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January 24, 2004

Wow

I don't get a lot of freebies but I just got a cool one--Sirius hooked me up with a satellite radio setup and subscription. This wasn't something I've ever given much thought to, but now that I've played with it for a couple of hours, all I can say is, "wow." This is to broadcast radio as 500-channel digital cable is to the broadcast tv of my youth (three networks, PBS, and maybe a couple of UHF stations). The radio I've got can be used either at home or in the car, and man, I wish I'd had this the last time I drove cross-country.

(...yes, part of the fun of a road trip is listening to local radio, but in the homogenized Clear Channel era, that doesn't go as far as it used to.)

A good litmus test

If someone takes John Stossel seriously, they're probably not worth paying much attention to.

For some Stossel fact-checking, go here.

No wonder they call him the Prince of Darkness

That Robert Novak is quite the prize, isn't he? Not only did he serve as a willing conduit exposing Valerie Plame, he also passed along information his Republican buddies gathered by surreptitiously accessing Democrat computer files (story).

And if you think about it, he had to know he was getting information that had not been gathered on the up-and-up. I mean, he's getting private memos about confidential Democratic strategy--from his Republican friends.

As with the Plame case, he was either too dimwitted to understand that something was wrong with this picture, or he knowingly aided and abetted unethical activity for partisan purposes. You can guess where my suspicions lie, but in either event, I really don't understand why this man still has a job.

...and while it may be--unlike the above--more a case of ignorance than malevolence, I can't say I'm awfully impressed by Peter Jennings, either...

...or Wolfie, for that matter...

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

January 23, 2004

The Captain sails away

I had a meeting today, which is only relevant in that I was offline and not paying attention to news for much of the day, and afterwords I stopped in a pizza place for a slice and overheard a woman about my age saying something about Captain Kangaroo to her daughter, and wondered vaguely, in that way you do when you're only half thinking about something, why this child would know or care who Captain Kangaroo was.

Then I got home and saw that Bob Keeshan had passed away.

It may depend on your age. Captain Kangaroo was certainly a staple of my childhood, during the mid-to-late sixties. In fact, here's a bit of trivia for you: my very pen name is a misremembered version of "Tom Terrific", a cartoon which ran on the Captain's show during the years in which I was part of the target demographic.

Condolences to Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, and, of course, Mr. Green Jeans.

Who's gonna break the news to Cheney?
David Kay stepped down as leader of the U.S. hunt for banned weapons in Iraq on Friday and said he did not believe the country had any large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons.

In a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which says its invasion of Iraq was justified by the presence of illicit arms, Kay told Reuters in a telephone interview he had concluded there were no Iraqi stockpiles to be found.

"I don't think they existed," Kay said. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War (news - web sites), and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the nineties," he said.

Story here.

Some facts for Mr. Jennings

Michael Moore's site is AWOL central today.

More free advice

August has some ideas for a certain candidate who, according to the pundits, needs to appear "more Presidential":

* Announce proudly that no president has ever done as much as him for human rights. * Dress up in a crotch-accentuating flight suit and land a jet on an aircraft carrier. * Brag repeatedly about a sub-standard college grade point average. * Get arrested for public rowdiness at a football game. * Attempt to recite a cliché adage at a press conference and promptly forget how it goes in the middle of saying it. * Mount, and promptly fall off, an unpowered Segway scooter. * Drop his dog in front of cameras.

More.

Thanks...

...to everyone who's pitched in so far to my little impromptu fundraiser for my friend in SF. I am, once again, humbled by your kindness. Unfortunately not as many job leads as I would have liked to have seen, so again, if you know of a bookstore or record store gig in San Francisco or Berkeley, please let me know ASAP.

...store owners: hire my friend and I'll design a shirt or an ad for you, gratis. It'll be a real rarity; I don't do that kind of work anymore.

Grand jury

In the Plame case. And Karl Rove is sleeping like a baby--i.e., waking up every two hours and crying.

It's also possible that prosecutors will learn who perpetrated the leak but won't have enough to bring charges. But true to form, the Bush administration continues to be extremely tight-lipped about the investigation -- even internally. "No one knows what the hell is going on," says someone who could be a witness, "because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either."

Turning it around

Looks like somebody at the Dean campaign was thinking along the same lines as your humble host.

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

January 22, 2004

Debate

Joe Lieberman seems to think he deserves the presidency on the basis of anecdotal evidence--i.e., all the people who keep coming up to him and telling him that he's the only man who can really do the job, by golly.

...Clark wants to believe, if I understand him correctly, that (a) people in the military don't join political parties, (b) therefore it's okay that he voted for Nixon and Reagan because he wasn't "really" a Republican, and (c) upon entering civilian life, he suddenly discovered that he was actually a Democrat. (And I wish he hadn't dodged the question about Michael Moore calling Bush a deserter--that would have been a good moment to lay out the facts about President AWOL. Instead, all the talking heads on Fox are now dismissing it as an "outrageous allegation.")

...Dean looks chagrined. Should have come out fighting.

...Sean Hannity thinks Lieberman is the most "reasonable" of the Democrats.

Republican shenanigans

If by "shenanigans" you mean blatant dishonesty:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

Lifted from Atrios, who asks us to imagine the response if Democrats had done this.

Trying to help a friend

I have a close friend in San Francisco who had a run of bad luck with health problems last year, who now needs a job pretty desperately. (Short story: he was out of work with a slipped disk for several months--surgery,the whole deal--and thanks to Bush's economy, his job was no longer there when he recovered, and he hasn't been able to find another.) He's got fourteen years of bookstore experience as well as wide-ranging and eclectic musical knowledge. If you own a bookstore or record store in the Bay Area and have any sort of opening, or have any other appropriate job leads, please let me know. I would be in your debt.

...in the meantime--I know you all don't know this guy and there are a million hard-luck cases in the world, but he's a friend of mine and I'm trying to keep him from getting evicted, so if you're feeling charitable, I will pass along any donations you make to the tip jar (follow link, button at bottom of page) until he gets back on his feet. You can't change the world most of the time, but in this instance, you can change one person's life. Even just a buck or two will make a huge difference here. Readers of this site have proven their generosity in the past, and I'm hoping you will again. I wouldn't ask this if it weren't important.

...just to sweeten the pot, anyone who contributes more than five bucks will be eligible to win a signed print. I'll have a random drawing in a few weeks and give out, say, ten of them.

Just my two cents...

...but if I were in the Dean camp right now, I'd be trying to pull a little ju jitsu--turn that "yeaarrggh" thing around, make it a joke, embrace it. Open campaign rallies with that remix that's floating around the 'net. Hand out t-shirts to volunteers which just say "YEEAAARRRGGH" across the front. Maybe have Dean open speeches with some mildly self-deprecating joke: "I've taken a lot of kidding for my speech in Iowa--but if you think *I* was hollering then, wait till *you* get the bill for Bush's spending spree!"

You can't make it go away, but you can turn it around.

(Note: this space is not endorsing any specific candidate, though it does wish Joe Lieberman would pack it in.)

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

January 21, 2004

Whining conservatives: junior league

They control all three branches of government and the media are either actively on their side or so cowed by accusations of bias that they bend over backwards to be "fair"...but there are still some liberal college professors out there. Fortunately, the college Republicans in Colorado are on the case.

How concerned are they about the terrible discrimination they face? Well, the slogan on the t-shirts they sell reads, "Join us now...or work for us later."

The cry of the oppressed and powerless throughout history.

(...reminds me of the time I saw some baby-faced Republican on Hannity & Colmes, whining because some professor had assigned Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickel & Dimed, in which she describes her experiences working at Wal-Mart level jobs and attempting to live on the wages earned there. Hannity's response: the professors should assign Ann Coulter's book instead.)

...turns out the young Republicans are real "with it" hepcats who "keep it real." My mistake, playas.

...we have, of course, covered this ground already. The National Review wasn't paying attention, I guess.

Smackdown

Margaret Cho rocks.

By the way...

...weren't people talking a week or two ago about some new initiative? To go to other planets, or something like that? You know, one of the most ambitious projects in all of human history?

Does that ring any bells?

I guess there wasn't room for it in the speech, after the gay marriage stuff and the steroids.

The soft bigotry of diminished expectations

Last year:

The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

This year:

Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities...

(Thanks to TBogg.)

Andy's head go boom
If you're a fiscal conservative or a social liberal, this was a speech that succeeded in making you take a second look at the Democrats. I sure am.

Well, I am, admittedly, just a simple uneducated cartoonist, but it's been pretty clear to me for some time now--certainly long before this particular speech--that Bush's fiscal conservatism consisted primarily of clever catchphrases designed to draw attention away from his drunken-sailor fiscal policy (as Andy's nemesis Paul Krugman has spent most of the last three years pointing out). And any social liberal who backs Bush certainly deserves the world he gets--it's just unfortunate that the rest of us have to live there too.

Honestly, it's astonishing what passes for thought in some quarters.

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

January 20, 2004

Thanks for the insight, talking heads!

Guy on CNN just now:


In terms of studies of the news media, we like candidates who appear in the small television box in a very controlled manner, there was a study done years ago that suggests that Adolf Hitler would not have done well in the tv age because he moved around too much on camera, and while Dean certainly can't be compared to someone as evil as that, his speaking style was ballistic, and it simply does not photograph well, insanity doesn't photograph well in a television format.


Saving (for) your life

Health insurance is a pretty simple concept--individuals pooling their resources so that when one of their number falls ill, he or she can afford to pay for treatment. That's really all it boils down to. (The only real question here should be whether the managers of those pooled resources are entitled to place their own interests--i.e., profits--above the needs of the insured, but that's another post.)

So what's Bush's solution? Why, health savings accounts, of course--a tax free account, so you can set aside money to pay for your own health care. Who needs health insurance? We'll just give you a tax cut so you can save up money for your own medical needs! We're a self-reliant nation, after all! Working together as a society--that's socialism! Like the godless Canadians have! Hell, why don't you just study up and perform your own appendectomy, while you're at it?

Given the rate of savings in this country, and the state of the actual economy (in contrast to the fictional one Bush is also likely to discuss tonight), most people might manage to save just about enough money for a single MRI. If they're lucky.

After that, it's back to the emergency room, I guess.

Another silly contest

This site is a contender for the "Best Weblog About Politics" category, and while it is always an honor just to be nominated, blah blah blah, I think you should actually vote for Kos.

...seriously, no false modesty here. As a political blog, his is far and away a better site than my little vanity page here, and this contest has the lefty vote splitting three ways against one righty. So I'm stepping out of the race--if elected, I will not serve--and endorsing Kos.

The Mighty Reason Man...

...looks up to the stars, but keeps his feet planted firmly on the ground. (Too cryptic? Just go read.)

Know your candidates

Via Body and Soul, I see that Wesley Clark is quite the supporter of the School of the Americas (now known as the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation”).

For those of you spent more time during the eighties thinking about about sippy cups and building blocks than the latest news of massacres in El Salvador and Nicaragua, here's a brief refresher on the School of the Assassins:


Over its 56 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.


And here's what Clark has to say about this symbol of American secret wars and covert intervention, at which, during the 1980s, insurgents were trained in techniques of execution, blackmail, kidnapping and torture:


"There's been a lot of rotten people who've gone to a lot of rotten schools in the history of the world," Clark said. "And a lot of them went to this school. But a lot of them have gone to Harvard Business School and a lot of other places."


Back to Body and Soul (click through for all the links):


By no means do I want to hang the Post's stupidity on Clark. He does a far better job ofdefending the school himself, arguing that while it has indeed produced a lot of nasty graduates, that doesn't mean that they learned their dark skills here -- an argument fairly close to the Post's, but without the xenophobic undercurrent.


Still, that's a hard argument to accept when, according to a study by Kate McCoy of the University of Wisconsin, “students who took multiple courses at the School were almost four times more likely to violate [human rights] than their counterparts who took only one course. … greater exposure to the School of the Americas training makes trainees more likely to engage in human rights violations ...” What's more, in 1996 the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school from 1987 and 1991 that advocated torture, blackmail, false imprisonment, and suppression of democratic dissident movements. The kind of people who attended the School of the Americas may have already had a propensity for thuggish behavior, but it's clear whatever innate talents they had were polished and perfected at the SOA.



I am very much in the ABB (Anybody but Bush) camp this year, but I find this extremely disturbing.

... here's Clark's statement on the SOA.

...a reader defends Clark:


My irritation with the issue being so imprortant to some against Clark basically falls along the following line.
1. He tried to get the US to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda
2. He was key in negotiating the Dayton Peace Accord
3. He didn't stone wall or block the investigation or release of records about SOA during his tenure as SOUCOM
4. A course on the role of Civilian and Military Leadership in a constitutional democracy was added during his tenure.
5. He organized an intervention that put a stop to the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans (Kosovars consider the man a hero, Republicans consider him a traitor)
6. He openly advocates and argues for the International Criminal Court

So my point is basically if you look at his actions over the last decade you see a man that has fought for humanitarian rights and international law every chance he had.  But he also has made a statement supporting a school that is not popular with many people on the left.   Which outweighs the other?



Life is unpredictable

Readers of this site may have noticed that I tend not to indulge in political prognostication. None of the talking heads saw Kerry coming out of Iowa this strong (though, as noted below, they immediately started explaining with great conviction why he did). It's a fun guessing game, and if you happen to guess right, you are commended for your insight, and if you guess wrong, everyone shrugs and moves on to the next contest. But ultimately, none of it means anything.

Nobody knows how this year is going to turn out. The future is an open book. But that's good news--it means that anyone who tells you that Bush is unbeatable is just blowing smoke, trying to create the political perception they want you to believe. One of the basic lessons of semantics is that you should not confuse the map with the territory--which means, in this case, you should not confuse Karl Rove's wet dreams with the actual political mood of the country, which remains unpredictable. Bush can be defeated.

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

January 19, 2004

Babbling heads

Don't you just love watching people who had no idea how the evening would turn out explaining authoritatively why it turned out the way it did?

Native son, cont'd

Enough with the "simple homespun wisdom from the heartland" crap, okay? (And that goes for you bloggers as well as the mainstream media.) It's incredibly condescending--now class, let's listen to the very special perspective of our geographically-disadvantaged friends in Iowa.

People in the midwest are, you know, people.

(Not sayng that everyone on the ground is doing this, but when I see it, it irks the hell out of me...)

Speaking of conspiracies...

Orcinus (via Atrios), discussing the new Kevin Phillips book:


But this is not the only bit of buried history that Phillips successfully resurrects. Even more significant, perhaps, is his treatment of the "October Surprise" story.

Some of you may even recall the story. Its basic outline went like this: In the runup to the 1980 election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, it became clear that the outcome largely hinged on the release of the 52 Americans who had been held hostage by Iran since November 1979. If Carter was able to obtain their freedom, he was likely to win re-election. If he failed, it was nearly certain Reagan would win. As you may recall, the latter was what happened. The hostages were freed on the day of Reagan's inauguration. Later it emerged that a cadre of Reagan campaign officials -- led by former CIA chief William Casey, who was the campaign manager -- may have actually negotiated with Iran behind the scenes to ensure precisely this outcome. There were even indications they may have been involved in sabotaging the attempted rescue of the hostages.

The story gained real traction in the early 1990s when a former Carter intelligence official named Gary Sick released a book detailing the plot. It was promptly pooh-poohed by articles in Newsweek and The New Republic, and a brief House investigation came up dry. Afterward, anyone who even suggested they thought the scenario had any credibility was dismissed as a loony conspiracy theorist. Even the respected AP reporter Robert Parry found himself a journalistic pariah for his dogged pursuit of the story; you can find the results of much of his work at his marvelous Web site Consortium News.
Phillips not only resurrects the story, he examines the evidence and finds that it is almost certainly substantial, despite the all-too-eager earlier dismissals of its substance. More to the point, he compiles a wealth of subsequent evidence, most of it having emerged since 1992, pointing to his conclusion that "Bill Casey -- a born schemer and true buccaneer -- and his associates probably were involved in machinations akin to those Sick alleged." This evidence includes intelligence material from the French, the Soviet Union, Israel and Iran, as well as material that has been ignored by the House investigators.

All of this ties in with Phillips' theses that the October Surprise was a precursor to Iran-Contra (in fact, he argues, the latter was actually a confirmation that the former had occurred) as well as Iraqgate -- the consequences of which, he ably demonstrates, have come home to roost in the current war in Iraq.


Once again, it turns out that the cynics probably had it right. (Boy, sure looks like Sparky has paid a few visits to the plastic surgeon since 1992, doesn't it?)

(...my God. Sparky the penguin was introduced in 1991. He's been around for thirteen years.)

More crazy conspiracy theories...

...from the Washington Post:


As an example of private industry's hunger for a Mars mission, Steve Streich, a veteran Halliburton scientific adviser, was among the authors of an article in Oil & Gas Journal in 2000 titled "Drilling Technology for Mars Research Useful for Oil, Gas Industries." The article called a Mars exploration program "an unprecedented opportunity for both investigating the possibility of life on Mars and for improving our abilities to support oil and gas demands on Earth," because technology developed for the mission could be used on this planet.

--snip--

Halliburton's interest in Mars was first pointed out yesterday by the Progress Report, a daily publication of the liberal Center for American Progress. Administration officials scoffed at the idea that Halliburton had anything to do with the development of the space policy, which was headed by Bush's domestic policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, and Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser. Another administration official said Cheney did not take a lead role in the interagency work on the space policy but gauged support on Capitol Hill and served in an advisory capacity.

An industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the oil and gas industry, including Halliburton, would benefit considerably from technology that was developed for drilling on Mars, including the tools, the miniaturization, the drilling mechanism, the robotic systems and the control systems.



Thoughts from a native son

Iowa is a state of terrible weather and understated beauty, right in the center of what elistists like Ann Coulter generally dismiss as "flyover country." To live in Iowa is to mostly be overlooked, confused with "Idaho or Ohio or someplace like that."

Ah, but once every four years, you are the belle of the ball.

Enjoy your day, Iowa.

Earthquake relief

A friend of mine is organizing a fundraising event for survivors of the Bam earthquake. You can get more info, buy tickets, or make a donation here.

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