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August 23, 2003

Trust us, we're experts

So as it turns out, breathing in the particulate residue of the World Trade Center buildings might not have been as healthy as the EPA led us all to believe. Who'd'a figured?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog says White House officials pressured the agency to prematurely assure the public that the air was safe to breathe a week after the World Trade Center collapse.

The agency's initial statements in the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks were not supported by proper air quality monitoring data and analysis, EPA's inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, says in a 155-page report released late Thursday.


For example, the report found, EPA was convinced to omit from its early public statements guidance for cleaning indoor spaces and tips on potential health effects from airborne dust containing asbestos, lead, glass fibers and concrete.


As someone who spent a few weeks breathing this crap, I am unimpressed. But hey, it's not like Bush was going to get my vote anyway, so what does he care?

(Does anyone have a copy of that satellite photo which shows the plume of smoke heading straight from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn? I meant to save it but didn't, and now I can't find it anywhere.)

Update: got the image, thanks.

Book notes

My book's Amazon numbers have been a bit of a roller coaster ride--up to #13 at one point, down to 400 or 500--but lately it seems to be holding steady just below the hundreds (#121 as I write this).

Given that I am substantially further down the food chain than Al Franken or even Joe Conason, this is a pretty damned respectable showing.

By the way, started Conason’s book last night, and it looks like something to get a liberal's blood boiling--and I'm all for that. Wherever you fall on the liberal/left spectrum, one thing seems clear to me: we need angry Democrats right now. We don't need mushmouth DLC Democrats afraid of criticizing tax cuts for the wealthy or the tragic quagmire in Iraq. We don't need Democrats who are afraid of being called liberals; as Conason points out pretty persuasively in the first chapter (excerpted here), the basic values of this country are liberal values.

The most basic liberal values are political equality and economic opportunity. Liberals uphold democracy as the only form of government that derives legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and they regard the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights as essential to the expression of popular consent. Their commitment to an expanding democracy is what drives liberal advocacy on behalf of women, minorities, gays, immigrants, and other traditionally disenfranchised groups.


If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights -- you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable -- you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family -- you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green -- you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism -- with the support of the American people.

He’s absolutely right, of course. Anyone who doesn’t understand that all of these things happened because people organized and fought for them, against great odds and conservative opposition—well, it’s almost like arguing about whether the earth is flat or round. I mean, it’s cute to watch conservatives try to claim the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr., thirty-odd years after the fact, but the absurdity of it should be apparent to anyone with the vaguest understanding of American history.

On a related topic, I just finished Weapons of Mass Deception by my friends John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton (and yes, full disclosure, I did the cover for the book, but I’ve already been paid for that, so I have nothing to gain or lose financially from their book sales). It ties together a lot of things which have been discussed on this blog over the course of the past year, and puts them into perspective—the authors know a lot about the PR industry and its machinations. Highly recommended.


August 22, 2003

The Administration writ small

A cute little girl who wants to be a reporter gets a chance to ask Donald Rumsfeld a question. Isn't that sweet!

Except wait--she's the niece of one of Paul Wolfowitz's speechwriters, and her aunt the speechwriter told her what question to ask.

There's more here.

Fox reaction to Franken verdict: pretend it's not happening

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

How's this for "fair and balanced?"

To answer Tom's question, I flipped on Fox News. Nothing in the last 10 minutes, including the crawl across the bottom of the screen, which is harping Bush's complete bullshit about increasing the salmon, the ELF attack on a bunch of Hummers, and other assorted GOP spinnables.

Out of curiosity, I went to CNN.com. Story's there. OK, they're rivals. So then I went to Yahoo news. Prominent on the front page. Google News. Front page with a picture. Google News search... literally hundreds of news outlets are running the story.

And on the Fox front page... nothing. Looked all over. Wow.

So then I went to the Fox news search page (4:46 pm PDT -- two hours after the news first broke) and entered the term "Al Franken."

The results? The first story listed: "Comedian Al Franken Apologizes to Ashcroft." Swear to God. It's over two days old. I clicked through a series of results pages -- couldn't find the verdict. I've got the screengrabs to prove it, if the issue ever comes up.

But Fox can't say they don't know... according to a Google News search, one of the very first outlets to post the Reuters wire piece... Fox News, here.

So even Fox's search engine is as rigged as the news itself.

Hold on... just double-checked the Fox front page... it's now a tiny bit at the very, very bottom.

Whoopee. Verrrrrry fair and balanced. Trumpet and holler for weeks, then duck and run when you lose. Contemptible.

PS -- O'Reilly just came on. No mention of the Franken verdict whatsoever in the tease.

What a shock.

Franken wins

Judge calls lawsuit "wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

Dammit I wish my cable were working. I'd love to watch the reaction on Fox.

Your fun fact for the day

The father of White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that LBJ killed JFK.

As always...

...you should be reading Kos (pronounced as if it were the second syllable of the name "Markos," which in fact it is--not "daily cause" or "daily chaos," though each would be somehow apt).

The mess in Iraq was easily predictable as early as last year, when war talk first sprung up. PNAC arguments that a friendly Iraq would reshape the entire region were laughably absurd (an Israel-friendly Iraqi government wouldn't survive a week). And it's been clear for a long time that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are genuinely interested in peace, addicted as they are to the cycle of tit-for-that violence.

The body count continues to rise (something curiously omitted by the article), which will spur continued and impassioned opposition to Bush's handling of the war. Also omitted -- the increasing costs of the occupation as our national infrastructure demands massive investments.

The real question is not whether Bush can use national security to his advantage, it's whether Democrats can use it to their advantage. This isn't about "neutralizing" the issue, it's about turning it on its head and wielding it as a weapon against Bush. We have the material to work with. It's a question of using it.

In other words, more ju jitsu. Let's hope there's a Democrat running who's not afraid to try it.

Screw it, who needs cable anyway?

So much to read and watch, so little time. Saw my pal Jim Hightower at his New York book party earlier in the week, where he gave me a copy of his latest. Also met Greg Palast's assistant there, and she was kind enough to give me a copy of the updated edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. And Joe Conason's book just showed up in the mail today, as did a copy of the Roger and Me DVD.

And of course, don't forget this modest offering.

It's Flood the Zone Friday

Time for a little internet ju-jitsu. The kids at Not Genuises are leading the charge to use the GOP spam machine against itself. In short, everyone writes their own letter to the editor on a chosen topic each Friday (today it's "fiscal irresponsibility), then uses the tools so kindly provided by Karl Rove to disseminate the information as widely as possible. Go, now, participate.

I despise Time Warner Cable...

...with a passion so deep and all-consuming, it cannot be adequately conveyed.

Those ads they run, about how satellite service is unreliable but you can always count on Time Warner Cable service?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

In short, I'm on backup dialup again, with no cable tv. Given what I do for a living, this gets old real fast.

Arnold's groping: the footage exists

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Following up on this piece re Arnold literally pressing the flesh with several unwilling British female interviewers in December of 2000...

The good news: footage of at least one of the groping incidents apparently still exists. I tracked down the archivist at Carlton TV, the production company behind one of the relevant shows, and she confirmed that the tape is tucked away, still intact.

The bad news: Carlton might not release the footage. Apparently, there are legal issues -- if I understood the Nottingham accent properly, Arnold only granted the interview on conditions that severely limit any future rebroadcast.

Whuh? Did I understand that right? Hmm. The archivist wasn't completely certain about all the legal details, so I have another call in to another Carlton office that deals with international requests, which supposedly will clarify things re this particular footage. I'll keep you posted.

As to the other two reported incidents: one is said to have occurred after the cameras stopped rolling -- cross that one off, then -- and I've got messages in to the folks who seem to control any footage of the third incident, of which this vidcap (courtesy WeLoveArnold.com) is the only visual I've seen so far:

The Gropenator and interviewer Denise Van Outen on ITV's

Arnold ending his campaign, 3 years in advance.

Now that Arnold's TV ads are airing here -- looking remarkably like a deranged robot attempting to seize power -- the video revelation of this former would-be Sperminator blithely groping an outraged female or two would do .

Incidentally, you're welcome to forward these posts to any mainstream newspeople you think might be interested in pushing for release of the footage, or at least writing about its existence and the fact that it's not yet part of the debate. They can contact me at this dedicated email address and I'll happily share all the information I've gathered.

More shortly...

PS -- Found out today that Jeopardy! is going to rebroadcast their Million-Dollar Masters Tournament, which I was honored to participate in at Radio City Music Hall in May of last year. I'll be on this coming Monday (unless you live in certain west coast cities, where the show is delayed until Tuesday because of Monday Night Football), if you're curious.

It was a hell of a thrill. Onstage at Radio City, a packed house (including our host Tom here, which was neat), facing a Tournament of Champions winner and the show's all-time champ, who both scared the holy crap out of me, honest... the curtain goes up... The rest you'll have to see for yourself.


August 21, 2003

Columbus, alive?

A couple of months ago I blogged about being dropped from Columbus Alive due to "page count and budgetary limitations."

Well, for some reason I’m still on their mailing list, and as I was going through the daily stack of mail I noticed that page count and budgetary limitations didn’t keep them from adding some new cartoons.

So if you live in Columbus, be sure to let them know whether or not you prefer the replacements. And if you have any contacts at any other Columbus papers, tell them to drop me a line.

Joe Scarborough admits the truth
"Conason said-quote-”I just want people to pay attention and ask questions and not accept what I call conventional idiocy on TV and radio." Conventional idiocy? So why is it that more people listen to Rush Limbaugh than anybody else in radio history? All I’ve got to say is, there are a lot of idiots out there."

Via Bartcop.

Great minds think alike and alike and alike

Update on the current GOP Team Leader spam (first mentioned here earlier this summer):

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

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

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

Google hits on same:

West Sound Sun, signed by Arney A. Rodal, Bainbridge Island

Portsmouth Herald, signed by Christopher M. Daignault, Hampton

Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, signed by Kevin Slinger, Waverly

Hattiesburg American, signed by William Stogner, Kokomo

1590 Broadcaster Online, signed by Andrew M. Zuba, Nashua

Hernando Today, signed by Michael E. Guthrie, Brooksville

Henderson Gleaner, signed by Brad Jenkins, Morganfield (now stationed in Bosnia)

Boulder Weekly, signed by Larry D. Fuller, Aurora

Honolulu Advertiser, signed by Fidel Montalvan

Times News, signed by Kevin Perneta

No comment

From yesterday's print edition of the Wall Street Journal:

Schoolchildren are used to getting grades in math, science and English. Now, Arkansas state officials want to grade them on their weight.

Viruses and things

Judging from the number of returned emails this morning, it looks like that virus is now spoofing my address as a point of origin (along with many others, of course). This should go without saying, but I'm not going to be sending you any email about a "wicked screensaver" or a "movie," instructing you to "see attachment for details."


I just noticed Bob is back. Here's hoping he has a little more time to post now and then!

Bill Janklow must resign, now
SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Aug. 20 — U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow was driving between 70 and 75 mph when he ran a stop sign and collided with a motorcycle, killing the biker, according to an accident report released by the South Dakota Highway Patrol. The speed limit on the road is 55 mph.

THE REPORT increases the likelihood of prosecutors’ bringing criminal charges against the former four-term governor, who has exerted enormous political power in South Dakota politics for nearly 30 years.


I rode a motorcycle for a number of years (an old BMW R75/5, for those of you who care about these things), and I can assure you that reckless morons like Bill Janklow are every motorcyclist's nightmare.


August 20, 2003

Arnold: "Nothing Will Haunt Me"... unless certain videotapes become TV ads

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Howdy all, sorry I'm not around as much. I'll start my own blog one of these days. Go buy Tom's book. OK, that out of the way:

Today's L.A. Times notes that Arnold has been telling an untrue story about why he became a Republican for years:

... Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to become a Republican after listening to "the debates of Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon when they were debating for the presidential race," or so he told television talk show host Bill O'Reilly in May 2001. "Hubert Humphrey spoke about things I heard in Austria under socialism."

The only problem: there was no such presidential debate in 1968.

Humphrey challenged, Nixon said no. What Arnold claims to have watched as his formative American political experience -- the kind of epiphany you generally remember pretty well (unlike, say, brunching with Ken Lay) -- simply never occurred.

Schwarzenegger previously recounted his version of history during an interview at the 2000 Republican National Convention. "When I came to this country, I was sitting in front of the television set, and I watched a debate between Humphrey and Nixon, and I didn't even understand half of it because my English wasn't good enough then. I had a friend of [mine] translating." Much the same account reappeared in a recent Newsweek magazine article about him. Schwarzenegger "was a Republican before he was a citizen," Newsweek wrote, "having watched a 1968 presidential debate for which a friend provided the translation."

The campaign is spinning that he didn't actually see a debate, just Humphrey and Nixon talking on TV. With, apparently, a friend providing an ongoing, blow-by-blow translation, because that's how weightlifters watch any random newscast. Obviously.

The Times, incidentally, still gives Arnold a large pass, headlining the story The Curious Nixon-Humphrey Debate -- as opposed, for instance, to Arnold's Questionable Story, which would put the subject of the article in the headline, suddenly a daring and controversial news practice -- which means if you're just scanning the paper, you'll miss it entirely. But turn the page, you'll find -- in typeface twice as big and in boldface -- Bustamante Would Raise Taxes To Balance Budget. Just in case we had any doubt what we're supposed to think.

I still wish somebody in the mainstream would spend a little time on Arnie's actual past. Like the December 11, 2000, edition of the UK TV show Big Breakfast, broadcast throughout Britain, when Arnold reportedly groped interviewer Denise Van Outen. The Sun printed a complete sequence of stills the next day (which seem to be nowhere online or in their archive, but you can still see a vidcap of the exchange here if you scroll down). Here are the key bits:

Arnie Is At It Again
Now Denise Is Fondled

RANDY Arnold Schwarzenegger has been at it again -- this time fondling Big Breakfast host Denise Van Outen.

The 53-year-old Terminator hero stunned Channel 4 viewers yesterday by repeatedly grabbing her as she quizzed him on a bed.

Only two days earlier The Sun exclusively revealed the married father of four had fondled one of Big Screen TV presenter Anna Richardson's 32F boobs after an interview. [Note: The Sun reported five days later that "Arnie" groped ITV presenter Melanie Sykes on the same trip. Three molestations in seven days could conceivably put you behind bars for life in the state Arnold wants to govern.]

-- snip --

He stroked her thigh and slapped her on the bum before brushing his arm against her chest.

The stunned presenter said: "You grabbed my breast then."

-- snip --

"The crew were quite shocked -- but it made good telly."

Good telly, indeed. Wouldn't that footage -- probably still in Channel 4's archives, incidentally -- make a spectacular campaign ad? What about combined with the footage from the two reported ITV gropings? You wouldn't even need a narration. Just the damn footage, followed by a quote from Arnold himself, speaking directly to the question of his personal behavior: "Nothing Will Haunt Me."

The news media would run the ad itself for free a hundred times, debating its merits but mostly enjoying the lurid celebrity sex appeal. It might even end Arnold's candidacy, since Republicans would look insanely hypocritical (even more so than normal) to back this guy while shouting "family values" et al.

I've called the anti-recall people here in California and tried to alert them to this, but they don't seem terribly organized. If I have to, I'll try to get the tapes from Channel 4 and ITV and march them into Grey Davis' office myself... and if they don't want them, I'll give them to Arianna, and if she doesn't, then Gary Coleman...

The law of unintended consequences, cont'd

From this morning's New York Times:

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power. But the aftermath has been another story. America has created — not through malevolence but through negligence — precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.


Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, told a crowd of 150,000 in a March religious observance that the United States was trying to create a "tragedy for humanity and to spread chaos in the world" and predicted that the people of Iraq and the region would "welcome American troops with rifles, blood, arms, martyrdom."

The occupation has given disparate groups from various countries a common battlefield on which to fight a common enemy. Hamid Mir, a biographer of Osama bin Laden, has been traveling in Iraq and told me that Hezbollah has greatly stepped up its activities not only in Shiite regions but also in Baghdad.

So maybe there really is a "flypaper strategy," or at least an unintended "flypaper byproduct"-- if by "flypaper" you mean "creating even more terrorists and sending them in to kill our own troops and civilians."

Carnage=victory. Great plan, guys.

Or as Maureen Dowd puts it:

The Bush team has now created the very monster that it conjured up to alarm Americans into backing a war on Iraq.

Rushing to pummel Iraq after 9/11, Bush officials ginned up links between Saddam and Al Qaeda. They made it sound as if Islamic fighters on a jihad against America were slouching toward Baghdad to join forces with murderous Iraqis.

There was scant evidence of it then, but it's coming true now.

Meanwhile, of course, the Bush Administration continues to support the troops in its own inimitable fashion.


August 19, 2003


Event went well, thanks to all who attended. More later, I'm beat.

(Whole lot of attempted-virus spam in the mailbox, is this just me or is everyone getting it?)

Update (Wed): Well, yes. Not much more to add, really, except to reiterate my sincere thanks to all who attended and especially to those who bought books. Someday I'll write about all the behind the scenes stuff going on, but for now, suffice it to say that your overwhelming show of support was exactly what the doctor ordered, and it is appreciated. And my apologies to those of you in the back, for the tiny monitor--it wasn't exactly the setup I had asked for, but I think everything worked out pretty well anyway.

And about that virus, apparently, no, it is not just me.


If you're in the area, please come by. Some various bigwigs are going to be watching this one and as I mentioned below, it would be extraordinarily helpful to have them see a large and enthusiastic crowd. The publishing industry is the damndest thing--I know of no other industry which puts so much work into producing a product, and then so little work into selling it. There are many battles being fought behind the scenes right now, and a successful event tonight will tilt the odds a bit more in my favor. And anyway, much wacky fun will be had.

Afterthought: I owe a great debt to those of you who purchased the book in advance, and if you bring your copies tonight, I will definitely sign them. Not sure what the store's policy is on that, but in any case, don't let them scare you off.

You can't expect him to keep track of every detail

President Bush once again demonstrates his keen grasp of the situation:

"We've got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations," he said. "And they're there to provide security and they're there to provide reconstruction help. But both those functions are being gradually replaced by other troops. Germany, for example, is now providing the troops for ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], which is the security force for Afghanistan, under NATO control. In other words, more and more coalition forces and friends are beginning to carry a lot of the burden in Afghanistan."

In fact, the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country.

Via Calpundit.

Happy Overthrow Day!

Fifty years ago today, the CIA helped overthrow Mossadegh in Iran, installing the Shah in his place, setting into motion a chain of events which would eventually lead to the revolution in 1979 and the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism in the region--and therefore arguably, at least in part, to the events of September 11, 2001.

It's called the Law of Unintended Consequences, and as any small town sherriff will be happy to tell you, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

(A good book on the subject is All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer.)

I would still very much like to be a guest on the Daily Show

Just sayin'.


August 18, 2003


Latest report is five thousand dead in France from the heat wave.

Can't wait to see what fun the yuksters at the Washington Post editorial page have with that.

Of course they do

From the news section (as distinct from the increasingly insane editorial page) of the Washington Post:

The Bush administration intends to side with a Senate Republican attempt to freeze a disputed regulatory proposal meant to strengthen the nation's aging power transmission system, which was blamed in last week's massive blackout, a senior administration official said yesterday.

Why do I have this feeling that last week's events were a precursor of the shape of things to come?

While I was out

Went out for a couple of hours last night, and when I got home, I discovered to my complete astonishment that my cable tv and cable modem problems had miraculously vanished, and I was once again an active participant in the information grid. I suppose it is possible that Time Warner actually did something right for a change, but Occam's Razor probably applies here--divine intervention is a far more likely possibility.

One of the things I missed during the incredible hardship of my weekend on dialup was this extraordinary Washington Post editorial which has great fun with those whining Europeans and their so-called "heat wave":

TO LISTEN TO THE FUSS Europeans are making about their weather, anyone would think that it was actually hot over there. In Paris, shops have experienced a run on electric fans. In Sweden, a male bus driver showed up for work in a skirt after his company informed him that he was not allowed to wear shorts. In Amsterdam, zookeepers are giving iced fruit to their chimpanzees to cool them off.

Okay, so maybe it's a bit warmer than usual. Temperatures across the continent have shot up into the 90s and once or twice have topped 100 degrees in London and Paris. But is this really hot -- hot enough to close businesses, hot enough to cancel trains (the tracks might buckle), hot enough to wax nostalgic for the summer rain to which some Europeans, notably residents of the British Isles, are more accustomed?

You've particularly got to enjoy the last line of this editorial--which was published the morning before a massive swath of North America lost power:

Not all Europeans may want to go this far -- but maybe they will now at least stop turning up their noses at those American summer inventions they've long loved to mock: The office window that doesn't open, the air conditioner that produces sub-arctic temperatures and the tall glass of water, served in a restaurant, filled to the brim.

Yeah, those sub-arctic temperatures and windows that don't open, baby. We know how to do it right--hey, where'd the lights go?

And about those whining Europeans for whom the Post has such mirthful contempt--well, there's this:

PARIS - Gravediggers were called back to work on a national holiday Friday to deal with the grim aftermath of a heat wave that left up to 3,000 dead in France.

With morgues full, authorities took over the vast storeroom of a Paris farmers market or kept bodies in refrigerated tents -- as temperatures subsided throughout Europe, ending one of the most severe periods of intense heat on record across the continent.

Morgues and cemeteries have been overwhelmed in the heat wave, which the health minister called "a true epidemic." A Paris regional funeral official said families would likely have to wait 10-15 days to have relatives buried.

Ha, ha! Foolish French people, and their silly complaints!

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