Sunday, December 14, 2003

"Grassroots"

Hesiod Theogeny (of Counterspin Central) e-mails:

Check out what someon e-mailed me. It's from Marc Racicot.
Subject: Action Alert! President Bush's grassroots vs. liberal billionaires.

December 10, 2003


Dear XXXXXXX,

Our Campaign Manager, Ken Mehlman, recently wrote you about the vicious personal attacks Democrat Presidential candidates are making on President Bush.

Now comes news from a Wall Street Journal investigative report that wealthy liberals "have plotted ways around the campaign finance law" to funnel millions in illegal soft money donations "to finance get-out-the-vote efforts and ads slamming Mr. Bush and Republicans."

Of course, there is nothing illegal about what "wealthy liberals" are doing, and naturally this letter doesn't mention that wealthy conservatives have been doing it for decades.
Help us overcome the Democrats' liberal billionaire by making your contribution and emailing five friends today! [link]

One billionaire liberal, George Soros, has already pledged $25 million to get these efforts off the ground. Soros even said that President Bush reminds him of the Nazis.

Soros got another billionaire leftist, Peter Lewis, an ardent advocate of hard drugs, to promise $12 million as a down payment. Their goal is to raise over $400 million to defeat the President and they're halfway there.

To beat these billionaire liberals, we need your help today [Link]!

Please, will you send the Bush re-election campaign $25, $50, $75, $100 or whatever you can afford to give today? You can give by using the campaign's secure online donation form at: [Link]

Whatever way you can, please contribute today.

There's one more thing you can do to help the President overcome the smears and invective of the Democrats. We want to reach our goal of 450,000 grassroots contributors to the President's campaign by December 31st. Will you forward this email to five friends with your personal request to join you in supporting the President?

[Link]

Howard Dean compared President Bush to the Taliban and calls him "the enemy" and "despicable."

Dick Gephardt calls the President "a miserable failure" and the worst President he's ever worked with.

John Kerry compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein, called for "regime change" and accused him of fraud.

Joe Lieberman said President Bush is a "segregationist," compared him to "a felon" and called the Administration "nearly as dangerous" as Iraqi terrorists.

We have 11 months until the election and Democrats are just getting warmed up! They are making this one of the nastiest, vicious and negative campaigns in history.

That'd be hard to do. The 1988 Bush campaign was pretty appalling, but nothing beats the 2000 campaign by his son, unless you want to count the last four years, which have been one big nasty campaign.
Democrats are reduced to personal slams on our President and outright lies about his record because they lack a positive agenda and hate -- hate -- what he has done for America.

He has restored dignity and honor to the White House.

"Outright lies." Of course, there's not a single "lie" listed here, but that's okay, the RNC has already made plenty of lies up and have more to come, I'm sure. As to "personal slams", they generate them so quickly it's hard to keep up. And as to "dignity and honor", well, sorry, but you have to be really, really stupid to believe that.

But yes, we hate what George Bush has done to America. We hate the destruction of our economy, our Constitution, and our standing in the world. Because we're Americans and we love our country.

President Bush has led America with moral clarity and purpose and strength in the War against Terrorism.
With the simple black & white blindness of a 15-year-old, actually, and what he's done is make a complete mess of fighting terrorism. The world has become a much more dangerous place under George W. Bush.
The President provided the leadership necessary to cut taxes and restore economic growth.

President Bush's reforms are making America a more compassionate society where no child is left behind.

Former Governor Bush has provided the moral laxity of giving away the store to his wealthy friends and benefactors while gutting education and medical care for children.
But that positive record ... the President's strong values ... his character and integrity and vision ... that all may not matter.

[Link]


We can turn back this venomous assault from rage-filled Democrats and overcome the hateful efforts of multi-millionaire liberals to pervert the election process ...

But we need your support to do that. Please, will
you give $25, $50, $75, or what ever you can afford by using our secure online page [Link] or by mailing in our online form with your personal check. Whatever method you choose, please respond today.

[Link]

The angry, bitter Democrats smearing our President ... the billionaire liberals who will bend the rules to win ... the Democrat soft money groups .. all hope you say "no" or let this important request pass without your taking action.

I love the way they make it sound like no rich person has ever given money to the Republicans - or, for that matter - like "angry, bitter" right-wingers have not been poisoning the landscape for decades now. Rhetoric like this is, of course, intended to convey the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of wealthy, sleazy, corrupt donors, while the Republicans are pure. And they are doing this on behalf of a candidate whose principle virtue is and has always been that he can depend on enormous support from the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the world - and he can depend on them because they know he will cut their taxes and line their pockets with our tax money in return.
But you understand how important it is to America that we keep this President, his leadership, his values, his character, on the job, working for us for another term. Please make your contribution of what ever you can afford today and email five friends and ask them to join this important effort. It is vital to our country, our President. I know he will be grateful.

Sincerely,

Marc Racicot
Chairman
Bush-Cheney '04

I'm sure Marc Racicot knows that Bush will barely know those people exist, and if he thinks of them at all, he laughs at how gullible they are.
PS: The Wall Street Journal reported that George
Soros views "America as the gravest threat to world freedom." Help us overcome this liberal billionaire that is clearly out of touch with real America. Please make your contribution to the President's campaign today and ask five friends to join you in this important effort. With your help, I know we will reach our goal.

[Link]

Absolutely shameless.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Sideshow's ftp server has been out of it since yesterday afternoon. Here's the post I've been trying to put up since then:
Informed on the Superhighway


(I just felt like having a graphic there, so I borrowed one from Lois, who remembered to wish Bruce a happy birthday, unlike some people you could name.)

Jeanne D'Arc and CalPundit find out that "No Child Left Behind" really stands for "No Public Schools Left At All."

Sara Paretsky: 'For those who wish to dissent: Speech, silence and patriotism' (Via Holzman, who is also talking about illegal aliens.)

Everybody is on Safire's case. Check Josh Marshall out for the longer version, but for the lazy, there's Elton Beard doing the Shorter William Safire: My transcendent hatred of the Clintons having imbued me with preternatural mind-reading powers, I can discern in their support of Wesley Clark's candidacy a Machiavellian scheme to install Hillary in the White House. But even Elton couldn't get it down to just one sentence, so there are bonus points added. (The last Shorter Tom Friedman, on the other hand, is entertainingly succinct.)

Jeff Cooper has a few words to say about these 36 words in Bush's speech to the UN: The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder and refused to account for them when confronted by the world. What Jeff doesn't say is that the regime of Saddam Hussein simultaneously cultivated ties to the US, who cultivated ties right back, while they were also cultivating ties to the Mujahadeen, and while they did not seem to have any problem with Saddam committing mass murder, which they certainly knew about. If these are good reasons to bomb Iraq, aren't they equally good reasons to bomb his co-conspirators who at present occupy the White House?

"I'm eating cookies. In Republican-world, that means I'm protecting the soldiers." That's from the nice little post at Pandagon on how Republicans Are Great On Defense. (Be sure to catch his 22 Attacks post, as well. And he gives a fine example of his new word, "ridiculosity. Ah, hell, it's all good, read from top to bottom.)

Skippy. Hm, I can't paraphrase this and there's really not a single quote to sum it up, and anyway it's one of those things that makes me wanna spit. Bush. History. "napoleonic." Grrrr. (But read the rest of the page, because Skippy makes ya feel better. And has a short but sweet review of Big Lies.)

TBTM Flash movie on black box voting: Voterevolution.
15:44 BST

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Mull is beautiful - I wish I'd thought to bring the digital camera.

And Martin Smith, who was sweet and cute and our friend is dead at 40, and though we could see it coming it is still devastating, and I hardly know what to say. Oh, Martin, you stupid fool, we are going to miss you so much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

DEFEAT THE RIGHT IN THREE MINUTES
  • Cheap-labor conservatives don't like social spending or our "safety net". Why? Because when you're unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, they want you "over a barrel" and in a position to "work cheap or starve".
  • Cheap-labor conservatives don't like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. Why? These reforms undo all of their efforts to keep you "over a barrel".
  • Cheap-labor conservatives like "free trade", NAFTA, GATT, etc. Why? Because there is a huge supply of desperately poor people in the third world, who are "over a barrel", and will work cheap.
  • Cheap-labor conservatives oppose a woman's right to choose. Why? Unwanted children are an economic burden that put poor women "over a barrel", forcing them to work cheap.
  • Cheap-labor conservatives don't like unions. Why? Because when labor "sticks together", wages go up. That's why workers unionize. Seems workers don't like being "over a barrel"
  • Cheap-labor conservatives constantly bray about "morality", "virtue", "respect for authority", "hard work" and other "values". Why? So they can blame your being "over a barrel" on your own "immorality", lack of "values" and "poor choices".
  • Cheap-labor conservatives encourage racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry. Why? Bigotry among wage earners distracts them, and keeps them from recognizing their common interests as wage earners.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Emma finds things are even worse than she thought:
It's Not Only Water
I've blogged a couple of times about the shenanigans multinational water companies got up to when buying up public utilities in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Now it seems that water may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Two articles published in the paper version of Financial Times May 21st uncover the collusion between AES, a US-based energy group, and Enron to rig the auction of the Brazilian electricity company, Eletropaulo Metropolitana. The privatization of the largest electricity distribution company in Latin America was expected to bring several hundred million dollars above the minimum price of $1.78 billion.

Ah, but we already knew they were after power; to me, the water thing is worse. [Bloggered link]
MoveOn.org: Stop the FCC


"Congress and the FCC should stop media deregulation and work to make the media diverse, competitive, balanced, and fair."



TOMPAINE.com - Hope For What Might Be
Lewis H. Lapham
The Agonist: Blix thinking no WMDs
The Guardian: The chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said he was starting to suspect Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction in advance of the war on Iraq, a German newspaper reported today.
"I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were none," Mr Blix told the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.
Carville speaks his mind - Local News - californianonline.com
The Globe and Mail To get the lay of the land in the United States — finding those political and social trends and ideas coming to the surface — you just have to watch prime-time American TV.
I know some people think this is a crock.
Network television is commercial entertainment, they say, so it can't be taken seriously as an indicator of anything. But the fictional stories on TV shows reflect and suggest, sometimes guardedly, ideas and feelings that aren't spoken aloud yet.
Elsewhere in this section today you'll find me and some other people speculating about what will happen on the season finale of 24 tonight. It's all blather. The really interesting aspect of 24 this season has been the use of the 25th Amendment as a plot device.
Bush 'is on brink of catastrophe'
From Roland Watson in Washington
THE most senior Republican authority on foreign relations in Congress has warned President Bush that the United States is on the brink of catastrophe in Iraq.

Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Washington was in danger of creating “an incubator for terrorist cells and activity” unless it increased the scope and cost of its reconstruction efforts. He said that more troops, billions more dollars and a longer commitment were needed if the US were not to throw away the peace.

Mr Lugar’s warning came as it emerged that the CIA has launched a review of its pre-war intelligence on Iraq to check if the US exaggerated the threats posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The review is intended to determine if the Pentagon manipulated the assessment of intelligence material for political ends.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I'm back at my desk and posting again at The Sideshow.
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | The British suicide bombers. So, yestereday's suicide bombers had British passports. That's a new wrinkle.
They Knew

Newsweek: The Secrets of September 11

Even as White House political aides plot a 2004 campaign plan designed to capitalize on the emotions and issues raised by the September 11 terror attacks, administration officials are waging a behind-the-scenes battle to restrict public disclosure of key events relating to the attacks.

AT THE CENTER of the dispute is a more-than-800-page secret report prepared by a joint congressional inquiry detailing the intelligence and law-enforcement failures that preceded the attacks—including provocative, if unheeded warnings, given President Bush and his top advisers during the summer of 2001.
[...]
The substance of that intelligence report was first disclosed at a public hearing last September by staff director Hill. But at the last minute, Hill was blocked from saying precisely who within the Bush White House got the briefing when CIA director Tenet classified the names of the recipients. (One source says the recipients of the briefing included Bush himself.) As a result, Hill was only able to say the briefing was given to “senior government officials.”

Bush knew, but refused to allow the FBI and CIA to investigate Al Qaeda.
That issue is now being refought in the context over the full report. The report names names, gives dates and provides a body of new information about the handling of many other crucial intelligence briefings—including one in early August 2001 given to national-security adviser Rice that discussed Al Qaeda operations within the United States and the possibility that the group’s members might seek to hijack airplanes. The administration “working group” is still refusing to declassify information about the briefings, sources said, and has even expressed regret that some of the material was ever provided to congressional investigators in the first place.
That would be the same Rice who said no one could have imagined planes would be hijacked.

So, they had the whole roadmap laid out for them and either were too thick to figure out how to get from A to B or too negligent to do anything about it. Now they're trying to cover it up, but the American people deserve to know, in detail, how this so-called president and his supposedly smart, experienced crew left America wide-open to enemy attack.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Daily Show: Debate between George W. Bush and George W. Bush (Real video).
Charlie is the second person I've noticed in the last 24 hours remarking on the parallels between what's going on in Iraq and Bloody Sunday. You'll excuse me if I'm not elated yet by our glorious victory.
I've mentioned Leon Holmes before, but just in case you've forgotten what a fruitcake Bush has nominated to the court, check out Ruminate This for more.
Aunt Lowey's Handy-Dandy Blog has good news for tea-drinkers.
Tim Dunlop responded to the news last week with the delightful headline, Administration officals confirm that Chomsky was correct:
We were told pretty regularly in the run up to war that arguing with the President, questioning the motives of the Administration, speaking out against the war, or arguing in favour of other, non-war, approaches was unpatriotic.

What word do we now use to describe the fact that the reasons given publicly for invading Iraq were false? Gee, I don't know, what do we call it when the Administration lies to the people in order to stage a war...how about impeachable?
[...]
So what Chomsky had gleaned from largely unheralded sources is now being confirmed by Administration officials via a major media outlet. Which is not to say that I agree with every inference Chomsky makes. And it is interesting to note that concern at such actions has come from rather more mainstream sources: the ABC article quotes, for instance, former CIA director, James Woolsey saying, "I don't think you should go to war to set examples or send messages."

Read the whole thing.
In The Guardian, Polly Toynebee senses a threat:
The threat to our TV from this corrupter of politicians

Now is the time for the Lords to earn its ermine. There are few occasions when its lack of democratic legitimacy is an advantage - but the communications bill is one. Over the next weeks, the Lords can exercise its duty to protect the citizens against the shabbier venalities of democracy. (Though that may not be what Tony Blair meant when he chose to leave them 100% unelected).

With both Labour and Conservative leaders in humiliating thrall to the menacing might of Rupert Murdoch, this is the legitimate time for the unelected Lords to rebel against the elected Commons and stop Murdoch seizing yet another slab of the British media.

Yesterday saw the opening skirmishes over the communications bill: the Lords will vote on it in a few weeks. This vast and baggy bill, packed with important but uncontentious technicalities, contains two momentous threats to the future quality of broadcasting. The key clauses have one sole function - to remove all obstacles to Murdoch seizing Channel 5, overshadowing ITV and, within a short time, providing the main competition to the BBC. The bill abolishes the requirement for owners of TV companies to be British or EU citizens. (Murdoch took US nationality to take over Fox TV: the US bans foreign ownership.)

The other crucial clause removes existing laws that prohibit anyone who owns 20% or more of newspaper readership from buying into TV. Murdoch already owns over 40% of Britain's newspaper readership, as well as his mighty Sky satellite empire.

There are a lot of things about America that Britons wish they had, but wall-to-wall Murdoch is not one of them. Personally, I kinda like Channel 5 the way it is.
The lovely Charles Pierce sat in for Alterman again, and this time he is looking at Sid Blumenthal.
The Daily Howler was pretty disgusted with Diane Sawyer's interview with the Dixie Chicks in which she kept hectoring them to take it all back, and also links to this article in Slate, in which Jim Lewis says:
For what it's worth, I have profoundly mixed feelings about the war, and if I were to sit down with Natalie Maines, I'm sure we'd have much to disagree about. But, just so you know, I'm proud that the Dixie Chicks are from Texas. What's more, I'm embarrassed that Diane Sawyer is a member of my profession.
I'm grateful that the Dixie Chicks were over here reminding the British that not all Americans are idiots.
Troops out of Saudi Arabia
America has begun a historic reshaping of its presence in the Middle East, announcing a halt to active military operations in Saudi Arabia and the removal of most of its forces within weeks.
I figure to make it exactly four weeks: Tomorrow around noon I'm going to stand up straight, do some neck exercises, and spend about an hour and a half in the shower washing my hair. That's right, I haven't been able to wash my hair for four weeks. I have it twisted up so I don't have to cope with it, but it's such a sin to treat beautiful hair this way, I can't stand it. Looking in the mirror is a trauma (made even worse by the fact that gravity is at its most unkind, cosmetically speaking, when you are facing the floor). I still can't see much through the bubble, which still won't dissipate for another couple weeks or so, but it will be such a relief to have my hair sweeping across my back again. Well, of course, it will be an even bigger relief to be able to lift my head up.

And then I will put the screen back on top of my PC and go back to posting at The Sideshow.

Last night I made the mistake of reading Talk Left without making sure I had some Fats Waller in the drive first. It all sent me to bed with bad dreams. Like this post predicting Senate confirmation of right-wing fruitcake Jeffrey Sutton. And yeah, they did it. Why? If they can filibuster Owens, why not Sutton as well? I can't help the feeling that these guys still think it's just a game - they can refuse to confirm Estrada and Owens because of some procedural excuses about how they didn't play the game correctly, but when they get someone who is open about how unsuitable for the job he is, they just go, "Oh, okay." Sure, they voted against him, but they knew damn well that wasn't gonna be enough.

Then there is the article on revoking attorney-client privilege. Actually, it's worse than that - it's revoking the right of unpopular people to have legal representation:

Lynne Stewart, a New York human-rights lawyer with a taste for radical politics, is accustomed to representing unpopular clients.
She never dreamed it would become illegal.

Stewart was in Seattle on Monday as part of a national campaign to drum up support—not for a client, but for her own case. Stewart was a member of the court-appointed defense team for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. After his conviction, Stewart continued as one of the lawyers representing Abdel Rahman. The Seattle visit came just over a year after her arrest April 8, 2002, when she was taken from her home without warning. Federal agents combed through her office, seizing files on all of her cases, and Attorney General John Ashcroft proudly announced that Stewart had been charged in a four-count criminal indictment with aiding and abetting a terrorist organization—solely for her work in representing Abdel Rahman.

Stewart's case, now winding its way through pretrial motions toward a January trial, stands as a critical test for the Bush administration's newly reserved right to violate lawyer-client confidentiality in order to wage the war on terror. It also has a significant First Amendment component. Stewart's indictment charges her with discussing Abdel Rahman's case with a Reuters reporter—even though no gag order barred her from doing so; with talking while an interpreter was speaking with her client during a consultation in his prison cell, thereby preventing the Justice Department from taping their conversation in Arabic; and with allowing the interpreter and client to speak in Arabic about nonlegal matters. If convicted, she faces 40 years in prison.

THE CHARGES STRIKE at the heart of the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment guarantee that all people accused of a crime are entitled to effective representation by an attorney. Courts have long held that attorney-client confidentiality is essential to that right; without the ability to speak freely about what they have, and have not, done, defendants are severely impaired from learning their legal status and options, and attorneys cannot mount the best defense. But Stewart's case has broader implications. In the future, attorneys will be less willing to represent clients like Abdel Rahman.

And since Stewart's indictment, Ashcroft has gone even further, declaring noncitizens, and later, U.S. citizens as well, "enemy noncombatants" so as to hold them indefinitely without charges, denying access to any attorney at all.

There's yet another item to add to my I Wasn't Paranoid Enough file. Oh, and this doesn't look much like America, either.
There's a post over at Pandagon that kinda makes me inarticulate with fury:
Saddam Paid Better


This story from the London Times is telling. Our goal in Iraq is nation-building, but the people of Iraq will not simply accept "slightly better than Saddam" as an end target. Or, in this case, slightly worse than Saddam.

The wages of skilled workers were to be cut to $22 (£13.80) a month, those of the unskilled to $10. Graduates and trained professionals, who had been working as translators and drivers for about £1.30 a day, found themselves being paid 50p or less. The effect was immediate: less than three weeks after liberating Iraq’s second-largest city, the British forces had a strike on their hands.

The pay was being cut to conform with standards imposed across Iraq by the United States. “This is cruelty,” Vahan Gregor, a civil engineer who used to have his own company, said. “The rate is not even enough to pay for the lift into work. A packet of decent cigarettes costs more than a day’s pay. A packet of nappies is one month! Is this fair? Even under Saddam, it was better than this.”

The more we get into the "freedom" part of Operation: Iraqi Freedom, the less confidence I have that we can deliver on that promise.
“I am so disappointed with the British,” Ahmed Ali, a former geography teacher who has been working for the UK force, said. “If you make an agreement, you should keep to it — not reduce pay after one week. Mr Bush talked so much about freedom and how we would live in great conditions after the war. Well, that was all bullshit.”
That's a freakin' fantastic sentiment.
I could rant for pages if I only knew where to start.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Richard Cohen joins William Raspberry on the "Gee, did I get fooled?" wagon.
American Stranger has now set up a temporary site while working on a redesign of blah3.
The weekly Sunday talk-show breakdown at Liberal Oasis is heartening. First there's Lincoln Chafee saying this on Face the Nation:
…I'm trying to figure out why these conservatives are pushing the bigger and bigger tax cuts when traditionally conservatives have been opposed to deficits.

And all I can figure is that if we get these big deficits, then the pressure will be on to strangle…what is called the “wasteful social spending.”

Whether it's Section 8 [housing for the poor] or Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security [or] Head Start programs or Pell grants.

And I think that's the tactic. Once we get these deficits, then we can attack these so-called wasteful social spending programs…

[But] I think these social programs have made a lot of people's lives a great deal better.

(Why is that guy a Republican?)

Then there's Senator Bob Graham on This Week doing exactly what Democrats should have been doing all along:

We have virtually abandoned the war on terrorism.

We have withdrawn military intelligence capabilities from Afghanistan, and because of that, Al Qaeda has been able to regroup……we have not taken on the A-Team of [terrorism] -- Hezbollah, [Hamas and Islamic Jihad] -- in Syria and Lebanon…

…we have allowed our alliances, which are going to be absolutely critical to winning the war on terrorism, to disintegrate.

I don't think that’s a very impressive national security record.

That's what we need to hear!
A letter at Altercation:
Name: Marie Foster
Hometown: Spokane, WA
I keep holding up my hand to try to get anyone’s attention to the recent rules signed by Bush reversing the way that the BLM evaluates our public lands. This was an executive decision that says now that the BLM CAN NOT consider any set asides of public lands for recreation or wildlife preservation or conservation. If any piece of land has commercial value that is what is going to determine how our lands are managed.

Recreation et al is no longer an equal value to extractive ones (mining, logging, grazing etc.)

This is a further move towards privatization of EVERYTHING which is the neoconservative agenda as promoted by people like the CATO institute.

Please! I implore you to use the popularity of your site to publicize this.

There are dozens of things like this going on that most of us simply don't have time to talk about, because there are just so damn many of them.
I learn many things from Charles Kuffner, who refers to a post by Mark Evanier at his cool, new, Movable-Typed site, where he commented on the Tim Robbins/Today issue. Mark is willing to give Today the benefit of the doubt (and I'm not), but he does say:
I just think it's funny that, intentional or not, Robbins got cut off while he was going after Corporate America on NBC, just like a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Tim Robbins got cut off while he was going after Corporate America on NBC.
Diane at Karmalised wants to know how John McCain can have forgotten about North Korea before but now suddenly remembers it and wants to know why no one else has paid attention to it.
All this spin about celebrities having opinions on politics when they are "only" actors and presumably have no more expertise than anyone else has a lot of drawbacks, to be sure - the most obvious one being that, as American citizens, they have every right to say what they think, just like all the other talking heads do. But what really gets me is the idea that all the other talking heads are somehow more qualified. The people who are criticizing Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are, of course, people who have done no more research into the issues than Sarandon and Robbins have done - in fact, they appear to have done considerably less. Who are O'Reilly or Hannity or Limbaugh to express any opinions on politics? Do they actually know anything? Do they read the Congressional Record every day, comb through legislation, check out the historical background of trends, study peer-reviewed research? Of course they don't - these guys aren't I.F. Stone, y'know.

Let's face it, it's infuriating to watch over and over as the op-ed columnists and political talk-show hosts who have become celebrities (and pull down nice salaries) for supposedly telling us what we don't know actually know far less than we do, and have done far less work to find out, too. They get paid to spout their uninformed opinions - the rest of us have to spend precious time digging out that information for ourselves and do it out of our own pockets as well. First you pay for a television, a radio, newspaper subscriptions and what have you in order to learn this stuff, and then you still have to go out and do research to find out what's really going on.

George F. Will's son once dragged him to a Springsteen concert. (As I recall, this was during the Born in the USA tour.) He couldn't avoid being impressed by the energy of Springsteen on stage. So without doing a lick of research, without even checking out Springsteen's lyrics, he wrote a whole column about how Bruce was the voice of Reagan's America. It apparently hadn't crossed his mind that Springsteen might have had other views - he couldn't even bother to look. Of course, Will was wrong.

I'm invited to appear on talk shows from time to time, not because of my expertise so much as because I come from a group with the colorful name of "Feminists Against Censorship". Because the people involved in the production of these shows don't actually know much, they still think that's a counter-intuitive idea. What's really annoying is that I'm often put up against some "expert" who has a degree in psychology who is there to say what the research on pornography "really" says. The problem is that of the two of us, I'm the only one who has read the research. The interviewers will talk to me about my personal opinions - they regularly ask me whether I like pornography, as if that mattered when the issue is censorship - but they will ask the professional shrink what the "facts" are. The professional shrink will then regurgitate something they probably read in a newspaper article written by someone who had only talked to anti-pornography activists. It's a rare occasion when I manage to get back in long enough to say something to make clear to the audience that the "expert" doesn't know what he's talking about. So to the presenters and production staff on these shows, someone who has no real knowledge of the subject is the "expert", but the fact that I've actually read the research myself doesn't matter.

Strangely, to the readers of newspapers, the idea that reporters and regular op-ed columnists have real knowledge of what they are writing about - that they have done more to find these things out than someone who isn't paid to do so - really does matter. No one needs to watch the news or buy a paper just to hear gossip from the ignorant, since they can get that down the pub any day of the week. Besides, if we're the ones who are going to do the work of finding that stuff out, how come we're not the ones who are getting paid for it? It's enough to really piss you off.

This is, of course, Bob Somerby's beat, and he's on the case over that Raspberry article I cited earlier - the one where Raspberry admits he was snowed by Colin Powell, and says:

Here, the secretary of state was telling the jury masquerading as the U.N. Security Council, you see the chemical and biological labs at one of the production sites. And here, you notice, the trucks are gone—just hours before the U.N. inspectors are due on the scene. Here are the time-lapse photographs, taken by satellite and spy planes…I believed it—and for much the same reasons I believed the prosecution’s DNA evidence against O.J. Simpson. That is to say, I didn't understand most of it, but I was terribly impressed by the certitude of those who said they did.
If he didn't understand it, what qualified him to be paid to write about whether or not he was convinced by it? Somerby quite rightly says:
That last past is certainly true, by the way; Raspberry did have lots of company. Many Americans were convinced by Powell’s U.N. presentation. But Raspberry is an important columnist at our most important political newspaper. As such, he’s supposed to have better skills, better contacts, and more experience than “hundreds of thousands of Americans.” In fact, those Americans rely on Raspberry’s diligence and expertise—rely on him and others like him to perform the analyses they can't conduct. But even now, if you read his column, the pundit still doesn't mention the specific problems with Powell’s presentations at the U.N.—problems which were publicly examined in February and March. Even now, he doesn't seem up to speed on the debate about what Powell did.

As we've said, we at THE HOWLER have always assumed that Saddam had WMDs. Raspberry now seems to have some doubts—and he seems to have major doubts about Powell. (“Powell’s spellbinding display looks more and more like prosecutorial hokum.”) But it’s hard to believe that this is the way our major analysts actually reason. But as noted: Americans pay a price, every day, for the work of this puzzling crew.

And that price includes a "president" who "won" without getting the requisite votes, who lied during the campaign with impunity and has been doing so ever since, right up to lying us into a diplomatic disaster and a war that has very likely hurt American interests for decades to come, not to mention a stunning loss of our Constitutional rights and our economic security as well. (Thanks to these people, the loss of those museums, libraries, and even lives are not to be treated as having any importance.) Most Americans, who simply don't have the time to research the facts behind "the news", have no idea what's been done to them. It's a pity Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon didn't have regular columns in The Washington Post, or a drive-time radio show, and a seat on Meet the Press, so someone could have told them.
Interview with Roger Ebert:
Ebert: I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out. If Hollywood stars speak out, so do all sorts of other people. Now Hollywood stars can get a better hearing. Oddly enough, the people who mostly seem to hear them are the right wing, so that Fox News can put on its ticker tape in Times Square a vile attack on Michael Moore, and Susan Sarandon is a punchline. These are people who are responsible and are saying what they believe. And there are people on the other side who also speak out, and it's the way our country works. You know, if you're good enough to be the best actor of your generation, which is probably what Sean Penn is, you're probably not dumb. And anyone who's ever heard Susan Sarandon speak for a while knows that she's pretty smart. I write op-ed columns for the Chicago Sun-Times, and people send me e-mails saying, "You're a movie critic. You don't know anything about politics." Well, you know what, I'm 60 years old, and I've been interested in politics since I was on my daddy's knee. During the 1948 election, we were praying for Truman. I know a lot about politics.

Q: When the Susan Sarandons and Sean Penns speak out, they do so at some risk to their career options, don't they?

Ebert: There's an interesting pattern going on. When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when liberals disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up. That's the message: "Shut up. Don't write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?"

Via Smart Remarks.
I just don't get it. Andy Sullivan and his readers seem to be having an epiphany of sorts, but what on earth ever made them think that the Republican Party was the party of tolerance? (Via Smythe's World .)
Toles, on-target again.

Monday, April 28, 2003

An amusing Flash thingy
An amusing cartoon
Pontificator says:
In light of the fact that thousands of poor people are about to lose their health care, I'm really glad we're cutting taxes on the wealthy:
Millions of low-income Americans face the loss of health insurance or sharp cuts in benefits, like coverage for prescription drugs and dental care, under proposals now moving through state legislatures around the country.

State officials and health policy experts say the cuts will increase the number of uninsured, threaten recent progress in covering children and impose severe strains on hospitals, doctors and nursing homes.

But those officials, confronting a third straight year of fiscal crisis, say they have no choice but to rein in Medicaid, the fast-growing program that provides health insurance for 50 million people.

Many state officials are pleading for federal help as they face an array of painful trade-offs, often pitting the needs of impoverished elderly people for prescription drugs and long-term care against those of low-income families seeking basic health coverage.

This is payback for Bush's campaign contributors, and Republican class warfare against the poor. As Bush pays off his buddies at Halliburton and the Hair Club for Growth (or whatever the latest trendy right wing business lobbying group is called), the poor , having already had their votes stolen in 2000, now get their health care stolen as well. [...]
I say, let's filibuster the whole damn tax cut.
Matthew Langer at Untelevised writes:
What's better: a tax and spend liberal, or a tax cut and go fuck yourself conservative? Obey gets it right below.
When the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dedicated its new emergency operations center this month, it bore the name of a surprising benefactor — Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus.

The reason: Almost two years into a massive war on terrorism, having faced one public health threat in the anthrax attacks of 2001 and facing another in a contagious, pneumonia-like disease called SARS, the federal government was unable to equip the center in a timely fashion on its own.

So it had to turn to a private donor for nearly $4 million.
[...]
"They are so desperate to preserve their budget-busting tax cuts that they are looking for places to shortchange," said Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

I just left this comment over at Gary Hart's weblog
I'm surprised at the way Democrats have failed to take control of the "Homeland Security" issue, given that the administration has fallen down on it entirely. I'd like to see a forthright critique of the way the White House program has given short shrift to our first-responders (e.g. firefighters) while instituting and encouraging numerous policies that at best make our lives more annoying and at worst deprive us of our Constitutional rights. Someone needs to ask why this administration cuts veterans' benefits on the one hand while "securing" our borders by putting peacenicks and Green Party activists on "no-fly" lists.

The Republican Party shouldn't be allowed to get away with pretending that incessant military flexing is an appropriate - or effective - substitute for on-the-ground attention to what known fundamentalist terrorists (whether Islamist or far-right Christianist) are up to in the United States. This is an administration that forbade our intelligence services the freedom to investigate Al Qaeda; "detaining" people merely because their families come from Muslim countries is not going to fix the problem.

From the moment Bush entered the White House, he has embarked on a program of weakening American security on every front, including protecting us from terrorism. He needs to be called on it.

While we all realize how difficult it is these days for anyone to get a message out through the right-wing gatekeeper media we now have, it's nevertheless shameful that the Democrats have actually done so little to hammer the point that Bush's "national security" program has left us less secure than ever. Since they like to repeat the mantra of "9/11" with such frequency, we should never miss a chance to demand an answer to the question of why the FBI and CIA were prevented from pursuing Islamic terrorists at a time when Al Qaeda was known to be plotting something big and allied intelligence all over the world was sending continual warnings and naming names - that the administration ignored.

The Republicans used to make continual cracks about how Clinton's response to terrorism was just to drop a bomb in the desert or fire up some camel's ass. Well, dropping a lot more bombs on a desert and sending thousands of troops to climb up some camel's ass isn't such a big improvement when you get right down to it - nor is destroying our Constitution. Democratic campaigners who can't be bothered to say so are making a big mistake.

When Rush speaks, there's more evidence for David Neiwert to write about at Orcinus:
One of the lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its own real agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left. (Remember how during the Florida fiasco it regularly accused Al Gore of attempting to steal the election through court fiat?) When it accuses liberals of "fascism," it almost always has done so in an effort to obscure its own fascist proclivities -- and it reminds the rest of us just whose footsoldiers are in reality merrily goosestepping down the national garden path.
Julian Sanchez notes something you might want to think about from Will Saletan:
According to the court's statement of facts, the appellant, Ami Smith, "was involved in an incestuous relationship with her paternal uncle," which "began while [she] was still a minor." She "was eighteen years old when charged," "entered a guilty plea to one count of incest and was sentenced to three years supervised probation," for the violation of which she was subsequently sentenced to serve five years in jail. Laws against sexual abuse apply only to the perpetrator. Laws against incest apply in theory to both participants, and in this case they applied in fact. If you want to justify incest laws, don't tell me why Ami Smith's uncle belongs in jail. Tell me why she belongs there, too.
The Talking Dog has a nicely steamed rant about the Bushistas and their lying about WMDs.
Just in case you've been wondering: The IRAQ BODY COUNT Database (via Failure Is Impossible).

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Max reminds you:
WITH THE THOUGHTS YOU'D BE THINKIN', YOU COULD BE ANOTHER LINCOLN . . . Yesterday our leader told us that " . . . this nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war." Thus far the cost of the war is estimated at $20 billion. The deficit for Fiscal Year 2003 is projected at $246 billion. Moreover, as a matter of deliberate policy, the President proposes to further increase the deficit this year by close to $40 billion. Over ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Bush Budget would reduce surpluses and increase deficits by $2,710 billion. And so it goes.
(By "the President" he really means George W. Bush.)
Dwight Meredith looks at a criticism of Paul Krugman and finds it...dishonest.
Why I love Lisa English
See, this is what happens when you're an American administration that lies through its teeth about everything. You lack the credibility to convince me of your name.
Great post over at Seeing the Forest about the difference between what the Bushies say and what they do:
Bush shows up in New York after 9/11 and promises billions of dollars for reconstruction and for the fire and police departments. It never shows up. Bush says his tax cuts won't cause deficits, as a way of getting Congress to vote to pass the tax cuts. Of course, they caused the biggest deficits in history. Bush does a photo-op at an environmental site, later they cut the funding. Bush talks about being the "Education President" and later cuts funding. Bush talks about patriotism and supporting the troops, then cuts the budget for veterans' benefits. Need I continue? The only relationship between what these guys say and what they do is they say whatever is necessary to trick the public into believing one thing while they do another thing.

Under the Soviet system, people came to realize that they could not trust government sources of news. They learned to look for what was being done. Under Saddam Iraqis learned to trust what they saw instead of what they heard.

By now the pattern is clear. By now we should all be learning not to waste our time and energy refuting their arguments. That's just getting yourself bogged down in the fog and smoke. That's just looking "over there" when they point their finger and shout, "Look over there!" Their "facts" and arguments are just trees. See the forest. The forest is this: they lie. They just lie. They say whatever their polls and focus groups tell them to say. Learn to see only what they do.

I keep meaning to warn those of you who don't look at a lot of weblogs that happen to be on Blogspot that permalinks to articles on other Blogspot blogs are working intermittently at best, and if you click on them and they don't work, the thing to do is go to the main page and scroll down. Permalinks to this weblog, as far as I can tell, aren't working at all. I'm told that the way to fix that is to use the "republish" facility, but when I try that I just get an error message.

Also, I've noticed all week that I keep going to some pages on Blogspot and seeing an earlier version of that page - and then I hit "Refresh" and discover that the page has been updated and for some reason it's giving me a version I've already seen. I know it's a pain in the tail, but you might want to try that before you conclude that a particular weblog hasn't been updated since last time you looked.

Five more days....

If there's anyone left who still hasn't seen Bruce Springsteen's remarks defending the Dixie Chicks, you can find them at his website here, (And if you scroll down the page, you can watch a video of Bruce & the E Street Band doing "Waitin' On Sunny Day").
Find out why there's such resistance in some circles to the Bible as Metaphor at Sisyphus Shrugged. You might also want to check out another good catch of hers, an article she links on Another Unworthy Judicial Nominee.
From Under a Blackened Sky:
I'm generally sympathetic to the idea that one can go to extreme lengths to prove a point, but there's a world of difference between going to the library for six hours and emerging with 15 articles to win a five-minute argument in round two, and blowing the shit out of another country seulment pour encourager les autres.
Yeah, what you said.
I can't bear the thought that you might miss this wonderful comment from Charles Pierce in Altercation:
Pace, E.J. Dionne and Jonathan Alter, but there isn’t a public figure alive more worthy of undistilled invective than Newt Gingrich, recently resurrected intellectual satrap of the unpleasant, the uninformed, and (very likely) the unshod. I know all of us good liberals are supposed to be battling this out in our shiny armor on the higher plain of our ideals but, sakes alive, how can we do this when somebody rolls back the stone and out staggers, blinking at the daylight, the greasy adulterous king of the Undead, come now to play the role of advisor to Emperor C-Plus Augustus and the rest of the lads and lassies?

Remember the heady days of ’94, before Bill Clinton outmaneuvered Newtie until he left Congress wearing a barrel? Newtie — who has yet to learn that a string of adjectives is not an argument — was a towering intellectual figure on the landscape.

He, of course, became this during his days as a historian at Western Georgia University And Auto Parts Emporium, where you can find the History Department because there’s a really OLD Desoto up on blocks out front. (He himself apparently considered himself, “definer of the rules of civilization,” a dreamy exercise not unlike all those 13-year old girls who scrawl, “Mrs. Brad Pitt” across their notebooks.) Read some of the stuff — especially in the newsweeklies. It’s hilarious, I tell you.

Of course, at home, the Definer wasn’t much to speak of: he dumped Wife No. One while she was recovering from cancer; Wife No. Two, who has MS, got the heave-ho when Newtie’s chronic Comely Aide Syndrome flared up again. My only advice to Wife No.Three is not to sneeze in her husband’s presence until their 50th anniversary.

Now, consider Al Gore, who’s had two fewer wives, and who actually knows what he’s talking about, is the subject of quasi-educated ridicule from the Panchitos and the Dulces of the world. Meanwhile, a swaggering bag of old sins like Newt Gingrich maintains a serious role in our public discourse, rising this week to take a bite out of Colin Powell who, whatever you may think of him, has forgotten more about foreign policy than ever was known by Newtie, who was barely able to negotiate a truce with Dick Armey, for pity’s sake.

Meanwhile, you can forget about the invasion of Syria for a while. If Bechtel does for Baghdad what it’s done for Boston and the Big Dig, the U.S. Army is going to find itself driving in circles for 10 years, searching in vain for an off-ramp.

The man sure has a way with words.
Boy, I'm glad I don't work for this guy:
Thou shalt not notice class differences, bub.

"Getting canned sucks. But I understand that difficult business decisions must be made in difficult times, and I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make those difficult decisions. But if I was... I'd probably cut the private service that comes in to water and dust and turn the plants in the publisher's office, before I'd cut a local cartoonist. In other words, I'd cut something only the privileged few who enter the publisher's office see, before I'd cut something 190,000 readers see."

St. Paul Pioneer Press via Romanesko

Update 4-25-03: "From KIRK ANDERSON, Editorial Cartoonist, formerly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
I'm glad my farewell memo ("Axed PiPress cartoonist's farewell: 'PEOPLE NOT PLANTS!'") made it to your site [Romanesko, not MWOWWWW]. The publisher, Harold Higgins, received it less enthusiastically than the rest of the staff; he promptly killed my last cartoon (drawn yesterday, would've run today). Also, he killed a little boxed editor's note saying this was my last day and why I was leaving."

From Liquid List
The FBI confirmed yesterday that several months ago, its agents confiscated a package sent by one AP reporter to another. The package contained an unclassified FBI document that the reporter had obtained in researching an article.

The FBI also said that it's Office of Professional Responsibility had opened an inquiry into the seizure, which took place without a warrant and without notification of the parties involved. Federal Express, who was carrying the package, reported originally that it must have fallen off a truck.

Reminder: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Iraq 'may have to quit Opec'
Iraq may have to leave the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries so it can pump out extra oil to pay for the country's reconstruction, says a former Iraqi oil minister who is now a key adviser to the American government.
Is that an Intended Consequence?
Only five more days of this. I can't wait to sit up straight again. To be able to look at people's faces. To sleep on my side!
BBC NEWS: Bush targets illicit diamonds
US President George W Bush on Friday signed up to new legislation that tries to curb the illegal trade in "blood" diamonds.

I guess de Beers was really pissing Pat Robertson off, eh?

Originally I only glanced at Brad DeLong's article about Apple being due for some major redesign work - I've never liked Macs much when I've had to work with them - but this morning I fancied another look and it was kind of fun to read and try to visualize that stuff.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Someone who writes to Oliver Willis has done some first-hand research into what kind of sex Rick "man on dog" Santorum approves of.
Seth Finklestein has been taking a close look at all that censorware legislation.
Hesiod has posted a whole bunch of stuff at Counterspin that I've been too pissed off to write about, but definitely check out this one about how CONSERVATIVE POLITICS KILLS PEOPLE. It's true, you know, and in more ways than this.
God, talk about your missed chances! JACK STRAW discloses today in The Times that he would have resigned with Tony Blair had many more Labour MPs joined the revolt against war in Iraq in the crucial Commons vote on March 18.

This Times story is apparently only in the print edition, but the headline is: "As ITN reporter Terry Lloyd is laid to rest, the Americans finally admit they fired on his car." Lloyd is the only ITN reporter to be killed while reporting in the network's history. But he's not the only reporter to die at the hands of American forces in Iraq. Proportionately speaking, a hell of a lot of reporters seem to have been killed by the US in this invasion. I wonder what causes that?

Southwest Pilots Fired For Flying Naked
DALLAS, 4:53 p.m. CDT April 25, 2003 - Two Southwest Airlines pilots are now jobless after they allegedly flew a Boeing 737 without wearing their uniforms, or much of anything else, for that matter.
I'm sure this is all Clinton's fault.
Vaara has posted one of George W. Bush's favorite portraits of George W. Bush over at Silt, not to mention a photo of George shaking hands with the artist, a former gay porn star. You gotta see this thing.
All I want is some leadership,
Guys and gals who are sane -- not flipped,
A Prez who's got a grip,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?

All I want is a guy like Gore,
One who won't try to screw the poor,
Instead of Bush, the boor,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?

--MadKane
From Public Nuisance
A long post at Oxblog makes the long-since cliched argument that the NY Times displays liberal bias. The offending article is here the offense committed seems to be that it actually refers, repeatedly, to Iraqis being killed. The level of bias displayed by this article is truly appalling - why, this far left propaganda actually claims that people get killed in wars. It even makes the outrageous assertion that some of those killed are noncombatants.
[...]
The Times has been guilty of violating that informal embargo on suggesting that the war was in reality violent. That is enough for Mr Adesnik to find a pervasive "anti-military prejudice". He doesn't actually question the accuracy of the article, but the fact that the Times is telling the truth when other publications have the good taste not to mention it is apparently adequate proof of their bias.
Go read this funny post at Soundbitten.
Skimble is full of juicy goodness: on poor Ken Lay losing money and Sharon Bush selling out, but more importantly two stories on media, in which a journalist is forbidden to blog and Penguin Books goes after the Regnery market. Eeyew, gross.
From Epicycle:
I heard a while ago that the CDDB, that wonderful online database of CD track titles used by many audio players, had been bought by Gracenote and would probably become a licensed service, but apart from frowning at the idea of further media consolidation it didn't really sink in... Evidently this has happened at some point since I last played a new CD, as today my venerable but much beloved CD Valet player greeted me only with "invalid response returned from server". It turns out that Gracenote have reformatted the database, changed the access protocol, and installed some kind of key-exchange system with licensed players to protect their investment.

However, as I hoped and suspected, the original database is still very much alive in the form of freedb.org. They use the same protocols, ports and syntax as the original cddb.com service, and all that old software needs is the names of the new servers. Unfortunately, in the case of CD Valet, that meant a trip to the registry armed with a hexadecimal calculator, but thanks to the clearly named keys a minimum of head-scratching ensued before the player was once again displaying track titles.

That's easy for him to say.
Emma has found another stunning example of why "there are no female geniuses".
U.S. Has Not Inspected Iraqi Nuclear Facility (washingtonpost.com)
Nearly three weeks after U.S. forces reached Iraq's most important nuclear facility, the Bush administration has yet to begin an assessment of whether tons of radioactive material there remain intact, according to military officials here and in Washington.

Before the war began last month, the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center held 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium, more than 94 tons of natural uranium and smaller quantities of cesium, cobalt and strontium, according to reports compiled through the 1990s by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Immensely valuable on the international black market, the uranium was in a form suitable for further enrichment to "weapons grade," the core of a nuclear device. The other substances, products of medical and industrial waste, emit intense radiation. They have been sought, officials said, by terrorists seeking to build a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives to scatter dangerous radioactive particles.

Defense officials acknowledge that the U.S. government has no idea whether any of Tuwaitha's potentially deadly contents have been stolen, because it has not dispatched investigators to appraise the site. What it does know, according to officials at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, is that the sprawling campus, 11 miles south of Baghdad, lay unguarded for days and that looters made their way inside.

Tuwaitha is headquarters of Iraq's Atomic Energy Agency, with hundreds of structures covering some 120 acres. At the height of Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program, which nearly succeeded in building a bomb in 1991, Tuwaitha incorporated research reactors, uranium mining and enrichment facilities, chemical engineering plants and an explosives fabrication center to build the device that detonates a nuclear core.

The facility was inspected more often than any other site by U.N. inspectors, who began disarming Iraq under U.N. Security Council mandate in 1991.

Disputes inside the U.S. Defense Department and with other government agencies have slowed the preparation of orders for a team of nuclear experts to assess Tuwaitha, officials said. Though it anticipated for months that war would leave it with responsibility for Iraq's nuclear infrastructure, the Bush administration did not reach consensus on the role it would seek at those facilities.


More scary vote-scam stories in Florida
Out of Touch
You press the screen. The machine tells you that your vote has been counted. But how can you be sure?
BY WYATT OLSON

Emil Danciu says he smelled victory a year ago. He's slouched in his chair and looks a bit out of place seated in front of his daughter's office desk. He's faced with a phalanx of framed baby photos. Charlotte Danciu, a Boca Raton attorney who specializes in adoption and juvenile law, has decorated the corner office with scores of framed snapshots of tots and adoring parents.

Her father, a calm man of 72, is dressed casually in shorts, polo shirt, and sneakers.
[...]
Early last year, Emil Danciu was one of four candidates vying to win two seats on the Boca Raton City Council. A long-time civic activist, he had spearheaded the drive to preserve public land in Boca Raton in the '80s. He served as mayor from 1985 until 1993, when he lost by 99 votes. In Boca's polarized political camps of development versus slow growth, Danciu represented the latter.

Danciu lost that race, an election mired by glitches in the county's new touch-screen voting computers. Later that fall, during the primary, similar machines by a different manufacturer exhibited some of the same problems in Broward County. Now, a growing number of computer scientists are sounding the alarm over the nation's growing reliance on computerized voting machines that provide no paper trail.

Some experts contend that the Danciu election underscores the problems in dealing with paperless recounts and the dubious reliability and security of this new technology. At the same time, exit polling by media outlets -- which is one of the few methods available to detect ballot-box anomalies -- is waning. The nation's switchover to touch-screen computers will likely speed up as billions of dollars authorized by Congress become available for the new technology.

"I quite definitely thought I'd win," Emil Danciu recalls of the election held on March 12, 2002. "We had a good group put together, and we had all the supposedly good things you're supposed to have in a campaign. We had a decent amount of money."

His daughter interjects: "I was the unofficial campaign manager, I guess you could say. All of the polling that was done indicated that he'd win because of this antidevelopment sentiment that was being expressed in Boca. But the real telling factor was that all of the big developers were calling him the weekend before the election trying to get on his good side, offering him money, offering him signs."

The Dancius learned that an opposing camp had conducted a poll about two weeks prior to the election and found Danciu about 17 points ahead. "Like everybody else does, we had a mole in the other operation," Charlotte explains. "This poll was taken by the Chamber of Commerce people, the people with all the money."

Even the exit polling they conducted on Election Day was encouraging. "They were overwhelmingly indicating that he would be the victor," she says.

The Dancius gathered at their headquarters on Federal Highway on election night with friends and campaign workers. It was the first election to employ the new touch screens made by Sequoia, which had been touted as offering quick returns. "We kept waiting and waiting, but Boca couldn't get any results out," Charlotte says. Finally, she and a few others drove to the office of Theresa LePore, the supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County. "There was an army of reporters and an army of people from Sequoia," Charlotte says. "At that point, they said they couldn't tabulate the votes because they'd lost 15 cartridges. They were just missing, and the system was built so it wouldn't give a final tally until you turned in all the cartridges. Then they claimed a poll worker had taken them home, and then they found them."

The Dancius were stunned when the totals did come in: Danciu had received 2,863, which was a few thousand votes short of the two winners, Susan Haynie at 6,044 and Bill Hager at 5,446. Even more perplexing was the fact that Danciu had lost in his own home voting precinct.

For about a decade, Emil Danciu says, the slow-growth candidates had been "on the short end by a couple hundred votes, at most. All of a sudden, here's a 2,000-vote spread between us and them. That was really strange to us."

Charlotte continues: "What really alarmed us was the next day when we started getting phone calls from voters who had gone into the voting places -- people we didn't even know -- and pushed Emil Danciu's name only to end up with a check mark by Susan Haynie's name. They repeatedly tried to vote for him, but another name, particularly Haynie's, came up. They couldn't get their vote registered. They were telling wild stories about poll workers unplugging and kicking the machines. They didn't know whether their votes ever counted. Some were told to vote again."

Haynie and Hager were certified as winners by LePore's office. Charlotte Danciu, then joined by lead attorney Rob Ross, filed suit contesting the results on March 25, 2002, in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

Their case was bolstered, they believed, when Councilman Al Paglia lost his seat by four votes to Lizbeth Benacquisto during a runoff contest held March 26 in Wellington, a town of 42,000 in central Palm Beach County. Although Paglia and Benacquisto were the sole candidates on the ballot, 78 so-called undervotes were registered, meaning 78 voters used the machine but did not cast a ballot. That struck Paglia as odd because he'd garnered 45 percent of the votes during the primary run against three challengers. And then, he too began hearing stories from voters that the Sequoia touch screens had acted erratically. On Paglia's behalf, Charlotte Danciu and Ross filed suit on April 5 contesting the Wellington election.

The candidates' legal team was convinced that independent computer experts could ascertain whether something had gone wrong inside those ballot machines. The experts, however, would never get the chance.

(There's a lot more - go for the print-friendly page when you get there. I gave the main URL because I've noticed that now some papers are making it harder to get the print version without going there from the originating page.)

Here's the thing about the ensuing discussion of having the machines print voting receipts:

  • First of all, a machine could give you a receipt for how you really voted but send different information for tabulation. That is, you don't know that your receipt is telling you the truth.
  • Secondly, if only the receipt is hard-copy, it means the real voting information, being purely digital, can fall apart in transmission; collecting receipts after the fact is a much more complicated process than simply hand-counting hard-copy ballots that are already on-site.
  • Thirdly, receipts make it too easy to violate the privacy of the voting booth, which can potentially lead to problems like having a parent or spouse (or roommates, classmates, drinking buddies, or whoever) demand that you prove you voted the way they think you should have. Worse, it leads to potential nightmare scenarios of party thugs waiting for you as you leave your polling place and demanding that you prove you voted "correctly". (I mean, you know, we've already been told that saying you want to see someone besides Bush in the White House is "treason" - just how far-fetched is that scenario, given the riot to prevent ballot-counting by Republican operatives in the last election?)
So what you want is for the ballot itself to be hard-copy, printed out after you've verified it onscreen. This means you get to make sure you haven't made any errors, no rubbish about stray pencil-marks, etc. You have a nice clean, easily-readable ballot (by machine or eyeball), each one uniform and consistent. You read it and check to make sure it still says what it's supposed to say and then put it in the ballot box yourself. If there are problems like close races or computer errors, hand-counts are easy.

The ballot itself is what matters. Don't get distracted with talk about receipts.

A uniter, not a divider

Thanks, Mr President
Bush's actions are helping Europe to fashion a new sense of identity

Jeremy Rifkin

Love him or hate him, but at least acknowledge the fact that President Bush has a knack for bringing the most unlikely people together. Could anyone have imagined that Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims - historic foes for centuries - would unite in a Baghdad mosque to oppose US occupation of their land and vow to work hand in hand to remove the infidels from their ancestral ground? Equally impressive, President Bush's Iraq policy has helped millions of Europeans, who often find themselves at odds with each other on the most banal considerations of life, to find their common identity in opposition to the war.

I was thinking about this last week, as EU leaders met in Athens to welcome 10 central and eastern European countries into their ranks. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, while officials from the old and new Europe stood side by side at the foot of the Acropolis posing for photos, many continued to express concern over the rift that has been created between European powers in the wake of the earlier failed diplomatic efforts leading up to the war. Some wondered out loud whether the growing division and bitterness among European nations might even derail the future prospects of the EU itself. While European leaders engaged in a collective handwringing, they failed to notice that an extraordinary transformation has occurred among ordinary people all over Europe in the course of the past several months.

The Iraq crisis has united Europeans and armed them with a clear sense of shared values and future vision. Millions have taken to the streets in the largest unified public protests in European history. People from every political persuasion, from every demographic category and from the entire rainbow of ethnic persuasions, joined together to condemn the unilateral policy of the Bush White House in Iraq and, by so doing, provided the first dramatic expression of a new European identity.

Bartcop posted a letter offering a blatantly phony excuse for the cut-off:
Subject: RE: Tim Robbins Appearance

Dear Mr. Sinton,

Thanks for writing.

I assume you did not actually watch this, but instead read it on the internet. I would caution you that the story being circulated is wrong. Mr. Robbins was in no way censored on Today.

Our computer automatically sends the program to a commercial everyday at 8:25:25.

Interview subjects are warned that this is a hard-time, but on occasion they do not see the clock and keep talking into a commercial break. That is the peril of a live interview. Our apologies for what appeared to be cutting off Mr. Robbins.

This was not a decision made by either Mr. Lauer or the show. There is nothing we can do except apologize when this happens. However, it is a moment that we immediately remedied, by continuing our interview into the next half-hour. Mr. Robbins was given a second segment moments later... and the last word. He was neither censored, nor offended.

Sincerely,
Tom Touchet
Executive Producer

Yeah, right, no one in the control room was telling the presenter that he only had 10 seconds left, so he kept right on asking questions? Sorry, no. Bart doesn't buy it, and neither do I.
Agenda Bender notes the relationship between sex and spying in the Leung scandal and says:
They need to start screening FBI agents for heterosexual tendencies. Straight hijinks have caused no end of security breaches in recent years.
It's a thought. Don't miss this post, either, with a marvellous rant about a major bit of anti-gay fuckwitticism.
I am still capable of being surprised

Another one from Eschaton; I knew a lot of creepy things about Opus Dei, but I didn't know this:

Of course, Rick Santorum probably is one of those catholics who doesn't think too much of the Pope, so maybe he isn't too worried about the loyalty charge. Santorum supports the death penalty, supported the war in Iraq, belongs to a church which has ignored the Vatican II reforms, has praised Opus Dei, an order which forbids giving alms to the poor, and has criticized Catholic Charities for not being Catholic enough.
Blimey, how on Earth can you even think you're a Christian and be opposed to charity? Have these people ever read the gospels? I mean, as far as the material world was concerned, this was, like, Jesus' biggest Thing.
Atrios says:
Newt Gingrich Bitch Slap

It's all been a bit weird. I'm shocked at just how many people have kicked him back into whatever hole he crawled out of.

James Baker.

Former Secretary of State James Baker, who has close ties to President Bush, blasted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday for trashing Secretary of State Powell's efforts before the Iraq war. Gingrich's comments "were totally inappropriate," Baker told the Daily News. "They came from someone with no foreign policy or national security experience, and who was in effect forced to resign."
Richard Armitage and Karl Rove.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage opined: "It's clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy."
Word is that the White House, in the person of counselor Karl Rove, also had a little chat with the former speaker after the Tuesday foray.

One wonders if he had been getting uppity in recent weeks so they decided to hand him a rope.

What I think is that they needed someone expendable to float some stupid spin to blame State (and Clinton) for the mess they'd made, and see if it took off - and when it didn't they stamped on him quick to try to look good and disassociate themselves from it. The best thing about this story is that the "blame Clinton" meme didn't even work among most of their most ardent brown-nosers in the Stepford Press.
Big Tent

Well, now we know. Calling Santorum an "inclusive man" is about as truthful as calling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "man of peace" -- even Sharon's admirers know he's a warrior. But being president makes you very powerful, and means you're almost never called a liar, even when you're lying.
--Joan Walsh in Salon

"Even when" he's lying. Heh. It's really kind of amazing how much Bush fits inside of the caricature of the always-lying politician at a level I've never seen before. Watching him and his cronies, you'd never guess that there really are politicians who are honestly in the job because they want to be public servants.

But yeah, it's pretty obvious from this debacle that the Republicans aren't even a little bit embarrassed about their ardent desire to intrude in the bedroom. As Charles Dodgson pointed out the other day, Santorum was describing privacy as a lifestyle choice, an absurdity that even the profoundly self-deluding Andrew Sullivan couldn't manage to rationalize his way around.

Not only is Santorum damaging the Republican position among gays and their families, he is busy damaging it among Catholics. Most Catholics support John F Kennedy's position; in fact, they take it for granted. It was a critical event in the emergence of Catholics as an equal, proud minority. Now Santorum, with Bush's apparent blessing, is intent on destroying that compact. In fact, in this case, he is going much further. Even strict Catholics who believe homosexual sex is a grave sin nevertheless draw the Thomist distinction between sins and crimes. Just because something may be a sin doesn't mean it should mean jail. In fact, many things - especially in the private realm - fall into that category. But by arguing for the criminalization of gay sex, Santorum goes beyond even the traditional position and heads for a theocratic one. The more he seems to represent the face of the Republican party, the more fair-minded people will simply leave it, fear it, or vote against it. As they should.
Yeah, Andrew, and that means you, too. When are you going to take the leap, dammit?
Guest Lecturer
PAUL KRUGMAN
"What Went Wrong?"

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, and award-winning Princeton University economist, is one of the leading thinkers on economic issues and the current state of American fiscal and foreign policy. His lecture will look at rising economic inequality in the U.S. and the future of American politics.
RealPlayer archive link here.
E. J. Dionne on Freedom-Fried Republicans:
I never thought the United States would need a Franco-American Anti-Defamation League. But who would have imagined that guilt of being French-by-association would become the stuff of McCarthyism-lite in 2003?

A nameless White House aide was quoted recently in the New York Times offering this thoughtful, considered critique of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry: "He looks French." Substitute almost any other racial, ethnic or religious group for "French" and imagine the outcry against bigotry. But there was no outcry.
[...]
The Club for Growth has made itself famous by running ads against Snowe and Ohio Republican George Voinovich for forcing the Senate to reduce Bush's tax cut to a measly $350 billion. I bet it never occurred to you that this vote had anything to do with the foreign policies of French President Jacques Chirac. The Club for Growth begs to differ.

"President Bush courageously led the forces of freedom," the ad goes. "But some so-called allies like France stood in the way. At home, President Bush has proposed bold job-creating tax cuts to boost our economy. But some so-called Republicans like" -- the Maine ads mention Snowe; the Ohio ads, Voinovich -- "stand in the way."

Now follow this train of -- forgive the word -- logic. Bush fought for freedom. France got in the way. Like France, Snowe and Voinovich are getting in the way of Bush's tax cut. Unsubtle implication: Like France, they must be the enemies of freedom. In case you miss that link, the ad pictures a French flag flying next to the offending senator. Moore wants you to think that Snowe and Voinovich look French, too. That must make them un-American. After all, only the un-American would oppose the commander in chief's tax cuts.

Moore is not out there on his own. The White House has done nothing to discourage him from French-frying these Republicans. His campaign is only part of a broader strategy, deployed at critical moments since Sept. 11, 2001, to associate opposition to Bush with a lack of patriotism.

It goes back at least to May of last year. Remember when Democrats (and some Republicans) were urging an independent inquiry into what the U.S. government knew about the terrorist threat before the attacks? Rep. Tom DeLay, then the House whip, opposed an independent investigation with this line: "We don't need to hand the terrorists an after-action report." Suddenly, an attempt to tell the American people what happened became a way of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Any Democrat who subsequently got too far out of line -- for example, Kerry and Sen. Tom Daschle -- was quickly tarred as an un-patriot. Now even Republicans aren't safe. And, hey, there's no need anymore to accuse your opponents of being soft on terrorists or Saddam Hussein. All you have to do is tie anyone you disagree with to the French.

That doesn't look American to me.

Sure. Junk like democracy and "We the People" is a nice fiction the royalists are happy to deploy when they need to throw a few high-sounding phrases around to keep the citizens feeling proud of their heritage, but they don't mean any of that. "Individual freedom" and "rights" are good terms to dazzle the libertarians and keep them on board - well, the thicker ones, anyway - but they don't mean any of that stuff, either. When it gets down to the cheese, this is about one thing: The Republicans have an absolute right to run the country, and anyone who says otherwise is "a traitor".