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February 27, 2003

Our broadcast week ends

Blogging will be light to nonexistent until Monday. I won't be checking email much either--in fact, you're probably better off waiting to send anything until next week, if you don't want your message to get lost in the inevitable avalanche. See you in a few.

From the mailbag

As I mentioned, the wingnuts are all over the highly improbable teachers-taunting-students story. A reader points me to a talk radio host in Tennessee who is apparently planning to hold a fundraiser in which his listeners will be able to express their frustration with the French by smashing a Peugeot with a sledgehammer--god, it just makes your head hurt, doesn't it?--and who now suggests that Maine schoolteachers might be a good target for those sledgehammers as well:


The version of the article this thoughtful fellow links to is from the Washington Times, and if you take the trouble to actually read it, this is what you learn:

Mr. Albanese told the Bangor Daily News that only one complaint involved classroom remarks, after the child of a Guard member became upset during a discussion of Iraq when a teaching assistant "took up the anti-war" argument.

Other incidents, according to Mr. Albanese, involved a child who had requested to leave school early for a military-related activity and a student who was teased on a school bus because he has a parent in the military.

So in other words, what we've got here is one teaching assistant who may or may not have said something vaguely critical of the war effort, and a bunch of seven year olds teasing each other.

Maybe Bill O'Reilly can bring the little tykes on his show and expose them as enemies of the state.

"You will be considered enemies of the state"

I hope MWO will forgive me the lengthy excerpt from their site, but this is extraordinary:

Bill O'Reilly - 02/26:

"Once the war against Saddam Hussein begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if you can't do that, just shut up.

Americans, and indeed our foreign allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway, will be considered enemies of the state by me.

Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand and others who see the world as you do. I don't want to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well. Let's just say you will be spotlighted.

Talking points invites all points of view and believes vigorous debate strengthens the country, but once decisions have been made and lives are on the line, patriotism must be factored in."

Finally, the bait and switch. O'Reilly tells you that you must not only support American troops but support the Iraq policies of "the government" - Which means, of course, the policies, methods, and timetable of the unelected fraud who occupies the White House as a result of successfully fighting to crush democracy in America:

"This does not give the government carte blanche to do anything, but it does give the government the benefit of the doubt at least until that benefit is proven wrong as it was in Vietnam."

No it doesn't, you unAmerican loudmouth.

And how, pray tell, can government policy be "proven wrong" when Americans have been denied their freedom of speech? O'Reilly doesn't tell his freshly frothed fans. He doesn't have to - they're Moron-American sheep who won't ask.

But those patriots who believe the longer troops remain in Iraq the greater the risk to them and to American civilians as a result of an energized al Qaeda, winning new, insane, willing, suicidal recruits by the day are not only free to assert political pressure on the American government but morally obligated to speak out against that government policy.

No one is obligated to support policy that they believe risks the lives of American servicemen and ensures additional mass murders of thousands more American civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Hey! Great news!

The White House has lowered the terror level to "Yellow"!

Let's all get out there and par-tay!

The sound of one hand slapping a forehead


Re sponding to criticism from Democrats and to the mounting concern of state and local governments, the White House is now saying that the long delayed government spending plan for the year does not provide enough money to protect against terrorist attacks on American soil.



February 26, 2003

Once again, your cynicism is entirely justified

The liberal media conspiracy in action:

While "Donahue" does badly trail both O'Reilly and CNN's Connie Chung in the ratings, those numbers have improved in recent weeks. So much so that the program is the top-rated show on MSNBC, beating even the highly promoted "Hardball With Chris Matthews."

Although Donahue didn't know it at the time, his fate was sealed a number of weeks ago after NBC News executives received the results of a study commissioned to provide guidance on the future of the news channel.

That report--shared with me by an NBC news insider--gives an excruciatingly painful assessment of the channel and its programming. Some of recommendations, such as dropping the "America's News Channel," have already been implemented. But the harshest criticism was leveled at Donahue, whom the authors of the study described as "a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace."

The study went on to claim that Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

More here.

Actually, it is about the oil

An elaboration from Max Sawicky, for readers perplexed by the obvious:

Here are the arguments I could find...for why this war couldn't possibly be about oil.

1. The oil companies have not agitated for war. They want to keep doing business with dictators.
2. The best way to keep oil flowing is to maintain the status quo.
3. Oil is not needed to explain the demand for war; an important justification is Iraq's flaunting of UN resolutions, resolutions even endorsed by France.

Kucinich is held to be a 'fool' for not grasping these self-evident truths.

Regarding (1), of course an oil company would be foolish to advocate war when it has to maintain relationships with Arab governments. It would also be foolish to gloss over the difference between buying oil and selling it. As buyer an oil company is a mere middleman. As seller it collects the economic rents inherent in the resource. Now the division of these rents depends entirely on the deal struck between the owner of a resource and the concern that obtains the right to exploit it. As owner, I might strike a deal that gives me ten percent of the rents or 90 percent. What determines the split? It depends on bargaining power and political power. Guess where that would be with a U.S. military government in charge of Iraq?

It is fair to say that there is some ideal price of oil in the New World Order. Too high retards economic growth everywhere. Too low fails to reward the owners of the resource, or it encourages wasteful use. As Thomas Friedman noted in a column a week or so ago, there is some happy medium, an important ingredient of which is stability in price, shipments, and the like. Now you might disagree with this view, but it would be stupid to call it stupid, much less a "lie."

(2) The status quo is unstable. It has already been proven so. Arab and Muslim regimes are none too stable. More effective cartelization is a possibility. Stability makes perfect sense as an argument for U.S. takeover. Indeed, a rationale for ejecting Saddam from Kuwait was to prevent him from going on to Saudi Arabia and becoming the master of a huge share of world oil extraction. Of course, it also makes sense to fear political instability and terrorism resulting from a greater U.S. presence in the region. Look what a more limited presence has brought us thus far. Once again, possibly wrong but not stupid.

(3) Iraq's conduct with respect to the UN is arguably a legal or moral justification for war. But from this standpoint, such a war is not necessarily in the U.S. interest. Other countries are in violation of UN resolutions, but are not by virtue of that automatic objects of military threat from the UN. The "even France" argument is irrelevant. France is not (and should not be) dedicating itself to advancing the U.S. national interest.

Personally, I do not think the war is motivated by a desire to expropriate Arab resources. That's a mere side benefit. I do think it is motivated by a felt need to control and stabilize the region. One such purpose is to prevent uncertainty in energy production from becoming a factor for instability in the world economy. A second is to enhance Israeli security. A third is to preclude Arab and Muslim nationalism from spinning into a more assertive anti-U.S. mode. A fourth is to beat back terrorist threats. Why do I think this? In part, because Perle and others in the Administration have been talking this line for the past ten years.

Much more.

Long overdue

The Rush Limbaugh transcript project is up and running. So let's get busy fact checking his ass, people. (Also: they need volunteers.)

Via Hesiod.

The smell test

This doesn't come close to passing it, though the wingnuts are apparently all over it.

What I see in this article are a lot of unsubstantiated allegations. I don't see any specifics. I don't know anything more about it, but this just reeks of something getting blown up all out of proportion. You know: some teacher says something innocuous about the debate over war, and the next thing you know, the leap-before-you-look crowd has translated this into "your daddy is an evil baby killer!"

A reader asks...

...why Josh Marshall is being so coy, when it takes about twenty seconds to Google the mysterious article he mentions. (It's about Dennis Kucinich, in case you can't get through.)

It's a long piece and I've admittedly only skimmed it, which is why I've edited this entry a bit. Curious to see where he's going with this, though.

Bandwidth crisis update

As you may know, this site had a bit of a problem recently, when we went over our bandwidth limit and the hosting company, Earthlink, imposed a penalty to the tune of $3800. Happily, the people at Earthlink proved to be reasonable and willing to work with us on this, and we reached a compromise, and were supposed to have had a large piece of that penalty deposited back into the appropriate account within a few days (we had one of those direct-payment deals set up).

It hasn't happened yet.

Hope it's just working its way through the bureaucracy more slowly than expected; otherwise, I may have to start rattling the tip jar again. We shall see. (Any of our friends from Earthlink out there reading this?)

Outrage overload, cont'd.

You've seen those "if you take drugs you support terror" ads, of course.

Well, if you support the administration's particular version of a war on terror, this is the sort of thing you support:

Bernadette Devlin McCaliskey, the world-renowned Irish civil rights leader was refused entry into the United States of Ashcroft. At Chicago's O'Hare, she was told that she presented a danger and wouldn't be permitted to step foot on American soil. She begged them to recheck their computer. She insisted there had to be a mistake. She told them she came in peace. They said that Tony Blair's British government had told them by fax a different story. They said she was a risk. Yes, this is the same Devlin who at 21 became the youngest MP elected to Parliament. Deported.

And then there's this:

Last week, Eugene Angelopoulos arrived at JFK enroute to New York University, where he had been invited to speak at a conference on Philosophy and Politics. The Greek academic was instead detained at the airport, shackled and interrogated. He was asked to explain his views about an American war on Iraq, and immigration officials demanded to know if he was "anti-American." Ultimately, he found his way back to Athens, but his NYU stint was not to be, and he was shaken to the core.

And then there's the case of the nationalized Canadian citizen who was deported "back" to his homeland of Syria and has not been heard from since.

Is this the America you want to live in?

Maybe you don't care, because you figure you're a good, law-abiding, patriotic, white-skinned American citizen, and it's never going to affect you. In which case, you will most certainly get the country you deserve.

Strange, though, how so many self-identified libertarians seem unfazed by things like this. Too busy giving toy guns to kids in Harlem, I guess.

Update: here's a Canadian citizen who was deported to India.

Sad to say, if you're dark skinned and Canadian, you might want to avoid travelling through American airports.

Outrage overload

I am speechless.

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is proposing to exempt the Pentagon's controversial missile defense system from operational testing legally required of every new weapons system in order to deploy it by 2004.

Buried in President Bush's 2004 budget, in dry, bureaucratic language, is a request to rewrite a law designed to prevent the production and fielding of weapons systems that don't work.

If the provision is enacted, it would be the first time a major weapons system was formally exempted from the testing requirement.

Story here (warning: incredibly annoying LA Times login procedure).

Not from the Onion

This is an actual story in today's IMDB:

Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino have been added to the cast of madcap comedy Stuck On You - where Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon play twins conjoined at the head. In the flick, one of the twins has a burning passion to get into show business and drags his reluctant sibling along. Cher is also in the movie, where she'll play a TV star who works with the twins, taking them trick-or-treating in once scene where the co-joined twins wear an octopus costume. The film, to be made by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, will not make fun of the disabled, stress the brothers - also responsible for the controversial Gwyneth Paltrow flick Shallow Hal. According to reports, the production team is also currently auditioning young actors with very big ears for a part in the flick.

Don't forget...

...the Virtual March on Washington is today.

Thoughts on some television programs I have recently watched

I liked the first season of "24" quite a lot, even toward the end when it started getting completely silly. But this season, it just seems tedious. Maybe it's just the real-time format, too hard to sustain over the long run, but it seems like all we've had lately is people being semi-tortured as other people shout "Where's the bomb? Where's the bomb?" Maybe it's just too close to the anxieties of daily life right now--the ongoing plot, if you don't follow the show, involves terrorists with a nuclear bomb planning to destroy Los Angeles. Somehow this just isn't quite as much escapist fun as last season's more personal family-in-danger plotline. And the sub-plots grow increasingly annoying, particularly Kim's continuing Perils-of-Pauline adventures.

Speaking of Real Time, and how's that for a segue, I finally watched a bit of the new Bill Maher show. Can't say I'm sold on it, though I can't quite put my finger on the specific reason. An hour without commercials may just be too much for that format to sustain, even if broken up by comedians and craaaaazy interludes with Chris Rock. My wife said it best: if I just want to sit around for an hour on Friday night listening to people argue about politics, I can go out with my friends, and then at least I can take part in the conversation. (Speaking of arguing about politics with my friends, I see that my pal Ted Rall is going to be on next week; I'm sure he'll liven up the proceedings somewhat, in his own inimitable fashion.)

And then there's Da Ali G Show, which had me literally doubled over with laughter. I can't remember the last time a tv show had me laughing so hard that tears ran down my face. I'm not even going to try to explain it. Just watch it.

Always flattered...

...by all the people who take the time to write in and denounce me. And always amused by the completely puzzled tone, as if the writers have stumbled across an alien artifiact whose purpose and meaning is completely beyond anything they have ever previously encountered. You'd think, reading some of these notes, that American public opinion is utterly unambiguous regarding the war--that my cartoon and/or blog are the only places these people see any hint whatsoever of an alternate viewpoint, and that viewpoint simply makes no sense whatseoever! How can I be against the war? Don't I realize that Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction on his own people, and all the rest of the usual propagandistic talking points regurgitated as if they are the writer's own special unique insights?

Speaking of which, it seems there was a bit of a tempest in the blogosphere recently about unpleasant email. As someone who's been dealing with this for quite a lot longer than the average blogger, all I can say is this: there's a great deal of wisdom to the old saying about kitchens, and withstanding the heat therein. (And, a parenthetical note to any right-wingers new to this game of public feedback, who are foolish enough to believe that the crazy email they receive discredits the opposition: don't forget, your side's crazies include the fundies and the racists and the gay-bashers and the types who worry about Jewish Bankers and the Zionist Occupational Government. I'll match you and raise you and walk home with the pot, hands down, believe me.)


February 25, 2003

Ashcroft's America

A local report from Idaho, on the Very Important Bong Crackdown:

Seventeen owners and employees of so-called "head shops" in Idaho and eastern Oregon were arrested and accused of offering to sell drug paraphernalia to undercover agents.

Those charged face up to three years in prison and maximum fines of $250,000 for each count.

If you've ever lived in a small town, you know how hard it can be to find work. A lot of the time, you have to take what you can get, and be grateful for it. Chances are, at least some of the arrested employees were just people who thought they were lucky to find jobs, in Pocatello, Idaho and eastern Oregon, jobs in legitimate businesses with storefronts and cash registers and tax payments and so on--it's not as if these people were muling dope across the border, for chrissakes. They were probably working for minimum wage, maybe a little bit over, happy to have found any sort of job in what one suspects is not the liveliest local economy to be found in this vast land of ours--and now thanks to this mind numbingly moronic administration, they're facing prison time and huge fines. And you hope that the justice system is lenient with them, but who the hell knows? Maybe they end up before the wrong Republican judge in backwoods Idaho, and it's three years on the taxpayer dime.

This is such bullshit.


I don't really care much about inter-blog squabbles, but I think this post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden transcends its inspiration:

The estimable Calpundit says ìMy sense from reading the anti-war left is that they donít really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously.î

Not to be too cranky about it, but ìterrorism and unstable statesî blew up a big chunk of my home town. Watching the ashes and personal debris of several thousand of your fellow citizens rain down on your neighborhood is not something you readily forget.

One of the more predictable rhetorical techniques in any argument about war or peace is the suggestion that those who oppose a particular war, or a particular plan for war, must be speaking from a pacifistic, hello-clouds hello-sky outlook. Youíre either a hawk or a dove; itís all about prior inclination. In antiwar circles, this expresses itself in the regrattably common and equally foolish notion that military people are all a bunch of General Jack D. Rippers dragging civilians to war. In fact many of the people I know who are most opposed to this war are former or current members of the military, and many of the antiwar civilians I know are, in temperament and outlook, martial as hell. Weíre not pacifists, weíre far from opposed to every imaginable use of US power, and weíre clear on the danger presented by ìterrorism and unstable states,î thank you very much. What weíre unhappy about is the overwhelming evidence that this war will make us less safe, not more; that it will diminish American power, not increase it; and that it will empower ìterrorism and unstable statesî to an unprecedented degree.

There's more, and he's right. I believe Patrick is a neighbor of mine, and where we live, this wasn't all some exciting tv show. It was something we lived through, and then lived with, for months.

A pause while your host indulges his geekdom

We're losing Farscape--and it's being replaced with this?


I can't find a transcript...

...but I've got a reader who says that Rumsfeld called 9/11 a "blessing in disguise" at his briefing this morning.

Anybody got a link?

Update: this is from a week or so ago, but seems to be the same thought.

I met with the Sultan of Oman in a tent a month or two I suppose after the September 11th period. He said something that just struck me. He said, Mr. Secretary, I hate to even say this but it may be that September 11th was a blessing in disguise. I said why? In what way? He said because the weapons today are very dangerous and so powerful and can kill not 3,000 but 30,000 or 300,000 human beings. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the wakeup call for the world, that they will recognize that this new century [inaudible] and the difference in the threats we face today from the threats we faced before.

Diplomacy, American style
"You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not."


But there were twenty college Republicans out the other day protesting in support of the war

Check these pictures out. (Via Body and Soul, where there are too many must-read posts to list. Just go.)

Virtual march on Washington


On February 26th, every Senate office will receive a call every minute from a constituent, as they receive a simultaneous flood of faxes and e-mail. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country will send the collective message: Don't Attack Iraq. Every Senate switchboard will be lit up throughout the day with our message -- a powerful reminder of the breadth and depth of opposition to a war in Iraq. And on that day, "antiwar rooms" in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles will highlight the day's progress for the national media, while local media can visit the "antiwar room" online to monitor this constituent march throughout the day.

Details here.

Your tax dollars at work

Okay, with an imminent war in Iraq and an ongoing threat of terrorism, what's the best use of limited Justice Department resources right now?

Apparently John Ashcroft believes it is the pursuit of bongs.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of the Western District of Pennsylvania today announced the indictment of 27 individuals on charges of trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia. The charges, contained in 17 separate indictments, are the culmination of a nationwide investigation code-named "Operation Pipe Dreams," and include 10 indictments against national distributors of drug paraphernalia and seven indictments involving businesses located in Western Pennsylvania.

Yeah, that's worth the effort. I swear, this administration gets stupider by the minute.

Once again...

...Krugman nails it:

Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America's favor. Given Mexico's close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox's onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America's column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush ó a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters ó in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.

Mr. Fox is not alone. In fact, I can't think of anyone other than the hard right and corporate lobbyists who has done a deal with Mr. Bush and not come away feeling betrayed. New York's elected representatives stood side by side with him a few days after Sept. 11 in return for a promise of generous aid. A few months later, as they started to question the administration's commitment, the budget director, Mitch Daniels, accused them of "money-grubbing games." Firefighters and policemen applauded Mr. Bush's promise, more than a year ago, of $3.5 billion for "first responders"; so far, not a penny has been delivered.

These days, whenever Mr. Bush makes a promise ó like his new program to fight AIDS in Africa ó experienced Bushologists ask, "O.K., that's the bait, where's the switch?" (Answer: Much of the money will be diverted from other aid programs, such as malaria control.)

These people don't keep their promises. They can't be trusted. Why is this so hard for some people to understand?

Unscientific poll watch, AOL edition

Haven't seen this one myself, but a reader on AOL reports that a poll question greeted him when he signed on this morning: "Is it unpatriotic to protest the war?"

Goddamn them. Seriously. I am so goddamn sick of this shit. I am sick of having to have this conversation. I am sick of these "do you still beat your wife?" questions.

On the bright side, the answer so far was overwhelmingly "no." But still. How about rephrasing it: "Is it unpatriotic to suppress dissent?" You don't see that question in online polls very often, do you?


February 24, 2003

Just call me Mister Cheerful

Fascinating, if horrifying, article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine, about the security state Americans could find ourselves living in before long. I'd like to think that this is just the sort of journalistic chicken little-ism we saw with Y2K, but it's disturbingly plausible.

More good news

From the New York Times:

The possibility of war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence in the United States or overseas by individual extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances, intelligence and law enforcement officials say.

A classified F.B.I. intelligence bulletin, issued on Wednesday to state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, warned the authorities to be on the alert for lone terrorists who are not directed by organizations like Al Qaeda.

"Lone extremists represent an ongoing terrorist threat in the United States," the bulletin said. "Lone extremists may operate independently or on the fringes of established extremist groups, either alone or with one or two accomplices."

The Lysistrata Project

From a reader:

In case you are not up to date on this, on March 3, 2003, hundreds of performances of Aristophanes' bawdy comedy will be presented as a "worldwide act of theatrical dissent." The Lysistrata Project was the brain child of a few theater people in NYC, but has grown beyond the wildest dreams of its initiators since its inception in January. At 10:00 am on February 24, the total was up to 681 readings in 41 countries, but every day another few readings have been added to the list here . In addition to performances in every state of the USA, readings are scheduled in Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Jerusalem, Beirut, Buenos Aires, and Damascus, Syria. There are four separate groups rehearsing for performances in my own small city of Syracuse, New York. For those who are unfamiliar with the play, the women of Athens and other Greek city-states stop a war by agreeing to withhold sex from their men until they sign a truce. Lysistrata is so ancient and so explicitly bawdy that translators and playwrights have generated many versions over the years. The Lysistrata Project site includes links to over a dozen scripts, including re-tellings suitable for elementary or high school students. The Lysistrata Project is one more reminder that creative people all over the world are raising their voices in protest against Bush's imminent war against Iraq.

But of course

From Newsday:

Washington - There was only one problem with President George W. Bush's claim Thursday that the nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth if Congress passed the president's tax cut: The forecast with that conclusion doesn't exist.

Bush and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went out of their way Thursday to cite a new survey by "Blue-Chip economists" that the economy would grow 3.3 percent this year if the president's tax cut proposal becomes law.

That was news to the editor who assembles the economic forecast. "I don't know what he was citing," said Randell E. Moore, editor of the monthly Blue Chip Economic Forecast, a newsletter that surveys 53 of the nation's top economists each month.

"I was a little upset," said Moore, who said he complained to the White House. "It sounded like the Blue Chip Economic Forecast had endorsed the president's plan. That's simply not the case."

Story here.

The warblogger handbook

If confronted with worldwide mass protest against the war--what Jon Stewart described as possibly the largest coordinated worldwide protest in human history--either (a) ignore it completely, (b) single out the occasional goofball for excessive deconstruction, and/or (c) question the numbers extensively.

However, any time there is a pro-war protest anywhere, of any size whatsoever, link to it immediately. And there's no need to question the numbers--not that you would--since the crowd is always small enough to count every individual participant.

* * *

On a related note, Brendan O'Neill has thoughts on warblogger hubris, vis-a-vis the upcoming war:

If blogging really did lead the way in covering the war with Iraq, we would end up more ill-informed than we were during the first Gulf War of 1991. Then we had Big Media lies and US-led propaganda - today, blogging-led reportage would give us nothing but prejudice masquerading as fact, and an incestuous debate that will be as morally removed from events in the Gulf as it will be physically distant.

The most striking thing about these blogging claims is how self-obsessed and cocky they are. For every internet geek licking his lips at the prospect of reading bloggers' views about Iraq, there must be thousands of people who wouldn't know what a blog was if it Fisked their ass. I have five brothers, all of whom are intelligent, read newspapers, watch TV news and are generally interested in the world around them. None of them knows what a weblog is.
For all its occasional wit and the useful links it provides, blogging is generally little more than a subjective spouting match, where bloggers spill forth their views on everything, anything and often nothing. But there is more to reporting, particularly war reporting, than instant reaction. Reportage involves rising above your immediate concerns, weighing up the facts, and attempting to say something more measured and insightful - sometimes even truthful and profound. By contrast, blogging creates a white noise of personal prejudice - and the last thing we need in war time, when information is already restricted or censured, is prejudice dressed up as a new radical outlet for information.


Half a million visitors a month and I don't even rate a mention here?

Cartoonists get no respect, I tell you.


I get information from a lot of sources, and I don't thank The New York Times or the Washington Post or The Nation every time an article inspires a cartoon idea. But this week's cartoon was inspired by several successive posts on Atrios' site, so I do feel like I should at least tip my hat in his (her?) direction.

And on the subject of Congresswoman Myrick, my editor at Creative Loafing in Charlotte, John Grooms, sends the following:

We've been reporting on her goofy, backward ideas and borderline insanity for years. Just for your entertainment, you might want to know a bit more about her. She was mayor of Charlotte in the late 80s. She claimed that she and her husband (the Ed mentioned in your cartoon) had agonized over whether she should run, and so they did what any normal couple would do: they made an altar in a sand dune at the beach and prayed and apparently got the go-ahead from God then and there. But later she still had doubts about running and, I shit you not, claimed she heard a voice telling her to run coming out of her coffeemaker.

According to John, she also ran a re-election campaign claiming to be the "morally superior" candidate, at least until Creative Loafing pulled court records proving that she had helped to break up Ed's first marriage in the usual fashion. She still won.


February 23, 2003

I missed Bill Maher's new show...

...which premiered on HBO on Friday. But I'm just awfully glad that Ann Coulter has a new, regular, weekly platform from which to denounce people like me, and probably you, as traitors. The darned liberal media just don't give her enough airtime, you know?

Update: Then again, sometimes a little sunshine can be a good thing. A reader reports:

I managed to catch Maher's new show, and I really enjoyed watching Coulter get hosed on there. She spouted off as usual, but Maher refuted her, and the audience there definitely agreed. Even my friends watching it, who are much more conservative than I, agreed she's a whackjob.

Just the facts, ma'am

Michael Ventura, in the Austin Chronicle:

Powell claimed that one photo was of a lab for chemical and biological weapons -- a "poison factory" he called it, run by "al Qaeda affiliates" in northern Iraq. Three days later reporters found their way to that camp and saw "structures that did not have plumbing and had only the limited electricity supplied by a generator" (The New York Times, Feb. 9). Can an effective laboratory (much less a factory) be managed without running water? Ask your local druggist or high school chemistry teacher.

The day after his testimony, a congressional committee asked Powell why a supposedly known al Qaeda camp was still operating in northern Iraq, where American jets have pummeled other sites? "Neither Powell nor other administration officials answered the question," (NY Times, Feb. 7). But Fox News is not about to repeat that fact over and over and over.

On Feb. 7 it was revealed that the British report Powell had quoted to the UN (praising it as "a fine paper," an "up-to-date and unsettling assessment") was actually a pastiche culled from academic journals, two of which were published in 1997, "about the activities of Iraqi intelligence in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991" (NY Times, Feb. 8). The author who'd been plagiarized, Al-Marishi, noted, "Had they consulted me, I could have provided them with more up-dated information."


It's all about priorities

According to Maureen Dowd this morning:

An upcoming article in The New Republic, contending that the president has not done enough, cites an American Association of Port Authorities estimate that it would cost $2 billion to make the ports secure. But since Sept. 11, only $318 million has been spent. Although Mr. Bush himself endorsed a program to screen cargo at foreign ports, his budget provides no money for it.

On the other hand, we've got $32 billion to bribe Turkey. ..

* * *

Dowd also notes:

George Bush has always mocked Washington's dependence on focus groups. Only last week, he derided mass European protests against the war, saying listening to the marchers would be like relying on focus groups to set foreign policy. (Millions of people marching in the streets of world capitals is not a sampling of opinion; it is opinion.)

Mr. Bush leads a West Wing that thinks politically all the time. Andy Card talks about rolling out the war with Iraq like a marketing campaign, and now Mr. Ridge runs his agency according to the principles of consumer marketing. (And maybe fund-raising, too. According to Al Kamen of The Washington Post, almost half the duct tape sold in the U.S. comes from a company whose founder gave more than $100,000 to Republicans in 2000.)

What can the Bush administration learn from a focus group of understandably confused Americans about making our borders and ports more secure? Do they have a preferred thickness of duct tape? Should they head straight to the bomb shelter or stop by Blockbuster first?

Peggy Conlon of the Ad Council told The Times's Lynette Clemetson that they asked focus group panels if it would be effective for Mr. Ridge to use celebrities to instruct the public on safety.

I meant to link to it sooner, but August was on top of this little irony last week.


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