The Sideshow

Archive for May 2003

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Saturday, 31 May 2003

Real Terrorist Captured

Ashcroft finally admits someone is innocent until proven guilty

Attorney General John Ashcroft's statement Saturday confirming the arrest in North Carolina of Eric Rudolph, the longtime fugitive charged in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and in attacks at an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub.

Today, Eric Robert Rudolph, the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's most wanted list has been captured and will face American justice. American law enforcement's unyielding efforts to capture Eric Robert Rudolph have been rewarded. Working with law enforcement nationwide the FBI always gets their man.

This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent.

I want to especially congratulate the local authorities in Murphy, N.C., who with the FBI and other local and state law enforcement throughout the country were able to apprehend this suspect.

While it has been a long struggle, they never stopped never yielded and never gave up. The American people, mostly importantly the victims of these terrorist attacks, can rest easier knowing that another alleged killer is no longer a threat.

See, he said "alleged". You don't hear that word much from him.
18:23 BST

Did you remember to check out Molly Ivins?
The counties will be desperate, the cities not much better. Every area of social service has been cut, not because we have a $9 billion shortfall but because House Republicans do not believe government should help people.

We are watching government morph into something very strange. Benito Mussolini said, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." The real driving force behind this session is something I bet most of you have never heard of -- ALEC.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded, extremely right-wing group that sponsors conferences for state legislators and draws up model bills that are introduced all over the country.

ALEC is particularly interested in privatizing government services and deregulating everything, and it is anti-environment to an extent that's almost loopy.

Let's be very clear about this: People who want to privatize prisons and schools and social services are in it for the money. The real questions of government are always: Who benefits, and who pays? And the answer given this session with jaw-dropping regularity is private corporations profit, while people pay the price in worse services.
It used to be a joke that when a legislator was contemplating some scurvy piece of special-interest legislation, he would go to ridiculous lengths to make the spurious claim, "And so you see, members, we must do this for the sake of the cheeldrun of Texas."

Man, you stand up in the Texas House today with a bill that really will help the children of Texas, and you will not get a single Republican vote.

18:11 BST

Dems need to Get It

Chris at Interesting Times has a look at the canard that Democrats are "too liberal" to be electable:

Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Howard Dean, lays it on the line in response to a "Can Dean Win?" post over on the unofficial Dean 2004 blog. I'm reproducing it in full here because it says so much about why I like the Dean campaign:
I will take a shot at this. For the better part of 22 years (since at least 1980) turnout has consistently gone down in Presidential elections. At the same time the electorate (those that vote) has become increasingly conservative. The conventional wisdom increasingly has become that Democrats must move rightward in order to win. Well the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In those 22 years we (Democrats) have lost the House and the Senate. And only one man (Bill Clinton) has won the Presidency. Now here Bill Clinton offers a quandry -- was Bill Clinton successful because of this theory that has taken over the minds of some of our party's best and brightest? Or was Bill Clinton successful because he simply was one of the most gifted politicians and communicators of our times? I subscribe to one of the most gifted along with Reagan.
I'm not going to duplicate the post in full, but I think Chris is right when he says:
The Democratic leadership has, over the last two decades, completely misread where the electorate in this country is going. I think Joe has it right that the Republicans, under Karl Rove, have not made the same mistake.

Here is one clear fact that demonstrates precisely what I mean: for the last several decades, Republicans have consistently outspent Democrats when it comes to running political campaigns. The ratio of expenditures is often 3-4 to 1 (sometimes even higher). Yet, despite this huge disparity in money, Democrats as often as not still defeat their Republican opponents.


Because the electorate (meaning the pool of eligible voters) naturally leans Democratic. The Republicans have to spend all that money in order to fool the muddled middle into voting against their best interests. They also spend that money trying to cheapen the political process so as to discourage more and more people from voting. They do this because, as Joe points out, what is left when they leave is a larger core of dedicated Republican voters who will work to put their people into office.

When most political analysts look at this they miss the deeper meaning and only focus on the shallow surface. The numbers seem to suggest that the electorate is swinging, ideologically, to the right. Nothing could be further from the truth. This country is as liberal as it ever was. It's just that the core liberal interests have become increasingly disillusioned. They are either fooled into thinking that this or that Republican can represent their interests or, even worse, they just throw up their hands and don't even bother to vote.

Or they vote Green, which is pretty much the same thing.

It's nice to know someone is running for office who gets it, and that his team does, too. It's one of those simple things you'd think they'd have noticed: Since most Americans hold what are essentially liberal views, the question isn't why "people" aren't turning out to the polls, but why liberals aren't. And the answer, obviously, is that no one's really offered them anyone liberal enough to vote for. Of course, the media will tell us Dean (and just about anyone else who is "tainted" with liberalism) is "unelectable". The trick isn't to hide the liberalism, it's to get past the spin machine and let Americans know what liberals actually stand for.
17:49 BST

Pot Wars

For those who hadn't noticed, this is what your Attorney General is up to instead of looking for terrorists:

The endless clash between state power and popular will has always assumed its most vivid contours in the matters of sex, booze and drugs.

Particularly in the last case, the struggle concerns not merely pleasure but the suppression of pain. The state protects pharmaceutical companies that enjoy the highest profits in American business. The state persecutes marijuana cultivators and suppliers and, at the federal level, is trying to crush a nationwide rebellion by those who not only see marijuana as delightful and benign but as of proven efficacy as a medicine for those in chronic pain.

This is the argument the conservatives have had trouble beating. In theory, everyone other than Christian Scientists thinks it's perfectly okay to take drugs if you're actually taking them to relieve pain. So they try to make an end-run around it by pretending that cannabis does not actually have any proven efficacy as a medical treatment. Obviously, this isn't true, since plenty of people find the pain easier to cope with when they use the stuff. Yeah, it might just be distracting from pain (by getting you high) rather than simply eliminating pain, but so what? Plenty of legal drugs get you high at normal doses. And, as anyone who has had problems with pain knows, you really don't need the hassle of arguing with the medical establishment about getting the drugs you need instead of the ones they want to give you because they are busy doing contortions over withholding drugs they are prone to moralize about. (When I was a teenager I used to get killer cramps, easily treatable with one tiny codeine pill - but my doctor was killing himself to avoid giving a teenager codeine. Codeine in that dosage doesn't get me high; everything else he tried to give me did. Since I prefer to be alert, I had to keep going back and telling him to stop trying to dope me up and just give me something that worked. Thankfully, I'm not having that same problem over here.)

I don't think it's an accident that politicians who owe so much to pharmaceutical houses are so enthusiastic about going after drugs that Monsanto and Lilly aren't making any money out of. Few people have received more money from the drug companies than John Ashcroft, and no one owes them more than George W. Bush. Add that to the fact that cannabis is a drug that has long associations with funny-colored people and lefties, and you can see that the War on Some Drugs has nothing to do with protecting the public health; it's about politics, and it's conservative politics. (I should point out, however, that liberals have been known to fall for politicized "medical facts", too, such as when they harp on "passive-smoking", a theory that still isn't backed up by empirical data and was openly promoted by people who wanted to both guilt-trip smokers into quitting and enlist non-smokers in harassing smokers to quit because primary smoking is demonstrably bad for you; the idea was to neutralize arguments to the effect of, "If I want to take the risk, I'm only hurting myself." Messing around with science for political reasons can be a bipartisan effort. But the conservatives are worse because they don't really think science matters, they just think things should be the way they want them to be whether it hurts people or not. The medical professionals who invented the "passive-smoking" myth were at least operating in a misguided effort to protect people from the effects of primary smoking, a proven threat. That's not what conservatives are doing when they ruin the lives of millions of people by jailing them for smoking pot.)

The rebellion has many thousands of martyrs, rotting in state and federal prisons. Its most conspicuous victim right now is Ed Rosenthal.

Come June 4, Rosenthal will be back in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to hear what sentence Judge Charles Breyer has decided to impose. Earlier this year, a California jury found him guilty of cultivating marijuana, of maintaining a place to cultivate marijuana and of conspiring with others to cultivate marijuana. He's in his early 50s now and looking at the possibility of being hauled off to prison for the rest of his life. Let's hope that Breyer will stay his sentence, pending appeals that may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The feds went after Rosenthal because he's a high-profile advocate of legalized marijuana, famous for his books and articles. The charges seemed surreal because, in fact, Rosenthal was acting in accordance with the law. He had been asked by local government to supply marijuana to people in chronic pain under the terms of California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996. That law allows the cultivation and use of medical marijuana, and the city of Oakland had designated him the legal supplier. But the feds say U.S. anti-marijuana laws trump state law, and they portray Rosenthal as a major drug supplier.

On the eve of the trial, Rosenthal told me: "This is a tipping-point case. If they put me behind bars, they are going to start closing these clubs [that distribute marijuana to patients] Everyone will have to plead out. It's really important that I win this case."

He has rematches ahead of him, in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, but Rosenthal lost that round in U.S. District Court.

His trial was a grim farce. Breyer (the brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer) overruled every effort by Rosenthal's lawyers to introduce the fact that the man in the dock had been working under the aegis of the city of Oakland and abiding by a law approved by the voters of California.

Thus kept in the dark, and with the ground cut from under Rosenthal's defense, the jury found him guilty. After the trial, the jury learned the actual background of the charges. Within days, six of them mustered in front of the U.S. courthouse to apologize publicly to Rosenthal and to proclaim their shame and indignation that they had been dragooned into this parody of justice. And a San Francisco official invoked the concept of jury nullification, whereby the jury could have set aside Breyer's instructions and found Rosenthal innocent.

The next round in the case concerned precisely this issue of whether a juror can discount a judge's instruction. In the wake of the verdict, two jurors, Marney Craig and Pamela Klarkowsky, disclosed to Rosenthal's lawyers that during the trial, outside the jury room, at least twice they had discussed the issue of disobeying Breyer's instruction. Craig said she had phoned an attorney friend, who told her forcefully that she had to follow Breyer's instructions and would get into big trouble if she used her own judgment. Craig then discussed this call with Klarkowsky.

Rosenthal's lawyers went before Breyer again, arguing for a mistrial on the grounds of malfeasance by the two jurors. But Breyer brusquely dismissed the motion. He doesn't want to order a new trial — one in which the chances of having a jury aware of the background of the case and also of the possibility of jury nullification would be far higher.

Just as Rosenthal predicted to me, the feds took the guilty verdict as a green light. Across California people acting within the terms of the 1996 state statute have every reason to fear that Drug Enforcement Administration agents will come crashing through the door and that federal judges like Breyer will back up their right to do so.

The only silver lining, aside from the edifying stance of principle taken by Rosenthal, is that the issue of jury discretion is on the front burner again.

And, yes, this is a Republican administration rhetorically committed to states' rights.

And, as we have seen, that alleged commitment is also a lie. The "intellectual" basis for conservatism is just constructed as an excuse to prevent social progress. (Via Mark Evanier.)
12:06 BST

Eyewitness news

Early yesterday I noticed that the bubble was just a little black dot rolling around at the bottom of my visual field (because you see what's inside your eye upside-down). Then late last night I realized I wasn't seeing it at all. They'd told me it takes "about six weeks" to dissipate. I make that closer to two months, but it don't worry me none. I'd gotten kinda used to playing with it, moving my eye around and chasing it, or trying to look through it, and stuff. I sorta miss it. On the other hand, it did make me a little crazy sometimes, so I don't think I'll miss it much.
10:48 BST

Yes, someone has been arrested, damn it!

Members Of Congress Urge John Ashcroft To Drop Criminal Prosecution Of South Carolina Protester For Carrying An Anti-Bush Sign Outside Designated Zone

May 27, 2003

The Honorable John Ashcroft
Attorney General
Department Of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

Respecting as we do the roles assigned to the Legislative and Executive Branches by the Constitution, we do not usually comment on pending individual prosecutions. But where important national policy issues are directly implicated in decisions to prosecute, we believe it is our responsibility to express our views. And we feel very strongly that the decision by your department to charge Brett Bursey under Section 1752 (a)(1)(ii) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code is greatly mistaken, and is in fact a threat to the freedom of expression we should all be defending.

Of course it is a primary duty of the Secret Service to protect the President, but there is no plausible argument that can be made that Mr. Bursey was threatening the President by holding a sign which the President found politically offensive. Mr. Bursey reports that he was told that he had to either put down his sign or leave the area – in other words, it was not his presence in the area but his presence holding a sign that was expressing a political viewpoint critical of the President that caused his arrest. The fact that Mr. Bursey was told to go to the "free speech zone" demonstrates how mistaken the Justice Department’s position is in this regard.

As we read the First Amendment to the Constitution, the United States is a "free speech zone". In the United States, free speech is the rule, not the exception, and citizens’ rights to express it do not depend on their doing it in a way that the President finds politically amenable. It is extremely relevant that the State dropped the trespassing charges, and that the U.S. Attorney, Mr. Thurmond, then brought this serious charge. Perhaps the problem was trying to convict Mr. Bursey of trespassing when he was standing on public property and doing nothing unlawful. But the State’s decision to drop the charge should have been a model for the federal government, rather than an occasion for the federal government instituting a serious criminal prosecution of an individual whose "crime" was engaging in free speech outside of what law enforcement officials decided was the appropriate "zone". We ask that you make it clear that we have no interest as a government in "zoning" Constitutional freedoms, and that being politically annoying to the President of the United States is not a criminal offense. This prosecution smacks of the use of the Sedition Acts two hundred years ago to protect the President from political discomfort. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. We urge you to drop this prosecution based so clearly on the political views being expressed by the individual who is being prosecuted.

Barney Frank
Ron Paul
John Conyers
James R. Langevin
Loretta Sanchez
Zoe Lofgren
Edward J. Markey
Howard L. Berman
Jerrold Nadler
Melvin L. Watt
William D. Delahunt

I'm sure that if the righties happen to notice this story, they will be soon telling us how this isn't a violation of the 1st Amendment, either. (Via The Daily Kos.)
03:04 BST

Jim Henley reports that Fantagraphics is facing bankruptcy. Go out and buy some Hernandez Bros. stuff right now! And back issues of The Comics Journal, while you're at it.

Conservatives wrong again, as usual: The study published yesterday backs earlier research on the programs developed in the 1990s to stem the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and reduce teen pregnancy. It says that students in high schools with condom programs were more likely to use condoms, while students in other high schools were more likely to use other forms of birth control. (Via Amygdala.)

It's a good day to read everything at Body and Soul.
02:44 BST

Friday, 30 May 2003

Reading The New York Times

An editorial:

The tax bill that President Bush triumphantly signed into law on Wednesday is not just unfair, dishonest and economically unsound. It is also cruel to low-income families. In a last-minute revision, Senate and House negotiators dropped a provision that would have extended child tax credits to millions of these families. The stated reason was that the total cost of the bill had to be kept to an agreed-upon limit of $350 billion. This excuse is typical of the shifty argumentation that has accompanied this legislation from the start.

Under the new law, which raises the child tax credit to $1,000 from $600, most families with children will receive a $400-per-child check this summer. It was never intended that the wealthiest families — or the very poorest families, making less than the minimum wage — would get the credit. As it turns out, however, millions of families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625 will not get it either. Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, had insisted that the Senate version of the bill extend the enlarged credit to this particular group of working families, who have nearly 12 million children. The provision would have cost $3.5 billion, or exactly 1 percent of the advertised price of the bill. But because it would have helped push the tab above $350 billion, out it went.

Set aside for the moment the fact that the official $350 billion figure is a phony. The real cost of the bill over 10 years will more nearly approximate $800 billion if all the provisions that are scheduled to "sunset" in the next few years are eventually made a permanent part of the tax code, as they almost certainly will be. But even if the cost of the bill were actually $350 billion, there were fairer ways to reach that target than by depriving low-income families of the tiny crumbs the bill gives them.

For example, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the same result could have been achieved with a modest 2.3 percent adjustment in the bill's generous cuts on capital gains and dividends. It could also have been achieved by a tiny adjustment in the new top income tax rate, setting it at 35.3 percent over the next three years rather than 35 percent.

Paul Krugman:
An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public's consciousness.

The 1997 movie "Wag the Dog" had quite a plot.

Although the movie's title has entered the language, I don't know how many people have watched it lately. Read the screenplay. If you don't think it bears a resemblance to recent events, you're in denial.
A final note: Showtime is filming a docudrama about Sept. 11. The producer is a White House insider, working in close consultation with Karl Rove. The script shows Mr. Bush as decisive and eloquent. "In this movie," The Globe and Mail reports, "Mr. Bush delivers long, stirring speeches that immediately become policy." And we can be sure that the script doesn't mention the bogus story about a threat to Air Force One that the White House floated to explain Mr. Bush's movements on the day of the attack. Hey, it's show business.

You know, I bet there are a lot of people who'd like to sit next to Bush on a plane. Long enough to let him know just what they think of him.
20:17 BST

Monopoly or Democracy?
Ted Turner
On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to adopt dramatic rule changes that will extend the market dominance of the five media corporations that control most of what Americans read, see and hear. I am a major shareholder in the largest of those five corporations, yet -- speaking only for myself, and not for AOL Time Warner -- I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete. If these rules had been in place in 1970, it would have been virtually impossible for me to start Turner Broadcasting or, 10 years later, to launch CNN.

The FCC will vote on several proposals, including raising the cap on how many TV stations can be owned by one corporation and allowing single corporations to own TV stations and newspapers in the same market.
Naturally, corporations say they would never suppress speech. That may be true. But it's not their intentions that matter. It's their capabilities. The new FCC rules would give them more power to cut important ideas out of the public debate, and it's precisely that power that the rules should prevent. Some news organizations have tried to marginalize opponents of the war in Iraq, dismissing them as a fringe element. Pope John Paul II also opposed the war in Iraq. How narrow-minded have we made our public discussion if the opinion of the pope is considered outside the bounds of legitimate debate?

Our democracy needs a broader dialogue. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in a 1945 opinion: "The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." Safeguarding the welfare of the public cannot be the first concern of large publicly traded media companies. Their job is to seek profits. But if the government writes the rules in a certain way, companies will seek profits in a way that serves the public interest.

If, on Monday, the FCC decides to go the other way, that should not be the end of it. Powerful public groups across the political spectrum oppose these new rules and are angry about their lack of input in the process. People who can't make their voices heard in one arena often find ways to make them heard in others. Congress has the power to amend the rule changes. Members from both parties oppose the new rules. This isn't over.

God, I hope not.
20:02 BST

From A Commonplace Book:
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project counted 708 active hate groups in the United States in 2002. Really interesting map of the US gives an overview of where hate groups are located. Click on any state, say Indiana, to see where the hate groups are. And boy, check out South Carolina.

I also see that Tipping the Velvet started showing last week on BBCAmerica; hope you caught that. Oh, and this page debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories.
19:51 BST

Conservative Contortionist faces a few facts

U.S. has gained little if Bush lied about reason for war
By Mark Bowden
For The Inquirer

It has been two months since the United States and Britain went to war against Saddam Hussein, and coalition forces have yet to discover convincing evidence of the weapons programs that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair said were its primary cause.

Some of those who supported the war beforehand did so solely on the basis of ending tyranny. The mass graves found throughout Iraq, and widespread stories of torture and atrocity, come as no surprise to those who had studied or endured the Baathist dictator's regime. Those who opposed the war for any reason ought to be doing some soul-searching about the kind of horrors they were prepared to leave in place.

Not really. It's always been obvious that the entire operation had to be handled carefully for it to be worth doing, and Bush was making it clear that he wasn't prepared to go that route. Bush has neither saved nor protected the Iraqi people - hell, he couldn't even be bothered to protect the hospitals. If we'd had a real president, someone with some sense and some integrity, many of us might have trusted that president to handle the Iraq situation honorably and intelligently, but Bush never cared, and never intended to follow through. He just wanted to invade Iraq. That's not the kind of person you give the keys to the armed services to.
But it is true that Hussein represented only one of many thuggish regimes, and that the United States is not about to go to war against them all. I supported this war because I believed Bush and Blair when they said Iraq was manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons in the hands of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that shared Hussein's hostile designs made such a threat a defense priority - or so the argument went.
Events have moved so swiftly, and Hussein's toppling has posed so many new pressing problems, that it would be easy to lose sight of this issue, but it is critically important. I can imagine no greater breach of public trust than to mislead a country into war. A strong case might have been made to go after Hussein just because he posed a potential threat to us and the region, because of his support for suicide bombers, and because of his ruthless oppression of his own people. But this is not the case our President chose to make.

Truth in public life has always been a slippery commodity. We expect campaigning politicians or debating journalists to pitch and spin. Facts are marshaled to support arguments and causes; convenient ones are trumpeted and inconvenient ones played down or ignored. This is the political game.

But when the President of the United States addresses the nation and the world, I expect the spinning to stop. He represents not just a party or a cause, but the American people. When President Bush argued that Hussein possessed stockpiles of illicit and deadly poisons, he was presumably doing so on the basis of intelligence briefings and evidence that the public could not see. He was asking us to trust him, to trust his office, to trust that he was acting legitimately in our self-defense. That's something very different from engaging in a bold policy of attempting to remake the Middle East, or undertaking a humanitarian mission to end oppression. Neither of these two justifications would have been likely to garner widespread public support. But national defense? That's an argument the President can always win.
When a president lies or exaggerates in making an argument for war, when he spins the facts to sell his case, he betrays his public trust, and he diminishes the credibility of his office and our country. We are at war. What we lost in this may yet end up being far more important than what we gained.

Ah, he hedges it so carefully. C'mon, guys, you already know he lied, they all lied. They lied about their reasons for going in, and they lied about what they would do when they got there. It's time to stop saying "if" and start saying "impeach".
15:40 BST

So it's a fringe idea, eh?

Poll: Most Want Health Coverage, Not Tax Cut

Nearly two-thirds of Americans would have preferred the Bush administration had extended health care to 41 million uninsured people than cut taxes, according to a poll published on Thursday.

Stony Brook University said a nationwide poll taken in May while President Bush (news - web sites) and Congress worked out a $350 billion tax cut bill concluded that more than one-third were willing to pay higher taxes to raise money for a universal health care plan.

The survey's director said the poll found that in the slow economy, Americans were concerned about rising medical costs and having health insurance coverage.

"These concerns translate into support for broad government action on behalf of the uninsured even if it means having to forego a tax cut," said Leonie Huddy, director of the university's Center for Survey Research.

Nearly three out of four respondents also want the government to require employers to provide health insurance to all employees, said Stony Brook, which has 22,000 students and is a leading U.S. public research university on Long Island.

Health care promises to be a major issue in the 2004 presidential election campaign. Most of the nine Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run against Republican Bush have unveiled plans to help cover uninsured Americans.

The survey said 63 percent of Americans favored universal health care to tax cuts. In addition, 36 percent said they were willing to pay higher taxes to deal with the problem of America's estimated 41 million uninsured.

The poll indicated a preference for action on health insurance instead of a tax cut among 72 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents.

There's nothing new about this poll result, but a lot of people need to be reminded.
15:18 BST

So it's a fringe idea, eh?

Poll: Most Want Health Coverage, Not Tax Cut

Nearly two-thirds of Americans would have preferred the Bush administration had extended health care to 41 million uninsured people than cut taxes, according to a poll published on Thursday.

Stony Brook University said a nationwide poll taken in May while President Bush (news - web sites) and Congress worked out a $350 billion tax cut bill concluded that more than one-third were willing to pay higher taxes to raise money for a universal health care plan.

The survey's director said the poll found that in the slow economy, Americans were concerned about rising medical costs and having health insurance coverage.

"These concerns translate into support for broad government action on behalf of the uninsured even if it means having to forego a tax cut," said Leonie Huddy, director of the university's Center for Survey Research.

Nearly three out of four respondents also want the government to require employers to provide health insurance to all employees, said Stony Brook, which has 22,000 students and is a leading U.S. public research university on Long Island.

Health care promises to be a major issue in the 2004 presidential election campaign. Most of the nine Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run against Republican Bush have unveiled plans to help cover uninsured Americans.

The survey said 63 percent of Americans favored universal health care to tax cuts. In addition, 36 percent said they were willing to pay higher taxes to deal with the problem of America's estimated 41 million uninsured.

The poll indicated a preference for action on health insurance instead of a tax cut among 72 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents.

There's nothing new about this poll result, but a lot of people need to be reminded.
15:18 BST

I really enjoyed Josh Marshall's piece on Sid Blumenthal's book:
"How do you like the book [The Clinton Wars]?"

"It's really quite good."

"The Post didn't much like it."

"Of course, they didn't it like. Most of it's a scathing indictment of them."
Blumenthal's book is a harsh and incisive critique of Washington's insider culture and its prestige press corps which is -- as a group, if not individually -- corrupt, rudderless and often insipid. (I'd say nasty, brutish and short, but many of them tower over me.) The coverage of the Clinton presidency is the ultimate example, with its whole swirl of babyboomer self-loathing, historical ignorance and nonsense, the willingness to be led around by black-minded reactionaries, politics as Society page, the whole lot of it. (Much of what I'm talking about here I discussed more clearly and crisply in a column on Maureen Dowd's Pulitzer Prize in the now-defunct online magazine Feed in April 1999.) This is difficult for me to say -- not least because I live and work and know many of these people, and consider many to be friends -- and even more because I'm not nearly established as most and must rely on these folks for my livelihood. But there's no getting around the truth of it. Blumenthal is disliked by many in DC because he is a critic -- and to my mind, a devastating one -- of their vapidity, ignorance and willingness to be used.

There's more.
02:33 BST

I keep getting distracted when I mean to blog something. Like this item from Charles Dodgson that caught my interest a week ago before something pulled my attention away:
As a delegate to the 1999 WTO conference in Seattle, Stephen Byers looked sadly on as misguided protesters demonstrated against the trade liberalization which was, he thought, the best chance for improving the lives of the poor.

A few years on now, he now thinks they were more or less right to say that unmanaged trade liberalization works against the interests of the poor.

It's been fashionable to assume that the anti-WTO activists are just incoherently opposed to globalized trade, but that's just not true. The critique of globalization isn't that it exists at all, it's how it's done. The critique of the IMF and the World Bank isn't that they support globalization, but that their "help" actually impoverishes and destabilizes countries. That wasn't always the case, but since 1980 they have done roughly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing. The "anti-globalization" protesters really are on to something.
02:21 BST

It always makes me happy when a good weblog moves off of Blogspot for sunnier climes. Welcome to the world, Greg Greene.
01:55 BST

Thursday, 29 May 2003

All day yesterday I thought it was Tuesday. Not sure how I did that. Oh, well.

To the Barricades! fails to find anti-semitism in an article in the NYT, even though James Taranto says in the WSJ that it's there.

A Connecticut Yankee in The Wild, Wild West, from blah3.

Transcript: Democracy Now with Gore Vidal

Paul Krugman is delighted to know that it is now okay to state the obvious. But The Daily Howler says it's only acceptable in some other country.

Rittenhouse Review has the story of names being added to the Vietnam memorial; one in particular, of a man who was laid to rest 22 years after he was originally wounded.

Get your War Planner from Mark Fiore. (Via Byrd's Brain.)
12:40 BST

Wednesday, 28 May 2003

And will the poodle bark?

US plans death camp

THE US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber.

Prisoners would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving its boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported yesterday.

The plans were revealed by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, who is in charge of 680 suspects from 43 countries, including two Australians.

The suspects have been held at Camp Delta on Cuba without charge for 18 months.

General Miller said building a death row was one plan. Another was to have a permanent jail, with possibly an execution chamber.

The Mail on Sunday reported the move is seen as logical by the US, which has been attacked worldwide for breaching the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war since it established the camp at a naval base to hold alleged terrorists from Afghanistan.
British activist Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, said: "The US is kicking and screaming against any pressure to conform with British or any other kind of international justice."

American law professor Jonathan Turley, who has led US civil rights group protests against the military tribunals planned to hear cases at Guantanamo Bay, said: "It is not surprising the authorities are building a death row because they have said they plan to try capital cases before these tribunals.

"This camp was created to execute people. The administration has no interest in long-term prison sentences for people it regards as hard-core terrorists."

Britain admitted it had been kept in the dark about the plans.

A Downing St spokesman said: "The US Government is well aware of the British Government's position on the death penalty."

23:44 BST

Our acting spokespeople

No link for this, but it's from this week's issue of the broadcast-listings magazine Radio Times - Susan Sarandon on how TV programs depict her as a ranting, radical loony:

On one they showed me speaking at meetings, and had a close-up of me waving my fists and screaming. I wondered where the hell I was until I realized it was at a hockey game. That's the kind of misreporting we're dealing with.
I'm glad to see someone else point this out:
Every film is political, but you only notice those which challenge stereotypes rather than the ones which reinforce them - like the mixture of sex and violence towards women in an erotic fashion, or those macho films where you're only a man after you've killed at point-blank range. The language of the Bush administration is straight from football crossed with war-film jargon.
But what that first sentence recalled for me wasn't the sex & violence axis, it was the way certain assumptions are made about the day-to-day stuff in our lives - even assumptions Sarandon takes for granted in the article, about a girl's reputation being "ruined" and so on. And do most people ever notice the way it's "non-controversial" to bring god up in every TV show as deserving credit for everything that goes right, or providing solace for everything that goes wrong?

But back to her brilliant career as an activist:

She has turned stardom into a socially useful tool, and scoffs at the criticism that "you're only an actor". "They elected a president who wasn't even a good actor, so that line must be blurred. What really balls me is when I'm asked to talk on television, I often ask for an expert to be with me, and they refuse. They just want celebrities - and then they condemn us for opening our mouths. I'd be so happy to stay at home if someone else would ask the questions for those who are voiceless.

I guess my job is to put a little flashlight on the information people aren't getting. I love America and I'm not leaving until they kick me out. I don't know if they will. But if we go on with our empire building, I might refuse to pay my taxes, and we'll see what happens.

It's all pretty obvious that celebrities are the people who are allowed to go on television and talk, so they are, for the most part, the only ones who are allowed to represent the myriad views of the rest of us. Which is why it's just stupid when conservatives deride (liberal) celebrities for speaking up. Leaving aside the fact that they don't say the same when the celebrities are conservative, let's not forget that conservatives are much more likely to elect celebrities - like Sonny Bono and Ronald Reagan. Which seems strange, when you think about the way they reacted to the suggestion of a presidential run by the one guy who'd demonstrated that he actually knew something about the Soviet Union - Warren Beatty.
11:57 BST

Rick's Rants has a rant about media concentration, and mentions an NPR show on the subject, with a pointer to the audio.

Monkey Media Report has good news for transsexuals.
11:03 BST

LiberalOasis interviewed Sid Blumenthal, who talked about President Bill's learning curve, political errors, and other stuff.
And Louis Freeh was a completely dysfunctional FBI Director, who was actually waging his own private war against the Clinton Administration. ... If there were any clear investigation of 9/11, they wouldn't let Louie Freeh off the hook."
And it's good to hear someone from government actually say this:
What I describe in my book, is completely relevant to how the Republicans act, [about] their relentless will to power.

They attempted coup d'etats, all through the Clinton Presidency. That’s what Ken Starr was doing. He was trying to drive the President from office.

And they finally succeeded, in my view, stealing the presidency through the Supreme Court after Gore won.

They will be ruthless in their exercise of power. And when I say they will use any means necessary, you think that couldn't be possible.

But then you have to think about the use of mob violence in shutting down the vote count in Miami-Dade County.

And the fact that the majority of that mob were paid Republican congressional staffers, from the staffs of Trent Lott and Tom DeLay, flown down with Bush campaign money, to Florida to shut down the vote count.

And whose votes weren't counted? This is another major element in my book.

The votes that weren't counted for the most part were African-American votes.

It was the biggest suppression of voting rights in our country’s history since Jim Crow. And the thread of race runs from the beginning to the end of my book.

The initial opposition to Bill Clinton took place in great part because of race.

Because he was a white, progressive New South figure, who was a liberal on race.

It’s absolutely crucial for the Democrats to have a sense of their history, of who they are, in order to be able to project their values and stand up for them.

And, by the way, I'm not ashamed to be a member of the party that actually cares about that stuff.
10:27 BST


Well, the button is down there on the lower right, claiming that this is the URL for my RSS feed. In theory, it should be working by some time tonight. Y'all can let me know if that happens, or doesn't.
09:55 BST

Tuesday, 27 May 2003

When I learned about Dave's death earlier today, my first thought was to post the art he did for me back in the days when we were still publishing PULP. So my little tribute to Dave can be found here.

Dave Mooring

23:45 BST

With Patrick complaining about lack of RSS at The Sideshow (and other places), I began investigating and was getting the feeling that because this page doesn't use a template (or any standardized blogging software), it couldn't be done. But I wrote to Blogmatrix and they say they think they can do it if I change my formatting around a bit. I'd been making my link-code alphanumeric so it would be more comprehensible, but I'm told I need it to just be numeric. And I need to move the link to the bottom of the entry. So I'll be messing around with my formatting a bit for the next day or three. I'm trying to make this as unconfusing as possible while minimizing the amount of labour that's involved. Your comments and suggestions are, of course, welcome, as is your continued patience.
13:53 BST

TBogg quotes a letter:
Though Estrada has been described by promoters as an immigrant who at 17 arrived in the United States without speaking a word of English, he was hardly the abject refugee that description suggests. In fact, he was the son of a high Honduran diplomat and therefore was a member of Honduras' very small and privileged elite. And his political views reflect the comfortable narrowness of that elite.

He and I once had a fiery argument about democracy in Latin America. Two of the issues we discussed remain in my memory. One was his warm approval of Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who had led the coup that overthrew leftist President Salvador Allende and murdered thousands. Part of Miguel's argument was that Allende had won only a plurality of the popular vote and therefore was not legitimate in the first place; he dismissed the Chilean legislature's vote to ratify Allende's victory in a process that accorded fully with Chilean law (Allende's own party was a minority in the legislature).

The second issue had to do with his own native Honduras. I recall challenging the legitimacy of the Honduran government, which was and still is known for its corruption, its exclusion and repression of the lower classes, and at the time had been implicated in numerous human rights abuses (including assassinations), some tied to the U.S.-supported Contra war against Nicaragua. His counterfactual answer stuck with me: "Honduras is a pure democracy, just like the United States."

The court to which Estrada has been nominated is considered widely to be a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court, so the fact that he could be "possibly the first Hispanic American to sit on the highest bench in the land" actually increases concern. There are many top-flight Latino lawyers in the United States, even from our class of '86. If a seat should be set up for an American of Latin American descent, Hispanics and moderate Republicans would do well to support someone more likely to bring a broader, and more inclusive, definition of society and politics to important decisions.

No wonder Bush likes him.
12:45 BST

Monday, 26 May 2003

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I was just over at Newsarama looking at a bizarre and scary article called The AFA Attacks!
When the American Family Association went after the Western Pennsylvania office of the Make a Wish foundation because they collected monies form the Pittsburgh Comic-Con which, (according to the AFA) was a haven for pornography, it seemed like an isolated event. Then the group went after the Motor City Convention. Dangerous times for comics? Maybe.
Now dig this: Wildmon's bunch of sex-haters found out that comic cons are making donations to charities, so they harass the charities into refusing money from these "havens of pornography".
The moves by the AFA in both Pittsburgh and Detroit, while indicative of the AFA's agenda against what they consider pornography (the group recently declared a victory when Wal-Mart announced that were pulling Maxim, Stuff and FHM from their shelves due to customer complaints – an earlier target of the group), they market the first time in recent memory that the group has taken direct action against the comic industry.

Newsarama found AFA's rant against sexy images and discussions of The Wrong Religions and is wondering if this is time for worry. They further note increasing attacks on sexual materials of other kinds, as well as taking another look at the Protect law. You remember that one, the one that tries to return to making fake child porn illegal? As Newsarama says, if one "virtual crime" can be illegal, why not another?

"The reason I bring all of this up is that what I've been noticing over the last two months is that there are a lot more incidents pertaining to the prosecution of pornography," Brownstein said. "It strikes me as something to be concerned about that these attacks on the comics field are coming in that climate. These are something that are on the rise, and I'm not at all shocked to see the AFA, who, honestly, do something like this every couple years, coming after the comic shows. I think it's important to bear in mind that it's all part of a bigger picture."
While I was there, I noticed a story about revival of the shelved Frank Miller Robocop, but by someone else. I loved Robocop. I still don't know how the corporate weasels allowed the TV show to exist at all.

In other comics-related news, Mark Evanier recommends the website of artist Barry Windsor-Smith, where you can see some of his marvelously detailed work - such as this one. And Mark also writes about what was always my favorite part of the Captain Kangaroo show, Tom Terrific. And, most excitingly of all, the first season of Rocky & Bullwinkle will be out on DVD in August.

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Another error message.

11:28 BST: permalink
Wil Wheaton received a stupid poll from the DLC. (Via The Watch.)

Take Back the Media links to a FAIR report on how serial-prevaricator John Stossel has been punished by ABC for his lack of credibility, by awarding him a better job. Affirmative action in action.

Truth Is Better compares what they say with what they do - that is, the myths Republicans have about themselves, versus reality.

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Via Bartcop:

Texas passes law requiring pregnancy counselling that tells women lies about their health.

Our man Huey takes on the NYT.

Then Bart had lots of fun with the fact that Michael Savage is suing Take Back The Media, among others.

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Over at Blogcritics, I learn that Elvis Costello said this:
"We all live in fairly dangerous times in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. A lot of the songwriters that I've admired and learned from ... are people who spoke in matters of conscience as well as matters of the heart. I think that it's essential that we defend that right."
But Al Barger regards this statement as "stupid", apparently believing that because no one has (yet) been arrested for speaking out against the government, there is no danger to free speech.

This is just wrong. If corporations can silence those who disagree with the government by threatening their livelihood, free speech is certainly threatened. ("If"? Did I say "if"? Karl Rove pretty much promised them that if they supported Bush in 2000 and he won, they could do whatever they wanted.)

Conservatives like to pretend that preventing free speech isn't really preventing free speech as long as it's not officially performed by the government itself. But in this case the corporates and the government are so much in each other's pockets that there's hardly any distinction between them. When the vast majority of media outlets work to silence those who disagree with the government, it's just childish to pretend it isn't "really" censorship. Only an idiot thinks you have to put someone in jail to shut them up.

That's leaving aside those little details like people who find themselves on the "no fly" list because they were involved with such terrorist activities as Ralph Nader's campaign or peace activism.

In Britain, the threat already hung overhead long before 9/11, when the BBC pretty much blackmailed Noel Gallagher into repudiating his own words if he wanted Oasis to stay on the playlist. Gallagher is a noted jerk, but his rambling babble about how Ecstasy wasn't any worse than a cup of tea was not particularly inconsistent with the truth and would have been entirely unremarkable not that long ago. However, it didn't mesh with the government's "E kills" message and, since Gallagher is also no John Lennon, an embarrassing statement was issued over his name that sounded like it must have been written by the Home Secretary. Obviously, his manager must have explained the facts of life to him; pity he didn't have the backbone to stand up.

Then we get worrying little items like this one:

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security's crack gumshoes at Los Angeles' airport jailed six French TV journalists for more than a day; interrogated, body-searched and fingerprinted them; then forcibly repatriated them to Paris.
Meanwhile, things are bad enough that Neil Young has come back over from the dark side and now worries that it might get him deported. Not a paranoid impression, given that far worse things have been happening to other resident aliens. (Or, for that matter, even to American citizens. Just read Talk Left any day of the week for more of both.)

Things are getting weird in America, and it's really not wise to be complacent.

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There are a whole bunch of posts up at CalPundit that I want to quote in full, but That Would Be Wrong. There's a nice one echoing Matt Yglesias' question about when the Bush administration is going to get serious about terrorism, for example. And here's one on the FCC's evil plot. And this one that I'll quote just a little of: "It's just astounding. They get richer and richer, tax rates get lower and lower, and still they feel persecuted. 100 million households in America are earning $7,000 per year less than they should, because the rich have swallowed it up. And we're supposed to feel sorry for them." Read them all.

Sunday, 25 May 2003

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Cursor has links to two items on the NYT's problem with the truth:

The 'Times' Addiction to Anonymous Sources in Editor & Publisher:

While the usual anti-diversity crowd was charging the Times with a double standard on race last week, the paper's attorneys were at a federal libel trial in Cleveland, vigorously -- and expensively -- defending a reporting mistake in a 2000 article by Fox Butterfield. That's the same Fox Butterfield, national correspondent and white male, who embarrassed the Times in 1991 when it emerged that he had lifted material from a story in The Boston Globe while reporting, ironically, on plagiarism by a Boston University dean. On journalistic merit, Butterfield does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the fabulist Blair -- and we do so only to emphasize that race does not necessarily determine who gets second chances at the Times.

The real lesson from the Blair affair is that the Times' system for dealing with accuracy in its newspaper and discipline in its newsroom is badly broken -- if, indeed, any system exists. It's all very well to "trust" reporters, as Times executives insistently declared, but the dull credulity top editors evinced throughout this episode suggests they have not learned the first thing the old hardscrabble City News Bureau in Chicago told its greenest recruits: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

How is it, for instance, that The New York Times could be gulled into publishing on its front page a story accusing a teenager of being the triggerman in the Washington-area sniper attacks -- without any editor apparently ever asking the tyro reporter to identify these unnamed "law-enforcement officials" he is quoting?

One inescapable conclusion from this scandal is that the Times has developed an addictive tolerance for anonymous sources, the crack cocaine of journalism. The Times could not go cold turkey even in its extraordinary Mother's Day cataloging of Blair's journalistic sins, an occasion that cried out for 100% on-the-record reporting. For no apparent reason other than habit, an entirely innocuous e-mail message was attributed to "one fellow reporter."

And this article from Westword:
Still, a more telling indication of the Blair matter's impact was a memo Rocky Mountain News editor/publisher/president John Temple sent to editorial types at the paper on May 12, the day after the Times ran a four-page, 7,200-word investigation into the actions of the discredited scribe. Temple alluded to the e-mail in "Journalism Takes Its Lumps This Week," a May 17 column in which he faulted the Times in notably direct terms for refusing to adequately examine management's culpability with respect to Blair's wrongdoing. "By not acknowledging that they did anything wrong," he wrote, "the paper's leaders are leaving Americans with the impression that newsrooms are cozy clubs where reporters can invent sources that tilt major stories without being carefully questioned by editors." But Temple left out a portion of the missive that hinted at how severely his confidence in the Times has been shaken.
More intriguing was Temple's newly declared policy in regard to the publishing of Times reports in the News. He announced that "New York Times stories that use anonymous sources must be approved in advance" by the same editor or editors noted above -- an astonishing development, because it suggests that in a few short weeks, the Times has gone from being among the most trusted news purveyors on the planet to a publication viewed with suspicion by its peers.
But the NYT isn't the only one, as Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler heard from readers after he examined what he'd treated as someone else's problem a week earlier:
The recent problems at the New York Times involving a reporter with a long record of plagiarizing and fabricating stories have touched a nerve with readers of other newspapers, including The Post. Readers who have been writing or calling me say they don't suspect the same kind of brazen, large-scale deception by a troubled individual. But their concerns add up to a real and growing credibility problem for news organizations, especially in today's environment.

That environment includes what seems to me, and a fair number of readers, to be a steady increase in the number of major stories attributed to anonymous sources and a sense that intelligence information is being politicized and that reporters aren't probing hard enough against the defenses of an administration with an effective, disciplined and restrictive attitude toward information control.

Those are your Newspapers of Record.

06:49 BST: permalink
Small Flashes discovers that Rick Nelson's brother is a suspected terrorist:
I wrote about this a while back. We have a "no fly" list; people who aren't allowed on airplanes for any reason. We also have a much longer list of people who are allowed to fly only after an absurd amount of hassle. Supposedly, this is "for security reasons", but nobody will say who's on the list or why. There's no way to get off of it. It's an observational fact, however, that some people get hassled beyond any point of sense.

David Nelson, for example. Which "David Nelson"? After all, "David" and "Nelson" are both common names. Why, all of them, of course. If your name is David Nelson, you must be a Bad Guy. What kind of Bad Guy? Can't tell you, but we sure can't let you on an airplane without harassing you.

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Blah3 finds Rich Procter saying that George Bush doesn't exist, but is rather a market-device. Makes a good case....

Natasha at The Watch explains why needing a gun in every home is not a sign of utopia.

Soundbitten on Scarborough's campaign to coerce MCI into dropping Danny Glover as a spokesperson because he said something politically incorrect.

Yellow Doggerel Democrat is now even more blog-like than ever, and found a fine response from Texas Dem Garnet F. Coleman to Republican lies about the Killer Ds.

Wampum has moved off of Blgospot to much more comfortable digs, and lookin' good. I enjoyed the little flashback to aWol's first meeting with The Queen.

Saturday, 24 May 2003

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Don't it make ya laugh?

I love the neocon fantasy of what they believe in:

What makes neocons interesting is not their religion or ethnicity but their rejection of relativism, the view that ethical truths depend on circumstances.
For years, I've been trying to come up with a concise definition of what conservatives call "moral relativism". Looking at the record, it appears that conservatives generally oppose any evidence of enjoying life if it is done by liberals, and can forgive every kind of immoral, unethical, or criminal act if it is performed by conservatives (unless they are conservative Democrats). It was okay for Newt Gingrich to orchestrate an impeachment of Clinton over adultery because Gingrich's on-going series of adulterous relationships were Republican adultery, whereas Clinton, being a Democrat, was being immoral. The dead woman in Scarborough's office was not suspicious, because he was a Republican; the missing girlfriend of Condit was suspicious, because he was a Democrat. Liberals should honor their (conservative) parents, but conservatives don't have to honor their (liberal) parents. Clinton was evil because he was caught in one little untruth, but Bush's consistent pattern of dissembling over even life and death issues is a virtue.

Thus we see that the "moral relativism" that conservatives condemn is the appalling tendency of liberals to presume that sins committed by Democrats are no worse than sins committed by Republicans. Democrats can think that embezzlers with ties to Republicans should do just as much jail time as embezzlers with ties to Democrats (or no party ties at all) should do. Liberals think that wealthy conservative thieves are just as criminal as any other thieves. Liberals insist that when a liberal or Democrat falls to adulterous temptation, it is only human, or that someone who steals a small amount in order to eat can at least be understood, while someone who possesses extremes of wealth but still steals from those who have less in order to be even more immorally wealthy has a great deal to answer for. We think that if Clinton can be impeached for one little "misleading" statement, Bush is actually worse and deserves to be removed from office immediately for his enormous catalogue of significant lies.

So "moral relativism" appears to be the belief that Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives, ought to be judged by the same standards, while "moral clarity" is the belief that Republican conservatives get to judge everyone else according to Republican conservative interests, but no one else (probably not even God) gets to judge Republican conservatives.

Neocons are political fundamentalists. They believe in the absolute supremacy of the natural rights and power of liberal democracy over tyranny. That boils down to being willing to use force to eradicate tyrannies and, if necessary, imposing liberal democracy at gunpoint.

The central theory of neocons is that democratic societies are better than all others because they protect minorities, and therefore cannot safely coexist with threatening tyrannical regimes.

When did that happen? Conservatives, be they "neocon" or any other kind, have always laughed at "bleeding-heart liberals" for our condemnation of tyrannical regimes and of the US government's frequent tendency to turn a blind eye to the abuses of "friendly" dictators, such as Saddam Hussein. Liberals were "unrealistic" for our criticisms of administration policies that cozied-up to the Saddams and Pinochets and Sauds and so on. Brutal dictatorships were always absolutely peachy with conservatives as long as they didn't show any "socialist" tendencies - "socialism" being defined as any means of redistributing wealth downward rather than upward. (Castro was bad because he threw the Mafia and the tobacco barons out of Cuba and appropriated their holdings for the country; George W. Bush is good because he took land from ordinary people in order to build a baseball stadium and make himself and his friends extraordinarily rich.) Conservatives have never objected to tyranny per se. What they objected to was privileging anything other than wealth.

The business about "democratic societies" is just a joke. Leaving aside the kind of "support" conservative administrations have shown for democratically elected governments in other countries (e.g., Reagan's obvious love for democracy in Nicaragua), we have a shining model of conservative support for democracy right at home, in our glorious 2000 election. Let's see how conservatives support democracy:

Despite its simple message, the Bush team's task was a great deal more complicated than it appeared. The law was almost entirely on the side of Gore and the recounts.[*] Florida not only explicitly permitted manual recounts, they had been used frequently for a variety of elections, including the one that preceded the current term of its Republican senator, Connie Mack. Indeed, a majority of states either mandated or permitted manual recounting when the difference between two candidates was small enough. By coincidence, one of these states, Texas, had a governor named Governor George W. Bush who only recently had put his signature on the bill. The Texas standard was exactly the same "intent of the voter" standard under use in Florida. It was this standard that the Bush team needed to prevent were it to have any hope of winning the vote.

So Jim Baker had a problem. He needed to control the media's narrative in Florida in such a way that the law on the books and virtually every legal precedent would be ignored and the incomplete vote certified, while in the process, his candidate's presidency could be legitimized. There was another option open to Bush, winning the hard way - by political fiat in the Florida legislature, the U.S. Congress, or the U.S. Supreme Court - but such a naked political ploy might damage the legitimacy of a Bush Restoration beyond repair.

Baker addressed this problem by remaining on the attack and sticking like glue to his disciplined message. "The American people voted on November 7. Governor George W. Bush won thirty-one states with a total of 271 electoral votes. The vote here in Florida was very close, but when it was counted, Governor Bush was the winner. Now, three days later, the vote in Florida has been recounted. Governor Bush is still the winner." With no recounts yet under way, the Gore team was already guilty, according to Baker, of "efforts to keep recounting, over and over, until it happens to like the result." [Eric Alterman, What Liberal Media?, p179; my emphasis.]

[*I don't know what the word "almost" is doing in there; the first run of recounts, including hand recounts of the overvotes, were mandated by law, and they were never completed. The recounts Gore was calling for were supposed to be in addition to those recounts. The Florida Supreme Court had previously ruled in favor of the Republican on a similar challenge in a previous election and so their decision on behalf of Gore was a foregone conclusion on the basis of law and simple precedent.]

A great deal more evidence has come out since 7 November 2000 showing that, both before and after the election, a tremendous effort was made in the state of Florida (and elsewhere, including Tennessee) to keep likely Democratic voters from being able to vote, in addition to ensuring that their votes were less likely to be counted. Katherine Harris deliberately arranged to have the names of legitimate voters removed from the voting rolls by using an out-of-state commercial enterprise to add names to a felon-purge list in direct contempt of a court order not to do so. Absentee ballot applications were tampered with, ballots were mysteriously re-designed to make them more confusing for people voting for any but the first name on the ballot (Bush's), motor-voter registrations were never recorded, black people going to vote were harassed, misleading instructions were provided for first-time voters on how to mark their ballots, and so on. Polling places in Democratic-leaning communities were closed without notice on the day, with no direction for alternative voting venues. Thousands of Gore votes that had already been tallied in the first machine count simply disappeared. Boxes of ballots were lost and some reappeared later.

But perhaps no interference with democracy was more overt or outrageous than the concerted efforts, both legalistic and extra-legal, to prevent - in front of god and everyone! - the ballots from being counted.

Where were neoconservatives during all this? Were they expressing outrage that the election was being "fixed", that democracy was being betrayed? No, they were not. They were instead joining Bush and his cronies in repeating Baker's talking-points, claiming that speed was more important than accuracy, in one case even joining a Republican-sponsored riot to interfere with the ballot-counters' work. They went to court to prevent the counts from continuing even while they attacked Gore for using the courts (before Gore had even done so, in fact). They battered law, logic, and tradition to bloody pulp in order to effect their one and only goal - to put one of their own in the White House over and above the will of the American people and the law.

Before and since then, the neocons have shown contempt for democracy in myriad ways, going even so far as to help impeach a president despite the fact that fully two-thirds of Americans polled said they did not think that president deserved impeachment. They have knowingly pushed the destruction of programs (such as Social Security and public schooling) that they know Americans support and wish to keep. They happily lie - and even write articles in support of lying - to hoodwink the public into letting them get away with undermining the democratically mandated will of the people. They claim to support the Constitution while fervently defending the destroyers of its protections.

Anyone who believed that these same people intended to bring a free democracy to Iraq was out of their mind. These people don't want to see a free democracy anywhere. The people who do are not called "neoconservatives", they are called "liberals".

13:49 BST: permalink
Don't miss Tarek's smashing take-down of our rulers at The Liquid List:
Now I don't believe anyone has ever thought for one second that Tom Delay was anything other than a slimy, fork-tongued toady who gladly sell his mother to a white slavery ring if it meant one more filthy corporate donation in the NRCC's luxurious coffers. But here he is, a dirty man admitting a dirty, dirty crime -- misappropriation of government resources for petty personal gains, at the very least -- and there is no outrage. There is nothing. Let's move on.

Next on the Friday roundup, readers will be urged to skip a great deal of the pap served up in the Washington Post save the few articles profiled here, beginning with Dana Milbank's brave analysis, with Jim VandeHei, of exactly how much of a compromise President "Mr. Popularity" Bush had to make to get his own party to support his loathesome tax cut. Thankfully, Milbank and VandeHei point out exactly what a sh*t-eating liar pretty much anybody who calls this tax cut for the rich a victory for the president. Let's read together:

In brokering and celebrating a $350 billion tax-and-spending package he derided less than a month earlier, President Bush and top aides this week made the calculation that it was more important to have a tax cut than to stand on principle over its size and content.
Go read it.

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From ProTalion: If You're in Favor of Buttoned-Down Secrecy in the Budget Office You'll Love the New OMB Director
President Bush announced Thursday that Josh Bolten would become the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, taking over from the outgoing Mitch Daniels. (Link)

He is one of the closed-lips defendants named in the Dick Cheney secret energy task force lawsuit, filed by Judicial Watch ( The Bush administration refused to hand over documents that relate specifically to Cheney and Bolten, among others. (Link)

Not everyone is comfortable with him. An aide to Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), who, under tremendous pressure from Bush, sold out the patients' bill of rights, claims that Bolten "screwed us over." According to the New Republic, the man who muscled Norwood into bashing patient's rights was none other than the hush-hush Joshua Bolten.

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From the IHT: Studies link Atkins diet to healthy heart
The 31-year-old Atkins diet, long disparaged by the medical establishment and just as fervently touted by its adherents, has gained a measure of credibility with the publication of two studies indicating that some measures of heart health improved in people who followed low-carbohydrate diets for six months or a year.

The two studies are among the first controlled clinical trials to compare, for longer than 90 days, the kind of low-carbohydrate diets made popular by the late Dr. Robert Atkins with the kind of low-fat diets that doctors have traditionally touted as beneficial for cardiovascular health.

The studies, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that although the low-carbohydrate diets were, at best, only marginally more effective for weight loss, they were associated with lowered triglycerides, blood fats that can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.
One of the studies, which looked specifically at the Atkins diet, well known for allowing dieters to indulge in steak and eggs and other high-fat foods, showed that people who followed the low-carbohydrate eating plan for a year also raised their levels of HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent plaque buildup.

Friday, 23 May 2003

15:37 BST: permalink

There are a couple of things I neglected to say in my response to Jim Henley below. The first is that it's Nineteen Eighty-four, not 1984. And the other is that there is, as far as I can tell, one big distinction between Labour's civil libertarians and America's. It's here:
People who once ran important civil society organizations supporting civil liberties and the welfare of immigrants are now ministers backing draconian infringements on liberties and harsh policies toward asylum seekers.

This is not just a reflection on individuals. It raises the question of whether such organizations are being run by people dedicated to principles or by opportunists using them as stepladders to political office.

I happen to know a lot about the leaders of the two principal civil liberties organizations in both England and the US. I have had close association with Nadine Strossen, head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and her office. I know her personally because I used to be on the executive committee of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL or "Liberty") and because she contacted me again when she and other feminists in America founded Feminists for Free Expression, and she always contacts me whenever she is in the UK to speak. My knowledge of ACLU operations is not very good, but when I talk to people who work for ACLU, while I may hear complaints about personalities, I don't hear the sort of things I hear from people at "Liberty". Nadine and those like her aren't in ACLU to become members of government; Nadine is a law professor with, as far as I can tell, no designs on such a position. She's been there a long time and shows no signs of wanting to cross to the Hill. She does what she does because she is a civil libertarian, and I've never seen her pull back on her principles to benefit some political leader.

The people who have terrific civil libertarian credentials as former leaders of "Liberty" are another story entirely.

With my colleague from Feminists Against Censorship, Roz Kaveney, I began serving on the organization's executive committee, and I was baffled by the utter lack of civil libertarianism of most of its members. I soon heard gossip from the staff of some interesting aspects of recent history, including a consistent pattern in at least the last three general secretaries of what used to be called NCCL, of being obvious climbers who had taken the job solely as a stepping-stone to office in the Labour Party. They were already party hacks, and they had never been civil libertarians; their positions, even when they directly contradicted the protection of people's liberties and NCCL policies, were the positions that were popular within the upper echelons of Labour. Two of them had become leading lights of Labour as a result.

As time went by, I was confused by the fact that someone who appeared out of nowhere was almost instantly elected by the committee as its chair, and re-elected even after he persisted in flagrant abuses of his position. I eventually learned that this man was the husband of a woman who worked in Tony Blair's office. One member of the executive privately told Roz that his own votes on the committee did not reflect his own views, but that he had hopes for a career in Labour and knew that if he went against the chair his career would be ruined. The new general secretary (a member of paid staff, unlike members of the executive) changed his title to "Director" and proceeded to have regular lunches with, of all people, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Weirdly, Straw was actually chosen as the guest speaker to the organization's annual general meeting. (This is the only person who speaks to the organization as a whole all year.)

There is no question about this: the party leadership influenced NCCL policy, and not the other way around. Imagine, if you will, an ACLU that is in bed (literally!) with the political leadership of the government, dines with the Attorney General, and has him as its honored guest speaker instead of a dedicated civil libertarian at its one major event of the year, even as he is deep into the project of trying to eliminate the country's remaining civil liberties.

You can see why Feminists Against Censorship severed all ties with "Liberty" at this point. We are civil libertarians; they are not, and haven't been for quite some time. It's not that these individuals have been co-opted into government, it's that they were always headed there.

There was a period of about a year when a number of civil liberties-oriented organizations in London, including gay rights organizations and free speech organizations, suddenly started behaving very strangely. There had been a period of about six months when funding suddenly dried up for all of these organizations - funding that had come, for the most part, from Labour-related wallets. Then they started purging older, more dedicated (and highly-respected) staff members and with them their civil libertarian positions. Then they started getting funding again. Then Tony Blair was elected, and they all became virtually silent. The leader of one of these organizations, by the way, a former "mad bomber" back in the '60s (no, really), was suddenly named on the Queen's Honours list. A number of people like that, who should never have expected a medal from the Queen, suddenly started acting strangely, supporting Blair's government, and got medals. I believe that those people were bought by the Blair campaign. But the others had never needed to be bought; they already belonged to the surface politics of The Party.

You don't have to buy your way into the Democratic Party that way, so you see a lot less of that in America. That doesn't mean that no one cynically manipulates such positions, but it just doesn't work as well. Being in the ACLU or a gay rights organization doesn't buy you the backing of the DLC, anyway, so it's not worth the bother. And Nadine Strossen is not paid by the ACLU; she has another job. The "Director" of "Liberty" depends on the Labour Party's donors to collect his salary.

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Brad DeLong reports that the Financial Times has finally lost faith in Bush:
Wow. The Financial Times is really grumpy. It's not clear whether the immediate cause is the "dollar policy," the tax cut, or simply a long train of abuses and usurpations that has caused them to lose all patience. What is clear is that the Financial Times is now an advocate of its three-part plan for dealing with the Bush administration:
  1. Open toilet.
  2. Insert Bush administration.
  3. Flush.
And here's a little quote from that FT piece:
But even where new brooms have been found, it is clear that changing the economic team has had no impact on the outcome of policy discussions. Fiscal policy is still irresponsible, international economic policy is still chaotic. Trade policy is still an adjunct. We know why. Economic policy comes a distant third in the Bush administration's priorities - behind national security and re-election politics.

In case anyone still doubted this, it was reported earlier this month that the White House Council of Economic Advisers, now under the amiable leadership of Harvard's Gregory Mankiw, is moving out of the - er - White House. Its new home will be a nice suite of offices somewhere near the Starbucks and the mobile phone shop on G Street, a comfortable 400 yards from anyone in a position of political power.

From there Mr Bush will not be able to hear the howls of economic anguish when he proposes his next tax cut or import tariff or agricultural subsidy. One day, as the dollar slides further and the fiscal deficit expands, Mr Bush will need some serious economic thinkers around him. But by then, there will be none left.

There is only one answer. It is time to put Donald Rumsfeld in charge of economics. It would not necessarily do much for economic policy. But it would work wonders for foreign policy.

The FT has apparently failed to realize that national security isn't much of a priority for Bush, either. Rewarding his campaign contributors is certainly a priority, as is physical exercise, and secrecy seems to be very important to him, but I'm not sure what else is. Throwing meat to his "base", I guess. But I've yet to see Bush do a single thing on behalf of our country.

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At A Level Gaze, David Yaseen takes a look at another lame review of Blumenthal's book:
Blumenthal was absolutely right, of course, back in 1995 to keep insisting -- almost alone, and in the face of the frenzy of the press pack and my own anxiety about missing the bus -- that the allegations of Clinton corruption in the Whitewater affair were a big load of nothing. On the other hand, he was absolutely wrong to maintain -- as he put it with maddening loftiness -- that "It's not a story." Not a scandal, perhaps, but not a story? A cabal of right-wing fanatics manipulates the press, the judiciary, and the FBI to the point of nearly destroying a president and it's not a story? It was a helluva story -- as Sidney's book amply shows. And the story isn't over yet, as the Clinton wars continue to be fought in the reviews.
This woman ran the most famously literate publication in America, and she can't parse a sentence? "The Clintons did something bad in Whitewater" was not a story. The malignant skein of the Clintons' implicit "fecklessness" and "immorality" the press wove around it, the actions of Scaife and Starr and their carniverous ilk, yes, that was a story. Sid thought so. He wrote an 800-page book about it.
Tina Brown was one of a number of people who couldn't figure out that the Whitewater "story" wasn't about the Clintons, it was about everyone else - a Congress that knowingly wasted taxpayer's time and money with an investigation of the victims of an embezzlement; a press that refused to print the facts and just heaped more lies and innuendo on a president, his wife, and his staff; a prosecutor who had convicted his victims in his mind and refused to change stride long after in-depth investigation had proven them innocent, even going so far as to threaten the freedom of innocent bystanders when they failed to play ball. Susan MacDougal spent months in jail because she wouldn't perjure herself. Every time Kathleen Willey changed her story - a story the prosecution knew was false - Starr brought charges against Julie Hyatt Steel because her own story never changed.

The real criminals in Whitewater were George H.W. Bush and his little friends who deliberately interfered with the investigation in order to fast-track it into the public eye - originally in hopes that it would taint Clinton enough to lose the '92 election for him - and Starr, who victimized anyone who would not help him "prove" that the Clinton's were criminals. The press, even while acknowledging that the "Clinton murdered Foster" meme was pure conspiracy theory, nevertheless failed to note the sheer irresponsibility of Ken Starr, who investigated the Clintons for the Foster murder repeatedly. To this very day, the press refuses to come clean about Whitewater, still preferring to enhance the myth that it was the Clintons who "committed crimes", in the words of The Washington Post.

So Blumenthal writes a book about that story and every member of the press who refused to acknowledge reality is suddenly full of phony reasons why it is he, not they, who fell down on the job. Please.

11:58 BST: permalink
Charles Kuffner says:
Ahem. I just found Kinky Friedman's tribute to the Dixie Chicks. I may never see again. Tread carefully. You have been warned.
Charles also reveals Killer D's: The Movie.

Thursday, 22 May 2003

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Jim Henley has a question for me:
The News from 1984 - Via Avedon Carol, this handy, eloquent jeremiad against Tony Blair's New Labour and what they've made - and unmade - of Britain. Author Philip Bowring writes, among other things:
People who once ran important civil society organizations supporting civil liberties and the welfare of immigrants are now ministers backing draconian infringements on liberties and harsh policies toward asylum seekers.

This is not just a reflection on individuals. It raises the question of whether such organizations are being run by people dedicated to principles or by opportunists using them as stepladders to political office.

which is a criticism that goes way beyond Tony Blair, and way beyond Britain. I have to wonder if Avedon realizes just how far it goes. It's an indictment of the class that forms the backbone of both the Labour Party and America's Democrats - not the voters, but the cadres and candidates.
Actually, yes, I do, and far more intimately than you might imagine. I've had some very personal confrontations with the climbing, grasping, back-stabbing scumbags of the Labour ladder. The people who actually run the politics in the Labour Party are careerists who will sacrifice almost anything for their position, and you can be sure that the basic ideals their party is supposed to stand for are no more protected than anything else. The Democrats are similar, of course, but it's worse here because it's a whole lot harder to get kicked out of the Democratic Party than it is to get kicked out of Labour (and thus deprived of your perch) by the leadership. This makes Labour a bit more like the Republican Party these days.

I don't see why that should make any difference to me, though. All four parties are fairly right wing, and I'm not in love with any of them. Labour is a bunch of not-very-convincing socialists and some civil libertarians led by a clever but repulsive guy who wants to be part of the International Rich People's Conspiracy and still pretend he's a good Christian. The Democratic Party is led mostly by some people who are really Republicans; "the cadres" are a bit harder to call, since they are all over the place. The voters just want to be left alone and otherwise get something back for their taxes, and they aren't getting it because it is now fashionable to be penny-wise and pound-foolish and pretend it makes sense.

It's all about what kind of legislation will be passed and how it will affect us, of course. Both Parties overtly claim to want to do some things and not do some others; each party can be pressured to the extent that they live up to those claims. (I said can be, not will be.) The Republicans say (and usually do) things I don't like, and the Democrats kind of drag their feet in most directions. Neither side can actually be trusted to pass the right legislation (or refrain from passing the wrong legislation), which is why accountability matters. The party that is most likely to be secretive at this time is the Republicans, who are also the party most likely to rob you blind. In other times, the Democrats were no better. None of these things are graven in stone, but this is today, and today it's the Democrats who push Freedom of Information and the Republicans who neutralize it. It is unquestionably the Republicans who are doing their best to destroy any ability of a free press to inform the public. If for no other reason than this, they would still have to be stopped. The only tool we have to stop them, sorry as it may be, is the Democratic Party. Alas.

I don't know a lot of Democrats who are Democrats because they are in love with the Democratic Party; most of them are Democrats because the Republicans are worse, and that's about all. Many are actually livid with rage over how poorly the Democratic leadership represents us. None of this is news. It's a question of choosing between the right-wing party and the far-right-wing party, and we all know it. We just don't know why Republicans haven't figured it out yet.

What was the question?

[But read Jim's whole page, which has lots of much cooler stuff on it, on gun control, Iraq, and other things. Hm. I wonder if rises in crime rates could have anything to do with the fact that the police now have more guns?]

11:09 BST: permalink
On the blog

Patrick is back at Electrolite, with lots of hot items, such as this romantic interlude in British politics, and the news that Glenn Reynolds has noticed that the excuse for Michael Powell's evil plot seems to be disappearing - the Super DMCA bill could even take your Internet away. But Glenn still makes excuses for media concentration, alas.

Scoobie Davis phoned Matt Drudge on the air to tell people who live in glass houses not to throw stones. In the article below it, Scoobie has lots of fun stomping on Bill Bennett.

Lots of good stuff from Max, like: "Second- (third?) tier Fox blabbermouth Neal Cavuto erupts at Krugman for suggesting that NC mingles news reportage with partisan commentary. I disagree with PK; I see no news reportage going on." Also, do keep up with the Galloway watch. (While I don't really consider the Mirror a great news source, the whole thing still smells of another stupid ploy by the security services. Really, you wouldn't believe some of the moronic ways they come up with to discredit lefties.)

Sam Heldman: I find that I am not much of a blogger these days. Here's what made me realize this fact, with the most clarity. When I read the article in Slate a couple of days ago, proposing that jurors be fined for reaching the "wrong" verdict and financially rewarded for reaching the "right" verdict, the fullest extent of my thinking about the article was, "that's the stupidest damn thing I've ever read in my life." I was right, of course, and I make no apologies for reaching that conclusion, in my own mind, with so little internal deliberation or fancy exposition. But it doesn't make me much of a blogger, does it? Surely the least I could have done, would be to write a hundred words or so about it. Please accept my apologies for my failure to have done so. Sam continues to keep an eye on Bill Pryor, nominee scumbag, too. (And hey, did you know there was a SCOTUSblog?)

CalPundit:The ignorance of Americans about the real world never ceases to amaze me. Ask them what percent of the population is black and they guess it's about a third. Ask them how much they pay in income taxes, and they figure about 50%. Ask them how big the foreign aid budget is and they're off by a factor of 24. This was preceded by another post that covers similar ground. It's not just Americans, you understand; everyone has strong opinions on subjects they know nothing about, and few people see any reason to find out the facts before holding forth on these things. Also see this fine post on how little rich folk really pay for the public welfare and how sad it is that they begrudge even that. (I would add: Yes, that money does benefit them - what we spend on the public welfare increases the safety and stability of our society, whether libertarians want to admit it or not. It ain't charity, it's enlightened self-interest.)

At Rittenhouse Review, Jim marvels at David Frum's theory that we need to privatize fish in order to save them. ("We have to figure out a way to make wild species somebody's property....") Hm, I can see where this is going: "Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish for your privatized species, and he will have to pay you for his catch."

Check out the LiberalOasis interview with Dr. Dean, and also the item asking, "Is Dubya The Next Jimmy Carter?". (Bill also has a link up to an old article from The Sideshow, but you might get more traction using this link.)

Wednesday, 21 May 2003

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The view from Pandagon:
As It Turns Out, Racists Actually Are Morons

This entry over at Silver Rights boggled my mind, if only because of an experience I had on Thursday.

People who are racist may suffer a temporary lapse in mental capacity after interacting with people who are members of a racial minority.

Researchers from Princeton University and Dartmouth College found that white people with a high degree of racial basis (sic) experienced a decrease in "executive function" after spending time talking with black people. Their research appears in the May issue of Psychological Science.

Last Thursday I was at a store in Delaware, buying "spirits", shall we say. I had two bottles in my hand - one Skyy, one Grey Goose. A clerk comes up to me, as I'm picking between fairly expensive vodkas, and asks me if I'd like to know where the malt liquor is. The first thing that came to mind was Dave Chappelle's joke from "Killing Me Softly": Have you ever had something so racist happen to you that you just can't say anything? I couldn't, and stutteringly waved him off as my friend came up with the cart.

This study has just given me license to call anyone even remotely racist an idiot without it being an ad hominem. Well, more license, at least.

I think I would have fallen over laughing if I'd seen this happen. But, gosh, I read somewhere that racism was, like, over, y'know? Could that have been wrong?

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Paul Krugman:

The administration's antiterror campaign makes me think of the way television studios really look. The fancy set usually sits in the middle of a shabby room, full of cardboard and duct tape. Networks take great care with what viewers see on their TV screens; they spend as little as possible on anything off camera.

And so it has been with the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bush strikes heroic poses on TV, but his administration neglects anything that isn't photogenic.

I've written before about the Bush administration's amazing refusal to pay for even minimal measures to protect the nation against future attacks — measures that would secure ports, chemical plants, nuclear facilities and so on. (But the Department of Homeland Security isn't completely ineffectual: this week it helped Texas Republicans track down their Democratic colleagues, who had staged a walkout.)

The neglect of homeland security is mirrored by the Bush administration's failure to follow through on overseas efforts once the TV-friendly part of the operation has come to an end. The overthrow of the Taliban was a real victory — arguably our only important victory against terrorism. But as soon as Kabul fell, the administration lost interest. Now most of Afghanistan is under the control of warlords, the Karzai government is barely hanging on, and the Taliban are making a comeback.

Senator Bob Graham has made an even stronger charge: that Al Qaeda was "on the ropes" a year ago, but was able to recover because the administration diverted military and intelligence resources to Iraq. As former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's in a position to know. And before you dismiss him as a partisan Democrat, bear in mind that when he began raising this alarm last fall his Republican colleagues supported him: "He's absolutely right to be concerned," said Senator Richard Shelby, who has seen the same information.

Senator Graham also claims that a classified Congressional report reveals that "the lessons of Sept. 11 are not being applied today," and accuses the administration of a cover-up.

Still, we defeated Saddam. Doesn't that make us safer? Well, no.

Of course, everyone knows this now, and no one has any excuse anymore for defending this administration's performance unless they have been hiding in a cave somewhere. Nevertheless, the righties persist in talking as if our refusal to support the shambles that calls itself an administration is some sort of pathological partisanship on our part. When the right raged against Clinton's supposed dictatorial and criminal actions without any evidence that he had any such past or intentions, that was perfectly rational, but when Bush is actually, publicly doing those things and worse, we're crazy to criticize him. It never crosses their minds for a minute to think that perhaps their continued inability to acknowledge the facts, their persistent need to come up with rationalizations for Bush's activities, is what is truly irrational.

Ted Barlow is kinder than I would be; it's no longer simply a matter of conservatives having different beliefs about effective forms of government, but the manifest indifference they show for the very things they said were important only a few short weeks ago. If they ever thought those things were important, what is their reason now for their lack of interest in them? These people gloated over the fact that the United States was able to beat Iraq in a war as if liberals had ever claimed we couldn't, but at no time have they acknowledged that we were right about our real qualms about the invasion, which have proven to be much closer to the case. The simple fact is that if the Bush administration really believed Saddam had the kind of weapons they said he had, and posed the kind of threat they said he did, it was insane to attack him and thus provoke him to use them or - worse - allow them to fall into even more dangerous hands. If they didn't believe it, they had no excuse for going after him based on his alleged (but unproven) possession of WMD, and should have allowed the inspections to continue unhindered. When Bush stood on that aircraft carrier and announced that he'd won the war on terrorism, only an idiot could fail to notice that this was a bit premature. And hey, look, it didn't work! Terrorists are still attacking Americans.

Tell me, what is preventing conservatives (and other pro-invasion types) from admitting that liberals who said, over and over, that Bush cannot be trusted to handle this situation were right? I figure these guys are either drinking toxic amounts of alcohol or someone is paying them an awful lot to make this stuff up - or maybe both. But maybe they are just so superstitious that they cannot help themselves. Still, the only thing that is really consistent about them is their certainty that liberals are bad and wrong, and this usually borders on monomania (when it doesn't entirely cross that line, which it frequently does). In the circumstances, that really fits categorization as insanity.

Jeff Cooper is merely amused at this stuff, but he takes it apart nicely. Still, he, too, is kinder to them than they deserve. Aside from the aristos and theofascists, there is no one who is actually benefiting from the way Bush is running the country, and most of us are endangered by it. If you belong to the first two categories, you are utterly anti-American and worthy of no intellectual defense; if you belong to the latter category and still think there is any defense of Bush, you're deluded. It's pretty simple, really. There are certain things that sensible people do not do. We do not set our houses on fire, we do not seek out winos in the park for sex, and we don't support the Bush administration.

13:25 BST: permalink
Hugo worries that Google is planning to split weblogs off from the main search in the same way Usenet was.

Faux Pax Americana

Put religion in schools or lose funding.

Still no evidence on passive smoking

Gen. JC Christian, Patriot, says: "The sad thing is that feminism has taken such a strong hold in this country that many people want to now blame rape on the men who commit it. Can you imagine that?"

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn to be outlawed.

Thank you to all the nice people who wrote and said they like to read The Sideshow even though I don't cover as much ground as Atrios does, either because knowing me adds an extra dimension or just because they think it's good. Your remarks have been "noted in the building".

Tuesday, 20 May 2003

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Clarence Thomas gives crummy commencement speech.

The Daily Dystopian - in case you were feeling too cheery.

Ari the liar resigns ("He had a long list of fallback lines: "I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals." "I'm not at liberty, unfortunately, to say right now." "I'm not in a position to give you that information."); and so does Blair's press secretary. Spooky.

15:43 BST: permalink
More reasons to love Atrios

I sometimes feel like there's hardly any point in quoting Atrios, since everyone reads him anyway. I often feel like I needn't cover issues he's covering, for much the same reason. Only then someone will send me e-mail saying they read The Sideshow because it loads a whole lot faster than all those things on Blogspot, or someone will walk up to me at the pub and say, "I have to read your page to find out what's really going on," and then I feel deeply remiss that I haven't cited damn near everything Atrios has linked, 'cause that boy really does have a knack for finding stuff. But he's not just a heavy linker, and when he writes, that's when we see what he's really about. A lot of people mistake his sometimes gadfly-clown tone for radicalism - you get the feeling he'd have gotten along fine with Abbie Hoffman. But he's actually a fairly clear-eyed centrist (in the real sense of the word) - he's probably a little bit to the right of me - and we could really use a whole lot more commentators with his eye for the heart of the debate. The Republicans survive by muddying the discourse with a lot of bumper-sticker distortions, and there's a great deal to be said for someone who can point out the obvious and bring things down to earth, as he did last night:

Isolation vs. Intervention

Arthur Silber wants to know why conservatives are, in theory, isolationists when it comes to domestic economic policy (or non-interventionists) but interventionists on foreign policy and why liberals are the opposite.

First of all, even ignoring the problems of over-generalization that I know Arthur is well aware of, in this century liberals have been, for the most part, interventionists in foreign policy, with conservatives in the Pat Buchanan mold being the isolationists.

But, aside from that I think it's just a faulty comparison. Minor interventions in the functionings of markets in order to (in theory) make them more competitive and deal with externalities, contracting problems, and assorted rigidities (I rarely hear many calls for the dismantling of the SEC) is something entirely different from thinking one can spread democracy by the sword.

Liberals aren't the statists we're painted as, aside from some minor appropriate interventions, most of us just think that contrary to the rhetoric from the other side the rules of the game have been rigged for the wealthy and powerful, and they have all the refs in their pockets. Or, another way to put it - government intervenes all the time, but from steel tariffs and agricultural subsidies feeding the pockets of large corporations down to corrupt town planners and zoning officials, it just tends to intervene in favor of the winning team. Plenty of industries - from oil to pharmaceuticals to aerospace to advanced electronics, etc... etc... - have lots of "special rights" and cozy relationships with the federal government. And, at the more local level plenty of wealthy developers have cozy relationship with state and local officials.

It's wrong to think that liberals are somehow enamored of government while conservatives aren't. It is true that conservatives and Republicans have adopted libertarian rhetoric, but aside from cutting taxes on capital and bringing down top marginal rates, there's very little follow-through elsewhere.

This is, of course, as plain as the nose on my face, which is why it's so annoying that no one else is saying it.

I used to explain to people that I have no imagination. If I had imagination, I would write science fiction novels.* Since I don't have imagination, I am perpetually astonished at some of the bizarre "explanations" people come up with for why we should all walk around behaving in ways that are completely contraindicated by the facts. I mean, I've still never gotten over the stupid idea, forced on me in grade school, that little girls should walk around bare-legged in freezing weather, even when there is snow on the ground at least as high as their knees. I didn't have the imagination to figure out why my elders, who put unwieldy mittens on my hands because it was not good for me to get cold, would nevertheless insist (over my objections) on sending me out half naked. And when I pointed out that this made no sense, I was accused of having "quite an imagination". Well, I don't. No more than I have the imagination to go along with the fantasy that Atrios takes issue with above, or the fantasy that the Republicans are fiscally responsible, or the fantasy that this administration is lowering "our" taxes or protecting us from terrorism, or the fantasy that George W. Bush won the 2000 election. It just takes too damn much imagination to believe that stuff.

[*I love good sf & fantasy - as long it doesn't try to pretend to be anything other than fiction. I'm currently reading Steve Brust's Paths of the Dead, which is hilarious.]

Monday, 19 May 2003

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Eyeball news

Today the docs looked into my eye and were very pleased. I can actually read more than the predicted top two lines of the eye chart. They say it is unlikely to get worse and in fact will probably improve at least a little in the next year or so. That was very nice to hear.

In other extremely local news, I'm looking really good in a tight t-shirt again, and feeling lighter than air.

(You know, it's really conceptually strange to be looking out at the world and able to see stuff going on inside your eye.)

22:37 BST: permalink
The Washington Post Ombudsman does it again!
I have long been an admirer of the Times. It is, in many respects, the best there is. But not in all respects. My view is that the paper is prone to bouts of hubris, an arrogance caused by excessive pride. In a follow-up message to the staff last week about the paper's determination to take corrective action, Executive Editor Howell Raines talked about the Times as "this irreplaceable national institution."

Well, yes, but maybe it's best to let someone else say that or think that. The Post is also an excellent newspaper, but it is more humble, doesn't consider itself an institution and is a quite open and scrappy place. And while it does not have the Times' breadth, it is often first with a lot of big stories. It also learned a lot, and changed a lot, after the Janet Cooke affair.


Meanwhile, Needlenose nails it:

The emperor's the only one who thinks he's wearing clothes

Amid all the breast-beating about the Jayson Blair fiasco in the media, with a raging debate over how badly Blair's dishonesty has tarnished the credibility of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times steps up this morning with an impertinent question: What credibility?

It turns out that Blair got away with his inaccuracies and outright fiction for so long because the subjects of his stories had come to expect such sloppiness from even the most prestigious media outlets. The article adds that they're not alone:

Just 21% of Americans believe all or most of what they read in their local papers, according to a poll last year by the Pew Center. In another survey, the center found that 45% believe news stories are "often inaccurate."
What's worse, the article explains that even those who did feel wronged were intimidated out of their complaints -- because no matter how bumbling they're perceived as being by the common public, outlets like the NYT remain seemingly convinced of their own infallibility. (Gene Lyons' Fools for Scandal has a lot more to say on this subject.)

Or perhaps it's that, being all too aware of their inability to live up to journalism's lofty ideals, they've adopted a Wizard of Oz-like bluster to scare off the questions they don't want to answer.

And in comments, a reader writes:
Do you really think any of this will matter in a few years following Michael Powell's imminent deregulation of the media? Just how in-depth, balanced and researched d'ya think articles coming from post-acquisition Clear Channel/NYT and Fox/LA Times papers are gonna be?

Or how about an MSNBC/Washington Post simulcast of Michael Savage's fascist vitrolic across AM/FM stations countrywide, complete with an accompanying column piece in every morning paper?

And you're writing that letter to your reps about that little thing, right?

21:16 BST: permalink
Teresa Nielsen Hayden has found many amusing things - and I enjoyed watching them blow up that inflatable church on TV.

20:55 BST: permalink
From Monkey Media Report
This short history of U.S. ballot access laws (from Ballot Access News publisher Richard Winger) will get you in the mood for my column in tomorrow's Indy. It's a look at how the co-speakers in the NC House worked together (in rather slimy fashion) to kill the Electoral Reform Act. Here's a chart that debunks the myth of overcrowded ballots. And here's where you can find information about the protest being planned by the state's Green and Libertarian parties, to be held in front of the Legislative Building next Tuesday, May 20, at 10am. More here [pdf].

07:31 BST: permalink
This middlin'-okay review of The Clinton Wars ends on an annoying note:
Blumenthal's book may do more to stir old controversies than settle them. But participants in the Clinton wars would do well to understand that re-fighting 90's battles will be of less benefit to the country than detached analysis explaining how we can avoid future unproductive quarrels over the personal weaknesses of our presidents. Still, for anyone who wants to revisit the political acrimony of the Clinton years, Blumenthal's book is the place to begin.
There are several things wrong with this, not the least being that far too few people would be likely to read the alternative book, and not without good reason. No thanks for continuing to tell us to "get over it." Liberals aren't just "re-fighting" old battles, we are trying to get the truth out to a public that still doesn't understand what has happened to us and is continuing to happen. They don't understand it because the media has been a significant contributor to the dissembling and made little attempt to inform the public. I guess The New York Times wouldn't want to help illuminate that story. (And it's "'90s", not "90's", dammit.)

Update: The Daily Howler had the same reaction to that paragraph, and went to town on it.

07:15 BST: permalink
Sasha says:
It's About Time
Finally a coalition of 32 publishers, authors, librarians, and booksellers told Congress they didn't like the Patriot Act. The Boston Globe reports that they signed a statement endorsing a Bernie Sanders (I-VT) bill that would exempt bookstore sales records and library borrowing records from some provisions. For the most part, though, it would not remove the ability of your friend and mine, General Ashcroft, to swoop down and demand to know what we have read but includes provisions for more judicial oversight.

I hope this works out soon. I'm sick of paying cash for all my books and being careful what ends up on my library card.

Sunday, 18 May 2003

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Media Access Project provides a little refresher on why you should be kicking up a storm about media consolidation:
In 1945, the Supreme Court declared that "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." As the federal agency charged with regulating the mass media, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has long had rules in place to promote "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources."

Over the years, however, many of the rules designed to foster production of independent news and entertainment have been weakened. Today, only a limited number of rules remain that prevent any person or company from owning all of the media outlets in a small or medium sized city or from owning media outlets that blanket the country. Already Congress has virtually eliminated the rules restricting radio ownership to allow a single company, Clear Channel, to own radio stations in every market and own the majority, if not all of the radio stations in any single market. This lets Clear Channel select music based on whether artists pay Clear Channel promotional fees or whether Clear Channel agrees withy their politics or message. Clear Channel’s cost saving measures and "efficiencies" have virtually eliminated local music and local news, relying on national play-lists, centralized news services, and technology that allows central programmers to add local "color" at delivery. Clear Channel also determines which talk show hosts get syndicated on its stations, ensuring carriage of one point of view in every market to the virtual exclusion of all others.

Radio provides an object lesson as to what can happen to television, cable and daily newspapers. But the handful of rules limiting ownership have come under attack from the Republican FCC and conservative justices on the D.C. Circuit. The FCC has now proposed repealing the following rules: Newspaper-Broadcast Cross Ownership, which prevents a company from owning a daily newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market; National Ownership Cap, which limits the number of television stations a single entity can own to coverage of 35% of the country; Cable Ownership Cap, which limits the number of cable systems an entity can own to 30% of the country; Dual Network Rule, which prevents major networks such as CBS and ABC from owning each other; and Local Ownership Limits, which limit the number of television or radio stations an entity can own in a given market.

And I've just noticed that for about a fiver, will hand-deliver your letter to the Hill. If you don't know who your reps are, use their zipcode search to get the info. But if paying for hand-delivery seems like over-doing it, don't bother to e-mail them - go to their own individual sites to get their fax numbers or their snail-mail addresses. You still have 'til the end of the month but the sooner you do this, the better - and e-mail just does not have the impact of hard-copy. (If you have good handwriting, by the way, a simple, hand-written letter can be very effective if it's not too long.)

23:20 BST: permalink
Under their control of the Congress, the Republicans had shown that they did not want--indeed, did not understand--an enlightened program. They did not understand the worker, the farmer, the everyday person. Theirs was an unreasoning, emotional resistance to progress. Any legislative proposal to improve the lot of the general public, in working conditions, health risks, or long-range social seucirty, aroused their opposition. Most of them honestly believed that prosperity actually began at the top and would trickle down in due time to benefit all people.
The Republican Eightieth Congress, in control of national legislation for the first time in fourteen years, had managed to reverse the sound democcratic policies of collective bargaining, social security, rent controls, price controls, and other instruments of government designed to insure quality of privilege for the great majority of people. Instead, the Congress had ignored the repeated recommendations of the President and had yielded to the pressures and lobbies of special privilege in housing, in prices, in taxes, in agriculture, in labor and industrial relations, in foreign trade, and in virtually every other major field ofnational and international policy.
The Eightieth Congress, in short, had shown taht the Republican party had always been, and continued to be, the party of special privilege. This is why I made it clear in every one of my campaign speeches that in reality there was just one issue for the people to vote on--the choice between special interests and the public welfare.
-- From 1946-1952: Years of Trial and Hope (pp. 202-205), Harry Truman

14:04 BST: permalink
Josh Marshall on the nefarious Republicans in Texas:
It now seems clear, from all that we know, that the Department of Homeland Security was probably guilty of nothing more than being duped into getting involved in Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick's effort to track down and arrest the Democrats in the Texas House. Homeland Security's refusal to release the transcript of the call from the Texas state trooper which got Homeland into the act doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence. Nor does the fact that they're holding back the transcript so that the matter can be investigated by, to quote the Times, the "agency's acting inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin, a Houston Republican who is well known among some of the same state lawmakers in Texas who wanted the plane tracked down." (Tom DeLay's district is in the Houston suburbs.)

But let's drive down to the real issue here.

What the Speaker of the Texas state House of Representatives does is a matter for Texans to deal with. But what the House Majority Leader of the federal Congress does is a matter of national concern. And it seems quite clear that Tom DeLay had some role -- probably the leading role, but certainly some role -- in pushing for federal law enforcement officials to get involved in the manhunt. (In a run-down of the incident on CNN, Bill Schneider said "that Texas authorities had followed up on DeLay's suggestion and asked the feds to help round up lawmakers on the lam.") For a slew of different reasons, that should be investigated -- not least of which is that the fact that this stunt raises real questions about the man's balance, sense of propriety and, frankly, respect for constitutional government.

Who did he talk to at the Justice Department? DeLay's spokesman said DeLay spoke to someone at Justice. Who? What did he ask them? And what did they say? What role did he have in getting the leadership of the Texas state House to bring in the Feds in the first place?

13:29 BST: permalink
From A Level Gaze on Cheney's corruption:
Sometimes it helps to rephrase things

We've all heard about how Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton had been awarded the contract to run the Iraqi oil distribution system, without having to bid, without public hearings or any public oversight whatsoever, and contrary to initial Bush administration characterizations of the deal as a much smaller contract to repair and maintain Iraq's oil infrastructure. Apart from Henry Waxman, the news has caused barely ripple in the American public's consciousness.

Good thing we've got Chris Floyd around to put things in perspective:

Last week we learned that the U.S. administration lied about the extent of Halliburton Corp.'s involvement in the "reconstruction" of Iraq. Officials in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush initially claimed that Halliburton -- the oil and defense services conglomerate once headed by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who still receives an estimated $1 million annually from the company in "deferred compensation" -- had been awarded a relatively small contract to repair Iraqi oilfields.

But in fact, as the Washington Post reports, Halliburton is now pumping and distributing Iraq's vast oil reserves -- a privilege potentially worth billions of dollars. The Bush camp freely admits that this was part of Halliburton's no-bid, open-ended contract all along; they deliberately "failed to mention it" in their first official notices. It was not publicly disclosed until a congressman read the fine print of the contract and began asking questions.

To recap: a firm that pays the vice president of the United States a million dollars a year has now taken over operation of Iraq's oil wealth. There have been times in U.S. history when such an arrangement would have been called by its true name: "corruption." But these are not such times.

(emphasis added)
The other night Rob answered a question about the current administration by saying something like, "The US government's been the victim of a criminal takeover," and everyone chuckled, until he said, "I'm serious!" And he's just an ordinary working-class Welsh guy who is, by the way, the most normal person in the world. He is famous for stating the bleedin' obvious. Well, folks, if it's obvious to Rob, why the hell isn't it obvious to everyone else?

13:10 BST: permalink
Found blog: The Chimes at Midnight makes up in verve and passion for a lot of novice writing errors. (Hint: double-space between paragraphs, spell-check, proofread!)

12:47 BST: permalink
I love Eric Alterman, but I'm completely with Atrios on this one. John Fund spread nasty rumors about people, including the rumor that Blumenthal was a spouse-abuser. He ran smear campaigns about the private lives of others from the pages of The Wall Street Journal. Now he's been arrested for being an abuser. But Eric is castigating folks for piling on to the poor, hapless, Fund. Then Media Whores Online, who have had some fun with this issue themselves, go all apologetic in support of Eric's position. But I think Atrios is exactly right when he says:
I'm not sure why Eric Alterman feels the need to defend the "gentlemanly" John Fund. The truth of the physical abuse charges should be known and publicized. And, if Fund is innocent of them - in a legal or real sense, then that should be understood. But, if I get arrested for domestic abuse my name gets in the paper. If I'm a public figure and I get arrested for domestic abuse, my name gets in the paper with a follow-up article or two. If I'm a public figure who tried to smear a political opponent with completely baseless charges of domestic abuse I can expect a little bit more than that - which Fund didn't even receive.

It's hard to see how Fund was exactly piled on by either the liberal media or the SCLM. And, the recorded telephone transcripts of Fund with his then-girlfriend make clear that he was engaged in pretty vicious psychological abuse - cruel, dishonest, and manipulative. The idea that Fund is just this gentlemanly fellow who was just the innocent victim of an unreliable unstable accuser is a ridiculous mischaracterization given what we know. She may be unstable and unreliable, but Fund isn't exactly the pillar of stability or reliability either, whether or not he's actually been physically abusing anyone.

Eric also makes some unjustified cheap shots against the Horse by claiming they've been increasingly going over the line. Actually, as a long time Horse reader I can say they've toned down the act quite a bit since the early days, not entirely a good thing actually. They're always far more careful with their analyses or facts than is, say, Instahack, and frankly no more strident.

A couple Village Voice articles and a few liberal web sites commenting on the arrest of a prominent member of the WSJ editorial page is hardly a massive media witch hunt. Frankly, there was scant coverage of his arrest. Given that the WSJ has spent years smearing political opponents - living and dead, major public figures and extremely minor players - with false accusations about their personal and professional conduct, shining the light on actual criminal charges against Fund hardly seems unreasonable.

In the end, I think people in the media have a tendency to want their own personal lives to be above scrutiny. Increasingly many journalists are justifiably called "public figures" much more than your average elected politician is. As the Funds of the world trade in gossip, smear , and innuendo at dinner parties, on the WSJ editorial page, or on any the various cable nets, they open themselves up to the same treatment. I'd never advocate being dishonest, unlike Fund, but whether or not he hit anyone Fund is a slimebucket who cruelly used verbal and psychological abuse to manipulate someone into getting an abortion. Defend him on the facts, but Alterman goes far beyond that.

David E. has some more comments.

Atrios brings up a very important point when he suggests that these journalists, having turned themselves into celebrities rather than principled purveyors of information to the public, can no longer claim the territory of disinterested parties who should be kept out of the limelight. These guys aren't just bylines anymore, they are players, and they are players who have created the environment under which players get the spotlight when they are even so much as suspected of screwing up. But we all know that if Fund were a liberal pundit, he'd be getting hammered by the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM) all over the airwaves. The new rule is that it's open season on all Democrats and all liberals, but we're supposed to pretend that the Republicans are "good" people and therefore not deserving of the same contemptuous treatment. MWO has made the point about Fund in the past precisely because this double-standard, which has actually infested the public discourse in a big way (e.g., Gore forgets who he was with on one trip to a fire site and he's a "liar", Bush lies about everything up to and including his own policies and he's an "honest, plainspoken" guy), has so corrupted the way even liberals perceive their own fellow-travellers. It needs to be counteracted, especially when the sins of the right are so much more profound than those on the left. There is nothing wrong with expressing our disgust when a guy like Fund goes all moralistic over a few blow-jobs and then turns out to be a worse man than those he attacks (just as we should be repelled when serial adulterer-divorcer Newt Gingrich pretends to sufficient purity to throw the first stone).

And, most of all, it's a good idea to remind people that if they are accusing us of something, they're doing it. Make them live in the glass house they built.

Saturday, 17 May 2003

19:07 BST: permalink

From The Hamster:
Why conservatives hate Buffy the Vampire slayer, besides its anti-Christian themes. It empowers women. Hollywood Reporter:
Virtually no one thought that the show with the funny name on the then-fledgling WB Network would ultimately become a critical darling and cult favorite. Yet somehow, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did exactly that during its seven-season run. With the series signing off next week, creator Joss Whedon spoke with Steve Hockensmith for The Hollywood Reporter about the show's legacy and what his future might hold.

The Hollywood Reporter: With "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" about to end its run, what kind of legacy do you hope the show will leave behind?

Joss Whedon: Honestly, I hope the legacy of the show would be that there's a generation of girls who have the kind of hero a lot of them didn't get to have in their mythos and a lot of guys who are a lot more comfortable with the idea of a girl who has that much power.

With girl power comes sexual revolution, then babies, then working out of the home, then poverty, then another generation of poorly raised kids ...
The Hamster is on top of the persecution of Christians, not just on Buffy but elsewhere:
It's a really scary time, according to David Limbaugh's new book, "Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging Political War Against Christianity."
* A Georgia school board, after being threatened with a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), deleted the word "Christmas" from the school calendar.

* A Frederick County (Maryland) school employee was prohibited from passing out Christmas cards at school because it "may not be a legally protected right on a public school campus."

* The ACLU went on the offensive when county road crews helped erect a religious sign along the highway even though no state funds were used for the sign and such crews regularly assist private groups when requested.

* The liberal double standard allows intolerance of Christianity, yet promotes non-traditional, non-Western celebrations, such as Kwanza.

* The liberal war against Christianity is a threat to the freedom of all Americans regardless of their religious persuasion.

Persecution is a wake-up call to lovers of liberty everywhere and a call to action to conservatives and Christians to defend the religious freedom envisioned and practiced by the founders.

So no Christmas, one religious sign on the highway, and promotion of Kwanza. Gee, Dave, my high school church school knowledge is a little rusty, but things haven't really gotten that bad since say, the days of Emperor Diocletian? How bout instead of writing a ridiculous thesis about a problem that doesn't exist in order to score political points for your Republican friends, you write a book about the Christian values that we're supposed to exhibit: love, honesty, community, that sort of thing. When Christian demagogues like David Limbaugh wonder why people are losing faith in them, maybe they should be looking at themselves and their rhetoric.
Personally, it just cracks me up whenever I see conservatives making lists of all the terrible crimes "liberal society" commits against them and the country, because they are always so, let's face it, trivial. This particular case makes me think perhaps it's time liberals started making up lists of the crimes conservatives have committed against Christianity. Hey, they don't call 'em "The Gospels" for nuthin', y'know.

18:20 BST: permalink
LiberalOasis reacts to DLC liberal-bashing. Look, this is what they always have done, folks. These guys are corporatists and always have been, and they've got Lieberman to boot. They've been as good as any Republican at trying to make the bulk of the Democratic Party sound like crazies, they always attack even marginally liberal candidates, and they always claim that anyone who is politically in the mainstream is "unelectable". Which is how we got into the position that LO mentions in an earlier post:
According to CBS/NYT, slightly more than 40% of Dems and Independents think of Bush as either "a moderate" or (get this) "a liberal."

(In fact, 20% of Dems call Bush a liberal, as opposed to 7% of GOPers.)

The Republicans didn't do this by themselves. The DLC should be regarded as no more than a fifth column in the party at best. It's time to get yourselves together and compose one whopping letter to your Dem reps and to your local party and tell them that if they don't get their act together, there'll be hell to pay. Tell them:
  • No more liberal-bashing.
  • No more bashing Dems who have a real chance of getting nominated.
  • Stop pretending Lieberman represents the party or the mainstream of our country.
  • Stop pretending that universal health-care is a fruity, out-of-the-mainstream idea.
  • Start calling Bush what he really is - an extremist conservative.
  • Quit attacking Hollywood content while sucking up to Hollywood on file-sharing.
  • Scream bloody murder about the lack of accountability in election machinery.
  • Stop Michael Powell's FCC giveaway - the FCC isn't just there to punish Howard Stern for using sexy language.
  • Stand up for working people.
  • Stand up for free speech.
  • Stand up for an informed America.
  • Stand up for public schools.
  • Stand up for our Constitutional rights.
  • Stand up for liberal values or get out of town.
This is serious business; if these people can't figure out what their job is, they should get another job. Tell them you'll be happy to help, because you know what primaries are.

14:49 BST: permalink
More places to click

Michael Tomasky says deception is SOP for the Bushistas.

Bob Somerby howls at the ludicrous attempts by members of the illiberal media to try to dissuade you from reading Sidney Blumenthal's book, The Clinton Wars. ("At the Post, for example, Al Kamen was shocked to see that a memoir of Blumenthal's years with the Clintons included photos of Blumenthal and the Clintons!")

Samuel G. Freedman in Salon asks Where's the liberal Rush Limbaugh? - and thinks it could be Mike Malloy. (Except that Malloy isn't lying.)

Mac-a-ro-nies and Silver Rights both explore how to be a bad blogger.

TBogg recommends Suburban Guerrilla, and I find it good, and I also find a link to a recent speech by Kurt Vonnegut which you will love. ("On what grounds did we protest their war? I could name many, but I need name only one, which is common sense."

David Horsey makes the point again!

Friday, 16 May 2003

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I'm finding the current format of Chris Nelson's Weblog a bit slow on download and hard on scrolling in my browser (is this just a local phenomenon?), but visually it's nice and tidy and easy to read. I admit, I'm not a fan of that sort of color scheme, but it looks okay. A few interesting items there you might want to have a look at:

Chris notes a good Bob Herbert article ("Americans should take a long, honest look in the mirror. We'll find that it's impossible to look good in the ugly garb of a colonial power.")

Chris reacts with outrage to this:

Gov. Jeb Bush ordered state lawyers Tuesday to seek the appointment of a guardian for the 6-month-old fetus of a mentally disabled woman who was raped, overruling child welfare officials who said such an appointment would be illegal.
And Chris is right to be outraged - this is a stunning development. From Chris:
Even though the rape victim is 22 years old, mentally disabled but competent (no one moved to declare her incompetent at her 18th birthday), Jeb has decided that he has to put the best interests of the fetus above the best interests of this woman!

You'd think that the Rightists would want to be a bit more subtle. Maybe starting out with something that (to their minds) is a bit more cut-and-dried. But they've decided to declare by their actions that not only should abortion be illegal, it should be illegal even if the woman is raped and mentally disabled. And they are doing this by the most despicable (and to my mind fascist) route of making the woman's unborn child a ward of the state!

What they're saying is this, folks, and don't mistake it: If you're pregnant (even if by rape), the state has a vested right in protecting the cells growing in your womb, and any harm against these cells is a crime against the state. If this manages to make it through the Supreme Court (and damn, let's hope it gets shot down a lot sooner than that!), what we're going to have next is registration of every pregnancy with the state, a government-approved physical regimen and diet plan for expectant mothers, weekly monitoring of the status of the pregnancy (or a fetal heart monitor), and murder charges against women who have abortions. Why not put them all into protective custody until they've given birth? In the case of this woman, that's essentially what they're asking for!

This is sick, outrageous, detrimental to the standing of women in America, a perversion of law and human rights. It subjugates women to state control in order to further a fundamentalist agenda. But it's just the first salvo. What's coming next should have us all very very afraid.

Not to mention that this is one more example of how all the "principled" rhetoric of conservatives is just stuff they made up to preserve their own view of how the rest of us should behave. They don't believe in "the rule of law", "states' rights", individual liberties, the Constitution, restricting "judicial activism", or any of that other high-sounding stuff - they just want to curtail the rights of women and minorities and give all the power - public and private - to guys like themselves. And this is from George's purportedly smarter, more presidential brother. Talk about your genejokes.

Chris also exhumes an article about a poll showing that a ridiculous percentage of Americans seem to expect to get rich. It's pretty clear that this belief is not a lot more realistic than assuming you'll win the lottery and be able to join the uberclass, but it's just this sort of thinking that those practical-minded right-wingers are exploiting in order to get away with policies that will obviously hurt all those poor suckers who for some strange reason don't hit the jackpot. (Yeah, everyone used to be sure I was going to be rich someday, too. There are still people who are just wondering when I'm going to be rich. Didn't happen, isn't gonna.) So we're supposed to believe it's pragmatic to support policies that will benefit us "when we get rich" rather than plan for a rainy day. I guess this is one of those lies Leo Strauss thought the elite should tell us because we "can't handle the truth" - although we managed to handle it just fine half a century ago. (And I'd link to William Pfaff's article about that from Thursday's IHT, but I can't seem to find it online.)

I can't think of a single reason why it's good for the country that people don't acknowledge that they might not get rich and might end up as, y'know, a bag lady instead unless there is something else available to catch us when those ships bearing our dreams sail out of sight.* We're being advised to throw caution to the wind, to leap without looking, to work without a net because we can fly - and told that those who fail do so because they just didn't believe in fairies hard enough.

Well, clap your hands, suckers.

[*Note to Jim: Yes, it's another line from Jackson Browne's "The Pretender", which you might even like.]

14:32 BST: permalink
Philip Bowring invokes that other Blair:
George Orwell, that patriotic English social critic, would be shocked. Blairite Britain offers more than passing reflections of his books "Animal Farm" on the corruption of power, "1984" on the manipulation of truth and "Burmese Days" on the corrosive impact of clubby elites, not to forget "Down and Out in London and Paris."

Start with the ridiculous, or what would be if it were not authoritarian and vindictive. A Blair government bill comes close to banning the environmentally sound pastime of hunting with dogs. It deserves the Orwellian subtitle "All mammals are equal but some are more equal than others."

Hunting of hare, deer, foxes and so on is either banned outright or tightly regulated. But rabbits are excluded. Setting your pet dog on a rabbit or your cat on a mouse is fine. They, like rats, are less equal mammals. Using birds of prey to hunt mammals of any sort is also O.K. You can kill almost anything with guns or worse, but using dogs to hunt foxes and hare is to be outlawed except in circumstances to be ordained by bureaucrats and committees.

Humans are allowed to slaughter deer, hare, foxes and other mammals, not to mention birds and fish. But hounds are not allowed to pursue their natural prey.

The Blair world is one in which laws are written to please social prejudices and the meat industry continues to treat animals with contempt. New Labour's upper class of gourmet lawyers and media acolytes prefer to condemn countryside sports than think about what was killed, and how, for their dinner parties. More serious distortion of reality to justify unsound policies has been seen in Tony Blair's desperation to get support for his alignment with George W. Bush on Iraq.

The documentation that Britain released recently combines the logic of "1984" with the competence of British train operators. Chunks of the supposed proof of Iraq's current threat have been shown to be cut and pasted from old reports and speculative analyses by academics and exiles.

This has further degraded Britain in the eyes of the world, and undermined the case for war. But it was typical of government by advisers who care only about tomorrow's tabloid headlines.

This cynicism of government in an open society may seem astonishing. But in the same week Blair was unveiling his half-truths on Iraq he was showing further contempt for democratic government. His plan for reform of the House of Lords calls for it to be entirely appointed. It is apparently too dangerous for a prime minister with a presidential view of himself to have to face an elected second chamber rather than one stuffed with retired politicians and bureaucrats and business and professional cronies.

Idealists in opposition normally become pragmatists in government, but the ideological about-turn within Labour has been stunning. People who once ran important civil society organizations supporting civil liberties and the welfare of immigrants are now ministers backing draconian infringements on liberties and harsh policies toward asylum seekers.

This is not just a reflection on individuals. It raises the question of whether such organizations are being run by people dedicated to principles or by opportunists using them as stepladders to political office.

Only a party of spineless time servers could follow Blair into war knowing that it was justified by exaggeration, was damaging to Britain's wider interests and was contrary to Labour's principles and to the wishes, say opinion polls, of the majority of Britons.

11:53 BST: permalink
Good stuff

Something about When Pasta Goes Bad made me think of Walt Willis. Probably just the fact that it's a damned good piece of writing. (Via TBogg.)

How to make a telemarketer cry (via Epicycle).

Josh Marshall has more on the Texas Dems, redistricting, and Tom Delay's heavy-handedness. Oh, and Molly Ivins has a few words about how, well, the Texas Republicans just went too far.

When the Media Fails (via Bartcop).

Elton Beard has perfected the shorter form. For example: "Shorter California Prison Guards Union: We strongly oppose inmate education programs, as prisoners who participate in them are far less likely to return to prison once they are paroled." The latest victim is Safire.

Streaming: This week on BBC World Service's The Music Biz, an interview with Led Zep's Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant.

Julian Sanchez muses on the libertarians and social conservatives.

Cartoons: "Lots of Heads of State dress in Military Garb" and The economy is in recovery.

Thursday, 15 May 2003

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Since everyone in the world is having such a good time with it, I keep forgetting to mention it myself, but I don't want anyone to miss out on the funniest political story of the year, so: The Republican-dominated legislature in Texas wants to redistrict to their (voting) advantage. Normally, as Josh Marshall has discussed, redistricting only happens as a result of a new census (that's every ten years) or when ordered by the court in aid of civil rights cases. Texas Democrats, in order to avoid letting this partisan outrage come to a vote, have apparently fled the state so there will be no quorum. The state of affairs two days ago, as reported by Kos:
Ha ha! Texas governor Rick Perry, desperate to drag hiding Democrats back into Austin to pass DeLay and Rove's re-redistricting plan, asked New Mexico for permission to send in Texas rangers to arrest those Dems hiding in that state.

NM's attorney general, Dem Patricia Madrid, slapped Perry around something good:

Her comments came after Gov. Rick Perry's office asked New Mexico whether it would allow Texas officials to make arrests in that state. Madrid said the question is being researched. But she wasn't taking it all serious.

"Some are speculating this request from the Texas Governor's office concerns an effort to locate missing Texas House Democrats," Madrid wrote. "If so, Texas should understand that since ski season is over, the Santa Fe Opera has not begun and President Bush was just in town, I don't think they are in Santa Fe now. Nevertheless, I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the look out for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy."

(For more of this phase of the action, see Charles Kuffner.)

I'm not sure it's funny when we get to this point, picked up by Atrios from MWO:

Texas Republicans use Homeland Security agency in California to track Democrats.

Oh man, these guys are unbelievable:

State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, said he believes that the dragnet went overboard when a Texas Ranger tried to find him Monday night at the neonatal unit of the Galveston hospital where his newborn twins are recovering -- in intensive care. Eiland said he called the agent on his cellphone and told him that DPS agents had already found him in Ardmore, Okla. -- where he and most of his fellow boycotters are in self-imposed exile.

"It's unnecessary, bordering on harassment," Eiland said. "Let the good guys go back to catching the bad guys and let the politicians deal with each other."

I'd like to see a little of that myself.

15:10 BST: permalink
Via Matt Yglesias I find a new weblog from the folks at I can't seem to find permalinks, but here's an entry that's right up my street:
Little Lies
Our favorite thing on The Washington Post op-ed page these days is the regular contribution from Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large of The American Prospect. "Apparently, Bush administration intelligence is to intelligence as Fox news is to news," Meyerson wrote in "Enron-Like Unreality" on May 13. "Facts are fine so long as they bolster the president's case."

On the same page on the same day, E.J. Dionne, Jr., under the headline "The Say-Anything School," wonders when the media will catch on to the president's habit of saying whatever will boost his agenda, facts be damned. Paul Krugman over at The New York Times has also been aggressive on this beat. Will other journalists catch on?

Dionne notes in the article that Bush was the guy who was supposed to be "the truthful candidate" back in 2000, according to the media, and yet they seem completely unwilling to criticize him for turning out to be the most bald-faced liar to occupy the White House in my lifetime - yes, even worse than Nixon. (Er, Dionne didn't put it quite that way.) However, I must disagree that Bush looked great in that flight suit. He has never looked "great" in any picture I've ever seen of him, including his flyboy costume shots, and anyway, Gore still looked cooler in uniform. That would be Al Gore, Jr., the guy who actually went to Vietnam, and was not AWOL during any part of his tour. I bet he looked cooler in his football uniform (captain of the team!) than Bush looked in his cheerleader suit, too. So there.

Wednesday, 14 May 2003

19:51 BST: permalink

Jim Henley reminds us (again) why "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is such a good rule. Well, now it looks like we broke it ourselves. Elsewhere, Jim muses on political co-optation and the difference between libertarians and Republicans. Unfortunately, he also quotes someone who hasn't yet heard the news that government didn't really grow all that much under Clinton, especially when compared with his predecessors or his successor.

19:33 BST: permalink
I keep meaning to ask Patrick and Teresa if all that weird stuff is going on outside their apartment.

19:16 BST: permalink
A lot of people don't get what it is about genetically modified foods that ticks so many people off; Emma is not one of them. As she notes, one really infuriating characteristic of Monsanto's product is that they want to completely eliminate the seeding process that farmers have always used - you can buy their seeds, plant their seeds, and benefit from one generation of their seeds, but you can't continue the line, because any progeny of the plants you grow are Monsanto's. Thus farmers are forced to continue to buy new seeds even though they could use what they've produced to provide seed for next year. Buying those first seeds has always been regarded as initial-outlay on an entire line, but Monsanto wants you to have to pay it over and over again. Emma says this is the bad side of capitalism, and she's right. You bought the seeds; their fruit is yours. Why should the new seeds be yours as well? Skimble has more, from this in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Now Scruggs is fighting in the courts, by word of mouth and just about any way he can. He helped form Save Our Seed, a farmers' rights group that advocates seed recovery as it has been done for generations.

"I'm opposed to what Monsanto's about," Scruggs said in an interview last week. "They're raping farm communities and breaking farmers, because farmers do not have any other place to go to get this planting seed."

The manufacturer says it is entitled to protect the value of its "intellectual property" and to recover research costs. It says those who violate the licenses commit "seed piracy."

Scruggs, whose family has farmed in Mississippi for more than a century, is among 73 farmers sued by Monsanto in the past five years on civil claims of patent violations. He countersued, saying that the patents are invalid and that Monsanto enforces a monopoly over the seed industry. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in Tupelo.

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Soundbitten is discovering Terry Southern, and a bit of irony, as well as what I'd be doing today if I were in New York.

12:37 BST: permalink
Short Story

It's a curiosity. I forget what the initial spark was, but someone was trying to introduce some stupid, anti-sexual sort of bill, and Clare Short stood up to heap ridicule on the idea. She said something about how even "Page 3 Girls" were a bigger problem. I suspect that, at the time, she didn't think they were much of a problem at all, perhaps a minor annoyance at best; her initial remark had the smell of sarcasm to it. But she got thousands of letters from women who applauded her for attacking P3Gs, and next thing you know, she was the most famous anti-porn campaigner in Britain, Campaign Against Pornography was born, and the Labour Party became even more committed to stamping out porn than the Tories were. But the odd thing was that in the moment of a single speech, Short had gone from defending a liberal position to spearheading a new version of a movement that was traditionally - excruciatingly - conservative.

Feminists Against Censorship has had our run-ins with Short over the years, and in that context she's always come across as a bit of a loon, but I've also done things like type up her articles about international issues and found her sensible, coherent - and, most importantly from my point of view, legible. (When you're working as a typist, you have a lot of respect for someone who can give you hand-written copy that needs no correction and is easy to read. Even back then, there was not a lot of that going around.) I've always suspected that the contrast between these two versions of Short was a result of the fact that her anti-porn position didn't really sit naturally with her other beliefs. But that seems to have happened to a lot of people.

Anyway, Short made a fool of herself when she threatened to resign over the war and then didn't, but maybe she was saving her moment - and her speech - so she wouldn't be overshadowed by Robin Cook's rather more impressive resignation. And, certainly, when she finally let loose, it was the big news of the day:

Aid minister Clare Short has stormed out of government, accusing Prime Minister Tony Blair of breaking promises on Iraq and savaging his "presidential" style of rule.

In a dramatic resignation speech to parliament, Short said she was shocked and ashamed by a British-backed U.N. draft resolution which would give Washington and its allies control over Iraq's post-war oil revenues.

"This resolution undermines all the commitments I have made in (parliament) and elsewhere about the reconstruction of Iraq," Short said. "Clearly this makes my position impossible."

In a blunt attack on Blair's near-total loyalty to U.S. President George W. Bush, she said Britain was "making grave errors in providing cover for the U.S. mistakes", undermining international law and increasing risk of terrorist attacks.
Short launched a fierce attack on Blair's entire system of government, criticising a "control freak" style, media manipulation and obsession over his place in history.

The centralisation of power in the hands of Blair and a handful of advisers meant power was being wielded with ever-decreasing accountability and scrutiny, leading to government by "diktat" rather than collective responsibility.

"Thus we have the powers of a presidential-type system with the automatic majority of a parliamentary system," Short said. Blair was "in danger of destroying his legacy as he becomes increasingly obsessed by his place in history," she added.

(Link via Epicycle.)

I'm not sure we'll ever really know whether it's his place in history, his personal security, or an actual desire to protect Britain from George W. Bush that has motivated Blair, but she's spot on about the rest. Of course, it's not the first time Short has resigned in protest, but there's a lot to be said for that speech, anyway.

01:28 BST: permalink
Paul Krugman jumps onto my favorite hobby-horse:
A funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view — something they couldn't find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC's director general, "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality."

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the war itself, and consider the paradox. The BBC is owned by the British government, and one might have expected it to support that government's policies. In fact, however, it tried hard — too hard, its critics say — to stay impartial. America's TV networks are privately owned, yet they behaved like state-run media.

What explains this paradox? It may have something to do with the China syndrome. No, not the one involving nuclear reactors — the one exhibited by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation when dealing with the government of the People's Republic.

In the United States, Mr. Murdoch's media empire — which includes Fox News and The New York Post — is known for its flag-waving patriotism. But all that patriotism didn't stop him from, as a Fortune article put it, "pandering to China's repressive regime to get his programming into that vast market." The pandering included dropping the BBC's World Service — which reports news China's government doesn't want disseminated — from his satellite programming, and having his publishing company cancel the publication of a book critical of the Chinese regime.

Can something like that happen in this country? Of course it can. Through its policy decisions — especially, though not only, decisions involving media regulation — the U.S. government can reward media companies that please it, punish those that don't. This gives private networks an incentive to curry favor with those in power. Yet because the networks aren't government-owned, they aren't subject to the kind of scrutiny faced by the BBC, which must take care not to seem like a tool of the ruling party. So we shouldn't be surprised if America's "independent" television is far more deferential to those in power than the state-run systems in Britain or — for another example — Israel.

He has a point, though I'm not sure I trust the US to be able to create public broadcasting in which the government keeps its sticky fingers out of programming. I've always wondered why this works in Britain when in America PBS seems just as corruptible as everything else. But in any case, what we have now doesn't seem to be working too well, and is about to get worse.
A recent report by Stephen Labaton of The Times contained a nice illustration of the U.S. government's ability to reward media companies that do what it wants. The issue was a proposal by Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax regulations on media ownership. The proposal, formally presented yesterday, may be summarized as a plan to let the bigger fish eat more of the smaller fish. Big media companies will be allowed to have a larger share of the national market and own more TV stations in any given local market, and many restrictions on "cross-ownership" — owning radio stations, TV stations and newspapers in the same local market — will be lifted.

The plan's defects aside — it will further reduce the diversity of news available to most people — what struck me was the horse-trading involved. One media group wrote to Mr. Powell, dropping its opposition to part of his plan "in return for favorable commission action" on another matter. That was indiscreet, but you'd have to be very naïve not to imagine that there are a lot of implicit quid pro quos out there.

And the implicit trading surely extends to news content. Imagine a TV news executive considering whether to run a major story that might damage the Bush administration — say, a follow-up on Senator Bob Graham's charge that a Congressional report on Sept. 11 has been kept classified because it would raise embarrassing questions about the administration's performance. Surely it would occur to that executive that the administration could punish any network running that story.

Eppy at Clap Clap Clap just did not like the sound of this at all:
This is just fucking evil. Plain and simple. This is not about wanting to hear Cat Power on K-Rock, or getting my zine into Barnes & Noble; this is freedom of the goddamn press. It's right there in the first amendment. It's important. This is not about McDonald's or Starbucks or Wal-Mart, because the right to local businesses is not in the constitution. Freedom of the press is. And fuck "deregulation"--this is a piece of legislation like any other that makes changes in the law, and those changes will, in fact, impose economic restrictions on the vast majority of press outlets, i.e. the small ones that are apt to be bought up by the conglomos. This is not an economic issue: this is a political issue. Laws are being passed that will result in further restrictions on the press, and these restrictions could be eased with regulation, since sometimes regulations are necessary to ensure freedom. That's why we have the government. This is not about ClearChannel not booking Steven Malkmus: this is freedom of the press. This is about news and how citizens are informed of the actions of their government, how they get the information that they will use when they vote for or against candidates, and in a country where the news media seems unable to challenge Ari Fleischer when he spews blatant fucking lies, this is a serious issue. This is about a governmental organization--the FCC--that is supposed to be working in the interest of the public trust to regulate the commonly-held airwaves, but is instead selling out that trust to the highest bidder, cutting backroom deals not with consumer organizations or congressional representatives but with one media monster against another. It's time we all started speaking out against the utter moral bankruptcy of the FCC, that we realized how important this issue is and started focusing on it and doing something about it to give our representatives the moral capital and political cover they need to mount an effective attack. These fuckers have sold us out for the last time. Now they're gonna go down.
I certainly hope so.

12:12 BST: permalink
Another weblog showing up in the Technorati list, Imperial Pint, by a guy called D. Sloan Morris (who seems kinda cool, except for the kilt part), discovers Atrios' unveiling of the drawbacks of homeschooling. He starts off re-quoting Kyle Williams:
I noticed a book by Nation columnist Eric Alterman, titled "What Liberal Media?" I picked it up but quickly put it back down. I'm sure Mr. Alterman is very sharp and intelligent, I can't imagine anything refuting media bias, considering that organizations like the Media Research Center and many authors like Bernard Goldberg have documented this as a fact.
I was gonna make fun of the idea that Bernard Goldberg is a bearer of Gospel Truth, but little Kyle's thesis is even more bizarre now that I look at it again. I mean, I know he's fourteen, but if I'm not mistaken (and I'm not) he doesn't even read Alterman's book. He "can't imagine" that Alterman's argument could exist so best not even to examine it. Home-schooling at its finest.

Oh my fucking god, I can't believe I'm picking on a fourteen year-old. I feel like I should brush my teeth with hot wax or something now.

So, on top of everything else, it leads you into temptation. But who can resist? As I understand it, this little doink gets paid to write that stuff. Presumably, as when I wrote for the Diamondback (and well past 14), DSM writes for the Columbia Spectator for nuthin'. It doesn't seem fair, does it?

(Okay, I admit it, I was also getting money from The Baltimore Sun at the time, but still....)

Tuesday, 13 May 2003

11:33 BST: permalink

Marc Wilson received an e-mail that describes my childhood - but I don't know if I also received it, since I delete a considerable proportion of my mail on the grounds that it's almost unreadable with all that HTML and MIME crap in it. More seriously, Marc disagrees with what he claims is the liberal position on the uninviting of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from the Hall of Fame celebration of Bull Durham. Marc thinks people are complaining that TR and SS had their 1st Amendment rights violated. Well, no - if that were the case, there probably would be a lawsuit involved. People are objecting to the fact that a non-political event was (a) politicized and (b) politicized by someone who (i) claims he was trying to keep the event from being politicized although (ii) for some reason he didn't have this problem about inviting Ari Fleischer to speak, previously. Criticizing the man who did this is not the same thing as charging someone with violating someone's 1st Amendment rights.

However: What we are seeing, increasingly, is a concentrated effort by wealthy and/or powerful people to suppress those views that contrast with those of the Bush administration, and doing so in both governmental and non-governmental venues that do not belong to them or to the Republican Party. By using wealth and position as well as misusing government, these people are being remarkably successful in ensuring that, while no one (to my knowledge) has actually been arrested for speaking out against administration policies, the vast majority of those who wish to do so are kept out of the limelight and those who want to hear them are deprived of their voices. And in the case of the Hall of Fame fiasco, Robbins and Sarandon were invited to celebrate Bull Durham, and as far as I can tell that's what they intended to do. They had not announced that they were going to make anti-war speeches. They were prevented from participating in the anniversary of a baseball movie, dammit, because the guy who was running things didn't like their politics. Similarly, no one is saying you have to agree with the Dixie Chicks, or that you should be forced to attend any anti-Bush rallies they hold. But Clear Channel is preventing their music from being played on the air because they made one mildly derogatory remark about George W. Bush. It's not as if they are doing that on every record - and radio stations, in theory, play music according to its standing in the charts, not according to the political views held by the artists.

Marc's argument is that while you have the right of free speech, you don't have a right to an audience. What he misses is that it's the audience that should get to decide that. The audience is being prevented from making that choice.

19:26 BST: permalink
Dormouse Dreaming has a longish post on Intolerance of ambiguity as it relates to politics:
One method for measuring IA, Jack Reis's IMA questionnaire ("Inventory for Measuring Ambiguity-tolerance") differentiates into areas of ambiguity, such as "IA towards seemingly insoluble problems", "IA towards social conflicts" or "IA towards future plans". This distinction is not particularly useful, but will be helpful in understanding some of the items below:
01. I like to travel to countries I don't know yet
02. I hate it when someone/thing surprises me
03. The relationship between teachers and pupils should be clear and hierarchical
04. I consider problems that seem insoluble a personal challenge.
05. People's clothing should indicate their sex

From these items it may seem that high and low IA can be mapped one-to-one onto the political positions of "conservative" and "liberal" respectively. This is however not the case. There are many conservatives who acknowledge that there are things they are not certain about (among bloggers e.g. Mr. Helpful and Tacitus) and liberals who are not afraid to make decisions even when they don't have all the facts. In general however, the latter practice is frowned upon by the left, and so I'm reluctant to name anyone.
I guess it depends on how you define "make decisions"; after all, opposing the war was also a decision. It was made by people who didn't know what the WMD situation in Iraq was, who did not pretend to know Saddam's intentions, and who by and large thought Saddam was a scumbag. It seems to me that the Bush administration and it's little friends defined "make a decision" as "make a decision to invade Iraq quickly," as they defined "do something about Saddam's likely possession of WMD" as "invade Iraq immediately." They thereby defined all other choices and actions as "doing nothing", even when those choices and actions involved a lesser but real, or simply later (and better fortified), use of force. Liberals advocated letting the inspection teams do their jobs (increasing the level of knowledge we would have), acting multilaterally (meaning we would have more support both politically and diplomatically - and militarily if necessary), rather than rushing in rashly. I don't recall anyone ever saying that there were no circumstances under which force should be used in Iraq, although many pointed out that there might be non-military alternatives. It seems to me that what conservatives were calling "making a decision" or "doing something" was what normal people would call "leaping up and rashly acting in ways that are foolish and at best premature." To a grown-up, this seems less like "being decisive" than like "being childish".

I'm a decisive enough person that I do the NYT Sunday crossword puzzle in ink, and I'm not so in love with ambiguity that I'll jump into any old hole without even knowing how deep it is. In the case of George Bush, I could tell he wanted to invade Iraq and didn't seem to have any doubts about this course of action, but since I had no doubt that he was lying about his reasons, that was a hole I was not comfortable jumping into. I feel reasonably decisive in saying, "Shine a light into that pit or I walk away now." The difference between me and Bush isn't that he's "more decisive", but rather that I've learned the lessons of Peanuts and the football - I know Bush is Lucy, and I'm not Charlie Brown.

Considering the Bush administration I think we all agree it has a pretty high IA, both in foreign and domestic affairs. To some this is a blessing, as it offers a sense of security after the 9-11 shock. While we certainly agree that this image of decisiveness is important for any politician, many on the left (myself included) are horrified by the thought that IA is not an impression the Bush administration creates, but that US politics are actually governed by a "no doubts" style of thought, which of course is inadequate in a complex world such as ours. And this IMHO is the bottom of the current rift in American society, were those on the right tend to enjoy the clear messages and neglect the dangers, while those on the left tend to focus on the poor handling of affairs and neglect the virtue of clear messages and the need of making decisions. (Note: this also touches on a recent discussion over at Calpundit about "heroes" and "visions" of the left.)
It's clear that Bush isn't going to listen to people who really disagree with him or who have priorities over and above loyalty to George W. Bush. It's also clear that the Democratic leadership still can't decide whether they are Republicans or Democrats. But that doesn't really tell us anything about the style of "the left", does it? Besides, I think you could make those same statements from the other direction - in fact, people on the right do it all the time, saying that the left is too sure of its programs to pay attention to unintended consequences.

I enjoyed reading this piece, by the way, and agree with a lot of what it says about Bush. But I'm not sure it's as clear about Bush's supporters. After all, there is a certain segment of the population that always supports "the president", whoever that is, and they seem to be the ones who really rely on hierarchy.

13:42 BST: permalink
Max says it all:
IMPEACH BUSH. [YAWN] The fraud underlying the war seems to get more obvious every day. This past weekend we had reports in the Post and elsewhere that the WMD search team was being rotated home, finding nothing, and that U.S. troops were ordered to march on to Baghdad, rather than guard a raft of nuclear sites that subsequently were looted. The evidence on Saddamist links to terrorism is equally thin. If Iraq was no threat to the U.S., why the invasion? To liberate their people? O.K. Who are we going to invade this week? There's a lot more work to do. How about Uzbekistan. There's a sucky government for you. I hereby condemn the wimpy, blame-America-First, anti-internationalist soft-on-Uzbekistan party. The people of Uzbekistan cry out for liberation. Where are you, how can you live with yourself. Sheesh.

Then there's the de-Ba'athification campaign. We learn it was completed the other day. Ba'ath Party members were compelled to sign a statement affirming their renunciation of the party. Then they could be put back to staffing the lower administrative echelons of the pre-owned Iraqi state. Once the game of 52-pickup is over, the old gang can get back to work under the American viceroy-du-jour. It's as if George Steinbrunner is in charge.

So all things considered, the case for impeachment against G. Bush seems to have a pile of evidence considerably higher than Clinton's erection. The difference I suppose is that nobody is putting up ten million dollars to pay a bunch of monkeys to push daily demands for Bush's head.

12:40 BST: permalink
It's definitely worth your time to click through the little commercial for The Well to get to Joe Conason's piece blasting former NYT editor Joseph Lelyveld:
It is kinder to assume that Lelyveld's misleading synopsis of Whitewater is simply uninformed rather than deceptive. But that isn't always easy, as when he insinuates that Whitewater dragged on until 1999 or so because of the Clintons' stubborn refusal to produce financial records. In fact, the Clintons were decisively cleared of any wrongdoing no later than 1995 by the Resolution Trust Corporation's exhaustive and independent investigation, which produced a multivolume report with appendices that Lelyveld should now be required to read in full. The first couple cooperated fully with the RTC investigators, providing lengthy interviews and thousands of pages of documentation.

12:02 BST: permalink
From Gregory Harris:
The amazing Hubble Space Telescope has captured the deepest visible-light photo ever taken of outer space.:

Monday, 12 May 2003

21:00 BST: permalink

More good questions about Iraq from Jim Henley:
Who Turned Off the Lights? - I'm asking because I don't know. Early in the war, broadcast reassurers showed us pictures of the illuminated Baghdad skyline at night to illustrate how precise the bombing was and how we were leaving Iraq's infrastructure untouched "this time" because we were going to have to fix anything we broke. (Note: the point was not to get people wondering how badly we damaged Iraq's infrastructure last time, or what purpose strategic bombing really served in a six-week limited war.)

Postwar stories, like this one in the Washington Post, note that

In Baghdad, many neighborhoods still lack electricity and running water . . .
But when and why did that happen? I don't recall any news stories that the US had started bombing infrastructure. (Mind you, I didn't follow all the war news obsessively.) Did I miss the memo? Or did something else take out Baghdad's utilities?

20:53 BST: permalink
The House of Lords has discovered spam, and Charlie Stross has discovered that some of them are even familiar with Monty Python.

20:47 BST: permalink
Jo Brooks is unhappy with the treatment of the Sexiest Character on Television. I haven't seen the later episodes yet, but I was particularly sorry to hear that KHC had cut his hair. *sigh*

Oh, well, at least there's still gonna be more SuperClark and Angel.

20:35 BST: permalink
In the mail...

From: Elaine Shinbrot
Subject: US withdrawal of inspection teams from Iraq

Please don't let this story drop! If all of you don't keep harping on it, the "mass media" will pass it on as another hohum story.

This is the most important story yet; it means BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSFELD, WOLFOWOWITS AND THE REST OF THE CABAL LIED. There's no denying it--there were, are no weapons of mass distraction in Iraq! And there it is for all to see if it isn't buried.

Removal of the inspection teams is as telling as was the Saturday Night Massacre and should result in the same remedy--impeachment. But only if you don't let it die.

So let's not let it drop. Earlier I quoted the first paragraph from Michael Schrage's article asking whether people who deride US failure to find WMDs are telling the truth. What I perhaps failed to stress was that it's the only good paragraph in the article. The rest is rationalization to the effect that it was really important to call Saddam's bluff. So what's that, an excuse to invade countries based solely on the fact that we might not know exactly how well armed other nations are?

It's classic Republican Party doublethink, of course. It was the White House, not Saddam, who was insisting that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam, you will recall, was insisting that he did not. The weapons inspectors were saying they hadn't found any, and given more time they might have given us a definitive answer to the question. It was Bush's bluff - Saddam is so dangerous to us, we must put a stop to him. It's simply false to be blaming Saddam for something Bush said.

America's so-called leaders lied about their reasons for invading Iraq, and it's become increasingly clear that they lied because they knew only idiots would support their real reasons: We invaded Iraq because George W. Bush and his friends just plain wanted to. Moreover, they are so shameless that they aren't even trying to hide what they're up to anymore - they know the media will never say what needs to be said.

The Republicans impeached a president because he didn't want them sniffing in his family underwear, but they said it was because he lied. Well they got him on one wholly insignificant lie, but George Bush does nothing but lie, his whole administration is nothing but a pack of lies, and they lie about things that get people killed.

They lied. They never cared about WMD. They never cared about liberating the Iraqi people. They never cared about keeping America safe from terrorists. They are out for themselves and only themselves.

15:17 BST: permalink
Hasn't Janet Cook's Pulitzer been restored, yet?

Well, they gave a Pulitzer to Maureen Dowd, who spent quite some time showing what she was worth by making up stories about Hillary's money-grubbing ways. And then there's Jeff Gerth and Michael Isikoff, who rose to fame and glory by pretending that the Clintons did something deeply shady in Whitewater. Then there's Richard Cohen, George F. Will, and the late Michael Kelly, none of whom could ever be relied upon not to get things utterly wrong. (And where's that crow Safire promised to eat if Hillary wasn't proven guilty?) And Seeleye and Simon, making things up like a house afire, committing acts of full-scale libel with impunity. Mike Barnacle did get removed from his perch, I seem to recall, only to end up with a higher-paying job. And then, of course, there is Tim Russert....

So the question is, why would any journalist at the NYT or The Washington Post - much less anywhere else - think, even for a minute, that they might be required to do real reporting, get the facts right, tell the truth? Unless, unlike those named above, but like Janet Cook, he was an "affirmative action" beneficiary.... See Atrios all over the issue of reporters who still have jobs.

14:29 BST: permalink
Michael Schrage has a real good question at The Washington Post:
Russian President Vladimir Putin openly mocks America's failed efforts to find chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq. The Euroleft proclaims the coalition's rationale for invading the country -- the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) -- a fraud. Top Iraqi scientists still swear that their country has no such weapons. No nukes, no anthrax, no VX gas. Are they liars trying to cut a better deal for themselves? Or might they simply be telling the truth?
Well, y'know, it could be....

14:14 BST: permalink
Eric Alterman wondered the other day what were good groups to support for lending aid in countries that are hurting (as opposed to proselytizing right-wing Christianists); his readers have come back with some suggestions. But I'm going to quote the letter from Phil the Pornographer instead:
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are standing out from the current NY "rock" pack because they're a band with a chick singer, in the middle of a wasteland of ugly-guys-in-bad-clothes bands. (The real Greatest Band In NYC right this minute is the Liars, who are in the process of recording their second album.)

I kinda wanted to like the White Stripes, but the guitar solo on "Seven Nation Army" sounds like a kazoo, and he really needs to find a drummer who can count to four.

I don't know anything about these performers, but the ugly-guys-in-bad-clothes thing does kinda bum me out. It's not that I've never loved a crummy-looking performer's work, but back when I came out of the house I was spoiled for choice when it came to great bands that were also eye-candy, sexy, hot. There doesn't seem to be a lot of that going around these days, judging from what I see on the music shows here. Some really unsexy-lookin' guys, though.

PS. Eric, "undue" is not a verb.

14:02 BST: permalink
CalPundit tackles the issue of whether "data" and "media" can now be treated as collective nouns. I agree that they are, but to me "medium" is already doing triple duty and a back-formation of "mediums" as a plural of "media" is gonna be hard for me to adapt to.

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Pat Oliphant sums up the politics in the issue of Bennett & his gambling problem. More seriously, Tapped spells it on the moral side:
Seriously, though, Tapped has found it amusing to watch Bennett's defenders parse the issue in Clintonian fashion: Well, the argument goes, he never actually spoke out against gambling, so he's not a hypocrite. This strikes Tapped as overthinking things a little. What you've got in Bennett is a dour prig who makes a living lecturing people about how we need to reign in our urge for self-gratification and how our seemingly unremarkable vices actually feed a spiral of societal decay -- and he's a compulsive gambler. Give us a break. Of course he's a hypocrite. There's not a truck driver or stockroom clerk in America who doesn't instantly grasp this to be true.

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Via Seth Johnson:

Sunday, 11 May 2003

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Another one found in the referrer logs, Hornberger's Blog, says:
"There they go again." Republicans, I mean.

According to an article in yesterday's Washington Post, the (Republican-controlled) Senate Finance Committee has endorsed more than 30 tax increases on certain groups of people in order to help offset the loss of federal revenues from President Bush's plan to reduce taxes on other groups of people.

That way, President Bush will be able to claim that he lowered taxes, and Americans, not understanding the nature of the scam, won't have any reason to accuse him of breaking his "So help me God" pledge not to raise taxes, as his father did when he was president with his pledge of "Read my lips! No new taxes!"

Of course, the real issue is not the level of taxes but rather the level of federal spending because, one way or another, that federal spending must ultimately be funded with higher taxes, either directly (i.e., the federal income tax) or indirectly (i.e., through inflationary debasement of the currency).

How are Bush and the Republicans doing in the spending department?

Well, as we all know, they are spending up a storm. And they aren't too consistent on some other matters, as well:
1. An addendum to the Gun Control section of today's FFF Email Update: Scott McPherson's FFF article "Guns and Privacy" has been posted on the website of Gun Owners of America.

2. U.S. officials have expressed their gratitude to the Iraqi lawyer who helped Private Jessica Lynch escape Iraqi captivity by honoring him with asylum in the United States.

Hmmm. Let me see if I understand the reasoning here.

Country A and Country B are at war with each other. Following the dictates of his conscience, a citizen of Country A opposes his own government by helping the soldiers of Country B.

Country B says that the citizen of Country A is a good and honorable person for responding to the dictates of his conscience, especially by having the courage to oppose his own government during wartime by helping the soldiers of Country B. ("Mr. al-Rehaief should know Americans are grateful for his bravery and for his compassion … his heroism."—Home Security Secretary Tom Ridge)

Hmmm.Well, what about a citizen of Country B who responds to the dictates of his conscience by opposing his government during war? Should the government of Country B consider that person to be a good and honorable citizen worthy of honor and gratitude or a no-good dirty traitor deserving of condemnation and even execution?

Or does the matter turn on which government is doing the judging — Country A or Country B — rather than on the existence of a character trait that is valuable independently of whether it is being exercised by a citizen of Country A or Country B?

In other words, if opposition to one's own government during wartime for reasons of conscience reflects a valuable character trait per se, then thanking and honoring the Iraqi lawyer makes good sense.

If, on the other hand, opposition to one's own government during wartime for reasons of conscience reflects a character flaw per se, then why is the Bush administration thanking and honoring the Iraqi lawyer for engaging in such conduct?

This raises another question: If honoring the Iraqi lawyer for following the dictates of his conscience and opposing his own government makes sense, then why are the Bush people displaying such enormous hostility toward U.S. citizens who did the same thing?

Indeed, at the same time that they're honoring and thanking the Iraqi lawyer for having the courage of his convictions, why are President Bush and his minions fiercely criticizing, condemning, or punishing the citizens of France, Germany, Russia, Mexico, and many other countries for doing exactly what the Iraqi lawyer did — follow the dictates of their conscience by opposing President Bush's war on Iraq?

And one I like to keep reminding people of:
During the current interlude between wars, we really ought to clear up this thing about needing to support our "commander-in-chief" during wartime. If you're in the military, President Bush is your commander-in-chief. If you're not in the military, he's not your commander-in-chief but instead your president. And as president, he's not our boss and we are not his servants. Instead, in our role as citizens, we are his boss, and in his role as a public official, he's our servant. The distinction is important because all too many Americans, especially military veterans, feel the urge during wartime to click their heels, salute, and blindly support and obey whatever decisions the president's makes rather than use reason and conscience to determine whether those decisions are moral, proper, and in the best interests of the country.
That's right: I'm his boss, he's my servant. He's just supposed to be a president, not a king. The Republicans seem to have some confusion about this.

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Eyes on the Skies

From Riba Rambles:

If you haven't heard, there will be a total lunar eclipse on May 15-16. The U.S. Naval Observatory has very generously provided a website in which you can enter your locale and it will tell you what times and locations to look. Pretty cool!
That'll be after 3:00 AM here.... Maybe I'll be up for it. There's also a partial eclipse of the sun on the 31st (annular up in the North of Scotland, but we'll get something down here, anyway).

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J at Silver Rights is spending a lot of time on issues related to transsexualism lately.

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China Miéville's top ten list (via More Like This - and it was great to see ya, Bill).

Saturday, 10 May 2003

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More sleaze from the GOP

What are they up to now? Kos is on the case:

I assume committee rules are easier to change, which is why Senate hypocrite Orin Hatch was able to easily change the "blue slip" rules twice to suit his political needs. But for something as drastic as eliminating the filibuster, it seems that things would be a lot more difficult.

But where there's a Senate rule, there's a loophole, so there's no way we can rest easy.

The filibuster is a good rule -- protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority, whether that majority is Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or anything else.

That the GOP would consider ending the rule for short-term political expediancy, and for the benefit of a couple of nominees, is telling.

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There's a bunch of interesting stuff at Rantavation covering the phony "crisis in our schools" (here, here, here and here, if Blogspot's links are working - search on "Resegregation" if they're not), but this one made me chuckle:
What I don't understand

For the umpteenth-million time, is why the rest of the Democratic Presidential Candidates do not understand the basic truth that Howard Dean keeps chanting over and know, the same one everyone has been chanting over and over...that you (ok, I'm going to turn up the volume here) CANNOT BE IN OPPOSITION TO SOMEONE WITH WHOM YOU AGREE. Hello, Senators Kerry, Leiberman, Edwards and Representative Gephardt--Agreeing with the Bush foreign policy and then attempting to oppose him in an election because somehow you're better managers is not going to work. Bush is already doing a bang-up job with his brand of foreign policy. "Being better" at managing that foreign policy is not exactly a positive statement. "Being better" at the worst foreign relationships this country has had since the 19th century is a double-negative. We already have someone in office that wants to make us the Most Reviled Nation--why change jockeys when the horse is dead?

Indeed. On the other hand, I think he's missed the point on campaign finance reform when he suggests putting a cap on how much each party is allowed to spend. That might have worked a couple-few decades ago, but what it would mean today is that after everybody had spent as much as they were allowed, they'd both be dependent on the mass media for any further dissemination of their message. The Republicans would be getting better advertising than money could buy from the largely GOP-owned media, and the Dems would have nothing to counter it. (He talks about "oversight" of the media, but I don't see how that can work. It's not as if Michael Powell is going to make them behave.)

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The Daily Howler is scathing toward Richard Cohen's ghastly articles, a TV pundit advocating beating a U.S. Senator with a tire-iron, and Bill Bennett's real, and significant, vice: lying.

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Thought for the day: The connections between the Bush Family Empire and Osama, Saddam, and Islamic terrorists are still stronger than the link between Osama/Al Qaeda and Saddam ever was. Shouldn't someone arrest those people in the White House?

Friday, 09 May 2003

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It's kind of sad that someone who writes for The Hartford Advocate didn't notice a long time ago what kind of a guy Lieberman has always been, but at least those wake-up calls keep coming in.
Lieberman's bait-and-switch
Alan Bisbort

Our purchase, er, senator, Joe Lieberman, ran as a moderate Democrat, strong on the environment and sensitive to his constituents' needs. But, in less than two years of his most recent term, he has walked away from the people who put him where he is and moved more to the right than many Republicans, save a few lunatics from Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho. I, for one, feel a victim of bait-and-switch at the voting booth. And, if I can't get a refund, I want a replacement. I want my vote back so that I can cast it for someone else, like, say, Richard Blumenthal.

This is sad, because I once liked Joe Lieberman. That Lieberman has changed can't be denied even by his most ardent supporters.

Indeed, to many former supporters, Lieberman has become a complete stranger. He didn't even make it to the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner last week, THE biggest social event of the year for his political party in his home state (see related story on page 10). Chris Dodd was there. So was Blumenthal, John Larson, Jim Maloney and ... hell, even Hillary Clinton was there. But Joe skipped it to hit a more lucrative fund-raising dinner in another state, to add to his "war chest" for his presidential run. Since a recent CNN/Gallup Poll shows Joe with a slight lead over the other eight announced Democrats, many people are beginning to wonder if the Bush Family Fix is already in for 2004 (After Saturday's debate, in fact, the media has all but appointed him the Democratic candidate).
Though we're told everything has changed since 9/11, that's only part of the story regarding Joe. He started changing the second he got picked by Al Gore as a running mate. The first inkling I had of this was the vice presidential debate against Dick Cheney. There sat Cheney, the fattest target imaginable, his skeletons practically shoving each other out of the way to see which could get out of the closet the fastest.

And Joe ... played ... patty-cake ... with this monster, a man who once voted against condemning South Africa for jailing Nelson Mandela, a man who built oil pipelines in Myanmar with slave labor, a man who cut oil deals with Saddam against President-elect Clinton's executive orders.

'Fraid he didn't change, hon, you just weren't paying attention. Why else do you think the Republicans, even as Al Gore picked him for the VP slot, kept carrying on about what a great man of integrity he was? Remember, that's how they described John Ashcroft, too.

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You really should be writing letters about this, you know

Yes, we're harping on this endlessly. Yes, it's not as exciting as some of the other stuff that's in the news. But it really, really is an enormous threat to democracy, free speech, and just about anything else that matters.

Showdown At The FCC

The Bush administration will soon hand the nation's biggest media conglomerates a new give-away that will concentrate media ownership in fewer hands. On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission, run by Michael Powell (son of Colin), plans to end long-standing federal checks and balances on corporate media power.

Companies behind the measure include the powerhouses of corporate media power: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp/Fox, General Electric/NBC, Viacom/CBS, Disney/ABC, Tribune Corp and Clear Channel. Once the rules are swept away, expect to see more mergers and buy-outs of radio and TV stations, major papers and even TV networks. It will then soon be possible for a single conglomerate to control most of a community's major media outlets, including cable systems and broadband Internet service providers. There will be fewer owners nationally of all major media outlets of communications.

Right-wing powerhouses are also likely to grow more powerful soon, unless opposed. Rupert Murdoch's Fox is planning to take over the country's most power satellite service, Direct TV. He will be able to not only control access to millions of households, he will use it as a "Death Star" to further expand his broadcast and cable TV empires. Meanwhile, liberals -- let alone progressives -- have no ownership influence over any major media outlet.

This is all happening despite the fact that growing numbers of the public are willing to stand up and express their unhappiness with the way media conglomerates are using the public airwaves. As Neil Hickey describes in "The Gathering Storm Over Media Ownership," in hearings across the country there has been a huge outpouring of public concern and anxiety about the direction of the media system.
The FCC's Powell is also promoting massive consolidation in cable TV and with online communications for this summer. Soon just two massive cable companies -- Comcast and AOL Time Warner -- may be legally permitted to own almost all of the nation's cable TV systems. And Powell has already removed critical safeguards that will enable cable and telephone giants to dominate high-speed Internet access -- which has alarmed the ACLU (and even other monopolists like Microsoft and Disney).

Sure, write to your media outlets and let them know how you feel, but write to your representatives, too. Let them know how outraged you are that they have permitted this theft of the public discourse to take place. (PS. If you want, you can blame Clinton for this one. He helped. And you can even write to Lieberman and demand to know why he was carrying on about Hollywood sex&violence while this has been going on.)

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Rep. Bernie Saunders (VT-Ind) in The Los Angeles Times
An unnecessary chill has descended on the nation's libraries and bookstores: The books you buy and read are now subject to government inspection and review.

After 9/11, the Bush administration, particularly Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, pushed hard for passage of the Patriot Act, which contained sweeping changes to our nation's surveillance laws and new intelligence powers for the FBI and other agencies. At that time of national outrage, Congress passed with little debate a bill the attorney general had crafted.

Few who voted for the Patriot Act — I did not — knew that among its provisions was one that gave FBI agents the authority to engage in fishing expeditions to see what Americans read.
Until the Patriot Act, the FBI had the authority to obtain bank records, credit records and certain other commercial records only upon some showing that the records requested related to a suspected member of a terrorist group. The Patriot Act expanded the FBI's authority in two ways. First, it gave the FBI the authority to seize any records of any entity. Most members of Congress probably didn't realize it, but this included libraries and bookstores. Second, Congress dropped the prior requirement that the FBI actually have some evidence that the person whose records it sought was a member of a terrorist group or otherwise involved in terrorism.

Now, one Patriot Act provision allows the FBI to obtain whole databases, including records of citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing. The FBI has a history of abusing its power: monitoring, keeping records on and infiltrating civil rights organizations, Vietnam War protest groups and others that had broken no laws but were considered controversial. Little has changed to prevent the FBI from abusing its powers again if it is left unchecked. The new powers appear to have been used already — a University of Illinois survey shows libraries were targeted at least 175 times in the year after 9/11 — yet the FBI refuses to explain how or why.

You might want to write to Bernie and thank him for trying to defend your freedom of thought. Oh, and be nice to librarians, they've been trying hard to protect you, too.

But, you know, this is also a security negative - not only are they collecting data they shouldn't have, but they are collecting too much data, and the more they have, the less able they are to focus on real criminal activity. Information overdose, you might call it. A lot of people really don't seem to understand how much securing a peaceful society relies on not letting the government stick its nose into everyone's privacy.

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From Talk Left:
Over 100 Towns Have Passed Anti-Patriot Act Resolutions The Bill of Rights Defense Committee reports that to date, one state and 102 cities, towns, and counties have passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act.

As Bush gets ready to unleash Patriot Act II on us, we encourage all of you to check in with this site and the ACLU to learn how you can mount opposition in your town.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is on the warpath again, trying to impose the death penalty in a state which doesn't allow for it. This time it's Minnesota.
Also the delightful headline, Texas Court Upholds Butt Search for Crack.

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In The Baltimore Sun, Greg Palast and MLK III write, Jim Crow revived in cyberspace:
Astonishingly, and sadly, four decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Birmingham, we must ask again, "Do African-Americans have the unimpeded right to vote in the United States?"

In 1963, Dr. King's determined and courageous band faced water hoses and police attack dogs to call attention to the thicket of Jim Crow laws -- including poll taxes and so-called "literacy" tests -- that stood in the way of black Americans' right to have their ballots cast and counted.

Today, there is a new and real threat to minority voters, this time from cyberspace: computerized purges of voter rolls.

The menace first appeared in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election. While the media chased butterfly ballots and hanging chads, a much more sinister and devastating attack on voting rights went almost undetected.

Thursday, 08 May 2003

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Does this quote from Get Donkey sound familiar?:

I'm finding it very difficult to write about politics lately, folks, and I think I have stumbled upon the GOP and the Administration's new methodology for stifling dissent. Gone are the days of just calling us un-American. The varnish has worn off that turd. Now the tactic is what I have called "Outrage Diffusion". The plan is to basically be so brazen, say so many off-the-wall things, and push so many ill-conceived and unfair policies that it becomes impossible to focus on any one misdeed. It's some kind of Rovian psy-ops, and you can't convince me otherwise, gang.
But surely this has been going on from the first day Bush took office, hasn't it? It's not a new thing. Why, just last week, South Knox Bubba provided a little list of Bush's accomplishments that go right back to the coup. Speaking of which, when questioned on that latter subject, SKB gave a detailed recap of 2000 election "irregularities, in case there is anyone left who doesn't get it:
There is overwhelming evidence of problems and irregularities with the voting in Florida. Anyone who cannot or will not acknowledge this is delusional. Here are just some of the basic "technical problems".
Go refresh your memory.

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Nick Kessler has finally made a post for the first time this month - a short one, but it made me feel better, 'cause it says the Democratic majority is still emerging.

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The Talking Dog introduces his new mission:
Well, at the kind suggestion of the Unseen Editor, who has given you our prior Israel obsession, and indeed, the (really popular) idea for the dog run's capsule summaries, we propose to be the new practical conscience of people of good will, i.e., Democrats. Wait a minute, TD, are you saying that Republicans are not people of good will?

Well, yes. If you are the kind of Republican who simply believes that government should get out of the business of trying to run people's lives, be it at home, or at work, or in the streets, and in order to do this, it will certainly be necessary to reduce what government spends, then you are MY kind of Republican. Of course, you are NOT George W. Bush's kind of Republican, so get the *&^% out of that party, and join me, because the Republican Party YOU believe in no longer exists. The new Bush-dominated GOP is now about banana-republic(an) style crony capitalism: corporate welfare, farm subsidies, free trade in word only, exploitation of labor and the environment for the benefit of the connected few (indeed, even exploitation of our armed forces; while not even I will go so far as to say the War to Liberate IraqTM was ABOUT the ability to let sweetheart reconstruction contracts, I will certainly say that connected insiders are sure to benefit from it).

As far as telling you how to live, it’s the DEMOCRATS that want to get out of your bedroom, and as we just learned from Rick Santorum and the universal support he got from his party, the Republicans who want to get right in there with you and tell you what you can and can't do, based on the whims of the GOP's own religious right "Taliban wing". Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

So, which political party presents the hope of a brighter future for the American people? You got it: the Democrats. Yes, there is an unfortunate pandering tradition in the Party of FDR. But that party showed, under its recent standard bearer Bill Clinton, that it can act responsibly fiscally, and more or less control its urges to spew out largesse to its faithful. The GOP, by accelerating both regressive taxes (which will NOT stimulate the economy, of course, as they largely won't even kick in for years!) AND keeping up corporate welfare, coupled with its unfortunate social policies of "we want to tell you what to do in your most personal aspects of your life" has shown us that unless you are a member of its select class of beneficiaries, it has nothing for you, and it has no discipline of any kind. The Democrats are even likely to be more sensible in terms of selected "deregulations"; the Dems are NOT wholly captive of "Big Labor" in the manner that the GOP is captive to "Big Business".

Wednesday, 07 May 2003

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Jo Brooks at thousand yard glare notes that the author of Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, has a new book out, Reefer Madness, in which he addresses the War on Some Drugs. Hmmm. But, frankly, I think I'd rather read Jo, especially on things like The lying, which got Jo into a nice lather.

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Just like they want to do at home

US tries limited elections in Mosul

The election, due to be held in a heavily guarded public hall yesterday, allocates 10 of the 18 council seats to the city's Arab majority, with three seats for Kurds, two for Christians and one each for Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Yezidis.

In a pattern likely to be repeated across Iraq, the members of the interim council will be chosen by an electorate of about 200 prominent local leaders, and ordinary citizens will not have a vote.

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Blah3 is back in the game on a nice new site and using Graymatter.

Small Flashes wonders what a "household explosive" is, and thinks it might not be a good idea for the Bush administration to do everything necessary to convince Europe that they need to become a superpower for their own protection.

Nigel Richardson obviously hasn't been paying attention all this talk about the Atkins diet. I took a couple of walks and danced a little in my room, Nigel, and I'm already losing weight again. Nyaa, nyaa, nyaa. Well, at least found that Thomas Pynchon article that "reclaims Orwell for the left".

Under a Blackened Sky finds the spies hiding in plain sight on the short-wave band, with a few words from Bruce Schneier.

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Media massage

Couple of interesting items at Seeing The Forest - for one thing, there's this to look out for: "I predict that the Republicans are going to start accusing the Democrats of exploiting 9/11 for political gain." Well, yes, that'd be about right for them. And then there's this:

A Good Statement Of What Happened To Us
An op-ed piece in the LA Times the other day, Media Monopolies Have Muzzled Dissent, has a good quote that shows what has happened to us:
The transformation of active citizens into passive consumers was enabled by the Federal Communications Commission under Ronald Reagan's Mark Fowler, who declared "the perception of broadcasters as community trustees should be replaced by a view of broadcasters as marketplace participants."
Community replaced by market. One-citizen-one-vote replaced by one-dollar-one-vote. That kind of sums it all up.

From the piece:

TV's Fox could not get away with its shameless shilling for the White House if the Fairness Doctrine were still in place, and radio's Clear Channel monopoly would not be able to impose wall-to-wall Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage, etc., on the public if broadcasters were accountable to public opinion rather than the dictates of plutocrats.
If Republicans try to tell you that the media is liberal, ask them why they oppose the Fairness Doctrine.
Meanwhile, Lisa English notes that we have strange bedfellows on this issue, in the form of the National Rifle Association. And more on the whole mess from one of the great link-finders in the blogosphere, Eric Alterman:
Nice profile of Moyers in the Christian Science Monitor.

And speaking of Moyers, he has been all over the FCC deregulation story. Here's his Barry Diller interview on media deregulation. For more, from the Columbia Journalism Review, here's Neil Hickey on the gathering storm over media ownership. And while we're on the topic, Eric B on Clear Channel's big stinking deregulation mess.

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Joe Conason sees an interesting new phenomenon:
As a newly declared candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Mr. Sharpton has garnered the chortling support of almost every conservative pundit in the nation. They’re suddenly as eager to see Mr. Sharpton on television as the reverend himself. Republicans who once condemned him as a blight upon America, and wished to see him banished from the airwaves, are now hoping that he will never disappear—at least not until sometime after Election Day 2004.

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LiberalOasis provides a round-up of the Democratic candidates' debate performance. It's clear that the pundits all want us to think Lieberman is the man, claiming he outshone the others, but LO says Lieberman was no better than the rest and had his share of negatives - and that, while other candidates criticized their opponents, Lieberman bashed the party itself, even equating Democrats with being big spenders - a spurious charge consistently made by the Republicans and entirely contradicted by the record. Lieberman even claimed to be the only candidate who could compete with Bush as being "moral". He seems unaware that the party's base doesn't really think Bush is moral at all, and that Lieberman's belief that priggishness can be substituted for morality doesn't necessarily fly with them, either. LO lists pros and cons for each candidate's performance, but here's a surprise:


-- Still the king of the one-liners: "I call George Bush's tax breaks…like Jim Jones giving Kool-Aid. It tastes good, but it will kill you."

-- Made strides to pacify those who are concerned (including, still, LiberalOasis) that he will be a disruptive force in the party, or will eventually disavow the party.

He attacked no one on stage, and also said:

I…hope that we elect a new president from the Democratic Party, because it is mandatory that we save this nation from where it is, and where it is headed under George Bush.
-- Ensures that Lieberman is not the only one quoting Bible scripture.



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Seen on IRC: "I am tired of calling them Tax Cuts when they really are deficit hikes."

Tuesday, 06 May 2003

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Kevin Drum has looked at my nose-wrinkling over Gitlin's piece in Sunday's Post and asks:
But if liberal policies really are more nuanced than conservative ones, that's all the more reason that they need to be articulated more forcefully and more plainly, no?
Well, yes, I've always said that a big problem for the left is that we have so taken for granted the obvious virtue of our positions that at some point we quit bothering to articulate them. But Gitlin wasn't just talking about articulation, he was shrugging off the positions themselves. I note that he hasn't been articulating them, either, and he's one of the few who is in a position to do so in a major public forum. Whining in public about the disarray of the left or it's paucity of ideas and policies just convinces everyone that the left is full of hapless losers who have no ideas and are in disarray. The Republicans have been happy to do that for decades and we don't actually need Gitlin for it. What we need are more people who are prepared to explain why things like diplomacy, public schools, Social Security, and so on are good things.

Not that it necessarily hurts to explain why Bush's policies are bad things. Americans (not just Democrats or "the left") want universal health care, and Bush is instead trying to dismantle Medicare. Americans want good public schools, and Bush is trying to push us into no public schools. Americans do not want to see our time and resources squandered on idiotic efforts to discriminate against minorities, the poor, and queers, but Bush is doing his best to facilitate discrimination. Americans want a strong economy that supports educating their children and a comfortable retirement, and Bush is bankrupting our economy and impoverishing an increasing number of Americans. Americans do not want to live in their nightmare vision of Calcutta, and Bush is trying to bring it on. Americans want our borders to be secure, and Bush can't be bothered to protect us from terrorism even when everyone from Mossad and German intelligence to Osama himself is telling him we are about to be attacked. Americans want wisdom, prudence, and diplomatic grace in our foreign policies, and "the good opinion of mankind" - things Bush blatantly dismisses. Americans want their kids to get good, honest, accurate sex education in schools, and Bush is promoting abstinence-only "sex education". In other words, liberals are for a free and secure America in which we can reap the benefits of our work and not be hassled by the government, and Bush is working against those things. It's Bush who is saying "no" to peace, prosperity, and national security.

What Gitlin reminds me of are those op-ed columnists like David Broder who kept whining about "Where is Gore?" when Gore was all over the place speaking in public and the press just wasn't bothering to report on it. Or Cokie Roberts complaining that she didn't know what "the protestors" were protesting about (but she wasn't inclined to interview anyone to find out). All of these people are professional journalists whose job it is to articulate what is happening for the masses. Broder and Roberts can't even be bothered to find out, but Gitlin already knows what liberal programs are, and he still can't say it? It might be different if he were complaining that the Democratic leadership is being painfully silent, but he's not. He's pretending that the left, as a whole, has precious little to say. And that's just not true.

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Can ya tell me, please: who won?

Jill Nelson says:

These days, a sense of apprehension and foreboding lurks in the back of my head and the pit of my stomach. It's a gut-wrenching reminder that something very bad has happened and is about to happen anew. It is an anticipation of the next insult and injury in an America that has been defined under the Bush administration by a profound meanness of spirit.
I do not feel safer now than I did six, or 12, or 24 months ago. In fact, I feel far more vulnerable and frightened than I ever have in my 50 years on the planet. It is the United States government I am afraid of. In less than two years the Bush administration has used the attacks of 9/11 to manipulate our fear of terrorism and desire for revenge into a blank check to blatantly pursue imperialist objectives internationally and to begin the rollback of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and most of the advances of the 20th century.

It is none too early to begin organizing for the 2004 elections. Each of us must take a hard look at the changes that have been wrought by this administration internationally and domestically and ask ourselves: Is this the democracy we cherish? We must hold our elected officials accountable and make them take a stand against what increasingly looks like fascism. If they will not, we must vote them out of office.

Three years ago, before the bloodless coup d'etat that made George W. Bush president, America was a far-from-perfect nation. Yet there was the possibility, almost gone now, that our country might evolve into a place that lived up to its loftiest democratic rhetoric. Today, I live in an America that makes my stomach hurt and fills me with terror. A nation run by greedy, frightened, violent bullies. It is time to take our country back before it is too late.

I said something a while back about the issue of how we'd know if the terrorists had really "won". It had become a joke to say, "If x happens, the terrorists have won." Of course, it then became impossible to say that there were any conditions under which the terrorists would have won. But if the terrorists meant to terrorize us, they certainly seem to have succeeded. If they "hate our freedoms" it's pretty clear they've set us on the road to removing those hated freedoms, many of which already appear to be gone. If they wanted to goad us into behavior that would shame us in front of the entire world, they've done that, too. If they wanted to destroy the secular nature of our culture, they certainly helped Bush with what he was already doing, at the very least. If Osama and his friends objected to the non-repressive nature of America, of it's regard for the rights and freedoms of women and it's decreasing enthusiasm for the criminalization of homosexuality, well, they've done no more than give aid and comfort to an administration that was already embarked on dismantling those things.

There is only one way that the terrorists can lose, and that is if we refuse to be terrorized and we go right on living as we always have. But that's not what we're doing, is it?

10:10 BST: permalink
Compare Joss' and Ampersand's favorite Buffy episodes with your own.

09:48 BST: permalink
Oh, yeah, Mr. Happy won the election. Congrats, Ian, and good luck.

Monday, 05 May 2003

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Balkinization comes back to the subject of Bush v. Gore:
At the end of his discussion of the appointments process, Juan Non-Volokh adds this interesting point, which I cannot resist commenting on:
[M]any of those on the right (myself included) see Bush v. Gore as the Warren/Brennan legacy coming home to roost. For decades, liberals generally supported an activist court that discovered constitutionally protected rights and discarded traditional restraints on an activist judiciary (e.g. much of the political question doctrine, as in Baker v. Carr). In the view of many on the right, the Constitution was "taken over by ideological extremists" during this period. (Nonetheless, the response was not to shut down President Carter's nominees, but to wait until more conservative judges could be nominated by a sympathetic president.) Therefore, when we hear Balkin or anyone else inveigh against Bush v. Gore, our gut reaction is to say "Well now you know how we felt about [insert Roe, Baker, Miranda, or some other outrageous case here]." So while I agree with Balkin that those on the right should try and appreciate the outrage of left over the election, I would also suggest that those on the left should try and appreciate that the right feels the left is simply reaping what it sowed.
I've heard this argument many times since Bush v. Gore was decided. I take the point, but I also think that the it's also a bit misleading in two ways.
Cutting to the chase, his first reason is that the decision wasn't merely informed by ideology, but specifically partisanship. I concur with that, but there's more:
The claim that Bush v. Gore allows liberals finally to "know what it feels like" is misleading in another respect. The argument seems to assume that until Bush v. Gore the liberals were basically in control, that all of the judicial shenanigans one might have complained about in the 1980s and 1990's were liberal decisions. It makes it sound as if there has been no conservative judicial activism in the recent past, and that conservatives have been repeatedly victimized by an unreleting stream of liberal decisions from the moment that Earl Warren ascended to the bench to December 12, 2000. This is fantasy. Earl Warren has been dead for over thirty years. The Democrats got no Supreme Court appointments from 1967 to 1994. From the retirements of Warren and Fortas to the present day the Supreme Court has become increasingly conservative, and has been in a relatively continuous conservative retrenchment in a whole host of areas, including criminal procedure, the rights of the poor, and race relations. Anyone who has actually been following what the Court has been doing must have noticed that Brennan and Marshall started to write a whole lot of dissents starting in the early 1970's, and they didn't stop. They kept on losing. And losing. And losing. And losing, in a whole host of areas.

There are two big exceptions to this trend. Both have to do with women. The first is Roe v. Wade. The second is the creation of equality jurisprudence for women. However, I take it that when conservatives complain about liberal judicial activism, they are not saying they are very upset that women are now protected from discrimination. (Bush v. Gore-- ha! Now you liberals know what we felt like when women got equal rights!) They are mostly complaining about Roe, and the fact that it hasn't been overruled. That's fair enough, although one must admit that Casey cuts back considerably on Roe and cases like Akron and Thornburgh.

But the more important point is that, particularly in the decade since Clarence Thomas was appointed, the conservative Justices have been striking down statute after statute using what, from a liberal perspective, is just made up stuff. Those decisions, particularly in the federalism area, and not Bush v. Gore, are really the sauce for the goose that Juan is talking about; they, and not Bush v. Gore are the demonstration to liberals of what it is like to be on the wrong side of a constitutional revolution. My point is that those sorts of decisions have been coming out of the Supreme Court of the United States for a very very long time. To pretend that they have not is to pretend that conservatives haven't been controlling the courts, and winning most of the battles for quite a few years now.

The idea that liberals never understood this until Bush v. Gore, and that now, finally, they are getting their righteous comeuppance, is bizzare. Anyone with a leftist sensibility, and any sense of history, knows that the Supreme Court has rarely been a liberal institution. It has always been an elite institution, but throughout most of its history it has been run by conservative elites. From the larger historical perspective, the Warren Court was just a blip on the screen. Knowing this, it is hardly surprising that progressives, not conservatives, have argued for judicial restraint at many points in the Nation's history. For the past decade at least, progressive scholars have been increasingly critical of judicial supremacy and what they see as conservative judicial activism run riot. Bush v. Gore was not the wakeup call; if anything, it simply confirmed what progressive constitutional scholars had known for some time: If you hand the Supreme Court over to people on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, they will do lots of things that you think are very bad to the Constitution. They will do this both through upholding government actions that should be struck down as unconstitutional, but equally importantly, they will do this by striking down laws and policies that should be upheld.

Well, yeah. But I'd still say that Bush v. Gore went over the edge in a way Roe did not. The decision in Roe v. Wade is entirely consistent with the Bill of Rights, a document that spells out privacy with virtually every clause. It is unfortunate that the authors did not actually use the word, but it's quite clear that privacy of mind, person, and home were spelled out explicitly in that document. Once women were legally whole people with the same rights as men, that privacy inhered for us, too. Even more obviously, one may say that Miranda went too far, but the Bill of Rights spells out a right to counsel, and here the argument is only one of degree.

But Bush v. Gore defies all precedent. The Felonious Five weren't merely inconsistent with their own ideology when they invoked equal protection and revoked the Constitutional right of states to decide the selection of their own electors, but their interpretations made no sense anywhere in law and in most cases defied logic. This is why liberals - and many Republicans and conservatives - regard Bush v. Gore as both nakedly partisan and legally indefensible.

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Yes, something has buggered up my formatting again and pushed the blogroll bar over to the right somehow - which will probably only have been noticed by those of you who view the page with the window reduced, but that's how I usually look at it. It seems to happen whenever I quote something with some invisible code in it that of course I can't see. In the past I've noticed it soon enough to overtype the passage and put things back to normal, but I seem to have gone on long enough that I'd have to retype the quotations in an awful lot of posts to find it. I'd dearly love to know if there is some way to actually see these things so I don't have to overtype whole articles looking for them.

18:45 BST: permalink
Nathan Newman parses the real unemployment numbers. You should read the whole thing, of course, but here's a taste:
And catch the key number-- a 4 million person increase in the number of people now without work compared to 2001, yet not counted as unemployed in the statistics.

18:31 BST: permalink
Liberal Oasis on George Bush's May Day:
You could go on and on about the unfairness of it all.

That the major networks allowed the White House to occupy its choicest prime-time slot for a newsless political ad, while ABC can't even get a single affiliate to air its Democratic debate live.

That so few will stress the tragic irony of Bush declaring major combat to be over on the same day US troops were hit with a grenade attack.

That Bush can milk this moment for all its worth while the Administration tries to cover-up embarrassing finds from the 9-11 investigation.

You could go on. But don't. It's not necessary.

And then he tells you why. I hope he's right.

13:55 BST: permalink
Go to school on this

When I first came to Britain, one of those reports on how badly American students perform on tests had just been released, and the media here was having a lot of fun with the "dumb Americans" theme. (Well, they were doing that anyway because the US at that time had a president who was, um, laughably dopey.) I'll tell ya, it was embarrassing to be an American abroad back in those days. I did hasten to point out that the reason you hear so much about reports like this is that America bothers to do them, which happens far less often in other countries.

Fortunately, two things happened that took the pressure off: One was that we elected Clinton and restored a great deal of international respect for America and Americans generally, and the other was that Britain started releasing its own reports and students here weren't looking so good, either. Still, America's standings seemed to be a bit low on the school roster. But much of that is because America attempts to survey the performance of all of its students (in the public school system, at least), and although at the bottom of the income scale students are disastrously underserved, it's a mistake to think their level of achievement represents what's going on in those nice, white, middle-class schools in the 'burbs. There most assuredly is a scandal in how neglected schools in poor areas are, but as Gerald W. Bracey recently wrote in The Washington Post, it's a canard to claim that the public school system in general is a failure:

In the spring of 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education produced a report titled "A Nation at Risk" deploring the state of American education. Although there was argument among President Ronald Reagan's advisers as to whether the report should even be accepted (the arguments centering mostly on whether it would be of political benefit), it was, on April 26.

The 36-page report soon became known as the "paper Sputnik," recalling the 1957 launch by the Soviets of the first man-made satellite. That small globe riveted attention on American schools, which took the blame for letting the Russians get into space first (an absurd charge). "Risk" also captured the nation's attention. And it restored to popularity the sport of pummeling the public schools.

The problem with the report, though, was that it was all wrong -- then and now. Written in stentorian Cold War rhetoric, it declared that "our nation is at risk . . . [from] a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. . . . If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war." Whew.

The report followed these rhetorical flourishes with a list of indicators that illustrated the risk. A larger treasury of selected, spun and distorted statistics is hard to imagine. For instance, the booklet declared, "There was a steady decline in science achievement scores of U.S. 17-year-olds as measured by national assessments of science in 1969, 1973, and 1977."

True? Maybe, maybe not. The numbers for 1969 and 1973 didn't really exist. They were extrapolations from the 1977 assessment. Their accuracy was not verifiable. But even if the trend was true for 17-year-olds, it was not true for 13-year-olds or 9-year-olds, the other two ages assessed. Nor was it true for any of the three ages tested in reading or math. Those scores were stable or inching up. The commissioners thus had nine trend lines to look at (three ages by three subjects), only one of which could be used to support crisis rhetoric, and that was the only one they used.

Similarly, "A Nation at Risk" reported: "The College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Tests demonstrated a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980." This was true. But the College Board's own panel assembled to analyze the decline did not see it as a failure of schools. The fall occurred because of changes in who was taking the SAT and therefore aspiring to go to colleges that required it: more blacks, more women, more students from low-income families, more students with average high school records. All of these changes are associated with lower test scores.

And what, exactly, were we at risk of? According to the report, the danger now was not that the Red Menace might blow us off the globe but that our friends, especially Germany, Japan and Korea, whose students had high test scores, would outsmart us and end our dominance of the world economy: "If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system."

One must admire the sheer audacity of the commissioners for writing such hokum. But this snake oil served school critics well when they blamed our "lousy" schools for the recession of the 1980s. The economy came roaring back, of course, while those of high-scoring "Asian Tiger" nations faltered.
Blaming public schools for social ills has a long and dishonorable history, of which the 1983 report is only one particularly egregious example. Yet in the international reading study released this month (and ignored by most media), American students finished ninth among 35 nations. White American students outscored top-ranked Sweden 565 to 561. Americans attending schools with less than 10 percent of the students in poverty (13 percent of all students) scored a whopping 589, and only those attending schools with more than 75 percent of the students in poverty (20 percent of all students) scored below the international average.

These statistics tell us how wealth and poverty affect achievement, and where we need to allocate resources. We don't need to spend billions to test every child every year in reading, math and science, as the No Child Left Behind legislation requires, to find out.

Overall, "A Nation at Risk" was a grand April Fools' joke. No Child Left Behind shows we haven't learned a thing in 20 years.

The sentence I've added emphasis to spells it out for you: Whites, who are proportionately less likely to be in poverty (although there are still more poor white people in America than any other kind), generally have access to better, wealthier school systems and do very well, thank you very much. While America's poor (and blacks are disproportionately poor) are so deprived of that same privilege that it dramatically drags the national averages down, most of us get a pretty good education compared to the rest of the world.

So when you hear about how America's schools "don't work" and right-wingers try to tell you that public schooling should be abandoned as a result, don't let them snow you. Voucher programs are, of course, a distraction meant to facilitate that destruction of yet another national treasure, but what they really want to do is extend both the degree and proportion of poverty and poor education in America to every family that can't afford to have their children privately educated. (And they really like the fact that, at the low-end, the most affordable private schooling is in religious institutions.)

I had meant to post this article when I first read it, but as you know, I had other distractions to deal with. Meanwhile, former Baltimore public school teacher Bob Somerby found the article, too, and noted that folks on both sides of the political spectrum have tended to refer to the "crisis" in America's schools. The problem on the left, of course, has been that in attempting get some attention on those poor schools, particularly in the inner cities, the tendency has been to paint the whole school system with the same broad brush in the hope that the system as a whole would be upgraded. This has clearly been a mistake. But, as Bob says,:

Don't even start with your complaints that it's "racist" to leave out our black kids. The point here is simple—American history has created a situation that exists in no other developed nation. Japan and Sweden didn't spend hundreds of years destroying literacy among ten percent of their populations. The astounding tragedy of American history created the tragedy of today's urban schools. At present, American ed is indeed overwhelmed by the problems that exist in our urban schools. But other countries don't face the unique problem that our history has asked us to handle.
It was illegal for slaves to learn how to read. But, in amazing numbers, many of them, clandestinely, in fear for their lives should they be discovered, managed to do it. Still, good jobs were not available once slavery was no longer the issue, and "uppity" blacks who were open about their intellectual abilities stoked enough resentment that it could erupt in violence (and lynching). Schools for blacks were deliberately starved of funding, first openly, then by hiding the details in the system. Much of the political give-and-take you see right out in front of god and everyone today over taxes and "socialism" is really about this same subject. But poor whites suffer as well, and our royalist "leadership" doesn't much care about that, either. The more we are poor, the higher they rise. They can pretend all they want to that blacks are poor because they're genetically less intelligent, but you know and I know that most blacks who'd had George W. Bush's advantages would be showing a lot more smarts.

12:44 BST: permalink
Hesiod has loads of interesting stuff up at Counterspin Central you ought to take a look at. Like (bloggered link) the announcement of Arab American Republicans Against Bush, which he quotes:
The presidency of George W. Bush will undoubtedly be remembered for generations to come for having eroded the civil rights of U.S. citizens and residents while simultaneously undermining American credibility and standing abroad. The Bush legacy is particularly relevant for Arab and Muslim Americans, who have borne the brunt of his alleged “war on terrorism.” Notwithstanding his platitudes about “Islam is peace” and occasional photo-op's with Muslim leaders, no American administration has done more to alienate, intimidate, and disenfranchise the Arab-American and American Muslim communities than that of George W. Bush.

We pledge to uphold the constitution and all that it stands for; not to be hijacked by a group of extremists. We pledge not to vote for George W. Bush in 2004.

Hesiod also has loads of stuff (bloggered links here and here and here) about the latest revelations about ChoicePoint, the bunch that took more than 50,000 legitimate voters off of the Florida voting rolls - more scary stuff. Well, that's not all they've done, both here and in Latin America. They are, in fact, international criminals, and it's another cronyism scandal, too.

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Michael Tomasky, sitting in for Alterman:
The man looks ridiculous in that jumpsuit, and I'm betting that more Americans than Karl Rove would like to think will see it that way. The only people who'll get a woody from that photo are people who are already on the reservation. But that, from a Rovean perspective, is the point. Feed the base.

And this is the difference between 41 and 43, and it isn't often enough observed in all the will-he-be-like-his-dad-and-win-a-war-but-lose-re-election stories. Poppy lost only partly because of the economy. He also lost because he didn't stroke the right-wing base, and those voters didn't come out in big enough numbers. No fear of that with this crowd. The Dow Jones could hit 3,000 and Republicans will turn out en masse for this guy.

Scary thoughts for scary times. And maybe he's right. If the far-right base comes out for Bush, we're going to have to find a way to make sure everyone else is energized to come out against him. That's not an easy goal.

Meanwhile, Charles Pierce has written another letter:

I don’t know if you noticed but, when Emperor C-Plus Augustus descended from the clouds last evening, he pushed most of your targets of opportunity beyond parody. Holy Mother, did you see Chris Matthews with my gal Annie Coulter and the increasingly bizarre Pat Caddell? That airplane dropped right on their G-spots, and nobody had the wit to mention that a "pilot" who found his way to a carrier in the Pacific probably should have been able to find his way to his unit in Alabama. (Well, David Gregory chuckled a bit at it during a stand-up on the White House lawn.) The staff must just sit back in the White House and laugh their asses off at this stuff. Relax, boys and girls. You might not even have to run a campaign next time.

02:35 BST: permalink
Conservatives: Back to business as usual

Yes, we had a brief spate there when they were acting like they cared about abuses of women and liberties and all that, but now they're sounding like their old selves again. Others have already linked this story but just to be on the safe side I didn't want you, dear reader, to miss the fact that the right-wingers are already going back on the record as being for violence against women. (The post below explains that they are already back on the record as being against civil liberties in general, of course.) Let's credit Charles Kuffner for the link just because he's been so nice to me:

Big Media Matt points to this article about the US siding with repressive regimes to block language in a United Nations resolution that calls for countries to condemn violence against women and "refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration" as an excuse against condemning such violence. It contains several rather revealing quotes:
"I don't think we're aligning ourselves with countries who have bad records on human rights," said Ellen Sauerbrey, a former Republican candidate for Maryland governor and President George W. Bush's chief representative to the commission.

The State Department's 2002 human rights report says that in Iran, "abuse in the family was a private matter and was seldom discussed publicly." Rape is illegal, but with the law rarely enforced, it is "a widespread problem." Also, the testimony of a woman in a court proceeding is worth half that of a man's. And, the State Department reports, "The 'blood money' paid to the family of a female crime victim is half the sum paid for a man."

Anyway, Sauerbrey said, the positions she took were part of an effort to achieve consensus in a forum where all participants must agree on a final document. In fact, the controversy over halting violence against women disrupted the proceedings and no final statement was issued - for the first time ever. It so happens that the changes pushed by the ayatollahs dovetailed with attempts by American social and religious conservatives who were appointed by the White House as representatives to the UN commission.

Other countries that we're aligned with include Sudan, Libya, and Pakistan. As the article notes, in the recent past one of our allies of convenience was Iraq. One wonders how Ellen Sauerbrey would characterize their record on human rights.
Yeah, I'd think things like religion and tradition are negatives if they are excuses for violence against women.

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The George & Saddam Slideshow

Sunday, 04 May 2003

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Blame Canada!

Found at Under a Blackened Sky (Bloggered link):

Ottawa Citizen: U.S. says Canada cares too much about liberties. I just about fell out of my chair upon finding this:
The United States says the lack of funding for police and restrictive privacy legislation in Canada are frustrating probes of political extremists.

The comments in an annual report on international terrorism were the latest critical remarks from the U.S. apparently aimed at prodding Canada to bring its security measures in line.

The State Department report on global terrorism for 2002 suggests that while Canada has been helpful in the fight against terrorism, it doesn't spend enough on policing and places too much emphasis on civil liberties.

It says "some U.S. law enforcement officers have expressed concern" about Canadian privacy laws.

The U.S. officers feel those laws, as well as funding levels for law enforcement, "inhibit a fuller and more timely exchange of information and response to requests for assistance," the report says.

"Also, Canadian laws and regulations intended to protect Canadian citizens and landed immigrants from government intrusion sometimes limit the depth of investigations."

Read that again. An official report from a country founded on a tradition of trying to get the state to leave its citizens alone is complaining that another country is doing exactly that. Of course, most people have traditionally had problems with the idea that freedom means letting other people do stuff you don't like, so perhaps this isn't entirely unsurprising. Still, getting it from the Americans over this point is.. hilarious.

If this kind of thing keeps up -- especially if the government introduces the promised pot bill before the summer recess -- it'll be enough to make me want to get down on my knees. "All hail Ottawa!"

(Don't worry, this feeling will pass.)

Well, it's easy for you to laugh.

11:48 BST: permalink
Stupid journalist tricks

You know, I think I'm losing my patience with Todd Gitlin, and this article in The Washington Post is a good example of why. It starts out strong enough:

The warriors who supported Bush's Iraq policy, mostly on the right, are still facing off against the antiwarriors, mostly on the left. At first glance, this doesn't look like much of a fight. The antiwarriors mustered large demonstrations but were outmuscled by a Republican-dominated government and overwhelmed by an eventual popular majority.

But this isn't the impression left by right-wing talk shows, Web sites and commentators. They portray the antiwar left as dangerous, feral and shockingly, awesomely effective. Accordingly, ultra-conservative rhetoric, already elevated before the war began, remains at high pitch -- a flaming red alert.

Examples follow, and it looks like Todd is on a roll - and then he starts saying weird, wimpy things about "the left", ending up with:
The conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan has opined that the antiwar left is expressing "some kind of rage at reality," and there's something to that. Helplessness is the main note. Where right-wing resentment is the resentment of the entitled and disappointed, left-wing resentment is the resentment of the forlorn. It is not part of the left's frame of mind to offer smart domestic security programs to counter Attorney General John Ashcroft's heavy hand. And perhaps most damaging, the left is not in the habit of proposing a constructive foreign policy. If empire is doomed, then what? If American or micro-coalition intervention is a bad idea, what is the role of liberal intervention -- by the United Nations or NATO or anyone?

The left is left with its "no." A no has its occasions. But for a force that aims for power, it won't do.

Huh? The Democratic left, at least, has perfectly good policies - they just aren't as dramatic-sounding as Invading a Country! and Winning a War! and Enormous Tax Cuts! and what-have-you. They are, in fact, policies that have worked all along, whether we're talking about diplomacy or school programs or Social Security. From where comes the mentality that says that the right has some sort of "answer" just because they want to re-introduce policies that were such dismal failures for centuries all over the world? Who says diplomacy, maintaining alliances, and working to keep the peace isn't a positive policy?

I just can't help the feeling that Todd Gitlin, who I used to like, has been taken over by the Borg.

11:16 BST: permalink
Let's see if Michael Getler, Washington Post ombudsman, has picked up any clues:
It was 15 months from the time Osama bin Laden apparently slipped away during the offensive on Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001 until Saddam Hussein may have slipped away during the first U.S. bombing of Iraq in March 2003. Did the press catch on early enough to the administration's switch of focus from Afghanistan to Iraq?
Did the press catch on at all?
Was it slow to sense that while there was little or no public dissent over the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban, there was wider and growing dissent over a war in Iraq?
Gee, y'think?
Was it slow to record that dissent and to give it prominence, considering the stakes?
Hell, yes.
Did the press report, probe and challenge the administration's case about weapons of mass destruction, or its shifting rationales for the war, with sufficient vigor?
Did it buy into official language, everything from "coalition forces" to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to "weapons of mass destruction"?
Sure did.
Did it press hard enough on the claimed linkages of Hussein to 9/11 and on the question of whether intelligence had been politicized?
That would have been nice.
Did it pull any punches in the post-9/11 world in carrying out its patriotic duty to press institutions to account for their statements and actions, wherever the story led?
Did it pull any punches? Are you kidding? Did it even throw any punches?

All of the quoted material here is, by the way, from the final paragraph of the article - so, you see, Getler is either too thick or too cowardly to face up to the answers.

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Jeez, even Rehnquist has come out against the stupid bill to lengthen prison sentences and remove judicial discretion (Feeney amendment), but Congress is taking no notice.

Saturday, 03 May 2003

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Lisa has some important stuff up at the We Want the Airwaves! blog, including this post about an article she says is required reading - about how the media is copping out on covering the FCC's moves to eliminate remaining controls on media concentration. Go read.

12:17 BST: permalink
Take a look at the breathtaking photo at Pligget (Blogspot, so you might have to scroll down for it - it's the third image, but the others are interesting, too.) Yum, Sunset over Dulwich is luscious, too.
11:21 BST: permalink
Consider May Day

Terminus spells it out:

Imagine That Clinton Had Done It

Just picture it in your minds... President Clinton flies out on a military jet to give a speech on an aircraft-carrier returning home from combat. While there, his political handlers blithely tell the world that "This will be campaign footage". His handlers claim that he had to take a jet, because the carrier was too far away to reach by chopper, but this turns out to be a lie. Clinton ends up delaying the return of the carrier, and forcing the brave men and women aboard, who have earned nothing if not a chance to relax with their families, to wait another 24 hours for that opportunity.

If Clinton had done this, there would have been outrage for 72 hours straight, minimum. You wouldn't be able to walk around the block without hearing about it. Cable news, talk radio, and even the editorial pages of supposedly "liberal" newspapers would attack Clinton without compunction. And everyone would remember to add that Clinton dodged the Vietnam draft.

So, Bush does it, and no one cares. This really, really pisses me off. Especially since Bush dodged the Vietnam draft. And what Bush did was even worse. Clinton, after all, got himself a Rhodes scholarship and went to study in England. Anyone could have done that. At least, anyone who was a really brilliant young student could have. Bush tried to get into the National Guard, which was really hard to get into, since nobody wanted to go to Vietnam. But, Bush managed to get into the Guard, even though thousands of other poor fools had to go get killed in the jungles of Vietnam. Why? Was Bush especially deserving of that post? Was Bush more qualified? No. But Bush's daddy was a Congressman [in Houston].

And, of course, Bush didn't even finish his stint in the National Guard. Worse, Bush lied about not finishing his stint in the national guard. Bush served four years in the Guard out of a six year term, was let out one year early, and the other year remains totally unaccounted for. Bush claimed he went back to Texas (from Alabama, where he had gotten himself a plum transfer, with daddy's help) and completed his service. But no one remembers him showing up, and he doesn't remember what he did.

If Clinton had pulled this aircraft-carrier stunt, pundits all across the So-Called Liberal Media spectrum would be screaming that Clinton's shameful draft-dodging is an insult to the brave men and women who fought for their country. They would claim that, commander-in-chief or not, Clinton is not worthy set foot on that carrier, because he didn't earn the right through service to his country.

But isn't Bush worse? He didn't want to shoot out his eardrum, or flee to Canada, and we all know he wasn't bright enough to get a Rhodes scholarship, so daddy got him into the Guard, and daddy got him a transfer to Alabama, where incidentally he worked on local Republican political campaigns, and he never seemed to find his way back to complete his service. Where's the outrage? Where's the So-Called Liberal Media to cover all of this for us?

I have no trouble at all imagining how the spin machine would do this one. It wouldn't just be the apoplexy from the talk-show screamers, it would be all those solemn pieces in the Newspapers of Record about how, gosh, there seem to be so many people who are offended by Clinton's behavior, and especially, my god, the military folks who took it as a big slap in the face. And even if Clinton had said something that really did make the soldiers cheer, we would never have heard about it from Big Media, what with them being so "liberal" and all.

Here's Elayne Riggs looking at another aspect of Bush's little trip:

Well, while the rest of us were out celebrating Mayday (and it was just lovely here in NY, the perfect vacation day, and we went fruit-and-veggie shopping and Christian from upstairs even came down to say hi and apologize that their move-in went slightly past 5 PM so it's like night-and-day, we actually have upstairs neighbors that are not only nice people but potential friends!), the pResident was pretending to help fly a four-seat military S-3 Viking aircraft onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. What happened was he sat in the co-pilot's seat and took the controls for part of the flight (he said it was about a third of the journey, flying "straight ahead") before handing them over to the pilot for the landing, after which he giddily hopped and skipped and shouted, "Yes I flew it!" to reporters on the flight deck like a little boy who just got off a coin-operated kiddie ride.

He'd also been busy trying to erase big chunks of history from the annals of both working people (i.e., not the rich) and pagans (i.e., not the fundie Christians) and, well, Mayday celebrants throughout the world by declaring yesterday Loyalty Day. I say, just have done with it and declare Hate Week while you're at it, y'know? Fortunately, Jerry Bowles (link at sidebar) deciphered exactly what Bush meant by, and I paraphrase, "War is over, if I want it."

That Jerry Bowles item is too good to miss, by the way:
My fellow Americans,

I am pleased to report to you tonight that because of determination of my government to stamp out evil wherever we find it and thanks to the sacrifice and dedication of our nation's young men and women, Iraq is once more a free and peaceful third-world nation. With the help of God, the Christian God, we have struck another decisive blow for freedom against the lightly-armed brown people of the world.

There will be those who will belittle our achievement. They will say: where is Saddam? Where are the weapons of mass destruction that were going to fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against us? Why aren't the Iraqi people happier to see us? They will complain about the 120,000 soldiers we have to station there for the next several years and the costs of reconstruction which will be mainly borne by the American taxpayer at the expense of better health care and safer cities here at home. These people are nattering nabobs of negativism, to borrow a old phrase from Bill Safire. Worse than that, they are anti-Americans and they'll get theirs in Patriot Act IX in my next term.

Let me tell you some of our real accomplishments:

We've proven that the American public—especially those hordes of terminally unhappy, inexplicably miserable, mysteriously put upon white men—will support a war with anybody at any time, no matter how flimsy the excuse and no matter how many times the rationale is proven to be false. A solid majority of bubbas can always be counted on to want to kick ass anywhere, anytime and for any dumb reason. In some countries, this might be viewed as a national mental health emergency, but here we consider it good ole American patriotism.

We've demonstrated that George Orwell was right; if you tell a lie often enough, most people will believe it, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. War is peace. Saddam is evil. Saddam blew up the World Trade Center. Saddam has chemicals and he is coming to gas your children in their cribs in suburban Atlanta or rural Maine. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. Run, Forrest, run.

We have proven that if you shout "anti-American" loud enough and wave enough flags and organize enough boycotts you can intimate your enemies into giving up their freedom of speech.

We have crippled, hopefully forever, the United Nations and NATO, organizations that we help build and which—though far from perfect—have served many useful peacekeeping and humanitarian purposes since World War II.

We have forced nations that were once our closest friends to begin to form their own military coalitions to protect themselves from us.

We have proven that the only sure way to keep us from attacking you is to develop nuclear weapons.

We have made it impossible for Americans to travel with impunity almost anywhere in the world.

Finally, we've shown the world just how bad ass we really are and how you better not fuck with us because we will kick your puny little brown army's ass. We had to do it, you see. It was the strawberries… that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes. But, I knew it. I said "Condi, it's the strawberries."

Horribly, this really does seem to be pretty much what "we" were fighting for.

Me, I don't need a "day" to be loyal; I just love my country and its Constitution, and all the things we thought - until November of 2000 - that it stood for. George W. Bush is none of that.

10:50 BST: permalink
A comic strip I found at Bartcop.

03:30 BST: permalink
Take a test to find out where you will end up in Dante's Inferno. (Via Motobass.)

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Neal Pollack isn't really much impressed with those court nominees. Such as:
Tom Nelson, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

As an associate justice in the Kentucky State Supreme Court, Nelson wrote the minority opinion in a case involving the right of smokers to sue tobacco companies for unpaid parking-ticket money. He relayed some disturbing and completely unrelated concerns. "If we continue to allow black people the right hold public office," he wrote, "then we're just itching for trouble. Also, in some states black people may not technically count as one person under the law, and therefore may not technically deserve one vote."

John Rznydzk, 3rd U.S. District Court.

In the majority opinion of State Of Michigan Vs. The Unemployed, Rznydzk wrote, "To allow laid-off workers to peaceably make fun of their superiors at an after-work happy hour is a distinct violation of The National Labor Relations Act, which should be renamed anyway. Salaried employees, former and current, should do what they're told. Also, the word 'fired' doesn't appear in the Constitution. Not even in an early draft."

Trouble is, given the nature of some of the people Bush has been nominating, how can you tell (without googling) if this is truth or parody?

Well, I don't think he's joking when he says this:

I will not parse each word, for which you are thankful. But I will say this: we cannot stand by idly while our President exploits the horrible memories of September 11, 2001, to pursue a reckless strategy of conquest disguised as the liberation of oppressed peoples. We cannot stand by idly while our government selects enemies, seemingly at random, and accuses them of crimes that they haven't yet commited. We cannot allow our government to define a terrorist as anyone they say is a terrorist. We cannot allow this country to become a paranoid police state. This is not liberty. This is not the food and water that George W. Bush talks about.

01:11 BST: permalink
At Orcinus, a consideration of how the Lott and Santorum episodes represent a sea change in the way these issues are dealt with, because Karl Rove's strategy is to appeal to soccer moms.

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Jeanne D'Arc finds another one:
We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!' -- Jay Garner

So far, I think that statement has my vote in the tight competition for stupidest remark ever made by a Bushie. The way Garner manages to combine ignorance and arrogance, while simultaneously oozing testerone really puts it in a class by itself. And amazingly enough, in the same press conference, Garner made a second statement which might have qualified for the competition if it hadn't been pushed into the shadows by the chest-beating comment:

"There is no humanitarian crisis."

Really, no humanitarian crisis. Nothing at all to worry about. Don't be silly.

Just keep pounding your chest, and reminding yourself that you're an American. It seems to work for General Garner.

00:22 BST: permalink
Gary Farber says Sorkin is leaving The West Wing. He also recommends this Michael Kinsley article:
Republicans do give reasons for wanting to make big projected deficits even bigger. They say that tax cuts spur the economy and eventually will generate revenue to wipe out the deficits. They say that big deficits will force the government to cut spending. These arguments are contradictory and bogus. If the deficit will eliminate itself, it will not create pressure to cut spending. If tax cuts always spur so much growth that they pay for themselves, can we cut taxes to zero and still break even on revenue? If the trick stops working at some point higher than zero, how can we assume it will work for us? And if the purpose of tax cuts is to force spending cuts, why doesn't the governing party at least propose enough spending cuts to cover the cost? "I'm eating all this pie so I'll get fat and be forced to diet." Do you buy that one?

00:06 BST: permalink
The Poor Man says William Saletan is god for writing Impatient Justice:
"In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," President Bush announced Thursday night. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001." In the wake of that dark day, Bush recalled, "I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States." Saddam Hussein's defeat caps "19 months that changed the world," Bush concluded. "The war on terror is not over … but we have seen the turning of the tide."

In Bush's telling of the story, it all fits together. The war on terror gives meaning to the battle of Iraq. And the battle of Iraq demonstrates tangible success in the war on terror.

Except it doesn't. The two stories—Iraq and al-Qaida, the battle and the war—have never really meshed. Bush keeps saying they're the same thing. But saying doesn't make it so.

Remember Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—the ones whose concealment justified the invasion of Iraq? A week ago, the Washington Post reported that 38 days after entering Iraq, the United States had "yet to find weapons of mass destruction at any of the locations that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell cited in his key presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February." We hadn't even "produced Iraqi scientists with evidence about them." The only thing Bush said we had learned from interrogating Saddam's scientists was that "perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some."

What about Saddam's links to terror? Bush repeated Thursday that the Iraq war had "removed an ally of al-Qaida." Really? According to the Post, U.S. officials "have not turned up anything to support Powell's claim to the Security Council that 'nearly two dozen' al Qaeda terrorists lived in and operated from Baghdad." A Los Angeles Times investigation of the al-Qaida affiliate touted by Powell found "no strong evidence of connections to Baghdad" and concluded that the group lacked "the capability to muster a serious threat beyond its mountain borders." Saddam didn't even "control the region where the [group's] camps were located."

What does Bush have to say about the absence of evidence on these two points? "This much is certain," he observed in his victory address. "No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more."

Well, that's true. No terrorist network will get weapons from Pat Moynihan, either. That doesn't make his death essential to the war on terror.

Not to mention the fact that if Pat Moynihan had had WMDs, there'd be no telling whose hands they are in now. Could even be the same guy who made off with Saddam's hidden collection of Frazetta knock-offs.

Nevertheless I disagree with Saletan's conclusion that something had to be done and Bush did it. There were other things that could have been done, and less rashly.

Friday, 02 May 2003

17:08 BST: permalink

New! at the Sideshow Annex: more ancient photos

Ever wonder what Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Gary Farber looked like back in the days when they were skinny and had long hair? Wanna know if Jon Singer has changed much? Or if Seth Breidbart showed any sign of being a future NetGod? And what about that guy who did Xenozoic Tales? Yes, friends, it's time for Pictures of the Nearly Famous!

16:30 BST: permalink
Jim Henley got some good mail from Eric Mauro examining the fiction that the Republican Party is "the party of small government". His conclusion is not identical with that of Dwight Meredith (and if the Blogspot link doesn't work, remember this stuff was quoted at The Sideshow here and here), but it doesn't make the Republicans look "better", either. I'm not gonna quote it because something weird happens when I try to highlight anything on Jim's page and I don't feel like dealing with it right now, but go read it - at least his permalinks work. (Blogspot was even more annoying last night than usual, and oh I'm so glad I'm not trying to post there now. I'm trying to believe these are just teething problems Google is having with adapting the damn thing.)

14:29 BST: permalink
Sam Heldman responds to an article about court-nominee Bill Pryor, another disgrace to America:
The author claims that Pryor demonstrates "great deference and humility towards other branches of government and higher courts"—a claim that is either a meaningless platitude or a false statement. Just to take a few examples: According to the Washington Post, he ended one speech with a swipe at Justice Souter. His publicly-stated analysis of the Supreme Court's near-unanimous decision in the VMI case was the dismissive and derisive assertion that the Court (including Justice Rehnquist) "somehow" reached its decision, in a fit of "political correctness". He called the Ninth Circuit's Newdow decision "ridiculous and outrageous." (Agree with him if you wish, but it's hard to call that "deference and humility … towards [a] higher court[]"). He sneered at President Clinton and Attorney General Reno in a public speech, calling their pursuit of a lawsuit against the tobacco industry "extortion" among other less than humble and deferential remarks. And his lack of deference to the Congress is the centerpiece of his legal fame (for instance, in his insistence that the Congress had no authority to enact a law that prohibited States from selling personal information about their citizens; fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed). If deference and humility towards other branches of government and higher courts are virtues for judicial nominees, they are virtues that Bill Pryor has not demonstrated.

The author of the National Review piece also claims that Pryor was "duty bound" to decry Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as an unwarranted intrusion into state affairs. Hogwash. First of all, under that reasoning, the Attorneys General of sixteen states (the number of states with jurisdictions that are covered presently under Section 5) would likewise have been obligated to decry Section 5 in equally strong terms; but there is no indication that they have done so. More importantly, if one truly believed that Bill Pryor was "duty bound" to take positions against federal intrusion that would limit States' authority, regardless of whether he believed in those positions, then one would have to conclude that Pryor has shirked that duty in many situations. Consider, for instance, the case decided by the Supreme Court this Term in which a right-wing group was attacking the IOLTA programs by which every State funds legal services for poor people. Alabama's program, like other states', stood to be struck down if this attack had succeeded. And 38 Attorneys General by my count, together with the Conference of Chief Justices, the National League of Cities, and other national establishment groups, rallied to the defense of state laws. But not Bill Pryor.

My point is not that Bill Pryor has done something wrong by failing to advocate vigorously for the constitutionality of every state law. In fact, I applaud him for recognizing that he does not have to do so; he has taken an oath to support the U.S. Constitution as he understands it, even when that may conflict with state law. I hope that he is candid enough to say, for instance, "I have defended Alabama's anti-vibrator law, and its anti-sodomy law, more vigorously than I defended Alabama's IOLTA program because that's what I believed in." My problem is with his beliefs as to what the States have a "right" to do, and what they do not. And my problem also is with those who pretend that his beliefs have not entered into his official actions, and who pretend that they would not continue to do so if he were confirmed as a judge; for every judge's beliefs are manifested in his or her opinions.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with these nominees - all the old "states' rights" and anti-judicial activism stuff held up to the light for all to see the bollocks it really is. They're just a bunch of racists who hate the Bill of Rights. You really ought to send letters to your reps, regardless of party, and ask them: "Are you just another racist misogynist who hates liberty and equality, or are you gonna stand up and fight these guys?"

12:07 BST: permalink
Heh. I noticed when I uploaded those last few posts that I'd entirely forgotten to do the permalinks. Well, that's the downside of the hand-coding thing, especially when you have not much of a memory to rely on.

I also realized I'd made some important omissions in my thank-you list, chiefly to Jim MacDonald for sending me the rest of his Mageworld books and The Apocalypse Door to make sure I had some reading to entertain me while I was immobilized. They worked. Patrick also sent me a big box of books - I'd read Probability Moon not too long ago so having Probability Sun and Probability Space was neat. I'm a big fan of Nancy Kress. That was all the fiction reading I had time for in between watching all the Buffys and Firefly. (Man, I can see why Fox didn't like that show - superficially they're kinda like post-war Confederate outlaws, but the captain is an atheist, the Incredibly Beautiful Woman is a whore, the married couple is interracial, the engineer and one of the two fighter types are women - the engineer cleans up okay but spends much of her time with grime all over her face - and the priest, who really does seem to be a believer in the old love-thy-neighbor style of Christianity, doesn't mind any of it. Well, he probably doesn't think much of the one neoconservative in the bunch, a guy who'd sell his own mother for cash - but no one really likes that guy. Oh, and none of the women are blond! I loved it, of course. The scene where the captain and the pilot are being tortured is some of the funniest television I've ever seen, too.)

[The delivery guy just rang the bell. Wow, those flowers are pretty, and the roses smell delicious. Thank you.]

01:57 BST: permalink
Another political quiz

00:42 BST: permalink
Lydy is righteously pissed off about turning May Day into "Loyalty Day" (ick!).

00:29 BST: permalink
It's not just me; even people who know George W. Bush think he's a stinker. (Via HugoZoom.)

12:08 BST: permalink
From Mark Fiore: Tax Cut Man.

Thursday, 01 May 2003

22:30 BST: permalink

Are we there yet?

Atrios doesn't think it's all that funny when a member of the Supreme Court shows open hostility to the Voting Rights Act:

"Maybe if we make it bad enough, they'll think about repealing it," Justice Antonin Scalia said to laughter in the court.

Haha. It was goddamn fucking hilarious when blacks in the South were NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE. That's a knee slapper Scalia! Hahahahaha. Repeal it, so we can go back to the good old days so your colleague Rehnquist can spend his retirement years reliving his youth as a POLL THUG.

These folks are getting out of hand.

I'd say so, yes - they're now so confident of their takeover that they are being openly racist. I think at this point it's pretty clear that if you still support these guys, you can claim that adjective for yourself.

22:17 BST: permalink
Balkinization has a couple of good posts up about Why the Confirmation Process is Broken and says we are in extraordinary times:
I guess that the biggest difference between Juan and myself is how to view the meaning of current historical events. Juan sees the current strife as an example of accelerating misbehavior by the two major political parties during a time of essentially normal politics. My view, by contrast, is that we are no longer in an ordinary period of constitutionalism. The election of 2000 was a trauma, an extraordinary constitutional event. To be sure, Bush could have diffused the trauma by nominating more centrist candidates, thus signalling that he would deal with the contested election by forging an accomodation with the other party. Instead, he pushed for strongly ideological candidates in order to complete a constitutional revolution. Not only did he do so without a popular mandate as Roosevelt had, but, in the minds of many Democrats (including myself, I might add), he did not even win the election. The Dems view this attempt to amend the constitution through partisan entrenchment as deeply unfair. They see the Constitution as in danger, about to be taken over by ideological extremists. They love the Constitution as much as the Republicans do, and they view the Constitution as under siege. That is what explains how a party of softies suddenly got a spine, and did what neither party has done for more than a generation. Extraordinary times lead to extraordinary measures.

12:16 BST: permalink
Free at last!

Well, that was unpleasant. Not that I'm feeling glorious right now, you understand. The inactivity has left me weak and wobbly, my neck is as stiff as a brick, and I still have many bizarre effects going on in my right eye, which is still too blurry for me to tell if enough of the distortion is gone for me to be able to read with it. (A lot of the distortion is definitely gone, but I'm not sure it's really enough for normal reading.)

I absolutely do not understand what I'm looking at in my eye. I mean, okay, I'm seeing the bubble, but it's not behaving the way I expect, and it confuses me. And worries me just a little. But at least my eyes seem to be slipping back into alignment with each other, which is also a relief. But I ache all over, and I figure it's going to take a lot of exercises and a lot of standing under a hot shower to make all that go away. I did do small flexing exercises and some very careful neck exercises over the last month, but it clearly wasn't enough.

It was interesting, if frustrating, to use Blogspot/Blogger instead of my regular set-up. That's not to say that my regular set-up doesn't also have it's frustrations, mind. I certainly liked being able to FTP on surftime for free rather than having to disconnect, switch to my metered provider to upload, and then switch back to cruise the web some more. I did not find the software all that much of an improvement for creating individual posts over hand-coding, but blogging software does have functions I don't know how to code (comments, for example; I didn't really use it long enough to investigate RSS, which I really know nothing about at all), and since it didn't get overwhelming I kinda liked it. But the archives were so infrequently available that I was fuming half the time, and I suspect that I may be duplicating everything I posted during April on a separate page somewhere on my own pages here or in The Sideshow Annex in order to be sure they are available when someone (like me) actually wants to look at them.

However, I've used better software over at Stand Down, and if I'd been smarter I would have consulted Patrick or Alison about using space on their servers to use their Movable Type set-ups instead. I'll have to think some more about that.

Meanwhile, special thanks to everyone who did so much to make this less horrible than it otherwise might have been: to Dr. Plokta (Mike Scott) for loaning me the laptop and bringing over those Buffy episodes I hadn't seen yet, and to Alison for making me aware I could get this help from him (and for dragging the TAFF winner over here since I couldn't go over there); to Patrick and to Lisa English for helping me set up the Blogspot site; to Lisa, Charles, Skippy, Martin, Jeralyn, Bill and anyone else who remembered that I was still blogging and linked to the other site to let others know; to whoever organized the get well cards from Eastercon and Corflu, and all the people who signed them (who the hell are you, anyway? What makes you think I can read your writing?); to Roz and Caroline for throwing good picnics on the diningroom table; to Dominic for reasons too numerous to mention but especially a lovely breed of rose I'd never seen before; to Alun Harries for filling in the gaps and bringing gossip and good conversation; and of course to Rob and Owen, for taking care of everything else. There's nothing better than having people in your life who always make you appreciate how lucky you are.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, May 2003

April 2003
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.