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July 11, 2003


18 with a bullet, jack.

I'm guessing they have some sort of algorithm which takes into account demand within a specific time period--and that another relatively small handful of books sold this afternoon could literally push me to number one on their list.

Which means nothing in the real world, but it would be way cool.

Update: Looks like I've levelled out at #15, which is not too shabby. I'm sure it'll go up and down from here--well, down, and maybe back up a little--but this is a hell of a good start, and I think it's going to help out a lot. So, thanks much, all of you. And have a good weekend.

Now it can be told

The cover of TGBBOT didn't just spring magically into being; it went through several extensive revisions. Here's one of the early versions:

Oh, and by the way--buy the book.

Update: Kevin Moore sends a scary thought: I may actually make a better looking woman than Ann.


#28 with a bullet, and this is for a pre-order. To my knowledge, the printer, my editor and myself are the only people on the planet who have actually seen the book itself.

You kids are swell.

Even I am taken aback-- and enormously grateful. I talked about this in the previous post, but I just can’t convey what a pain it has been over the years to get the word out about these books; to get disinterested in-house publicists who never really seemed to believe that I actually have an audience, and who are working on probably a couple of dozen other books at any given time, to really push my stuff; to get the attention of reporters, editors, anyone who will write an article, all in the hopes that in the course of writing about me they will see fit to mention the new book (and astonishingly, that’s not a given), and that maybe ten percent of the people who see the article will read far enough down to even notice that I have a new book, and maybe one percent of those people will think about maybe buying it someday…

Goodbye to all that.

Thanks to the internet, thanks to this blog, the middlemen are kind of cut out now, and I can talk to you directly. I’m still happy to do the interviews, etc., and I’m still hoping that the publicist who's been assigned to me this time does manage to, you know, get me some publicity (actually, what I really want is for him to get me on the Daily Show cough cough hint hint)—but it’s a different game now.

So my thanks go out to all of you—and to my blogger friends who saw fit to help me spread the news--but don’t stop now. If you all keep this up, maybe I can even give Little Annie Coulter a run for her money, at least on the Amazon chart… (I can’t track how well it’s selling through Powell’s because I lost my login ID when my hard drive crashed a couple of weeks ago, and they haven’t responded to my email yet—if anybody from Powell’s is reading this, can you lend a hand here?)

Oh, and one more thing: Buy the book.


July 10, 2003

It's here it's here it's here

The first copy of The Great Big Book of Tomorrow arrived from the printer today. I guess this means it’ll be showing up in bookstores soon.

I sort of held it out at arm’s length and peered through it carefully, terrified of finding some major mistake which I now have to live with—but at first glance, it looks, well…

Pretty damn good.

Paper stock looks good, printing looks good, color section looks great, everything appears to be printed right-side-up and in the correct order.

So now what I need all of you to do is to go buy it. Here or here for now, or ask your local independent bookstore to stock it.

My books up to this point have always been straightforward compilations of about two years’ worth of material. This one’s more of a Greatest Hits package, featuring work from all the previous books, a bunch of rare stuff that’s never been reprinted anywhere else, cartoons from the first year or so of the Bush Imperium…and did I mention color? A huge chunk in the middle, color so vivid, your damn eyes will bleed.

Getting the word out on these things has always been a struggle. My publishers do the best they can, but let’s face it—a new Tom Tomorrow collection isn’t exactly a new Stephen King novel, and there’s only so much time and effort they’re going to put into it. So with luck, we get some newspaper articles here and there, or maybe a mention in Salon, or maybe people just happen across it in the bookstore or whatever. Sales are always respectable—they keep publishing them--but this is the first time I’ve put out a collection since I’ve been blogging, since I’ve had a way to directly communicate with those of you who are most likely to buy the damn thing, without having to beg & plead & cajole the media for whatever brief mentions we could scrounge up. Which has always been sort of a losing game--I'm more the tortoise than the hare, and I've never had the sexy hook for the newsmagazine article: hot new internet cartoonist!, or whatever--but this time, I’m able to bypass all of that and just say to you directly:

Please, buy the book.

I mean, not if the money’s a hardship for you—I spent a lot of years living on a tight enough budget that twenty bucks could make the difference between whether or not I got to eat lunch for a week. But if you can afford it, and you appreciate the work I do, and you appreciate the fact that this site exists, this is your chance to show it.

Buy the book.

If we sell a lot of these, really fast, there’s actually even a chance—albeit a remote one—that this thing could show up on bestseller lists briefly. I’m not counting on that, by any means, but a high initial demand could mean a lot to me. Given the current state of the publishing industry, if this thing doesn’t move, it may well be my last collection, at least from a major publisher.

I put a whole lot of work into this thing. Twenty years worth, in terms of the actual content, and well over a year’s work putting it all together. And I guarantee, you leave this thing in your bathroom, and you will have reading material for months.

(And, a note to my fellow bloggers—if I’ve linked to you, sent traffic your way, helped out in any way—letting people know about this would be a nice way to return the favor.)

Update: in response to several queries about a book tour--I'll do a signing in New York in August, and maybe a couple more here and there as my travels permit, but for the most part, no, sorry...my publisher doesn't really spring for that sort of thing, at least not for me...

Update 2: damn, y'all are a supportive bunch. There's a grindstone with my name on it right now, or, um, my nose's name, I guess it would be (grimaces, moves right along)--but at any rate, I just wanted to post a quick thank you for all the kind words. (The book is currently at #172 on Amazon--I have no idea what that means in real terms, but it seems like a good thing, given that it's risen from #25,000 or so.)

Update 3: make that #100, with a bullet, baby. (Of course, by tomorrow morning it'll be back to #25,000, but you have to enjoy these things while they last...)

Update 4: Reader Bill E. writes in to point out that the book is now at #69...one below...wait for it...Stephen King.


I've been telling my publisher for years that you people are out there, and that a little investment in publicity and touring and so on could reap much greater rewards. This keeps up, they might actually believe me.

Is it just my server...

...or is the net really sluggish today?

A bombshell, if true

According to the Miami Herald (via Counterspin):

WASHINGTON - A long-awaited final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be released in the next two weeks, containing new information about U.S. government mistakes and Saudi financing of terrorists.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer, who served on the House Intelligence Committee and who has read the report, said it will be ''highly explosive'' when it becomes public.

The staff director for the congressional investigation that produced the 800-page report, Eleanor Hill, said Wednesday that several lengthy battles with the Bush administration over how much secret data to declassify have been resolved.

She expects the document to go to the Government Printing Office late this week and then be made public about a week later.

''It's compelling and galvanizing and will refocus the public's attention on Sept. 11,'' predicted Roemer, an Indiana Democrat. ``Certain mistakes, errors and gaps in the system will be made clear.''


A source familiar with the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited two ''sensitive areas'' of the report that will command public attention:

• More information on ties between the Saudi royal family, government officials and terrorists. The FBI may have mishandled an investigation into how two of the Sept. 11 hijackers received aid from Saudi groups and individuals.

John Lehman, a member of the independent commission, said at a hearing Wednesday: ``There's little doubt that much of the funding of terrorist groups -- whether intentional or unintentional -- is coming from Saudi sources.''

• A coherent narrative of intelligence warnings, some of them ignored or not shared with other agencies, before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The report will show that top Bush administration officials were warned in the summer of 2001 that the al Qaeda terrorist network had plans to hijack aircraft and launch a ``spectacular attack.''

The problem with bad information

As numerous readers have pointed out, Terrence Wilkinson may be fictitious, but the story is not. As Bloomberg News reports:

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Bush based his assertion on what turned out to be a ``bogus'' report that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger. The acknowledgement -- which Fleischer also made June 9 -- follows similar findings by a U.K. parliamentary committee and comments from a retired U.S. ambassador who had investigated the report and told the administration it was false.

``That information was erroneous and they knew about it well ahead'' of the president's address Jan. 28, said Joseph Wilson, who the administration sent to Niger to investigate the report of Iraq's effort to buy uranium.

``Either the administration has some information that it has not shared with the public or, yes, they were using the selective use of facts and intelligence to bolster a decision in a case that had already been made -- a decision that had been made to go to war,'' Wilson told NBC's ``Meet the Press'' on Sunday. He made similar comments on other news shows and in a New York Times op-ed article.

And here’s a similar, though apparently more credible, report from the UK Guardian:

A former US intelligence official who served under the Bush administration in the build-up to the Iraq war accused the White House yesterday of lying about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The claims came as the Bush administration was fighting to shore up its credibility among a series of anonymous government leaks over its distortion of US intelligence to manufacture a case against Saddam.

This was the first time an administration official has put his name to specific claims. The whistleblower, Gregory Thielmann, served as a director in the state department's bureau of intelligence until his retirement in September, and had access to the classified reports which formed the basis for the US case against Saddam, spelled out by President Bush and his aides.

Unlike Terrence Wilkinson, Gregory Thielmann appears to actually exist--so I hope no one is so unscrupulous as to use the bogus Capitol Hill Blue story to try to discredit this one.


July 09, 2003

Skepticism is good

I knew that Capitol Hill Blue thing smelled bad.

After the story ran, we received a number of emails or phone calls that (1) either claimed Wilkinson was lying or (2) doubted his existence. I quickly dismissed the claims. After all, I had known this guy for 20+ years and had no doubt about his credibility. Some people wanted to talk to him, so I forwarded those requests on to him via email. He didn't answer my emails, which I found odd. I should have listened to a bell that should have been going off in my ear.

Today, a White House source I know and trust said visitor logs don't have any record of anyone named Terrance J. Wilkinson ever being present at a meeting with the President. Then a CIA source I trust said the agency had no record of a contract consultant with that name. "Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever heard of this guy," my source said.

I tried calling Terry's phone number. I got a recorded message from a wireless phone provider saying the number was no longer in service. I tried a second phone number I had for him. Same result.

Then a friend from the Hill called.

"You've been had," she said. "I know about this guy. He's been around for years, claiming to have been in Special Forces, with the CIA, with NSA. He hasn't worked for any of them and his name is not Terrance Wilkinson."

Both of his phone numbers have Los Angeles area codes but an identity check through Know-X today revealed no record of anyone named Terrance J. Wilkinson ever having lived in LA or surrounding communities.

His email address turns out to be a blind forward to a free email service where anyone can sign up and get an email account. Because it was not one of the usual "free" services like Hotmail, Yahoo or such, I did not recognize it as one (although you'd think that someone like me would have known better).

The bottom line is that someone has been running a con on me for 20 some years and I fell for it like a little old lady in a pigeon drop scheme. I've spent the last two hours going through the database of Capitol Hill Blue stories and removing any that were based on information from Wilkinson (or whoever he is). I've also removed his name, quotes and claims from Tuesday's story about the White House and the uranium claims.

When somebody claims to have been sitting in on high level White House meetings but nobody seems to ever have heard of him and his name doesn't turn up any hits on Google and the only source is some obscure website, it probably ought to set off an alarm bell or two.

Update: I see the Instant Pundit is crowing over the retraction of a poorly-sourced internet story, though to my knowledge he has yet to mention this or this or even this.

Cartoon update

I wrote last January about Pat Robertson's ties to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Thanks to alert reader Scott C., here's how "I totally concur" Pat is reacting to the current turmoil in that country:

TV preacher Pat Robertson has repeatedly criticized the Bush administration over its handling of the crisis in Liberia – without once mentioning his own personal business interests in the country.

In recent days, Robertson has used his nationally broadcast television show to charge that the U.S. government has sought to destabilize Liberia and oust President Charles Taylor. Although Taylor is a brutal dictator under indictment for war crimes by the United Nations, he is a business partner of Robertson.

“Taylor is one of the most brutal dictators in Africa, and it is appalling to me that Robertson would enter into a partnership with him merely to make money,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Now Robertson is using his tax-exempt Christian broadcast ministry to lobby the U.S. government to keep his crony in power. This is astounding.”

On his June 26 “700 Club” program, Robertson said, “This country [Liberia] has had a close relationship with the United States over the years, but of late, the last, oh, four, five, six years, the United States State Department has tried as hard as it can to destabilize Liberia and to bring about the very outcome we’re seeing now. They had no endgame, they have no plan of what to do, they only wanted to destroy the sitting president and his government, and as a result, the place is being plunged into chaos.”

Required reading

The ACLU has issued a report on the Justice Department's campaign to mislead the public about the so-called Patriot Act. Some highlights:

--Justice has claimed that Section 215 - the provision that allows them to get any business records, including library records - doesn't apply to U.S. persons; ACLU report says Sec. 215(a)(1) makes it clear this claim is false.

--Justice says that investigation under Sec. 215 cannot be predicated "solely" on First Amendment activities, but the ACLU report says that so long as the target of the investigation is not a U.S. person, then that limit apparently does not apply to information collected on U.S. persons in connection with that investigation.

--Justice has claimed that probable cause is required to get business records under Sec. 215. The report says that records of U.S. persons who are not suspected of being a criminal or the agent of a foreign power can be obtained by only an assertion of relevance.

--Justice claims that all Sec. 215 orders require that the government "convince a judge" to get permission for a 215 order. The ACLU report says that is a half-truth; that all that is required is a certification to a judge in conformity with Sec. 215(c)(1) - without the need of evidence - and that upon such certification, the judge has no discretion to deny the order.

More here.

One more for the propaganda scrapheap

Okay, "reduced posting" is something of a fiction today. But in case you missed this one on Atrios, the Washington Times is reporting something interesting:

The Army will release a report tomorrow on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq that will show Pfc. Jessica Lynch and another female soldier suffered extensive injuries in a vehicle accident, but not from Iraqi fighters.

The deadly March 23 battle in Nasiriyah, in central Iraq, has emerged as perhaps the most famous incident in the war — both for what happened and for what was reported to have happened, but did not.

The Army's 15-page report officially will debunk accounts that Pfc. Lynch emptied two revolvers at her attackers and was shot and stabbed before being taken prisoner of war. In fact, she was riding in a Humvee that was struck by a projectile during a frantic attempt to escape the ambush. She suffered "horrific injuries," said Pentagon sources familiar with the report.

Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, a good friend of Pfc. Lynch's, was driving the Humvee. The strike on the vehicle caused her to lose control. The utility vehicle smashed into a disabled tractor-trailer at more than 45 mph, critically injuring Pfc. Piestewa, the Pentagon sources said.


Pfc. Lynch also was pulled from the wreckage and taken to the same hospital. "Lynch survived principally because of the medical attention she received from the Iraqis," one source said.

And remember, this is the Moonie-owned, Republican-friendly Washington Times. It's no wonder you don't see the pro-war types paying much attention to stories like this, or the discredited 33 missing pieces spin, or the children's prison that wasn't, let alone the missing WMDs or any of the rest--correcting all the misstatements of the past six months would be a full time job in itself.

Featured blog of the day

Most of you are probably already reading Daily Kos, but if you're not, you really need to get your rear end over there posthaste. Kos and his crew are Democrats who understand what's wrong with the Democratic party and want to fix it, and they offer some of the most insightful political analysis available online.

Anatomy of a stonewall

The 9/11 commission only has until May to complete its report, and they’ve apparently grown so frustrated with the Bushies that they’ve gone public with their complaints. According to an article in today’s Times:

The panel also said the failure of the Bush administration to allow officials to be interviewed without the presence of government colleagues could impede its investigation, with the commission's chairman suggesting today that the situation amounted to "intimidation" of the witnesses.

In what they acknowledged was an effort to bring public pressure on the White House to meet the panel's demands for classified information, the commission's Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman released a statement, declaring that they had received only a small part of the millions of sensitive government documents they have requested from the executive branch.

While praising President Bush and top aides for their personal commitment to the panel's work, the commission's leaders — the chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Lee H. Hamilton, the former Democratic member of the House from Indiana — said that federal agencies under Mr. Bush's control were not cooperating quickly or fully.

That last bit is the sort of thing people in political life have to say, much like praising "my good friend from across the aisle," before detailing the ways in which he is a scum-sucking reprobate actively seeking to destroy all that is good about America.

The truth is, the Bushies are stonewalling and the commission is apparently growing frustrated.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton suggested that the Justice Department was behind a directive barring intelligence officials from being interviewed by the panel without the presence of agency colleagues.

At a news conference, Mr. Kean described the presence of "minders" at the interviews as a form of intimidation. "I think the commission feels unanimously that it's some intimidation to have somebody sitting behind you all the time who you either work for or works for your agency," he said. "You might get less testimony than you would."

If you have access to the print edition of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, there’s a much better article (not online, sadly) on the same subject, in which we learn or are reminded:

--At the White House’s insistence, an adviser to Ashcroft is reviewing all commission requests for documents and interviews;

--The commission is required by law to build on a classified report of a Congressional inquiry into intelligence agencies, access to which the White House was blocking until two months ago;

--Bush successfully opposed the creation of the commission for more than a year;

--The commission wanted 24 months to complete its task; after negotiations with the White House, which insisted on 12, a compromise of 18 months was reached;

--The White House insisted that subpeonas could only be issued with the approval of six of ten of the commissioners (meaning that a split on party lines would block any subpeona);

--The White House has been trying to dissuade the commission from pushing for access to daily briefing memos to the President from the CIA and minutes of meetings from the National Security Council;

--There was no allocation for the commission in the White House budget announced in March; members had to apply pressure and even then the White House budgeted $2 million less than requested (Congress later appropriated the full amount);

--The commission’s executive director, Philip Zekilow, has close ties to the Bush White House, having served under the first President Bush, co-written a book with Condaleeza Rice, and serving on the current President’s transition team and his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board;

--And of course, let us not forget Bush’s first choice to head the commission: that paragon of honesty and open government, Henry Freaking Kissinger. (Yes, that's his middle name. I'll bet you did not know that.)

And finally, there's this:

Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governer of New Jersey who serves as chairman of the commission, says that he intends to meet the deadline next May, although it will be difficult. He has ruled out asking for an extension because, he says, "the White House has made it known that they don't want it to go into the election period."

Now, in terms of civil liberties, this administration seems to have taken to heart the notion that "the innocent have nothing to hide." So...I wonder what they have to hide...?

Update: Lisa takes a stroll down memory lane:

Remember back before the war, when UN investigators were questioning Iraqi scientists? Remember how it was that the US made such a stink about being able to interview the scientists without official Iraqis present? Sure you do.

Back then, the Bush administration claimed that Saddam Hussein was intimidating these scientists into spouting the official government line. In fact, the US went so far as to demand that questioning be continued outside of Iraq, where Saddam would be less likely to influence what the scientists had to say.

Well, in another administration example of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black, we learn that the commission charged with investigating the circumstances that brought us 9/11, are having one heck of a time getting information out of folks associated with OUR government, and for similar reason.

Seems some executive branch agencies are rather insistent that anyone who speaks with the commission, speak only with an administration handler sitting nearby, Saddam-style, as it were.

It's about damn time

As a cartoonist, I’ve always been more interested in connecting with an audience than with impressing other cartoonists. Similarly, as a blogger, I never really understood the point of all these various ranking systems which determine one’s status by the number of links to and from other bloggers—a process which, it seems to me, gives new meaning to the term "echo chamber," not to mention "circle jerk."

Well, finally someone has tallied up one of these ecosystem charts based on the only ranking that really matters: audience size. (And not to be disingenuous: I am, of course, happy to see that this space is high on the list despite the reduced posting of late.)

Now, this only ranks sites which use SiteMeter and which make their stats public, so some of the big names are conspicuously absent—I suspect because they don’t want people to know just how unimpressive their stats are. Right now, on "energy saver" mode, I’m averaging about 12,000 visitors a day. And I’m grateful to each and every one of you, really.* But this is a miniscule audience compared even to what I reach with my little alt-weekly cartoon, which—and I don’t mean this as false modesty, I’m just being realistic—is not exactly Garfield, or even the Boondocks. Let alone the kind of numbers a nationally syndicated columnist, or even the lowest-rated talking head on MSNBC, reaches. Even the Ur-blogger, the Instant Pundit himself, is only averaging about 40,000 unique visitors a day—and given his frequent updating, I think it’s not unreasonable to assume that most of his audience is checking in on a daily basis. Which means that the most widely read blogger out there is reaching an audience significantly smaller than the population of the small midwestern town in which I grew up. Admittedly a targeted audience, which makes all the difference, but still—I just think it’s good to keep these things in perspective, lest our sweaters no longer fit over our heads.

But hey, as long as we’re on the topic, I can’t resist noting that of the top five bloggers, the four after Instant Pundit are comprised of three liberal/lefties and one tech site.


*And if each one of you would buy my new book, it would be a runaway success, since publishing numbers are in reality equally pathetic, for the most part.

Addendum from Tom

I think Bob is correct to be cautiously skeptical about both the stories he posts below. Both of these were making the rounds yesterday, and must have showed up in my own inbox at least a dozen times each. I was going to hold off on posting them because I don't really have enough information to pass judgment on either, at this point--but since they're up now, just keep in mind: unreliable information has, in the past, occasionally been forwarded around the net. Not often, of course, but you know--on rare occasions.

Update from a reader:

Don't know how accurate the overall (election fraud) story is.

But one thing caught my attention:

This system is using *Access* as it's database?

I do this sort of thing for a living. No one who is serious about creating a secure, reliable system would use Access as the database. Access was designed for single use systems. Microsoft does recommend it for sharing data between small groups of people. But basically even on that level it is not really reliable or secure. The point is that if whoever is in charge at the precinct level wants to engage in deliberate fraud (say by giving a smart high school kid access to the server on which database sits) stuff could be done at the database level without ever touching the program. (Even if the company is using decent encryption, there is probably script kiddie stuff out there on the net to beat it. And if they are using their own custom encryption, or the built in Access encryption, well I guarantee it can be beaten.)

In addition to fraud, Access is vulnerable to accident. Access databases (especially shared ones) tend to go bad very easily. And the logging (commit-rollback) capabilities are a joke. If you should have a power surge during a transaction, the odds are that it is restore from backup time - because you are not going to be able to rollback, and the odds are your dabase will be contaminated. (So if the power flickers during voting - you may well lose all votes cast prior to the surge. At the very least you won't know which votes you lsot.)

I also wonder if the multiple ledgers are an attempt to get around this. The problem is , if they are all in the same database you gain no security (against accidental damage). And if they are in seperate databases but on the same server then it is not that unlikely that all three would be damaged by the same surge or flicker or brownout. And I can't imagine having two servers per voting location.

The point is that access was not really designed for mission critical applications. Microsoft may sometimes market it as such - but it is not secure against either deliberate fraud or acccidental damage.

WhopperGate: witness to briefing reportedly says Bush knew

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

As WhopperGate (15 minutes with a thesaurus trying to find the right sound; I do and I do and I do for you kids...) at last begins to build steam, Capitol Hill Blue (react to name accordingly) is reporting that a named, on-the-record witness -- Terrence J. Wilkinson, "a CIA advisor present at two briefings" -- has plainly stated that:

a) Bush was told, quite plainly, that the Niger/uranium claims appeared unrelated to fact, and

b) Bush angrily demanded that further intelligence be henceforth engineered to his foregone conclusion.

If true, this would seem vastly damaging to the Bush presidency, possibly the gasoline finally necessary to get the media's heated embers to burst aflame.

However, no major media outlet on Earth seems to have yet picked up on the report, at least as far I can find.

The BBC and a few other outlets do currently refer to an unnamed "CIA official" saying something similar. Could be the same guy. Hard to say.

If the guy's for real... well, I remember a day a few years ago when the name "Monica Lewinsky" sounded odd and a bit hard to remember, too.


Can computerized vote-rigging really be this simple?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Can it really be this easy to rig America's looming computerized votes?

Unlike our President -- currently learning first-hand that Africa is not, in fact, "a nation that suffers from incredible disease" -- I will not feign expertise.* Just a heads-up.

Atrios is also asking about this; if it's really this bad, I'm sure the whole blogorama might be all a-twitter shortly, and with good reason. I mean, it's one thing for the democratic process to be subverted and twisted and mocked, but most of the abuse is aimed at misleading voters either before or after the votes are cast; it's a whole other thing to just grip the process at the root and give it such a monstrous yank.

* I do have a degree in electrical engineering... from almost 20 years ago. Punchcard systems were just becoming obsolete, we had rotary phones in the dorms, and a modem was still a gizmo the size of a shoebox into which you squooshed the phone receiver itself. In short, we lived like animals.

The instant obsolesence is why I became a writer. The rate of punctuation in a sentence doesn't double every 18 friggin' months, and you never have some 22-year-old looming over your shoulder, shaking his head, saying "dude... you're still using adverbs...?"


July 08, 2003

How do you know when the President is lying?

Because someone is pulling the little string that makes his lips move.

WASHINGTON, July 7 — The White House acknowledged for the first time today that President Bush was relying on incomplete and perhaps inaccurate information from American intelligence agencies when he declared, in his State of the Union speech, that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium from Africa.

The White House statement appeared to undercut one of the key pieces of evidence that President Bush and his aides had cited to back their claims made prior to launching an attack against Iraq in March that Mr. Hussein was "reconstituting" his nuclear weapons program. Those claims added urgency to the White House case that military action to depose Mr. Hussein needed to be taken quickly, and could not await further inspections of the country or additional resolutions at the United Nations.

More here. And why is the administration making this admission at this particular point in time? Well, maybe it has something to do with this op ed, to which we have previously linked:

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.

Other bloggers are covering this much more comprehensively than this space, which is currently set to "energy saver" mode--particularly TPM, which is on the story with all the zeal of Republican staffers pretending to be ordinary Floridians rioting outside of a ballot recount.

Looting update

Remember what a great chuckle we all had (if be "we" you mean "smug but factually challenged war supporters"), about the "33 missing pieces" from the Iraqi museum?

Well, gosh:

Looters smashed many artifacts, making it difficult for the 44 staffers at the Baghdad museum to reassemble them and determine what has been stolen and what is damaged, said Nawal al-Mutawalli, director of Iraq's museums.

She said the list of items missing from storage rooms of Baghdad's museum alone now stands at 13,000. In addition, 47,000 pieces are missing from the museum's exhibition hall, several of them major masterpieces.

Staffers had so far only checked half the items in the storage rooms. "We expect the number of missing items to rise," al-Mutawalli said.

Seriously, and all snarkiness aside: this is a matter of basic integrity. Anybody who pushed the "only 33" story really, honestly needs to come back and update it and say, shucks, I guess I got that one a little wrong--if they want to have even a smidgen of credibility ever again. (And this includes you, Howard.)

Not that I'm holding my breath.

(Update: I think the 47,000 is a typo, other articles on this topic report 13,000 missing from the storeroom and 47 missing from the main hall. Still a lot more than 33.)

Featured blog of the day

TBogg always has a lot of good stuff up whenever I check in, and today is no exception. Go say hello, tell him Tom sent you.

Your task for today

Lisa at Ruminate This sets the stage:

The American public was so gripped with disgust over this FCC vote that in an unprecedented move, over one million people rose to take a stand against the agency's action. Democrats, Republicans, Greens and Otherwise - they all said, "NO" to the FCC's attempt at turning over US print and broadcast to the largest players in Big Media. It's not every day that John and Jane Q. Public take a collective stand and so the US Senate's Commerce Committee couldn't help but notice the outcry. They took our phone calls, they read our emails and faxes and letters, and not long after, these politicians met and crafted a bill to rescind the damage done on that June 2 day.

Some thought the battle was won.

They were wrong. The battle had just begun.

Today, Tuesday, July 8, regular citizens and media activists - people just like you - are taking a few minutes out of the day to phone up their Congressional representatives. They want to make sure these politicians have not forgotten the public's outrage. They're looking for action, because you see, talk is cheap and we not only want that bill out of committee - we want the darn thing passed in both the Senate and the House. If we don't act, all of our hard work will have been for nothing.

Lisa has more on her fine blog, and I strongly urge you to go spend some time there. But if you're pressed for time, go straight to mediareform.net and plug in your zip and the handy little program will give you the numbers you need to call.

To review: Go. Call. Now. And remember: polite, polite, polite.


July 07, 2003

Another warblogger myth bites the dust

Via Atrios, we learn today that the oft-repeated story of the Iraqi children's prison turns out to be, um, not true.

The orphanage had been home to 107 girls and boys whose parents were killed or imprisoned, or were unable to care for them. As the Americans advanced on Baghdad, they mistook the orphanage for a jail or prison and released all the children who were there.

It was an orphanage. Not a very nice one, from the sounds of it. But it was not a children's prison, and apparently a number of the orphans we "liberated" are now on the streets begging and possibly prostituting themselves.

If there is one constant to Iraq so far, it is that the truth is always more complicated than the supporters of this quagmire will ever acknowledge. I guess we can add this one to the heap of disinformation they have so gleefully disseminated, along with WMD's, Jessica Lynch, and the undying gratitude of the liberated Iraqi people. Unfortunately, as a wise man once said, a lie can make it halfway around the globe before the truth gets its boots on--and with the help of the blogs, I'd say lies can make it all the way around the globe, and maybe even have time to start on a second trip. We'll keep hearing all these stories long after they've been discredited, I think. (Hell, people still bring up the Hill&Knowlton-contrived babies & incubators bit from the first Gulf war...)


July 06, 2003

It seems to me...

…that it is time for Bush’s partisans—and this includes those who walk the walk but slyly decline the label—to admit that their boy lied. (While it may not break the camel’s back, another straw was added with the publication of this op ed.)

It was clear to me early on that Bill Clinton was lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and I said so from the start, much to the consternation of many of my liberal readers. (I’m too lazy to dig through the archives right now to link to the relevant cartoons, but the button is over to your left if you want confirmation of this.) Many Clinton partisans denied the obvious until the last possible second, and spent a lot of time trying to clean the egg off their faces afterwards.

And that was just about sex. There are currently some 200 dead American military personnel as I write this, and certainly more on the way, and god only knows how many dead Iraqi civilians, and we’re looking at a years, maybe decades-long commitment in Iraq, and untold billions of dollars to be spent, all because Bush lied about something a bit more serious than a blow job from a silly intern. And the longer the supporters of this quagmire-in-the-making deny the obvious, the more foolish they will eventually look.

You have to acknowledge the lies, even when they’re coming from the guy who’s more or less on your side of the fence—or else stand revealed for the pathetic partisan hack you are. (Cough cough Andy cough cough.)


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