Saturday, June 26, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Strange day. Cheese, Love Park, and now it's chilly. WTF, this is Philly in the summer. The air should feel like wet tissue paper right now. Warm wet tissue paper. What's with the chill? Has the Atlantic Conveyor gone south?

And Blogger outage. First the flaky piecrust stats page dies, now this. And blogger spooge still isn't fixed for Netscape users.

Weirdly, the free blogger still worked. It was paid Blogger that went down. Kinda perverse system of incentives, if you ask me. Is this any way to prepare for an IPO? Google, WTF?

Oh, and "Dick"—Fuck you. Yep, I feel better for it!

Bush on the road: An ignorant, petty-minded, vindictive national embarassment 

I'm printing most of the AP story, since it's so amazing. No, cancel that. What's amazing is that it doesn't raise an eyebrow anymore.

Interrupt President Bush one too many times and he won't let you talk to his wife.

The White House canceled Radio and Television Ireland's scheduled interview of First Lady Laura Bush during her short stay here for the U.S.-European Union summit, the president's spokesman Scott McClellan said Saturday.

He didn't say why, but the reason for the decision was clear: The White House didn't like the news organization's interview with the president at the White House last Thursday.
(via AP)

That was one of the vindictive parts.

During the interview, Bush became exasperated with his questioner, who seemed intent on controlling the discussion.

That was the petty-minded part. What, Inerrant Boy can't handle an interview? The only situation He's comfortable in is one of those fake "conversations" where He's guaranteed a standing ovation? Say it isn't so!

In one exchange, Bush made the point that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction against Iraqis.

"Indeed, Mr. President, but you didn't find the weapons of mass destruction," the interviewer shot back.

"Let me finish," Bush said. "Let me finish, please. Please. You ask the questions and I'll answer them, if you don't mind.

That was the ignorant part.

Three more times he scolded the interviewer:

- "Let me finish, please. Please. Let me finish, and then you can follow up, if you don't mind."

- "Let me finish."

- "Please. Please. Please, for a minute, OK. It'll be better if you let me finish my answers, and then you can follow up, if you don't mind."

Sounds like the interviewer wasn't giving proper deference to the Boy Emperor.

You know, if Bush was running for dog-catcher—or goat-catcher—and His local paper published that exchange, He wouldn't get a single vote, Blue or Red, because He'd be laughed out of town for being, well, ignorant, petty-minded, and vindictive.

But Bush isn't running for dog-catcher, He's running for President. And for some reason, he keeps getting a pass on this kind of behavior. Why is that?

I think that sound you hear is the wheels coming off....

Oh Zell, You Smell, or, The Lama and the Ding-Dong 

These two stories have something to do with each other. Trust me.

First, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

NEW DELHI (AP)--The office of the Dalai Lama said Friday that an animal rights group misrepresented the nature of a request by the spiritual leader that fast-food chain KFC not open an outlet in his homeland, Tibet.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a document Thursday from the Dalai Lama asking that the Louisville, Ky.-based restaurant chain "abandon its plan to open restaurants in Tibet."

But the Dalai Lama's heading on the document, "APPEAL," was changed to "Dear Mr. Novak"--a reference to David Novak, chief executive of KFC's parent company, Yum! Brands Inc. PETA then issued a statement saying the Dalai Lama had "dispatched a letter" to the company.

"We strongly object to your changing the nature of the appeal without seeking our approval," the Dalai Lama's secretary, Tenzin Geyche Tethong, said in a letter faxed Friday to Ingrid Newkirk of PETA in Norfolk, Va.
And then we have this, also from the AJC

WASHINGTON — Sen. Zell Miller, the veteran Georgia politician who outraged fellow Democrats by endorsing President Bush's re-election, has been asked to speak at the Republican National Convention, an official familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

A second Republican said negotiations with Miller have been going on for some time. That Republican, who is close to the party leadership, said that Bush's top advisers are eager to have Miller appear because they see him as an effective TV presence whose lifelong affiliation with the Democratic Party could help burnish Bush's credentials with moderate and independent voters.

Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn mocked Miller's appearance.

"Maybe I'll switch to the Republican Party so I can speak at the Democratic Convention and bash Bush," Kahn said. "It would be about as newsworthy."

Despite his support for Bush and his ferocious criticism of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Miller has refused to drop out of the Democratic Party. And party officials said Friday there was no way to simply kick the former two-term governor out.
So our message here is that it is wrong to "fly false colors," as they used to say back in the Horatio Hornblower days. My old gray cat has more Democratic principles in her left hind paw than Ding Dong Zell has in his whole body any more.

No, I don't advocate "kicking him out of the party"; aside from Mr. Kahn's no doubt wrathful observation that the rules don't allow it, the fact that Zell has a "D" after his Senatorial desk nameplate may, come next January, make Tom Daschle the Senate Majority Leader he should be.

But I don't have to like him or his neocon-theocon-DINO ways. A Democrat In Name Only deserves all the kicking around we can give him, until he repents and returns to the path of righeousness. Or as somebody once said, "We strongly object to your changing the nature of the appeal without seeking our approval."

UPDATE: Esteemed Commentors Tinfoil Hat Boy and Vadranor point out that Zig-Zag Zell (as john notes he is locally known) is in fact not running for reelection and so will not be a factor in the Senate come January. This renders my objections above moot so if anybody wants to go all Abu Ghraib on his ass it's fine with me.

Free Love Park! 

Our new motto: "Philly—WTF!"

One of the reasons that our feckless and indifferent lame-duck Mayor, John Street, gave for turning down $1 million that would return skateboarders to Love Park (back), was that the city was going to install WiFI there, and the skateboarders would get in the way of that lofty civic goal.

So I thought I'd try it out, and I took my laptop over there. And indeed, there is WiFi in Love Park. In fact, Mayor Street's image is right on the log in screen!

And I'm here to tell you that Street's reasoning is a crock. WiFi and skatenboarding don't contradict each other, and in fact would complement each other.

Love Park is not an ideal computing environment in any case. Most of the benches are in the direct sun, and that makes the screen hard to see. Others in shade are within range of the fountain, and if there's a wind, as there is today, I'd worry about getting my laptop wet or even having it short out. So, right now I'm sitting over on a stone embankment, in the shade, blogging, but it's not very comfortable.

So Love Park is far from an ideal place to compute. In fact, there's no one here taking advantage of the WiFi but me!

On the other hand, Love Park is ideal for skateboarding. In fact, people come from all over the world to see it, for that reason. Not only would these people bring in tourist nrevenue the city sorely needs, their exploits would make my neighborhood a more engaging and livelier place.

I'd love to see skateboarders doing their thing right now. It would make my experience of the park better, not worse. Mostly, they skate on the marble rim round the fountain, and I'm not bringing my computer anywhere near the fountain.

There's really no reason for Street not to bring skateboarding back to the park. Except mulishness. Or being on the take. Philly! WTF!

Small victory for local produce 

I'm at the Reading Terminal Market in Philly, and I just had a taste of an artisanal cheese from Green Valley Dairy..


Organic farming since the 1990s, free range cows—I swear I can taste the grass those cows dined on in the cheese.

Flavor burst!

OK, it's smallscale, and local produce is still too expensiver to live on without thinking twice (readers?), but food that isn't corporate swill sure does taste good, doesn't it? What a difference.

Temperatures Rising 

(via Boxofficemojo.com, as cited at dKos)

Friday Estimates of money taken in: 1. 'Fahrenheit 9/11' - $8.2M, 2. 'White Chicks' - $6.8M

Now look at the number of theaters showing these films (two in between, "The Notebook" and "Two Brothers", omitted for clarity):

White Chicks --2,726
Fahrenheit 9/11 --868

On account of a slight deficiency of cash towards the end of the month, I'm not going to be able to go see it till next weekend. I console myself with the thought that, while opening weekend is important, the notion of "legs" for a movie, the ability to keep pulling in cash over time, is even bigger in showbiz.

One more trivia tidbit, from an article in "Variety" somebody quoted (sorry, no link; it's subscription anyway and an expensive one at that): The current record for Most Money Made in Theaters (not counting DVDs, PPV, etc.) for a documentary is circa $21 million, held by "Bowling for Columbine." And it took BfC 25 weeks to achieve that total.

Heh heh heh.

Don't you think we should Google Bomb Cheney with "fuck you"? 

Not an original sentiment, to be sure, but can we google bomb Dick "Dick" Cheney like this:

"fuck you!"

Here's the HTML code for you to use in your own blog:

The google bomb for Bush, "miserable failure", is working just fine!

Of course, this site is number one in the Google rankings right now for Fuck you but maybe with some effort, we can make Cheney #1!

Isn't it a clear indication of the fundamental unseriousness of today's Republican party that for them, the "F word" is fuck, while for us, the "F word" (see lexicon at right) is fascism?

And while for Republicans, with a dreadful mixture of machismo and coyness, fuck is used only indirectly and with a sanctimonious smirk, for Democrats fascism is the linchpin of a serious effort to use history to understand our current predicament: In fact, we tend not to use the word fascism since it can bring an end to conversation.

Which is, come to think of it, pretty much what fuck did, isn't it?

So, Dick—fuck you, too. Gee, that felt good.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Sheesh, you'd think a billion dollar corporation would be able to fix the blogger spooge for Netscape users, and get stats.blogger.com up and running again in less than two days. In fact, it's remarkable that stats.blogger.com went down at all. I mean, shouldn't it be a redundant system or something? Two days with no numbers! My withdrawal symptoms were getting real bad.

And what to say about Dick "Dick" Cheney? I think we've really, well, looked into his soul:

When pressed on whether the vice president had actually dropped the F-bomb on the Vermont lawmaker, Cheney responded: "That's not the kind of language I usually use."

Does that sound like a "response" to you?

These guys can't give a straight answer to anything, can they?

They're so twisty they've got to use corkscrews to get their pants on in the morning.

A Very Alarming Story, If True 

This item has been bouncing around sorta just under the waterline for a couple of days now. (Melanie I believe had it, and it's been cited in Billmon's comment thread.)
It comes to us via Asia Times, a paper I know little about. It appears to be based in Hong Kong and cover primarily business matters.

By Alix de la Grange
BAGHDAD - On the eve of the so-called transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi caretaker government on June 30, former Saddam Hussein generals turned members of the elite of the Iraqi resistance movement have abandoned their clandestine positions for a while to explain their version of events and talk about their plans. According to these Ba'ath officials, "the big battle" in Iraq is yet to take place.

"The Americans have prepared the war, we have prepared the post-war. And the transfer of power on June 30 will not change anything regarding our objectives. This new provisional government appointed by the Americans has no legitimacy in our eyes. They are nothing but puppets."

Why have these former officers waited so long to come out of their closets? "Because today we are sure we're going to win."

The fact of the matter is (I hope you have read the whole thing at this point) this story is almost too perfect. It reads like a damn Tom Clancy book in fact, and I say that with great respect because I like Tom Clancy books.

Trying to Google the author I wasn't able to find much. Alix seems to have written from some of the nastier trouble spots in the world, but not many from the same ones. Of course he/she seems to write mostly in French, which I read almost as poorly as Google translates, so I could be missing something.

Possibilities include: (1) Every word of this story is completely true (2) parts of it are true (let's say the statements by the interviewees) while others, like the dramatic trip to get to the interview, are fabricated to some degree, possibly at the insistance of the interviewees to (3) it's all fabrication and fabulation, an elaborate attempt to get somebody a movie deal or book contract, or at least to promote a writing career.

Taken at face value it explains a lot. If either (1) or (2) turns out to be accurate at all, our people had better be looking VERY hard at the possible routes out of the country. And be prepared to abandon their baggage.

Yo, New York Times! THIS is How You Do It 

(via Kansas City Star)
TOPEKA, Kan. - A managing editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal resigned when the newspaper learned that the subject of a lengthy profile had lied about being a survivor of the Bataan Death March during World War II.

The Capital-Journal announced the resignation of Anita Miller, managing editor for special projects, in a story posted Thursday on its Web site. The paper also apologized for its May 2 profile of [a local woman].

In that profile, the 86-year-old [woman] said she was a Navy nurse during the war and that she was among thousands of Americans who surrendered to the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942, only to be forced to march more than 60 miles to a prisoner-of-war camp.

The newspaper confronted [the woman] on Tuesday, after investigating two e-mail tips questioning her story. [The woman] admitted she had lied to the paper, her employer and in speeches she had given on the subject.

Executive Editor Will Kennedy apologized to readers in Thursday's story.

"We did not confirm many of the facts in the story before publication and we did not move with due speed in resolving the situation after we were notified that there were problems with the article."

Miller, who had worked for the newspaper for 28 years, said she was told she could resign or be fired. "I did not resign because of any wrongdoing," she said.

[The] freelance writer who wrote the story said the newspaper informed her it no longer will publish her stories.

[The woman] told the newspaper that she fabricated the story after she arrived in Topeka in the early 1990s. She said she told the story during an interview to make an impression and land [a job].
Just for the record, I gotta say this is a bit... draconian. To sack an editor after a 28 year career, because of inadequate fact-checking on a freelancer's feel-good fluff piece, involving an old woman who made up a story about events 60 years ago to get a job? That's harsh. But it shows that somewhere in this country there is a media outlet that has a fierce dedication to accuracy in journalism. Hint, it's just a little bit on the left side of the Hudson River.

Oh, and I pulled [the woman's] name out because (a) it's not relevant to my abuse of the NYT for failing to take any similar action whatever in a FAR more egregious case and (b) just in case the Lords of Karma are watching and I'm someday an 82 year old who is that desperate for work.

UPDATE You can share your views on how a real newsgathering institution should operate when it catches another "Miller" writing falsehoods with sadly overworked but strangely flaccid Times "public editor" Dan "Bud Man" Okrent.—Lambert

Oooh, wet's ticko da beebee tiw he feews bettow! 

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to chuck him under the chin, and play peek-a-boo, and change his diaper more often? At least more condusive to the dignity of the United States Government? Dickie-Pooh's mommy should have told him that grown-ups can come up with better ways to solve our problems with hurt feelings.

(via Waaah! Pooh-Pooh)
Vice President Cheney today acknowledged that he had a bitter exchange on the Senate floor with a senior Democratic senator, in which Cheney uttered a big-time obscenity, but said he had no regrets and that he "felt better after I had done it."

The Democratic National Committee has declared this to be "Halliburton Week" to portray administration ties to the controversial company. "Sounds like it's making somebody a little testy," Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said.

Since Dickie-dickie-darling boy is a member of the Executive Branch, rules involving decorum of speech in the Senate do not apply. Although that excuse is redundant in this case, like it is for Jack Ryan's spousal abuse, dope fiends, the RCN's use of Hitler in political ads, the Supreme Court's distaste for "vexatious litigation" against Presidents, people who out CIA agents for political gain, think peace groups are terrorists, are cool with terrorists as long as they're white, flip-floppers and liars, because It's O K If You're A Republican.

Dog Bites Man Department: Writer Gives Bill Clinton"s "Life" Good Review 

This startling phenomenon comes to us courtesy of Brad DeLong. As the good professor points out, the author of this lonely good review of "My Life," Larry McMurtry,(who is also, let me point out, the author of such novels as "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment" and "Cadillac Jack" and "Leaving Cheyenne" and "The Desert Rose" and "Texasville" and "All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers" and "The Last Picture Show" and "Moving On" and "Horseman, Pass By," as well as such non-fiction as "In A Narrow Grave, Essays on Texas" and "Film Flam, Essays on Hollywood" and "Sacagewea's Nickname, Essays On The American West" and "Crazy Horse," a biography, and "Walter Benjamin At the Dairy Queen," and those are only the books that I've personally read), not only likes the book, McMurtry doesn't find it necessary to include even a single sneer, at Clinton, or his wife, or at Monica, or l'affaire, or his Presidency, or indeed, at his life.

Here's how McMurtry places Clinton's in the context of American Presidential Memoirs:

William Jefferson Clinton's "My Life" is, by a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography - no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years. Clinton had the good sense to couple great smarts with a solid education; he arrived in Washington in 1964 and has been the nation's - or perhaps the world's - No. 1 politics junkie ever since. And he can write - as Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, to go no farther back, could not.

In recent days the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant have been raised as a stick to beat Clinton with, and why? Snobbery is why. Some people don't want slick Bill Clinton to have written a book that might be as good as dear, dying General Grant's. In their anxiety lest this somehow happen they have not accurately considered either book.

Grant's is about being a general, in what Lincoln called a big war. Clinton's is about being a president at the end of the 20th century. Grant's is an Iliad, with the gracious Robert E. Lee as Hector and Grant himself the murderous Achilles. Clinton's is a galloping, reckless, political picaresque, a sort of pilgrim's progress, lowercase. There are plenty of stout sticks to beat Clinton with, but Grant's memoirs is not one of them.

McMurtry approaches Clinton with the rich interest one expects from a first-rate novelist and essayist who has delved for years into the complexities of the American character and how it's influenced by American places, landscape and history. McMurtry makes short work of the tired and ridiculous forumulation of Bill Clinton's "character" as being reflective only of his personal failings, while remaining reflective of none of the admirable aspects of both his public and his personal life.

Bill Clinton spent most of his childhood in the small town of Hope, Ark., which, culturally, is on the western edge of the South or the eastern edge of the Midwest, depending on which way one happened to be looking. His garrulity, which in the book manifests itself as too unremitting a focus on the minutiae of governance, maybe comes from the South, while his loneliness, his slight out-of-placeness, his seeming inability to get himself to really solid ground, comes from the Midwest, where he would have grown up had his father not rolled a car off the road and drowned in a drainage ditch. He died three months before Bill was born.

Some will object to any suggestion that Bill Clinton might be lonely. Look at what he's done, they might say: Rhodes scholar, Yale Law, five times governor of Arkansas, twice president of the United States, wed and kept a smart wife, sired and raised a decent daughter, gregarious, adaptable to any American occasion, from fish fry to cow-chip throw (a sport that flourishes chiefly in Nebraska). Why, he even plays the saxophone!

All true, but he's lonely, and in the quality of his loneliness lies much of his appeal. And he does have serious appeal. Nothing in this book becomes Clinton so much as his gentle, sympathetic treatment of his alcoholic, sometimes abusive stepfather, Roger Clinton, whose name he took and whom he calls Daddy:

edit (quote from the book)

Dreiser is the novelist who would best have known what to do with Clinton, although it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote that "of all natural forces, vitality is the incommunicable one."

Clinton has the vitality, but with it the inwardly angled gaze of a man who sees too clearly the crack in reality, the difference between what is and what might be, a sense born of all those normal things - the Cardinals, fishing, the Christmas tree and the out-of-state vacation - that somehow were never to occur again.

Try and imagine any of the Washington media tribe being able to imagine that the complications of Bill Clinton's personality, specific to him to be sure, but not all that different from most human beings, are the stuff of the great American novels. I've often wondered if any of them have actually read any of the great novels of Western civilization, or in college did they content themselves with reading the cliff notes? Of course, as super busybody top-drawer celebrity journalists, who among them has time for much dabbling in literature, or put another way, much reading of actual, genuine writers.

Yesterday, Richard Cohen, writing in the WaPo, provided some heavy-duty evidence for this theory. From the title of his column, "Good Oprah, Bad History," you should be able to summarize what Cohen has to say about Clinton and his book, else you haven't been paying attention these last twelve years.

The good news for Bill Clinton is that his book, "My Life," sold about 100,000 copies at Barnes & Noble stores the first day it was on sale, a record for the chain. The bad news for Bill Clinton is that the book sold about 100,000 copies at Barnes & Noble stores, a record for the chain. The book may make Clinton rich. It will not rehabilitate him.

On the basis of no evidence, Cohen asserts the ten million price tag of "My Life" obligated its author "to write the sort of book that could be promoted on "Oprah," by which Cohen seems to mean, one with the kind of seamy personal details that would "entice" his readers, rather than the kind of book worthy of Richard Cohen's devoted attention. He does admit the Clintons left the White House oweing millions in legal fees (that were not of their own making, please remember), but he's just as sure Mr. Clinton could have found other avenues to solvency, so the taking of the ten million becomes a moral failing. At least I think that's Richard Cohen's point. (Imagine: personal details in a memoir)

Typical of the Washington elite, Cohen is as out of touch with popular culture as he is with the haute version; never mind that Oprah has undoubtedly read more of the better books produced in the last decade than has Richard Cohen, and never mind, for just one instance, that she introduced to her book club audience one of Toni Morrison's most difficult novels, "Paradise," and never mind that Oprah made a much underappreciated film of Morrison's great "Beloved," producing the film as well as acting in it, and best of all, having the taste to select as her director, the wonderful Jonathan Demme.

And how exactly does Richard Cohen know that Bill Clinton wrote "that kind" of book? Do you really need to ask? Michiko Kakutani told him all about it; about how the book was sloppy, self-indulgent, and self-obsessed, just like Clinton's presidency. Cohen calls her review and the rest of the early ones, "eviscerating," and he includes a quote about the book being "dull," but fails to note that the source of that dullness for Kakutani is its heavy emphasis on policy and politics, and boring stuff like that. Nor does Cohen seem to notice the contradiction in decrying the book's tabloid tendencies while quoting with approval complaints about its excessive wonkery. Oh well, not to worry. All the other reviews have said the thing stinks, so Cohen doesn't have to sweat it.

A bit strange, though, the way Cohen emphasizes what other people think about the book, when surely if he is writing about it, he must have read it? Remember, we're dealing with a member in good standing of the elite commentariate, who just as surely must be the laziest occupational grouping in the history of the world.

My own hurried perusal of the tome leads me to support Kakutani.

Cohen's only personally perused example of de trop in the text is a single sentence that describes the Grand Canyon, presented without any sense of its context. Reliably and right on cue Cohen brings up the example of Grant's memoirs and Nixon's post-presidency.

To a large extent, Ulysses S. Grant's presidency was rehabilitated by his memoirs, written as the Civil War general was dying of cancer. Richard Nixon, virtually banished from Washington, wrote book after book from his exurban Elba in New Jersey. Watergate haunted him, as it should have, but slowly we came to realize that he possessed a first-class mind, keenly analytical, occasionally wise. No one could say that Nixon did not have gravitas.

That's a neat trick on the part of Grant, considering that he was writing about the Civil War and not his presidency. As for Nixon's "gravitas," I can't better Professor Delong's take on the matter.

About Bill Clinton's rehabillitation, Cohen expresses doubts that Clinton can ever move beyond "Monica," and taking that ten mil only made it less likely. Obligated by that to include the kind of personal details, like Clinton's sleeping on the couch after his confession to the Grand Jury, or the Clinton's use of family therapy, (swear to God those are the ones Cohen mentions) that would entice Oprah's audience to buy the book, and thus forced journalists to focus on the salicious and the personal in dealing with the book.

As a result, the news that initially came out of the book was mostly about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. If there is something dramatically new about the Middle East, I haven't heard about it. If there is something revealing about why health care reform went down in flames, that has not been reported either. Partly that's because the Clinton administration -- and Clinton himself -- was so bad at keeping secrets, but mostly it's because the public's attention is focused on the salacious and personal. A president who makes history is of interest mostly to historians. A president who makes personal mistakes is of interest to us all.

Larry McMurtry must have read a different book than the one Cohen perused.

It takes Bill Clinton only 69 pages to work through such disorder and early sorrow as he experienced and get himself to Washington and Georgetown University. In my opinion the crucial decision that ultimately got him where he is was his choice of Georgetown over the University of Arkansas. At the latter he would have been assured of booze, girls and football. At Georgetown he was reading Hegel, Kant, Joseph Schumpeter and others of that ilk; he also quickly found his way to Senator J. W. Fulbright's office, where he was put to work.

Dispatching his youth so quickly leaves very nearly 900 pages for Clinton as Political Man. Not only is politics - local, state, national, international and galactic - the heart of this book, it's also its brain, torso, liver and sweetbreads. Hillary and Chelsea visit often, but this narrative is not about family life or sex, in which area Clinton's failings are acknowledged but not extensively dwelt on.


I happen to like long, smart, dense narratives and read "My Life" straight through, happily. I may not know Bill Clinton any better than I did when I started, but I know recent history better, which surely can't hurt.

What seems to most offend Mr. Cohen is what he claims is Bill Clinton's status as a super-star celebrity. It never occurs to him that had JFK lived to enjoy a second term and managed to live another two decades, he'd have been exactly the same kind of celebrity. McMurtry deals with the issue of celebrity as well, and the difference between his take and Richard Cohen's is the difference between the life of the mind and the life of a celebrity journalist.

Most telling in Mr. Cohen's review is his contemptuous attitude toward ordinary Americans.

The people who lined up long before dawn to buy a copy were not drooling to find out about health care or the budget. Instead they were seeking a piece of Clinton -- like a souvenir or an autograph. He has emerged as the uber-celebrity of our times, beloved for his good looks, his charm and, paradoxically, the sex scandal that almost doomed his presidency.

And how does Richard Cohen know this? Well, obviously because that's what everyone else in the commentariate are all saying, at the club, at lunch, in the locker room, on the telly, and in print, so, jeepers, it must be true. (Silly Marxist-Leninists to think they needed gulags to enforce party-line thinking; our pravada-tellers manage to do it all by themselves, for the right price. Damn if it turns out Capitalism does rules)

What's wrong with wanting a piece of contemporary history that you lived through? Isn't it part of paying attention? Isn't that what we want citizens to do in a democracy? The Americans who admire Bill Cinton and/or are interested in what he has to say don't do so because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Good Lord, in how many polls did the vast majority of the American public try and get through to the media elite that they didn't want to know more about Monica and the President, and had already decided it was none of their business because it was strictly a private affair and had no implications for the public governance of this nation.

I'd actually decided I wasn't going to do any writing about Clinton's book, but the SCLM is still too much the same as it was in 1998 for me not to.

Next post: How Dan Rather Lied About Clinton's Lies on Sixty Minutes.

In the meantime, Michael Tomasky has a fine but depressing analysis of why the baby boomer press hates Clinton and always will.

Republican hypocrisy: Ryan heaved over the side 

Awwww! And I was enjoying it all so much!

Illinois Republican candidate Jack Ryan intends to abandon his Senate bid after four days spent trying to weather a political storm stirred by sex club allegations, GOP officials said Friday.
(via AP)

Hey, if he doesn't use a club, how is he going to drag her back to the cave? Even though that's kinda hard, with the dragging knuckles...

Bush AWOL: Copy of the AP suit to release the microfilm 

Via Froomkin, who's on fire today. Why the heck doesn't the poor old Times have a column like this? You'd think they were in the tank for Bush, or something.

Titan-ing the Screws 

Lockheed appears to be running like an antelope out of control away from this deal. Even though they cut the purchase price by quite a lot.

(via San Diego Union-Tribune)

Lockheed Martin's billion-dollar-plus buyout of San Diego's Titan Corp., which turned into a roller-coaster ride when allegations of foreign bribes surfaced in February, has been derailed.

In a statement late yesterday, Titan said it does not expect to reach an agreement to end a Justice Department inquiry in time to meet tonight's deadline for completing the merger.

The buyout, valued at $1.8 billion when it was made nine months ago, ran into trouble in mid-February when the two companies disclosed to federal regulators that they had uncovered potential bribes Titan had paid to win overseas business.

Titan's classified work for the Pentagon and intelligence agencies has helped it double sales in the past five years.

Among other things, Ray described Titan's share of a $10 billion contract the Department of Homeland Security recently awarded to Accenture as substantial. "It could end up being one of the largest contracts we've ever had at Titan," Ray said...
Look for this one to maybe fall apart too...Accenture nearly lost this contract altogether for being owned by an office in Bermuda that doesn't pay US taxes. Another headache of Titanic proportions they do not need.
Titan's troubles got more complicated in May, after an internal Army investigation identified a Titan employee, who was working as a translator, as a suspect in the abuse of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Another translator working under contract for Titan was identified in the Army report as "directly or indirectly responsible" for abuses at the prison.

Titan has about 4,200 employees, mostly foreign nationals, working in Iraq under a contract to provide linguists to the Army, Ray said.
"Linguists," eh? Cunning of them to phrase it that way.

Republican hypocrisy: New twists and turns in Jack Ryan prurient turmoil 

Oddly, none of the Republicans seem to be mentioning the word "consensual." (back). Maybe they don't understand what the word means? Given their approach to democracy ("consent of the governed") that seems quite likely.

Anyhow, amid all the heartburning, it looks like Hastert is preparing to give Ryan the old heave-ho.

One Republican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Hastert agreed with fellow Illinois Republicans that Ryan should step down. Another source said on condition of anonymity that Ryan's campaign intended to conduct a poll to gauge whether the campaign was salvageable.

But Fitzgerald said Friday that he had encouraged Ryan to stay in the race, calling the response to the scandal "grotesque."

"I told him that it troubled me greatly that so many party leaders who had no trouble stomaching years and years of corruption and insider deals and scandals under George Ryan were now lining up to throw stones at Jack (no relation to George Ryan)," Fitzgerald said.

"I think the public stoning of Jack Ryan is one of the most grotesque things I've seen in politics," he said.
(via AP)

Oh, dear me. Surely not more "grotesque" than spending $70 million to impeach an elected President over a consensual blowjob, as part of a slow-moving coup that ended up seizing control of the government. Surely not as grotesque as that!

The word here is, of course, schadenfreude. But really, isn't it just too rich? The Republicans run on the idea that they should be elected to public office on the basis of private virtues, and then whine and howl when the private virtues they claim turn out to be fake. (Examples are, at this point, really too numerous to mention, but Limbaugh, Bennett, Gingrich, Livingston, and Haster's fellow Illinois Republican Henry "Youthful Indiscretion" Hyde come at once to mind.)

And the beauty part of it all is, that Ryan is right. Taking your wife to a sex club isn't illegal; and trying "to pressure her to perform sex acts while others watch" isn't prohibited by the Ten Commandments—at least not if you "parse the words." Heh. Juan Cole (back) absolutely has the right of it.

So, we get to see the Illinois Republicans immolate themselves as they pander to their base, trash their own candidate when, by all logic, he's right, and write IOKIYAR in letters a mile high as they try to defend Ryan. And best of all, it's all happening in a "leaner" state (see here) that Democrats must win.

Pass the popcorn!

"Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" 

I didn't think so.

Revised economic figures show economy cooling, and inflation worsening.

You've been reading all commentators wringing their hands about how people don't percieve the economy improving? Remember all those stories about "blistering growth"? Turns out that people were right, and the commmentators were wrong. Surprise!

The U.S. economy grew much more slowly than previously thought in the first quarter while inflation was higher, a government report showed on Friday.

The surprise downward revision to gross domestic product -- which measures total output within the nation's borders -- cut growth to a 3.9 percent annual rate in the first three months of 2004 from the 4.4 percent reported a month ago and below the 4.1 percent pace in the final quarter of last year.

The government also ratcheted up a key gauge of inflation, confirming an acceleration in price rises, that has fueled expectations the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates from 1958 lows next week to head off inflation.
(via Reuters)

Heh. Don't you love surprises? This news comes as surprising only to those who don't remember, throughout the Wecovery, how month after month the job figures would suck, and then the commentators would be "surprised."

In fact, the real story on the economy, wages, and inflation is here:

A 2.2 percent rise in wages in the 12 months through May has been more than offset by a 3.1 percent gain in consumer prices.
(via Bloomberg

In other words, you're worse off today than you were a year ago. The reason people aren't seeing a recovery is because, from their perspective, there isn't one.

And Bush wants to run on the economy? When are the Dems and Kerry going to take it to Him on this?

Bush torture policies: Speaking of ordering torture through "nods and winks" 

The WhiteWash House is now in full stonewall mode on the torture memoes it commissioned, and is now working the cover story hard: Doing the usual managed relesae of "all" (ha) the documents, which in this case turn out to be full of loopholes ("military necessity"). The amazing thing will be, as usual, that Bush will think his maneuvers to shirk responsibility are subtle and secretive, when in fact they are amazingly clumsy and obvious. Oh well. Nobody ever went broke—even the blogosphere—by underestimating the crassness of the Bush administration.

Here at Corrente, we've argued that although torture will probably not be shown to have been ordered through the official chain of command (that would be the cover story, right), it is extremely likely that it was ordered (and managed, and concealed) by an apparatus we've called The Fog Machine. Kinda like discovering a new, hitherto unseen planet, by looking at the motion of the planets we know, eh? After all, we know these guys (good former Trots all) set up back channels whenever the official ones get in the way (exhibit 1: The Office of Feith-based intelligence).

And we've also argued that the orders for torture were conveyed through "nods and winks"—much as the orders for the Final Solution were conveyed to Hitler's willing executioners. (There. I've used the H word.) The lack of a clear chain of command, the removal of military insignias, the confusion between contractors, the military, and "other agencies", is by design: The chaos enables the operation of the Stanford Effect, where people given power over others surrender their scruples.

But where do the "nods and winks" come from? Bush himself, of course, and also Rumsfeld. But I think we've been ignoring the biggest torture meme propagator of all: Rush Limbaugh:

[Limbaugh called the torture] "a brilliant maneuver" and compared it to a college fraternity prank: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation," he said.

[Limbaugh] excused the actions of our soldiers this way: "You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

One full hour of "The Rush Limbaugh Show" is broadcast [by AFRTS] every weekday directly to our soldiers in Iraq and around the world — to nearly 1 million U.S. troops in more than 175 countries and U.S. territories. Moreover, it is the only hourlong partisan political talk show broadcast daily to the troops.

AFRTS provides stateside radio and television programming, 'a touch of home' to U.S. service men and women.

Why should American taxpayers pay for the broadcasting of such inexcusable views to U.S. troops? Why, at a combustible moment like this one, would we be funneling Limbaugh's trivializations to our men and women at the front? Does Limbaugh's pro-torture propaganda really qualify as "a touch of home"?

Limbaugh's comments, and their tacit endorsement by the U.S. government, send a message to U.S. servicemen and servicewomen that torture is not a subject to be taken seriously and that these are actions that can be excused. Nothing could be more wrong than that.
(via LA Times)

Another piece of the For Machine puzzle falls into place. The genius of the Bush administratior has been to privatize the "nods and winks" process.

Limbaugh's willing torturers....

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

"With a mind like yours, you'll probably want the land crab."

Well, yes.

More proof that we're winning 


Rebels unleashed attacks across Iraq against police and U.S. forces in Baghdad, Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baqubah, the U.S.-led coalition said. At least 100 people died, according to a Pentagon official.
(via Blooomberg)

Well, at least we are counting the Iraqis, now.

North Korean clusterfuck: Another triumph for Bush diplomacy 

Great. Guess this is why we pulled back from the North Korean border? Oh yeah, it was a two-fer—we need the troops for the Iraq quagmire. This would be funny if it weren't so horrible:

North Korea has threatened to test a nuclear device if the United States does not accept its proposal to freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for compensation, Bush administration officials said on Thursday.
(via Reuters)

It's everything else these guys do: so massively and intricately screwed up that it's almost impossible to suggest how to improve the situation. That's why they call it a clusterfuck. It's always important to use the right technical term....

Bush callousness, cynicism, and indifference: A lottery for Medicare benefits 

My God.

They're planning a lottery where winning can mean life, and losing could mean death. Could anything make more clear that health care should be a right, enjoyed by all citizens, as it is in every other Western nation but ours? Get this:

Medicare is planning a lottery later this year for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases. For the 50,000 winners, the government will start helping pay for their medicine, but more than 450,000 others must wait until 2006.
(via AP)

You know, Shirley Jackson wrote a short story called The Lottery where losers were stoned to death. It gave me quite a chill when I read it in junior high. I just never expected to see it used as blueprint for national health policy.

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Oh, if you're rich, you get to live as a matter of course, since you can buy as much medicine as you want. If there is a God in heaven, He will rain down fire on the Republicans for setting up a system where the rich purchase life, while the poor have a 1 in 10 chance of winning it.

Rick Santorum and Jack Ryan should get together on this one 

Take the quiz!


so this is what desperation looks like.

Just go watch the advertisement the Bush-Cheney campaign have displayed so prominently on the Bush-Cheney campaign website.

The advertisement ultimately doesn't even make much sense -- and the use of Hitler in the ad (I'm not kidding folks, go watch the ad) reeks of the panicked flopsweat of desperation. And the use of the clip in which Kerry uses the word "ass" is apparently supposed to shock us but it pales in comparison to Dick Cheney's profane slip of the tongue earlier this week. This ad certainly makes it obvious that the Bush campaign guys are way off their game now.

This is a perfect anti-Bush ad that, paradoxically, is being paid for by the Bush-Cheney campaign. It's like they're cutting their own throats but don't know it.


They're on the precipice folks. It may get even weirder from here.

Restoring Dignity to the White House, Pt. MMXLIII 

While this exchange admittedly makes no sense whatsoever, it is still the most comprehensible statement Cheney has made in his entire term in office:

via WaPo, the story in its entirety:
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Cheney cursed at Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy during a confrontation on the Senate floor while members were having their annual group picture taken earlier this week, Leahy and Senate sources said Thursday.

Senate aides with knowledge of the encounter Tuesday said the vice president confronted Leahy about some of the Democrat's criticism about alleged improprieties in Iraq military contracts awarded to Halliburton Co. Cheney, who as vice president is president of the Senate, is a former CEO of Halliburton.

Leahy responded by saying the vice president had once called him a "bad" Catholic.

Cheney then responded, "F--- off" or "F--- you," two aides said, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

Leahy, D-Vt., confirmed that the confrontation took place but would not provide details.

"I think he was just having a bad day," Leahy said. "I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."

Cheney's office also wouldn't go into detail, but confirmed the two men traded remarks.

"That doesn't sound like language that the vice president would use, but there was a frank exchange of views," said Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for Cheney.
Hmm, Dick "Dick", a little testy when the subject of our old (?) employer comes up, are we? Wonder why THAT might be? Hey, what kind of mileage you getting on that pacemaker anyway?

I hear a symphony—It's the Supremes singing in chorus! 

When it comes time to protect a Republican administration, that is:

The president is not above the law, Kennedy wrote, but there is a "paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation that might distract it from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties."
(via WaPo)

If it's "vexatious litigation" resulting from a $70 million winger investigation of a blow job when the President is elected and a Democrat;No problemo!

But if it's "vexatious litigation" about governmental secrecy in an administration that wants to rule by decree when the President is appointed and a Republican—well, let's think twice! Especially in an election year!

Never has a double standard been so clear. IOKIYAR!

"I'm Not Going Down For This Alone" 

Remember "Baghdad Bob"? The Iraqi Minister of Information, real name Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf? He was widely made fun of at one time, like when he said:

"These images are not the suburbs of Baghdad. From what I glimpsed, these gardens with rows of palm trees on the side, which you saw in the images, are located in the south of Abu Ghreib, where we have surrounded the Americans and British."

We're not laughing any more.

(via WaPo)
BAGHDAD, June 24 -- The company commander of the U.S. soldiers charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison testified Thursday during a legal hearing that the top military intelligence commander was present the night a cover-up was hatched to deal with the death of a detainee who apparently died during an interrogation.

Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, said he was summoned to a shower room in a cellblock at the prison one night in November, where he discovered a group of intelligence personnel standing around the body of a bloodied detainee discussing what to do. He said Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of military intelligence at the prison, was among those who were there.

Reese testified that he heard Pappas say, "I'm not going down for this alone." Reese said an Army colonel named Jordan sent a soldier to the mess hall for ice to preserve the body overnight.

Reese said no medics were called, and the detainee's identification was never logged...

Reese's testimony came during the first day of an investigative hearing for Spec. Sabrina Harman, one of seven Army reservists from the 372nd,which is based in Cresaptown, Md., charged with abusing detainees at the prison. During investigations of alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib, statements by other witnesses have described the death of the detainee, and the corpse appears in photographs documenting abuse at the prison. But no testimony or evidence had previously indicated Pappas was in the shower room the night the detainee died...

"My MPs, they were directed by the MI people for what they wanted and how they wanted it," he [Reese] said.

UPDATE Remember the Hersh photo of the corpse on ice in the plastic bag? This corpse is it.

Um, I thought we were the goood guys? The fish rots from the head.... —Lambert

Hypocrisy, the Republicans, and Jack Ryan 

For the juicy bits, see "Prurient turmoil," back here. Juan Cole says this, and I think he has it exactly right:

[Illinois Democratic candidate for Senator Barack] Obama has taken the high road, and is refusing to attack Jack Ryan on the sex clubs issue.

The lesson for the Republicans of all this is that the wages of Puritanism are hypocrisy. Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, and many other Republicans who tried to nail Clinton had also tried to nail women not their spouses and were no better than Clinton morally. In fact, no one is better morally than anyone else as a matter of ontology or being. Some deeds are better than others, and some people achieve better deeds more often than others. Some people are capable of higher ethical standards than others. But human beings are not in the nature of the case morally perfect beings. Since that is so, it is crazy for the American public to want its politicians to be saints (they aren't), and the desire merely produces hypocrisy, which in turn corrodes ideals and the moral order.

I therefore agree with Jack Ryan that the visits to [sex] clubs should not in themselves disqualify him from public office. Why should we care where he takes his wife? Note that business travelers who stay in nice hotels are known to rent enormous amounts of porn. The travelers, the hotels, and the cable companies involved are all heavily Republican. What is the difference between watching it on celluloid and watching it at a club in Paris?
(via Informed Comment)

Yes, payback is a bitch, isn't it?

But we should defeat Jack Ryan because we need to take back the Senate from the Republicans, not because he goes tosec clubs. Even though it's so delicious that he does. Same with Bush. What do I care what Bush does with goats?

I sure hope Kerry doesn't pick Gephardt for Veep 

Yawn! And what's with the missing eyebrows?

If this is a recovery, where is the money? 

Not in your pocket. Kevin Drum has an excellent chart.

Plame Affair: Bush meets—not under oath—with US attorney  

Not that putting Bush under oath would make any practical difference, of course. But least they story doesn't say Bush "visited" with them!

President Bush met for an hour on Thursday [with the U.S. attorney, Pat Fitzgerald. in charge of] probing the Bush administration's alleged leak of the identity of a CIA operative, the White House announced.

Spokesman Scott McClellan also said Bush had retained an attorney, Jim Sharp, to represent him in all matters involving the case.

Gee, was Sharp present? The story doesn't say. [But see below.]

"No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States," McClellan said.
(via Reuters

Right. And OJ wants to find the real killer...

And from WaPo's coverage, a splendid non-answer from Scott "Sucker MC" McClellan:

Asked if Bush had answered every question, McClellan said, "The president was glad to do his part to cooperate with the investigation. The president was pleased to share whatever information he had with the officials in charge and answer their questions."

I take it that's a No? And from Bloomberg we learn this:

The interview in the Oval Office lasted about one hour and 10 minutes, McClellan said. [Bush] wasn't under oath. Bush was accompanied by his private attorney, Jim Sharp, a former U.S. attorney who heads his own firm in Washington.

"Pleased to share..." I bet.

The Irony Offensive Continues 

The administration prevails (for the moment) in the lawsuit over the president's energy task force. The lawsuit sought to make this ultra-secretive administration tell the American taxpayer just what they were doing with our money with regards to the task force and thus make the Bush administration a bit more accountable.

And don't you love it when this situation is described as an "election-year problem" for the White House rather than as a transparent attempt to hide what this administration is doing from the American people?

The irony is that all of this is going to be drowned out by the horrible explosions and carnage from the ongoing (never ended) IraqWar Part II, a monumental disaster which, despite their best efforts, Bush and Cheney are apparently going to be held accountable for in November.

One more thing. If BushCo sends 25,000 more troops into Iraq, that will be W's tacit admission that things are going terribly wrong in Iraq -- and there's no way they can spin their way out of it folks.

They love The Big Dog! 

The Heathers trashing the book didn't make a bit of difference, did it?

Bill Clinton's "My Life" broke first-day sales records for a nonfiction book and for an adult audiobook, Sonny Mehta, president of Knopf Publishing Group, said yesterday.

The book is No. 1 at Amazon.com in the United States, England, France and Japan, according to Knopf. It is also No. 1 at Barnesandnoble.com, which also reported increased interest in Hillary Rodham Clinton's paperback "Living History," at No. 5 yesterday.
(via Newsday)

Here's hoping Clinton can pay off the legal bills he incurred fighting off the winger coup of the Starr was the willing tool.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sick Cows Are Red, Washington's Blue 

If you are planning tomorrow's breakfast (or this morning's, depending on when you read this) you might want to consider the cold pizza from last night, or maybe look under the couch for some old Halloween candy. In any case hold off on the milk for the Wheaties or cream for the coffee until you decide how safe you feel in George Bush's America(tm), where we fight terrorists Over There rather than Here:

(via USA Today)

An attack in which Washington state cows were coated with a toxic substance went unreported to federal officials for 10 days, a performance that local and national officials say is unacceptable when there are concerns about the safety of the nation's food supply.

The incident involved 10 dairy cows in Enumclaw, 35 miles southeast of Seattle. The animals were painted June 5 with a sticky red substance that caused welts, oozing sores and internal bleeding.

Three of the cows died; seven are recovering. Food and Drug Administration testing later identified the substance as chromium, used in dyes and as a wood preservative. No milk from the cows entered the food supply, the FDA said Wednesday.

..Officials say the incident represents a failure to take potential agriculture contamination seriously, particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. There has been no cohesive homeland-security plan involving agriculture, and funding has been haphazard.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal authorities likely wouldn't have been involved until the toxic substance was identified, says Ehart. "Washington state is a long way from the East Coast. And while you may think you're doing your job, you may not be in tune with the new issues," he says.
Um, WTF does that have to do with anything? Oh yeah, Washington's a blue state, isn't it?

Officials say the incident is particularly disturbing because Washington state has been ground zero for other food safety issues in the past 15 years, including the E. coli outbreak in 1993 and last year's discovery of the nation's first case of mad cow disease.
Yeah, having "Sadaam in prison rather than in power" has just had SUCH an impact on our daily lives, hasn't it? THAT was worth spending $187 billion and 800-plus lives on. Now drink your milk and shut up, Billy. Those who live on Kool-Ade don't care about some stupid cows, it's just Washington State anyway.

Goodnight, moon 

Say, there wasn't anything in the Times today about AP's suit to get the Great State of Texas to disgorge the microfilm that should have Bush's entire military record on it (back, assuming that it hasn't been filleted like the paper records have).

I wonder why? You'd think it would be worth a graf. The war Preznit's own military record, and all.

"Um, Mr. Bush, sir? It's The Hague on line 3..." 

(via WaPo)
UNITED NATIONS, June 23 -- The Bush administration on Wednesday dropped its plan to seek renewal of a resolution shielding U.S. personnel serving in U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, citing fierce opposition to the initiative.

The exemption for U.S. officials has been a source of resentment since the Security Council first granted it, in July 2002, but Security Council diplomats said the detainee abuse provided a rallying point for supporters of the court.

Others, however, noted that the detainee abuse scandal, combined with Washington's need for international support for its Iraq policy, had undermined the U.S. policy of threatening to shut down U.N. peacekeeping missions if the council failed to grant U.S. officials immunity.

The court was established by a 1998 treaty to prosecute individuals responsible for the most serious crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On Thursday, Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed to the council to oppose the resolution, saying that it would "discredit" the United Nations and undercut its promotion of the rule of law.

California cops infililtrating anti-war movement 

I didn't know they could do that. Fresno

Thumbing through the Fresno Bee last year, Camille Russell came across a story about a traffic fatality accompanied by a photo of a familiar face.

She knew the dead man as Aaron Stokes, a new member in her antiwar organization, Peace Fresno. But the newspaper story listed him as Aaron Kilner, a 27-year-old Fresno County sheriff's detective who died in a motorcycle accident while off duty.

She copied the photo and showed it to other members of Peace Fresno. "Don't say anything, just look at the picture and see if you recognize this man," she said.

They did.

Now, the activists are accusing the [Fresno] Sheriff's Department of infiltrating their group with an undercover detective. After months of lobbying by the group, California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office said this week that it was investigating their claim.

Fresno County Sheriff Richard Pierce won't confirm or deny that Kilner was spying on Peace Fresno. But he said in a prepared statement that his department reserved the right to conduct surveillance as part of its anti-terrorism efforts.
(via LA Times)

Oh, now I get it. Being against the war is the same as being a terrorist. It all hangs together, doesn't it?

Of course, this is only the Fresno PD. We don't have to worry about this happening in other cities. Or at the Federal Government. Attorney General Ashcroft would never stand for it. Right?

"Toxic Emissions Rising, EPA Says" 

And the Republican National Convention is months away....

Mad Dogs and Attorneys General 

...go out in the Noonday sun, Noel Coward once told us. John Ashcroft, on the other hand, wants to keep stories out of Noonday buried in the midnight pit of public obscurity.

David Niewert over at Orcinus has been following this story for months. Now it finally hits major-league (well, if the NYT can even be classified as "major league" any more) public notice from Paul Krugman a couple of days ago, and I am irked that it is not growing legs on its own. Go read. Here's a start...and a finish, just because it is so cruel, while still not HALF the kicking around Crisco Johnny deserves:
In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon — a cyanide bomb — big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building...

Incidentally, if Mr. Ashcroft's intention was to keep the case low-profile, the media have been highly cooperative. To this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national coverage.

At this point, I have the usual problem. Writing about John Ashcroft poses the same difficulties as writing about the Bush administration in general, only more so: the truth about his malfeasance is so extreme that it's hard to avoid sounding shrill.

In this case, it sounds over the top to accuse Mr. Ashcroft of trying to bury news about terrorists who don't fit his preferred story line. Yet it's hard to believe that William Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been a Muslim, or even a leftist.

Was Mr. Ashcroft, who once gave an interview with Southern Partisan magazine in which he praised "Southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis, reluctant to publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white supremacist?....

After my last piece on Mr. Ashcroft, some readers questioned whether he is really the worst attorney general ever. It's true that he has some stiff competition from the likes of John Mitchell, who served under Richard Nixon. But once the full record of his misdeeds in office is revealed, I think Mr. Ashcroft will stand head and shoulders below the rest.
Quibbler alert: Noel Coward fans, should any chance to read here, will write to say that the lyric is actually "..go out in the midday sun." If the story had been about events in Midday, Texas, things would be easier. It is only that Sir Noel was writing about the ignorant foibles of an earlier empire than our own.

I'm detecting a pattern 

This is so much of a piece with the Bush approach to Iraq. Well, everything, really, but especially Iraq. Bull-headed right-wing ideology replaces actual policy - fuck the UN; the CPA will be managed by unqualified but connected 25-year-old Heritage Foundation wannabes, Ahmad Chalabi is just like George Washington, blah blah blah. And then, when it predictably goes to hell, we do what we should have done in the first place, except that by now it's too late. And then try to bluff your way out of the political mess.

Worst. President. Ever.
(via Poorman)


9/11: Bush's Monica moment 

Jack Beatty has a great editorial in the (generally, sadly) rightist Atlantic:

[Bush continued to read] My Pet Goat to schoolchildren even after an aide has told him that a second plane has struck the twin towers.

Leaders show what they are made of in a crisis. Bush hid in plain sight with those kids. Later, hiding twice over, he used them as an excuse, saying he did not want to frighten them by ending the reading before finishing the book. Later still, and repeatedly, he said he saw the first plane strike the tower that morning (in fact, no one saw that live; the film was not available until the evening) and that he remarked, "That's some bad pilot"—pure strut. As the Wall Street Journal reported, he also magnified his role in managing the crisis, claiming he gave orders others gave. Conflicting accounts of Bush's communications documented by the 9/11 Commission now raise doubts whether, as he and Cheney told the commissioners, he ordered Cheney to shoot down any hijacked planes still in the air, or whether Cheney, in the White House bunker, acted on his own. Maybe Cheney persuaded Bush to stay away from Washington that day less for Bush's safety than for the country's.

[W]hatever his personal weaknesses, Clinton performed competently, even prudently. His controversial decisions—raising taxes to balance the budget, NAFTA, the China trade deal, less so welfare reform—were largely policy-driven, outraging various elements of the democratic base. Competence, prudence, policy over politics: these are not the words to describe George W. Bush's conduct of government. If we doubted Clinton's character, we were reassured by his intelligence and command of the scene. Bush lacks these compensations. His vaunted "moral clarity" is as much strut as conviction. He achieves certainty by arresting thought. The "befuddled-looking president" caught in that video is an emblem of his presidency.
(Read The Whole Thing)


Great headlines of our time: "Illinois Senate Campaign Thrown Into Prurient Turmoil" 

"Prurient turmoil"... I love it. And of course, it's Republican prurient turmoil, so it isn't A1 (or even "Inside") material for the in-the-tank Times. But it's super-delicious all the same. Jack Ryan is a millionaire Republican running for the Senate in Illinois, whose wife is the actress Jeri Ryan:

This week, however, disclosure of Ms. Ryan's claims that her ex-husband [Ryan] took her to sex clubs over her objections have filled the front pages of Illinois newspapers, throwing his campaign for a United States Senate seat here into prurient turmoil.

The documents suggest that Mr. Ryan insisted that they have public sex but that Ms. Ryan angrily refused, and the issue led to the breakup of their marriage.

Ms. Ryan, who appeared in "Star Trek: Voyager" and is a star of the television series "Boston Public," said in a declaration dated June 9, 2000, that when she and her husband were in New York, she refused to enter one club with him because "it had mattresses and cubicles," and that he then took her to "a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling."
(via NY Times)

And not only apparatus hanging from the ceiling, but apparatchiks, eh?

Just a few points, starting with the obvious ones:

1. The phrase that leaps out to me is "over her objections." I seem to remember other members of Ryan's party spending $70 million dollars promoting a slow motion coup against an elected President, and all over a consensual blowjob. So you'd think that Hastert (also from Illinois) and Henry "Youthful Indiscretion" Hyde would be falling all over themselves clean up their party and get Ryan out of the race. But n-o-o-o-o-o! Is this a humongous case of IOKIYAR, or what?

2. Ryan says he wanted to keep the divorce papers that revealed his wife's claims sealed to protect his son. I seem to remember other members of Ryan's party—like Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, now raising money for Ryan—publishing the most salacious details possible over that consensual blowjob during their slow motion coup, even though there were children involved in that case too. IOKIYAR yet again, eh? Isn't payback a bitch?

3. There's also that weird detail about "cages, whips and other apparatus." Remind you of anything? Say, Abu Ghraib torture, and the photos?

Remember Limbaugh's bizarre reaction to Abu Ghraib? Not the fraternity one—I mean the one that said the torture photos were no worse than pornography.

Well.... How about—as so often we don't, being ourselves reasonable individuals—we take the wingers at their word? And why not make the assumption that Limbaugh was speaking from experience, not hypothetically? If so, we've got two data points here: Limbaugh and Ryan. Could there be more?

Do Republicans—especially powerful, winger Republicans—have a tendency to be turned on by "cages, whips and other apparatus"? Given the effects, both foreign and domestic, of their policies, it looks like they not only have the fantasy—they're living it. Readers, thoughts? Especially, more data points?

UPDATE Alert reader edgewise reminds us of the Bill Bennett data point back here. Calico Cat is the source in the blogosphere (google the Cat on "Bennett"). The Las Vegas Mercury has more on the "rumours."

Also that weird detail about "cages, whips and other apparatus." Remind you of anything?

farmer: The Opus Dei Club in Manhattan?

Thanks for sharing!

Bush torture policies: Republican claim to rule by decree slips by the poor old Times 

Yes, once again, the public transportation giveaway, The Metro (Philly version) gets the story right, while the insider-coopted, flaccidly reported, and increasingly irrelevant New York Times does not. From the Metro (I type it in):

Explosive revelations on Bush and Rumsfeld

Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties... The Justice Department disavowed a memo written on Aug. 1, 2002, that appeared to justify the use of torture... The memo also argued that the president's wartime powers superseded anti-torture laws and the Geneva convention. Bush said in a Feb. 7, 2002 memo that he accepted the conclusion by the attorney general and the department, but "I decline to exercise that authority at this time."
(AP, via The Philadelphia edition of the Metro)

So, here we have Bush claiming that he has the "inherent authority" (back) to set aside the law whenever he chooses.

That's rule by decree.

That's also the end of Constitutional Government.

Bad as the torture story is, Bush's claim to be above the law is far worse. He could, for example, postpone or set aside the 2004 elections, eh?

And does the Times cover this? I defy you to find a single mention of Bush's outrageous and unconstitutional claim in the Times. Try for yourself. You saw the headline from the Metro. They read the same story the Times did. And what is the Times headline? "White House Says Prisoner Policy Set Humane Tone." Is the Times in the tank on this one, or what? You may share your well-reasoned views with the sadly overworked Daniel "Bud Man" Okrent.

Bush claims to be able to rule by decree, and the newspaper of record doesn't give it a mention. Where's the outrage?

UPDATE The Post has copies of the documents. Smart of the WhiteWash House to keep using a manual typewriter; no pesky electronic copies!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Goodnight, moon! 

Corrente—now with trackback!

I guess this new-fangled technology is good for something. Maybe.

Sorry for letting the machine-gun posting fall increasingly silent—the work I must do sometimes interferes with the work I ought to be doing.

Especially frustrating since it feels like after a lot of work, it's no longer drip, drip, drip with Bush but splash, splash, splash....

Looks to Me Like Bush is.... 

The other day (geez, was it only yesterday?) Lambert pointed out back here that Honest Republicans were starting to turn on Bush, not just in their hearts but with their voices, out in public where others can hear and be influenced and know they're not the only ones with qualms.

Today we have Juan Cole, whose politics as a whole I do not know, saying things like this:

"After all, a lot of Republicans could not be at all happy to see the US Department of Defense become the major purveyor of sensational internet pornography to the world...

"This brings us to the issue of Bush's flip-flops. He tried to hang the charge of flip-flopping on Kerry. But Bush said he wanted heads to roll at Fallujah, and then had to bring in the Baath to run the city. Bush said he wanted Muqtada al-Sadr dead or alive, and now Muqtada is set to be a prominent parliamentarian. Bush said he would bring decency to the White House, and now his DoD is purveying pictures of Arab men being made to masturbate in front of prancing servicewomen.

"The American public knows flip-flops when they see them. It is Bush that is engaging in them."

Finally there's Froomkin's WaPo column today, which contains a link to a graph. You've been seeing these figures for awhile now but you have GOT to see them in graphic form to see why this rarest of sentiments, hope, has take root in my bosom.

Aside from a twitchy paranoid feeling that the WashPo legal department may take a dimmer view of swiping their graphics than they do stories, this really has to be seen in its full size to be appreciated. It would blow up the room to do that and I'm not good enough with graphics to shrink it. Just go click here and gaze for awhile and let it all soak in.

Buck up, and be of good cheer, and all that rot. This thing is doable. It isn't done yet, and God knows we can't back off an inch. But we can get our country back.

Bush AWOL: More Republican lawbreaking, as AP sues for records 

But finally! AP is suing to get them. (Say, that court is in New York, isn't it? Where's the sadly irrelevant New York Times on this?) Anyhow:

There are questions as to whether the file provided to the news media earlier this year is complete, says the lawsuit, adding that these questions could possibly be answered by reviewing a copy of the microfilm of Bush's personnel file in the Texas archives.

The Air National Guard of the United States, a federal entity, has control of the microfilm, which should be disclosed in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says.

The White House has yet to respond to a request by the AP in April...

Delay, delay. Slime and defend...

asking the president to sign a written waiver of his right to keep records of his military service confidential. Bush gave an oral waiver in a TV appearance that preceded the White House's release this year of materials concerning his National Guard service.

The government "did not expedite their response ... they did not produce the file within the time required by law, and they will not now estimate when the file might be produced or even confirm that an effort has been initiated to retrieve a copy from the microfilm at the Texas archives," the lawsuit says.

In the absence of any privacy objection by the president and in light of the importance of the file's release in advance of the November election, says the lawsuit, AP seeks a court order to compel the release of records "that are being unlawfully withheld from the public."

The released records were from the Texas Air National Guard at Camp Mabry and the Defense Financing Accounting Service in Denver.

Under Texas law, a copy of military personnel files of those serving in the Texas Air National Guard must be retained on microfilm at the Texas archives.

The lawsuit says that no one has looked at any of the Texas Air National Guard records maintained at the state archives since 1996.
(via AP)

But, but... I thought Bush released "all" the records?! Heh. Pass the popcorn!

Oh, and nobody has ever come forward to The $10,000 reward for an eyewitness account of Bush doing his duty in Alabama during his "missing months." I wonder why?

Iraq clusterfuck: Latest Bush claim of AQ Iraq link debunked 

Remember Bush's mysteriously sudden discovery ("Ah, the old cptured enemy documents trick") that a member of Saddam's security services was also an AQ member—because they both had the same name? Well, it does turn out there's a lot of Shakirs in the middle east, and this story is already going onto the same trash heap as all the WMD stories, no surprise here:

A U.S. intelligence official expressed skepticism Monday that a member of Al Qaeda had served as an officer in Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen militia, contradicting a claim made the day before by a member of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

The intelligence official said the CIA had investigated the matter this year after documents recovered in Iraq listed an officer in the Fedayeen Saddam militia whose name was similar to that of a known Al Qaeda operative.

The agency determined that the militia member and the terrorist operative were not the same person, the official said. "We think that it is not the same guy," said the intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
(via the Pulitzer-heavy Los Angeles Times, not the when-weill-they-fire-Wilgoren New York shadow of its former self.)

Honestly, the Bush team needs to work on the shelf life of its lies. They're starting to fall apart in days now, not in weeks or months. I thought Karen was supposed to fix all this? Is she still on her book tour, or what?

Bush terror figures: Down is up 

Of course, we could have predicted this. Cooking the books is a Bush speciality, always has been.

Correcting an inaccurate report, the State Department announced Tuesday that acts of terror worldwide increased slightly last year and the number of people wounded rose dramatically.

The department also reported a decline in the number of people killed -- to 625 from 725 during 2002. But in April, the department reported 307 people had been killed last year -- a much bigger decline.

The findings had been used by senior Bush administration officials to bolster President Bush's claim of success in countering terrorism.

Powell said, "I can assure you it had nothing to do with putting out anything but the most honest, accurate information we can."
(via WaPo)

Poor old Colin Powell I hesitate to use a word like, well, "shuffle," but why on earth would anyone who was watched this administration over the last four years believe that Powell is capable of assuring anyone of anything?

And I love the little qualifying sting in the tail of "the most honest, accurate information we can", which should be amended to read "we can, given that we are ideologically driven Rapture-heads who wouldn't know what the truth is if it walked up and hit us with a 2 by 4."


Gambling In Jeb's Cafe Floridaine 

We are shocked, shocked to hear that all is not well in Jeb Bush's Florida. Would you believe they are still jacking around people with felony convictions even after they have served their time and been restored to society?

We didn't think so. Neither is the Palm Beach Post:
As many as 22,000 Floridians will be able to vote, serve on juries or do state-licensed work because Gov. Bush and the state Cabinet restored their civil rights last week. They committed felonies, did their time and deserve to rejoin society.

But estimates are that at least another 580,000 men and women in Florida remain disenfranchised because of the state's archaic law that denies full participation as citizens to people who have served their sentences. Florida is one of only six states that do not automatically restore rights to ex-felons who have completed their punishment. The 136-year-old law was written and passed after the Civil War to discriminate against freed slaves, and the Legislature made slight changes in 1968 to mitigate the discrimination. African-Americans continue to be affected disproportionately, accounting for up to 47 percent of the disenfranchised ex-felons. The law has no place in a state that considers itself progressive.
Florida's anachronistic approach to ex-felons also needlessly complicates elections. Last month, state officials said they had found 47,000 registered voters who might be ineligible because of felony convictions. County elections supervisors must try to verify identities and records. Forty-four states don't have this problem and avoid the intrusion of politics because they restore voting rights automatically.

Of the 125,000 ex-felons in the lawsuit, Gov. Bush and the Cabinet made those 22,000 eligible for automatic restoration; of the remaining 103,000, about half will have to go through a hearing process, and about half won't be eligible; some, for example, are dead or back in prison. The state is still telling 50,000 ex-felons that they must apply, then wait months for hearings, ensuring that they won't be voting in this year's elections. The governor and Cabinet are bringing relief to only a fraction of the disenfranchised.
Alas, after this excellent start, the Palm Beach editorialistas wimp out with a call for a complete rewrite of the election law, which can't be done until next spring. But they've made a good start. Round up the usual suspects, gendarmes.

Tech Tips Tuesday 

Although it has been clearly established that it is not worth reading for anything resembling political coverage, we must admit that the No Yux Times (link fixed) still has merit for scientific and technical items. Therein we find the following discussion of G-mail, which does not pertain to scanty female undergarments (that's "g-strings") but rather to a new email system Google is preparing to roll out, to much hype.

A great deal of the hype relates to the fact that Google's system, while free to the user, is supported by advertising. This is done with software which reads the mail messages in search of words which will render the advertising "relevant" to the user:
Google is trying not only to analyze the content of messages, but also their tone. A message that said "I love Orlando" was accompanied by ads for resorts at Disney World. But the same message, with the word love replaced by hate, prompted no ads.

The company has built a negativity filter that is like the "tragedy filter" it built into its system that places ads on Web pages of many publishers (including The New York Times). The tragedy filter is meant to keep ads off pages describing catastrophic events.

Frederick Marckini, the chief executive of iProspect, an advertising agency that specializes in search ads, praised this approach. "There is no commercial application for hate," he said. "There are some words that advertisers are not going to want to be associated with."
So, should you decide to use Gmail once it's available, but do not wish to be pestered with ads, try this: Add a sig line, which goes out automatically with each email sent. (Most mail programs support this; check your specs.) We humbly suggest the following, which is morally uplifting, displays a bipartisan attitude, and works in the word "hate" not less than three times:

"Always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." --R. M. Nixon

Like Cat Turds on Linoleum 

Donald Rumsfeld approved the use at Guantanamo of a technique known as "waterboarding." This is not a surfing-related program activity, it's a technique popularized in American history in Salem, Mass., circa 1692.

He wrote a memo about it. CNN (and apparently ONLY covered) the story yesterday.

Except when you try to find it, even with a link from a Google search which confirms the stories existed, they're mysteriously gone. The link above is to a "cache" site, proving that trying to hide ANYTHING once it's been posted to the Net just makes you look like a cat trying to bury a turd on a tile floor. Rummy has made Nixon's Mistake. It ain't the crime that'll get ya, it's the coverup.

Atrios nails him on both the story and the coverup.

The lead to the story, by CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who should stay out of small planes for awhile:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon has declassified and will release as soon as Tuesday memos signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that critics argue authorized torture of detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But Pentagon officials strongly disputed the contention that the aggressive techniques, including the use of dogs to induce fear, constituted torture.

Among the memos, Pentagon officials said, is a directive signed by Rumsfeld in October 2002 authorizing a technique called "water boarding," in which a prisoner is strapped down, immersed in water, and made to feel as if he is going to drown.

But officials insisted the technique was never used and that the authorization for it was rescinded in January 2003 following an internal review of interrogation techniques and objections from military lawyers who said the practice would violate the Geneva Conventions.
UPDATE: Looks like the Yahoo cache link has been killed too, although I checked this just before posting it. Go to Atrios, look in the comments thread on this story, they've got the whole thing copied. If Haloscan suddenly doesn't work either, start getting nervous.

UPPERDATE: Bobo notes in Comments that CNN's stories are back up at the links cited before...but Atrios says this is a sanitized version:

The senior defense official who provided the original information to CNN now says Rumsfeld only approved "mild, noninjurious physical contact" with a high-level al Qaeda detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and specifically did not approve a request to use water boarding.

The tactic involves strapping a prisoner down and immersing him in water and making the subject feel as though he is drowning.

The memos to and from Rumsfeld are expected to be released later Tuesday, and will show that while the water boarding technique was on a list of requested aggressive tactics, Rumsfeld did not approve it, officials say.

The invaluable MJS has had Deep Thoughts on this matter. With apologies noted to all Beach Boys fans everywhere--

Arab prisoner, you're the one
Who will make this torture fun
Will you ride this, ride this water board
Water board, my little water board

There's more....

Monday, June 21, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Maybe someone can explain to me how, when He lied His way into the wrong war, He restored honor and dignity to the White House. I sure don't get it.

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