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May 31, 2003
Public service announcement
Noticed I'd been getting a bunch of email from "email@example.com," and made the obvious assumption that it was more virus nonsense. Turns out I was right, according to this email:
There is a new computer email virus called the Palyh Virus (a.k.a. Mankx, Sobig.B). It is a rapidly spreading worm, and was discovered Sunday, May 18th. Pretending to be an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, the Palyh worm dupes users into opening its infected attachment.
Like a bull in a china shop
And of course there's this
IN AN INTERVIEW in the next issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is quoted as saying a “huge” reason for the war was to enable Washington to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.
Of course it was about the goddamned oil. Anyone who fails to comprehend this now desperately needs to take a refresher course in Basic Distinctions Between One's Ass and a Hole in the Ground.
No comment necessary
Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.
May 30, 2003
Message for residents of Columbus Ohio, only
I'm sorry to report that I've just been informed by the editor of Columbus Alive, which has run This Modern World since 1993, that due to "page-count and budgetary limitations," they're going to drop the strip as of June 5.
I'm deliberately not posting any contact info here because I don't want them to be deluged with astroturf from people who have never seen an issue of the paper in their lives. But if you live in Columbus and you're a regular reader of Alive, you might want to drop them a line and let them know if you think this is a good decision on their part. Or, um, not.
It's funny, Lois--I've never seen the President and Superman in the same room
Trapped on the other side of the country aboard Air Force One, the President has lost his cool: "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"
Afterthought: this story of American heroism is, of course, being filmed in Canada.
Second afterthought: via Atrios, I see that the actor playing our Hero-in-Chief is the same actor who played him in That's My Bush. I wasn't a big fan of that show, but this does offer great possibilities for some creative editor-type who might be inspired to put together a bootleg version of the movie.
"Get Rich or Get Out," by Thomas Frank, in the current Harper's (not online). Frank does a typically brilliant if depressing job, cutting through the obfuscations and outright bullshit of the Bush budget.
About that museum looting
The righties have been crowing about the fact that "only" a hundred or so pieces are missing from the Iraqi National Museum, rather than the tens of thousands initially reported. Leaving aside the question of how Westerners might feel if "only" a hundred pieces were looted from, say, the Met or the Louvre, I'm kind of unclear as to how this exonerates the US. My understanding of the story is that various historians begged the military to guard the museum, and the military failed to do so (though they did go all out to keep the records at the Oil Ministry safe). The fact that the museum's curators managed to hide the majority of the museum's treasures in advance does not make the US indifference to that museum's looting any more ethically palatable. If a police officer stands by and watches a mugger shoot a victim and does nothing to stop it, he's still guilty of negligence even if the victim lives because he happened to be wearing a bulletproof vest.
But we found those trailers...
Holy cover up, Batman
PALESTINE, W.Va. - American POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch's parents said Thursday they are not permitted to discuss details of their daughter's capture and rescue in Iraq.
May 29, 2003
The 5th Amendment itself breaks under hostile questioning
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
In 1997, Oxnard police thought farm worker Oliverio Martinez was a drug suspect. He was never charged with any crime, but in the scuffle of arrest they shot him 5 times, leaving him partially blinded and paralyzed.
While Martinez writhed in agony, believing he was about to die, patrol supervisor Ben Chavez climbed into his ambulance and began a hostile interrogation which continued all the way into the emergency room -- all with no lawyer present -- in what Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called "the functional equivalent of an attempt to obtain an involuntary confession from a prisoner by torturous methods:"
Martinez: "I don't want to say anything anymore."
And so on, for about 45 minutes. Again, all with no lawyer present -- and with the clear implication that life and death were bargaining tools in the interrogation.
However, the Supreme Court's majority has ruled, in an opinion written by Clarence Thomas, that Martinez' constitutional rights were not violated, torturing the 5th Amendment itself until it admitted that, in Thomas' words, "Martinez was never made to be a 'witness' against himself... because his statements were never admitted as testimony against him in a criminal case... the Self-Incrimination Clause simply cannot support the 9th Circuit's view that the mere use of compulsive questioning... violates the Constitution."
The Court says the victim can still sue in civil court (by only a 5-4 margin, believe it or not), but let's keep our eye on the ball here. To paraphrase -- and I invite you to download the ruling here and read it yourself -- because Martinez was innocent, his constitutional rights don't apply, and anyway, coercive questioning is, in fact, A-OK as a constitutional matter.
Every innocent person reading this should be gravely concerned.
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Three quick points about the Bush tax "reform" signed yesterday:
The NY Times reports the $400-per-child credit will not apply to families with incomes under $26,625.
The day before the bill was signed with such pomp and fanfare, Bush very quietly signed another piece of paper raising the national debt ceiling by a record near-trillion dollars. How quiet is quiet? The White House statement on this subject was only a single sentence.
Finally, the Financial Times reports that a Treasury Department report forecasting a future deficit of 44 trillion dollars was shelved by the White House, which omitted the findings from the annual budget report in the interest of selling tax cuts.
Since that crippling number is hard to fathom in real terms, read the following -- information the Bush White House knows but doesn't want to tell us -- and just try not to quiver in fear:
The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 percent across-the-board income tax increase.
The Bush White House: screw the poor now, screw the rest of us later.
Update: the word "deficit" in the Financial Times story refers to accumulated debt, not annual deficits. British English can be a bit confusing to us yanks -- they also refer not to $44 trillion but $44,000 billion -- and so, as emailers have pointed out, if you don't use the link, the meaning of "deficit" here isn't clear in American usage. My bad. No need to nick me off to gaol...
Talk radio, holding pen for small angry creatures
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Again, I thank our host for his kind words. That said, we actually met at the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia. Working Assets had a booth along Radio Row, the customary media-management one-stop-shopping facility used to ferry a given mouthpiece rapidly from one talk show to another, to which media companies eagerly agree, knowing they're being managed, since access is falsely equated with credibility.
So suddenly, there I was, surrounded by Michael Medved, Oliver North, Sean Hannity, and various lesser-known avatars of the angry and oversimplified. Your cartoonist-in-chief stopped in to say howdy, which in this context felt surprisingly like meeting an underground Resistance contact in an old WWII movie.
After a brief exchange of passwords -- "Clean environment?" "National health care!" "Good, keep your head down" -- he suddenly thrust a cell phone in my hand, saying, "here, talk to this guy for a second." I didn't know it, but the voice on the other end belonged to Harold Moss, animator of the TMW cartoons and, more recently, the NRA-history segment of "Bowling For Columbine." Without knowing it, I was auditioning as the voice of Sparky.
In other words, it only took Dan about five minutes to decide that I sound a lot like a testy little penguin. And Harold took maybe three minutes to agree.
So yeah. Talk radio probably is an appropriate career.
May 28, 2003
Readers are starting to get responses from Time concerning the astroturf:
Thank you for commenting on the letter from Thomas J. Stokes, which appeared in the May 26 Letters column. We included it for balance, since in the same section we also published three letters that were critical of the President. We appreciate your pointing out, however, that Stokes' comments were from a form letter scripted by the Republican National Committee, and we certainly regret having included it in what is indeed meant to be a forum for the comments of individual TIME readers. Form letters are not new, of course, and just as we've resisted granting them space in the past, we assure you that we will be even more vigilant about screening them from here on in. We certainly regret that this one got through.
I still think we should keep the pressure on until they print a correction/clarification in the magazine itself, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. At minimum, you can bet they'll be keeping a much closer eye on the GOP Team Leader site.
Still more recommended reading
Accounts of the horror in Ituri have the quality of Hieronymus Bosch’s grotesque tableaux of apocalypse: torched villages; macheted babies in the streets; stoned child warriors indulging in cannibalism and draping themselves with the entrails of their victims; peacekeepers—mostly Uruguayans—using their guns only to drive off waves of frantic civilians seeking refuge in their already overflowing compound; a quarter of a million people in frenzied flight from their homes. For nearly five years, such suffering has plagued much of the eastern Congo along the tangled battle lines of warring political and tribal factions, stirred up and spurred on by the occupying armies of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have been killed in the fighting, and many more have died as a consequence of the displacement, disease, and hunger that attend it. By any measure, Congo is one of the most hellish places on earth, and of all the hells within that hell Ituri province has come to be known as the most infernal.
I went to a party hosted by an Iranian American friend over the weekend, at which there were, predictably, a number of Iranians. They seemed to have pretty complicated feelings toward their homeland, with certainly no love lost for the mullahs, but also seemed absolutely clear on one point: any US invasion or intervention will be the death knell of that country's fragile democratic reforms, and will serve only to strengthen the power of the theocratic right. Purely anecdotal; take it for what it's worth.
On a related note, I mentioned this before, but Persepolis is really worth reading.
With one small distinction
Max links to this clever Rube Goldberg-esque Honda ad with the comment, "How the Bush Tax Cut Will Create Jobs." With all due respect to Max, who is much, much smarter than I am, I would add one caveat: the contraption in the ad actually seems to work.
Weapons of mass destruction found!
In, um, Maryland:
The good news for the Pentagon yesterday was that its investigators had finally unearthed evidence of weapons of mass destruction, including 100 vials of anthrax and other dangerous bacteria.
What if there's no such thing as al Qaeda?
Rightly or wrongly, my notion about al-Qaeda from the start has been that the American media and (so far as we can say from public signs) American intelligence has completely and willfully misunderstood the nature of the so-called network. They have approached it as though it's a single entity with a command/control structure analogous to the sort we're most familiar with--the top-down hierarchy of US corporations and the American military.
There is, or course, much more.
Kos nails it
And ironically enough, all of those wingnuts and chickenhawks -- the same people that were oh-so-concerned about Saddam's brutality -- can't bother themselves with caring about the suffering of the Uzbeki people.
Strange, I didn't hear about this little detail on Fox News
Saudi bombing targeted U.S. 'executive mercenaries'
In his Life in Hell strip, Matt Groening used to occasionally give us lists of trendy words and phrases which really, really needed to be banned--i.e., you go girl, do the math, things like that. Well, this is a dead horse I've thrashed many times already, but the tiny world of the blogs has a disproportionate number of these. For instance:
Fisking--I hope any left/liberal blogger who uses this one understands that by doing so, you are reinforcing its underlying message--which is, essentially, that left/liberal types are idiots. It's a handy word, I understand how it can creep into your vocabulary, but we...must...resist...must not...give in...
In the classic words of the heroes of Galaxy Quest: never give up, never surrender.
Second on my list: money quote. What can I say? That one's just, well, icky.
Update: how about the word 'blog' itself? Sounds like a slang term for vomiting. I had way too much to drink, and man, I was up blogging all night.
Liberal talk radio
You want to know who would make a terrific host? This page's very own guest contributor, Bob Harris. He's got a lot of experience in the business, between his radio commentaries and his show on Working Assets Radio--that's actually how we first met, I was a regular guest on his Friday shows for quite awhile. (I'm sure Bob will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think we ever met face-to-face until the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.) Anyway, if these perennial rumors of a liberal talk radio network ever pan out, I hope whoever's running the thing is aware of Bob.
PS: Have I mentioned he also has a book you can buy?
May 27, 2003
Some thoughts on the Matrix I've been meaning to post
There are spoilers, so I'm putting it on a separate page. You have been warned.
Nothing in Time this week, but since they seem to have a bit of a lag time, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
Our story so far, for those of you just tuning in (if you've been keeping track, just skip down to the bottom of this entry):
Through its GOP Team Leader site, the Republican Party officially encourages people to cut-and-paste Republican talking points, sign their own names, and email them to news media as letters to the editor purportedly written by average, concerned citizens. There's a word for this. Actually there are several: deception, fraud, deceit, sham, hoax--take your choice. And it gets better: for partaking in this act of officially-sanctioned deception, GOP Team Leaders are awarded points which can be redeemed for swag such as tote bags and caps and so on.
I first made note of the latest in this series of RNC-approved duplicities on May 5. Since then, numerous papers have fallen for the subterfuge, including the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Huntsville (AL) Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Anchorage Daily News, the San Diego Union, the Gallitin (TN) News Examiner and the Glasgow (KY) Daily Times. I am told that USA Today and Money magazine also got suckered.
And in their May 26 issue, Time magazine fell for it. I noted it here, suggested you (politely, always politely) write them and let them know they'd been, well, snookered, and over 180 of you did, at last count.
Why do I keep harping on this? Because I think it's extraordinary that the Republican Party officially encourages its members to lie and misrepresent themselves to newspaper and newsmagazine editors. And I think when a newsmagazine of Time's stature is hoodwinked, they owe their readers an explanation.
So I want to keep the pressure on. Politely. This site gets an average of about 15,000 unique visitors a day, which means there are some 14,820 of you who will read this today, give or take, who haven't sent a note to Time yet. So let's get on that. I want to turn over the rock and expose the deceptive practices of the GOP Team Leader site to the light of day. (To avoid the inevitable cheap editorializing on Time's part, let's make sure we're not fighting astroturf with astroturf. Write them in your own words, explaining the situation and why it concerns you. Don't just cut-and-paste my entries.)
(Afterthought: Hell, just to keep everything above-board, make a point of mentioning that you saw it here. Unlike the GOP, I'm not trying to hide my involvement or pull the wool over anyone's eyes--I'm just trying to get their attention so they'll run a clarification.)
I'm going to post the address they list in their magazine, which is different from the one I found online and posted last week, and who knows?--maybe last week's email all got routed to some low-level intern who just dumped it all in the trash. I'm also cc'ing myself again here, so I can keep a rough count of how many of you write in.
Did I mention about being polite? Polite, polite, polite. Honey, vinegar, flies. As someone who gets a, shall we say, wide range of email myself, I can promise you that people are far more likely to listen to what you have to say when you are, well, polite.
Here's the email. You can also send faxes to 212-522-8949. Now go, and be fruitful.
A trip down memory lane
Whenever I click on a Blogspot site, I am reminded of the old days, when my primary connection to the internet was a 14.4 modem.
Update: Reader Chris K. says there's an important difference between a 14.4 modem and waiting for Blogspot to load: at least with the 14.4 modem, you knew you'd get the page eventually.
Oh, what wacky Blogspot-bashing fun we are having.
Wacky right wing satire...
Sen. Rockefeller, D-WV, said Congress must determine whether the administration "intentionally overestimated" Iraq's weapons program, or "just misread it. ... In either case it's a very bad outcome."
...put into context:
The other method that was used to oust Saddam was equally horrific from a moral standpoint: encouraging the Iraqi people to rise up and overthrow their government by force on the basis of an assurance given by President George H.W. Bush that U.S. forces would come to their assistance. That assurance, of course, turned out to be a horrible and deadly lie. When thousands of Iraqis rose up against their government, U.S. officials knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately stood by and watched Saddam’s forces slaughter the Iraqi rebels. Those dead rebels fill the mass graves that are now being used as the ex post facto justification for President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Why do right wingers hate the people of Uzbekistan?
Hesiod wants to know.
Snowball fights in hell
Bill O'Reilly questions the administration on WMDs:
The bad news for President Bush comes on the weapons of mass destruction front. CIA chief, George Tenet, wants a panel to investigate whether U.S. intelligence was faulty on that issues vis-a-vis Iraq. A panel? Shouldn't tenet know what the heck is true and what isn't?
Here (scroll down).
Three nuns are facing eight years in prison for--well, for this:
Sister Hudson, 68, Sister Ardeth Platte, 66, and Sister Carol Gilbert, 55, were charged in federal court with a felony for defacing a Minuteman III missile silo on Oct. 6 and are scheduled to be sentenced July 25.
Whatever you think about their choices here--I'm personally not entirely comfortable with overly theatrical civil disobedience--the penalties they're facing seem excessively harsh. A reader forwards the following information concerning the case:
Many persons have been asking, "What can I do for Jackie Hudson, OP (facing 6-7 years), Carol Gilbert OP and Ardeth Platte OP both facing 6 1/2 to 8 years? We have met with our presentence investigation officers the week of April 14 and they suggested that letters of support be mailed to their probation department. These could take the form of your awareness of the Sisters personally or their character as an individual, or the letter could combine all three persons. Letters are due before June 1. Please write the letters to Judge Robert Blackburn but mail them to Susan Heckman at the address below. Mail the letters to: Susan M. Heckman Senior US Probation Officer 1961 Stout St.. Suite 525 Denver, CO 80294-0101 Fax (303) 844 5439
As always, if you choose to send a note, be polite. It's true what your mother always told you about honey, vinegar, and flies.
More media shenanigans
According to Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post:
A dustup between two New York Times reporters over a story on an Iraqi exile leader raises some intriguing questions about the paper's coverage of the search for dangerous weapons thought to be hidden by Saddam Hussein.
There are probably some real scandals at the Times which should explode, but never will--one of which is certainly the reliance on sources such as Chalabi. If it's true that the guy who was angling for a US invasion in hopes that it would leave him in power (a hope which has been recently sidelined)--if it's true he was feeding the media information to bolster support for that invasion, then the case of the young liar/reporter is not the only thing the Times ought to do some soul searching over. Blair seems more and more like a scapegoat, a way of saying, my gosh! how could this happen at a paper which never makes mistakes?
Tell it to Wen Ho Lee.
(Edited slightly for clarity.)
THE US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber.
May 26, 2003
Remember, WMD were what the war was about
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Here's how well the search to save Bush's credibility is going:
... on a tip from the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment patrolling the area, he took his team to what had been described as a "suspicious-looking town."
Meanwhile, rape has become so common that Iraqi women are afraid to step outside, American soldiers continue to die on almost a daily basis, and the death toll of Iraqi civilians is fast approaching two World Trade Centers.
On to Iran!
Update: the typo "Calvary" (for "Cavalry") is in the original. I didn't notice it while cutting and pasting. Thanks to Peter in California. Onward, Christian Soldiers, indeed...
Otra razón por la que Michael Powell y la FCC está trabajando para los republicanos
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Aside from the pending June 2 FCC ruling turning over all American media to the Imperial Death Star (OK, again, I exaggerate a teeny bit), there's also this proposed merger creating a Spanish language mega-broadcaster in the hands of GOP-allied broadcasters, including Clear Channel's CEO.
This isn't a panic-button thing -- it's probably not going to get much worse than it is. Univision's programming, for example, is already para la mierda, with "news" programs like Primer Impacto, a long-running Hispanic "Hard Copy" which has become the highest-rated TV news magazine show in 15 countries, not least because it's hosted by an endless parade of glassy-eyed cyborg spokesmodels narrating footage of things blowing up.
Check out the site -- there's exactly one obscure link to "Noticias" ("news"), while the more-prominent list of "Enlaces Directos" ("direct links") directs you almost entirely to pictures of large-breasted women.
Who, on the other hand, will probably tell us at least as much about 9-11 as anyone in the Bush administration ever will...
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. It's a memoir of a post-revolutionary childhood in Iran, in graphic novel format, newly translated into English. An Iranian-American friend loaned it to me over the weekend; I haven't finished it yet, but from what I've read so far, I recommend it highly.
Someone with more time...
...than your humble host really needs to take a whack at this New York Times Magazine piece, another of those perennial "conservatism is hip" pieces (the title of this one is, I kid you not, "The Young Hipublicans"). It's ripe for a merciless deconstruction: the "self-reliant" young conservative who depends on (presumably taxpayer-subsidized) financial aid; the young woman who argues that Republicans are "inclusive" enough to encompass pro- and anti-abortion views, whereas "the National Organization for Women has never supported a pro-life candidate." And on and on.
Several years ago, while Bill Clinton was still in office (and before anyone had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky), I went to a Young Republicans gathering in Connecticut with my friend Bruce Shapiro, and we watched speakers such as Oliver North and Gary Aldrich contort themselves like human pretzels, trying to portray liberals and Democrats as immoral and decadent without alienating an audience of young college students with the usual enthusiasm for partying. For instance, while literature at the conference suggested that "Bill Clinton's glib attitude toward the obvious immorality and criminality of recreational drug use is understandable--he is, after all, a dyed-in-the-wool sixties liberal," Gary Aldrich (the former FBI agent who carved out a second career denouncing the depravity of the Clinton White House) shrugged off the obvious immorality and criminality of recreational drug use with a wink and a nod, noting that he had not smelled any marijuana smoke in the hotel's hallways the night before, and drawing the obvious conclusion: "You see, conservatives have learned how, in their early years, to be discreet!" The audience, if memory serves, responded with appreciative applause.
Those damned decadent liberals--they're just not discreet.
The meeting took place around the time the Republicans were trying, ludicrously enough, to co-opt Martin Luther King, and Bruce and I listened politely as one young Republican explained to us that her father had been in law enforcement and had "inside information" about the FBI's surveillance and harassment of Dr. King. You see, according to her father, "Dr. King was a peace-loving man--but everywhere he went, he was followed by riots and violence! The FBI was just trying to figure out why!"
Uh huh. And subsidized, low-interest, guaranteed student loans aren't really a social program, and the Republican party is both pro-choice and pro-life. Ignore that screaming you hear in the background, it's just the sound of logic being tortured without mercy.
May 25, 2003
You are what you eat, drink, wear, walk on, live under, and clean all of it with
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Forgive me for not seeing this sooner...
I hereby vow not to swallow or breathe again. It's just too damn dangerous.
Yup, Iran is our next contestant
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)
Full-scale invasion seems off the table, but the Washington Post reports there's a big White House shindig on Tuesday, during which discussion the Pentagon will reportedly be all "bang-bang, yay" while the State Department will be more like "hey, dude, whoa."
The pivotal evidence that the Shi'a leaders of Iran are now so urgently Of The Bad? The usual classified "intercepts," already so keenly unreliable at predicting Al-Qaeda's protection by another blood enemy (Iraq), a wide variety of imminent terrorist strikes, and Saddam's overimagined WMD.
Supposely, Al-Qaeda is now sheltered by Shi'a Muslims in Iran. Sure. Never mind that the Taliban executed Shi'as by the boatload. No hard feelings, I guess.
If you'd like to read a nice historical piece reviewing the brilliance with which urgent matters, affecting millions of lives, are so often slapped together by uninformed sociopaths, go check out the Book section of today's L.A. Times -- specifically this review of 60 Minutes producer George Crile's book about the arming of the Mujahedeen:
Crile's account is important, if appalling, precisely because it details how a ruthless ignoramus congressman and a high-ranking CIA thug managed to hijack American foreign policy.
Those who cannot learn from the past... now advise Bush over at the Project for a New American Century.
For your scorecards: Khatami's the reformer, Khameni's the ayatollah.
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