January 1999 article, "it displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace. It is those who reject this case law that should be embarrassed, for they have cast reproach on God and his law, cast aside the testimony of Christ and substituted their own imaginations for the blessed word of God."
[...]
Reconstructionists -- also called "theonomists" or advocates of "dominion theology" -- want to impose "biblical law" (or, more accurately, their interpretation of biblical law) on the United States. Under their view, democracy should be scrapped and replaced with a theocratic state based on a literal reading of the Old Testament’s legal code.
[...]
As if this were not controversial enough, Christian Reconstructionists also advocate an extreme vision of social policy. Citing passages from the Old Testament Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, many Reconstructionists would institute the death penalty for a number of offenses, among them striking or cursing a parent, adultery, homosexuality, "unchastity," rape of a betrothed virgin, witchcraft, "incorrigible" juvenile delinquency, blasphemy and propagation of "false" religious doctrines. Some favor stoning as the biblically preferred means of execution.

Reconstructionists also argue that the Bible sanctions some forms of slavery and accords women a second-class status. One Reconstructionist writer, Steve Schlissel, has asserted that the "God-ordained order" places "God above all, man joyfully under God, woman lovingly under man, and the animals at bottom."

03:04 GMT: Permalink
At The People's House:
"People of every faith are welcome here in the people's house. People of every background are welcome to come here to the White House," he told his invited guests in party dresses and sport coats.

The White House has been closed to the public since September because of security concerns.


Tuesday, 18 December 2001:

22:38 GMT: Permalink
It was his birthday yesterday. One thing I love about British television is that if someone like him is in town, you usually get to see him on the air, close-up. I don't know how many times I've said it since he died, but: I miss Bill Hicks.
This is what I think CBS, the producers of the Letterman show, the networks and governments fear the most - that one man free, expressing his own thoughts and point of view, might somehow inspire others to think for themselves and listen to that voice of reason inside them, and then perhaps, one by one we will awaken from this dream of lies and illusions that the world, the governments and their propaganda arm, the mainstream media, feeds us continuously over 52 channels, 24 hours a day.

* * * * *
PRIEST WRITES: I never actually asked the companies to credit me as "Christopher," only as "Priest." My scripts all say, "Priest," and my friends all call me, "Priest." But, inevitably, when the magazine is published, there it is--"Christopher" Priest.

Well, whatever they call him, that stuff he's been doing in The Black Panther is a lotta fun. (Hm, my nephew reads comics...I wonder if I can impress him by telling him I got email from Priest.)

17:48 GMT: Permalink
In an article in The American Prospect entitled "We"--Not "Me", Stanley B. Greenberg notes that America's post-9/11 consciousness conforms pretty closely with Democratic - not Republican - policies. Of course, that was also true before 9/11. The news media has made much of the closeness of the presidential race to make the claim of a closely-divided America, but that was never really true; the fact is that the news media itself did so much to obscure the distinction between the two candidates that anyone who didn't read up on the issues and the candidates probably had the impression that there wasn't much to choose between Bush and Gore as far as policies were concerned. As honest commentators have noted, the Republicans could never have come close to winning if they had had to run on issues and policies, which is why they spent their time slandering Gore instead.

Greenberg discusses the response of focus groups to questions about the issues; what's happened appears to be that 9/11, seen as an attack on what we love most about our country, has concentrated our appreciation for those American virtues:
But also under attack are freedom of religion and the concept of religious pluralism: the ability of many religions to co-exist in the same society without dividing it. "We tolerate others' religion"; "we have a mix and nobody seems to care what you are or what your faith is." In fact, someone said, "that is what drives them nuts...the fact we can show respect. You're a Buddhist, fine. As long as you don't harm me or force your religion onto me, let me make my choices--they can't stand it over there."

The central importance that Americans accord to freedom of choice, particularly concerning life choices and religion, was reflected in the fairly tolerant attitude toward Muslims in America expressed in all of the focus groups. Respondents clearly favored tighter border controls and limiting the number of immigrants, views that are also reflected in the polls. But it is striking that during the many weeks of focus-group discussions, hostile comments from participants toward foreigners and Muslims were few and isolated. The events of September 11 did not unleash expressions of pent-up prejudice.

In fact, freedom of choice is at the heart of what Americans are defending, and that is apparently elevating the value of tolerance in our country. The concept of freedom that Americans are fighting to preserve, moreover, poses problems for the fundamentalist religious forces in the United States that have sought to bring religion more forcefully into politics. Writing in the November 5 Weekly Standard, David Brooks gingerly raised the idea that this may not be the best moment for "faith-based initiatives and religion in the public square." No wonder Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham seem so off balance in the current environment.

Unity and togetherness; bonding and community; family and country over materialism and selfishness; freedom to choose in life and religion--these are the elements that form the public consciousness during this period. Small wonder that voters are having trouble understanding the Republicans' tax-cut approach at a time when the country faces so many challenges.

This is another one of those articles I wish people would print out and send to their representatives. The religious right has worked hard to divide the country and set us against each other, but the real American spirit prizes freedom of belief; we don't want politicians trying to mediate our relationship with the divine. What we do want is leaders who will help us put our sense of community into constructive action, and that's just what the Republicans don't want us to do.

I had to chuckle at this bit, though:
When we asked whether Democrats are as patriotic as Republicans, respondents said yes without qualification.

Heh. Is that really the way they asked it? It's a phrasing that assumes that only the patriotism of Democrats is in question.

* * * * *
Take this First Amendment Quiz.


Monday, 17 December 2001:

16:25 GMT: Permalink
I was too out of it yesterday to read the "Weekend" magazine in the Guardian, but Eric Alterman was explaining the American right-wing for the denizins of Britain:
It is a Neocon tradition to fall madly in love with a politician, only to be disillusioned when he or she fails to follow their advice. The most recent object of their affection was senator John McCain. With him out of the picture, sulking, the Neocons have a problem. The president gives every impression of never having finished a book in his life, including the autobiography he claims to have written. It is depressing for people who fancy themselves to be intellectuals to have to genuflect before someone who so clearly demonstrates contempt for the world of ideas. On the other hand, two things the Neocons like are well-paid government jobs and war, and George Bush is the only man who can give them both. Since September 11, they have been clamouring for attacks not only on Bin Laden and the Taliban, but also on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Haffez Assad and Syria, and, unsurprisingly, Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. At this point, they need Bush more than he needs them, so the anguish on their side will be palpable and, for liberals, one of the few enjoyable spectator sports in American politics right now.

* * * * *
For me this weekend's saddest news was that Anthony Lewis is retiring. His Hail and Farewell in The New York Times demonstrates again that he is one of the truly good things about American journalism, and why we need more like him:
Faith in reason was the foundation stone of the United States. The men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 set out to create a nation from struggling states so distant from each other that it took seven days for George Washington to learn that New Hampshire had provided the needed ninth vote to bring their Constitution into being. They wagered that a national government based on written rules could hold the country together.

Intricate checks and balances, they reasoned, would prevent the abuses of power that tempt all politicians. They put their faith not in men but in law: the law of the Constitution.

Without the foundation of law, this vast country could never have survived as one, could never have absorbed streams of immigrants from myriad cultures. With one terrible exception, the Civil War, law and the Constitution have kept America whole and free.
[...]
I am an optimist about America. But how can I maintain that optimism after Vietnam, after the murder of so many who fought for civil rights, after the Red scare and after the abusive tactics planned by government today? I can because we have regretted our mistakes in the past, relearning every time that no ruler can be trusted with arbitrary power. And I believe we will again.

The hard question is whether our commitment to law will survive the new sense of vulnerability that is with us all after Sept. 11. It is easy to tolerate dissent when we feel safe.
[...]
In the end I believe that faith in reason will prevail. But it will not happen automatically. Freedom under law is hard work. If rulers cannot be trusted with arbitrary power, it is up to citizens to raise their voices at injustice. The most important office in a democracy, Justice Louis Brandeis said, is the office of citizen.

* * * * *
An administration that took office illegally governs illegaly - so of course they want to do as much as they can in secret. Illegally:
Executive Order 13233 directly subverts the intent of the Presidential Records Act by placing ultimate responsibility for decisions regarding access to presidential papers not only with President Bush, but with any sitting president in the future, as well as every ex-president, and, even further, the family members and heirs of former presidents, apparently without limit.

Administration officials have acknowledged that the new order is intended to prevent the release of records from the Reagan administration, which the White House has been delaying by various means since January. This has led to speculation that the administration is trying to shield members of Bush's own administration, as well as his father, from a variety of uncomfortable revelations, including possible connections to the Iran-contra scandal. But it should be noted that this executive order also fits a pattern suggesting that the Bush administration may be hostile to the basic ideals that the public has a right to know what its elected officials are doing, and that the records of government are in fact owned by the people.

* * * * *
One of the great mysteries of the universe is why members and supporters of our armed services think the Republicans have their interests at heart. Bush did nothing but denigrate our troops during the campaign, and while he blamed Clinton for their alleged unworthiness, he did so under false pretenses. He also claimed he'd give them all a raise, but as soon as he was in office he suddenly decided we didn't have the money for trivia like that. The senior George Bush got them into a war that was purely a result of his own diplomatic incompetence, and then decided it was more important to have a PR deadline for getting it over than to do anything about the Iraqi leader he had suddenly discovered was a madman. Similarly, the Republicans continue to maintain an underserved reputation for having some sort of competence when it comes to America's security, but they betray us before our very eyes and continue to get away with it. Bush is certainly no exception, as Mary McGrory notes in Real Men Don't Proliferate:
It was a wonderful week for national missile defense. George W. Bush triumphantly announced he was taking a powder from the ABM Treaty that inhibits his progress to Star Wars. It was a terrible week for non-proliferation legislation, which had, in the Senate, another of its near-death experiences.

The goal in both enterprises, of course, is to protect us from attack, either nuclear or biological. They couldn't be more different in concept -- and cost. The president's beloved NMD, with all the bells and whistles, could bring in a bill in the neighborhood of $130 billion to $150 billion. Full funding of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program would come to $40 billion, according to former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who with Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) created the program calculated to bring Russian nuclear storage out of the used-car lot class.

Bush gave lip service to Nunn-Lugar in the campaign, but in the White House has not put his money where his mouth is. The president cut $40 million and later $73 million for bright ideas such as relocating unemployed and hungry Russian scientists to commercial ventures. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) points out that the Russians need our help to manage their enriched uranium supply. "These are materials which could be made into bombs in terrorist hands."

* * * * *
Another great mystery is why the US news media had so much trouble guessing who anthrax attacks on news people and Democrats must be coming from. Yes, the news media know it's a lie that they are liberal, but they continue to promote the claim, so it shouldn't surprise them when right-wing fruitcakes target them for attack. And it's ludicrous to assume that an attack by extremist Muslims on US media wouldn't have been aimed first at CNN and Fox. Even more laughable is the idea that the first targets of such attacks on Congress by foreign extremists would be the offices of Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. These two people have been singled out as targets of hate by right-wing radio talk shows in the US - Daschle has been equated with Satan, not to mention Saddam. It's hardly a coincidence if right-wing nuts start to use him for target practice. Moreover, anthrax has been a habitual means of attack, both in threat and in reality, by the US far-right. On this side of the Atlantic, Daschle is mostly unheard of, and Leahy's importance is negligible even to those who know who he is. And given the hatred that the Republicans have whipped up against the Democrats for supposed contempt for the military, should anyone have been suprised by the headline, Capitol Hill Anthrax Matches Army's Stocks?
Genetic fingerprinting studies indicate that the anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill are identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980, according to scientists familiar with the most recent tests.

10:55 GMT: Permalink
As a Beltway native, I've long been aware that the Republicans absolutely love to stiff DC. They're constantly reneging on what amounts to the rent they owe the city for using up most of the potentially lucrative real estate. Congress votes to fund most of the city (the city they use, they benefit from, they demand services from). The Capitol is policed by the same cops who keep the peace in the rest of the city. Many people hearing about the debacle of the Barry administration were unaware that Congress had decided to punish the people of Washington for electing someone they didn't like by withholding all that funding - of course city finances were a mess as a result. We'll never know how much of it was the mayor's fault, but Congress can really take the most credit.

Another significant source of revenue for DC is tourism. So, naturally, the Bush administration has screwed that up completely by closing down one of the prime destinations of Christmas visitors. I just want to say: How dare they?

The Republicans made a big deal a few years ago about how Bill Clinton had had sex in "our" White House, but long-time DC-watchers take for granted that the White House isn't just government property, it's also the residence and workspace of any sitting president. And distinguishing the Oval Office from any other part of the building is just so much spin - most of us who work where we live don't make such hard-and-fast distinctions to begin with, and unlike former-Governor Bush, Clinton clearly put in his hours wherever he was - long hours. But the Clintons did not close the White House to the public. Bill Clinton, unlike the Republicans, actually cared about both DC and The People's House. And though I certainly disagreed with many of his policies, I'm grateful for the respect President Clinton showed for my home town.

The Republicans, on the other hand, continue to show my city - and my country - contempt. A pox on them.


Saturday, 15 December 2001:

15:10 GMT: Permalink
Check out Pat Oliphant. This one, too. And Danzinger.

White House lashes out at Daschle over stalled bills - yeah, yeah, that old Tom Daschle, he sure is an obstructionist. Mind, Tom Toles has a different take on it.

14:58 GMT: Permalink
On my very first trip to England, I visited Stonehenge, and boy what a disappointment that was. It was like seeing an animal in the zoo - they had a cage around it and a little sign explaining what it was - and there was motorized traffic loud and near. Last week I was pleased to see T.R. Reid reporting in The Washington Post that:

Now, after decades of such criticism, the British government has found the money and political will to restore silence and solemnity to Stonehenge. Work is to begin next spring on a $225 million plan to tunnel road traffic under the monument, and to create a museum two miles away that will serve as a visitors center.

* * * * *
Media Beat is Announcing the P.U.-Litzer Prizes for 2001 with this year's winners ranging from Coulter to Alter.

* * * * *
Returning to our anniversary theme, in November of last year Teresa Nielsen Hayden responded to anti-Gore frenzy with Laws, ballots, and getting drunk on anger:
Nobody likes to lose an election. You honestly think your candidate is the best for the job. You agree with the campaign speeches. You take time out on Election Day to go vote. And then ... the other guy wins. It's a disappointment, no way around it. But the guy who's been elected is still your public official, answerable to you. He's still bound by all the same laws as the rest of us. You, me, both candidates, and a whole bunch of other people -- we're all still part of the same system. Heaven help us, we're all in it together.

Why would someone want to circumvent this system? I'll give you a hint: It's probably not because they're plotting to do us good. You can take this as a rule: No matter what else they're saying, anyone who says we can dispense with counting the ballots and observing the law is not your friend. Neither is anyone who tries to take power without having the laws and ballots on his side. Neither is anyone who withholds vital information on that score, or condones others' disrespect for it.

This is why I'm so disturbed by accounts of the riot in Dade County. At the time the elections were held, almost three weeks ago, the Dade County Republicans would not have made a mass assault on polling places or campaign offices.

Now it appears that they organized one. Now reports say that among the members of this mob, which explicitly came to stop a normal, legitimate, legal, conducted-under-intense-bipartisan-scrutiny electoral process, were Republicans who'd participated in the vote verification process.

People who are working on the vote-verification process have more opportunity and more power to call attention to vote-counting skulduggery than anyone else. It's their duty to do so. They must be heard. And if they've truly spotted something questionable, the law will back them up. They have recourse, and if they'd had legitimate complaints they had every opportunity to make them. Instead, these people joined a mob.

Organizing a mob to terrorize a vote-counting center into stopping the count is not heroic. It isn't brave. It isn't a blow struck in defense of truth and justice. It's a crude attempt to circumvent the system, and it shows a profound disrespect for law and democracy. It's even more disturbing that they did this so openly, and that their own party hasn't disavowed their actions and done what it could to rein them in.

You'd think that George W. Bush would know better. This is a democracy. He can never legitimately become President of the United States until the outcome of the voting is known, and no amount of shrieking and bullying on the part of his supporters can change that. If he shoves his way into the office without having the votes to back him up, he still won't be the President of the Uited States. He'll just be a figurehead whose handlers have managed to pull off a putsch -- and the rest of us will be infinitely poorer for it.

02:18 GMT: Permalink
I feel like I'm getting a cold, which is just what I need.

In the hope that I can still think my way out of a paper bag, I will now introduce the subject of Priest. He used to be Jim Owsley or something, but he changed his name, which really irritated British sf author Christopher Priest, although I gather that these days they are on friendly terms. All the same, I really wish Priest, the very good writer of comics, would drop the use of "Christopher" altogether to help everyone tell them apart.

I've liked Christopher Priest's work ever since I read his Hugo-nominated The Inverted World back in '74, and I've liked Chris ever since I met him at the 1980 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. Not long after I moved to London (in '85), Chris sat on our sofa and told us a story about the days when he was starting out as an accountant, being dragged out on a date to a club called The Cavern...and we made him write it down and built a fanzine around it.

I've never met Priest, though I've enjoyed his work for several years now and was instantly intrigued when I read that first issue of Xero. Imagine my delight when I discovered that he has his own rants on his website. I was particularly interested in the one he wrote last January about the inauguration of the Prince Regent, called The Emperor's New Limo.
George W. Bush was sworn in yesterday as the 43rd president of the United States, and I have experienced a profound epiphany: the new presidential limousine is just hideous. I have absolutely no idea what they were thinking. I keep hearing these horrible reports of disgruntled workers going on shooting sprees through corporate offices. While I certainly could never wish this event on anyone, I wish an emotional rampage on the designers of General Motors for ruining the most classic, highest-recognition nameplate in the world by turning it into a Cheshire cat and bug-eyed automotive equivalent of Heathcliff, worthy of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

The limousine of the president of these so-called United States is, undeniably, the highest profile vehicle in the world, a symbol of power and prestige. GM's abortion of a design scheme fairly screams about our country's ideological and creative bankruptcy. Dr. Seuss' New Car. The Country That Has Run Out of Ideas.

The car, however, is completely adequate, in tone and spirit, for our new president. I could have wished no more appropriate a banner for our new, ideologically bankrupt president, a coward of epic and stunning proportions who clearly does not himself believe he was actually legitimately elected. Emotionally, this "transfer" of power feels to me like a game of jacks played by ten year-olds, where one of them snatches the prize from the other and then goes on to stonewall, in the thinnest and least defensible kid-argument, as to why he "won" the game.

You might also want to have a look at Wave This Flag Or Else.


Friday, 14 December 2001:

19:20 GMT: Permalink
My apologies; I was ill the other night and my comments on the Franken-Clinton item below, which I'd intended to post on the 12th, ended up being hastily cobbled together the next day while I was rushing to get out of the house. I believe I was unclear; I don't think the article says that a partisan mess in Washington would have been Gore's fault, or that Clinton or Franken implied it. I do believe that the sub-head was intended to blunt the real content of the criticism, which was of the Republicans rather than of Gore. And more to the point, I've seen a number of far less honest articles that have more openly portrayed this line of criticism as praise for Bush and relief that he, rather than Gore, is in the White House.

My excuse for last night is that I did manage to successfully limp out into the world and hang out with friends, and then stayed up late talking to Whitfield Diffie.

* * * * *
I can hardly believe my eyes: Did Howard Kurtz actually do an entire column in which he noted that the Enron collapse is actually big news and tied to the corruption of the Bush administration, quoted Sheer and Krugman (!) and even admitted that it's being neglected by much of the media because a lot of journalists aren't really up to the job? He even gives voice to a complaint I have had for many weeks: that the terrorism/war story hasn't just been the top news, it's been practially all of the news.
Everywhere you look, it's war, terrorism and big-time angst.

Nine-eleven is not only the biggest story of our lives, it often seems like the only story.

In newsroom after newsroom, reporters have been drafted from other beats to join the war effort.

What about other news? Let's face it: Journalists aren't great at walking and chewing gum at the same time.

If there was no Afghanistan story, for example, the press would be going nuts over Enron.

It's the biggest corporate collapse ever, the firm employed some top administration officials and the CEO was a Dubya pal.

Enron has been a big business story, but hasn't drawn the kind of daily-drumbeat political treatment that often surrounds corporate chicanery with a strong whiff of scandal.

Holy moley, who woke this guy up? The column is so full of links to nifty articles that it's almost as if he was covering for me while I was otherwise occupied.

* * * * *
Department of Cheap Thrills: Feeling annoyed and maybe even a bit petty? Oh, well, you might as well make someone's head explode.

On the other hand, if you can stand to wait a bit for it to download, bitch-slapping the Supreme Court 5 is much better. Be patient and watch 'til the end (the fades are a bit slow).


Thursday, 13 December 2001:

14:20 GMT: Permalink
One of the more interesting bits of spin going around - one even many Democrats appear to be buying - is that we are "lucky" that the Supreme Court stole the election because President Gore would have faced too much opposition to be able to draw the country together to fight terrorism. Funnily enough, no one wants to put it in plain terms: The Republican leadership is so unable to put the country's needs before their own vicious agenda of overthrowing democracy that they would still be engaged in their pre-selection temper tantrums and obstructing the war effort. Take this ABC News subhead: Add Bill Clinton's name to the list of prominent Democrats who think the nation's capital would be a partisan mess if Al Gore had become president. Notice how that sentence makes it sound almost as if Clinton is downright relieved that Gore is not in the White House - as if it is not a criticism of the Republicans rather than of Gore.
Comedian Al Franken says Clinton told him that if Gore were president, Republicans in Congress would be criticizing Gore's prosecution of the war, holding hearings about the administration's failures and perhaps even seeking Gore's impeachment.

"He said there would be congressional hearings about how they let their guard down," Franken said in an interview Tuesday. "He was saying how the bipartisanship we're seeing now is really a one-way street."

The comedian, who is friendly with both Gore and Clinton, said he couldn't remember Clinton's exact words but that the former president did mention the possibility that Gore might have been impeached. "I think he said they'd probably be impeaching him right now," Franken recalled.

Franken told ABCNEWS his chat with Clinton "may have been a private conversation." However, the comedian discussed Clinton's comments at a Harvard seminar on Nov. 27 and a brief account of the exchange appeared in a university newsletter two days later.

Clinton spokeswoman Julia Payne said the former president has not discussed a hypothetical Gore presidency in his on-the-record remarks but has told people he agrees with a Wall Street Journal column by Al Hunt that was published Nov. 29.

Hunt wrote that Gore's war Cabinet would have been as good as Bush's, but that Gore would have faced a barrage of criticism from conservatives. "The political right wouldn't have given him the leeway and support that President Bush has received," said Hunt.

Franken, a liberal who wrote a book skewering Rush Limbaugh, offered this assessment to the Harvard audience: We're kind of lucky that the Supreme Court stole the election."

That was a tongue-in-cheek remark, Franken said Tuesday. But he agrees there would be more debate over war tactics if Gore were in the White House. "This would be a lot trickier if Gore had won," Franken said. "There wouldn't be the unity."

Of course, Bush pretty much said the same thing during the campaign - that electing him would put a stop to the horrible partisanship the Republicans subjected us to during the Clinton years. Naturally, no one phrased it quite that way. And no one said that what this really means is that those Republicans who pursued the Clintons with such destructive zeal should be turfed out pronto and replaced with people who can perform as public servants rather than as vandals.

What Bush offered was essentially blackmail: Elect a Republican or we will keep right on making life miserable with false accusations and partisan obstruction. We will spend millions of tax-payer dollars wrecking the lives of innocent men and women while permitting real criminals - and terrorists - to continue to soak the people and even kill them, unscathed. We will give you no peace until you let us have what we want.

Another issue that is missed is whether having more debate would have been a bad thing. While I agree that it is absolutely true the Republicans would certainly have been looking for a way to impeach Gore the moment he was elected (just as they did with Clinton), even if he'd won by a clear landslide, I doubt they could have gotten very far after 9/11. The Democrats were still in control of nearly half of the seats in the Senate as of 20 January - not a majority, but still quite enough to prevent any trumped-up impeachment moves from having any possibility of resulting in a conviction. Moreover, the Republicans might have even learned their lesson from their attempts on Clinton and avoided going that far with an eye to the 2002 elections.

Come 9/11, that kind of partisanship would no longer be tolerable - this was not a failed attack on a building in the WTC as happened in 1993, or just an attack on Americans on foreign soil, as Clinton had been dealing with (while the Republicans fiddled); few would have had any more patience with that kind of Republican panty-raiding with the debris of the fallen towers still in the air. And support for the Democratic President would have emboldened the Democrats in Congress to fight any such partisan attempts by the Republicans.

Even so, I think the Republican zealots would still have been attacking Gore and his policies, and I'm not sure that would be such a terrible thing. We probably wouldn't have Orrin Hatch and Zell Miller, along with George F. Will and his pals, making excuses if a Gore administration tried to bypass not only the civilian courts but the normal military courts in order to arrange to secure guaranteed convictions of the guilty and innocent alike. William Safire would still be lining up with civil libertarians to object to kangaroo courts, so no losses there.

Meanwhile, national support for anti-terrorism would undoubtedly be just as strong as it is now, and Republicans would pay dearly for any attempt to sabotage the President's pursuit of bin Laden. Unlike former-Governor Bush, Gore had not been ignoring the terrorist threat the way the Republicans had, even having authored a report on airport security in anticipation of just such problems, and he would likely have been quicker off the mark in making sure security was treated seriously. Also unlike Bush, Gore's family has no prior business or friendly relationship with the bin Laden family to muddy the waters.

But the assumption of people who think we're lucky to have Bush seems to be that Gore would necessarily have wanted to make the same unconstitutional moves that Bush has. I wouldn't put money on it either way, but somehow I doubt Gore would have attempted so many end-runs around the Constitution in the first place.

No, Gore isn't the real issue in the story above; the story is that the Republicans are cheerleading and genuflecting over moves they would never have tolerated from a Democratic administration. And many of them are moves that should not be tolerated, from any administration.


Tuesday, 12 December 2001: One year in captivity

20:00 GMT: Permalink
November 2000, one month before the Supreme Court would disenfranchise the voting public and appoint George Bush to the White House, Martin Lewis reviewed a BBC story in Time magazine about how Gore's commanding lead had been whittled down by Republican oppo research. By turning it into a close race, they'd made it possible for the debacle in Florida that set the contest on the road to the Supreme Court. As Lewis may have suspected when he wrote it, this story details the exact moment when Gore's impending landslide was snatched away.
In the film we see RNC glee as the Associated Press accepts their oppo research on a Gore misstatement during the first presidential debate. During their months of filming BBC producers also observed producers for NBC's Tim Russert, among others, calling to enquire if the team had any new material. This was apparently normal practice.
[...]
Meanwhile, the Bush campaign came up with a much more effective plan. It was apparent early on to the Bush team that the election could not be won on what are traditionally described as "the issues." As the polls continue to show, the majority of the issues favor Gore and the Democrats.
[...]
Moments later the topic is the Balkans. Gore speaks of how World War I started there and says "my uncle was a victim of poison gas there." The RNC oppo staff giggles at this and Griffin bellows: "This family stuff is killing me... let's check his uncle!" There is a flurry of activity — and then palpable disappointment that Gore's uncle really was a gas victim. "OK, so that is not a lie..." Griffin grimaces, and phones the bad news to a waiting colleague: "Hey... we confirmed the uncle tear-gas story...."

But when Gore makes what turns out to be his misstatement about visiting Texas fire sites with FEMA director James Lee Witt, Griffin senses blood. "Have Jeanette take a look at that!" he cries. And his hunch is right. Gore has transposed dates or people. And that gives Griffin another opportunity.

The BBC cameras catch him on the phone exulting to a colleague: "You know what this would be perfect for is... Get one of these AP reporters or somebody on it for the next few days and then we get a lie out of it... and roll a few days with a new lie!"

Let the record show that while Bush was denying his own policies during the debate, this innocent bit of transposition was being called a "lie" by the Republicans - and the news media.

14:40 GMT: Permalink
Last night I decided the Weyrich junk gave me just the excuse I needed to do a little venting in honor of the first year's anniversary of the stolen election, as you can see below. But I was already writing something to commemorate the occasion, which I've set up as a separate article rather than just something for this page. The media has been knocking itself out to assure us that we've got a great president - why, he even changes his clothes! I gave this some thought, and my commemorative offering today is called: Is the news media in denial?


Tuesday, 11 December 2001:

20:42 GMT: Permalink
Unfortunately, the more sensible elements on the right aren't exactly ascendant in the Republican leadership, which is in fact pretty much overwhelmed by a vicious pack of anti-democratic power-grabbers and religious zealots. Buzzflash has found Paul Weyrich's Free Congress site and it's plans for neutralizing liberals:
Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions....

We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment's rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today's American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously.

I'd say that blue-print maps pretty closely to what the Republicans have been doing for the last ten years, devoting so much of their energy to trying to destroy the Democratic Party and the democratic process that little attention has been devoted to the things that even most right-wingers say they believe that government is for - like, say, protecting us from enemy attack.

God knows they've been effective, too. They've stolen our airwaves and then an election, emptied out our coffers, libelled our dedicated public servants and put thieves in their place.

This is why "kooks" like me believe that the issue of the 2000 election is not something to "get over" and that removing this criminally-imposed government is as important as eliminating terrorist networks. You don't just "get over" a crime of such magnitude and then let the criminals run your country. People who dismiss the enormity of the Republican crime as something that is "over" sound as nonsensical to us as would someone who said that the 9/11 attacks happened months ago and we should "get over" them.

Let us remember that men who lied under oath in order to further their political careers - Justice Rehnquist and former Senator Ashcroft - were both willing to see a president impeached for having attempted to withhold a piece of information about his private life that they never legitimately had a right to know. But these two men libelled other, honest, men to get where they are. They hid their political intentions and then proceeded to violate their oaths of office, in order to undermine the Constitution.

And let us also not forget that judges are required to recuse themselves from cases where they or their family members have any personal relationship to the parties in the case - even the appearance of personal interest is entirely out of bounds. Yet Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself, despite the fact that his own wife was part of the Bush transition team. Scalia's sons also had close relationships to the Bush team. By any reasonable ethics of jurisprudence, these two men should have recused themselves from all decisions in Bush v. Gore. Instead, they intruded themselves into a process that was not Constitutionally in their hands to begin with and then imposed a false deadline on the electoral process.

These people have worked to destroy our democratic freedoms as surely as Osama bin Laden has - and they have not been at all surreptitious about it. We don't know where bin Laden's fingerprints show his personal involvement in the events of 9/11, but we saw the Supreme Court 5 commit their crime themselves. Moreover, we have stacks of evidence of criminal conduct to disenfranchise voters in both the Florida and Tennessee elections.

We're not talking about endless, compulsive snooping around in a president's underwear in an attempt to phony up a "crime" to convict him on, here. It is documented fact that George W. Bush is a proven perjurer (the real kind, where you tell a lie under oath that is crucial to the case), that John Ashcroft made false accusations to the Senate under oath about Ronnie White, that Thomas and Scalia were not disinterested parties in Bush v. Gore, and that the counting of ballots in Florida could legally have continued to at least January 6th but was illegitimately stopped by five Supreme Court Justices, at least two of whom should not have been sitting at all in that case.

Some say that there is no point talking about it all because there is nothing we can do about it. But the only reason that is true is because we keep letting people say it's true. Crimes have been committed; they should be prosecuted and the situation rectified. The only thing that's necessary to make that happen is for people to acknowledge it.

George Bush sits in the White House, with John Ashcroft at his side, both of them attempting to gut our Constitution, as a result of a long series of criminal acts by himself and his colleagues. The war against terrorism is not an excuse to leave him there; on the contrary, especially because we are on a mission to defend our democratic freedoms and our way of life, we should insist on having a legitimately elected leader in the White House. George W. Bush is not that man.

* * * * *
Another example of the aforementioned destructiveness rears its ugly head in the tax cut battle, in which the Republicans lie like the thieves they are about how stealing from the treasury will encourage people who already have too much money to start hiring people, or something like that - what Paul Krugman has already called "trickle-down economics without the trickle-down." To add injury to injury, they attack Tom Daschle for what they claim is partisan obstructiveness when he attempts to keep the hell-hounds from the door. The New York Times, apparently having recovered their senses after their own whacked out descent into Republican-style mania, notes that Tom Daschle Isn't the Problem:
The closing days of this year's Congressional session have brought forth a wild Republican campaign to demonize Senator Tom Daschle. It almost seems as if the G.O.P. is holding a contest to see who can most often use the word "obstructionist" to describe him. The attacks — including ads in Mr. Daschle's home state of South Dakota featuring side-by-side photographs of him and Saddam Hussein — are a sure sign of the Senate majority leader's effectiveness in blocking President Bush's hard-right agenda. Today Mr. Bush meets with Mr. Daschle at the White House, where they can move beyond vilification to legislation.

The word "obstructionist," voiced over the weekend by Vice President Dick Cheney, has an unreal ring. Perhaps Mr. Cheney was in a remote, secure location when, after Sept. 11 and with Mr. Daschle's help, Congress passed a use-of-force resolution, a $40 billion emergency spending bill, an airline bailout, a counterterrorism bill and an airport security bill. The Senate has also passed 13 appropriations bills and its own version of education reform and a patients' bill of rights. The two things that Mr. Cheney cited that the Senate had "obstructed" were legislation to drill for energy in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a "stimulus" bill to give out huge tax breaks to corporations and rich people.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush have called for bipartisan cooperation in Congress. Yet when asked, the vice president declined to disavow the attack ads running in South Dakota that accused Mr. Daschle of helping the Iraqi dictator by blocking the destruction of the Alaska reserve.

The suspicion is growing in some quarters in Washington that Mr. Bush may not really want economic stimulus legislation. How else to explain that the White House is sticking with a bill, passed by the House, that many Republicans say privately they would just as soon abandon? The effect of spending less than $100 billion to jolt a $10 trillion economy is likely to be small, and the unnecessary tax breaks aimed at corporations and the wealthy would make the nation's upcoming deficits even worse. But there are some good ideas in some versions of the stimulus bill that should be passed, irrespective of their large-scale economic impact. These pieces would provide unemployment and health benefits to laid off workers who desperately need help after Sept. 11.

If Mr. Bush continues to be inflexible on the economic package, Mr. Daschle should switch tactics and attach the health and jobless benefits to some other bill before Congress adjourns near Christmas. It would be a travesty to ignore the real needs of the most vulnerable Americans at a time like this one. You might even say it was obstructionist.

02:25 GMT: Permalink
"If the 'right wing' consisted entirely of people like Glenn Reynolds and Steven Den Beste," Patrick said to me on A.I.M., "we'd be living in the early days of a better nation." Here's a little sample:
Posted 12/10/2001 06:30:25 PM by Glenn Reynolds
A SIDE EFFECT OF CIPRO IS "abnormal dread or fear." Everyone in the government and the East Coast media is taking Cipro. Now they're worrying a bit too much about what to do if the entire government is wiped out by terrorists. Coincidence? Hey, I report, you decide. (Or is that slogan already taken?)

Look, it's fine to have a clear line of succession. Er, and we do. It was considered good enough to deal with the prospect of Global Thermonuclear War, so it's probably good enough to deal with terrorism.

* * * * *
Patrick also recommended Reason, who have been doing a bang-up job of criticizing Ashcroft's excesses, as in a piece called Trial and Error by Jacob Sullum:
For criticizing President Bush's order authorizing military tribunals, I've been called "nuts," "high," "hateful," a "crybaby," and, perhaps worst of all, "left-wing." But many readers disagreed with me in more polite terms, and they raised points that are worth addressing.

Elsewhere in Reason, Michael W. Lynch addresses another of my favorite subjects, in What's Bill Bennett Smoking?
The latest release from William J. Bennett Inc.--the book and op-ed factory also known as Empower America--appeared Thursday on the commentary pages of the Wall Street Journal. Its subject was familiar—the War on Drugs, and why we need it now more than ever.
[...]
The column (available on this paid site) makes these muddled arguments: 1) Terrorist groups rely on the drug trade as one source of funds; 2) We've yet to rethink our drug policy in light of the new threat from terrorism; 3) Unlike the glorious 20 months in 1989-90 when Bennett was drug czar, the federal government has since neglected the drug war, even as children increased their drug use.

* * * * *
There is a Difference Between Dissent and Treason says Richard Reeves:
WASHINGTON -- So, the attorney general of the United States tells me: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists."

Well, screw you, buddy! What are you trying to say? Are you saying that anyone who talks about civil rights, civil liberties and the freedom that makes us Americans is a traitor in this undeclared but loudly proclaimed war?

I have messages for you, Mr. Attorney General John Ashcroft, former governor, former senator and all-round political perpetual: (1) I am no traitor, and neither is anyone else who questions sweeping expansion of government power to search people's homes and minds; (2) if someone or something has to be blamed and castigated for the breakdown in American security analysis that occurred so horrifically on Sept. 11, we should start with the foul-ups of the government itself in allowing terrorist networks to develop almost openly over the past 10 years.

* * * * *
The other day I noticed a descrepancy: George Bush claimed to have seen TV footage of the first plane hitting one of the Twin Towers many hours before such a tape was available:
The president responded by talking more personally about his thoughts on that day, when he was at a school in Sarasota, Fla. "I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on," Mr. Bush said. "And I used to fly myself, and I said, 'Well, there's one terrible pilot.' I said, 'Must have been a horrible accident.'"

Now, that's a statement that's significantly more at variance with the facts than anything Al Gore said during the presidential campaign. Avram Grumer talks about this in his own weblog:
So, Bush lied. This isn't an important lie, like his perjury in the SCI case, or his father's lies about involvement in Iran-Contra. But it is the kind of lie that the press accused Gore of telling, and used to paint him as a habitual liar.

Avram also has a pointer to The Art Test. Well, I took it, and I'm not so sure.


Monday, 10 December 2001:

11:59 GMT: Permalink
I've been out getting exercise and visiting a neighbor I hadn't seen since before I injured myself. And then we went to see the Harry Potter flick. I'm pleased to report that I enjoyed the movie and also my legs only feel a little bit sore.

* * * * *
I don't get to watch a lot of the US new shows over here, but fortunately CNN puts up transcripts of Crossfire. Here's Friday's episode: Interview With Alex Castellanos; Interview With Paul Begala.
BEGALA: Gore won.

CASTELLANOS: You know, the perfect recipe for failure.

BEGALA: Gore got more votes than the other guy.

CASTELLANOS: You keep -- keep it up.

BEGALA: Some of us still believe in democracy, Alex.

* * * * *
On my favorite subject of the last several days, The Sacrametno Bee says Ashcroft is Contemptible.

* * * * *
It all went downhill when Cliff Sanford sold Demon Internet to a company that just didn't understand all that anti-censorship stuff. Sanford's Demon stood up to amazing amounts of abuse from the sort of people who accused him and his colleagues of being child pornographers when Demon refused to remove newsgroups from their servers. A more recent attack from TV presenter Carol Vordeman made the new owners cower, much to the dismay of the police. Need To Know has the story:

Cast your minds back to February: the Wonderland case is in all the papers; Carol Vordeman and ZDNet are campaigning to get ISPs to control their filthy ways. Under pressure, DEMON breaks its own anti-censorship tradition, and announces that newsgroups will be removed from the newsfeed "to protect the vulnerable and to increase our vigilance". Weeeell, it turns out that some people were being vigilant already. With their stream of evidence abruptly cut off, police investigators monitoring the newsgroups are not best pleased. They turn up at Demon HQ intending to seize the ISP's entire newsserver network. After some gentle panicking compromise is reached: Demon sets up a PC next door to news.news.demon.net, reinstates the newsgroups, and peers the spool across. (Which, you know, the cops could probably have obtained with a phone call: but that's by the by.)

Cut to last week's weirdo press release [NTK 2001-11-30]. Suddenly it all becomes clear: the NCS, eager to clear things up, puts out the conciliatory message that Demon have been very helpful with enquiries. A bit too helpful, unfortunately: misunderstanding the politics, NCS happily tells everyone that Demon handed over their entire server, logs and all. Now, Demon can't exactly tell the full story - and reassure the world that no private information was released - without showing up both the police for acting impetuously, and themselves for putting an investigation at risk. And neither group can publically admit to the one truth in this mess: that those namby-pamby anti-censorship arguments that Cliff Stanford, old time staff, and Demon's own users gave turned out to be perfectly true. It *is* better to have it out in the open, where the police can track it. And you can't cure everything with one poorly-considered Vordeman-pandering press release. Or two.


Sunday, 9 December 2001:

12:40 GMT: Permalink
I somehow managed to miss Frank Rich's reaction in The New York Times yesterday to Ashcroft's remarkable display of arrogance. So, for the sake of completeness, this article by one of the few mainstream journalists who managed to retain his integrity and sense over the last few years, Confessions of a Traitor:
It's no longer just politically incorrect to criticize George W. Bush or anyone in his administration these days — now it's treason.

John Ashcroft, testifying before the Senate on Thursday, declared that those who challenge his wisdom "only aid terrorists" and will "give ammunition to America's enemies." Tough words. They make you wonder what the guy who's charged with helping us whip Al Qaeda is afraid of. The only prominent traitors in sight are the usual civil- liberties watchdogs and a milque- toast senator or two barely known beyond the Beltway and their own constituencies. Polls find the public squarely on the attorney general's side, and even the few pundits who knock him are ridiculed by their journalistic colleagues as hysterics so busy fussing about civil liberties that they forget "there's a war going on."

Well, with the smell of victory over the Taliban crowding out the scent of mass murder from the World Trade Center, the Ashcroft defenders have half a point: some people are indeed forgetting that a war is still going on. But it is not those questioning the administration who are slipping into this amnesia so much as those who rubber stamp its every whim.

While I wouldn't dare call it treason, it hardly serves the country to look the other way when the Ashcroft-Ridge-Thompson-Mineta team proves as inept at home as the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice team has proved adept abroad. In the Afghan aftermath, the home front is just as likely to be the next theater of war as Somalia or Iraq. Giving a free pass to Mr. Ashcroft and the other slackers in the Bush administration isn't patriotism — it's complacency, which sometimes comes with a stiff price.

Just how deep that complacency runs could be seen on Monday, when Tom Ridge issued the administration's third urgent announcement to date of a heightened terror alert. Why even bother? His vague doomsday warning didn't lead every newscast and didn't rouse the public or even law enforcement. On ABC, John Miller reported that the three F.B.I. field offices he canvassed had neither been advised of the threat nor "told to batten down the hatches any more than they were." What's that about? Under Mr. Ashcroft's dictum, asking such follow-up questions is aiding and abetting the enemy. In any event, no one did.

Surely it's also treason to indulge in blunt talk about airline security. Norman Mineta, the transportation secretary, waited only one week after President Bush signed the security bill to abandon all hope of meeting its 60-day deadline for screening checked baggage for explosives. Nor did he call for any stopgap measures to help in the meantime (like enlisting the cosmetically deployed airport national guardsmen to do at least some such screening). Give Mr. Mineta credit for candor, but he might as well have just painted a big target on the back of the nation's commercial airline system as we segue from Ramadan into Christmas. Of course it would be un-American to say so. [more]

Meanwhile Jake Tapper at Salon.com (Premium, alas) notes that the Republicans have once again declared victory a bit early, in Ashcroft terrorizes Senate panel:
"The best evidence that you've won the public discussion on the tribunal is that this hearing has changed into a discussion about gun control," McConnell gloated.

That Ashcroft "won" the debate still seems a fairly premature call, especially since so many questions about the tribunal -- which Bush slipped into the Federal Register on Friday, Nov. 16 -- remained vague. Like who, exactly, could be tried. Or what the burden of proof would be. Or whether it would be a court for just war crimes or one for "violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws," as the order states. Or whether the death penalty could be applied if a defendant was convicted by a 2-1 vote. Or whether the President or Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld could over-rule an acquittal and single-handedly send a defendant to his death. Trifling little matters like that.

Molly Ivins goes straight to the point:
AUSTIN - With all due respect, of course, and God Bless America too, has anyone considered the possibility that the attorney general is becoming unhinged?

For some serious Ashcroft-bashing, an unrestrained history of the man himself is available at History News Network in Mr. Ashcroft’s America, America's Mr. Ashcroft.

* * * * *
Also in Salon Premium, there's an interview with Aaron McGruder, creator of the delightful Boondocks strip, but the folks at the right-wing Free Republic boards hated it so much that they posted the whole thing, so you can read it there complete with all their disgusted comments below.
* * * * *
Over at Slate, Micky Kaus asks, Is it in Bush's political interest to prolong the war? - although the article was referred to me with the apparent title, "How many extra young people will die to keep his political ratings high?"

* * * * *
Is Your Son a Computer Hacker? Er, this may not be the place to find out.


Saturday, 8 December 2001:

14:50 GMT: Permalink
Special Ashcroft-bashing entry: The big news today is still Ashcroft's appalling performance at the hearing, with so much outrage spilling in its wake that Aschcroft's office has actually felt the need to release a public dissembling about it:
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft did not intend in fiery Senate testimony this week to criticize those who have questioned his anti-terrorism policies and was suggesting only that "misstatements of fact" aid the terrorist cause, his spokesman said yesterday.

Funnily enough, most of the "misstatements of fact" on this subject have come not from Ashcroft's detractors, but from his supporters, who persist in claiming that there is nothing unusual or special about the new military order and that it is needed because there are no mechanisms in existence for protecting confidential information. These people are either lying or misinformed (and who, I wonder, would have misinformed them?), so one really must wonder what sources the Attorney General had in mind when he suggested that someone-or-other was aiding and abetting the terrorists. Let's see, what was it he said, again?

"To those who pit Americans against immigrants and citizens against noncitizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," Ashcroft testified. "They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of goodwill to remain silent in the face of evil."

"Phantoms of lost liberty"? Tell that to the blue-eyed, blond-haired Jewish boy who spent 45 days in solitary confinement because his name is "Omer" (a Hebrew name). Or to numerous others who've had their lives disrupted so John Ashcroft can feel safe. Or to the rest of us, who wonder how safe we can be if the government can't tell the difference between students who fast on Yom Kippur and Muslim terrorists. Most people assume when they meet me that I'm Jewish, so how safe is my even swarthier brother, working in Washington, DC, from John Ashcroft's minions? I wanna know.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden also wonders, "Who has the Attorney General of the United States accused of 'aiding terrorists'?" and quotes several critics of the military order, then goes on to say:
I'd like to know which of the above are "aiding terrorists," according to the Attorney General of the United States. The Washington Post? Andrew Sullivan? Jimmy Carter? Me? You?
[...]
Remember what we've seen. We must fight people who pilot airliners full of innocent men and women into buildings full of office workers. And we must fight overweening officials who recklessly attack loyal Americans. Be swift, our souls, to answer. Be jubilant, our feet.

Gratifyingly, a lot of people have indeed been swift to answer, and often with some fine writing. Josh Marshall is pulling no punches, and neither is Jacob Weisberg:
As someone who was actually prepared to listen to Attorney General John Ashcroft's defense of military tribunals and other security measures, I have to say that I was completely disgusted by his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. It was an arrogant, bullying performance that went a long way to substantiating the views of his harshest critics. Ashcroft declined to be drawn into any kind of substantive discussion of military tribunals or anything else. To fair question after fair question, his answer was essentially, "Don't you realize there are people trying to kill us?" He haughtily dismissed those of his former colleagues who dared to suggest they had some kind of standing to participate in a discussion with him. With his slurs against "Miranda rights," "flamboyant" defense attorneys, and "Osama TV," the country's top lawyer suggested that our entire system of criminal justice is an unworkable sham. Sen. Chuck Schumer was right to point out that the only part of the Constitution that seems to excite his sympathy is the Second Amendment.
[...]
As for "encouraging people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil," there's only one prominent person trying to intimidate legitimate critics into shutting up about actions they feel to be both wrong and deeply un-American at present. He is, unfortunately, the attorney general of the United States.

The Washington Post has an editorial in the morning paper decrying The Ashcroft Smear, and Jonathan Alter says Ashcroft Has Finally Gone Too Far . And, just in case anyone was still willing to cut him some slack, Newsweek has printed an interview with An ‘Unapologetic’ Ashcroft.

Of course, Safire is still on the warpath, but he almost seems to think it's funny in 'Voices of Negativism'. For those who came in late, recall that Richard Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, once called that administration's critics "nattering nabobs of negativism," in a speech wrtten by one William Safire.
Preparing to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee where to get off today, Attorney General John Ashcroft lashed out at all who dare to uphold our bedrock rule of law as "voices of negativism." (A nattering nabob, moi?)

01:44 GMT: Permalink
Well, I sure am pink-cheeked about only putting part of the code in for that little checkbox. But it ought to work now.

* * * * *
I'm told this web poll allows cheating as much as you like, so vote early and often for the 2001 Political Dot-Comedy Awards. The results don't mean anything but nominees represent a pretty good list of links to some interesting pages.

Speaking of polls, Zogby is taken pretty seriously, so let me remind you to inspect the headlines at Buzzflash.com very carefully.

* * * * *
Serious business at Talking Points Memo today as Josh Marshall explains why Andrew Sullivan is ignoring the fact that the money that was supposed to be going to New York for disaster relief after 9/11 is mysteriously shrinking down to nothing.

After September 11th, President Bush pledged $20 billion in aid relief to New York. That's the "money apportioned". But over the last two months that money has been steadily whittled away. The New York delegation is now trying to secure roughly half that amount -- and even that 50% of what they were promised counts various non-applicable expenditures. (Bush says they'll get the rest -- next year.)

(It's actually an astonishing story - one that's gotten relatively little attention outside New York - and a stunning broken promise. But, hey, the Sunbelt is in the saddle. So what can you do?)

Don't just read Marshall's piece, though, because the Krugman article he refers to is about more than that. Don't miss Hitting the Trifecta:
Shortly after Sept. 11, George W. Bush interrupted his inveighing against evildoers to crack a joke. Mr. Bush had repeatedly promised to run an overall budget surplus at least as large as the Social Security surplus, except in the event of recession, war or national emergency. "Lucky me," he remarked to Mitch Daniels, his budget director. "I hit the trifecta."

Lucky him, indeed. The Enron analogy will soon become a tired cliché, but in this case the parallel is irresistible. Enron management and the administration Enron did so much to put in power applied the same strategy: First, use cooked numbers to justify big giveaways at the top. Then, if things don't work out, let ordinary workers who trusted you pay the price. But Enron executives got caught; Mr. Bush believes that the events of Sept. 11 will let him off the hook.
[...]
Meanwhile, the return of budget deficits has real, nasty consequences. Prescription drug insurance is, of course, dead. Bolstering Social Security? Don't be silly: payroll tax receipts are being used neither to acquire assets nor to pay down federal debt; instead, they are subsidizing deficits in the rest of the government.

That paragraph brought me back to the first presidential debate, where George Bush promised, "I'll get it done." He made a specious comparison with Bill Clinton's planned improvements in healthcare and implied that it was Clinton's failure, rather than the concerted efforts of his own party, that doomed the program. Bush, unlike Clinton, we were assured, would deliver on his promises. And his promises were to keep social security healthy while giving raises to our brave men and women in uniform and providing that prescription drug insurance. If the Democrats have any political savvy at all, they should be already planning to make that this Bush's "Read my lips."

* * * * *
Many people were unhappy with the way the confrontation between Ashcroft and Leahy worked out. Liberals are seething, of course, but Andrew Sullivan isn't singing a victory dance, either:
ASHCROFT AND GUNS: Byron York has another important piece this morning on National Review Online. Yes, it’s true the law itself bars FBI checks on gun-owners who might be terrorists, as Glenn Reynolds pointed out yesterday. So why not change the law? If this administration believes that everyone needs to sacrifice something except the NRA, they’re going to commit political suicide. The closer you look at Ashcroft’s performance yesterday, the worse it seems.
- 12/7/2001 11:22:03 AM

David Korn in The Nation was not happy to watch as Ashcroft Skates:
"Why did this hearing, er, er, er..."

I was approaching an aide to a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had minutes earlier completed a three-hour session with Attorney General John Ashcroft, and I was trying to ask a question politely.

"Suck?" the aide said. I nodded. There was no denying it. This much-ballyhooed face-off between Ashcroft and Senate Democrats was more fizzle than sizzle.


Friday, 7 December 2001:

18:05 GMT: Permalink
I have stolen the code from Patrick that he stole from Avram Grumer that lets you choose whether to open links in new windows. I think it only works if you have JavaScript enabled.

Last night, for the first time since I fractured my ankle, I went out and faced the London Underground. I'd practiced going out for the previous two days only by short walks down my street, and they were pretty exhausting. But I was determined to get out and see friends, some of whom were over from the States just for an sf-related convention up in York, at the monthly London gathering at the pub we know affectionately as the Dead Nurse (Florence Nightingale). My ankle doesn't feel too bad but my shins feel like someone stuck stakes through them. By the time I got home I could barely manage to get through reading The Washington Post and doing a quick scan of bartcop.com and Talking Points Memo (where I got the references below, but since one is an ephemeral NYT link, I wanted to have the important bits somewhere permanent). (And Electrolite, of course, but there was nothing new up since last night.)

No doubt you've seen a number of articles lately from Bush apologists saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with military tribunals and we try our very own service personnel under them all the time, so the new order relegating "terrorists" to special military tribunals under the sole control of George W. Bush is perfectly okay. I have been wondering for many days now how many of the people making these claims are just the usual bunch of liars who know perfectly well that Ashcroft's new rule does not mandate standard military trials and how many of these these parrots are actually so unfamiliar with both the order and military courts that they simply do not know the difference. Here's the latest version from pretend-Democratic Senator Zell Miller on his official site:
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) today issued the following statement in advance of Thursday's (12-6) Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, at which Attorney General John Ashcroft is expected to be grilled about the Administration's proposal to bring terrorists to justice using military tribunals:

"They need to get off his back and let Attorney General Ashcroft do his job.

"Military tribunals have been used throughout history. The Supreme Court has twice upheld them as constitutional.

"Now, we're at war, and we're talking about using military tribunals only for non-citizens.

"Why in the world would we try our own soldiers with this system of justice but not some foreigner who is trying to kill us? It's crazy.

Well, the answer is, of course, we don't try our own soldiers with this "system of justice". I thought that was obvious. Fortunately, I'm not the only one who has noticed. As William Glaberson points out in this article in The New York Times:
In fact, the proposed tribunals are significantly different from courts-martial, the lawyers say, adding that confusion between the two has distorted the debate over the tribunals and unfairly denigrated military justice.

"It bothers me that people are thinking we try thousands of people this way in the courts-martial system," said Ronald W. Meister, a New York lawyer who is a former Navy lawyer and judge.

"We do nothing of the sort," he said. "These commissions are a totally different animal."

John S. Cooke, a retired Army judge who is the chairman of the American Bar Association's committee on armed forces law, said military courts had been tainted by association with the tribunals, which many commentators, politicians and civil libertarians criticized as an effort to find a foolproof shortcut to a guilty verdict.

"There's been a lot of talk about military kangaroo courts," Mr. Cooke said. "Having grown up in the courts-martial system, I'm rather offended by it, because it is a good system that provides more than adequate due process for the men and women in our military service."

Standard military courts closely resemble civilian courts in many ways, Mr. Cooke said. He added that they offered many of the fundamental protections that critics had said the president ignored in his Nov. 13 order authorizing the military tribunals. Courts-martial, for example, are governed by rules of evidence similar to those in civilian courts. They give defendants full rights to appeal a conviction, require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and require a unanimous decision to impose the death penalty.

But those and many other protections were missing from the sketchy outline of the tribunals proposed in the president's order. The administration is working on more detailed rules, and officials have said the criticism is premature.

But the order specified some details that distinguished the tribunals from courts-martial. The order provides, for instance, that sentences — apparently including the death penalty — can be imposed by a two- thirds vote of the tribunal members.

In courts-martial, the rules limiting the kind of evidence that can be heard are as strict as they are in civilian courts.

Hearsay, for example, is limited in both civilian courts and courts-martial because it is often unreliable. But the president's order suggested that any evidence — apparently including hearsay — would be admitted if it had "probative value to a reasonable person."

Despite the differences between the systems, administration officials have sometimes seemed to confuse the two.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Friday, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, defended the commissions, saying they would be fair.

Mr. Gonzales continued with an assertion that appeared to liken the commissions to courts-martial.

"The American military justice system is the finest in the world," he wrote, "with longstanding traditions of forbidding command influence on proceedings, of providing zealous advocacy by competent defense counsel and of procedural fairness."

Some critics say the administration appears to be fostering the confusion to blunt criticism of the tribunals.

* * * * *
Mary McGrory detects Teflon President, Part II while George Bush and his friends walk away with the Constitution and even the White House:
Although ceaseless in his insistence on tourism as a boost for a limp economy, Bush put a damper on his corner of the industry: The White House announced that the public would not be admitted for its annual gawk-and-walk through the mansion to see the Christmas decorations. Laura Bush showed the press through, but it's faces against the window pane for everyone else. The president, in a cozy televised chat with Barbara Walters, said he was all for throwing the doors open wide but was talked out of it by the Secret Service, always a handy scapegoat on such occasions.

* * * * *
Meanwhile, something to depress you. If there was one thing the current world situation needed even less than an unelected towel-snapper in the White House, it was almost certainly a spanking new TV series (in 30 parts) broadcast to Egypt and other states detailing the secret plot by the Elders of Zion:

"For the first time, the series' writer courageously tackles the 24 Protocols of the Elders of Zion, revealing them and clarifying that they are the central line that still, to this very day, dominates Israel's policy, political aspirations, and racism... The series' first scene is set in 1948, after the retreat of the four Arab armies and the Zionist invasion of the land of Palestine. From this point, there is a flashback to the mid-19th century."

It would be nice to think that the rest of the international newsmedia (including CNN and Fox) were poised to deconstruct this series for international audiences everywhere - including the middle east. But they've probably got more important things to do, like, oh, attack Noam Chomsky or something.

* * * * *
Jeff Madrick in the New York Times says that the Cure for Economic Ills of Our Democracy is More Democracy:
Since Sept. 11, this nation has thought more deeply about itself and its values than it has in a long time. Foreign criticism has stunned many Americans because we think of ourselves as a good people and are surprised that others may not. America's values are exemplary, we believe, and in many ways that is true.

But in fact, much of what Americans cherish most is now under challenge. Much that Americans might well be disturbed by continues to be swept under the rug. And all these matters affect the economy in ways people do not always consider.

The right response to Sept. 11 is not a public relations campaign to the world but an assiduous reassertion of the nation's truest principles by the Bush administration. And nothing, in fact, would be better for the economy. What follow are several crucial characteristics that have long helped make both America and the American economy great. Some of them have for some time required more attention, and since Sept. 11, that attention is in even greater demand.

Immigrants have provided a foundation for the American economy since the early 1800's. Now, the rounding up of foreigners on the possibility they may be linked to the attacks as part of the administration's domestic war on terrorism is chilling. State attorneys general refuse to accept the Bush administration's broad demands, and Spain even refuses to extradite prisoners to the president's military tribunals. But the concern goes beyond potential civil rights violations to the everyday workplace. Since Sept. 11, nearly 100 lawsuits have been filed that contend that Arab-Americans have been victims of bias in the workplace.

The president, rather than simply paying occasional lip service to tolerance, should lead a series of town meetings on reducing prejudice and burn the idea of tolerance into the American consciousness. A presidential directive should be issued to pursue violators of antiprejudice laws in the workplace more vigorously. As the Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow has written, the economic evidence that there is still prejudice against women and minorities in labor markets remains overwhelming.

Free speech is almost as central to the workings of the economy as it is to the workings of the nation itself. The administration asked the news media to limit coverage of Osama bin Laden's speeches and restricted information about the war itself.


Thursday, 6 December 2001:

01:00 GMT: Permalink
My pal Roz Kaveney got deep into the Buffy zone and decided to put a book together about it since she was already obsessed. Reading The Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion To Buffy And Angel has had good reports so far and I'm looking forward to reading it soon.

* * * * *
SmirkingChimp.Com is particularly useful since they create permanent pages for outside articles that might otherwise expire. I found an AP article by Jesse J. Holland there asking the question, "Is a lack of adjournment a clever Democratic plot to stall Bush nominees?"
WASHINGTON (AP) Congress appears poised to skip the normal formal adjournment this month, taking just a recess while lawmakers return home. It's something the House and Senate used to do in times of national and global trouble.

With America is at war in Afghanistan, lawmakers say they want to be able to meet on a moment's notice. Some Republicans, however, see another motive. Without a formal adjournment, President Bush will not have the power to make "recess" appointments that bypass the need for confirmation by a Democratic-controlled Senate.

"That may be what's behind this, trying to make it tough on the president so he can't run the country well," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"There are a lot of games being played to try and embarrass this president so they can win seats next year. To me it's abysmal, abominable and downright cheap, but that's the way it is."

Well, okay, predictable spin from Hatch, there, but further down the page there is this:
Past presidents have enjoyed periods of unilateral power when Congress is not in session.

"They've been very reluctant to call the Congress back into session, which would give the executive branch another branch to consult with instead of just being able to act on their own," Ritchie said. "The executive branch feels it works fine without the legislative branch in town."

We have an administration that already acts unilaterally even when Congress is in session, so it would be nice to think there is more to it than just trying to "embarrass this president" to win seats next year.

And, hey, what about this?
The pattern has been repeated several times: in 1950, during the Korean War; in 1963, after the Kennedy assassination; in 1973, during Watergate; in 1979, during the Iran hostage crisis; in 1991, during the Gulf War; and in 1995, the first year of the Republican takeover of Congress.

"Republicans were in control of Congress that year, and didn't want to leave Washington and leave a Democratic president in charge," Ritchie said. Bill Clinton was president.

So what does that mean - that the "emergency" was that a Democratic President had been elected? Surely that can't be more of an emergency than having an unelected executive in the White House, let alone the situation since 11 September 2001.

Mind you, keeping Otto Reich from being appointed is a good enough reason to try to hamstring Bush. After watching Ashcroft lie under oath to become Attorney General, Democrats may very well have learned their lesson about trusting these people to run the country honestly.

* * * * *
Harley Sorensen at The San Francisco Chronicle has something on his mind:
With all due respect, George W. Bush really ought to watch his mouth.

I'm not referring to the Bushisms he made famous during last year's presidential campaign. Those were mostly slips of the tongue, seized upon by his political opponents. Nor am I referring to his major faux pas of calling America's campaign against terrorists and their neighbors a "crusade."

No, I'm referring to ways in which he really screwed up. I'll mention two of them.

* * * * *
Clarence Page says in the Chicago Tribune that we are Selling our judicial system short
What a difference a war makes. Suddenly in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror tragedies, civil liberties and our criminal-justice system have declined in many American minds from the best in the world to an annoying nuisance.

Why? For starters, there are three big reasons:

One: People are scared. If the purpose of terrorism is to instill fear, the terrorists have succeeded. We don't make them feel any worse by overreacting.

Two: People are angry. It's hard to remember the savage Sept. 11 attacks without fuming for blood. Indeed, someone must pay, but let's make sure we've got the right suspects.

Three: It's always easy to give away somebody else's civil liberties.

As long as immigrants are the only folks being held on suspicion, they are easier for most Americans to put out of sight, out of mind.

"It sends a terrible message to the world that, when confronted with a serious challenge, we lack confidence in the very institutions we are fighting for," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate's hearings to look into Bush's expansions of his executive power.


Wednesday, 5 December 2001:

03:35 GMT: Permalink
For some reason, people like Andrew Sullivan need to pretend that it's all the fault of Clinton and the Democrats, none of whom noticed bin Laden and his pals for the best part of a decade, waiting for George Bush to come along and pick up the pieces. For these folks with short memories, perhaps a little walk down memory lane is in order:
Sept. 12, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- They went to great pains not to sound as though they were telling the president "We told you so."

But on Wednesday, two former senators, the bipartisan co-chairs of a Defense Department-chartered commission on national security, spoke with something between frustration and regret about how White House officials failed to embrace any of the recommendations to prevent acts of domestic terrorism delivered earlier this year.

* * * * *
Richard Nixon's White House counsel John Dean has turned into one of the more interesting political journalists around. He's written some quite useful articles about the current administration's actions, including this one:
On November 1, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13233, a policy enabling his administration to govern in secrecy. For good reason, this has upset many historians, journalists, and Congresspersons (both Republican and Democratic). The Order ends 27 years of Congressional and judicial efforts to make presidential papers and records publicly available. In issuing it, the president not only has pushed his lawmaking powers beyond their limits, but he may be making the same mistakes as Richard Nixon.

* * * * *
I wish we had a real president.

* * * * *
This strip isn't nearly as rabid as usual, prompting the question from some readers, "Has Jack Chick gone soft?"

* * * * *
Albert R. Hunt tells it more-or-less like it would be in this article in the Wall Street Journal:
The truth is that in the aftermath of Sept. 11 we're probably better off, in the short term, with George W. Bush. But not for the reasons usually cited.


Tuesday, 4 December 2001:

23:15 GMT: Permalink
Joseph Lelyveld's review in The New York Review of Books of Joan Didion's Political Fictions, "Another Country," really shouldn't be missed by media watchers:
Didion's critique of contemporary journalism, as it is practiced and promoted in Washington and on the campaign trail, is woven through these pieces and includes a little list of those she especially cherishes as malpractitioners, if not malefactors. Cokie Roberts, George Will, Sally Quinn, the investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, and Bob Woodward head the list: the first three for their mandarin view of the capital's relation to its insouciant hinterland, the last two for their way of thinking through—Didion would say not thinking through—a story. For the sheer exuberance of the savaging, Joan Didion on the methodology of Bob Woodward's books is itself worth the price of admission (although, in the same genre, many readers may be even more entertained by her vivisection of Newt Gingrich's brain). She finds a certain "Zen purity" in Woodward's "aversion to engaging the ramifications of what people say to him"; in the absence of "measurable cerebral activity" from his books; in his reluctance "to make connections between what he is told and what is already known." All these are qualities, she notes, that Woodward consistently groups under the rubric "fairness," a cardinal virtue in what is supposed to be a craft.

13:45 GMT: Permalink
So far, politicians' dissent left out of the war, says Susan Milligan in The Boston Globe:
"I think in this case, it's understandable why there's almost no dissent. This is a case when people came over here and just murdered 6,000 innocent people," said former Democratic Senator George McGovern.

McGovern, who was recently named to a new UN post as ambassador for global hunger, said he has personal concerns about the civil liberties implications of the antiterrorism law. But with people still in shock over the events of Sept. 11, he said "it's going to be a long while for people to substitute a more reasoned, discriminating view of what's going on."

Lawmakers who have challenged the administration, even in the mildest of ways, have suffered the consequences. Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, received threats at her office after she was the only member of Congress to vote against giving Bush the right to use force to punish terrorists or prevent future acts of terrorism.

Representatives Martin Meehan, Democrat of Lowell, and Richard Neal, Democrat of Springfield, were stunned at the vitriolic response when each was quoted making relatively tame statements about Bush. Meehan had suggested soon after the attacks that there was no evidence a terrorist-piloted plane was headed toward Air Force One - a view that turned out to be correct. Neal had remarked casually that Bush's oratory skills weren't up to those of his predecessor.

"People read Marty Meehan's comments and they recognized the fallout. Barbara Lee is another case in point," said Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, who defended both colleagues for speaking their minds.

* * * * *
An editorial in The Arkansas Times has strong words about the betrayal of patriotism:
For the last 20 years, while a wealthy elite has waged class war against the majority, the media have helped sell the idea that self-government is wrong and the market is right, that faceless corporate executives can be entrusted with the welfare of the nation and that leaders we choose for ourselves cannot.

Using a federal court system debased by the extremist appointees of Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, the anti-democrats tried for eight years to bring down a twice popularly elected president. They failed in that, but a majority of the United States Supreme Court, which once embodied the best of American ideals, cynically stole the 2000 presidential election from the American people.

To think the elitists would be satisfied now is to underestimate their contempt for the common man. Their latest scheme is to weaken the people's influence in the very branch of federal government that is closest to the people, the House of Representatives. Rep. Vic Snyder of Little Rock is leading the resistance, a credit to his state yet again.

01:00 GMT: Permalink
The Telegraph has found the guy who actually said all of the things that "the left" and "Democrats" (and Clintons) have been falsely accused of saying:
BOBBY FISCHER, the reclusive American chess grandmaster, has broken years of silence to support the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
[...]
In his interview on September 11 with Radio Bombo in Baguio City, Mr Fischer said: "This is all wonderful news. It is time to finish off the US once and for all.

"I was happy and could not believe what was happening. All the crimes the US has committed in the world. This just shows, what goes around comes around, even to the US.

* * * * *
Bush law chief tried to drop habeas corpus, says The Times:
A secret first draft of Mr Ashcroft’s Bill included a section titled "Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus". Its inclusion has astounded some members of Congress. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told Newsweek magazine: "That stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the first thing I crossed out."

Habeas corpus establishes the requirement on authorities to produce a suspect before a judge at regular intervals so that the court, and therefore the public, is satisfied that the detention is lawful. The suspension of the writ did not make it into the final draft of Mr Ashcroft’s Bill but it was seized on as another example of how far the Administration is prepared to go.


Monday, 3 December 2001:

01:40 GMT: Permalink
This is from The Miami Herald, not Pravda, I swear:

"Lucky me. I hit the trifecta," Bush told Daniels shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the budget director.

00:58 GMT: Permalink
Over the weekend the George Harrison festival expanded to fill the whole house (complete with yet another showing of that Aspell interview with George and Ringo from '88, which I hope ITV is going to re-show now so we can get a better copy), so I've spent a lot less time at my keyboard. And if I have any brains I won't try to add too much tonight, either. But while I'm here....

Gene Lyons at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette isn't letting up on Mr. Integrity, I'm happy to say. You can get the free version here.
A religious crackpot utterly unsuited to be Attorney General, as recently as 1997 Ashcroft appeared in a Phyllis Schlaffly-sponsored video arguing that Bill Clinton was conspiring with other Democrats to hand over the U.S. to a cabal of "international bankers." It doesn't take a psychic to know where he and Asa Hutchinson, his running buddy at DEA, would like to take this thing. Shoot, I could write Ashcroft's speech myself. Didn't the Taliban traffic in heroin? They did. Don't the NARCOTRAFFICANTES of Latin America finance terrorism? They do. So why not merge the "war on terrorism" with the "war on drugs" into a righteous crusade against America's deadliest enemies? Think Bush would object? Ponder the consequences. If the Congress and the courts, backed by strong public opinion, don't stop them now, you can kiss your constitutional freedoms goodbye.

* * * * *
Patrick has added a bunch of interesting stuff to his weblog over the weekend, including his scoop discovery that the FBI doesn't know the difference between Canadian Whiskey and Bourbon. (Oh, dear.) In fact, he's put up so much stuff that I'm not sure I can single anything out. But really, go there.

* * * * *
Bartcop has these quotes on his page:
"Every serious democrat is glad that Bush is president and not Gore while we're going thru this terrorism crisis." -- Christopher Hitchens, who has even more hate than Maureen Dowd

"That kind of wild talk just shows how crazy Mr. Hitchens is..."
-- Barney Frank, on CNN with Hitchens the hate everybody bastard

* * * * *
As an American who spends a lot of time in England, I don't have as rosy a picture of this green and pleasant land as a lot of Americans do. I often say it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here. Partly because it really is grey and rainy, but also because anti-American bigotry can really get to you after a while. Speaking of which, here's an article I missed before by the excellent Todd Gitlin, The ordinariness of American feelings, for which I am grateful to Patrick for the pointer:
Of the perils of American ignorance, our fantasy life of pure and unappreciated goodness, much can be said. The failures of intelligence that made 11 September possible include not only security oversights but a widespread combination of stupefaction and arrogance, from the all-or-nothing thinking that armed the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan to fight our own jihad against Soviet Communism, to a general disrespect for the intellect that not so long ago permitted half the citizens of a flabby, self-satisfied democracy to vote for a man unembarrassed by (even proud of) his lack of acquaintanceship with the world.

Still, know-nothing sentiments are not unique to the United States. What are we to make of the fact that some who beg us to understand terrorism, or bin Laden, or Islamic fundamentalism, do not trouble themselves to understand America? You must not only know your enemy. You must also know your well-meaning, tolerant, short-sighted, liberal, selfish, generous, trigger-happy, dumb, glorious, fat-headed, on-again-off-again friend.


Saturday, 1 December 2001:

20:45 GMT: Permalink
Colbert King has been writing about Pat Robertson's moral relativism and now Robertson has complained. Today in The Washington Post, King responds to Bunkum From Pat Robertson:
But a word of caution. Robertson's letter should not be received without reservation: It contains some assertions that -- How shall I say this of a televangelist? -- are at variance with the facts.

* * * * *
Charlie Stross adds another tier to a bit of back-and-forth with Patrick:
Patrick Nielsen Hayden had some interesting comments in his weblog, Electrolite about my earlier article explaining why I'm unlikely to want to visit the US until the business of applying military tribunals to non-citizens is settled. In it, he pointed out how there's a slight case of motes, beams and eyes at work here.

To be fair, he's quite right. I'm going to start by denying personal responsibility: I didn't vote the New Labour control freaks into office, and I don't like what they're doing. It seems to be basically Thatcherism with better PR, and I disliked it enough the first time round. Having said that, however, basically I agree with him. And I'm beginning to think there's a more insidious, and threatening, tendency at work. One we should all be screaming about.

Since we're all friends here, I'll say that Charlie's further thoughts are well worth reading, but I do want to add that the European tendency to talk about "democracy" as if it can serve well without real, solid, individual rights is just as likely to lead down the wrong path as the American libertarian tendency to assume that "rights" can be meaningful without democracy.

* * * * *
Pages from The Baltimore Sun website load really slow in my browser. Is it just me, or does anyone else notice it? Anyway, I was just checking out their front page and was amused to see the headline Baltimore's ties to Fab Four among their Harrison tributes. Hey, Ann LoLordo has a by-line; she was one of my favorite people back when I used to work there.

* * * * *
A problem with posting when I'm dead on my feet is that I tend to leave stuff out that explains why I'm posting something. I think it was a probably a mistake to do that with the Arundhati Roy piece, for example, but it wasn't that I had something short and pithy to say about it, more like, "Hmmmm." And a part of my reaction is: "Sure, let's start off laughing about how dumb and ignorant Americans are, so they will be more likely to listen carefully to the rest of it." I think there is some important content buried in the piece, but a lot of empty calories and bad cholesterol, too.

01:45 GMT: Permalink
Why has Vanessa Leggett been in jail longer than any journalist in U.S. history?
So why are Clark and the feds obsessed with what Leggett is going to write? Do they really think she knows something about Angleton that they don't already know? Or, as I suspect, are they more worried about what she might write about them?

* * * * *
From The Algebra of Infinite Justice by by Arundhati Roy:
The American people may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear reports that there's a run on maps of the country), but the U.S. government and Afghanistan are old friends. In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA and Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) launched the CIA's largest covert operation since the Vietnam War. Their purpose was to harness the energy of Afghan resistance and expand it into a holy war, an Islamic jihad, which would turn Muslim countries within the Soviet Union against the communist regime and eventually destabilize it. When it began, it was meant to be the Soviet Union's Vietnam. It turned out to be much more than that. Over the years, through the ISI, the CIA funded and recruited tens of thousands of radical mujahedeen from forty Islamic countries as soldiers for America's proxy war. The rank and file of the mujahedeen were unaware that their jihad was actually being fought on behalf of Uncle Sam.

* * * * *
From Chris Floyd's Global Eye in The Moscow Times:
Among the isolated, out-of-step losers who dare open their mouths to mutter "doubts" about America's military campaign in Afghanistan, you will sometimes hear the traitorous comment: "This war is just about oil."

We here at the Global Eye take stern exception to such cynical tommyrot. No one who has made a clear and dispassionate assessment of the situation in the region could possibly say the new Afghan war is "just about oil."

It's also about drugs.

* * * * *
Wake Up, America says Anthony Lewis in the New York Times:
But George W. Bush would never let his order be abused, one of its defenders said the other day. It was a profoundly un-American comment. From the beginning, Americans have refused to rely on the graciousness of our leaders. We rely on legal rules. That is what John Adams meant when he said we have "a government of laws, and not of men."

The Framers of our Constitution thought its great protection against tyranny was the separation of the federal government's powers into three departments: executive, legislative, judicial. Each, they reasoned, would check abuse by the others.

There is the greatest danger of the Bush order. It was an act of executive fiat, imposed without even consulting Congress. And it seeks to exclude the courts entirely from a process that may fundamentally affect life and liberty. The order says that a defendant "shall not be privileged to seek any remedy . . . in any court," domestic or foreign.


Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, December 2001


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