March 11, 2008

Details Don't Add Up in ABC Report of Eliot Spitzer Bust

FinCEN Suspicious Activity Report
ABC's Brian Ross says that Eliot Spitzer, caught red-handed in a prostitution scandal, was investigated because a bank tipped off the IRS. This doesn't sound right to me.

When banks and other financial institutions are suspicious about customer transactions, they are supposed to file "Suspicious Activity Reports" with the Financial Crimes Enforecement Network (FinCEN), a unit of the Department of the Treasury that is distinct from the IRS. FinCEN reviews the information and passes it along to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

FinCEN is not part of the IRS. This is a mistake on a par with saying the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section were a part of the FBI.

Someone in the loop here doesn't understand how money laundering and other financial crimes are investigated. Maybe it is ABC's Brian Ross. Or maybe Ross is just being a stenographer for his source, and his source was being sloppy.

Or maybe his source was one of those Regent University School of Law grads who infest the Bush Justice Dept., who have a better understanding of team play and party loyalty than they do of, well, the law.

If I were trying to misdirect people away from a politicized takedown of a powerful governor from the enemy party, I would want to get the details of my cover story right.


Posted by abostick at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

February 29, 2008

White House Aide Nailed for Plagiarism

Tim Goeglein, Plagiarist
Tim Goeglein, Plagiarist
image source: New York Times
Timothy Goeglein, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, wrote at least two op-ed columns for the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana, that were copied substantially from other sources.

Blogger and former News-Sentinel columnist Nancy Nall discovered the forgery, a column that was largely lifted from an essay by Jeffery Hart that had appeared in the Dartmouth Review. A commenter in Nall's blog discovered another forgery, an column on Hoagy Carmichael that was lifted from a piece by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post

Goeglein has acknowledged one of the forgeries, and the paper has pulled that column.

Goeglein was Karl Rove's right-hand man prior to Rove's departure, responsible for reaching out to conservative and Christian group on behalf of the White House.

It is not known how being unmasked as a plagiarist is going to affect Goeglein's status at the White House. His moral turpitude might appall ordinary Americans, but it is par for the course for the Bush Administration.

UPDATE: Goeglin resigns his White House staff position. (hat tip to David Kurtz at TPM)

(via Atrios)


Posted by abostick at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2008

The McCain-Iseman Scandal: It's the Influence-Peddling, Stupid

Charles H. Keating, Jr.Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)Vicki Iseman
L to R: Charles H. Keating, Jr., John McCain, Vicki Iseman

Scandalmongers and their eager audience are focused on the hints of sexual hanky-panky between John McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman. As Mark Klieman points out, however, the real meat of the scandal shows up clearly in Libby Quaid's story that went out over the Associated Press wire yesterday:

In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications — which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist — urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson's chief executive, Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain's request "comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process" and "could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission's deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties."

McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company's jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.

In short, McCain intervened with federal regulators on behalf of a major campaign contributor — exactly the same as he did for Charles Keating a decade earlier. That contributor was represented on Capitol Hill by Vicki Iseman. The New York Times article coyly hints that, in McCain's confrontation with aides over his frequent association with Iseman, he "acknowledged behaving inappropriately" with Iseman. The tenor of the surrounding paragraphs implies that the impropriety was a personal one, but Libby Quaid's reporting makes it unambiguously one of quid pro quo influence peddling.

What's more, it's still going on. Today's Washington Post has a front-page story, The Anti-Lobbyist, Advised by Lobbyists, detailing the heavy-hitting lobbyist background of McCain's senior campaign advisors, at least some of whom are donating their time to the campaign.

Preaching fiery sermons of integrity and incorruptibility, while at the same time booking first-class seats on the gravy train, John McCain is the Elmer Gantry of influence peddling.

The illicit-sex angle of this scandal may be a complete red herring. In another post, Mark Kleiman quotes a lengthy comment from a female acquaintance who is very familiar with the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.:

It is equally plausible that the McCain-Iseman relationship played out differently: Iseman has a job to do so she cozys up to the Senator, they have a few drinks with a few telecomm guys. They get to know each other and like each other (think Hillary and McCain drinking vodka together and deciding the other is not so bad) — he likes having a cute young lady around who fawns over him, she likes the access.

Now she's found her "in" and exploits it. He continues to like having her around. Both know theres a flirty kind of thing going on but nothing actually ever happens. She hooks him up with people she knows and the beat goes on.

The staff, however, have a different view. They don't care what the boss is actually doing, they're worried about appearance. So they make their move and get her out of the picture. This is problematic for her because access is what keeps her bosses happy. They want to know why they had him on a jet last week and this week she can't go to the office. ...

I'm just really concerned about automatically attacking a young woman who is successful (albeit in a shady industry) for doing her job, which is to get close to these guys. Now true, perhaps her intellect should be driving this equation, but she probably made the decision that she'll play the cards she's dealt. It's her brain that will get her through the situation, but if her brain in a cute dress is what gets her there, so be it. She has a job to do. This is the system that needs to be attacked, rather than attacking every single female blonde lobbyist in town for being a vamp and determining that they must be sleeping with the guy.

(via Matt Yglesias and TPM Muckraker)

Previously in As I Please:
NY Times: John McCain Possibly Romantically Linked to Lobbyist
NY Times' Adam Nagourney Whitewashes McCain's Campaign Finance Record


Posted by abostick at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2008

NY Times: John McCain Possibly Romantically Linked to Lobbyist

Vicki Iseman
Vicki Iseman
image source: Alcalde & Fay
John McCain, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President, is having a bimbo eruption.

The New York Times reports that Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, had been often seen with John McCain in the runup to his 2000 presidential campaign, visiting him in his offices, turning up at fund-raisers, traveling with him in corporate jets provided by her clients. The frequency of Iseman's presence with McCain led senior aides to suspect a romantic involvement. They warned Iseman away from McCain, and McCain away from Iseman. The Times reports that in one confrontation between McCain and his aides, McCain "acknowledged behaving inappropriately" with Iseman.

The Washington Post corroborates the story, citing a claim by former McCain aide John Weaver that he met with Iseman and told her to stay away from McCain.

Shortly after the Times broke the story, Iseman's staff biography disappeared from the Web site of Alcade & Fay, Iseman's employer. That biography remains on the Wayback Machine, however.

McCain's response to the story is his usual one to trouble: lying about it. Here is a statement from the McCain campaign:

It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.

Can anyone believe that John McCain would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously? At least some of John McCain's violations of the public trust are a matter of public record. John McCain did some great big favors for Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings & Loan, and if that is not a special interest then the words have no meaning. The second paragraph has a seed of truth, however: Nothing in this story violates any principles that guide McCain's career, for the simple reason that he has none.

You cannot prove a negative. Hard evidence — incriminating photographs, say, or a strand of her pubic hair entangled in a used condom containing his semen — could conceivably indicate that McCain and Iseman had a sexual relationship; but no evidence in the world can show that they have not.

But there is a very simple thing McCain can do that would convince me that there was no such sexual relationship: If he claimed that he and Iseman had slept together, I could trust that he was lying as usual.

Previously in As I Please
Open Letter to Duncan Black
McCain's Baghdad Market Stroll Evokes Memories of the 1980s
NY Times' Adam Nagourney Whitewashes McCain's Campaign Finance Record
Does Possible John Glenn Endorsement Mean Hillary Clinton Prepares to Battle McCain?


Posted by abostick at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

NY Times: John McCain Possibly Romantically Linked to Lobbyist

Vicki Iseman
Vicki Iseman
image source: Alcalde & Fay
John McCain, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President, is having a bimbo eruption.

The New York Times reports that Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, had been often seen with John McCain in the runup to his 2000 presidential campaign, visiting him in his offices, turning up at fund-raisers, traveling with him in corporate jets provided by her clients. The frequency of Iseman's presence with McCain led senior aides to suspect a romantic involvement. They warned Iseman away from McCain, and McCain away from Iseman. The Times reports that in one confrontation between McCain and his aides, McCain "acknowledged behaving inappropriately" with Iseman.

The Washington Post corroborates the story, citing a claim by former McCain aide John Weaver that he met with Iseman and told her to stay away from McCain.

Shortly after the Times broke the story, Iseman's staff biography disappeared from the Web site of Alcade & Fay, Iseman's employer. That biography remains on the Wayback Machine, however.

McCain's response to the story is his usual one to trouble: lying about it. Here is a statement from the McCain campaign:

It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.

Can anyone believe that John McCain would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously? At least some of John McCain's violations of the public trust are a matter of public record. John McCain did some great big favors for Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings & Loan, and if that is not a special interest then the words have no meaning. The second paragraph has a seed of truth, however: Nothing in this story violates any principles that guide McCain's career, for the simple reason that he has none.

You cannot prove a negative. Hard evidence — incriminating photographs, say, or a strand of her pubic hair entangled in a used condom containing his semen — could conceivably indicate that McCain and Iseman had a sexual relationship; but no evidence in the world can show that they have not.

But there is a very simple thing McCain can do that would convince me that there was no such sexual relationship: If he claimed that he and Iseman had slept together, I could trust that he was lying as usual.

Previously in As I Please
Open Letter to Duncan Black
McCain's Baghdad Market Stroll Evokes Memories of the 1980s
NY Times' Adam Nagourney Whitewashes McCain's Campaign Finance Record
Does Possible John Glenn Endorsement Mean Hillary Clinton Prepares to Battle McCain?


Posted by abostick at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2008

Did Maureen Dowd Mistake a Journalist for Michelle Obama?

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, roundly despised for the vapidity of her high-school-clique political journalism, is at the middle of a controversy about mistaken identity involving Dowd, another reporter, and Michelle Obama (wife of presidential candidate Barack Obama):

It all started when Michelle Henery, a columnist for the Times of London, penned a story about her experience in the press room after last week's Democratic debate in Los Angeles.

Henery, who is African-American, wrote that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "one of my journalistic heroes," approached her, "greeting me like a long-lost friend." Henery was flattered and shocked until "Maureen's sweet smile turned into embarrassed confusion and she scampered off."

The next day, Henery says she e-mailed her friends, who told her that Dowd must have confused her with Michelle Obama, the wife of presidential contender Barack Obama.

Dowd insists that this never happened. She has complained to the Times, and Henery's column has been removed from the Times' Web site.

Is Henery making the story up out of whole cloth? Did she mistake some other red-headed press corps Spite Girl for Dowd? Or is it the case that the Queen of Mean can dish it out but cannot take it, and is covering up her faux pas with a temper tantrum?

It's hard to tell whom to believe. On the one hand, Dowd insists she wasn't where Henery says she was — but Dowd has a past history of lying about where she has been. On the other hand, Henery describes Dowd as "one of [her] journalistic heroes." How can you take her seriously when her judgment is so egregiously bad?

(via Avedon Carol)


Posted by abostick at 09:04 AM | Comments (3)

January 18, 2008

Anti-Gay Bigot Wins Young-Adult Fiction Award

The Young Adult Library Services Association has awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award to Orson Scott Card. Card publicly advocates the jailing of gay-rights activists.

According to School Library Journal, which sponsors the award, the specific body of work for which Card is cited — his novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow — do not explicitly reflect Card's views on homosexuality. Nevertheless, critics say that his public record of homophobia should have been a factor in the award jury's deliberations. David Levithan, author of gay-themed YA literature says:

“I would like to believe that the Edwards committee would not have honored someone who had written essays that were as racist or as anti-Semitic as Card’s are anti-gay. The charter of the Edwards award says that it “recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world”—I think Card’s writings on homosexuality do the exact opposite of that.”

Anti-gay essays aside, one has to wonder what the award jury was thinking. The moral underpinnings of Ender's Game, in which the intent of the actor outweighs morally the outcome of the action, may well be important in terms of understanding how America as a culture can kill half a million Iraqis in order to bring them freedom and democracy. But recognizing the widespread impact of an evil idea is not the same as celebrating its goodness.

(via Farah Mendlesohn)

Posted by abostick at 11:56 AM | Comments (2)

January 10, 2008

Howto: Hack a Diebold Voting Machine

The gap between polling and voting results in New Hampshire last Tuesday has suddenly made this picture more topical. Why settle for making just your own vote count?

How to Hack a Diebold Voting Machine
How to Hack a Diebold Voting Machine
Originally uploaded by joshillustrates.

Posted by abostick at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2008

New Jersey Legislator Says US Blacks Should Thank the Lord for Slavery

Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican member of the New Jersey state assembly, says that African-Americans should be thankful for slavery:

[I]f slavery was the price that a modern American's ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one's knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid.

Carroll made these remarks in expressing his opposition to a bill before the assembly that if passed would make New Jersey the first northern state to express apology for the institution of slavery. Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia have passed similar apology bills, and another is being considered by the Georgia legislature.

Yes, thank the Lord for slavery, without which it wouldn't be true that in California a black man is more likely to go to prison than to a state college. Those poor bastards who died in shackles in the Middle Passage were just unlucky. Jim Crow, segregation, lynchings, drugs in the ghetto — Praise Jesus!

(via Mary Shaw)

Posted by abostick at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2008

RIAA: Nodding and Grooving While Wearing Headphones is Piracy

IPod-listeners beware. The Recording Industry Association of America aims to stamp out piracy.

The RIAA is taking the position, in its suits against alleged file-sharers, that making personal copies of music CDs onto one's own computer hard drive is unlawful. But sources close to the recording industry have revealed to As I Please's team of investigative reporters the next front soon to be opened in the RIAA's war against piracy: grooving to music in public.

Is this music piracy?
Is this music piracy?
"When you're listening to an iPod through headphones, and you nod your head in time to the music, that's an unauthorized reproduction of the performance," says one industry expert. "That's just as much piracy as hoodlums selling bootleg copies of CDs on street corners."

Some industry observers say that a music pirate on a subway, city bus, or even just walking down the street, must actually sing along or at least hum the tune for infringement, or "pirate performance" to take place.

But the RIAA holds that anyone who grooves to headphone music even silently is a pirate performer. "That's stolen music in the first place," says one source. "Even if the courts holds that some pirate performance is not music theft — and no court has yet said that it is not — the sort of scum who engages in pirate performance is in all probability grooving to stolen music in the first place. It's prima facie evidence of piracy. It's probable cause for police investigation."

Asked if cracking down on subway music listeners might be seen by the public at large as unfairly targeting people of specific cultural backgrounds, the source responded, "The RIAA has a zero-tolerance policy towards piracy. The problem keeps growing. We need to get the message out to the public: Pirates aren't cool. Piracy sucks."

Posted by abostick at 01:39 PM | Comments (5)

July 29, 2007

Where White House Bipartisanship Comes From

What does it take to get the Bush Administration to reach out to congressional Democrats on matters of foreign policy?

As Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report tells us, Bush will do it when the Saudis order him to do it:

The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq. ... The Saudis had requested that Congress be told about the planned sale, the officials said, in an effort to avoid the kind of bruising fight on Capitol Hill that occurred in the 1980s over proposed arms sales to the kingdom.
Posted by abostick at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007

Weekly World News to Cease Publication Next Month

Weekly World News Batboy Steals Car
image source: Wikipedia
It is a sad day in the annals of American journalism: Tabloid publisher American Media, Inc., is ceasing publication of the Weekly World News. The paper's final issue will come out next month.

The Weekly World News shunned the usual tabloid fare of celebrity gossip. Instead, it focused upon the weird, the bizarre, the fake. Although somebody somewhere believed its accounts of the Batboy, half-human, half-bat, found in a cave as an infant, or of the presence of aliens in the Clinton-era congress, it was clearly not intended to be taken seriously. Hipsters would pass copies around at parties and solemnly declare how the WWN was an important beta-tester of every new version of Adobe Photoshop.

American Media's reasons for closing down the paper are not clear. Some people point to declining circulation; others cite AMI's more general financial difficulties. But as Paul Krassner famously said about his satire zine The Realist, it's tough to come up with plausible satire in a world where Spiro Agnew regularly makes the headlines; and it is especially tough to publish a paper full of preposterous news when anyone with an appetite for falsehood simply need to tune to Fox News or read Matt Drudge on the Web.

(via Scott McLemee at Crooked Timber)

Posted by abostick at 01:29 PM | Comments (1)

July 24, 2007

Congress Has the Power to Arrest, Imprison Those Who Defy Subpoenas

While the criminal gang of hoodlums and thieves known throughout the underworld as the "Bush Administration" express their literal contempt of Congress by claiming that the legal offices held by some of its members renders the gang immune to prosecution or even subpoena, the fact remains that Congress has the legal power and the legal resources to arrest and detain gang members who defy congressional orders to testify before congressional committees:

Yet under historic and undisturbed law, Congress can enforce its own orders against recalcitrant witnesses without involving the executive branch and without leaving open the possibility of presidential pardon.

And a Supreme Court majority would find it hard to object in the face of two entrenched legal principles.

That's Prof. Frank Askin, who teaches at the Rutgers University School of Law and is director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post.

Askin reminds us that:

  • Apart from requesting assistance from the US Attorney to prosecute those who defy Congressional subpoenas for contempt of Congress, the sargeants-at-arms of both the House of representatives and the Senate have the lawful power to arrest and detain those who defy those subpoenas.
  • This power has been upheld again and again by the Supreme Court.
  • The power of pardon constitutionally alotted to whomever holds the office of President of the United States does not extend to civil contempt. The President has no lawful authority to compel the release of a person arrested by Congress for defying a Congressional subpoena.

It is high time that Congress used this lawful power to enforce its subpoenas of those gangsters who infest the Executive Branch.

(via David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo)

Posted by abostick at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

SF Chronicle Writer Doesn't Know Dick About Porn

Jim Mitchell died of apparent heart failure last Thursday. He and his brother Artie comprised the Mitchell Brothers, San Francisco's reigning sex impresarios and pornographers. As such they were key figures in the city's history, from the late 1960s through the '90s, when Jim Mitchell shot his brother to death in 1991, and served a three-year sentence on a manslaughter charge. The murder and subsequent sensational trial was the climax of a rich and colorful history at the intersection of sex, commerce, law enforcement, the counterculture, and local politics.

Steven Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle looks back today at the Mitchell Brothers' history and legacy. He doesn't seem to like that history and legacy, and peppers his brief history with wags of his finger about the alleged social harm caused by pornography, both in the Mitchells' heyday and as available now over the Internet. But he gets his facts wrong:

Now, in a digital age where Eros has become irreversibly virtual on the Internet, Mitchell's death punctuates the end of an era that he long outlived. Today's aspiring versions of the Mitchell Brothers wouldn't dream of investing in urban real estate or relishing public dustups with local politicians. They'd be operating under the radar, selling their Web wares from some garage in Bakersfield or a back bedroom in Fresno.

Aspiring sex impresarios don't invest in urban real estate? Someone should tell's Peter Acworth about it. Far from flying under the radar, Acworth purchased the San Francisco Armory, on Mission Street, last January and is using the space for video production for his erotic Internet empire. The purchase even included . Come on, reporters are supposed to have a clue about what happens in their town, aren't they?

That was Winn's second paragraph in which he made this egregious error of substance. It's hard to take seriously the rest of his fingerwagging and tut-tutting of the contemporary porn business when he shows so quickly that he obviously doesn't have a clue about its workings.

If you are interested in the remarkable history of Jim and Artie Mitchell's empire of commercial sex, I recommend David McCumber's book, X Rated: The Mitchell Brothers: A True Story of Sex, Money, and Death (Simon & Schuster, 1992), which covers Mitchell Brothers' story from their beginnings in Antioch, California, building their empire in San Francisco in the '60s and 70s, through the killing of Artie Mitchell and Jim Mitchell's subsequent trial.

July 10, 2007

Nebraska Governor's Censorship Endangers Nebraskans' Lives

Violet Blue calls our attention to how Nebraska's Republican governor Dave Heineman is putting his constituents' lives in jeopardy by silencing the Nebraska state health agency on matters of sexual health.

JoAnne Young of the Lincoln Journal Star reports that Heineman has muzzled the state Health and Human Services System, prohibiting it from using the words "sex" or "sexual," or including any "controversial content" in any public communication. All contraception is controversial, apparently. So is any mention that sexually-transmitted diseases are transmitted sexually. Apparently, unlucky Nebraskans are touched by the magic wand of the Chlamydia Fairy, at least insofar as the HHSS is able to communicate about the transmission of chlamydia.

Blue quotes from an email she received from a Nebraska Planned Parenthood worker:

My job as an sex educator is solely prevention and information. EVERY SINGLE DAY I talk to teens who are hurt physically and emotionally by the withholding of vital sexual health information. I have kids cry in my office because their parents, teachers, or other caregivers NEVER talked to them honestly about sex or healthy relationships. By the time one student made it to my office, she had two pregnancies, one of which was terminated because her much older boyfriend threw her down the stairs at 7 months pregnant. The other, a miscarriage at the age of 13...too afraid to tell anyone she bled profusely by herself. The mentor who brought her into my office later reported to me that she actually jumped up and down because she finally, FINALLY, had the sex talk with someone. This information served a good purpose, but how would her life been different if it had occurred years earlier????

Gov. Heineman asserts that his policy is motivated by his "pro-life" values. He asserts that Nebraska is a "pro-life state." His policy, however, jeopardizing citizen's lives by withholding from them information about life-and-death matters of public health, is more accurately described as "pro-death."

Posted by abostick at 08:28 PM | Comments (1)

DOJ Attorney Speaks Out Against Corruption in His Department

John S. Koppel, a civil appellate attorney who has worked for the Department of Justice since 1981, wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post last week that is a scathing denunciation of the Gonzales DOJ:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.

Koppel is singularly aware of the risk he is taking:

I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

John S. Koppel is a hero. We need more people like him, both in public service and in the public at large.

Posted by abostick at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2007

Moonbats All Over Are Linking Universal Health Care to Terrorism

The reaction to Michael Moore's film Sicko must be scaring the guy at the keyboard of the Mighty Wurlitzer. All of a sudden wingnuts are popping up echoing the talking point that universal health care coverage fosters Islamic terrorism.

Here's Fox News' Neil Cavuto querying Jerry Bowyer, a flesh-and-blood sockpuppet manipulated by the hand of Richard Mellon Scaife:

Josh Marshall is on the case. He has found the talking point being flogged on MSNBC and in the New York Sun as well.

Of course, the link between national health care and terrorism is about as substantial as the case for sending US troops to fight the insurgency in Narnia. But that doesn't stop the Right-Wing Noise Machine. It's only a matter of time before talk radio hosts and Matt Drudge join the noisome chorus.

Posted by abostick at 04:26 PM | Comments (2)

July 04, 2007

Sicko Galvanizes Audiences to Activism

A spectre is haunting movie theaters — the spectre of Michael Moore's Sicko.

Cinema Blend's Josh Tyler went to a theater in a suburban Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex mall to view Moore's documentary about the state of health care in the United States. When the film was over, this is what he found in the lobby:

[T]he theater was in chaos. The entire Sicko audience had somehow formed an impromptu town hall meeting in front of the ladies room. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is Texas goddammit, not France or some liberal college campus. But here these people were, complete strangers from every walk of life talking excitedly about the movie. It was as if they simply couldn’t go home without doing something drastic about what they’d just seen. My redneck compadre and his new friend found their wives at the center of the group, while I lingered in the background waiting for my spouse to emerge.

The talk gradually centered around a core of 10 or 12 strangers in a cluster while the rest of us stood around them listening intently to this thing that seemed to be happening out of nowhere. The black gentleman engaged by my redneck in the restroom shouted for everyone’s attention. The conversation stopped instantly as all eyes in this group of 30 or 40 people were now on him. “If we just see this and do nothing about it,” he said, “then what’s the point? Something has to change.” There was silence, then the redneck’s wife started calling for email addresses. Suddenly everyone was scribbling down everyone else’s email, promising to get together and do something… though no one seemed to know quite what. It was as if I’d just stepped into the world’s most bizarre protest rally, except instead of hippies the group was comprised of men and women of every age, skin color, income, and walk of life coming together on something that had shaken them deeply, and to the core.

In all my thirty years on this earth, I have never ever seen any movie have this kind of unifying effect on people. It was like I was standing there, at the birth of a new political movement. Even after 9/11, there was never a reaction like this, at least not in Texas. If Sicko truly has this sort of power, then Michael Moore has done something beyond amazing. If it can change people, affect people like this in the conservative hotbed of Texas, then Sicko isn’t just a great movie, seeing it may be one of the most important things you do all year.

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by abostick at 10:46 AM | Comments (4)

July 03, 2007

Gordon Brown Makes His Saving Throw

Lynn Kendall views Friday morning's bombing attempts in the UK through the lens of role-playing games:

Gamemaster Karl Rove, "Gordon is the new PM in Britain. How do you react?"

Several players confer. "We bomb him! We've got a couple of Drummer Girl car bombs — Mercedes packed with explosives. And, uh, an SUV we can set on fire."

Gordon comes to table, balancing several rulebooks, a pint of Guinness, and a plate of munchies, and whines, "I say, fellows, that's not cricket. I haven't even had a chance to finish rolling for power, status, and charm."

Terrorist gives him a long, disbelieving look. "Why are you talking like Bertie Wooster?"

"Weel, I'm trying me best. Taking lessons in deportment and eeelocution from some Sassenach. He said I should try to talk like Hugh Grant looks. Vapidly English, ye ken."

Terrorists laugh so hard one of them chokes on a Twinkie and has to be pounded on the back.

Gamemaster sighs loudly. "Well, Mr. Prime Minister, *sir*, don't worry about rolling for charm. This is a guaranteed way to get a lot of approval points fast. Just don't piss them away like Dubya there."

Dubya, drunkenly waving a whiskey bottle, "I'm a Paladin! Anything I do is right! Anybody doesn't approve, they must be the Ack-ack-axis of Evil."

Everyone ignores him.

The GM says, "To get back to reality, guys, Gordon needs to roll for damage. Roll three D20s."

"Yes! Yes! Total of four, you terrorist bastards! Hah, see what you get for attacking the British lion!"

Rove consults a chart. "Sorry, boys, your Mercedes car bombs don't make it. One gets towed, and the other is discovered and disarmed. But the SUV...."

Terrorists hold their breath.

"The SUV doesn't explode on impact, and when you set it on fire, you're caught and arrested. Now roll for damages from the flames."

Posted by abostick at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

Bill O'Reilly Warns Nation of Lesbian Gangs

Did Bill O'Reilly mistake porn video director Winkytiki's magnum opus, The Rebelle Rousers [NSFW] for cinema veritι journalism? Or has he been smoking the stuff they sell in Amsterdam's "coffeeshops"? (For the record, I didn't see him there.)

Watch this video of O'Reilly on Fox News on June 21. It defies description. Tom Tomorrow does a yeoman's job of trying:

The things I learn from Bill O’Reilly

The new menace sweeping the nation is Lesbian Gangs which force unwitting teenagers into lesbian sex by threatening them with pink 9mm Glocks.

The preceeding sentence was not a satire of Bill O’Reilly, but rather, an accurate summary of the report I just watched.

(via Violet Blue)

Posted by abostick at 09:03 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2007

Why Has Sonoma County Water Agency Imposed Water Rationing?

Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle reported last Friday that the Sonoma County Water Agency was imposing a 15% mandatory reduction of water usage by its clients. Other Bay Area water agencies have expressed concern about the reduced snowfall this past winter in the Sierras, but so far have been expressing confidence about not needing to impose rationing this year. (If this coming winter's Sierra snowpack isn't adequate, however, things willl change next year.)

Why is the Sonoma County Water Agency imposing rationing when other water agencies and districts are more confident? Cabanatuan had this to say:

The Sonoma County Water Agency was directed by the State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday to reduce its water diversions from the Russian River by 15 percent to protect the fall spawning of salmon. That order spurred Thursday's restrictions, which will be implemented by individual water districts and other entities that get water from the agency.

While flows in the Russian River are down because of the dry winter, Sonoma's situation is complicated by reduced flows into one of its reservoirs, Lake Mendocino, because of changed federal licensing requirements for a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. hydroelectric power plant upstream.

Notice the tortured syntax of the sentence that makes up the second paragraph of that quote. Cabanatuan doesn't answer the basic questions of who, when, and why. Every journalist should have these drilled into their head early and often in their education and professional life.

Inflow into Lake Mendocino is down? Why? Because "federal licensing requirements" for a PG&E hydroelectric plant have "changed." What are these licensing requirements, how have they changed, and why do they result in less water being available for Lake Mendocino and the SCWA? Who changed them? Why?

In the context of the most corrupt federal administration since the death of Warren G. Harding, journalists should be naturally skeptical of blandly turgid description of federal rules changes that affect people's lives and livelihoods like this. It appears that the sickness in American journalism isn't just evident in the chumminess of the Washington press corps, but at all levels of the news media.

Michael Cabanatuan should drop what he is doing and read Ron Fournier's memo to Associated Press staffers and stringers about the imperative for journalists to hold government spinmeisters accountable, dig deeper, ask the next question, and not settle for predigested talking points. Then he should go back and dig deeper into the story of this PG&E hydroelecric plant and its impact on water availability in Sonoma County.

Posted by abostick at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2007

With a Friend Like Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby Needs No Enemies

Can't Paul Wolfowitz do anything right?

Sidney Blumenthal in Salon describes the letter Wolfowitz wrote to US Distict Judge Reggie Walton as a character reference for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Walton was about to sentence Libby after the vice-presidential aide's conviction for perjury and obstruction of the investigation of the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Wolfowitz's letter is a prosecutor's dream, providing evidence that Libby knew that Plame would be in danger if her cover was blown, and that blowing her cover would in fact be a crime, notwithstanding Libby's protestations of ignorance in the trial.

Quoth Blumenthal:

According to Wolfowitz's account, Libby was an indispensable man in ending the Cold War, winning the Gulf War and waging the "global war on terror." But he was also, Wolfowitz writes, of "service to individuals."

The leading example he offers is a stunning revelation, which does not reflect on Libby's charity, compassion and sympathy as Wolfowitz might imagine. The story about Libby "involves his effort to persuade a newspaper not to publish information that would have endangered the life of a covert CIA agent working overseas. Late into the evening, long after most others had left the matter to be dealt with the next day, Mr. Libby worked to collect the information that was needed to persuade the editor not to run the story."

Unintentionally and foolishly, Wolfowitz has hanged the guilty man again. Wolfowitz's defense of Libby is composed with the same care and skill that Wolfowitz brought to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, creating the opposite effects of what he desired. In this bizarre disclosure, rather than exculpating Libby, Wolfowitz incriminates him; for this story is damning evidence of Libby's state of mind — that he knew he was engaged in wrongdoing in leaking the identity of a CIA covert operative, Valerie Plame Wilson, to two reporters, Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine, and in vouchsafing it to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer for the purpose of his leaking it to the press, which he promptly did. ...

If Wolfowitz remembers the story, and it's credible, so Libby must recall it too. Therefore, he must also have known that his defense was based on false premises contrary to what he understood to be right and how he had acted in the past. He sent his attorneys to court to make a case he consciously knew was wrong from his own prior experience of having protected a national security asset from exposure. One can only wonder if Libby ever told his lawyers the story that Wolfowitz has recounted or whether he misled them, too.

In science fiction fandom, we call this sort of thing "Gerberization," after Les Gerber, a fan active in the 1950s and 60s:

In his early teens, in the pages of CRY OF THE NAMELESS, Les defended someone so ineptly and to such excess that "to Gerberize" became the fannish verb defining this practice while "to be Gerberized" meant having the practice performed on you.

Poor Scooter Libby: Paul Wolfowitz thoroughly Gerberized him. With a friend like that, who needs enemies?

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 05:04 PM | Comments (10)

June 13, 2007

NBC Video Shows Bush Removing Own Watch

A video on YouTube from NBC shows Bush's disappearing watch "disappearing" into his own pocket.

This Reuters page has the original video plus some stills at the end showing Bush putting the watch in his shirt pocket. The accompanying text story, though, says, Photographs showed Bush, surrounded by five bodyguards, putting his hands behind his back so one of the bodyguards could remove his watch.

They still can't get their story straight.

Posted by abostick at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2007

Bush's Watch Stolen in Albanian Crowd?

George W. Bush, flanked by Secret Service agents, worked the crowd at a public appearance in Albania. Fifty seconds into this video from Albanian broadcast news, we can see the watch on Bush's left wrist. A few moments later, surrounded by a forest of hands, he glances downward. Moments after that, his left wrist is bare.

Here, on a Dutch-language page, is a version of the video that is crisper than the crappy one from YouTube, and it also draws helpful circles showing the watch on Bush's wrist before and the bare wrist after.

(YouTube video via Kieran Healy; Dutch video via Mark Frauenfelder)

Update: Bruce Schneier writes about both the apparent theft and the various denials that the Bush camp is making: Bush put his arm behind him so a bodyguard could remove it. The watch fell to the ground and was recovered by a bodyguard. Bush took it off himself.

Nothing is proven — it isn't even clear that the watch was stolen — but the experience of various members of the Bush Administration not being able to get its story straight is a familiar one.

Update #2: Another video has emerged showing Bush taking the watch off himself.

Posted by abostick at 10:52 AM | Comments (4)

June 01, 2007

Hate Group that Triggered LiveJournal's Moral Panic Has Ties to Terrorist Organizations

Warriors for Innocence, the group that goaded Six Apart managment into a moral panic over LiveJournal, indiscriminately canceling user accounts, turns out to be a Dominionist hate group with ties to Joel's Army and other Christian Patriot terrorists such as Eric Rudolph.

Dear Barak Berkowitz: Hate groups like Warriors for Innocence are explicitly barred by LiveJournal terms of service. Why are you letting them dictate LiveJournal policy to Six Apart? Apology aside, what action are you taking to prevent something like this from happening again?

(via Zillah975)

Posted by abostick at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2007

MacArthur Maze Reopened

MacArthur Maze reopened 8;40 PM 5/24/07
The connector from eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 that had collapsed in a tanker truck fire on April 29 was reopened yesterday at 8:40 PM PDT yesterday.

Our own true Patti Beadles reports that in the runup to the reopening of the span of freeway connector, traffic leaving San Francisco to cross the Bay Bridge came to a standstill while Caltrans workers uncovered the signs that had been covered while the section of the Maze was closed. All is well that ends well, however.

The re-opening of the MacArthur Maze means that contractor C.C. Myers will earn the full $5 million incentive bonus offereed by Caltrans. Myers' lowball bid was a bet that he could earn enough of the incentive to cover the construction costs. Myers' total payment will be more than $5.8 million; it is estimated that Myers' costs were in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.

Posted by abostick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2007

Bush's Secret Plans for Massive Escalation in Iraq

Hearst Newspapers' Stewart M. Powell is reporting that the Bush Administration is developing plans to double the number of combat troops in Iraq by December:

Bush could double force by Christmas

Stewart M. Powell, Hearst Newspapers Tuesday, May 22, 2007

05-22) 04:00 PDT Washington — The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

This additional escalation in boots on the ground in Iraq, despite the current overextension of American armed forces, will be obtained by further extensions of duty tours by currently deployed units and overlapping the tours of duty of the units rotated in to take their place. This approach to extending combat manpower is the moral equivalent of a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart juicing its cash flow by delaying payments to its creditors — who have no recourse if they wish to continue doing business with the giant customer on whom their own livelihood depends. It would be the moral equivalent, that is, if it weren't for the fact that more boots on the ground in Iraq means more American deaths for no good purpose except perhaps to gratify the President's ego.

Posted by abostick at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

Worst. President. Evar.

Quoth the Associated Press:

Carter: Bush 'Worst' in World Relations

Saturday, May 19, 2007
(05-19) 12:29 PDT Little Rock, Ark. (AP) --
Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Posted by abostick at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2007

MacArthur Maze Repaired Before Memorial Day?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that C.C. Myers' construction company claims that it will complete repairs some time next week on the span of freeway connector in the MacArthur Maze that melted away in a tanker-truck fire on April 29.

C.C. Myers made a lowball bid on the contract, apparently intending to cover its expenses by finishing well before the target date of June 27 and collecting the $5 million maximum incentive payment. The company bid $867,075 on the contract. Finishing any time on or before June 2 will earn the maximum incentive.

Caltrans' own engineers had estimated that the freeway repair would cost $5.2 million, and they had allocated $20 million for the project.

Wow. I'm impressed.

Posted by abostick at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2007

James Comey's Testimony Limns Presidential Felonies

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in its investigation of the growing scandal at the Department of Justice. Comey's testimony shed new light on yet another scandal that has been sitting on the back burner for years now: illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping by the National Security Agency at the direction of the Bush Administration.

By now all political junkies know about the dramatic bedside scene at George Washington Hospital where then-Attorney General John Ashcroft lay ill and under sedation. Comey testified that he and FBI Director Robert Mueller raced to the hospital to fend off Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, who were on their way to secure Ashcroft's signature on a document that almost certainly was the finding that the NSA eavesdropping program was legal. Comey got there first and held the fort until Mueller arrived. When Gonzales and Card got there, Ashcroft roused himself from his stupor to tell the White House staffers where they could put that unsigned document.

But the drama appears to be distracting people from the real issue. Here's how Glenn Greenwald puts it:

Amazingly, the President's own political appointees — the two top Justice Department officials, including one (Ashcroft) who was known for his "aggressive" use of law enforcement powers in the name of fighting terrorism and at the expense of civil liberties — were so convinced of [the NSA eavesdropping program's] illegality that they refused to certify it and were preparing, along with numerous other top DOJ officials, to resign en masse once they learned that the program would continue notwithstanding the President's knowledge that it was illegal.

The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law. [emphasis in the original]

Greenwald and Josh Marshall are the go-to guys for this story. Go to them and read all about it.

Posted by abostick at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007

The Transmigration of Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell is dead, alas.
Let's all queue up to shake God's hand.

(with apologies to Michael Bishop)

Posted by abostick at 07:44 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2007

Pasadena Newspaper Outsources Political Reporting to India

PasadenaNow, a Web-only newspaper that covers local news in the city of Pasadena, California, placed an ad on the Bangalore, India, version of Craigslist: "We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA."

PasadenaNow's editor and publisher, James Macpherson, claims that intercontinental reporting of local Pasadena politics is possible because webcasts of city council meetings are now available over the Internet. "Whether you're at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you're still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview," he tells AP's Justin Pritchard.

The move represents a new threat to professional journalists, already beset on on one side from the tide of independent bloggers that some people might think make traditional reporting and punditry irrelevant, and on the other from the collapse of newspaper advertising revenues lost to online markets such as Craigslist.

It's hard to imagine how a remote journalist can cover the nuances of community politics. It would be tough to recognize when a city councilmember was skating around a local hot-button topic unless one had a good grounding in those hot-button topics. How would you cope with a press conference?

On the other hand, it would be truly sweet to see the look on David Broder's face as he learned his position was being outsourced to Bangalore.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2007

College Women Regret Titillating Picture, Steal Newspapers

Two women who attend at Framingham State College, in Massachusetts, are accused of stealing copies of the Gatepost, the school's student newspaper, allegedly because a color photograph on the front page made them look fat.

Framingham women cheer their team at a lacrosse match
Chris Calzolaio/The Gatepost

The seven women wore brief tanktops and short pants, and had letters and signs painted on their bare bellies that spelled out "I (heart) N O O N A N." Noonan is the name of a player on the FSC women's lacrosse team whom the seven women were cheering on.

The picture appeared on the front page of Gatepost. Not long after that, copies of the paper began disappearing from racks.

The paper's faculty advisor, English professor Desmond McCarthy, says that students told him that women in the photograph thought it made them look fat. The Associated Press story has a quote from one of the two perpetrators, 18-year-old freshman Jennifer Carsillo, but does not directly quote her about her motivation. The other perpetrator is unidentified.

The paper's editor claims that a thousand copies were stolen; both McCarthy and Carsillo claim that fewer than two hundred copies were taken. Carsillo claims she returned the stolen papers to the campus police.

There's a lot to be said about fat-phobia here, whether this was the perpetrators' actual motivation or one that gossip has ascribed to them. At the same time, I just can't let go of Garance Franke-Ruta and the Kennedy doctrine of female regret. Evidently 18-year-old college women can regret the consequences of having their bare-bellied pictures taken at a sporting event, just as they can those of having pictures of their bare breasts taken at spring break. Raising the age of consent to participate in erotic photography is not enough. What do you think, Garance — should all photography of women under 21 who are not wearing modest dress be banned?

(via Joe Decker)

Posted by abostick at 03:19 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2007

Garance Franke-Ruta: The Final Smackdown

The incomparable Digby gives Garance Franke-Ruta the coup de grβce:

Anyway, what jumped out at me when I read Garance's piece a few days ago was that it was the second time in the last month or so that I've heard the same startling rationale used in an argument about women's rights: that some women come to regret their decisions after they make them so all women must be protected from that possibility. The earlier version of this argument, of course, was in Anthony Kennedy's opinion in the "partial-birth" abortion case.

There is some good that can come out of this whole experience: it ought to give Franke-Ruta an intimate understanding of what it means to come to deeply regret a foolish indiscretion.

Posted by abostick at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

Garance Franke-Ruta: Misguided, Dishonest, and Wrong

Garance Franke-Ruta forgets the first rule of getting out of a hole one has dug oneself into: Stop digging!

She continues to defend her pathologically stupid proposal to raise the age of consent for erotic performance to 21 in a post at Tapped with the deeply ironic title "The Self-Correcting Blogosphere":

Current law does not punish those who are under 18 who participate in porn or streak at their high school football games (except to the extent they get fined for public indecency), and there would be no legal justification for punishing older teens who do so, either, in the unlikely event the age limit for participating in porn were raised.

I guess Tapped, the official blog of The American Prospect, does not have a fact-checker on staff. It didn't take very long for the "self-correcting blogosphere" to correct Franke-Ruta: Current law does indeed punish minors who participate in porn. Atrios posted examples of such prosecutions in recent news, and so did commenter rea at Matthew Yglesias's blog.

The same corrections of this fundamental error of fact that is crucial to Franke-Ruta's argument also appeared over and over again in the comments to her post at Tapped. Franke-Ruta replied to some of her commenters; but she studiously avoided either printing a retraction or acknowledging the fundamental error of fact in her response in the comments.

Franke-Ruta is not the stereotypical blogger in a bathrobe; she is a professional journalist, an editor at The American Prospect. Professional journalists should be held to professional standards, like checking one's facts before publishing, and correcting one's facts afterwards.

(NB: Ordinarily, I don't explain my references and jokes, but I think I ought to now: The title of this post is intended to echo the title of Gayle Rubin's essay "Misguided, Dangerous and Wrong: an Analysis of Anti-pornography Politics," originally written in 1986 and included in the book Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures: The Challenge to Reclaim Feminism, Alison Assiter and Avedon Carol, eds., Pluto Press, 1993. I am not a newcomer to the feminist examination of pornography; the immediate evidence suggests that I'm rather more familiar with it than is Franke-Ruta.)

Posted by abostick at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2007

One Macarthur Maze Connector Reopens

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the connector from the westbound Eastshore Freeway (I-80) to the southbound Nimitz Freeway (I-880) reopened at 4:30 AM PDT this morning. The connector was damaged in the tanker truck fire early on Sunday, April 29.

The connector that takes eastbound traffic off the Bay Bridge to the MacArthur Freeway (I-80 E to I-580 E) is still closed, and is expected to remain so unti roughly June 29.

Posted by abostick at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2007

Law Firm Withdraws Job Offer to AutoAdmit Officer

Amir Efrati at the Law Blog reports that law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge has withdrawn its offer of a post-graduation job to third-year law student Anthony Ciolli as a response to Ciolli's unapologetic involvement with, an online forum for law students.

AutoAdmit gained notoriety when the Washington Post reported that a number of woman law students couldn't find legal work after being named and had photos posted in AutoAdmit, apparently without their consent.

It turned out that the unmoderated discussion boards at AutoAdmit were a cesspit of antisemitism, racism, and sexism and misogyny. When confronted with this fact, neither its founder Jarret Cohen nor Ciolli (the site's "education director") would act in response, citing free speech concerns.

Jill Filipovic of Feministe, a law student herself, was named and harassed on AutoAdmit; and when she protested publicly she became identified by the site's posters as their public enemy, and a regular target for their vitriol.

Filipovic looms so large as a nemesis in the minds of the members of the AutoAdmit community that Ciolli blames the loss of his job offer on her:

My impression from the phone conversation was that this was the chronology:

1) Jill Filipovic from Feministe tells WSJ that I worked at EAP&D

2) WSJ reporter calls EAP&D, and the firm says I had my offer rescinded.

3) WSJ reporter emails me saying they’re going to run a story on it tomorrow.

Believe me, the last thing I wanted was this to be public. I just want to be left alone.

Filipovic denies any involvement with either the Wall Street Journal or Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge. She says flatly that she took no steps to get him fired.

Even Chris Locke acted to take down the Mean Kids and Bob's Yer Uncle sites when the commenters got out of hand. Ciolli's and Cohen's desperate invocations of free speech don't hold any water. There are consequences to willfully giving hate a garden in which to grow. Losing a job at a prestigious law firm is naturally one of them.

True to form, the flying monkeys of AutoAdmit have been flinging their feces anonymously into the comments at the WSJ Law Blog entry with the story.

Anthony Ciolli showed extraordinarily poor judgment in his involvement with, and the loss of his job offer is the well-deserved result of his poor judgment.

(via Lindsay Beyerstein)

Posted by abostick at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2007

Should We Raise the Age of Consent for Naked Pictures to 21?

Garance Franke-Ruta advocates that pictures of bare-breasted 20-year-old women be considered child pornography by the law.

To be fair, that is not what she says she wants. But it is the consequence of what she does advocate. (And I mean here the real immediate consequence, not some hypothetical taken to its "logical extreme.")

We let women sign up to join the Army and be killed in Iraq when they are 18 — the ultimate exploitation of their bodies. Why, then, should we stop them from accepting pay for displaying naked pictures at that age?

I have gendered my question, because the context is gendered: Garance Franke-Ruta thinks Girls Gone Wild is icky, and her remedy is to raise the age of consent for commercial erotic performance from 18 to 21.

I think Girls Gone Wild is icky, too, but the remedy is much simpler: Prosecute sleazeball Joe Francis for his failure to comply with 18 USC § 2257. Francis is already breaking the law, he is being prosecuted for breaking the law, and he is very likely to spend time in jail as a result. The law as it stands appears to be working here. Why change it?[1]

18-year-olds can sign obtain credit cards, mobile phones, and student loans under terms which, if they aren't extremely careful, can trap them in what amounts to indentured servitude. (If you are concerned about the sexual exploitation of women, keep in mind how often credit card debt is used to trap women into sexual slavery.)

In the face of the lawfully sanctioned occasion for youthful bad judgment on this scale, bartering an on-camera flash of tit for a baseball cap pales in comparison. And yet, it is the age of consent to flash the tit that Garance-Ruta wishes to raise, not the age of consent to burden oneself with crippling debt.

There's the other side of the transaction to worry about. Franke-Ruta, in her empty-headed ignorance of the consequences of what she proposes, is advocating that pictures of naked twenty-year-olds be deemed child pornography in the eyes of the law. Her ingenuous denial that personal photos would not be affected don't hold water. Child pornography laws do not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial use.

The penalties for breaking child pornography laws are draconian. To be convicted of possession of underaged nude images on one's hard drive is to be branded as a sex offender. The immediate prison sentences are severe, and, unlike lesser offenses such as murder or armed robbery, after a sex offender has served their prison time, they are required for the rest of their life to register with the local police, their names and addresses are published in Megan's Law databases, they get harassing anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night from their neighbors, and so on.

Garance Franke-Ruta's proposal would create with a stroke of a pen a whole new class of targets for the kiddie-porn witch-hunters: anyone possessing a nude picture of someone who is — or merely looks — under 21.

[1] To be fair, I believe 18 USC § 2257 and its implementation are badly broken and are in desperate need of fixing. Judging from her position on age of consent issues, though, I suspect that Franke-Ruta's notions of the fixes needed and mine are not the least bit consistent.

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 03:43 PM | Comments (2)

May 04, 2007

Caltrans Says 50 Days to Reopen Collapsed Freeway

Traffic fire melts MacArthur Maze
Caltrans has announced a plan to repair within 50 days the span of eastbound Interstate 580 that collapsed in a gasoline tanker crash fire early Sunday morning.

The California state transportation agency is soliciting proposals from nine construction companies over the weekend, in an expedited bidding process, and will award the contract on Monday evening.

The firms must repair the collapsed freeway by June 29 or face $200,000 a day in penalties from the state, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, citing what Caltrans director Will Kempton announced at a press conference. But should they finish the work ahead of schedule, they'll earn a $200,000-a-day bonus for each day they were ahead of the deadline.

On Wednesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced that the connector from westbound I-80 to southbound I-880 would reopen in roughly a week. However, the repair work on the I-580 span will require that the I-880 connector be closed from time to time, presumably at night.

Meanwhile, Caltrans has recommended detours around the closed freeway connectors:

East I-80 drivers coming off the Bay Bridge and headed to the Oakland, Hayward or Walnut Creek areas have three alternate routes to bypass the collapsed section of east I-580 and connect farther down the highway to east I-580 and east SR-24:
  • Take south I-880, exit at Broadway-Alameda, stay in the off-ramp's left lane and turn right onto Seventh Street. Continue on Seventh Street and then turn left on Castro Street. Continue on Castro Street to the 12th Street on-ramp to east I-980 to the east I-580 junction.
  • Exit at West Grand Avenue, turn left on Northgate Avenue, enter the on-ramp to east I-580.
  • Take east I-80 and exit at Albany/Buchanan, turn left under freeway, left onto west I-80 and continue to east I-580.

West I-80 drivers coming from Richmond who need to bypass the closed I-80-to-I-880 connector and get on to south I-880 farther down the highway have at least one alternative route:

  • Take east I-580 to west I-980 to south I-880.

Motorists going from the Bay Bridge to eastbound Highway 24 are also taking I-80 to Ashby Avenue ( Highway 13), following Highway 13 past the Claremont Hotel up to Tunnel Road, where it crosses Highway 24. Yesterday I was walking in my neighborhood in mid-afternoon, and saw that at roughly 2:30 PM, eastbound Ashby Avenue was a long, narrow parking lot. The recommended detour must be pretty bad if people think this is a viable alternative.

Posted by abostick at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2007

Los Angeles Police Fire Rubber Bullets Without Provocation at Peaceful Crowd

Officers of the Los Angeles Police Department attacked a peaceful immigration rights rally in MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. Without any apparent provocation, a bullhorn on a police heliciopter ordered the demonstrators to leave the park. Immediately thereafter, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd, and then swept the park and surrounding streets clear of demonstrators, continuing to fire upon the crowd.

ThinkProgress has the video of CNN coverage of the police attack.

Brad Friedman at Brad Blog found this dramatic video, ten minutes long, taken by citizen journalist Jonathan Mann, who was taping the rally before the police moved in, and kept the tape rolling during the melee:

Update: The Peter Pregnaman of the Associated Press reports on the police attack:

Many caught in the melee were journalists.

KTTV reporter Christina Gonzales suffered a separated shoulder, while camerawoman Patti Ballaz had a broken wrist and possibly a broken hand, said Fox Television Stations spokeswoman Erica Keane.

KPCC radio reporter Patricia Nazario said she was hit in the back and ribs with a baton, then hit her head and twisted her ankle while falling from a blow. She described an interaction with an officer who was hitting her.

KCAL-TV cameraman Carl Stein said that his camera was tossed and that he was thrown to the ground.

"I'm sore, and I'm sore about what happened," Stein told viewers. "It was like open season — take a whack, have at it."

(hat tips to Digby and Gramina)

Posted by abostick at 08:16 PM | Comments (1)

DC Madam Scandal Highlights the Ethics of Sex Worker Confidentiality

Jesse Leavenworth at The Hartford Courant interviewed a number of sex worker advocates and former sex workers about the case of Deborah Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam.

The women Leavenworth quoted are in agreement: it is appropriate for Palfrey to release her records.

  • "It does impact the trust that is important between clients and sex workers." But revealing clients' identities is "an obvious strategy for sex workers who are criminalized." — Carol Leigh, Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network
  • "I think the woman is alone. This is a very lonely occupation. We deal in a very isolated business and we have very little support, and now her finances have been cut off and she is facing total ruin. ... All I have to say to Deborah Palfrey is, 'Go for it, girl,'" — Robyn Few, Sex Workers Outreach Project U.S.A.
  • Secrecy is important. But the federal government has pushed Palfrey to the edge. "If somebody is out to destroy you, you have to fight back." — Veronica Monet, author of Veronica Monet's Sex Secrets of Escorts

But some people with ties to sex work think Palfrey should have remained silent. Leavenworth finds this quote on the Web:

  • "I know she's probably being swallowed up alive, and a lot of people can't take that weight on their shoulders, but she's naming names and that goes against my principles — I realized I'd sunk my ship, but I wasn't taking anyone with me." — Heidi Fleiss, the "Hollywood Madam," quoted in Radar Online

Because much sex work is illegal in most US jurisdictions, there are no special legal protections for either sex workers or their clients. There are no sex worker shield laws like there are for journalists. No sex worker/client privilege, analogous to attorney/client privilege, exists. While we expect privacy in the bedroom, we don't expect the sanctity of the confessional.

Ought there be? I could argue that by the intimate nature of a sex worker's services, there is an implicit expectation of confidentiality between the sex worker and the client, on a par with the explicit expectation of confidentiality between psychotherapists and their clients. (Therapy and sex work have a lot in common, for example the issues of transference and countertransference.)

At the same time, we aren't talking about an ideal world here where sex work is professionalized and respected; we're talking about the real world, where sex work is marginalized and despised. The system is set up already with a bias in favor of the clients. Sex workers are stigmatized and punished. Their clients, if they have sufficient class status or power, are routinely ignored. (This is clearly classed: Police vice squads routinely operate sting operations against clients of streetwalkers; but have you ever heard of an expensive escort service that turned out to be a front for a vice squad sting?)

In the real world, the deck is stacked against sex workers. Is it ethical for them to resort to desperate measures in the real world that would be unethical in an ideal one?

The ethical questions around a sex worker's client list are by no means clear, neither for the sex worker or for the journalist into whose hands it might fall. I am extremely interested in what someone like Lindsay Beyerstein would have to say about the matter.

(via Melissa Gira at Sexerati [NSFW])

Posted by abostick at 01:28 PM | Comments (2)

April 29, 2007

Tanker Fire Destroys Freeway Interchange, Snarls Bay Area Traffic

Traffic fire melts MacArthur Maze
Early this morning a tanker truck carrying a full load of gasoline crashed in the MacArthur Maze, the freeway interchange in Emeryville, California, where interstate highways 80, 580, and 880 converge at the approaches to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The intense heat from the resulting fire caused portions of one major viaduct to collapse onto another.

Pictures here. Video here and here.

The tanker truck crashed while on the connector from westbound I-80 (the Eastshore Freeway) to southbound I-880 (the Nimitz Freeway). The connector from eastbound I-80 to eastbound I-580 (the MacArthur Freeway) softened and melted from the heat of the fire, draping itself over the Eastshore-to-Nimitz connector.

The driver of the truck was able to walk away and hail a cab that took him to an area hospital for treatment of his burns.

The destruction and blockage of freeway connectors poses a disruption of traffic around the approaches to the Bay Bridge and through Emeryville and Oakland comparable to those caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. The Bay Bridge is open and traffic can get from the East Bay to San Francisco, but major routes through the MacArthur Maze are closed. CalTrans is scrambling to route detours around the severed traffic arteries.

Update: Baconmonkey's video is now available on YouTube:

(hat tips to Lynn Kendall, Nick Mamatas, and baconmonkey)

Posted by abostick at 12:34 PM | Comments (2)

April 28, 2007

English Channel Earthquake Rocks Kent

English Channel magnitude 4.3 earthquake 8:19 AM BST
source: BBC
An earthquake of magnitude 4.3 on the Richter scale centered beneath the English Channel rocked Folkestone, Kent, and parts of southern England this morning at 8:19 AM BST.

4.3 doesn't sound like much to Californians like me, but we live in a place where earthquake tolerance is built into the building codes. The quake damaged structures — chimneys fell and walls were cracked — and disrupted electrical power in the affected area.

Maureen Kincaid Speller lives in Folkestone, and provides an on-the-spot description of her experience:

There are definitely some injuries locally, no word on any fatalities. There is a lot of damage to buildings, with chimneys down and cracks in walls. ... We then went out and started walking round the ward. ... It's like a war zone, or the aftermath of a John Wyndham novel. I went to find as many people as I could that I knew and everyone seems fine, though literally and metaphorically shaken. But the ward has been very badly damaged.

Later in the day, Maureen gives us an update. Lots of fire engines have been brought to Folkestone from surrounding Kent. Many streets are closed, but the closures seem to have been due to fire brigades removing damaged and unstable chimneys.

Posted by abostick at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2007

Among Myriad Scare Stories, Real Terrorism Is Ignored

One of these things is not like the others:

Only one of these, the clinic bombing attempt, represents an actual act of terrorist violence. And it has received minimal coverage in the news.

Quoth zuzu at Feministe:

We saw something similar with the Virginia Tech shooting — the campus police initially dismissed the idea that the gunman would be a danger to anyone else — even though they hadn’t identified or caught him at the time — because they saw a dead woman and just assumed that it was a “domestic incident” and there would be no further violence. Clinic bombings are treated as the equivalent of shrugged-off “domestic incidents” — hey, it’s just violence against women. It’s not like it’s going to affect real people or anything.

(hat tips to Elf Sternberg and Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 10:31 AM | Comments (1)

April 25, 2007

Bush Boogies Down in the Rose Garden

Today is Malaria Awareness Day, and President George W. Bush marked the occasion with a ceremony in the Rose Garden. Performing at the ceremony were Senegalese performers from the West African Dance Troupe. The President and First Lady Laura Bush danced along with the performers. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has posted a series of mindboggling pictures.

George W. Bush Boogies Down

But wait! There's more...! The Huffington Post has the video, ganked from CNN. "It looks like the guy playing him on the Tonight Show," says a CNN commentator.

Yes, these pictures make crystal-clear the truth of what Laura Bush was quoted as saying this morning: No one suffers more than their President and I do."

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 06:21 PM | Comments (2)

April 22, 2007

Fired Prosecutor Probed White-House-Connected Law Firm for Corruption

Arkansas US Attorney Bud Cummins opened a corruption investigation of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's use of law firm Lathrop & Gage to run a chain of satellite state licensing offices in May 2006, reports Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog. In June, he was removed as US Attorney, six months before the big December purge of the US Attorneys by the Department of Justice.

Quoth Brad Blog:

Lathrop & Gage is the powerful firm of Blunt's general counsel, and Bush/Cheney '04's national general counsel, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne.

As BRAD BLOG readers know, Hearne is a top-level White House operative, a very close friend of Karl Rove's, and the co-founder of the currently-back-underground "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR), the mysteriously-funded group behind all of the GOP's phony "voter fraud" claims and the accompanying push for disenfranchising "Voter ID" restrictions at the polling place. (See our Special Coverage page on ACVR scam here...)

The first reports of Cummins's investigation into the Blunt/Lathrop Gage scandal were apparently released in May of 2006. Cummins was removed from his position just afterwards, in June of 2006 — prior to all the other firings which took place later that year on the same day in December.

He was replaced at that point by Karl Rove's personal aide Timothy Griffin.

Brad Blog's source for the information about the probe of Gov. Blunt and Lathrop & Gage is this story in the Springfield (Missouri) Business Journal.

A federal prosecutor opens an investigation of a Republican governor and a law firm with close ties to the Bush White House and Karl Rove. A month later, that prosecutor is gone, replaced by a Rove minion. It may be coincidence. But it has the smell of obstruction of justice, doesn't it? It's worth investigating by the relevant committees. Heck, I'd say it's worth the appointment of a special prosecutor, but don't hold your breath.

I'm surprised this angle of the US Attorney Purge story hasn't gotten more attention.

Posted by abostick at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2007

Poetry Manuscripts Panic Pennsylvania College

Kazim Ali, an instructor at Shippensburg University in central Pennsylvania, left a box of papers beside a campus trash can in front of the building where he taught after work, like he had many times before, so that they could be picked up and recycled. The box contained poetry manuscripts, left over from a contest Ali had judged.

The English department at Shippensburg shares a building with the ROTC program. An alert cadet observed a foreign-looking man leave a suspicious box on campus and drive away in a car with out-of-state license plates. The vigilant defender of American freedom called the local police, who in turn alerted the Pennsylvania state troopers. An emergency was declared, and the campus was shut down and evacuated.

Ali writes:

Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state police came. Because of my recycling buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us safe. ...

At some length several of my faculty colleagues were able to get through to the police and get me on a cell phone where I explained to the university president and then to the state police that the box contained old poetry manuscripts that needed to be recycled. The police officer told me that in the current climate I needed to be more careful about how I behaved. "When I recycle?" I asked.

The university president appreciated my distress about the situation but denied that the call had anything to do with my race or ethnic background. The spokesperson of the university called it an "honest mistake," not referring to the young man from ROTC giving in to his worst instincts and calling the police but referring to me who made the mistake of being dark-skinned and putting my recycling next to the trashcan. ...

What does that community mean to me, a person who has to walk by the ROTC offices every day on my way to my own office just down the hall--who was watched, noted, and reported, all in a days work? Today we gave in willingly and whole-heartedly to a culture of fear and blaming and profiling. It is deemed perfectly appropriate behavior to spy on one another and police one another and report on one another. Such behaviors exist most strongly in closed and undemocratic and fascist societies. ...

My body exists politically in a way I can not prevent. For a moment today, without even knowing it, driving away from campus in my little beetle, exhausted after a day of teaching, listening to Justin Timberlake on the radio, I ceased to be a person when a man I had never met looked straight through me and saw the violence in his own heart.

(via Elise Matthesen)

Posted by abostick at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

The Gun Lobby Should Pay E.J. Dionne to Be a Gun-Control Advocate

Washington Post Op-Ed columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., weighs in on the public debate about guns that has inevitably followed the Virginia Tech killing spree.

Dionne starts off well:

Why do we have the same futile argument every time there is a mass killing?

Advocates of gun control try to open a discussion about whether more reasonable weapons statutes might reduce the number of violent deaths. Opponents of gun control shout "No!" Guns don't kill people, people kill people, they say, and anyway, if everybody were carrying weapons, someone would have taken out the murderer and all would have been fine.

And we do nothing.

Pretty reasonable. His good guys "advocate" and his bad guys "shout," but that falls within the reach of persuasive license.

But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid:

In other spheres, we act reasonably when faced with new problems. When Richard Reid showed that nasty things could be done with shoes on airplanes, airport security started examining shoes. When liquids were seen as a potential danger, we regulated the quantity of liquids we could take on flights. We barred people from carrying weapons onto airliners long ago.

Umm, E.J.? There may be sound reasons for banning carrying guns into airplane cabins (remember how Auric Goldfinger met his demise), but TSA inspections of shoes and prohibitions of liquids on planes are the textbook examples of security theater, braindead restrictions that are all show, doing essentially nothing to enhance actual air travel safety.

Claiming that gun-control laws are the same category of government restriction in the public interest as shoe inspections and liquid bans for air travelers is an argument against gun control, not for it.

Dionne's argument is so lame, so weak, so pathetic, so mindbogglingly stupid that Occam's Razor goes paradoxical: it is easier to believe that Dionne is deliberately making a weak argument to strengthen the other side than it is to believe that a professional journalist is dumb enough to make that argument sincerely. Even at the Washington Post.

Even Fred Hiatt can't be that dumb.

Posted by abostick at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2007

What It's Like to Be Shot At

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has another dynamite post up at Making Light (yes, I know that phrase is redundant) pertaining to the Virginia Tech shooting spree last Monday. It largely consists of lengthy quotes from two other posts. The first, promoted from Making Light's comments is a detailed description of what it takes to be competent to carry a gun, to answer the people who think that arming eighteen-year-olds on a college campus is a safe way to curb campus violence.

The second is by one Libby Spencer, who has no patience with John Derbyshire's macho blustering in which he asserted that the students at Virginia Tech were cowards for not taking out the shooter while he was reloading.

It’s so easy to be brave if you’ve never actually faced down a gunman, Spencer writes. I have. Twice. So I found this fool Derbyshire and his loyal fan’s insipid posts especially offensive. They should keep their adolescent daydreams of glory to themselves until after they’ve looked down the barrel of a gun wielded by a hostile hand. Spencer goes on to describe her experiences at gunpoint.

No one knows what they will do at gunpoint until they find out. John Derbyshire sounds to me like he's imagining himself to be a comic-book hero up against Imperial stormtroopers who can't shoot straight. When the real bullets start flying, it isn't like the comic books.

This happened about fourteen years or so ago.

Debbie and I had been out for a pleasant evening. We hopped on BART and went to the Paramount Theater to watch a classic movie for cheap. As it happened, that night, I was one of the lucky winners of Deco-Win, and my prize was dinner for two at Mexicali Rose. Naturally, after the movie was over we walked twelve blocks to Mexicali Rose to claim my prize. We had a lovely meal. When it was over, it was late enough and we were tired enough not to want to walk all the way back to the BART station, so we chose to take a taxi home instead.

We rode in the cab to the north end of Oakland. The cab turned off of Shattuck Avenue onto our street and pulled over in front of our house. Debbie, in the right-hand seat was paying the driver. I opened the left-hand passenger door, got out, and closed the door. Debbie got out of her side of the cab.

I heard a noise behind me and turned to look. A car heading south on Shattuck had stopped. I heard a loud pop and saw a flash from the car. Without taking time to think, I knew it was gunfire. There was no time to think logically -- what I did do was immediately try to present as small a profile to the shooter as I could, by dropping to the ground, prone, with my feet pointed towards the car with the shooter.

There was more popping. One of the taxi's doors slammed. Its wheels squealed, and it drove away.

The car on Shattuck drove away also. I chanced a look behind me and saw that the coast seemed to be clear. Debbie was nowhere to be seen -- she had gotten back into the cab when the firing started. I got up and ran up the steps, unlocked the door, and closed it behind me.

The action was over, and I could think again. I was unharmed and relatively safe, but where was Debbie? She was in the taxi as it drove off. Had she been hit? The enormity of what had just happened was starting to sink in: without my knowing who or why, someone had just tried to kill me. I grew more worried about Debbie.

I called 911 to report the shooting. I explained to the dispatcher that I was unhurt, but I didn't know what became of my partner in the taxi. She told me to wait, that police officers would be there shortly. I believe that after about half an hour with no police showing up, I called 911 again to relay my concern about Debbie. I hadn't heard from her, and was afraid she was in the hospital. The dispatcher asked me what color was the taxi. I remembered it being yellow. (It was actually two-toned, part of the fleet of Metro Yellow Taxi Co., with blue lower body and yellow canopy.) My memory of the rest of the evening is vague.

Debbie tells me she got back into the cab when the shooting started. The driver gunned the accelerator and took off. The cab driver was angry, thinking that we were drug dealers who had lured him into the middle of some kind of war. He wouldn't drive her home again. Eventually they wound up by Alta Bates hospital, where Debbie found a pay phone and called home. Not long after that the driver took her to the corner nearest to our house -- but would not turn onto our street -- and Debbie was home, to my immense relief.

At some point the police came by to take statements, and they told us that there had been reports of someone firing up a nearby street earlier in the evening. Some time, I think that night, because the streets were completely clear, I went to the intersection and looked around, and found some shell casings -- something close to .38 caliber or 9 mm. I still have one of them among some old kipple I keep on a bookshelf in my room.

Debbie had been carrying a canvas bag with a manuscript in it that she had been working on, some sort of editing project or other. In the next day or so, she turned her attention to the manuscript and discovered that the pages were dented. Evidently a bullet hit the manuscript in the bag, which Deb says she was carrying in front of her thigh. She tells me she has no recollection of the bullet's impact, however.

Posted by abostick at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)

April 18, 2007

What Bush Says to Americans ... What They Hear

Swopa at Needlenose has this to say about how Bush's skills as a communicator impact American's understanding of the war in Iraq:

It's kind of like the famous "Far Side" cartoon I've posted above — the Shrub-in-Chief goes around shouting, "Democrats are traitors because they want to override my presidential powers and help the terrorists by bringing our troops home from Iraq!"

But all the folks at home hear is "Democrats... want to... bring our troops home from Iraq!"

And they think to themselves, hey, that sounds like a pretty good idea to us.

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

April 14, 2007

Ezra Klein on Don Imus and Scapegoating

Ezra Klein writes at Tapped:

SCAPEGOATS. Amidst an unexpected digression on anthropological studies of cross-cultural scapegoat sacrifice ceremonies — I'm telling you, Swampland is a genuinely unpredictable and enjoyable blog — Joe Klein says, "the atavistic intensity of our scapegoat sacrifices — Imus, perhaps Wolfowitz and Gonzalez to come — shouldn't be surprising."

No no no. Scapegoat: "One that is made to bear the blame of others." Imus is getting run out of town for something he personally said. Wolfowitz is on a death march because of patronage he personally allowed. Gonzales's days are (hopefully) numbered because of a politicization process he personally abetted. None of these people are being scapegoated. They're being roundly, rightly, criticized.

That said, I didn't know this: "The Jews civilized the process, making it metaphoric, turning the scapegoat, literally, into a goat — which wasn't nearly as much fun." Those Jews. So literal-minded.

Points taken about Gonzales and Wolfowitz.

But (let me phrase this carefully) for all that Imus's remarks were certainly unacceptable and worth firing him for their own sake, he is being scapegoated for them.

We see this Kabuki drama played out every few years. Someone goes too far talking about race on radio or television — it's almost always someone talking about sports — and people react. The pundits are shocked — shocked! — to discover such an egregious example of racism in the media. The sponsors pull ads. The offender loses his position. Justice is served! Racism is defeated! Now we can all go back to our regularly scheduled daily lives and treat the black kid in the store like a shoplifter, and hire the white guy because, you know, everybody thinks they'll get along with him.

Sometimes I wonder if that's the real reason ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh for color commentary on Monday Night Football in 2003: they knew it was time for the ritual sacrifice, and they wanted to protect their own.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2007

Study Reveals Abstinence-Only Sex Education Has No Effect on Teen Behavior

Sex education programs funded under Title V of the Social Security Act, required by law to teach complete sexual abstinence prior to marriage, has essentially no effect on teen sexual activity, according to a federally funded study quietly released late on a Friday afternoon.

According to the study, Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs [ PDF], carried out by Mathematics Policy Research, Inc., abstinence-only educations have no impact on teen abstinence:

$875 million dollars down the drain. Of course, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what we've wasted on Iraq. But take care of the billions, and the trillions will take care of themselves.

At least we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that Republican-mandated initiatives to keep young people ignorant and ill-informed don't work.

(via Alas, a Blog; hat tip to Debbie!)

Posted by abostick at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2007

CNN Uses the L-Word

CNN Uses L-Word
Originally uploaded by abostick59.

One more sign that the tide is turning: CNN has at long last used the verb "to lie" with Bush Administration officials as its subject. CBS apparently did also, but they seem to have edited it out of their Web site.

There, that didn't hurt, did it? It only took you six years.

(via TalkLeft)

Posted by abostick at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2007

Iran to Pardon, Release Captured British Sailors and Marines

From the Associated Press:

Iranian Leader Says He'll Free Britons

By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
(04-04) 08:03 PDT TEHRAN, Iran (AP) --
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines Wednesday as an Easter holiday "gift" to the British people.

He said the captives, who were seized while on patrol in the northern Persian Gulf on March 23, would be taken to the airport following his news conference, but Iranian state television reported they would leave Iran on Thursday. An Iranian official in London said they would be handed over to British diplomats in Tehran.

After the news conference, state television showed Ahmadinejad meeting with the British crew, dressed in business suits, at the presidential palace. He shook hands and chatted with them through a translator, and a caption to the video said the meeting was taking place as part of the "process of release."

Posted by abostick at 11:51 AM | Comments (2)

March 27, 2007

Tech Blogger Kathy Sierra Menaced by Hate Speech, Death and Rape Threats

Creating Passionate Users' Kathy Sierra canceled her keynote speech at ETech in San Diego [possibly triggering, possibly NSFW], because she was intimidated by a series of sexually loaded threats of murder and rape, both in the comments of her own blog and in two group blogs, and Bob's Yer Uncle, run by a group of tech and marketing bloggers. Neither site is now available; Bob's Yer Uncle has been yanked for violating WordPress's terms of service.

Sierra reproduced examples both of graphic attacks on her and written attacks on other women in her field, all laden with vivid imagery of violence against and contempt for women.

This is what the Tech Boys Club looks like [possibly triggering, possiby NSFW].

(via Lindsay Beyerstein)

Posted by abostick at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

March 26, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle Finances Spark Rumors

Tim O'Reilly is hearing rumors that the San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble:

I hate to play Valleywag, but I'm hearing rumors that the San Francisco Chronicle is in big trouble. Apparently, Phil Bronstein, the editor-in-chief, told staff in a recent "emergency meeting" that the news business "is broken, and no one knows how to fix it." ("And if any other paper says they do, they're lying.") Reportedly, the paper plans to announce more layoffs before the year is out.

The New York Times reports today that February's advertising revenue for newspapers across the county were sharply lower than they were a year ago. The report blames the decline in revenue on the loss of classified ads to free sites like Craig's List, and, in areas of California and Florida, a the decline in the housing market. (hat tip to Atrios.)

Blog triumphalists may dance at the downfall of the MSM; but the truth is that, pace Josh Marshall, most news blogging is the gathering and aggregating of already-reported news, not original reporting. The chief foundation of news reporting is advertising sales to newspapers, and if that revenue is drying up, then our overall ability to know what is going on in the world is deeply compromised.

Posted by abostick at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2007

Is Cruelty the Tragic Flaw of George W. Bush?

At the Huffington Post, Paul Slansky uses the unfolding and unraveling of the US Attorney purge scandal to illuminate what he sees as the essential characteristic of the Bush administration that both defines it and contains the seeds of its undoing — if you will, Bush's tragic flaw: Cruelty.

Gonzales and Co. could have just said, "We're firing these people because we can," and that would have been that. ...

But NOOOOOOO! These spiteful sadists, who so revel in causing pain that they can't let a single opportunity pass untaken, had to impugn the fitness of the fired, thus forcing them to defend themselves by attacking their attackers and elevating their dismissals to, as George H.W. Bush was fond of putting it, a media "feeding frenzy." ...

In 1967, the Yale Daily News exposed the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity's penchant for branding pledges with red hot wire hangers. The New York Times picked up the story, which featured a former president of the frat, one George W. Bush, dismissing the resulting "insignificant" wound as "only a cigarette burn" that leaves "no scarring mark, physically or mentally." So, Bush's first quote in the national press was a defense of torture.

What's obvious to all but the willfully blind is that Bush truly enjoys hurting people. His every action is designed to inflict pain, from that loathsome habit of giving people nicknames — hey, media suck-ups, it's not cute, it's contemptuous, a bully-boy saying, "I think so little of you that I'm not gonna call you by your name, I'm gonna call you what I want to call you" — to the cavalier decimation of a nation. Bush's utter heartlessness is breathtaking, though no more so than the mainstream media's craven refusal to even acknowledge it, let alone to truly do its job and relentlessly point out every instance of his wanton malice.

It is not accurate to describe cruelty as George Bush's tragic flaw. The classical conception of tragedy is that of a great person brought down by the imperfection of their character. Because George Bush is so thoroughly and unredeemedly mediocre and inadequate, he cannot be a tragic figure: he lacks even the slightest shred of the greatness needed for the role.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2007

Iranian Action in Shatt al-Arab *Not* a Crisis

Skippy points us to Demosthenes at Shadow of the Hegemon, who in turn points us to Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Quoth Ambassador Murray:

British Marines Captured By Iranians

The capture of British Marines by Iran has happened before, then on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. It will doubtless be used by those seeking to bang the war drum against Iran, though I imagine it will be fairly quickly resolved.

Before people get too carried away, the following is worth bearing in mind. I write as a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Iranians claimed the British soldiers had strayed into Iranian territorial waters. If they had, then the Iranians had every right to detain them for questioning.

The difficulty is that the maritime delimitation in the North West of the Persian Gulf, between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, has never been resolved. It is not therefore a question of just checking your GPS to see where you are. This is a perfectly legitimate dispute, in which nobody is particularly at fault. Lateral maritime boundaries from a coastal border point are intensely complicated things, especially where islands and coastal banks become a factor.

Disputes are not unusual. I was personally heavily involved in negotiating British maritime boundaries with Ireland, France and Denmark just ten years ago, and not all our own boundaries are resolved even now. There is nothing outlandish about Iranian claims, and we have no right in law to be boarding Iranian or other shipping in what may well be Iranian waters.

The UN Convention on the Law of The Sea carries a heavy presumption on the right of commercial vessels to "innocent passage", especially through straits like Hormuz and in both territorial and international waters. You probably won't read this elsewhere in these jingoistic times but, in international law, we [i.e. the Royal Navy — AB] are very probably in the wrong. As long as the Iranians neither mistreat our Marines nor wilfully detain them too long, they have the right.

I was wondering why this incident wasn't receiving much attention after the news first broke. Ambassador Murray's explanation explains why, and is in fact very reassuring.

Posted by abostick at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007

Iranian Forces Capture British Sailors

The Associated Press reports frightening news indeed:

(03-23) 10:15 PDT DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) --

Iranian naval vessels on Friday seized 15 British sailors and marines who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters of the Persian Gulf, British and U.S. officials said. Britain immediately protested the detentions, which come at a time of high tension between the West and Iran.

In London, the British government summoned the Iranian ambassador to the Foreign Office: "He was left in no doubt that we want them back," Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said after the meeting.

The U.S. Navy, which operates off the Iraqi coast along with British forces, said the British sailors appeared unharmed and that Iran's Revolutionary Guard naval forces were responsible.

Britain's Defense Ministry said the British Navy personnel were "engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters," and had completed a ship inspection when they were accosted by the Iranian vessels. The British sailors were assigned to a task force which protects Iraqi oil terminals and maintains security in Iraqi waters under authority of the U.N. Security Council. ...

The U.S. Navy said the incident occurred just outside a long-disputed waterway called the Shatt al-Arab dividing Iraq and Iran. It came as the U.N. Security Council debates further sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and amid U.S. allegations that Iran is arming Shiite militias in Iraq. ...

The Britons were in two boats from the frigate H.M.S. Cornwall during a routine smuggling investigation, said the British Defense Ministry.

According to a statement from the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and operates jointly with the British forces off the coast of Iraq, the British sailors had just finished inspecting the merchant ship about 10:30 a.m. "when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters."

The Iranian vessels were apparently not regular Iranian Navy vessels but instead operated by the Republican Guard.

The last thing the region needs is hotheaded yahoos handing George Bush a casus belli on a platter.

Posted by abostick at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007

SFGate's 'Bad Reporter' Misuses Torture Image

I had a visceral reaction to Don Asmussen's "Bad Reporter" political webcomic on SFGate this morning.

Spinning off from the the 1984 Apple/Obama ad mashup that's getting attention on YouTube, Asmussen invents a parody mashup of a Purina Dog Chow ad for his first panel. His second panel, representing the author of the mashup, is grotesque and fat-phobic, but doesn't actually push my buttons.

I found the third panel, however, deeply disturbing, angering, painful. It depicts a news story illustrated with one of the Abu Ghurayb photographs, the one where Lynndie England is holding the leash of a prone prisoner. The face of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is photoshopped over England's, and that of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the prisoner's. The caption reads "Harry Reid questioning Alberto Gonzales." (Warning disturbing imagery below the fold)

I'm finding it hard to articulate my anger and disgust at this image. It reminded me of the Joe-Lieberman-in-blackface picture on The Huffington Post and of the picture of Jessica Valenti in a burkha on Pandagon. The commonality I see is that the artist takes an emotionally charged symbol of oppression and suffering of some sort of Other and uses that charge to make a small joke hotter, because a joke that is hotter often seems funnier.

Brownfemipower said it better than I could, about Jessica Valenti in a burkha:

Because it *is* pretty funny isn’t it? The comparing of an asshole to the Taliban. But in Pandagon’s rush to make a cheap joke at the expense of women of color (because good lord, the *real* problem with anti-sex feminists is that they want to turn white women into the OTHER), Pandagon forgot something small but very important: they are feminists from and blogging within a colonizing nation. A colonizing nation that is in the process of bombing the holy hell out of the very women that they find so easy to make fun of.

Yes, we can say, this picture of Reid with Gonzales on a leash is funny, seeing the torturer tortured. But in SFGate's rush to make a cheap joke at the expense of the victims of Bush's war, SFGate forgot something important: they are journalists from and reporting within a colonizing nation that is in the process of bombing the holy hell out of, and continuing to torture and abuse, the war victims that they find so easy to make fun of.

That picture mocks and trivializes the suffering that took place at Abu Ghurayb. It reduces it to the level of the fraternity hazing hijinks to which Rush Limbaugh compared the Abu Ghurayb atrocities.

Shame on SFGate. Shame on Don Asmussen.

Posted by abostick at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2007

Let's You and Him Fight

Want to know why the Democrats backed down on Iran in their military spending bill? It's because of pressure from the Israel hawks of AIPAC. The San Francisco Chronicle buried the lede in a report by Edward Epstein on AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington. Epstein leads out by describing how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was booed by conferencegoers when she denounced the Iraq war. Scroll down past the booing and past the standing ovation given to Minority Leader John Boehner to find this tidbit:

Aides to top House Democrats said the lobbying group helped force the elimination of a provision that would have required President Bush to return to Congress for a separate vote of authorization before launching any military operation against Iran.
Posted by abostick at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2007

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? France Bans Citizen-Journalism

France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence

By Peter Sayer, IDG News Service
The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday.

The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers’ acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US$98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.

Senators and members of the National Assembly had asked the council to rule on the constitutionality of six articles of the Law relating to the prevention of delinquency. The articles dealt with information sharing by social workers, and reduced sentences for minors. The council recommended one minor change, to reconcile conflicting amendments voted in parliament. The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended to clamp down on a wide range of public order offenses. During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of “happy slapping,” in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker’s friends.

The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said Cohet. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet.

The government has also proposed a certification system for Web sites, blog hosters, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers, identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they adhere to certain rules. The journalists’ organization Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for a free press, has warned that such a system could lead to excessive self censorship as organizations worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.

(via skippy)

Posted by abostick at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Not Guilty!

Scooter Libby was convicted of four counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to FBI investigators. He was acquitted of a fifth count of lying to FBI investigators.

Libby had lied about his role in the Administration smear campaign against former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, which campaign resulted in the illegal outing of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a covert operative of the CIA.

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2007

Cherokees Vote Out Slaves' Descendants

Quoth the Associated Press:

Cherokee Nation members voted Saturday to revoke the tribal citizenship of an estimated 2,800 descendants of the people the Cherokee once owned as slaves.

Between the arrival of European colonists in the seventeenth century and the forced migrations of the 1830s, some landholding Cherokees owned African slaves. When the Cherokees were forced to move to what is now Oklahoma along the deadly Trail of Tears, they took their slaves with them. After the Civil War and Emancipation, a treaty in 1866 guaranteed freed slaves of Cherokees and their descendants membership in the tribe.

But when the Dawes Commission stripped the tribes of their communal lands and swapped it for individual plots for individuals who registered on the Dawes Rolls at the turn of the twentieth century, black freedmen and their descendants were not recognized as tribe members or given back land in the swap. In keeping with the values of the Jim Crow era, One black ancestor was considered enough for the Dawes Commission to deny a person's membership in a tribe, regardless of their other ancestry

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled in March 2006 that descendants of slaves of Cherokee were full members of the tribe. This election alters the Cherokee Nation constitution to revoke that citizenship.

The Dawes Rolls were basically a scam by which the federal government once again took land from the Native Americans so it could be given to Europeans, and in the process disinherited a substantial fraction of tribal membership who feared the consequences of ethnic registry.

The issue is surely about entitlement to a share of revenues from Cherokee-owned casinos. It is a scandal and a shame that current members of the Cherokee Nation should use anything so tainted as the Dawes Rolls to determine a person's heritage or identity.

Rachel at Alas, a Blog has more.

Note: I'm 31/32 European by ancestry; the remaning fraction is Apache. I don't identify as Native American. One whole branch of my family owned slaves in the antebellum South. It is all too easy for white Americans to call the Cherokee Nation on its apparent racism without taking a good close look at their own.

Posted by abostick at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2007

Fencing the Commons

Greedheads at the NFL want to trademark the expression "The Big Game" so as to further their ability to extort tribute from businesses whose sales get a boost from Super Bowl viewers. The greedheads in the football programs at Stanford and Cal, backed up by the greedheads at the NCAA, are contesting, on the grounds that the annual football matchup between the two universities has been known as the Big Game since before there ever was an NFL. It would be hard to decide which side to root against, were it not for the fact that the precipitating action was the NFL's filing to take a widely used expression out of the public domain and turn it into their private property. So even though the other guys don't particularly deserve to win, the NFL overwhelmingly deserves to lose.

Posted by abostick at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2007

Boston Police Keep City Safe

The Boston Police Department's bomb squad struck a blow against Big Brother and the Surveillance Society when they detonated a device used to measure traffic flow.

Hey, it looked more suspicious than a Mooninite...!

(via Spencer Sun)

Posted by abostick at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2007

These Just In From Our WTF? Desk

Homemade yellow submarine missing from Santa Cruz County berth

(02-21) 12:05 PST Felton, Calif. (AP) -- A 3 1/2-ton yellow submarine has fallen off the radar.

The 10-foot-long sub, built by a resident to patrol Monterey Bay during the 1940s and 1950s, was reported missing Feb. 15 from its Santa Cruz Mountains berth on Steinmaier Road by owner Carl Barker.

"It sounds bizarre," said Detective Kevin Coyne of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. "All I know is ... there's no suspects."

Irven Thomson built the vessel from an old propane tank about 60 years ago. He added a turret, hatch, windows and a cement keel, rudder and navigational instruments.

"I think they launched it a couple of times," Barker said.

There were no arrests.

"One of the neighbors said they saw a tow truck loading it up," Barker, 38, said. "Someone knew they wanted it and came and took it. I don't think they stole it for any kind of recycling value."

Barker said Thomson would go on vigilante patrols of the bay and used the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf as his home base. Neighbors said the sub worked, but that Thomson quickly gave up the patrols and beached the vessel on his land in south Felton.

Thomson left the yellow submarine on the property when he moved to Watsonville years ago. Family members lived on Steinmaier Road until 2003, when they sold the property and moved to Red Bluff.

Explicit Recordings Disrupt N.M. Mass

(02-22) 09:25 PST Santa Fe, N.M. (AP) -- Three CD players hidden under a cathedral's pews blared sexually explicit language in the middle of an Ash Wednesday Mass, leading a bomb squad to detonate two of the devices.

Authorities determined the music players were not dangerous and kept the third one to check it for clues, said police Capt. Gary Johnson.

The CD players, duct-taped to the bottoms of the pews, were set to turn on in the middle of noon Mass on Wednesday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

The recordings, made on store-bought blank discs, featured people using foul language and "pornographic messages," Johnson said. He would not elaborate because of the ongoing investigation.

Church staff members took the CD players to the basement and called police, who sent the bomb squad, Johnson said.

The bomb squad blew up two players outside and kept the third one to test for fingerprints or DNA and trace its components, he said.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which marks a 40-day period of fasting and penitence before Easter.

Posted by abostick at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2007

How You Really Fight Terrorism

Waleed Ziad and Laryssa Chomiak write on the Op-Ed page of the Christian Science Monitor about the tensions between Crimean Tatars, returning to their homeland after Stalin-era deportations, and the ethnic Russian majority that displaced them. They describe the institutions created by the Tatars, both secular and religious, to stake their claim in Crimea, and showed how they were able to work to undermine the influence of foreign-funded Wahabbist extremists — at best, fellow-travelers to al Qaeda — by teaching tolerance and acceptance in the mosques and focusing on negotiation and nonviolent protest, working against the formation of local militias, on the secular side. Fostering local participatory movements isn't just about keeping democracy healthy, they write. In the global war on terror, it's one of the best defenses against transnational fundamentalism.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Al Qaeda Linked to Mooninite Plot

A video has appeared on the Internet that depicts Osama bin Laden taking responsibility for a nefarious plot that brought ridicule and contempt upon the mayor and the police department of the city of Boston.

(via Making Light)

Posted by abostick at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

House Minority Leader Insists 'Aristotle Was Belgian!'

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, with his mouth, on the floor of the House of Representatives, in the course of the debate on the non-binding resolution against escalating troop levels in Iraq, "We didn't start this war; they did."

No doubt the honorable gentleman from Ohio is greatly concerned about the prospect of al Quaeda and the London Underground joining forces. His speech clearly indicates that he thinks its time that America remembered the central message of Buddhism.

Posted by abostick at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2007

The Confidence Men

Avedon Carol points us to "Government by Control Fraud," a post on Blog for Arizona.

The post's author, apparently one Michael Bryan, starts by introducing the idea of control fraud:

Control fraud occurs when conspirators are able to take control of an institution in order to exploit the trust and authority of the institution to convert its assets to personal use.

Control fraud relies upon holding off any accountability or scrutiny by a combination of bribery, deception, co-optation or subornation of the mechanisms of checks and balances either intrinsic and extrinsic to the corporation such as auditors, government regulators, the board of directors, and shareholders. The longer the charade of business as usual, or more often, fantastically better than usual, is able to be maintained, the more damage is done to the institution on which the control frauds are preying. If it goes on long enough, as in the case of Enron, there may be nothing left at the end but a smoking crater of debt and broken lives.

Bryan takes a side trip to remind us that not only were Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, and Worldcom examples of control fraud, but so was the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, and reminds us also that John McCain was one of the Keating Five, the group of sitting senators who pressured federal regulators to keep the heat off of S&L swindler Charles Keating in return for massive campaign contributions.

But the money quote from Bryan's post is this:

The whole point of the Bush Presidency was to commit control fraud, he never intended to govern as we understand the concept. He had no mandate. No program. No goals as President. The government was turned over to a control fraud in the election 2000 and the goal of that criminal enterprise was to bleed as much out of the massive coffers and credit of the Federal Government of the United States as possible for his friends, allies, and himself. Geroge W. Bush’s goal as President was what the Proconsuls of the Roman Empire aspired to in the provinces they were awarded: to squeeze out every drop of profit possible.

The best way to do that in modern America was a war - preferably a long, sustained, grinding, quagmire of a war against a despised enemy that no one could doubt was hostile to us. A war in which unlimited amounts of cash could be dumped into single source and no bid contracts with little or no oversight and even worse accounting (remember that 8 billion is said to have just disappeared in Iraq due to poor accounting and cash controls). If you are going to take over a government as a control fraud in a democratic society with an advanced legal system and a professional bureaucracy, there is really no other way to convert sufficient amounts of wealth to private use without being detected or questioned. Better to do the deed under cover of a wild and wooly foreign war, where the rules are made by the guy with the most guns.

I don't believe this is the whole truth — the imperial wish-fulfillment fantasies of the Neoconservative movement surely play a role here — but its plausibility level is high.

Posted by abostick at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2007

<sagan>Billions and Billions....</sagan>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.

It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 30.

The Reuters report says "more than $4 billion." If the reporter had bothered to add up the reported numbers, perhaps they would have written "$5.5 billion"

In fact, the size of that shipment of cash makes me want to raise my extended pinky to the corner of my mouth, while I repeat, "five point five BILLION DOLLARS" in my best Dr. Evil voice.

As a poker player, I am not immune to what Phil Hellmuth describes as an occupational hazard of poker players: a disregard for cash that borders on contempt. Nonetheless, the idea of pallets and pallets of shrink-wrapped bundles of $100 bills on military transport planes being flown to Baghdad is the stuff of caper-movie dreams. Where is Danny Ocean when we need him? Heck, even the good ship Serenity and her plucky crew ought to have been able to intercept some of that cash.

(via Josh Marshall)

Posted by abostick at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2007

Six More Weeks of Terror

Note: it's not a real CNN screenshot. I bet folks at the Onion are pissed that they got scooped.

(via Bitch, Ph.D.)

Posted by abostick at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2007

Da Manly Code

C.W. Nevius, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, states that although women appear to be forgiving of SF Mayor Gavin Newsom's sexual liaison with a married woman, men, supposedly, regard Newsom's indiscretion as an "Unforgivable Breach of Man Code."

Make no mistake — having an affair with the wife of a trusted male colleague is an irrevocable Man Code violation.

"Hello?" wrote Mike Mulholland, 43, who grew up in the Bay Area before moving to San Diego County. "Newsom slept with his friend's wife. What if he stole from a friend? Or tried to frame a friend? Would that also be nobody's business?"

Yes that's right: according to correspondents Nevius picks out as reprentatives of the Man on the Street, having sex with a (male) friend's wife is equivalent to stealing his property. In other words, You poke it, you own it.

Here's what seems to have actually happened: In the course of the breakup with his wife, Newsom got sexually involved with a staffer, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, who is married to another sometime member of the Newsom inner circle, Alex Tourk. Sometime after the affair was over, Rippey-Tourk evidently entered a substance-abuse recovery program. As part of her recovery process, Rippey-Tourk came clean to her husband about the affair. Alex Tourk's response to his wife's attempt to make amends was to storm into Newsom's office to confront him and tender his resignation as Newsom's campaign manager on the spot.

In other words, Alex Tourk resigned in a patriarchal huff because Gavin Newsom poked what Tourk supposed he owned. Ruby Rippey-Tourk's agency is, strangely enough, not relevant to the story.

I know that I am far from the mainstream of American values, but nevertheless, it seems to me that the real bad guy here, the person who really is violating the norms of common decency by being a patriarchal asshole, is Alex Tourk.

Posted by abostick at 01:12 PM | Comments (6)

February 02, 2007

As Above, So Below

As a result of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Lite Brite fiasco, the nation is now laughing hysterically at the discovery that the city of Boston, Massachusetts, is governed by morons.

Buahahaha...! it just goes to show, you get the government you deserve!

Oh, wait....

Posted by abostick at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2007

Teen Suicide in the News

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article yesterday about teen suicide. There was something notable about it.

See if you can spot it. Fill in the missing word from this key paragraph from the article:

After a teen suicide, family and friends often are left wondering if there were signs they missed, whether they should have seen it coming. Indeed, there are signs, but they can be subtle and difficult to spot -- especially for parents and friends who don't know what to look for, or who don't want to admit that a child is ____________.

(Answer below the fold)

No, the missing word is not "gay," "homosexual," or anything similar; the missing word is depressed.

Who would have thought that the Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, would run an article about teen suicide that that didn't include the datum that gay and lesbian teenagers are up to six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teenagers, or that doesn't mention the words "gay," "lesbian," "homosexual," "bisexual" or "heterosexual"? The article mentions in passing the suicide risk for ethnic minorites. Why was the suicide risk for sexual minorities swept under the rug?

Posted by abostick at 01:39 AM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2006

Is That a Threat or a Promise?

Quoth SF Gate:

Carmakers say state's greenhouse rules would endanger SUVs
Supreme Court hears case against EPA Wednesday

Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The auto industry said Monday that lawsuits over vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions could eventually force manufacturers to eliminate big SUVs from the market in California, an assertion denied by environmental attorneys and the state air quality board.

"If we lost (in court)," said Dave Barthmuss, General Motors' spokesman for environmental and energy affairs, "certain vehicles could not be offered for sale -- vehicles that consume more fuel than others. There would be fewer SUVs and we might not be able to offer them for sale in California. It could spell the end of the big SUV in California."

At the California Air Resources Board, however, spokesman Jerry Martin said the 2002 law in question cannot force the auto industry to reduce the size of its vehicles or to abandon any models it wants to keep selling.

The spat over what may happen to SUVs in California stems from a pair of federal court lawsuits that have been going on for years but are back in the news because one of them is scheduled to be argued Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that case, California, along with 11 other states and several environmental organizations, wants federal limits on vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases. In another case, filed in federal court in Fresno two years ago, the auto industry challenged the 2002 California law requiring new vehicles sold in the state to cut tailpipe emissions by 30 percent by 2016. The law is to be phased in, starting in 2009.

Please, please, please don't throw me in that there briar patch!

Posted by abostick at 07:56 AM

September 24, 2006

October Surprise

The Nation reports that that a naval strike force that includes the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower has been ordered to prepare for deployment to the Persian Gulf.

The strike force has been ordered to be ready for deployment by Sunday, October 1. Military analysts say that, deploying on this date, the strike force would be on station in the Persian Gulf three weeks later, on October 21.

The Nation reports that several angry officers on the ships involved ... contacted antiwar critics like retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner and complained that they were being sent to attack Iran without any order from the Congress.

It is becoming increasingly clear that George W. Bush and his henchmen intend to launch an attack on Iran, in direct contravention of U.S. and international law, to say nothing of common decency (let alone sanity), prior to this November's election.

A lot of people are working hard at reining in the Republican regime through campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts in these mid-term elections. Others are raising awareness and lobbying against legislation being considered by the Republican-controlled Congress to legalize torture by US intelligence and security forces.

I believe that stopping this insane war that the USA cannot win and that can only result in the murder of countless innocent people and earn justly the hatred and contempt of the entire world is even more important and pressing than these important and pressing concerns.

(via tristero at Digby's Hullabaloo)

Posted by abostick at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2006

One Hundred Years Ago Today

As a counter to the slow evolution of September 11 into a nationalistic celebration of vengeance and bloodlust I want to mark today as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Mohandas Gandhi's Satyagraha movement:

On September 11, 1906, in Johannesburg, Gandhiji initiated his Satyagraha against the Natal Government, which was trying to pass an Ordinance meant to disenfranchise the Indians and if passed would have made life impossible for the Indians in the country. It was on September 11, 1906, when the Indians gathered to discuss how to meet the challenge of the ordinance that Gandhiji thought of facing violence with non-violence, of fighting for truth and justice with suffering. He warned the meeting that pursuit of Satyagraha might mean prison or even cost them their life. Everyone who attended that meeting took a pledge to resist the ordinance with non-violence whatever the provocation. ...

September 11, 1906, was the beginning of Gandhiji's Satyagraha movement — it started in Johannesburg against the ordinance and was later used in India to fight for its independence. "Satyagraha," explained Gandhiji, "is a relentless search for Truth and a determination to search for Truth. Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within. Satyagraha can be described as an effective substitute for violence." An eye for an eye, said Gandhi, only ends up making the whole world blind.

Explaining his philosophy of non-violence to the people, he said, "I saw that nations like individuals could only be made through the agony of the cross and in no other way. Joy comes not out of infliction of pain on others but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself. Violent means would give violent freedom and that would mean a menace to the world. Real suffering, on the other hand, bravely borne melts even a heart of stone. Such is the potency of suffering. And there lies the key to Satyagraha."

The peaceful liberation of India from British colonial rule stands out as a beacon of light and hope in a century otherwise filled with national madness, chaos, war, and industrialized murder. Today is much better remembered as the birthday of a philosophy of hope than for a bloody skirmish in the clash of civilizations.

(via Debbie Notkin)

Posted by abostick at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2006

A Stunned U.S. Public Asks 'Why Does Our Constitution Hate Us?'

From SF Gate's Bad Reporter:

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2006

Politics Before Public Safety

NBC is reporting that the US was putting strong pressure on the British government to make arrests earlier than British police officials wanted. The British police wanted more time to gather evidence. The British government was successfully resisting this pressure -- until its hand was forced by one of the conspirators being arrested in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier, writing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, tells us:

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

In other words, the US effort to make swift arrests resulted in conspirators being left at large, when they very may well have been rounded up when the careful. professional police work of Scotland Yard was complete.

Air travelers were placed unnecessarily at risk because the Bush Administration once again screwed the pooch.

Why did they screw the pooch? The obvious speculation is that they needed to highlight a dramatic terrorist threat in the wake of their water-carrier Joe Lieberman's well-deserved defeat in the Connecticut Democratic primary. The sudden hysterical claims that the Lieberman loss was a victory for terrorism, just before the arrests, seems like too much of a coincidence to think otherwise.

It's as plain as daylight: George Bush and his stooges think winning elections is more important than your safety. It is more important to the Bush people that you be afraid of terrorists than that you actually are protected from them.

(Hat tip: Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 11:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2006

Forty Signs of Rain

The icecap of Greenland is melting at an accelerating pace, says a group of researchers at the University of Texas, and there are indications that the West Antarctica Ice Sheet is also melting.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- known as the IPCC -- estimated that during all of the past century worldwide melting ice from global warming had raised sea levels by only two-tenths of a millimeter a year, or about 20 inches for the entire century.[sic]

But, according to Chen and his Texas team, the melting of Greenland's ice cap is already raising global sea levels by six-tenths of a millimeter each year, and the Colorado group estimates that melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone is adding up to four-tenths of a millimeter of fresh water to sea levels each year. In other words, the global sea level, due to melting of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica combined, is already rising 10 [sic] times faster than the IPPC's tentative estimates, the two analyses indicate.

(The arithmetic in the SF Gate article reporting the news is serisously deficient. Over the course of 100 years, a rise of 0.2 mm/year amounts to 20 mm [about 0.8 inches], not 20 inches. And 0.6 mm/year + 0.4 mm/year = 1.0 mm/year, which is five times, not ten, the historical 0.2 mm/year reported by the IPCC.)

Notwithstanding the reporter's bad math, it is dire news indeed that the icecaps are melting at such speeds. The Chronicle article raises the spectre of fresh-water melt from Greenland shutting off the Gulf Stream, just like in a Stan Robinson novel.

Posted by abostick at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006

Joe Lieberman Files to Run as Independent

Quoth SF Gate:

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill abandoned Sen. Joe Lieberman one by one Wednesday and threw their support to Ned Lamont, the anti-war challenger who defeated him in the primary. But Lieberman said his conscience demands that he run as an independent in November.

Posted by abostick at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2006

Anti-Semitisim in Ha'aretz?

Remember when New York Times columnist David Brooks made the case that the critics of the neoconservatives are anti-semitic? ([C]on is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish")

Brooks's lede was about how stories of a "tightly knit neocon cabal" were appearing in the world press: The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposι on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.

It seems that we can now add Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz to the list of foreign newspapers peddling anti-semitic conspiracy theories to the full-moon crowd. In an opinion piece entitled "Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare," Daniel Levy writes:

In 1996 a group of then opposition U.S. policy agitators, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, presented a paper entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" to incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The "clean break" was from the prevailing peace process, advocating that Israel pursue a combination of roll-back, destabilization and containment in the region, including striking at Syria and removing Saddam Hussein from power in favor of "Hashemite control in Iraq." The Israeli horse they backed then was not up to the task.

Ten years later, as Netanyahu languishes in the opposition, as head of a small Likud faction, Perle, Feith and their neoconservative friends have justifiably earned a reputation as awesome wielders of foreign-policy influence under George W. Bush.

(via Josh Marshall)

Posted by abostick at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2006

The Winston Smith Award for Ethics in Journalism ...

... goes to pussykaty the poster to LiveJournal's Journalists community, who has edited out of her original post the mention of her unethical practice of writing fictitious letters-to-the-editor and signing equally fictitious names.

Judging by her LiveJournal userinfo, pussykaty apparently lives either in Birmingham or in the nearby West Midlands, working for an unidentified weekly newspaper.

In the world of Judy Miller, Fox News, and the Washington Times, nobody is going to convene a blogger ethics panel around an issue as small as this one. But it's an indication that the rottenness at the heights of contemporary journalism may well run all the way down to its roots, despite the best efforts of many working journalists who continue to stand for integrity.

Posted by abostick at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2006


Kathy Walton points us to this gem appearing in LiveJournal's Journalists community:

Getting feedback

Getting letters about stories you have written, isn't that the nicest thing? I've been in my job a few months and today I got two letters about stories I have written. It's nice to know someone actually reads them and finds them interesting (on a weekly I find myself having to get excited about somewhat mundane every day things).

I think we would get a lot more feeback if we had an email address at the end of stories or even our name on them, but that's another story!

We even have to make up letters for our own letters page on occasion as we don't have enough suitable ones. About 50% of the letters we get sent in are these charity ones signed by a 'celebrity', those annoy me so much. [emphasis added – ALB]

This piece of work isn't so thrilled with the feedback she's getting. Apparently some working journalists actually think that Making Shit Up is not part of the job. How quaint.

As I told her in my own feedback: There is a future for you in crossing the Atlantic and joining the Washington press corps.

Posted by abostick at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

With Love, From Israel

The Associated Press caption for this photo reads Israeli girls write messages on a shell at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, Monday, July 17, 2006.

(via boing boing)

Posted by abostick at 09:12 AM | Comments (5)

February 07, 2006

Mistaken Identity

Police Chief Calls Newspaper Series 'Irresponsible'

Philadelphia Police Chief Frank Rizzo held a press conference Monday to denounce The Inquirer's ongoing series about the Police Department's use of force as "irresponsible'' and a "disservice'' to the city.

As evidence, Rizzo held up The Inquirer's Sunday edition, which featured a large photograph of a man the paper mistakenly identified as Sgt. John Haggett, an officer whose use-of-force history was profiled in an accompanying story. The man in the photo is not Haggett, has never been a police officer and has nothing to do with the series, the paper acknowledged Monday.

"This is not Sgt. John Haggett,'' Rizzo said. "If this photo is inaccurate, I have serious concerns about the analysis of all of the other data that they have obtained.''

The chief, flanked by command staff members, said he had talked with the city attorney about possible legal action stemming from the series but would not be more specific.

Inquirer editors said they stood by the accuracy of the articles in "The Use of Force" and the series' analysis.

"The photo error, while serious, does not change the basic issues raised by the series about the department's lack of a reliable system for tracking use of force and its failure to hold accountable officers who repeatedly resort to use of force," Inquirer Editor Phil Bronstein said.

Oops. It wasn't Frank Rizzo at all, nor is the paper running the series on police violence the Philadelphia Inquirer. It's the San Francisco Chronicle that is running a series on the San Francisco Police Department's use of force, and the angry response was from SFPD Chief Heather Fong.

The editors at As I Please apologize for the confusion. It was a natural mistake to make. She sure is acting like Frank Rizzo, the poster boy for institutionalized police brutality.

Posted by abostick at 08:41 AM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The New York City transit workers' strike has had an unusual effect: it appears to have sent online poker playing through the roof.

DeviatedNorm posts to LiveJournal's WTF, Inc. community a press release from the publicist of online poker site Doyle's Room:

Press Contact: Kevin Manning


Online Poker Site Sees Record Amount of Players During Early Stages of MTA Transit Strike

December 20, New York – It is only mid-afternoon, but already internet poker site is seeing record numbers online in the New York City metro area. It appears, due to this mornings New York City transit strike, many commuters are staying home from work and playing poker online.

Normal peak hours for online poker are between 8pm EST and 1am EST, but today, many accounts that are active only in the evening hours went live by as early as 10:00am EST in New York City and surrounding areas affected by the strike illustrating the fact that many commuters that opted to “work from home” were instead playing online poker.

“At first we didn’t know what was going on with the flood of players we were getting from New York City,” stated Marty Wallace, COO for “Then we realized that the transit strike they’ve been threatening since this past Friday finally took place.”

The winter season is the peak time for online poker rooms like because people spend more time indoors away from the cold and log online. With the addition of a transit strike in New York City, those numbers have reached record levels.


Doyle’s Room ( ) is the only online poker site endorsed by poker legend, Doyle Brunson. The site is a leading poker provider for North American players and is an international hub for Texas Hold ’em and other popular poker games. Players at can play for free to learn the game, or engage in real game play against players throughout the World.

Sean Hamel
Account Executive
5W Public Relations ( )
45 West 45th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 999-5585 x239
Fax: (646) 328-1711

Note: I checked both the 5W Public Relations Web site and the site of Doyle's Room and could not, at first attempt, locate an online copy of the press release, so I can't independently confirm its veracity myself. However, the Chicago Tribune has a news story reporting the same basic facts, and also reports that's poker room has had a 30-35% spike in users today.

(hat tip to Lynn Kendall)

Posted by abostick at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

Partisan Point-Scoring

Sometimes, the people on my side of the aisle are downright embarassing.

Atrios and Dave Sirota are piling onto Trent Lott, big-time tort-reform advocate, for hypocrisy. Lott, the Wall Street Journal reports [subscription required] has just filed suit against the State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. to force the insurance company to pay for Lott's house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Sirota's post includes a bunch of Lott quotes about how suing to solve problems is something Democrats do.

I am no fan of Trent Lott. He's a racist hypocrite. At the same time, Katrina was completely blind to the state of the souls of the people she killed or whose houses she ruined. When I was in Mississippi, I did not hesitate to assist even the racist hypocrites who stood in dire need of assistance.

Sirota omits the real story: That State Farm and other insurance companies are seeking to evade their responsiblities to policy-holders by claiming that much of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina was flood damage, not hurricane damage, and is therefore not covered by the hurricane riders to homeowners insurance.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has filed suit against several insurers with policies in Mississippi, including State Farm, to force them to honor their policies for damages resulting from the hurricane.

What's more, insurance adjusters on the scene have been advising policy-holders to sue. I have been told by homeowners in Biloxi that their adjuster said something to the effect of, "It's just a position taken by the insurance company. The legal issues simply have not been resolved. The courts are going to decide this."

Many of the affected homeowners, including many I've spoken with myself, are people of limited financial means. No small number of them are Democrats.

"Justice for All" means exactly that: justice for everyone, whether or not they are on my side of the Great Divide in our political landscape. I would love to see Trent Lott brought to justice for his political misdeeds – and I also want to see him get his due in the hurricane recovery. The story here isn't that Trent Lott is a hypocrite; we've known that for years. The story is that State Farm, in its arrogance, is trying to screw Republican Senator Trent Lott along with everyone else.

Posted by abostick at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2005

Red Cross Chief Takes Fall for Katrina

Quoth the New York Times:

Red Cross Chief Steps Down; Interim Successor Is Named


The American Red Cross announced today that Marsha J. Evans, its president and chief executive, had resigned. The resignation takes effect at the end of the month.

The Red Cross named John F. McGuire, its executive vice president for biomedical services, as its interim head. Mr. McGuire had overseen the organization's blood operation, its biggest source of income, which has repeatedly been fined by the Food and Drug Administration for problems in the way it handles blood collection and storage.

As recently as June, the F.D.A. fined the Red Cross $3.4 million after the organization reported 135 instances in which it had retrieved unsuitable blood products that it had distributed.

The Red Cross's already tarnished reputation was badly hurt by blistering complaints about its response to Hurricane Katrina, and Ms. Evans may have taken the fall for those recent failures.

Survivors of the hurricane complained that the Red Cross was not present in the worst-hit areas immediately after the storm, that its phone lines were inaccessible, that disabled victims were turned away from shelters, and a variety of other problems.

Yet donors gave it the lion's share of their generosity, funneling more than $1.5 billion to it in the aftermath of the hurricane. Its fund-raising success has sparked anger among smaller nonprofits that had to deal with the crisis without the Red Cross's assistance and that have no hope of raising money to cover their expenses.

The Red Cross's response has been that this disaster was so vast in scope and impact that it could never have adequately prepared to respond, but that explanation has failed to satisfy its critics. ...

In the eyes of people affected by this year's hurricanes, the American Red Cross is second only to FEMA as being part of the disaster rather than part of the response.

Unlike FEMA, a successful agency that was ruined by corruption and patronage of the Bush Administration, the failures of the American Red Cross are structural.

The ARC has a long history of deception and mendacity around using major disasters as fundraising opportunity. Over and over again the story is told of a disaster -- the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Oakland Hills Fire, the Northridge quake, etc. -- for which people, out of the goodness of their hearts, reach into their pockets and donate money to the ARC help those who were affected, and rather than spend it on relief for the disaster for which the donors intended their money, earmarks it instead for ongoing operations. The extreme case of this was last year's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, for which the ARC enthusiastically solicited donations from Americans – at a time when the supposedly non-political organization is withholding funds from the International Committee of the Red Cross over a contemptibly political issue.

Marsha Evans is taking the fall for the ARC failures in the Gulf Coast. She is being replaced by John McGuire, the ARC's head of biomedical services, i.e. its blood drive, which is plagued by scandal unconnected to Katrina. McGuire is unlikely to lead the sort of housecleaning that would be required to set things straight. Nothing is going to change at the American Red Cross any time soon.

Posted by abostick at 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2005

The Folly of Color-Blindness

Juan Cole points out that the violence in France is a direct result of the intentional color-blindness of French civic culture:

The French have determinedly avoided multiculturalism or affirmative action. They have insisted that everyone is French together and on a "color-blind" set of policies. "Color-blind" policies based on "merit" always seem to benefit some groups more than others, despite a rhetoric of equality and achievement. In order to resolve the problems they face, the French will have to come to terms with the multi-cultural character of contemporary society. And they will have to find ways of actively sharing jobs with minority populations, who often suffer from an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent (i.e. Iraq).

This might add wood to the fire burning on the sf-bay-poly listserve about the color-blindness of the Bay Area poly community.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 02:24 PM | Comments (3)

September 21, 2005

Nat'l Enquirer Reports Katrina Drove Bush to Drink

The National Enquirer reports that when George W. Bush heard the news of the levees breaking in New Orleans, he responded by turning to drink:



Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."

Following the shocking incident, disclosed here for the first time, Laura privately warned her husband against "falling off the wagon" and vowed to travel with him more often so that she can keep an eye on Dubya, the sources add.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

The story goes on to quote a "Washington source" who claims that Bush "has been sneaking drinks for weeks."

It's easy to sneer at the Enquirer, but their legal department is pretty sharp. I take this story a lot more seriously than, say, the report last year in the notoriously flaky Capitol Hill Blue that Bush is strung out on antidepressants. Heck, reporters for the Enquirer are more likely to understand how to source a story than top-flight reporters for the New York Times like, say, Judith Miller.

(via commenter sean on Eschaton)

Posted by abostick at 05:19 PM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2005

Astrodome Lockdown Explained?

A story on the AP wire describes Red Cross distribution of debit cards to storm survivors evacuated to Houston and snafus that arose in the process. It doesn't actually mention the lockdown of the Astrodome reported first-hand by Badgerbag, but it does allude to police being called in for "crowd control." The shelter's head, Coast Guard Lt. Joseph Leonard, is quoted as saying "We have a very dynamic situation outside."

I speculate that this "dynamic situation" prompted shelter officials to lock the dome down, shutting out countless storm survivors as well as relief workers.

NB: I've gotten some feedback indicating that some people aren't sure whether Badgerbag's eyewitness account is authentic. Badgerbag might shield her public identity on the Internet, but she is a real person whom I have met and for whose integrity I have a high regard. If she says she was there, she was there. If she says she saw it, she saw it.

(via SFGate)

Posted by abostick at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

Astrodome Lockdown

Badgerbag, volunteering at the Astrodome in Houston, reports that Astrodome has been locked down:

hmmm. spread this

Someone -- grace? Brian? spread this to the media please.
They locked out the people out of the dome, evacuees and volunteers. we have not had volunteers able to come in all morning. people just screaming broke into the gate to get in and all the people and volunteers ran into the dome. hundreds, at least 200 or 300 people started pushing in. no one was on the other side of the locked gate, no traffic no guards, etc. my volunteer guy telling the story from the human rights campaign ran in too. finally one police officer tried to corral people and push them back out. and in ffact everyone was pushed out. except my guy who pretended he had been in all along. and the people who had been in were pushed out and locked out.

rumors: Bush is here or coming here any minute. and/or, FEMA is giving out debit cards and people got very rowdy and so fema locked everything down mega tight.

No reliant empolyees, no one , no officers, no one to ask, people screaming and panicking, locked out of what is now their home, their kids are in here, etc. no one in the dome knows what is happening

Posted by abostick at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

Casinos of Destruction

Mississippians paid the price for their state's peculiar laws about gambling when Hurricane Katrina struck. The law allows only "riverboat" gambling, which in practice means that casinos are built up upon large, rudderless barges permanently moored on the waterfront.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that when Katrina made landfall, the storm surge and ferocious winds tore casino barges from their moorings and washed them ashore, causing substantial damage:

"That sombitch smacked my building, swept all my merchandise and guns out, and pushed that safe clear across the parking lot," said John Godsey, standing in the rubble that used to be his pawnshop and looking up at the wrecked Casino Magic right next to it in the parking lot. "This building would probably still be standing if the casino hadn't hit it." ...

The lavish Palace was lifted sideways onto a walkway, and the adjacent Sports Zone gambling hall cleared a path a half-mile inland. The east side of the city around its shell is a disaster zone, with splintered wood from former houses littered for miles.

The 134,500-square-foot Grand Casino Biloxi, the state's largest coastal casino, cut a swath of wreckage across Highway 90 where one part wrecked the historic Hotel Tivoli and a museum under construction, and another part flattened apartments and homes.

If the law had allowed casinos to be built on solid ground, the damage in Biloxi, severe though it was, would have been substantially lessened.

Posted by abostick at 09:17 AM | Comments (1)

April 10, 2005

Don't Mess With a Domme

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

When Susan Peacher hung up her latex evening gown and wooden paddle for a job with the federal government, the former dominatrix thought she was done with abuse.

She went to work for the Treasury Department in San Francisco, but when she arrived at her new job, she found that one of the office managers was a former client.

This man wouldn't leave her alone, she said in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, charging that he sexually harassed her, attempting to kiss her in the elevator, telling her she had "luscious lips,'' and repeatedly asking for "sessions.''

When she objected to the salacious advances, Peacher says, the manager manipulatively became her direct supervisor and downgraded her performance evaluation. When she complained to higher-ups, coming out of the closet about her previous line of work, she says she was retaliated against and given little to do.

Rather than sit idly at her desk, Peacher spent her time studying workplace harassment and labor law. She also accumulated an arsenal of damning evidence: phone logs, e-mails, documentation of encounters with her alleged harasser.

Last month, Peacher, 45, reached a settlement with the government, which did not admit liability or fault. She will receive $35,000 in compensatory damages, $25,000 in attorney fees, a job transfer, approval to work at her South Bay home one day a week, and the restoration of almost 800 hours of assorted leave.

"I don't think they expected me to fight as hard as I did,'' Peacher says.

Posted by abostick at 08:35 AM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2005

When Rhetoric Becomes Reality

David Neiwert is right: commentators and pundits' use of metaphors of violence and extremism might be explained away as jokes, but those "jokes" have a way of giving permission to angry people to turn them into reality.

Case in point: When Kevin Drum shot himself in the foot[1] last February over the issue of the prominence of women in political blogging, he said in passing, "My guess is that it's a bit of both, and the proximate reason is that men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing — both writing it and reading it." [emphasis added] I'm not saying that Kevin is the first to compare punditry with food fights, but his use of the metaphor was picked up by many of the people who responded heatedly to his argument.

Food fighting must be in the psychic field. At the end of last month, conservative Uberpundit William Kristol was hit in the face with a pie by a student at Earlham College, where Kristol was giving a speech. Just two days later, a student doused commentator and sometime presidential candidate Pat Buchanan with salad dressing while Buchanan was speaking at Western Michigan University.

The latest example of a metaphor gone too far is the case of David Horowitz. A protestor hit Horowitz in the face with a pie at Butler University, where Horowitz was speaking, campaigning against what he calls liberal domination of college campuses.

There's more to a pie in the face than an old vaudevillean's joke. Teresa Nielsen Hayden will be the first to tell you. She was pied by Dan Steffan at Corflu 3 in 1986. (Her husband, Patrick, retaliated by squirting whipped cream up Steffan's nose.)[2] What might seem to be a lark or a joke bears a remarkable resemblance to assault. A pie, even a cream pie is remarkably solid.[3] The assailant, whose aim might merely to be to humiliate the victim or render them a laughingstock, might actually succeed in choking the victim, or getting food or crust in their eyes. It seems like harmless fun, as the saying goes, until someone loses an eye. The pie filling can stain the victim's clothes. The traumatic experience might trigger aftershocks from earlier traumas.

So let's be careful with our language. When we unmindfully toss around metaphors of facefuls of lemon meringue, are we no better than the Ann Coulter's advocacy of the truck-bombing of the New York Times or Tom DeLay's or John Cornyn's hints that murdering judges represent the rightful expressions of popular wrath?

[1] I am completely aware of my own use of a violent metaphor here. If angry or disaffected extremists see this as encouragement to inflict gunshot wounds upon their lower extremities, so be it.

[2] The roots of food fights and pie-throwing in political blogging run deep into the history of science fiction fandom: A decade before this, Ted White was pied at a Lunacon by an assailant allegedly hired by Charles Platt (father of Rose Platt). (The assailant bore Platt's namebadge, clumisly modified to read "Charles Blattey".)

[3] Experts recommend, when staging a pie-throwing, to use not a real pie but a tin pieplate – or even a paper plate – filled with whipped cream. Shaving foam is another good choice, one which reduces the risk of permanently staining clothing.

Posted by abostick at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2005

Who Will Be the Next Pope?

Place your bets, everyone! has the line on who will be chosen as the next Pope.

There are a limited selection of choices, ranging from Dionigi Tettamanzi, currently at 3.6:1 against, to the 99:1 longshot of the Australian George Pell.

Lynn Kendall tells me via AIM that she's disappointed there are no odds listed for the selection of Cardinal Sin. The bookmakers cannily don't provide the odds for the field.

(via Majikthise)

Posted by abostick at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Judge Rules California Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer has found that California's law defining marriage to between one woman and one man to be unconstitutional.

The ruling will surely be appealed, with the state Supreme Court making the final decision.

Quoth SF Gate:

In his 27-page decision, Kramer – an appointee of former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican – said the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates "the basic human right to marry the person of one's choice," and has no rational justification.

Rejecting California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's argument that California is entitled to maintain the traditional definition of marriage, Kramer said the same explanation was offered for the state's ban on interracial marriage, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 1948.

The judge also rejected arguments by opponents of same-sex marriage that the current law promotes procreation and child-rearing by a husband and wife. "One does not have to be married in order to procreate, nor does one have to procreate in order to marry," Kramer said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts. Similar court decisions are being reviewed in the states of New York and Washington.

(via Patti Beadles)

Posted by abostick at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2005

Hans Bethe

Nobel -Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe died last Saturday in Ithaca, New York. He was 98 years old.

I remember Bethe from his time as a visiting scholar at Caltech when I was a physics graduate in the mid-1980s. My impression of him was that of a kind-hearted and gentle man. When he smiled, which was often, he looked like the demented subject of a Brughels painting or Dorι engraving; but both his sharp mind and warm heart showed through.

Bethe received his doctorate in 1928, in the heyday of the quantum revolution, when giants walked the laboratories and classrooms of Europe. He was one of the pioneers of nuclear physics, and his work in the '30s on the C-N-O cycle of nuclear reactions that fuels the sun eventually won him his Nobel Prize in 1967. When the Nazis took power in Germany he fled to the United States. He was one of J. Robert Oppenheimer's early recruits to the Manhattan Project, and he headed the Theory Division at Los Alamos.

After the war and the Manhattan Project, Bethe returned to his post at Cornell University, attracting such lights of the next generation as Richard Feynman and Freeman Dyson to work with him. In the nuclear politics of the time, he positioned himself as the Anti-Teller, lobbying against the development of the H-bomb (although he in fact did some work for that project), and for nuclear disarmament and for banning of nuclear testing.

And in the 1980s, when Edward Teller was spinning fantasies that the gullible Ronald Reagan turned into policy in the form of the Strategic Defense Initiative, Bethe spoke out against Star Wars. It was at this time that Bethe revealed to the public that behind Teller's betrayal of Oppenheimer was Teller's desperate search for a fall-guy when the H-bomb project at that point was fruitless and the government wanted to know why.

I remember a talk at Caltech by Teller's protege Lowell Wood – the most evil human being it has yet been my misfortune to encounter in the flesh – in which Wood was pitching the Livermore Lab's nuclear-explosion-pumped X-ray laser program to an uncharacteristically stone-faced Hans Bethe. I walked out of that lecture hall feeling like Peter Venkman after his first encounter with a ghost. Seing the grim countenance on the face of the usually smiling and happy Bethe made me imagine that he felt something similar. (The X-ray laser never worked, and, true to form, Teller and Wood wrecked another career of another fall-guy.) According to the Times obituary for Bethe, "In his memoirs in 2001, Dr. Teller accused Dr. Bethe of letting his political views color his technical judgment." Perhaps a wee bit of projection was going on here.

Hans Bethe has always been in my mind a shining example of a person who brought his conscience and moral judgment to his work as a scientist, and as a person who named the truth in the face of evil. His long and fruitful life is now over, and he lives on in the hearts of those whom he has inspired.

Posted by abostick at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2005

Life in These United States

An angry teacher in New Jersey assaulted a student who would not stand for the national anthem. Another student used a phonecam to record a video of the assault and of the teacher's shouted verbal abuse and later posted it to the Internet.

Reaction of local authorities has been swift: Students involved with recording and publicizing the teacher's outburst of rage have been charged with criminal mischief.

The oppressed are regarded as the pathology of the healthy society, which must therefore adjust these "incompetent and lazy" folk to its own patterns by changing their mentality. These marginals need to be "integrated," "incorporated" into the healthy society that they have "forsaken."

The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not "marginals," are not people living "outside" society. They have always been "inside" – inside the structure which made them "beings for others." The solution is not to "integrate" them into the structure of oppression, but to transform the structure so that they can become "beings for themselves." Such transformation, of course, would undermine the oppressors' purposes; hence their utilization of the banking concept of education to avoid the threat of student conscientizaηγo [critical consciousness].

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 74

(via boingboing)

Posted by abostick at 12:07 PM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2005

Hunter Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson shot and killed himself today in his home near Aspen, Colorado. He was 67 years old.

(via Kevin Drum)

Posted by abostick at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

Why All the Fuss?

Why is there all this fuss about James Guckert/Jeff Gannon being a "fake" journalist? There have been fakes in journalism for years.

Heck, the New York Times, the Great Grey Lady herself, has a fake ombudsman.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2005

Monkey Business

Quoth the SF Chronicle:

Two former employees of the Gorilla Foundation, home to Koko the "talking" ape, have filed a lawsuit contending that they were ordered to bond with the 33-year-old female simian by displaying their breasts. ...

The suit follows complaints filed by [Nancy] Alperin and [Kendra] Keller in January with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in which they gave identical reasons for why they were fired: "I refused to expose my breast to perform acts of bestiality with one of the gorillas."

The lawsuit goes into more detail.

One example: "On at least two incidents in mid-to-late June 2004, [Gorilla Foundation president Francine] Patterson intensely pressured Keller to expose herself to Koko while they were working outside where other employees could potentially view Keller's naked body. ... On one such occasion, Patterson said, 'Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples. I will turn my back so Kendra can show you her nipples.' " ...

The suit says the two women, who never did undress, also worked unpaid overtime and faced unsanitary conditions, including gorilla urine stored in the refrigerator where they kept their lunches, rodents in the food preparation area and exposed wires.

They notified the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which conducted an inspection last Aug. 5 and issued $300 in fines for various violations that have since been corrected, according to Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.

The two women were fired Aug. 6.

Posted by abostick at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Traffic Came to a Halt When Other Motorists Stopped to Applaud

From the San Francisco Chronicle comes yet another report that the spirit of Justice is alive and working among us:

SUV burns on Bay Bridge – cigarette butt blamed

The 20-year-old San Francisco resident was cruising across the upper deck of the Bay Bridge at 10:40 a.m., smoking a cigarette. When he got near the Harrison Street off-ramp, he rolled down the window of his white 2004 Ford Expedition SUV and tossed out the butt, authorities said.

Instead of bounding along the pavement, however, the still-lit cigarette blew back in and set the interior of Fish's $30,000 SUV ablaze, he told police.

Black smoke filled the vehicle. Fish pulled over to the far left-hand lane about 100 feet from the Harrison Street exit and leaped from the Expedition -- leaving the SUV in neutral instead of park.

The flaming Expedition rolled driverless into a guardrail by the exit, where it crashed to a stop and burned to the frame.

Do you suppose he was yakking on a cell phone at the time he tossed the butt out the window? Naaah, that would be too perfect.

(via Patti Beadles)

Posted by abostick at 08:59 AM | Comments (4)

February 11, 2005


Jeff Gannon/James Guckert has decided the heady excitement of asking questions at White House press gaggles isn't worth the mean things that Democratic political bloggers are saying about him. So the position of "fake reporter who gets Scott McClellan out of embarassing holes by pitching softballs" is open.

Then again, maybe it isn't. Atrios points us to evidence in Wednesday's White House press gagle, ferretted out by Holden, posting at First Draft, that quite possibly another mole has turned up in the White House press corps. One of Holden's commenters pointed out, You have to wonder how many of these ringers they have stored in the basement.

Skippy's pal Cookie Jill points us to American Idle, who in turn warns us that it could be easy indeed to find replacements as the moles successively get whacked:

Posted by abostick at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2005

Vox Populi

CNN headline: Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider


(via Talking Points Memo)

Posted by abostick at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

Boxer Forces Debate on Ohio Election

From the Associated Press:

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., signed a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio's 20 electoral votes, which put Bush over the top. By law, a protest signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each.

"I have concluded that objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate way to bring these issues to light by allowing you to have a two-hour debate to let the American people know the facts surrounding Ohio's election," Boxer wrote in a letter to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a leader of the Democratic effort.

The action seems certain to leave Bush's victory intact because both Republican-controlled chambers would have to uphold the objection for Ohio's votes to be invalidated. But supporters of the drive hope their move will shine a national spotlight on the Ohio voting problems.

Given Republican control of both the House and the Senate, the nominal result of the debate – confirmation the election of Bush – is a foregone conclusion. But this debate will enable to keep the spotlight, however briefly, upon Ohio's Republican secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is alleged to have intervened in the election over and over again in ways that contravened state and federal law.

Thanks go to all those people who called Sen. Boxer's offices to support her taking this position; by my count at least nine Californians in my own corner of blogtopia (y!sctp!) made calls as a result either of my post or reposts that linked to me. Kudos, of course, to Skippy and Daily Kos diarist ssteuer for bringing attention to the need to give Sen. Boxer that extra nudge.

Posted by abostick at 08:15 AM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2005


MSNBC reports that the Bush Administration clearly intends to continue its shameful practices of torture:

The inaugural ceremony will include performances by the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club, the U.S. Marine Band and mezzo sopranos Denyce Graves and Susan Graham.

Guy Hovis, a vocalist from Tupelo, Miss., who performed on the Lawrence Welk show, will sing, “Let the Eagles Soar,” a song written by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 04:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2004

Calamity Brings Out Our True Nature

The enormity of the calamity in the Indian Ocean is beyond human comprehension. The death toll, as I write this, is now above 76,000 and counting. There is every reason to expect it to top 100,000 when all is said and done, and that's before whatever epidemics break out in the afflicted areas. To put that in perspective, the quake and tsunami was just about as deadly to humanity as a whole, proportionately speaking, as the 9/11 attacks were to Americans.

My mind can't encompass this much loss and grief. I can get a handle, though, on some of the imbecility and pig-headedness the disaster has exposed:

  • Topping the charts of the most egregious news story that I've come across about the disaster is the Associated Press report that a Czech supermodel vacationing in Phuket survived the tsunami. Petra Nemcova was the cover girl for Sports Illustrated's 2003 Swimsuit issue. Does this somehow make her life worth thousands of others?

  • As Josh Marshall put it, President's latest response to the tsunami tragedy: badmouth Bill Clinton. A report in the Washington Post quoted a White House aide who explained Bush's absence from the quorum of world leaders cutting short their holiday vacations to return to work in response to the crisis: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' " Another top White House official said, "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role. Bush's actions while the bodies are being buried in mass graves: to stay on his ranch, where he is clearing brush and going bicycling. Once again, Bush's reaction to crisis and calamity is to hide. I wonder if he used the opportunity of his seclusion to reread "The Pet Goat"?

  • The otherwise-sensible Juan Cole sees the Indian Ocean quake and tsunami as a foreshadowing of rising sea levels due to global warming. This is about as silly as seeing a series of storms in Tornado Alley as a warning about a growing threat to nationwide highway safety. It is sufficiently silly, in fact, that Cole has found it necessary to rewrite this post a number of times to make it more and more clear that he knows there is no connection between the earthquake and global warming. Nevertheless, the size of the gaffe can only give ammunition to the little green facists who would like to see Cole silenced, or at least ignored.

Posted by abostick at 10:53 AM | Comments (1)

December 22, 2004

Republicans Are Thieves!

You thought those crybaby Democrats were exaggerating, but it's true: Republicans in Congress really are thieves! The Daily Kos has the story (filched from Roll Call, which requires a subscription):

The House Small Business Committee's chief economist was charged by Capitol Police with the attempted theft of a plasma television Thursday night.

According to a Capitol Police memorandum, officers apprehended the suspect, Thomas Loo, in the Rayburn House Office Building at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday after a Financial Services Committee staff member discovered Loo removing a plasma television from a room on the building's second floor.

According to Kos, Thomas Loo is a Republican staffer.

Posted by abostick at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2004

Joe Job

How could a person rise to the level of Vice President for Governmental Affairs of a Fortune 100 company without knowing about about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the US federal law prohibiting discrimination by gender (among other things) in hiring?

My partner Debbie Notkin thinks that one simply can't. That's why she thinks that the email from Viacom VP Gail MacKinnon to Republican members of Congress announcing a lobbyist position open to men only is a Joe job – a forgery sent out by a malicious third party who is seeking to make MacKinnon and maybe Viacom look bad.

Why would MacKinnon want that junior lobbyist position to be male-only in the first place? One reason might be that she doesn't feel effective in taking congressmen to titty bars and that a male subordinate could do that part of the job better. But if that were to be the case, everyone knows how to hire a man for the job: you list the position, keeping your illegal hiring agenda to yourself, and simply pick a man from the top applicants. (You might want to include some of the top women candidates in the interviewing stage, simply to avoid the appearance of impropriety.)

It's illegal; everyone knows it's illegal; it's trivially easy to make an end run around the law; there's no need to draw unwanted attention to yourself or your company by openly flouting the law. Occam's Razor says the MacKinnon email is a Joe job.

Posted by abostick at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

"We Had to Destroy Marriage in Order to Save It"

Rorshach at No Capital found the following item on

(New Paltz, New York) The Social Security Administration is refusing to recognize any marriage – straight or gay – performed in New Paltz, New York.

The tiny hamlet north of Manhattan burst onto the national scene in February when its mayor followed San Francisco in allowing gays to marry. (story) New Paltz officials are now under a court imposed ban on conducting gay marriages, but the federal government is taking no chances.

A temporary directive from the Social Security Administration not to accept any marriage certificates issued in New Paltz as identification has now been made permanent.

The move came as a shock to one straight couple in the town. Susie Kilpatrick Wilkening recently married Jeremy Wilkening, but when she went to the Social Security office in Kingston, New York to get her surname changed to Wilkening she was told the federal government would not accept her marriage.

"I presented my marriage certificate, and I was told that it was not an acceptable form of ID because it was from New Paltz," she told the Daily Freeman newspaper.

A spokesperson for the administration said that the policy began with the State of New York.

"The state has said that it does not consider (any marriage certificates issued in New Paltz) legal documents, so we are waiting until all of the legal issues on the state level are resolved," Jane Zanca told the Freeman.

But, officials at the New York Department of State, which maintains all state records, also said they had nothing to do with the Social Security policy.

Last February when San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Social Security instructed its offices nationwide not to accept any marriage certificates from San Francisco as proof of identification. (story)

(via Holden, who is posting for skippy)

Posted by abostick at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2004

"Emperor Norton Bridge" Crosses First Hurdle

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution by a vote of 8-2 to recommend to the California Department of Transportation and the state legislature that the San Francisco Bay Bridge be renamed in honor of Joshua Norton, a.k.a. Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

The move to rename the bridge has been promoted by cartoonist Phil Frank (who draws the local strip "Farley") and taken up by a committee of prominent San Francisco citizens.

"The resolution, if approved by Mayor Gavin Newsom," writes Chronicle staff writer Suzanne Herel, "next will travel to the Oakland City Council and on to the California Legislature."

Herel fudges the detail of precisely what is being renamed. According to the Web page of the SF Board of Supervisors, it is the "new additions to the San Francisco Bay Bridge," i.e. the controversial replacement of the eastern span that is currently under construction.

Norton I decreed in 1872 that the Bay Bridge be built, and the job was finally completed in 1936.

Posted by abostick at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2004

Are We Supposed to Believe Ahnold Didn't Inhale?

As the scandal machine continues to unfold the sordid spectacle of baseball players like Barry Bonds revealed to be drug steroid users, Maria Shriver has stepped forward in Bonds's defense:

California first lady Maria Shriver Tuesday defended San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds as "a father, a great baseball player and a great Californian'' and said parents -- not politicians -- might be the most effective influences on young athletes about the dangers of steroids.

Shriver said the news from the BALCO scandal had prompted her to talk with her children about the subject of steroid use, adding she didn't think that politicians, including her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, can substitute for parents when it comes to helping young athletes avoid the dangers of steroids.

"I don't look to politicians to take the lead on that,'' she said. ...

Shriver said the story had become a breakfast table topic in her house – in part because her son goes to the same school as a daughter of Bonds.

"My son asked me about it because he's a big Barry Bonds fan" and felt badly for the baseball star's daughter, she said. "All his friends were talking about it ... and that's how it came up in our house.''

Shriver said she had told her son that compassion was in order, and "we can't forget that there's always a personal side to these things.''

Shriver should understand very well about the "personal side" of atheletes using steroids: Steroids are the foundation of her husband's career.

It's interesting that Shriver, not Schwarzenegger, did the dirty work of talking to the children about the dangers of steroid use. What's the matter, Ahnold? If you can't face awkward and embarassing questions from a basically sympathetic member of your family, why should anyone think you have what it takes to face the press?

Posted by abostick at 08:47 AM | Comments (2)

November 24, 2004

Tabish & Murphy Acquitted in Binion Murder Case

The New York Times reports that Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy were found not guilty of murdering Ted Binion in their second trial.

In Jim McManus's book Positively Fifth Street, Tabish and Murphy's first trial was the counterpoint to his first-person account of playing in the championship event at the 2000 World Series of Poker and making the final table. Tabish and Murphy were convicted of murder in that trial, but the Nevada State Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

Tabish and Murphy beat the murder charges, but they were convicted on three other charges: burglary, grand larceny, and conspiracy to commit burglary.

Court TV has more details.

(via TalkLeft)

Posted by abostick at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2004

Mr. Jones Wishes He Were the Lawyer of Someone Just a Little More Funky

I wish I were Bob Dylan's lawyer. Right now I could be racking up the billable hours by writing up the cease-and-desist letters – a separate letter for each offender, mind you – demanding that each and every newspaper, TV and radio station, wire service, and blogger who have quoted the final verse to his song "Masters of War" without paying the licensing fee. Writing up all those letters would take hours and hours and hours, and I could then present Dylan with a hefty bill for my services.

Here's the story: A group of students in Boulder, Colorado, put together a band for a high-school talent show. They call themselves the Coalition of the Willing, and the song they intend to play in this show is "Masters of War". The last verse of the song expresses the singers wish that the unnamed and unidentified masters of war were dead, and the singer's intention to follow the masters' casket to the grave to be sure of it.

Some other students heard the band rehearsing, and were upset by this. Someone complained to a (presumably right-wing) radio talk show about the band's rehearsing a song that finished with a death-threat to President Bush.

Enter the Secret Service, whose solemn duty it is to investigate every known presidential death threat. SS officers appeared at the school to find out more. A teacher gave them a copy of the song lyrics, and the officers went home.

Now the story of how the SS is investigating high school students who sing protest songs is all over the Web, and most every version of the story quotes the last verse of Dylan's song.

The scary thing here is not that the SS investigated – it's the SS's job to investigate identified threats to the President – but that someone thought that calling in the heavy artillery was an appropriate thing to do in the first place. That's what the civil libertarians refer to as a "chilling effect": wingnuts' provoking over-the-top official responses to dissent is intended to harass dissenters ... and give them investigation (if not actual arrest) records.

What's next? Are the wingers going to sic ASCAP on the bloggers who report this story and quote Dylan?

Posted by abostick at 10:35 AM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2004

The Watch on the Rhine

Quoth Brad DeLong:

It is now 59 years and 9 months since an army crossed the Rhine River bearing fire and sword. This is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since the second century B.C.E., before the Cimbri and the Teutones appeared to challenge the armies of the consul Gaius Marius in the Rhone Valley.

For all that's going wrong in the world, it's good to know that something has gone right.

Posted by abostick at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

Eyewitness in Fallujah

The BBC has published a report from Fadhil Badrani, their stringer in Fallujah:

A row of palm trees used to run along the street outside my house - now only the trunks are left. The upper half of each tree has vanished, blown away by mortar fire. From my window, I can also make out that the minarets of several mosques have been toppled. There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable....

I tried to flee the city last night but I could not get very far. It was too dangerous....

It is hard to know how much people outside Falluja are aware of what is going on here. I want them to know about conditions inside this city - there are dead women and children lying on the streets. People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens.

(via Scratchings)

Posted by abostick at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2004

This Age Wanted Heroes

Shut up. Listen. There is something calling, Paulinka. If you still retain a shred of decency you can hear it – it's a dim terrible voice that's calling – a bass howl, like a cow in a slaughterhouse, but far, far off... It is calling us to action, calling us to stand against the calamity, to spare nothing, not our blood, nor our happiness, nor our lives in the struggle to stop the dreadful day that's burning now in oil flames on the horizon. What makes the voice pathetic is that it doesn't know what kind of people it's reaching. Us. No one hears it, except us. This Age wanted heroes. It got us instead: carefully constructed, but immobile. Subtle, but unfit to take up the burden of the times. It happens. A whole generation of washouts. History says stand up, and we totter and collapse, weeping, moved, but not sufficient. The best of us, lacking. The most decent, not decent enough. The kindest, too cruel, the most loving too full of hate, the wisest, too stupid, the fittest unfit to take up the burden of the times. The Enemy has a voice like seven thunders. What chance did that dim voice ever have? Marvel that anyone heard it instead of wondering why nobody did anything, marvel that we heard it, we who have no right to hear it – NO RIGHT! And it would be a mercy not to. But mercy ... is a thing ... no one remembers its face anymore. The best would be that time would stop right now, in this middling moment of awfulness, before the very worst arrives. We'd all be spared more than telling. That would be best.

(Tony Kushner, A Bright Room Called Day)

Posted by abostick at 03:34 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2004


John Solomon of the Associated Press sez:

The FBI has begun investigating whether the Pentagon improperly awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton Co., seeking an interview with a top Army contracting officer and collecting documents from several government offices.

The line of inquiry expands an earlier FBI investigation into whether Halliburton overcharged taxpayers for fuel in Iraq, and it elevates to a criminal matter the election-year question of whether the Bush administration showed favoritism to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

Isn't it curious quite how many of the October Surprises are breaking our way?

(Via Talking Points Memo

Posted by abostick at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004

Di Fi Seeks to Block Expanded Casino San Pablo

According to a report in today's San Francisco Chronicle, California Senator Dianne Feinstein has authored a one-sentence bill that would revoke the status of Casino San Pablo as land held in trust for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. If the bill becomes law, then it's back to square one: the Lyttons lose their shot at gambling revenues, and CSP remains what it always has been: a barely-if-at-all-profitable cardroom.

I'd rank Feinstein's chances at getting this through the Republican-controlled Congress somewhere between "slim" and "none". She's a Democrat, at least in name, and the state's Republican governor has already stated his opposition to her bill. Also, it's not clear whether her sudden opposition to CSP's expansion is due to actual community concern or if she's throwing a bone to John Tibbetts, Dennis Sammut, and the other local card club owners who have been consistently using what legal and political clout they could muster to prevent the slot machines from showing up at CSP.

Posted by abostick at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

I'm Being Followed by a Goon's Shadow

Associated Press, via SF Gate:

A London-to-Washington flight was diverted to Maine when it was discovered that passenger Yusuf Islam – formerly known as singer Cat Stevens – was on a government watch list and barred from entering the country.

United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport when the match was made Tuesday between a passenger and a name on the watch list, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The plane was met by federal agents at Maine's Bangor International Airport around 3 p.m., Melendez said.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Dennis Murphy identified the passenger as Islam. "He was interviewed and denied admission to the United States on national security grounds," Murphy said.

He said Islam would be put on the first available flight out of the country Wednesday.

Officials had no details about why the peace activist might be considered a risk to the United States. Islam had visited New York in May for a charity event and to promote a DVD of his 1976 MajiKat tour. [emphasis added]

What, were they afraid that the former Cat Stevens would undermine American resolve by singing a song that could touch the hearts and minds of the people? GMAFB.

Meanwhile, Jeralyn Merrit points out that despite more than 5,000 arrests and detentions since September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice under John Ashcroft hasn't successfully convicted a single terrorist. Even Terence Hallinan had a better conviction record than this. If Ashcroft were the DA of a big city, the law-and-order lobby would be howling for his blood.

But you can sleep soundly tonight, knowing that America is safe from second-rate has-been singer-songwriters.

Posted by abostick at 09:31 AM | Comments (4)

September 17, 2004

File Sharing

Over at Crooked Timber, commenter dsquared has dared to defy the wrath of the RIAA by posting the ASCII tablature to Johnny Ramone's guitar solo for the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated." Ramone died earlier this week.


(via boingboing)

Posted by abostick at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

Cal/OSHA Sez: Porn Stars Must Use Condoms

This came through the Associated Press wire:

Two adult film companies fined for allowing unprotected sex on movie set

(09-17) 06:57 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) –

California officials fined two adult film companies more than $30,000 each for allowing actors to perform without using condoms, the first time the state has taken such action.

The fines against Evasive Angles and TTB Productions follow an investigation into a complaint filed by a porn industry worker. The companies have 15 days to appeal the decision Wednesday by the state Division of Occupational Health and Safety.

Susan Gard, agency spokeswoman, said the companies violated California law when actors performed sex scenes without using condoms. She said state law requires employers to protect workers who are exposed to blood or bodily fluids on the job.

"Any bodily fluid is considered infectious," she said. "That means barrier equipment must be used."

Four actors were diagnosed earlier this year with HIV, prompting state officials to say they would investigate whether state laws were being followed. Officials at Evasive Angles and TTB Productions could not immediately be reached for comment; calls to them went unanswered early Friday.

The companies were also cited for not notifying authorities about actors who contracted HIV on the job, officials said.

It is a widely held belief among adult film producers that condom use hurts profits because customers would rather see unprotected sex. However, some large adult film production companies require actors to use condoms.

(via SF Gate)

Posted by abostick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

Quote of the Week

Quoth Brad DeLong:

Leading neoconservative Francis Fukuyama is shrill. The Bush's administration's latest Big Lie has pushed him over the edge, into shrill unholy madness. Fukuyama is not only shrill, he is the new Grand Heresiarch of the Order of the Shrill – as he asks the Bush administration, "Just what part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Fukuyama R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn!' don't you understand?"
Posted by abostick at 02:13 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2004

Study: Pr0n Is Good for You

"Pornography is actually good for you in many ways," says Dr. Alan McKee, principal investigator of a research group in Australia, whose government-funded study ("Understanding Pornography in Australia") surveyed viewers of porn on the Internet. The Register quotes McKee, referring to a report on whose link has evidently expired.

The Register also quotes Clive Hamilton, executive director of something called the Australia Institute and author of draft legislation to force ISPs to filter pornography to prevent any access by minors: "No man who regularly uses pornography can have a healthy sexual relationship with a woman." That's a rather broad blanket of a statement, don't you think?

(via The Sideshow)

Posted by abostick at 11:54 AM | Comments (2)

August 27, 2004

No Mega-Casino in San Pablo, This Year

"This story isn't over yet," commented Debbie Notkin. She was right:

San Pablo casino won't get OK in 2004

Governor gives up after lawmakers oppose compact

John M. Hubbell, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Friday, August 27, 2004
Sacramento – A deal to create a huge tribal-owned casino in San Pablo was declared dead for the year late Thursday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration said it would not push for approval in the face of lingering bipartisan opposition. ...
Posted by abostick at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2004

"As Soon as You Take Their Money, You Owe Them Something"

The story of the advent of casino-style gambling at Casino San Pablo, here in the Bay Area, has been unfolding with no little drama.

California State Senate leader John Burton, the San Francisco Democrat who is titular head of the city's Burton Machine, announced last Friday that Democrats had blocked the original plan to expand CSP to a super-colossal casino with 5,000 slot machines. The Democrats favored a plan where CSP would only expand to a jumbo casino with only 2,500 slots, half as many as was agreed originally between the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. On Saturday US Senator Dianne Feinstein (RD-Calif) chimed in, calling the agreement between the Lytton Pomos and the Governator "unconscionable" and "totally unacceptable."

The Lytton Pomos acceded to Burton's demand on Sunday, so quickly that I cannot help but suspect that this was a smoothly directed piece of political theater, that the original plan was intended to be so outlandish that the "compromise" reached, the target actually aimed for, would seem small in comparison. The Governator and representatives of the Lytton Pomos signed the revised agreement on Monday.

But wait ... there's more! Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, crackerjack investigative journalists for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported in Sunday's edition of the Chronicle that Joe and Gavin Maloof, part of the management team slated to run the expanded CSP for the Lytton Pomos, organized a fundraiser last February that netted more than a million dollars for the Governator's campaign war chest. The Maloof brothers own the Sacramento Kings, as well as the Palms casino resort in Las Vegas.

Matier and Ross point out that during the recall campaign that put him in office, the Governator denounced the role of special-interest money in politics: "As soon as you take their money," they quote him as having said, "you owe them something.'' In that same campaign, the Governator slammed his leading opponent, Cruz Bustamante, for accepting campaign contributions from tribal interests while the state was in negotiation with them over gambling compacts.

A spokesman for the Governator told Matier and Ross on background, "It's our understanding that (Joe) Maloof wasn't engaged in any discussions to manage the casino at the time of the February event, and we never had any indication of his participation until after the agreement was reached.'' How convenient for the Governator.

Posted by abostick at 03:15 PM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2004

30-Year-Old Injustice Overturned

U.S. Military Clears A-Team of Charges

WASHINGTON, DC — After more than 30 years spent hiding in the Los Angeles underground as wanted criminals, the members of the crack commando unit Alpha Team, commonly known as the A-Team, were cleared of all charges brought against them by the U.S. military, an army official announced Monday.

"In 1972, we arrested the members of the A-Team for a crime they swore they didn't commit," Gen. Stephen Lupo said. "They broke out of our maximum-security stockade, and from that moment forth, I thought of nothing but their recapture. However, a recent audit of their file has revealed that the arrest of the Alpha Force members was made in error. The U.S. military deeply regrets the mistake." ...

[Cpt. H.M. "Howlin' Mad"] Murdock and the surviving members of the team — the classically handsome Lt. Templeton Arthur "Face" Peck and the Mohawk-sporting mechanic, Sgt. Bosco "B.A." Baracus — said their joy over the announcement was tempered only by regret that their de-facto leader, Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, was not alive to see their names cleared.

(via Joe Decker)

August 10, 2004

Burning Khan

In the comments on 14cyclenotes' LiveJournal there's a discussion going about the Bush administration's burning of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, the al Qaeda member arrested in Lahore last month who had been cooperating with Pakistani authorities in identifying other al Qaeda members in Pakistan and in Britain. The leak of Khan's name is being compared to last year's blowing of the cover of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame by Scooter Libby an as-yet-unidentified Bush Administration official.

We won't know the full story in either case until the dust settles. But at this point in time it appears that the key difference between the Plame case and the Khan case is that Plame was burned as an act of political malice, whereas Khan's name was divulged because the "senior White House officials" who divulged it were unaware of the consequences.

The Boston Globe today reported many details of the gaffe that quashed the ongoing operation.

Here's what happened: After Tom Ridge gave his August 1 press conference saying that the terror alert was based on new information, "senior government officials" gave a backgrounder on the issue. A "backgrounder" is sort of like a press conference, except that the person at the front of the room answering questions is not to be identified. (It's chief purpose seems to be to lend information authenticity by making it seem to newspaper readers like the information is a hot tip from a covert source rather than just another of serving of prepared spin by the flacks.)

After the official backgrounder, the members of the press corps went off to buttonhole their individual intelligence, terrorism, or national security contacts. The guy who spoke to the Globe reporters didn't give any names. The guy who talked to the Times reporters gave Khan's name, and the Times printed it.

It's all part of the spin cycle. Whoever manages that cycle -- maybe Andy Card, maybe Scott McClellan, I don't know -- knows which "senior White House official" spoke to the Times.

In an administration that cared about successes and failures, the guy who spoke to the Times would be hung out to dry. But no matter how catastrophic the results of their bungles and gaffes might be, Bush staffers' jobs are secure so long as they are loyal to the cause.

Good, thorough analysis of the Khan affair can be found at Juan Cole's Informed Comment, beginning here.

Posted by abostick at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2004

Pot for PTSD?

The Sydney Morning Herald cites the newspaper Ma'ariv, reporting that the Israeli Defense Force's medical corps is testing cannibis as a treatment for stress symptoms in soldiers who have served in the West Bank and Gaza.

(via TalkLeft)

Posted by abostick at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2004

Dick Cheney, Crook

Josh Marshall has the goods on Dick Cheney. The New York Times reports:

The Halliburton Company secretly changed its accounting practices when Vice President Dick Cheney was its chief executive, the Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday as it fined the company $7.5 million and brought actions against two former financial officials.

The commission said the accounting change enabled Halliburton, one of the nation's largest energy services companies, to report annual earnings in 1998 that were 46 percent higher than they would have been had the change not been made. It also allowed the company to report a substantially higher profit in 1999, the commission said.

Given that Halliburton is paying a hefty fine for what can only be described as deliberate fraud, the Times is remarkably gentle in its reporting. So is the SEC. Josh Marshall sez:

The SEC and the even the Times goes to some length to avoid the colloquial term for this sort of behavior: i.e., fraud. The SEC did levy the fine. And it did point the finger of blame at two lower levels Halliburton officials. Yet the SEC, in the words of the Times, "did not detail the extent to which [Cheney] was aware of the change or of the requirement to disclose it to investors." And not surprisingly, in the article, Cheney's lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell is trumpeting the results of the investigation as a clean bill of health for Cheney. ...

So here you have the Vice President of the United States. His company gets caught in about as clear a case of cooking the books to inflate profits as you can imagine during the time he was CEO. (His salary and bonuses are tied to company profits.) And he won't even go to the trouble of denying that he was aware of the wrongdoing.

Can we have some more aggressive reporting on this one?

I second the motion. Cheney, it is now clear, is cut from the same cloth as Dennis Koslowski or Ken Lay. Maybe John Edwards can work this into his stump speech?

Update: Billmon, at the Whiskey Bar, goes into substantial detail on the what and the why of the cooking of the Halliburton books, and why it is highly likely (if not necessarily provable) that Cheney had his hand in it.

Posted by abostick at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2004

Canada Grapples with Same-Sex Divorce

The laws in Canada governing marriage are provincial laws, i.e., laws promulgated province by province. Canada's divorce law, though, is federal, applying equally in all the country's provinces and territories.

Three provinces and a territory allow for marriages between people of the same gender. The federal divorce law, however, applies only to marriages between a man and a woman.

A Toronto lesbian couple married in 2003 is seeking a divorce, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail

But the partners find themselves in a legal limbo. The federal government acknowledges that same-sex couples should be allowed to get divorced, but the divorce law still considers a married couple to be a man and a woman. ...

The couple signed a separation agreement in April that settled all matrimonial issues. All that remains to officially end the marriage is the divorce papers.

The stumbling block is the Divorce Act, which defines "spouse" as "of a man or woman who are married to each other." Although Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Yukon permit same-sex marriages, the federal government did not change the definition in the act.

The article details the dilemma before the government: give consent to the divorce, and therefore acknowledge that the law is unconstitutional, or have the judge hearing the divorce case rule whether the Divorce Act violates the Charter of Rights.

The sacred institution of divorce is in jeopardy in Canada. If same-sex divorce is allowed, how long will it be before we see man-dog divorce? Would your neighbor be free to divorce a box turtle???

(via BC Holmes)

Posted by abostick at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

How Not to Talk to Reporters

Debbie's employer, Jossey-Bass, is the focus of an exposι appearing in the SF Weekly, concerning the awkward cancellation by the parent company (Wiley) of a book J-B had offered to buy. Allegedly, the reason for the cancellation was that the book contains a chapter that is sharply critical of Wal-Mart, and the Wiley sales representative who handled the Wal-Mart account was concerned that this would damage the relationship between Wiley and Wal-Mart. (Wal-Mart is notorious for the draconian way it deals with its suppliers.)

Matt Smith, the reporter for the SF Weekly, did his homework, and made inquiries with Wiley management about the episode.

Curious about the sales end of this "collaboration," I phoned Wiley Vice President for Sales Dean Karrel and asked him to discuss any concerns he might or might not have had about the Wal-Mart problem.

"What you have received is highly confidential information regarding the business decisions of our company," an apparently rattled Karrel said, before changing tack a little. "You don't have any information, do you Matt? Someone is actually lying, and I don't appreciate it. You'll be contacted by our attorneys. You haven't done any research about the value that we place on authors, have you Matt? That's certainly not public information. It's sad you would want to embarrass one of our authors. And I'm sorry somebody gave you the wrong information."

Wouldn't "No comment" have been more appropriate?

(Matt Smith did get one important detail wrong: in the title of a book in the lucrative "For Dummies" series, the word "For" is capitalized, e.g., Intensively Recomplicated Insurance Forms For Dummies.)

Posted by abostick at 03:02 PM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2004

Bush's Middle Finger

Jiveturkey on LiveJournal has posted an amazing account of an anti-Bush protest that somehow managed not to be confined to a "free speech zone":

So I went to protest Dubya today, as he was visiting my humble little burg of East Lampeter, PA.

Adam came over and with my and Matt's help, created two banners. They read:




... [T]hen me, Adam, and Brendan went to another spot along the highway that we had spied earlier. A friendly Kerry supporter named Mr. Shenk let us use his front yard to display our banners. Now comes the good part. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, the motorcade passed by us again. A few police cars, followed by a van or two, drove by. Then, a Bush/Cheney bus passed, followed by a second one going slower. At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.

A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger." We laughed probably for the next half hour, and promptly told everyone we knew. Brendan actually snapped a picture of Bushy in action, but the glare and the tint of the bus windows make it difficult to see him at all. Nonetheless, it was the best possible reaction. [link to photo added – ALB]

(via Lynn Kendall)

Posted by abostick at 10:33 AM | Comments (4)

June 29, 2004

Yankee Fans Boo Cheney

John Aravosis writes in AMERICAblog:

I just got a live phone-in from the Yankees vs. Boston game in NYC taking place right now. Dick Cheney just got booed by the crowd!

Even as my friend Michael called me from his seats at the game, God Bless America was still playing in the background. During the 7th inning stretch at Yankees Stadium, they play God Bless America and show on the big screen pictures of anyone famous who's in the audience that night. Dick Cheney is apparently in the audience, and as soon as his face went up, the entire crowd started booing! As my friend Michael tells it, this is the blue-collar Bronx we're talking about, and Cheney is still getting booed - not a good sign for the Bush-Cheney ticket. As soon as the camera guys realized Cheney was getting booed, they quickly switched the picture on the screen to someone else.

The story is confirmed in New York Times and ESPN reports of the game.

(via Eschaton)

Update: The "ESPN" report is actually the Associated Press report of the game.

Posted by abostick at 09:06 PM | Comments (1)

June 19, 2004

The Sound and the Fury

Ray Bradbury is continuing to mouth off about the title of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11: "He didn't ask my permission," Bradbury, 83, told The Associated Press on Friday. "That's not his novel, that's not his title, so he shouldn't have done it."

You can't copyright a title, you clueless dumbfuck.

According to the AP story, Bradbury is hoping to avoid litigation. I should hope so, because if he sued, he'd lose his sorry ass.

Posted by abostick at 07:55 AM | Comments (2)

June 17, 2004

Steadfast and Unwavering

Here are the editors of The New York Times:

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.

And here is George Bush himself, as quoted by Reuters:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," Bush told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet.

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda," the Republican president said.

It is said among election-watchers that one of the qualities of George Bush admired by his supporters is his determination to be steadfast and unwavering, when others might shift their ground.

Can this quality be taken too far? Here's the Times again:

Mr. Bush is right when he says he cannot be blamed for everything that happened on or before Sept. 11, 2001. But he is responsible for the administration's actions since then. That includes, inexcusably, selling the false Iraq-Qaeda claim to Americans. There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.

(Times editorial via Eschaton)

Posted by abostick at 08:59 AM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2004

Santa Claus in a Bar Fight?

Over on Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden quotes an Associated Press report on a couple in Statesboro, Georgia, who were arrested after watching Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. The story reports that Sean Davidson and Melissa Davidson left the theater arguing over a theological point: whether, in the Holy Trinity, God the Father was human or symbolic. Once they got home, the argument escalated into violence.

The report quotes sherriff's deputy Gene McDaniel: "“Really, it was kind of a pitiful thing, to go to a movie like that and fight about it. I think they missed the point." To which Teresa responds:

Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. They’re hardly the first people to wander into that tar pit. The night before the final balloting at the Council of Nicea, Saint Nicholas of Myra punched out Arius in a bar fight arising from a very similar argument.
Posted by abostick at 08:37 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2004

Don't Tell David Bratman

LOTR to Be Musical

Fresh from its runaway success at the Oscars, fantasy epic Lord of the Rings is set to hit the stage as a lavish musical, reports say.

Producers are planning to turn the book series into the most expensive musical ever seen in London, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

News of the musical version comes weeks after the final film installment of the trilogy, Return Of The King, won 11 Academy Awards.

(via Eschaton)

Posted by abostick at 08:50 AM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2004

Right Here, Right Now

Lynn Kendall was volunteering today in the San Francisco Recorder's Office, helping people get their marriage license applications in order. I met her for lunch outside City Hall, at the corner of Grove and Van Ness.

I've never seen anything quite like it: a line of people snaking down the steps of the main entrance to City Hall, turning on Grove Street, and looping up Franklin Street, behind the building. Everyone was happy, smiling, waiting in the slow-moving line for their chance to get hitched. Cars drove past on Van Ness, honking horns: "Bee-bee-bee-BEEEEEEEP!" – the Morse code for V-for-victory.

Lynn told me that inside City Hall the line of marriage license applicants snaked back and forth through the central hall like the line for an E-ticket ride at Disneyland. Something on the order of a hundred volunteers had turned up to help, and they were all needed. People came dressed in jeans and T-shirts, or in matching bridal gowns, matching tuxedos, or sweatsuits. People had driven in from all over the west. People had flown in from the East Coast.

After lunch, as I walked Lynn back to City Hall, a mariachi band was playing on the steps of the building. The line had gotten shorter, extending only to the corner of Grove and Van Ness. The cars were still honking joyously as they passed. Parked in the Civic Center plaza were trucks for local television stations.

"It really feels like the Berlin Wall coming down," Lynn told me. The comparison had come to my own mind also.

Here (via boing boing) is another eyewitness account, of City Hall on Valentine's Day, by Seth Schoen:

We walked around the side of the line and saw hundreds of same-sex couples in all states of dress (punk to tuxedo to family heirloom dress to just-off-the-street-in-work-attire). One couple wore yarmulkes and carried a siddur; another couple looked like ordained ministers, but I didn't know for sure of which Christian denomination. (It must be one willing to ordain gay women.) At the back of City Hall, the line was making its way through the door past a group of about half a dozen well-wishers with big pink signs. They looked like high school students. One of them was carrying an American flag with gay rights symbols in place of the stars. (Oddly enough, San Francisco regular Frank Chu was demonstrating too, with his usual sign that had nothing to do with same-sex marriage – instead about galaxies, a rocket society, and impeaching former U.S. presidents. I was pretty sure he was just trying to get on TV with his message. You see him frequently in the Financial District.)

Here and here are San Francisco Chronicle stories on the political background and legal implications of Gavin Newsom's stunning decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex applicants. (via Janet Lafler)

Addendum: Here is RJ's account of helping out at City Hall.

Addendum #2: And here is Lynn Kendall's:

The wedding parties had been standing in line for hours – two to four hours once they got inside the building, plus many hours in line outside. The air in City Hall was warm and humid, chilly and wet outside. Many had children with them – tiny babies in Snuglis, toddlers in strollers, teenagers playing games on cell phones. Almost everyone was burdened with umbrellas, backpacks, or blankets, and some had brought clothes to change into.

Yet what struck me most was the joy in that endless line. Every person I helped thanked me. Several offered warm hugs. People whose papers had already been validated still thanked me for coming out to help. Whenever volunteers entered or left the building, the people in line cheered and thanked them.

Posted by abostick at 08:48 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2004

"What Goes On Here ... Goes On Your Record"

From a report in Casino City Times:

Casinos, Airlines Ordered to Give FBI Information

31 December 2003

by Rod Smith

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas hotel operators and airlines serving McCarran International Airport are being required by the FBI to turn over all guest and passenger names and personal information, at least during the holiday period, several sources said Tuesday.

FBI spokesman Todd Palmer confirmed the federal action and said the requirement that the companies surrender customer information is a "normal investigative procedure."

However, Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the program "clearly is not part of a normal investigation.

"What we seem to be witnessing at this point is a move on the part of the government to keep tabs on what everyone is doing all the time, which has serious civil liberties implications," Lichtenstein said.

"It's one thing to have some specific security concerns and a targeted investigation with some basis in fact, but to ... try to follow everyone goes beyond what is called for."

Hotel operators who asked not to be identified said the information being provided to federal officials includes guest and passenger names, addresses and personal identification information, but not casino records or guest gambling information. ...

President Bush signed legislation earlier this month expanding the authority of the bureau and other U.S. authorities conducting counterterrorist intelligence. The law authorizes them to demand records from financial companies including casinos without seeking court approval.

Previously, casino companies generally released such private information only under subpoena. But under the new law, they will be required to release it if national security letters are issued by federal investigators.

The information is being transmitted electronically to the FBI on what could amount to 300,000 visitors to Las Vegas daily.

(via Eschaton and TalkLeft)

Posted by abostick at 09:25 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2003

GlaxoSmithKline Boss Admits Most Drugs Don't Work for Most People

From The Independent:

A senior executive with Britain's biggest drugs company has admitted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them. ... It is an open secret within the drugs industry that most of its products are ineffective in most patients but this is the first time that such a senior drugs boss has gone public. ... [Allen Roses, worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline said,]"The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people."

(via The Sideshow)

Posted by abostick at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2003

Rule #1

Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I've read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I've noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. . . .

1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

from The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became an Evil Overlord

(via Eschaton)

December 09, 2003

Rule 0x0B

Elf Sternberg tells us the good news about the lawsuit filed by SCO against IBM claiming that IBM's use and distribution of Linux violates SCO's intellectual property rights in System V UNIX.

At a hearing last Friday, the presiding judge granted IBM's first and second motions to compel discovery, giving SCO thirty days to comply, and suspending all other discovery until the hearing next month. IBM is demanding that SCO identify precisely what source code for the Linux kernel is derived from System V. SCO has claimed in public statements that it knows what source code is affected, but it doesn't want to dilute its IP by revealing it. Well, the judge has just told them to put up or shut up.

According to an an observer at the hearing:

There are no offending "trade secrets" from SysV in the IBM case. However: "Trade Secrets" were stolen from Unixware during Monterey and wholesale given to Linux. "Confidential Information" was stolen from derivitive works of SysV specifically Dynix, specifically NUMA and RCU. IBM owns derivitive works but must "use" them as specified by license, namely, treated as part of the original software and kept "confidential". IBM owns derivitive works but cannot step outside of the scope of the license agreement. All of their outrageous public statements, in their entirety, (which the judge ripped them for) had nothing to do with IBM and were all related to SGI and that SGI has acknowledged in some degree.

Elf Sternberg says of the SGI IP leakage, This IP, it should be noted, was never put into production as Linus [Torvalds] deemed it irredeemably ugly and replaced it with something more elegant and independently produced.

Observers of the case report that IBM is beginning to make pointed hints about Rule Eleven. One wonders what has been taking them so long.

Posted by abostick at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

"The Turkey Was for the Centerpiece...."

According to the Washington Post, the turkey platter that George Bush showed off to soldiers during his hit-and-run photo op in Baghdad on Thanksgiving was a decoration, not intended to be served or eaten.

In the most widely published image from his Thanksgiving day trip to Baghdad, the beaming president is wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers as he cradles a huge platter laden with a golden-brown turkey.

The bird is so perfect it looks as if it came from a food magazine, with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But as a small sign of the many ways the White House maximized the impact of the 21/2-hour stop at the Baghdad airport, administration officials said yesterday that Bush picked up a decoration, not a serving plate.

Officials said they did not know the turkey would be there or that Bush would pick it up. A contractor had roasted and primped the turkey to adorn the buffet line, while the 600 soldiers were served from cafeteria-style steam trays, the officials said. They said the bird was not placed there in anticipation of Bush's stealthy visit, and military sources said a trophy turkey is a standard feature of holiday chow lines.

Deeper in the article are choice paragraphs that reveal perhaps too much about the patronizing contempt for the American public held by Bush's handlers:

White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush, but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real.

"This was effective, because it captured something about the president that people know is true, that he really cares about the soldiers and gets emotional when he sees them," Mary Matalin, a former administration official, said about the trip to Baghdad. "You have to figure out how to capture the Bush we know, even if it doesn't come through in a speech situation or a press conference. He regularly rejects anything that is not him."

To tell the truth, we need to lie. Isn't that rather like destroying the village in order to save it?

(via Talking Points Memo)

Posted by abostick at 11:31 AM | Comments (2)

November 28, 2003

Whose Journalists are Nastier: Britain or the USA?

Kevin Drum at Calpundit is uncharacteristically upset about the Independent's headline for their story on Bush's hit-and-run visit to Baghdad yesterday: The Turkey Has Landed.

But honestly, writes Kevin, what were they thinking? As the cover of Counterpunch or some Bay Area alt weekly, sure. But on the front page of an allegedly serious broadsheet?

You ain't seen nothin' yet. Newsday, Long Island's daily tabloid, puts the Independent to shame for partisan headlining:

AWOL on Air Force One.

("AWOL" is the sobriquet that Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is promoting for our commander-in-thief, as a reminder of Bush's desertion from his National Guard unit.)

Who would have thunk that a sober paper like Newsday would out-nasty a feisty British political paper?

(Thanks to Skippy for the Newsday headline)

Posted by abostick at 05:12 PM | Comments (3)

November 27, 2003

They Still Haven't Got It Right

Calpundit quotes a story in the Los Angeles Daily News about the Affirmative Action Office of the County of Los Angeles requesting that computer and video equipment be relabeled from "Master/Slave" to "Primary/Secondary". Alas, this doesn't put a stop to the use of offensive language, but merely shifts the offensive burden from one minority group to another.

Dennis A. Tafoya
Affirmative Action Office
County of Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.

Dear Mr. Tafoya:

As a practitioner of polyamory, I find the usage your office recommends for Los Angeles County facilities of the expressions "primary" and "secondary" (e.g. for IDE disk drives in desktop computer systems) to be demeaning and disrespectful to my lifechoices and relationships.

It's hard enough to be polyamorous in a predominantly monogamous workplace, and especially so if one is "out" to one's co-workers and management. This unfortunate terminology merely provides an opportunity for unwelcome jokes and other forms of harrassment – which in fact constitute sexual harrassment – for polyamorous employees of Los Angeles County by the less tolerant among their peers.

Since you have already taken the lead in showing sensitivity to issues of this sort, I am confident that you will immediately take action to put a stop to this practice. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Alan L. Bostick

Posted by abostick at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2003

"...The U.S. Federal Budget Is Out of Control."

This is what happens when you let Republicans govern without adult supervision:

Spending Discipline Proves Unfashionable This Year


WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 — The Medicare bill about to clear Congress is the latest example of how budget discipline is being given short shrift at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, critics here and on Wall Street say.

By official calculations, the tax cuts and increases in benefits enacted this year alone will increase the national debt by more than $750 billion over the next decade, and the actual amount could be much larger.

"In fiscal terms, there is no doubt in my mind that this has been the most irresponsible year ever," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan watchdog organization that favors restraining the budget deficit.

Ed McKelvey, an economist at Goldman Sachs, declared in the investment firm's newsletter last week that "the U.S. federal budget is out of control." ...

(via SF Gate)

Posted by abostick at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2003

Pentagon's Terror Market on Track to Open

Remember the Policy Analysis Market – the "financial market" in which investors could speculate on political developments, including assassinations and terrorism, in the Middle East?

Well, it's back again. Its Web site has a placeholder page that proclaims that "PAM wil open for trading in March 2004 free of government involvement."

I believe that this effort is doomed to failure. Separate and apart from any moral question, the Policy Analysis Market is a bad idea: it is unsustainable. My opinion of last July still stands:

The market will respond usefully to the activities of a knowledgeable few if and only if it is sufficiently liquid, that is, if there is sufficient interest in buying (or selling) contracts when someone suddenly wants to sell (or buy). Are the market-makers prepared to take the kind of short-term risks that are needed to provide that liquidity? How large a spread between bid and asking prices will be needed to tempt them into taking that risk? ...

In order to gather the information needed to consistently come out ahead in this market, a punter would need intelligence that was good and consistent enough to rival (if not outperform) the secret services and intelligence agencies active in the region. Everyone else is going to lose their shirts, on average, to the market makers' spreads.

(via Daily Kos)

Posted by abostick at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2003

Don't Look Inside Jeff Bezos

From Publishers Weekly's "PW Daily for Booksellers (November 12, 2003)"

One curious feature of Amazon's new Look Inside the Book program is the inability to look inside any biographies or books written by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of

If you don't believe us, you can look it up... or not, in this case.

(via Debbie Notkin)

Posted by abostick at 03:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2003

Hey You Kids! Put Those Books Down and Get Back to Your GameBoys, Right Now!

'Hogwarts headaches' plague young readers of Harry Potter

Rob Stein, Washington Post
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Aside from Lord Voldemort, the Forbidden Forest and the Dementors, young fans of the wildly popular Harry Potter books apparently have one more thing to worry about: "Hogwarts headaches."

Howard Bennett, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., was alerted to the peril when three patients, ages 8 to 10, came to him in June complaining they had been suffering from a headache for the past two or three days.

"In each case, the headache was dull, and the pain fluctuated throughout the day," Bennett wrote in a letter published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. ...

"On further questioning, it was determined that each child had spent many hours reading J.K. Rowling's latest book in the Harry Potter series," Bennett wrote in the letter, which journal editors titled "Hogwarts Headaches – Misery for Muggles." ...

"The presumed diagnosis for each child was a tension headache brought on by the effort required to plow through an 870-page book. The obvious cure for this malady – that is, taking a break from reading – was rejected by two of the patients, who preferred acetaminophen instead," Bennett wrote.

(Via SF Gate)

Posted by abostick at 08:41 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2003

The Fire This Time

Mike Davis's book The Ecology of Fear contains a splendid chapter about the cycle of fire in the sprawl of greater Los Angeles's mountainside and canyon suburbs. Now, while the latest installment of Southern California's history of October infernos unfolds, Davis writes what could be a coda to that chapter:

Just before Halloween, the pressure differential between the Colorado Plateau and Southern California begins to generate the infamous Santa Ana winds. A spark in their path becomes a blowtorch.

Exactly a decade ago, between Oct. 26 and Nov. 7, firestorms fanned by Santa Anas destroyed more than a thousand homes in Pasadena, Malibu, and Laguna Beach. In the last century, nearly half the great Southern California fires have occurred in October.

This time climate, ecology, and stupid urbanization have conspired to create the ingredients for one of the most perfect firestorms in history. Experts have seen it coming for months.

First of all, there is an extraordinary supply of perfectly cured, tinder-dry fuel. The weather year, 2001-02, was the driest in the history of Southern California. Here in San Diego we had only 3 inches of rain. (The average is about 11 inches). Then last winter it rained just hard enough to sprout dense thickets of new underbrush (a.k.a. fire starter), all of which have now been desiccated for months.

Meanwhile in the local mountains, an epic drought, which may be an expression of global warming, opened the way to a bark beetle infestation which has already killed or is killing 90% of Southern California's pine forests. Last month, scientists grimly told members of Congress at a special hearing at Lake Arrowhead that "it is too late to save the San Bernardino National Forest." Arrowhead and other famous mountain resorts, they predicted, would soon "look like any treeless suburb of Los Angeles."

Already the papers are screaming "arson!" "In San Bernardino, witnesses told authorities that they had seen two men start the Old Fire on Saturday," writes Jim Herron Zamora in the San Francisco Chronicle. Eight of the other nine fires are assumed to be arson until it can be proved otherwise.

But the fact of the matter is that tinder-dry chapparal plus Santa Ana winds equals fire. In The Ecology of Fear, Davis quotes brushfire expert Richard Minnich as saying, "Fuel, not ignitions, causes fire. You can send an arsonist to Death Valley and he'll never be arrested." And in the essay linked here, Davis adds, [M]any fire scientists dismiss "ignition" – whether natural, accidental, or deliberate – as a relatively trivial factor in their equations. They study wildfire as an inevitable result of the accumulation of fuel mass. Given fuel, "fire happens."

This amazing satellite photograph shows the extent of the Southern California wildfires. It also shows the effect of California's developer-happy land management policies. The California fires are thick and vigorous, finding plenty of fuel that has accumulated over decades. South of the Mexican border, though, it is another story. The Santa Ana winds are fanning fires there, too, but on a scale that is an order of magnitude smaller. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Southern California did this to itself.

(Mike Davis article via Bill Humphries)

Posted by abostick at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2003

SF Mayor Violates Godwin's Law

San Francisco's Mayor Willie Brown, a colorful political hondler well-known for his hardball tactics, is squealing like a stuck pig in the aftermath of Supervisor Chris Daly's aborted stint as acting mayor:

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown likened Supervisor Chris Daly to a stalker and suicide bomber Friday – and tossed in off-hand references to Osama bin Laden and Hitler as well – for using his powers as acting mayor to make two appointments to the city's Public Utilities Commission while Brown was in Tibet.

"When you conspire and calculate what you intend to do several days before you're designated as the acting mayor, you really are venal, you really are violative of all the protocols,'' Brown said after cutting short a trade and promotion trip to China.

Brown is a sore loser. While he was on a political junket in Chinese-occupied Tibet, Daly short-circuited the Brown machine's patronage process, by installing two environmentalists on the city's PUC instead of the ward heelers Brown had lined up for the jobs. It turns out that, by the city's charter, the acting mayor has the full legal power of San Francisco's elected mayor. Daly's appointees are legal members of the PUC, and can only be removed for cause ... or if the city Board of Supervisors overturns the appointments by a 2/3 vote. Daly says Brown just doesn't have the votes to do it.

Fellow supervisor Aaron Peskin describe Daly's action as "a page out of the book of young Assemblyman Willie Brown." San Francisco resident's are laughing at Brown's discomfiture:

"I thought it was hilarious," said [Roger] White, a 38-year-old BART employee who lives in the Castro. "I think it was a cool thing to do, and Brown opened himself up for it. It was hysterical and I can't wait to see what happens next. "
Posted by abostick at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

I Hate It When That Happens

Because one doesn't get very far as a poker player without getting some experience in handling substantial sums of cash, I had to laugh when I read this:

Biker rains cash on Hwy. 4 – by mistake

Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, October 25, 2003
That whooshing sound Steve Dass heard Thursday as he roared down Highway 4 wasn't just air flowing over his Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle at high speed.

What was supposed to have been a routine trip will likely stand as the most expensive ride of Dass' life. Over the din of the bike's engine, 72 $100 bills – earmarked to help pay for furniture for his mother – shot out of the pocket of his unzipped biker jacket and into traffic, causing a free-for- all that left Dass practically penniless....

I feel for the guy, really. But I can't help but think that he could have been just a little more careful. (Two words, Steve: "belt pouch.")

(via SF Gate)

Posted by abostick at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Dewey Defeats Truman in Eleventh Inning

Those wacky editorial writers at the New York Post! They apparently put the editorial page for today's edition to bed while last night's Yankees-Red Sox game was still going ... and while the Red Sox had the lead. And they didn't pull the editorial after the Yankees came from behind:

A Curse of Their Own?

Looks like the Curse of the Bambino boomeranged this year.

Despite holding a 3-2 lead in games over the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees couldn't get the job done at home; their season ended last night in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series....

In related news, in the aftermath of the Chicago Cubs' loss of the National League pennant to the Florida Marlins, RJ covered a unique press conference:

God To Cub Fans - "Knock it off"

LINCOLNSHIRE, ILLINOIS-- The Eternal Creator, God, made a rare public appearance today and told the press and bewailing Cub fans to "knock it off."

Taking the form of a talking goat "because that's all you idiots are paying attention to" the Almighty spoke to reporters milling around outside the house of Steve Bartman.

"Look, knock it off with hounding this guy," the Lord of Hosts bleated testily. "He went after a foul ball at a ball game; who wouldn't? Heck, some of you have made prayers to me for far more venal things," He said, staring pointedly at a red-faced camera crew from "Celebrity Justice." ...

(New York Post editorial via Atrios and The Smoking Gun)

Posted by abostick at 03:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2003

Good Riddance

Edward Teller died yesterday at his home on the Stanford University campus, near Palo Alto, California. He was 95 years old.

If I were to have made one of those silly lists of the greatest and worst figures of the 20th century that were the talk of the blogosphere last month, Teller would have been on my list of the worst. He is known as the "father" of the hydrogen bomb — but because his overblown and ill-considered attempts at bomb design didn't work, he justified his failure by falsely claiming that J. Robert Oppenheimer's opposition to the project was responsible. His lies resulted in the destruction of Oppenheimer's career.

Stanislaw Ulam saved Teller's bacon by inventing a new approach to igniting thermonuclear explosions, and Teller turned this approach into a working bomb design, and in doing so attempted to take all the credit for himself. The attempt didn't work (although the bomb itself did), and so people in the know refer to the "Teller-Ulam idea" of using the pulse of radiation from a fission explosion to ignite the fusion reaction.

Teller founded the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to "compete" with the original Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Los Alamos scientists basically wouldn't work with Teller any more.) The Livermore labs reflected the competence and moral compass of their founder — Teller protege Lowell Wood famously lied to Congress about test results for an H-bomb-pumped gamma-ray laser during the height of the Star Wars boondoggle (Wood said the laser worked; it didn't). Negligence and malfeasance at LLNL remain ongoing scandals to this day.

Posted by abostick at 10:50 AM | Comments (3)

September 09, 2003

Rule Eleven

Fox News' lawsuit intended to sabotage the publication of Al Franken's book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right was prepared by Dori Ann Hanswirth, Tracy A. Tiska, and Katherine M. Bolger,
who are associates at Hogan & Hartson LLP, the law firm retained by Fox News. is calling on the legal profession to Discourage Frivolous Lawsuits by Naming Names. (Patrick Nielsen Hayden doesn't call it "frivolous"; he says it is "political barratry." So does Avedon Carol.)

US District Court Judge Denny Chin declared of the lawsuit prepared and filed by Dori Ann Hanswirth, Tracy A. Tiska, and Katherine M. Bolger, all employed by Hogan & Hartson LLP, "This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

Al Franken, the target of the lawsuit, said that the filing by Dori Ann Hanswirth, Tracy A. Tiska, and Katherine M. Bolger, all employed by Hogan & Hartson LLP, was "one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life."

C.E. Petit writes the publishing law blog Scrivener's Error. Petit says of Dori Ann Hanswirth, Tracy A. Tiska, and Katherine M. Bolger, all employed by Hogan & Hartson LLP, "The idiots who filed Fox v. Franken would, in Illinois, be required to turn themselves in to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for filing a lawsuit without a good faith basis in fact or law for the purpose of harrassment (or another improper purpose)."

Can it really be that Dori Ann Hanswirth, Tracy A. Tiska, and Katherine M. Bolger, all employed by Hogan & Hartson LLP, are ignorant of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?

Rule 11. Signing of Pleadings, Motions, and Other Papers; Representations to Court; Sanctions

(b) Representations to Court.

By presenting to the court (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) a pleading, written motion, or other paper, an attorney or unrepresented party is certifying that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,--

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;

(3) the allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on a lack of information or belief.

Posted by abostick at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2003

Fox to Franken: Lalalalalala.... I Can't Hear You!

The Washington Post

Fox News Drops Lawsuit Against Al Franken

NEW YORK - Fox News dropped its lawsuit against Al Franken on Monday, three days after a federal judge refused to block the liberal humorist from using the Fox slogan "Fair and Balanced" on the cover of his latest book. ...

"It's time to return Al Franken to the obscurity that he's normally accustomed to," Fox News spokeswoman Irena Steffen said.

#1 bestseller on That's obscurity.

(via Making Light)

Posted by abostick at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003

Judge to Fox: Drop Dead

From the Associated Press:

Judge denies Fox News attempt to block Franken book over title 'fair and balanced'

A federal judge on Friday denied Fox News Channel's request for an injunction to block humorist Al Franken's new book, whose title mocks the Fox slogan "fair and balanced."

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said the book — Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right — is a parody protected by the First Amendment.

"There are hard cases and there are easy cases," the judge said. "This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally." [emphasis added]...

"In addition to thanking my own lawyers," Franken said, "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life."

The ruling opened the door for lawyers for Penguin and Franken to file a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. In addition to denying the injunction, the judge took direct aim at Fox for bringing the case.

"It is ironic that a media company, which should be protecting the First Amendment, is seeking to undermine it," Chin said.

The judge also said the "Fair and Balanced" trademark itself is weak, considering those words are used so frequently "in the context of the public marketplace."

(via Making Light)

Posted by abostick at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2003

Bloomberg Struck Out Looking

Like many other people, Greg Costikyan has put a first-person account of his experience of the blackout on his blog. He includes the following account of Michael Bloomberg being interviewed on how the city handled the crisis.

I listen to our clueless mayor flubbing two set up questions from journalists, viz:

JOURNALIST 1: How would you say our municipal employees have responded to the current crisis?

RIGHT ANSWER: By god, these brave men and women have more than risen to the occasion, and I'm proud beyond words, etc., etc., etc.

ACTUAL ANSWER (was something like): Well, they did their jobs, and when they were called upon, they were there for the citizens of this city, etc., etc.

JOURNALIST 2: In the dead of the night, with the darkened city looming above you, what thoughts went through your head? Did there seem a sense to you that the world is different from how we normally perceive it?

RIGHT ANSWER: Well... Yes... I see what you mean... I remember looking up at the Emprie State Building and realiznig how extraordinary this all is, and how strange it is that we depend so much on electrical power for our day to day existence— But you have to understand that I've also been very busy for the last 24 hours trying to get thigns back to normal, and trying to ensure that our city does not suffer from this extraordinary hiatus in its normal life.... (etc., etc.)

ACTUAL ANSWER (was something like): Well, I was talking to someone.... And I said... We all have to get a grip. Just deal with it. There's nothing extraordinary. Thank God so few people died. Let's just focus on the mundane day to day, and there's no point in even attempting to acknowledge that something pretty weird happened here, or even that there was a positive side.

My basic takeaway from all of this is that Bloomberg is exactly the kind of down-to-earth technocrat that I want running my city, and will without question vote for him in the next election—but that I also question his sanity, at least when it comes to attracting votes. Both of those questions were gentle lobs, letting him slam-dunk them in a way guaranteed to play with the voters; the first, letting him praise our municipal workers, as they deserve to be be praised, and let everyone in the city feel happy about the emergency response. The second, letting him wax poetic for a moment, and let us all feel that yes, it's true, he really does love this city in a way beyond reason, as we all do—but doesn't let that distract him from his plain and certain duty.

Instead "They did their duty" and "Poetry escapes me."


Bloomberg got the job done, but he flubbed the spin. I actually find something reassuring and refreshing about this.

Posted by abostick at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2003

Fairness and Balance

Atrios tells us that googling for "fair and balanced" is good for a laugh.

So I tried it, and he's right. I turned up a long list of blog pages. Leading the list, though, was a link to Fox News, and by happenstance, at the moment I looked, the Fox News link was to this column by John Gibson, dated November 22, 2002. Gibson is responding to his readers, who are in turn responding to his contention that the return of the Fairness Doctrine to broadcasting would be a bad thing.

So a bunch of you said, "Well, why would you complain about the Fairness Doctrine if you say you're fair and balanced? Hmmmm?"

Here's your answer, smart guys. We are fair and balanced. Just look at our lineup of guests, packed with Democrats, former Gore staffers, former Clinton administration officials, former Carter officials. That, coupled with putting on the other side and letting the debate rage, is what we call fair and balanced.

The Fairness Doctrine was actually a lie. It wasn't fair. It was a way for a sly broadcaster to tip the scales in a political debate by pretending to be purely neutral, while booking an articulate, persuasive guest on his side, and a clunker dud of a guest on the other. And the host or anchor was loath to express any opinion for fear of the FCC threatening to yank the station's license. [emphasis added]

It's a classic case of projection — of attributing to one's unspeakably evil enemies the ends, and the means used to gain them, that one does not want to admit one has and uses onesself. (Another example: the Republican commentators, during the Florida vote-counting crisis, who accused the Gore campaign of using the courts to overturn the electoral process.)

You're right, Atrios: finding this was a real hoot.

Posted by abostick at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Public Outrage Kills Bush Plan for Troop Pay Cut

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, faced with universal condemnation, the Bush Administration has dropped its plans to cut the pay of soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Posted by abostick at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003

Bush Plans to Cut Iraq Soldiers' Pay

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Bush administration is planning on cutting the pay of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by $225 per month — $75 per month in "iminent danger pay" and a $150-per-month family separation allowance.

60 American soldiers have been killed in combat in Iraq since President Bush declared on May 1 that combat in Iraq had ended.

Is the pay cut a punishment for soldiers' failure to achieve their objectives? Josh Marshall has found an intriguing item in the Gulf Daily News (published in Bahrain) reporting that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, addressing the Asia Society in Sydney, Australia, declared that US troops would not leave Iraq until weapons of mass destruction were found.

This places additional pressure on homesick troops, who have had their return home delayed multiple times, to finds something — anything! — that might be considered an Iraqi weapon of mass destruction.

Posted by abostick at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2003

Fair and Balanced

Friday, August 15, is Fair and Balanced Friday on the Internet!

Quoth Neal Pollack:

The Fox News Channel has sued political satirist Al Franken to stop him from using the words "fair and balanced" in the title of his new book, scheduled to publish next month. The suit claims that the subtitle is "likely to cause confusion among the public about whether Fox News has authorized or endorsed the book and about whether Franken is affiliated with FNC." Good lord. Who among the five, possibly ten percent of the American people who could recognize Franken in a lineup would think that he's affiliated with the Fox News Channel? The man stands politically to the left of every major entertainment figure except Michael Moore and maybe Janeane Garofalo.

Atrios is a co-sponsor of Fair and Balanced Friday.

Nobody knows what the Fox News Channel's legal department was smoking prior to filing this bizarre lawsuit. In the comments on Making Light Mike Koslowski provides a link to an interview with Franken on Buzzflash in which Franken describes how rabidly Bill O'Reilly frothed when confronted on the air on a C-SPAN book-chat program about O'Reilly's lying claim that Inside Edition won two Peabody Awards. The speculation is that this lawsuit is a reflection of a vendatta of O'Reilly's against Franken.

In that same comment section, publishing lawyer C.E. Petit observes another sign of the strength of the Fox legal department's pipeweed:

Actually, Fox made a much, much bigger error in not waiting until 23 September to file suit. On 23 September, the mark will have been registered for five years, giving it "incontestable" status. Since they filed suit before that date, however, Penguin gets to attack the basis for even registering "fair and balanced" (in whatever symbology; the difference between and ampersand and "and" means very little). Sure, that would mean that the book is on the shelves, but it is still close enough in the future that it would be appropriate diligence in defending the mark.

Whether the use of the phrase "fair and balanced," a term of art in journalism and journalistic education, in the title Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right infringes on Fox News Channel's trademark is up to the court. Fox's, lawyers will report to the courtroom; a fair and balanced judge will decide.

Posted by abostick at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2003

Knesset Votes for Israeli Compliance with UN Resolution 3379

From The Independent

Israel imposes 'racist' marriage law
Palestinian-Israeli couples will be forced to leave or live apart

By Justin Huggler in Jerusalem
01 August 2003

Israel's Parliament has passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from living in Israel. The move was denounced by human rights organisations as racist, undemocratic and discriminatory.

Under the new law, rushed through yesterday, Palestinians alone will be excluded from obtaining citizenship or residency. Anyone else who marries an Israeli will be entitled to Israeli citizenship.

Now Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip will either have to move to the occupied territories, or live apart from their husband or wife. Their children will be affected too: from the age of 12 they will be denied citizenship or residency and forced to move out of Israel. ...

(via Farah Mendelsohn)

Posted by abostick at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Sam Phillips: Ave Atque Vale

Legendary record producer Sam Phillips died yesterday in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 80 years old.

Phillips produced Elvis Presley's first records for Phillips' own label, Sun Records. He also produced records for such artists as B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison. He was called by some "the man who invented rock and roll."

(via SF Gate)

Posted by abostick at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2003

Pentagon Scraps Mideast Political Futures Market

From SF Gate:

Warner says Pentagon threat-bet program to be canceled

KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
07-29) 09:06 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will abandon a plan to establish a futures market to help predict terrorist strikes, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said he spoke by phone with the head of the agency overseeing the program, Tony Tether, "and we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped." Tether is the head of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA.

Later, in an interview, Warner said that DARPA "didn't think through the full ramifications of the program."

(via Liz Lynn)

Posted by abostick at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Bush Caught Red-Handed

George W. Bush violates federal law on camera.

United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 (g):

"The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature."

(via Elf Sternberg)

Posted by abostick at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2003

Maybe We Should Give Rummy's Job to Bill Bennett

In Las Vegas race and sports books, you can place bets on sporting events, but you can't bet on politics. The Department of Defense wants to change this.

The Pentagon's Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — the people who brought us the Internet — is collaborating with the Economist Intelligence Group and a firm called Net Exchange to put together the Policy Analysis Market, a market in futures contracts that deal with "underlying fundamentals" of the Middle East:

Analysts often use prices from various markets as indicators of potential events. The use of petroleum futures contract prices by analysts of the Middle East is a classic example. The Policy Analysis Market (PAM) refines this approach by trading futures contracts that deal with underlying fundamentals of relevance to the Middle East. Initially, PAM will focus on the economic, civil, and military futures of Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey and the impact of U.S. involvement with each.

The contracts traded on PAM will be based on objective data and observable events. These contracts will be valuable because traders who are registered with PAM will use their money to acquire contracts. A PAM trader who believes that the price of a specific futures contract under-predicts the future status of the issue on which it is based can attempt to profit from his belief by buying the contract. The converse holds for a trader who believes the price is an over-prediction – she can be a seller of the contract. This price discovery process, with the prospect of profit and at pain of loss, is at the core of a market’s predictive power.

The issues represented by PAM contracts may be interrelated; for example, the economic health of a country may affect civil stability in the country and the disposition of one country’s military may affect the disposition of another country’s military. The trading process at the heart of PAM allows traders to structure combinations of futures contracts. Such combinations represent predictions about interrelated issues that the trader has knowledge of and thus may be able to make money on through PAM. Trading these trader-structured derivatives results in a substantial refinement in predictive power.

The PAM trading interface presents A Market in the Future of the Middle East. Trading on PAM is placed in the context of the region using a trading language designed for the fields of policy, security, and risk analysis. PAM will be active and accessible 24/7 and should prove as engaging as it is informative.

In an example of how futures contracts might be structured, PAM's Web site provides an example of combining contracts on the (now historical) duration of conflict in Iraq with those on the likelihood of the overthrow of the Jordanian monarchy, to show a way that, if someone who doesn't particularly know the likelihood of the duration of the conflict but with a sense that, should it last, a neighboring state is likely to be unstable, that person can hedge a prediction. (I.e. "If the war lasts longer than 1 month, then the Jordanian government is likely to fall.")

Registration of futures contract traders is slated to begin on August 1, with trading scheduled to open on October 1.

If this system is implemented as planned, it will be possible to gamble on the outcome of middle-eastern political and economic events. The system's business model resembles more the Chicago Board of Trade than it does the sports book at Caesar's Palace; but gambling it is.

As you might imagine, not everyone is happy with this prospect. Two Democratic senators have requested that the Pentagon kill the project before registration of traders begins on August 1. An Associated Press report quotes Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as saying, "The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it's grotesque," at a news conference held jointly with Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)

Sen. Dorgan described the Policy Analysis Market as useless, offensive, and "unbelievably stupid." "Can you imagine," he said, "if another country set up a betting parlor so that people could go in ... and bet on the assassination of an American political figure, or the overthrow of this institution or that institution?" (One wonders whether Dorgan has ever been to the UK, and, if he has, whether he ever set foot inside a Ladbrokes shop.)

FutureMAP, the program which manages DARPA's participation in the project, has this to say about the market's utility and application:

There is potential for application of market-based methods to analyses of interest to the DoD. These may include analysis of political stability in regions of the world, prediction of the timing and impact on national security of emerging technologies, analysis of the outcomes of advanced technology programs, or other future events of interest to the DoD. In addition, the rapid reaction of markets to knowledge held by only a few participants may provide an early warning system to avoid surprise.

As a gambler, I have no a priori objection to the Policy Analysis Market. If policymakers can use market activity as a warning sign of sudden changes, more power to them.

I see difficulties with this system. No one in their right mind would trade these futures contracts unless they had some reason to believe that they had insight into the occurrences which underly those contracts.[1]

Punters — err, investors who trade these contracts are going to be at risk of losing their shirts, unless they have some kind of edge. There's a saying about commodity futures trading: The way to make a small fortune in futures is by starting with a large one. How can you evaluate whether a contract is trading at a fair price unless you have a sense of the odds?

The market will respond usefully to the activities of a knowledgeable few if and only if it is sufficiently liquid, that is, if there is sufficient interest in buying (or selling) contracts when someone suddenly wants to sell (or buy). Are the market-makers prepared to take the kind of short-term risks that are needed to provide that liquidity? How large a spread between bid and asking prices will be needed to tempt them into taking that risk?

And the experience of the existing financial markets is that with such liquidity goes volatility. They respond when an informed buyer starts buying in quantity ... but they also respond to unsubstantiated rumors, to irrational exuberance and bleak pessimism, to the manipulations of crooked traders. A sudden flurry of activity in contracts predicting the assasination of Syria's Bashar Assad might reflect the knowledge of someone close to Muslim Brotherhood cells working in Syria, or it might reflect the need of a trading firm to create a climate of rumors in which it can profitably dump contracts it had bought earlier.

In his autobiography Jimmy the Greek, by himself, Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder described the lengths he had to go in the days he ran an illegal sports book in Ohio to gather intelligence about college football teams in order to get a leg up on the gambling public. And as such things go, football teams are relatively well-defined and clear. Al Qaeda is not going to publish its DL for the benefit of punters. In order to gather the information needed to consistently come out ahead in this market, a punter would need intelligence that was good and consistent enough to rival (if not outperform) the secret services and intelligence agencies active in the region. Everyone else is going to lose their shirts, on average, to the market makers' spreads.

(via Talking Points Memo)

[1] This is gambling, though. Abdul Jalib's First Law of Gambling is "People are stupid," and his Second Law of Gambling is, "When people are stupid, there's money to be made."

Posted by abostick at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003


In my just-previous entry, I alluded to this entry on Talking Points Memo, in which Josh Marshall quotes a Washington newsletter called The Nelson Report:

Until or unless the President steps in to provide leadership, the long-awaited showdown between the "neoconservatives" and the "pragmatists" will soon reach crisis proportions — this, due to CIA director George Tenet's extraordinary decision to name the President's staffers responsible for misleading, or false, pre-Iraq war intel, Administration sources confirm today.

— and the war has just begun, intelligence community sources warn. The Iraq/Niger debacle is but one of "a whole series of stories which are ready to break", a source told us today, adding, "I've never seen such hostility and disdain as now being expressed between the White House and the CIA. Never."

This is, bluntly, the best, most heartening news I've seen in about six months.

Posted by abostick at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2003

Bill Bennett Yet Again

Blame Avedon Carol: she blogged a post by Scoobie Davis that purports to be "The Last Word on William Bennett." (Blogspot's permalinks are upgefucked; scroll down to the entry for Friday, May 16, 2003.)

I've been outdone. I've been saying that the only thing wrong with Bennett's gambling habit is that he hadn't blown any of that 8 mil in my direction. Scoobie Davis shows much more compassionate mindfulness than I:

I have a solution: if Bennett’s doormat of a wife gains some self-respect and dumps him, then for a modest fee, I would be glad to take Bennett out on the town and show him what fun is. We can crash some parties and meet interesting people (if Bennett were to invest in a couple films, he could legitimately tell women that he’s a movie producer). I can take Bennett to some yoga classes where he can meet some hot and in-shape babes (plus yoga would be great for weight loss and to loosen the kundalini blockage in the root chakra area--this will allow Bennett to unclench his sphincter muscles). I won’t charge much (which is good because the money from Bennett’s virtue scam will be gone soon). I can show Bennett the meaning of the word fun at bargain basement prices. How do I contact him?

Umm, Scooby? If you should arrange this, be sure to take the good Mr. Bennett to the SF Bay Area, where he absolutely must be allowed to sit in on the Tiltboys' home poker game. If that wouldn't be fun, nothing is.

Posted by abostick at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

Police Fire Rubber Bullets at Demonstrators in Oakland

Late-breaking story from SFGate:

Police fire rubber bullets at anti-war protest at port in Oakland; nearby longshoremen injured

(04-07) 08:58 PDT OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) --

Police open fired Monday morning with rubber bullets at an anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland, injuring several longshoremen standing nearby.

Police were trying to clear protesters from an entrance to the docks when they opened fire and the longshoremen apparently were caught in the crossfire.

Six longshoremen were treated by paramedics and at least one was expected to be taken to a hospital. It was unclear if any of the protesters was injured.

Posted by abostick at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2003

From the Horse's Mouth

Sean Paul Kelly's The Agonist links to a New York Times article analyzing war reporting that contains this choice snippet:

Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News Channel commentator — who is especially popular among conservatives — had some advice for his viewers. He told them not to watch too much television. "If you watch too much TV news coverage, your perspective can get warped."
Posted by abostick at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

The Agonist

Sean Paul Kelly is obsessively following developments in the war as they happen, so that you don't have to. Read snippets of info, with links, or check out the regularly updated situation map.

Posted by abostick at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2003

Bugs, Mister Rico!

Elaine Sciolino writes in the Web edition of the New York Times, March 19, 2003:

Spy Devices Found at European Headquarters

PARIS, March 19 — The European Union has uncovered a bugging operation aimed at 5 of its 15 member countries, the organization said today.

Listening devices were found late last month in a headquarters building that houses the offices of the French, German, British, Austrian and Spanish delegations, officials said.

"This equipment, which is assumed to be of hostile intent, is currently being examined in order to determine whether it may have resulted in breaches of privacy or possible damage," a European Union statement said. "A full investigation is under way in cooperation with the member states involved."

Posted by abostick at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

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