April 21, 2011
All the Cool Kids Are Doing It: My WisCon 35 Program Schedule
Join the Mod Squad: Enhance Your Moderation Skills
Ever go to a panel and spend your time thinking, "With a good moderator, this would be a much better panel?" You won't become a hippie if you attend this panel, but we will review several ways to be that good moderator, offer tips and tricks, and generally work on improving WisCon's already high standards for panel moderation. We strongly encourage you to attend this panel if you are moderating at WisCon, especially if it's your first time. It's also a great experience if you ever have, or think you ever will, be a panel moderator anywhere.
Assembly, Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm
M: Alan Bostick. Ann Crimmins, Christopher Davis, Beverly Friend, Elise Matthesen
If Someone You Know Has Been Affected by Slacktivism, Please Post This as Your Status
Retweeting, changing your userpic, uploading a video ... is this just a substitute for actual activism? Is this "slacktivism" helpful or hurtful? Are some methods better than others? Does it depend on the cause? Does it matter who started the meme? How do we counter slacktivism or move beyond it to effect real change?
Conference 5, Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm
M: Alan Bostick. Andy Best, E. Cabell Hankinson Gathman, Rosemary / Sophy, Xakara
"The Personal is Political" Revisited
The title of Carol Hanishch's 1969 essay "The personal is political" became one of the best-known slogans of the feminist movement. Women were challenged to see their life circumstances not as individual situations of choice, but within a broader context of gendered oppression and societal structural inequalities. The panelists will look at the intersections between the personal and political in their activist work, and will examine the meaning and relevance of the slogan today.
Capitol A, Sun, 10:00–11:15 am
M: Susan Marie Groppi. Susan Simensky Bietila, Alan Bostick, Karen Ireland-Phillips, Pamela K. Taylor
Your Fandom is OK!
It's important to remember that just because you don't like a particular fandom, you don't have the right to put down those who do. (We're looking at you, Twilight haters!) Everyone's fandom is OK! In this panel, we'll discuss why this is true, and what we can do to encourage better understanding among all members of fandom.
Conference 4, Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm
M: Trisha J. Wooldridge. Molly Aplet, Alan Bostick, Caroline Pruett, Xakara
(WisCon 35 will be held at the Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin, on May 26-30, 2011)
April 29, 2009
Obama the Poker Player: Weak-Tight?
By the accounts of his poker buddies, Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists, Obama is careful and focused. He's not easily distracted and doesn't give away his intentions unless it's to his advantage. He's not prone to taking risky chances, preferring to play it safe. He's is seriously competitive. They say that when he plays, he plays to win.
His friends say that Obama would study the odds carefully. If he had strong cards, he'd play. If he didn't, he would fold rather than bet good money on the chance the right card would show up when he needed it. That reputation meant that he often succeeded when he decided to bluff.
Some of the participants in the games described Obama as a careful player who manages risk and has excellent control regarding behaviors that could give away the strength of his hand. He is what poker players might describe as a "Rock". Republican players often teased him about being his being a conservative only when assessing the strength of his opponents in the game and the relative strength of his bankroll.
It's phrased in the most complimentary way possible. (Aside to Ron Powell: "rock" is not a compliment.) A less positive and more frank way to put it, though, is that Obama is weak-tight or, at best, a TAGfish — a player who is tight and aggressive, but is nonetheless easily exploited by better players. If Obama is weak-tight or a TAGfish, he is good enough to beat a home game, but he very likely isn't ready for prime time.
Sad to say, I think I've noticed some of his weak-tight tendencies in dealing with congressional Republicans....
June 01, 2008
Amabo Kcarab!, or, Hillary Clinton's Best Shot at Winning
Hillary Clinton challenges Barack Obama to one last debate, where she tricks him into saying his name backwards, making him disappear into the fifth dimension in a puff of pixie dust.
It doesn't have to be a debate. Priming a campaign-trail reporter with a cleverly phrased question may be enough.
March 19, 2008
NJ Digital Voting Machines Can't Count Accurately
Ed Felten tells us about the discrepancies in vote tallies from electronic voting machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems and used in the New Jersey primary election on February 5.
(image source: Ed Felten)
But 179 + 192 = 361, not 362; and 1 + 13 + 40 + 3 + 4 = 61, not 60.
What’s alarming here is not the size of the discrepancy but its nature. This is a single voting machine, disagreeing with itself about how many Republicans voted on it. Imagine your pocket calculator couldn’t make up its mind whether 1+13+40+3+4 was 60 or 61. You’d be pretty alarmed, and you wouldn’t trust your calculator until you were very sure it was fixed. Or you’d get a new calculator.
This wasn’t an isolated instance, either. In Union County alone, at least eight other AVC Advantage machines exhibited similar problems, as did dozens more machines in other counties.
Sequoia Voting Systems doesn't understand how to handle a PR crisis. Edwin Smith, Sequoia's Vice President for Compliance/Quality/Certification sent Felten a nastygram stating that if the state of New Jersey presented Felten's group with a Sequoia machine for analysis, the state would be in violation of its contract with Sequoia. Smith goes on with a threat of vaguely-worded legal action if Felten published results from such an analysis.
Yes, that's right: Sequoia's VP for QA is attempting to suppress independent QA on his company's product. Someone should tell him about how Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering.
Earlier in As I Please:
Howto: Hack a Diebold Voting Machine (As I Please)
How Not to Talk to Reporters
March 11, 2008
Details Don't Add Up in ABC Report of Eliot Spitzer Bust
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.
February 29, 2008
White House Aide Nailed for Plagiarism
Tim Goeglein, Plagiarist
image source: New York Times
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.
February 28, 2008
Cat Macros Go Political: LOLcats 4 Obama
How far can this trend go? At least as far as a John McCain LOLweasel:
Earlier in As I Please:
LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 - President Macro Contest at Fark
February 22, 2008
The McCain-Iseman Scandal: It's the Influence-Peddling, Stupid
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.
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.
February 21, 2008
NY Times: John McCain Possibly Romantically Linked to Lobbyist
image source: Alcalde & Fay
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?
February 19, 2008
Obama Sweeps Pakistan; Clinton Campaign Calls Foul
Voting Irregularities Cloud Obama, McCain Wins
image credit: Lynn Kendall
On the Republican side, John McCain took 71% of the Pakistani vote, with Ron Paul making his strongest primary showing yet with 22% of the vote. Mike Huckabee's weak showing of 6% was expected by analysts, who anticipated that the Baptist preacher faced a tough sell in the Muslim nation.
The Clinton campaign was quick to respond to the loss by pointing out widespread balloting irregularities and allegations of voter fraud. While Obama's margin seems compelling to observers, the legitmacy of his win may ultimately be decided by the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention this summer.
February 11, 2008
Does Possible John Glenn Endorsement Mean Hillary Clinton Prepares to Battle McCain?
Greg Sargent at TPMElectionCentral cites sources claiming that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is about to land the endorsement of astronaut and former Ohio senator John Glenn.
This could be a sign that Clinton is looking forward to a general election battle with Sen. John McCain. John Glenn, along with John McCain is a member of the so-called Keating Five, the group of five U.S. senators who intervened with federal banking regulators to get off the case of Lincoln Savings and Loan in return for accepting massive campaign contributions from Lincoln S&L's CEO, Charles Keating.
(John McCain pulled a fast one to rescue his reputaton and career by taking up the cause of campaign finance reform like an adulterer at a tent revival meeting.)
With Glenn in her camp, Clinton is ready to respond in kind if McCain shouts "Activate Corrupt Sleaze Power!" while they battle. She will be even stronger if she can line up the support of Don Riegle and Dennis De Concini as well. (The fifth of the Keating Five, Alan Cranston, is deceased.) Gotta catch 'em all!
The Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal was the signature scandal of the Savings and Loan Crisis, the two-hundred-billion-dollar financial meltdown that plagued the administration of President George H.W. Bush. In a move that prompted many to ask, "What was he thinking?", President Bill Clinton appointed Dennis De Concini to the board of directors of the Federal Home Mortgage Loan Corporation (Freddie Mac). Freddie Mac is now up to its neck in the subprime lending crisis. It would be understandable if this constellation of facts led the more paranoid among us to construct a Grand Unified Theory of political corruption and financial malfeasance.
Previously in As I Please:
Open Letter to Duncan Black
NY Times' Adam Nagourney Whitewashes McCain's Campaign Finance Record
January 31, 2008
Arlo Guthrie Endorses Ron Paul
Singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie, who wrote the anti-war anthem "Alice's Restaurant," has endorsed libertarian Republican Ron Paul in his quixotic quest for the presidency.
Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence write in USA Today's On Politics blog:
Arlo Guthrie — of Alice's Restaurant fame and son of folk legend Woody Guthrie — has endorsed Republican Rep. Ron Paul's bid for the White House.
"I love this guy," Guthrie says in a statement released by the Paul campaign. "Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there. I'm with him, because he seems to be the only candidate who actually believes it has as much relevance today as it did a couple of hundred years ago. I look forward to the day when we can work out the differences we have with the same revolutionary vision and enthusiasm that is our American legacy."
January 30, 2008
Bush's "Christian Cowboy" Hero Was Really a Horse Thief
George Bush keeps a painting in the Oval Office depicting a rider on horseback racing up a rugged hillside, two other riders not far behind. Bush tells people that early-twentieth-century illustrator W.H.D. Koerner's painting is called "A Charge to Keep," and that it depicts a Methodist circuit-rider, a kind of Christian cowboy who helped spread the teaching of John Wesley throughout America in the nineteenth century.
image source: Slate
That's the Bush Administration in a nutshell: The self-image of a high-minded doer of good deeds cloaks the reality of a thieving scoundrel one step ahead of his angry victims.
(via Avedon Carol)
January 24, 2008
The Terrible Cost of Bush Administration Lies About Iraq
"Bush Lied, People Died," the protesters' say. Have you ever wondered precisely how many people die every time George Bush lies?
The Center for Public Integrity assembled a prodigious compilation of 935 out-and-out falsehoods uttered by George Bush and seven senior Administration officials in the two years following September 11, 2001.
Based on the detailing of these lies, Lynn Kendall has done the math: Each Bush lie about Iraq has killed four American soldiers and wounded 31. Each Administration attempt to deceive us killed 86 Iraqi citizens at a bare minimum  Every eight lies kill a journalist. Every untruth that passed their lips cost US taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
I mourned when Slobodan Milosevic died — because it meant that he couldn't be George Bush's cellmate when Bush is finally brought to justice, as I so fervently hoped.
 Kendall uses the Iraq Body Count, a summation of deaths reported in media reports, hospital and morgue data, and government figures, which is guaranteed to be undercounting violent death in Iraq. A recent survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine counts 150,000 violent deaths, almost twice the IBC number; a study published earlier in The Lancet estimated 650,000 excess deaths from all causes, including war-related disease and malnutrition, almost 8 times the IBC number.
January 13, 2008
Political Quote of the Day
"Chris Matthews can't keep Bill Clinton's dick out of his mouth." — Richard Dutcher
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?
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)
December 30, 2007
Billboard: Hell Is Too Good for George Bush
Arbitrators of Godwin's Law give this one a pass.
(via Lynn Kendall)
July 30, 2007
Ellen Tauscher Is an Ignorant Idiot
Either Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-INO) is an ignorant idiot, or the staffer on whom she palms off the job of answering letters to constituents is an ignorant idiot (which makes her an ignorant idiot of a manaager):
The Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the president in a non-impeachable office. Unless convicted of an illegal act, the Attorney General cannot be removed from office without the president asking for or accepting his resignation. However, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts and concerns in mind as I review the circumstances surrounding recent allegations of impropriety within the Justice Department.
Ellen O. Tauscher
Member of Congress
The Constitution — Remember the Constitution? People say it's the highest law in the land — says:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the united States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. [emphasis added]
Ellen Tauscher should serve out the rest of her term wearing a big scarlet 'M' — for 'Moron' — pinned to her bosom whenever she either appears on Capitol Hill or returns to her district.
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.
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)
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)
July 03, 2007
Gordon Brown Makes His Saving Throw
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."
July 02, 2007
George Bush, Crook
George W. Bush, nominal head of the criminal control fraud conspiracy that is bilking the American people of uncounted billions of dollars, at the expense of thousands of American lives and uncounted lives of Iraqis, has used the powers of his office to commute the sentence of his co-conspirator Scooter Libby. Libby will serve no prison time for the crimes he committed to obstruct Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the same criminal conspiracy.
This is clear-cut obstruction of justice; and since Bush obviously benefits from buying the silence of his co-conspirator, it is clear-cut conflict of interest as well.
This is the smoking gun. George Bush is a crook. He must be brought to justice.
I had a lovely time last Thursday on a day trip to the Hague. I look forward to the day George Bush arrives the Hague for a rather longer time, for a sojourn before the International Criminal Court.
Update: Josh Marshall points out that the manner of Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence violates standing policy of the Justice Department.
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.
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)
June 09, 2007
Why — and How — Blogging Matters
The Huffington Post published a speech on blogging given by Jay Rosen to the International Communication Association last month. Here is the money quote:
The most famous words ever written about freedom of the press are in the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law..." But the second most famous words come from the critic A.J. Liebling: "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." Well, freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why blogs — and this discussion — matter.
With blogging, an awkward term, we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a free press franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world.
Wherever blogging spreads the dramas of free expression follow. A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine.
I've been thinking along these lines for years. I think it is worth adding that if the server that hosts your blog is owned by Google, News Corporation, Six Apart, or any other third party coming between you and your audience, the freedom of the press is theirs, not yours, and they extend it to you only by courtesy. That courtesy can be withdrawn at any time, as we have seen so often.
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 ChristmasStewart 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.
May 19, 2007
Bitter Feud Divides Historians of Buchanan Administration
Jimmy Carter's declaration that George W. Bush is the worst president ever highlights a deep division among scholars of American political history. Historians who emphasize in their studies the administration of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States are immersed in a bitter feud.
On one side are historians who have pinned their professional careers upon the study of the worst president in the nation's history The misdeeds and failures of George W. Bush have undermined their standing in the historical community. "For decades, our guy has been Number One" says an Ivy League historian who prefers to remain anonymous. "Now he's no longer Number One. I know younger Buchanan guys who simply aren't going to get tenure. It's tragic."
Pitted against them are Buchanan's actual supporters, historians who have found Buchanan's reputation as the nation's worst president to be a stigma that marks their own careers. One Buchanan partisan has been quoted as enthusiastically saying "Bush 43 is the best thing for Buchanan scholarship since the Harding Administration!"
Academic squabbles have long lifetimes — as long as those of their participants. We may not find out who shall prevail in this conflict among Buchanan scholars for a generation.
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]
May 15, 2007
Johanna Draper Carlson, Superhero Comics, and the Hegemony of Sexism
Comics blogger Johanna Draper Carlson is attracting attention by belaboring what may seem to be an obvious point: superhero comics are written for and marketed to boys, not girls. She has been saying it again and again, and seems to think that discussing sexism in superhero comics is a waste of time.
Quite naturally, Carlson's point of view is undergoing much rebuttal.
I read Carlson as saying, "Of course superhero comics are sexist, silly! That's a fact of life; you can't change it; and you're a fool for even trying." What she is arguing is that the hegemony of sexism is inflexible and irresistable.
I wonder how old she is — I think it is a near-certainty that she was born after 1970, and there's a reasonable shot she was born after 1980. I put the line at 1977; which would you take, the over or the under?
I say this because I was born in 1959, and the changes I've seen in my lifetime convince me that while sexism retains its hegemony, despite the feminist movement, it is most assuredly not inflexible, and that fighting it can change it. Which is why noticing and calling out the sexism — the increasing degree of sexism in superhero comics in recent years — is important.
And while crotch shots of Green Lantern are a fun and funny way of making the point, sooner or later what needs to happen is that feminist artists and writers need to produce superhero comics of their own, chock-full of the stuff that jazzes them about superheroes and at the same time consistent with their own values, to be put on their Web sites, self-published, and so on, so that the stuff is out there waiting for the lightning bolt of popularity to strike it. (This may well be happening off my personal radar.)
May 01, 2007
Did Monica Lewinsky Save Social Security?
Andrew Levine at Democrats Now offers what has to be the best quote of the day:
I’ve long maintained that but for the lovely and zaftig Monica, Clinton would have tried, as Bush later did, to privatize social security. As a Democrat, he might even have been able to pull it off. Thus, unwittingly, she did more good for the country than a thousand Hillarys. Genuinely progressive Democrats should establish Monica Lewinsky Clubs all over the United States!
As you might guess, Levine doesn't like the Clintons very much, but in a very different way than the talk-radio dittoheads don't like them. What he calls "Clintonism" I would be inclined to call "the Democratic Leadership Council."
(via Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber)
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.
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."
April 19, 2007
Bush Jokes Now Widely Told
In the wake of 9-11 you couldn't tell a Bush joke without being wrestled to the ground by Secret Service agents. Things have changed. The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten writes:
Then, gradually, liberals began to voice grievances, then moderate Democrats, then liberal Republicans, then moderate Republicans, and now we're seeing uber-conservative hammerheads such as Bob Novak and Rich Lowry using the I-words: "inept" and "incompetent." Foreign heads of state have started to take potshots at Bush when he's standing right next to them, during photo ops.
It's as though we've reached a tipping point. Any day we're going to see Laura in an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt.
Weingarten follows with a bunch of Bush jokes that I hadn't encountered before. Did he make them up himself? Have the Boys in the Bus been telling these all along?
Children's book, 73rd printing, revised text
. . . Then out of the box came Thing One and Thing Two,
And Sally and I did not know what to do!
They knocked Sally down, and she fell on her tush.
"I'm Cheney," said one. Said the other, "I'm Bush."
They attacked our four feet, with stompings and bites.
First they chewed on our lefts, then they trampled our rights!
They found Mother's money and flushed it away!
If we go to college, NOW how will we pay?
They smashed up our dishes, our toys and our bikes!
Our globe was on fire, and the golf bag Dad likes!
The mess they were making was torture to see,
"Torture is good," they told Sally and me . . .
(via Lynn Kendall)
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.
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.
White House Detonates 'Miserable Failure' Googlebomb
Googling the word "failure" once again points to George Bush, because the Bush White House can't do anything right. Some genius working for Tony Scott quoted Bonny Prince Georgie's indignant posturing in response to Congress's passing a military spending bill that mandates a troop withdrawal from Iraq: "Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines."
Google's boffins adjusted their s00pers33kr1t algorithm in January to defuse Googlebombs, including the "miserable failure" bomb pointing to Bush's biography on whitehouse.gov. The tweak did something to deemphasize the text of inbound links in favor of text actually on the page. But the use of the word failure was enough to set the bomb off again.
George Bush can run from his lifetime of failure, but he cannot hide from it.
NB: This means the the Googlebomb that I have proposed, linking John McCain to the Wikipedia page about the Keating Five, should still be effective, assuming enough people take it on, because of course the Wikipedia article, being accurate and truthful, mentions John McCain by name.
(via Steven Schwartz)
April 10, 2007
Founding Fathers' 1796 Treaty with Tripoli Asserts US Not a Christian Nation
Bubbling up on del.icio.us/popular/ is a posting of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, drafted by diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, read aloud on the Senate floor and passed unanimously on June 7, 1797, and signed by President John Adams, who proudly proclaimed it to the nation.
What is getting this treaty lots of attention, on the heels of Blog Against Theocracy weekend (rather tastelessly chosen to be Easter weekend), is that Article 11 of the treaty states:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Treaties ratified by the Senate are the law of the land. Therefore the law of the land is that the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Attention Dominionists: Doesn't the Bible have something to say about "bearing false witness"? I seem to recall that this was carved into a rock that's stashed in a courthouse in Alabama.
April 07, 2007
How Hard Is It for a Blogger to Get the Word Out?
Avedon Carol writes about what it took to get wider attention to Orrin Hatch's lies about purged US Attorney Carol Lam:
Just as a point of reference: I tried for two days push that story about Orrin Hatch's lies about Carol Lam, and aside from Little Thom, no one seemed to notice. In despair, I tried doing the "diary" post at Kos. Nuthin' — didn't even rate a diary rescue. It wasn't until I noticed the comment counter for the last open thread at Eschaton veering up over 800 and linked to Thom's post for a new thread last night that it got any traction — and then suddenly Kos himself picked it up, and so did Think Progress, Josh Marshall, and Hilzoy. And only today did I hear the story on Sam Seder and Thom Hartmann's Air America shows, even though the original spark for the story was Rachel Maddow's show - and she'd also been trying to push the story.
I'm not saying this as a criticism of individuals, but I thought this was a good story and I have to say I find it frustrating that if Atrios hadn't given me the keys to his rig ages ago, it probably would have disappeared. I really wish I knew a better way to get a story out — this is the kind of thing Peter Daou used to use as a lesson in message spread. The Sideshow is one of the more well-known of the "smaller" blogs, but the story didn't move at all — even though it started on Air America — until it hit Duncan's front page. (It's proliferating, now.)
Avedon pushes story. Avedon guest-blogs it at Eschaton. Story takes off. Hatch winds up with egg on his face and issues a mealymouthed correction. Advantage: Avedon.
Even a year ago, Atrios, Josh Marshall, and Markos Moulitsas could sing about the story in three-part harmony every day for a month, and the only media attention it would get would be from Dan Froomkin. Things are changing, and for the better.
There's a piece of me that is wondering why Avedon is frustrated. She flogged the story for two whole days before it took off. Most of us don't have that sort of blogging mojo.
A repeating leitmotif of blogging, repeated over and over again across the political spectrum and from the A-list to the farthest reaches of the Long Tail, is "They aren't listening to me! What do I have to do to be heard?" It seems to me that Avedon is occupying this role here, and not being fully aware of the ways in which they are listening to her.
Avedon's story highlights, though, one of the issues of the blogosphere as it grows; As its higher reaches get more exposure in the wider world, what mechanisms exist for stories that start in the blogosphere's roots to bring the stories that matter up the trunk and to its higher branches to get that story? How can diarists in Kos's walled garden most effectively have their diaries rescued? How can a C- or D-list blogger craft a post so that the B-list takes notice and passes it up to the A-list? Can the social-networking and folksonomy sites like del.icio.us and Digg play a role to facilitate this? Are there pathologies of the blogosphere that get in the way of information transmission along its pathways?
I have nothing resembling answers to these questions; but it's high time people started thinking about them and discussing them in detail.
April 05, 2007
Photos Reveal Pelosi Pwns Bush
BAG News Notes shows us this sequence of photographs of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D - California) sharing a quiet word with President George W. Bush, taken last week at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner last week:
Photo credits: photos 1, 2 & 4: Jason Reed/Reuters; photo 3: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
I don't suppose we'll ever know what she actually said to him, but we can always hope.
Could this be the real reason Bonny Prince Georgie is laying onto Speaker Pelosi so hard about her trip to Damascus?
(via Elise Matthesen)
April 03, 2007
NY Times' Adam Nagourney Whitewashes McCain's Campaign Finance Record
Adam Nagourney, writing for the New York Times, put his foot deep into his mouth in an article about John McCain's changing fundraising strategy for his presidential campaign in tomorrow's edition:
Mr. McCain has been identified throughout his career as an advocate of curbing the influence of money in politics, notably as a co-sponsor of a landmark bill limiting political contributions. He criticized Mr. Bush, when the two were opponents in 2000, as leading overly aggressive fund-raising efforts.
McCain got religion about the influence of money in politics only after he took a lot of money in return for exercising his influence. McCain is the last member of the Keating Five, a group of five U.S. senators who received large campaign donations from Charles Keating in exchange for pressuring the Federal Home Loan Bank Board into easing off on its investigation of Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan.
McCain didn't co-sponsor the McCain-Feingold Act out of high-minded principles; it was a desperately theatrical act of contrition to salvage his political career.
Adam Nagourney should be ashamed of himself. Either he knows McCain's shady past, or he doesn't. If he knows, then he's a liar. If he doesn't, then his ignorance is tantamount to incompetence. Why does the Times pay this lummox a salary?
April 01, 2007
Organizing, Social Activism, Saul Alinsky, and the Netroots - Discussions on TPMCafe
An interesting conversation about social activism and organizing for change is going on over at TPMCafe, the online discussion and debate arm of Josh Marshall's media empire,
Marshall Ganz kicks it off with his post Organizing for Democratic Renewal. Ganz reviews the history of the agents of social change in the United States from the time of de Toqueville to the present day, and he singles out the work of Saul Alinsky from the 1940s onward.
Answering Ganz is Nathan Newman with Progressives, Power & Saul Alinsky Newman stresses the importance of power, and says that many progressives are uncomfortable with the idea of power in a way that Saul Alinsky in fact was not.
Helen Booth also replies to Ganz in Can We Win for Progressive Change? Booth looks at what is happening now to change progressive activism from thirty years of fighting holding actions against growing conservative power to an opening up of opportunity and a flourishing of organizational activity.
Ganz replies to Booth in Staying Connected to Our Moral Sources. Here he re-emphasizes the importance of keeping one's values in mind at all times. "Focusing on advocacy techniques also risks loss of connection to moral foundations and political significance," he writes. "Advocacy that is decoupled from its moral sources and from the project of building organized power can quickly becomes absorbed by the game itself, something we may have fallen into over the last 30 years." (Ganz doesn't mention any names here, but when I read this, I immediately thought of NARAL's endorsement of Joe Lieberman in the last election, despite his procedural maneuvering that allowed key anti-abortion judges onto the Supreme Court. Many people thought that NARAL was putting its status as a Washington player ahead of its actual mission and values.)
Lastly, Chris Hayes weighs in with The Internet, Alinsky and the Bourgeois Revolt. Hayes makes the observation that the best demographic understanding of the Netroots, sketchy though they are, indicate that the Internet's activists are largely prosperous, educated, middle-class, white Americans, with people from minority constituencies participating in far fewer numbers. Will the Netroots' activism advance the agendas of more marginalized groups? Can the people of the margins be brought in?
It's a fascinating discussion about social change in the twenty-first century. Anyone who is interested should read it, including the discussions in the comments.
March 28, 2007
GSA Administrator Doan 'Honestly Doesn't Remember' Illegal Meetings
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) pins GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to the butterfly board in his questions about GSA lunchtime brown-bag lunch meetings at which political plans were discussed, in violation of the Hatch Act.
Doan "honestly doesn't remember" asking meeting participants how to help Republicans win elections in 2008, but she doesn't refute the testimony of those participants who claimed that she did so ask. She calls the brown-bag lunches "team-building meetings." Braley retorts, "the only team built is the Republican team."
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)
March 22, 2007
It's the Obstruction of Justice, Stupid
Josh Marshall rises above the distractions of 3000-page document dumps and squabbles about subpoenas and exectutive privilege:
Okay, enough. The president fired US Attorneys to stymie investigations of Republicans and punish US Attorneys who didn't harass Democrats with bogus voter fraud prosecutions. In the former instance, the evidence remains circumstantial. But in the latter the evidence is clear, overwhelming and undeniable.
Indeed, it is so undeniable the president hismelf does not deny it. ...
Back up a bit from the sparks flying over executive privilege and congressional testimony and you realize that these are textbook cases of the party in power interfering or obstructing the administration of justice for narrowly partisan purposes. It's a direct attack on the rule of law. ...
It's yet another example of how far this White House has gone in normalizing behavior that we've been raised to associate with third-world countries where democracy has never successfully taken root and the rule of law is unknown. At most points in our history the idea that an Attorney General could stay in office after having overseen such an effort would be unthinkable. The most telling part of this episode is that they're not even really denying the wrongdoing. They're ignoring the point or at least pleading 'no contest' and saying it's okay.
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.
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.
March 15, 2007
Leave NCLB Behind
Matthew Yglesias is blogtopia's (y!sctp!) best and brightest. He's Harvard-educated, and as well as being an A-list liberal blogger, he writes for The American Prospect. He lives in Washington, D.C. He is, in effect, a junior member of the commentariat and will eventually graduate to the weekend talking-head shows as a molder and shaper of opinion.
And he is apparently subject to the ills to which the commentariat within the Beltway is prey. Here he is, writing on the upcoming renewal of No Child Left Behind legislation:
Education Policy for the Paranoid
A lot of people look at the No Child Left Behind Act's requirement of "100 proficiency" and smell a rat; an obviously impossible goal. I would read Richard Rothstein's "'Proficiency for All': An Oxymoron" for a detailed explication of this view. Then many, including Kevin Drum, move from this to a paranoid account of the motives behind the provision. "What incentive does anyone have to label 99% of America's public schools as failures?" he asks, "That's crazy, isn't it?"Answer: Anyone who wants the public to believe that public schools are failures. This would primarily consist of conservatives who want to break teachers unions and evangelicals who want to build political momentum for private school vouchers. The whole point of NCLB for these people is to make sure that as many public schools as possible are officially deemed failures.
I'll happily agree that this provision seems somewhat ill-advised to me. However, the "secret plot to destroy public schools" account of the whole point of NCLB has some problems. Does Kevin really expect me to believe that this is what Ted Kennedy and George Miller, the law's leading Democratic supporters in the Senate and the House, are up to? These are big-time liberals. Perhaps they're wrong — Kennedy's certainly not above criticism — but it's absurd to think that they're leading agents behind an enterprise whose whole point is to dismantle the public school system.
Why are prominent liberal Democrats identified as supporters of No Child Left Behind? For precisely the same reason that prominent liberal Democrats voted to give Bush war powers in Iraq: They were suckered.
Just about everyone working in the trenches of public education agrees: NCLB sets up schools, even the best schools, to fail. Then it publicly flags them as failures, and cuts them off from resources they need to succeed, so that they fail even harder next time. It is no secret that the conservative agenda is to cripple public education.
It isn't paranoia when they really are out to get you. The Bush Administration is a Control Fraud swindle. Anything they have done, especially if it has a high legislative profile like NCLB, should be presumed to be part of the swindle unless proven otherwise.
I would be a fool to make a medical diagnosis from a blog post, so I won't flat-out say that Yglesias is suffering from Beltway Blindness, the occupational hazard of all Washington pundits that greatly inhibits their ability to see things outside the Beltway as they really are. But I would like to warn him: Matt, try to get out into the real world, spend some time with real people. Just Say No to Cocktail Weenies! You don't want to wind up like David Broder, do you?
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.
March 06, 2007
Schwarzenegger and Steroids
Before I got carried away by the excellent news from Washington, I had decided to blog this silly story on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle:
New winner of Arnold Classic reportedly linked to recent pharmacy steroid raids
Carla Marinucci, Edward Epstein, Chronicle Political Writers
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger personally congratulated the massive, chiseled winner of his signature Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition in Ohio on Saturday and stood by as Victor Martinez was presented with a $130,000 first-place check, a spectacular trophy, a luxury Swiss watch and an "Arnold Classic" jacket.
Just days before, the name of the 34-year-old "Dominican Dominator" – who was caught selling steroids to a New York City undercover police officer in 2004 – appeared in published reports in New York about a major multistate investigation of steroid use related to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. ...
Heaven knows I'm no fan of the Governator politically. As a sometime weightlifter I am much more enamored of Bill Pearl's Getting Stronger than I am of the Governator's The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. (I have watched and enjoyed several of his movies.)
The fact remains, though, that by its very nature, Arnold Schwarzenegger's career is inextricably linked with steroid use. He has never denied it, and has in fact advocated steroids for bodybuilding in the past, e.g., in his 1974 interview with Barbara Walters. Legitimate or not, steroid use has been a key aspect of competetive bodybuilding for decades.
So the winner of a bodybuilding competition bearing the Governator's name has been linked to steroid use. To grasp one's pearls with one hand, throw bring the back of the other hand to one's forehead, and profess shock that this is so is more than a trifle disingenuous. It's in the same league as professing shock that professional wrestling is fixed.
Should the Governator's name be followed by an asterisk in California political history because he juiced?
It's Morning in America Again
In addition to the Libby conviction, today is the day that Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the recent purge of US Attorneys by the Justice Department. Josh Marshall describes these hearings as the most riveting congressional hearings since Anita Hill testified in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.
During his questioning, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked all four prosecutors that if they were told by a witness in an ongoing investigation that he had received a call similar to the one Bud Cummins got from Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, what would they think? All four said that they would investigate to see whether obstruction of justice or witness tampering had occurred.
Yes, that's right: Abu Gonzales's Justice Department has actively engaged in obstruction of justice and witness tampering in response to a political crisis. Not only is the gun smoking, but here are the powder burns, and the spent shell casings are here, here, and here on the floor.
Ever since November's elections we have been waiting for the hearings investigating Bush Administration misdeeds to begin. They have begun, and the bombshells are bursting in the air. It's morning in America again. Our long national nightmare is coming to an end.
February 23, 2007
Josh Speak, You Listen!
February 21, 2007
What No Republican Wants to Hear
If [New Hampshire State Republican Party Chair] Fergus Cullen has the courage of his convictions, he should go enlist, because they're having trouble meeting their quota. He's young, he's single and he's healthy. If he needs to know where the recruiters are, call me.
(Amusing though this is, doesn't urging your political enemy to place himself in mortal danger to fight a pointless and hopeless war under the command of a malign incompetent qualify as eliminationist rhetoric?)
February 16, 2007
You Just Can't Make Up Stuff This Good
Really, if someone wrote this humorous fiction, it would be immediately recognized as being too pathetically funny — and too heavy-handedly anti-Evangelical — to be plausible parody. But truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case it is more pathetically funny than fiction.
Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that a so-called "secular evolution science" is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate "creation scenario" of the Pharisee Religion. This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic "holy book" Kabbala dating back at least two millennia. Evidence in the URLs below shows conclusively that "evolution science" has a very specific religious agenda and (as with "creation science") cannot legally be taught in taxpayer supported schools according to the Constitution.
The links in the message point to a Web site, Fixedearth.com, "The non-moving Earth & anti-evolution web page of The Fair Education Foundation, Inc."
Yes, that's right: in just one short hotlink we have jumped from Talking Points Memo, soberly discussing affairs of policy and foreign affairs in our nation's capitol, to deep into the wackiest heart of American darkness: the claim that the Earth rotates and that it orbits around the Sun is a lie spread by a conspiracy of Jewish physicists bent on suppressing the truth! The Web site's author supports his claim of the fixedness of the earth by posting photographs of the evidence that clearly shows, despite this obvious nonsense about the Earth rotating, the stars moving around the Earth!
If you enjoy the sport of shooting fish in a barrel with a shotgun, you could spend many happy hours tearing this Web site apart. There is a piece of me that admires the determination and dedication of the man who painstakenly collected all of this evidence and published it on the Web, in the face of all the scorn and abuse to which it has surely opened him.
The visionary behind Fixedearth.com is one Marshall Hall. Hall is married to Bonnie Hall, who is in turn the campaign manager for Georgia State Rep. Ben Bridges.
The message touting this challenge to the constitutionality of teaching evolution science in schools was sent out over Rep. Bridges' signature to a list of legislators from the states of Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
At least one of these legislators has taken an interest in the idea that Pharisee Religion is the basis of the teaching of evolution science. Texas state representative Warren Chisum, the Republican chair of the Texas state House Appropriations Committee, liked what he read, and deemed it important enough to copy the memo and distribute it to every member of the Texas state House of Representatives.
That's when the fertilizer hit the swamp cooler. The Dallas Morning News coolly reported Wednesday merely that the Fixedearth.com site contained a draft of model legislation to ban the teaching of evolution in state-supported schools. But on Thursday, after the Anti-Defamation League responded strongly to the anti-semitic content of the memo and the Web site to which it pointed, the Morning News was now saying that Chisum was "contrite" about having sent the memo. "The stuff that causes conflicts between religious beliefs, you know, I'd never be a party to that," the Morning News reports Chisum as saying. "I'm willing to apologize if I've offended anyone." The second story adds,
Mr. Chisum said he hadn't looked at the Web site and didn't realize that he was distributing that type of material. He expressed chagrin that he didn't vet the material more carefully.
Only after the controversy erupted did the Morning News describe Fixedearth.com as "a Web site that warns of international Jewish conspiracies."
The ADL also protested to the memo's supposed originator, Ben Bridges. Bridges, however, is not apologizing. “I regret that these people have been offended, but I didn’t offend them because I didn’t put the memo out," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He denies having written or authorized the memo. “I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out. I’m not defending it or taking up for it.”
When asked by the Journal-Constitution reporter about the content of the memo, though, Bridges stated that he agreed with it more than he agreed with the Big Bang or with Darwin. His apology is ringing strangely hollow. Whats more, Marshall Hall insists that the memo was sent out with Bridges' approval.
Takeaways from this story that is far too stupid to be fiction:
- While Marty Peretz and AIPAC are redefining anti-semitism as opposing or criticizing the Israel hawks, real anti-semitism bubbles away in the fever swamps of the American unconscious.
- Some people, like Ben Bridges, would rather twist and evade rather than be pinned into denouncing anti-semitism.
- Even the loopiest and indefensible ideas can get traction, if people are desperate enough to believe them.
Toxic though his anti-semitism is, I nonetheless find something to admire in Marshall Hall. To put up Fixedearth.com and promote those ideas so vigorously in the face of the onslaught of ridicule he must surely receive demands immense courage of his convictions.
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.
February 08, 2007
Open Letter to Duncan Black
I appreciate the fondness you have for snappy labels for prominent people whom you regularly blog, such as "The Last Honest Man" for Joe Lieberman or "The Patron Saint of Liars" for John McCain.
However, I have a special request to you in your future blogging of John McCain's presidential campaign: that every time you refer to him, you mention him specifically by name; and that every time you mention the name John McCain, you link that name to the Wikipedia article on the Keating Five (the URL is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keating_Five). I further request that you encourage other bloggers to do the same thing.
The purpose of this is of course a Google bomb: to give the Keating Five article lots of Google juice so that, in turn, whoever googles John McCain will be reminded of his key role in the biggest swindle of the twentieth century. If John McCain has such a prominent history of enabling swindlers, why would we expect any different from him today, let alone should he ever make it to the White House?
By all means, feel free to keep calling John McCain the Patron Saint of Liars; but please, when you do, name him and link his name to the Keating Five article.
February 03, 2007
Where the Women Bloggers Are
Atrios points us to the announcements from Amanda Marcotte and Shakespeare's Sister that they have been hired to work on John Edwards's presidential campaign. I applaud Edwards' outreach to specifically feminist bloggers for his Internet presence. I wonder, though, who's next? If Edwards is still hiring, I could see him going for someone liberal and conventional like Lindsay Beyerstein — but why not go instead for a cask-strength feminist with attitude and street cred, someone like brownfemipower?
February 01, 2007
Biden Praises Obama's 'Natural Sense of Rhythm'
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) has already been developing a reputation as the Democratic Party's answer to Harold Stassen. He surely knocked his aspirations for the 2008 race into a cocked hat when he said about his colleague Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) to an interviewer from the New York Observer:
I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy[.] I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
As everyone in the blogosphere is pointing out, "You're so ... articulate..." is one of supposed compliments that is loaded with the implied racism of "... not like those other brutes!"
Biden has one last hope to salvage his campaign: He can try to convince people that he was really quoting Neil Kinnock.
January 12, 2007
The Devil Can Cite Scripture for His Purpose
I overlooked it when Avedon Carol linked to it, but Roz Kaveney noticed and remarked upon Avedon's link to an entry on Faithful Progressive about the degree to which the alleged fundamentalists in the Christian Right movement in the US cherry-pick the Bible to suit their preconceived agendas, rather than taking the Bible as a whole as their guide.
Faithful Progressive quotes in turn an essay by University of Chicago Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, Margaret M. Mitchell, entitled How Biblical is the Christian Right? Mitchell examined biblical quotes on a number of prominent Web sites of well-known figures of the Christian Right. Mitchell's answer to the question "How Biblical is the Christian Right," it turns out, is "not very."
Here's Mitchell's money quote:
The Christian Right represents biblical interpretation in a conjunction of two selective circles: of what are the key issues in the political realm and what are the central passages in the biblical record. It represents an odd alignment of each. The canonical delineation is striking—a focus on the Old Testament, with special prominence given to Judges and 1 and 2 Chronicles, as well as to Genesis and Leviticus; and in the New Testament, to selected moralizing passages of the Pauline letters and Revelation. It is easy to see then what is missing: the prophets of Israel and the teachings of Jesus (the Gospels). Along with them go concern with social/political issues such as economic inequality, peace-making, love and forgiveness, and critique of religious hypocrisy (just to choose a few!).
In other words, the prominent advocates of the adoption of the Christian Bible as the foundation of American political and moral values willfully ignore the bulk of the teachings of that same Christian Bible.
If I were a Christian, I would take a mighty dim view indeed of the leaders of the Christian Right promoting and publicizing such a thoroughly distorted version of Christianity, built on a foundation of intolerance, hate, and cruelty. It's no wonder that so many decent people cringe when they hear the word "Christian." If these leaders actually wanted compassionate people to reject Christianity, they could hardly do a better job.
September 18, 2006
How The Democrats Should Be Campaigning, #5,271,009
Everyone else in Left Blogistan is full of suggestions on how the Democrats should be campaigning in the runup to the midterm congressional elections this November. Why should I be left out of the fun?
he first message was routine enough: A "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1. But inside the Navy those messages generated more buzz than usual last week when a second request, from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), asked for fresh eyes on long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf. The CNO had asked for a rundown on how a blockade of those strategic targets might work. When he didn't like the analysis he received, he ordered his troops to work the lash up once again.
What's going on? The two orders offered tantalizing clues. There are only a few places in the world where minesweepers top the list of U.S. naval requirements. And every sailor, petroleum engineer and hedge-fund manager knows the name of the most important: the Strait of Hormuz, the 20-mile-wide bottleneck in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 40% of the world's oil needs to pass each day. Coupled with the CNO's request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed—but until now largely theoretical—prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.
The naval blockade by itself is insufficient to wage a war. We don't have the ground troops to invade Iran. What is left, obviously, is assault by air, possibly with nuclear weapons, which, as Jim MacDonald at Making Light points out, would be an unmitigated disaster.
So maybe it's time to go into the archives and pull out this highly effective campaign classic. It gets the message across to anyone who can count to ten.
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.
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)
December 16, 2005
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.
November 20, 2005
Whatever You Do, Look Presidential
George Bush tries to flee through a locked door after a reporter enquires whether he's feeling "off his game."
UPDATE: OMFG! Later, Atrios posts the whole sequence of photos.
September 08, 2005
September 02, 2005
Here's what I remember about the Chernobyl disaster: veiled reports that something had gone drastically wrong with a nuclear reactor in the Ukraine, while the government of the Soviet Union doggedly insisted that there was no problem, that nothing had gone wrong. The evidence of nuclear disaster was there for all the world to see in the form of radioactive dust spreading through the upper atmosphere.
Then, suddenly, the Soviet government came clean, both at home and abroad. Mikhail Gorbachev decided that the lying simply couldn't continue, and broadened this notion to the whole of the Soviet government. The new policy became known as glasnost' ("openness" [or, more cynically, "publicity"]) which in turn was the foundation for perestroika ("reconstruction"). The process ultimately resulted in the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Hurricane Katrina has ruined the Gulf Coast, flattening and flooding cities, killing uncounted thousands, rendering many tens of thousands homeless refugees, taking as much as a third of the United States' supply of petroleum offline, not to mention capactiy to refine and transport it. Federal emergency management officials bluster defensively, but the fact on the ground is that there is essentially no federal capacity to respond to disaster.
More and more people are thinking that the Bush administration's response to the challenge of Katrina and her aftermath is a miserable failure. This perception spreading far beyond the Blue blogosphere. Crooks and Liars shows us an MSNBC report on Bush's flaccid address to the nation on Wednesday followed by a response from a survivor in Biloxi, Mississippi: "President Bush shouldn't be the president no more. President Bush ain't doing his job." And TBogg , who is reading The Corner at NRO so you don't have to, finds that even the Cornerites are giving Bush a failing grade.
Hurricane Katrina is George W. Bush's Chernobyl. The reality that he and his people were making for themselves has collapsed like a house of cards. George Bush is going down. Let's hope he doesn't take the Constitution with him when he does.
March 22, 2005
Bush's approval ratings are tanking. The administration's top-priority plan to use "personal accounts" to gut Social Security is dead in the water. Meanwhile, in Congress, the odor of scandal surrounding Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay grows fouler with each passing day.
Isn't it time for the Department of Homeland Security to ratchet up the terror alert level?
Why are the Republicans using the Schiavo case as their smokescreen rather than the tried-and-true Terror Trick? The polls are showing that a majority of the American people oppose federal intervention in the Schiavo case and a supermajority of them believe that the congressional intervention spearheaded by DeLay is motivated by politics, not principle.
If the Republicans realize that the terror dog don't hunt no more, where do they get the idea that this one will?
March 19, 2005
The Lurkers Oppose Him in Email
Sudden thought #2: reflecting on the other loss to journalism widely subjected to elegaic remembrance in recent days, I couldn't help thinking: Didn't Ann Coulter learn everything she knows about toxic political rhetoric from Hunter S. Thompson?
Because TPM doesn't allow comments, readers who are moved to respond have to send emails. (Unless, that is, they are so divinely inspired as to write blogs of their own.) And according to Shearer, they've been overwhelmingly in Hunter Thompson's defense:
[O]ne emailer said this thought had been thoroughly blogified within hours after Thompson's death. If so, I missed it. Most have been appalled that I would compare the sainted Hunter with the devilish Coulter.
I missed it, too. I did some googling around, and could only find this mention in No More Mister Nice Blog:
It occurs to me that you can go from Hunter Thompson to Ann Coulter in two moves (via P.J. O'Rourke).
Maybe that's not surprising. In the end, a lot of what Thompson wrote about was just pure individualism – thwarting enemies you regard as vermin, getting away with as much as possible, not giving a shit about hurt feelings. That's a fairly good capsule description of what the Right stands for now, albeit with a different enemies list.
That Thompson's writing might have been toxic is not actually a new thought. More than twenty years ago, Richard Bergeron wrote something to the effect that Hunter Thompson's writing actually made him feel sorry for Richard Nixon (whom Bergeron despised). And to be fair, Thompson was by no means the only source of political venom in the alternative press of the time. Without reaching very far, for example, I can pull off my bookshelf a copy of Harlan Ellison's The Other Glass Teat, television criticism originally published in the Los Angeles Free Press, containing an attack on Vice President Spiro Agnew as vicious as anything Thompson ever wrote about Nixon. (According to Ellison, e.g., Agnew "masturbates with copies of the Reader's Digest.")
The 60s were a different time. Back then it was left-wing extremists, not right-wingers, who blew up buildings; and it was Democrats, not Republicans, who started wars half-way around the world on pretexts that turned out to be thin tissues of lies.
March 07, 2005
Confidential to J.K.
Once you've sold yourself to Lowell Wood, it's true, to subsequently sell yourself to Donald Rumsfeld is to take a small step in the direction of honor, integrity, and truthfulness. One nevertheless hopes that you might someday be capable of taking more than baby steps.
(Aside to Avedon: Did you really let this man stay in your house? I hope you burned the bedding afterwards.)
February 17, 2005
Jerry Brown Has a Blog
Jerry Brown has started blogging. Brown is formerly the governor of the state of California and currently mayor of Oakland, where the As I Please international world headquarters is located.
He's only got one post up so far, a response to attackers of a controversial city curfew for parolees.
(via Skippy's pal Cookie Jill)
February 16, 2005
The Argument From Design
Think about it: what are the chances that a media whore like Gannon would turn out to be an actual whore? It's impossible. It boggles the mind how infinitely unlikely this is. It's like if you found someone pirating CDs, and it turns out he actually had a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder and sailed around the Caribbean saying "arrrrrr!" and plundering booty. You wouldn't believe it. But there it is: impossible, but true. Impossible truths are miracles, and only God can work miracles. Ergo, God exists. Q.E.D.
(via Avedon Carol)
January 16, 2005
How Do You Think He Got Where He Is?
Today's San Francisco Chronicle has another in their series about the Governator's meeting with the paper's editorial board: PUMPING HIM UP: Governor's position as a top editor at a pair of bodybuilding magazines may enhance his political celebrity. Ahnold is listed as "Executive Editor" for Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, with "regular bylines, editorials and columns by California's Republican governor as well as a generous amount of Arnold-friendly copy."
The Chron gives Ahnold some heat about potential conflict of interest, and lots and lots of heat about drug use in the bodybuilding world. Are they surprised? The Governator admitted a long time ago to using steroids when he was a competitive bodybuilder. Anyone who didn't know that in the run-up to his election wasn't paying attention – they probably didn't know about the nude photos or the interludes with girly-men in gyms in Venice Beach, either.
I've never thought Schwarzenegger belonged in the Governor's office, and I still don't. But it seems ridiculous to me to castigate the author of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding for an ongoing editorial presence in the weightlifting mags. Ahnold is responsible in part for the mainstreaming of weight training and bodybuilding, and has been since long before either his political or Hollywood careers took off. Why shouldn't he continue to do so?
January 14, 2005
The Portmeirion Declaration
Students for an Orwellian Society (SOS) is a nationwide student group. Although SOS has always been a nationwide student group, there is evidence to suggest that it first appeared at Columbia University. The mission of SOS is to promote the vision of a society based upon the principles of Ingsoc, first articulated by George Orwell in his prophetic novel, 1984.
January 05, 2005
California Voters: Call Barbara Boxer TODAY!
Barbara Boxer apparently told a group of 20 women meeting with her that if she gets enough people asking her to do it, she WILL be the senator to join Rep. Conyers.
ssteur quotes this message, received by way of the ACT action network:
------ Forwarded Message From : Lydia F
Just came from a group which gathered at Senator Barbara Boxer's Office here in Fresno. There were about 20 of us representing Fresno, Visalia, Porterville and Springville. It was awesome since they had to come to Fresno through the rain... We were told that Senator Boxer was willing to be the Senator who will ask for the re-election in Ohio provided she sees numbers. This is a grassroots effort and it depends on each of us to pass this information on. (see below for offices and phone numbers)
As a reminder, what is actually being asked for is for Sen. Boxer to challenge, along with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), the vote of the Electoral College. This will trigger a Constitutionally mandated review by Congress of the election.
Keep it simple: Say that you are a California voter and that you urge her to join Rep. Conyers in challenging the results of the Electoral College vote.
Here, from ssteur's diary, are addresses and phone numbers of Senator Boxer's California offices:
501 I Street, Suite 7-600
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 448-2563 fax
1700 Montgomery Street, Suite 240
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 956-6701 fax
312 N. Spring Street, Suite 1748
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 894-5042 fax
1130 O Street, Suite 2450
Fresno, CA 93721
(559) 497-5111 fax
600 B Street, Suite 2240
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-5719 fax
201 North E Street, Suite 210
San Bernardino, CA 92401
(909) 888-8613 fax
Senator Diane Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
January 5, 2005
I read in Joshua Micah Marshall's weblog Talking Points Memo that in letters to constituents you have been guarded and equivocal about the Bush Administration's proposals to begin the dismantling of Social Security.
The attack on Social Security is an attack on the people of America, and in particular an attack on the people of California. This is no time for equivocation. I call upon you to state clearly and unambiguously your opposition to the Bush plan to roll back Social Security, and to stick to this resolve in voting against it, and in encouraging your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do likewise.
Please do not under any circumstances caucus with other senators who support the betrayal of the American people that the Bush plan represents.
With utmost sincerity,
Alan L. Bostick
January 04, 2005
The Ballot and the Damage Done
Bernard Mayer writes in The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution:
We can often achieve progress in a conflect, even when disputants have incompatible substantive interests, if we are careful to address psychological and procedural interests.
The U.S. philosophy of government provides an interesting example of how these interests work. At the root of democracy is a commitment to addressing procedural interests, even when substantive interests cannot always be met. Many Americans' governmental values are related to these procedural interests. We in the United States remain loyal to our government, even if we disagree with its policies and have not voted for its leaders, because we fundamentally support the process by which they were selected. The basic deal in a democracy is that we may not always get our way but we will always have our say, and in return we will remain loyal citizens. (p. 19; emphasis added)
The unfortunate corollary is that should there be a widespread perception that the selection process for our leaders has been corrupted or suborned, then the basis for U.S. citizen's loyalty is undermined.
We are all long since familiar with what happened in the 2000 presidential election balloting in Florida: The justices of U.S. Supreme Court intervened to halt the recount of ballots, and thus giving George Bush the presidency. Many people believe that the 2004 has also been stolen by the Republicans, through intervention in the swing state of Ohio (link via Avedon Carol)
David Neiwert at Orcinus documents in some detail the unfolding of the close election for governor in the state of Washington. He draws the parallels to the 2000 Florida presidential balloting, and notes that, while the Republicans followed the same playbook they did in Florida, the key difference is that Washington's Republican secretary of state, Sam Reed, chose to back the process instead of the party (in Mayer's terms, putting procedural interests ahead of substantive ones) and is catching flak from the GOP as a result. Many Republicans, it would seem, think winning is more important than legitimacy. These people are quick to accuse the Democrats of trying to win the election by any means necessary, while not hesitating to use underhanded means of their own.
Each side of the political divide, then, sees the other side as stealers of election, and sees at least some electoral results as illegitimate. At least some people regard it more important to secure power to further their agendas than it is to preserve the integrity of the mechanisms by which power is maintained and transferred. And the result is that a growing number of citizens are convinced that the elections are rigged, that the veneration of democracy and the Constitution that serves as the bedrock of American civic culture is a sham.
The Republic may well be facing its greatest danger since the Secession crisis of 1860; and that danger is not the threat of external attack by the like of al Qaeda, but instead the attack on its legitimacy by those who are desperate to take and keep power.
December 30, 2004
Not One Damn Dime
Proving that blogtopia (yes! skippy coined that phrase!) isn't always ahead of the curve, here's a meme that apparently has been going around in email for weeks. My partner Debbie says that she's come across it in email from three independent sources. The owner of this Web site says that he didn't originate it:
On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.
During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.
On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).
For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan -- a way to come home.
There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed.
For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.
Please share this as an email with as many people as possible, and please express your opinion at www.NotOneDamnDime.com .
December 22, 2004
Republicans Are Thieves!
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.
December 17, 2004
No Gurls Aloud
You Can Tell a Republican by His Stripes
Job Alert! There's an excellent job opportunity at media giant Viacom International Inc., which owns CBS among other things, judging from an e-mail we just got from Gail MacKinnon, Viacom vice president for government relations.
MacKinnon sent the note Tuesday to House Republican offices and to the offices of GOP Sens. John Ensign (Nev.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and George Allen (Va.).
"Subject: Looking to fill a position in our office
"Importance: High We need to hire a junior lobbyist/PAC manager. Attached is a job description. Salary is $85-90K. Must be a male with Republican stripes.
"If you know of anyone who might be interested in interviewing for this position, would you please let me know? Thanks so much. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday."
Unclear where the stripes are to be located.
I find myself wondering precisely why Viacom wants the person they hire for the job to be male. Is Grover Norquist's "K Street Strategy" now demanding that Republican members of Congress not deal with women lobbyists?
Just as a reminder: discrimination by sex in hiring is illegal. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is already demanding investigations by both Congress and the EEOC.
(via Josh Marshall)
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?
November 17, 2004
Inherit the Whirlwind
Have you ever wondered precisely why Biblical literalism is important to so many Americans, precisely why is it important to them to get the teaching of evolution out of the biology textbooks?
Re Creationism, I must point out an unfortunate subtext that's no longer quite so obvious. Having grown up in the previous iteration of the rural American south, I know that what *really* smarted about Darwin, down there, was the logical implication that blacks and whites are descended from a common ancestor. Butt-ugly, but there it is. That was the first objection to evolutionary theory that I ever heard, and it was a very common one, in fact the most common. That it was counter to Genesis seemed merely convenient, in the face of an anthropoid grand-uncle in the woodpile. [Emphasis added – ALB]
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)
October 28, 2004
Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
Debbie says she just heard this on the radio, on All Things Considered.
George W. Bush speaking at a rally in Ohio:
A president must surround himself with smart, competent people who are not afraid to speak their minds.
I have surrounded myself with smart, competent people.
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
October 27, 2004
Bush Endorses Kerry
Via Associated Press:
"A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief," Bush told supporters at an airport rally.
October 14, 2004
Loni Hancock Has a Blog
State Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, the Democrat from District 14 (including Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, and parts of Oakland) has just started a blog on Blogspot. I don't actually live in District 14; my neighborhood is gerrymandered out of the district.
It is brand-new, and so far it is all about the proposed expansion of Casino San Pablo from a minor cardroom into a giant Vegas-style casino.
I wonder how long it will be before the freepers find it?
October 07, 2004
I've resisted the temptation to put up screenshots of Dick Cheney and John Edwards meeting that remind us all of Cheney's ongoing pathological disregard of truth.
But the temptation to post this image, appearing on From Here to Obscurity, is much too strong:
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.
September 20, 2004
I've Found Out What Happened to John Edwards
....our most important task is to fight...and to win...the war on terrorism.
....In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them.
I've found out why John Edwards has disappeared from sight: he's been dropped from the Democratic ticket and replaced by Vladimir Putin.
(via Kevin Drum)
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 compactJohn 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. ...
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.
August 14, 2004
Terror Alerts Explained
Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, brings us a guide to the Department of Homeland Security terror alert levels that makes everything clear:
(via Heaven Conquistadore)
August 10, 2004
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.
July 29, 2004
Dick Cheney Plays Poker
If ESPN's coverage of the WSOP were like Fox News, we's see more final tables like this one:
Poker With Dick Cheney
Transcript of The Editors' regular Saturday-night poker game with Dick Cheney, 6/19/04. Start tape at 12:32 AM.
The Editors: We'll take three cards.
Dick Cheney: Give me one.
Sounds of cards being placed down, dealt, retrieved, and rearranged in hand. Non-commital noises, puffing of cigars.
TE: Fifty bucks.
DC: I'm in. Show 'em.
TE: Two pair, sevens and fives.
DC: Not good enough.
TE: What do you have?
DC: Better than that, that's for sure. Pay up.
TE: Can you show us your cards?
DC: Sure. One of them's a six.
TE: You need to show all your cards. That's the way the game is played. ...
(I've seen this going the rounds on email, with attribution trimmed off. Thanks to 14cyclenotes for the link to the original.)
July 27, 2004
Who says nothing newsworthy happens at political party national conventions anymore? Jeralyn Merritt, covering the Democratic convention for TalkLeft, has posted a picture of the hitherto-anonymous leftie blogger, and tells us his first name is Duncan.
Alex R, a commenter on Kevin Drum's Political Animal, points out that Atrios has put the text Eschaton -- a weblog by d u n c a n b l a c k at the foot of Eschaton. Atrios has outed himself, presumably because he needed to do so to the DNC in order to get a press credential.
I'm a little chuffed, because quite by accident I get to look prescient.
July 13, 2004
Republicans Filibuster Their Own Marriage Amendment
Support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage has gotten so thin among Senate Republicans that it is now clear that the amendment, should it come to a vote, won't get a simple majority of votes, let alone the two-thirds majority it would need to actually pass. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, GOP senators are now filibustering to keep their own amendment from being voted down in an embarassing defeat.
The disarray broke out just two days before Republican leaders had planned a politically sensitive vote to put senators on record about whether a constitutional amendment should declare that marriage remain the union of one man and one woman.
But instead of a landmark debate, Republicans found themselves filibustering their own amendment to stop it from coming to the floor on Wednesday for a straight up-or-down vote – out of fear that it might fail to get even 51 votes, much less the 67, or two-thirds majority, required to amend the Constitution.
Republicans apparently were taken by surprise when Democrats, sensing a huge victory, offered to lift their own objections and proceed to direct consideration of the measure. ...
Many also have expressed concern that the current wording of the Federal Marriage Amendment also would ban civil unions and domestic partnerships that are considered legal alternatives to marriage.
So amendment proponents, led by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., floated the idea of offering an alternative version that might allay some worries about civil unions and improve the vote count.
But Democrats refused to go along, noting that Republicans had already bypassed the regular committee process to get the amendment directly to the floor and now found themselves trying to rewrite the measure at the last minute. ...
Proponents, instead of agreeing to vote on the amendment, filed a motion to shut off debate, which is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday. The Senate needs 60 votes to end the debate and move the senators to an up-or-down vote on the amendment.
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:
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
MORE TREES, LESS BUSH
... [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)
July 02, 2004
Embrace the Power of 'And'
Rumsfeld Lying Again
Either that or he's just incompetent. Maybe both.
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.
Update: The "ESPN" report is actually the Associated Press report of the game.
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)
May 21, 2004
Burn, Baby, Burn
The Daily Kos has a delightfully gloating report on Bush's re-election campaign spending. Apparently, Junior is as irresponsible with campaign donations as he is with your tax dollars, and this will have a negative impact on spending on local Republican campaigns nationwide:
[A]ccording to OpenSecrets.org, Bush had raised a total $185 and had nearly $109 million cash on hand at the end of March. At the end of April, it was $200 million total raised, and $72 million cash. Check my math, but it looks like Bush spent $52 million in the month of April alone.
$72 million is about five weeks expenses at the April burn rate. ...
But here's the fun part – The GOP counted on having Bush fundraise for the party committees and individual candidates down the ticket. Instead, that money is being shovelled into the Bush vortex. The more Bush has to hoard for himself, the less money he can raise for our congressional foes. ...
Update: Kerry's numbers are out. Our guy raised $30 million to Bush's $15 million. And the article notes that Bush will have to raise $12.5 million a month through August to maintain his current burn rate (adding in his cash on hand). That's money that won't make their way into competitive House and Senate races. Nice.
It reminds me, in a way, of the morbid speculation about startup companies' expected lifespans based on their burn rates as the dot.boom's peak drew near. (Hmmmm. I wonder if the domain fuckedadministration.com is available?)
April 22, 2004
Worldwork Open Forum in Berkeley, 7:00 PM 4/28/04
In case you've been wondering just what it is I've been doing that has kept me away from the Oaks' Wednsday night tournaments, here is your chance to find out:
Open Community Forum, 7:00 PM 4/28/04
Explore issues of importance to you in a facilitated setting.
Examples might include: the war in Iraq; parking in your neighborhood; racism; organic food in the Berkeley Unified School District; etc.
The facilitator, Lane Arye, Ph.D., has worked on community building in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and in Oakland.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004, 7:00-10:00 PM
1452 Cornell Avenue. Berkeley (Please park in church lot across street)
For more information, contact Gabriel Todd (510) 428-9958 or Lane (510) 558-8805
Recommended contribution: $5. No on turned away. Everyone is welcome.
March 23, 2004
Roz Gets It Right, Once Again
Here's Roz Kaveny on the hand-wringing about the Israeli government's murder of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (scroll down past the rave review of Susanna Clarke's new novel):
It is, of course, very wrong for the Israelis to use a helicopter gunship's rockets to kill an old man in a wheelchair. What I don't see is that it is more wrong for them to do this than to use bulldozers to crush families who don't get out of the way in time or rifles to kill teenagers who are throwing rocks. ...
Politicians who condemn assassination, but not any other sort of killing, are involved in a protection of their own trade, which like other trades is a conspiracy against the public. It is cant to regard assassination as worse than other killing. Specific assassinations may be a bad thing – but we object to the killings of Martin Luther King and Gandhi precisely because they were advocates of non-violence, for whom violence came calling – but I don't see why a politician has more right in principle to be protected from violence than anyone else.
January 14, 2004
What a Man!
Besides exercising, Bush's biggest release from his job is chain sawing branches into huge piles in the summer, with Secret Service agents hovering nearby to protect him from falling limbs as he trims. In the winter, Bush and his heartiest alpha aides burn the towering pyramids of cedar.
A chainsaw?? Compare this to Ronald Reagan, who, relaxing on his ranch, chopped firewood with an axe.
December 25, 2003
Las Vegas, the Workers' Paradise
An article by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect details the remarkable history of Local 226 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union at organizing workers at the hotels and casinos of the city of Las Vegas.
Local 226 is probably the largest – and surely the most remarkable – local union in the United States. While most unions have been shrinking or struggling to hold their own over the past several decades, and while hotel union membership has declined from 16 percent of the hotel workforce in 1983 to 12 percent in 2000, Local 226 has grown by 30,000 members since its low point in 1988. It has done that by organizing virtually every hotel on the Vegas Strip, so that roughly 90 percent of the jobs in the city's major hotels are unionized. Considering that Nevada is a right-to-work state where employees can work in unionized workplaces without joining the union, this is a breathtaking achievement.
Meyerson reviews the union's history: HERE came to Las Vegas when the first generation of Strip casinos were being built in the 1950s, during the time that he delicately describes as "when the Rat Pack was just beginning to appear togeter." People familiar with Vegas history know that this is the heydey of the mob in the city. The union's fortunes declined in the seventies and eighties, when organized crime lost its ascendancy and Vegas gambling was taken over by corporate capital. Eight hotels decertified the union during the eighties.
HERE responded by organizing. "We had to convert from business unionism to rank-and-file unionism," says Local 226 official D. Taylor. (A cynic might view this as changing from a tame mob union into a worker's union with real teeth.) They also responded by cutting a deal with Steve Wynn when he was preparing to open the Mirage, the first of the new breed of modern casino-resorts. In exchange for work-rule concessions and the union's lobbying efforts in Washington, Wynn agreed not to block organizing efforts at Wynn properties. When the Mirage opened, it was a union hotel.
Other casino owners were more reluctant to deal with the union. The union drew a line in the sand at Binion's Horseshoe, downtown. The union struck, setting up picket lines in front of Binion's in January 1989.
SF&F readers may remember this description of Local 226's picket line at Binion's from Tim Powers' novel Last Call:
Strikers from the culinary and bartenders unions were walking back and forth carrying signs in front of the Horseshoe, and one of them, a young woman with very short hair, had a megaphone.
"Baaad luck," the striker was chanting in an eerie, flat voice. "Baad luck at the 'Shoe! Come on oouut, losers!"
God, Dinh thought, Maybe I'd have stage fright, too.
Every Thanksgiving Binion's gave a turkey to each cabdriver, and Dinh, known as Nardie to all the night people of Las Vegas, had always dropped off her downtown fares in front of the place. She wondered if she'd soon have to start unloading them back by the Four Queens.
Business at the Horseshoe fell off. Once upon a time, nobody crossed Benny Binion; but Benny was dying, and maybe Local 226 still had mob juice. At any rate, after a strike that lasted nine and a half months, Benny's son Jack, now managing the 'Shoe, signed with the union. Benny died not long after, on Christmas Day of 1989.
After this, other casinos fell into line, except the Frontier, on the Strip. A six-year strike left the Frontier a ruined business, and in 1998 it was sold. The new owners quickly signed with Local 226.
Meyerson highlights the union-run training programs – funded by the casino-resorts – that open job prospects for union members in the lowest-tier jobs, such as housekeeping. With union encouragement, a worker can start in an essentially unskilled job and climb up a ladder of skills. From what Meyerson describes, this is one part of the world of casinos where everybody wins: the workers improve their skillsets, and earn more even at the lowest skill levels; the casino-resorts gets a pool of service-industry labor better trained to meet their hiring needs as they continue to expand; and the union continues to keep its place at the banquet table. Hotel workers in Las Vegas earn 40% more than their counterparts in Reno. Las Vegas dishwashers earn $4 per hour more than the national average 0f $7.45/hr.
This is because the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union fought to keep its place at the table when Las Vegas reinvented itself. At the same time, though, Las Vegas's growth made it possible. Las Vegas has continued to prosper even after 9-11, even after the dotcom bust and the NASDAQ crash. Those who look to Las Vegas to learn how the labor movement can revitalize itself need to keep this in mind.
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)
November 28, 2003
Whose Journalists are Nastier: Britain or the USA?
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" 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)
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 YearBy DAVID E. ROSENBAUM
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)
November 01, 2003
Journalist Advocates Murder of Presidential Candidates
Syndicated newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker said the following in her column that appeared this morning on townhall.com:
Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot. ..."
As you will see if you follow the townhall.com link, the quote has since been redacted, from 'shot' to 'slapped' (with a redundant quotation mark was added in the process). But you can't stuff your rewritten history down the oubliette so easily; the original still exists, as a screenshot and as a cached copy from a browser.
As commenters on Eschaton and Counterspin Central point out, in redacting her quote of her "friend and former Delta Force member," she deliberately misquoted her source, either originally or in the revised version. This is a cardinal sin of journalism.
A third possibility, of course, is that she fabricated the quote completely. That's another cardinal sin of journalism.
Any way you look at it, quoting a death threat against presidential candidates contributes to the climate of extremism and intolerance that has surrounded the American conservative movement for the past decade. If people think that to write such things is not beyond the limits of civilized discourse, sooner or later some people are going to start thinking that taking such actions are also within the limits of civilization.
Parker (or her editors) evidently quickly discovered that she had in fact crossed that line, and clumsily brought her back within bounds.
But a commentator who "focuses on social issues related to family, children and gender" probably oughtn't be testing the acceptability of political murder in the first place.
Update 11/2/03: Atrios points out that the Boulder Daily Camera has run Parker's column in its original criminal splendor.
October 31, 2003
Sometimes, Information Does Want to Be Free
In June of 2002, a report was prepared on the racial and gender diversity of the attorney work force of the U.S. Department of Justice. The DoJ kept this report under wraps, despite repeated Freedom of Information Act requests, until last week, when a PDF was posted to the Justice Department's Web site. Approximately half of the contents of the document were blacked out – "redacted" – making it one of the most heavily redacted government documents in recent memory."
In one of the most stunning examples of computer cluelessness in government since Ollie North forgot about the automatic backups of his Iran/Contra emails on the night of his famous shredding party, it transpires that the PDF so posted was in so-called "Image+Text" format; and the while the image was blacked out, the redacted text remained. And one doesn't have to be a l33t h4x0r d00d to get at that text.
The unredacted version confirms that Justice officials rejected some key conclusions by the consultants they hired, writes Newsday's Tom Brune.
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. "
October 16, 2003
From the "Not Clear on the Concept" Department
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
Bush orders officials to stop the leaksHe warned of action if anonymous sources were quoted, a senior aide said. Visiting senators also heard a stern line.
By Joseph L. Galloway and James Kuhnhenn
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush – living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge – told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.
News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.
August 22, 2003
Feinstein's Mask Slips
A real Democrat would urge voters to vote in such a way that maximizes the likelihood of California's governor after the election remaining a Democrat, i.e. no on the recall, yes on Bustamante.
I've wondered for years why Feinstein is a registered Democrat. Her voting record makes it clear that she would much happier as a liberal Republican under the Pete Wilson/Richard Riordan model. The only faction of the Democratic Party with whom she appears to be congruent are the other Republicans-in-Democratic-clothing like Joe Lieberman and the DLC.
If Feinstein wants a Republican to win the recall, she should change parties and have done with it. If she does, she would surely get her pick of choice committee assignments from the Senate's majority party. Wouldn't that be a better way of serving her constituents, or at least the portion of her constituents whom she actually serves?
August 19, 2003
At last! A candidate in the California gubernatorial free-for-all whom we can all get behind has thrown his hat into the, errr, ring.
August 13, 2003
Game Show Governor
US network to make governor game show
A US television network is to make a game show out of the race for governor of California. The Game Show Network will pick five of the 193 candidates registered to challenge current governor Gray Davis.
They'll then broadcast Who Wants To Be Governor of California? on 1 October, says the BBC Online.
The contestants will battle it out in challenges that may include an obstacle course where they have to dodge lobbyists with briefcases of money.
The winner will be chosen by an online viewers' vote, and will receive $21,200 (about £13,000) towards their campaign funds.
Network president Rich Cronin said: "We'll have podiums and buzzers and bells, but there won't be any long speeches. There will be policy questions and issue questions - things that showcase what the contestants can do."
July 28, 2003
"You'll Never Be Able to Trust Your Staff..."
Almost as an afterthought to my post after midnight this morning, Avedon Carol blogs an Op-Ed piece from yesterday's Washington Post by Joe Robinson on the incredible shrinking vacation of the American worker.
Avedon has never been slow to offer her own opinion. Here is part of her response to and amplification of Robinson's points:
Create a friendly environment and get employees who are willing to put out that bit of extra effort for you, work to a higher standard rather than just work to rule; create an adversarial environment and you'll have a worforce made up of exactly that: your adversaries. Which, among other things, means they will be less likely to waste an erg of their energy correcting (or admitting to) mistakes, or staying a few minutes late to make sure the last t is crossed and the last i is dotted. It also means you'll probably have to either buy far more office supplies than are ever used on the premises, and you'll never be able to trust your staff because they hate you.
As I pointed out yesterday (and as Teresa Nielsen Hayden pointed out last March), Bush in the White House (and Rumsfeld in the Pentagon) manage their operations by using their authority to cover for their lack of competence and knowledge, by being provocative and challenging to their subordinates — by treating them as adversaries.
This explains why a "loyal staffer" like Joseph Hadley, Condoleeza Rice's number 2 in the National Security Council, while nominally taking the fall for not reacting to the CIA's disavowal of the Niger uranium ore forgery, says things in his press briefing last week such as, "What we know is, again, a copy of the memo [from the CIA, doubting the Niger forgery] comes to the Situation Room, it's sent to Dr. Rice, it's sent — and that's it. You know, I can't tell you she read it. I can't even tell you she received it." I'm voluntarily taking the fall, Hadley said, in effect, because Condi won't cop to reading what I send her.
That's what I meant when I said I'm glad I don't work in the White House. The boss leans hard on his subordinates, and they hate him for it; and their own staffers stand ready to catch them with a knife in the back should they stumble under the boss's leaning.
If you should happen to get that evening phone call asking if you stand ready to help your country by coming to Washington, think twice.
A Quote From Last March
The foreign policy/national security mess in which the Bush White House has mired itself was foreshadowed by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, writing on March 28 in Making Light. Teresa recalled an interview of George W. Bush by Bob Woodward, appearing on CBS' 60 Minutes in November, 2002:
Woodward says [Bush] told him that when he chairs a meeting he often tries to be provocative. When Woodward asked him if he tells his staff that he is purposely being provocative, Mr. Bush answered: “Of course not. I am the commander, see?”
Bush: “I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
Here is what Teresa said about this:
I recognize that behavior. Lord help me, I’ve seen it done. It’s one of the tactics you can use if you’re in an executive-level job that’s beyond your abilities, you have to have meetings with underlings who know more than you do, and your only concern is to save face while making sure they’re giving you what you want. ...
If ... you run the meeting in a deliberately provocative fashion, it skews the discourse out of shape, generates a lot of noise and confusion, and throws everyone off balance. This camouflages the fact that you don’t know which end of the stick is sharp. It also teaches people that they’re only safe if you’re happy.
Having to ask questions is likewise unacceptable. Being provocative is a way to get your underlings to automatically give you a recap of what the issues are, their relative importance, how the whole picture fits together, and where that underling comes into it. How so? Because of the skew in the discourse. Someone giving an answer he’s already thought about will generally just give the answer. But if you knock him off balance, make him think on his feet and talk while he’s doing his thinking, he’s more likely to narrate the whole mental process leading up to the answer. Even if you don’t get the whole process out of him, he’ll still be giving you half-formed answers, and those will have a lot of context still sticking to them. Either way, you’ll pick up a lot of framing information, and can then act like you knew that stuff all along. You’re unlikely to get called on it by someone who’s still trying to regain his balance. ...
Your more earnest and straightforward underlings are still going to be trying to fit all that random noise you’re generating into some larger overall picture. It’ll be tough going. The less honest ones will just be trying to keep you happy while pushing their own agendas—and they’ll be at an advantage. It’s tough to come up with truthful, responsible answers under those conditions, because there are thousands of bits of real-world circumstantiality one has to account for. Agenda-pushers just need to know which direction to push, and they’ve got that going in. There’ll be no one to save you from folly.
The chaos Teresa describes is just the sort of environment in which a "fact" about (say) a sale of uranium ore to Iraq can be repeatedly spiked as unbelievable and reinserted by someone else who needs to have it believed, with the man at the top having no sense of what to believe. Chaos takes over from orderly process, and backstabbing politics trumps carefully made policy.
Now we have the CIA at war with the National Security Council over the Niger yellowcake forgery; the Pentagon at war with the State Department over the role of the UN in rebuilding Iraq; and the Pentagon at war with the CIA over CIA cooperation with Syria in pursuit of al Qaeda. Nobody in the White House can keep their story straight from day to day.
I'm glad I don't work in the White House.
July 25, 2003
Who's Got the Button...?
If you haven't played poker in a public cardroom, you probably have never seen a dealer button. But you've heard of it many times: another word used for it is buck. "Passing the buck" literally means letting the dealer button pass you by, so that the next player, not you, has the responsibility of dealing the cards — and the advantage of acting last.
President Harry S. Truman, well known for his love of poker, surely knew this when he put the famous sign on is desk, the one that read, "The buck stops here." There was no one else to whom he could pass the buck. He had the final responsibility. The sign also served as a warning to those knowledgeable enough to read it: "The buck stops here" also means "I'll always have position on you." As Doyle Brunson put it, In No-Limit Hold'em, position is ... well, it's the name of the game. It's everything. If I had position all night, I could beat the game ... and I'd never have to look at my hole-cards. (Super/System, p. 334) Tor Books editor Beth Meacham, talking about Tor's publisher, Tom Doherty, puts it another way: "Tom bats last."
There's been a lot of questioning of "where the buck stops" in the Bush White House in the dustup over the Niger yellowcake. The reporter questioning Scott McClellan a week ago asked that very question, and that was when CIA director George Tenet was the Designated Fall Guy, i.e. the player on the button. But then a new hand must have been dealt, because The button has been passed to Deputy National Security Advisor Joseph Hadley. If the Truman Administration's motto was "The buck stops here," that of the Bush White House seems to be "Button move!"
Anyone who can read English can take backbearings from both Tenet's and Hadley's statements of culpability; and those backbearings point straight at Hadley's immediate supervisor, Condoleeza Rice.
To continue with the poker metaphor, Rice is obviously sitting in the small blind right now, and the buck will inevitably be passed to her in the next hand. In the big blind is Vice President Dick Cheney (whom Josh Marshall, at least, thinks is the person genuinely responsible for the State-of-the-Union gaffe). President Bush is obviously under the gun, which perhaps explains why he's lobbying right now, with that little stack of "Missed Blind" lammers in front of his chips. Meanwhile, George Tenet, now in the cutoff seat, is giving off a huge tell that he's going to be moving all-in soon, and it wouldn't be wise for any of the White House players to call that bet.
Bless the nominee,
And give him our regards,
And watch while he learns
That in poker and politics,
Brother you gotta have
That slippery haphazardous commodity
You gotta have the cards!
—"Politics and Poker", music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; from Fiorello! by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott
July 21, 2003
Great Moments in Radio Comedy
In your mind's ear, have Lou Costello take the role of Question, and have Bud Abbott read White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's part:
QUESTION: Regardless of whether or not there was pressure from the White House for that line, I'm wondering where does the buck stop in this White House? Does it stop at the CIA, or does it stop in the Oval Office?
Scott McClellan: Again, this issue has been discussed. You're talking about some of the comments that — some that are —
QUESTION: I'm not talking about anybody else's comments. I'm asking the question, is responsibility for what was in the President's own State of the Union ultimately with the President, or with somebody else?
Scott McClellan: This has been discussed.
QUESTION: So you won't say that the President is responsible for his own State of the Union speech?
Scott McClellan: It's been addressed.
QUESTION: Well, that's an excellent question. That is an excellent question. (Laughter.) Isn't the President responsible for the words that come out of his own mouth?
Scott McClellan: We've already acknowledged, Terry, that it should not have been included in there. I think that the American people appreciate that recognition.
QUESTION: You acknowledge that, but you blame somebody else for it. Is the President responsible for the things that he said in the State of the Union?
Scott McClellan: Well, the intelligence — you're talking about intelligence that — sometimes you later learn more information about intelligence that you didn't have previously. But when we're clearing a speech like that, it goes through the various agencies to look at that information and —
QUESTION: And so when there's intelligence in a speech, the President is not responsible for that?
Scott McClellan: We appreciate Director Tenet saying that he should have said, take it out.
QUESTION: But it's the President's fault.
Scott McClellan: In fact, if you look back at it, I mean, we did take out a different reference, a reference based on different sources in a previous speech because it was said — the CIA Director said, take it out.
QUESTION: Let me come back to your "nonsense" statement here, and let me slice it as thinly as I possibly can, just growing out of what Scott asked. Is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information included in the State of the Union and negotiated with the CIA to find a way to put it in to the State of the Union?
Scott McClellan: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information in the speech and went through negotiations with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?
Scott McClellan: That there were discussions? Speech drafts go — we've stated that these speeches go out to the principals, it goes out to the State, it goes out to DOD, it goes out to CIA, when it's going through the drafting process.
QUESTION: Scott, you said it was "nonsense" to say that the White House was pressuring the CIA to put this in the speech. Is it nonsense to say —
Scott McClellan: I think the question that you asked about was that someone was insisting —
QUESTION: Durbin said, a White House official insisted —
Scott McClellan: — insisting that it be put in there in an effort to mislead the American people, I think is what —
QUESTION: You didn't explicitly give a motive.
Scott McClellan: And I said I think that's just nonsense.
QUESTION: I'm just trying to slice it a little bit narrowly, to say, is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information in the speech and negotiated with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?
Scott McClellan: Are you asking me to characterize the discussions that occur going on during the speech drafting process? I don't —
QUESTION: I'm saying, does your "nonsense" statement apply to the idea that the White House wanted it in the speech and negotiated with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?
Scott McClellan: I think that it still goes back to, these drafts go to the various agencies, it goes to the CIA, this is an intelligence matter. It was based on information in the National Intelligence Estimate. That's the consensus document of the intelligence community, and that's what the information was based on in that speech.
QUESTION: So what I asked you about in that speech, your "nonsense" statement —
Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you —
QUESTION: You're trying to walk me out the door. (Laughter.)
Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you through this.
QUESTION: So your nonsense statement doesn't apply to what I just asked you?
Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you through the drafting process. And that's why I was trying to put it in context, so you understand how this occurs.
QUESTION: Scott, on Keith's question, why can't we just expect, basically what would be a non-answer, which is, of course the President is responsible for everything that comes out of his mouth. I mean, that's a non-answer. Why can't you just say that?
Scott McClellan: This issue has been addressed over the last several days.
QUESTION: Why won't you say that, though, that's, like, so innocuous and benign.
Scott McClellan: The issue has been addressed.
July 12, 2003
The Long Betrayal of Christopher Hitchens
Patrick Nielsen Hayden points us to this memoir of Christopher Hitchens and Bill Clinton from their Oxford days of the late 60s. It's notable enough on its own terms; but the truly astonishing thing about it is the author, our own true Roz Kaveney.
June 11, 2003
Kevin Andrew Murphy writes, in the comments on Electrolite: Unvarnished truth is all well and good for college students, but I somehow think there would be strong objection to "Mistresses, Slaves and Blowjobs — Our American Presidency!" becoming a standard text in the country's elementary schools.
Avram Grumer follows up with It is one of the duties of the office, after all. The president is a solar fertility deity; if he has lots of sex in office, then the economy will thrive. Clearly Dubya's not up to the job.
It is worthy of comparison. It is worth noting. Under Mr. Libido, under insanely maligned Clinton — under, in other words, a sexually aware and energized leadership — the nation was largely at peace, attained record budget surpluses, record low unemployment, international respect and admiration. Women's rights were assured and gay rights were protected and Clinton was welcomed like a freakin' rock star abroad, and, from what I understand, he still is.
He was widely loved and admired and respected and hey, here's a guy with an actual libido, and a whip-smart mind, and is unafraid to use either, rightfully and wrongfully. He's actually human, flawed and screwed up and heartily sexual and libidinously active and sorta proud of that fact and wow, what a concept.
And now we have Shrub. And now, it is all reversed, inverted, painfully ingrown, like a bad karmic toenail. ...
Because there is a direct and undeniable correlation between a nation's level of sexual awareness or repressiveness and its overall national level of openness or uptightness, its overall feeling of patriotic constipation. Just ask, say, Afghanistan.
There is a direct relationship between how we are now a divisive and frigid BushCo nation, in a state of perpetual war, saddled with a gutted budget, in an economic tailspin, how national morale is in the gutter and international respect for the U.S. almost nonexistent, and the overall cheerless and desolate climate of sexual education and awareness among our current leadership. Oh yes there is.
The cliche is, "I couldn't have said it better myself" but this is Mark Morford we're talking about, whose spell-checker should be grammatically enhanced to flag every adjective and subordinate clause for deletion, just so he can decide to cut at least some of them out. So: I could say it better myself, but the point is that Morford did say it.
Maybe we should take this the whole distance. The worldly avatar of the solar fertility god is the dead and resurrected king. Perhaps the insane compulsion to destroy Clinton was part of this dynamic. And maybe it ought to be part of the dynamic. Maybe the President of the United States should be encouraged to screw like a rut-crazed weasel during the term of office, and then disposed of when that term is finished.
Admit it: wouldn't it warm the cockles of your heart if you knew that the Shrub would be burned in a wicker man on Twelfth Night, 2005?
May 16, 2003
"Your Winnings, Sir"
Buried deep in a story in the Washington Post about Texas Republican's use of federal Homeland Security resources to track down Democratic state legislators who had fled Texas to stall an unconventional redistricting bill is a quote from Jonathan Grella, an aide to US House Speaker Tom De Lay (R-Texas). De Lay is said to be the prime mover behind the unusual redistricting bill.
Here is what Grella said: "[W]e certainly are disappointed that they've resorted to flat-out lying to hold on to power."
No Republican would ever stoop to such depths — certainly none who hail from Texas.
March 31, 2003
Maybe he should be reading The Agonist
From the New York Times:
George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV.
Mr. Bush started laughing, said his close friend Roland Betts, who was with the president at the time.
"He is just totally immersed," Mr. Betts said in an interview. Mr. Betts said that he and Mr. Bush talked of little else but the war over two days at Camp David last weekend, and that the president regularly turned in to the cable channels for updates on Iraq. When Mr. Bush saw something that concerned him, Mr. Betts said, he picked up the phone to tell Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser who was at nearby cabin, to look into it.
("If you watch too much TV news coverage, your perspective can get warped." — Bill O'Reilly, Fox News)
March 21, 2003
Display the Constitution
Tom Digby sent around the following email (and then later gave me permission to blog it):
If you're concerned that civil liberties may suffer unnecessarily in the name of "security", or that Bush & Company are otherwise overstepping their authority, here's a way you might show that concern to the public: Display the Constitution.
The President's oath of office includes a promise to "... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Many oaths of office for lesser positions include similar language. Thus any argument that being concerned about the Constitution is "un-American" won't be very persuasive. The Constitution is perhaps the most American thing there is.
You might want to display it as a photo-reproduction of the first page, with the prominent "We the People" headline. Even if people can't read the rest, most Americans should recognize it as being the Constitution. A JPEG image of that first page is available as a link from:
Here's the same URL broken into two chunks you can paste together (no spaces or anything) if the full thing doesn't survive emailing:
You could print the image out on a full page and put it in an outside window. Or maybe print it postage-stamp size and wear it as a button or badge.
If you don't like the idea of displaying a bunch of handwriting that can't be read easily, then display the Preamble (the paragraph that starts out "We the People ...") in some readable typeface. That pretty much sums up what the Constitution is all about. The text is linked from that same page. Or here it is:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
I would recommend against displaying just the Bill of Rights by itself. That would be much more open to argument, especially in times of peril, than the whole Constitution (or something like the first page or the Preamble that symbolizes the whole Constitution) would be.
If you think this is a good idea, spread the word in the appropriate forums.
-- Tom Digby 15:24 03/20/2003
March 14, 2003
National Review Warns of the Looming Specter of Polyamory
Almost unnoticed, a court case of immense cultural importance has been filed in Canada. The case, which asks that full legal recognition be granted to three parents of a single child, gives the clearest indication yet of the real impact that gay marriage will have on the American family.
A lesbian couple from London, Ontario has asked a Canadian court to simultaneously recognize the two of them (the biological mother and her partner), as well as the biological father, as legal parents of a young boy. Rather than turn to an anonymous sperm donor, the women in question asked a friend to father their child. The father does not live with the couple and child, but is nonetheless treated as a member of the household. ...
[T]he biggest danger here is that legalized triple parenthood opens the way to legalized polygamy or polyamory (sexually based group marriage). Although in this particular instance, the relationship does not appear to be sexual (except for the initial conception), once a legal precedent for multiple parenthood has been set, it will be impossible to deny recognition to sexually bonded groups (whether heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or a mixture of these). And just as gay adoption has set a legal precedent for gay marriage, so will group parenthood pave the way to group marriage.
Yet ... group marriage is inherently unstable in a Western cultural context. So legalized polyamory means still another radical increase in the difficulties of children. And polyamorists (not to mention polygamists) are already organized and ready to take advantage of any opening in the law. (Just try running a Google search on "polyamory.")
Once we cross the border into legalized multiple parenthood, we have virtually arrived at the abolition of marriage and the family. The logic of gay marriage leads inexorably to the end of marriage, and the creation in its place of an infinitely flexible series of contracts. Monogamous marriage cannot function if it is just one of many social arrangement. Marriage as an institution depends for its successful functioning upon the support and encouragement that the ethos of monogamy receives from society as a whole. If anything can be called a marriage — including group marriage — then the ethos of monogamy that keeps families together will have been broken, and the social reinforcement that is the essence of marriage itself will be gone. Again, it is children who will pay the price.
Apparently, heterosexual monogamous marriage is so unattractive, unappealing, and unpleasant that only the absence of an alternative makes it viable at all! One wonders if Kurtz has ever actually been married.
According to Kurtz, what holds families together is the "ethos of monogamy." That's odd, I always thought that love had something to do with it — love between the adult partners, and love of the adults for the children.
It's worth noting that polyamory is in no way an issue in the petition of the three adults seeking recognition as the parents of the child. It's a bee in Kurtz's bonnet, something he sees as so obviously outlandish as to be the absolute proof that gay marriage is a real true threat to Marriage (a sacred institution so important that Kurtz insists that it rely on the force of active, ongoing government intervention to maintain it).
I don't think I've ever been a boogeyman before. Perhaps I should examine my forehead for horns in my bathroom mirror.
March 09, 2003
A writer, from time to time, trips up on the convolutions of his own literary intestines and falls flat; can't move, can't write. That happened to me because of the machinations of a maverick senator. His hi-jinks struck me in a special way. Think of Asimov's dictum that there are three kinds of science fiction: What if—, If Only—, and If This Goes On. My preoccupation has always been the latter, and applied to what I saw was happening in the country, I was terrified, not so much by the actual, but by the potential, all of which became very real to me. Where it stalled my writing machine was my feeling that though I had a large-caliber typewriter, I was using it only to entertain, and I couldn't think of a way to use it where it might do some real good.
Horace [Gold] called me one day, concerned, and I spilled the whole thing to him. He said, "Well, I'll tell you what to do. Write me a story about a guy who goes to the bus station to pick up his wife; she's been away for the weekend. And the bus comes in and the place is suddenly full of people. And across the crowd he sees his wife, talking avidly to a young man. She sees her husband coming and says a word to the young man, who hands her her suitcase, tips his hat, and disappears into the crowd. She walks across, meets her husband, gives him a kiss hello.
"Write me that, Sturgeon, and everybody in the country will know how you feel about that meathead senator!"
—Theodore Sturgeon, preface to The Stars Are the Styx, (Dell Books, 1979).
That story has been on my mind recently. I've told it as best I could from memory to various people. I wanted to put it in a place where I could point people at it.