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June 27, 2003

Unintentional hiatus

Well, thank you for all the kind offers of assistance (and to my many new Nigerian friends, the interesting business proposals!), but as it turned out, the browser problems were only the start of a long, long journey, from which I am only now returning. Hearing about other people's computer problems is only slightly less interesting than hearing about their recent dental work, but suffice it to say that all those compulsive redundant backups I do turn out to be a very good thing. Anyway, this whole exciting learning experience, as I like to think of it, leaves me playing catch up in various ways, so there won't be much from me here today, and I believe Bob is also otherwise occupied this weekend. Have a good one, and stay hydrated.

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

June 26, 2003

New video: Bush on 9/11, during the WTC attacks

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A much longer chunk of video of Bush remaining in the Florida classroom for several minutes after being informed of the second WTC impact has surfaced.

It's at the Memory Hole. Go watch this thing.

In the first few seconds of the video, Bush is informed by Chief of Staff Andrew Card that "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."

And the guy just sits there. For five... solid... freaking... minutes.

The White House admits that Bush fully understood what was happening. So keep this in mind while watching: in New York, as these long, precious minutes slowly tick by, people are burning horribly, people are jumping 100 stories to their deaths, and more planes are very likely headed for other targets (the Pentagon, for example, as it turned out).

Bush sits complacently, doing nothing.

Fighter planes desperately need scrambling. The Pentagon not yet been hit. This is a grave national emergency.

Five. Solid. Freaking. Minutes.

Watch the video. Watch it. Watch the damn thing.

And while you do, remember that morning. Remember where you were, how instantly you wanted to help, and how desperately you would have leapt to action given any opportunity to defend this country.

When the footage ends, he's still not moving, although we can hear the press being told the photo-op is over. Eyewitness accounts indicate that he continued to do virtually nothing for at least another several minutes.

This man is still fighting tooth-and-nail to suppress a full public disclosure of exactly what happened that day.

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

June 25, 2003

%#$@*#@!!!

Okay, question for the brain trust. I've been using Netscape (7, on Mac OS9) for mail, and tonight it is suddenly and totally FUBAR. When I try to start it up, I first get a CONFIGURATION WARNING which informs me there is a syntax error of some sort, and it then starts up as if I am a completely new user. Given that I have several different email boxes which I use in an active manner to keep track of various matters, and given that it's going to take me half a day with tech support to track down all the various smtp addresses and so on if I have to start over from scratch, how the hell do I convince Netscape that it already has all this info on file?

Mail to the usual address. I'll be checking it via webmail in the morning with the hope that someone with a clue (a category which emphatically does not include me at the moment) can help me out here.

Update: problems resolved, for better or worse...

Yikes

Words simply cannot do this justice. Just go look. (Via August.)

Way to win those hearts and minds

This is just appalling:

BALAD, Iraq (AP) - On a scorching afternoon, while on duty at an Army airfield, Sgt. David J. Borell was approached by an Iraqi who pleaded for help for his three children, burned when they set fire to a bag containing explosive powder left over from war in Iraq.

Borell immediately called for assistance. But the two Army doctors who arrived about an hour later refused to help the children because their injuries were not life-threatening and had not been inflicted by U.S. troops.

Now the two girls and a boy are covered with scabs and the boy cannot use his right leg. And Borell is shattered.

"I have never seen in almost 14 years of Army experience anything that callous," said Borell, who recounted the June 13 incident to The Associated Press.

A U.S. military spokesman said the children's condition did not fall into a category that requires Army physicians to treat them - and that there was no inappropriate response on the part of the doctors.

Tower of babble

Original Andy:

But there's a premise here that strikes me as off-base. The premise is that after 9/11, only rock-solid evidence of illicit weapons prgrams and proven ties to terrorists could justify a pre-emptive war to depose Saddam. But the point of 9/11 was surely the opposite: that the burden of proof now lay on people denying such a threat, not those fearing it.

Andy filtered through Tha Shizzolater:

But there's a premise here that strikes me as off-base, know what I'm sayin'? The premise is that after 9/11, only rock-solid evidence of illicit weapons prgrams 'n proven ties terrorists could justify a pre-emptive war depose Saddam." But da point of 9/11 wuz surely da opposite: that da burden of proof now lay on muthas denying such a threat, not those fearing that shiznit, know what I'm sayin'?

Andy filtered through the Dialecticizer, set on Redneck:

Th' premise is thet af'er 9/11, only rock-solid evidence of illicit weapons prgrams an' proven ties t'terro'ists c'd jestify a pre-emppive war t'depose Saddam, dawgone it. But th' point of 9/11 was sho'ly th' opposite: thet th' burden of proof now lay on varmints denyin' sech a threat, not them fearin' it.

The Dialecticizer set on Elmer Fudd:

Oh, dat scwewy wabbit! But thewe's a pwemise hewe that stwikes me as off-base. De pwemise is that aftew 9/11, onwy wock-sowid evidence of iwwicit weapons pwgwams and pwoven ties to tewwowists couwd justify a pwe-emptive waw to depose Saddam. But the point of 9/11 was suwewy the opposite: that the buwden of pwoof now way on peopwe denying such a thweat, not those feawing it.

On Swedish chef:

Zee premeese-a is thet effter 9/11, oonly ruck-suleed ifeedence-a ooff illeecit veepuns prgrems und prufee teees tu terrureests cuoold joosteeffy a pre-a-impteefe-a ver tu depuse-a Seddem. Boot zee pueent ooff 9/11 ves soorely zee ooppuseete-a: thet zee boordee ooff pruuff noo ley oon peuple-a denyeeng sooch a threet, nut thuse-a feereeng it.

If you're going to read Andy, you might as well have fun doing it.

In case you missed it

Good article in the Sunday Times about how utterly intertwined Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR are with the military establishment, and how KBR has enriched itself every step of the way with Iraq--dealing with Saddam, preparing to defeat Saddam, and now rebuilding Iraq.

We're waiting, Scoobie

Gadfly extraordinaire Scoobie Davis will be fact checking Ann Coulter's latest opus soon, and it's reasonable to assume that he'll have plenty of grist for the mill.

I just glanced through the book's index at the local bookstore and was disappointed to see that my own name did not fall between those of Tokyo Rose and Nina Totenberg. After all, she did denounce me, along with Pat Leahy and Eric Foner, in this column, as an example of all that is wrong with America.

And yes, I know that the lovely belle of New Canaan will be blogging soon. Though since she was supposed to start Monday, she's not exactly off to an auspicious start.

Time and Time again

The editors of Time magazine's letters page have come in for a fair amount of criticism on this site over the last month, as a result of their failure to note within their pages that the Thomas Stokes letter they ran was actually GOP astroturf. But I wanted to at least tip my hat to whatever sly editor composed a headline which runs over these two letters:

In his Commentary "Blessed Are The Poor They Don't Get Tax Cuts," Joe Klein wrote, "Families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625 ... pay little or no income taxes" [IN THE ARENA, June 9]. This being the case, why should these families receive the proposed tax credit which could amount to $400? Why must we keep giving to the poor, the way the Democrats want to? If we do, the poor will come to expect it, which is one of the primary problems with today's welfare program: there's no incentive to better one's way of life. JOSEPH KING St. Peters, Mo.

Klein's complaint about low-income families' not receiving the child tax credit from Bush's tax cut reflected unsound thinking. Overpopulation demands that no rational government provide economic incentives for further procreation. Six billion humans is way too many. Even if more people were needed to provide a larger labor force, we certainly should not be giving incentives to those individuals who seem to be least able to care for their children. The omission of the child tax credit from the tax-cut bill was arguably the best part of the legislation. MIKE WHITE Baltimore, Md.

The headline Time composed for these two examples of compassionate conservatism at its most Darwinian? "A Modest Proposal."

* * *

Speaking of this week's Time, a disturbing bit jumped out at me in this article about Christian fundamentalists spreading the gospel in Muslim countries:

She projected a statement by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on a screen: "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you." After his comment was publicized in late 2001, Ashcroft said it referred to terrorists and not to mainstream Muslims, but the point seemed lost on her. "Islam is the terrorist," Barbara asserted. "Muslims are the victim." The class ended in prayer. "We mourn the loss of life" in Iraq, someone said. Added Barbara: "We pray that the weapon of mass destruction, Islam, be torn down. Lord, we declare that your blood is enough to forgive every single Muslim. It is enough."

Emphasis added. You see, we have found the weapon of mass destruction--it is Islam itself...

Your chance to get tomorrow's bullshit today!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The good folks at Slate have posted screengrabs of an accidental release of George W. Bush's 2004 campaign website.

See more Hispanic photos!

Bush truly is a uniter, not a divider

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Things that are obviously going to happen... usually do.

To wit, from today's New York Times:

Power Moves May Be Uniting Hard-Liners in Iraq and Iran

The significance of the contacts is not yet clear, but they could mark an attempt by conservative forces in Iran to maintain power and for their Iraqi counterparts to achieve power after many years of brutal suppression under President Saddam Hussein.

One giant nation of hardcore mullahs, from Shi'a to shining Shi'a, coming soon to a Middle East near you.

MoveOn.org voting ends at midnight Wednesday

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Tons of email about my Kucinich/Dean comparison.

Very glad to hear from so many Dean supporters, who are mostly pretty cool, even if they disagree. Several took issue with some of my characterizations of Dean's positions; a few provided links supporting their argument. Totally fair enough. I've tried to double-check everything, and you'll find a few changes as a result. If I didn't include an item of feedback, I truly believe there's good reason, I promise, although I could still be wrong.

I've also tweaked a few characterizations of Kucinich's positions. For example, I didn't originally mention the consistently pro-life stance he took until recently. Not trying to hide anything -- I figured it was common knowledge -- but while I pretty much accept Kucinich's change of heart as sincere, I also understand any skepticism regarding any candidate. So that's there now, along with some other stuff. I also deleted a couple of rows where I was just plain wrong, and it turns out little difference exists.

You should also know that there were about 20 or 30 other issues where I only found a stated position by one candidate, and so I simply couldn't post them. In a process that large (attention: passive voice approaching), mistakes will be made. I try to be up front about my biases, and then write as if I don't have them. Don't always succeed.

If anything I've changed here might make you change your vote, incidentally, you have until midnight Wednesday to do so. I still consider Kucinich to be vastly more progressive on the issues. But think for yourself, as always.

Finally, I'm certainly not the only one noticing that Dean isn't exactly a progressive candidate. Check out this MSNBC piece, entitled Closet Centrist:

... But how exactly do Dean and Graham differ on the war resolution, the tax cuts, and funding the education bill? Not at all.

-- snip --

Most of what Dean said on Meet the Press Sunday morning could have been written by the Democratic Leadership Council. He accused Bush of forcing tax hikes and spending too much. He indicated that he'd limit the rate of spending growth and might raise the retirement age. He deferred to states and churches on gun control and gay marriage. At one point, host Tim Russert rapped Dean for calling Dick Gephardt's expensive health care proposal "pie in the sky." Some big spender. Dean's defense of the death penalty in extreme cases was even more eyebrow-raising:

"The problem with life without parole is that people get out for reasons that have nothing to do with justice. We had a case where a guy who was a rapist, a serial sex offender, was convicted, then was let out on what I would think and believe was a technicality, a new trial was ordered, and the victim wouldn't come back and go through the second trial. And so the guy basically got time served. ...So life without parole doesn't work either."

Executing killers because they might get out on a "technicality"? That isn't just pro-death penalty. It's anti-due-process.

I'll close here by quoting Dean himself, toward the end of a recent interview with Salon (daypass required):

"I don't mind being characterized as 'liberal,"' he says. "I just don't happen to think it's true."

Glad we're all agreed here.

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

June 24, 2003

Clarification for the casual reader

Just so we're clear on this, there are two authors on this website, and Bob's the Kucinich advocate. I'm not endorsing anyone just yet.

Having said that: I'm getting mail from readers who have confused Bob's posts with mine, bringing up the question of "electability"--the repeated refrain is, basically, Sure, I like Kucinich better, but Dean is more electable.

Kids.

Is this what it's come to? A non-binding, online referendum, the summer before the primary season really heats up--and you're not willing, even at this early point, to vote for the candidate you actually prefer?

Let me repeat, I'm not endorsing anyone here. And I'm not sayng the electability concern isn't valid.

But if you want any hope of ever having a progressive voice at the table, at some point you've got to show some support for said progressive voice. And this seems about as low-risk a way to do it as is humanly possible. This isn't November 2000 in Florida, and Kucinich ain't Ralph Nader. This is, as I say, a non-binding, nonscientific online referendum. And Kucinich isn't a third-party challenger--he's playing within the rules of the Democratic party's primary process, and in the (probable, I would guess) event that he does not secure the nomination, he's pledged to support the Democrat who does, whoever it may be.

Vote for Dean, vote for Kucinich--just, for god's sake, vote for the candidate who represents what you believe--not the candidate you imagine other people might prefer.

(Vote here. May take some patience on your part, the server appears to be overloaded.) (Oops--actually you register there and they email you a ballot, and I'm not entirely sure you can still register.)

Addendum: just so it doesn't get lost below my posts, here's the page Bob put together comparing Kucinich and Dean.

No no no no no no

If you want to destroy the nascent democracy movement in Iran and solidify the shaky power of the mullahs, well, there is no quicker path to that goal than a US invasion. And yet:

Most Americans would support the United States taking military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons despite growing public concern about the mounting number of U.S. military casualties in the aftermath of the war with Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

President Bush last week said the rest of the world should join the United States in declaring that it "will not tolerate" nuclear weapons in Iran -- a vow that most Americans appear willing to back with force. By 56 percent to 38 percent, the public endorsed the use of the military to block Iran from developing nuclear arms.

Support for a military solution in Iran came despite rising concern about the growing number of casualties among U.S. military personnel in neighboring Iraq. About half said the current level of U.S. dead and wounded is "acceptable" -- down from two-thirds in early April.

Democracy, whisky, sexy

That was the triumphalist warblogger rallying cry for awhile (after something an exuberant Iraqi man was quoted as saying in some newspaper article). Well, once again, it appears that reality isn't quite living up to the fantasies of the short attention span crowd (remember their great enthusiasm for the liberated people of Afghanistan?), at least according to Nicholas Kristoff:

An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq, with particularly grievous implications for girls and women. President Bush hopes that Iraq will turn into a shining model of democracy, and that could still happen. But for now it's the Shiite fundamentalists who are gaining ground.

Already, almost every liquor shop in southern Iraq appears to have been forcibly closed. Here in Basra, Islamists have asked Basra University (unsuccessfully) to separate male and female students, and shopkeepers have put up signs like: "Sister, cover your hair." Many more women are giving in to the pressure and wearing the hijab head covering.

"Every woman is afraid," said Sarah Alak, a 22-year-old computer engineering student at Basra University. Ms. Alak never used to wear a hijab, but after Saddam fell her father asked her to wear one on the university campus, "just to avoid trouble."

Extremists also threatened Basra's cinemas for showing pornography (like female knees). So the city's movie theaters closed down for two weeks and reopened only after taking down outside posters and putting up banners, like this one outside the Watani Cinema: "We do not deal with immoral movies."

--snip--

Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein (when they weren't being tortured or executed, penalties that the regime applied on an equal opportunity basis). In the science faculty at Basra University, 80 percent of the students are women. Iraq won't follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that's the system many Iraqis seek.

"Democracy means choosing what people want, not what the West wants," notes Abdul Karim al-Enzi, a leader of the Dawa Party, a Shiite fundamentalist party that is winning support in much of the country.

Whisky and sexy aren't exactly growth stocks in Iraq right now, and what democracy there will end up looking like is anybody's guess. In other words, the real world is complicated and poorly considered actions are often subject to the law of unintended consequences. But hey--it's more fun to repeat crazy slogans than think about things like that, right? Whisky, sexy, democracy, whoopee!

(A small tip: if, like me, you are occasionally compelled to check in on the warbling blogs, try filtering them through the Shizzolater. It makes the whole experience much more tolerable somehow.)

The MoveOn.org primary: why I'm voting for Kucinich

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The MoveOn.org primary begins today. If you're a MoveOn.org member, you've got until midnight Wednesday to vote. If a candidate receives over 50% of the vote, they'll get an endorsement, and very likely a large chunk of campaign donations from the MoveOn PAC.

Judging from email, TMW readers intending to vote are mostly split between Dean and Kucinich. I'm a Kucinich guy, and I just sat up all night putting together this webpage comparing their positions as concisely as possible. If you're a progressive, you should realize that Howard Dean ain't -- not in this guy's opinion, anyway. (Note: I don't speak for Tom, our congenial host, on this. Just me, spewing.)

Have a look. Think for yourself. And then go vote.

Harry Potter is destroying my friends

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

My friends Mike and Jon have a humorous op-ed in today's NYT.

It might be more fun to read than the anything else in the paper today.

A Bush attack on your rights of due process and trial by jury

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From this morning's New York Times:

Bush Declares Student an Enemy Combatant

Because he was declared an enemy combatant, Mr. Marri was moved from a prison in Illinois to a military brig in South Carolina, according to Lawrence S. Lustberg, who represented him in the criminal case. As an enemy combatant, Mr. Marri can be held indefinitely, and he has no access to a lawyer unless the military decides to bring charges, officials said.

The case represents the first time that the administration is shifting custody of someone charged by criminal prosecutors to the military as an enemy combatant, administration officials said.

-- snip --

"To just pluck someone from the criminal justice system and remove them from any of the protections of the legal system to me suggests a very troubling disregard for the rule of law," said Jamie Fellner, the United States director for Human Rights Watch.

-- snip --

Mr. Lustberg, a prominent civil liberties lawyer, said he had never heard some of the allegations that Justice Department officials were making today against his client.

"It's either brand new," he said, "or it was withheld from us. The whole thing is really puzzling to me."

Frank W. Dunham Jr., a standby lawyer for Mr. Moussaoui -- who is representing himself and who has also been considered for enemy combatant status -- said he was concerned that administration officials were abusing the judicial process by failing to maintain a separation between the military and civilian systems.

"You shouldn't be allowed to switch tracks like they're doing," Mr. Dunham said in an interview. "That's how you get into the abuse of threatening criminal defendants, suggesting that 'if you don't pleaded guilty to this charge or that charge, we're going to declare you an enemy combatant and lock you up forever.' " [Italics mine.]

Elisa C. Massimino, director of the Washington office of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the Bush administration had made it difficult for the public to tell why someone like Mr. Marri was declared an enemy combatant while the administration used the criminal system to convict someone like Iyman Faris, a truck driver from Ohio who admitted last week that he was involved in a conspiracy by Al Qaeda to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

"It really looks like a situation where they make the rules up as they go along," Ms. Massimino said.

The criminal justice system is good enough for Eric Rudolph. It's good enough for Iyman Faris. It was good enough for the Rosenbergs, Earl Pitts, Robert Hansson, "the Falcon and the Snowman," Aldrich Ames, Brian Patrick Regan, and five freshly-convicted Cuban spies just a few months ago, among others. We got this far just fine without destroying the basic precepts of the U.S. Constitution.

The dangers of the Bush adminstrations's invented policy of entirely extrajudicial, legally-fuzzed-over, non-criminal, non-POW, variably-defined "enemy combatant" status should be obvious.

If it's not, look at the line in italics again.

Weapons of Theatrical Destruction

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

They didn't find WMDs, but U.S. army soldiers have seized a cache of 300 prop machine guns, used in theatrical productions, from a Baghdad theatre.

The vintage weapons date to the 1920s, and apparently have only cultural value.

Also seized: a large canister of corrosive hair pomade, a pennyfarthing bicycle which could be used to transport very small troops, and a suspicious cache of handlebar mustache wax.

The 4th of July: a fun, free, liberal, and patriotic action

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

If you're like me -- fed up with people who don't have the slightest clue what the flag actually stands for claiming it and our national holidays as their own political property, and looking for something you can do to respond -- you'll love this.

Patriotic flyers (in .pdf form, so you can print and circulate as many as you want) with a crowd-friendly flag on the outside and a series of provocative, searing, yet familiar quotes from Jefferson, Franklin, et al on the inside.

Doesn't scream "liberal" nearly so much as it screams "I love my country" -- which is entirely the point.

A quiet, major Bush attack on your freedoms of speech and assembly

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

"Free speech zones" -- essentially cop-surrounded holding pens for anyone who cares enough to speak but isn't called on by our masters -- are now commonly employed at political events, placed far out of sight and closely monitored by the authorities, lest any actual democracy occur.

Obviously, the very existence of such a practice -- employed enthusaistically at both the 2000 GOP and Democratic conventions, for example -- and its widespread acceptance by the media and most politicians tell you just exactly where our nation is headed.

By definition, such enclosures make the rest of any such important gathering a non-free-speech zone. Protest that no one can see or hear is meaningless. (Just try to imagine the Civil Rights movement or Martin Luther King's speech outside the UN in an era of "free speech zones.") This cannot by any conceivable argument be the purpose of the First Amendment.

Horrifying enough, right? But at least in 2000, when I personally got hassled by police at both conventions for doing little more than walking past the "free speech" areas with a mic and a video camera in my hands, you weren't prosecuted for federal offenses merely for speaking your mind. You got a dirty look. Maybe, in a few cases, you spent a few nights in jail or even caught a rubber bullet or two. All plenty objectionable enough. But you didn't get charged with a federal f***ing offense.

That has changed.

Read this Economist story, sent along by alert readers Eli and Jeff.

Last October, a longtime activist named Brett Bursey held up a held a "No War For Oil" sign while waiting for Bush's arrival at the Columbia, SC airport.

He was arrested for trespassing.

Bursey reportedly held up his sign in the midst of a number of Bush supporters, who were allowed to speak their minds (such as they are) freely. They weren't arrested.

Bursey was required to remain in the "free speech zone" -- half a mile away -- simply because he disagreed. So freedom of assembly and speech are dependent on your opinions -- meaning they aren't rights at all.

And so Bursey was hauled away, even though no human being alive argues that Bursey was threatening or endangering anyone in any way. This is, quite explicitly, the criminalization of public opposition.

And now (probably because this took place in a conservative jurisdiction where the case will be heard by a judge, not a jury -- giving the Bush/Ashcroft junta optimum chances at setting a chilling precedent) -- Bursey faces federal charges (and up to six months imprisonment and $5K in fines) under an obscure law, not previously applied this way, giving the Secret Service authority over presidential-visit areas.

(Incidentally, the prosecutor is Strom Thurmond, Jr., son of the racist Senator who once ran for president with the slogan "Segregation Forever.")

If a guilty verdict gets upheld through the courts (I think hell will be raised first, but who knows), then -- seriously, this is the logical consequence, the line being drawn here -- anyone protesting Bush within his sight (if the Secret Service so chooses) could be imprisoned on federal charges for doing so outside whatever arbitrary zone they're supposed to be in.

And this is America? Unfreakinbelievable.

You sometimes hear right-wing puffery about breathing deeply the sweet air of freedom.

The Bush administration is a pillow, held firmly.

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

June 23, 2003

Gen. Wesley Clark quietly drops a bombshell -- on Bush

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has pointed out the following explosive statement by Gen. Wesley Clark on the June 15th edition of Meet The Press (scroll down in the transcript):

GEN CLARK: ...there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.

MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?

GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, "You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein." I said, "But -- I?m willing to say it but what?s your evidence?" And I never got any evidence...

Hey, whoa. "People around the White House" -- who? Wolfowitz? Perle? -- were calling around to bang the war drums on Iraq before the bodies had even settled into the rubble? With no conceivable evidence -- just as we now know that the evidence re nukes and WMDs was later rigged as well? That very freaking day?

In science, rigging the data to fit your conclusion gets you drummed out of the academy. In politics, it gets Bush...

Well, actually, it's up to us to decide what it gets Bush.

The MoveOn.org primary: the GOP preference seems clear

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The MoveOn.org primary starts tomorrow... I'll post more about who I'm voting for and why at my own website shortly.

For now, alert reader Tony tips us that that some Republicans intend to freep the vote with ballots for Al Sharpton.

The cutting edge in buying influence: hiring the kids

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Today's Los Angeles Times has a killer article on how family members of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) have been employed by virtually evey major player in the state of Nevada, and how -- just coincidentally, mind you -- Reid's legislative record seems to be the work of an absolutely soulless tool.

It's the second of two parts. Yesterday's paper outlined similar grungy-looking arrangements in the families of Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ted Stevens (R-AK), John Breaux (D-LA), and Trent Lott (R-MS), prominent among many others.

The Times investigation, in fact, found a total of 17 senators and 11 members of the House with family members on somebody's payroll as lobbyists or consultants, and reports that an attorney who advises the House leadership on ethics estimates the number of lobbyist relatives of lawmakers at over 70.

If you're thinking, well, heck, maybe these people are legit, and that's just what they do for a living... nope. Turns out plenty of them have no expertise in the fields where they're working. (Trent Lott's kid Chet, for example, was playing polo and running a pizza business when he was hired as a telecommunications lobbyist by BellSouth.)

Which means the sole qualification some of these folks have got is... the appearance (at minimum) of something that should disqualify representatives from public service.

What that Hummer ad reminds me of

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I just figured it out...

Y'know that TV ad where a giant yellow Hummer goes bouncing along some god-forsaken terrain?

That reminded me of something... I couldn't put my finger on it... I knew I'd seen something like that before... maybe in my childhood...

Wait -- long, yellow, oddly squarish, stiff suspension... I've got it!

It's the school bus that used to go by when I was a kid!!!

All you gotta do is paint "Willoughby-Eastlake Public School System" on the side and move the doors around a little, and it's pretty much exactly right. Maybe throw a couple of smokestacks in the distance and some grotty bits of exhaust-caked snow on the ground, and you've got it.

Sport-freakin'-school-buses.

I didn't think I'd live to see the day.

"Truth Is The Weapon of Bush's Self-Destruction"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Read this spectacular piece laundry-listing the abominations of the Bush White House, written by Harvey Wasserman and published in the Columbus Free Press, where he's a senior editor.

Harvey is also a senior advisor to Greenpeace, one of the original minds behind the No Nukes movement of the '70s, and one hell of a nice guy to interview on the radio. You can read some of his other kick-ass stuff here and here and here.

Science proves: smokers really are becoming stupider every day

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From the American Journal of Public Health, June issue, summarized here in their own words:

Cigarette smokers more likely to suffer memory loss in middle age

Smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day can cause memory loss and other cognitive problems in middle age, according to a study of almost 2,000 British adults. The study participants were tested on verbal memory, speed and concentration at age 43 and again at age 53. Researchers found that heavy smokers suffered the largest decline in these cognitive functions. All smokers were susceptible to memory loss regardless of sex, race or socioeconomic status. And while heavy smokers often die younger than non-smokers from such illnesses as cancer and heart disease, those who do survive into old age are more likely to suffer from memory loss and dementia, or what the study's authors called "clinically significant cognitive decline."

This should be no surprise. Your brain runs on oxygen; some studies I've read put the brain's total requirement at 20-25% of your body's entire intake. Ginkgo Biloba is widely believed to work because it improves oxygen transport. Make sense so far?

Cigarettes, like anything burning, contain carbon monoxide. Once in the bloodstream, carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin, inhibiting oxygen transport. That's how it kills you, if you breathe too much of it. (That's also why CO poisoning victims are sometimes pink at the scene; it's the pink-colored carboxyhemoglobin still in the blood.)

And so what happens if you just breathe a steady non-lethal stream of CO for years and years and years? You attenuate the flow of oxygen to your brain. That's not controversial.

And now there's scientific evidence linking smoking to impaired mental function.

Gee.

I sure wish the American Cancer Society and other anti-smoking activists would start telling people that smoking kills their brains, as well as their hearts and lungs. I think maybe people might be more protective of their minds.

Then again, given how many people watch reality TV, listen to talk radio, and consider celebrity gossip an acceptable equivalent for actual news... I could be wrong.

Iraq: the new gold rush

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Some terrific stuff in today's L.A. Times... we'll start with this round-up of companies lining up to cash in on America's newest colony:

The corporate gold rush to Iraq has begun.

"Companies see a huge pie in Iraq, one with a special flavor they like: oil," said Mark Baxter, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Iraq's oil reserves, the second-largest in the world, make it much more enticing than many other needy countries.

"Oil is the commodity that ensures the companies will be paid," Baxter said.

Lots of smaller firms are apparently gathering around the bloated Bush-connected megacompanies like lampreys attaching themselves to feed.

"The level of interest from potential subcontractors is unprecedented," said Bechtel spokeswoman Valerie Kazanjian. "It's not normal."

Like anything has been normal in the last 29 months...

Our equally-hypocritical allies across the pond

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A bunch of my Buffy friends had a convention in London this week and brought back a copy of the Sunday Times, figuring I'd enjoy the following:

Top Tory aide is king of the urban swingers

A senior Tory strategist revealed yesterday that he leads a double life as Britain's leading organiser of upmarket sex parties.

By day Dougie Smith, 41, is the respectable co-ordinator of Conservatives for Change (Cchange), the influential Tory think tank...

-- snip --

However, by night Smith runs Fever Parties, a London-based organisation that hosts "five-star" orgies for swingers.

You'd figure Bill Bennett would be on the VIP list.

Then again, no.

So: TMW readers who also happen to be horny married right-wing Londoners inclined toward group sex, go here. Non-horny London right-wingers who think you're better than these people, go here instead.

Have fun, kids!

Every damn day redux

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Hi all. Sorry to disappear suddenly like that. No, I wasn't dragged off to Guantanamo, as more than one emailed half-jokingly suggested. Slight crisis in the not-starving part of my career, that's all, now managed.

I'll be playing catch-up here for a bit, so if a post seems like it should have gone up a day or two ago, it probably would have, and thanks for indulging my brief displacement in space-time.

Checking the latest Pentagon news...

Army Spc. Orenthial J. Smith, 21, of Allendale, S.C. was killed in an ambush in Baghdad Sunday.

They don't post stuff on the weekends here... but scrolling down... damn, damn, damn, damn. Still looks like very damn day.

I gotta find something cheerier to post or I'll never get through the afternoon...

Do as I say, not as my daughters do
But perhaps his most spooky run-in with the opposite sex happened when President Bush's twin daughters came over to his house for a party and smoked pot -- with the Secret Service within smelling distance! Kutcher tells Rolling Stone magazine that about a year and a half ago, he met Jenna and Barbara Bush at a Nike party. After whooping it up there, everyone ended up at Kutcher's house, although he insisted the Secret Service stay outside.

"So we're hanging out," Kutcher says. "The Bushes were underage -- drinking at my house. When I checked outside, one of the Secret Service guys asked me if they'd be spending the night. I said no. And then I go upstairs to see another friend and I can smell the green wafting out under his door. I open the door, and there he is smoking out the Bush twins on his hookah." Apparently a good time was had by all, but Kutcher thinks that ever since the Bushes' visit the Secret Service has tapped his phone. No word yet from Papa George "Zero Tolerance" Bush on his daughters extracurricular activities.

Story (thanks, Doug).

Up the river without a paddle

Mr. Kurtz today, in a Washington Post chat:

(A chat participant from Baltimore asks): A couple of months ago the big story coming out of Iraq was that the Antiquities Museum had been looted of many of its priceless treasures.

Then we learned that many of its most important artifacts had been protected before the war, and that only 33 artifacts had disappeared, and conservative media outlets jumped on the initial reports as examples of liberal bias and unsubstantiated gloom and doom over Iraq taking precedence over what was really going on.

Now, The Washington Post reports (June 21) that at least 6000 artifacts WERE in fact, looted, and the number is expecte to rise after a full accounting:

So what's the story here? Why is it taking so long to get a clear picture of what went on with the Museum? Did the Administration organize a disinformation offensive to counter an initial story that was bringing them some pretty bad PR?

Also, a couple of months ago I asked you if the media had a responsibility to come up with a total for Iraqi civilian casualties in the face of the Administration/Pentagon's refusal to do so. You said you felt the media did have such a responsibility. But so far we've seen nothing, and frankly, I'm skeptical we ever will. This is dissappointing, especially given how much the media profitted financially from the war, sending its "embedded" reporters along for the ride, and providing us all with so much live-from-the-scene-reality-TV-eat-you-heart-out nonstop, 24 hr. coverage.

(Kurtz replies): It's hard to know what the story is on the museum artifacts, though even if the 6,000 figure is accurate, that hardly approaches the earlier reporting of 170,000 stolen artifacts. But I haven't seen any evidence that an administration plot is to blame. Also, it may well be that there's no way for either the U.S. military or journalists to come up with a definitive figure on how many Iraqi civilians were killed, though a reasonable estimate shouldn't be that difficult.

Kurtz in his June 11 column, "A Small Correction is in Order":

Everyone in journalism makes mistakes, especially routine mistakes the misspelled name, the mangled title, the wrong date. In this case, though, the press told us that, in a crushing loss for western civilization, 170,000 artifacts were stolen.

The actual number: 33.

Thanks to reader John for the heads up.

Turbines not quite to speed

Posting from the Tomorrow cave (deep under Stately Perkins Manor) will remain sporadic a little while longer. And Bob the Boy Wonder has been busy fighting the forces of evil in other venues. So bear with us, and we'll try to get atomic batteries to power as soon as we can.

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

June 22, 2003

Quick note

Go read Steve Gillard's piece at Kos on why WMD's matter. Too good to excerpt, just go read it all.

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