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June 21, 2003

The next Whiskey Bar

I don't really understand the point of this whole Blogshares game, but Billmon is playing, and apparently a link from this site will help out somehow. And since I'm in his/her debt for that list of Bush administration quotes he/she compiled awhile back, I'm happy to help. (I'll be adding the Whiskey Bar to the blogroll next time I get a chance to update.)

Persepolis

This space has recommended Persepolis on several occasions. Now, as TAPPED notes, "With student protests in Iran gaining momentum this week, it may be that no single author captures the sentiments of this complex moment for liberal Iranians as well as comic-book novelist Marjane Satrapi." TAP online has an interview with Satrapi here.

Related update--a voice from the Burnt Generation:

Today, however, despite our despair, we have found hope. Hope among ourselves. Hope in our numbers. Hope in the fact that world seems to finally be caring. Hope in the fact that we may at last have a chance against the mullahs' rule.

Yet, we are nervous. Nervous of the endless debate among your opinion-makers: Shall we, or shall we not listen to the Iranian people? Is their discontent real or is it not? Should we engage moderate Islamists or should we not? Axis or no Axis?

Listen to our story. It is the story of life. It is the story of liberty. It is the story of the unalienable right to pursue happiness. It is the dream that made America America. We have been deprived of the very basic rights which you take for granted every day in your free world.

We, too, want and deserve the freedom to dress. The freedom to speak. The freedom to assemble. The freedom to love and the freedom to dream.

We do not need military intervention in Iran. We do not need clandestine operations either. We need nothing but your resolve. Lend us a hand and we will take care of the rest. How, you ask? Simple: Do not deal with our mullahs.

Interesting...
U.S. and Iraqi officials have confirmed the theft of at least 6,000 artifacts from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities during a prolonged looting spree as U.S. forces entered Baghdad two months ago, a leading archaeologist said yesterday.

University of Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson said the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him June 13 that the official count of missing items had reached 6,000 and was climbing as museum and Customs investigators proceeded with an inventory of three looted storerooms.

The June 13 total was double the number of stolen items reported by Customs a week earlier, and Gibson suggested the final tally could be "far, far worse." Customs could not immediately obtain an updated report, a spokesman said.

Story. Since the blogosphere is so self-correcting and all, I'm sure we'll see an update about this on Sullivan's site any minute now. (More on this here.)

Afterthought: In his June 11 column, "A Small Correction Is In Order," Howard Kurtz unquestioningly parroted the spin of Sullivan, et al., that "only 33" items were looted (as if that makes any difference anyway--imagine if the Met or the Louvre were looted and "only 33" items were missing.) The column was apparently based on a sloppy reading of Sullivan's misleading spin, since, as Kurtz's own paper reported at the time (and as Sullivan acknowledged, albeit dismissively), the actual number was at least 3,033. Now--again, according to Kurtz's own paper--the number appears to be closer to 6,000, and rising. If you think another "small correction" is in order, send an email to Kurtz, and to the Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler, and let them know.

Update update: or are there actually 10,000 pieces missing?

Update the third: funny, but the article in this morning's Post hasn't been discussed on Sullivan's blog yet. I thought he'd be all over this, what with the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere. And all.

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

June 19, 2003

Bush, America's #1 revisionist

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Check out this from today's Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

-- snip --

The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.

Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.

-- snip --

An April 29 memorandum circulated among staff members said that after the changes by White House officials, the section on climate "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."

-- snip --

Last September, an annual E.P.A. report on air pollution that for six years had contained a section on climate was released without one, and the decision to delete it was made by Bush administration appointees at the agency with White House approval.

So: when they lie, it's the truth, and when someone else tells the truth about them, it's a lie.

[Throbbing gutteral noise audible through every orifice.]

Thanks to Derek for his help. With the story, not the noise I just made.

One small victory

The Senate Commerce Committee has voted to roll back FCC's corrupt relaxation of media ownership rules. The action now goes to the entire Senate and the House, so it's not quite time to pop the champagne corks yet.

U.S. troops in Iraq: 10 years @ $3 billion per month?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This just in, courtesy alert reader Dorian:

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no explicit estimates for the time U.S. forces would stay in Iraq, but they did not dispute members of Congress who said the deployment could last a decade or more.

-- snip --

Wolfowitz said the size of the supplemental funding request will be determined in the fall. But he did not dispute an estimate by Rep. John Spratt (news, bio, voting record), D-S.C., that the military would need an annual budget of $54 billion -- $1.5 billion a month for Afghanistan, $3 billion a month for Iraq.

-- snip --

Pace told the committee that the U.S. force in Iraq is just under its peak of 151,000 combat troops and that the number will not be reduced in the foreseeable future.

Mission accomplished.

Yikes
And in an admission that directly contrasts with the line coming out from the Pentagon's spin doctors Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson added: "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger.

"It was up close and personal the whole time, there wasn't a big distance. If they were there, they were enemy, whether in uniform or not. Some were, some weren't."

Describing the scene during combat Richardson admitted shooting injured soldiers and leaving them to die.

He said: "S***, I didn't help any of them. I wouldn't help the f******. There were some you let die. And there were some you double-tapped."

Making a shooting sign with his hand he went on: "Once you'd reached the objective, and once you'd shot them and you're moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified, you can't really convey the feeling, but you don't want them to live."

And despite there being no link between Iraq and the September 11 attacks Richardson admitted that it gave him his motivation to fight Iraqis.

"There's a picture of the World Trade Centre hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my flak jacket. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think, 'They hit us at home and, now, it's our turn.' I don't want to say payback but, you know, it's pretty much payback."

Story.

Pimpin'

Been meaning to mention that my pal Wil Wheaton's first book, a collection of five "short but true stories", is now available. He blames me for suggesting at some point that he ought to write a book, which is only fair, because he was the one who inspired me to start blogging.

Well, that will undoubtedly comfort the families of the deceased
While the deaths of U.S. troops generate "a deep sorrow," Rumsfeld said, he believes the American people feel the sacrifices are worthwhile.

"They recognize the difficulty of the task," Rumsfeld said. "You got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month. There's going to be violence in a big city." Rumsfeld noted that Baghdad has nearly six million residents.

Yeah, all those ambushes and heavy artillery attacks in Washington DC are a real problem. Story, via Counterspin.

Consider the source -- always

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This Time story about "Gore TV" explores the former Veep's interest in creating a liberal media island amidst the torrent of reactionary blather and centrist non-reporting arguably responsible for the lack of a proper accounting of his possible election into office (see this piece, below).

[T]here are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party," Gore said. "Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh — there’s a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media.

That's not in the body of the

And that's the thing: the subtle positioning and lack of follow-up might well lead an average reader -- under the false, common impression that a newsmagazine might bother scrutinizing such an important charge -- to conclude that what Gore said wasn't worth pursuing... and thus false.

I can't think of a safer way to arrange this piece, given the implications of what Gore is saying. The writer and editor definitely won't catch any flack from above.

And so, I suggest, even this article itself confirms, in the usual MC Escher recursive mediamedia way, just how badly liberal and alternative voices in the media are needed.

Afterthought: I have my own bias here to disclose -- the Drobny-backed venture mentioned in the

(I did radio for years, mostly daily commentaries that ran on everything from Webactive.com to about 75 broadcast stations to Armed Forces Radio, and I loved it. But the best gig was morning drive at RadioForChange.com, back when they were still full-time, and getting to interview/grill almost anybody you could ask for. Somewhere here I still have audio of Ben Stein admitting to me that Bush wasn't bright enough to Win Ben Stein's Money. Radio can be a total blast, and I miss it.)

Thus my own interest here, which is pretty intense I guess, and which would lower my credibility to O'Reillian depths if undisclosed.

Former CIA Director: White House "distorted the situation"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From a paper which in the past has often made Colorforms seem like hard news, the USA Today:

Former CIA director Stansfield Turner accused the Bush administration Tuesday of "overstretching the facts" about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in making its case for invading that country.

-- snip --

Turner suggested [CIA Director] Tenet should tread cautiously because CIA directors "can be made the fall guy" by administrations when policy judgments based on intelligence go wrong.

Turner said, "There is no question in my mind (policymakers) distorted the situation, either because they had bad intelligence or because they misinterpreted it."

Backstory: Turner isn't your standard-issue Dulles-Helms-Casey kind of CIA guy, but a former Navy Admiral brought in by President Carter in 1977 to replace CIA Director George H. W. Bush and eventually clean house of the sort of covert operators (Ted Shackley, for one), who gave wanton disrespect for public oversight and human life such a bad name.

Turner's not a hero, exactly. CIA-related megabad largely continued under Carter -- whose government (although it's now invisible beneath the glare of his later Nobel Prize) supported the Shah of Iran, the Salvadoran military junta, and the Indonesian Army brutalizing East Timor; breathed life into what soon became the Contras in Nicaragua; and began long-term aid to the Islamist militants in Afghanistan we've come to adore.

But Turner did downsize over 800 CIA spooks (something generally regarded as treason by many, even today), some of whose subsequent private-sector activites played what I consider an underestimated role in the 1980 rise of Ronald Reagan and the neocon movement.

I'll have to save that all for a lenghty post some other time. Point is, Turner's history of knocking heads with neocon Bushmen goes back a ways.

In 1991, Turner wrote a book on terrorism that was relatively sane and thus passed without much notice. Just after 9/11, he summarized the main points in a monograph subtitled Ten Steps to Fight Terrorism Without Endangering Democracy, a set of priorities I wish the current regime might share. I don't agree with everything in it, but it'll give you some idea what this guy's about.

All that aside, scoreboard: one more longtime intelligence insider publicly saying the White House is full of crap.

More on the U.S. shooting of civilians in Fallujah

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Human Rights Watch reports the physical evidence doesn't gel with the U.S. official story regarding the April 28 incident in Fallujah, in which U.S. soldiers shot to death 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 70 others.

At the time, this incident provoked widespead and quite notable passive-voice headlines and similarly opaque reportage across the American press -- disguising the rather obvious U.S. responsibility -- as I noted at the time.

Human Rights Watch is calling on the U.S. to conduct a full and impartial investigation, with damages paid to any victims of illegal use of force. This is the minimum which would occur in a decent society which actually lived by our Glorious Leader's words about concern for the Iraqi people.

Not surprisingly, there's much yet in the U.S. press about the Human Rights Watch report, either. As near as I can tell, the Washington Post has so far budgeted the new report exactly one sentence, in this story buried on page A16 of tomorrow's paper.

This, of course, is the good work of the very free press, watchdog of our elected leaders, that our noble Pentagon is occupying Iraq to defend.

In a better world, that last sentence wouldn't be complete nonsense in every detail.

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

June 18, 2003

Cynthia McKinney was Gored

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast currently has an Alternet piece entitled "The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney."

It's worth a look. Palast's somewhat spherical writing style is hard to cogently excerpt, so I'll sum up, hoping to do so fairly:

According to Palast, former U.S. Rep. McKinney (D-GA), who became notorious last year for a reported claim that Bush knew 9/11 was coming, never said any such thing, in spite of reports throughout the mainstream press.

According to Palast, McKinney did three big things that pissed off the GOP machine:

a) calling for an investigation into the theft of the 2000 election via the purging of black people from voting rolls in Florida, for which significant evidence exists;

b) demanding hearings into the activities of Barrick Gold, a mining company widely accused of human rights violations, and which employs Bush, Sr.; and

c) asking for a Congressional review of the White House's protection of certain Saudi-connected Muslims with obvious links to Al-Qaeda.

Next thing you know, McKinney becomes the 2002 edition of Al Gore, constantly accused by GOP mouthpieces of utterances which were simply never said.

Go read and see what you think.

Gotcher links right here

Good piece in Salon on the Bushies' attempts to squash any inquiry into 9/11 intelligence failures:

"We've been fighting for nearly 21 months -- fighting the administration, the White House," says Monica Gabrielle. Her husband, Richard, an insurance broker who worked for Aon Corp. on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center's Tower 2, died during the attacks. "As soon as we started looking for answers we were blocked, put off and ignored at every stop of the way. We were shocked. The White House is just blocking everything."

Another 9/11 family advocate -- a former Bush supporter who requested anonymity -- was more blunt: "Bush has done everything in his power to squelch this [9/11] commission and prevent it from happening."

Hang 'em High Gonzales

The Atlantic uncovers some interesting background on the man who may be headed for the Supreme Court:

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.

Gonzales never intended his summaries to be made public. Almost all are marked CONFIDENTIAL and state, "The privileges claimed include, but are not limited to, claims of Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Work-Product Privilege, and the Internal Memorandum exception to the Texas Public Information Act." I obtained the summaries and related documents, which have never been published, after the Texas attorney general ruled that they were not exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Public Information Act.

Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.

More here, via Leah at Atrios' site.

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

June 17, 2003

Bush will take public financing, but didn't contribute himself

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Some brilliant stuff in today's White House press briefing:

Q And also in the last, 2000 and coming up, the President will accept federal funds in the general election.

MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.

Q Is there any dash of hypocrisy in that he doesn't contribute to that fund when he files his tax returns?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, interestingly, we talked before about taxpayer-financed elections, and while for the congressional races, Senate races and House races, and for overwhelming majority of the funds that go to presidential races is voluntary, there is that check on the tax reforms. And the best I remember this from IRS data is something like only 12 percent, or down to 8 percent of the American people check that box. So I think the President is in pretty good company with a number of American people who do not check that box.

Q Why would he take the money, then?

MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, he's not taking the money for the primary campaign; he will take it for the general.

In other words: why, yes, it's complete hypocrisy, but millions of people (who aren't being hypocritical, since they're not taking the money) don't check the box, so that makes it OK.

Thanks to Reed for the tip. There's also this:

MR. FLEISCHER: Well again, I think the amount of money that candidates raise in our democracy is a reflection of the amount of support they have around the country. So the President is proud to have the support of the American people, and the American people will ultimately be the ones who decide how much funding goes to any Democrat or any Republican.

Q How can that really be reflective of his support, though, considering he's getting money from people who can afford to go to dinner for $2,000? I mean, most Americans cannot afford that. So how can that really be reflective of his support from middle America?

MR. FLEISCHER: The rules are equal. The rules are the same for both parties, for the Democrats and the Republicans. Both parties compete knowing that. They, of course, raise money from all groups of Americans, including many low-dollar donors. And, again, the American people decide how much support to give either candidate in either party.

Ah. So the Democrats are free to equally whore themselves to the wealthy, and that's democracy. Nice to have it spelled out so clearly for once.

Hmm. I'm surprised Ari's not going to work for the DLC.

An idea for fighting GOP astroturf

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Our loyal reader Ben has a bright idea: simply pre-emptively writing letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines, alerting them to GOP Astroturf the moment it's posted.

AWOLBush.com has what looks like a pretty darn good list of newspaper and TV network email addresses here. A few minutes of Googling should come up with addresses for the newsmagazines.

What do you guys think? Does somebody want to put together a master text list of media email addresses, which can then be posted (I'll put them on my own site if need be) and pasted into the To: window of any email program, so we can actually blot this scourge out for good?

Update: in the meantime, Irregulartimes.com suggests joining the Astroturf machine and appending your own "Hey! This letter is was churned from the maw of Republican death monkeys! It's not a real letter!" or similar text at the top.

You can't email to more than 5 papers at a time, but it's a good idea until there's a more systematic approach in place. Thanks to Theo for noticing it.

Update 2: The Boston Herald has apparently fallen for the latest Astroturf. I can't link to it, because the Herald requires paid subscriptions to access their archives.

Update 3: To whoever sent out a bale of Astroturf yesterday using my public email address: that's called Identity Theft, and where I live, what you just did is a criminal violation (section 538a of the penal code addresses your actions quite specifically), involving hefty fines and even possible jail time. Best of all, you've now committed five counts and left behind a handy, eminently-traceable electronic trail.

Look, I can appreciate the prank value, so for now, I'll quite happily forget about it. No kidding. You should see me as a friend who disagrees politically, not an enemy. It's cool, honest.

But if it happens again, or my name ever appears in print under GOP Astroturf somewhere (editors don't always fact-check the letters) -- kindly realize the results will be a) every appropriate legal action, civil and criminal, and b) at least some embarrassment for the GOP, since having their site used for identity theft -- placing phony letters to the editor over stolen names -- sure sounds like a pretty hot story...

Update 4: for media email addresses, alert reader Peter points us to Newslink.org, which looks pretty spiffy.

Required reading
Beers's resignation surprised Washington, but what he did next was even more astounding. Eight weeks after leaving the Bush White House, he volunteered as national security adviser for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a Democratic candidate for president, in a campaign to oust his former boss. All of which points to a question: What does this intelligence insider know?

"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

--snip--

In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said.

--snip--

"The first day, I came in fresh and eager," he said. "On the last day, I came home tired and burned out. And it only took seven months."

Part of that stemmed from his frustration with the culture of the White House. He was loath to discuss it. His wife, Bonnie, a school administrator, was not: "It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."

Emphasis added. Much more here. Go. Read.

The wisdom of Ari Fleischer's dad...

...who happens to be a Democrat: "I guess if Ari had to rebel, being a Republican is better than being on drugs, but not by much."

More.

Those wacky Republicans...

...are at it again. Here's the latest astroturf from GOP Team Leader:

Because of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, our schools are already receiving additional resources and historic levels of federal funding to ensure that students succeed, and more positive changes are on the way. Recently, the President announced that every state had put in a place an accountability plan to ensure that all schools makes progress.

As part of these plans and the No Child Left Behind Act's strong accountability provisions, school districts will be required to test students and give parents annual report cards. Schools that don't make progress will offer their students additional services, such as free tutoring, and parents will be given new options.

Through these new reforms, we have a real chance to ensure that every child receives a quality education, and President Bush deserves enormous credit for focusing our nation's attention on this challenge.

You know what to do when you see it printed somewhere, as you inevitably will.

Update: here's a useful link on the topic.

Slowly resurfacing

Tom here. Going through some hectic times (in a good way), so my own contributions to the blog will likely remain sporadic. But this was too good not to post:

ELIZABETH, N.J. (Reuters) - President Bush countered those questioning his justification for the invasion of Iraq on Monday, dismissing "revisionist historians" and saying Washington acted to counter a persistent threat. "Now there are some who would like to rewrite history; revisionist historians is what I like to call them," Bush said in a speech to New Jersey business leaders.

--snip--

The president did not mention Iraqi unconventional weapons in his remarks, although accusations Iraq had chemical and biological weapons were central to his prewar campaign to build support for an attack. No such weapons have yet been found.

With a lack of self-awareness that profound, it's a wonder he even knows who he is when he wakes up in the morning. Maybe Karl Rove has to remind him.


Only 22 percent think Saddam used WMDs?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

By now you've seen the recent poll which finds that a third of Americans mistakenly believe that WMDs were found in Iraq, and about 22 percent think Iraq actually used WMDs during the war.

Sounds bad, right? But let's put these figures in perspective, courtesy a quick visit over to PollingReport.com, where I pulled out a few numbers, all from recent major polls, just for fun:

Of American adults, at least 18 years of age...

65% couldn't describe the basic facts about Watergate
56% think in war, the media should support the government over questioning it
48% say the news media acted responsibly during the Clinton Wars
45% characterized Watergate was "just politics"
43% attended religious services in the previous 7 days
40% believe the media was biased in favor of Bill Clinton
35% say the government should not fund stem cell research
34% think Rock and Roll has had an overall negative impact on America
33% believe a wife should "submit herself graciously" to a husband
30% say the Bible is the "actual word of God" to be taken literally
29% think people will be "more likely" to afford college for their kids in 2020
28% disapprove of labor unions on principle
28% say the government should have the right to control news reports
27% believe divorce is "morally wrong"
26% thought various disasters in 1999 might "foreshadow the wrath of God"
26% think grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank their kids
24% describe themselves as interested in what celebrities think
21% told a pollster they'd never met that they had cheated in a relationship
21% say justice was served in the O.J. Simpson case
20% approve of the how the Catholic Church handles pedophilia
20% believe that the killing of civilians in Vietnam was "relatively rare"
15% were upset at Diana Spencer's death like "someone you knew"
12% think the United States should have a British-style royal family
11% stockpiled food and water in advance of Y2K
11% think "Titanic" was the best American movie of the 20th century
11% would like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" as their personal physician
10% would eat a rat or an insect on a "reality" TV show
10% think it's advantageous to be a woman in American society
10% believe Oswald acted alone
10% say they are "very likely" to become rich someday
8% could not name a single TV network
8% fear they are "very likely" to be shot or badly hurt by a stranger
7% think Elvis is possibly still alive
6% say Garth Brooks is the best male singer of the 20th century
5% are ?very afraid? of thunder and lightning
5% would be "more likely" to buy food labeled as genetically modified
3% wanted to see the questions on "Millionaire" become less difficult

So... what to make of all this?

1) A measurable percentage of Americans will say pretty much any damn thing you can imagine.

2) Looking at the other opinions floating around 20 percent, I'd say that the extent of lunatic public perception of WMDs is, if anything, surprisingly low, given the constant drumbeat of bullshit coming out of the White House and megaphoned by the press for much of the past year.

3) About the same number of people who think it's an advantage to be a woman in America would eat a rat on live TV. Clearly, we've got some work to do on the whole gender-equality thing.

4) Speaking of social progress, there sure seems to be a remarkably consistent hardcore of about 25-30 percent who seem to be living sometime in the late 19th century at best. Beatings as a form of education? Wives submitting graciously? Vengeful gods screwing with the weather?

Gallup really ought to quiz these people in a little more detail; after all, there's a lot we still don't know the Spanish menace in Cuba, how to handle an acute case of quinsy, and this schoolteacher concocting folderol about our forefathers descending from monkeys.

So one-third of Americans mistakenly think we found WMDs? Great. We can work with that. After looking at these numbers, I'm just relieved 30 percent don't think Saddam's disembodied wraith is looming in a vengeful stormfront, ready to deflower the womenfolk, lead our children into Satan's bosom, and force the men to read science books.

Can't we airlift some more of those yellow peanut butter food bombs or something?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In Baghdad, people are stealing the zoo animals for food.

Yeah, those Iraqis just love our kiesters right about now...

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

June 16, 2003

Pvt. Jessica Lynch to be named next "American Idol" winner!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Not quite, but close:

To Interview Former P.O.W., CBS Dangles Stardom

"Attached you will find the outlines of a proposal that includes ideas from CBS News, CBS Entertainment, MTV networks and Simon & Schuster publishers," Betsy West, a CBS News senior vice president, wrote to Private Lynch's military representatives. "From the distinguished reporting of CBS News to the youthful reach of MTV, we believe this is a unique combination of projects that will do justice to Jessica's inspiring story."

CBS Entertainment executives, the proposal said, "tell us this would be the highest priority for the CBS movie division, which specializes in inspirational stories of courage." Simon & Schuster, it said, "is extremely interested in discussing the possibilities for a book based on Jessica's journey from Palestine, West Virginia, to deep inside Iraq."

MTV Networks, the letter went on, was offering a news special, a chance for Private Lynch and her friends to be the co-hosts of an hourlong music video program on MTV2, and even a special edition of its hit program "Total Request Live" in her honor. "This special would include a concert performance in Palestine, West Va., by a current star act such as Ashanti, and perhaps Ja Rule," the proposal said.

Wag. The. Dog.

CBS weren't the only folks trying to buy our latest pop commodity. Katie Couric sent along a bundle of patriotic books, Diane Sawyer sent over a locket, and Jane Clayson even sent Pvt. Lynch a letter noting that they share an astrological sign.

With such hard-hitting journalists protecting the republic, we can be sure of the integrity of our leaders.

Update: CBS is angrily denying the above... except, if you look closely, they're not a) denying that they sent the letter, b) disputing the accuracy of the quotes, or c) willing to release the full text of the letter.

So what are they denying, exactly, except reality and common sense?

Peace talks with the Taliban?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Seriously.

Things aren't going so hot in Afghanistan, it turns out:

Americans strike as resurgent Taliban pour over border

More than 500 American troops were flown into Shah-i-Kot, a sparsely populated wilderness in Paktia province, to neutralise the threat from Taliban fighters believed to have poured through mountain passes in recent weeks from the Pakistani border, nearly 100 kilometres away. All over eastern Afghanistan there are clear signs that the Taliban is rallying for fresh offensives.

-- snip --

"Our intelligence indicates an increase in traffic through these mountains in recent weeks," said Lieutenant Michael Swift, an intelligence officer. "A lot of enemy recruits are coming into this region from camps inside Pakistan."

And, as it happens, the Taliban don't particularly feel like playing nice:

Taliban Warn of Suicide Attacks on Foreign Troops

Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have threatened to launch suicide attacks against U.S. and British troops and Afghan government officials in revenge for a big defeat this month.

The threat came in leaflets distributed in southeastern Afghanistan that also urged people to back the Taliban and not cooperate with the U.S.-backed government.

"A suicide force of Taliban Mujahideen has been formed to take the revenge for Taliban martyrs," the Taliban said, according to a copy of the leaflet seen in the border town of Spin Boldak on Monday. Mujahideen are Muslim holy warriors.

"They will start non-stop suicide attacks on senior Afghan officials and American and British forces," it added.

So... what to do? Not that you'll see the White House holding press conferences anytime soon, but they're reportedly opening peace talks.

US turns to the Taliban

According to a Pakistani jihadi leader who played a role in setting up the communication, the meeting took place recently between representatives of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taliban leaders at the Pakistan Air Force base of Samungli, near Quetta.

-- snip --

The backdrop to the first meeting is an ever-increasing escalation in the guerrilla war being waged against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south.

-- snip --

At the same time, famed warlord Gulbbudin Hekmatyar [about whom more here] has joined the resistance after returning from exile in Iran. His Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) is the most organized force in Afghanistan, and its participation has added real muscle to the resistance.

So Our Glorious Leader is 0-for-2 in wars he says we already won.

Thanks to Spencer and Joerg for their help.

More on the Cornerstone of Shamelessness

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A Lexis search on the Times story headlined "Goal Is to Lay Cornerstone at Ground Zero During G.O.P. Convention" brings up not only the article -- with the headline intact -- but the following correction, appended at the end:

CORRECTION: An article yesterday about rebuilding at the World Trade Center site misstated the goal of development officials in setting an aggressive environmental review schedule. It is to start construction next summer, not to lay a cornerstone for the first tower during the Republican National Convention. (State officials had considered that at one point, but they recently decided not to do so, a spokeswoman for Gov. George E. Pataki said yesterday.)

Hmm. So this horrifyingly shameless exploitation of 9/11 actuallly was "considered" at some point, albeit by unnamed "state officials," which conveniently gives the White House deniability.

That said, relevant "state officials" for setting the WTC rebuilding timetable should logically include the Lower Manhattan Development Association, whose team lineup includes Bush cronies like Republican Leadership Council founder and Bush fundraiser Lewis Eisenberg, Reagan cabinet member John Whitehead, and Yale classmate, Bush donor, and former Texas Rangers co-owner Roland Betts, who can be seen leading Bush around his Jackson Hole retreat on the White House website.

Now, I don't have the slightest idea who first floated the idea for using the WTC disaster as an enormous GOP prop. And I don't have the slightest idea who told the Times about it, who at the Times then made the decision to delete the GOP-embarrassing headline, or if any pressure was applied. Not claiming to know.

But isn't it the job of the Times to answer questions like that, not create them?

Tell them what you think here.

Thanks to alert readers John and Dave for their helpful emails, and to Common Cause for already getting the lowdown on the LMDC's board.

The White House will surely declare hydrogen a WMD

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In case you missed this, the Observer has followed up on those alleged mobile germ labs in Iraq:

Iraqi Mobile Labs Nothing To Do With Germ Warfare, Report Finds

An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'

All together now: Bush lied. People died. It's time he was tried.

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

June 15, 2003

The progressive movement's first 2004 primary

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

MoveOn.org will soon hold a presidential straw poll of its membership, which is no small thing.

In 2002, the MoveOn.org PAC contributed more than $3.5 million to congressional campaigns, and you're probably already familiar with the role the group had in helping mobilize the unprecedented pre-war protests nationwide.

If you'd like to vote, you can join MoveOn.org here now.

As to who I'm voting for... let's just say that the Kucinich animations are finally posted on my own site as well as here, free for you to download and forward. There's also a zip file of all three.

(Incidentally, if you want to email these, please download and send the files themselves, instead of just forwarding a link. I'm less likely to go broke on bandwidth that way. You're also welcome to upload the files to your own site; tell me and I'll make sure your page is linked on mine so we can share the bandwidth load. Thanks!)

Update: the animations are now also here and here and here, with another all-in-one zip file here. Thanks to Cyndy, Robert, and Niles.

Update 2: you can also go here and here and here, with more zip files here and here, sit files here and here, and an ftp site here. Thanks to Brian, Joel, and cb. Wow.

Update 3: Maxspeak has posted a zip here. Any more takers? These are surprising the hell out of me. Could use all the bandwidth help we can get...

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