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January 31, 2005
Worst. Movie. Ever

Well, I haven't seen it, but it seems safe to say that Alone in the Dark is right up there with the worst of them.

Matthew Baldwin of defective yeti has a series of posts called "Bad Review Reviews" wherein he - you guessed it - excerpts really good bad movie reviews.

The bad reviews for Alone in the Dark are so scathing and numerous that I kind of want to see the movie now.

A few favorites:


"No better than whatever you might pick up while wearing a blindfold at Blockbuster, even if you happen to reach into a trash can." -- Jack Mathews, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"Trying to rehash this plot is like trying to describe a Jackson Pollock painting while drunk" -- Pete Croatto FILMCRITIC.COM

"As video game adaptations go, even Pong: The Movie would have been better" -- Michael Rechtshaffen, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

"So mind-blowingly horrible that it teeters on the edge of cinematic immortality. " -- Peter Hartlaub, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"Alone in the Dark will be the worst movie of 2005. The idea that anything could be worse is the only genuine scare the movie has to offer." -- Chris Kaltenbach, BALTIMORE SUN

defective yeti

Another 'Urinating to Freedom' Story

UPDATE: As it turns out, this story is complete bullshit. Slapnose apologizes for the error and promises to investigate all urine-related stories more carefully from now on.

According to Ananova, Richard Kral was off on holiday when the snow swallowed his Audi in the Tatra mountains. Initially, he tried to dig his way out via the car's window, but soon realised that the snow would fill the vehicle long before he could break free.

Mercifully, he had stocked up on essential supplies of alcohol and quickly formulated a cunning plan: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

Rescuers eventually found Kral staggering drunk on a mountain path four days after his ordeal began.

The Register

They don't mention how long it took him to get through 30 liters of beer (nearly 10 gallons). It's a singularly heroic feat regardless.

Other Branches of Government

A federal judge today reminded the Bush administration that we do have, in fact, three branches of government, and there are some pretty darn good reasons for that.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspects have the constitutional right to pursue lawsuits challenging their imprisonment, a federal judge ruled on Monday in a defeat for the Bush administration that struck down how the U.S. military reviewed their cases.

The prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said.

She ruled that the special military tribunals to determine the status of each Guantanamo detainee as an "enemy combatant" violated the constitutional protection of a fair hearing. Such a designation allows the government to hold the suspects indefinitely.

Green said the procedures failed to give the detainees access to material evidence and failed to let lawyers help them when the government refused to disclose classified information.

In addition to those constitutional defects applying to all the cases, Green also cited problems with the tribunals relying on statements possibly obtained by torture or coercion, and by using a vague and overly broad definition of enemy combatant.

Reuters

Happy Iraqi

However we feel about the way this war has been sold, conducted, lied about, or the fact that it's happening at all, it's impossible not to be at least a little inspired by the turnout for the election this weekend. Can you imagine if people cared enough about voting here to do it while explosions rocked the city around them?

It's encouraging, but I would hasten to add that this doesn't give George Bush and his flock any more credibility in my eyes. The end result may be a good one, and for the sake of the Iraqi people I hope that it is, but that doesn't excuse the lies or the liars who lied them.

iraq vote

January 29, 2005
Daily Show

If you missed Bush's press conference the other day, the Daily Show has a recap that pretty well sums it up. It's too bad they didn't include Rob Corrdry's brilliant piece at the end, which put a sharp point on the whole bit.

Summary: Bush is a liar, the White House press corps are a bunch of toadying jackasses.

Oh, and it's funny too. Funny funny, everyone loves funny.

bush press conference daily show

January 28, 2005
Everything Must Go?

Have you ever heard of allmylifeforsale.com?

This was a kind of art project undertaken by a guy named John Freyer (Laurel knows him). What he did is pretty clear from the name of his site, and later book -- he sold nearly everything he owned, all of it on eBay.

It's a great idea, just as an experiment, but also as a fundraiser. The idea has occured to me a few times, motivated less by art or psychology than by money. If I sold nearly everything I own, there's a decent chance I could emerge debt-free, and man, that would be sweet.

What's disturbing about the idea, though, (besides the fact that it's completely unoriginal) is that I'm not sure I could do it. It scares me. And that scares me even more. I start looking around the room making exceptions... I'll have to keep at least one computer. The iPod. The frisbee signed by Phish. The sorta-rare-but-not-really-worth-anything concert posters. My vast collection of classic porn.

But boy, could I use the money. Someone want to buy something? I have nearly everything, just ask.

January 27, 2005
Exhaust

Noting this will expose me for the lowly Apprentice watcher that I am, but to hell with it.

Best Quotes, both from the same contestant:

"Michael stated that he wanted to focus on the physical look and design of the motel, which is only one half of the majority of the work that should have been accomplished today."

"My body was mentally exhausted, my mind was mentally exhausted..."

She then went on to have some kind of bizarre spiritual awakening, and they all cried and hugged and quoted Martin Luther King. Except one girl who was mad and still wanted to fight. Then I cried. Then the cat threw up.

Iraq Apparently On It's Feet
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 - President Bush said in an interview on Thursday that he would withdraw American forces from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so, but that he expected Iraq's first democratically elected leaders would want the troops to remain as helpers, not as occupiers.

"I've heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in positions of responsibility after these elections, though you never know," Mr. Bush said. "But it seems that most of the leadership there understands that there will be a need for coalition troops at least until the Iraqis are able to fight."

He did not say who he expected would emerge victorious. But asked if, as a matter of principle, the United States would pull out of Iraq at the request of a new government, he said: "Yes, absolutely. This is a sovereign government - they're on their feet."

The New York Times

Just for fun, whoever is left standing after Sunday, literally and figuratively, should ask us to leave. Just to see what happens.

And isn't it a bit odd that Bush already knows who will "presumably be in positions of responsibility" over there?

Bush continued...

"I think two of the great ironies of history is there will be a Palestinian state and a democratic Iraq showing the way forward for people who desperately want to be free," the president said.

Dude, "two of the great ironies IS"? I don't usually pick on his dumbass style of talking, largely because I think it's mostly intentional, a ploy to ingratiate himself to idiots - a ploy, I might add, that is working famously - but can we at least get the basics of subject-verb agreement right? Think of the children, dummy.

And that's not even taking into account that what he describes is not even close to being "ironic."

Suicidal Man May Get Death Penalty

The news from L.A. about Juan Alvarez, who parked his car on railroad tracks in an attempt to kill himself, only to chicken out at the last minute but leave his car on the tracks where it caused a train accident that killed 11 and injured almost 200, is shocking and sad.

Yet I can't help but notice the irony that prosecutors are charging him with murder under "special circumstances," which would make him eligible for the death penalty in California. Also, they have him on suicide watch.

He wants to die. Killing him isn't a punishment, it's revenge.

More Perfectly Legitimate, Non Fascist Interrogation Techniques

Stories from the front lines of our "drive to spread freedom and human rights."

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.

A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon (news - web sites) review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.

A.P.

... every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth.

George W. Bush - Second Inaugural

One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt, thong underwear and a bra during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren't their wives.

Beginning in April 2003, "there hung a short skirt and thong underwear on the hook on the back of the door" of one interrogation team's office, he writes. "Later I learned that this outfit was used for interrogations by one of the female civilian contractors ... on a team which conducted interrogations in the middle of the night on Saudi men who were refusing to talk."

Some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by "prostitutes."

In another case, Saar describes a female military interrogator questioning an uncooperative 21-year-old Saudi detainee who allegedly had taken flying lessons in Arizona before the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Suspected Sept. 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour received pilot instruction for three months in 1996 and in December 1997 at a flight school in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"His female interrogator decided that she needed to turn up the heat," Saar writes, saying she repeatedly asked the detainee who had sent him to Arizona, telling him he could "cooperate" or "have no hope whatsoever of ever leaving this place or talking to a lawyer.'"

The man closed his eyes and began to pray, Saar writes.

The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection.

The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn't wash.

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man's wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," says the draft, stamped "Secret."

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

"She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee," he says. "As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, 'Who sent you to Arizona?' He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred.

"She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward" — so fiercely that he broke loose from one ankle shackle.

"He began to cry like a baby," the draft says, noting the interrogator left saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

A.P.

Antitdote to Fritz

Fritz has posted a response, of sorts, to the video below on his site (which you may have trouble reading as the site is a giant coding mess and completely unreadable in many browsers). His point, which he gets by channeling William F. Buckley, seems to be that anyone who accuses the Bush administration of police-state tactics, violations of civil liberties, fascist tendencies, or "Nazi leanings" is "loony-tunes" and therefore not only not credible, but is a Holocaust denier of a different stripe.

No really, that's his argument. It is irrelevant, by this logic, whether or not the administration is indeed engaging in police-state tactics or does in fact have fascist tendencies. In his mind, everything done by this administration is automatically justified. Keeping protesters completely out of sight of those whom they protest against is a valid security measure, the War in Iraq is now a "drive for freedom and human rights" (my god, even typing that phrase made me want to throw up), and anyone who implies that there is any relationship between our interest in the region and its vast oil reserves is off the deep end.

By engaging in such rhetorical strategies they [liberals] have cut themselves off from honest debate. Their claims ignore reality and require the listener to accept the horrible fantasy world of 1984 as a distinct possibility. Those with less than normal self-restraint on the Left are still claiming that Republicans and the Right would like nothing more than to bring back slavery, open up the death camps, and throw widows and orphans into the street.

Fritz

Where to begin? Ignore reality? Are you fucking serious? While many may exaggerate or overdo it when complaining about police-state tactics and fascism, which party has lately been most likely to ignore reality? We have a president who consistently insists that everything is going super while Iraq sinks ever faster into a complete catastrophe. We have a ruling party that insists that global warming is a liberal conspiracy to undermine the U.S. economy. A party that supported lifting an assault weapons ban supported by up to 90% of the population. A party that insists publicly that Social Security is facing an immediate crisis while their own data show that this is a gross distortion. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison recently said, "I don't think rehashing potential mistakes some think may have been made in the war on terrorism, specifically in Iraq, is something that should be brought up as a reason to vote against Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State." (Congressional Record) That's not just ignoring reality in practice, she's actually specifically advocating ignoring reality on the floor of the Senate! Good stuff!

Also notice what Fritz does in the above quote. He takes relatively small and certainly debatable claims of violations of civil liberties and extrapolates that we (liberals) claim that Republicans want to bring back slavery and open death camps. And this from someone who spends much time bitching about the rules of debate and rhetoric.

Moving on... Briefly, anyone who thinks the "horrible fantasy world of 1984" is not a possibility should maybe read a history book or two. The hubris inherent in the idea that "it could never happen here" is exactly how it happens here.

The Nazi thing. I'm sick of it. This bullshit idea that by simply mentioning Bush and Hitler or Nazis in the same sentence you're somehow diminishing the suffering of those killed in World War II is absurd and insulting. I categorically reject the notion that you can't compare one feature of a person or a system of government without comparing all features. Further, if it matters, I don't think Bush or his administration are Nazis or that they are even particularly like the Nazis. There are innumerable differences, obviously. This isn't the point. All of this bluster is just a smokescreen so that you'll never have to deal with the substance of the argument. A comparison is made to police-state tactics, you play this Nazi card, veering the debate far from the issue of civil liberties in America and into the realm of ad hominem. It's all so transparently hypocritical.

To state that anyone who would make a comparison involving Nazism doesn't take the Holocaust seriously is backwards. In fact, keeping the lessons of the Holocaust in mind while observing our current situation shows a profound respect for the victims of the Holocaust. It's not that I think that Bush or his ilk have any intention or desire to literally exterminate any particular race, but avoiding such horrors literally isn't the only thing we can learn from the Holocaust. We can also learn how popular, nationalist movements can spin out of control and become totalitarian regimes run by psychotic ideologues. What their specific goals are is not really the point, the point is the process. The point is suppression of dissent. Do you think citizens in Germany in 1937 were all about exterminating Jews? They were just flag-waving patriots. And then it was too late.

Again, tiresomely, I'm not saying that we are on our way to exterminating anybody. The comparison above is of the mindset of the population, not of the end result. The idea I'm promoting is one that's been around for a long time: civil rights must be protected wherever they are threatened. A heavy burden should always rest on those who would limit freedoms to prove the measures absolutely necessary and to ensure that freedoms taken away will be returned when the immediate threat is passed. Once we relinquish small bits of our freedom, the rest will soon erode. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Sound familiar?

Conclusion: They are not Nazis, given. But that doesn't mean they're not despicable scumbags.

Finally Fritz, I would once again ask you to try just a little bit to imagine yourself on the other side of some of these debates. If the Democrats were in power, you would presumably be opposed to many of their policies. Imagine that you went to the inauguration to voice your opinion and were not only greeted by hundreds of riot police, but you were kept blocks away from the proceedings. Not kept away because you posed a demonstrable threat, kept away because you disagree. Now imagine that the Dems started putting stickers in textbooks debunking Christian mythology. "Christmas is a holiday rooted in paganism," "Jesus was a hippie," stuff like that. Imagine that you went to hear a Democratic politician speak during a campaign and were required to sign a loyalty oath or were turned away for wearing the wrong t-shirt. Would you support these practices? I can only assume that you would.

Inauguration Protest Video

A short video montage of some counter-inaugural protests in D.C. last week, sent in by reader Derek who shot and edited it.

There's not a whole lot here, but the images of heavily armored riot police everywhere are pretty chilling. It looks a little too much like my nightmares. Derek also describes how the protesters were kept "sealed off from anywhere near the parade with fences and riot-guards."

counter inaugural protests

Quicktime Movie (90 seconds)

Thanks, Derek.

January 26, 2005
Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows Everywhere

chocolate bunnies

Gonzales On His Way

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines to send Alberto Gonzales' nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.

At a Jan. 6 confirmation hearing, Gonzales denounced torture and vowed to abide by international treaties on the treatment of prisoners.

Yet Gonzales prompted further criticism with responses to follow-up written questions, including his belief the United States may technically have the right to hold foreigners indefinitely in secret locations overseas and subject them to abusive treatment.

TORTURE IS 'UNLAWFUL'

Gonzales also wrote, however, that any torture by American personnel would be unlawful. "As the president has made clear, the United States will not engage in torture and U.S. personnel are prohibited from doing so," Gonzales declared.

At a White House news conference on Wednesday, Bush called on the Senate "to promptly act and confirm Judge Al Gonzales."

Asked about Gonzales' written response the CIA was not specifically forbidden from abusing detainees overseas, Bush said: "Listen, Al Gonzales reflects our policy, and that is we don't sanction torture. He will be a great attorney general."

Reuters

Ugh.

Notice how Gonzales says "the U.S. will not engage in torture," future tense, carefully avoiding the fact that the U.S. has in fact engaged in torture and that he has personally justified it. Then the Preznit chimes in with "we do not sanction torture," another non-denial denial. We don't sanction it, but that doesn't mean we don't practice it.

Super Happy Deficit Fun Day!

Yesterday we learned that the budget deficit is expected to rise to $427 billion this year, a bit shy of the administration's prediction that it would fall to $331 billion.

I love this:


In a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, senior administration officials insisted they were still on track to fulfill Mr. Bush's campaign promise of reducing the federal budget deficit by half by 2009. But Mr. Bush is already well behind in reaching his goal.

They insist that they're "on track," though they're unequivocally not on track. And most of the country still has it's fingers in its ears.

The Center for American Progress digests all this nicely, with plenty o' swell links.

Another year, another record deficit. The federal budget deficit will reach a record $448 billion this year, exceeding last year's record of $412 billion. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), "the long-term outlook for the US budget deficit has deteriorated since the end of last year." For most Americans these enormous, persistent deficits would be cause for concern. But not for White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. According to McClellan, the new numbers show "we are on track."

THE SHELL GAME EXPOSED: Astoundingly, the White House seized on the CBO numbers as proof that the president would meet his goal to cut the deficit in half by 2009. Here is how it works. The administration takes the CBO's baseline 2009 deficit projection, which excludes funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration's $2.5 trillion proposal to extend tax cuts, and the administration's $2 trillion Social Security package. Because of these exclusions, even the CBO admits its long-term budget numbers are "misleading." But even if you take the CBO's misleading 2009 deficit projection and compare it to the actual 2004 deficit, Bush will still "miss his goal." So the administration takes the misleading 2009 projection and compares it to the higher deficit projections for 2004 it predicted last February, but which never actually materialized. The February numbers, however, "artificially inflated the projected deficit for 2004, apparently so that subsequent downward adjustments in the deficit estimate could be presented as progress." The bottom line: there is no way the administration can pursue its current policies and cut the deficit in half by 2009.

IT'S THE TAX CUTS, STUPID: The deficit could be reduced by more than half this year if the administration would roll back its tax cuts for the wealthy. An analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy priorities found there have been $504 billion in increased costs since January 2001 and tax cuts account for just about half (49 percent) of that total. Tax cuts have cost the nation four times as much as all changes in domestic programs over that time.

THE ENTITLEMENT CON: Conservatives will use the numbers to justify cuts in benefits for the poor and the elderly. Using deficits as an excuse, "Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH), and House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA), have both indicated that they want to cut spending, particularly on entitlements." But programs like Social Security and Medicaid aren't why we have a deficit. (In fact, absent the Social Security program, the deficit would be much worse.) As the CBO notes, "new legislation accounts for about three-quarters of [the federal deficit] increase [since last year's projections], most of it from recent laws that extend certain tax provisions."

Progress Report

January 25, 2005
Bush Calls for Patience, Demands Swift Action

President Bush today called Republican members of Congress into the principal's office to "plead for patience" on the Social Security issue. More and more Republicans are voicing doubts about the administration's radical overhaul plan, pressured no doubt by the annoying leaks of the truth about the so-called crisis.

While asking his team for patience while he finds phrases to describe his plan that poll well, Bush also "emphasized the need to act quickly after he presents his proposals."

As Josh Marshall points out, what this means is that Bush will take his time working out the proposal, but once he submits it, he wants it to fly through Congress with little debate. Sounds democratic to me!

Some Republican Senators - apparently secretly French - are unconvinced and are signaling that this kind of major legislation will take some time. Senator John Warner of Virginia has even suggested that a major study should be prepared by the nonpartisan Government Accounting Office. Treason! Doesn't he realize that there is no time?!? The whole freakin' system is going to collapse! In, like, 40 or 50 years maybe!! No time to waste on investigative analysis! Go Go Go!

There Are Others

Armstrong Williams warned us that "there were others" who had been paid off to report favorably on the administration's policies, and now we have our first other.

Howard Kurtz reports in The Washington Post...

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.

Later in the day, Gallagher filed a column in which she said that "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers."

Washington Post

Oh, that's rich. While she was writing a column promoting the policy, it slipped her mind that she had been paid over $21,000 to promote the policy. Sure, sure. It's easy to see how she wouldn't have made a connection between the two things. Or, wait, the one thing. It's the same thing.

Also choice is her question to readers on whether or not she violated journalistic ethics. Since you're asking, Maggie, yes, you did.

The point here, as if it should have to be said, is that if you're being paid by someone who has a direct interest in what you're writing about, you should disclose it. Some people say this shouldn't apply to bloggers, or whatever. It should apply to everyone. In some cases it's a matter of law, but in all cases it's a matter of ethics and just basic honesty.

Sheesh.

NewSpeak

This is getting really disturbing.

Listen to this exchange between Josh Marshall and Frank Luntz. -- mp3 (90 seconds).

Basically, Marshall asks Luntz if, now that the president and his followers have stopped using the terms 'privatization' and 'private accounts' in favor of 'personal accounts,' journalists should be now expected to adopt this phrasing. (As they are already doing in droves - NY Times, NBC's "First Read")

Luntz's response? Yes. If journalists use the now retired words, they are signaling their bias and taking sides in the debate.

The fact that this is ludicrous seems pretty obvious to me, but that's not stopping Republicans from pushing this stance all over the place. It makes no difference that the president himself used these words many, many times to describe his plan. They've decided they prefer to describe it in a different way, and all who do not comply are enemies of the administration.

The glaring error in this logic is of course that if using the old terminology signals a bias against the administration, why doesn't using the new terminology signal a bias for them? How exactly is one to know one's bias if the party line keeps changing? This is the kind of slippery slope argument one runs into when dealing with fascism. We're all a little new to it, Mr. Bush, so please bear with us while we adjust.

Denver Cop Has Sensitive Craw
A Denver police sergeant is under investigation for allegedly threatening to arrest a woman Monday for displaying on her truck a derogatory bumper sticker about President Bush.

Rocky Mountain News

The sticker in question read "FUCK BUSH" in white letters on a black background. A fellow citizen had confronted the truck's owner, Shasta Bates, inside the UPS Store before going outside and flagging down a cop. Sergeant Michael Karasek proceeded to tell Bates that she had to remove the sticker or he would arrest her. This was all witnessed by a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News.

"He said, 'You need to take off those stickers because it's profanity and it's against the law to have profanity on your truck,' " Bates said. "Then he said, 'If you ever show up here again, I'm going to make you take those stickers off and arrest you. Never come back into that area.' "

McCrimmon, who had followed the officer into the store, said Karasek wrote down the woman's license-plate number and then told her: "You take those bumper stickers off or I will come and find you and I will arrest you."

Keep in mind that this guy is a sergeant. meaning he's probably been a cop for some time. You'd think he would have some passing familiarity with our country's laws, particularly the First Amendment, arguably our very first law a very important law.

In case you're wondering, the Supreme Court ruled on this issue 30 years ago, saying states could not prohibit people from exhibiting so-called profanity on their personal property.

And besides, Fuck Bush.

The American Dream (World)

Newsweek with an excellent article on the erosion of the world's regard for America. As predicted, we've gone from having a reviled president to being reviled ourselves.

We are living in a fantasy of being the greatest country on earth, when in fact most of the rest of the world is done with us. They're sick of our cultural spew, sick of our bullying foreign policy, and sick of our arrogance. We're like the aggressive cool kid in school who everyone was so impressed with, until everyone grew up and the cool kid was left behind, pathetically holding on to his past glory.

The gulf between how Americans view themselves and how the world views them was summed up in a poll last week by the BBC. Fully 71 percent of Americans see the United States as a source of good in the world. More than half view Bush's election as positive for global security. Other studies report that 70 percent have faith in their domestic institutions and nearly 80 percent believe "American ideas and customs" should spread globally.

Foreigners take an entirely different view: 58 percent in the BBC poll see Bush's re-election as a threat to world peace. Among America's traditional allies, the figure is strikingly higher: 77 percent in Germany, 64 percent in Britain and 82 percent in Turkey. Among the 1.3 billion members of the Islamic world, public support for the United States is measured in single digits. Only Poland, the Philippines and India viewed Bush's second Inaugural positively.

Tellingly, the anti-Bushism of the president's first term is giving way to a more general anti-Americanism. A plurality of voters (the average is 70 percent) in each of the 21 countries surveyed by the BBC oppose sending any troops to Iraq, including those in most of the countries that have done so. Only one third, disproportionately in the poorest and most dictatorial countries, would like to see American values spread in their country. Says Doug Miller of GlobeScan, which conducted the BBC report: "President Bush has further isolated America from the world. Unless the administration changes its approach, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs." Former Brazilian president Jose Sarney expressed the sentiments of the 78 percent of his countrymen who see America as a threat: "Now that Bush has been re-elected, all I can say is, God bless the rest of the world."

MSNBC - Dream On America

Sticky Rice
Senate Democrats denounced Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday as an architect of some of the worst mistakes in the Iraq war, but Republicans accused them of merely grandstanding since Rice is certain to be confirmed as the next U.S. secretary of state.

"Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it's been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire," Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy said in a debate.

With stinging rhetoric, other Democrats recounted Rice's role as a confidant to President Bush, accusing her of developing policies that exacerbated the violence in Iraq and would force U.S. troops to remain there for years.

"We have been the authors of much of our own misery and as a result of that I cannot find it in my heart or in my mind to vote for a promotion of Dr. Rice," declared Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat who supported the Iraq war.

Republicans came to Rice's defense, charging Democrats with political gamesmanship for demanding a full day of debate even though the Senate is expected to vote to confirm Rice by a wide margin on Wednesday.

In a debate that contrasted starkly with the bipartisan embrace extended to Secretary of State Colin Powell at his confirmation hearings four years ago, Democrats accused Rice of deceiving Congress.

They said she had exaggerated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which were never found, and ignored warnings that a fierce insurgency would develop after the American invasion.

Reuters

See, screw the Republicans on this. It's bad enough that we have a process where a nominee's confirmation is a foregone conclusion, but now they claim that any opposition voiced at all is simply "grandstanding." There's no allowing for debate, no consideration of the public's right to a full discussion of the candidate's qualifications and history, it's just supposed to be a nice, quiet rubber stamp. Good for the few Democrats who are standing up to this crap.

On top of that, these aren't merely allegations that Rice deceived Congress and exaggerated intelligence about WMD, she clearly did exactly that. She has refused to accept any responsibility, even going so far as to accuse those who correctly point out her inconsistent and contradictory statements as "impugning her integrity." This, of course, would be impossible. She has no integrity.

Republicans pointed to the sparkling resume of the 50-year-old Rice who grew up in the segregated South. A preacher's daughter with ambition and intellect, Rice served as provost at Stanford University and later in the top echelon of the White House as Bush's national security adviser.

Reuters

So there you go. Bringing up the fact that she was instrumental in leading the country to war on false grounds is "political gamesmanship," but the profession of her father, the social system under which she was raised, and her previous employment are clearly relevant.

Again, we should be proud of the few Democrats who are opposing her ascension. Tell Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer and Mark Dayton that you support them. The evidence is clear, they should be commended for telling the truth.

"I don't like impugning anyone's integrity," Sen. Mark Dayton said this morning, "but I really don't like being lied to." Dayton said Rice misled him, misled other members of Congress and misled the public both before and after the war began. Among the evidence Dayon cited: Rice's claim in September 2002 that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase aluminum tubes that were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Rice coupled her pronouncement on the tubes with the warning that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." But as the New York Times later reported, Rice was aware at the time she gave her warning that the government's top nuclear experts had concluded that the tubes were most likely not for weapons use at all.

Salon

Finally, a classic quote from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, representing the sniveling majority: "potential mistakes that people think might have been made," she said, should not be "brought up as a reason not to vote for Condoleezza Rice."

The logic escapes me.

The Agenda

A little late to this one...

The Democrats, lead by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, have unveiled their agenda for the 109th Congress. They detail 10 major points they will pursue.

Most of them are pretty good, but what's better is that they have a plan, a coherent agenda, and they better damn well fight for it.

No On Gonzales

Slapnose hereby signs on to Daily Kos' blogger petition against Alberto Gonzales' confirmation as Attorney General.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Convention, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Daily Kos

Torture Is On The March!

Oh, oh, oh, it is to weep.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 24 -- Twenty months after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled and its torture chambers unlocked, Iraqis are again being routinely beaten, hung by their wrists and shocked with electrical wires, according to a report by a human rights organization.

Iraqi police, jailers and intelligence agents, many of them holding the same jobs they had under Hussein, are "committing systematic torture and other abuses" of detainees, Human Rights Watch said in a report to be released Tuesday.

Legal safeguards are being ignored, political opponents are targeted for arrest, and the government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi "appears to be actively taking part, or is at least complicit, in these grave violations of fundamental human rights," the report concludes.

A spokesman for Allawi declined to comment, Monday and said "I will put this report on the prime minister's desk tomorrow to see if he has any reaction."

Washington Post

Just in case he doesn't have any reaction, allow me to suggest hooking electrodes to his balls for a while and see if he has any reaction then.

A, C Line Fire

Note to self: If moving back to New York anytime in the next several years, do not live or work on the A or C lines.

A simple fire has crippled the city's Eighth Ave. subway line for as long as five years - forcing nearly 600,000 subway riders to suffer while the Transit Authority tries to find a fix.

The entire C line may be knocked out until 2010, TA President Lawrence Reuter said yesterday.

Repairs will cost "millions of dollars," he said, adding that it could take three to five years to replace what was destroyed.

Riders were stunned the TA couldn't move faster.

"You're kidding me!" said administrative assistant John Nelson, 49, of the Bronx. "I thought it would be something they could fix in a day or two. But three to five years? That's terrible. I'm going to have to rearrange my schedule."

Nelson isn't the only one.

The C line has 110,000 daily riders. Add to that the 470,000 riders on the A line - which will run local between 207th and 145th Sts. - and you have nearly 600,000 people in pain.

New York Daily News

Scot Anthony (no relation) offered this awesomely typical New Yorker quote: "It sounds like the M.T.A. is using it as an excuse to save money by cutting service."

Wicked Cold

Okay, I heard it was cold over there, but MY GOD!

cold boston

Hull, Mass, across the harbor from Boston

Your Personal Savings Account is Unencumbered

Tom Toles captures the administration's NewSpeak campaign over Social Security privatization perfectly.

tom toles on social security

(yes, it's cut off on purpose. click to see the whole thing on the Post's web site)

$80 Billion

The Bush administration is asking for another $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, bringing the grand total to over $280 billion.

To put that in a bit of perspective, that's almost half what we spent on World War I ($613 bln) or Vietnam ($623 bln), in today's dollars.

Or, to put it another way, it's enough money to fully fund worldwide AIDS programs for 30 years.

How about this one: Enough to give every child on earth basic immunizations for almost 100 years.

(roughly extrapolated from the National Priorities Project's Cost of War.)

The forthcoming request underscored how the war spending has clearly exceeded initial White House estimates. Early on, then-presidential economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey placed Iraq costs of $100 billion to $200 billion, only to see his comments derided by administration colleagues.

ABC7 News Denver

Note that, at the time, they were not deriding Lindsey's estimates because they were too low. They insisted, in fact, that they were far too high and insisted that the war would be basically free, not to mention a whole hell of a lot of fun.

One interesting item: an estimated 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS to build the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Yes, you read that right. In their defense, this very well may incorporate the cost of rebuilding the embassy every couple of months after someone blows it up. And I hear they'll have a foosball table.

January 24, 2005
Gonzo

It seems Attorney General nominee and waterboarding aficionado Alberto Gonzales may have been instrumental in getting George Bush out of jury duty in 1996, thus avoiding any embarrassing revelation that Bush had been convicted for drunk driving in 1976.

... Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine--an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign.

MSNBC

One of the lawyers in the case insists there was a backroom deal with the judge to keep Bush off the jury while he publicly claimed he was "ready to serve." Gonzales, surprisingly, claims to not remember anything like that.

Breach of Contract

Via Atrios.

The failure of the coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq was the failure to be wary of the powerful, the failure to listen to those who are not our own. Stories about an imminent Iraqi threat, which turned out to be false, were splattered across the pages of the nation's most prominent newspapers. There were voices, important voices, that questioned the assertions, but they were largely unheard because the media ignored them. This failure was also, and perhaps more important, a failure to honor the moral contract that journalists have with viewers and readers to be truthful, even when it means challenging conventional wisdom and ferreting out unpleasant facts.

Those who defend the prewar coverage argue that reporters are only as good as their sources. They say they reported accurately the falsehoods leaked to them by those who sought to wage war. By making such an argument they are also saying they are morally neutral, that they are little more than conduits for lies, half-truths and truths all rolled into one unintelligible message. They forget the contract.

There is a concerted attempt to destroy this contract. Balance and objectivity have become code words to propagate the insidious and cynical moral disengagement that is destroying American journalism. This moral disengagement gives equal time, and sometimes more than equal time, to those who spread falsehoods and distort information. It tacitly sanctions the dissemination of lies. It absolves us from making moral choice. It obscures and often shuts out the truth.

This sophistry has come to characterize the circus that goes by the name of journalism on cable news shows. Facts on television are largely interchangeable with opinions. The television reporter, like a game show host, makes sure each warring party has his or her time to vent. The veracity of what is said is irrelevant. But the disease of moral neutrality is no longer confined to the poseurs on television, who are, after all, entertainers posing as journalists. It is seeping into those organizations that are still attempting to report the news. Objectivity is not the same as moral disengagement. Balance does not mean giving everyone the same space. We are more than dutiful court stenographers. Journalists have a contract with viewers and readers. This contract was broken. We must make sure it is not broken again.

Philadelphia Inquirer

More like this, please.

Today's Weather: Crack

Finally, a video of the world's most crack-addled TV weather man. It'd be one thing if he were funny, but he's just stupid beyond belief. Still, that's pretty funny.

crazy weatherman

Oh, and he was fired for being a drunk and a wastoid.

January 23, 2005
The Power of Wrath

While I'm sure I'm subjected to fewer of those damn "Power of Pride" bumper stickers here in Seattle than many people are in other places, I still see quite a few, and I always want to pee on them. Instead, I've made up a few companion stickers.

Herewith, the latest in the Slapnose Merchandise line, the Seven Deadly Sins bumper sticker collection.

seven deadly sins bumper stickers

Power of Pride? Sure! But why stop there? It seems unfair to neglect the Powers of Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony and Avarice, doesn't it?

Not that I'm advocating it, but it sure would be funny if someone bought a bunch of these and started sticking them right next to people's Power of Pride stickers. If you're uneasy with such vandalism, stick one under their windshield wiper, or on a telephone pole.

What's amazing is how well they all fit our country's general attitude these days. Except maybe envy, although that's probably the subconscious cause for the other 6.

Do Not Extrapolate

George Bush the Elder joins the chorus in explaining that sonny-boy's inaugural promise to spread freedom and liberty and oppose tyranny throughout the world should not be interpreted as a promise to spread freedom and liberty and oppose tyranny throughout the world.

"That's not what that speech is about," the former President said, "It's about freedom."

January 22, 2005
The Policy Formerly Known As Privatization

As noted a couple of days ago, the word "privatization" has been stricken from the approved Republican vocabulary in favor of the term "personal savings accounts." Republicans from the President on down have quickly moved to the preferred phrasing, denying that they ever used the other term.

Josh Marshall has started a contest to collect proof that this is virtually always a lie.

The first examples to come in are pretty clear.

Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana before word came down from party headquarters (Nov. 1, 2000)...

"Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized. It's not a 'risky scheme.'"

Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana after word came down from party headquarters (Sept. 3rd, 2002)...

"I do not support the privatization of Social Security."

Bob Novak before the word came down from party headquarters (Capital Gang, Sept. 14th, 2002 where we find Mark Shields at mid-Outrage of the Week)...

Mark Shields: In an Orwellian abuse of the language, conservatives, including even the respected Cato Institute, insist that they're now for Social Security choice, not for dreaded 'privatization'. Yes, and war is peace.

Robert D. Novak.

NOVAK: I'm still for privatization.

Bob Novak after the word came down from party headquarters (Crossfire, Oct. 28th, 2002)...

[Democratic consultant] Steve McMahon: I thought they were accusing the Republicans of wanting to privatize Social Security which, after all, is what Republicans wanted.

NOVAK: That's a Democratic term.

Talking Points Memo

SpongeBob NoPants

spongebob

Never missing a chance to turn an attempt to promote tolerance and diversity into an opportunity to promote intolerance and bigotry, Christian nutjob group Focus on the Family is currently protecting America's future by attacking a SpongeBob SquarePants video as "pro-gay propaganda."

But conservatives say it sees the video as a cunning attempt to promote homosexuality.

They point to the fact that the WAFF is linked to a pledge being promoted by some liberal groups which includes a recognition of tolerance of sexual identity.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organisation is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," Paul Batura, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, told the New York Times.

BBC News

Note how "tolerance" is now equated with being pro-gay. If they are anti-tolerance, what are they? Pro-discrimination, that's what. And discrimination is discrimination, whether it's against gays, blacks, jews, or anyone else.

The fact that this is being reported in the foreign press is just humiliating.

Uhhhh, Nevermind

Administration Officials: What Bush said in his speech, while massively awesome, was not, like, meant to be taken literally.

As you know, Bush promised on Thursday to rid the world of tyranny once and for all and stand side by side with all human beings anywhere who are fighting for freedom. Ha ha ha, we all got a good laugh out of that one.

But it turns out some people, libruls and shit, thought we was serious! There are even people in other countries who think his rhetoric is a little hollow considering the policies the U.S. pursues in their regions.

White House officials said yesterday that President Bush's soaring inaugural address, in which he declared the goal of ending tyranny around the world, represents no significant shift in U.S. foreign policy but instead was meant as a crystallization and clarification of policies he is pursuing in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Nor, they say, will it lead to any quick shift in strategy for dealing with countries such as Russia, China, Egypt and Pakistan, allies in the fight against terrorism whose records on human rights and democracy fall well short of the values Bush said would become the basis of relations with all countries.

Bush advisers said the speech was the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president's deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies. But they said it was carefully written not to tie him to an inflexible or unrealistic application of his goal of ending tyranny.

"It has its own policy implications, but it is not to say we're not doing this already," said White House counselor Daniel J. Bartlett. "It is important to crystallize the debate to say this is what it is all about, to say what are our ideals, what are the values we cherish."

"It is not a discontinuity. It is not a right turn," said a senior administration official, who spoke with reporters from newspapers but demanded anonymity because he wanted the focus to remain on the president's words and not his. "I think it is a bit of an acceleration, a raising of the priority, making explicit in a very public way to give impetus to this effort." He added that it was a "message we have been sending" for some time.

Washington Post

What he means is that it's a message they've been saying for some time, which is, to them, the same thing as believing and actually acting on the message. They say it a lot, therefore it is true. Please ignore the waterboarding behind the curtain.

As for the ungrateful foreigners, they're not buying it either.

... they said the words belied the fact that the United States supports several authoritarian governments in the Middle East and would ring hollow to the many Arabs who perceive U.S. policy in the oil-rich region as motivated by financial concerns and support for Israel.

Although the president did not mention the daily violence in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories, the U.S. role in those conflicts frequently spurs Arabs to question American credibility regarding the goals Bush outlined in his address. Several writers called the speech "messianic" in tone and language and potentially harmful to fledgling reform movements across the region.

"It's scary stuff, so sweeping and overarching you don't know what to make of it," said Sadiq Azm, a Syrian writer and reform advocate. "He's saying that what's good for America is good for everyone else. We are used to this kind of bombast from our Arab leaders. But it's been a long time since I've heard it in English."

Washington Post

Torture and TV

Another must read from Frank Rich, this one on the unwillingness the television media has shown in reporting on the ongoing torture story.

Maybe we don't want to know that the abuses were widespread and systematic, stretching from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to unknown locales where "ghost detainees" are held. Or that they started a year before the incidents at Abu Ghraib. Or that they have been carried out by many branches of the war effort, not just Army grunts. Or that lawyers working for Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales gave these acts a legal rationale that is far more menacing to encounter in cold type than the photo of Prince Harry's costume-shop armband.

As Mr. Danner shows in his book, all this and more can be discerned from a close reading of the government's dense investigative reports and the documents that have been reluctantly released (or leaked). Read the record, and the Fort Hood charade is unmasked for what it was: the latest attempt to strictly quarantine the criminality to a few Abu Ghraib guards and, as Mr. Danner writes, to keep their actions "carefully insulated from any charge that they represent, or derived from, U.S. policy - a policy that permits torture."

NY Times

Words v. Actions

As usual, George Bush is demonstrably full of shit.

Billmon with another perfectly illustrative juxtaposition, this time between some of the steaming pile of crap that passed itself off as Bush's Second Inaugural Address and a story on the U.S. policy on torture.

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth . . . So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

George W. Bush
Second Inaugural Speech
January 20, 2005


Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President George W. Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, said in a document.

In written responses to questions posed by senators as part of their consideration of his nomination to be attorney general, Gonzales also said a separate congressional ban on cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment had "a limited reach" and did not apply in all cases to "aliens overseas."

New York Times
Gonzales excludes CIA from rules on prisoners
January 20, 2005

Whiskey Bar

They might want to increase Bush's security detail. They've probably got most common threats to his safety pretty well under control, but what are they doing about the possibility that he get struck down by a bolt of lightning? If there's anything to any of his religious mumbo-jumbo in the first place, it's bound to happen.

January 21, 2005
50 Most Loathsome

The 50 Most Loathsome People in America 2004. I nearly wet myself.

And then I cried.

But then I laughed a lot more.

I know you'll read #50 and #49 and then skip to #1, but I implore you, for the love of sweet jesus, read them all. They're funny.

I particularly recommend #3, #7, #17, #24, #29.. aw hell.. all of them. Genius.

And of course:


6. George W. Bush

Crimes: Too numerous to mention. The worst piece of shit ever to run this country, including King George III; when's the last time a president made half his country want to move to Canada? Lays claim to the legacy of Jesus Christ as he hungrily sucks what little life-essence is left from the world. Appears to be only dimly aware that he is destroying the future, but seems to think it's kind of funny.

My favorite line.. "Reagan's excruciating sanctification during his agonizingly protracted funeral was enough to make anyone with knowledge of his true legacy blow up a radio tower."

No wait, this one.. "The fact that this ambulatory hamburger's opinions were ever given public forum is an indictment of our entire civilization and all human history leading up to this point." (Toby Keith, #38)

No Follow

Note to comment and trackback spammers: You can knock it off now. First, I delete all of your garbage well before it does you any good. More importantly, though, Movable Type has implemented the "No Follow" protocol, an attribute will be added to all of your spammy links and search engines will pay no attention to your crap anymore.

Ppppbbbbblltttttt.

Finally, We All Agree

bush inauguration

bush inauguration protests

Freedom and Democracy For All, Or Else

I didn't watch Bush's speech yesterday, not particularly because I didn't want to, although I have had a bit of a weak stomach lately and that could have really put me over the edge, but because I was at work and then at home I didn't feel like it. Sure, it's a weak explanation, but to hell with it.

From what I understand, Bush promised to bring Freedom and Democracy to every last human being on earth, but didn't say a single word about Iraq. Sounds about right: High-fallutin' non-specific unrealistic jingoism without a shred of substance.

For the record, he used the word "freedom" 25 times in 17 minutes, for an average of 1.5 freedoms a minute. He used the word "Iraq" 0 times in 17 minutes, for an average of 0 Iraqs. This is most likely because, since he refuses to hear bad news about Iraq, he has forgotten that such a place exists.

January 20, 2005
Regret

Outgoing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage speaks truth to no one, and too late.

"I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."

Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

The Australian

Please Use Approved Terminology

Via Pandagon, and this guy before them, and The Washington Post before all of 'em.

The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

THE PRESIDENT: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes?

The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: When?

The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.

THE PRESIDENT: Seriously?

The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

Washington Post

They're actually trying to dictate how the press can refer to their plan. The approved NewSpeak is "personal savings accounts." "Privatization" is no longer an approved word. Please phase it out of your vocabulary as quickly as possible. This is not optional.

Rubber Stamp

For the love of god, can we get the Senators to stop telling everybody they're supposedly "grilling" how completely awesome they are before they ask them all the pointless questions? Do we really need to watch as lawmakers who are supposed to be conducting hearings to determine someone's qualifications to be one of the most powerful people in the world kiss that person's ass? It's despicable. John Kerry came right out and said that "we all know you're going to be confirmed." What kind of shit is that?

January 19, 2005
Headline of the Day

Via alert reader Little Lord Fauntleroy.

cnn headline

Dude.. that is so, like, meta.

Story: CNN.com

Condi The Truth Teller?

Naaaaaahhh...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday the Bush administration made some bad decisions in Iraq and was unprepared for stabilizing the country in a rare acknowledgment of mistakes.

--snip--

"We have made a lot of decisions in this period of time. Some of them have been good, some of them have not been good, some of them have been bad decisions, I am sure," Rice told the committee.

She did not specify what were the bad decisions but said in at least one case, "We didn't have the right skills, the right capacity, to deal with a reconstruction effort of this kind."

Reuters

This is what passes for an admission of responsibility with this administration. "I'm sure we made some mistakes. Can't think of any off the top of my head, but yeah, I guess it's possible."

The second part is better, but falls far short of what is really called for, namely, that the person making these admissions isn't made the freaking Secretary of State, and that she and the rest of her criminally negligent and lying cohorts are water boarded in prime time.

Lessons From History

I hope Billmon doesn't mind that I'm going to quote his entire post, but I know how you people don't click on stuff, so screw it. It's just a collection of quotes, anyway, but a good collection.

President Bush plans to reactivate his reelection campaign's network of donors and activists to build pressure on lawmakers to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market . . . The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.

Washington Post
Social Security Push to Tap the GOP Faithful
January 14, 2005

The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas . . . only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on the memory of the crowd.

Adolph Hitler
Mein Kampf
1925

The Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to persuade the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution . . . The agency's plans are set forth in internal documents, including a "tactical plan" for communications and marketing of the idea that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action.

The New York Times
Agency Running Social Security to Push Change
January 16, 2005

The great masses of the people . . . more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. Such a falsehood will never enter their heads and they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous effrontery and infamous misrepresentation in others . . . Therefore, something of even the most insolent lie will always remain and stick --a fact which all the great lie-virtuosi and lying-clubs in this world know only too well and also make the most treacherous use of.

Adolph Hitler
Mein Kampf
1925

Cognitive Dissonance

On the one hand...

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

Washington Post, January 16

On the other hand...

President Bush will begin his second term in office without a clear mandate to lead the nation, with strong disapproval of his policies in Iraq and with the public both hopeful and dubious about his leadership on the issues that will dominate his agenda, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

On the eve of Thursday's presidential inaugural ceremonies, the survey found few signs that the country has begun to come together since Bush defeated Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) two months ago. The president has claimed a mandate from the election, but the poll found as much division today as four years ago over the question of whether Bush or Democrats in Congress should set the direction for the country.

Washington Post, January 18

January 18, 2005
Social Security Debate Demystified

Courtesy of Roger Lowenstein in The New York Times Magazine.

It's a long article, but well worth the read. I have to admit I was fairly ignorant about the details of this debate, relying mostly on my instinctive distrust of anything George W. Bush supports, an instinct that has never failed me. Still, I learned a lot in this article. I've excerpted some parts below for the time or motivation deficient, but I strongly suggest reading the whole thing. This is a particularly important debate for my generation, as we're the ones who will be screwed.

The upshot of the whole thing is that most of the projections offered by the White House and their supporters as evidence of a looming "crisis" are very pessimistic projections, and more importantly, they're projections, not facts. They are taking guesses as to what the economy might look like in 75 years and presenting them as the gospel truth. And even in doing that, they're lying about a lot of it, and exaggerating about the rest.

The underlying logic of their plan is simple: If we reduce the money that the government gives to the poor and elderly, people will save more money over their lifetime to offset the loss. Does this seem likely to you? If you ask me, it defies common sense.

In the end, I simply don't trust the wealthiest among us, who have consistently demonstrated their desire to make life very easy and profitable for themselves while ignoring the rest of us, to "reform" a system designed to help the poor. It's easy for them to emphasize the potential long-term benefits of their plan because they won't experience the short-term losses. As Lowenstein points out, "We have an obligation to the distant future, but don't we owe a greater debt to the current generation and to those that immediately follow?"

The campaign to privatize has not only been about ideology; it has also focused on Social Security's supposed insolvency. Moore's book calls Social Security a "Titanic . . . headed toward the iceberg" and a program "on the verge of collapse." A stream of other conservatives have bombarded the public, over years and decades, with prophecies of trillion-dollar liabilities and with metaphors intended to frighten -- "train wreck," "bankruptcy," "cancer" and so forth. Recently, a White House political deputy wrote a strategy note in which he said that Social Security is "on an unsustainable course. That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness."

The campaign is potentially self-fulfilling: persuade enough people that Social Security is going bankrupt, and it will lose public support. Then Congress will be forced to act. And thanks to such unceasing alarums, many, and perhaps most, people today think the program is in serious financial trouble.

But is it? After Bush's re-election, I carefully read the 225-page annual report of the Social Security trustees. I also talked to actuaries and economists, inside and outside the agency, who are expert in the peculiar science of long-term Social Security forecasting. The actuarial view is that the system is probably in need of a small adjustment of the sort that Congress has approved in the past. But there is a strong argument, which the agency acknowledges as a possibility, that the system is solvent as is.

Although prudence argues for making a fix sooner rather than later, the program is not in crisis, nor is its potential shortfall irresolvable. Ideology aside, the scale of the fixes would not require Social Security to abandon the role that was conceived for it in 1935, and that it still performs today -- as an insurance fail-safe for the aged and others and as a complement to people's private market savings.

--snip--

Social Security does not provide, and was not meant to provide, a satisfactory retirement on its own. The average stipend for a 65-year-old retiring today is $1,184 a month, or about $14,000 a year. About half of Americans also have private pension plans, but for two-thirds of the elderly, Social Security supplies the majority of day-to-day income. For the poorest 20 percent, about seven million, Social Security is all they have. Even those figures understate the program's importance. According to an agency publication, "Income of the Population 55 or Older: 2000," 8 percent of elderly beneficiaries were poor, but a startling 48 percent would have been below the poverty line had they not been receiving Social Security. Charles Blahous, the White House point man on Social Security, publicly criticized this calculation as "mindless," and the Social Security agency no longer computes the figure.

--snip--

Proponents hail the plan for forcing savings on the government. But the diversion of money into individual accounts would save the government nothing, since it would have to borrow to offset the loss of the diverted dollars. The individual accounts represent a transfer, not a savings.

The second feature of the plan would link future benefit increases to inflation rather than to wages. Because wages typically grow faster, this would mean a rather substantial benefit cut. That cut would mean a savings for the government. This is a political choice; we can always save money by reducing benefits. But it's important to stress that the savings result from cuts, not from the decision to privatize.

--snip--

In any case, Social Security could capture the return on stocks, without putting individuals at risk, by investing in equities directly. This would also achieve another frequently stated objective: keeping the government's hands off the Social Security trust fund. That option would be far more efficient, in economic terms, than separating the money into 150 million disparate accounts. Costs are much lower for one big investor. And more important, in a system of individual accounts, benefits will vary with individual choices, and some people will make poor ones. In Sweden, where the retirement system has included private accounts since 2000, the majority of Swedes made excessively risky investment choices by putting money into stocks at the market top, according to Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago behavioral economist. Finally, pooling the investment pools the risk, and thus reduces the danger of retiring at the wrong time. In a system of personal accounts, someone who retired after a market crash would be out of luck.

So it is notable that all the current proposals to privatize involve the economically inferior option of individual accounts. But privatization advocates aren't motivated solely, and perhaps not even primarily, by economics. Glenn Hubbard, Bush's former top economic adviser, wrote in Newsweek that an "obvious objective" of privatization is "to advance the president's ownership society agenda."

--snip--

Prudence dictates taking steps now to minimize the possible shortfall. This could include raising the cap, some modest cuts and tax increases and a gradual redeployment of the trust fund into assets that may not be tapped, willy-nilly, for whatever legislative purpose. But only a real crisis would dictate undoing an institution that has provided a safety net for retirees, that has helped to preserve in the social fabric some minimum of shared responsibility and that has been supported by workers in good faith. And, in looking at Social Security today, the crisis is yet to be found.

New York Times Magazine

January 17, 2005
MicroSEXY

bill gates

The South Will Lose Again

Related to my previous post, there's this, from BoingBoing.

Link to mp3 of the Mississippi Tax Commission's phone message explaining why they were closed today.

It seems that when Mississippi was forced to honor Dr. King's birthday, they figured, "We'll see about that" and made it a joint holiday with Robert E. Lee's birthday.

Lee was a great general and all (definitely better than that asshead McClellan.. don't get me started on McClellan, he makes me so mad..), and not all that much of a racist sonofabitch at heart, but still, he fought for racism. King fought against it.

Isn't Hitler/Gandhi day coming up?

Dumbasses.

Long Live The King, Still

Almost missed it.. reprise from last year.

martin luther king
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

"Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. "

"The time is always right to do what is right."

"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it."

Soak

Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

seattle weather

A Kafkaesque Hall of Mirrors

A must read..

Frank Rich in the New York Times on journalistic ethics, payola, and American democracy's accelerating march into history.

But perhaps the most fascinating Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Mr. Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks. In that chat, Mr. Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."


This is a scenario out of "The Manchurian Candidate." Here we find Mr. Cheney criticizing the press for a sin his own government was at that same moment signing up Mr. Williams to commit. The interview is broadcast by the same company that would later order its ABC affiliates to ban Ted Koppel's "Nightline" recitation of American casualties in Iraq and then propose showing an anti-Kerry documentary, "Stolen Honor," under the rubric of "news" in prime time just before Election Day. (After fierce criticism, Sinclair retreated from that plan.) Thus the Williams interview with the vice president, implicitly presented as an example of the kind of "objective" news Mr. Cheney endorses, was in reality a completely subjective, bought-and-paid-for fake news event for a broadcast company that barely bothers to fake objectivity and both of whose chief executives were major contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. The Soviets couldn't have constructed a more ingenious or insidious plot to bamboozle the citizenry.

New York Times

I'd like to emphasize one line there, with which I whole-heartedly agree: "The Soviets couldn't have constructed a more ingenious or insidious plot to bamboozle the citizenry."

This is exactly how I felt when I read the story of the Social Security Administration being used to shill for the President's policies. It looks like it's time for Pogo again.

pogo

Pogo may need a little updating, actually.

"We have met the enemy, and we are worse."

January 16, 2005
Classy

No tragedy is too large for Bill Frist to exploit...

On the ABC News program "This Week," Dr. Frist said that a "huge demographic tidal wave" would hit the program in 2008, when the first baby boomers reach the age of 62 and can obtain benefits, reduced for early retirement.

The New York Times

In related news (same article), the administration is backing down from earlier reports that the Social Security Administration is being used to promote Bush's Social Security "reform" proposals. They're backing down as in they're saying that's not what they meant, not as in actually not doing what they're being accused of doing. You know... backing down, Republican-style.

A communications and marketing plan developed by the Social Security agency says employees should disseminate the message that "Social Security's long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon." The plan says managers should "discuss solvency issues at staff meetings," "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications" and "place articles on solvency in external publications."

The marketing plan came to light after another agency, the Education Department, confirmed that it had paid a conservative commentator, Armstrong Williams, to promote Mr. Bush's main education initiative, known as No Child Left Behind.

Mr. Bartlett said the administration was conducting a review to see if other journalists had been paid to promote administration policies. "The president has made very clear that there ought to be a bright line between journalism and advocacy," he said.

Mr. Bartlett added, "We do believe we shouldn't be doing these things in the future because for appearance' sake, it does leave a cloud or a distinction over whether somebody is being a journalist or an advocate."

That last quote is just brilliant: "We do believe we shouldn't be doing these things in the future because for appearance' sake, it does leave a cloud or a distinction..."

Outstanding. It's good that they at least believe that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing. Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Not because it's wrong, of course, but because it looks bad.

The print edition of the Times carried a significantly more critical piece, detailing how the administration is using the supposedly independent SSA as an arm of their propaganda machine using - get this - the Social Security trust fund itself to fund the effort. That story has been mostly disappeared from the website, replaced with the more wishy-washy version more than halfway down the page.

As a side note, Jared Diamond has a new book out, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Might want to give that a read while there's still time.

January 14, 2005
Graner Guilty

graner

FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 14 - The Army reservist accused of being the ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was found guilty on all charges by a military jury here Friday night, a year to the day after the Pentagon began an investigation into photographs showing Iraqi detainees bound and brutalized or forced into sexually humiliating positions.

The jury of 10 soldiers deliberated for five hours before convicting the reservist, Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., on all but one count of aggravated assault, which it reduced to battery.

New York Times

Graner is facing 15 years, with the sentencing phase already begun.

Of course this is really the least that should happen as a result of Abu Ghraib and related atrocities, but it's a start. Going forward, we should maybe go after the Secretary of Defense and... oh, I don't know, maybe not confirm one of the main architects of this barbarism as our next Attorney General.

January 13, 2005
Best/Worst 5 Minutes of the Week

Once again, and not for the last time, The Daily Show takes the cake, this time on the end of the search for WMD and Social Security.

Brilliant, and so, so sad.

daily show

Hey, I have an idea.. let's make it illegal for the President to hold "town hall meetings" where his people get to pick all the people in the audience and get to tell them exactly what to say. Does anyone know a single real person who thinks this is okay?

The Good Ole Days

Personal statement of the Sheriff of Marshall County, Alabama.

Notice that his pining for the good old days of 1940s Alabama is missing one important fact of life at that time and place. I wonder what that could be...

Judging from the incredible diversity displayed in the department photo, I think Sherriff Holcomb knows what I'm talking about.

Ah yes.. the good old days.

More Social Security Lies

Dan Froomkin reports...

In addition to making deceptive claims about the system going broke, Bush continued to perpetuate a myth about life expectancy so misleading that the Social Security Administration's own Web site goes to great pains to explain how wrong it is.

Said Bush: "The problem is, is that times have changed since 1935. Then most women did not work outside the house, and the average life expectancy was about 60 years old, which for a guy 58 years old must have been a little discouraging. (LAUGHTER)

"Today, Americans, fortunately, are living longer and longer. I mean, we're living way beyond 60 years old and most women are working outside the house."

In fact, as the Social Security Web site states: "If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might naturally come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people would work for many years paying in taxes, but would not live long enough to collect benefits. Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security. A more appropriate measure is probably life expectancy after attainment of adulthood."

Washington Post

I wonder how long it will be before the Social Security Web site stops saying that. I took a screenshot just in case.

Wingnuts of Mass Delusion

I just want to get this out on "paper" to make sure I'm not crazy...

The hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is officially over, 6 months or so after we knew for damn sure it was in reality over, not a shred of evidence of their existence having been found despite our making lots of extra holes in the country and the people over there to get a better look.

Still, according to our batshit insane President, going to war to find the nonexistent weapons was a freaking awesome idea! It was the best decision he ever made. The fact that the reason for it (and all subsequent reasons for it) turned out to be completely, utterly, absolutely false, there was nothing wrong with the decision.

Look, dickface, you just can't have it both ways. If you make a decision based on something that turns out to be completely untrue, how can that decision have been a good decision? Even if it had good results - which I think we can safely say this one has not - the decision was wrong. Go ahead and blame it on the intelligence community, but for god's sake admit that it was wrong!

Say it, chimpy: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here's a little more about why it was oh-so-very-wrong, from the Washington Post:

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

Low's comments came during a rare briefing by the council on its new report on long-term global trends. It took a year to produce and includes the analysis of 1,000 U.S. and foreign experts. Within the 119-page report is an evaluation of Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.

President Bush has frequently described the Iraq war as an integral part of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. But the council's report suggests the conflict has also helped terrorists by creating a haven for them in the chaos of war.

"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."

Before the U.S. invasion, the CIA said Saddam Hussein had only circumstantial ties with several al Qaeda members. Osama bin Laden rejected the idea of forming an alliance with Hussein and viewed him as an enemy of the jihadist movement because the Iraqi leader rejected radical Islamic ideals and ran a secular government.

Washington Post

A truly great decision. Way to go. You rule the school. I can't wait for your trial.

Finally,The Poor Man provides a very nice table comparing the circumstances and effects of the failed hunt for WMD to the Dan Rather "Memogate" scandal.

Why that thing got a -gate name among all the recent atrocities is beyond me. Aren't we about ready for a "Lying Presidentgate?"

Maybe I am crazy...

5,500 Deserters

Here's a story the American press hasn't been reporting...

American Army soldiers are deserting and fleeing to Canada rather than fight in Iraq, rekindling memories of the thousands of draft-dodgers who flooded north to avoid service in Vietnam.

An estimated 5,500 men and women have deserted since the invasion of Iraq, reflecting Washington's growing problems with troop morale.

Jeremy Hinzman, 26, from South Dakota, who deserted from the 82nd Airborne, is among those who - to the disgust of Pentagon officials - have applied for refugee status in Canada.

The United States Army treats deserters as common criminals, posting them on "wanted" lists with the FBI, state police forces and the Department of Home Security border patrols.

Hinzman said last week: "This is a criminal war and any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity. I signed a contract for four years, and I was totally willing to fulfil it. Just not in combat arms jobs."

Hinzman, who served as a cook in Afghanistan, was due to join a fighting unit in Iraq after being refused status as a conscientious objector.

He realised that he had made the "wrong career choice" as he marched with his platoon of recruits all chanting, "Train to kill, kill we will".

He said: "At that point a light went off in my head. I was told in basic training that if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it. I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do.''

telegraph.co.uk

Via Kos

Courage

Your really have to hand it to the right wing, their shamelessness truly seems to know no bounds. Via Daily Kos, we see that a conservative interest group has started running an ad (watch here) promoting Social Security reform featuring Franklin D. Roosevelt. That's right, they're using images of the man in a campaign to completely gut his most lasting and important achievement.

fdr

The Democrats aren't sitting on their hands this time, though. Their new "war room" quickly found a Roosevelt (FDR's grandson) to write them a letter asking that they stop using his grandfather's image.

It has come to my attention that your organization has begun running an advertising campaign to promote President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and cut benefits. The advertisements that are currently being aired feature President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his signing of the original Social Security legislation. I find the use of my grandfather's image and legacy in your campaign to be highly inappropriate.

For seventy years, Social Security has been the bedrock of retirement security for millions of Americans thanks to the efforts of President Roosevelt. My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization. Not only that, but to compare the courage it took to provide a guaranteed insurance program for our seniors and the disabled to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable. We should be working to protect and promote Social Security, not cutting benefits for our seniors.

On behalf of my family, I would ask that you cease using my grandfather's image in your advertising campaign.

Respectfully,
James Roosevelt Jr.

January 11, 2005
USGS Photos, 1872-1991

Via BoingBoing.

Someone has gone to the trouble of posting a gorgeous collection of United States Geological Survey photos, all of which are in the public domain.

usgs photo

iProducts Announced, Coveted

If you're a silly geek like me, you already know that Apple announced some new iProducts today, and you probably also want them, though you're not quite sure why. GIzmodo's parody is spot on (click through for the whole thing).

iproduct

As is the subsequent rebuttal.

As for my opinion on the new products.. The littlest iPod is cute, good for jogging, and cleverly marketed (only Apple would use the fact that it doesn't have a screen as the centerpiece of their campaign). The littlest Mac is a lopped of Cube, and will sell like crazy. Now if only those G5s were $500...

Labor

I'll go ahead and join the chorus recommending a read of The New Republic's editorial on the state of organized labor in America. It's pretty short.

Permission To Speak Idiotically

I'm certainly not pulling for the guy, but maybe Charles Graner should get a new lawyer.

Graner's attorney said piling naked prisoners into pyramids and leading them by a leash were acceptable methods of prisoner control. He compared this to pyramids made by cheerleaders at sports events and parents putting tethers on toddlers.

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments on Monday to the 10-member U.S. military jury at the reservist's court-martial.

Reservist Graner and Private Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child and who is also facing a court-martial, became the faces of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal after they appeared smiling in photographs that showed degraded, naked prisoners.

Prosecutors also presented shocking new videos and photos from Abu Ghraib prison, including forced group masturbation.

Womack said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees. "You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said. "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there."

Reuters

I have nothing else to say about these "people," or whatever they are.

Bumper Sticker

Billmon has a great idea for a bumper sticker...

support our death squads

January 10, 2005
There Are Others

David Corn of The Nation has a little conversation with Armstrong Williams - he of "Paid Shill For The White House" fame - during which Williams let's loose this little tidbit...

And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. "This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said.

The Nation

So, I guess as long as he's not willing to give up any names, we can just assume that every conservative commentator in the country is on the payroll. It would explain a lot, really...

Let Us Trim Our Hair In Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle

Communism is pretty funny, I tell ya...

A campaign exhorting men to get a proper short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run Pyongyang television.

The series is entitled Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle.

While the campaign has been carried out primarily on television, reports have appeared in North Korean press and radio, urging tidy hairstyles and proper attire.

It is the strongest media campaign against men's sloppy appearances mounted in the reclusive and impoverished Communist state in recent years.

The propaganda drive on grooming standards has gone a stage further than previous attempts. This time television identifies specific individuals deemed too shoddy.

BBC NEWS

korean haircuts

The Salvadoran Option

Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is quietly debating a strategy for Iraq similar to what was done in El Salvador in the 80s. Namely, funding death squads.

Say, who's our Ambassador to Iraq these days? Oh yeah, it's John Negroponte, who used to be Ambassador to Honduras, where he was involved in - you guessed it - funding death squads. Probably just a coincidence, sure, but a pretty creepy coincidence.

The Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success . . .

One military source involved in the Pentagon debate . . . suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."

Newsweek

Billmon puts this in it's proper context.

Now, war is an ugly, dirty business in any form, and covert operations aren't necessarily any worse than overt ones. What this development certainly highlights, though, is that our mission in Iraq, whatever that is these days, is a dismal failure. Semi-publicly considering the Salvadoran option shows how desperate our military leaders are. Contrast this with every word you've ever heard come out of the President's mouth.

January 9, 2005
Imagine A Different President, It's Easy If You Try

George W. Bush sings John Lennon's Imagine, with a little Walk On The Wild Side mixed in.

mp3

January 8, 2005
Overload

I just had to take a picture of this...

lots of computers

Now, in our defense (my defense, really.. Liz has little to do with this), while there are seven screens here, there are really only six computers, as one of them is using two monitors, so, you know.. it's not that ridiculous.

And we're not counting the TiVo, which is also a computer, or the old laptop in the basement, or all the potential computers lying around disassembled in boxes.

p.s. - I'm also proud to note that our current Mac to Windows ratio is 2 to 1.

January 7, 2005
Your Propaganda Dollars At Work

By now many of you have already heard about the Bush administration paying a nationally syndicated comentator $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind policy on his television show and to "urge other black journalists to do the same."

Not only is this simply unbelievable, it's blatantly illegal. Will someone be punished? Probably not. The pundit in question, Armstrong Williams is already attempting to dutifully fall on his sword, absurdly claiming that this is all a question of his "bad judgment," not of governmental ethics. He also claims that he was promoting the policy because he believes in it, though he "understands" that the whole quarter of a million dollars thing calls this into some question.

Here's another letter from the GAO (pdf), dated 3 days ago, finding the administration to have broken the law by funding propaganda before.

This is the kind of stuff they used to do in the Soviet Union, only they didn't do it nearly as effectively. More than half of the voters in this country are more or less dedicated to the people who are doing this. They believe everything they're told, which is the point of propaganda. They'll even believe that this is no big deal.

At least some in the Congress aren't quite so delusional. Senators Lautenberg, Kennedy and Reid have written a letter (pdf) to President Bush about the matter.

In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy. Actions like this were common in the Soviet Union, but until now, thought to be long extinguished in our country.

These revelations regarding Mr. Williams are the latest - and most disturbing - in a series of actions by your Administration to manipulate public opinion through covert propaganda. On May 19, 2004, the GAO found that your Administration illegally spent taxpayer funds on covert propaganda by paying Ketchum Incorporated to produce fake news stories promoting the image of the new Medicare law.

As some have noted, if they gave $240,000 to this relatively low-level talk show host, does anyone really believe this is the only example of such manipulation? How much do you imagine they're paying Robert Novak?

Keep in mind that this is taxpayer money we're talking about. Your money. My money.

Honestly, what is it going to take to get these people in jail?

Digby Write...

You read.

No Bad News Is All Good News

Via Atrios, from a source reported to be "quite reliable."

There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear "bad news."

Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.

Dear 51%,

Thanks a lot, you fucking idiots.

- The Rest Of Us

Quote To Ponder

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." --Dwight Eisenhower 1953 speech

Because Richard Gere Said So

Here's something..

We, as a people, seem to have our heads so firmly wedged up our asses that someone among us thinks that using Richard Gere to promote voter participation in Palestine is not completely absurd.

richard gere

Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, Gere has appeared in a television commercial urging Palestinians to vote this Sunday for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat.

"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important. Get out and vote," Gere said in the advertisement. He repeated the final phrase in Arabic.

But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing navy officer in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.

"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar al-Najjar said.

"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them - they elected a moron."

The Age

They're so much smarter than we are. Not only do they realize that America really isn't all that impressive lately, but they don't even care about movie stars.

Imagine if some random Bollywood star popped up on our TVs during an election and reminded us that it was very important for us to get out and vote, that we were witnessing an historic moment and the world was watching us.

Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

January 6, 2005
Presidential Medal of Sucking

A week or so ago, President Bush awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet and a couple of other losers. It was all very ridiculous and absurd, considering that we all know George Tenet completely botched the whole "terrorism" thing.

Well, today it comes out that an internal investigation by the CIA has concluded that Tenet should be held personally accountable for "failing to allocate adequate resources to combating terrorism" before the 9/11 attacks.

That's right.. Medal of Freedom recipient George J. Tenet has been found by his own agency to have been completely negligent in fighting terrorism.

The findings, which are still classified, pose a quandary for the C.I.A. and the administration, particularly since President Bush awarded a Medal of Freedom to Mr. Tenet last month. It is not clear whether either the agency or the White House has the appetite to reprimand Mr. Tenet, Mr. Pavitt or others.

The report says that Mr. Pavitt, among others, failed to meet an acceptable standard of performance, and it recommends that his conduct be assessed by an internal review board for possible disciplinary action, the officials said. The criticism of Mr. Tenet is cast in equally strong terms, the officials said, but they would not say whether it reached a judgment about whether his performance had been acceptable.

Pretty funny, huh?

So weary....

Justice Kickback

The L.A. Times reports on gifts accepted by members of the Supreme Court, most notably Clarence Thomas, who has accepted gifts valued at over $42,000

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts since joining the high court, including $1,200 worth of tires, valuable historical items and a $5,000 personal check to help pay a relative's education expenses.

The gifts also included a Bible once owned by the 19th century author and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, which Thomas valued at $19,000, and a bust of President Lincoln valued at $15,000.

He also took a free trip aboard a private jet to the exclusive Bohemian Grove club in Northern California -- arranged by a wealthy Texas real estate investor who helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court.

Those and other gifts were disclosed by Thomas under a 1978 federal ethics law that requires high-ranking government officials, including the nine Supreme Court justices, to file a report each year that lists gifts, money and other items they have received.

Thomas has reported accepting much more valuable gifts than his Supreme Court colleagues over the last six years, according to their disclosure forms on file at the court.

L.A. Times

It's completely absurd that these guys are allowed to accept gifts from anybody at all. And tires? What's up with that? Dude can't buy his own damn tires?

More ridiculous is that even if there is an appearance of conflict of interest - as there was when Justice Scalia flew to Louisiana aboard Air Force II to go duck hunting with Dick Cheney, who just happened to have a case before the court right then - it's up to the Justice himself to determine if they should be removed from the case. Nice.

My favorite is Thomas' Frederick Douglass and Abe Lincoln memorabilia. Who does he think he's kidding? Those guys would have so totally hated him.

New CNN

I'm still utterly unconvinced that CNN really intends to turn over a new leaf, integrity-wise, but I've been thinking about it a bit, and I agree with Patti's comment that it could be huge, both as a marketing decision and, almost incidentally, as an ethical one.

Imagine what would happen if CNN started a fierce and public campaign to change their ways. They have huge distribution worldwide and still, for whatever reason, have a decent reputation. If they launched a drive to tone down all the whiz-bang, the distracting graphics, the screaming and yelling, and started taking seriously their responsibility to educate and inform the public about world events, presenting things in an honest and truly balanced way, how could anyone argue with it? How could another network not respond? If CNN actually made substantial changes and other networks didn't follow suit, they would be tacitly admitting that they prefer flash over substance and aren't interested in trying to be better news organizations.

If CNN's slogan became "CNN: The Truth For A Change" or something like that, and they actually tried to do it, they'd kick everyone's ass. They have the resources, they have the distribution, they have the reputation, they could use it for immeasurable good. They've seen - from Jon Stewart primarily, among others - that there is a huge market for media that 1) is relatively unbiased, 2) treats the public with respect and 3) isn't afraid to look in the mirror and take some responsibility.

Imagine a show on CNN that showed clips of other news programs, even past CNN broadcasts, and pointed out how unfair, biased, and uninformative they were. "See how we allowed this politician to go off on a little tirade and didn't offer one single substantive challenge? We're not going to do that anymore. See how we're treating unsupported opinions as equal to positions based on real-world information? That's gone, too."

A guy can dream...

January 5, 2005
Carlson Out, America Slightly Less Hurt

Wow.

NEW YORK - CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the "Crossfire" program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television.

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.

Klein on Wednesday told Carlson, one of the four "Crossfire" hosts, that CNN would not be offering him a new contract. Carlson has reportedly been talking with MSNBC about a prime-time opening replacing Deborah Norville.

Carlson did not immediately return a call to his cell phone for comment.

The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.

"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

He said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling.

AP

Does this herald a bright new dawn for CNN in which they take seriously their responsibility to our democracy and to all free people in the world? Probably not. Is it a step in the right direction? Yeah. Do I love it when people ask themselves questions and then immediately answer them? You bet your sweet ass I do.

Obligatory cynicism: They've seen how popular The Daily Show is, they're drooling over the demographic, America: The Book is a smash hit and has been mentioned for a Pulitzer, and they're just doing what they do... That is, they're trying to cash in. Oh, and Crossfire sucked anyway.

(Oh, and here's the video of Jon Stewart on Crossfire, in case you haven't seen it, forgot about it, or want to see it again.)

January 4, 2005
Republican Ethics Reversal

In a surprise move, House Republicans today decided to completely flipflop on their proposed ethics rules changes (see this post). They even went as far as to take back the change they about a month ago to allow leaders to keep their positions while under indictment.

Obviously, these guys were trying to protect their own asses by changing the rules and their constituents gave them an earful over it so their backing off. Truly pathetic. They should be loudly called out for this hypocrisy.

Oh, and they also had to make sure not to give the Democrats any ammunition. These guys would gladly even sacrifice DeLay to push their agenda forward and turn this country into a truly awful, awful place.

Jonathan Grella, a DeLay spokesman, said DeLay still believed it was legitimate to allow a leader to retain his post while under indictment. But Grella said that by reinstating the rule that he step aside, DeLay was "denying the Democrats their lone issue. Anything that could undermine our agenda needs to be nipped in the bud."

ABC News

Keep in mind that these were proposed ethics changes. Their willingness to change, and then change back, depending on the current political winds demonstrates, yet again, that they don't have a clue what the word means.

We Honor Them By Honoring Them

In this past week's New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon gets all uppity with Jeanne L. Phillips, the chairwoman of Bush's Inaugural Committee.

I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.

As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?

I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.

How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?

I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.

Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?

Honoring service is what our theme is about.

The New York Times

January 3, 2005
The End Is Near

Worth reading...

Bill Moyer's acceptance speech for some environmental award. The award isn't important, and neither is the speech. What's important is that Meryl Streep presented the award.

The speech is good, too, even though it'll give you nightmares. It's about Christian apocalypse nuts who actually want to destroy the environment (not to mention paint the entire Middle East a nice shed of crimson) because they think it foretells the End Times - glorious days when they, and they alone, will be saved, while the rest of us will writhe in psychotic agony while feasting on each other's putrefying corpses as they look on smugly from on high. They cheerfully tell this stuff to their children.

In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the Messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up.

Alternet

Quote Of The (Past) Year

Happy New Year everybody. May it bring us all peace.

And now, the absolute, no question, bestest damnest, most awe-inspiringly stupid-ass and yet very deeply meaningful quote of 2004...

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." -President Bush

Goodnight everybody!