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August 01, 2003


Buzzflash has posted an interview with Joe Conason about Republican hypocrisy on matters of personal morality, which is worth reading. He’s apparently got a book coming out on the same theme, which I look forward to reading. (Maybe the publisher would like to cough cough hint hint send me a copy…?)

Buzzflash is a site I don’t promote often enough, along with Cursor. Always a wealth of useful links on both.

Okay, I gotta cut out. Have a good weekend.


July 31, 2003

Follow up

Some of you may recall this story from Creative Loafing, which I linked to a couple of weeks back, about the guy who got a visit from the FBI because he was seen reading something subversive in a coffee shop. (Seriously. If you missed this one first time out, go read it.)

Hal Crowther, author of the subversive article in question, writes about the whole fiasco in the Durham Independent Weekly:

That's not a left-wing rumor. That's a gulag, a secret police state that's encroaching, case by case, on the smug affluent America where most of us live. You think you're exempt? In Tampa, (according to a source I trust), a retired naval officer was interrogated by FBI agents because he e-mailed the White House to protest the invasion of Iraq. In Atlanta, a retired attorney of impeccable reputation was arrested for trying to take photos of some storage tanks. An amateur art photographer, he admired the patterns of light and shadow. Marc Schultz is not alone.

As for me, the purveyor of subversion and sedition, I've heard nothing from the FBI--just a friendly nibble from cable news and a lot of encouraging "Give them hell" from fellow citizens, including a pair of congressmen. I would, if I could, overthrow this government by force of argument. I believe from the bottom of my non-partisan heart that the George Bush wolfpack is the most dangerous, least honorable, least sensible gang of thugs and cynics that ever aimed America's Big Gun at a trembling planet. I saw a bumper sticker I endorse--"Any Other Whore in 2004." But the USA Patriot Act has to be retired before the 2004 elections. Stand up, speak out--don't hunker down and wait for those bruisers in the cargo shorts to come looking for your son.

Shoot the messenger
Q: Thank you, sir. Since taking office you signed into law three major tax cuts -- two of which have had plenty of time to take effect, the third of which, as you pointed out earlier, is taking effect now. Yet, the unemployment rate has continued rising. We now have more evidence of a massive budget deficit that taxpayers are going to be paying off for years or decades to come; the economy continues to shed jobs. What evidence can you point to that tax cuts, at least of the variety that you have supported, are really working to help this economy? And do you need to be thinking about some other approach?

GWB: Yes. No, to answer the last part of your question. First of all, let me -- just a quick history, recent history. The stock market started to decline in March of 2000. Then the first quarter of 2001 was a recession. And then we got attacked in 9/11. And then corporate scandals started to bubble up to the surface, which created a -- a lack of confidence in the system. And then we had the drumbeat to war. Remember on our TV screens -- I'm not suggesting which network did this -- but it said, "March to War," every day from last summer until the spring -- "March to War, March to War." That's not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, "March to War" all the time.

Yes, he really said it.

One more from Kos

Or one more from Steve Gilliard posting at Kos, to be accurate, on why Bob Hope mattered:

So when Hope or another USO tour popped in, it was a reminder that someone cared.

The same applies today. Packages and USO visits matter. For combat and non-combat troops alike. Bob Hope, for more years than people now remember, was a reminder that America hadn't just sent these people off into a void. That someone remembered they were serving their country. And when we're at war in two countries, that's worth mentioning.

Sanctity of marriage

I share Steve Gilliard's befuddlement that the administration would choose to make an issue of gay marriage.

I also think it's worth remembering who signed the reprehensible Defense of Marriage Act.

Speaking of blogs

Added some sites to the blogroll, writers I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be. So say hello to

  • Calpundit,
  • Brad DeLong,
  • Mad Kane,
  • Amygdala,
  • Roger Ailes (not the evil one),
  • Matt Yglesias,
  • Orcinus,
  • Uppity Negro,
  • Very Very Happy,
  • PLA, and
  • Oliver Willis.

  • The cost of the war

    From the inbox. Identifying details removed for obvious reasons.

    I just wanted to send you a quick thank you note and beg you to keep up the good work. Normally I would think this would be a meaningless, empty statement, but hopefully it will be a bit more for you than that. I am a soldier. I serve in __ Co __ Infantry. I am a National Guardsman. I finished my training in June of 2001. I returned home to live a civilian life (except for that one weekend a month, two weeks a year lie the commercials tell you) that came to a premature end 3 months later. Since September 11, I have gone on high alert at least a dozen times and have even been shipped off for pre-deployment once. It seems every month when at the armory another alert is given to us about how we may be shipping out for anothe rpart of the world soon. I have been unable to live a truly stable life in the last two years. After getting off my active duty training I completed my degree, but have been unable to find steady work. I blame the economy in part, but I can tell there are other reasons behind that "We'll let you know" I seem to get at the end of every interview after I mention I'm in the Guard and I watch my interviewer's eyes go cloudy because they know I could get shipped off at any moment. Compound with that the fact that I take my orders from an illegitimate president who himself went AWOL for 16 months. Were I to do that, Tom, I would be discharged from the military in a less than honorable manner and have a black mark on my name that would last the rest of my life. And now, every day I turn on the news and see that another one of my brothers is dead fighting in a war to reelect Bush. They're killed because of the lies he told, the exaggerations he pushed, and the war he wanted. They're dying for Haliburton, they're dying so other people can get richer and keep the power they have. I may be in a minority in the military, but I am not alone. Keep up the hard work for those who have no voice. Keep pushing for those who are forced to be the fist for an illegitimate cause, who feel like murderers for doing it, and who are angry because their comrades are being killed, even after the "hostilities" are over, for a cause in which they do not believe.

    I know, some of you will say, what did he expect, he signed up to serve, didn't he? But he didn't sign up to put his life on indefinite hold, which is what's happened to all the Guardsmen who are being used as the military equivalent of temp workers, except without the ability to walk off the job when the boss is an ass.

    Bill Maher is blogging



    Apparently the Bush Administration was seriously considering cutting back the federal air marshals program because they didn't want to spend money on lodging for the marshals.

    Billion dollars a week in Iraq, which still has no provable links to al Qaeda? No problem. Hundred bucks a night for a hotel room so there's a chance that there might be a federal marshall on board the next plane hijacked by psychotic fundamentalists? Sorry, can't afford it.

    The fact that they even considered this says more about this administration than any cartoon of mine ever will.

    Freedom of speech also applies to jackasses

    Found this one via Alas a Blog:

    Joseph Scott Goldsmith, a member of the League of the South, was fired after making comments to faculty members who he felt were bashing the South during a discussion of the movie, "Gods and Generals," according to Goldsmith's suit.

    "He expressed some opinions that apparently alerted some folks that he held some very strong views as it relates to Southern heritage," said attorney W. Andrew Arnold of Greenville.

    Goldsmith claims art department chairman Jim Craft told him on June 20 that he could no longer work at the college because he was a member of the League of the South.

    The college, a Christian liberal arts college with about 1,500 students in Tigerville, had no comment Tuesday on the lawsuit filed in Greenville County.

    The League of the South seeks to "advance the cultural, social, economic and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means," according to its Web site. It has been labeled a neo-Confederate hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    I agree completely with Ampersand's comment:

    I don't care if a professor chairs his local Klan and bakes cookies for the mafia when he's not too busy organizing bowling night for NAMBLA; what he does outside the classroom ought be his own business, and no grounds for firing. In particular, firing someone for his political opinions outside of class is reprehensible, and goes against the spirit of free expression.

    Debate the guy, denounce him, subject him to ridicule and mockery at every opportunity. But taking away someone's livelihood as a result of their political beliefs and personal associations, as long as they are not breaking the law, is really not the sort of thing anyone should get behind.


    July 30, 2003


    I guess I thought the reasons to be appalled at the terror futures market thing were self-evident and would surely cut across ideological lines, but apparently not. So: it may have been effective as a predictive tool, in a general statistical kind of way—I’m in no way qualified to judge that, but it's not really the point. And I wasn’t especially concerned about the point Josh Marshall raised, that terrorist groups could use it as a way to profit from their own activities, since anyone who made too accurate a prediction/bet would clearly receive a visit from the FBI soon thereafter.

    No, for me it was the Publisher’s Clearinghouse moment. Imagine if this system had been in place before 9/11: Congratulations, John Public! 3000 people are dead in lower Manhattan—and you’ve just won a million dollars!

    Anyone not made queasy by that thought is spending a little too much time in a closed feedback loop environment, I think.

    Busy, busy...

    When you're self-employed, taking a week off means there's a lot to catch up on when you get back, and I've got to cut out early this week for some family stuff, so--yes, let's all say it together--posting remains sporadic for awhile.

    One quick bit of recommended reading: The Bush Administration's Top 40 Lies About War and Terrorism, over at Steve Perry's blog.

    And if you haven't already done so, go spend some time perusing the sites on my links page (button over there to your right). Plenty to read there.

    If only they'd abandon all their bad ideas so quickly

    As you've certainly heard by now, the terrorism futures market idea mentioned in a post below has been hastily discarded.


    July 29, 2003


    I can't believe this one is still making the rounds. Can we just all pause to remember that there is no goddamned "flypaper" strategy? That the whole thing is a ludicrous fantasy spun by Sullivan and others to justify Bush's mindless "bring them on" comment? This isn't something that exists in terms of strategy papers, policy proposals, high level staff meetings--it's a blogger's fantasy that has somehow escaped into the real world, like one of those horror movies in which creatures from nightmares are somehow made real. It's a bedtime story for Bush sycophants, nothing more.

    DLC wisdom

    According to the Times, the Democratic Leadership Council is warning Democrats not to present themselves "as an angry ‘far left’ party fighting tax cuts and opposing the war in Iraq."

    The warning seems to be primarily aimed at a certain centrist, moderate former governor of Vermont.

    "It is our belief that the Democratic Party has an important choice to make: Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?" said Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, chairman of the organization. "The administration is being run by the far right. The Democratic Party is in danger of being taken over by the far left."

    Yes, if by "far left" you mean "centrists with some hint of a backbone." If by "far left" you mean "Democrats who occasionally behave as if they actually are members of an opposition party."

    The perception, he said, is that Democrats "stand for big government, want to raise taxes too high, are too liberal and are beholden to special interest groups."

    Most important, Mr. Penn said, the party has to prove itself credible on the issue of national security — something that many Democrats attending the conference here said would be impossible to do if the party were perceived as opposed to the war on Iraq.

    You see, the only way for Democrats to win is to embrace fiscal irresponsibility and wars based on lies. In other words, to behave like watered-down Republicans. As far as the DLC is concerned, the debate isn’t really over liberal or conservative ideas anymore. It’s about how many conservative ideas to adopt, and how forcefully.

    The story’s here. Read it and weep.


    July 28, 2003

    Betting on terror?


    WASHINGTON - The Pentagon (news - web sites) is setting up a commodity-market style trading system in which investors would be able to bet on political and economic events in the Middle East — including the likelihood of assassinations and terrorist attacks.

    Two Democratic senators said Monday they want the project stopped before investors begin registering this week.

    The Pentagon office overseeing the program said it was part of a research effort "to investigate the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks." It said there would be a re-evaluation before more money was committed.

    The Policy Analysis Market is intended to help the Pentagon predict events in the region based on investors' information or analyses.

    A graphic on the market's Web page showed hypothetical futures contracts in which investors could trade on the likelihood that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) would be assassinated or Jordanian King Abdullah II would be overthrown.

    Speechless, I am.

    (Thanks to alert reader Z.G.)

    Update: I haven't read John Brunner's classic, Shockwave Rider, in many years, but alert reader Colin T. reminds me that the Pentagon is apparently taking cues from 1970s sci fi novels:


    It works, approximately, like this.

    First you corner a large-- if possible a very large-- number of people who, while they've never formally studied the subject you're going to ask them about and hence are unlikely to recall the correct answer, are nevertheless plugged into the culture to which the question relates.

    Then you ask them, as it might be, to estimate how many people died in the great influenza epidemic which followed World War I, or how many loaves were condemned by EEC food inspectors as unfit for human consumption in 1970.

    Curiously, when you consolidate their replies they tend to cluster around the actual figure as recorded in almanacs, yearbooks, and statistical returns.

    It's rather as though this paradox has proved true: that while NOBODY knows what's going on around here, EVERYBODY knows what's going on around here.

    Well, if it works for the past, why can't it work for the future? Three hundred million people with access to the integrated North American data-net is a nice big number of potential consultees.

    Unfortunately, most of them are running scared from the awful specter of tomorrow. How best to corner people who just d not want to know?

    Greed works, and for others, hope. And the remainder will never have any impact on the world to speak of.


    ...to everyone who pre-ordered the book, for your early support--pre-orders are incredibly important, in terms of getting the attention of publishers, book distributors, and so on. I'm not absolutely certain about this, but I believe your books should be showing up pretty soon now--it's no longer a pre-order on Amazon, which I assume means that they've got stock in hand, and others probably do as well. But thanks for your patience on this, and your help.

    Busy, trying to get caught up after a week off. Someday soon, though, this blog will once again crackle with the high voltage commentary and insight you've come to expect. Or, um, at least sputter with indignation a little more often than it has lately.


    July 27, 2003


    I hope I’m never enough of a jet setter to get over the strangeness of waking up in one country and going to bed in another. Home from the Galway Arts Festival in Galway City, Ireland, where I saw the Waterboys, Kila, James Grant, and the extraordinary Junebug Symphony, a blending of dance, acrobatics and slapstick visual humor (appropriately, as the principal cast member is Charlie Chaplin’s grandson). Would have liked to have squeezed in more, but I had a little presentation of my own to give, which turned out to be astonishingly well attended—sold out completely, in a venue that holds 350 officially, and I think we crammed a few more in on top of that (and still had to turn people away), and this in a country in which my work does not even appear. Talk was well received, from what I could tell—laughter in mostly the right places, and many questions during the q-and-a, and afterwards I sold out a large stack of posters that I’d brought with me, thinking I was bringing far too many.

    Other highlights: some sightseeing in the countryside one afternoon… a couple of hours spent in a hotel bar with a man named Kevin McClory, who the James Bond buffs among you may recognize as the co-author of Thunderball, as well as the (oft-challenged) owner of rights to same, who came to the show and wanted to interview me but mostly ended up being interviewed by me…and many, many late hours in the Festival’s after hours club, drinking many a Guiness. All in all, well worth the time, so big thanks to everyone who made it possible, especially Rose, whose idea it was to bring me to Ireland in the first place, and Cathal, who got me to and from the Shannon airport on time, and Aileen the fabulous artist's minder, and Claire the stage manager, and of course Eamon and Adam and the rest of the tech crew, and, well, everyone else whose names I’m forgetting. And a shout out to my pal Sebastian the builder’s lad, and the rest of you's at De Burgos. Slainte!


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