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December 15, 2004

Strange

Dick Morris was on Hannity's radio show yesterday afternoon, claiming that he is working as a paid political consultant to Ukraine opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Which illustrates once again why any politician hires Morris at their own peril--he may or may not be a good strategist, but his ego just won't let him keep quiet about his own role in things. Among other things, Morris claims to have orchestrated the revelation that Yushchenko was poisoned.

One very odd note: Morris also claims--and I'd really emphasize the word "claims" here--that he was approached by "a Republican congressman who shall remain nameless," who passed along an offer from Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych--if Morris was willing to switch sides, he'd get a million dollars cash, "and that was only a down payment." (Morris says he declined.) Now the whole story may be bollocks, I have no idea--but if there's any truth to it, one question immediately occurred to me (but apparently not to Hannity): what Republican congressman is passing along messages from Yanukovych? What American congressman is working behind the scenes for the anti-democratic, dirty tricks, poison-the-opposition candidate preferred by former KGB officers everywhere? What's up with that?

Saving Christmas

A reader in the UK informs me that Murdoch media there are also flogging the notion that Christmas itself is in peril.

READERS have thrown their support behind The Sunís campaign to save Christmas by turning back the tide of politically correct meddling that threatens to destroy it.

You are fed-up with barmy bureaucrats wrongly banning our festive traditions in the belief they are offensive to followers of religions other than Christianity.

One other thought: in the States, Murdoch moralizes on one network while pandering to prurient interests on another. In the UK he combines both in one newspaper. (Don't click on that link if you're at work.)

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December 14, 2004

Great Americans

The call-and-response between Hannity and callers to his radio show goes something like this these days:

Hannity: Wilbur in North Dakota, welcome to the show!

Caller: Thanks for taking my call, Sean--you're a great American!

Hannity: You're a great American, my friend.

The first couple of times I heard it, it confused me--were these callers regulars to the show? Had they previously told him enough about themselves that he could pass judgment on their great Americanness? But no--apparently all it takes to be labeled a "great American" by Sean Hannity is to declare Sean Hannity a great American.

Which sets the bar pretty low, doesn't it?

Speaking of oppressed conservatives

Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis:

"It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go," she added. "I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."

More.

Let it snow

Just noticed that Bob has little digital snowflakes drifting down across his blog.

Bob, of course, lives in Los Angeles, where he is unlikely to deal with actual snow, let alone ice or cold or sleet or slush or any of the other manifestations of the season. I think out there, a warm, gentle rain might occasionally fall during the very darkest depths of winter.

Just sayin'.

More importantly, he's reposted his round-the-world saga, which originally ran on this site. If you didn't see it then, go read it now.

Poor oppressed conservatives

This week's cartoon is about the current dichotomy of the Right--the inability to reconcile the fact that they are currently firmly in charge of everything with their incessant desire to whine about their victimization. The solution: whine about the oppression they face in lesser arenas, such as the academy. In other words, go after the college professors. Heard Hannity this afternoon, urging his younger listeners to tape their professors, and expose their liberal malfeasance for all to see, yadda yadda. They want us to become a nation of informers, or maybe more accurately, tattletales.

And if you've been watching O'Reilly lately, you know that the falafel man is "watching out for Christmas!" Because nobody else is, apparently. This is big on Fox and talk radio in general this year--this backlash against the perceived secularization of the holiday season. Christmas is in jeopardy! As if. As if religious faith is in any danger whatsoever in this nation. As if a politician could get elected dog catcher without professing his deep and abiding faith in a Supreme Being.

People think that the re-election of Bush makes my job easier for another four years, but honestly, I'm really sick of these sixth-grade-level debates.

Ha ha

Time to turn the tables. Go, do what the man says.

A couple more gift ideas

Not my stuff--I said I'd stop pimping it, and I will. But a couple of my friends have books out that you ought to consider.

--Ruben Bolling has just released an oversized, 224-page compilation of his Tom the Dancing Bug strip. I stayed up too late last night reading this one. You certainly must be familiar with Ruben's work, if not, all I can say is that it's one of the few comic strips I can read at this point in my life and still be reminded why I loved comics in the first place.

--If you read Wil Wheaton's site, you know his writing is funny and poignant. He's collected his best and expanded on it in Just a Geek. A fine gift for anyone interested in blogging and/or Star Trek. (I know, what are the chances that there's going to be any overlap there?)

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December 13, 2004

More on Webb

Jeff Cohen:

In this weekend's mainstream media reports on Gary Webb's death, it's no surprise that a key point has been overlooked -- that the CIA's internal investigation sparked by the Webb series and resulting furor contained startling admissions. CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz reported in October 1998 that the CIA indeed had knowledge of the allegations linking many Contras and Contra associates to cocaine trafficking, that Contra leaders were arranging drug connections from the beginning and that a CIA informant told the agency about the activity.

When Webb stumbled onto the Contra-cocaine story, he couldn't have imagined the fury with which big-foot reporters from national dailies would come at him -- a barrage that ultimately drove him out of mainstream journalism. But he fought back with courage and dignity, writing a book (Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion) with his side of the story and insisting that facts matter more than established power or ideology. He deserves to be remembered in the proud tradition of muckrakers like Ida Tarbell, George Seldes and I.F. Stone.

Well, it is Microsoft, after all

A month ago, I wrote a short essay for Slate (which they used). Today in the mail, I received a large envelope full of numerous forms I have to fill out in order to collect the pittance I am owed. Among the highlights, I am asked to sign away world rights to edit, publish, and distribute the material, as well as to irrevocably and unconditionally waive in perpetuity any rights I may have "under any law relating to 'moral rights of authors' or any similar law throughout the world." In short, if I grant them permission to use the piece in any way they want, forever and ever, then I can collect my one-time fee. Not that any of this matters in a practical sense--this little one-off essay is unlikely to be a hotly contested property--but you have to understand that as a self-syndicated cartoonist, I've been fending off rights-grabs like this my entire career, and am extremely cautious about what I sign. And the thing is, I didn't go to Slate saying, hey can I please work for you? I'll sign anything you want! They asked me to contribute a piece, I agreed--and a month later, I find out that if I want to be paid, I have to sign something I consider morally objectionable. And I am told that if I don't sign, I don't get paid. (It would have been nice to know this before I did the work, of course--I would certainly have passed on the assignment.)

Additionally, I am instructed to fill out a multi-page New US Vendor application, as if I were simply another eager supplicant petitioning Microsoft, a would-be supplier of silicon wafers or mother boards or bubble wrap or some damn thing. To prove my tax status, I must list 3-5 current clients, including phone numbers, provide my business letterhead, business card, a company brochure, and a copy of my business license. Now, as far as I know, they aren't licensing political cartoonists quite yet, and as for the letterhead, brochure, etc.--I couldn't supply most of that if I wanted to, because I don't have any of it. I do everything via email these days. It's this nifty thing, you do it on computers. Somebody should tell the folks at Microsoft about it.

Apparently everyone who writes for Slate jumps through these hoops, which I find somewhat astonishing--but I am often astonished by the things other people are willing to do. As for me, at this moment, it looks like I gave Bill Gates a day of work for free. Shit happens, I guess.

(Edited for clarification.)

There's this procedure called a "background check"...

So the guy Bush wanted for homeland security turns out to have had a nanny problem, alleged mob ties, and, we now learn via the Daily News, was conducting two simultaneous secret affairs, one with publishing magnate Judith Regan. (Actually the News calls it "Kerik's triple play--wife, 2 galpals.")

Wow.

Apparently when Kerik's name came up in the White House, everyone's eyes glazed over and they all just started chanting "9/11...9/11..."

Aw, crap

Gary Webb is dead, an apparent suicide.

Webb tried to take a serious look at the ties between US foreign policy in Latin America and the flow of cocaine into the US in those days, and was driven out of journalism for daring to suggest that the US government might have looked the other way while its momentary allies in a proxy war behaved in a less than ethical manner. The New York Times, to its eternal discredit, led the charge. Even the obit, linked above, notes that the series of articles were "later discredited", which is bullshit. Major newspapers did not "discredit parts of his work" so much as they set up complete straw men and then knocked those straw men right down and declared it a good day's work done. And in the long run, they may have destroyed a man's life.

Here's a cartoon I did about all of this, back in 1996. Not a very good scan, for some reason, but it's the best available at the moment.

Social Security

I don't have time to write a long post responding to David Brooks' latest compendium of misleading banalities. The short version is: it's not some irrational fear of "the market" driving my opposition. It's the very rational understanding that the forces driving Social Security "reform" have no interest in reform whatsoever. You've got the Grover Norquist destroy-government wing allied with the conservatarian free-marketeers, both of whom would dearly love to wipe out the last vestiges of the New Deal. (Some chucklehead online recently suggested that Social Security reform began with Clinton. Clinton flirted with a lot of bad right wing ideas, but anyone who claims that he was the one who started this ball rolling is either lying or shockingly misinformed.) It's not that I don't trust "the market." It's that I don't trust the "reformers." And for very good reason.

Confidential to reader D.T.

Check your email. You didn't specify a cartoon when you ordered a print.

Here we go again

Haven't we heard this one somewhere before?

The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.

Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations.

Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.

The efforts under consideration risk blurring the traditional lines between public affairs programs in the Pentagon and military branches - whose charters call for giving truthful information to the media and the public - and the world of combat information campaigns or psychological operations.

Your tax dollars at work

Here:

The first flight test in nearly two years of a planned U.S. missile-defense shield has been scrapped two days in a row this week because of bad weather, the Pentagon said on Friday.

--snip--

The target missile was to be fired in Kodiak, Alaska, to vary engagement angles tested in previous launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The first attempt to conduct the test this week was scrubbed by clouds over Kodiak.

--snip--

"The target launch time and location, the flight trajectory, the point of impact, what the target looks like, and the make-up of other objects in the target cluster have all been known in advance to plot the intercept," he said. "No enemy would cooperate by providing all that information in advance."

So the Reagan-era dream of a space umbrella keeping us all safe from harm is about to be realized...as long as the enemy attacks us on a sunny day and gives us the target coordinates in advance.

(Via Bob.)

Dear Afshari Family

If there's anything else we can do for you, just let us know!

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