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July 04, 2003

Happy Fourth

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

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

July 03, 2003

Oh for chrissakes

The wisdom of Andrew Sullivan:

Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn't always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open.

Okay, then. American soldiers continue to die in Iraq and that's just hunky dory with Andy because it is somehow bringing "the terrorists" out of the woodwork?

This is possibly the stupidest fucking thing I have read all week, if not all month.

Does Sullivan honestly believe that because "the terrorists" are now busy killing Americans in Iraq, the rest of us are safe? And this is a good thing? Is this the purpose of the United States military in Sullivan's eyes--to act as a sort of Judas Goat, drawing fire away from his comfortable existence? And even taking him on his own terms--does he think we live in a fucking James Bond movie, and "the terrorists" are a small group of easily contained men who sit around in their secret headquarters reporting to a leader who strokes a white cat in his lap and who, when he is displeased by what he hears, pushes a button which causes their chairs to dump them into a shark tank?

Memo to Andrew Sullivan: this isn't a zero sum game, or even close. "The terrorists" and "Iraq" most likely have nothing to do with each other. Do you even believe this stuff yourself or are these just the bones you toss the idiot subscribers who actually believe you when you claim that it costs well over $80K a year to run a freakin' blog?

(Sorry, do I sound cranky? It's been a harder week than you know...)

Quickie

I've got some family stuff to deal with that's taking up a lot of my time right now, so, per my previous post, I really won't be posting much for a little while. But I just about spit out my coffee when I read this bit in an article in the NY Times about Dean this morning:

An aide to Mr. Lieberman said: "Everyone wants a race against Dean. Everyone has looked at the research, and he looks easiest to bring down. He's positioned himself as a liberal, and liberals don't win here."

"What the Democrats want more than anything else in the nominee is someone who can beat Bush ó Democrats just want to win," this aide said.

A few quick points here. One, in any rational society, Dean would be considered, at most, a sensible moderate. Two, I'm so bloody sick of Democrats who react to the word "liberal" as if it were an accusation of child abuse or satan worship, I could bloody scream. You don't see Republicans squealing like scared little girls every time someone calls them conservative, now do you? I want to get rid of Bush as much as the next rational person, but I'll tell you this: any Democrat who so blatantly distances himself from liberalism can go take the proverbial flying leap at the rolling donut, as far as I'm concerned.

And finally, two words for Mr. Lieberman, or any other candidate who thinks that Howard Dean is too much of a firebreather and the only way to win the '04 election is through bland moderation: Michael Dukakis.

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

July 02, 2003

Your first mission for today

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

1) Pay a visit to Google.

2) Type in (without using any quotes): weapons of mass destruction

3) Click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" icon.

You'll see why. Just go...

Your second mission for today

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Check out the Cost Of War Clock, which comes equipped with pull-down menus comparing the running total for the Iraq war (almost $70 billion at this writing) with how else that money could have been used for the nation and individual communities.

One man's opinion, but I think this should be forwarded as widely as possible.

People too damn busy to follow the news closely -- and in this economy, that's my explanation for so many people thinking WMDs were actually found, etc. -- can sure as hell understand:

hundreds of dead Americans, thousands of dead Iraqis
both still dying in quantity, Iraqi hostility growing
the main rationale now plainly a lie
no plan for the promised democracy
real terrorism ignored, Al-Qaeda regrouping, America still unprepared...

all for just $70 billion, plus another quarter-million a minute
which will eventually come out of our
social security, medicare, education, and other public services.

Three years of my life I want back

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Singapore's government has just given its first 5-star rating to a public toilet.

Environment Minister Lim Swee Say launched the "Happy Toilet" campaign, which will rate public restrooms using a five-star system similar to that used for hotels.

"I am looking very forward to experiencing this toilet myself so I can walk out of the toilet feeling happy," Lim said at a news conference, before placing the award plaque outside a restroom at a suburban shopping mall in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state.

-- snip --

"In total we spend almost three years of our lives on the toilet. It's natural and it's normal, so let's learn to say: 'Wow! That's a great toilet!" Sim said in the Happy Toilet program booklet.

If they were smart, they'd build a few here in California. With the housing bubble just about to burst, they could probably sell them for a quarter-million a pop.

If only our leaders had this much vision

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In the new millennium, it's not that the walls have ears; the ears have become large enough to contain walls:

The Pentagon is developing an urban surveillance system that would use computers and thousands of cameras to track, record and analyze the movement of every vehicle in a foreign city.

Dubbed "Combat Zones That See," the project is designed to help the U.S. military protect troops and fight in cities overseas.

Police, scientists and privacy experts say the unclassified technology could easily be adapted to spy on Americans.

The project's centerpiece is groundbreaking computer software that is capable of automatically identifying vehicles by size, color, shape and license tag, or drivers and passengers by face.

According to interviews and contracting documents, the software may also provide instant alerts after detecting a vehicle with a license plate on a watchlist, or search months of records to locate and compare vehicles spotted near terrorist activities.

I wonder if the system will be able to detect my skin crawling across the room?

The U.S. vs. the International Criminal Court

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

How dare other countries expect the United States to abide by rules of an International Criminal Court to which it was an original signatory?

U.S. Cuts Off 35 Nations Over World Criminal Court

The United States is suspending military aid to about 35 countries in a dispute over an international war crimes tribunal.

Overall, about $48 million in aid will be blocked, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Among the nations affected is Colombia, where some U.S. assistance for fighting drugs and terrorists could be in jeopardy.

The aid cutoff is because the countries failed to meet a Tuesday deadline for exempting Americans from prosecution before the new U.N. international war crimes tribunal.

Of course, since this is military aid, much of which is usually earmarked for the purchase of bang-bang that ultimately winds up being used against (as opposed to in defense of) the citizens of these countries, the cutoff itself may actually be a good thing for humanity.

So this is the Bush administration: playing hardball to avoid having to even think about international justice -- sticking it to smaller countries in a display of brute force -- and possibly doing a good thing for the planet only as a completely unintended side effect.

Be sure to tip your waitstaff!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Gosh. Such a nice post from Tom, and an inbox now throbbing with kind messages from you guys... makes a guy wish he was really gonna stop posting entirely.

Truth is, it's just a step back, aiming for exactly the sort of healthy perspective so eloquently described by our host, below. I mean, hey, a Messianic complex can sure be fun, but so are a) healthy relationships, b) bills actually getting paid, and c) enough sleep so I'll still be alive when statues of George W. Bush are finally pulled crashing to the ground.

Whether or not I ever fully adapt to the blogorhythm, you'll always be able to track me via my unimaginatively URL'ed website, which gets updated with a haphazardness that makes pentaquarks look downright predictable. Thanks very, very much for all the kind emails.

And so, on with the show... free ice cream today.

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

July 01, 2003

Winds of change

Bob initially signed on to the blog with the understanding that he was going to help keep it chock full-o-content during a particularly busy one-or-two week period in my life which has now come and gone. Iím delighted that he decided to stick around as long as he did, but all good things must, in fact, come to an end, and heís let me know that he needs to start phasing out his contributions so that he has more time to devote to, you know, his life. I imagine, after awhile, being the guest blogger on a site like this must feel like sleeping on someone elseís couch, but hereís hoping that Bob gets his own blog going sooner rather than lateróthe blogosphere would clearly be a richer place for it.

So. A round of applause for Bob Harris, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe we can pull him out for a few more encores before he exits the venue entirely. (And management intends to let him keep his backstage pass, so maybe heíll make a surprise cameo appearance every now and again.)

And as for me: I think, at least for awhile, what has previously and apologetically been referred to as "sporadic posting" will henceforth be known as "business as usual." Which is to say, Iíll keep posting and writing, just at maybe a slightly more relaxed pace. Iíve been doing this for a year and a half now, and the landscape of Blogtopia (yes! skippy coined that phrase!) has changed quite a lot. Iím much less of a voice in the left-wing wilderness now, and if I take a break from my duties as a central clearinghouse of Articles You Simply Must Read, Atrios or Kos or Hesiod or August or Billmon or some-damn-body or another is going to get those links up anyway. We may still be in the wilderness, but there are plenty of voices around us these days.

When I started doing this, it was my intention to use this space to write, leisurely and at length, unconstrained by the four-to-six panel format into which I am locked as a cartoonist, albeit the worldís most verbose cartoonist. But somehow, somewhere along the way, the frantic sense of urgency which defines so many blogs took over. Sorry I havenít posted for the last forty-five seconds! Iíve been taking a piss! As soon as I get my zipper zipped up, Iíll be back! I have seen it suggested that the advantage of the blogs is their immediacy, but I would also posit that it is their Achilles Heel. The first time I heard of the Instapundit site, I actually thought it was a joke. Instant punditry? Surely, I thought, this must be some sort of sly meta-commentary on the tendency of pundits to instantly, and by implication thoughtlessly, formulate opinions before theyíve had a chance to really mull things over, do some research, consider the implications. But noóitís a serious self-designation, trumpeting what the author apparently considers the strength of the blogsóthe ability to draw conclusions even more quickly than normal pundits.

Anyway, the point being, I didnít start out to be your complete one-stop source providing immediate links to All the News You Really Need to Read. And it seems to me more and more that thatís what some people are expecting hereóI get way too much email asking why I havenít written about this or that topic, and if the answerís not self-evident--didnít have time, didnít want to, somebody else already covered it--if the expectation is that said topic will be covered and is only notable for its absenceóthen somethingís gone off track somewhere.

So what Iím saying is, maybe this would be a good opportunity to indulge in that soft bigotry of low expectations of which we liberals are supposedy so fond. Itís summertime, and the liviní ought to be easy. If you check in every couple of hours, maybe cut that back to once a day. If you check in once a day, maybe cut that back to every couple of days. If you check in once a month, maybe cut back to once a year. You know, like that. Iím not going awayóchances are the casual reader wonít even notice a difference--Iím just slowing the pace a little bit, while I try to figure out exactly what it is I want to do with this site. Dammit Jim, Iím a writer, not a reference librarian--and I think I would like this space to reflect that a little more than it has lately.

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

June 30, 2003

They call it "supporting our troops"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Today's Army Times (which is exactly the periodical it sounds like) carries this editorial harshly condemning Bush and the GOP:

Nothing but lip service

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap ó and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary ó including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

-- snip --

Translation: Money talks ó and we all know what walks.

Doing the math... Bush thinks not seeing your kids for a year and getting your ass shot at halfway around the world isn't worth an extra $7.50 a day.

Let that sink in. The AWOL Lieutenant can dress up in a flight suit to Support Our Troops, but the guys wearing 35-pound packs in 100-degree heat aren't worth an extra seven and a half dollars a day. And while billion-dollar contracts go to administration cronies, their deaths -- their deaths -- aren't worth an extra six grand for the families they leave behind.

Update: a couple of active and former servicemen have emailed to say that the total gear schlepped around by each man are even heavier than described above -- 60, 80, even 100 pounds by the time you throw in extra ammo, water, etc.

To which I can only respond: holy crap. And the forecast for Baghdad includes highs of 115 degrees and blazing sun all next week. I simply cannot imagine.

Update from Tom: the article Bob links to here is now coming up blank, but you can still find it if you copy a chunk of the text quoted above and Google it. I found the full article on Free Republic, whose posters are (happily for me, in this case) quite oblivious to copyright law and fair use excerpting, but no damn way am I giving them a link from here.

Another update from Bob: Veterans for Common Sense, whose site is always worth a visit, have posted the entire editorial here.

They call it "Operation Iraqi Freedom"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Amnesty International says that U.S. troops occupying Iraq are violating international law by subjecting Iraqi prisoners to "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" conditions.

London-based Amnesty International said hundreds of Iraqis held at U.S.-run tent camps and former Iraqi government prisons have been denied the right to see families or lawyers or have a judge review their detention.

Amnesty, of course, has spent decades speaking up for the rights of actual Iraqis (and, in fact, for people in every country) -- even back when Rumsfeld was shaking Saddam's hand and helping him out with weapons and oil pipelines.

It's simply a matter of principle (something not particularly valued of late):

Joanna Oyediran, one of the group's researchers in Baghdad, said Amnesty applauds the U.S. intention of prosecuting former regime figures on human rights violations, but that the U.S. should heed the same standards to which it plans to hold Iraqis accountable.

"In order to uphold human rights you also have to respect human rights," Oyediran said of the United States.

Given the above, I'd almost call it a trickle-down management style...

They call it "fighting terrorism"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From Common Dreams, we learn:

Post-9/11 Immigrant Roundup Backfired

WASHINGTON - Measures take by the U.S. administration against Arab and Muslim immigrants after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon have not only failed to protect U.S. security, but may have made it more vulnerable, according to a major report released here Thursday.

They call it "Homeland Security"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Cursor today notes a new Council on Foreign Relations report, whose headline says it all:

Nearly Two Years After 9/11, the United States is Still Dangerously Unprepared and Underfunded for a Catastrophic Terrorist Attack

Is there a single damn thing the Bush White House actually does that isn't a massive con job?

Just asking.

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

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