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May 03, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld on eBay

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Type "Rumsfeld" into the eBay search field. You (and by "you," I mean "I" right this minute) find 32 items, including:

A "Rummy Da Man" button, retailing for $1.50
T-shirts with Rumsfeld's portrait, for just $21.50
A "World's Sexiest Man" button, featuring our glorious DefSec, for $1.50
Several Donald Rumsfeld watches, retailing for only $39.00

And more. Not one of which has a single bid.

At the moment, of the 32 items, only 7 have any takers whatsoever.

War profiteering, apparently, is limited to people Rummy actually knows personally.

Mindless Body, Aimless Drive

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Golf For Enlightenment, by Deepak Chopra.

I can't stop grinning. That's just too damn cheesy for words.

Stop the Bennett/Scalia/Rehnquist crime ring!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The always excellent Atrios points out that the Washington Monthly feature about Bill Bennett's teensy little seven-figure gambling habit also mentions that he regularly plays (or at least played until recently) a private poker game with Robert Bork and Supreme Court Justices and fellow avatars of morality Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist.

Which, under DC law, is punishable by jail.

The article doesn't clarify precisely where the private poker games took (or take) place, but inside the District, at least, the law (DC Code Part I Title 2 Chapter 25 Section 22) looks plenty clear to a layman's eyes:

S 22-1504 Gaming; setting up gaming table; inducing play.
Whoever shall in the District set up or keep any gaming table, or any house, vessel, or place, on land or water, for the purpose of gaming, or gambling device commonly called A B C, faro bank, E O, roulette, equality, keno, thimbles, or little joker, or any kind of gaming table or gambling device adapted, devised, and designed for the purpose of playing any game of chance for money or property, or shall induce, entice, and permit any person to bet or play at or upon any such gaming table or gambling device, or on the side of or against the keeper thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of not more than 5 years.

(I dug up the language and posted it because the server Atrios points to seems to be overloaded at the moment. Cool.)

I was a little worried about the meaning of "gaming table," since I didn't figure Scalia has a green-felt deal with little rectangles on it splayed across his dining room. But a little later on, we find this definition:

S 22-1507 "Gaming table" defined.
All games, devices, or contrivances at which money or any other thing shall be bet or wagered shall be deemed a gaming table within the meaning of ss 22-1504 to 22-1506; and the courts shall construe said sections liberally, so as to prevent the mischief intended to be guarded against.

The point here isn't that Bill Bennett is a raging hypocrite -- this just in! Hell, of the Seven Seadly Sins, Virtue Boy is arguably a living exemplar of six, remaining only one ill-advised waitress-grabbing incident from a perfect score.

The point here is that two sitting Supreme Court Justices are now revealed as every bit the notorious scofflaws that Bill Clinton was.

A later section, S 22-1505, states that any property associated with illegal gambling in the District is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

This section also specifies that a violation is worth up to 180 days in jail, a $1000 fine, or both, and that a second offense could get our fine Supreme Court Justices 5 years in the slammer.

Not that I'm holding my breath. Just saying.

The fine line between vision and delusion

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Lyndon LaRouche is running for the White House again, this time with a reported $3 million bankroll.

This year's platform is quite a catchy read, actually. There's nothing about the Queen running drugs, Kissinger being a Soviet spy, or the need to colonize Mars this time around. But at least America still has a leader able to tell us the straight, hard truths about Alan Greenspan's "lunatic act of Nietszchean desperation," Antonin Scalia's "bogomil-like god," and Newt Gingrich's "psychotomimetic elation."

I have no idea what any of it really means, and I'm not convinced he does, either -- but at least he seems to choose his bad guys pretty well.

Of course, voters may be concerned about his desire to abolish much of the Bill of Rights, his plan to hand over a half-trillion dollars to the wealthiest segment of the country, his family's willingness to give aid and comfort to known terrorists, the proof he skipped out on his military service and...

No, wait, my bad. That last paragraph is about George W. Bush. Oops.

Missing Democrats

A clue surfaces as to their whereabouts:

Political junkies may have been wondering during the Iraq war whatever became of those nine Democrats who went off to run for president? Well, they are still campaigning, even if it is 18 months until the election. What is more, they have an actual debate scheduled tonight in South Carolina that unfortunately seems to be as much a national mystery as whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive. Sponsored by ABC News, the debate has been embargoed, with no live coverage except — where else? — on a cable channel inside the Washington Beltway, where the campaign ruling class regularly vets reality for the rest of us. (Update) You can catch the debate Sunday on C-Span. Here's the schedule. Set your VCR's and/or Tivos.

Arms and the Man

I haven't put up a link for awhile, but you really need to bookmark Major Barbara.

A period of transition

As I've mentioned previously, this summer's going to be hectic and scattered here at the Tomorrow household, so I'm grateful to have Bob Harris helping out with the blog. As you all have seen in the past week, Bob is a man of insight, grace and wit. He's also probably too modest to mention that he is a published author, so I'll do it for him.

D'Oh!

In the wake of the Great Bandwidth Crisis, I've become somewhat leery of posting too many images here. But you really, really need to go look at this AP photo, captioned as follows:

President Bush (news - web sites) recoils after hitting his head,Thursday, May 1, 2003, as he boarded Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. Bush is headed for California where he will fly and land on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as it steams toward San Diego. Bush will spend the night aboard the carrier. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Bet that's not gonna make it into the tribute film at the GOP convention. (Via BushWars.)

False advertising

Weren't the Republicans supposed to be the party of small, non-intrusive government?

WASHINGTON, May 1 — The Bush administration and leading Senate Republicans sought today to give the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon far-reaching new powers to demand personal and financial records on people in the United States as part of foreign intelligence and terrorism operations, officials said.

The proposal, which was beaten back, would have given the C.I.A. and the military the authority to issue administrative subpoenas — known as "national security letters" — requiring Internet providers, credit card companies, libraries and a range of other organizations to produce materials like phone records, bank transactions and e-mail logs. That authority now rests largely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the subpoenas do not require court approval.

More.

More recommended reading

Here.

In Bush's telling of the story, it all fits together. The war on terror gives meaning to the battle of Iraq. And the battle of Iraq demonstrates tangible success in the war on terror.

Except it doesn't. The two stories—Iraq and al-Qaida, the battle and the war—have never really meshed. Bush keeps saying they're the same thing. But saying doesn't make it so.

Remember Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—the ones whose concealment justified the invasion of Iraq? A week ago, the Washington Post reported that 38 days after entering Iraq, the United States had "yet to find weapons of mass destruction at any of the locations that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell cited in his key presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February." We hadn't even "produced Iraqi scientists with evidence about them." The only thing Bush said we had learned from interrogating Saddam's scientists was that "perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some."

What about Saddam's links to terror? Bush repeated Thursday that the Iraq war had "removed an ally of al-Qaida." Really? According to the Post, U.S. officials "have not turned up anything to support Powell's claim to the Security Council that 'nearly two dozen' al Qaeda terrorists lived in and operated from Baghdad." A Los Angeles Times investigation of the al-Qaida affiliate touted by Powell found "no strong evidence of connections to Baghdad" and concluded that the group lacked "the capability to muster a serious threat beyond its mountain borders." Saddam didn't even "control the region where the [group's] camps were located."

What does Bush have to say about the absence of evidence on these two points? "This much is certain," he observed in his victory address. "No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more."

Well, that's true. No terrorist network will get weapons from Pat Moynihan, either. That doesn't make his death essential to the war on terror.

Sacrifice for thee, but not for me

Our Commander in Chief may be just-so-very-grateful for the sacrifice of our armed forces, but his own record was, of course, less than stellar. Uggabugga provides a reminder in handy chart form.

Lies and more damned lies

Right before Bush's speech on the Abraham Lincoln, there were a lot of stories about how he had to take a jet because the carrier was too far out at sea for a helicopter landing, honest, it has nothing to do with the dramatic visuals.

Well, guess what:

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN — President Bush didn't have to make a dramatic tailhook landing on this aircraft carrier. He could have flown here on a helicopter as presidents normally would, the White House said Friday.

Officials also acknowledged positioning the massive ship to provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the vast sea as his background instead of the very visible San Diego coastline.

(Update) TAPPED notes:

Let's get this straight. These men and women haven't seen their families for ten months. They're 30 miles from home. And Bush had them slow down the carrier so he could spend the night on board and generate some footage for his campaign ads?

Anyone who's actually familiar with my work knows that I was not exactly a Clinton apologist. But can you imagine the uproar which would have ensued if Clinton had done this?

* * *

In a speech the next day at a defense plant in Silicon Valley, Bush said something to the effect that Saddam was evil because he let his people go hungry while he built huge luxurious palaces for himself. In America, I guess, we take the moral high road by letting people go hungry while we give the rich huge tax cuts so they can build luxurious mansions for themselves.

I'm getting cynical in my old age

I see that an another Republican moralizer is exposed as a hypocrite, and I think: of course, what else did you expect?

Nonetheless, it is probably worth noting that Bill Bennett, who has fashioned an extremely lucrative career out of being a national scold, apparently has a bit of a gambling problem. With the slots, no less. The next time you see him on tv telling us all how we should live our lives, imagine him, glassy eyed in front of the one-armed bandit, feeding it royalties from The Book of Virtues and The Death of Outrage, for hour after endless hour.

(Update) Choice excerpt via BushWars:

In one two-month period, the documents show [Bennett] wiring more than $1.4 million to cover losses at one casino. In one 18-month stretch, Bennett visited a number of casinos for two or three days at a time. And Bennett must have worried about news of his habit leaking out. His customer profile at one casino lists an address that corresponds to Empower.org, the Web site of Empower America, the group Bennett co-chairs. But typed across the form are the words: NO CONTACT AT RES OR BIZ!!!

Some of Bennett’s losses have been substantial. According to one casino source, on July 12 of last year, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesar’s Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City and on April 5 and 6 of 2003 he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Some casino estimates put his total losses over the past decade at more than $8 million. “There’s a term in the trade for his kind of gambler,” says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. “We call them losers.”

More.

--------------------

May 01, 2003

Saddam, The Efficient Capitalist Manager

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Condoleezza Rice's latest excuse for not finding Iraqi WMDs?

Iraq may have quietly started practicing Just-In-Time inventory.

On their WMDs.

OK, now that's just funny.

Two stories, considered together

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Page A22, today's Los Angeles Times:

President Bush's insistence on a controversial proposal to eliminate taxes on dividends is threatening to squeeze out other, more popular elements of his tax cut plan that would help people in lower income brackets.

Page A27, today's Los Angeles Times:

16% of Children Live In Extreme Poverty, Report Says
The number of African American youths living in extreme poverty is at its highest level in the 23 years such statistics have been kept... changes in public assistance programs that once provided a "safety net" for these families have led to the increase in extreme poverty..."

The story is accompanied by a bar-chart, provided by the Children's Defense Fund, which, if you have eyes, plainly shows that child poverty rose throughout the Reagan/Bush I years, fell during the Clinton years, and has soared vertically under Bush II.

Today, our glorious leader is flying around -- like violence and bullets (see below) -- an aircraft carrier, thousands of miles away.

"Leave no child behind" -- a phrase Bush stole from the Children's Defense Fund, by the way -- indeed.

Chicago -- capital of Iraqi history

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

My buddy Emo sends along this Chicago Tribune article about the Oriental Institute in Chicago, which now sadly finds itself as perhaps the world's most valuable remaining repository of Mesopotamian antiquities.

McGuire "Mac" Gibson, one of the world's leading experts on the Mesopotamian civilization and the president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, is overwhelmingly angry.

"Not only did we make recommendations months in advance," he says over lunch, his eyes flashing with rage. "But we had assurances that the museum would be protected. We thought we had an understanding."

(snip)

We don't know a lot about exactly what happened yet," [another scholar] says. "But we think it will turn out to be horrible -- a barbaric pillage that many of us saw as foreseeable and preventable."

It's too damn bad the ancient Sumerians didn't have the foresight to paper their treasured relics with documents from Halliburton and the Energy Task Force.

They'd be protected with armed guards.

Of course, we'd still never be able to see them again...

Passive Voice Used Again On Protesters

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Since yesterday's post, my inbox has been flooded with examples of passive voice (and yes, that's the correct term, as I noted below in an update as soon as readers pointed it out yesterday -- thanks!) from war coverage all over the country. Maybe somebody ought to start a media watchdog website called The Passive Voice Review, posting examples as they happen and calling editors to task.

Page one of today's print edition of the L.A. Times bears an action photo of a U.S. military vehicle rolling through a crowd of blurry Iraqis. Two U.S. soldiers are in the back, weapons pointed at the crowd, into whom they have apparently just fired. In the lower left, the hands of the driver are visible -- and he's got a weapon ready, too, even while driving.

The photograph is nowhere on the Times website, but you can see it here on Yahoo's AP World Photos section. (You can even find the entire five-photo sequence of the shooting, taken by Hussein Malla, by entering his name in the search field at Yahoo or simply clicking here.)

Since the crowd is already scattering before the first frame was taken, we can't make any judgment about who fired first or what indeed triggered the incident. The point is that it couldn't possibly be clearer from the crowd's reaction that the Americans were firing their weapons.

And here's the L.A. Times caption for the photo, precisely as we now expect:

Bullets Fly in Fallouja

apparently all by themselves. The inside story is headlined

As Violence Persists, Rumsfeld Visits Iraq

"violence," obviously, being something that can just fly around, much like bullets.

I'll drop the subject here for now. Just confirming how constant this is.

Seriously, somebody really should start a watchdog website called Passive Times or something.

Today is Loyalty Day

And you thought it was just a day to dance around stylized phallic objects in mimicry of long-forgotten fertility rites.

...but they're our terrorists!

Osama was once our guy, as was Saddam. You'd think our leaders would figure out sooner or later that this enemy-of-my-enemy business often has consequences. But noooo...

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar - The U.S. cease-fire with an Iranian exile group it considers a terrorist organization allows the Mujahedeen Khalq to defend itself from Iranian-sponsored attacks and keep its artillery and other weapons, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The cease-fire signed April 15 appears to be a way for the United States to increase pressure on Iran, which Washington has accused of meddling in Iraq (news - web sites) after the collapse of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime.

But it represents a conundrum of sorts for the United States, which has classified the Iraq-based group as a terrorist organization. The United States went to war against Iraq in part to dismantle what it said were terrorist networks supported by Saddam.

Story here. But wait--there's more! According to a State Department report:

During the 1970s, the MEK killed U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. Near the end of the 1980-88 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces. In 1991, it assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north. Since then, the MEK has continued to perform internal security services for the Government of Iraq. In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian Embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. In recent years, the MEK has targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff in April 1999. ...

Via PineGap, who notes:

The MEK has a)killed American soldiers and civilians in the past, b)assassinated top foreign leaders, c)helped Saddam crack down on his opponents, d)has shown an "ability to mount large-scale operations overseas," and e) has thousands of fighters with tanks and other big weapons. Isn't this exactly the kind of group we're supposed to be wiping out in the "war on terrorism"?

The headline says it all

U.S. says Canada cares too much about liberties

(Thanks to alert reader Jeff F.)

Blogging around

Several from the invaluable Cursor:

--How the Bush administration is trying to restrict public disclosure of key 9/11 information

--Who owns the studio where the new U.S. government Arabic language news program is produced? Why, fundamentalist Christians, of course.

--The New Yorker finds a link between the bin Laden family and Bechtel.

Department of Redundancy Department

As noted above, below, and all over the damn place, my friend Bob Harris is going to be helping out with contributions to this blog. Think of him as Robin to my Batman. So if you want to send an email commenting on a specific post, be sure you're emailing the author of that post, which you can find in the byline at the end of each entry. Bob's entries will also be clearly identified as such at the top of the post.

--------------------

April 30, 2003

Passive Tense Verbs Deployed Before Large Audience; Stories Remain Unclear

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A growing trend disturbs me: passive verb choices are used in embarrassing war headlines. With normal verb subjects omitted, actions and responsibility are suddenly obscured. Story content becomes more difficult to understand. Upsetting news is not registered by readers, while credit can still be taken for running hard stories on page one. Editors making such choices remain unblamed.

Today's print-edition L.A. Times has these news headlines on its front page -- and one of these things is quite plainly not like the other:

High Court Upholds Jailing of Immigrants
GOP Budges On State Budget

Asia Bands Together On SARS

Palestinian PM Urges End To 'Armed Chaos'

Music Industry Tries Fear As A Tactic To Stop Online Piracy

Tense Standoff Between Troops And Iraqis Erupts In Bloodshed

Look closely -- of the six headlines, the first five are clear, simple, Noun-Verb-Object structures: A) these folks B) did this C) to that. You can get the gist of these stories in a single glance.

The last, however, is plainly different -- structured passively, turning a simple story into semantic mud:

Tense Standoff Between Troops And Iraqis Erupts In Bloodshed

Hmm. Odd, isn't it? It's actually impossible to know what happened, who was responsible, or what it means. Did blood just suddenly start spurting from every orifice, perhaps, like the Monty Python version of a Sam Peckinpaugh-directed lawn party?

Not quite. The actual headline, had it been written as plainly as the others, would have been:

U.S. Troops Fire On Iraqis; 13 Reported Dead

Which, while a bit jarring, is how Canada's CBC (among others worldwide) covered the exact same story. (The questions of whether some Iraqis fired first, fired back, or were even armed at all, remain unresolved.)

Just a quick study in media manipulation. It's damn near constant, and the net effect is inevitably a gross and misleading disservice to readers, about as detailed and accurate as

Hiroshima, Nagasaki rocked by powerful explosions

might have been in an earlier era.

Watch and see how many times U.S. and British editors suddenly slip into passive tense only when they're delivering news that might make readers a bit uncomfortable. Incidentally, the BBC's predictable use of passive tense in reporting this same incident --

Protesters shot in Falluja

omits entirely who even held the guns -- right next to clear, non-passive headlines like

Bush to declare fighting 'over'
Rumsfeld hails troops in Iraq

and so on.

As a rule, passive tense equals at least some level of manipulation. Any decent writer knows to avoid it, precisely because it's confusing -- but editors often rely on passive tense to keep uncomfortable questions about individual and collective responsibility (including their own) at bay.

(update) More from Bob Harris:

Passive tense continues to kill Iraqi civilians.

The CBC is also now carrying this, recording a second such incident:

U.S. Troops Fire Again On Iraqi Protesters

While the LA Times front page currently says (at 5:04 pm pdt 4/30/03)

2 Iraqis Killed In New Shooting

and CNN's front page says

Second day of deadly clashes in Iraqi town

CNN's inside story carries this quote from a U.S. soldier directly involved:

"All I know is a couple hundred people gathered out in the streets; they threw rocks, so we shot back, and they all ran down that way."

but the story is nonetheless passively, fault-removingly headlined

Two killed in second clash in Fallujah

There ought to be an activist group called Citizens Against Passive Tense. It seems to kill more people than any other single cause on Earth.

(another update) More from Bob Harris:

Alert readers have pointed out a) it's passive "voice," not "tense," and b) while the above examples are all worded to obscure the active subject, not all exactly fit the dictionary definition of the term. Absolutely right. Thanks. Still, the point about misleading headlines is clear. Otherwise... Mistakes were made.

Three Strikes And Out -- Of Business

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Following up re corporations-as-quasi-humans...

Here in California, the state Senate is considering a bill to ban any corporation convicted of three felonies from doing business in the state: literally, a three-strikes law for corporate criminals.

Possible strikes would include the full gamut of corporate crimes -- violations of tax and consumer protection codes, anti-trust, civil rights, or environmental offenses -- you name it.

And according to the L.A. Times (as always, brief registration required)... the bill is likely to pass.

I wonder how long before the Project for a New American Century issues a paper calling for the invasion of California.

The More You Watch, The Less You Know

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

We all know that poll questions can be worded to get a specific result -- "should we liberate the people of Saudi Arabia?" will get a more pro-Fox-News result than "should we cluster-bomb innocent civilians without UN support?"

Which means polling can be used for manipulating public opinion -- "68% agree: U.S. must attack China!" -- at least as well as for measuring it.

Retropoll is a polling organization trying to measure this effect itself, as well as the degree to which our levels of factual knowledge and beliefs in propaganda affect our political views.

Their latest study shows, among other things:

Only 40% of Americans can name the three branches of government, while 37% can't even name one.

40% of Americans think there's strong evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11, while only 36% know there is little to none. Support for the Iraq war continues to be strongly associated with the belief that Saddam was involved in 9-11. (An earlier Retropoll had found that among people who know there is little or no evidence linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda, opposition to the war was over 75%.)

Americans of all stripes overwhelmingly reject individual Patriot Act provisions -- secret searches, electronic surveillance, arrests without detention, etc. -- but seem blissfully unaware that they are part of the War on Terrorism.

On some level, American do seem to understand the depth of their manipulation, with "media hype" named as a leading cause of fear.

Disturbingly, however, belief that the US must prove charges against other countries before attacking them is declining significantly.

Yikes.

There's a certain delightful M.C. Escher recursiveness about using poll data to study poll data, but their methodology is open, straightforward, and the most self-scrutinizing I've ever seen -- and their results seem a hell of a lot more useful than "74% agree: Ignorance Is Strength" can ever be.

Aw, shucks

From Bob Harris:

First, thanks again to Tom for inviting me to play in his big treehouse. I'll be thrilled to pop in whenever I can. I admired Tom as a cartoonist for years before I got to know him as a friend, which he's even better at, actually. So this is a kick, and an honor, and generally pretty neat.

Second, thanks to you guys for sending such kind emails. Even letters disagreeing with stuff have been bright and friendly. It's like when I was doing stand-up and would sometimes stumble into a great club where the guy running the place knew what he was doing and attracted a smart, funny crowd. Plus, none of you smell like beer, as far as I can tell by email.

Finally, I can't always blog full-force myself, since I work in TV and radio, which (like most industries in this economy, other than inheriting things) have become enormous ongoing games of You Bet Your Desk. So the process of not starving still requires some occasional attention.

But that all said... you had me at hello.

And then there's this

This should send a chill down your spine.

That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show "Rent." We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.

We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I'd eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.

"Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant," they yelled.

I hesitated, lost in my own panic.

"Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down," they demanded.

--snip--

When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."

We remained seated. Our IDs were taken, and brought to the officers with laptops. I was questioned over the fact that my license was out of state, and asked if I had "something to hide." The police continued to hassle the kitchen workers, demanding licenses and dates of birth. One of the kitchen workers was shaking hysterically and kept providing the day's date – March 20, 2003, over and over.

As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."

About a year or so ago, I remember reading some right wing asshat on a message board insisting that the innocent have nothing to worry about, there will be no abuses of power, yadda yadda yadda. I guess that particular moron now lives in the country he deserves; it's just a shame the rest of us have to live there too.

Okay, one more

And then I really have to get to work.

"We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'," Jay Garner told reporters, saying that Iraq's oil fields and other infrastructure survived the war almost intact.

More.

One quick one

Via Mikhaela's blog, I see that the St. Paul Pioneer Press has canned cartoonist Kirk Anderson, in the clumsiest possible way--they didn't even run his farewell cartoon. They blame budgetary concerns, though they apparently still have money to pay someone to water their plants for them. Kind of gives you a sense where cartoonists fall in the scheme of things.

Well, sort of back

I'm swamped with work and other obligations right now, so I think posting will remain sporadic for awhile. In the meantime, maybe Bob will have something for you. But only if you're very, very good.

--------------------

April 29, 2003

He's baa-aa-ck

Huge thanks to Bob Harris for taking the wheel for the past few days. Once he gets his own blog up and running, he'll clearly be on the fast track to blog stardom, with all the commensurate fame, fortune, and easy sex one would expect.

A blogger is like one of those little birds which plucks a shiny thread out of a pile of garbage and returns and weaves it into the uneven brambly tapestry of its nest--and it's clear to me that Bob managed to bring home a few shiny objects I would probably have missed. I'm also about to enter into what promises to be an extremely hectic and scattered couple of months, during which time it is entirely possible that the blog may be neglected for long stretches. So I'm going to let Bob keep the spare set of keys and extend an invitation to him to keep posting in this space whenever he's in the mood.

In the meantime, a couple of quick notes here and then I have to wrestle a stubborn cartoon idea to the ground in time for deadline. The first you've already seen--Bob wrote about it below--but it bears reiterating: they lied. Whatever happy ending this war may or may not lead to, they lied to you about their reasons. Government officials now admit it (albeit with a Clintonesque differentiation between "lying" and "emphasis"), and intelligence agencies are furious about it.

In short, we've just had another Gulf of Tonkin. Keep that in mind when the propaganda machine starts gearing up for the next glorious conquest.

Second, I wanted to link to the Institute for Policy Studies, whose report on Bechtel, Rumsfeld and Iraq, Crude Vision, was the primary source for the distilled history presented in this week's cartoon.

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April 28, 2003

Mmm, this sandwich has extra zing!

The latest pollutant trickling onto American produce:

Rocket fuel.

From Bob Harris.

Hekmatyar's Soundtrack

More creepy news: hate-America music is flying off the shelves in Peshawar these days.

The Lee Greenwoods of the Pashtun world are now churning out tunes so quickly an entire genre is apparently now simply called "Anti-U.S."

The lyrics probably lose something in the translation:

O King Fahd, you allowed the infidels to enter
Now they will pollute the Holy Land of the Muslims

Brave Saddam Hussein is standing before the enemy
He has destroyed a large number of their aircraft

The soil of the holy prophets is being bombed but I can't do anything
I am helpless and brutalized at the hands of the devil

I'm figuring the backbeat must be pretty snappy.

Snide comments aside, this stuff's not going away anytime soon, and we'd do well to realize that.

Music is an important part of any culture, and it's usually pure emotion -- which, in turn, is the raw fuel of politics. Look at how many albums Darryl Worley has sold, and his lyrics are no more factually accurate than "he has destroyed a large number of their aircraft." But his fans love how the music makes them feel: patriotic, committed to a cause, justified in their anger... and like it or not, that's precisely what the devil-helpless Fahd-bashing music does for its audience.

Sigh...

From Bob Harris.

The Second Time As Farce

Remember when you learned that Osama Bin Laden had openly declared war on the U.S. years before 9/11 -- gaining support in large part out of Arab anger at the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia after the first Bush Iraq War?

Remember wishing that maybe more people in the media had spent a little more time noticing that this multi-millionaire evil CIA-supported fanatic nutjob had declared war?

OK.

A second Bush. A second Iraq war.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, aka "The Vampire," current Afghan warlord, former Afghan prime minister, longtime "freedom fighter" and recipient of massive CIA arms and assistance, now a designated terrorist and survivor of a U.S. assassination attempt -- all of which, combined, tell you a lot about the sheer brilliant foresight of U.S. foreign policy -- has recently vowed that the Iraq war will breed "thousands of Osama Bin Ladens."

As you read this, his followers continue a guerrilla war against the U.S. in Afghanistan, likely via raids from pro-Taliban border areas of U.S. ally Pakistan, where he is portrayed heroically by extremist newspapers.

Say it with me: GHOUL-BUD-EEN HECK-MATT-YAR.

There might be a quiz later.

From Bob Harris.

Better Living Thru Chemistry

According to one of the leading players in the game, performace-enhancing steroids will soon be entering the world of... golf.

Coming up next: Extreme Croquet.

(update) I just Googled, out of curiosity. That already exists.

Irony isn't dead. Satire, however, is climbing onto an ice floe.

I'll try again. Nude Tractor Pull...?

Nope. Nobody's doing that. Yet.

From Bob Harris.

A Deep Understanding Of Human Nature

The mayor of a small town in Iowa wants to outlaw lying.

"...you might as well ban breathing," said Dr. Charles Ford, a psychiatry professor at the University of Alabama and author of a book on the psychology of deceit. One third of all conversations that last at least five minutes involve at least one lie, Ford said. "It's just a fact of human communication."

"If they passed this thing, everyone in town would have a ticket within 15 or 20 minutes," said Kelly Kennedy, 27, a welder.

Blogging will be light the rest of the morning. Tom isn't quite back yet from his high-level conference with Kofi Annan, and I've gotta go scrub the ocean floor.

From Bob Harris.

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April 27, 2003

A Strange, Alien World

If you're having doubts that we can ever co-exist with the puzzling, faraway culture of the Arab world, here's Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Utah-Sacramento NBA playoff series.

Take a minute and click on the column of links on the left. Even if you speak no Arabic at all, you might feel a strange joyful tingle. Wait a minute... maybe we can all get along...

Incidentally, they're not updating their English edition very often anymore, but check out their self-serving, arguable motto at the top of your browser window:

Al Jazeera -- Objective and balanced...

Oh, yeah. Real different from our media.

From Bob Harris.

(Update) It turns out some browsers aren't any more sophisticated with Arabic stuff than your run-of-the-mill National Security Advisor. Oops. Good luck.

Live Nude Iraqis!

(Darn that Santorum. Gotta get my mind out of the gutter...)

Remember all the shouting about humane treatment of prisoners, particularly concerning public humiliation?

This isn't getting a lot of play here in the U.S., but U.S. soldiers reportedly stripped four Iraqi men naked, burned their clothes, and paraded them through a Baghdad park.

You'll notice that last link goes to a Norwegian newspaper. That's because their reporters took pictures of the whole thing.

My Norwegian is generally pretty skrekkelig, but Amnesty International is pretty good with foreign languages, and they say a US officer referred to the practice of stripping suspects, scribbing "Ali Baba -- thief" on their chests in Arabic, and then marching them around with their testikkelen out like a bunch of nakenmodellen as "an effective method" that "will be used again."

The U.S. Central Command says it's "looking into the report," since "any public display goes against the Geneva Conventions." If found true -- which is to say, assuming they're able to discount to possibility that Norwegian journalists paid a bunch of armed U.S. troops and naked Iraqis to stage the whole sequence -- the soldiers will be disciplined.

You'd kinda hope. I mean, gosh, there must be some more convincing display of our goodwill to the Iraqi people than their neighbors' own zibs a-dangling...

From Bob Harris.

Speaking of negligence, pain and suffering...

A Cincinnati Bengals fan is actually suing the team.

This isn't a new story, actually, but it only trickled into my synapses today, via this L.A. Times article.

Seven years ago, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals told fans he needed a new stadium -- full of money-making luxury boxes -- to field a competitive football team. They voted to hike the sales tax to finance a $458-million stadium of soaring steel on the Ohio River. The Bengals are still the worst team in football. And now county commissioner Todd Portune wants the taxpayers' money back... He accuses [Bengals owner] Mike Brown of creating a "false crisis" by claiming that he didn't have enough money for quality players -- when, in fact, the National Football League's salary cap would have prevented him from boosting his payroll significantly, no matter how much cash was rolling in.

The article also quotes Harvard law professor Paul Weiler as calling public subsidies of sports teams "truly, truly evil," since the profits usually go straight into the owners' back pockets, with all the broader economic benefit that implies.

Nice to see somebody pointing out the obvious.

The courts will decide if the suit has any merit. But geez, if you can start suing people just for taking your money and giving you nothing in return...

From Bob Harris.

More on Slick Rick

Santorum's wife received $100K more in a recent malpractice suit -- to which he provided testimony and full support -- than he now says anybody else should be allowed to receive, thanks to a pending GOP bill.

Geez, bad enough he's a bug-eyed lunatic... turns out he's a hypocritical bug-eyed lunatic.

A tip of the wraparound sunglasses to an alert reader from PA.

From Bob Harris.

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