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May 16, 2003

George Bush's resume


Because with any luck he'll be unemployed in a year and a half.

Congratulations to August

He's made it through the American educational system intact.

A must-read Krugman


Senator Bob Graham has made an even stronger charge: that Al Qaeda was "on the ropes" a year ago, but was able to recover because the administration diverted military and intelligence resources to Iraq. As former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's in a position to know. And before you dismiss him as a partisan Democrat, bear in mind that when he began raising this alarm last fall his Republican colleagues supported him: "He's absolutely right to be concerned," said Senator Richard Shelby, who has seen the same information.

Senator Graham also claims that a classified Congressional report reveals that "the lessons of Sept. 11 are not being applied today," and accuses the administration of a cover-up.

Still, we defeated Saddam. Doesn't that make us safer? Well, no.

Saddam wasn't a threat to America he had no important links to terrorism, and the main U.S. team searching for weapons of mass destruction has packed up and gone home. Meanwhile, true to form, the Bush team lost focus as soon as the TV coverage slackened off. The first result was an orgy of looting including looting of nuclear waste dumps that, incredibly, we failed to secure. Dirty bombs, anyone? Now, according to an article in The New Republic, armed Iraqi factions are preparing for civil war.

What did I tell you?
Jayson Blair is ready for his closeup.

The disgraced New York Times reporter has hired an agent to scope out book and TV deals that could net him a mid-six-figure paycheck - way more then he ever would have seen working for the paper.

Story, via Cursor.

Triumph of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to a story in the New York Times which made it clear that the tale we'd been told about Jessica Lynch was not what you might technically refer to as the truth, or anything close to it--noting, among other things, that Iraqi doctors had actually tried to return her to the Americans two days prior:

Sensing the end was near, the doctors devised a plan. They hired a driver to sneak Private Lynch in an ambulance to an American checkpoint. But when the driver drew near to the American troops, they stopped his car and turned it around before the driver had a chance to speak.

The Guardian has now picked up on the story, and adds some interesting details about the made-for-tv rescue--such as the fact that American rescuers were firing blanks:

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling. The Americans took no chances, restraining doctors and a patient who was handcuffed to a bed frame.

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire. They fled just in time back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.

On a related note, the NY Times has a piece this morning on the Bushies' mastery of stagecraft:

On Tuesday, at a speech promoting his economic plan in Indianapolis, White House aides went so far as to ask people in the crowd behind Mr. Bush to take off their ties, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported, so they would look more like the ordinary folk the president said would benefit from his tax cut.

And Steve Perry ties it all together here. And while you're there, don't miss Steve's thoughts on the oddly downplayed Riyadh bombings here:

Consider: In the midst of a supposed war on terror, we experience the largest terrorist strike against US interests since 9/11, and to the American broadcast news apparatus that has marketed the war on terror since day one, it's just another story in the daily cycle. What gives?

The answer is simple and baldfaced. More than ever the TV networks take their cues from the White House, and the Bush administration does not want to foreground the Saudi bombings. They raise too many pertinent and discomfiting questions: about the nature of our alliance with the corrupt and crumbling House of Saud, and therefore about our real goals in the region; about our friends the Sauds' effort to keep the wolves at bay by paying large sums of protection money to terrorist elements; about brewing popular revolt against pro-US governments in key countries such as SA, Egypt, and Pakistan.

More indicators from Texas

As Bob has noted, as goes Texas, so goes the country.

According to a partial transcript the customs bureau released late Thursday, the DPS officer told the bureau's tracking center, "We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it, and we cannot find this plane."

The urgent phone call set off a scramble at the customs bureau's Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center near Riverside, Calif.

"I don't begrudge a federal agency for doing its job," Mr. Laney said Thursday from Ardmore. "My concern would be with who caused their activation."

In Washington, Rep. Jim Turner of Crockett, the ranking Democrat on the House committee that oversees homeland security, denounced the effort to use the nation's security apparatus in such a manner.

Many Democrats blame the chain of events on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who has pushed for redistricting.

"That domestic intelligence capabilities would be used for partisan political purposes should be deeply disturbing to this committee and to all Americans," Mr. Turner said.

DeLay aides have said there was no contact between his office and the Homeland Security Department or the FBI.

Remember when the Bush apologists were busy assuring us that Homeland Security would never, ever be abused?

Story here (invasive registration required).


May 14, 2003

Hammers of Justice, Tires of Pride

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Your one-stop source for eye-jolting false patriotism:

The Flag-O-Rama.

Fake Iraqis? I guess fake Iraqi policy must be OK, too

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Memory Hole has apparently busted the London Evening Standard for faking a giant, jubilant Iraqi crowd on their front page.

Link via the fine folks at Cursor.org.

TomPaine.com has a new blog

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The good folks at TomPaine.com have a new blog.

Entries will be few here today, at least from yours truly, but there's plenty to do and see over there, and free snacks for the kids.


May 13, 2003

So at least we learned something

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This NY Times story is titled (and I quote):

Lessons From Iraq Include How To Scare North Korean Leader

So I guess it was all worth it.

Incidentally, here are a few other ways to scare Kim Jong Il:

Embed Geraldo with the Korean Central News Agency, wearing a Speedo
Mention that the Bushes are tight with Rev. Moon, who "knows people," if you get the drift
Tell him chicks don't really dig hearing "Who's your glorious father-leader?" over and over

Just in case the Pentagon asks...

CNN gets it right -- one war too late

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Shocked today to see that CNN's coverage of the Riyadh bombings included the following graphic, regularly repeated:

15 of the 19 WTC hijackers were Saudi citizens

Gee, that sure would have been handy a few months ago -- say, during any of the dozen times Bush strongly implied Saddam was behind 9-11.

Steve Perry at Bush Wars is all over the bombing and its aftermath.

It's a jobs bill, really...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The quote is second-hand in the Washington Post here, but the the math is right:

As John Cassidy noted recently in the New Yorker, if you take the president's statements at face value, each new job created by his tax cut would cost the government $550,000 in lost revenue. That, Cassidy noted dryly, is "about 17 times the salary of the average American worker."

Of course, the tax-cut-as-jobs idea is supported by folks who also think the Pentagon really needs the ability to kill the entire human race dozens of times over.

So at least they're consistent.

Creating jobs and fostering blah blah blah

Yet another paper gets played by dishonest Republicans: the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Forget those Iraqi cards...

...I want a deck of these.

Astroturf sighting

A reader reports the "creating jobs and fostering economic growth" letter ran in the Huntsville Times, in Huntsville Alabama.

Update: another sighting, in the Middletown (CT) Press (don't have a link).

Remember that war we won?

Back, what, it must have been weeks ago?

Looting and anarchy continue unabated, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, Saddam's police force is being reinstated, the provisional U.S. government is already being replaced, and as it turns out, democracy is unlikely to flourish in the Middle East after all. Oh, and we're not any safer from the threat of terrorism than we were before, but most of our former allies hate us now.

Apart from all that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

In other health news

Americans are not the sveltest people on the planet, to put it kindly. And as it turns out, all that excess weight is not only dangerous to the individual who carries it--it's dangerous to anyone who flies on a plane with them.

You see, the airlines have apparently been in denial about the true average weight of the flying public--and it may have actually caused at least one plane crash.

The actions were prompted by the January crash of a US Airways commuter plane in North Carolina that may have been within current weight limits but may still have been overloaded.


Since 1995, most airlines have assumed a weight of 180 pounds for each adult passenger in summer and 185 pounds in winter; checked bags are assumed to weigh 25 pounds each.

180 pounds. Uh huh. Have ya been through a midwestern airport lately?*

*As a born and bred midwesterner, I am allowed to make snarky observations like this.

Essay question

Read this story and this story. Then explain why a guaranteed health care system is not our highest national priority. For bonus points, discuss why politicians act as if health care is a personal matter which has no effect on society as a whole.


May 12, 2003

True: Democratic Leaders Leaving Texas Under Threat Of GOP Arrest

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Wow. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas state legislature's Democrats are leaving the state and are currently under threat of arrest.

Basically, the Dems feel so abused by a GOP attempt to ram a slanted redistricting scheme down their throats that they simply up and went, leaving the legislature without a quorum. The GOP responded by voting to instruct House sergeants to arrest the defiant Democrats.

Greg over at The Talent Show is following this, and is hereby thanked for the heads-up.

Texas has always been a nice preview of what the rest of us have coming under Bush -- a lack of respect for human life? check; sweetheart deals and the pillaging of the treasury? check; partisanship so extreme it leads to the complete breakdown of government? stay tuned...

Armed Forces Radio, last bastion of liberal media, falls

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I just learned what the Pentagon replaced my daily radio commentaries with. This is great.

Backstory: for 5 years, I did daily radio commentaries that were syndicated to maybe 75 U.S. stations and, eventually, rebroadcast four times daily by Armed Forces Radio. I never hid my lefty leanings, and that's probably why the military ran them so often -- they were actually more interested in editorial balance than most civilian editors I've known. (Make of that what you will.) Which is to say I got a few minutes, Jim Hightower got a few minutes, and Rush Limbaugh got an hour. A few months after 9-11, I got canned by my biggest affiliate. My syndicator was getting killed by Clear Channel and couldn't turn a profit without our biggest station, so that was that.

But I always wondered what was on in my old Armed Forces Radio spots...

The answer: according to an email from a reader in Tokyo, I've been replaced (as has Jim Hightower) by "The Pentagon Report" and "The Security Files" -- brought to you by Raytheon, makers of the error-prone Patriot missile, one in five of which, in the recent conflict, apparently shot down the coalition's own planes.

Which, you gather, anyone actually concerned with real security might have mentioned on the air.

The game doesn't end just because we say so

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This is very fresh news, from the AP wire, not yet on CNN or MSNBC, although Fox has had a brief update -- one to three car bombs have exploded near housing for western foreign nationals (read: Americans) in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Wars don't end when we say they do. Al-Qaeda was founded in the wake of Gulf War I. Gulf War II isn't over yet, either, and the real incubators for what comes next are in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, not Iraq. Shame on anyone for pretending otherwise for political gain.

As I write these words, on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan and his guest are using the Jayson Blair scandal to disparage affirmative action. Fox is arguing for the installation of more right-wing judges. CNN is still reviewing the day's stock prices.

I guess we all have our priorities.

But who's counting...?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The lowest estimate on the Iraq Body Count of civilian casualties has now exceeded the highest estimate of civilian casualties suffered on 9-11.

Throw in cluster bomblets, water shortages, and continuing armed violence in the resulting anarchy -- all guaranteeing that the number will continue to climb for the forseeable future -- and for the revenge-minded among us, obviously, Mission Accomplished.

At least the Iraqis can relax knowing that order is about to return -- since Hussein backers are regaining a role in government.

Susan McDougal deserves as much

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This just in: Kentucky Derby jockey Jose Santos has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The only thing in his hand was a whip.

About which, two points:

1) As Media Whores Online chronicles nicely, MSNBC took the Miami Herald's bad idea and ran with it, giving Santos the full-on Richard Jewell treatment. As if we needed any further measure of the credibility of an outfit that considers Mike Savage more airworthy than Phil Donahue.

2) The stewards' live press conference vindicated Santos by showing clear video of his hands during the period in question. And since he was only whipping the horse, over and over and over and over, obviously he was innocent of wrongdoing. Nobody seems to have questioned whether the act of whipping an animal -- over and over and over and over -- as part of a mass amusement might not be such a swell thing itself.

Astroturf update

The Anchorage Daily News gets played. (Scroll down, you'll recognize letter--it's the one about creating jobs and fostering economic growth...)

Leave no racist, perjuring judicial nominee behind

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Salon has just published Sean Wilentz' expose of Charles Pickering, Bush's nominee for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

(For those whose civics classes were taught by really boring people, Courts Of Appeals are one notch below the Supreme Court, so they're a big damn deal.)

Apparently Pickering joined the GOP in 1964 specifically in opposition to the Civil Rights movement, and lied about this and other issues repeatedly in his testimony.

Of course, GOP leaders now want to sue or change the rules so Democrats can no longer prevent Bush from packing the courts with -- for example -- lying racists.

Bush is a war hero, and Klingon is spoken by numerous mental health patients

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Yesterday's L.A. Times repeated a wire story that a Portland-area mental health clinic needs a Klingon translator to speak to some of their patients.

Any sane person would recognize the story as utter rubbish. Needless to say, it has already spread to CNN, other newspapers receiving the AP newswire, and blogs across the infosphere.

I was gonna try to run this down today, but Seth Finkelstein over at kuro5hin.org has already tracked down how this new urban legend was born.

Keep this in mind next time your common sense screams that the White House is lying again and the reporter you're watching is a credulous pod person.

You are still human. You are sane. There are others of us still alive.


May 11, 2003

Phrases we really need to consign to oblivion

#1 in a series: "money quote." Apparently derived from the porn term "money shot," which means, well, figure it out.

The mirth never ceases

With great amusement, I give you Andrew Sullivan's latest defense of Bill Bennett (via Atrios):

KURTZ: You decided to kick him in the shins?

GREEN: Well, I'll leave that for readers to judge. I think a lot of people saw the inconsistency in the fact that he's decried everyone else's morality and given himself a free pass of one vice that he himself happened to indulge in.

SULLIVAN: So he can't win. I mean, if he actually had said gambling is a vice and wrong, you have a case that he's a hypocrite. But he didn't so he is not a hypocrite, but you still nail him.

GREEN: But he has. I mean, he wrote a book (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cultural indicators, he listed gambling as one of the indicators of social decline.

SULLIVAN: Yes, of course, it wasn't him, it was some army of paid researchers that produced it for him.

GREEN: His name is on the book.

SULLIVAN: Yes, his name is on a lot of books, but it doesn't mean he wrote them.

The new Stephen Glass

What I find extraordinary about the Jayson Blair story (rundown-slash-mea culpa here, if you haven't been following this) is that you've got a reporter who's supposedly travelling all over the country, filing reports from all over--and no one seems to notice that he hasn't turned in any expense reports for airplane tickets or hotel rooms in half a year. And not only that--at the newspaper of record, it apparently doesn't occur to his editors to ask for such proof even when they are beginning to doubt his veracity:

On April 29, toward the end of his remarkable run of deceit, Mr. Blair was summoned to the newsroom to answer accusations of plagiarism lodged by The San Antonio Express-News. The concerns centered on an article that he claimed to have written from Los Fresnos, Tex., about the anguish of a missing soldier's mother.

In a series of tense meetings over two days, Mr. Roberts repeatedly pressed Mr. Blair for evidence that he had indeed interviewed the mother. Sitting in Mr. Roberts's small office, the reporter produced pages of handwritten notes to allay his editor's increasing concern.

Mr. Roberts needed more "You've got to come clean with us," he said and zeroed in on the mother's house in Texas. He asked Mr. Blair to describe what he had seen.

Mr. Blair did not hesitate. He told Mr. Roberts of the reddish roof on the white stucco house, of the red Jeep in the driveway, of the roses blooming in the yard. Mr. Roberts later inspected unpublished photographs of the mother's house, which matched Mr. Blair's descriptions in every detail.

It was not until Mr. Blair's deceptions were uncovered that Mr. Roberts learned how the reporter could have deceived him yet again: by consulting the newspaper's computerized photo archives.

Think about this. They've called the guy in, they want proof that he's actually been where he says he's been...but it doesn't occur to them to ask to see a plane ticket or a credit card receipt. He describes the house, and the editor says, oh, okay then, sorry to have doubted you.

The whole story is bizarre. Blair didn't just make up anonymous sources, like Stephen Glass--he fabricated quotes from actual people who presumably read the stories and thought to themselves, hey, I never said that. And sometimes they complained about it, and sometimes they they just shrugged it off--anyone who's ever been interviewed for anything understands the fundamental unspoken truth of the media, which is to say, they always get it wrong somehow, and maybe this is exactly what Blair was counting on.

Speaking of Stephen Glass...the mack daddy of fictionalized journalism has written a fictionalized memoir of his days as a prevaricating reporter, and if the postmodern self-referentiality of that doesn't make your head explode, this might: he apparently received an advance of $100,000 to make up a story about the time he spent making up stories.

I know that nobody ever said life was going to be fair, but you know...in a just society, fuckups like Stephen Glass and Bill Bennett and Jayson Blair would retreat behind a wall of shame, never to be heard from again. But contrary to what you may have heard, there are in fact second acts in American life, not to mention third and fourth and fifth acts, ad nauseum. Within a year, I'm sure we can look forward to Bill Bennett's bestselling novel on his Struggle With Sin, and I won't be at all surprised if, not long after, the NY Times bestseller list features the autobiography of former NY Times reporter Jayson Blair...

The Republican Party, friend of the working man
SANTA FE, N.M., May 10 -- About 340 workers at an Omaha plastics factory will lose pay or have to work next Saturday to make up for time lost during a visit by President Bush on Monday to promote his "jobs and growth plan," their boss said today.

Brad Crosby, president of Airlite Plastics Co., said about 170 of his workers will lose a full day's pay and another 170 will be docked for part of their pay for Monday unless they make up the time they spend attending Bush's speech.



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