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December 31, 2004
Three Ways To Make Things Worse

House Republicans, getting ready to ride into a new session of Congress with an expanded majority, are planning some major changes to House ethics rules. Astonishingly, these changes don't propose to hold members to higher ethical standards, they seek to make it much, much harder for member to get in any trouble at all. No matter how they try to spin this, don't be fooled, they are simply voting themselves a massive get out of jail free card. And considering the Republican majority, the Democrats won't get to play it.

House Republican leaders are urging members to alter one of the chamber's fundamental ethics rules, which would make it harder for lawmakers to discipline a colleague.

The proposed change would essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers -- including Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House's conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.

Republicans, returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after increasing their House majority by three seats in the Nov. 2 election, also want to relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.

A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.

Currently, if the panel, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, is deadlocked on a complaint, the matter automatically goes to an investigative subcommittee after 45 days. The proposed change would drop any complaint that is not backed by a majority vote to move it forward.

Washington Post

Scoundrels.

December 30, 2004
White Folks Too!

If any Americans out there are still hesitating to donate money or whatever for the relief effort in Asia, ABC and other networks are trying to help out by highlighting that lots of white people are dead over there too.

Nobody Home

Ever been frustrated by a company or website (say Amazon or eBay) that doesn't provide a customer service phone number and they force you to fill out a form and wait 4 days to get an automated response?

Well, government to the rescue! The General Services Administration - of free catalog from Pueblo, Colorado fame - has a pretty comprehensive list of corporate consumer contacts.

Cool.

Times: Yes We Are Stingy

The New York Times hits the nail on the head with a scathing editorial about the United States' aid in this and other world crises, exposing our miserly ways and the lies of Powell and Bush in the past week. The piece also notes how we and other countries have often "pledged" money for such disasters in the past and never actually delivered.

Bush today finally took a few minutes out of his vacation, 4 days after the fact, to publicly comment on the devastation. He called Jam England Jan Egeland, the U.N. guy who said rich nations were stingy, "very misguided and ill informed," qualities he knows a little something about.

We still haven't pledged anything beyond the $35 million of a few days ago, though Bush says it's "only the beginning." Those are just words, chump. Do something.

Death toll is up to 115,000 as of this writing.

December 28, 2004
No Really, We're Not Stingy

Horrible tragedy in South Asia, as I'm sure everyone has heard.

Yesterday the UN humanitarian aid cheif Jan England said that the rich countries of the world were being stingy. We, as freedom-spreading Americans, took great offense at this and the guy quickly took it all back and said America is super awesome. We assume his family has now been released and are alive and well.

Oh, and in a completely unrelated move, we upped our original pledge of 15 million bucks to 35 million. That's million, not billion as some conservative blogs have reported.

As of this writing, the death toll is up to 52,000, with thousands still missing and millions homeless. Our contribution amounts to $673 for each of the dead so far.

Naturally, our officials have been falling all over themselves promising that this is just the beginning, we'll send more money, blah blah blah.

It's not good enough. Why don't we just say, "We'll do everything we can. Tell us what you need and we'll make it happen." Wouldn't that be, waddayacallit... compassionate?

How do we appear anything but stingy when we offer $10 million, and then up it to 35? It's a pathetically small amount of money in the face of something like this.

UPDATE: For a little context, the inauguration we're throwing for Bush next month is expected to cost $30 - 40 million, and that's not counting security costs, which will be enormous.

UPDATE 2: As Luke points out in his comment, while our government may be stingy, we don't have to be. Give to the relief organization of your choice. I personally like Doctors Without Borders, but whichever you choose. (DWB's site is getting hammered right now, here's a direct link to their donation site.)

Faster Firefox

JP points to a great tip by forevergeek on making Firefox load pages much faster.

I'm still mostly using Safari on the Mac, but I've been installing Firefox on every PC I come across, whether it belongs to me or not. If you're a PC user, it's time to kick the IE habit.

Forevergeek has also written a great Beginner's Guide to Firefox that will answer all your questions and ease your transition to a happier, tabbier, and more secure future.

December 26, 2004
Maxspeak

You listen.

How to talk to a Social Security Reform Nut (If you must)...

Social Security is Simple!

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!

Since it's the day after Retail Jesus Day and all, how about a nice post about some of the positive effects of religion on our erstwhile democracy?

Lark Myers, a blond, 45-year-old gift shop owner, frames the question and answers it. "I definitely would prefer to believe that God created me than that I'm 50th cousin to a silverback ape," she said. "What's wrong with wanting our children to hear about all the holes in the theory of evolution?"

If it survives a legal test, this school district of about 2,800 students could become the first in the nation to require that high school science teachers at least mention the "intelligent design" theory. This theory holds that human biology and evolution are so complex as to require the creative hand of an intelligent force.

"The school board has taken the measured step of making students aware that there are other viewpoints on the evolution of species," said Richard Thompson, of the Thomas More Law Center, which represents the board and describes its overall mission as defending "the religious freedom of Christians."

Washington Post

I'm a bit too angry to say much about this, but I'll give it a shot.

First, Lark, are you really suggesting that we base our educational curricula on what you would "prefer to believe"? Really? Why you? You're stupid.

"Intelligent Design" is easily one of the most ridiculous ideas I've ever heard. This hypothesis, if you missed it, is that biological processes are sooooo complicated that they just couldn't have arisen through natural selection. It just doesn't seem right. Therefore, god exists and created everything just like it says in the Bible.

I'm serious. That's it.

So basically the theory comes down to, "We're too stupid to understand evolutionary theory, so it couldn't possibly be true. This book here, that we get (or so they think), so it's true."

There's rarely any mention that this idea (it's not a theory, more on that in a minute) doesn't argue at all for the existence of any god(s), we could just as easily have been created by Purple Aquamen from beyond Pluto. In fact, it argues for absolutely nothing except ignorance. The underlying thinking is that we can't understand how life came about, so we might as well believe the last story we heard.

These psychopaths who are now putting stickers inside science textbooks saying that "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" don't seem to be too interested in educating their (and our) children as to what, exactly, a theory is. After all, they're right, evolution is "only" a theory.

theory

A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

American Heritage Dictionary

The important bit here is that a theory "has been repeatedly tested" and "can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena".

Theories have been tested over and over again. They are not 100% absolute fact, but they're about as close as you can get. They become more "true" every time they are tested and validated.

The way intelligent design "theorists" use the word is wrong. They present it as if a theory is just some idea someone had, and any theory is just as good as any other. A theory is basically just an opinion. This is wrong. Wrong by definition.

What they're talking about is a hypothesis (and only marginally even that). Let's hit the old dictionary again for that one...

hypothesis

1. A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.

2. Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation; an assumption.

Ibid.

Tentative. Can be tested. An assumption.

These people pretend to be scientists based solely on the fact that they talk about cells and biological systems, nothing more. Because they base their hypothesis on the complexity of the cell (we said cell!), it's "based in science."

To be really accurate, Intelligent Design doesn't even rise to the status of a hypothesis since it can't be tested. It's theology, and that's all it is. It's not even remotely scientific, yet it's being put into science textbooks all over the country. They are attempting to raise an entire generation of Americans who have a completely confused understanding of what science means, let alone understand any of the details of scientific theory. (See the debate over abstinence education for more horror stories.)

We really can't let them get away with this. If the school board in your community is considering these kinds of changes, gather up 80 or 90 of your friends and go down there and tell them what you think. I might have to stay home as I fear that if I'm in the same room as these people my head might explode.

Before we go, let's take a look at a couple of other things that are "just theories"... How about the theory of Gravity? How about all of those so-called "laws" of thermodynamics. Our entire modern society is based on our ever-increasing understanding of these principles, but can anyone really "prove" conservation of energy? How do you know it's not my cat secretly willing these things to act the way they do? He's a pretty powerful cat. I call this Roo Theory. Look for it in your kids textbooks soon.

Merry Christmas.

Et Tu, NPR?
National Public Radio, the last bastion of the so-called liberal media, former ground zero of liberal commentary on the airwaves, and target of wingnut abuse for more than thirty years, has finally caved and gone to the dark side. The "moral values" voters, and perhaps Michael Powell, have invaded NPR's Mass Ave offices and have censored a Christmas classic - David Sedaris reading from his Santaland Diaries, where Sedaris describes a month he spent as a Christmas elf for Macy's.

clifburns.us

In 1992, producers were a bit worried about airing this section, but they did anyway. It became one of their more requested programs ever. Now, 12 years later, they just cut it out altogether to avoid the wrath of the psychopathic religious conservatives.

Making progress...

December 23, 2004
Surprise! Rummy Cares!

This shit is getting so pathetically transparent...

MOSUL, Iraq - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a surprise Christmas Eve visit with the troops three days after the devastating attack on a U.S. military dining hall here, told soldiers he remained confident of defeating the insurgency and stabilizing Iraq, while noting that to some "it looks bleak."

AP

It's amazing how he went from not even caring enough to personally sign condolence letters to flying halfway around the world to show how much he cares. What a guy!

Mumbly Joe

This is just weird.

Watch this video, and jump to about 16:40. Right at about 16:47 Bush suddenly stops talking, mumbles into his chest for a second, and then goes on with his normal nonsensical ranting about all the great small businesses opening all over Iraq in between bombings.

mumbly bush

Who knows what's going on. I'm sure the guy is getting his lines fed to him some of the time he speaks in public. Or maybe he's just insane. Both?

Via James Poling.

Rumsfeld Saddened, Lying
"I am truly saddened by the thought that anyone could have the impression that I, or others here (at the Pentagon), are doing anything other than working urgently to see that the lives of the fighting men and women are protected and are cared for in every way humanly possible," Rumsfeld, minus his trademark swagger, told reporters.

"When I meet with the wounded, with their families, or with the families of those who have been lost, their grief is something I feel to my core," Rumsfeld added.

Reuters

Poor Rummy.

I mean, if any of this were in any way genuine I would say poor Rummy.

In reality, of course, he's just furiously trying to save his ass. If he were truly sitting up nights feeling every death and injury deeply in his soul, one imagines he probably wouldn't be playing racquetball while a machine signed condolence letters.

As commenter WSH astutely pointed out a few posts back, he's a turd and he's always been a turd.

Gregoire Wins!

I haven't written much about the Washington governor race, but it's been quite a wild ride out here.

Today, King County, the last county to complete the hand recount, after weeks of court challenges announced their results and it's Gregoire by 130 votes, statewide.

130 votes out of 2.9 million. And considering the past couple of weeks, it feels like a landslide.

The Republicans will certainly bitch and whine and probably challenge the results in court, but this, finally, is a completed count by the rules. They'll keep saying ridiculous crap about how she "lost twice" but it won't matter. They'll go around trying to find missing ballots in all of their bedrock counties, even though just a few weeks ago they claimed it was too late to fix mistakes and had sued to stop counting any newly discovered ballots. They'll ooze hypocrisy out of their very pores.

But they'll lose.

Unfortunately, there is the fear that Dino Rossi will turn around and run against Senator Maria Cantwell, and likely beat her due to some massive sympathy vote. You know, since almost half of the state wanted him to be governor, they'll certainly all want him to be Senator, and a few others will figure he deserves something after all.

I'm not too concerned about that scenario. One race at a time.

December 22, 2004
'Tis The Season For Virtual Snowflakes

I'm frequently annoyed by overuse of Flash, but occasionally I'm just amazed.

This is amazing, fun, and oh so purty.

snowflake maker

Washington Governor Update

Great news..

The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that King County should include hundreds of recently discovered ballots in the hand recount of the still-undecided governor's race.

After seven weeks of counting and recounting, the ballots from the Democratic stronghold of King County could swing the election for Democrat Christine Gregoire. Republican Dino Rossi won the first count by 261 votes and won a machine recount by 42 votes.

At a hearing Wednesday morning before the high court, Republicans had argued that a recount should be a mere retabulation, and that it was too late for counties to go back and correct errors.

But the court unanimously said state law and previous court rulings specifically allow county canvassing boards to correct mistakes during a recount.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Now, it should be noted that I think this is great news not (only) because it could swing the election to the Democrat, but because it means that we'll have a fair result. It means that hundreds of people who thought they voted in the election will actually have their votes counted, instead of dismissed due to some technical problem or a mistake made by an election worker.

The Republicans' arguments in this case are pathetic. They are only interested in winning at any cost, not in counting all legitimate votes. If the election is ultimately given to Gregoire (note: not overturned, it hasn't been decided yet), they will certainly claim that she won by some trick, or by virtue of a court decision. This is just false. What the court has done is to uphold the law and protect the rights of the voters. If Gregoire ultimately wins, it will not only not be illegitimate, it will be more legitimate than most elections.

Harry Korrell, a lawyer for the Republican Party, countered that state law does not grant King County the right to add new ballots to the recount seven weeks after the election. Korrell said counting those votes would cause irreparable harm, but justices questioned who would be hurt.

"You're looking at it from the point of view of the winner or the loser - shouldn't we be looking at it from the point of view of the voter?" asked Justice Susan Owens.

Owens must be one of them "activist" judges I keep hearing about. The point of view of the voters? Commie.

December 20, 2004
Americans: Iraq War Not Worth It

Plus, in case you didn't know, Rumsfeld is like the worst Secretary of Defense ever.

Most Americans now believe the war with Iraq was not worth fighting and more than half want to fire embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of that conflict, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 56 percent of the country now believes that the cost of the conflict in Iraq outweighs the benefits, while 42 percent disagreed. It marked the first time since the war began that a clear majority of Americans have judged the war to have been a mistake.

Barely a third of the country approves of the job that Rumsfeld is doing as defense secretary, and 52 percent said President Bush should sack Rumsfeld, a view shared by a big majority of Democrats and political independents.

The Washington Post

Signature-gate

This whole Rumsfeld thing is getting pretty ridiculous. What does this man have to do to get fired?

The latest is the revelation that a machine has been mechanically reproducing his signature on letters to families of soldiers killed in Iraq. He apparently doesn't have the time or the inclination to personally sign condolence letters. Of course, he says that he'll be signing them personally from now on.

The signatures might seem like a small thing, but it's representative of the attitude of these people. They don't care. They just don't care. They'll go to the ends of the earth to defend each other, but take any shortcuts they can find when it comes to the lives of others.

Not surprisingly, President Bush still thinks Rumsfeld is doing "a fine job".

December 18, 2004
Merry Christmas, Jerks

For every $100 donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a couple of other digital rights groups, the nice folks at Downhill Battle are going to send a lump of coal to the RIAA and the MPAA.

coal

December 16, 2004
Alabama, You're Out

Seriously, what the hell is going on down there?

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Are they giving judgeships out in the back of comic books down there or what?

Bush Sandwich

I don't know where this photo comes from (before it came from Rich, that is), but damn is it funny...

bush sandwich

Oh, it also comes from this site, though without explanation, and the rest of the site is all foreign and junk.

"kjell niclas picklas päron pung" .. I'm guessing Norwegian or thereabouts. Bjorks, are you out there? Little help?

December 15, 2004
Kerik Hates Freedom, America, Babies

More lovely news about Bernard Kerik, erstwhile nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

An apartment in Battery Park City that former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik secured for his personal use after Sept. 11 was originally donated for the use of weary police and rescue workers who were helping at ground zero, according to a real estate executive who has been briefed about the apartment.

After the cleanup had settled into a routine that fall, the executive said, Mr. Kerik, who was still police commissioner, asked to rent the two-bedroom apartment for his own use. During his use of the apartment, Mr. Kerik and Judith Regan engaged in an extramarital affair there, according to someone who spoke to Mr. Kerik about the relationship. Ms. Regan published his best-selling autobiography in 2001.

The New York Times

Still, it's clearly not the White House's fault. How were they supposed to know anything at all about this guy? And we should also not be concerned that it was the responsibility of the nominee for Attorney General, the most powerful law enforcement officer in the country, to find this stuff out during his interrogation of Kerik. That man, Alberto Gonzalez, oddly enough has no comment.

Yawn... impeach the bastards... sigh.

More on the "missteps" by the White House by the always impartial Elizabeth Bumiller in the Times.

The story of Mr. Kerik's nomination is one of how a normally careful White House faltered because of Mr. Bush's personal enthusiasm for Mr. Kerik, a desire by the administration to quickly fill a critical national security job and an apparent lack of candor from Mr. Kerik himself.

See? It's not their fault! They're "normally careful," and Bush was just really jazzed, and wanted to fill this critical security job so as not to leave the American people unprotected. It was really just that the guy was a liar. I mean, really, beyond asking him about his background and assuming he was telling the truth, what more could they do?

For the sake of the country, it's best if we all just move on.

Not On A Sunny Day Either

As noted a few days ago, the latest test of our super-duper fantasy missile shield was delayed several times due to rain.

Well, they finally got the test off, and guess what... bupkis.

An important test of the United States' emerging missile-defense system ended in an $85 million failure early today as an interceptor rocket failed to launch as scheduled from the Marshall Islands, the Pentagon said.

A target rocket carrying a mock warhead was successfully launched from Kodiak, Alaska. But the interceptor, which was to have gone aloft 16 minutes later and picked off the target 100 miles over the earth, automatically shut down instead because of "an unknown anomaly," the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency said.

[snip]

The test was also to have been the first for the multibillion-dollar program since Dec. 12, 2002. That test was also a failure; the interceptor did not separate from its booster rocket, missed its target by hundreds of miles and burned up in the atmosphere.

New York Times

Show me one (reputable, not working for the government) physicist who really thinks this thing could ever work reliably. Show me one sane person who doesn't agree that the nearly $100 billion spent so far on this program couldn't be put to some better use; like, say nuclear non-proliferation.

Idiots.

Idiots, idiots, idiots.

I want a refund.

December 14, 2004
GOP to Sick and Poor: Screw You

Determined to reduce the budget deficit, Congressional Republicans are looking to cut spending where it's really unnecessary: on health care for the poor and disabled. Because, you know, fuck them.

Driven by his giant imaginary mandate, Bush and his buddies are planning to completely ignore the will of the people they supposedly represent.

Americans, while supporting deficit reduction, are overwhelmingly against targeting Medicaid for big cuts, said Linda A. DiVall, a GOP pollster.

When asked where Congress should cut spending, survey respondents start with trimming the tax cuts enacted by Republicans during the first Bush term, and follow with cuts in foreign aid, corporate tax breaks, the war in Iraq and welfare, DiVall said.

"Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare are the untouchables," she said

[snip]

DiVall said only 7 percent of the Americans she polled think the government is spending too much on Medicare, and only 6 percent say the same about Medicaid. That contrasts to 59 percent who favor reductions in tax cuts for those with over $200,000 a year in taxable income, according to DiVall.

The Union Leader

Keep in mind that this was from a GOP pollster.

Meanwhile, Bush's planned Social Security overhaul will force the government to borrow another $2 trillion.

Medicaid costs are huge, of course, and guess why: because, according to a new federal report, the system is "excessively overpaying" for prescription drugs, sometimes reimbursing pharmacies 56 cents for drugs for which the pharmacies pay 22 cents. Well damn. Good thing the Republicans made it illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices.

Much more on this from the Center for American Progress.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The fact that anyone supports these people is one of the great mysteries of history. That rhymes, and you know it rhymes. Admit it.

More Seach Queries

I don't know.. I find these amusing.

Yesterday's Top Four:


  • dog alone all day

  • gore shit

  • 2004 e mail contacts of american chemical society

  • us foreign policy nutshell

Microsoft Versus Tom Tomorrow

Crazy. Tom Tomorrow writes about the lengths Microsoft insisted he go and the rights they demanded he relinquish in order to be paid for a cartoon they commissioned from him for Slate. To his credit, he refused, and ended up inadvertently working for free. Apparently, this is standard procedure for Slate.

December 13, 2004
WA Governor Race News

As you may or may not know, the race for governor in my home-for-now state of Washington was insanely close, and we're currently on our hand recount. The results of the mechanical recount had the Republican Dino Rossi ahead by 42 votes.

Today the King County (Seattle's county) Elections Director announced that they've found 561 ballots that were mistakenly rejected because election workers thought the signatures didn't match voter records.

King County is heavily Democratic, so this could easily swing the election in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire. It's a wild scene out here, man.

Of course, the Republicans are all over the place crying foul. Their favorite line is to say that Gregoire "already lost twice" and this is just an attempt by the Dems to steal the election.

Of course, this is absurd. She hasn't lost once, let alone twice. The race hasn't been decided yet. Each count is not a separate election, you idiots. It's a nice sound bite, I know, and it makes people think they're outraged, but it's misleading and ridiculous. The recount process has a long history, and each successive count produces more accurate results. Finding ballots that were uncounted originally is not changing the rules, it's following the rules. The people who submitted those ballots had the intention of voting for their candidate of choice, and in our system voter intent is much more important than technical errors or election worker incompetence. The voters deserve to have their votes counted.

Voters like King County Council Chairman Larry Phillips, whose ballot was among the 561 never counted.

"I was under the absolute impression not only I voted, but followed the instructions correctly," Phillips said. "If it can happen to the King County Council chairman, it can happen to anyone else."

AP

They Write Letters

Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg writes to the Washington Post...

Juliet Eilperin's Dec. 2 news story on climate change, "Humans May Double the Risk of Heat Waves," is the latest example of the media's "he said, she said" treatment of what reputable scientists say is one of the greatest threats to the human race. Even worse, the article countered the findings of the world's top climate scientists by quoting an oil industry-funded economist. Such reporting is not credible, nor does it illuminate a subject of significant importance.

The article began by citing a peer-reviewed study published in the revered scientific journal Nature, which reported that the risk has more than doubled for the type of lethal heat wave responsible for 35,000 deaths in Europe last year. But the last half of the article is squandered on the views of Myron Ebell, an economist -- not a climate scientist -- whose "studies" at the American Enterprise Institute are funded by Exxon Mobil. The article fails to mention this shameless conflict of interest.

The problem with this type of reporting was highlighted at a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Robert Correll, senior fellow at the American Meteorological Society, warned, "The trouble with a debate of this nature is you put 2,600 [scientists] against two or three or four [scientists who disagree]." Ebell is not in the same league as the qualified climate scientists who report that the climate is changing before our eyes; only the intensity and the speed of those changes are unknown. Your newspaper does an injustice to its readers by giving Ebell's caterwauling equal weight with the widely accepted views of reputable and unbiased scientists.


-- Frank R. Lautenberg

Washington Post

Well done, Frank. Unfortunately, it's not going to change anything unless we all stand up against this crap from our media. Go home and tell all of your constituents. Tell them to write letters, too.

This is what we're faced with these days. The entire scientific community, virtually without exception, agrees that human activity has caused a drastic shift in our climate, yet the media is allowing energy industry funded studies to serve as counterpoint without even mentioning where these "studies" come from.

Lobbyists for these corporations write our laws. They write our laws.

via The Poor Man.

They Hate Us, They Really, Really Hate Us

As predicted, the European response to the reelection of Bush is not good. And now they don't just think he sucks, they think we suck.

And in so many ways, we really do.

poll

At least seven in 10 in France, Germany and Spain said they have an unfavorable view of the U.S. president. Just over half of the French and Germans said they have an unfavorable view of Americans in general, and about half of Spaniards felt that way.

Especially inclined to have an unfavorable opinion of Bush in those countries were people between ages 18 and 24. A majority of all respondents in France, Germany and Spain said they were disappointed that Bush won a second four-year term, defeating Democrat John Kerry.

The rift with longtime allies France and Germany is the most serious in years, and relations with Spain are particularly frosty after Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq last April.

MSNBC

A Rainy Day

Via Patridiot Watch...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

Strong rain squalls over the Kwajalein atoll launch site in the central Pacific caused the latest postponement, Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said shortly after the decision to scrap the test. A new attempt might be made later in the day, he said.

Reuters

I guess we'll just have to hope that North Korea doesn't decide to launch an attack against the West Coast on a rainy day. From where I sit, in the Pacific Northwest, that gives them a window of about 60 days a year.

Maybe we can come up with some sort of Nuclear Sunny Day treaty to make sure we're safe. It'd probably be a hell of a lot more effective than this missile shield, on which we're currently spending $10 billion a year.

Of the eight times the system has actually been tested, the target was detroyed 5 times. Sounds okay, until you realize that, according to former Pentagon chief weapons tester Philip Coyle, "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 added, "No enemy would cooperate by providing all that information in advance."

They wouldn't? Not even if we ask them real nice-like?

Dear Enemies of Freedom,

If it's not too much trouble, could you please only nuclear attack us on a nice day? Our stuff doesn't like to get wet, and it wouldn't be fair. Oh, and also, please provide advance warning and details of your attack; that would really help us out.

Freedom is on the march.

Love,
USA

Where I Live

98119 Zip Code Detailed Profile

City: Seattle, WA Population (2000): 19,662 Housing units: 10,836 Land area: 2.4 sq. mi. Water area: 0.0 sq. mi.

White population: 17389
Black population: 403
American Indian population: 130
Asian population: 861
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 35
Some other race population: 224
Two or more races population: 620

Urban population: 19662
Rural population: 0

Median age: 33.4
Average household size: 1.71
Median household income (1999): $49222

I see rich white people.

In The Rear With The Gear

If you were running a war, say, and you had some highly trained soldiers and some who only train one weekend a month, which ones would you send on your most important missions? How about on your most dangerous missions, which are not necessarily the same?

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of trends from past wars, part-time soldiers in the Army National Guard are about one-third more likely to be killed in Iraq than full-time active-duty soldiers serving there, a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon statistics shows.

According to figures furnished by the military branches, the active Army has sent about 250,000 soldiers to Iraq, and 622 have been killed. That works out to one death for every 402 soldiers who have deployed. About 37,000 Army Guard soldiers have been sent to Iraq since the war began and 140 have died there -- one fatality for every 264 soldiers who have served, or about a 35% higher death rate.

There are several reasons for the greater death rates among so-called part-time soldiers, who generally drill one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer when there's no war. The Pentagon has called up thousands of part-time troops for tours of a year or more in Iraq. Some of the most dangerous missions, including driving convoys and guarding bases and other facilities, frequently are assigned to Guard and reserve troops.

USA Today

What's most interesting to me about this data is that it's a "reversal of trends from past wars."

December 12, 2004
Island of Broken Dreams

Today I got around to listening to last week's episode of This American Life, which had been recommended to me by someone, somewhere.

Wow. What a story. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you have an hour, the story on Nauru, a tragic island in the South Pacific, is truly amazing. The small story if this tiny nation is a surreal glimpse into "The Way Things Work."

nauru

The second story, "On Hold, No One Can Hear You Scream," is more lighthearted, and hilarious.

Dream Anatomy

Fascinating site from the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division (whew!) on the history of anatomical imagery.

Two of my favorite images from the gallery (click for description and larger version):

dream anatomy 1

dream anatomy 2

Listen, Shut Up For a Second

J.P. notes that flying is likely to get MUCH more annoying in the near future, if that's possible, as the FCC is considering relaxing the ban on cell phone use on airplanes.

Personally, when anyone talks above a whisper on an airplane (or anywhere else for that matter) I can't avoid listening and it generally drives me insane, what with the general inanity of most conversations, so this could be bad news for me. Thankfully, I have some pretty good earplug headphones that not only sound amazing, but they block almost all ambient sounds. I often wear them even when I'm not listening to anything, just so it can stay that way.

Should this rule change happen, or even if it doesn't, we should all start carrying around these cards.

shut up

Schlep, Jane, Schlep

(In case you hadn't noticed, it's Random Web Random Day around here. I needed a break, and by god, so did you.)

yiddish with dick and jane

Yiddish with Dick and Jane

That's Why Harper Lee Won The Pulitzer

It's been a long time since I last read To Kill a Mockingbird. I had almost forgotten how many pirates and burning sharks there were...

how to kill a mockingbird

(How) To Kill a Mockingbird

And as a side note, it's good to see that those Stanford educations are really paying off..

Irony of the Week

From Bookslut, a great list of books that nutty American parents attempted to have removed - with some success - from the vicinity of their children this year, including this beautifully ironic story..

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
The book, whose plot hinges on two Chinese teenagers stealing a suitcase of books banned by the government during the Cultural Revolution, contained a passage about a virgin having sex. The superintendent of the Federal Way (WA) school system pulled the book from school reading lists after the mother of a 15-year-old student complained. The school board has asked schools in the district to submit reading lists for approval, and wrote up a policy explicitly forbidding sexually explicit materials in schools.

Bookslut

Our collective talent for hilarious hypocrisy continues to astound me.

December 10, 2004
Hummers For All

While Rumsfeld and Bush spin themselves silly pretending to give a shit about armor shortages in Iraq, the companies that make and armor the Hummers say they can produce lots more, if anyone asked them to.

The manufacturer of Humvees for the U.S. military and the company that adds armor to the utility vehicles are not running near production capacity and are making all that the Pentagon has requested, spokesmen for both companies said.

"If they call and say, 'You know, we really want more,' we'll get it done," said Lee Woodward, a spokesman for AM General, the Indiana company that makes Humvees and the civilian Hummer versions.

At O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, the Ohio firm that turns specially designed Humvees into fully armored vehicles at a cost of about $70,000 each, spokesman Michael Fox said they, too, can provide more if the government wants them.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Contrast this with the following statement, from our Most Revered Leader:

"The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment," Mr. Bush said. "And I have told many families I met with, we're doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important."

NY Times

Everything they possibly can? If the factories producing these armored vehicles aren't running at capacity, it really doesn't seem like that's true. It seems more like a lie. A more accurate statement would have been, "Now that we've been publicly embarrassed, we intend to pay all the lip-service necessary until this whole thing blows over. After all, we can't afford to ramp up production, we have our corporate overlords' financial statements to consider."

We should all remember that this was a preemptive war. A war of choice. We went into Iraq exactly when we felt like it, and had as much time to plan for it as we wanted, yet it is now almost TWO YEARS since Saddam's regime fell, and the troops everyone claims via bumper sticker to support so unequivocally are still under equipped, even unto their deaths.

It's tantamount to murder. I really hate these guys. But more than that, I hate that they're STILL getting away with this bullshit; that public opinion hasn't swung wildly against this insane, illegal, immoral and completely failed imperialist adventure.

December 9, 2004
Jewwww-Ya!

As Jon Stewart says, this is the time of year when television newscasters end their broadcasts with, "...and our Jewish friends tonight are celebrating Cchhhchchcannuka..."

So to my Jewish friends, Happy Hannukah. Please enjoy this rap music hannukah parody video thing, sent in by her Jewishy-Irishyness herself.

hannukah rap

jew-heyya.

Rummy: Things Blow Up

By now I'm sure everybody has heard about the "pointed" questions Rumsfeld fielded from troops in Kuwait yesterday, but I just wanted to highlight one of his comments.

"It's interesting, I've talked a great deal about this with a team of people who've been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up."

DoD News

Keep in mind that this is from one of the few cabinet secretaries who is NOT resigning. He is also more or less directly responsible for Abu Ghraib, and has led our country into one of our worst planned and executed wars ever, and that's saying a lot. And now he's trying to comfort our troops by telling them that, armor or not, they can still be blown up.

It shouldn't be necessary to point out that, while an armored vehicle can surely be blown up, the chances of survival for soldiers in that vehicle are somewhat higher than for soldiers in a tin can.

People "working hard" on this at the Pentagon (remember, this running a government thing is hard work) don't seem to think there's much difference. Also keep in mind that we're still cutting taxes.

December 8, 2004
Wednesday Funnies

Because I'm tired and the news makes me sad. These things make me laugh.

One of Conan's writers travels to India for tech support.

tech support

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the spin room after the third presidential debate.

triumph

Search Query O' The Day
oh whiskey if you werre a women
December 7, 2004
Voting with Dollars

Sadly, what you buy probably has more impact than what you say, what you think, or what you write in your blog, so if you're doing some good old-fashioned patriotic shopping this holiday season, consider the following list, from DonkeyRising.

WITH US:
* Price Club/Costco donated $225K, of which 99% went to democrats;
* Rite Aid, $517K, 60% to democrats;
* Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean), $22K, 100% to democrats;
* Warnaco (undergarments), $55K, 73% to democrats;
* Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $153K, 99% to democrats;
* Estee Lauder, $448K, 95% to democrats;
* Guess ? Inc., $145K, 98% to democrats;
* Calvin Klein, $78K, 100% to democrats;
* Liz Claiborne, Inc., $34K, 97% to democrats;
* Levi Straus, $26K, 97% to democrats;
* Olan Mills, $175K, 99% to democrats.
* Gallo Winery, $337K, 95% to democrats;
* Southern Wine & Spirits, $213K, 73% to democrats;
* Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (includes beverage business, plus considerable media interests), $2M+, 67% democrats.
* Sonic Corporation, $83K, 98% democrat;
* Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections), $112K, 96% Democrats;
* Hyatt Corporation, $187K, 80% to democrats;

AGAINST US:
WalMart, $467K, 97% to republicans;
K-Mart, $524K, 86% to republicans;
Home Depot, $298K, 89% to republicans;
Target, $226K, 70% to republicans;
Circuit City Stores, $261K, 95% to republicans;
3M Co., $281K, 87% to republicans;
Hallmark Cards, $319K, 92% to republicans;
Amway, $391K, 100% republican;
Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures), $283K, 100% republicans;
B.F. Goodrich (tires), $215K, 97% to republicans;
Proctor & Gamble, $243K, 79% to republicans;
Coors, $174K, 92% to republicans; (also Budweiser - sd)
Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines - as well as Lennox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver), $644, 80% to republicans;
Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken), $366K, 100% republican;
Outback Steakhouse, $641K, 95% republican;
Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), $133K, 87% republican;
Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the
Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis), $242K, 83% republican;
Waffle House, $279K, 100% republican;
McDonald's Corp., $197K, 86% republican;
Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze), $121K, 89% republican;
Mariott International, $323K, 81% to republicans;
Holiday Inns, $38K, 71% to republicans

Oh My Freaking God

Cited by Digby as inspiration and source material for the post I referenced below is this post by Barbara O'Brien; a phenomenally terrifying catalog of the horrors of our rapidly growing abstinence-based sex education system.

Please read her post, and then read it again. If you have time, follow some of its links. I challenge you not to be utterly horrified, and then I challenge anyone to console me.

For the chronically busy or incorrigibly lazy, I'll provide a tantalizing taste of the revelations that await you (this from a linked Washington Post article...

Some course materials cited in [Rep. Henry] Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's need for "financial support." One book in the "Choosing Best" series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."
Monkey Business

Digby, once again, with the good stuff.

First, from The Fundamentalist Agenda, by Davidson Loehr..

rom 1988 to 1993, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences sponsored an interdisciplinary study known as The Fundamentalism Project, the largest such study ever done. More than 100 scholars from all over the world took part, reporting on every imaginable kind of fundamentalism. And what they discovered was that the agenda of all fundamentalist movements in the world is virtually identical, regardless of religion or culture.

As Digby sumarizes them, the five characteristics of these movements are:

1) Men rule the roost and make the rules. Women are support staff and for reasons easy to imagine, homosexuality is intolerable.

2) all rules must apply to all people, no pluralism.

3) the rules must be precisely communicated to the next generation

4) "they spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed. (Several of the scholars observed a strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them, and education is tightly controlled by the state. One scholar suggested that it's helpful to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. The phrase 'overcoming the modern' is a fascist slogan dating back to at least 1941.)"

5) Fundamentalists deny history in a "radical and idiosyncratic way."

Loehr continues:

The only way all fundamentalisms can have the same agenda is if the agenda preceded all the religions. And it did. Fundamentalist behaviors are familiar because we've all seen them so many times. These men are acting the role of "alpha males" who define the boundaries of their group's territory and the norms and behaviors that define members of their in-group. These are the behaviors of territorial species in which males are stronger than females. In biological terms, these are the characteristic behaviors of sexually dimorphous territorial animals. Males set and enforce the rules, females obey the males and raise the children; there is a clear separation between the in-group and the out-group. The in-group is protected; outsiders are expelled or fought.

It is easier to account for this set of behavioral biases as part of the common evolutionary heritage of our species than to argue that it is simply a monumental coincidence that the social and behavioral agendas of all fundamentalisms and fascisms are essentially identical.

...

Fundamentalism is absolutely natural, ancient, powerful--and inadequate. It's a means of structuring relationships that evolved when we lived in troops of 150 or less. But in the modern world, it's completely incapable of the nuance or flexibility needed to structure humane societies.

This would all seem to argue that, while primitive, conservative fundamentalism is more "natural" than liberal modernism, but it just ain't so. It's not the ideas behind fundamentalism that make it effective, it's its appeal to basic primal instincts. The problem the liberal movement has is not its message, which is much more compatible with overall happiness and success in modern societies, but in the style of delivery of the messages and the use of "sacred symbols." These things appeal directly to this primal impulse, and by gum it works.

Digby again:

If this retreat to fundamentalism is really a default to primitive biology, then we can frame this as America vs the fundamentalists. And lucky for us, it's easy to do and will confuse the shit out of the right. We have a built in boogie man fundamentalist named Osama on whom we can pin all this ANTI-AMERICAN fundamentalist dogma while subtly drawing the obvious parallels between him and the homegrown variety.

We start by having the womens' groups decrying the Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST view of womens rights. These FUNDAMENTALISTS want to roll back the clock and make women answer to men. In AMERICA we don't believe in that. Then we have the Human Rights Campaign loudly criticizing the Islamic FUNDAMENTALISTS for it's treatment of gays. In AMERICA we believe that all people have inalienable rights. The ACLU puts out a statement about the lack of civil liberties in Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST theocracies. In AMERICA we believe in the Bill of Rights, not the word of unelected mullahs.

You got a problem with that Jerry? Pat? Karl????

Of course they couldn't have a problem with it, and the beauty of it is that it's all so obviously and simply true. The parallels are stark and unmistakable. WE believe in freedom. Don't we? THEY are intolerant; we are inclusive and welcoming. WE respect individuals' rights to live their own life; THEY presume to tell everyone in their group what to wear, what to say, how to act, when to pray.

It has to be our methods, because it surely isn't our message.

December 6, 2004
Recursive Geek

Ouch.

Thompson Resigns: Wants To Be Rich Rich Rich

tommy thompson

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson announced his resignation on Friday, but unlike most of his fellow cabinet members, he's not looking to spend more time with his family, he's looking to cash in on his resume and name recognition by becoming rich - rich I tells ya - in the private sector.

"If I stayed (as secretary), I'd never have the opportunity to get into the private sector," he continued, noting his 38-year career in public service. "I'm looking forward to the possibilities and the potential."

Wisconsin State Journal

Since it's illegal for him to actively seek a job while in office, he's got his lawyers sifting through job offers for him.

Thompson's record as Secretary is glorious, of course. Under his watch, the number of Americans with no basic health insurance increased by 5 million, to 45 million. Tommy doesn't really think this is a problem, though.

"Even if you don't have health insurance, you are still taken care of in America. That certainly could be defined as universal coverage."

Seattle Times

That's a funny thing to say, considering that the Institute of Medicine conducted a study that found that 18,000 Americans die unnecessarily every year due to lack of health insurance.

December 4, 2004
Small Government, Big Baseball

Republicans are supposed to be all about making the government smaller, getting the government out of the regulating business and letting businesses regulate themselves. They're big believers in The Market. The Market will take care of itself. If companies are doing bad things, The People will find out about it and the companies will be punished by losing market share. Government shouldn't mess with The Market.

So why the hell are Senators, Republican Senators no less, getting all tough on Major League Baseball?

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. John McCain is demanding immediate action by representatives of major league baseball's players and owners to tighten the sport's drug-testing policy "to restore the integrity of baseball.''

Expressing dismay over recurring reports of steroid abuse by some of the game's top stars, the Arizona senator repeated a threat he made before the last season to legislate a stricter rules if the sport fails to police itself.

Guardian Unlimited

Shouldn't we just let The Market decide? If the fans are really pissed off about steroids, they'll stop going to the games and the leagues will go out of business. Or they'll write thousands of angry letters and the leagues will clamp down on the steroid use. But do really need The Congress to get involved? Don't they have better things to do?

I suspect, though, that it won't happen. The fans want to see the superhuman mega-men do superhuman mega-things. Does anyone really think that baseball would be more popular if the players were weaker, but clean? As for the "integrity of the game," who are they kidding? All these kinds of revelations do is expose they way these sports have been run for many, many years. As the money involved skyrockets, the pressure to break records and be the very best does as well and desperate measures will always follow. We romanticize sports, baseball particularly, way out of proportion. It's never been a pure game at the professional level. If you want to see baseball with integrity, go watch 8 year olds play. But don't watch their parents.

Interesting article on this at Salon (subscription or hoop jumping required).

As Good As Any Scientist

From the Anchorage Daily News...

All three members of Alaska's congressional delegation dispute the conclusion of leading scientists that human activity is causing the rapid warming of the Arctic that is wrecking villages and melting glaciers.

Alaska's lone congressman, Republican Rep. Don Young, went so far as dismissing the major new report on Arctic climate change. He called it ammunition for fearmongers.

"My biggest concern is that people are going to use this so-called study to try to influence the way and standard of living that occurs within the United States," Young said.

"I don't believe it is our fault. That's an opinion," Young said. "It's as sound as any scientist's."

Anchorage Daily News (emphasis mine)

See that? When scientists do research and study after study over years and years and years, what they end up with is just an opinion, with no more truth value than your opinion, you having done no research at all!

Come to think of it, it really makes all that science seem like a big waste of time and money. It's a good thing we're cutting it's funding. We should probably just take a vote on things like climate change, evolution, nutrition, sickness and disease, stuff like that. If most people think Big Macs are good for you, well then by god they're good for you.

Oh, and as for the "opinion" that human activity is causing global warming, see this paper by Naomi Oreskes, in which she conducted a literature review of every climate change article published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 to see if any of them disagreed with that "opinion."

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

emphasis added

None. Not a one. Zero.

Of course the problem with Ms. Oreskes' conclusion based on examining those 928 papers is that it's just her opinion, as good as anyone else's. Congressman Young, for example, may feel that 75% of the papers did disagree with the consensus position, and who's to say that he's wrong?

Be Very Afraid

bush billboard

Apparently this billboard has been popping up around Orlando. More pictures here.

Man, I don't even know what to say about this. Can anyone remember any time in our history, or really the history of any Democracy, when a sitting president's image was displayed in this way? I'm not talking about campaign advertising, I'm talking about people who are already in power.

hitler

This guy, in arguing for the invasion of Iraq, cites the following as his #1 point in comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler:

He put his image and name on everything he could including, but not limited to, money; buildings; streets and billboards. He wanted his image and name burned into the psyche of the Iraq people.

Take a look at Photographing Saddam.

So what about this? How is this different? Patriotism is one thing, but this kind of cult of personality is so dangerous I don't even know where to begin. If you think George Bush is a good president, fine. I think you're nuts, but whatever, you're entitled to your opinion. But raising the man himself to this exalted place is just wrong. He is not god, he is not the King, he will be gone in just over four years.

Unless, of course, zealots like those who placed these billboards manage to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which they're probably already working on.

Florida freeway bloggers, this is your big chance.

The Big Decision

Jerry Falwell on Hardball on Thursday..

MATTHEWS: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?

FALWELL: Oh, I don't remember that.

MATTHEWS: Well, you must, because you say it's a big decision.

FALWELL: Well, I started dating when I was about 13.

MATTHEWS: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.

FALWELL: I never had to decide. I never thought about it.


MSNBC

Hmmmm.....

From Wonkette.

Picture Of The Moment

From MSNBC, via Kevin Drum

bush plane

Note that 'elect' is misspelled (most likely because it said 'Reelect' and the R fell off, I'm guessing.)

Oh, and no one was hurt.

A Question, Mr. President

Dan Froomkin what the White House press corps can do to get more time, and more actual answers, from President Bush.

He highlights all the usual points; that Bush has had very few press conferences, that he doesn't answer questions directly, that his press appearances are often scripted and filled with admiring reporters selected by the White House Press Office, etc. As a result, the American people have an unprecedentedly small amount of real information right from our President's mouth.

So what's a press corps to do? For one, White House reporters should become more assertive in demanding that the president make himself available. They should raise the issue every day in the daily briefing with McClellan, instead of only once every few weeks. In fact, they should also bring it up every time they get in earshot of the president. ("Mr. President, why won't you meet with us once a month?") Correspondents are sometimes loath to appear too activist or hectoring. But there is nothing inappropriate about the press demanding accountability from the president of the United States.

And they should ask better questions.

Nieman Watchdog

These are all good ideas, and the rest of his article is also good, but I don't think it goes nearly far enough. As I've argued several times before, the problem here is that it is the White House's option to speak to the press, and they are allowed to provide and rescind press credentials at will. The President can call on whomever he likes in a press conference, and he is allowed to ignore, or even disallow follow-up questions, thus enabling him to evade anything he likes.

Froomkin is certainly right that the press corps itself needs to take a much more aggressive approach to their responsibility and ask hard and simple questions that at the very least will make Bush's evasions obvious to everyone. He should be asked at every opportunity why he doesn't have more press conferences. There is no good reason, so the question itself, repeated enough, would go a long way towards forcing the issue.

In comments to Froomkin's article, Eileen Smith makes many of the same points I've made, in a much more organized and coherent form. She calls it "The Peoples' Bill of Rights for White House Transparency."

1. The White House Correspondents Association shall be the sole credentialing authority for entry to press events and briefings.

2. The president shall appear before the White House press corps for a regularly scheduled monthly conference of no less than two hours.

3. Questions will be asked of the president in an order to be determined by the White House Correspondents Association.

4. No questions will be submitted in advance to White House employees. No suggestions for questions will be communicated from the White House to reporters.

5. No credentialed members of the press will be denied access to any press event except by the decision of the White House Correspondents Association.

6. Members of the White House press shall not accept faxes, phone calls, e-mails or other communications from the political office of the WH, from political campaigns, from the RNC, the DNC, or lobbyists or other politics-based agents, unless the reporter has initiated the contact. Such entities may provide copy of any background material to a WHCA library where it will be available for reporters.

7. There shall be no contact between political advisors to the White House and reporters for the purpose of punishing members of the press for their coverage. If the White House has a complaint, it shall be made in writing by the press secretary and submitted to the White House Correspondents Association, with any remedy or admonishment to be made by the Association to the correspondent in question.

Webdems

Note for Right #1: This was the way things worked until the end of World War II, when, for some reason, the authority to issue White House press credentials was transferred from the White House Correspondents Association to the White House Press Office, where it still resides. I don't know why they did it, but this is clearly absurd, allowing those being questioned to determine who may ask the questions is simply anti-Democratic.

So, once again, the question must be asked, "Why does America hate freedom?"

December 2, 2004
Know Thy Credit Report

Just after watching Frontline's Secret History of the Credit Card - a very disturbing hour of television (you can watch the whole thing on their web site) - I serendipitously came across AnnualCreditReport.com, a site set up by the three major credit reporting agencies to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which requires these agencies to give consumers a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months if they request it.

Presumably to handle the volume of requests in a reasonable manner, they're phasing the program in geographically, from west to east, over the next nine months. West coasters, it's our turn first.

Here's the schedule:


  • Beginning December 1: Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming);

  • Beginning March 1, 2005: Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin);

  • Beginning June 1, 2005: Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas);

  • Beginning September 1, 2005: Eastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia), Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories.

Of course you only get your credit report and not your credit (FICO) score which is the number that really determines how terrible the banking industry will make your life, for that you have to pay extra, but still, it's a good start. If they know more about your credit history than you do, it's bad news for you, good news for them. Take the opportunity to get anything you can from the bastards.

If you live west of the Continental Divide, that is. The rest of you will have to wait, or shell out the $8.

December 1, 2004
Never Scared

chris rock

I just finished watching Chris Rock: Never Scared on the DVD.

I'm not a movie reviewer, at least not tonight, but let me say this: if you don't mind a lot of fuck shit pussy talk, give it a watch. That man is funny, and smarter than hell.

If you do mind that kind of talk, don't fucking watch it then, I don't care.

Verizon Wins PA Fight

Governor Rendell signed the lobbyist-drafted broadband bill.

Sad.

Acceptance Deemed Too Controversial

Okay, this is really getting scary. Via Josh Marshall.

The United Church of Christ is launching a new ad campaign tomorrow. The commercial features a church guarded by bouncers, refusing entry to some people while allowing others to pass. The first people refused entry are two men holding hands, followed by several others, minorities, etc. The tag line of the spot is "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

See the ad here.

Both CBS and NBC have refused to air the ad, calling it "too controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

ucc.org

This is infuriating on so many levels. First of all, as the UCC's press release points out, it is quite ironic that after one of the most vicious political campaigns in history during which both sides launched countless ad campaigns filled with outright lies and massive distortions, the networks would balk at this message. They didn't seem to have much of a problem with the Bush or Kerry campaign ads, in fact they profited enormously from them.

More important than the networks' hypocrisy, though, is the idea that 1) this ad is controversial and 2) that controversial ideas will not be aired. It is this last that literally gives me the chills, as it should every one of us. They are saying that because this ad touches on a current debate in the country, it is too controversial to air.

This gets directly to the heart of what is so dangerously wrong with our media. The media's role -- particularly the major broadcast networks who operate on the public airwaves and are allowed to do so only because they agree to serve the public -- is to present a full range of ideas to the public. By deeming any one issue "too controversial," they are completely ignoring that responsibility. It is particularly ominous when the message they are so concerned about is one of inclusion and charity without prejudice.

Now, it could be argued that the same people who are so outraged by this item, myself included, would be up in arms if the networks agreed to air a commercial for a church or other group which specifically barred homosexuals and said or implied so in their commercials, (seen any Boy Scouts commercials lately?) and it's probably true that many would argue against such an ad. But they'd be wrong.

Ultimately, we're better off if all sides can express themselves openly and allow people to make their own judgments. What's important is that the ads not be deliberately misleading or outright false. If we held our political campaigns to the same truth standards to which we hold shampoo commercials, we'd be in pretty good shape. You can say what you think, but you can't lie about what the other guys think.

I find the mention of the "Executive Branch" in the network's rationale particularly disturbing. Since when do our media outlets decide what is controversial based on what the president thinks is acceptable? If someone wanted to air a commercial criticizing the privatization of Social Security would that be too controversial? What about something against tax cuts? Mammoth deficits? Too controversial? Health care? I could go on..

Oh, and for the record, the ad is right: Jesus didn't turn people away. That was his whole deal.