Monday, January 31, 2005

It's The Same Old Song

Oh, yes, my pretties, we're in for the long haul now:

"The people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," Mr. Bush said in a four-minute televised statement at 1 p.m. from the entry hall of the White House residence, after the polls closed in Iraq.
But he also warned that "terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them."
And lest you get any ideas of planning for the extrication:

"Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the American commander in Iraq, said recently, "There's going to be an insurgency here for some years"...
(Bush) sidestepped a question about how he would measure success, saying it could not be done by assessing a reduction in attacks, nor by merely counting how many Iraqi troops were deemed to be trained.
"If you announce that one of the metrics is the number of attacks, all that does is cause the enemy" to briefly reduce those attacks, he said. Similarly, he said, he did not want to announce a timetable for withdrawal - even if he had one. "We don't want to give the enemy something on which to rest, plan and attack based on a timetable."
So there you have it. Elections were held, but we can't leave just because attacks may drop or a majority of Iraqis have been trained to take over security. Obviously, I'm wondering exactly what criteria does that leave George for determining when we can leave? The number of McDonald's we install in Baghdad? It certainly won't be based on how far women have come since we helped unleash a reactionary fundamentalist opression that Iraqis haven't seen in their country for scores of years.

Meet your new war. Same as your old war.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

All's Pretty Quiet on the Eastern Front

Christopher Allbritton, the free-lancer in Baghdad who writes Back to Iraq 3.0, has been giving regular updates of the progress of the voting in Iraq today, and so far the violence has not met with the dire expectations many of us had (if you can call his so-far count of 9 suicide bombings with 20 dead not dire). Many Iraqis are voting for the candidates endorsed by Ayatollah Sistani (List 169). In fact, there seems to be an almost upbeat optimism there. He puts some of it down to the "draconian" (his description) measures taken by Allawi to circumscribe movement today, and expresses his reservations about the lasting effects one such day could have:

"Today's highly restrictive measures are untenable, of course, and no one can live like this for long, but for a day, the insurgency was kept at bay."
He sums up his measure of the voting this way:

"My friend Mitch and I were discussing this and regardless of who wins in the polls, the Iraqis won here and proved themselves—for a day, at least—stronger than the insurgency. And that's a very big symbolic victory. A huge one, in fact, and Iraqis should take great pride in themselves. When they had the opportunity, they stood up and were counted. The real losers were the Sunnis who didn't participate. They missed a golden opportunity to take part in a process that, while flawed, were the only game in town. I don't know what's going to happen next, and a civil war may still erupt, but if it does, the elected government—one elected by Shi'a and Kurds, for the most part—will have the moral high ground in it."
However, over at Empire Notes, Rahul Mahajan reports that Sistani has more or less condemned any of his followers who fail to vote for his endorsed list:

"Ayatollah Sistani, the acknowledged spiritual leader of the vast majority of Iraq's Shi'a population, has stopped being coy. In the past, he has soft-pedaled his endorsement of the United Iraqi Alliance (headed by the Islamist parties SCIRI and Dawa) by such locutions as saying he "blesses" the UIA slate but "supports" all "patriotic" slates.
Now, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's reporters in Basra, he has come out openly:

Hayder al-Safi, spokesman for Sistani’s representative in Basra, Ali Abdul-Hakim al-Safi, said on January 28 that Shia leaders are urging people to vote for the United Iraqi Alliance, listed as number 169 on the ballot sheet. "Anyone that votes for List no. 169, I will answer for them before God,” said al-Safi, quoting the words of Sistani. “And anyone who will vote for other lists will answer before God."
I don't know. I feel I am hanging on to pessimism for the sake of being right here, and I don't want to play that game with people's lives. If they can make this work, in spite of the mess the US facilitated over there, then let's give them as much support as we can. But I'm too used to being burned by media and politicians on both sides of the ocean to expect miracles.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I Know, Kids! Let's Have An Election!

The first thing you need to know is exactly what the hell is going on, why, and who's in on it. Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau has a concise primer on everything you should know about the Iraqi election, including why it matters, who's likely to win, and what the aftermath might be. Here's what you should keep your eye on:
"Will there be a civil war?

It's possible. The Sunnis are the main force behind the insurgency, and they've launched frequent attacks on the Shiites. If the Sunnis get few representatives in the government, support for the insurgency could grow. At the same time there are proposals for fixes after the election, such as appointing Sunnis to the assembly, making sure they're on committees drafting the constitution and seeing that they get important Cabinet posts in the government. Sunnis might be persuaded to support the permanent constitution and join elections at that time.

Will U.S. troops start pulling out after the election?

Probably not. Bush has vowed to stay as long as needed. The election coalition most likely to dominate the vote has dropped demands for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. The training of Iraqi security forces has been going slowly and post-election violence is widely predicted."
"The Sunnis are the main force behind the insurgency..." Yet in the latest dispatch from the NYTimes, we hear that an influential cleric who seems to be a weathervane for al-Sadr and the Shiites has called for boycotting the elections, too. Now, I ask you, where does this leave the credibility of the elections at this point, when these two rival factions are both calling on their people to stay away?

And this means nothing but more bloodshed for Iraqis, 17 more of whom were killed today in election-related attacks. Even the Iraqi President has admitted that most Iraqis will be sitting out the election, which only adds further credibility issues to the outcome. But Commander Yellow-Stripe will gird his manly loins and forge ahead with it, no matter how many other people's deaths he has to put up with. You may recall his clairvoyant prediction on the elections from a couple days ago, in which he said:
"I've, you know, heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in a position of responsibility after these elections, although you never know," Mr. Bush said. "But it seems like most of the leadership there understands that there will be a need for coalition troops at least until Iraqis are able to fight."
Looks like they've been doing a perfectly acceptable job of fighting to me. And Bush couldn't be more transparent in his public assumption that everything is going to go his way, with the puppets in place, ready to officially step up to the plate after the bloodbath of the vote is over. And trust me, they will ask us to stay. Bush requires it.

So summing up, it looks like civil war is likely to come (just as the State Department's Future of Iraq project warned back on '02 if suitable precautions weren't taken to secure the place). And we're going to be there for the fun. But now the first official volley has been fired from the "It's time to get out" gallery:
"Besides ending its military presence, Kennedy said the United States must stop making political decisions in Iraq and turn over full authority to the United Nations to help Baghdad set up a new government.
He said an international meeting led by the United Nations and Iraq should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to start that process.
"We now have no choice but to make the best we can of the disaster we have created in Iraq," Kennedy in a speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "The current course is only making the crisis worse."
For the last 3 years people with more brains than power have been warning of the parallels to Vietnam.
Now even those with power and no brains should be able to see it.

Update: weighs in with a recently uncovered Iraqi election ballot.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Tech Stuff

I inserted Haloscan into my template because I like the look and ease of it better than what came with Blogger, but lost all comments in all posts.
Oh, Brave New World!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Can You Tell The Difference?


Q-Why did the president cross the road?
A-To get away from the draft! Hahaha.

Yes, I know, it's lame and it sucks, but that's why it's so appropriate to the subject matter.

Photos via Slate. (Link also comes with added attraction Jack Shafer article on the much fussed over "Blogging, Journalism & Credibility" conference and the future of blogging. Hmmm.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Commander Yellow-Stripe

Not much time for blogging the next couple days due to real-life committments. If you're new to my stuff, please feel free to hit the archives and look around.

In the meantime, I couldn't let this pass without comment:

"President Bush urged Iraqis to defy terrorists and vote in Sunday's election and sought patience from anxious Americans as a Marine helicopter crash pushed the U.S. death toll above 1,400.
"The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people," Bush said on the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began. "I understand that. It is the long-term objective that is vital -- that is to spread freedom." To the Iraqis who face daily attacks from insurgents, he said: "Clearly, there are some who are intimidated. I urge people to vote. I urge people to defy these terrorists."
He's so fucking cavalier with other people's lives, isn't he? Sitting up there on his peacock-throne, traveling in his impermeable bubble across America, speaking to hand-picked friendly crowds, feet oblingingly offered wooden planks to walk across rather than having to touch profane ground, sycophants warned not to look directly at His Nibs on pain of Secret Service wrath. Oh, yes, the man is a paragon of bravery and courage. The very person to be assuring his bereaved subjects to suck it up as a sacrifice to the neo-con dream, and to encourage a people in a land thousands of safe miles away to risk death or worse in the pursuit of his pet project.

This is your modern Republican party. Are you proud, you who enabled him a second chance at the ruination of the republic? Are you satisfied? Can you hold your head up as you drive to WalMart and undercut the local unionized supermarket workers for a few cents off on your pork rinds and frozen pizzas? Would you follow this pitiful excuse for a man into battle, this craven, hollow coward who never demurred to use his unearned privilege to smooth his own path and escape the things he didn't want to do. You Lazy-Boy warriors. How full your hearts must be today, to watch your leader so valiantly ante up even more human lives on the altar of his egomaniacal obbessession.

Via the always amenable NYTimes.

Update: The triumph of incompetence over better judgement.
Condi's in.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


David Brooks discovers social inequity, and suggests Bush mention it.

Tim Roemer and the new Democratic movement to jettison abortion rights. I understand the need to be inclusive of those who have problems with abortion, but an anti-choice head of the DNC? Dean looks more viable all the time, especially since Florida threw its weight behind him.

Brian Whittaker at The Guardian notes the new marriage of Christian and Islamic fundamentalists to bully their "family values" agendas through at the UN. Their goals? The usual: oppression of women's rights and family planning, persecution of gays, social regression, blah blah blah. And who said we couldn't win Muslim hearts and minds? All we need is that common ground of religions everywhere: intolerance.

And speaking of social inequities, The Village Voice's Anya Kemenetz provides some insight into the cannon fodder database that is the No Child Left Behind Act, and what poor kids are trying to do about it.

Check me out later at The American Street, where my ravings will no doubt be lengthier, and I'll have an update to my last entry on Arnold the Barbarian,

Monday, January 24, 2005

Babylon Sister

Riverbend's latest post underlines the tragic state of affairs for the average Iraqi just days before an "election" that's supposed to spread freedom like a delicious layer of marmalade all over the bread of the Tigris valley. It was only a couple days ago I was wondering how the hell we could expect her people to participate in a legitimate election under these circumstances.

Only a moronic shell of humanity like George W. Bush would stand up in front of the world after wreaking this destruction and have the face to claim that he has accomplished a grand and lasting good.

Christ forgive us. What have we done?

Leave No Scientist Behind—Just Deep-Six Their Work

"At a global conference on disasters, the US delegation upholds our reputation as superstitious Luddites and knowledge-hating yahoos:
“The U.S. delegation to (the World Conference on Disaster Reduction) wants to purge a U.N. action plan of its references to climate change as a potential cause of future natural calamities…
It's well known that there's controversy" about the consequences of climate change, deputy U.S. delegation head Mark Lagon told reporters Wednesday. "It's our desire that this controversy not distract this conference."…
In its preamble, the "framework for action" drafted for adoption at the Kobe conference on Saturday says climate change is one factor pointing toward "a future where disasters could increasingly threaten the world's economy, and its population." …
The U.S. delegation, supported by Australia and Canada, has called for all references to climate change to be deleted from the main document. The move is opposed by the 25-nation European Union – a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol – and by poorer nations potentially imperiled by the intensified storms, rising ocean waters and other effects of climate change.”
Nice job, Mark. Graduate of the Ari Fleischer School of the Physical Sciences, I see. Not much has changed since the Union of Concerned Scientists threw down the gauntlet to the Bushco admin, charging them with distorting and suppressing scientific evidence in any way that furthers their political agenda. And before that, Henry Waxman and his Committee on Government Reform brought the same concerns to light in their 2003 report "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration", an in-depth piece that is still the best single source of unearthed administration disinformation and manipulation on abstinence-only sex ed, condom use, and that perennial favorite, global warming. Don't like the effects of gravity? Well, surely someone somewhere can be found to point out the theological defects in the theory, and maybe that will make those agelines disappear.

And now the good citizens of Dover , too, will be mixing a little theology with the science their kids learn. I posted on this issue back in November, and as I suspected it would be, the move was bullied through.

Science in the Bush entire school of knowledge and its practitioners being readied for redundancy or co-optation, depending on how friendly they are to those in power.

Update: Those atheists at Pew Charitable Trust keep flogging that global warming dead horse. When will they learn we just don't give a shit.

Update 2: And while we're on the subject of twisting science, The Progress report notes that the FDA has once again shown itself for the partisan, idealogue-driven tool that it is:

"STEM CELL – PUTTING ALL THE EGGS IN ONE BASKET: In 2001, when President Bush imposed a far-reaching ban on stem cell research, he rested the hopes of millions upon just 60 stem cell lines that supposedly had "great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures." After only "20 of those lines proved usable", researchers have revealed that all the stem cell lines approved for federally funded research are tainted. Far from providing any disease alleviation, they could potentially "provoke an immune system attack that would wipe out their ability to deliver cures." Scientists, whose hands are already bound by the administration's ideology-based policy toward stem cell research, could be forced to wait at least another year for these stem cells to be recovered, if they can even be salvaged."
See the original report here for the links embedded in the story.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blame-Shifting Most Foul

Here's Tom Friedman with more of his patented (but certainly not unique)"old Europe" complaints, this time about their recalcitrance in getting in there and dying with us on the occasion of the elections:

"What's sad is that right when we have reached crunch time in Iraq, the West is totally divided. All that the Europeans care about is being able to say to George Bush, "We told you so." What happens the morning after "We told you so" ? Well, the Europeans don't have a Plan B either."
Guess what, Tom? They didn't start it. They didn't have an obligation to look ahead and see their way out of it because they didn't want it in the first place. We, who did, clearly still have no clue as to how to make this work even after two long years. And in fact, if you didn't notice, we in the States are pretty damned divided ourselves.

He then goes on to argue that the real War On Terra is not one of guns but of--can you believe it?--IDEAS! Jesus, what a concept! Imagine if we had gotten a clue about this back in 1993, or after Kenya, or while we were using friendly Arab governments like Egypt to do our dirty interrogation work? But he seems to think that it's only just now, with a gun to our national head, that we should be worrying about this. Decades of failed and hypocritical policies (freedom? human rights? oh, stop before you soil yourself!) have been coming home to roost. But somehow all this will all be wiped away by the holding of elections that no one understands, with so many candidates no one can figure them out, in limited areas only a relative few people can get to, under circumstances that can only be described as Bosnian. They can't get gasoline to travel, they don't have water, only a couple hours of electricity a day during the coldest time of the year, and it's all their lives are worth to step outside the door some days, let alone be seen trying to get out on election day to vote. But here he is, parroting the same old tired lines about how the Iraqis have to "take control of their own future", which is Helleresque in its irony, since it was our fumbling hubris that enabled the destruction of the infrastructure needed to help them do that very thing. Can you imagine our politicians (even our politicians) expecting us to go out on election day and vote under these circumstances? Can you imagine the American people (even Americans) putting up with it?
But I digress. Tom sez:
"Condi Rice told the Senate that the "time for diplomacy is now." Give me a break. The time for diplomacy was two years ago. We would be so much better off now if the entire European Union was actively urging Iraqis to vote, and using its own moral legitimacy in the Arab world to delegitimize the insurgents."
Now I read Friedman in the run-up to the war, and nowhere do I recall him ever writing that we should back off and use diplomacy. God knows he manufactured plenty of reasons for getting in there, even while bleating that the ones Bush put forward were disingenuous.
But the best part is that "moral legitimacy" chestnut. Why? Because he should know as well as anyone else that nobody sees the US as a moral paragon anymore. On that count, we really do need someone else to make our bullshit rhetoric believable.
He ends with this stunning warning vignette:

" I spent Friday morning interviewing two 18-year-old French Muslim girls in the Paris immigrant district of St.-Ouen...
Both girls I interviewed wore veils and one also wore a full Afghan-like head-to-toe covering; one was of Egyptian parents, the other of Tunisian parents, but both were born and raised in France. What did I learn from them? That they got all their news from Al Jazeera TV, because they did not believe French TV, that the person they admired most in the world was Osama bin Laden, because he was defending Islam, that suicide "martyrdom" was justified because there was no greater glory than dying in defense of Islam, that they saw themselves as Muslims first and French citizens last, and that all their friends felt pretty much the same."
And this is so much more alarming than the growth of the Theocracy in our own backyard. Jesus. Four more years of this horseshit.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Weekend Funnies

I've been trying to avoid rubbernecking the sight of the giant accident that was the inauguration. At the moment it took its nasty little oath I could hear the prolonged honking of car horns nearby in my neighborhood, which I assumed was an annoying bleat of triumph from the people who really hate America, people who have got to be the sorest winners in history (except maybe for the Jacobins and the sans-culottes). It was a dispiriting day, worse than election day, because at least then the awful truth didn't dawn all at once, and there were days of denial and false hope to soften the blow. Inauguration day was an irresistable force depressingly bereft of an immovable object. While election day was like taking an unexpected hit from a serrated arrow followed by the foggy relief of blessed endorphins, inauguration day was more like being dragged back to camp by one's captors, bleeding all the way, then being tied up and taunted while having various objects and irritants shoved into the wound.

So you see, I really needed a good laugh.

My comic book of choice, Harper's (no, really, the "Readings" section can be hilarious), has been giving Mr Fish a forum for his cranky scribblings, and this week he seemed to sense some impotence in the opposition party no doubt due to the prolonged wound outrages perpetrated by their captors since November.

And has posted their translation of the propa-babble that was the Bush inauguration speech. This is a really strong piece, and like a good movie, you can re-visit it again and again to pull out the nuances/references. His stuff is really best read aloud so you can give it the proper rhythm and inflection, and to someone who can give feedback as the audience, making the appropriate noises and clapping at the designated times (just like a real Bush audience).

Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, had some insights into Iraq's future before the election, and by golly if they aren't still just as valid today. Some might say that Bush's reticence on the subject in his inauguration speech may reflect his unspoken doubts about the success of the course he's chosen. Betty knows better, because, " President Bush might say, lots of death is just one barometer of success."

Rees is thinking about Iraq and all that freedom talk in the speech, too.

Oh, hell, just go on over to and play a few of their movies. They're addictive like cheese curls, and they make me laugh out loud. Try Pavarotti's elephant serenade. You'll feel better.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Take Heart (and update)

There have been worse things than having a fool installed as the leader of a great republic.

In the meantime, think on this:

"Professional politicians depend on victory for their careers, so it isn’t surprising when they panic at the prospect of defeat and abandon core principles; some politicians can even be intimidated by a mere slogan. But for ordinary citizens, this looks like pusillanimous and pointless pandering. Democrats aren’t going to win elections by becoming Republican-lite, or dissimulating a set of beliefs they don’t actually hold. A political party isn’t a business enterprise formed exclusively to achieve success in the marketplace. Naive as it may sound, a political party is supposed to represent a set of principles. Even granted the real-world necessity for finesse and tactical deftness, some principles must be considered sacrosanct or the party has no purpose. It has to stand for something.
The Democrats, the oldest organised political party in the world, have traditionally stood for enlightened liberal governance, social as well as economic. To abandon that stance now would be a shameful abdication. To maintain it, even as a minority party, would guarantee that, should the party eventually win an election, it will be prepared to govern.
This could happen sooner than conventional wisdom allows. The current Republican hegemony can’t last forever. As Lind points out, Bush’s margin of victory wasn’t large (it was, in fact, the narrowest re-election of any sitting president ever). Polling suggests a general disenchantment with his governance. And pigeons sometimes do come home to roost. For the time being, though, Democrats remain the opposition party. To play that role, they should bear in mind how democracy functions. The opposition isn’t there to apologise for its existence and get out of the way. The purpose of the opposition is to oppose."
---Erik Tarloff writing in The Prospect

Never complain, never explain, never apologize. Just oppose.

We have a mandate.

Note: Unfortunately I had to remove the post from yesterday showing the great pix from Rox Populi because they threw my site into weirdness. You can still see them here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Coronation and Beyond

"Not One Damn Dime Day". Do it.

Go immediately to the new Village Voice and read their special pieces on the coronation.
Rick Perlstein has a brilliant analysis on the psychology of Bush's machine, the damages he's done so far, and those still to come. James Ridgeway describes the shameless display and Nero-like consumption of the victors as they play. Kareem Fahim explores the whole mess from the wounded soldier's perspective. Sarah Ferguson gives tips on how to protest in your own small (or large) way.

We must find a way to limit the destruction this puppet mediocrity plans to inflict on us, our parents, and our children. He is not our friend. He is not our Dad. He is not our leader. As corrente notes, he is a lucky sociopath with enviable connections who was seen, because of his character flaws, as the perfect puppet to move forward the agenda of the reactionaries who still haven't forgotten their losses in 1964. Given the chance, he and they will dismantle the small social safety net of old age, health, and disability security that we do have. They will paint public education with a false brush and set into motion the events required to eliminate it. They will rescind some of our most basic constitutional rights, destroy what's left of our unionised workforce, eliminate regulatory barriers to the destruction of our land and water and the safety of our workers, set up a plutocracy of robber barons and power-hungry martinets, eliminate paths for the disenfranchised to be heard, and eventually establish a class-based apartheid the likes of which haven't been seen in America since the 1600's. To pretend this is impossible is to ignore the events of history and the seemingly bottomless capability of the human race for oppression and greed.

Get mad. Stay mad. Do something. Let me quote from the wonderful Howard Zinn, writing in his "A People's History of the United States", in a paragraph that seemed especially relevant given the SS debate of late:
"If there ARE necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold onto the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Juan Cole, Mensch

Oh, I shouldn't be doing this, but there's so much going on I can't help it. Juan Cole has been on fire the last couple days, and shouldn't be missed (Blogger went on him and he has no permalinks; just read and scroll down for the last couple days posts). No one else writes with such authority on the situation and its ramifications for us:

"For American observers concerned with Iraq not to realize how truly awful the situation is, and to fail to understand that the US faces a grave crisis if key policies are not changed, makes them poor Americans. The United States is a democracy and a democracy only works if the citizens are informed and exercise their faculties of critical reason. Looking for token pro-American Iraqis to say nice things while ignoring all the evidence of US failure is pitiful. I sometimes get messages from readers who are excited by all the rebuilding work the US has done in Iraq and think it is unfair for it to be overlooked. This way of thinking is just wrong. The British in India built railroads and lots of infrastructure. By the 1940s, no Indians were grateful, and they just wanted the British out so that they could have their independent country. The railroads, they said, were after all mainly built to transport British troops and merchandise. When you mess with a people's independence, they stop being grateful for infrastructure. Ask King George III."
In the second half of his January 18 post, he skewers all the neocons with as much rage and bitterness as I've ever seen on his site.

Go read.

More of That Compassionate Conservatism

Can we stand so much love and concern?

Bush's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael O. Leavitt, has complete faith in capitalism to heal the sick:

"Mr. Leavitt said he did not believe that the secretary should have the power to negotiate with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
The current secretary of health and human services, Tommy G. Thompson, said last month that he wished Congress had given him that power. But Mr. Leavitt said that a healthy, competitive market was a better way to hold down drug prices."
Well, yes. After all, it's been working so well for us. Didn't they tell us the same thing about managed care?

And while we're on the subject of compassion, remember Alberto "Loophole" Gonzales? He has freed the CIA and U.S. mercenaries from any requirement of human treatment toward prisoners, and said even a Congressional ban on torture would not apply to certain aliens unlucky enough to be in U.S. custody offshore. In commenting on this:

Martin Lederman, a former Justice Department lawyer who has analyzed the administration's legal positions on treatment of prisoners, said the documents released Tuesday made it clear that the White House had carved an exemption for the C.I.A. in how it goes about interrogating terror suspects, allowing the agency to engage in conduct outside the United States that would be unconstitutionally abusive within its borders. Although the C.I.A. has been largely bound by Congressional bans on torture, Mr. Lederman said that standard was more permissive than the 2002 directive from Mr. Bush...'s notable," Mr. Lederman added, "that Gonzales is not willing to tell the senators or anyone else just what techniques the C.I.A. has actually been authorized to use."
Does he really need to? Hola, Guatamala!

Mercy, Ms. Boxer, How DO You Talk!

Pat Oliphant gets it right.

Oliphant and I have long shared a similar view on the National "Security" Advisor. Condi's charm continues to elude me. When people in the media go on to excuse her many failings with gracious comments on her marvelous background and her loyalty to Jr., I scratch my head in wonder. The woman may know something about Russia (which hasn't been too obvious lately, either) but she has always been completely out of her depth in the Mideast. Whatever people are seeing in this incompetent , ineffectual liar, it's over my head. Her performance yesterday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was satisfyingly true to form: full of dissembling and specious argument, and defensive posturing when called on her own record. "I would hope we could have this conversation without impugning my credibility or integrity"? Please, lady. That may work with the pre-K minds that usually surround you, but the fact is, nothing can erase the many transcripts we have of your bald-faced lies and backtracks. I mean, look.

Shorter Condi:
"We didn't know how many troops we'd need and we didn't look into it. We didn't secure the weapons sites and other crucial areas after invasion and didn't try even when we saw the looting and heard the reports. We aren't sorry there were no WMDs because even though you have the transcripts in which I insisted they were there and used that as the reason--the sole reason--for invasion, once we couldn't find them we made up a lot more after we stuck our fingers in the wind, and how dare you call me untruthful because of it? We never had an exit strategy and don't see a need to create one because we're in no hurry to get out, mostly because we have no idea how to extrcate ourselves. We're not sorry for any of it and we see no mistakes, and if we had it to do all over again, we would in a heartbeat. I can't tell you when we'll know we've been successful in Iraq, but I'll know it when I see it."
Yes. This is who we want bearing our nation's seal to other countries and building bridges around the world. More of the same, but worse. At least she'll do Colin the favor of looking great by comparison.

Update: Well, the fools are up doin' it again, as Tonio K. sang. Approved by the committee, and headed for a shoe-in confirmation by the Senate. The Democratic culprits: Joe Biden (DE), Paul Sarbanes (MD), Chris Dodd (CT), Russell Feingold (WI), Bill Nelson (FL), and Barack (nice start) Obama (IL). Get out your crayolas and talk to them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Today's the Day

The American Street is carrying my inaugural posts here, and here, today. Again, I thank Kevin Hayden and all of you who take an interest in my writing enough to care.

Elsewhere, Dick Cheney is decked out in his best trademark sneer in a 3-page piece at The NYTimes where he is threatening to wreak even more havoc than Junior himself has promised. Why do we keep letting old white men with no stake in the next 50 years keep trying to fuck up our kids' futures?

Update: Well, thanks for visiting, those of you who saw me for the first time today, and those who have been repeat customers, too. It's an odd feeling, getting hits without much feedback; like feeling the ocean lap at your feet as you sit alone in the sand. You know you're being touched by something too huge to be fully comprehended, too impersonal to care about you, but it draws you in and makes you feel one with it anyhow. Wasn't it Freud who coined the term "oceanic feeling"?

Knowing there are times when I'm getting more traffic makes me more self-conscious about my writing, and it gets a little harder to speak honestly when I let myself think about how it will be received. This is not good. I expect it will pass when fame and fortune continue to elude me. Until then, I vow to seek anonymity at all costs. To write for myself only. To remember that I started doing this to blow off steam. To have grandiose daydreams that will guarantee my obscurity. And when February rolls around, to reward my dieting ass with a few stiff drinks and some chocolate.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Birthdays, Awards, and Naked Aggression---It's Another Morning in America

Happy Birthday Gentlemen
Now avert your eyes:

Seymour Hersh is reporting that Bushco, not content with having opened one gaping, unstanchable flow of blood and chaos in the Mideast, is looking to slash open another in Iran. CNN, in stories yesterday and today, spoke with Hersh and the droids at Bushco, and The New Yorker, in a piece just posted online yesterday, runs the story from the man himself. Meanwhile, the BBC, in a story that appears based on a reading of The New Yorker piece, is also reporting that US commandos are operating inside Iran, running reconnaissance missions. In the New Yorker story, Hersh notes that efforts by our European allies to engage the US in negotiations with Iran to give up its nulear weapons program have been fruitless, and Europe doubts it will succeed without our help. But Bush has a much different focus: he's got a war machine and he's gonna use it. Hersh lays it out:
"The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible,” the government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me."
Of course, the really stupid part of all this is that Bush is relying on intelligence help from Pakistan, and got it in exchange for giving a pass to A.Q. Khan, who has been sowing nuclear seeds all over the world with his black market activities. But as usual, all is not as it seems. Hersh goes on to outline the "other" motive for invasion:
"The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran’s ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. “Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,” the consultant told me. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse”—like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said."
He goes on to draw the picture of a Pentagon in an ongoing turf war with the CIA, seeking to sidestep congressional oversight, and eventually freezing out other intelligence orgs entirely:
"The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he’s doing so they can ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘What are your priorities?’ Now he can keep all of the mattress mice out of it.”
Clueless but highly paid White House flack Dan Bartlett pooh-poohed the story as "riddled with inaccuracies." Well, I'll give them that. If anyone should be able to recognize "inaccuracies", it would be the Bushco gang.

And as of the drafting of this post, not a word about in in the NYTimes.

In happier news, over at my new vacation home, The American Street, voting has begun for The Perranoski Prizes, a second annual award for lefty bloggers. Get over there and make your voice heard; it may be the only election in which you'll be able to do that until the regime collapses.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hialeah Dreaming

Yesterday, slacktivist examined a piece written by Jonathan Rauch for the National Journal in which Rauch posits that the ultimate purpose behind the Repulican push to alter Social security is to re-engineer the public's perception of the duties of government and wean it from expecting social assistance for events which can be forseen.
Fred interprets Rauch as speaking for himself in calling SS "welfare", and then goes on to make a good case for why it isn't:

"Franklin D. Roosevelt was adamant, in creating Social Security, that the system was not welfare. To avoid that perception, or that accusation, he insisted that the flat-rate payroll taxes that fund the program be capped.
Most Americans don't realize that there's a cap on payroll taxes because most Americans don't make more than $87,900 a year.
Those who do, however, get a nice little tax break on their 87,901st dollar, and on every penny they earn beyond that...
Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You want to pretend it's welfare? Fine, let's pretend it's welfare. That means eliminating the cap on payroll taxes. And while we're at it, since this is a "welfare" program we're talking about now, let's keep in place the limit on new benefits for salary above that cap.
This would be a fundamental change -- from social insurance to social welfare. And it would likely create a boom in creative new forms of non-wage (and thus nontaxed) income. But the resulting infusion of revenue would ensure the complete solvency of the program until long after the last-living baby boom widow was buried."
But after reading the NJ article, I'm not sure whether Rauch was agreeing with conservatives that it is a form of welfare, or whether he was putting that forth as part of an example of conservative argument against excessive interference with public life.

That doesn't mean there isn't plenty of fodder for exasperation in it, most especially regarding the comforting myths about class and human behavior with which it enfolds itself. These are assumptions that we see parroted in the press and on websites everyday in statements by administration officials, "experts" and opinion-hurlers, until sheer repetition gives them the sheen of truth. For instance:
    That investment will naturally give higher returns than SS if one accepts the increased risks. Well, sure, if you put your money into volatile stocks that can also offer the potential for bankuptcy if you guess wrong. If you want to safeguard your old age with stocks equivalent in safety to SS, you're going to find that they pay just about the same as SS, plodding along unsexily, day after day. But those safe bets are a lot less common than they used to be, as stocks get wilder and wilder.

    That we need to encourage a "culture of saving and personal responsibility", improve work habits and reduce crime, and that SS privatization will do it. Guess what? Crime is down, has been going down, and shows every indication of continuing to go down.
    In addition, Americans are working more hours, are more productive, and have less leisure than citizens of any other developed nation. They are kept at the grindstone by businesses that refuse to hire needed additional workers in order to save on wages and benefits, then overwork their existing workforces to make up for it. This is the reason business pushed so hard last year for a redefinition of the "supervisory" employee, so that rank and file workers could be made to work overtime without receiving the overtime pay they once did.
    As for class warfare, what do they know about it? Someone dares mention that the policies of the administration have consistently favored the wealthy and attacked the weakest among us, and the right-wing, in its best Orwellian language, boo-hoos that it's "class warfare". Someone once cited a peasant rebellion in Britain against a local lord that culminated in the rape and dismemberment of his wife and children in front of his eyes, after which he was roasted alive on a spit. That, said he, was class warfare. The fact that so many of us have sat slack-jawed in front of the television watching this parade of outrages every night and not lifted one finger to redress them, even on our own behalf, is the amazing thing, and the only thing that prevents any real class warfare from occuring.

    That involvement of the masses in the ownership of their own investment funds will make them more like the average Wall Street habituee, and create millions more Republican-prone voters. Oh, yes. And we'll just be rife with buying and selling, and merging and trading, and then we'll all hold hands and sing as the next right-wing extremist mounts the presidential throne. Hmmm. Old ladies with a pittance in fast-dwindling blue chips will suddenly feel solidarity with Warren Buffett? When's the last time these guys had to stretch a paycheck from one week to the next, or weighed the merits of spending more on one kind of cereal over another based on how long it would last or how many it would feed? How many leave bills or utilities partially- or unpaid from month to month to pay other, more pressing debts? How many haven't seen a movie or bought new clothes for months because the money just wasn't there? And how many put off the doctor, or dentist, because there are more important things to buy, and they'll just wait and see if the pain goes away by itself? And they think these people, because a change in SS frees up $100-$200 a month, are going to sink the extra into a pie-in-the-sky someday crapshoot? And even if they did, who is going to teach them how? The government itself, that can't even understand or control the consequences of its own economic decisions?
It would be wonderful if the social engineers and media loudmouths that hold forth so glibly on other people's lives would step outside and spend a little time living them. But as that isn't going to happen, I have my own proposal for applying their principles for SS change to the rest of the US budget:
Let's take, say, the revenue for highways and transportation, and give it to the Secretary of the Treasury, and send him down to Hialeah to see if he can't double the national take before sending it along for disbursement to the states. If he loses, hey, that's what happens when you live in a Darwinian idyll of personal responsiblity.

Update: And while we're on the subject (and with an ear to the ground on this trumped up bullshit over the Dean/bloggers issue), why is it that taxpayer money is being used by the SS Administration to flog a political agenda for Bushco? There's grumbling in the ranks, though.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bush Has Moment of Introspection---Magnetic Poles Collapse

Yes, it's reported by Reuters, so it must be true. And to no less a personage than her nibs, Lady Walters:
"President Bush said he regretted sending the wrong impression of the United States when he used phrases like "Bring 'em on" and "dead or alive" in his first term and pledged to be more diplomatic.
"'Bring it on,' was a little blunt," the president said in a transcript of the interview released on Thursday...
I remember when I talked about Osama bin Laden, I said we're going to get him dead or alive. I guess it's not the most diplomatic of language...
Our public diplomacy efforts aren't...very robust, and aren't very good, compared to the public diplomacy efforts of those who would like to spread hatred and...and vilify the United States..."
Gee. Ya think? What can we expect next from this newborn paragon of deliberation...expressions of empathy?

Update: Over at The Agonist, they're linking to 3 easy pieces by the Post, the Times, and the LATimes that neatly condense the results of Bush's thoughtless rush to war. Back in 2002 I remember the voices crying in the wilderness, (Lewis Lapham of Harper's, foremost among them) warning of just such a result if the neocons had their way.

Well, if George keeps making the kind of progress reflected in his puff piece with Barbara above, who knows what bloodshed and disaster we might nearly avoid in the next 4 years. At any rate, I'm sure the families of the dead can take comfort in his newly-found talents of self-examination.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

S’Plain To Me, Lucy

Just when you think you’ve heard every possible permutation of human cruelty and idiocy, along comes this, from Alabama (dated 12/21/04):

“Two people were arrested and seven dogs seized Friday in Warrior as part of a four-state crackdown of "hog-dog" animal fighting, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office…
In those events, a dog - usually a pit or American bulldog - and a hog or wild boar with its tusks removed are put in a pen, and they fight until the dog forces the hog to the ground. Both animals typically suffer major injuries in the fight, according to the South Carolina attorney general's office.
Federal and state authorities are working with the Humane Society of the United States to combat hog-dog fighting in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina…
In Alabama, it is illegal to hold fights between two dogs, but there is no law preventing fights between a dog and another species…”
And from South Carolina (dated 12/22/04):
“South Carolina investigators found out about the bloody sport, called a “hog-dog rodeo,” while conducting a statewide probe of illegal dog-fighting during the past year, said William Frick, the state lawyer prosecuting three Chester County residents accused of involvement in hog-dog matches.
The state participated in an interstate probe of the fights, which led to arrests last weekend. Authorities made raids in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Arizona and arrested at least seven people…
The object is to see how fast the dog, usually a pit bull, can pull the wild boar to the ground.
Unlike organized rodeos pitting cowboys against cattle, pit bulls usually maim or injure the hogs as they bite the animals to pull them to the ground. To make sure the dogs aren’t hurt, event organizers saw off the razor-sharp tusks of wild hogs.
People watch the sport, place bets and cheer as the pit bull attacks the hog.
Humane Society investigator Steve Stephenson said making the case against them might be more difficult than in a dog-fighting case...
That’s because it is legal in South Carolina to hunt wild boar with dogs. So people charged with coaxing dogs to attack hogs could claim they are merely training the animals to hunt boar in the wild…”
In the arrests in Arizona, charges filed against the perps also included weapon and child abuse charges (big surprise).

Where I live there has been an ongoing problem with cockfights and dogfights, which is bad enough, but this is a whole new dimension. Can there be a more degraded and cowardly form of human behavior?

Don’t answer that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


First Sitemeter goes down on Saturday, then Blogger blows up tonight. It's like a vast right-wing conspiracy. Oh, fuck it.

First, let me say that I do not, under any circumstances, care one whit about Armstrong Williams, and that is the last time his name will darken my blog.

Second, the hide-and-go-seek for Weapons of Mass Destruction has been officially called off, and the always risible Scott McClellan sez:

"And now what is important is that we need to go back and look at what was wrong with much of the intelligence that we had accumulated over a 12-year period and that our allies had accumulated over that same period of time and correct any flaws."
Of course those among us who have not yet been lobotomized by the last 4 years will recall that "what was wrong" was that the White House pressured CIA analysts to come up with acceptable intelligence that could be warped to fit its agenda of raw aggression, and then stovepiped it to Dick Cheney for final approval.

Third, I've been in the Induction phase of the Atkins Diet that I swore I would die before doing, and I haven't had a drink for two weeks, and Christ, could I use one when I sit down to write about all this.

Fourth, Bush's ronin are preparing to drown that mother in the bathtub, taking kids and veterans down the drain with it. The man is not human, though he plays one on TV.

Finally, and most seriously, a big thank you to Kevin Hayden over at The American Street for finding something he liked in my ravings and giving them a home at his site. I am joining a stellar team of writers and journalists there as a regular contributer, and feel pretty damned overmatched, but I promise to work hard, keep my nose clean, and maybe I can grow up to be like them one day.

Another Freedom Fighter For Freep

Hilary Clinton may have a special interest in making life hard for yet another of Bush' nominee's for the head of Homeland Security. The New York Observer casts an interesting light on Michael Chertoff's upcoming consideration for rhe post: his history as Alfonse D'Amato's attack dog during the Watergate investigations, and in particular, his involvement in the snoop into Vince Foster's suicide:

"The bad blood between Mrs. Clinton and the 51-year-old prosecutor stems from the tangled days when he served as chief counsel to Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s Senate Whitewater investigation committee. For more than two years, he chipped zealously away at the investigation that would ultimately metastasize into the Monica Lewinsky affair. Mr. Chertoff personally delved into the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. He also chased—and ultimately uncovered—the missing law-firm billing records that led directly to Mrs. Clinton’s testimony before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury."
And meanwhile, over at The Village Voice, Chertoff is considered by James Ridgeway to have the potential to become another Ashcroft, only moreso:

"Steven Brill, in his book After reports sources saying that in strategy sessions at the Justice Department, Chertoff went along with holding detainees for long periods of time, and even argued that if some of them got hearings, the proceedings "could not only be done in secret, but also could be delayed, and that even after the hearings were held and they were ordered deported [usually for only minor immigration violations], there was nothing in the law that said they absolutely had to be deported immediately. They could be held still longer."
Brill reports that, under immigration rules, the prisoners "were entitled to call a lawyer from jail, but the lists the INS provided of available lawyers invariably had phone numbers that were not in service."
Wrote Brill: "Chertoff reasoned that while they were being held they would be discouraged from calling lawyers, and could be questioned without lawyers present because they were not being charged with any crime.”
Like I said before: Americans like continuity, and Chertoff will certainly fill that bill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Screw the Help (Again)

Do people still know what it's like to spend a long day at work, every muscle aching from the job you're doing, and then to go home and collapse in a heap to try and rest up so you can make it through tomorrow, without the energy left to do much of anything else? Well you can be sure some people do.

But they aren't likely to be the ones sitting in the capitol pulling the strings on Social Security. I am sick to death of people without a clue as to what it's like working hard, underpaid physical labor, who sit around making pronouncements about what should be done with our money. When is the last time someone who worked with their hands went from the worksite to the House or Senate? When is the last time they sat on a thinktank or journalists' roundtable of "experts" to hold forth on what should be done with the little peoples' retirement future?

There's been a lot of discussion about the future of S.S., but much of it betrays a blindness (or callousness) as to what many of the suggestions, if implemented, would mean in the real world. Many of those who would gut and destroy the system have no worries for their own futures, and the existence of that check each month is not going to make much difference to them either way.
One of the worst suggestions being seriously considered by Republicans and open to compromise by the Democrats is the possibility of raising the retirement age to bring it in line with (let's face it, because they're the highest) white female longevity averages. But who really looks at what impact this could have?
Over at Brad DeLong's site, he quotes Irwin Stelzer of the Weekly Standard as having "some smart things to say about Social Security". "Smart" meaning, in part, that:

"Surely, extending the retirement age to reflect current longevity expectations should also be on the table."
Surely, no reasonable person with a 6 figure income, a portfolio to die for, and plenty of investments squirreled away offshore, anyway.

This was my response in DeLong's comments section:
"As long as the subject of raising the retirement age keeps coming up, let's talk about what that would mean for people whose work consists of hard physical labor, often with physical side effects that can be debilitating over a long period of time.
I never hear anyone discussing this, probably because the people debating it and most likely to write or influence the law on it themselves work mostly in offices where the hardest labor they encounter may be hauling a couple reams of paper, and the worst disabling injury may be carpal tunnel syndrome.
Getting to the average retirement age in one piece and still working can be a challenge to people who work in meat-packing plants, construction, domestic service, and similar work.
Many of these people are praying every day that their bodies will hold out. To move the retirement age even farther away from them is not only cruel, it is symptomatic of how alienated the governing and academic classes are from the people who create and support the infrastructures of their cushioned lives."
The question is now: Who will stand up for these people? Who is left to be their voice in the media, the government, and on the street now that the Democrats have abandoned human rights and justice for the sexy language of "moral values", and the Republican party has safely made the final transition to a completely plutocratic vehicle for the rich and powerful?

God's Will

Monday morning as I was fumbling for my work clothes, I was listening to Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR’s religion correspondent, do a piece which the website describes as how, for some people--
“…the tsunami disaster raises major questions of faith: How could so many innocent people be swept away, what could be behind such enormous devastation? We'll talk with members of different religions about how they reconcile human suffering with the idea that God watches over the world.”
She went on to interview a number of clerical people and adherents about their beliefs on this score, and I suppose the result was not unexpected: a division between those who fatalistically accept the tragedy, or even contribute it to human evil, and those who don't.

The Muslim cleric felt such miseries are called down by a God who micromanages everything to the last iota, for a purpose know only to Him (sic). We can merely hang on knowing He is all good, being satisfied that only when we die will we understand his plan and know why it happened. The pantheist in Asia believed that because we have so badly abused nature, the God who is in all of nature has sent this destruction as a warning. The Baptist preacher believed that, since all humanity is born sinful, there is no one not deserving of death. Thus the devastation of the tsunami was a sign of His anger at our generically evil ways, and additionally, a rebuke to him (the preacher), in particular, to remind him of his sinful ways and need for repentance. (More about this in a minute). And there was the rabbi who believed that the meaning of it and the understanding of God, for us, is found not in the acts of destruction themselves but in the way we respond and react to them.

I have known variations on the Baptist's thoughts all my life, but even now I can't help hearing a certain egomaniacal heartlessness in them. God, being the merciless angry guy he is, decides to wipe away half a million human beings, most of whom are children, because they're all bad, and because the world needs another lesson, and especially because some particular white guy in America needs a reminder of how bad he is. If God is so concerned about this guy's soul that He wants to make an impression, how about a lightning bolt directly at someone he cares about, like a family member? But no, that would be too close to home. God speaks much better through the blood and misery of people half way around the world. It's so convenient to prattle on about God's blessings and judgments(as so many U.S. TV broadcasts have done), when we can sit safe and warm in the comfort of our untroubled houses and cluck over the nightly news. And how much better it makes us feel to believe that those people deserved it anyway, every infant of them, because we're all sunk in sin! As usual, the primitive god of the Old Testament wins out again over the one of the New Testament. How ironic, then, that a representative whose religion is all Old Testament espoused what felt to me like the most humane and intuitively "right" view--the rabbi who finds meaning in how men behave when faced with tragedy. Because isn't that really how we see the good and evil in ourselves? We're faced with events that challenge the things we know, the way we understand the universe, and we turn away, or plunge in to help, or we're shown a mirror of our own flaws and strengths as we set them in motion. With our actions and inactions we create a reality that can be heaven or hell, or just a pointless limbo. We learn who we are, and how we relate to our Creator, not by what He does to us, but by what we do to Him, and each other.

I think I want to be a Jew. The link to the audio of the piece can be found here. Click on the Monday, Jan 10 show.

And finally, a quick note that Ira Glass' This American Life had a fine piece on NPR Sunday about soldiers in Iraq and their families, called "In Country". Touching and galvanizing especially for the parts on the National Guardsman and the interview between the uncle and his nephew Rob still in Iraq. Go listen.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Forget the Xanax---Pass the Morphine Drip

Throughout the land, jackals are moving in to finish off the struggling remnants of our freedoms as they lay bleeding life, gutted by Republican fanaticism. Sometimes they get to the body, and sometimes the body fights back.

First among jackals, Virginia Delegate John Cosgrove and his proposed House Bill 1677, which would require the filing of a "fetal death report" for every medically-attended fetal death occuring in the state. You can see where this is headed: it would create an equivalence between the death of a fetus and that of a fully-formed, viable human being, one more inroad toward the goal of making fetuses legal persons and abortion, murder. But this in itself is not the most amazing thing about this bill, which goes on to state:

"When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. "
There was no cutoff of gestational age for this absurd and heartless law, so it would apply to a fertilized blastocyst a few days old as well as to a nearly-to-term baby. It's entirely likely, given the way the human body works, that every woman on the planet has had a miscarriage at one time or another and not known it, literally flushing it down the toilet with her menstrual flow. Imagine trying to report a period that arrived a few days late.

Furthermore, the officer taking the report has a raft of pointless and prying questions s/he is required to grill the woman with, many of which would be unanswerable if the miscarriage occurred much before 16 weeks, and certainly before 12 weeks. As the bearer of these bad tidings, Democracy for Virginia relates that the punishment of a Class 1 misdemeanor in that state can result in a 12 month jail term and $2500 fine. Here are some other violations of the law at that level which Cosgrove had no problem seeing as equivalent:

  • " A person 18 years of age or older engaging in consensual intercourse with a child 15 or older not his spouse, child or grandchild (more commonly known as "statutory rape")
  • burning or destroying a building or structure if the property therein is valued at less than $200 (arson)
  • a bomb threat made by someone younger than 15
  • carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • possession or distribution of fraudulent drivers’ licenses or official identification
  • stalking
  • threatening any public school employee while on a school bus, on school property, or at a school-sponsored activity
  • purchasing or providing alcohol to minors
"So, Delegate Cosgrove is basically saying that failing to violate your own privacy within 12 hours of a miscarriage is the criminal equivalent of statutory rape, arson, stalking, and other serious crimes. "
DFV ended by asking those who live in VA to write Cosgrove and their own delegates and senators about it, and to participate in a number of other activities to raise awareness.

Evidently the word spread pretty fast, and by this a.m. Cosgrove did a quick backtrack on the "fetal deaths" covered by the bill. He wrote to DFV:
"My bill in no way intends that a woman who suffers a miscarriage should be charged for not notifying authorities. The bill in no way mentions miscarriages, only deliveries. However, after discussing the bill again with our legislative services lawyers, I have decided to include language that will define the bill to apply only to those babies that are claimed to have been stillborn and that are abandoned as stated above."
Never thought to talk to the lawyers first, eh? Not that it might have mattered, if they were anything like Alberto.

This is how bad law is made in this country. Political expediency and shallow thinking, combined with blindered fanaticism, make the perfect recipe for lousy law drafted by legislators rushing to to nail down the coffin on the Bill of Rights. This is how we got the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo, and Iraq.

And if you don't think it can happen again, just wait. There's always a chance no one will notice.

Thanks to The Project for The Old American Century for the original tip.

Better Than Xanax

Just go see.

God bless The Poor Man.

The Conservatives' New and Improved Fuck-You

Here, from December 30, 2004, on the Ayn Rand Institute website (orginally noted at Talking Points Memo), was the intellectuals' old mean and nasty refusal to help tsunami victims:

"According to altruism--the morality that most Americans accept and that politicians exploit for all it's worth--those who have more have the moral obligation to help those who have less. This is why Americans--the wealthiest people on earth--are expected to sacrifice (voluntarily or by force) the wealth they have earned to provide for the needs of those who did not earn it. It is Americans' acceptance of altruism that renders them morally impotent to protest against the confiscation and distribution of their wealth. It is past time to question--and to reject--such a vicious morality that demands that we sacrifice our values instead of holding on to them."
But evidently enough people saw this travesty to send a ripple of discomfort up their shrivelled old spines, and without actually retracting the whole thing they have re-grouped. Now what you get, after some stable-sweeping, is the new improved, more compassionate refusal to help:

"But of all the ways in which our government today fails to uphold individual rights, providing (through compulsory taxation) short-term, emergency relief to foreign victims of a natural disaster is among the most innocuous. It was therefore inappropriate to single out for condemnation the government’s offer of assistance. True, it would be preferable to use the aid money for a legitimate function of government, such as to purchase needed military equipment and armor for our soldiers in Iraq, who are being asked to risk their lives to defend our freedom. It is likely, moreover, that the increase in aid offered by our government in the days after the disaster stemmed not from benevolence but from surrender to the altruists' corrupt demand that the U.S. had not sacrificed enough. Nevertheless, thousands of the government's actions are more damaging to our rights."
Whew! Now devout conservatives and libertarians everywhere can hold their noses and give the government a pass since saving lives and easing suffering is officially a "lesser evil".

Is it any wonder that these people can't bring themselves to repudiate the hate-spewing poison of their media vanguard? (Thanks to Orcinus for the link).

Home of the Brazen

There's been some controversy generated by the consumer-in-chief's plans to move forward with the inaugural festivities this month. Even a fellow Texas moneybags, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, thinks the money might be better spent on brown foreign people without homes who have lost everything:

"My point was that this was a great opportunity for the president to stand up and say that we are committed to aid, but we need to take a first step towards austerity so we can reduce the deficit," Cuban said Friday via e-mail.
"A great way to demonstrate that first step would be to have the inauguration, but cancel the parties and request the uncommitted donations be donated to the relief effort," he said."
But what about the right of the Bushies to have their big party?

"Asked if it was fair to deny Bush supporters a celebration, Cuban, who said he voted for the president, replied, "Since when is the level of celebration defined by the amount spent?"
Even Clinton has defended this egregious in-your-face rah-rah, with the mealy-mouthed excuse that:

"I voted for the other fellow, but President Bush won this election fair and square. And he ought to - he ought to be able to have his inaugural. And his supporters should be able to celebrate it, however they see fit. And I don't think that it will detract one red cent from the money that we will give privately or publicly to this relief effort."
Well, maybe not, but this is not an issue of money, Bill. It's about symbolism, and gestures of morality like self-denial, compassion, propriety, coming as it does at a time when the country has never been so polarized, and death has never been on such friendly terms with our Dauphin. But it would be too much to expect that these people have any sense of fineness, or subtlety, or that they would try to heal wounds. Nah. Such suggestions are foolish at best, outrageous at worst! How could any decent supportive American deny Bush and his scaffolding this moment in the sun?

Imagine that. Imagine being put off by a nasty, selfish little frat boy who has never been denied anything, just because he wants to spend more money than has ever been spent before on coronation activities designed to mirror those of the most profligate monarchy during a time of war and natural tragedy unseen since the days of Vietnam?

Imagine suggesting that Bush ought to generate some political good will capital by donating the money to tsunami victim relief, instead of further aggravating the perceptions of class division and polarization that have been so exacerbated by his administration's policies over the last 4 years?

Imagine suggesting that Bush himself display some of the class and humility and sense of decorum of past presidents by denying himself an opportunity of public self-puffery?

Why, what naieve and provincial ideas! Why start now? And why should we expect anything remotely resembling nobility from one of the most common and classless individuals ever to hold the office? One thing Americans like, and that's continuity. They like it in their restaurants, their movies, and their politicians. Let's not disappoint them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Battling Through the Fog

It's been a long hard week back at work. Between that and the Gonzales nomination hearing, Bush touring for the insurance industry, the continuing tragedies unfolding in Iraq and tsunami-drenched Asia, the death of honor in the House, and the untroubled slumber of the American people and their representatives and media, it's been hard to roust outrage out of depression.

But Paul Krugman is back, and he at least has a knack for making me feel less alone. He cites some of these things in his column today as fodder for a bad novel, and then asks the question of all us dazed and confused:

"How did we find ourselves living in a bad novel? It was not ever thus. Hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels have always been with us, on both sides of the aisle. But 9/11 created an environment some liberals summarize with the acronym Iokiyar: it's O.K. if you're a Republican.
The public became unwilling to believe bad things about those who claim to be defending the nation against terrorism. And the hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels of the right, empowered by the public's credulity, have come out in unprecedented force.

...The principal objection to making Mr. Gonzales attorney general is that doing so will tell the world that America thinks it's acceptable to torture people. But his confirmation will also be a statement about ethics...
As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales was charged with vetting Mr. Kerik. He must have realized what kind of man he was dealing with - yet he declared Mr. Kerik fit to oversee homeland security.
Did Mr. Gonzales defer to the wishes of a president who wanted Mr. Kerik anyway, or did he decide that his boss wouldn't want to know? (The Nelson Report, a respected newsletter, reports that Mr. Bush has made it clear to his subordinates that he doesn't want to hear bad news about Iraq.)
Either way, when the Senate confirms Mr. Gonzales, it will mean that Iokiyar remains in effect, that the basic rules of ethics don't apply to people aligned with the ruling party. And reality will continue to be worse than any fiction I could write."
Welcome back, Paul.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"W" This.

Any connection between this, and this?

Face it, we are seeing espousers of hate and their philospohies being mainstreamed into the present media and government, and David Neiwert over at Orcinus tying the facsist connection into a tighter and tighter knot. And okay, I'll admit, it gives the kid in me a real kick to link Bush and his mean-spirited, racist, hate-inspired policies to a known white supremacist group. Still, I can't help wonder exactly who came up with the logo I started seeing on car bumpers during the election, what their background is, and how they came by the design. Anyone have any ideas on this?

The NYTimes, They Are A-Changing

What's this? A NYTimes front page story carrying a picture of a dead Palestinian child? Gee, with all those Pulitzers around his neck, I wonder why it took Sulzberger so long to figure it out?

Not to worry, though. They still have Safire to carry the torch for that old war criminal Sharon. In an opinion piece today he claims that Palestinian leader Abbas has reacted to the killing of Palestinian children by claiming that

all Arab casualties were "martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy." He hopes to win extremists' votes by adopting their hate-filled rhetoric as well as Arafat's platform of a "right of return" of Arabs to overwhelm Israel.
In fact, Abbas was referring specifically to the killing of 7 Palestinian children who were on their way to pick fruit and:

"were mistaken for Palestinian militants and killed by Israeli tank shells.
The tanks used anti-personnel shells, which throw out thousands of metal darts in a deadly cloud. Children aged 10, 12, 13 and 14 and three 17-year-olds were killed. A further 11 people were injured, four critically."
You'd think that the use of the word "Zionist" in an expression of outrage by this historically moderate man, who has tried very hard to seek peace, could be understood by the same people who had no problem accepting the many international insults thrown about by Bush and his administration over the last 4 years. But I guess it all depends on what fits comfortably into one's preferred worldview.

And whose children are dying. Any hard study of the way the U.S. media has covered the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the years can't fail to see that their sympathies lie primarily with Israel, which has done nothing to help Americans understand the issues at stake, and has allowed our government to put the problem on the back burner since Bush and his chillingly ignorant crew have taken over. While the Times and its sisters have seldom failed to splash blood-drenched pix of dead Israelis all over their pages (with gratuitous desriptions of gore), they seldom pause to note what effect there has been on Palestinians and their children.

The solution to their conflict is one of the keys to improving relations with Muslim countries and turning the "war on terrorism" around. But if we keep wrapping ourselves in the comfort of our ignorance, the deaths will keeping mounting, and our cluelessness will become more than just a Sisyphean rock.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Young, Male, and Rich?

Pew Research has a new report out on weblogging that is full of nutritious data aggregates and bandwidth goodness. From a poll involving over 1800 people, they found that 7% of internet users (more than 8 million people out of about 120 million U.S. adults) have created a blog or web journal since the polling began in spring of 2002, and 12% have posted a comment or data on a blog (dontcha feel special?). Most amazing, the number of people who read blogs jumped by 58% this year since February, most likely due to the election year and coverage of and by bloggers. Strangely, though, most people (62%) who use the net don't even know what a blog is. So exactly who are these chosen few? According to the report:

"Blog creators are more likely to be:
· Men: 57% are male
· Young: 48% are under age 30
· Broadband users: 70% have broadband at home
· Internet veterans: 82% have been online for six years or more
· Relatively well off financially: 42% live in households earning over $50,000
· Well educated: 39% have college or graduate degrees"
And those who read blogs are identified thus:

"Like bloggers, blog readers are more likely to be young, male, well educated, internet veterans. Still, since our survey February, there has been greater-than-average growth in blog readership among women, minorities, those between the ages of 30 and 49, and those with home dialup connections...
...In contrast, the internet users who did not know about blogs were relative newbies to the internet, less fervent internet users, and those with less educational attainment."
To me, the fascinating thing about this is how easy it is to feel so surrounded by the internet community of my choice that I can fool myself into thinking the whole world experiences what I do. Yet there are so many more converts out there yet to make, and many more weblogs and posters yet to come.
When I first went online in 1995, it felt like setting off into a sparsely populated desert. Now it seems more like getting on the train at rush hour. What might it be like in 5 more years?

You can read the report in pdf here.