The Sideshow

Archive for May 2002

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Thursday, 30 May 2002

14:52 BST: Permalink

Paul Krugman looks at the reasons the predicted new economic boom isn't happening:

There is, however, one more wild card, which is also a key contrast with the Reagan years: the attitude of foreign investors. During the Reagan recovery overseas investors, who had previously been down on America, flocked in. This time we start from a very different position. Foreigners have been wildly enthusiastic about America for years — an attitude we have come to count on, because we need $1.2 billion in capital inflows every day to cover our foreign-trade deficit. What happens as they lose their enthusiasm?

One of the largely unreported stories of the last few months — in the U.S. media, anyway — is the precipitous decline of foreign confidence in American leadership and institutions. Enron, aggressive accounting, budget deficits, steel tariffs, the farm bill, F.B.I. bungling — all of it adds up, in European minds in particular, to what Barton Biggs of Morgan Stanley calls a "fall from grace." Foreign purchases of U.S. stocks, foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies, are way off.

I don't want to sound like a doomsayer here. But one thing is clear: Those confident declarations, several months ago, that our troubles were over look pretty foolish now.

And so do those confident assurances in 2000 that a Bush presidency would be no great tragedy. Can we afford to wait 'til 2004 and hope the electorate has a long enough memory to remember to throw these guys out?

04:05 BST: Permalink
Avram is arguing about sex:

This oral-sex-doesn’t-really-count opinion was even widespread enough to have been used as the punchline of a science fiction story I read at over a decade ago! ("UF0" by Michael Swanwick, in the Sep-Oct 1990 issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.)
One of the things I get to do is get people to talk to me about sex. I used to be a reproductive health counsellor, so I find it easy to ask questions no one else thinks they can get away with. For most of my adult life, talking and writing about sex has been a substantial part of what I do. And one thing I know from long experience is that when heterosexual people say "sex" without any qualifiers, they almost always mean penis-in-vagina intercourse. "Did you have sex last night?" "No. ... Well...we did do 69." People say stuff like that all the time.

I even talked about this in my (pre-Lewinsky) book about pornography. It's not a secret - or at least it wasn't before it became a subject of conservative spin. We all knew the score: "sex" is the one act everyone is expected to do, and everything else is "foreplay" (if you're liberal) or "perversion" (if you're not). On Usenet I used to get in arguments with conservatives who insisted that only heterosexual intercourse counted as sex.

Even liberals attach some sort of adjective when they don't mean intercourse. "Oral sex", "anal sex", but rarely just "sex". The only people I know who don't talk that way are serious sex radicals, most of them fairly entrenched in gay and/or BDSM culture, and they'll say "sex" to cover the whole gamut of sexually-related acts, including masturbation or wearing rubber. (They just about never say "sleep with" or "make love".) But you just listen to the way most people really talk, and if they say, "having sex", they mean copulation. It's been that way as long as I can remember - and that's longer than half the blogosphere has been alive.

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This is my buddy Cherie. When we were putting our last book together, we met in her front room, which was the very room where Wendy, Michael, and John Darling were sleeping when Peter flew in. She has a live journal, too, where I found a link: I liked the blue one and then the purple one.

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Clear Channel is awful, even when you're trying to be nice about them:

Indeed, radio is changing. Arbitron reports that Americans are listening to it less each year. The ratings service estimates that on average people spend 10 percent less time with it now than in 1996.

That, of course, was the year Congress deregulated radio and unleashed companies like Clear Channel. Maybe the decline in listening since then is just a coincidence.

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Glenn Reynolds found a good quote:

"THE UNITED STATES DOES NOT HAVE A SECURITY SYSTEM, it has a system for bothering people." That's what an Israeli security expert says in this Christian Science Monitor story. It sounds about right to me. And so does this: "The difference between the Israeli and American systems is that we are looking for the terrorist, while the Americans look for the weapons."
And the item right below it discusses how Carnivore "turns out to have been Osama's best friend". Yep, it does all the things we were afraid it would do, without doing what it's supposed to do. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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Ivo Daalder and Philip Gordon say:

In his May 20 op-ed, "The Alliance Is Doomed," Jeffery Gedmin quotes European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy as saying that the best way to get applause in the European Parliament is to stand up and denounce America. In Washington these days, the best way to get applause -- or space on a major op-ed page -- is to denounce Europe and its apparently inexplicable refusal to follow the U.S. lead in the war on terrorism and everything associated with it.

For many in Washington today, NATO's days are numbered, and the reason is European fecklessness, parochialism and unwillingness to spend more money on defense. One senior White House official recently referred to the Europeans as our "fair-weather friends," reflecting the conclusion reached by Gedmin as well that the old Alliance may no longer be useful and it is time to start thinking about new ones. Senior Pentagon official Douglas Feith was recently quoted as joking that his NATO motto is "Keep the myth alive!"

NATO skeptics make a number of good points. American and European perspectives on global strategy are diverging. Europeans seem more focused on their internal conflicts than on the global ones taking place around them, and they are often too reluctant to use or threaten force when major interests are at stake. EU member states do not spend enough, or not wisely enough, on defense.

But to argue that Europeans alone are to blame for the uncertain state of the Atlantic Alliance, or that such an alliance is no longer needed, is both wrong and dangerous.

As much as we may like to disparage their efforts, the Europeans are actually doing more to contribute to global security, even on the military side, than most Americans choose to acknowledge. In Afghanistan today, there are about as many European and Canadian troops as American. Europeans are not only keeping the peace in Kabul but also fighting alongside U.S. forces to eliminate al Qaeda and Taliban resistance. French aircraft are flying bombing missions, British soldiers are leading dangerous expeditions in the mountains, and other European special forces are supporting cave-hunting efforts. As in so many other regions, Europe has taken the lead in financing and directing the necessary reconstruction and humanitarian assistance effort.

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Poor Chris Bertram came back from the hospital to find his house filled with smoke. Ouch.


Wednesday, 29 May 2002

22:36 BST: Permalink

Electrolite & Making Light seem to be back up now at their regular addresses. (Also: Thanks for the spell-check, Patrick.) (Sorry, Lenny.)

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Web-Goddess (another American expat) has this on Australia's local right-to-die case, which is a bit different from the one we've had here:

The "right-to-die" movement has just been set back five years by the case of Australian Nancy Crick. This older women had been suffering from bowel cancer for several years and wanted to end her life. Last week she did just that, surrounded by friends and family. Supporters (like me) were happy that she was able to go the way she wanted. Unfortunately it was revealed a few days later that she didn't have cancer anymore (if at all). What a mess. Now the euthanasia activists are backpedaling, saying that her diagnosis doesn't change the fact that she was in a lot of pain. Dr. Philip Nitschke, the Australia "Kevorkian", is denying that his credibility has been damaged. His opponents are pointing out (quite rightly, I think) that this women received some bad counseling. I'm all for people with terminal illnesses having the right to terminate their lives, but Crick's case pretty much demonstrates one of the worst case scenarios - that of a healthy person needlessly dying. It's such a complicated situation...
As I said in a comment, the fact that she didn't have cancer doesn't mean she was healthy, of course. Something was making her miserable. What she obviously needed was a good doctor who could figure out what it was.

18:40 BST: Permalink
Can't get Electrolite or Making Light by direct links at the moment, but Patrick said to go here until things are fixed:

http://64.247.33.2/~pnh/electrolite/

http://64.247.33.2/~pnh/makinglight/

And Instapundit's new site appears to be on the same host, with the same problem. (Update: the old page redirects to http://64.247.33.250/.)

15:20 BST: Permalink
I usually rate the Financial Times at about the top of British newspapers, on the grounds that they are relatively accurate (they mostly have to be). (Best general newspaper is the Telegraph, even though the Guardian is more entertaining.) But yesterday Max found two levels of stupidity in the FT:

In the first category, casual stupidity, Schlaes says that if a firm locates some production offshore to reduce its taxes or labor costs, this is good for its American employees because the firm can more easily afford to pay them. By this logic, a firm should move its entire operation offshore, but for the work of one person. The implied savings ought to benefit this last worker enormously. In the same vein, she notes that a retired worker with stock ownership in Stanley is better off if Stanley screws its present workers.

The other low-grade howler is the notion that Stanley or any corporation could not be "a villain" because it is not a person, but simply an intermediary for persons. By this logic, Al Queda could not be a villain either.

The deeper scam in the piece is the idea that the way to resolve the complexity of the corporate income tax is to eliminate its coverage of corporations' offshore operations. We also hear this with respect to other tax complexity issues. Eliminate tax complexity by eliminating taxation.

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Owen Boswarva has found the sources for that story on unprotected sex and depression - the one in the Indy and the abstract of Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties? by Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. et al. (Thanks, Owen!)

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Lenny Bailes writes in e-mail:

As for me, I'm wondering what happened to the investigations on Republicans violating the RICO act in sending thugs into Dade County during the ballot recount. There appear to be a number of investigations into the violation of minority voting rights in Florida in progress, but the attack that was publicly called for by Republicans in the Wall Street Journal seems to have been forgotten.
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From dear old Media Horse Online:

The revelations over the holiday about the continuing Bush 9/11 scandal point to a horrifying conclusion: Bush knew nothing before September 11, despite all of the evidence that he could have have known almost everything.

The official version of events, in covering up this fact, resorts to a redeployment of the Bush Dodge. Because Bush was not guilty of knowing anything, he did nothing wrong.

But that's how the White House goes about framing situations in order to escape scrutiny and responsibility.

The facts remain: The Bush White House severely downgraded the importance of anti-terrorism before September 11.

Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld's only significant actions on the anti-terrorism front was to suspend Predator drone tracking of Osama bin Laden.

National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice never followed up her predecessor's warnings about bin Laden's overwhelming importance.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, riven by his crusades against medical marijuana use and child pornography, made anti-terrorism no priority at all right until the eve of the terrorist attacks.

More generally, the Bush Administration was placing its military strategic focus almost entirely on reviving Star Wars under the National Missile Defense rubric -- and backing off the vigilant, a most obsessive efforts by the Clinton Administration to fight the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda and other barbarians.

And all the while, the inept and somnolent F.B.I., as exposed in the Rowley/Minneapolis memo, actively kept information from going forward that could well have stopped the attacks -- and then tried to cover itself by stonewalling like the rest of the Administration.

The issue in the Bush 9/11 scandal isn't treason. It never has been -- though the Bushies would like you to believe it is, so that they can stand exonerated.

The issue is policy and competence.


Tuesday, 28 May 2002

22:30 BST: Permalink

Here's a fine example of running with some really dumb spin: In a parallel universe, Sept. 11 never happened is an article by Kathleen Parker in The Orlando Sentinel that purports to show what would have happened if the Bush administration had responded to warnings of the 9/11 attacks. With a phony date of Aug. 8, 2001, it begins:

Congress seeks to oust Bush after racial-profiling fiasco, police-state maneuvers

WASHINGTON (XYZ Wire Service) -- Congressional leaders are scrambling to begin impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush following several unprecedented federal security measures that critics say constitute an unconscionable assault on American civil liberties. Wall Street, meanwhile, is reeling from a seismic downturn while the airline industry is predicted to topple.

The Bush administration's sudden imposition of several new -- some say "terrifying" -- policies came on the heels of an alleged FBI warning that radical Muslim terrorists were planning to hijack U.S. commercial airliners. In the past 36 hours, Bush has taken several steps that have sent American citizens and institutions into shock.

Federal officials have:

Detained and begun questioning about two dozen aviation students who are of Arab or Middle Eastern descent, prompting the Arab-American and Muslim communities to organize massive protests in several cities.

Posted military personnel in airports and imposed extensive personal searches that have forced long lines, delays and charges of racial profiling as travelers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent have been targeted by security inspectors.

Ordered a tightening of borders and alerted immigration personnel to be on the lookout for suspicious activities, especially among Middle Easterners.

As one TV pundit observed, there hasn't been this much furor in the nation's capital since the days of Vietnam War protesters. "This is insanity, this is an outrage," said Democratic leader Rep. Richard Gephardt on CNN's Crossfire.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., has charged Bush with racial profiling. She has asked for an investigation into the FBI report that prompted these measures, saying that the report was too "vague" to justify any government action.

In a radio interview, McKinney suggested that the Bush administration was fictionalizing a terrorist threat in order to justify imposing his conservative domestic agenda on an unsuspecting America. "I'm not saying he made it up; I'm just saying that an investigation might show that he did," said McKinney.

Responding to such attacks, the White House is urging Americans to be patient.

"We understand Americans' concern; President Bush did not take these steps without careful consideration," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. "Given that American lives were at stake, President Bush felt he had no choice."

While this might be the way the Bush administration would have behaved had they taken the threat of terrorism seriously (and I wouldn't put it past them), it's not how the Clinton administration behaved so there's no reason to think the Bushies would have had to do these things if they were going to try to stop the attacks. In fact, there's no reason to think these activities would have stopped the attacks anyway - they had known Al Qaeda terrorists to investigate, and I doubt there would have been any enormous hue and cry if such people had been investigated. It's not as if there were major demonstrations when Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested, after all.

I don't know who Kathleen Parker is, but I wonder if she was one of the people babbling about how Clinton was "wagging the dog" when he went after Al Qaeda.

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Atrios has found another great Bush groaner, go read it.


Monday, 27 May 2002

14:55 BST: Permalink

Dunno what I was thinking, Saturday, posting quotes from three successive articles in The Washington Post and forgetting to put in the links, but it's fixed now.

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Something I found this weekend on Bartcop:

Pilots could always optionally carry a side arm on the plane, since JFK created that exception to the FAA regs by executive order during a hijacking scare in the early '60s. Every president allowed that EO to remain in place, including the gun law advocating Clinton for his entire 8 years. After all presidents had seen fit to keep it, for nearly 40 years, it came to an abrupt end in July, 2001, by order of George W. Bush.
Hmmm...

01:04 BST: Permalink
I wonder if anyone appreciates the irony of how utterly pink these pages are. And now, with added pink on the front page! The sidebar is a convenience and a bit of dues-paying, but I'm also hoping that by narrowing the main text section I can help to save poor old Jim Henley's eyes.

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Well, how did I miss the story about women who have unprotected sex being less depressed than those who use condoms? Ananova refers to The Independent but doesn't give the page source, and the only other version I could find was from The New York Post:

Holy prophylactics! Women who have unprotected sex frequently are less likely to be depressed than those who do not, a new study claims.

Researchers at New York University say it's due to mood-changing chemicals that are transferred from the man.

Apparently, semen contains hormones and other chemicals that enter a woman's bloodstream and may act like an antidepressant.

The team of psychologists from the university logged the sexual activities and depression scores of 300 women. They found women who had sex without condoms were less depressed than both women who had protected sex and women who abstained.

Is that business about hormones based on anything other than a wild guess? I can't tell, but I can think of a lot of reasons why you'd get this result without anything biological being involved. Let's see, who has sex without condoms, and why? Um, maybe people in steady relationships who trust their partners? Women who are planning a baby? Women who are pollyannas and don't understand the risks they are taking? People who are just in denial and lied to the researchers? Hmmm....

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The woman who was the real Sybil Fawlty has recently come out to claim that her husband was misrepresented by those nasty old Pythons. The result has been a number of letters to the Guardian from former guests of Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, assuring us that Fawlty Towers was hardly unfair. And there's more in Simon Hoggart's column:

There have been some wonderful letters and articles in the papers this week about the original for Basil Fawlty. He was a man called Donald Sinclair, now long dead, who ran the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay at a time when the Monty Python team were down there filming. Guests of the hotel have been coming forward with their horror stories, and the place does seem to have been even worse than Fawlty Towers. There was the whole party thrown out because one of them asked for a plate of sandwiches; American diners suddenly finding the proprietor re-arranging their knife and fork in their hands, saying "this is how we do it here"; the time a teapot went missing, so he stopped the service of breakfast and interrogated the guests, as if they were in a murder mystery. Mr Sinclair also had a domineering wife, who at least once locked him away in their rooms for being too offensive to the staff.

Mrs Isabel Bagley wrote to the Telegraph to describe a family trip in 1970. They had been double-booked, but when they finally got their rooms all lights were turned out at 11pm so they had to use the bathroom in the dark.

The Bagleys' visit ended with a row over the bill; Mr Sinclair had refused to compensate them for the extra expense they'd run up because of the double booking. "Our cheque was refused but I left it on the counter.

"My husband was in the car with the engine running. Mr Sinclair came rushing out, shouting he would sue us, upon which all the other guests around formed a barricade while I got in the car, and we drove off to cheers."

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More weird liberal media: I found this in the IHT but it came from the NYT:

Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI director, Robert Mueller, were told a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks that the FBI had received a memorandum the previous July from its office in Phoenix, Arizona, saying that Osama bin Laden's followers could be training at American flight schools, according to government officials.

But senior Bush administration officials said Monday that neither Ashcroft nor Mueller briefed President George W. Bush and his national security staff until recently about the Phoenix memorandum. Nor did they tell congressional leaders.

The disclosure is certain to magnify criticisms of the FBI's performance, including its failure to act on the memo before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It's funny, the headline and the first two grafs tell us that Ashcroft kept Bush out of the loop, but by the third paragraph we're back to talking about the FBI's performance. Not that I don't think we need to talk about the FBI's performance or anything, but there doesn't seem to be a thought expressed here about whether Ashcroft should be held responsible in any way for running his own private government without bothering to inform the man he allegedly believes is president. Odd.

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Interesting piece in The Washington Post by Stephen Budiansky on The Right Kind Of Second Guessing:

There is more than a little historical irony in the furious indignation that has been emanating from the White House for the past10 days.

Vice President Cheney described his "deep sense of anger that anyone would suggest that the president of the United States had advance knowledge" of a planned attack on the United States that he failed to act on. "I thought it was beyond the pale," he said. Democrats, he warned, need to "be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions." The president irritatedly dismissed the furor as "second-guessing."

Of course, for years -- nay, decades -- following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this is precisely what the Republicans tried to do to a Democratic president. And the Republicans sought political advantage not merely by accusing the Roosevelt administration of "dreadful incompetence" (as Thomas Dewey charged during the 1944 presidential campaign), but of something far worse: Many in the GOP suggested that FDR had personally known of the Japanese plan and had done nothing to prevent it, deliberately permitting thousands of Americans to be killed and wounded so that America would shed its isolationism and be drawn into "his war." To this day there are many on the political right who still insist that "FDR knew." The New York Post paid a tribute to the resilience of that theory in the American political consciousness with its irresponsible "Bush Knew" headline 10 days ago.

But most of the criticism in the past week regarding the Sept. 11 intelligence failure has actually been much more restrained. At the same time, while there is obviously much that the public and the Congress have yet to learn about what was known and reported by U.S. intelligence agencies last summer (and even earlier), what has already come out is in some ways far more troubling in its implications than the intelligence failure that occurred on Dec. 7, 1941.

Go read the rest.

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Glenn Reynolds has been talking about Teen Sex. He makes a lot of good points, but: I've said many times in the past that there is something wrong with a society that holds minors responsible for criminal activity but then turns around and refuses to acknowledge that they can be responsible for choosing to have sex. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the suggestion that we've "sensibly" started treating minors like adults for the purposes of criminal prosecution. I don't think it's all that sensible - it just means we're giving up on people earlier.

But sex isn't an unalloyed evil, and depriving minors of all sexual choice doesn't make sense, full stop. A lot of the arguments against teen sex rest with the bizarre belief that a sexual episode that is less than perfect is a life-ruining event. Well, this is seldom the case, even for sexual assault. (And I'm speaking from experience; I was sexually assaulted as a kid, and my life is still pretty good.) Yes, you can mess your situation up if you make bad sexual decisions and are unlucky, but the first step on the road to making good decisions has to be good information.

A lot of kids who commit crimes, by the way, are also suffering from bad information. So I think trying and sentencing kids as if they were adults is not really the best idea. I think the better answer to both these questions is to start supplying good information.

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Brad DeLong's draft McKenna lecture is well worth reading. Just a sample quote:

Such times of economic distress in an economy and society caught halfway between agriculture and industry, between tradition and modernity, are times when people are prone to find solutions--to economic problems, to status anxiety, to uncertainty about who they in fact are--in allegiance to political movements that we might as well call fascist. It is a good word. "Fascism" has a number of earmarks, present in different proportions in different episodes, including: (i) a strong, authoritarian leader, (ii) a profound distaste for the disgusting compromises of interest-group parliamentary coalitions, (iii) a belief that society's goals are not chosen by the will of the people but imposed by the will of the leader, (iv) a belief that the most important aims are the collective ones of national or "racial" strength, (v) a belief that life is a hard struggle against mortal enemies, among which are (vii) some despised and relatively powerless group--usually Jews, but in Latin America usually "leftists," and (ironically) in India today Muslims.
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Just a note for myself for the link to that Newsweek article on the "Bush knew" theme, and another quotation:

When FBI officials sought to add hundreds more counterintelligence agents, they got shot down even as Ashcroft began, quietly, to take a privately chartered jet for his own security reasons.

Sunday, 26 May 2002

01:53 BST: Permalink
I admit it, I've been bummed out about Stephen Jay Gould's departure. In a way I guess I just felt like anything I said would be too much or too little, so I said nothing. I didn't know him, I have no heart-warming reminiscences or anything like that, I just learned new ways to look at some things from him and ended up feeling like it was neat to have him in the world, and now he's not in it anymore and I'm sad. But here's a little something from the bottom of the letter's page of The International Herald Tribune from Friday:

The recent wave of obituaries for the brilliant scientist and author Stephen Jay Gould (IHT, May 22) commonly left out a significant fact: He was a user of medical marijuana. Diagnosed with cancer in 1982 and given eight months to live, he survived 20 years, enduring chemotherapy thanks to medical marijuana. While other drugs failed to curb the nausea caused by his treatment, he wrote, marijuana "worked like a charm." He added, "It is beyond my comprehension that any humane person would withhold such a beneficial substance from people in such great need."

Gould went on to testify in a 1998 Canadian court case that eventually resulted in the establishment of that nation's medical marijuana program. What a shame that U.S. leaders failed to consult this great scientist before declaring war on the medical use of marijuana.

Bruce Mirken, Washington
The writer is communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project.


Saturday, 25 May 2002

18:35 BST: Permalink
For the record, my dislike of Tory MP Anne Winterton is one I come by honestly, as we are antagonists on opposite sides of the censorship issue. (And I've never ceased to be charmed by her killer debating point that pornographers are evil because they make money, something we all know the Tories oppose.) And yes, the joke was stupid (and old):

Within hours of the final confirmation that the British National party had won three seats on Burnley council - only 30 miles away - Mrs Winterton wound up her speech by saying: "Let me tell you a story."

The guests, who were dressed in black tie for the £22.50 meal at Congleton town hall, heard her say: "An Englishman, a Cuban, a Japanese man and a Pakistani were all on a train. The Cuban threw a fine Havana cigar out the window. When he was asked why he replied: 'They are 10 a penny in my country'. The Japanese man then threw a Nikon camera out of the carriage, adding: 'These are 10 a penny in my country'. The Englishman then picked up the Pakistani and threw him out of the train window. When all the other travellers asked him to account for his actions, he said: 'They are 10 a penny in my country'."

Even Congleton's burly rugby players, who are unlikely to describe themselves as politically correct, were said to be taken aback by Mrs Winterton's joke.

Ian Duncan Smith kicked her off the Shadow Cabinet as soon as it all became an issue, but really, this woman has been spewing rubbish for years and he should have known better in the first place. (Oh, wait, he's the leader of the Conservative Party - you have to get your support from somewhere).

But that's not the really stupid part. No, the really, really stupid part is that "Liberty" (which used to be known as the National Council for Civil Liberties and used to hold a position in Britain somewhat analogous to the ACLU's in America) has demanded that Ms. Winterton be prosecuted for breach of incitement to racial hatred legislation.

It's hard to describe just how lame this is. "Liberty", at least when it wasn't ashamed to call itself the NCCL, used to know that the Incitement to Racial Hatred Act forbids language that incites physical violence, and that prosecution is dependent on a clear and present danger that such speech would actually incite immediate violence. It is clear that no such threat accompanied Winterton's dumb joke. It's even clear that the joke doesn't even incite hatred, let alone violence. What could conceivably incite hatred would be, for example, Home Secretary David Blunkett's recent Jack Straw impressions about how Britain is awash with immigrants overloading the system. Statements of that sort play on people's discomfort and resentment of an increasing number of businesses and services staffed by people whose accents they can't understand and whose cultural assumptions are sufficiently alien to leave them wondering if they suddenly stepped into a different reality. But the truth of the matter is that those people make up a very small percentage of users of Britain's services and Blunkett is just making use of some nasty propaganda. He is much more dangerous than Winterton, but I don't see "Liberty" demanding Blunkett's prosecution.

Mind, Liberty should be criticizing Blunkett for such statements, because they are being presented as facts and they are wrong as well as nasty. But an organization whose members still think it's supposed to be a civil liberties organization should not be calling for the criminal prosecution of people merely for saying stupid things. I can think of no other reason to do so other than to bring the organization into disrepute.

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Maxspeak says I'm already tired of Laura Bush, and good for him. He also posts a letter from a reader which points to the latest distressing action involving The Creepy Judge:

Babbitt asked the court for reimbursement of more than $206,000 in legal fees. He argued the law says a person who has been investigated but not indicted can receive "reasonable attorneys' fees" if the investigation would not have happened without the Independent Counsel Act.

"He was not subjected to an investigation that he would not have been subjected to in the absence of the Act," wrote Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, joining Peter Fay in the 2 to 1 opinion.

The court awarded Babbitt only $52,091.94, the amount he spent for his lawyers to review the 484-page final report. Such a report would not have resulted if the attorney general, for example, had investigated him, Sentelle said.

Richard Cudahy, in his dissenting opinion, said it is unlikely any agency other than the independent counsel would have so thoroughly investigated "a small discrepancy in two men's recollection of a brief conversation that took place more than two years before either man testified about it."

Cudahy said Babbitt should get the full amount. He questioned whether any other investigation would have included 21 months of work, review of 630,000 documents, 460 interviews, 160 subpoenas, 58 grand jury witnesses and a 484-page final report.

Sure looks political to me.

And speaking of creepy political judges, The Washington Post reports that Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Herb Kohl (D-WI.), and John Edwards (D-NC) have have jumped ship to vote Smith's nomination out of committee.

Of the three Democrats who supported Smith, Biden's vote was the most surprising. He had vowed to "do everything I can to defeat" the nomination if he thought Smith was ducking questions.

Yesterday Biden said, "I'd like to vote against this guy" but "I don't have a sufficient reason" to do so. He said he would impose tougher standards for Supreme Court nominees.

He should have paid more attention, 'cause even the Post could find them:

WE HAVE stressed the need for an expeditious and fair judicial confirmation process, one in which issues raised about nominees can be evaluated without character assassination. D. Brooks Smith, a U.S district judge whose nomination to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals is due to be considered today by the Senate Judiciary Committee, has had such a process. The committee has explored a number of ethical issues in which Judge Smith's record is troubling. His responses as questions have arisen have only made matters worse. Consequently, he should not be confirmed.
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Richard Cohen watched the three-hour TV movie Path to War about Lyndon Johnson and thought about Bush:

And yet, if there is such a thing as a Vietnam syndrome, it has to apply not only to the war's aftermath but also to what caused the war in the first place -- a president who heard almost nothing to make him believe he was on the wrong course and who saw his critics only as political opportunists. This is the path George W. Bush must not take.
Too late.
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Josh Marshall has had loads of good stuff on the 9/11 discourse over the last week. Go read it if you haven't yet.

* * * * *
I forget where I found this one, but I keep thinking about it so maybe you'd like to have a look if you haven't seen it already. Peter Beinart on the rather scary idea that supporters of Israel may forget why this should not translate into support of creepy people like Tom DeLay and Dick Armey:

Last week Armey discussed the Middle East on MSNBC's "Hardball." "I'm perfectly content to have a Palestinian state," he declared. "I am not content to give up any part of Israel for that purpose of that Palestinian state." Host Chris Matthews seemed puzzled: "Well, where do you put the Palestinian state--in Norway?" And then Armey spelled it out: "There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land--and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state." Israelis have a word for what Armey was suggesting: "transfer." Matthews botched the term, but he got the idea: "So you would transport--you would transport the Palestinians from Palestine to somewhere else and call it their state?" Armey concurred: "Most of the people who now populate Israel were transported from all over the world to that land, and they made it their home. The Palestinians can do the same." Amazed, Matthews gave Armey one more chance to pull back: "Well, just to repeat, you believe that the Palestinians who are now living on the West Bank should get out of there." Armey's reply: "Yes."

The next day Armey said the exchange "does not reflect my views." But Jerry Falwell has made similar statements. And Parshall had said virtually the same thing on "Hardball" less than one week before. She began her April 26 appearance by proposing that Israel annex the West Bank. "And what do you do with the Arabs?" asked Matthews. "You move them over to Jordan, which is already seventy percent Palestinian," Parshall replied. Once again Matthews gave his guest the chance to recant. "You said get them off the West Bank," Matthews summarized. And Parshall finished the thought: "And put them on the eastern side of the Jordan."

Among mainstream Israeli and American Jewish leaders, such views are considered monstrous. The overwhelming majority of Israeli politicians and intellectuals oppose deporting the Palestinians, because they speak in the shadow of the Holocaust. Even the ultra-far-right Moledet Party of assassinated Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi--which seeks to make the Palestinians citizens of Jordan--does not suggest physically moving them. A recent poll by Tel Aviv University's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies showed that 46 percent of Israelis supported transferring the Palestinians. But rather than embracing the sentiment, Israeli leaders treated it as an embarrassment--a sign of how deeply suicide bombings were distorting the Israeli psyche. As the Jaffe Center's Hirsh Goodman explained, "I cannot conceive that a Jew would see putting people on a railway carriage and transferring them anywhere. It is totally inconceivable that the Jewish state would do that." He's right: After all, polls taken at roughly the same time showed that 70 percent of Israelis would abandon settlements for peace.
[...]
Christian conservatives dress up their support for Israel in the language of anti-terrorism and democracy. But they pay scant attention to the fight against terrorism in biblically insignificant countries like Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines. And on Israel's behalf, they propose the most anti-democratic measures imaginable. In truth, there is no secular moral rationale for the Christian Right's support for Israel because, for the Christian Right, Israel's claims are moral only insofar as they are biblical. That runs counter to the mainstream Zionist tradition, one of the great achievements of which has been to establish moral claims to Jewish statehood--claims Israel incarnates as a liberal democratic state--that do not rely on scripture.

And it raises a question that Jewish allies of the Christian Right should ponder: What will people like Armey and Parshall do when Israel takes actions--such as leaving much of the West Bank--that undermine the biblical justification for its existence? Ultimately, if you don't love Israel for what it is, you can't be trusted to love it at all.

It's been a while since I've actually discussed the issue with them, but fundamentalists used to explain the future to me a lot during the Cold War. Their "literal" interpretation of the Revelation was that the US ("the sons of the lion") would fight on the side of Israel in the final war, against the USSR ("the bear") and any other bad guys who took their side. At the end, everyone dies, and only those who are truly righteous, having accepted the Lord Jesus into their hearts, would ascend to be with God for eternity. (They never mentioned the bit about the truly righteous being 144,000 men who had never had sex with any women. I don't think they read that part. I think a lot of people haven't read that part.)

Anyway, it's not a secret that Armageddon ends with everyone dead. And the Jews, every one of them, are dead forever. As are, of course, Muslims, and atheists, and everyone else who doesn't believe that it's okay to start wars that kill every single living human being on the planet.

And the people who believe this and look forward to it are "supporters" of Israel. That's what scares the hell out of me.
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Friday, 24 May 2002

15:09 BST: Permalink
I've been feeling crummy, and in deference to Mr. Alterman, I'll say no more. Well, actually, I wouldn't tell you anyway, since it makes me wrinkle my nose. But it means my reading has been thin and sporadic and I haven't felt up to writing. I did notice Ted Barlow slamming Drudge for having published "an anonymous report that David Brock checked into a psychiatric institution" before Blinded By The Right came out. Ted doesn't approve on the grounds that it's creepy, which is true, though what is more significant is that it's lame. It's a personal attack because, let's face it, it is personal for folks like Drudge who feel betrayed by a kindred spirit - who not only switched sides, but then made them look bad in his book. But, as everyone keeps pointing out, these attacks on Brock sidestep any substantive response to the book itself, because they don't have any.

Ted falls down, I think, with this paragraph:

When Andrew Sullivan's privacy was compromised, I thought it was outrageous. There used to be a zone of privacy about the personal lives of politicians. In the past decade, it has been eroded, and I think that most reasonable people agree that the results have been shameful. When we see journalist's privacy dissolving for partisan advantage, we shouldn't cheer it on.
Um, didn't Sullivan compromise his own privacy by doing embarrassing things publicly? And isn't Sullivan one of the people who joined the bandwagon to compromise Bill Clinton's privacy (for things he did not do publicly)? Which is pretty much the point Atrios is making as well. It's that "people who live in glass houses" thing. Bill Clinton isn't the guy who was running around condemning all the other sluts for their cheatin' and whorin' and what-have-you. Sullivan, even at this late date, still hasn't stopped condemning Clinton for being a slut. But if Sullivan is going to advertise in public for HIV-positive bare-back sex, there's a certain amount of "judge not lest ye be judged" that ought to be taken into account.

Well, so much for the gossip columns. I was really more interested in this item from Atrios about the kinds of questions a responsible press should be hammering Ari the Liar with, and also this quote:

Bush to welfare recipient:

"For a person who has never worked a day in her life ... you're one articulate soul."

Well, at least one of them is articulate.

Also, Atrios hears from people who didn't know Orrin Hatch had been spilling intelligence secrets, a story I thought people would have picked up long ago. *sigh*

Meanwhile at MWO:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney denied Wednesday that a flurry of public terror warnings was prompted by criticism over how the Bush administration handled pre-Sept. 11 warnings of an attack.

In an interview taped for airing Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Cheney said "irresponsible" comments by Democrats did not influence the administration's warnings to the public this week.

But you've already seen how Patrick picked that ball up with this quote from Tapped:

The Washington Times, normally a reliable defender of GOP interests, comes out and says what no other paper quite does: Recent vague warnings by Dick Cheney, Robert Mueller, and Don Rumsfeld are politically motivated. (Duh.) "The Bush administration issued a spate of terror alerts in recent days to mute criticism that its national security team sat on intelligence warnings in the weeks before the September 11 attacks," writes reporter Joseph Curl.
And, like Patrick, MWO can't help noticing that the so-called "liberal" Newspapers of Record evaded this story. Okay, we already know that the priority of the Bush administration is to protect the Bush administration, but if even the highly-partisan right-wing papers can tell that's a story (and a serious problem), why can't the "respectable" press?

Charles Dodgson has been my hero of the week, though. Most recently, with this item which, among other things, draws a sort of parallel between J. Edgar Hoover and Louis Freeh:

The FBI's main mission, let's recall, is to fight crime. But its first, and formative, leader, J. Edgar Hoover, hobnobbed with mafia leaders in private, while publicly denying that the mafia existed --- instead using the immense powers of his agency to accumulate dirt on high officials in all branches of government for blackmail, while at the same time illegally harrassing such threats to the republic as Martin Luther King.
[...]
And the pattern continues --- in more recent history, we have the Ruby Ridge affair, and more disturbingly the subsequent treatment of the commanding officer, Larry Potts, who effectively escaped censure due to his status as a "Friend of Louie" --- FBI directory Louis Freeh (who even tried to promote him). At the same time, Freeh was heavily involved in trying to undermine President Clinton politically. And the FBI is still notoriously reluctant to share information with any other agency, whether the federal government or local law enforcement.
There's also an item on another Bush judicial nominee, a nice one on evaluating George Bush's career, and a response to Thomas Friedman's silly theory that we shouldn't blame Bush for failing to do his job. As a footnote, he also responds to Farber:

First, Gary Farber attacks unspecified "leftist blogs" for partisanship in criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the issue, and dares them to predict the location and date of the next attack. I don't know who he's talking about, since he doesn't say --- but speaking only for myself, I'm criticizing them not because they're Republican, but because they're in power and screwing up.
Too right. I may be a registered Democrat, but that never stopped me from criticizing Democratic presidents, and I don't see why I should suddenly start pulling my punches now when we have an illegal government that makes all the others look good. When I was a teenager I marched against a Democratic president, and he wasn't nearly as bad as these guys. Frankly, I find it offensive that Gary dismisses criticism of Bush as "partisan". And, as Dodgson says, the demand for a prediction of the next attack is "inane". What Dodgson doesn't say, and I will, is that the one target we knew Al Qaeda had at the top of their list was the Twin Towers, and now that they're gone it's not as easy to pick the next one.


Wednesday, 22 May 2002

19:40 BST: Permalink
It's been a busy couple of days, so I'm not caught up. I'm still baffled by people arguing over whether the Bush administration should have warned the public about 9/11. Has anyone seriously suggested this? It sounds to me like someone is deliberately re-casting the criticisms of the Bushistas to sound like something much sillier. (Gee, there's a new idea.) What I particularly dislike about this phrasing is that it makes it sound like a mere matter of style.

So let me get that one out of the way: I don't think the public should have been warned about 9/11. I think, in fact, that the general public should not have been warned about 9/11. I think the administration should have been very quietly chasing down every lead until they had done everything possible to try to track Al Qaeda operatives in the US and round them up and stop them from whatever they had in mind. That's what the Clinton administration did - they didn't just sit on their hands and make sure the President and the Attorney General didn't happen to be in the line of fire. (And if our government honestly believes that all these new warnings have any validity, they should shut up and investigate instead of just using it to scare the public into submission.)

Let me make that as clear as I can: The Clinton administration tried (successfully) to protect America. The Bush administration only bothered to protect itself.

Yes, it would be even more damning to learn that they fully understood the character of the threat and simply made a deliberate decision to let it happen, but that's not the issue here. The issue isn't even that they failed to stop the attacks from happening. The issue is that they did not even try. Whether they did this out of a deliberate, cynical, calculated desire to reap the benefits (political or economic) of a successful attack on American soil or whether they did it out of sheer ineptitude isn't the point; the point is that they just plain didn't do the basic things that needed to be done if there was any hope of stopping it. No matter how you slice it, these people are not doing the job. Their reasons may be stupidity and incompetence or downright evil, but you really have to be in serious denial at this point to keep giving these guys the benefit of the doubt. We cannot entrust our nation's security to these people.

Has anyone kept track of the question? I'm not here to judge their immortal souls - that's not my call. I'm judging their performance, and their performance speaks for itself, and has been speaking for itself since day one. They lie, they spin, they screw around with diplomacy in amazingly dangerous ways, and they don't do their job.

Other people have been covering these issues far better than I can, which is just as well since I've been preoccupied the last couple days, so check out some of those sites. Atrios has quite a bit of stuff at Eschaton, including a pointer to this piece by James Carroll:

Since September we have squandered our wealth and focus on a huge war while neglecting police work and intelligence at home and abroad. Hence the vagueness of the current warning. And how dare our government set off alarms about Cuba's putative bioterrorism project while it has done nothing to apprehend the anthrax killer? Oh, and - forgive me, just asking - where is Osama?
I liked that paragraph because it raises one of my favorite issues: that the development of the Internet seems to have convinced a lot of people that good old-fashioned methods of acquiring intelligence, and ordinary police work, can be replaced by eliminating our civil liberties and allowing the government to collect an incomprehensible amount of useless detail on every citizen (and their correspondents). Well, they can't. It is now clear that following up genuine probable cause on Zacarias Moussaoui - a guy they actually had their hands on already - could have split the whole plot right open, but instead we were hearing about rubbish like Carnivore. (Yeah, just what we need, trying to maintain surveillance on everyone's conversation.) And now the fact that they didn't properly investigate some genuinely suspicious characters is being used as an excuse to deprive every Muslim in the US of their civil liberties. But we don't need the Constitution to be endlessly violated in order to make America safe. What we need is for the government and its agents to do their job.

And this was the top story at MWO when I looked last night:

In a stunning revelation, the New York Times has reported that among the two FBI office counterterrorism chiefs who received the now famously neglected Phoenix memorandum last July was none other than John O'Neill -- then the top counterterrorist officer in the FBI's New York City's office, and the FBI's leading expert on Osama bin Laden.

O'Neill knew perfectly well what Al Qaeda was up to, and had been knocking on doors (and, at times, heads) for years to get his colleagues and superiors to understand what he did.

The last straw came in July 2001, when (as he told the French authors Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard in an interview), O'Neill became fully aware that the Bush administration, anxious over negotiations for a Caspian Sea oil pipe line, had decided to back off of tracking bin Laden and opposing the Taliban, lest it risk alienating powerful Saudi families. Instead of going after the Taliban and bin Laden, the Bush Administration decided to negotiate and try to buy off the Taliban and bin Laden.

Unfortunately for the Administration, the pipe-line negotiations broke down in August.

And on September 11, bin Laden struck.

What no one has known until now is that at the very moment that O'Neill was finally giving up, in July, he was being apprised of the Phoenix memorandum -- a memo, it seems, that practically nobody inside the Bush Administration was willing to treat seriously other than himself.

At the end of August, in disgust, O'Neill left the FBI to take what he somewhat ruefully regarded as his "retirement" job --as head of security at the World Trade Center. There, on September 11, John O'Neill died at the hands of his arch-enemy bin Laden's fiendish followers.

Connect the dots? Well, duh! O'Neill got the Phoenix message. No one would listen. No one. The Bushies had backed off bin Laden. So O'Neill changed jobs -- and went on to die a martyr's death. While all the people who ignored him, on up the chain to the Oval Office, live on -- ghoulishly making political hay out of his sacrifice and their own incompetence -- and, in a sense, their own perfidy.

(Sources: NYT and New York Magazine.)

So in addition to Tennant at the CIA trying to warn people, we also had O'Neill at the FBI, while the people on top - the various political appointees at every level - appear to have been refusing to pay attention. And the Appointee in Chief himself, the supposed "CEO", was hiding on his potempkin ranch, talking to the cows.

Richard Cohen finds some real partisanship:

In the battle of first ladies -- the former one and the current one -- Hillary Clinton won hands down. In a brief Senate speech the other day, she pointed out that she, better than most, knew something about "second-guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks." So she was not attempting "to blame the president," but merely to ask what went wrong before Sept. 11 and what can be done to ensure "that 9/11 never happens again." Laura Bush's response was to call people like her ghouls.

Before I am e-mailed to death, let me quickly stipulate that Mrs. Bush said nothing specifically about Hillary Clinton. The first lady was merely responding to all those who she thought were questioning how her husband's administration handled -- or mishandled -- the hints it got that Osama bin Laden was up to something big. "I think it is very sad that people would play upon the victims' families' emotions," she said.

Cheap shot, Laura.

You have to be pretty partisan to be saying that asking questions is "partisan". And at this point you have to be pretty partisan to refuse to acknowledge that this administration has been a tragic failure. They never did earn our trust, and only a fool would continue to give it to them.

And if you want to see a truly outstanding example of partisanship, E.J. Dionne has found one:

"We have no choice but to address the policies and decisions, made at the very highest level of our government, which helped bring us to this point," an influential political voice said less than a month after Sept. 11. "To do otherwise is to be irresponsible and unprepared in the face of a ruthless enemy, whose objective is to kill many more Americans."

Were these the words of an outrageously partisan Democrat -- Sen. Tom Daschle or Rep. Dick Gephardt? -- seeking a high-minded rationale for bashing President Bush?

No. They were offered by Rush Limbaugh, one of the president's favorite radio talk show hosts, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on Oct. 4. Limbaugh wasn't talking about Bush. He was arguing that Bill Clinton "didn't do enough to stop terrorists." Limbaugh's conclusion: "If we're serious about avoiding past mistakes and improving national security, we can't duck some serious questions about Mr. Clinton's presidency."

As Ross Perot might say, isn't that interesting? To suggest a serious inquiry into a presidency that ended eight months before Sept. 11 is the patriotic thing to do. But to suggest a comparably serious inquiry into intelligence and bureaucratic failures during the current administration is outrageous partisanship.

Whatever else you can say about what Clinton did to stop terrorism, the fact is that he pursued Al Qaeda. Bush refused to continue to do so, pulling the FBI off the case. Ashcroft took the threats seriously enough to stop flying commercially. Bush hid at his ranch. But this administration did not try to protect the American people.


Monday, 20 May 2002

15:25 BST: Permalink
Robert Parry wonders why it's "partisan" to expect accountability from The Training-Wheel President:

Major national news outlets are continuing to coddle George W. Bush even as new disclosures show that Bush and senior advisers failed to respond effectively to warnings last year about Osama bin Laden's plans to attack the United States.

This defensiveness about Bush was apparent in the immediate framing of the revelations as "The Blame Game," a title used by CNN on May 16, as the stories broke, and atop a New York Times lead editorial on May 17. The implication to the public was that Democrats were trying to make political hay from the Sept. 11 tragedy by blaming Bush.

The Times editorial conceded that "the White House should long ago have told the country about the briefing that Mr. Bush received." But the Times still shifted blame away from the Oval Office, arguing that so far, "everything points to a much broader government failure to recognize that the bin Laden network might attack targets within the United States after years of conducting its operations overseas."

The Washington Post concurred in a similar editorial on May 17. "The tempest seems overblown," the Post said.

For two newspapers that hammered Bill Clinton for years over such issues as the firing of Travel Office staff and his Whitewater real estate investment – not to mention his sex life – it may seem strange for them to shelter Bush from a failure to take any meaningful action to head off the biggest single-day loss of human life on U.S. soil, ever.
[...]
The principal argument of Bush's defenders now is that he got only one warning on Aug. 6 and that it didn't specifically say that al-Qaeda operatives would hijack planes and turn them into missiles aimed at major U.S. landmarks. Bush made that argument himself in one of the most unusual statements ever uttered by an American president.

"Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people," Bush declared in at a Rose Garden ceremony on May 17.

Coming from any other president, such a remark would have been viewed as self-serving and obvious. Would any president given detailed information about enemy plans to hijack planes with the goal of murdering thousands do anything but try hard "to protect the American people?" Would the president, say, go play golf? The problem in the Sept. 11 case was that Bush supplied little or no leadership when the evidence was alarming, though still imprecise.

Personally, I'm still quite worried about that "use airplanes to kill" bit. Does this mean it was okay to ignore threats of traditional hijackings? I'm trying to picture this conversation in the Oval Office.

"Just an ordinary hijacking, nothing to worry about."

"Don't people get killed?"

"Well, usually hijackers don't want to kill hostages - that's the point of taking them as hostages."

"So no one gets killed?"

"Well, sometimes they'll kill a few Jews out of spite, but not most people."

"So, there's no downside, then."

Meanwhile, as a comparison:

The press also has done little to bring into focus how the Clinton administration succeeded twice in thwarting planned terrorist attacks by bin Laden operatives on U.S. soil, while the Bush administration failed.

In 1995, Abdul Hakim Murad, a Pakistani terrorist tied to bin Laden, was arrested in the Philippines and admitted under interrogation coordinated with the FBI and CIA that he planned to use pilot training in the United States to fly an explosives-packed plane into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Murad was convicted in New York on other charges that he had plotted to hijack and destroy 12 American jumbo jets over the Pacific Ocean. [NYT, May 18, 2002]

That case tipped off the U.S. government to the possibility that al-Qaeda operatives were considering the use of their own pilots to hijack planes and crash them into targets. Citing the Murad case, a 1999 report for the CIA's National Intelligence Council said "suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, (CIA), or the White House." [Washington Post, May 18, 2002]

Later in 1999, prior to the millennial celebrations, a plot to bomb targets in Los Angeles and New York was stopped when an alert customs agent caught a terrorist infiltrating from Vancouver, Canada. The arrest of Ahmed Ressam touched off a rapid reaction from the Clinton administration, which tracked down Ressam's accomplices and broke up the planned attacks. The millennial celebrations proceeded peacefully.

At other times -- after attacks on U.S. targets overseas -- Clinton ordered the firing of missiles at targets in Africa and Afghanistan, including one attack that apparently narrowly missed killing bin Laden. Republicans and Washington commentators, however, mocked Clinton for playing "wag the dog," cheap tricks to distract public attention from the Republican efforts to impeach him.

Say what you will, but all this suggests that it might have been possible to stop the attacks on 9/11 - if Bush had been paying attention. But, as Parry goes on to say, he was not.

Weirdly, it's Maureen Dowd who adds up the facts for the mainstream press:

The F.B.I. has known for years that American flight schools were breeding grounds for Al Qaeda pilot-wannabes. And the idea of planes as weapons was nothing new. In 1994, an American crashed his Cessna 150 at the White House — and Islamic militants were thwarted trying to slam a plane into the Eiffel Tower.

The F.B.I. was warned in 1995 by Philippine police that Ramzi Yousef, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, had schemes to hijack and blow up a dozen U.S. airliners on the same day and to hijack a plane and dive it into the C.I.A.

A 1999 intelligence report for the C.I.A. warned that bin Laden's terrorists might hijack a plane and slam it into the C.I.A., the Pentagon or the White House. The Italians told U.S. authorities last summer at the Genoa summit meeting that Islamic terrorists might try to ram a plane into the summit headquarters.

After an Islamic fundamentalist shot Meir Kahane in 1990, the F.B.I. seized 29 boxes of evidence from the killer, including bomb formulas and speeches by the blind sheik in the '93 bombing about "destroying the edifices of capitalism," with pictures of the Washington Monument, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. The F.B.I. did not bother to translate this stuff for three years — until after the '93 bombing.

Even if all President Bush learned at his Crawford briefing on Aug. 6 was that bin Laden was gearing up for hijackings here, why not order tougher airport security and fortified cockpit doors? After all, the 9/11 attacks started as old-fashioned hijackings.

The Bushies were still fixated on their Maginot line of missile defense in the sky when the threat was Al Qaeda freaks with box cutters. They cast themselves as the pros from Dover, the generals of the Gulf war with the right stuff.

They did not live up to their own billing. They were caught flat-footed and struck back, but not well enough to get the guy behind the attack. Now comes Mullah Omar spouting off that he and Osama will bring "fire and hell" on America. Even the unshakable Condi seems shaky.

Maybe the 9/11 indicators were general. But it's the job of government to interpret, develop and pool the info, to game out scenarios, to force the F.B.I. and C.I.A. to share.

Dick Cheney suggested that Democrats asking questions were unpatriotic. But that suggestion is anti-American. Maybe there has been too much bipartisanship lately. You can't get the truth that way.

(Thanks to Kevin Maroney for the heads-up.)

* * * * *
Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler has continued to look at the Social Security Scam and the coverage of it. He notes that comparisons with other countries that have adopted such plans were very rarely mentioned, and that the actual proposals offered in Congress were not examined at all. Somerby addresses points that I've never seen raised anywhere else, such as:

But then, a wide range of topics gathered dust in Campaign 2000’s "great debate." Press corps proponents marveled at the rate of return for someone invested in stocks. But how much of those profits would brokers' fees take? And how much more would be lost if the money had to be turned into an annuity at retirement? (Suggested answer: A lot.) Another point was rarely discussed, although it relates to the topic of today’s HOWLER. Who will actually pay the (massive) transition costs involved in setting up personal accounts?
01:47 BST: Permalink
On the media watch, Alterman looks at what Pelosi and Bruni told us about Campaign 2000:

The willingness of the Times bigfoot to treat the election as the equivalent of a junior high popularity contest signaled to the rest of the media that contentless coverage would be the order of the day. The net result, as Pelosi shows us in her fascinating but nauseating documentary--to be broadcast on HBO in November--is a press corps that follows its campaign masters like a litter of newborn puppies. They wait open-mouthed for Karl Rove or Karen Hughes to drop a tender morsel of warmed-over baloney into their mouths, wagging their tails in appreciation after every feeding.
[...]
But like Ambling, Journeys is more valuable for what it shows than what it tells. Over and over we hear the reporters criticize themselves for the emptiness of their coverage as they express a kind of wearied contempt for the snowmobile rides and other pseudoevents that substitute for substance. But over and over again, they submit without apparent protest. They regurgitate the campaign's baloney sandwiches and watered-down Kool-Aid--without even bothering to convince themselves that it's really steak and champagne. In between feedings, they ask the Man for his autograph, laugh at his jokes and seek, without much success, to justify the effects of their collective lobotomy to Pelosi's pitiless focus.

Unlike Bruni, Pelosi demonstrates considerable professional self-awareness (which is why she felt compelled to quit her job and leave the field entirely after the campaign). Early on, she gives us the Financial Times's Richard Wolffe speaking excitedly about covering "the greatest story in the world...big issues, big stakes; it's a big game, but it's important." A little later he admits, "Most of our time is spent doing really stupid things, in stupid places with stupid people." If you want your mystery summed up in a single sentence, it would be hard to outdo Wolffe: "The Gore press corps is about how they didn't like Gore, didn't trust him.... Over here, we were writing only about the trivial stuff because he charmed the pants off us."

* * * * *
Atrios links to Bushwatch with more reasons to be furious about how the Bush administration dealt with terrorism:

Whereas, the record of the Clinton administration and Janet Reno was that no FISA requests were refused, under Ashcroft and the Bush administration FBI field agents were unable, after repeated requests, to obtain a FISA warrant against Zacarias Moussaoui even after French Intelligence had named him as having Al Qaeda connections. Among other useful things, Moussaoui's computer held the phone number of Mohamed Atta's roommate.
Meanwhile, added to the stack of items headed "Can no longer be classed as tin-foil hat stuff", the claim that the administration was planning operations in Afghanistan before 9/11. From MSNBC:

The plan dealt with all aspects of a war against al-Qaida, ranging from diplomatic initiatives to military operations in Afghanistan, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
And Christine Quiñones, who has fixed her font problem, says:

Mark my words; this is the tip of the iceberg. A whole lot more will come out, slowly, like pulling teeth, but it'll come. Thank your lucky stars the ball began to roll after only eight months, and not eight years, or eight decades.

Saturday, 18 May 2002

17:59 BST: Permalink
Glenn Reynolds has been very good at making the point that the administration should have foreseen 9/11 because it was foreseen, and therefore, as Atrios also notes, Condi and Ari's claims that it was all completely unforeseeable just don't hold water.

And frankly, I don't understand how the administration, which had far more information available to it than I did, couldn't have put 2+2 together. A question that had been on my mind since 1993 was when Al Qaeda was going to make another strike at the WTC, which they obviously had a big thing for. And if I'd been in the White House, I'd certainly have been taking advantage of all those resources to look into that question. This is precisely the thing that all Bush's wise men - you know, the ones that we were told would compensate for his lack of experience (or interest) - were supposed to be for. His father the former CIA director and all his old cronies couldn't have thought about any of this? Really? Are they stupid?

As Atrios has also noted, a lot of data has been collected in the aftermath of 9/11 that foreshadows the attack on the Towers. But as a number of stories (like this one from Reuters in the NYT, and this one in The Washington Post) have shown, it was all there before, right at the fingertips of the people who could and should have done something about it. The administration itself had been aware of the use of commercial aircraft as weapons, which is why there was a lot of related security during Bush's European trip. Then there was the FBI's own speculation about Zacarias Moussaoui planning to use US commercial aircraft as missiles. There was the fact that allied intel had sent the US warnings about several of the hijackers. Add to this that some of the hijackers were actually pulled by airport security before their flight, but then allowed to fly, and you have to wonder just how deeply asleep everyone had to be.

And you can hardly blame the tin-foil hat crowd for being suspicious when Ashcroft quit using commercial planes and Bush stayed as far from DC for so long during this period. They knew something was up, they knew it was probably aimed at DC and New York, they certainly had to have guessed what the obvious targets were, but no one was watching known Al Qaeda guys who were in the US and had been learning to fly planes? No one thought there might be a connection? Is this a joke?

Yes, I do believe it's easily explained by stupidity, incompetence, lack of enough interest to think about it - not a deliberate administration plan to let thousands of Americans be killed. But is that really an adequate defense of this administration - that they mean well? What difference does it make whether they mean to do good or evil if the outcome is the same?

Obviously, some of them must have realized this, too, or they wouldn't have worked so hard to hide the fact that they had the info all along.

Andrew Sullivan is still in laughable denial, but on the other hand, how could I resist LegoDeath? Or the Bible in Legos?

03:40 BST: Permalink
I followed a link from Talking Points Memo about the current re-evaluation of the McKinney flap to a blog called MyDD that does or doesn't have a smoking gun - it really does seem to depend on how you want to read it - but while I was there I found this neat little animated .gif that just happened to strike my fancy.

I dunno, maybe McKinney did have a point about the profit factor, though. Someone did a lot of curious trading around 9/11, and I think it would be good to know who it was.

* * * * *
Atrios is horrified:

I actually had to go to work today, so I only caught a few bits of CNN in the morning, but I was absolutely horrified.

They kept pumping the results of their online poll which had about l 70% of people voting that yes, the criticism of the Bush administration was just politics as usual.

That lecherous old bastard who works with Paula Zahn said something like "I bet those Democrats will be too embarassed to even go on the Sunday shows this weekend with poll numbers like this."

Daryn Kagan kept pushing when Joe Lockhart was on. He dismissed it intelligently.

Well, that's something, then.


Thursday, 16 May 2002

15:48 BST: Permalink
Feminists Against Censorship got mail! Hard mail, that is, from New York, enclosing a cartoon and a sort of letter with quotes on it ("If you don't like the product you should complain to the manufacturer." Lenny Bruce), and a signature that looked suspiciously like the way Teresa Nielsen Hayden initials her postcards. And a handwritten card asking us if we'd like a comp copy of the author's latest book. It wasn't until I found an address sticker on the back of something that I realized that what looked like "tnh" was actually "Tuli".

Now, half the time when we get mail, we are trying to push it into each other's hands. No one wants more paper in their house, no one wants more responsibility, and there's a lot of looking at each other and, "Who wants to deal with this one?" stuff going on. Instead, two of us are fighting over who gets to keep the letter, who gets to review the book, and so on. Eventually, we divided up responsibilities and bits of the letter between us. And then we looked up and realized everyone else there was 15 or 20 years younger than us and none of them had a clue who Tuli Kupferberg is. *sigh*

Then I came home and did my nightly web-crawl while telling both Patrick and Teresa my exciting Tuli news in A.I.M., and then I opened one more window and everything crashed. I keep forgetting that I really don't have enough RAM to keep opening windows indefinitely. I was amused by all the news, though - like this item in Tapped:

COULD JOHN ASHCROFT'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HAVE STOPPED 9/11? According to this story in today's New York Times, they seemed to have missed a chance to do just that. (The story follows up on a Newsweek exclusive this week that, at an internal FBI meeting last August, one agent actually speculated that Zacarias Moussaoui was planning to fly a plane into the World Trade Center.) Here's the latest: Last July, an FBI agent in Phoenix had sent a memo to headquarters urging the bureau to investigate Middle Eastern men enrolled in American flight schools; the agent mentioned Osama bin Laden by name and suggested that bin Laden's followers could be using the flight schools to train for terror operations. The memorandum, says the Times, has existed for months, but until now the Bush Administration hadn't let anyone in Congress see it. And it's not hard to see why. This happened on the Bush Administration's watch, albeit before FBI director Robert Mueller's confirmation last summer.

It's easy to play Monday morning quarterback on this sort of thing. Certainly it would have been hard, before 9/11, to take seriously the idea of terrorists flying a plane into the World Trade Center. But it would not have been hard to know that terrorists were using schools, including flight schools, as cover for terrorist operations. Eyad Ismoil, the Palestinian who drove a truck filled with explosives into the World Trade Center's underground parking garage in 1993, had done just that. That's why Congress mandated the creation of a computerized student tracking system in 1996. But as this article shows, the student tracking system got lobbied to death by a coalition of higher education lobbyists, libertarian ideologues, and internal opponents at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Who were the chief opponents of the system? The main lobbying group was a group called the Association of International Educators, which represents foreign student advisers at universities, colleges, and vocational schools (including flight schools) around the country. The point man on the Hill was a congressional aide named Stuart Anderson, a former Cato Institute staffer who was immigration policy chief for Republican senator Spencer Abraham. Abraham was until late 2000 chair of the Senate immigration subcommittee; in February of 2000, he led a group of 21 senators who signed a letter to the INS in February 2000 asking INS commissioner Doris Meissner to delay implementation of the student tracking system. Among those senators was John Ashcroft.
[...]
So you can see why the Bush Administration might have wanted to sit on those FBI memos

Ooops.

* * * * *
Looking over the last week or so of Blowback brings up something that's been bugging me for a few weeks now, which is the growing feeling that all the fears of the nay-sayers and peaceniks may be coming true. Not that it took prescience to expect Team Bush to fall down on the job of stablizing Afghanistan in any meaningful way, but such warnings were ignored earlier on and then forgotten in the triumphant glow of sheer relief that we'd gotten rid of the Taliban government at last.

There's something ironic if you compare Bush1 with Bush2 on war rhetoric versus outcomes. Poppy Bush went to war in the Gulf to drive the Iraqis back from Kuwait. Whatever else can be said about him (which is quite a lot, really), he did that. And made short work of it. He didn't get bogged down in the dreaded "quagmire", he didn't aim at the wrong country, and he didn't make a load of promises he couldn't (or wouldn't) keep.

Former Governor Bush, by contrast, made getting Osama bin Laden his stated priority, which itself was probably not a good idea, but in any case he still hasn't done it and has been back-tracking on it for quite a while now. He then bombed Kabul when the real hot-bed of Al Qaeda fermentation is Peshawar. His administration made noises about helping to rebuild Afghanistan and has been dragging its feet ever since. Meanwhile, Bush's "anti-terrorist" rhetoric has been taken as an excuse by every hard-line dictator or would-be dictator to terrorize their political enemies.

It could be argued that all the warnings about quagmires and such that preceded the action against Iraq in the Gulf war are what kept it from turning into a fiasco. Open debate before taking action is sometimes useful. Of course, others may argue that it's precisely that kind of talk that left Saddam in power, but going after Saddam personally wasn't actually regarded as a priority at the time, and that makes sense in the context of what had been US policy. (Remember, right up to the moment that he threatened Kuwait, Saddam was "our friend". Thanks especially to Poppy, we have a lot of "friends" like that. Saddam didn't become "a madman" until after it was decided we had to go to war with him.)

Warnings and questions about the "war on terror" were left out in the cold after 9/11. Even most of those who would normally provide that viewpoint were just too stunned to think, and many of us had blood in our eyes. It's only now, many months later and long after numerous irrevocable acts have been committed, that people are starting to look up and wonder how we got into this position. Long since having hastily voted "aye" for the Patriot Act, our legislators are starting to chafe and ask why this atrocious legislation was pushed past them without a chance to even read the damned thing.

I feel kinda sad that all the people who've been joining the bandwagon to attack the lefties who demurred from pro-war rhetoric are probably not going to come around soon and say, "Perhaps we have been hasty...." Whether or not you agree with them, those pacifists and high-volume critics of US foreign policy are part of a necessary dialog that makes us consider our actions with prudence, and it's a mistake to marginalize them completely from the debate.

* * * * *
Music note: Today's soundtrack is the Beatles 1962-1966 ("red") collection. "Please Please Me" is still a smashing track.


Wednesday, 15 May 2002

14:15 BST: Permalink
The Republican Social Security Scam is back on the agenda, and The Daily Howler is watching the spin:

There is one great constant in the Heritage study. Every worker under Bush's plan receives one thing: free money. And Lambro penned a further note — the gains could be much larger! "In many cases, of course, the returns on investment over a working career will be far higher," the scribe enthused. For the record, Lambro never suggested that the gains involved could also turn out to be much lower, or that the gains might even turn out to be losses. When pundits offer the public free cash, such possibilities are seldom around.
Yep, it's free lunch time, and we all know you can't possibly lose money on the markets. Much better than that unreliable old Social Security. Oh, and it will only involve using 4% of your SS funds:

At any rate, what did the SS commission propose? For better or worse, it really proposed that workers be allowed to deposit thirty-two percent of their payroll taxes in their personal accounts. Instead of 32, Allen said four. When even Allen is so far off on so elementary a fact, you'll understand why the press corps must be watched quite closely in the debate yet to come.
Free money indeed - but not for workers. The people who came up with this idea see a whole lot of cash that isn't in their pockets, and this is a way to get it there and keep it out of yours.

* * * * *
Apparently the permalinks aren't working, but check out Max B. Sawicky (who comes recommended by Josh Marshall), on the Bush plan to "reform" the food stamps program and on welfare in general:

This should remind people of some of the old AFDC rules. The infamous 'man in the house' rule was designed to block aid to married couples, since it was reasoned that at least one adult could always go out and work. Then there was the implicit tax on earnings resulting from means-testing -- if you earn a dollar more, you lose some benefits so there is an implicit tax on work (in addition to all the other taxes). The annoying thing about all this is that rules of this type were insisted upon by conservatives to limit the cost of the program and to deny aid to able-bodied adults who were expected to work. The conservative critique of AFDC focused on the program discouraging marriage and work -- the effects of rules these same jerks had established previously.

Similarly, Bush is now using the fact of rules designed to narrow eligibility and limit the cost of Food Stamps to support terminating the entitlement.

I've been meaning to say that myself.

Sawicky also dances on Joe Klein for producing another round of liberal-bashing on behalf of DLCism. You remember that old canard about Gore lost because he swung to the left? Well, there it is again!


Tuesday, 14 May 2002

21:55 BST: Permalink
Ulrika A. O'Brien writes:

All Things Considered had a segment last week on sex-segregated classes in a Seattle K-7 school, where apparently the boys were the ones who did amazingly better in sex-segregated classes than in mixed ones. Apparently in one year they went from testing in the 10th percentile in writing to testing above the 50th percentile, and similar jumps in other subjects. The girls also did better in all subjects except math, but not as dramatically *much* better.

I had heard the same research as you, so I was surprised, and it's only one data set so far, but while I'm not on the bandwagon, I'd say I'm willing to be convinced.

Well, yeah, I'm always willing to be convinced. I'd still want to know why, though.

* * * * *
Couple of interesting items at American Samizdat. A rather scary item on lax of security at government labs says:

Perhaps I'm overreacting. There may well be nothing all that alarming about a few billion potential biowar infections. But that leads me to what I find most bizarre about this matter-of-fact revelation... the Times doesn't even bother to explain the tidbit's significance, it simply drops the matter entirely.

This seems like an opportunity to remind everyone that the "investigation" into the Anthrax letters last fall is currently being pursued with the same urgency as the search for Judge Crater... As Barbara Hatch Rosenberg reports, investigators may well be dragging their feet because they know American labs contracted by the government (and quite possibly some of their employees) were in fact the source.

And then there's this pointer to an article in The Grauniad saying that instead of just creating fake advocacy groups to shill for them, corporations are now creating fake individuals.

02:35 BST: Permalink
Just noticed this fine rant by Charlie Stross on yet another stupid idea:

The spy in the book
The BBC has swallowed a copyright-fascist line from the Booksellers Association, who want to tag all books with RFID chips.
[...]
Here's how I read this proposal: all reading material will be traced. It will no longer be possible to read an anonymous tract, or keep your reading habits secret from the state. Everything that goes into your mind will be grist for the marketing machine to focus on. It won't be easy for non-chipped books or magazines to be distributed, because the RFID system will be used to speed distribution, so anonymity in print will go out the window. By way of illustration, if this were to catch on in the USA, it will sound the death-knell of the written word culture that allowed the Federalist Papers to be published. It's perilously close to being the moral equivalent of the USSR's and Ba'athist Iraq's licensing of typewriters and photocopiers. Combined with the RIAA/MPAA's demands for copy-prevented computers, and all the rest of the panoply of copyright fascism, this sounds the death-knell of the intellectual commons. Every idea you acquire will be subject to audit, and you won't be able to participate in the market of literature without becoming part of the monitoring apparatus. The only truly free medium of correspondence that will be left will be samizdat printed by laser-printer -- and even they already have digital watermarking so that the individual machine can be identified (in the case of colour printers, but soon likely as not extending to all output devices).
And speaking of these matters, what is this sleazebag up to, now?

* * * * *
According to the latest Zogby poll results, one might get the impression the illiberal media had done its work, given that it seems to say people think the Republicans are better equipped than the Democrats to handle issues which, as those of us who are paying attention know, the Republicans have done a far worse job with. But then when you get to the bottom you notice that the populations polled look a bit skewed:

East.........23
South........26
CentGrLk.....31
West.........20
Total.......100

* * * * *

Thursday, May 09, 2002

croatan
- Ted Barlow, 11:56 AM

Dammit.


Monday, 13 May 2002

19:12 BST: Permalink
Ooops, failed to notice there was a fourth part to that David Brock interview, as it hadn't been posted yet when I pulled down the other three. Here it is: Part 4.

17:50 BST: Permalink
I got e-mail recently from a friend and colleague who had been out of touch for a while. One of the things she said was:

I was saying to someone the other day how relieved I am that it's OK to criticize the president again. There was awhile after 9/11 where you really couldn't. (And dammit, he *didn't* rise to the occasion. He rose to his fucking cowboy fantasies. *Rudy*, who I loathe and despise, at least *did* rise to the occasion.) It was *very* difficult to live here in NYC -- everyone I know pretty much fell into a sort of low grade depression/anxiety thing. I suddenly realized in December, for example, that I hadn't bothered to pay my bills in months. Then I found out that at least three other people I knew had done the same thing. The creditors, when they phoned up, didn't even bother to be nasty. They must have gotten a *lot* of similar responses. (Of course, then we all paid our bills.) Other stuff like that. But interestingly, the Aussie-from-London thought I wasn't angry enough because he didn't realize how profoundly *beyond* anger I was. It was folks in the Midwest who were *angry*. We were mostly beyond processing it . . .
* * * * *
A poster at the Bartcop Forum actually went through the trouble of transcribing an interview with David Brock from a local TV show in Houston, in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. (Update: Part 4.) This is from the second part:

[David Brock] I spent a year at the Heritage Foundation in 1990, and I could see that the difference here is that, well, you might say, "what's wrong with having a conservative Brookings Institution?" The difference is that, the Brookings Institution actually operates like a quasi-university, and they do real research, and they actually have liberal-centrists and they have conservatives as well on their staff. The Heritage Foundation was nothing like that. The Heritage Foundation was simply marketing pre-cooked conservative ideology. There wasn't any independent thinking going on there. It was all dictated by the people who control the money, and so what it was really was a public-relations operation, and that's where the right, I think, has far exceeded anything you see on the liberal side, in terms of getting their point of view across in the media, on Capitol Hill, all over Washington, is in that kind of organization.

Grover Norquist, who is the head of an anti-tax group, was a very close advisor to Newt Gingrich. Now that Gingrich has left the scene, Grover still has extraordinary influence in the movement, and just to give one example - there is a meeting every Wednesday morning, here in Washington, in Grover Norquist's offices and about 70 to 80 of the top conservative organizations all send representatives to this meeting, and literally, behind closed doors, whatever disagreements they may have are hammered out, and then they agree on the political line of the week and their priorities, and they go out, and not only is it conservative organizations, but also supposedly conservative journalists from the National Review and the Washington Times go to these meetings. Then they go out and they are all on message, so there's incredible uniformity in the conservative message, and I've had people who are liberal activists here in Washington tell me that absolutely nothing like that goes on on the liberal side. Liberalism tends to be diffuse, with a whole range of interests, each working for their own interests, but with very little coordination, and certainly not the iron-clad discipline and uniformity that you see on the right. GLENN: So it's not by accident when you pop on your radio and you hear Rush Limbaugh talk about, let's say, the California energy crisis, and you go home and you turn on the O'Reilly Factor, and Bill Kristol is on there. They're all saying the same thing. It gets hammered out at these meetings.

DAVID: Absolutely. And no, none of that is an accident. And you can see that, in terms of propaganda purposes, it is very effective. The right-wing message is kept simple, it's put bluntly, and it's repeated all over talk radio, in the syndicated columns, and all the cable chat shows. When you compare that to the liberals that appear to balance out the conservatives, the liberals are often all over the map. In other words, they're making up their own minds and reaching their own independent judgments. Many times you will see liberal commentators criticize the Democratic Party, which is …you know, probably as it should be

Pity David Broder didn't read this before celebrating those right-wing institutions. Or maybe that was the "message" for the week.

* * * * *
Vaara and Atrios note that there are actual Dutch people (or at least residents) on the web from whom one can get their perspective on the milieu Fortuyn existed in - Adam Curry and sf fan Martin Wisse.


Sunday, 12 May 2002

20:50 BST: Permalink
Helen Thomas is also wondering why the Bush administration wants it so much:

To hear American officials starting with President Bush tell it, you would think a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is inevitable.

Why would we want to do that? How many lives of Americans and Iraqis are we prepared to sacrifice to topple one man, Saddam Hussein? What right do we have to overthrow the Iraqi regime anyway?

Yes, it violated U.N. resolutions in 1998 by ousting international weapons inspectors who were trying to make sure that it was not secretly producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

But other nations, including Israel, have violated U.N. resolutions, and we have not tried to oust their leaders.

Since he came to power, Bush has been obsessed with bringing about what he calls "a change of regime" in the Iraqi dictatorship. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the effort would be accomplished by "whatever means" it takes.

One explanation for Bush's fixation on ousting Saddam Hussein is that he wants to avenge his father, who was victorious against Iraq in the Persian Gulf war in 1991 but failed to unseat its ruler. Conservatives have long accused the elder Bush of not finishing the job in Baghdad.

Actually, I did recently hear a theory that could be said to justify invading Iraq - to put us in striking distance of Saudi Arabia. But really, I just can't believe the Bushes have the slightest desire to do it.

* * * * *
The Republicans obstructed Clinton's judicial nominations, even though they were moderates, in order to be able to leave lots of extra vacancies so they could pack the courts as soon as they had the chance. Now they are whining because Democrats aren't just letting 'em do it. Jason Zengerle says in The New Republic, Don't give Bush's judges a hearing:

For their part, Democrats respond that if there is a vacancy crisis, it is the GOP's fault. From 1995 through 2000, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and Republicans controlled the Senate, the Senate confirmed only 35 percent of Clinton's appellate court nominees; by the time Clinton left office the number of appellate court vacancies had more than doubled. Indeed, in confirming 52 of Bush's nominees in one year, the Democratic Senate has already surpassed the number of judicial nominees the Republican Senate confirmed in the last four years of the Clinton administration. "President Bush needs to get the facts straight," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said in response to Bush's broadside. "The fact is, judicial vacancies dramatically increased under Republican control of the Senate. In less than a year, Democrats have significantly reduced those vacancies." According to Roll Call, Democrats, trying to make May 9 their own special day, have scheduled hearings for that morning on the "egregious treatment of Clinton nominees."
[...]
So is there a solution to the judicial nominee impasse? Yes, and it's called a compromise. As some Democrats on the Hill are suggesting (and as the Los Angeles Times' Brownstein proposed, in addition to the up-or-down vote solution), Democrats should offer hearings (and yes votes) to the Bush nominees they deem acceptably moderate. In exchange, Bush should scrap his most conservative nominees and replace them with candidates more to the Democrats' liking, including some of the judicial moderates Clinton put forward who never received votes or hearings. This would prevent Republicans from unfairly benefiting from their intransigence during the Clinton years, and it would go a long way toward solving the judicial-vacancy crisis. And it could, in the end, get May 9 off the calendar once and for all.
* * * * *
The Republicans seem to spend a lot of time promoting domestic policies that are known not to work, which is why it's a good idea to suspect the workability of the ones we don't know about yet. Yes, even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then and all that, but still.... Two ideas are discussed in The Washington Post this weekend. One, Adulthood Without Sex, understates the case:

The abstinence-only sex education programs in our public schools call for "abstinence until marriage." The federal government spent $115 million on this message last year, and the Bush administration is proposing significant increases for the current year. Sexual abstinence until marriage is now official government policy.

The average age of marriage in the United States today is 27 for men and 26 for women. The abstinence-only program therefore asks our young people to renounce sexual activity throughout much of the early part of adult life.

Age 26 or 27 is an average. There are millions of Americans who do not marry until age 30, 35 or later. I myself did not marry until age 40. Had anyone suggested to me that I should remain sexually abstinent until that time, I would have found the idea preposterous.

This one is easy: In Europe, they have real sex education in schools starting in childhood, and in America they have abstinance-only "sex ed". Guess which kids start having intercourse later? This isn't rocket science, folks.

Meanwhile, Karen Stabiner rather likes the idea of sex-segregated schooling:

Many parents may be wondering what the fuss was about this past week, when the Bush administration endorsed single-sex public schools and classes. Separating the sexes was something we did in the days of auto shop and home ec, before Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Title IX. How, then, did an apparent return to the Fifties come to symbolize educational reform?

Here's how: By creating an alternate, parallel universe where smart matters more than anything, good looks hold little currency and a strong sense of self trumps a date on Saturday night -- a place where "class clown" is a label that young boys dread and "math whiz" is a term of endearment for young girls.

Can't tell you about all-boys' schools, but I've been to an all-girls' school, and it wasn't like that.

In any case, the last research I saw said that girls do indeed do better in sex-segregated schools. The place where it falls apart is that boys do worse. Do boys matter? Call me old-fashioned, but I think they do. I don't think I'll be jumping on this particular bandwagon any time soon.

* * * * *
David Broder is an unbeliever in the McCain Democratic Presidency campaign.


Saturday, 11 May 2002

19:49 BST: Permalink
I don't know about you, but the permalinks at Andrew Sullivan's site never work for me. Anyway, here he is:

NUMBER-CRUNCHING LIBERAL BIAS: I ignored Geoffrey Nunberg's piece in the American Prospect in April, debunking the notion of liberal media bias by numbers, because it so flew in the face of what I knew that I figured something had to be wrong. (And I was too lazy to do all the enormously laborious number-crunching to refute it. So sue me.) I figured someone would correct it at some point. And so they have. Check out this blog, Zonitics from Arizona and scroll down to May 7. Let me say again for the umpteenth time: I have no problem with good old bias. If Howell Raines wants to run a newspaper tilted left, that's fine by me. But there needs to be honesty about this or you lose credibility. By the way, a reader sends in the following tally from the Times in the last month: use of "far-left" - 16 times; "far right" - 38 times; use of "left-wing" - 26; "right-wing" - 63.
- 1:59:06 AM
But partisanship needn't be the reason for that. If you have a group that's unbalanced toward the right in the first place, you're going to be describing right-wingers more often. And if we're talking about Congress, there are just plain a lot more opportunities to talk about the far-right than there are to talk about...well, Bernie Saunders.

* * * * *
Note to Vaara: Here in the west, we put our first names first and our last names last. Why, does it sound like a Chinese name to you?
04:07 BST: Permalink
I'm too stunned to deal with this. Bruce Pelz was eternal. Until now.

Friday, 10 May 2002

16:10 BST: Permalink
John Nichols in The Nation says that Paul Wellstone is the real liberal point-man in the Senate and therefore the one the Republicans really want to beat. But I'm curious about the chances of their strategy:

Yet even as he follows the progressive playbook, Wellstone is no sure bet. In a state that gave America liberal Democratic icons like Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Mondale, and that has not backed a Republican for President since 1972, current polls show Wellstone running roughly even with Republican challenger Norm Coleman, a former mayor of St. Paul. To be sure, Coleman has benefited from being "Bush's best boy" and from steady infusions of campaign cash that are available to the Administration's chosen ones. But the full explanation for Wellstone's tight spot is found in a more complex calculation that involves Wellstone himself, the changing character of the upper Midwest, the flux in which the Democratic Party finds itself and the machinations of the people who manipulated Bush into the highest office in the land. "Sure, the Bush Administration is targeting Paul this year, but Paul is never a shoo-in," says Myron Orfield, a Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) state senator widely regarded as one of the nation's top experts in the study of voting patterns. "Paul's a controversial guy. He's the little guy who takes on the big guys. That is not something the political process is designed to reward these days. If you take strong stands you put yourself at risk--and Paul takes more strong stands on more issues than just about anyone else."
[...]
Coleman's 2002 plan had been to avenge his 1998 loss of the Minnesota governorship to Jesse Ventura, the wrestler-turned-third-party-pol who has yet to decide whether he will seek a second term this year. (There was speculation at one point that Ventura might challenge Wellstone on the Independence Party ticket, but the talk fizzled. If Ventura seeks a new term, an Independence Party Senate candidate might still draw votes--most likely from Coleman. By the same token, a Green candidate could shave some votes off Wellstone's total. But third-party candidates are not expected to gain much traction arguing that voters lack a choice between Wellstone and Coleman.)
Wait a minute - my memory is a bit clouded by later events, but don't I recall that Coleman is one of the reasons Jesse Ventura won the Governorship - because neither of the two major parties put up a palatable candidate? I seem to recall hearing Minnesotan's expressing quite a bit of disgust with both the Republican and the Democrat, making them think Ventura was worthy of a serious look, and eventually their votes - and wasn't Coleman one of those two candidates? If that's the case, Wellstone's chances may be better than anyone thinks.


Thursday, 09 May 2002

16:55 BST: Permalink
Okay, if you thought the Catholic Priests were bad, what about this?

15:02 BST: Permalink
I keep forgetting to mention that Mac Thomason responded in e-mail to my quibble about ethanol, saying:

I probably shouldn't have just said "Ethanol" is stupid; you could make alcohol, as you said, out of garbage. Or wood chippings. There's lots of stuff that cost almost nothing that could conceivably be used to produce fuel. But the American Federal Government's policy (basically requiring it be used as a gasoline additive) IS stupid, requiring ethanol only. (I think ethanol is always a grain product, I'm not sure if it has to be maize in particular.) It basically funnels money to farmers, and specifically to ADM, which dominates the market. Since farm states control the Senate and are powerful in the House, and since Iowa -- the farm state par excellance -- plays a big role in the nomination process for the Presidency... Well, nobody in power will speak out about it. Though if the Dems keep being marginalized in the midwest that might change. (Right now the party leadership is Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, both from plains states, so no way.)
Oh, okay.

But wait! I have another quibble, because now War Liberal is pointing to this article by Robert Wright in Slate, and Mac says, "What a twit," but I don't know.

Does Yasser Arafat sponsor terrorism? Ariel Sharon has long said yes, and now he says he's got proof—actual documentary evidence. Though I haven't studied the documents, it wouldn't surprise me if Sharon is right. Where Sharon is wrong is in saying that sponsoring terrorism disqualifies Arafat as a negotiating partner. In fact, this isn't just wrong—it's in a certain sense backwards.

For years, during waves of Palestinian terrorism, the question has been the same: Is Arafat unable to control terrorism or just unwilling? Sharon and other hawks have said he was unwilling, while many doves said he was unable.

Both positions have always lacked coherence. Doves called on Israel to negotiate with Arafat. Yet if Arafat is indeed powerless to stop terrorism, as they've claimed, what's the point of negotiating with him? Hawks said that, since Arafat was behind the terrorism, he could never be a "partner for peace." But what would be the point of cutting a deal with somebody who wasn't in a position to turn the terrorism off? The evidence Sharon says he now has in hand is, perversely, evidence that Arafat is a man worth doing business with.

Well, um, this is kind of the theory by which we've all been going along with the pretense that we don't know Gerry Adams is really not at a million miles remove from the provisional Irish Republican Army, and it does show some promise. Sure, it has its drawbacks, but look at it from my perspective: One night we felt the house shake when an IRA bomb went off nearby, right in a neighborhood where I've sometimes had to work. And another time, mere chance made me buy a coat the night before my planned trip to John Lewis (department store), so I happened not to be there when that bomb went off. We haven't had a lot of that lately, and I, for one, prefer things that way.

I guess people elsewhere don't see this, that everyone here really does know that Gerry Adams was a terrorist. For a while we had people like Jeremy Paxman who would have Adams or his lieutenants in live televised interviews and try to get them to admit they were terrorists or else repudiate the IRA, and I'd watch in horror, wondering why these idiots didn't realize that no benefit could come of getting them to do either of those things. Someone must have had a word with them, because they stopped it.

I don't understand the mentality of people who decide that terrorists are making war on them but at the same time can't work it out that terrorists really do think they are in a war, and thus they are not just going to surrender their arms and give up their leaders simply because people they regard as the enemy say, "OK, we'll play nice if you make yourselves completely vulnerable to us." Moreover, the only people you can negotiate with are their leaders, not bystanders who happen to suit your tastes better because they have no relationship to them and their terrorism. And if you make them officially leaderless, there ain't no one to negotiate with. You can treat them as criminals and pursue them to extinction, but if you want to bring them to the table you have to use a different strategy.

And so, Gerry Adams, the man who is the leader of the party of which the provisional IRA is the military arm - that is, their commander in chief, according to their own position. For the sake of decorum, we participate in a charade in which, officially, we pretend not to believe Adams has anything to do with IRA violence while, paradoxically, acknowledging his authority to speak on behalf of his party and his organization and, therefore, the IRA - and hope fervently that he really does have that authority, because without him the peace process may be lost for another generation or two. This is a war that has gone on for hundreds of years; peace talks don't seem to have made things any worse than they were before, so it's worth a shot.

Okay, I don't know what the real answer is with Arafat, but I just can't help the feeling that Sharon is going about it all wrong, wrong, wrong.

And I guess this is the place to say that I really wish the Bush family would stay the hell out of government - especially when they are actually out of government. Their interference with Clinton's attempts to promote peace in the Middle East certainly couldn't have helped our present circumstances. Come to think of it, it isn't just the Bushes, 'cause Nixon did the same thing with Johnson's Vietnam peace talks. One could get the impression that the real Republican platform contains a clause promising to prevent peace from breaking out. Then there's the "October Surprise" business in Iran, but that was Reagan-Bush (during the Carter administration). I don't know why these people bothered to steal an election since they've never let losing stop them before. They just have their own alternative foreign policies and make sure that the elected president's policies don't get in the way. Well, no change there, then.

* * * * *
Gary Ferdman and Myriam Miedzian think that, Like Harry Truman, We Should Investigate the Pentagon:

Fact: Pentagon and General Accounting Office analysts agree that year after year the Department of Defense loses track of a quarter of its budget-an amount in excess of the entire annual federal budget for education.

Fact: No congressional investigation of the Pentagon budget is planned.
[...]
Historical Fact: During WWII, then Senator Harry Truman dedicated himself to rooting out waste, mismanagement, and fraud in the military buildup. His Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (known as the Truman Committee) continued its work throughout the war. It saved the nation hundreds of billions of dollars and catapulted Truman to the Vice Presidency in 1944 and the White House a year later.

Conclusion: Any Democrat who chooses to follow in Truman's footsteps would save our nation billions in Pentagon waste; increase our national security by forcing the Pentagon to focus on true needs. These include ensuring it has weapons to meet today's threats; preventing the sale of former Soviet nuclear , biological, and chemical weapons to rogue states; and developing top notch intelligence sources. This courageous stand would free up funds desperately needed for health care, education, and environmental protection. The Democrat willing to emulate Truman would win the overwhelming admiration of voters and pave his or her way to the White House.

* * * * *
I learn from Atrios that Jonathan Chait says The deficit gets worse, and so does Bush:

The latest in what has become a steady stream of bad budgetary news arrived last Friday, when newspapers reported that this year's deficit is estimated to be about $100 billion--twice as large as previous forecasts had suggested. President George W. Bush immediately offered a multilayered defense packed with jaw-dropping mendacity. First came denial. "Of course, it's all speculative to begin with," he told reporters. "I don't know the models that they guessed [sic], but it's guesswork thus far." (Actually, this year's revenue forecast, which is based on tax returns that have already come in, is fairly reliable. What's unreliable are the ten-year budget forecasts, which Bush was only too happy to treat as money in the bank while selling his tax cut last year.) Next Bush offered up what has in recent months become his all-purpose escape clause: "I want to remind you what I told the American people, that if I'm the president--when I was campaigning, if I were to become the president, we would have deficits only in the case of war, a recession, or a national emergency." Bush, somewhat morbidly, plays this line for laughs in his speeches, chuckling, "Never did I realize we'd get the trifecta." But this escape clause is not only a falsehood; it's actually a revision of a previous falsehood, which itself was consciously designed to cover up the fact that the budget is in far worse shape than Bush lets on.

A little history is in order. Bush's original promise on the budget was extremely clear: He would devote the entire Social Security surplus to debt reduction. This meant more than merely balancing the budget. Because Social Security takes in around $200 billion more than it spends every year, Bush had effectively pledged not only that he wouldn't run overall deficits, but that he would substantially pay down the national debt every single year. Not only did Bush make no exception for emergencies, but he specifically promised that even if emergencies arose, they would not force him to break his pledge. On February 27, 2001, in his first address before Congress, Bush assured that his budget would "prepare for the unexpected, for the uncertainties of the future" by setting aside "a contingency fund for emergencies or additional spending needs" totaling "almost a trillion dollars." (In case you're wondering what happened to that contingency fund--we sure could use it right about now--the answer, as you might have guessed, is that it never existed.)
[...]
Setting aside the question of whether the president should repeatedly lie without consequence--conservatives used to really care about this--does a little red ink really do any harm? Yes, it does. We have only one decade left until the baby-boomers begin retiring. Paying off the debt before then would spare future taxpayers having to pay interest costs--which currently soak up almost $200 billion per year--and thus make it easier for them to bear the burden of more expensive medical and retirement costs.

* * * * *
I'm not sure what to make of this. Here's the Steven Den Beste version, but I've seen a lot of places where people seem genuinely surprised, and I keep wondering, didn't we already know this last year?

Documents have been found at Enron which confirm that its traders deliberately manipulated the electricity market to create an energy crisis in California last year and force power rates to rise precipitously. Among other things, it seems that the rotating blackous we went through may not have been necessary; they appear to have been caused by a deliberate shortfall of power delivered to the state.

Imagine our surprise. It always seem really strange that the power crisis evaporated so suddenly, leaving no trace of a problem afterwards. Starting mid-summer there was ample power and that has remained the case ever since.

They're talking about criminal investigations. I should think so.

* * * * *
This should not be forgotten: The Singing Penis clip. Short, but to the point, you might say.


Wednesday, 08 May 2002

17:40 BST: Permalink
I've just finished reading the very fine Robert Parry's latest article at the very fine Consortiumnews.com, David Brock & the Watergate Legacy, in which he traces the line up from the original sin of Richard Nixon to the present:

David Brock's tell-all Blinded by the Right parallels another account by a young man who came to Washington and found a home in Republican circles. That confessional book was Blind Ambition by Richard Nixon's White House counsel John Dean, who described how his drive to succeed led him to join the crimes of Watergate.

In that sense, the two "blinded" books by former insiders can be seen as book-ends. Dean's marks the early days of Nixon's vision of a mechanism for dirty tricks to neutralize political enemies – and Brock's chronicles its maturity through the impeachment battles against Bill Clinton and ultimately its success installing George W. Bush in the White House.

This continuum of Republican attack politics from Watergate to W. is the unacknowledged back story of Brock's book, which is its own back story to the last third of those three decades. While missing the larger historical context, Brock's book still ranks as a valuable guidebook explaining how the conservative attack machine worked in the 1990s and who had become its key players.

The book's value in dissecting the dirty tricks – along with detailing the raging hypocrisies of many right-wing operatives – has prompted a new campaign by conservatives to discredit Brock personally and thus his book. They have denounced him as an admitted liar in the past who allegedly is lying still, a reaction reminiscent of the Republican fury directed at Dean when he shifted from helping Nixon's Watergate cover-up to exposing it.

In both cases, the conservative attacks on these "traitors" had a "pay no heed to that man behind the curtain" quality. In Dean's case, the attacks failed because Nixon's White House tapes corroborated Dean's account. In Brock's case, the outcome is still in doubt, as a far-more sophisticated conservative attack machine seems confident that it can promote any false counter-charge against Brock and make it stick.

Parry then gives us a bit of history - Plumbers, Reagan, Poppy Bush, the War on Clinton - and winds up back where he started, addressing David Horowitz's recent attempt to "prove" Brock is still lying by claiming that an anecdote described in the book never happened. The only problem with this story, as people who have been following it on the net now know, is that Horowitz turns out to be dissembling - both to his readers and his editor at Salon. Oh, my!

* * * * *
Jerry Pournelle looks at a stupid piece of legislation:

Adam Smith famously said that the greatest enemies of capitalism were successful capitalists. Whenever two competitors met they generally conspired to induce government to erect barriers to entry into their particular line of business. Thus we have government licensing and regulations that effectively see to it that there will be no new automobile companies. Other regulations impose fixed (and economically useless) costs on small companies: If compliance with government regulations requires you to have one person full time just to do that, then this is a much greater burden on a company with 9 employees than on one with 200.

All this is well known, and there's not a lot to be done about it. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but alas, large interests can pay people to be vigilant for them; the rest of us have to do it on our own, and many can't be bothered.

It's time, though, that computer users thought a lot about what government is doing that directly affects us. In particular, we need to think about copy protection and intellectual property rights. The problem is, there's nothing simple about this. We have a real clash of rights and interests, and the issues are so fundamental they are literally Constitutional.

Jerry says he is still working his thoughts out on this. Perhaps you can help?

* * * * *
Krugman is being deeply quotable again:

You've heard the story many times: the denizens of the heartland, we're told, are rugged, self-reliant, committed to family; the inhabitants of the coast are whining yuppies. Indeed, George W. Bush has declared that he visits his stage set — er, ranch — in Crawford to "stay in touch with real Americans." (And what are those of us who live in New Jersey — chopped liver?)

But neither the praise heaped on the heartland nor the denigration of the coasts has any basis in reality.

I've done some statistical comparisons using one popular definition of the heartland: the "red states" that — in an election that pitted both coasts against the middle — voted for Mr. Bush. How do they compare with the "blue states" that voted for Al Gore?

Certainly the heartland has no claim to superiority when it comes to family values. If anything, the red states do a bit worse than the blue states when you look at indicators of individual responsibility and commitment to family. Children in red states are more likely to be born to teenagers or unmarried mothers — in 1999, 33.7 percent of babies in red states were born out of wedlock, versus 32.5 percent in blue states. National divorce statistics are spotty, but per capita there were 60 percent more divorces in Montana than in New Jersey.

And the red states have special trouble with the Sixth Commandment: the murder rate was 7.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in the red states, compared with 6.1 in the blue states, and 4.1 in New Jersey.

But what's really outrageous is the claim that the heartland is self-reliant. That grotesque farm bill, by itself, should put an end to all such assertions; but it only adds to the immense subsidies the heartland already receives from the rest of the country. As a group, red states pay considerably less in taxes than the federal government spends within their borders; blue states pay considerably more. Over all, blue America subsidizes red America to the tune of $90 billion or so each year.
[...]
There's no mystery about why the heartland gets such special treatment: it's a result of our electoral system, which gives states with small populations — mainly, though not entirely, red states — disproportionate representation in the Senate, and to a lesser extent in the Electoral College. In fact, half the Senate is elected by just 16 percent of the population.

* * * * *
Looking for a job?

* * * * *
In an okay article, Richard Cohen says being "the next Oprah" isn't any worse than things other ex-presidents have done with their retirement and he sees no reason why Clinton shouldn't do it, but ends:

I know, I know -- it's Clinton. His name is forever linked with a sex scandal, with impeachment, with those last-minute presidential pardons. He demeaned the presidency, I grant you that, but not the ex-presidency.

It's too late for that.

* * * * *
A Bartcop poster introduces a theory:

Tinfoil hats and Marc Rich

A thread bellow mentions that Bush Co. plans to withhold information from congress till after the midterm election. This led me to think how the last three Republican administrations have handle their various scandals. Nixon tried stonewalling and destruction of information with limited success, Reagan had greater success and Pappy was most successful of all. Each administration learned from the mistakes of the previous one.

In very brief form it looks like this: Nixon the head crook was pardoned, Reagan the Judiciary was flooded with partisans that did legal back flips in order to release co-conspirators (i.e. the North conviction being over turned) and most of the conspirators presenting a united from (i.e. Reagan's "I don't remember"), and Pappy with the pardoning of the little crooks.

Now we have the Shrub the end of the line in a devolutionary chain back to feudalism. What has he added to the mix? Why the media of course, which may have been tame dogs for Reagan and Pappy, are now fawning lap puppies to the misshapen Dauphin. It is their addition to the concoction of theft that makes this administration the apogee of corruption.

In part the Job of the propagandist is to inoculate the public against reaction to certain pieces of information. This is what brings me to Marc Rich the man pardoned by Clinton as his administration ended. The Republican leadership knew that the Rich pardon was in the works. Several of Rich's lawyers were and are in top positions with the Bush campaign and administration. Each when questioned individually thought Clinton's pardon was appropriate.

A careful investigation into the pardon would find nothing unusual about it except for the reaction of the press. The amazingly loud and sustained cries of corruption may only have been a typical partisan trick. But let us suppose instead it was an act of inoculation.

I am guessing that from the moment this administration entered office it knew that it would have to end with pardons of key conspirators. The noise over the Rich pardons was meant to deafen the public against similar (but justified) outcries for their pardons when they leave office.

If I am close to correct about this then we can expect to hear renewed yammering about Marc Rich, starting about the same time it looks like Smirk will lose the 04 election.

You can now remove the tin foil citizen nothing happening here.


Tuesday, 07 May 2002

14:35 BST: Permalink
Patrick complains that several people, including me, missed his point about petitions being that petitions aren't necessarily such a good idea. My excuse is that I wasn't feeling all that well, but he's right, I should have known that he already knows that.

Meanwhile, Kevin Maroney writes to tell me that the junior Senator from New York belatedly answered e-mail from him, saying that the anthrax scare had increased the volume of e-mail and slowed down the response process, so maybe legislators are starting to pay attention to e-mail. Well, maybe that legislator, anyway, but I betcha a dollar she would take a fax even more seriously. (The junior Senator from my own state has paid no mind to an e-mail I sent her, so I'm reverting back to hammer and chisel. Well, Winfax, anyway.)

* * * * *
One further point about a certain newspaper's dismay at the thought of Clinton as "the new Oprah": I'd rather have my ex-presidents where I can see 'em, after finding out (always too late) what George H.W. Bush has been up to when he's not in office.

* * * * *
Gee, if only I could get attacked by conservatives, maybe my books would sell 115,000 copies, too. Like this guy:

In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Noam Chomsky, the M.I.T. linguist and political provocateur, was constantly on the telephone, giving interviews to news organizations. In late September, he received an e-mail message from Greg Ruggiero, a senior editor of Seven Stories Press, a New York publisher. The editor of a series of political pamphlets for Seven Stories, Mr. Ruggiero had published several Chomsky pamphlets and said he wanted to publish something quickly about Sept. 11.

During the next few weeks, Mr. Ruggiero edited several of the interviews Professor Chomsky had given, and supplemented them with his own questions. On Oct. 15, just as the war in Afghanistan was beginning, the resulting 125-page pocket-size paperback went to the printer.

* * * * *
Christine Quiñones has started her own weblog (instead of just telling Avram about neat stuff she found), Hindsight Aforethought, containing many fine things:

The Bush campaign comported itself during the Florida showdown as though it were the House of Bourbon demanding that its restoration get done already, with this "election" being a mere procedural formality to appease the bourgeoisie who care about such niceties. And perhaps W was playing (to mix a metaphor) Augustus graciously letting the Senate continue to deliberate as he takes the humble title princeps, leader, and the real power of the state with it. (Language note: Führer also means "leader.") Poppy is known to have compared his own family favorably to the Kennedys, so dynastic thinking is more than likely on his mind.
There is only one problem. The text is way too small and spread across the full width of the page.

* * * * *
Learn to talk English.

* * * * *
Stephanie Salter didn't review Bias but couldn't resist:

From where I sit -- a grouchy member of mainstream journalism for 30 years - - it looks like a dozen giant, for-profit conglomerates now own most major print and electronic news outlets. The day that their agenda is to pander to welfare moms, labor unions, peace and affirmative action advocates, environmentalists and enemies of unbridled capitalism -- well, that's the day I'll be the happiest damned liberal in the whole global village.
* * * * *
American Stranger has posted the third Flash item in the Question Mark Campaign at blah3.com.


Monday, 06 May 2002

13:35 BST: Permalink
If you haven't already seen it, read this and then guess what source it's from and who wrote it:
BEFORE NOW, it's true, former presidents have led lives that did not always comport with the much-touted dignity of the office. Not everybody is Harry Truman, returning quietly to Independence and reading books. Gerald Ford joined board after board of directors, raking in the corporate bucks. Ronald Reagan -- well, it seemed shocking at the time -- was paid $2 million for two speeches he gave in Japan. The first President George Bush, upon leaving office, also hied himself to Japan and gave a speech to 50,000 disciples of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The ways an ex-president fills the lonely hours aren't always pretty, but at least up to now, we didn't have to watch.

Now we may. Former president Bill Clinton is reportedly in talks with NBC about hosting his own talk show. Who began the conversation is unclear: The Clinton camp would have it that this is one offer among many, while an article in the Los Angeles Times quotes sources saying that the voluble ex-president is really very eager to land the gig; that he wants $50 million a year; that he aspires to be the "the next Oprah Winfrey." At first the news seems ludicrous -- you ask yourself, is this, even this, possible? -- and then you think, yes, God help us, of course it is. Not only possible but inevitable. This, after all, is the man who turned all of American politics into a talk show, with his trademark town meetings, his fervid emoting, his scandals, his denials, his tears, the lower lip. The man who made all of American life a talk show, really, compelling schoolteachers and highly paid defense lawyers alike to discuss the sort of nitty-gritty questions ("Is it adultery if . . .?") usually heard only on MTV's "Loveline."

In short, you have to admit Bill Clinton has the street cred. Like any great talk show host, he has the dysfunctional family history and a proven willingness to talk about it. The cyclical weight problems, always helpful (think Oprah, Rosie) in winning the sympathy of the daytime audience. And, of course, the garrulousness and the stamina; in a dry week he wouldn't even need a guest, he could pose questions and answer them; and the producers -- inevitably, his friends Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, who brought us that fuzzy marital documentary at the '92 convention, another screen test, we now see -- could haul in cardboard cutouts, like the ones in front of the White House, as guests.

As for real guests, what a range he could command. Kathleen Willey! Yasser Arafat! He could get Al Gore on; they could make up; cry; have a no-holds-barred discussion about male grooming and, if there was time left, the 2004 ticket.

Bill playing saxophone. Bill on Orrin Hatch on cloning. Bill and Marc Rich. Where will it end? Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani loved appearing on "Saturday Night Live" in drag. Bill could show up as . . . . well, as any number of . . . oh, let's not think about it. At least, not until he makes us.

I especially like that bit about how Clinton "compelled" people to discuss adultery. Gee, how did he do that? Did he hold a big press conference and shock the world by announcing out of nowhere that he'd been having an affair? I must've missed that story. How come we weren't "compelled" to discuss George H.W. Bush's White House affair?

So what is it? An opinion piece from The Wall Street Journal? Or from Maureen Dowd? Nah.... (I figured this was bad enough that MWO must have a take on it, and they do.)

* * * * *
Seymour Hersh speaks:

"I used to always joke to myself, I was convinced that Bill Clinton was going to be the first president since World War II to actually bomb white people . I mean, we went to war in Vietnam, Korea, Grenada (Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada, an island of 100,000 people, 40,000 of which worked as domestic workers in New York City). We bombed in the Middle East. So I thought he'd do white people, and [Clinton] did, first time since World War II: Kosovo.

"So racism is part of what we deal with. It's part of why we don't care much about what's going on really in Afghanistan. If the president says it's a victory, it's okay. It's just another part of the world, and we don't care that much about what's going on in Pakistan. We don't care."
[...]
"We have an attorney general that is, I don't know, how would you describe him, demented? We have an attorney general who doesn't seem to understand the law. He's talking about John Walker Lindh, a young boy. John Walker Lindh has made a confession that hasn't been made public. And [Ashcroft] is using parts of the confession to attack him, in public, and that's against every code of every U.S. attorney; it's one of the first things in the rule book. You can't take material that's privileged and use it publicly against anybody.

"I don't know about you, but I think one of the great costs of 9/11 has been this tremendous attack on the Constitution. We walked away from the Constitution because it's easy to walk away from. Some of the cases they want to push make very bad law."

* * * * *
Richard Cohen actually talking sense on a tricky subject:

Child molestation is heinous, an abomination. But there is not all that much of it, and it is not all the same. At the same time, censorship and demagoguery, not to mention the defamation and incarceration of innocent people, are also abominations. Despite what some will tell you, we don't have to choose.
* * * * *
Democrats fight back with a video about Bush's broken promises:

Democrats unleashed a harsh attack videotape yesterday that charges President Bush has broken a litany of campaign promises on domestic issues.

The tape comes as a Gallup poll last week showed Bush's approval rating at 77 percent.

Copies of the video will be sent to each state party and they'll be free to use it in ads to help Democratic candidates.

The video shows candidate Bush saying:

* His tax cuts wouldn't cause deficits. Democrats say budget deficits have returned and may continue until 2005 at least.

* He wouldn't use the Social Security trust fund for other budget needs. Democrats say he's on track to spend $1 trillion of it in the next decade.

* He'll spend more on education. Democrats say the hike in education spending was smallest in six years.

* * * * *
Science fiction fan Mark Kearnes, in his professional capacity as editor of Adult Video News, writing on that Supreme Court decision:

But though the case was brought to the court by the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and three other plaintiffs — Bold Type, Inc., the publisher of a book advocating a nudist lifestyle; painter Jim Gingerich and photographer Ron Raffaelli — the real winner in the case will be mainstream Hollywood.

"We congratulate the producers of Traffic, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, American Beauty, Midnight Cowboy, The Tin Drum and many other films on not having to recall and destroy these important cinematic works of art," said FSC Board Chairman Jeffrey Douglas.

However, the five-year struggle was uphill all the way for the poorly-funded Coalition, which got no support from any mainstream companies, at least partly, in Douglas' opinion, due to their fear of being identified with anything which challenged the government's position on child porn.

"When people hear the words 'child pornography,' they become fearful and go into a sort of brain-freeze," Douglas observed. "But we at the Coalition recognized that the CPPA wasn't about children at all; it was about the suppression of ideas. Worse, in trying to suppress adult material made by adults for adults, the government appears almost to be trivializing the real harm done to real children by pedophiles and child rapists."

* * * * *
Mary McGrory points out that every cloud has its silver lining.

* * * * *
More on media... Here's a good resource: Eric Boehlert's series in Salon about Clear Channel. Meanwhile, more on the sorry state of the news, from Eric Alterman.


Sunday, 05 May 2002

20:12 BST: Permalink
Patrick is talking about online petitions, noting that there's a really stupid petition to change the name of the next film in the Lord of the Rings saga (for a wrong-headed, ignorant reason), and also a couple of petitions for a worthy cause, which he thinks you should sign.

Well, I don't want to stop you from signing them if you really want to, but I do want to stop you from signing them if, like most people, you think signing a petition dispatches your civic responsibility on an issue. If you're thinking that signing a petition means you don't have to write a letter, think again.

Here's the truth: even paper petitions mean very little to legislators; it's too easy. But stuff from the net doesn't really make that much of a dent in their consciousness, either - e-mail is way too easy. What really gets to them is letters, sent by real individuals who cared enough about the issue to set their own thoughts down on paper for them. Most legislators much prefer to read on paper. Faxes are nice that way, if you are too lazy to acquire and use envelopes and stamps and stuff like that, but really, posting a letter you wrote yourself means more effort and therefore is more likely to make an impression.

* * * * *
Gary is linking to Nigel Richardson and laughing at the electric showers we have over here. Yes, it's very sad, we have to get someone to install them and they are wimpy. "Car wash! I want a car wash!" On the bright side, the electric part heats the water as it flows through, so you never run out of hot water. You can take a wimpy shower for as long as you want.

* * * * *
That Surrendered Wife woman has written another book, so naturally a newspaper rings to get a quote from a feminist. A few days later, the journalist mails me to apologize for her editor changing her text without consulting her. You know, I actually hadn't had this happen to me before - normally if a name seems odd to them, they check with the author, so my name generally appears correctly in newspapers - and when it doesn't, it's because the journalist got it wrong. Of course, having what I said paraphrased to meaninglessness is par for the course. This is British journalism, after all.

Not only is it flawed, says Carol Avedon of Feminists Against Censorship, it abandons decades of women's liberation and feminism, and basically means women should act as doormats.
Of course, I didn't say that - she did. This happens all the time: a journalist asks, "Does this mean X?" And I say, well, what it really means is LMNOP. And they decide I've agreed with them because what I said and what they said could easily be in the same paragraph, so they write that I said "X". I've come to the conclusion that they actually don't know I didn't really say it.

"It's very ignorant about how relationships work. It makes a lot of assumptions about men, never mind women. Most men do not prefer submissive women. Nice guys aren't interested in women who are faking it.
The way this is written, it looks almost like I'm saying guys who like submissive women can't be nice guys, and I don't like that, because I made a pretty clear distinction between faking it and really being happy following someone else's lead. The point was that there seem to be as many men who prefer dominant women as there are guys who like their women submissive, and then there are those who prefer women who are not particularly dominant and not particularly submissive.

And all that's just leaving aside the fact that being submissive is not just about letting him drag you to movies you don't like....

"If you want to be happy in a relationship, the trick is to just be yourself. How are you going to be happy being submissive if you're a dominant woman?
This is relatively close to what I said, and yet... Well, let's just say that a lot of the positive stuff I said about men was omitted from the quotes she used. And also stuff that would be useful for a lot of young women to hear - like that it drives a lot of men nuts to be dealing with women who sit around passively waiting for guys to show 'em a good time without ever letting the poor fellas know what they like. (And then we get all upset because they didn't read our minds!)

The rest of the article makes some conventional but not entirely accurate assumptions, too. But I'm tired.

00:15 BST: Permalink
I don't understand this. There we were, sitting downstairs as the clock struck midnight, and suddenly lots of loud fireworks went off. "What day is this? The fourth, isn't it?" "It was the fourth, but it's just gone to the fifth." "Cinco de Mayo! It's the local Mexicans!" This seemed unlikely, since we don't happen have a lot of local Mexicans, so I did a search and found no Indian holidays on the 5th. There seems to be a Japanese holiday, Tango, but we don't have a whole lot of Japanese folks around here, either. Could my Indian neighbors be celebrating one of these holidays? I just don't know.


Friday, 03 May 2002

15:52 BST: Permalink
Here's an amusing story Patrick sent me on A.I.M. last night: War stress wears out prostitutes:

PERTH prostitutes were reeling from exhaustion following an influx of United States sailors stressed from a stint in a war zone, a well-known madam said today.

Mary-Anne Kenworthy said she was forced to close the doors of her famous Langtrees brothel for only the third time ever yesterday because her prostitutes were so worn out they could no longer provide a quality service.

Personally, I like the craftsmanship angle on this story - imagine an establishment closing it's doors because they "could no longer provide a quality service."

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Brad DeLong asks the question:

2002-04-29: Is Paul Krugman Too Partisan? A Conversation: "Do you think Paul Krugman's Times columns are too partisan?" "No. Remember 1993? His vicious [and IMHO unfair] attacks on Laura Tyson? His attack on Summers for joining the Japan-bashers in Peddling Prosperity? His inability to write the word 'Clinton' and so all the references to the 'Rubin-Greenspan economy'?" "Yeah. But people think he is." "Maybe." "He needs to find some worthwhile economic policy decision that Bush has made and praise it." "Yeah. But what?" (very long pause, followed by silence...)
Actually, there's a lot of other stuff there to read, but this was small and neat and easily quotable.

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Conasan: no surprises here:

By the end of 2001, the hopes of Republican feminists had been thoroughly disappointed. The Brookings Institution's ongoing study of Presidential appointments showed last December that only 26 percent of jobs requiring Senate confirmation—meaning top executive and foreign-service positions—had been awarded to women. This represented a sharp drop from the Clinton administration, which gave an unprecedented 46 percent of Senate-confirmed offices to women during its first year.

Meanwhile, the male appointees in Mr. Bush's cabinet didn't hesitate to express their hostility to reproductive rights and women's issues. Tommy Thompson, the conservative zealot who runs the Department of Health and Human Services, promulgated a new regulation that extends health coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program to fetuses rather than pregnant women. A few weeks later, budget director Mitch Daniels struck again, this time attempting to eliminate contraceptive coverage from federal employees' health-insurance plans.

This year, the President's budget proposals would damage the interests of women in a variety of other ways, cutting away at day care, after-school programs and student loans. Or perhaps that's the wrong way to put it, since there are women who benefit from Bush policies. They happen to be very wealthy women whose incomes were increased by the tax cut, and very conservative women whose political prominence is enhanced by association with the White House.

For most American women, however—whose interests are hardly identical with those of the Republican right—the Bush record hasn't been improved by Karen Hughes and won't be affected by her departure. Another woman may be named to take her place, but that would make about as much difference as Karl Rove putting on a dress.

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SF fan Maia Cowan made it to Washington to honor Julie Hiatt Steele. I really wish I could have been there. Maia writes:

You shoulda been there!

A few hundred lucky — and generous — people were there, "there" being a private room in West 24, the Washington D.C. restaurant owned by James Carville. We came from all over the country to pay tribute to Julie Hiatt Steele at a benefit sponsored by BartCop.

James Carville himself was there, oh yes he was. He was first up at the microphone. The Ragin' Cajun has a perverse sense of humor: first words out of his mouth were, "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for Ken Starr stand up and holler!"

We were nearly all standing anyway, but we did holler. Jeers and hisses and rude names shook the building.

James praised Julie as the kind of American who makes this country great: principled, stubborn, unbeatable. He expressed his outrage that Ken Starr (boos, hisses, catcalls at the very mention of the name) tried to intimidate Julie by threatening her son (window-rattling roars of disapproval). He thanked her, on behalf of all of us and of the country (deafening cheers).

He reminded us, not that we needed reminding, that Bush was selected, not elected, and that we've got a tough fight going to save democracy from the plutocrats.


Thursday, 02 May 2002

16:30 BST: Permalink
Having your kid busted for drugs is upsetting:

Gov. Jeb Bush broke down in tears during a drug summit Tuesday as he thanked attendees for their prayers and support following his daughter's arrest on drug charges.

"I want to thank you on behalf of my wife for your prayers and for your quiet counseling in the last few months about our daughter Noelle," Bush said before pausing and choking back a sob.
[...]
Bush was addressing drug treatment and prevention professionals as well as law enforcement officers at the summit. He talked about the state's goal of reducing adult drug use from 8 percent to 4 percent.

"It's been tough personally, but it doesn't change my resolve for making this an incredibly high priority," Bush said as he was interrupted by applause.

Of course, life would be easier if some people would stop hitting themselves in the head. Just what does it take to convince these people that the War on Some Drugs is a mistake?

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Atrios is always wondering whether Maureen Dowd is using her powers for good or for evil on any given day. I think for yesterday's column I'm voting "good":

Former President Bush swats away talk about what he dismissively calls "this dynasty stuff" or "this legacy crud."

But the Texas meeting of the two royal families, the House of Saud and the House of Bush, as Newsweek called it, showed the cat's cradle entwining 41 and 43, two presidents perplexed and bedeviled by the same tumultuous region.
[...]
On Thursday, W. met at the ranch with Prince Abdullah, who wanted to show the president pictures of charred and maimed Palestinian children. Mr. Bush wore a suit and tie and said "Yes, sir," "No, sir" to the 77-year-old prince, showing deference to an old family friend and not showing pictures of dead and maimed in New York and Washington.

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Transcript from Republican Party Politics (Part II), WCPO I-Team report:

(Tape excerpts) Al Gore did an incredible job in getting black turnout to unprecedented levels in inner cities across the country...African American turnout was at an all time high. The impact of that in the real world in the Raussen race is you have several different precincts where Jim Raussen got zero votes...Because of the changes that we've made in redistricting to help Jim, we essentially took 13,000 African Americans out of the Raussen district and put 14,000 Republicans in.
Ohio Democrats are bringing suit against the Republicans for illegally targetting black voters when they redistricted.

10:23 BST: Permalink
"You cannot begin to make sense of what Kony does, you will just go mad," he said.

Wednesday, 01 May 2002

20:55 BST: Permalink
Space is full of cool stuff. Here's a picture.

* * * * *
Does he really know? John Dean is in Washington:

As I mentioned, I was listening to the buzz about the Supreme Court while in Washington doing my Deep Throat sleuthing. One friend who was aware of my undertaking, but not of Throat's identity, suggested jokingly that I call Deep Throat to see if Bush is going to make Justice Antonin Scalia Chief Justice, when Rehnquist leaves.

He was still chuckling when I responded. "That's not a bad idea. He probably knows."

"Are you serious?"

"Absolutely," I answered. For in fact Deep Throat has known "Nino" for over three decades, and I suspect Justice Scalia will be as surprised as many others to learn of the secret life of his old friend. But, as I said earlier, more on that later.

Dean says he was in DC to figure out who Deep Throat is and he plans to out him on June 17th, the 30th anniversary of Watergate.

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Joe Conason on Another brilliant idea from the GOP:

Fortune 500 companies fake their accounts and fictionalize their profits, then go into bankruptcy. Top accounting firms rubber-stamp phony reports and dispose of incriminating evidence, in return for enormous consulting fees. Star investment analysts unload "garbage" equities on unsuspecting investors, while saving lucrative deals for favored clients. Insider trading and executive self-dealing are rampant, from top corporate management to the chieftains of the labor movement. The stock market remains in poor shape even while the broader economy seems to be recovering.

And yet, conservatives still say we should entrust America's retirement savings to the honor of Wall Street.

Privatizing Social Security was never a brilliant idea, because its costs and risks would so far outweigh its likely benefits for most people. But the daily headlines about investigations and prosecutions in the nation's financial markets show just how dubious and dangerous the scheme proposed by the Bush White House really is.
[...]
Consider what Eliot Spitzer, New York state's Attorney General, has learned during a 10-month probe of stock promotion at one of the financial industry's oldest and most respected firms, Merrill Lynch. According to Merrill Lynch e-mails unearthed by Spitzer's investigators, one of the firm's top analysts repeatedly referred to stocks being pushed onto unsuspecting investors as "dogs" and "garbage."
[...]
Laudable as this reversal of decades of deregulation may be, it doesn't solve the fundamental problem faced by the Social Security privatization advocates. There is simply no way to adequately police a market where a hundred million unsophisticated "investors" could someday be relieved of their retirement savings by a mafia of well-educated crooks.
[...]
With the market exposed to an unflattering spotlight, the public feels vulnerable. Recent polls also suggest that voters are worried about the future of Social Security in the hands of a Republican administration. So congressional Democrats are planning to address that sense of insecurity in the mid-term election, warning that if the GOP continues to control the House and recaptures the Senate, the Bush privatization plans may prevail.

Republican leaders scoff at Democrats' "scare tactics," but in fact the chairman of the House Republican campaign committee has privately pleaded with the White House to postpone any push to privatize until after next November. The scandals roiling the markets have probably made the Republicans even less eager to debate the issue.

And E. J. Dionne Jr. considers the Social Security "lockbox":

I won't complain if I never collect a dime on my fire insurance -- I'd rather not have my house burn down -- and won't resent it if the people down the street rebuild their charred home courtesy of my premiums. Similarly, I do not object to my elderly next-door neighbors using my tax money through Medicare to pay for their medical coverage. If, God willing, I grow old, I know I'll get the help I need too. Just because something is "social" doesn't mean it's not "insurance."

None of this is free. With the aging of the baby boomers, the cost of social insurance will rise, as Samuelson has argued. That brings us back to the lockbox.

Consider: The 2001 tax cuts would, if extended, take $4 trillion out of government coffers in the next decade -- exactly when social insurance programs will be strained.

Before we talk about big cuts in existing programs, we need to ask: Is the repeal of all inheritance taxes on wealthy families more important than a decent Medicare program? Are tax cuts for those earning more than, say, $250,000 a year more important than saving Social Security? To avoid a war of the generations, might the best-off Americans join a social compact to ensure a decent life for the less well-off elderly?

02:20 BST: Permalink
Happy May day. Yes, I'm thinking about doing links by item rather than by time of actual posting, but I'm still too lazy and it's only gestating in my brain. I do these things very slowly. I'm really very conservative, you know.

* * * * *
An incestuous series of links to Avram citing Patrick who is also cited by Cory Doctorow who is cited by Patrick.... Well, it's all about this interview from the Bizarro world, more or less:

I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips certain second increments, you've got that only for one reason, unless you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They've done that just to make it easy for someone to skip a commercial.
I love that - "tolerance for going to the bathroom." 'Cause, see, when you turn on your TV, you have a contract with television broadcasters to watch the ads. That's right - you have to watch them, you can't go to the kitchen and make popcorn or go to the loo or presumably even turn the sound down.

This is how these people think, and this is why they want to suppress new technology. They actually think they have a right to make you watch advertising! Amazing!

*froth* *sputter* *gnash*


Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, May 2002


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