The Guardian has a review of a documentary called Mission Congo [ IMDB ] that just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. It documents Pat Robertson's deceptions during and after the Rwandan genocide where he conned people to donate to his African diamond mining operations. At the time, the Virginian Pilot newspaper exposed his scam. The state government investigated and found his dealings fraudulent but politicians, backed by large donations from Robertson, did not prosecute. Sometimes an obvious injustice is just ignored.
During conversations on the possible invasion of Syria, I listened to an historian dispassionately list the half-dozen or so recent military actions the US went into based on lies-not-misstatements. Beginning with the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was the catalyst of the Vietnam War, the false testimony of the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter--organized by a PR firm--which was presented as a reason to invade Kuwait, and more recently the non-truths that were told in order to invade Iraq. On this last point, during the time that the government was peddling its wares, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder were exposing them (and very easily, they recall) as lies. Another item that was just ignored.
And this week brought the latest of the Snowden revelations: the US government can crack a large portion of encrypted data going over the internet. There is much technical nuance here that I'm still digesting and getting wrong, but there is definitely a there there. Schneier's essay is an absolute must-read and very quotable. However, not enough people are taking the software and hardware engineers to task for their complicity in this. When I found out that NPR killed stories that legitimately put into question the arguments behind the invasion of Iraq, I wished them the worst for betraying the trust they had. Now, knowing the depths that engineers go--good ones--to subvert a trusted technology, I feel similarly ashamed.
And, although I expect the general populace to ignore this ("for our security!"), I hope that it won't be forgotten by the engineers that respect how technology can liberate members of a society rather than stifle them.
It's nice that every now and then there is some justice.
23 Jun - Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow - Hong Kong's response when the US requested they turn over Snowden (last paragraph with the sweet, sweet smack-down, emphasis mine):
Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today [June 23] of his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.
The US government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR [Hong Kong special administrative region] government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the US government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions.
As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.
The HKSAR government has already informed the US government of Mr Snowden's departure.
Meanwhile, the HKSAR government has formally written to the US government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.
25 Jun - White House to Vladimir Putin: Extradite Snowden "without delay". Vladimir Putin, after being requested to extradite Snowden and refusing:
Snowden is a free person. The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and Russia ... In any case, I would like not to deal with such issues because it is like shearing a pig: there's lots of squealing and little fleece.
NJ Senator Robert Menendez, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, threatens to revoke Ecuador's beneficial trade tariffs if they accept Snowden. Ecuadoran spokesman Fernando Alvarado responds:
Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests. They then offered the US $23 million per year to finance human rights training--the same amount they currently get from the US in trade benefits.
Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa responding to a Washington Post editorial:
All of a sudden, trade tariffs became an instrument of blackmail: behave or leave the free trade movement. In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world: We unilaterally and irrevocably denounce the preferential tariffs. Our dignity has no price.
It is outrageous to try to delegitimize a state for receiving a petition of asylum.
And he continued on Twitter:
What a joke! Do they realize the power of the international press? They have centered the attention on Snowden and the 'evil' countries that 'support' him, making everyone forget the terrible things that he denounced in front of the American people and the entire world.
Links from last week:
Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths? - from Michael Cohen at The Guardian:
But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. ... It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the "threat" of terrorism.
How Boston exposes America's dark post-9/11 bargain from Andrew O'Hehir at Salon:
I think the real reason why this gruesome but small-scale attack sent the whole country into such an incoherent panic lies a little deeper . ... We agreed to give up most of our civil liberties (except for the sacrosanct Second Amendment, of course) in exchange for a lot of hyper-patriotic tough talk...
Weekly Review from Harper's:
Legislation designed to strengthen gun control by expanding background checks was defeated in the Senate after failing by six votes to reach a filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold. "It's almost like you can see the finish line," said the father of a man who was injured in the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, "but you just can't get there."
One cause I see for the anger of this election, and much of the vitriol of the right, is as a group fighting against their impending extinction. Before mainstream bigotry of the poor (unelectable) can die, the group that holds these beliefs must boldly reassert its position. This light brigade charge ended with our first lesbian Senator, an increase of legal same-sex marriage from six states to nine, and the defeat of two Republican Senate candidates with a shockingly ignorant understanding of rape. Not to mention Obama's reelection.
The most cringe-inducing statements that conservatives made were just verbal leaks of commonly-held beliefs within this angry, dying demographic. They all believe the absurd statements, but must mince with apologies and half-apologies because, spoken aloud to outsiders, those beliefs are embarrassing. Murdock, who declared that rape is something
God intended to happen apologized ("apologized") with:
That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize. The belief that rape can't cause pregnancy is widely held in conservative religious circles but never spoken of to outsiders, presumably because it's easily proved false. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens tells of a debate he had with a member of the clergy. When Hitchens brought up the absurdist stories of Adam and Eve or Noah's Ark, the other waved the discussion off as if a bodily function was made apparent. When in-group falsehoods are accidentally exposed to outsiders, the falsehoods of the entire system become more visible.
When pro-rape candidates accidentally leak their group's secret beliefs or theists are confronted with ignorance they've long ignored, they may choose to go all in and lash out. Truth is not on their side. The hypocrites of the fundamentalist 80s and 90s should have ended this but did not. We have a much better chance now as those with such primitive beliefs become more angry and speak their absurdities more proudly. There will always be those on the winning side of history to speak up against them (sometimes from unexpected sources).
It's interesting (ha) to see conservatives rally around fact checkers during the DNC last week. Many times, I've winced as conservatives mock the "fact-checking liberal shills" (also: ha). This goes hand-in-hand with the Romney pollster stating that
We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.
Yesterday's Brian Lehrer show had Brooke Gladstone talking about her On The Media edition on fact-checkers. On The Media has always danced between the heady meta of watching the watchers and a more Earthly honesty that has them say what we're all thinking. It gets corny at times (as most Public Broadcasting Humor is guilty of), but the rewards are there. Ultimately, their style of honest curiosity is what fact-checking needs.
The Atlantic's recent assessment of a reporter fact-checking Obama is in this vein too. Coming from a Fox affiliate, it smells of convenient hypocrisy (now it's actually patriotic to question the president...), but an insincere source shouldn't weaken an honest message.
And, partisaness aside, it's interesting to read atheist-liberal Gore Vidal's essays decrying (1) corporate ownership of politicians, (2) media ownership of politics, and (3) the imbalance of wealth that made it possible. And all this 20 years ago... . He's certainly a well-placed choir to the current politics and a prelude to my dive into the new atheist authors.
"Fuck You, Tyrants!": Ron Paul Supporters Rebel On Convention Floor. And a description of how the RNC screwed Ron Paul from Redditor stevejobsatemyliver:
Well... really quick... you know when states vote in the primaries they're basically voting for who will fill the seats at the convention. If Candidate X wins, then the seats are filled with Candidate X Loyalists. As the primaries wind down and candidates drop out, they start throwing support (the seats they had gotten to date) to the lead candidate.
But Ron Paul did not fully endorse Romney. Meaning it was sort of a wild card as to who his delegates would vote for. To solve this the convention did two things:
1) The Party took Ron off the official convention ballot. Their rule had been that you had to win 5 states to be listed, and at the last minute they upped it to 8. Thus depriving Ron of any mention at the convention. (Ron Paul's message gains strength by getting publicity, so for them the convention robbed them of a big win here.)
2) The Party wouldn't let the Ron Paul loyalists sit down, and instead replaced them with Romney loyalists from Maine. Thus insuring that nobody would be doing anything that would distract from Romney's big night.
There's a debate going on in the Wikipedia talk page over whether this should be included. It was removed without comment (very bad form on an active subject) and not yet returned.
On his prompting, Mason and I were wandering the internet looking for examples of radical liberal violence that match the recent radical conservative violence. Working from those vague definitions, I found an unintentionally hilarious LEO (law enforcement officials, I learned) thread from a year ago and posted it for discussion on Reddit. The sheer WTF of some of the comments make it the must-read thread of the week. To wit:
In any internet discussion in which I have participated, the people that threaten and bully other posters are always liberal. Seems they forget that it's the conservatives that are armed. And:
I think they are more fueled by self hate. Since they are "obviously" superior to everyone else, and since they hate themselves, then they have to hate everyone else too. It was a circle-jerk of less-than-intelligent posters, but this is the internet and that stuff's cheap and plentiful. Entertaining, yet irrelevant to our search!
Randomly and coincidentally, public radio had two stories today covering that very subject. First up, Are Smashed Windows Signs Of Cultural Divide? from Talk of the Nation. A well-balanced panel of presidential historian Robert Dallek, Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, and Tufts University prof. Peniel Joseph. Worth it for the range of ideas tossed about in the discussion.
Later, When Right-Wing Extremism Moves Mainstream from Fresh Air interviews Mark Potok, who did a study called Rage and the Right, comparing recent activist groups today to previous eras. Overall a good interview (Potok points out, notably, that groups like the tea party movement are not homogeneous). In the study, he found an increase in anti-immigrant groups. Terry Gross outlined the recent incidences:
Are these events out of the ordinary (or even that violent)? And are they matched by acts from the radical left? No high-profile liberal outlets match the conservative ones (think Glenn and Rush) in calling for violent uprising, thus legitimizing what would otherwise be only fringe violence. Notable American terrorists of our generation are generally right-leaning. You have to go back to the 60s and 70s to find the violent leftist groups (SDS and Black Panthers), but even then they're matched with violent anti-segragationists (KKK and John Birch). In fact, going back to Bush II's presidency, liberals who spoke even rationally against the president or the war were subjected to threats of violence (think Dixie Chicks and Bill Maher). I came to this subject looking for balancing examples, but they're hard to find.
This is a difficult metric.
There's much to ignore in this post-health care bill climate--possibly more noise now than when the bill was being debated. There are the expected accusations that supporters were fooled into a flawed compromise, yet shouldn't all legislation that seeks to satisfy 300+ million citizens contain some compromise? Few were so dreamy-eyed as to think utopia would or could be achieved (especially considering the stonewalling that Republicans tantrumed at us up to and including complete contrariness in the final vote). And the mincing over abortion was absurdist theater. The primary goal of this health care reform was to insure the uninsurable and to lighten the load for those nearly uninsurable and the religious tried to stop that. It would have been nice to have the Canadian system (man, they lord that over us, justifiably) so that everyone would pay less. But looking again at those zero Republican votes, we should consider this the best compromise we could hope for.
It bears repeating how the misguided and superstitious wanted to continue to allow those poorest of us to die by blocking the bill, and hoped to do it based on the merest fraction of how the bill would actually work. If you want to view moral cowardice, watch those same people cheer their tax dollars as they are used to kill foreign civilians. There's no more clear example of how religion holds back social progress. They are base opportunists. A writer in The Independent back in August 2009 pointed out that
there are some areas in which a conservative philosophy could be a useful corrective. But that's not what these so-called "conservatives" are providing: instead, they are pumping up a hysterical fantasy that serves as a thin skin covering some raw economic interests and base prejudices. It hasn't changed a bit since then.
Summaries of note:
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission from Wikipedia is a good starting place and editing has pretty much settled down. Here are some links that are a bit, letussay, angry:
The source material:
References on Joe Wilson's ass-hattery (i.e. yelling
you lie when the President said that illegal immigrants will not be covered):
Another argument I've heard (that the bill will cover illegal immigrants) is that Democrats removed some of the wording that would help enforce that restriction. NPR reports that the wording was removed because it would have restricted the healthcare rights of citizens. No references yet on either of these points.
Finally, the picture of the day:
Good news, so far:
More details and tracking from PolitiFact's Obameter. Yes, there are still concerns about Israel and his Treasury Secretary was, let's face it, lying, but primarily good news from the Executive branch. And PolitiFact won't forget when a promise goes awry. Note the gaping loophole for lobbyists. Not cool, man. Not cool.
Looking back, the 16 Jan edition of On The Media opens with a 5:40 smackdown from Bob Garfield of Bush's media manipulations ("Find Out What It Means To Me"). He keenly covers the war, Lynch and Tillman, Katrina, the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and sanctioned leaks, closing with a barely restrained "fuck you." Also notable is Carol Rosenberg's piece on Guantanamo ("The Enduring PR Offensive"), concerned that closing, like the end of Bush's administration, will only make it easy to ignore the offenses that occurred:
My question as a journalist down here is, they wouldn't answer us before. If they close it down or if they decide that they want to close it down, will they start answering us now?
Also see the 12 Jan edition of On Point titled "Bush's Legacy." The conversation examines Bush's failures using his own, brush-off self-absolution from his last week of interviews as convenient hanging rope. Too many good quotes from the Republican and ex-Colonel guests and from callers. Their final thought: it's not the media's or the Obama administration's responsibility to investigate and prosecute, it's Congress's. Not holding breath, etc. To those who toss off the weak-minded riposte that we should "look forward, not backward" and to "stop the blame game": how can we correct future mistakes and deter those who would abuse their government position if we don't investigate our mistakes? Since when has prosecuting criminals been a "blame game"? And honestly, why can't be both look forward and backward?
The chorus of the internationally interested had a single request last week: don't fuck this up, America. Though initially, I felt that we didn't (and effectively, we didn't) ultimately I think it's Obama's campaign that didn't fuck up. He completely owned the electoral college, getting almost 70% of the votes, but only slightly better than squeaked by with popular vote, getting 52.6% (to McCain's 46.1%). The numbers (minor rounding errors, values taken from Wikipedia):
|Candidates (w/l)||Electoral Win (%)||Popular Vote (%w/l)||Undecided (%)|
Hearing the post-election revelations of the depth of Palin's ignorance (held back by the press, who, across the board should die the most horrible death any of us could imagine), it's terrifying that a McCain who would risk so much on her could still garner the popular-vote loyalty of so many. I want to think that those who were frightened away by lies of Muslimness or Socialistness were outliers or ignorant. Unfortunately, they were coworkers and college graduates. The willful ignorance of the last eight years won't immediately dissolve into a willingness to reason, but the example set by Obama as a public intellectual will at least hold as a model to define the next eight.
As I read the moderates proclaiming that both Obama and McCain were equally-viable-but-different, I'm reminded of a Tom the Dancing Bug (IIRC) comic. One character is angrily threatening another with a punch in the face. The defender insists that he doesn't want to be punched as Mr. Middle Ground appears declaring: The truth is somewhere in between your two opinions. In order to find a solution that satisfied both individuals, he decided that the first man simply kick the other in the shin (or some other not-as-bad-as-getting-punched-in-the-face attack). Ah, a happy compromise has been reached between the two equally valid opinions!
Sometimes, the supposed middle ground is not closer to truth. McCain's aggressive stance towards and diplomatic exclusion of Iran was in no way a sensible position. Few with the knowledge and authority on the region agreed with him, and yet are we to buy that Obama should approach Iran somewhere between diplomatic talks and aggressive exclusion? Or compare McCain's emphasis on secrecy throughout (his
you don’t telegraph your intentions to the enemy during a discussion of the U.S.'s Pakistan policy) with Obama's promise of transparency and openness. That being said, Obama does not have the mandate that the empire-leaning Bush declared he had (and with a much smaller margin of victory). There are middle grounds to be had, and, though I trust that his approach will be fair, we need to watch after him. This is, after all, the guy who cheated us on FISA and the bailout.
Watched the Obama Flickr slideshow from election night. It's deceptive to be moved over beautiful pictures of well-dress and well-composed people. However, I can only imagine how black people felt to have this moment and have it with such a composed and intelligent politician and family (us whites had to skulk along with Bush or McCain as potential leaders; they don't inspire racial pride and even go so far as to bring up questions about humanity as a whole).
Brooke Shields in the new VW ads is very middle-aged-sexy. I think she just got on the list. The ads are not at all good though.
Embedding streaming audio in a web page: (1) works for Firefox and Opera using standard HTML, (2) works for Opera and IE using IE hack, (3) works for all three in some manner I have not yet divined. Fuck you, Microsoft.
Last Sunday went to buy DFW's The Broom of the System since I finished Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and needed a novel-not-short-stories. The pieces in Brief Interviews were not as good as Oblivion. Stand out items: The Depressed Person (virtuoso execution!), Octet, and Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko (an inexplicable story of 1980s TV decadence written as Classical history). Before even finding BotS, impulse buy of Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise (I read his blog, now I can read his book! I expect to pass it on to Lisa as the introduction to modern music), Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man (first Hugo Award winner, 1954, s/b short and punchy pulp sci-fi. I vaguely remember the title as one of those passed over during my teen years.), and Bad Monkeys (a Lisa impulse buy, 20 pages left right now and about to finish it, fun and light but maybe prepping for a Big Finish).
Re-hearing the Barber Violin Concerto made me fall in love with it again. Need to revisit his Piano Concerto. At some point in college I purched an ELL PEE with both and wore out the grooves listening to it. Perfect concert piece last night with Joshua Bell: short and catchy and well proportioned as a concerto.
Time had a collection of world leaders and thinkers comment on the results. To me, the most stunning and stunningly written was from Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize–winning economist. He's respectful with qualifications, and jabs Bush's unwillingness to reason with a kick-ass quote from Milton:
obtruding false rules pranked in reason's garb. And his opening assessment is concise:
He won his presidency not as a black American but as a reasoning American who happens to be black. I wish I had written that.
Drinks at the Vortex. Upstairs we ran into a neighbor-that-we-didn't-know party and got invited in. Drinks and looking out at Ptree at the few-but-loud cars. Back home ('cause Lisa wantedtogohome) and the cars are still going. Repeat from what we told each other at drinks at the Vortex: this is a Kennedy moment.
This is a Kennedy moment.
Hoping for the best. The polls look good from FiveThirtyEight.com, Pollster.com, and RealClearPolitics.com. All giving Obama a 100-150 electoral vote lead (and a clear win). I sadly still hear the ignorant braying of Ayers, socialism, and Islam--from the alleged educated--so I won't hope too much. Just enough.
Exercised, off to shower, the Lisa & I will head to Marlowe's or The Vortex to join the revelers.
Sweet overload for the day (via Digg ofallplaces):
Yes, this includes HTML brickabrack, but the ratios would still be the same. Obama has ~4x the endorsements. Honestly though it's the quality of the endorsements that matters, and he wins there too.
"Obama is a socialist... when did $250,000 a year become a wealthy salary? There are lots of families making that and struggling to make ends meet."
I, as they say, kid you not.
From Democratic Underground, a chart comparing the candidate's tax plans. Shown below:
In contrast to the WaPo version, this one shows each bracket in correct proportion to the whole. Obama's marked increase of taxes is now a small sliver of the graph; McCain's marked decrease equally so. As are the converse. This all could be considered part of what Arianna Huffington calls the death of Rovian politics. Something I'd hoped would come sooner (yes, still bitter about the mass stupidity that put Bush into office twice) may have finally arrived: accessible knowledge for all is squelching the free flow of willful ignorance. No question that it's still occuring, but maybe the YouTube videos and more mainstream blogs have created a greater circulation (and greater vetting) of infomation that was four and eight years ago relegated to personal blogs alone.
Anyone can make a graph. With blogs, anyone can publish it. With fact checkers publishing to millions, that graph will finally get out to millions. You may not be swayed one way or the other by the contents of it, but at least you're now getting a more accurate representation of the facts.
[ updated 30 Oct 2008 ]
Lisa found a tax consultant's comparison of the McCain and Obama tax plans.
Wish I had the acumen to really understand this financial crisis. I understand the criminality (CEOs act recklessly, get paid off) and the philosophical implications (corporate socialism where executives reap the profits but taxpayers suffer the losses), but I don't see where it's going or where I should "redirect" my monies. *economic sigh*
Couric's interview of Palin was painful. Money quote at the end after being asked the question three times and avoiding it twice:
I'll try to find you some [examples of McCain pushing for more regulation] and I'll bring them to you. For a group of supporters allegedly skilled at discerning concrete content from empty rhetoric, they sure are bonking on this one.
Letterman's excoriation of McCain and his announcement that he Chooses Not To Campaign. Man, he was angry. Best line:
are we suspending [the campaign] because there's and economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding? He's sayin' what we're all thinkin'! Although I haven't trolled the conservative sites, I'm expecting to see a contingent of supporters complain that the candidates shouldn't be campaigning so much and should be solely performing their jobs as Senators (and Governor). I understand-but-disagree-with the demands that politicians stop spending so much time fund-raising (unfortunately, they ain't gettin' the money any other way and the poorer candidate looses), but communicating your platform to the people is an important part of this thing we call president. Excellent counter-argument to that: McCain's speeches have been closed to only the most loyal of followers, so it ain't exactly getting your message out.
Correction on Palin rumors via FactCheck.org. First, I'd like to quibble about their statement that these rumors come from
dubious Internet postings and mass e-mail messages. Yes, they most likely do come from there, but if I look back to my post from 4 Sept, I see that one of those assertions comes from an article on CBS. And oddly, if I look further, that article has been removed by CBS. [ updated ] Apparently, it's from a set of articles that periodically get removed. I just copied it from Google's cache and put it here.
I understand that FactCheck.org may have just been pointing out a fact of sourcing, but people could-and-are-likely-to infer that this scurrilous internet has once again led them wrong with invective and hearsay. Currently, the most blamed entity for all of the ills in the world is the media, second in line is the internet. Instead of rumor-mongering, we could look at the example of blogs and see that (1) 99% keep their content and run updates and corrections (this is probably the first rule of blogging), (2) mine in fact leads a trail back to one of the sources, and (3) the MSM, in contrast, will rewrite history and unperson articles they don't want to be remembered for. Make that: will try to rewrite history.
Getting that out of the way, here are the corrections with my comments:
Palin did not cut funding for special needs education.- The Alaska government PDF files pointed to by the original CBS article did not represent the actual budget.
She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library.- From the clarifications, she still appeared quite ban-hungry to me. And the fact that some of the books
weren't even in print at the timeis a canard: I own many books no longer in print, and I suspect that libraries are no different. [ updated 11 Sept 2008 ] ABC News story exposing the book ban issue and addressing the falsehoods being reported. Go librarians! I'm reminded of the CT librarians that got the NSL and fought it. We don't need more of this type of suppression of information.
She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party.- Her husband was. Not all that interesting, but notable. And this rumor was started because
The party's chair originally told reporters that Palin had been a member.No malicious fabrications here, move along.
Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president.- Meh. Not that interesting a rumor and it was perpetuated by Buchanan.
Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools.- Another "she was for it before she was against it." Her original statement contained the monumentally boor-headed statement
Teach both. ... don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.Bzzt. There's only one side to this science discussion. There are many shades to the sociological issue of what people believe in, but that wasn't the question at hand. As I've said elsewhere: Teach holocaust denialism and let the kids sort it out; teach YEC and let the kids sort it out; teach Chariots of the Gods and let the kids sort it out. No. Teach what we know and point out the limits of what we know, then let the kids grow up wanting to discover those missing answers and push human knowledge forward. Don't sideline their potential curiosity with lies.
As far as clarifications go, I appreciate what FactCheck.org has done; the clear presentation of facts is invaluable. That being said, the content of some of those clarifications is still not-quite-non-damning for Palin. My primary concern is that the spread of inaccuracies--all of them originating in MSM reporting--will be used to unfairly target other information on the internet. I see too often a quick dismissal of data found online, as if the existence of some bad data taints all. Next to every Seymour Hersch there's a Bill O'Reilly. Check your sources.
Pre-McCain, several minutes of video showing 9/11 carnage (oddly, sans Bush), then Olbermann gets off this:
I'm sorry, it's necessary to say this and I wanted to separate myself from the others on the air about this. If at this late date, any television network had of its own accord showed that much videotape, and that much graphic videotape of 9/11, and I speak as somebody who lost a few friends there, it, we, would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead and perhaps even for trying to evoke that pain again. If you reacted to that videotape the way I did, I apologize. It is a subject of great pain for many of us still and was probably not appropriate to be shown. We'll continue in a moment.
Links of note (alpha ordered):
She is energetic and hardworking.) and professional (
During her mayoral administration, most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings, which had given rise to a recall campaign.).
Washington elite,as if any media questions about her positions and McCain's vetting process should have been off limits. In mocking tone, Mr. Simon declares:
[S]peeches are true windows to the soul ... [u]nless they are delivered by Barack Obama, that is. In which case, as Palin said Wednesday, speeches are just acloud of rhetoric.
So, where do we go with this? Sarah Palin has so much not going for her, I was beginning to doubt her surviving the race... until I heard the RNC conventioneers testifying in terms that would embarrass the exaggerated caricature of a gushing Obama supporter. Where the Democrats split on Obama/Clinton for far too long, Republicans can certainly fall in line with whatever the party offers them. Dogmatic adherence to your overlords FTW.
What's on- and off-limits in examining Palin? Can we talk about her attempt at book banning? Her exorbitant earmarks for her tiny city while denouncing earmarks? (Sure, that's business-as-usual in Alaska, but should we then ignore her contradictory statements on it?) Her references to the Iraq war as
god's will? (Isn't it that kind of talk that got us into an illegal war with a sovereign nation?) Her promotion of abstinence and creationism teaching after both have been proved pointless, to say the least, un-Constitutional to be more precise? (Abstinence policy does not work; creationism is religion; this is science.) These all seem like actual debatable issues to me. They mark her policies during her period of executive experience, experience that is undeniably short and narrow in scope because many of her responsibilities were relegated to an assistant. Are the many locals who consider her a less than optimal choice to be disregarded because local politics makes enemies?
And what of the duplicity of the indictment of Obama for the actions of his church and the avoidance of attack on Palin's (Pentecostal!) church? Or the focus on Edwards' caddish behavior but not on McCain's equal-to-or-greater-than unscrupulousness? Or Palin's limiting of public funds to assist pregnant teens while working to limit their choices in avoiding pregnancy?
And finally: what of your personal life is fair game (soccer mom; hunter) and what is off limits (at-home failing of a policy she tries to force onto others)?
While talking about wanting to travel to Kilimanjaro, a co-worker made a side comment that the ecology around the mountain is changing because of global warming. A second co-worker scoffed that he didn't believe it. Sometimes, I just don't want to argue with crazy, so my reply was simply that I chose to throw my lot with 99% of the world's scientists. His response: I haven't studied it, I just don't believe in it. Some are reporting on Palin's many lies in her speech, but I have doubts that truth will cut through to the willfully and proudly ignorant.
I mean, wat the fuck! That's like Bill Moyers getting arrested. Uh. No, fucking, way. Don't know the specifics because I'm too fucking pissed off, but what could fucking justify arresting Amy. Fucking. Goodman?!?
A few quotes I liked:
Why else would [McCain] define middle class as someone who earns under five million a year?Heh heh.
It's time for [the Republicans] to own their failure.
One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patirotism. The times are too serious. ... Patriotism has no party.
He addressed many of the criticisms that have been sloppily thrown at him by the Box Network and the mass of want-wits who consider watching that plus campaign commercials to be valid research. Let's get this straight: McCain is not a maverick, Obama has solid experience, and eloquence and rhetoric with substance is an admirable trait. Let the debates begin!
Aha, here's the implosion I've been waiting for! Gratefully, it comes from McCain and, more gratefully, it's actually being reported on. Reporters (AZ reporters excluded) are still at fault for the years of kid gloves that allowed this bat-shit crazy 72-year-old to even get this far, but maybe there'll be a die-by-the-sword end game. Noun + verb + POW, indeed.
Gettin' caught up. Man, some outstanding speeches. Democrats, for the first time in a loooooong time, didn't fuck this one up and implode. They were on target, passionate, and generally good-to-great hittin' the right themes of (1) restoring the constitution, (2) restoring international diplomacy and thus international respect, and (3) correcting the imbalance of wealth. Charisma and content has returned after eight long years. Our story thus far:
People around the globe have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.A-fucking-men, bitches.
And, as always, let's hope they can hold up their end of the deal and follow through with those promises...
That FISA shit is whack. ACLU article on the vote (ACLU donation page) and EFF article on the vote (EFF donation page). To quote Reddit:
You can tap my phone or my wallet, but not both. Unsubcribe me, Obama, and:
Obama has to stop treating his internet supporters like an ATM. Obama is getting a larger proportion of the shit from this (at least on the internet) because of his candidacy, but it's Congress and the Democrats as a whole who are the primary asshats in this fiasco.
(photo via Freaking News)
Many commenters in the Slashdot discussion on the SCOTUS ruling on habeas voiced the same slack-jawed terror that I felt when I heard the news: 5 to fucking 4?!? I guess it reflects how long we persisted with these insane ideas and how long it took to get us back to sanity, but it appears more likely that the forces of insanity are still strong. One commenter pointed out that Scalia has made similar convoluted leaps in defending torture. Thanks to Think Progress for the source quote, in response to a question asking if torture is cruel and unusual:
No. To the contrary. Has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don’t think so. ... When he’s hurting you in order to get information from you, you wouldn’t say he’s punishing you. What is he punishing you for?
If this were a scene in a movie, you'd be justified calling the writing unrealistic. Until now. In its unlawful combatant entry, Wikipedia outlines the options as described by the Red Cross:
Every person in enemy hands must be either a prisoner of war and, as such, be covered by the Third Convention; or a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention. The gray area that Bush et al. slithered around in is due to the fact that the phrase "unlawful combatant" does not exist in the Geneva Conventions. Read the opening section of that Wikipedia article for a good overview.
Particularly distasteful is Scalia's threat that the decision
will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. Fuck you.
Reddit's comments, for political stories, will often turn aggressive when praise or defense of Obama is posted. Decrying the blind acclaim of Obama "fanboys," many posters will drop whatever the discussion at hand is and instead bring up his more lackluster moments. Certainly Obama has a passionate following, but it's not nearly as intense as Ron Paul--a Reddit darling--and not nearly as arrogantly optimistic as when the Republican field was still mutable and Ron Paul had a chance.
That being said, you don't see any Hillary fanboys in those comments. Nature of the environment, I guess. When I hear her defenders interviewed on NPR, I'm a little terrified. A certain segment of her followers say they will vote for McCain if Obama gets the nomination, repeating the accusations of sexism, a persecution that Hillary has passionately nurtured. The attempt to punish their own party for imagined sexism perpetrated by ... who? ... is like Bush invading Iraq for the sins of others. And, with the supposed similarities of Clinton and Obama, to choose the Bush disciple McCain over Obama is equally Bush-like and childish.
Admittedly, I've heard Obama supporters puzzle over the Hillary-or-McCain question if Obama doesn't get the nomination (a question asked more and more infrequently, given the recent results). Are they--myself at times included--being as petulant as the disgruntled Clinton supporters? Part of me is not so sure, and part of me reads the dutiful enumerations by Olbermann of Clinton's deceitful gaffes and sees the comparison as apples and oranges. Read for yourself:
We have forgiven you your insistence that there have been widespread calls for you to end your campaign, when such calls had been few.
We have forgiven you your misspeaking about Martin Luther King's relative importance to the Civil Rights movement.
We have forgiven you your misspeaking about your under-fire landing in Bosnia.
We have forgiven you insisting Michigan's vote wouldn't count and then claiming those who would not count it were Un-Democratic.
We have forgiven you pledging to not campaign in Florida and thus disenfranchise voters there, and then claim those who stuck to those rules were as wrong as those who defended slavery or denied women the vote.
We have forgiven you the photos of Osama Bin Laden in an anti-Obama ad...
We have forgiven you fawning over the fairness of Fox News while they were still calling you a murderer.
We have forgiven you accepting Richard Mellon Scaife's endorsement and then laughing as you described his "deathbed conversion."
We have forgiven you quoting the electoral predictions of Boss Karl Rove.
We have forgiven you the 3 A-M Phone Call commercial.
We have forgiven you **President** Clinton's disparaging comparison of the Obama candidacy to Jesse Jackson's.
We have forgiven you Geraldine Ferraro's national radio interview suggesting Obama would not still be in the race had he been a white man.
We have forgiven you the dozen changing metrics and the endless self-contradictions of your insistence that your nomination is mathematically probable rather than a statistical impossibility.
We have forgiven you your declaration of some primary states as counting and some as not.
We have forgiven you exploiting Jeremiah Wright in front of the editorial board of the lunatic-fringe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
We have forgiven you exploiting William Ayers in front of the debate on ABC.
We have forgiven you for boasting of your "support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans"...
We have even forgiven you repeatedly praising Senator McCain at Senator Obama's expense, and your **own** expense, and the Democratic **ticket's** expense.
But Senator, we cannot forgive you this.
My first impulse was that the executives of the major oil companies testifying before congress was a waste of time, but then I listened to them and realized that it was all for the benefit of those companies. NPR reported on the farce. They were testifyin', and I was rollin' my eyes at the meaninglessness, and then the hammer dropped:
In the United States, access to our own oil and gas resources has been limited for the last 30 years prohibiting companies, such as Shell [guess, if you can, who's speaking - ed.], from exploring and developing resources for the benefit of the American people. It was OJ on the stand insisting that he'll find the real killer. Tech people always talk about the Big Money that Microsoft or Google makes and then are shut up by the absurd profits that a multi-corporation monopoly can make while pleading for more special treatment from the government to save them from the abyss of-whose-edge-they're-on.
I know, railing against the oil companies is like ... well, railing against the oil companies. They've neatly become the devil we know. But you still want to expect a limit to their shame.
I just listened to your story on Bush's vow to give up golf out of respect for the families of the US soldiers in Iraq. The story continued with a reflection on previous presidents' relationship with golf while in office.
I was stunned that the story did not contain the more serious and salient aspect of Bush's statement: the fact that he broke that vow around two months after he made it.
This may seem like a petty complaint for what was essentially a puff piece, but I believe that with this sobering fact, it should have never merited as a puff piece. Only injudicious editing of surrounding facts allowed you to play it as such.
With the furor that it caused in the online community, I'm sure I'm not the only one communicating my irritation.
I left out the "fuck you" that I said in the car after I heard the story...
Send Helen Thomas some flowers. You know you want to.
[ update 10:51 PM ]
It's up to $3,248 now ...
Please? (I guess I should have done one of those "FREE BEER--NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION" things, but whatever.) Someone set up a fund to give a dollar for each word in his "More Perfect Union" speech. Cheeky, yes, but it got me to give, and I'll shill for others to give more. HERE.
I don't look to them to be the caricature that the right-wing makes them out to be, the caricature that the right-wing media actually is, but I expect some sort of level-headedness and a credit-where-credit-is-due sort of thing. NPR today gave the most limp assessment of Obama's speech that you could imagine. And this after I actually watched the whole thing, so I had some perspective on its strengths. That speech was 30 minutes of honesty in the middle of an election cycle that needed it. He praised his reverend and their friendship, denounced the hatefulness of what was said, and pleaded that the media drop its shallow obsession with the inelegant speeches of both his and Hillary's associates. (And, oddly, he didn't once point out what everyone else is saying: that 300 white preachers can say America is decaying from its forced gayness and abortion fetishists, but a black preacher can't say that America is decaying from its international meddling and racism.) I really wanted more fire from him, and it's good that he didn't give it and chose reconciliation instead.
Fascinating story about Wikileaks getting taken off the internets. Wikinews reports that they first were the target of a 500Mbps DDoS, then their main servers' UPS was destroyed in a fire at their Swedish hosting site, finally their domain was taken offline in the US after a decision in a District Court in California.
Wikileaks hosted documents leaked from a Swiss bank. The documents revealed possible tax evasion from wealthy and politically sensitive clients in several countries including the US. Although their main site is unavailable, the Wikipedia article lists http://wikileaks.be and http://18.104.22.168/wiki/Wikileaks as alternatives still accessible in the US. Reddit has a good list of related articles, the most useful is at Daily Kos.
Wikileaks is what makes the internet so valuable and although it's a shame that the US is playing China's tune, this information will never disappear.
TPM has a list of government programs/reports that were discontinued after they produced too much information countering the Bush administration's faulty belief system. Read it; I dare you. My mind has been duly boggled. And don't give me that "every administration moves government a little left or a little right" argument. It's going to take a huge pendulum swing to fix what they've done to government and just get it back to spec.
Security and privacy are not opposite ends of a seesaw; you don't have to accept less of one to get more of the other. Think of a door lock, a burglar alarm and a tall fence. Think of guns, anti-counterfeiting measures on currency and that dumb liquid ban at airports. Security affects privacy only when it's based on identity, and there are limitations to that sort of approach.
So much is misstated (or lied about) during the debates that it is almost more worthless to watch them than not. NPR provides a dissection of the facts behind statements made in last night's NPR debates. Indeed, the analysis is usually more enlightening than the candidates' answers.
Lisa and I were talking the other night and realized that (1) the only man more evil than Cheney, Rudy Giuliani (see war mongering, 9/11 mishaps, socialized medicine, etc.), will probably get the Republican nomination, and (2) if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, Giuliani will likely win. Scary. At this point, we're both interested in an Edwards/Obama ticket, know that many others are too, and yet also know that it's unlikely to ever come about.
I still have some interest in Kucinich (not just because the vote-o-meters recommend him for me) and am hoping for the best, but I feel that he's a tougher sell for the country and could get trammeled by The Beast that is Giuliani.
Speaking of longshots, Huckabee seemed to have captured the Xtian vote (possibly because he denies evolution) until the only man more evil than Creflo A. Dollar, Pat Robertson, gave Giuliani his support. While all of the Republican candidates show a disgusting love of war and torture (to paraphrase many others: how are we even debating that torture is OK?!?) and their party is in the middle of epidemic homosexual repression, the Democratic party is failing the country on a monumental scale (see telco immunity, Mukasey, Cheney impeachment, etc.).
Not much hope. I guess that's why I'm interested in the more optomistic ticket of Edwards/Obama. Obama's 2004 DNC speech (part 1 and part 2) captures what I think they represent. And people need to shut up about the experience canard they're still throwing out in criticism of him.
What his next move should be: create his own political party called South Carolina for Colbert.
Arguments I've heard:
From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):
The lake's original and authorized purposes were to provide hydroelectricity and flood control. Since the lake's construction, metro Atlanta has been taking water from the lake to use for municipal drinking water, which was only authorized by Congress as an incidental use secondary to hydroelectricity.
Since the 90's, the Corps of Engineers, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have all been fighting for use of the water held in Lake Lanier. Law mandates that when a river flows between two or more states, each state has a right to an equal share of the water. Additionally, other laws such as the Endangered Species Act require that water be available for threatened or endangered species that live in or around Chattahoochee River and Apalachicola Bay.
In June 2006 the USACE revealed that the new lake gauge at the dam, replaced in December 2005, was not properly calibrated, yielding a lake level reading nearly two feet (over half a meter) higher than the actual level. Because of this, nearly twenty-two billion U.S gallons (over eighty-two billion liters) of excess water was released over and above the already planned excess releases to support both the successful spawning of gulf sturgeon in the Apalachicola River and to protect several species of mussels in Apalachicola Bay from excessive saltwater intrusion.
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said that the Corps had created a "manmade drought", because most of the state is already experiencing dry conditions. This came at a time when outdoor water-use restrictions were already being put in place by local governments, because of enormous water use on the many lawns which have replaced the forests in newer suburban areas. Mainly because of this incident at the lake, the state then declared a drought and enacted a ban on outdoor water use from 10AM to 4PM, in addition to the permanent weekly odd/even address system. Other local counties have imposed further restrictions or even total bans, based on each water system's conditions.
So, Georgia doesn't have 100% rights on the lake, the flood release was bad calibration and not excessive species protection, and our whining is based on vanity lawns and not actual need. Everyone's screaming gloom and doom and that somehow we're sacrificing people for mussels. Bullshit. They also like to ignore the nuclear reactor that's downstream. Here's a suggestion: stop wasting so much fucking water, Atlanta. There, problem solved.
This, not from an internet kook but from Naomi Wolf:
I read the news in a state of something like walking shock: seven soldiers wrote op-eds critical of the war — in The New York Times; three are dead, one shot in the head. A female soldier who was about to become a whistleblower, possibly about abuses involving taxpayers’ money: shot in the head. Pat Tillman, who was contemplating coming forward in a critique of the war: shot in the head. Donald Vance, a contractor himself, who blew the whistle on irregularities involving arms sales in Iraq — taken hostage FROM the U.S. Embassy BY U.S. soldiers and kept without recourse to a lawyer in a U.S. held-prison, abused and terrified for weeks — and scared to talk once he got home. Another whistleblower in Iraq, as reported in Vanity Fair: held in a trailer all night by armed contractors before being ejected from the country.
Yet I get eyes rolled at me if I even bring up such things.
Excellent interview with Richard Halpern about his book Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence. His question: America's always been involved in horrendous transgressions so why are we continually shocked when they come to light? My simple answer: some are shocked by the evil of the action and not necessarily by the actor, while others less historically informed are understandably shocked by the actor. This isn't the stuff that 6th grade Social Studies classes should be composed of, and not everyone goes to college or digs deeper into American history. However, the information is (generally) there for those who want to know.
It still doesn't make the evil of America's actions against Maher Arar and continued actions to ignore responsibility any more palatable. Nor does it make the FBI's threats to torture a man's family and their subsequent disappearing of the evidence easy pills to swallow.
America can be as evil as any other country, and as a sole superpower we're simply honing our skills. And, c'mon, wouldn't it be boring if our only national shames were Native American genocide and slavery?
Fuck yeah, bitch. Let's hope for the best. He's still not my candidate, but he's at least doing what he was elected for.
Dems suck at returning our rights to us, although they're really good at colluding with tyrants. Work to your strengths, I guess. Ultimately, the barrier-to-entry on cases challenging this has been raised, so I suspect that it still could be struck down. A commenter in the /. thread discussing this points to this Wikipedia entry stating that
Ex post facto laws are prohibited in federal law by Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution and in state law by section 10. But with a majority of the Republican candidates vowing such craziness as war with Iran (and getting cheered), is there really much hope for sane solutions to our gov't's current power imbalance?
Also, newsy go-to gal Lara Logan points out that the situation in Iraq still sucks [ via Digg which has some additional/related links ]. But to the commenter who said that
Everyone knows things are going bad over there. Everyone: apparently, you're not around some of the people that I am. I sortof envy you.
Finally, a good re-post from Reddit of "A Layman's Guide to the United States Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore" written by an attorney right after the decision. Amazingly, the author (now a journalist) posted the first comment on it with interesting additional info. Good to know that his article is taught in law shools now. Re-read and relive your despair like I got to!
Reddit provides us with a hearteningly pessimistic discussion on the slash-and-burn philosophy of Ron Paul.
Trying to absorb the sad sad state of public discourse on Iran.
"San Diego Mayor Supports Gay Marriage." With a heartfelt statement against separate-but-equal, he shows the stark contrast between those who feel begin gay is a "random fetish" or an "abomination" and those who are smart enough to know that yes, the world is round. I'll stick with the inclusionary humanists, thank you, and let the closeted, self-hating hypocrits continue on their merry path.
Recent and related news:
Iran's version of Schindler's Listis a hit on Iranian television.
There's been a lot of buzz on Reddit over the past week about an impending invasion of Iran likely to occur in the first half of this month. Daily Kos has written several times about it. This interview with a Naval officer outlines the attack as quick and massive and that
no American will know when it happens until after it happens. This article from The Daily Telegraph examines in more depth the way the administration is close to attacking Iran. Cheney's pushing for it yet Ahmadinejad views the threat as mere sabre rattling. The article shows that Ahmadinejad is the more level-headed one and points out the "upbeat" report from the IAEA. Other, primarily foreign, newspapers are also reporting on a planned attack. Hersh has been warning us about this for at least a year.
One nitpick on the Telegraph article: they again mis-quote Ahmadinejad on "wipe Israel off the map" by allowing an administration official to repeat it uncontested. He did not say that.
This craigslist post has a more humorous (if very darkly so) approach to the subject titled "So you’re about to be invaded by the United States."
Ron Paul on "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" gets the first two answers about quirky (to say the least) politicians because--and I am not making this up--he believes the conspiracy theory of the first and personally knows the second. Uncomfortable jokes follow. More RP craziness as Daily Kos...
Uh, what's going on? Yesyesyes, everyone is talking about those idiot Democrats in Congress, but no one's given an explanation beyond ... that they're idiots. I mean, this legalized wiretapping shit could've been made up by Jon Stewart. It's just unbelievable that the people we put in to check the evils of the Republican party end up being worse.
Josh Rushing, of Control Room "fame," on Jon Stewart two nights ago (just catching up...). I loved Control Room and consider it--only slightly flippantly--to be part of The Iraq War Trilogy along with Fahrenheit 9/11 and Team America. The three are at polar opposites in all aspects, yet together I think the 50-years-from-now citizen will get an idea of what we were about. Intelligent, angry, and reflexively sardonic all at once.
Rushing on Stewart was necessarily precise yet cumbersome with his humor. In Control Room, he (playing himself) was the eternal model of earnestness and honesty. Who can imagine the experiences he was thrust into since fame and the fame of an inarticulate war took his life? At times, the Daily Show audience did not seem too happy with his new earnestness about international news organizations w/r/t those of American. I may be misreading the silences, but their silences to me suggested discomfort when an "outside" judge--as opposed to Stewart's judgment-by-compadre that leaves the viewer innocent.
Either way, a good interview not a great one. Re-watch Control Room. And maybe try to hunt down videos of Al Jazeera International on YouTube. My one recommendation to coworkers who thought that watching two oppositely biased news organizations (yes, those two) would somehow allow them to approach the truth, was to tell them to watch more international news. I don't believe that that is the answer. But I know it's better than the battle of corporate passions that we currently have within out media borders.
The false equality of bipartisan corruption [ via Kyle Gann ] is being passed off as some sort of insight from conservatives. As if a low-level clown like Jefferson is equal to the DeLay-Libby-Cunningham-etc. cabal of theives that are regularly forgiven by the Republicans.
OK, enough of that.
I like how this is getting international play. If it were just looped on FOX, it'd be justifiably dismissed. But with the BBC echoing what every embarrassed Democratandliberal is feeling, there's no denying it. Pelosi really-really needs to fix this. I'm not holding my breath though.
Olbermann points out that Democrats are pussies (although, to be fair, he continues to give greater vitriol to the President). ~8 minutes and, as always, worth it. Unfortunately, for the war crowd who still defends Bush with the bon mot that "he would be praised if only the war were going better," it will now all be about how the Democratic leadership fell apart. Which, to a point, is a tacit admission of corruption and feeble morality cutting both ways.
50 years from now, historians will dig up Olbermann's comments and pair them with those of the majority of present-day political analysts. Olbermann the rare man-on-the-street voicing dissent and hinting that citizens of our time are not the reckless and shallow idiots that we appear to be. Maybe.
Good stuff from Jon Stewart:
You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it's very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it's over really crucial-- you know, foundational issues. ...
... It's sort of this odd and I've always had this problem with the rationality of it. That the President says, "We are in the fight for a way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. And, so what I'm going to do is you know, Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children's children all suffer. So, what I'm gonna do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad."
So, there's a disconnect there between — you're telling me this is fight of our generation, and you're going to increase troops by 10 percent. And that's gonna do it. I'm sure what he would like to do is send 400,000 more troops there, but he can't, because he doesn't have them. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft. And the minute you do that, suddenly the country's not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart. So, they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we're doing and really examine how it is that they've been waging this.
Watching the show, I felt at first that it indicted the media for its collective laziness (all except the true American heroes from Knight Ridder, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay). Around halfway through, I realized that it was laziness yes, but laziness spurred on by a populace that boycotted, phone protested, and emailed death threats. In other words, what we're all afraid of: a belligerent and ignorant populace.
So, I go along with the rest of the world in thinking that government diplomacy doesn't work by ignoring those you don't agree with. Talk with Cuba and North Korea and Iran shouldn't be deferred until they do-what-we-want-them-to. That kinda ignores the whole need for this thing called "diplomacy." Anyway, that seems somewhat obvious to me et al. but then I think about Google and their China thing. My position at the start was--and their position now is--that you shouldn't be complicit in the mechanations of human rights violators (to say the least). Is there a contradiction here?
The current surface-debates on the internets: Hillary can't sing and has grotesque freeze-frame expressions, Edwards combs his hair for longer than 10 seconds before appearing on TV, and McCain thinks Baghdad streets are safe for Americans and then immediately disproves it.
Assuming that there's equal idiocy to go around: I really am surprised that the Republican web-kids are so much less savvy than the Democratic web-kids sound-biting the other side to death.
Read about this last night and hoped there'd be more mitigating details in the morning. There weren't.
Bush funds Sunni cadres of the 9/11 attack to fight Shias. He makes no mention, however, of his righteous indignation over Middle Eastern countries' monetary interference in Syrian violence. Because of the Patriot Act, Bush is now able-to-and-active-in firing well-regarded US attorneys based--apparently--on his desire to seed those who are friendly to his pet projects. Some would call his appointees activists. John Gibson of Fox News criticizes as
snobs those news organizations that choose to cover the Iraq war instead of Anna Nicole Smith. The White House is disappearing from its web site all speeches where Dick Cheney made idiotic remarks about Iraq. Surprisingly, no, it's not all of his speeches. As soon as the recent "proof" of Iranian weapons were presented--accusations from this administration going back to 2005 at least--the evidence was dismissed as circumstantial. Yet the accusations still drive arguments from the White House. Drudge shockingly reveals the increased energy consumption of the Gore family household and yet conveniently forgets to balance the rest of the equation. Cheney lectures a post-satellite-destroying-China on the proper and moral use of power. Really.
What am I missing here?
If a work of art comments on recent erosions of privacy by the government--such as with Orwell's 1984 and Bush's wiretapping et al.--then it's considered prescient. If a work of art echoes the recent loosening of ethics by the government--such as with Fox's 24 and extraordinary rendition etc.--then it's just fiction and not to be taken too seriously.
Republic or Empire by Chalmers Johnson.
In explaining the economic dysfunction of the military-industrial complex, Johnson quotes Senator Robert La Follette Sr. (1855-1925). Many of his quotes comment on 50s McCarthyism and the 2000s 9/11 alarmism. It has me vacillating between the dread of impending doom and the rationalism of a history of cycles. Take, for instance, this La Follette quote:
The purpose of this ridiculous campaign is to throw the country into a state of sheer terror, to change public opinion, to stifle criticism, and suppress discussion. People are being unlawfully arrested, thrown into jail, held incommunicado for days, only to be eventually discharged without ever having been taken into court, because they have committed no crime. But more than this, if every preparation for war can be made the excuse for destroying free speech and a free press and the right of the people to assemble together for peaceful discussion, then we may well despair of ever again finding ourselves for a long period in a state of peace. The destruction of rights now occurring will be pointed to then as precedents for a still further invasion of the rights of the citizen.
I would emphasize one or two phrases here, yet they're all telling. I'm reminded that modern America did not invent fascist tendencies, but also that cycles don't necessarily return to an equivalent state. Knowing that free-speech zones exist and are enforced is difficult to get out from under no matter how many people invoke a defense in the form of pendulums and counterweights. How also to explain that
All forty-two previous U.S. presidents combined have signed statements exempting themselves from the provisions of 568 new laws, whereas Bush has, to date, exempted himself from more than 1,000?
To cut to the climax, here's Johnson's final assessment:
The more likely check on presidential power, and on U.S. military ambition, will be the economic failure that is the inevitable consequence of military Keynesianism. Traditional Keynesianism is a stable two-part system composed of deficit spending in bad times and debt payment in good times. Military Keynesianism is an unstable one-part system. With no political check, debt accrues until it reaches a crisis point.
He looks at Roman descent from empire to a destructive military fascism and British transformation from empire to the sustainable democracy of a more modest kingdom, and sees neither available to America before our military economy humbles us.
Journalist Sy Hersh has harsh words for Bush - A scary/real prediction of more insanity to come:
"He's a total radical, probably the most radical president we've ever had in terms of his definition of the power of the presidency," he said. "There's nothing more dangerous than a radical who doesn't have information, doesn't learn from information and doesn't learn from the past."
Seymour Hersh is, unfortunately, rarely off-base.
The Passion of Mary Cheney - Dan Savage shames Mary Cheney as the careless idiot she is:
Yes, it’s a baby, not a prop. My kid isn’t a prop either, but that never stopped right-wingers from attacking me and my boyfriend over our decision to become parents. The fitness of same-sex couples to parent is very much part of the political debate thanks to the GOP and the Christian bigots that make up its lunatic “base.” You’re a Republican, Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.
Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study - The best part of this story is a quote I heard on NPR from a representative of the AEI. He defended the money by attacking those who think the money is a bribe. He said that anyone who would think that reputable scientist could be bribed doesn't have much faith in the scientific community. A second, more sane, interviewee pointed out that the money will only help create astroturf that will be heavily lobbied to lawmakers who don't understand the value of peer-review.
Hillary Clinton Drops Madrassa Bomb on Barack Obama - First, Fox News says that Obama attended a fundamentalist Muslim school and that Hillary Clinton leaked the story (Dem v. Dem!). Quickly, and with unusual accuracy, CNN investigated and found out that neither assertions were true. The story, of course, continued to be reported on in its original form by Fox. Obama then kicked Fox News in the nuts.
This has been noted by many and deserves reiteration: Pelosi's Democrats are following through on their 100-hour promise. I repeat: my people are the shit. Now, the only fear is that some doofus will try to fuck it up.
[ updated 18 Jan 2007 ]
I have yet to hear a coherent policy out of the Democratic side with respect to an alternative.
- Dick Cheney
Here're some Democrats that have offered an alternative: Vernon Jordan, Jr., Leon E. Panetta, William J. Perry, and Charles S. Robb. They're one half of the Republican-led Iraq Study Group. You can also look for Democrats in the U.S. officials (includes civilian and military) in the 10-page list [ pdf ] of those people that the ISG committee interviewed.
Sadly one word--surge--is more catchy to the president than a list of 79 researched-yet-difficult recommendations. The president is taking the easy way out, and Cheney is dutifully diverting attention.
John Gilmore is disappointed that the Supreme Court refused to act on the danger posed by the unconstitutional position of the TSA, and its refusal to release the text of the law that it uses to require travelers to show identification. ... This country has a remarkable history of publishing its laws, to give the public notice of the behavior the government demands of them. John has pursued this effort because, as he said on www.papersplease.org,[u]ntil Americans have the ability to know the contents of the laws being applied to them, our Republic is in danger.
You read that correctly: he's asking simply that the law stating that you must show ID to fly be made public. Yipes.
Daily Kos links to some weird poll that shows John Edwards more popular than John McCain. McCain's an idiot, but I would've suspected that the lies being passed around about Edwards-the-evil-trial-lawyer would cancel him out with our well-read public.
Olbermann ties in not only the obvious history of supression, but the present technological offenses that Gingrich--the most offensive of ignorant historians--ignorantly feels he should mimic. China walls in their internet citizens and the geeks of the world work to route around it; Gingrich hopes to do the same to America and call it a necessary means to an end. Olbermann's argument is obvious but obviously needs more voice if such a known name as Newt Gingrich is part of the evil that's purveying it.
Are these kooky times or am I just now realizing it?
(if we don't pull a Gingrich)
...clean up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation...
...implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission...
...raise the minimum wage...
...make health care more affordable for all Americans [and] promote stem cell research...
...cut interest rates for student loans in half...
...achieve energy independence by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil
...fight any attempt to privatize Social Security...
Although: Why not join the rest of the sane world by following the global warming recommendations in the Stern report et al.? For that matter, why not pledge to stop ignoring your own science advisors and the NAS? Why not get the fuck out of Iraq? You can't un-drop an atomic bomb: we screwed that country and don't have a fraction of the resources required to un-screw it. Our presence is only destructive. Finally, why not eliminate all of those worthless security measures that the Republicans (and Democrats) shackled us with?
The Republicans have taught us the caustic and devisive meaninglessness of both "family values" and "staying the course." They have themselves undermined both phrases and continually revised them to their liking (at times making them their own antonyms).
Whatever happens, we can at least savor this short period of hope.
Watched a little of Weekend Update on SNL last night. Some pretty good jokes on current events, most memorable:
This week on Tuesday night, in an ironic turnaround Iraq brought regime change to the US. Heh.
/. points to an article over at Computerworld that provides a state-by-state overview of e-voting. Basic information on what each state has along with its legal requirements. Here's Georgia's. Ars Technica paints a bleak picture for anyone hoping to have their vote count:
[T]wo major new reports from independent research groups detail the myriad security breaches, and procedural and technical problems in the 2006 Ohio primaries; stories from early voting in Texas indicate that the paperless DREs in at least two counties may have a partisan bias; another major new report from the University of Connecticut details a whole raft of security vulnerabilities in Diebold's optical scan voting machines; finally, BlackBoxVoting.org has released "push this, pull here" instructions for multiple voting on a Sequoia DRE, no hacking skills necessary.
My initial impulse is that extra fear is being spread in order to exaggerate the problems and dissuade people from voting. That is: dissuade only the segment of the population that feels they'll be disenfranchised. I'm tired of being the fringe person that has to bring up the subject of 2004 electoral fraud and be treated like I'm praising the scientific honesty of Chariots of the Gods? Still, the more Rolling Stone articles and Ars Technica editorials I read and the more I feel that maybe the sky is falling and people just don't care. The current alerts about Diebold, although they could be considered within acceptable fault range, hold more weight coming after the research of the Kennedy article. What appears to be paranoia just isn't so.
I heard on NPR that the next generation (13-19?) trusts the UN more than the US government. Nice. That one good thing that will come out of the corruption and deceit of the Bush administration.
[ updated 3 Nov 2006 ]
Technology voter guide via Declan McCullagh on CNET. Lists tech-related votes brought up in Congress and rates each Senator (16 issues voted) and Representative (20 issues voted) on each vote (tech-friendly, tech-unfriendly). Here's a map to click on Georgia.
[ updated 6 Nov 2006 ]
I resisted the urge to allow my head to explode from the insanity of the Military Commissions Act and its implications w/r/t habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions. The urge was immediately countered by the possibility that it wouldn't pass, or that it'd be thrown out from it's first challenge. Although, how many people will be hidden away from the possibility of challenge? Reading and commentary has made me re-think the level-headed, calm approach.
None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal. Mark their names.Short opinion piece, and he's seething.
thanks to modern post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable...). Still, he emphasizes the basics of what's at risk.
That purpose [of the Due Process Clause] is not just to protect citizens; if it were, the clause would presumably contain an explicit restriction, as some clauses do. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made clear that it protects non-citizens within the United States.
First kooky thought: the Republicans allowed the Foley scandal to happen in order to deflect from the recent and serious issues revealed about Iraq and Afghanistan. Intelligence reports and skyrocketing death tolls were becoming a nuisance.
Second, more depressing, kooky thought: the Republican unleashed the scandal for such a purpose, and didn't expect that a Congressional Pedophilia Corruption Ring would be more repulsive to the American public than the catastrofuck that they unleashed in the Middle East.
APCB picks apart the idiocy (however obvious) of Ben Stein's partisan defense of Mark Foley. To understand the depths of Stein's corrupted logic: he actually defends his position on Foley by using the phrase
I have many gay friends and they are great people. Really? Then go ask them if they also equate pedophilia with homosexuality.
You know how you look back on version 1s of software you've used and shake your head. "Primitive" and "ungainly" would be better marketing bullets than whatever adjectives were used in the ads. Or, if you look back on your first draft of something. The ideas may be there but in clumsy, Frankenstein form. If the stumbling, first intentions of any of our efforts were written in stone, life would ramble along painfully and incoherently.
Reading Salon's recent invective pointing out that, although Afghans and Iraqis have the right, Americans do not from their constitution have an inherent right to vote. The facts, laid out by the Supremes in Bv.G, read
The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College.
Our empire is creating the next versions of democracy and quietly obsoleting itself.
(and fuck everyone who voted for you)
Senate Republicans block Clinton on expanded wiretapping back in 1996. Also, check out conservative responses from USENET at the time. Although selective, they mimic those concerns that liberals had when the (illegal) Bush wiretapping actions were revealed. I was told recently that an issue I was railing against was "unimportant" because it wasn't picked up by major news sources. Really.
I followed MoveOn's alerts for a while now and have even donated at your request. However, after reading FactCheck.org's assessment of your TV ads on military spending, I cannot continue to support your organization.
Please, for the sake of integrity, stop using such deceitful tactics.
Scott D. Strader
My list from September of last year of several timelines of key events.
Congressman John Murtha is a Democrat with a relatively populist economic outlook. He opposes abortion, consistently receiving a 0% rating from NARAL; however, he supports stem-cell research. Murtha was also one of the few Democrats in Congress to vote against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. However, he is strongly “pro-labor”, and opposes both NAFTA and CAFTA. Like other Democrats, he opposes Bush's tax plan and Social Security privatization, and he also opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment. Unlike other Democrats, he generally opposes gun control, earning an A+ from the National Rifle Association. He supports conscription and is generally more supportive of military excursions than is the typical Democrat.
In 2001, he co-authored (with Congressman Duke Cunningham, R-CA) the Flag Desecration Amendment which passed the House of Representatives, but not the Senate.
In late 2005, he led the effort of House Democrats to offer a motion to endorse language in a military spending bill, written by Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and a fellow Vietnam veteran, that would prohibit abusive treatment of terror suspects.
I would say "hell no" to Murtha on some issues and "hell yes" to him on others. Would I try to denigrate his service? Man, I hope not.
I continue to read tortured explanations that attempt to obviate the seriousness of Bush's rhetorical bumbling. And yet none of that can explain away his transparent and destructive simplemindedness presented with many examples by Matthew Yglesias in his article for The American Prospect.
You see, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over. Everyone focused on the explitive (and, inexplicably, many were impressed by its supposed "honesty") and somehow missed the sixth-grade stupidity of it all.
Enough with the Bush apologies: he's more ignorant than the office of President should allow and you know it.
The Daily Show - 2006.07.20 - Stem Cell Research - Jon Stewart points out the Bush hypocricy of unacceptable stem cell research and acceptable civilian casualties (conservatively estimated at 100,000 back in 2004).
Stem cells: Bush's shameful first veto? by Scott Rosenberg at Salon - Pointing out the Bush hypocricy of unacceptable stem cell research while
[t]housands and thousands of embryos are destroyed every year in fertility clinics. They are created in petri dishes as part of fertility treatments like IVF; then they are discarded.
Michael J. Fox (with Parkinson's) talks Stem Cell research - Dispassionately expressed and yet earnest. Where are the jackasses now who say that celebrities have no right to voice their political opinions?
One of the brains behind Wikipedia has set up a wiki for US politics [ via BoingBoing ]. Its goals are still very formative (sign up and help decide), but it looks like it could provide some aspect of I asked for last December:
a wiki to address and counter the quick-forming talking points as fast as they appear.
Only a quick listen, but it was unbelievably rife with SNL-quality reflexive-gaffes. Bush: "when Saddam was in charge, he siphoned money that belonged to the people of Iraq," (compare with "Where has all the money gone?" from the London Review of Books, detailing the siphoning of hundreds of millions caused by our government's mismanagement).
What was amazing about Jon Stewart's argument with Bill Bennett was not so much Stewart's re-framing of the issue right under Bennett's feet (
Bennett: Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women. Stewart: I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.) but what happened a little later. As Stewart brought up Cheney's position on a gay marriage ban (surprisingly con) and we all winced at Stewart's misstep, Bennett echoed our thoughts and warned him to avoid specific examples because examples in the opposite direction could just as easily be found. Anecdotal evidence is not absolute.
With this warning, it became obvious that Bill Bennett doesn't actually believe what he's saying, only that he knows how to frame limited facts to support his beliefs. Earlier in the argument, Bennett tried to say that allowing gay marriage was a slippery slope that would eventually allow polygamy. Both Stewart and the viewers were frustrated that Bennett willfully ignored the difference between a social choice such as polygamy and a biological assignment such as homosexuality. Does he doubt the scientific evidence? I suspect it's more that he's willfully ignoring it. He's smart enough to see through all poor arguments except his own.
Just saw Caroline Kennedy on Jon Stewart speak about this year's Profiles in Courage awards. When she mentioned that a former general counsel to the Navy was one of this year's recipients, I remembered The New Yorker article that came out a few months ago on that recipient, Alberto Mora (John Murtha was the other recipient). The JFK Library site has a short description of Mora's actions, but The New Yorker article really digs in (aha, aparently I posted about it in February). Worth a duplication, and, as Ms. Kennedy said, it's kind of disspiriting that we're awarding--as unusually brave--the act of speaking out against torture. The act of someone associated with our government speaking against torture.
Rolling Stone publishes Kennedy's detailed summation of the lawlessness of the 2004 election (these facts were very well known and ignored in 2004 and 2005). A blogger at Salon points out that unless international observers are present, expect more and worse in future elections. Our best reporters are saying that it's impossible to report about what's really going on in Iraq. Our administration cozies up to murderous dictators far worse than Saddam, to terrorist supporters, and to human rights violators, then tries to drape itself in a morality it hasn't earned. Patriotism can go fuck itself.
The print page of the Wired article containing Mark Klein's document and the PDF of Klein's document with links expanded. He states:
It's not just WorldNet customers who are being spied on -- it's the entire internet. What the fuck would Republicans say if Clinton tried this shit? Probably exactly what Klein says in closing:
This is the infrastructure for an Orwellian police state. It must be shut down!
Paired with Stephen Colbert's left-handed praise of the President should be Ms. Rohe's defense of her speech at the New School [ via Scott Spiegelberg ] where she had given a preemptive strike against McCain's re-hashed Liberty U. speech. Her speech was quick and clear; her defense is more personal and passionate and ably skewers some of the early criticisms coming in.
The closer this administration gets to (at least the appearance of) fascism, the more difficult it is for liberals to argue against it. When we do, we just come across as if we're over-reacting because the offenses are so much worse than anyone could imagine. Let me just say that Godwin's law has been invoked in more conversations in the past two weeks than can be dismissed by stochastic slip-ups.
And if this has been happening--to anywhere near this degree--in previous administrations, it's sure weird that it took the presence of a classify-fevered, FOIA-hating administration--during "war-time" no less--to allow us to learn about it.
Colbert managed to singlehandedly tear down much of the sycophantic and misleading bullshit surrounding the current Administration on a national stage, and he did it with the President sitting not 15 feet away. The man has, as Bullet Tooth Tony might say, "big brave balls."
A classic tactic of misdirection is occurring: Colbert's routine is being labeled "non-funny" to Bush's opening "funny" bit parodying his, I-shit-you-not, problems with Big Words, so the discussion is now over humor and appropriateness instead of what Cobert actually said. Ignore the content of the event and instead discuss the event as event. Bah. Good roundup over at The Washington Post.
This has been brewing over the last few days: the gov't is trying to block the EFF's civil case against AT&T. See also the Friday article from Wired and of course the full info (with helpful FAQ) on EFF's site. This and net neutrality are a couple of the more important stealth issues of our day. Don't allow them to be forgotten.
[ Updated 4 May 2006 ] Wired examines the issue further.
The state secrets privilege cannot be found in the U.S. Code, the code of federal regulations or the Constitution. Instead, it is a part of common law, the body of laws and precedents created over centuries of legal decisions.
Re-reading this recent history lesson on Iran.
9/11 comes along, the Iranians are overflowing with sympathy. Mass candlelit vigils are held in Tehran. Iran offers aid and cooperation.
Iran hates the Taliban who have executed Iranian diplomats and massacred Afghan Shiites. Iran hates Saddam Hussein. Iran hates Al Qaeda which is a Sunni Fundamentalist organization which declares Shiites infidels and subhuman.
Iran shares its intelligence with America - they even arrested Taliban members and handed them over to US custody.
So we've got the Iranian spring; things are finally going to sort out.
And what happens? The Bush administration rebuffs every Iranian overture and does its best to instigate a cold war. [emphasis mine]
Many comments, plus this criticism:
I enjoy rants like the one above. That's what the Web is for! But you cannot just take a breathless worst case scenario and ignore all other possibilities. Kind of sensationalist, isn't it?
Not that I consider attacking Iran is anything close to a good idea.
I tend to think that the US Govt. is going to be so broke soon that it won't even be able to fly its own troops back home. Families will be asked to step up to pay for airfare or other forms of transportation to get their kids back safe. ...
A woman who lost her husband in the towers on 9/11 was commenting on the Moussaoui trial on NPR. She watched the trial on closed-circuit TV and calmly dismissed the importance of a death penalty verdict. "He's a jihadist wannabe. ... Give the firefighters radios that work; fix the FBI; find bin Laden. Don't think that Moussaoui is a proxy for me." Another woman saw
evil in his eyes and felt that the chance that some sense could have been made of his limited knowledge and contradictions earned him the death penalty. Weeks earlier, another trial observer commented that he'd love to see Moussaoui burn, but he feels that from the testimony in the trial all of the blame goes on our own government.
I'm torn he said with understatement.
Shut up with the irrelevant argument over whether Iraq is-or-is-not in a civil war. The label doesn't matter when the facts are obvious: Iraq is in chaos and different factions are vying for power. Call it whatever you want, it doesn't change the screw-up that we've made of the place. Arguing over the "civil war" issue is simply a way to avoid talking about the real problems.
[ updated 13 Mar 2006 ]
Habeas Shmabeas, stories from Guantanamo on This American Life this week (will be available on their site in a week). Our country, truly, knows no limit to the depths of its moral depravity. Don't listen if you don't want to be repulsed.
I applaud Consumer Reports for clarifying the costs/benefits that the hybrid cars present. Now quick, when some jackass throws it up to "prove" that conservation is a waste of money, ask them (1) if polluting less is a waste of money and (2) if lowering our economic and political dependency on the Middle East is a waste of money. "Conservation is hard. Let's go shopping! Also, check out OmniNerd's recent and detailed article on the subject.
Please, someone bootleg this on Cafe Press t-shirts:
The Memo by Jane Mayer: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted. [ via The New Yorker, outlining retired General Counsel of the U.S. Navy Alberto J. Mora's struggle to stop torture by American agents ]
Unbelievable. I'm so tired of well-meaning jackasses accepting the morally deluded ticking timebomb argument when people in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have been held for months and years and there is in fact no ticking timebomb. But, I guess, you could say that with terrorists you never know if there is a ticking timebomb so every captive and every citizen must be treated as if there is, and we're in a continual state of emergency. Finally, now I can imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
[David] Brant [ former head of the N.C.I.S.] informed Mora that he was disturbed by what his agents told him about the conduct of military-intelligence interrogators at Guantánamo. ... Speaking of the tactics that he had heard about, Brant told me, “Repugnant would be a good term to describe them.”
Qahtani had been subjected to a hundred and sixty days of isolation in a pen perpetually flooded with artificial light. He was interrogated on forty-eight of fifty-four days, for eighteen to twenty hours at a stretch. He had been stripped naked; straddled by taunting female guards, in an exercise called “invasion of space by a female”; forced to wear women’s underwear on his head, and to put on a bra; threatened by dogs; placed on a leash; and told that his mother was a whore. By December, Qahtani had been subjected to a phony kidnapping, deprived of heat, given large quantities of intravenous liquids without access to a toilet, and deprived of sleep for three days. Ten days before Brant and Mora met, Qahtani’s heart rate had dropped so precipitately, to thirty-five beats a minute, that he required cardiac monitoring.
Between confessing to and then recanting various terrorist plots, he had begged to be allowed to commit suicide.
Lawrence Wilkerson, whom Powell assigned to monitor this unorthodox policymaking process, told NPR last fall of “an audit trail that ran from the Vice-President’s office and the Secretary of Defense down through the commanders in the field.” When I spoke to him recently, he said, “I saw what was discussed. I saw it in spades. From Addington to the other lawyers at the White House. They said the President of the United States can do what he damn well pleases. People were arguing for a new interpretation of the Constitution. It negates Article One, Section Eight, that lays out all of the powers of Congress, including the right to declare war, raise militias, make laws, and oversee the common defense of the nation.” Cheney’s view, Wilkerson suggested, was fuelled by his desire to achieve a state of “perfect security.” He said, “I can’t fault the man for wanting to keep America safe, but he’ll corrupt the whole country to save it.” (Wilkerson left the State Department with Powell, in January, 2005.)
And Rumsfelds glib idiocy continues to repulse:
Mora drew Haynes’s [William J. Haynes II, the general counsel of the Department of Defense] attention to a comment that Rumsfeld had added to the bottom of his December 2nd memo, in which he asked why detainees could be forced to stand for only four hours a day, when he himself often stood “for 8-10 hours a day.” Mora said that he understood that the comment was meant to be jocular. But he feared that it could become an argument for the defense in any prosecution of terror suspects. It also could be read as encouragement to disregard the limits established in the memo. (Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired military officer who was a chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, had a similar reaction when he saw Rumsfeld’s scrawled aside. “It said, ‘Carte blanche, guys,’ ” Wilkerson told me. “That’s what started them down the slope. You’ll have My Lais then. Once you pull this thread, the whole fabric unravels.”)
Chavez provides discounted heating oil for America's poor and the current administration wants to shut it down because it makes them look bad. This country is run by petulant children that care more about appearances than people.
More reasons to ignore anything said in the state of the union addresses. An NYT editorial on the intellectual raping of NASA by Bush appointee and high school grad George Deutsch, points out the irony of Bush
promis[ing] in his State of the Union address to improve American competitiveness by spending more on science.
When I posted my rant against George Deutsch two days ago, he wasn't in Wikipedia. That's changed now. He was also employed by the current administration two days ago. That's also changed. And like Brownie lied on his biography, Deutsch lied about graduating from college. This information bubbled up from some random science blog who knew-a-guy who knew-a-guy and then made a few phone calls.
Also check out Wikinews's exclusive report on who did what in the U.S. government's attempt to subvert Wikipedia. See also Wikipedia's page listing all edits with a score of whether they were useful or disruptive. My previous post.
I recently posted Pharyngula's rant on America's confusion of politics and science. The recent revelation of NASA scientists getting strong-armed by political appointees to supress and alter references to the Big Bang (not so unique, but still unnerving) is unwelcome but relevant. /. points to Bad Astronomy Blog's nice, and angry, overview of the situation. The most despicable quote from said appointee George Deutsch:
This [discussing the Big Bang] is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.
Jackass. These people are idiots and should die. As we are bewildered by the crippling backwardness of Muslim extremists who demand foreign countries muzzle their free press, we should be looking as closely at our own fundamentalist dullards who would cripple science by trying to make it bend to opinion and policy. Have you no shame?
[ Updated 8 February 2006 ]
Colbert has his own opinion.
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
[ via Knight Ridder ]
From the RFC discussing the rampant and willful distortion of Wikipedia articles, originating from authors using Congress's IP blocks:
We already have mechanisms in place to detect suspect edits. ... It's just kind of ironic that this time it's the leaders of the free world we need to watch.
[ Updated 1:35 PM ]
From /.'s discussion:
And now Congress will vote to make freely-editable online encyclopedias illegal.
Hehe. Although the discussions from the RFC are the most interesting, bringing up: the value of permanent/limited blocking, whether this type of punishment is useful, the power that robot editors have in cleaning this up, the possible future of PR firms ransacking Wikipedia, and how group attacks differ from individual attacks.
The story of the Georgetown law students who turned their backs on Gonzalez has been floating around for a few days, but I just now finally read about it. The quote at the end from their professor is classic. And check out this more cheeky image from one of students in the audience.
Then there's Joel Stein's hilarious rant against support of our troops.
I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.
The various blog responses are (almost) as entertaining as the article itself.
Brian Lehrer on WNYC, in a segment reminicient of the one where he asked callers to cross party lines with praise, today asked callers to confess an uncertainty or ambivalence they have on current policy. Torture, wire-tapping, social services, etc. Anything that would normally be polarizing, callers had to admit their uncertainty. People tried to sneak in certainty (it's sometimes oddly difficult to pinpoint your own lack of knowledge), but most had an honest fence-sitting experience. Lehrer was humorously (and deliberately) over-sensitive to the importance of opinion as he tried to coax ambivalence out of others.
It was completely un-Earth-shattering but somehow more like what talk radio should be. Loud-mouthed opinion is empty entertainment too often clothed as important content (with exclamation points!!!). When they're right, they insist it's valid reporting; when they're wrong, they mince that it's entertainment. Brian Lehrer simply asked for unattractive honesty.
Tom the Dancing Bug provides one of the more cogent arguments against Cheney's tortured argument for torture:
There's a bomb hidden in Times Square, and this baby swallowed instructions on how to defuse it!
Damn those legislatures who shortsightedly outlawed ripping open live babies!
Regarding FISA, I was presented with the Clinton red herring earlier today. In effect, saying that Clinton did what Bush did so it must be legal and constitutional. This argument came from a conservative I-kid-you-not. My first reply was to address the internal inconsistency: "just because someone else did it, doesn't make it legal" (is precedent based on actions or legal decisions?). After quick research, I found an external inconsistency.
FISA did not apply to physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes, as Media Matters for America has noted. A year later, Congress -- with Clinton's support -- amended FISA to require court orders for physical searches. The Clinton administration thereafter never argued that any "inherent authority" pre-empted the new warrant requirements for physical searches under FISA.
The Bush administration, on the other hand, has argued that it had the authority to authorize the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on domestic communications without warrants, despite FISA's clear restrictions on warrantless electronic eavesdropping. [emphasis mine]
Clearly, Clinton was no Bush. Unfortunately, the
clear restrictions aren't that clear. The Wikipedians had the same uncertainty concerning the 15 day period that I had when reading the source material. I'm not sure if that's resolved anywhere. Other uncertainties revolve around the fact that FISA permits the extra wiretapping powers only during wartime. We're not at war with Iraq, we're at "war" with "terrorism," so will the President have the powers indefinitely? Does he even have them right now?
Even talking about the possibility of using CID [cruel, inhumane or degrading] treatment sends wrong signals and encourages base instincts in those who should be consistently delivered from temptation by their superiors. As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous....
...how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it.
We're a sad, sick country, who allows a born-again Christian to convince us that we have God's blessing to torture others.Continue reading "Torture"
Bush is often lampooned as being either illiterate (unlikely) or a moron (equally doubtful). These are used as a shorthand for the obvious and many mistakes he makes with the spoken language and his inability to present a basic intelligent statement even in the most simple and well-reviewed areas. The canonical examples are from those press conferences where he is expected to be conversant in only limited subject matter but still ends up stumbling (e.g. he often defines an aspect in terms of itself, as with:
Tribal sovereignty means that. It's sovereign. You're a ... you're a ... you've been given sovereignty and you're viewed as a sovereign entity.). There are many examples, so I don't think that their existence is in dispute. ...
What was the question?"
At the end of this week's This American Life, entitled "David and Goliath," Ira Glass discusses the misinformation coming from the White House concerning their alleged honesty about pre-war intelligence. In a quick rebuttal, Ira enumerates around 5 points--well-known--where the administration spoke publicly in a completely contrary manner to what their intelligence reports stated. All of these statements by the President and Vice President were made after the contradicting facts were known, sometimes for years after. Jackasses.
This political postscript begins at 54:45 in the stream.
Oh, and there's an oddly intriguing piece where David Sedaris ponders the impetus behind public defacators. I can kinda see a connection now between the two stories...
The CIA paid the Rendon Group more than $23 million dollars to help bring down Saddam Hussein through propaganda and media manipulation. That propaganda, fed to Judith Miller among others, once reported was used by the administration to bolster support for the war. In one breath John Rendon criticises the media for reporting unflattering and incorrect information about the war, in the next he boasts of feeding incorrect information to that same media. Jackass.
It reminds me of the essay "Astroturf: How Manufactured 'Grassroots' Movements are Subverting Democracy" from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003. In it, Jason Stella outlines how propaganda--lies--from the Kuwaiti government was used to push lawmakers to vote for the first Iraq war.
First, I find out that string theory is in question, now the big bang too? My head is spinning. All of those problems that still exist with the theory could eventually bring it down--and in the process describe a universe that is at least 70 billion years old instead of 13! This is big. At the center of the dispute is plasma cosmology.
The article is, however, absolutely dispicable in the way it presents modifications that occured in the big bang theory. At several points, scientific adjustments are presented as some sort of weasling out on the part of the scientists. Look: theories are meant to adjust as new facts are presented. That's what science is. If the theory eventually falls apart--which the big bang may-or-may-not--then the theory that best represents the new facts will replace it. Too much sensationalist science reporting. Jackasses.
This, oddly, makes me wish Brian Greene had a blog. I wonder what the discussions are in the physicist and cosmologist circles...
And, bravo to Eric Lerner for his vigilance in keeping the Wikipedia entry on plasma cosmology unmolested by rabid graduate students. New science is new science and it needs to be presented with fact and not ridiculed with emotion.
Painfully detailed and dispassionate timeline of what-happened-and-when. Worth several readings.
Whilst researching a snowclone, Benjamin Zimmer points out some interesting inconsistencies with Google searches when used to research statistics of language use. For example: the search count for "A" should be equal to the sum of the search counts for "A" "B" and "A" -"B". Instead, the numbers are wildly different. The first search can return thousands more results than the sum of the other two.
I recently had heard several comments suggesting that America did not torture its prisoners. Some people apparently still believe that. With Bush and Cheney double-speaking their way around questions on the military's policy, was I missing something? I don't think so. Major General Antonio Taguba's report from April 2004 states that we committed
egregious acts and grave breaches of international law. It also states that 60% of the Abu Ghraib prisoners were not a threat (a point I noted back in June 2004). Why is this forgotten?
At work, I sit near a couple of wackos who hourly ... minutely ... regurgitate the right-wing wackiness they apparently absorbed that morning on the way to work. Their discussions are long and loud and have a certitude that ignores any depth in the subject matter (e.g.: the recent riots in France prove that it's an inferior country to America, period).Continue reading "Fast answers"
First, AP reports that "Bush Thanks Soldiers in Rehearsed Talk." Then, one of those soldiers calls them to task. Have you ever been in the uncomfortable situation where an impassioned individual attempts to defend their belief? Get ready.Continue reading "Patriotism"
What I've been told by some of my more virulent conservative friends:Continue reading "Life lessons as I catch up on news"
There're really not that many, and they all dovetail to a basic core philosophy:
"The liberal media exaggerated all/some aspects to find cause to criticize the president." Valid criticism is calling out emergency management officials who don't know the basic facts concerning the state of an emergency. This is a very surface-y argument that avoids the issues.
"State and local officials are equally culpable for the affects of the failed response." From most reports I've read, the federal government has the responsibility to take over when, and this is a primary rationale, states' resources are strained. Local officials screwed up, but to what degree? Those school buses would have saved many had they been deployed, but those same officials who screwed up also declared an emergency and requested help before the storm hit. Does that absolve the federal government of its responsibility? Or of their lack of follow-up? FEMA had ample time and an understanding of the destructive power of the storm and should have responded.
"Federal support in general and FEMA specifically is an extravagant entitlement. States are better able to respond on their own." This gets closer to the heart of the issue. Ignoring the expansion of government that we've seen with Bush, this administration represents itself as a proponent of small government. Any facet of non-military government spending will be looked upon with suspicion. And yet no state is an island: what effects one greatly will quickly cascade to others. It is in the best interest of the country as a whole to aid those states that are in trouble. Isn't it?
"This is what happens to poor people. Accept it." This sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the previous one but takes it to its moral conclusion. This is the "shit happens" approach and presumes that throwing government money to mitigate the problem would be to join in an endless cycle of waste. "There will alway be the poor and crippled who are unable to flee from harms way." When I hear some from the Christian right so brazenly defy Christian teaching in this manner, it makes me proud to be an atheist.
There seems to be no common ground. Either you believe that people are best suited to self-organize in a form distinct from the federal government in order to assist the needy, or you believe that the federal government already is that self-organization.Continue reading "Round-up of Katrina arguments"
Who wasn't thinking about Gareth from The Office when they read this report from Time [via BoingBoing] that Michael Brown (Brownie to his friends) was not an
assistant city manager as his FEMA bio says, but rather an
assistant to the city manager [emphasis mine].
From FWMJ, "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" produced by Kanye West with words by Big Mon and Damien:
George Bush ain't a gold digger, but he ain't fuckin' with no broke niggas. Recommended. Although I wish they would've sampled some MC Nagin.
[ via BoingBoing ]Continue reading "Some of my best friends"
Continue reading "Jon Stewart disasters"
And so today we get the backlash backlash: people bitching and tut-tuting about others' bitching. "I refuse to be one of the angry rabble" or "how dare they politicize this tragedy" and the such, quickly followed by "I'm going to be more constructive and less petty." As if the federal government's actions aren't based on political issues! The poor are blamed by those whose only responsibility is to help the suffering. That same group recommends sending money to a religious hypocrite who promotes assassination. The president, consistent with his philosophy of willful ignorance, insists that no one could anticipate this, then today praises the speed of Congress's actions. The Secretary of Homeland Security flatly refutes eyewitness reports that thousands were on the verge of dying. And the Speaker of the House suggests abandoning New Orleans.
If these aren't simple and obvious reasons to bitch, I'm not sure when it would ever be valid.Continue reading "Obvious"
Daily Kos is reporting that Cindy Sheehan may be breaking the law (trespassing) and therefore may be arrested. It seems all very iffy with the updates that Kos has posted, but it does put her more closely in alliance with--as Will Bunch had suggested--previous practitioners of civil disobedience. She's breaking the law: Are her actions extreme? Could she be considered a threat? Why are some who protest ignored and she is not? As media covers her story to a greater degree, the administration must respond to a greater degree, etc., ignoring which came first in the escalation or how it came to escalate.
This reminds me of an hilarious (scary) clip on Jon Stewart where he shows Bill O'Reilly stating that since a human rights organization [who?] was investigating allegations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, they were allies to terrorists. In the same Jon Stewart show, there was another clip of O'Reilly telling John McCain that he was wrong to say that torture isn't a productive method of information gathering.
So I guess if a human rights organization and an ex-POW are glaringly-wrong-and-borderline-traitorous, a protesting mother could be equally so. (Am I being too unfair to gather the administration's actions with O'Reilly's statements under one large, irrational threat to dissent?)Continue reading "Mother of protest, part 2"
Cindy Sheehan was one of those stories (wouldn't you like your name to be a definite-article-type label?) that I was somewhat disinterested in when it started bubbling to the top. Yeah, a mother can and should be pissed off at Bush, but there are tens of thousands of mothers et al. that should and are. Why is this one getting the attention? Yes, she's exerting greater and possibly more noble an effort, but when should a poll of one be more powerful than a poll of the country?
However, reading Will Bunch's report on the possible smear campaign against Sheehan, with his lucid clarification of the timeline of Sheehan's actions in the public record, has brought the event back to the surface for me. I'm not sure that Ms. Sheehan's the right choice to debate the morality or wisdom of the war--despite her weaker opponent--but maybe her effort makes her the right choice.
Why do people put greater trust in an individual than in polls? It's more difficult to rally around a poll as a symbol of our anger than to rally around a passionate individual, but it was a passionate individual who lied to get us into this war. I didn't trust the first one, and because of that I feel little need for this one.Continue reading "Mother of protest"
I'm on an anger jag, and Lady Crumpet isn't helping by pointing out the jackassery going on with the Bush administration and terrorism (excuse me: extremism). Slate also points out the debilitatingly hopeless situation by asking the question
Are these guys really this clueless?
I got Get Your War On for my b-day (thanks!) and was struck by one particular piece of wonderfully bad taste. Thus:
The last panel. Wow. LaborRights.org has a summary of the background information. Now, you gotta tell me, who in the hands-off-business and the-invisible-hand-will-balance-everything camps can accept the freewheeling immorality of American corporations taking advantage of a foreign country's permissive views of human rights to help bolster that company's stock price? After reading the LaborRights.org summary (please correct it if it's wrong), the phrase
fill[ing] up your gas tank with the bones of killed and raped people in order to make your car run doesn't seem so outlandishly sardonic.
That's kinda bad.
A caller on today's Brian Lehrer Show (with guest host whose name I forget I'm sorry) argued that anger at the war, anger defended by the population's majority dissatisfaction with the war, is indefensible because such a position suggests that public policy should waver with shifting public opinion. I've said many times before (though not here, so I have no proof) that there's a dichotomy in this country between the desire for representatives representing the public and for those with steadfast ideals. If you do vote the poll numbers, you're either swaying to popular opinions or you're listening to your constituency. If you don't, you're ignoring the public's will or fiercely independent. Damned if you etc.
But yet the point I want to make is: the majority of our arguments aren't that Bush is defying public opinion. That's icing on the cake right now as he dips deeper and deeper. "Dip" being operative. Our main arguments have been that you're invading the wrong people for the wrong reasons AND THEN LYING TO US ABOUT IT ALL. Jackass.
Let's not get all caught up in ignorance and self-indulgence that masquerades as independence.Continue reading "Popularity"
Several (un-sourced) comments (sorry, I can't find where I heard these):
It's like Bush and Rice are trying to shift responsibility for success on Iraq and the rest of the world (i.e. anybody but them), and also trying to get their comments in the public record so that they will be remembered as having put out a warning (it's not their fault if it's not heeded).
Christopher Hitchens just suggested to Brian Lehrer on WNYC that the word "fixed" in the Downing Street Memo sentence
the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy is, in fact, the
proper English usage of "fixed" as stationary or established. He went on to say that the English don't
speak out of the sides of their mouths by using slang such as "the fix is on." OK.
But wait: isn't the use in the DSM sentence, something like, past progressive in passive form? If you don't trust me, trust some other English people [BBC]. The DSM usage is not as an adjective as Hitchens suggests.
Muting the Conversation of Democracy: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Under Attack - a transcript of Bill Moyers' speech at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis on 15 May 15 2005. I previously had heard an excerpt:
One reason I'm in hot water is because my colleagues and I at "NOW" didn't play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.
He gets his blood all good and angried up about the issue. Basically, a majority of the public supports public broadcasting and feels that it's reporting is unbiased. Unfortunately, the chairman of the CPB did not release these findings to the media.
MoveOn sent out another email on the CPB issue on Wednesday (Shelby did her civic duty and passed MoveOn's email around, but I had already signed the petition) that included a link to a Washington Post article from last Friday.
But the loss of $23.4 million in federal funds for children's educational shows -- which PBS calls its "Ready to Learn" programs -- could mean the elimination of ... "Sesame Street," "Dragontales," "Clifford" and "Arthur," among others.
I'd like to think that the Internet, or public libraries could fill learning gaps, but I realize that those aren't options for lower-income households. And there'll always be a bunch of jackasses who will get angrier at the $400 million CPB budget, because 15-minutes show
two families in Vermont headed by lesbians, than the gross misappropriation of funds for the war in Iraq.
An hi-larious outburst of expletives by The Rude Pundit on Howard Dean (even funnier than his original outburst about Dean back in campaigning days). Am I becoming everything I hate (that is: becoming like all of those jackasses who listen to shrill talk radio) by enjoying this?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I listened to excerpts of George Galloway completely owning the Senate during the oil-for-food (spelled g.o.p.s.m.o.k.e.s.c.r.e.e.n.) hearings. Political Affairs has some choice excerpts. He's definitely got mad skills. It was the most beautiful thing I'd heard in a while: a strong debater not tripped up by conservative bullying.
I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.
Which reminds me: my first thought after the British election (as with many Americans) was: you guys are as dumb as we are, re-electing a lier for another term. But during their pre-election campaigning, their admirably sucinct campaigning, I was envious. Blair many times, and publicly, faced angry constituents--a situation unfathomable in America. But in the end ... even the Downing Street memo could have no effect.Continue reading "Galloway rules"
I've been waiting to see what gets published on the now-stale-yet-still-very-relevant Iraq memo from the London Times. Web posters have been buzzing about it, yet the American press has mostly ignored addressing it in any context. From a Google news search a few days back, I found < 8 articles, mostly from conservative damage control. FAIR has an assessment of the few outlets where it's been discussed. More articles are appearing (including one from Media Matters). This needs to be addressed, and I'm baffled why it's not.Continue reading "
the intelligence and facts were being fixed"
Gore's situation is an example of the anti-intellectualism of this country. The other Gore (Vidal) pointed out, helplessly, that
something ... has made Americans contemptuous of intelligence whenever they recognize it. I've similarly blamed it on this country, suspecting that
we don't want to imagine that some things aren't created equal. Some people are smarter than us, thankfully, and some people are more well-read. We can achieve an equal level of study, but others will simply have a more keen skill at making the connections. We should be grateful for that--and yet at the same time still be cautious enough to question those conclusions.
Instead, we get lost in a power struggle with a testy "you think you're better than me?!?"
Al Gore's writing always reads very clearly to me. He presents his ideas with the research that formed them--allowing the reader to question the conclusions--yet doesn't create a dry restatement of facts. And he often presents the doubtful areas of his suppositions within the text itself. His clarity is both of presentation and of ideas (many of which I am biased towards).
Sarah Vowell, in one of the essays from The Partly Cloudy Patriot [Amazon], compared the 2000 election to Revenge of the Nerds, but where, unfortunately, the jocks win. I've heard conservatives defend Bush with statements such as "at least he has smart people surrounding him" (as if a puppet would be a favorable option for president) and "he seems like a regular guy." I'm a regular guy too, but believe me, you would want someone smarter in office.
(I was recently pointed to a book that seems to fulfill the anti-intellectualist bend called A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose [Amazon]. The author supports his position based on difficulties Oprah Winfrey had while reading a Toni Morrison book.)Continue reading "Gore on the judiciary"
Jon Stewart, when speaking with a recent guest whose name I don't remember, called out to all moderates to take to the streets and shout "Be reasonable!!!" They were lamenting that money moves to the extremes and not to the middle, despite the majority of the middle.
Brian Lehrer, on WNYC today, devoted the last half of his show to callers who can cross party lines with praise. Democrats must offer some aspect of the current administration that they approve of, and Republicans must do the opposite. It was mildly successful but a great concept.
I wish I could follow their lead.
/. has an interesting discussion on the Bush administration removing delegates from a telephone commission because those delegates gave money to the Kerry campaign. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said:
We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively, and--call us nutty--it seemed like those who wanted to kick this Administration out of town last November would have some difficulty doing that. I guess I should be happy that the administration didn't run down a hotel hallway yelling at the delegates because of their dissent.
I stand by my choice. I'm the president.
- What Bush, aka The Confident Bush, will probably say about Bolton
We weighed our initial decision very carefully. However, new more detailed information has been revealed, during this valuable democratic process, that makes it clear that we must reconsider and find a more appropriate representative of the American people.
- What Bush, aka The Honest Bush, could say about Bolton
Just watched Reza Aslan on Jon Stewart discussing his book No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam [Amazon]. He was funny and well spoken--both quick and conversant. This is why Jon Stewart is great (ignoring the fact that this fascinating subject was discussed in a mere six minutes). Stewart missed many potential questions to get in jokey-and-only-somewhat-relevant comments, but at least he's bringing these people to wider public attention.
Aslan's main point was that the Islamic extremists are a dying, outdated minority, saying that
terrorism is a tactic of the weak. My only quip is that you can too often replace "weak" with "oppressed." He seemed to connote weakness with decay or inferiority, whereas it could just as easily be a result of oppression or minority. Again, this was a six-minute segement with frequent jokes.
And Aslan was smooth with the jokes. Stewart comments: "Your book, The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam ... we're most interested in these future plans." Aslan replies with his hands together a la C. Montgomery Burns "ah yes, our plans for the future..." Hehe. Gotta love a scholar with a sense of humor.Continue reading "Book on Islam"
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.
Last June, the administration was forced to issue a revised version of the report for 2003 that showed a higher number of significant terrorist attacks and more than twice the number of fatalities than had been presented in the original report two months earlier.
The snafu was embarrassing for the White House, which had used the original version to bolster President Bush's election-campaign claim that the war in Iraq had advanced the fight against terrorism.
This could be used unedited as a Tom Tomorrow comic strip. I guess I should just appreciate the absurdity of it all.
In cases where there are serious doubts or questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life.
- George W. Bush on Terri Schiavo exposes his hypocricy after he had killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq for no good reason. (This observation has been pointed out elsewhere, but I just heard Bush say it yet again.)
Gore Vidal on America. Yes, the stories of torture depress me. And the idiocy of the religious right is maddening. And our abuse of the environment for the sake of capitalism certainly seems short-sighted. But what do I know? Now, when someone really in the know like Vidal goes on a sardonic jag about the trouble America's gotten itself into, suddently my anxiety is justified! Yay anxiety.
Anyway, some quotes:Continue reading "The undoing of America"
I've read Hullabaloo intermittently and have always ... appreciated what they bring up. It's never enjoyment, but I'm better for knowing what's really going on. The articles are a little vitriolic, but often no more than what the subjects warrent.
Take this post about U.S. soldiers torturing and hunting dogs in Iraq. I read the post but have not and will not looked at the photos that the soldier took (even though he insists that
its pretty funny). Anyone in the comments who had looked has regretted it. There's nothing that can be said.
And fortunately or unfortunately, I was forced to read their post on that feeding tube. I swore I would not read anything else about it (unless it was satire), but this post really sums up this non-story and its melodramatic abuse by politicians. I promise myself that this is now the last word on feeding tubes.
I need some good news.Continue reading "Midweek depression"
I was reading recently about the government's reluctance to reimburse soldiers for their personal purchases of armor and supplies.
The difficulties are obvious. At what point are supplies justified? A system of validating purchases, and defining acceptable categories, after-the-fact is filled with opportunity for abuse and chaos. The government has to be a watchdog on what the soldiers purchased, and yet the government should have made the purchases themselves. Support has been turned into scrutiny--a scrutiny that exists to protect the public from frivolous government spending.
Looks like nobody wins except for those whose only goal was to get troops into Iraq in the first place.Continue reading "Support"
There's a new twist in the story of the U.S. citizen being held, allegedly by request of our own government, in a Saudi Arabian prison. According to a Washington Post editorial, the government is trying to keep secret not only the evidence against the prisoner, Ahmed Abu Ali, but also the legal arguments they make to keep him in prison. From the article:
The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court.
Who could ever defend such a position?
In an LA Times article titled "U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings," the author reports on a survey given to scientists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. As expected, a majority reported having been pressured with removal if they didn't change their findings to favor industry and hinder endangered species protection.
A biologist in Alaska wrote in response to the survey: "It is one thing for the department to dismiss our recommendations, it is quite another to be forced (under veiled threat of removal) to say something that is counter to our best professional judgment."
Another commented that
As a scientist, I would probably say you really can't trust the science coming out of the agency. Fish and Wildlife officials even distributed a memo instructing the scientists to not respond to the survey.
I resisted posting on this subject because, honestly, my recent thoughts have been pretty depressing. However, if a subject is oppressive enough to rile the normally focused Scott Spiegelberg from his musical thoughts and post this pointed observation, then I too need to throw in my angry voice.Continue reading "More outrage"
The Moscow Times has an article discussing
a secret Pentagon plan to foment terrorism by sending covert agents to infiltrate terrorist groups and goad them into action. They reported this two years ago, and a recent Seymour Hersh article from The New Yorker prompted this reassessment. Just one of many reasons to be appalled at the secrecy surrounding America's intelligence budget.
From a letter Terry Jones wrote to The London Observer in 2003:
... The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.
That's why I want to blow up Mr Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.
You might remember that last June he had a similarly sarcastic take on the torture debacle. Salon has an interview with him (mirrored here) where he has similarly caustic comments for our pres. He also has a new book called Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror [Amazon].Continue reading "More Terry Jones"
With a recent report on the military cost in Iraq, Frank Boosman has put things in perspective as they say and compared it to the U.S.'s tsunami relief. You remember the tsunami? An estimated 1/2 million people dead and millions more displaced? Hundreds of thousands of families across many countries fragmented? No? Well, anyway, the amount of money the U.S. has contributed is equal to 42.27 hours of war in Iraq. Less than Germany's or Japan's contribution (who combined have only a 10th of the U.S.'s GDP).
And if that isn't enough, take this quote from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
I hope they ask for something big. Look, this is a test of wills. We need to show our enemies that we are not going to do this on the cheap.
Yes, all politics and diplomacy work with some degree of appearance-over-substance. However, this blatant show of testosterone over deliberation is in total disregard for just how lost we are (or even, let's say, may be) in Iraq. We have little international support and must dump greater amounts of money into it. Our monomania is apparently not un-stoppable.
However, am I acting the same way by comparing monies given by each country to charity? Or am I just weighing the two in context? How much is being accomplished in Iraq and how much could be accomplished elsewhere if more than 42.27 hours of that money were put to use where there is no equivocation on its usefulness?Continue reading "Repairing and preventing"
THANKS TO a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, thousands of pages of government documents released this month have confirmed some of the painful truths about the abuse of foreign detainees by the U.S. military and the CIA ...
The Bush administration refused to release these records to the human rights groups under the Freedom of Information Act until it was ordered to do so by a judge. Now it has responded to their publication with bland promises by spokesmen that any wrongdoing will be investigated.
- From the editorial War Crimes.
The United States has never before officially practiced torture. It was not deemed necessary in order to defeat Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Its indirect costs are enormous: in their effect on the national reputation, their alienation of international opinion, and their corruption of the morale and morality of the American military and intelligence services.
- From the editorial Torture reconsidered: Shock, awe and the human body.
And finally, I'll allow Sen. Biden to restate the obvious:
There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured they are not tortured.Continue reading "A poor legacy"
Did Clinton gut the military?
No.Continue reading "Gut feeling"
CNN, among others, is reporting about John Ashcroft's recent statement:
The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war ...
judicial oversight, something the Constitution establishes, is risky to our nation? Is this why we're considering a replacement [Wikipedia] who feels that
[the war on terror] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitation of questioning of enemy prisoners [PDF]? And is this why the first Bush, in a recent interview with Cokie Roberts, spent most of his time complaining about the other branches of government slowing him down? And is this why people are worried about the current Bush appointing up to three Supreme Court justices?
Wikipedia has an entry on 2004 U.S. Election controversies and irregularities. It is currenty listed for deletion because of disputed neutrality and factual accuracy. The talk page (a standard Mediawiki page allowing open discussions for each entry) has details on the dispute. The VfD page (Votes for Deletion) contains further debates and stumping to either delete, merge with a similar page, or keep.
This will be another test Wikipedia and an excellent subject to be documented and updated as more information is found. Wikipedia is self-correcting and self-documenting for this very reason.Continue reading "VfD"
It's nice to have your own ire put in context. This individual makes a political point with 42 "fuck"s (43 counting the URL). What is he saying (without the fucks)?Continue reading "I'm not angry!"
Here are a couple of good articles published recently on Bush and faith.Continue reading "And above all, Bush"
A collection of maps presenting the election results.Continue reading "Election maps"
At the risk of digging up ghosts, I will present this graphic representation of Bush's service record in the National Guard. The creator took information only from military records (not rumours) to create it.
Here's W's air guard record in visual format from an entry in Simon Woodside's blog. The graphics are very clear and, regardless of the political content, this is an excellent example of visual presentation of complex data.
The Woodside graphic is dated Sept 2004. This FactCheck.org article discussing the available military documents and the issues surrounding them is dated Feb 2004.
Yes, others may have cheated the system like Bush did, but those others aren't our president right now.Continue reading "Remembering the National Guard"
Man, I hate this shit.
In grade school, I loved reading with scepticism and awe (it didn't matter if it wasn't true) the various unbelievable conspiracies and paranormal philosophies that travelled around the young teen world. Aztec alien encounters, real supernatural visitations, cursed events occurring beyond the possibility of randomness. It was neat-o and very youthful and lived in the patina of growing up as much as cartoons and girls-you-really-liked-but-never-even-spoke-to.
I love those memories of unbelievable stories told by friends-of-friends with earnestness (but not really beleived ... not really).
I don't love reading quotes from the CEO of the company that makes our voting machines declaring that he's
committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president, a year before Ohio delivers the winning electoral votes to the president.
I don't know when I lost my love of conspiracies. I just did. It's not fun to have to even consider this shit. So maybe I just shouldn't. Maybe it is just Chariots of the gods. But where's the endearing awe?Continue reading "Chariots of the Gods?"
Strangely, the most upsetting result for me was that for the gay marriage issue. It affects me in no way--though I've had many gay friends in the past, I currently have only one who is an infrequent acquaintance. However, I think it represents, for me, the decision-making that brought us to where we are.Continue reading "Results"
After an hour and a half to vote, the lesson is: forget early voting and its somtimes six hour wait, voting on the day-of is where it's at.
Alas, as I pointed out from the local elections in July, the process is much more confusing that it needs to be. Added to the complications of the July voting, you have to first get your voting registration paper (?) and then get in line. There are no officials at the end of the line to tell you this. If everyone was like me then we'd all have our faces buried in a book and wouldn't notice that someone had walked up and didn't follow the process. Most people were lucky. Some were not.
These issues are not major, but for the importance that is put on voting (and for as important as it is) I think that more importance and care should be shown for the process. To tell us about our civic duty and then make it obscure and convoluted is disingenuous.Continue reading "I voted, but let's hope I get more than this lousy sticker..."
From two different sources, I get: I'm voting for Bush because he's been successful with the war on terror.
No, stay with me here, I'm serious.Continue reading "What to do?"
Over the past month or so, there have been many (many) stupid news stories about the presidential candidates. Well, I thought they were stupid, and I avoided adding to the noise. Was I wrong?Continue reading "Trying to keep focus"
Two points about Zell:Continue reading "He can go to zell, part 2"
My job tonight is an easy one: to present to you one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders – and a good friend. ... In his 16 years in the Senate, John Kerry has fought against government waste and worked hard to bring some accountability to Washington. ... John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment. Business Week magazine named him one of the top pro-technology legislators and made him a member of its "Digital Dozen."
From John Kerry, they get a "yes-no-maybe" bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends. ... Right now the world just cannot afford an indecisive America. Fainthearted, self-indulgence will put at risk all we care about in this world. ... For more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure. As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.
I agree that indecisive confusion about principles is a character flaw. We should definitely avoid those who are self-indulgent enough to contradict themselves in such a manner. Zell piles on sentence after sentence of rhetorical garbage that scratches the surface of facts. I don't think there's much there, but I'd like to take the time (or find someone who already has) to go over point by point.Continue reading "He can go to zell"
Overheard at the RNC and broadcast this morning on NPR:
I'd rather have a leader who looked to God for leadership than a leader who looked at himself as a leader.
This may not be an unusual opinion.Continue reading "Why Democrats will lose the election"
The Daily Show had Spinsanity's Bryan Keefer on this week. First of all, watch The Daily Show! I finally remembered to TiVo it and had a slew of caustic ribaldry to greet me and my hangover this morning.Continue reading "Daily Show"
Another great conspiracy! This one lines up terror alerts with each dip in Bush's approval ratings. I don't have to tell you that they found a correlation. Of course, believing such things would be downright counterproductivary.Continue reading "¡Terroriste!"
Ron Reagan's and Kerry's speeches.Continue reading "What was said, Part 3"
Tres groovy. I've wanted something like this, but since my recent redisigning I don't know if I want to clutter up the place.Continue reading "Electoral link"
A continuation of my earlier assessment of the DNC speeches. Looking at Gore's speech:Continue reading "What was said, Part 2"
Over at Esquire, Ron Reagan Jr. has an ... unfriendly characterization of Bush and his administration.
A quick summary with some quotes:Continue reading "
They are a lie"
I missed all of the first-hand experiences of the DNC--busy working, being depressed, and drinking (in random order). But that's why media-on-demand exists: I can review them at my leisure. So, let's look at the transcripts of Obama, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Thanks to The Centrifuge for helping dig up the sources in real time.Continue reading "What was said, Part 1"
Does it bother Stewart that so many potential voters are relying on a joke show for information?
''I'm concerned about the incredible number of people who say they get the news from you guys,'' Stewart shot back. Sensitive scribes scowled.
The tightly wrapped comic's harangue included a blast at the media's ''absolute acceptance of being stage-managed'' and an attack on Washington as a city of ''absolute self-delusion and arrogance.''
The article was prompted by the results of a poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which showed that
21% of viewers ages 18 to 29 named The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live as places where they get news about the presidential campaign. A related article over at The Boston Globe points out
the Pew study merely shows that more people watch "The Daily Show" than before. It goes on to quote Stewart from a Harvard appearance in 2002:
A student asked if he realized that most younger people got their news from him. "That's retarded," Stewart said.
With the more recent comments, he's taking networks to task for pushing viewers to choose comedy news over "real" news. So, we complain about the news outlets becoming entertainment, and in rebellion we go to entertainment for news. Maybe we are retarded.Continue reading "Stewart in da hiz-ouse"
This should be a non-issue, but it's not.
Whoopi Goldberg (who is, face it, not funny at all) cracked wise about Bush's name in a sexual manner and was held up by the media as a model of liberal bad taste. In contrast, some outlets pointed out that Dennis Miller (who is really not funny) cracked equally wise about the two John's affections, in an equally sexual manner, and got a media pass. This is the type of story that's more distracting than informative and should be ignored.
But when I hear the double-standard in conversation (that is: my friends aren't ignoring it), I'm pulled back into the non-issue melee. You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.
Paul Begala's comments:
Continue reading ""Two queers walk into a bush...""
I think it's an interesting example of the double standard in the media. Whoopi Goldberg apparently told some jokes people didn't like. I didn't hear them, don't even know what they are and everybody got their panties in a wad and here's this big corporation fires her. Meanwhile yesterday, Dennis Miller at a Bush rally basically implies that John Edwards and John Kerry are gay, then attacks my pal James Carville for the way that he looks and nobody says anything. I doubt CNN has even covered that story today at all. So why is it that a liberal comedian can make fun of President Bush, but she gets fired from her job? A conservative comedian makes really nasty sexual innuendoes about Kerry and Edwards and nobody says anything. So it's a double standard.
The wonderful electoral college map has Kerry at 322 and Bush at 205. Wow. Well, "wow" in the context of the information at hand. I wish they had a way to link the results so that I could have live updates on my page.
A recent article reports on the Union of Concerned Scientists' further warnings of Bush's politicizing of science.
[T]he Bush Administration continues to suppress and distort scientific knowledge and undermine scientific advisory panels.
I've been reading commentary on how Republicans in general and right wing radio in particular will be running with a trial-lawyers-are-evil message. Last nite my dad, out of nowhere, went on a rampage against those damn crooked trial lawyers.
I can guess what station he's listening to.
In a recent post, This Modern World guest blogger Bob Harris provided links to these two keen Web sites. The first one is an interactive map that lets you calculate the election outcome with different states' results. The second one, both more useful and more fuzzy, displays the current results of an electoral vote.
Well, at 253 to 285 it's keen but depressing.Continue reading "Dynamic electoral college maps"
Continue reading "Choir practice"
My wife had the gall to suggest that I might be going a bit too far. So I put a bag over her head and chained her to the radiator. But I still couldn't persuade my son to tell me where he goes after choir practice.
The March 6 memo, prepared for Mr Rumsfeld explained that what may look like torture is not really torture at all. It states that: if someone "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith".
What this means in understandable English is that if a parent, in his anxiety to know where his son goes after choir practice, does something that will cause severe pain to his son, it is only "torture" if the causing of that severe pain is his objective. If his objective is something else - such as finding out where his son goes after choir practice - then it is not torture.
Neal Pollack (one helluva good writer), testifies to the congregation about George W. Bush and religion. He always had some good, goofy entries on his blog. I think he's doing more writing for magazines these days.
Here's some choice quotes from Pollack's rant.
(Also, check out the Frontline show he mentions called The Jesus Factor.)Continue reading "Jesus"
As disgusted as I am with the torture reports, I'm realizing how much Bush's actions play to the isolationists. The government is focusing more on secrecy than on apology. That will sit well with those who don't believe that
more than sixty per cent of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to society, and who instead insist that all of those inmates are in fact 100% evil. Or with those who haven't heard or don't care that
[t]he International Red Cross ... reported that 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib have been imprisoned there by mistake, simply rounded up in dragnets. (subscription) And the isolationists are probably a good portion of our population.
No matter how many Justice Department memos declare torture acceptable and no matter how much we recoil at it, Rush Limbaugh will still broadcast on American Forces Radio that this type of
blow[ing] some steam off is acceptable.
I initially felt that the snowballing revelations of this mismanaged war would show everyone what a morally corrupt president really looks like. Now I'm not so sure that it even matters to many people.Continue reading "Torture"
There have been a couple of reports regarding new information on Saddam and WMDs. The stories center around scrap metal found in foreign countries. This is the type of information that supporters of the war read and then pass around as gospel. Why is it not more fully disseminated?
A World Tribune story declares that
The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. No other sites are reporting the story in this manner. SFGate has many of the same facts but suggests that the scrap metal was inefficiently disposed of.
Beautiful Horizons (whose author is
a Norteamericano living in New York with my Brazilian wife and a passion for Latin American travel) recently posted a lucid explanation of the legal basis of the US adhering to international law on torture. Thank you for cutting through the haze of our current administration's double-talk.
Q: So the terms of the Convention Against Torture is the law of the land in the United States, right?
A: Yes it is...
The entire Q&A is short and to the point. Go read.Continue reading "Beautiful post on the Constitution"
There are many palette-cleansing essays out there clearing out the sugary taste of the over-ebullient eulogizing of Reagan. I understand that respect for the deceased is more respect for those who were close and who survive the deceased, but there is no excuse for overstating their importance.
Here's a collection and assessment of some criticisms that have appeared:Continue reading "Reagan bad"
Fucking DOJ's unlawful fucking imprisonment of people, think they're above the fucking law.Continue reading "DOJ Bastards"
This election has become about accusations of lack of consistency. That is: the Bush campaign is trying to push the label of flip-flopper on Kerry, so Kerry supporters have responded with counter-accusations. Let's have a looksee...Continue reading "Flip-flop flack"
Laurence emailed a link to another good Gore speech. In it, Gore discusses the examples of how America has been ruled recently by fear instead of trust. He goes on to point out that fear stifles progress and that the fear foisted on our society will outlive the current administration, as will the detrimental effects of its fear-inspired policies.
It contains a relevant historical reference to Nixon's paranoia-fueled fear and contrasts it with an Eisenhower quote:
Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.
Everybody's linking it. So am I.
And all people have against him are spurious arguments about the Internet.
Gore is one of the most intelligent people I've ever read interviewed. During a profile done several years ago in The New Yorker, he casually segued into a discussion on the effects of animist religious beliefs on societal advancement and how it avoids the search for deeper explanations. Now, I don't like being an intellectualist, bug geez, what an interesting concept to discuss.
Compare with Bush.
One criticism: Gore should have included references in the written version of his speach. Maybe he has elsewhere, or maybe someone will annotate it.