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November 08, 2003

Reminder

It's a little after nine, EST, as I'm writing this, and for the dozen or so of you who are going to see this in time, if you go outside right now, there's still time to catch some of the eclipse. It's very cool. Go.

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

November 07, 2003

Signs of the times

Conservatives like to say that there is no real stifling of dissent in this country, and anyone who says otherwise is just being a Chicken Little.

Sgt. Robert Ferriol would probably disagree:

I honorably served my country for eight years in the United States Marine Corps; providing honest intelligence analysis and collecting countless awards and promotions throughout my career. I was also a leader and mentor to scores of young men and women. In those eight years, I sacrificed more of myself for this country than most men and women ever will in their lifetime. But, thanks to the zeal and quick judgment of this individual, I am no longer serving our beloved country. His forecast was correct. Following his letter to DoD, I was brought up on charges of "Disloyal Statements" under Article 134 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). Not because anything I wrote was disloyal, but because of my political views and how they differ from Mr. Simpson and others like him. The unfortunate aspect of this is not my demise, but their inability to understand or accept the opinions of others as different from their own. Nonetheless, I was forced to retain an attorney and undergo weeks of scrutiny before being cleared of the charges. I was, however, never allowed to work in Intelligence again; forced to separate the Marine Corps over threats that I would not be allowed to reenlist. Never mind the fact that there is not one single negative mark on my entire eight years of service (the letter incident was considered "hush-hush" so not even that made it on my record), or the fact that every one of my superiors stood up for me during this time, praising my abilities and loyalty to this country. None of that mattered; only my "liberal beliefs."

As they say, read the whole thing.

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November 06, 2003

Lessons of history

Eight years ago, the Smithsonian's plans for an Enola Gay exhibit were denounced by conservatives for insufficient patriotic correctness. Those plans were scrapped, and instead the plane which dropped the first atomic bomb was displayed with a lot of information about the restoration of old planes. There's a new exhibit in the works now, and it looks like the Smithsonian learned its lesson well.

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight, in December the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) will open its new facility, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. Over 200 aircraft and 135 space artifacts will be displayed. The centerpiece of the new exhibit will be the Enola Gay -- the B-29 super-fortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Fully restored, the Enola Gay will be displayed as a "magnificent technological achievement." Some scholars contend that, given its role in the 6 August 1945 attack, the B-29 has gained notoriety and has a symbolic meaning that extends beyond its significance as an example of the technological advances in aviation in the 1940s.

To say the least.

Action alert part two

A NewsMax Rush Limbaugh poll. I think you know what to do.

Action alert

Hesiod suggests we flood the zone at 2 pm EST today.

A gentle reminder

Not to flog this to death, but if you want to order one of the signed books (details above), you'd be smart to do it sooner rather than later. Getting the books in from the warehouse, signed, and out the door is going to take time to coordinate. Stragglers are unlikely to receive their copies in time for the holidays.

Whistlin' dixie

Rall's right, Dean had nothing to apologize for. And The Poor Man has a good rant on Zell Miller's response (and a bunch of other good stuff, just scroll through the whole blog):

This country puts up with a lot of crap from the South. I say this with affection, because I live in the South, but seriously. You don't get lectures like this from California, about how not everyone really, literally, is a dot com millionaire or a surf bum. You don't hear Olympia Snowe on TV saying that Republicans just don't get Maine and that if the party wants to win in 2004 they can't get thay-ah from hee-yah. It would be considered rather parochial, if anyone else did it, but we're expected to put up with it from the South because, well, I guess we're just used to it by now. But if Zell Miller actual wants the country to not treat the South like some weird backwater, if this is actually meant to be taken in some way seriously, and isn't just xenophobic pandering to his toothless constiuency, he might help the situation by refraining from making outbursts like this in response someone from another part of the country implying they might want to get votes from the people you represent for the party you represent. He's a little defensive about the racist connotations of the confederate flag, and that's understandable. But you've got to control yourself. Miller couldn't have presented a more embarrassing and retrograde view of the South if he'd showed up wearing Uncle Jesse's filthy overalls and blowing "Dixie Land" on a jug of moonshine.

On the lighter side, sort of

The guy who's running Wesley Clark's blog emails to point out that the 9/11 commission may have trouble accessing confidential information, but a paper doll named Flat Stanley does not.

Seriously, you really want to follow that last link.

(Obligatory note for the trolls: this post does not constitute an endorsement of Gen. Clark.)

On a related note: Ginger's CIA adventure.

The cost of war

From Time magazine:

For several seconds after the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) drilled through the back of their armored M113 "battle taxi," the soldiers inside, mainlining adrenaline, continued firing. Then they started screaming. "It blew my leg clean off," says Private First Class Tristan Wyatt, who was standing at the rear of the armored personnel carrier (APC), unloading an M-240 machine gun at a dozen or more Iraqis who had ambushed them minutes before. He was the first to be hit. The RPG then passed through Sergeant Erick Castro's hip, spinning him violently to the floor. His left leg was still attached — but barely. "I picked up my leg and put it on the bench," he says, "and lay down next to it." Finally, the RPG shredded Sergeant Mike Meinen's right leg. "It was pretty much torn off," he says. "There was just some meat and tendons holding it on."

--snip--

The medic, the wounded soldiers and their comrades began a frantic race against the clock. Buddies pressed their hands into Castro's hip wound to keep him from bleeding to death. The wound was so massive that his tourniquet was useless. He handed it to Wyatt, who needed two to stanch the blood flowing from his femoral artery. Amid the mayhem, Meinen, who had been manning a 50-cal. machine gun, noticed that he didn't have any feeling in his right foot. "It felt like it had gone to sleep on me, so I picked my foot up and was trying to massage it, trying to get the feeling back," he says. "But then it dawned on me: it wasn't even connected. So I put it on the floor."

They tried to raise their wounded legs to slow the bleeding. "There was nothing to elevate my leg except for the piece of my leg that had been blown off from the knee down," Wyatt says. "So I took my leg and jammed it under the stump to keep it pointing up. It was kind of messy."

To my mind, the most poignant and heartbreaking part of the story comes near the end:

The three wounded soldiers are united not only in their good humor but also their unequivocal support for the war. Wyatt doesn't much care for those who think Bush fudged the intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. "That makes you feel like you fought for nothing or you fought for a liar," he says. "They're telling me I went out there and I got my leg blown off for a liar, and I know that's just not true."

It's good news Thursday

The EPA is dropping investigations into 50 power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act, at the recommendation of Dick "Evil Personified" Cheney. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell and Lou Sheldon win an incremental battle in their war on women's rights. And it's possible that these men and women could still be alive today (though Josh Marshall wants to know who's spinning who on that one.)

It would be soul-crushingly depressing, if I weren't such a sunny and optimistic person.

Those Diebold memos

They're floating around the internet, and Diebold doesn't like it one bit. Perhaps they are champions of intellectual property rights, simply doing their best to defend their copyright--or perhaps they don't want voters to see that democracy is being entrusted to a people who say things like this:

* I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 [votes] when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb"

* For a demonstration I suggest you fake it. Progam them both so they look the same, and then just do the upload fro [sic] the AV. That is what we did in the last AT/AV demo.

* Right now you can open GEMS' .mdb file with MS-Access, and alter its contents. That includes the audit log. This isn't anything new.

* Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so miss [sic] managed.

* Johnson County, KS will be doing Central Count for their mail in ballots. They will also be processing these ballots in advance of the closing of polls on election day. They would like to log into the Audit Log an entry for Previewing any Election Total Reports. They need this, to prove to the media, as well as, any candidates & lawyers, that they did not view or print any Election Results before the Polls closed. However, if there is a way that we can disable the reporting functionality, that would be even better.

Times story here. And Ruminate This recommends some action you can take. We're talking about the fundamentals of our very democracy here, after all.

Irony overload
It is a disgusting possibility that members of the Senate would actually try to politicize intelligence, especially at a time of war, even apparently reaching conclusions before investigations have been performed ...

Here, via Josh.

Do as they say, not as they do

Turns out that some of the staunchest defenders of the Bush administration's "everything's going great" propaganda are, well, afraid to visit the place.

The Defense Department invited 21 people to travel to Iraq from November 2 to 7 and told us that they would limit the delegation to 17. Of the original 21 invitees, only three of us accepted. Those who turned down the invitation included Fred Barnes, Jackson Diehl, William Safire and George Will. After they extended more invitations, eventually 10 people accepted.

Via Kos (to whom, incidentally, heartfelt congratulations on the new arrival are due).

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

November 05, 2003

Your government at work

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 — The Senate gave its final approval on Monday to President Bush's request for $87.5 billion to occupy and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, completing Congressional action on the largest emergency spending bill ever sought by a president.

The Senate's action came on a voice vote with only six members present, meaning that the decisions of individual members on the administration's vision for Iraq were not recorded. Not voting on the record appealed to both Republicans nervous about explaining the amount to their constituents, and Democrats who did not want their patriotism questioned for opposing the bill. On Friday, the House voted 298 to 121 in favor of the bill. The bill now goes to the president for his signature.

Senator Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who has been the loudest Congressional challenger of the administration's Iraq policy, was the lone voice shouting no during the vote, a contrast to the 12 senators who opposed the emergency spending bill, known as a supplemental, in a preliminary vote last month.

This way, Republicans can deny supporting the bill if public opinion really turns sour--but Democrats (with the commendable exception of Byrd) can deny opposing it, in the unlikely event that everything goes swimmingly. I guess the only real surprise here is that they don't use this dodge more often.

Update via Atrios.

And it wasn't Democratic critics who forced a Republican-run Senate to cast an unrecorded vote on the occupation. It was Republicans, who voted for the funding but who lack all confidence in the president's chosen course.

Be that as it may, I would have liked to have seen a few more Democrats following Byrd's example...

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

November 04, 2003

Signed books, continued

Okay, that didn't take long--a lot of you are interested in this, so I'm going to go ahead and start taking orders. Details are here.

I'm only able to do this because my publisher is helping out--I'll be going into the city once a week for the next month or so to sign the books, but they'll be physically ordering them from the warehouse and mailing them out. As a result, if you want to be sure to get your book or books in time for Christmas, you must get your order in by Dec. 12, and honestly, I wouldn't even recommend waiting that long. (Same deal for signed prints--if you want to be sure to get them in time for Christmas, order early.)

I think I feel a draft coming on

During the buildup to war, I got quite a bit of email from self-described young conservatives, telling me how wrong I was about the whole thing. I wonder what tune they will be singing when the ongoing quagmire and the need for young bodies necessitates the return of conscription, and deferments are not quite as easy to come by as they used to be.

The community draft boards that became notorious for sending reluctant young men off to Vietnam have languished since the early 1970s, their membership ebbing and their purpose all but lost when the draft was ended. But a few weeks ago, on an obscure federal Web site devoted to the war on terrorism, the Bush administration quietly began a public campaign to bring the draft boards back to life.

"Serve Your Community and the Nation," the announcement urges. "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men ... receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service."

Local draft board volunteers, meanwhile, report that at training sessions last summer, they were unexpectedly asked to recommend people to fill some of the estimated 16 percent of board seats that are vacant nationwide.

--snip--

Not since the early days of the Reagan administration in 1981 has the Defense Department made a push to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. Recognizing that even the mention of a draft in the months before an election might be politically explosive, the Pentagon last week was adamant that the drive to staff up the draft boards is not a portent of things to come. There is "no contingency plan" to ask Congress to reinstate the draft, John Winkler, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs, told Salon last week.

Increasingly, however, military experts and even some influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to consider a draft to fully staff the nation's military in a time of global instability.

--snip--
In the Vietnam War era, college boys could also duck combat, as George W. Bush did, by joining the National Guard.

But that's all been changed. In a new draft, college students whose lottery number was selected would only be permitted to finish their current semester; seniors could finish their final year. After that, they'd have to answer the call. Meanwhile, National Guardsmen, as we've seen in the current war, are now likely to face overseas combat duty, too.

Signed books

Since I didn't get much of a book tour this time out, I've been trying to figure out a way I can make at least a few more signed books available to those of you who care about that sort of thing. The sticking point, as always, is time--I just don't have a lot of it to spare these days. But with a little help from my friends, I may be able to offer signed books for awhile over the holiday season. This will be a Paypal-only deal--I won't be set up to handle money orders, checks, etc. I'll post more details as soon as I have them.

Update: to make this work, we'd probably need to charge $25 postpaid. That's for a personalized copy of the book, inscribed however you want, and probably with a small drawing of a penguin as well. Before I go to the trouble of setting this up, though, I want to get a quick head count (which is why I'm bumping this post to the top of the page)--how many people would even be interested in this? Email me and let me know: tomtomorrow-at-ix-dot-netcom-dot-com.

San Francisco

I'll be returning to my old stomping grounds the weekend of Nov. 14. The Cartoon Art Museum will sponsor an event that Friday evening, the usual multimedia dog-and-pony-with-booksigning-after sort of thing (reservations are recommended), and then on Saturday evening I'll be at Modern Times bookstore in the Mission. There's a couple radio things in there as well, including Sedge Thomson's West Coast Live (though sadly KQED's Forum show had no room for me, because lord knows, radio booking schedules are set in stone, except, um, when they're not).

The trip is co-sponsored by Salon.com and St. Martin's (and big thanks to all involved, especially Max at Salon who's been working on this for a couple of months now).

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

November 03, 2003

What's worse?

When a news organization corrects an error--or when the White House tries to rewrite history?

One question..

...about this Slate article: is there, um, any other reason Bechtel and Halliburton might have been favored for contracts, other than the specific dollar amount of their political contributions?

I don't know if the writer has a point vis-a-vis the specific CPI report he's critiquing, but I do have a problem with this bit:

If the corruption argument is true, then the size of campaign contributions should be strongly and positively correlated with the size of government contracts.

Well, yes--if the size of the campaign contribution were the only factor, if longstanding personal ties and even personal gain were not also potentially involved.

Which they are, as any politically aware adult American should reasonably be expected to understand. Rumsfeld goes way back with Bechtel, and Cheney is still receiving "deferred compensation" from Halliburton. And those companies are the top two on the reconstruction contract list.

But hell. I'm just a simple uneducated cartoonist.

Reagan's legacy

I haven't seen CBS's Reagan movie, of course, but neither have any of the conservatives who are so up in arms about it. Conservatives usually view anything less than utter obsequiousness as evidence of media bias, and I suspect that's what's going on here. At any rate, John Dingell also hopes that the movie will be "fair and balanced."

"As someone who served with President Reagan, and in the interest of historical accuracy, please allow me to share with you some of my recollections of the Reagan years that I hope will make it into the final cut of the mini-series: $640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; union busting; firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; retreating from terrorists in Beirut; lying to Congress; financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; visiting Bitburg cemetery; a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; shredding documents; Ed Meese; Fawn Hall; Oliver North; James Watt; apartheid apologia; the savings and loan scandal; voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; farm bankruptcies; trade deficits; astrologers in the White House; Star Wars; and influence peddling."

Rep. Dingell concluded, "I hope you find these facts useful in accurately depicting President Reagan’s time in office."

Try to keep some of that in mind when the old man finally shuffles off this mortal coil and we are innundated with gauzy remembrances--especially those of you who are too young to remember those miserable years firsthand.

Ghosts and goblins and voting machines

Reader Cathy Gellis took inspiration from Sparky and dressed up for Halloween as something truly terrifying—a Diebold voting machine.

By the way, if you’re under the impression that the cartoon exaggerates the dangers of touch screen voting in any way, if you think I'm veering into tinfoil hat territory, you need to read this right away. (Update: working link.)

* * * *
Speaking of reading assignments, this one’s all over the blogs, but it really is required reading

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