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Welcome to the Me Show.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
  • Fox has video online of the debate, which I haven't yet watched. The consensus in the blogoverse has been for the past week or so that the debate itself is pretty inconsequential compared to the post-debate coverage of the debate: the period during which the talking heads establish among themselves who won and rewrite the debate to suit a particular narrative. Of the little I've seen so far, Kerry seems to have gotten the upper hand tonight - and this was the 'foreign policy' debate, which was meant to be Bush's strongest. Hope rises tonight, folks.

  • Kevin Drum points us to this vapid column by Margaret Carlson, in which she quotes "polster" (i.e. GOP operative) Frank Luntz:
    For women, says pollster Frank Luntz, consistency and having someone they can count on are essential. "It is better to be wrong," says Luntz, "than to lack constancy."
    Carlson actually swallows Luntz's, um, crap. Luntz has been an interesting story of late. Josh has summarized it here and here.

  • Russia will finally ratify Kyoto. This means the much-weakened protocol will finally become binding. Russia's delay was rather bizarre, since it will clearly be a boost for Russia's economy - under the emissions-trading regime, Russia will have lots of extra emissions credits to sell to other countries. The existence of a global market in Greenhouse Gas emissions that does not include the US will be a concern for the US and will add serious pressure on Washington to either join the Kyoto protocol or participate in some 'parallel' system.
    By 2012, environmentalists hope the United States might rejoin the system. "We might need to change its name," said Greenpeace's Sawyer. "People in Washington come out in a rash when you mention Kyoto."
    I'm glad to see Russia finally make this move, although as I said, it would have been very strange if it hadn't. Of course, the effectiveness of any international regime depends largely on the openness of the participating countries. Russia's slide towards authoritarianism should be a very grave concern for all of us.

  • Bush Interview transcript, Part 2 of 3.

  • This is the fascinating tale of the Kamikazes, the one's who didn't make it: the survivors. Via Majikthise.

  • Let's see: Four hurricanes hit Florida; two big earthquakes hit California, and we're anticipating a volcanic eruption in Washington. My question is: when's the asteroid gonna hit?

  • Go read Kevin Drum today here and here. Torturing suspected terrorists and paying ransoms to real ones.

  • Wednesday, September 29, 2004
  • Iraq: Not going so well

    According to who? Well, take your pick of pessimists:
    ...former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

    So CIA, State, Defence... Yup, that's pretty much everyone.

  • Obnoxious sign guy update.

    Walking past Roddick Gates today, I saw the man with the giant poster was back. He's finally rewritten the sign, though, so as not to include any obvious bigotry. Score one for the good guys.

  • Bureaucratic politics.

    As much as I hate to do this to you, read Novak's column.
    For President Bush to publicly write off a CIA paper as just guessing is without precedent. For the agency to go semi-public is not only unprecedented but shocking.

    ...Through most of the Bush administration, the CIA high command has been engaged in a bitter struggle with the Pentagon. CIA officials refer to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Douglas Feith as ''ideologues.'' Nevertheless, it is clear the CIA's wrath has now extended to the White House. Bush reduced the tensions a little on Thursday, this time in a joint Washington press conference with Allawi, by saying his use of the word ''guess'' was ''unfortunate.''

    Novak wraps the piece up with a few lines that seem to put the blame on the CIA, but Digby sets him straight. It's not the agency; it's the man in charge.
    Harvard Business School must teach some odd management techniques.

  • More on Missile Defence:
    Normally, when a weapons system is conceived, the Pentagon sets specific requirements that must be approved by a committee of senior military officers. The project is then assessed periodically by the Defense Acquisition Board, a group of high-ranking defense officials from various offices.

    This accountability apparatus has been shunted aside in the case of missile defense. No requirements document was drawn up, and the traditional reviews and assessments have been bypassed. Instead, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which is responsible for developing the system, has been allowed to devise its own goals, test schedules and program reviews.

  • Oh, Donny.

    Here's the latest on the anti-missile system now being installed in Alaska:
    The paucity of realistic test data has caused the Pentagon's chief weapons evaluator to conclude that he cannot offer a confident judgment about the system's viability. He estimated its likely effectiveness to be as low as 20 percent.

    ..."Did we have perfection with our first airplane, our first rifle, our first ship?" Rumsfeld said in an interview last month. "I mean, they'd still be testing at Kitty Hawk, for God's sake, if you wanted perfection."

    The Bushies say this "rudimentary" system is better than nothing. But they're wrong. It's costly ($31 billion spent on missile defence so far); it's causing new arms races; it's irrelevant to the actual threats the US faces. It's an expensive drain on resources which could be focussed on actual threats. It makes us all less safe - both because of its opportunity cost and because it helps keep alive the age-old tradition of interstate warfare. Something we should all be working to bring to an end, and which we were all reasonably optimistic was ending not so many years ago.

  • Tuesday, September 28, 2004
  • Atrios makes an excellent point. You're probably familiar with the so-called 'flypaper' strategy (or justification) for Iraq. By dropping a big military force in Iraq, the US attracts Al-Qaeda operatives to Iraq, fighting and killing them there so they never make it to the US. It is an incredibly dumb argument. Anyway, Atrios turns the argument on its head. True, Iraq is flypaper, but America is the fly.

  • Transcript of O'Reilly's interview with Jon Stewart. This is funny stuff.

  • Partial transcript of O'Reilly's Bush interview.

  • Partial transcript of O'Reilly's Bush interview.

  • North Korea has announced it has nuclear weapons.
    North Korea says it has turned the plutonium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods into nuclear weapons to serve as a deterrent against increasing U.S. nuclear threats and to prevent a nuclear war in northeast Asia.

    Before this, we figured they had at least a couple of nukes, now they probably have several more. No one can say with 100% that this wouldn't have happened if Bush had been willing to continue the Clinton policy of engagement, but nevertheless it is further evidence that Bush has totally lied about miscalculated the threats facing the US and bogged the US down in a conflict peripheral to its real interests.

    Of course, we should recall that Bush didn't entirely ignore the North Korean threat when he first took office. Rogue states with missiles (North Korea and Iran) were the priority, in fact. But his solution to the alleged missile threat was to blow the nation's money on ridiculous and unworkable anti-missile systems, triggering a quiet arms race with both those states, as well as Russia and probably China, in the process. Good for (the arms) business, bad for America.

    And what news from Iran? Aside from the fact that Bush and the Iraq hawks were quite possibly led to war by Iranian agents, Iran is making progress on its own nuclear weapons. Bush says he won't "tolerate" Iran's construction of nukes. Well, he said the exact same thing last May about North Korea.
    "We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea," the president said on May 24, 2003 at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "We will not give into blackmail. We will not settle for anything less than the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program."

    So, if you've been following along, the scores are... Kim Jon Il: 1, Bush:0. Saddam Hussein: -10, Bush:0. Iranian Mullahs: 1, Bush:-1. Al-Qaeda: 3000, Bush:0.

    I hope Kerry skewers Bush on this issue at the debate. Via Kos.

  • Let's go to Florida.

  • Another (better) question for George W. Bush. This one's worth over $8000.

  • Heh. Via Majikthise, Fun with Venn Diagrams.



  • Jimmy Carter:
    [S]ome basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.

    ...It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.

  • Sunday, September 26, 2004
  • Question for President Bush: Who do you support, Powell or Rumsfeld?
    [Powell] rejected the notion, put forward recently by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, that it would be sufficient to hold elections in most, but not all, of Iraq.

    In other words, Mr. Bush, do you have an actual policy on Iraq?

  • Time asks Jon Stewart 10 Questions. Via Wonkette.

  • A fun video by a friend of mine. And click Absurdee and Artist of the Year on this page for music by the same folks.

  • Saturday, September 25, 2004
  • Just received by email:

    Brooke Campbell lost her brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, in Iraq on April 29, 2004. In his last letter to her, Ryan wrote, "Just do me one big favor, OK? Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you." - To Whom it May Concern by Brooke M. Campbell 9-3-04

  • California:
    California regulators yesterday approved the nation's first limits on greenhouse gas produced by automobiles, requiring an average 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from new cars and light trucks by 2016. ... Only the federal government is allowed by law to regulate fuel efficiency, but California regulators say the greenhouse gas regulation is justified under the state's authority to regulate air quality.

  • Friday, September 24, 2004
  • Kerry's line that he voted to give Bush the authority to go to war, but still thinks Bush made the wrong decision to actually go to war has occasionally troubled me. I don't expect Kerry to be perfect, I realize that the Democrats are the only the lesser of two evils. Even so, the apparent disingenousness of the claim bothered me. Well, it won't bother me anymore.

  • Wednesday, September 22, 2004
  • I don't know anything about this organization, but I certainly agree with their professed cause:
    Walter Cronkite called the presidential debates an 'unconscionable fraud' and accused the major party candidates of 'sabotaging the electoral process.'

  • The new Passover. Via Atrios.

  • What I was talking about the other day:
    Poli sci students Kelly Graham and Jamie Ormond were tired of seeing an anti-Semitic message go unchallenged.

  • The Home Computer in 2004. Damn, it's fun living in the future.

  • One of my new favourite bloggers brings this important information to our attention:
    LONDON - The creator of one of the world’s most famous guns, the AK-47 assault rifle, launched another weapon in Britain on Monday — Kalashnikov vodka.

    Lt. Gen. Mikhail Kalashnikov, who invented the AK-47 after being shot by German soldiers during World War II, said he wanted to continue “the good name” of his gun.

    “I’ve always wanted to improve and expand on the good name of my weapon by doing good things,” he told Reuters Television.

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2004
  • Military mom:
    Her younger son took part in the invasion of Iraq and came home in the summer of 2003. Her older son, who is now in Iraq, had to buy his own helmet before he went because the helmet provided by the military did not offer protection against shrapnel and bullets.
    'He is in more danger than my youngest son was in the first wave,' said Martin, a Republican. 'It's a much more dangerous situation than it ever has been.
    'How could we have gone to war without friends, without equipment, without thinking, without strategy, without understanding who the enemy really was, because I don't think we even knew that. We still don't know that today,' Martin said.

  • Syris is pulling back a bit in Lebanon.
    Syrian troops began dismantling small hilltop outposts in the villages of Damour and Aramoun south of Beirut Tuesday morning. Protecting the southern approaches to the capital, the posts were originally established as a defense against an invasion by Israel.

  • Monday, September 20, 2004
  • Just warching Marc St. Maurice of the BlocPot on the local CBC TV news. He's not doing his party or his movement much of a service, talking as if he's a spokesman for pot farmers and criminal gangs: he doubts they hire children, he thinks the cops are stepping up their raids in order to justify their budgets. Towards the end of the interview, he finally made a decent point: prohibition helps the criminals but doesn't stop the smoking. He missed the part where the police have stepped up raids because of US pressure. Dumbass.

  • Bush's campaign has agreed to three debates. They'd been pushing for just two. Digby thinks it shows a lack of confidence among the Bushies: they're tied and need to break out.

  • Things get dirty:
    CBS has acknowledged it can't vouch for documents used in a story questioning President Bush's National Guard service. The network says a former Texas Air National Guard official who was used as a source had misled a producer about where he got the documents used in the story.

    ...McClellan says there are now questions that need to be answered about the source, Bill Burkett -- who he says has reportedly had senior level contacts with the John Kerry [related, bio] campaign.

    Burkett misled CBS, but says he did so to protect his source. Josh Marshall asks why CBS took Burkett on faith to begin with. (CBS has said they stopped investigating the authenticity of the memos after they provided copies to the White House and the White House did not challenge them.) Another question, of course, is: who was Burkett's source (assuming he didn't forge them himself)?

  • Sunday, September 19, 2004
  • Even if it seems a bit Disney-esque, this still looks like a step forward.
    In the 1830s, native Americans were forced out of their homelands. Now they have returned to Washington DC, where a new museum reflects their resurgent optimism. ... More than 15,000 are expected to take part in a procession - in ceremonial tribal dress - down the Mall towards the US Capitol[.]

    A point of local interest:
    Dotted around are some 40 "grandfather rocks" - boulders taken from quarries in Canada and blessed by native elders before being shipped to Washington. The museum building itself, designed by the Canadian Indian architect Douglas Cardinal, is extraordinary, a curving, jutting structure of honey-coloured limestone, like a mesa rising abruptly from the western desert plains.

  • Talk about fueling the conspiracy theories. Josh Marshall today on the investigation into those forged Niger-Uranium documents, or rather the lack thereof.

  • Go to get to work... Got to get to work...

    But first, a cinema review. Alex and I went to Montreal's new DollarCinema yesterday, where we saw Harry Potter 3 - she hadn't seen it yet. The cinema is old, 70s-style, with a barely slanted floor and dirty seats. But it's true: the ticket's a dollar, the drinks are a dollar, the candy and popcorn's a dollar. You can't beat that. Even if they are passing off Pepsi as Coke. But our experience was pretty much ruined not by the griminess of the theater (I've certainly seen worse). No, the problem was the people.

    There were the children. One of the nice things about seeing movies downtown is the relative paucity of peurile progeny. But hey, it was a children's movie, and it was an early show. And luckily, the vast majority of the kids wanted to sit in the front rows, far away from us. So, they were tolerable. Next up, was the Laughing Woman. Where do these people come from? Have they never heard a joke? Every little thing set this woman off into a kind of fit. It's a problem when your enjoyment of the movie inhibits other people's. Laughing Woman took a pill or something and quieted down after the first ten or twenty minutes.

    Seated behind us were two men. Definitely an odd pair for a Harry Potter film. Big, burly guys. One of them kept clearing his throat. One of them, maybe the same one, blew his nose several times. These things were annoying, but not overly so. No, what nearly drove us from the theatre was when one of these guys took off his shoes to favour us with the rank power of his stinking feet. We moved to the end of the aisle, which helped... though some guy with a big head sat down right then just two rows in front of us, which was close enough (given the mild slant of the floor) that he concealed a good portion of the screen.

    Final word: a two-hour movie felt like four hours. Alex says she won't go back. I'd give it another chance, for the right film.

  • Get this man off the air. From a recent Jimmy Swaggart TV show, via Eschaton:
    I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died.

    Link to the video is here. Go to about 36:00 on the video.
    If you watch the video a little past the point where Jimmy says he's gonna kill any homosexual who looks at him, he says, at about 38:00 on the video, "I'm not knocking the poor homosexuals, I'm not. They need salvation just like anybody else. I'm knocking our pitiful, pathetic lawmakers. And I thank God that President Bush has stated -" (applause) -"We need a constitutional amendment that states that marriage is between a man and a woman." Lots more applause there.

    So, which is it, they need salvation or they need death by the hand of the righteous?

    A commenter (Torbonium) at Eschaton asks, "Kill a guy and lie to God about it...which branch of Christianity is this, again?"
    The General sews a little division.
    Finally, here's a fun, if tangential, blast from the past. This happened in 1988 shortly after Jimmy Swaggart was caught with a prostitute:
    Pat Robertson at first said the Swaggart scandal was engineered by his rival Vice-President George Bush to scupper his chances of entering the White House.

  • Friday, September 17, 2004
  • I'm somewhat wary of these sorts of things, but really Amazon's A9 search engine thingamajig looks pretty cool, if only for the ability to write notes about the pages you visit. I think the major reason I'm wary of A9 is the fact that it's Amazon - a major internet retailer. You have to log into A9 to use the cooler features, which means you need an Amazon account. If you ever order anything from Amazon, you need to give them a credit card number. What makes me uncomfortable (for some reason) is that the same company that has my credit card number will then also be following all my searches, etc. Still, I think I'll give it a whirl.

  • Kevin Drum on two different, but related, issues here and (immediately below that) here. The common theme is: the total ass-kicking the Truth is getting these days in the US.

    We need, I think, to get some articulate philosophers - ethicists, epistemologists, and ethical epistemologists - onto some kind of public platform. Even just a weekly column in a major newspaper would probably be a major help. What is truth? Is it valuable, and if so, why or for what end? How does one distinguish it from falsehood? Are there things in between the two extremes of true and false? What constitutes a lie? Such a column could do some critical analysis of statements by public figures (much as Spinsanity and MediaMatters do) but since there are other fora for that, it's not essential. What matters is that people realize that (a) there are truths; (b) they're important for their own sake and for the well-functioning of democracy; etc. etc. It would be important to look at the idea of spin. Maybe the historical origins of the concept of 'freedom of the press'. I don't know. I just feel like we need to stand up for the Truth and make sure people respect it.

  • How did I miss this?

    John Kerry's sister was in Montreal on Friday.

  • Kate sends us this disgusting link... As I've said before, I swing sometimes towards the belief that politics in the US is fundamentally about race. And it sickens me everytime I think about it.

  • ATTN: Canadians

    Know any Americans? Make sure they're voting. Send them to Hell, go there yourself, print out the forms and help your US friends fill them out if you have to. If they're like me, a US citizen who never lived in the US, then this is important:
    Twelve states - Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin - allow U.S. citizens (of voting age) who have never lived in the U.S. to register absentee at the address where at least one of their parents would be permitted to vote. Check the state rules for Montana, Michigan, Wyoming and Missouri, which may allow individuals who have never lived there to vote in one of these states. Note: states in bold are considered 'swing' states.

    If you do not have parental links to one of these states - APPLY anyway, using one of your parent's last residences before they departed from the US. APPLY ASAP - time is running out, especially for those who have not yet registered before. If you run into any issues - contact us again, and with the assistance of the Federal Voting Assistance Program we WILL BE ABLE TO ASSIST YOU.

    I guess I'm lucky. I only just found out that Iowa (my parents' last state of residence) would let me vote. I had already concluded that I would apply regardless of the rules, but it's good to know. The site also sends us to this article on the disenfranchisement of people like me, an issue I discussed some time ago on this blog. This issue, of course, may make it particularly irksome for lazy Americans living abroad to bother voting, which just means that if you're a motivated observer and you've got lazy friends, you can do the research for them. The most important variable this election may be voter turnout. Do whatever you can.

  • River at Baghdad Burning doesn't seem to post as much as she used to. Could be the bombing. Or the power shortagees. So I'm glad to see she's come back to us with an update on life in Baghdad and a review of Fahrenheit 9/11.

  • Juan Cole update.

    It's a sad testament to me that I read Juan Cole less than daily. I'm probably averaging about once a week, maybe twice. Read his latest on Israel.
    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in remarks on Wednesday repudiated the American-sponsored "road map" to a peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. ... (Most Americans would be appalled if the United States suddenly chased all the Iraqis out of Baghdad and brought in Americans to permanently take over their apartments and other property, instead. But that is an exact analogy for how the Israelis are behaving.)

    Also noteworthy from Stephen Farrell via Cole:
    ". . . this week Iraqis sat down to watch a wicked television satire updating the legend of the genie and the lamp. Summoned to a darkened flat to grant his customary wishes, the hapless blue-bearded genie is asked to repair the electricity supply, but can only attach the wires to the neighbours' generator, which promptly breaks down.

    Beseeched to improve the nation's security, he disappears only to reappear bruised and battered, having been run over by US tanks. The message is clear. In the land of the Arabian Nights, even the genie can't fix Iraq."

    And while we're on the subject of Iraq:
    Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called on Wednesday for general elections to be held at the scheduled time (January 2005).
    ...Sistani's quite resonable demand for elections is nevertheless among the greatest dangers facing the Allawi government and the Americans. It will be extremely difficult actually to hold the elections on time. But Sistani believes only such elections can produce a legitimate government, and he already accepted a six-month delay. If the elections are not held, and if Sistani begins to fear they won't be held soon, he may well call the masses into the streets. That could lead to an overthrow of Allawi and an expulsion of the Americans. Keep your eye on February and March of 2005.
    Incidentally, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan predicted that it would be impossible to hold the elections on time.

  • How to make a military coup d'etat

    Via dKos, Sidney Blumenthal writes in yesterday's Guardian about how things in Iraq are going, according to several retired Generals and military experts. There's no real Iraqi military, since the US decided to disband the old Iraqi army. So, no, it's not a military coup in Iraq I'm concerned about. (Massive civil war, yes; military takeover, no.)
    General Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and the senior military officers over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen with any previous government, including Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."

    What a freaking disaster this President is. Read the whole article.

  • The unluckiest Republican ever. I hope some enterprising reporter follows this up.

  • More bad news from Iraq.

  • Thursday, September 16, 2004
  • Looking for work? Here's a job as a cashier... in Kabul. The pay is good.

  • Wednesday, September 15, 2004
  • And from the Those Crazy Germans file...
    The German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) is celebrating 10 years of its online service by adding a new language to the 30 it already publishes - Klingon.

  • Whoa:
    The U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq without the approval of the U.N. Security Council was ''illegal,'' Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC on Wednesday.

    ''I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time without U.N. approval and much broader support from the international community,'' he said in an interview with the BBC World Service.

  • Just for the record, these two particular lies deserve to be mentioned in the same post. Quite some time ago, Bush lied by claiming he had served in the Air Force. Quite recently, he lied by claiming that 18 other presidents had served in the National Guard. More here. Josh Marshall asks:
    If Kerry had said something similar, would we be hearing about it?

    You can follow the links if you like. In each case, the lie is just barely defensible as some kind of exaggeration or misstatement. But that's precisely the point: the willingness to completely stretch the truth up to if not past the point of breaking. The total lack of respect for the truth.

    Compare and contrast:
    "And I'll tell you this, I'm going to fight every single day until 8 p.m. — or whenever it is — on Nov. 2 when we're going to change the direction of this country."
    The candidate's fiery statement was marred only by that Kerry-esque clause that he added ("or whenever it is") in an apparent effort to define at precisely what time on Election Day he would stop campaigning.

  • Atrios quotes the Chillicothe Gazette's Campaign Notebook's review of a Bush rally in Portland, OH:
    Most confusing sign of the day: "If Jesus weren't a Jew, he'd be an American."

    Sorry, but there's nothing confusing about this. It mean: We appropriate the message of Jesus, but reject his people. Jews, it says, are not Americans. Also, it says that Americans are better than everyone else, closer to the divine.


  • More observations

    So there's this guy who sometimes hangs out in front of McGill University's main gates with a giant sign which he hoists over his head with a stick. The sign claims that the Montreal Jewish General Hospital practices racism. I have no knowledge of the hospital or whether it's a racist institution. If the sign stopped there, it would be a sympathetic cause. Regrettably, this verbose placard goes on to argue that the reason the MJGH is racist is that Judaism is a false religion.

    I've seen the guy a couple of times, which is necessary if you're going to read the whole sign, and so the last time I saw him I mentioned that his sign was very rude. He responded with something obnoxious, which I barely heard because I was already walking away. Well, today I saw a couple of students who've adopted a much better approach then my own.

    These two girls are standing in front of him with smaller signs of their own. I only read the one, but it said, "That man's poster is a blight on the multicultural diversity that make's Montreal great" or something to that effect. Way to go, kids. What an excellent example of free, civil, public discourse.

  • Fashion Police or How did I get so old?

    I sat in today on the class I'm TA'ing this semester and made the mistake of sitting a few rows back. I wanted to be able to see the prof without straining my neck. Instead, I was bombarded by naked teenage buttcheeks and thongs. Find a seat, bend over, expose ass, sit down. Stand up to let someone by, expose ass, hike pants, sit down. Climb the stairs, stretch legs, expose ass. Bend down, unzip bookbag, expose ass. You get the idea. So much buttockery for an academic setting. I mean, what's the world coming to? What's wrong with kids these days?

  • Harsh words for the president... from Republicans:
    The Bush administration's plans to divert $3.46 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds for security could increase dangers in the long run, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Wednesday. ... [Sen. Richard] Lugar also said the slow pace of spending on reconstruction ''means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq.'' ... Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., described the request as ''an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble.'' ... Lugar criticized ''the blindly optimistic people'' inside and outside the administration. ''The lack of planning is apparent,'' he said.


  • They attack us because they hate freedom... right?
    Rutigliano said he thought the Stryker Brigade had defeated local insurgents, but he predicted they'd be back. 'It doesn't matter how many we kill, they'll always keep coming back,' he said. 'They've all got cousins, brothers. They have an endless supply.'

  • The WaPo has a very good editorial on the responses to Putin's reforms from Bush and Kerry.
    Like a number of dictators around the world, Mr. Putin is learning that Mr. Bush's passion for delivering speeches about freedom doesn't mean he is willing to defend it in practice. Were he to do so, he would begin by issuing a statement as clear as that delivered yesterday by Democrat John F. Kerry. Mr. Kerry began by vowing to "work constructively with Russia" against terrorism, and then added: "I remain deeply concerned about President Putin's ongoing moves to limit democratic freedoms and further centralize power. Russia will be a much more effective partner in the war on terror if its government is transparent, open to criticism, respectful of the rule of law and protects the human rights of its citizens, including those in Chechnya. Simply looking the other way -- as the Bush administration has done -- is not in the national security interest of the United States or Russia."

  • Tuesday, September 14, 2004
  • If you've got broadband, I recommend this documentary. The alert at the top of the page telling you this is to balance out liberal propaganda... is ironic. This is a long video, so only click the link if you've got twenty minutes.

  • This is the story of Lynne Gobbell, a Kerry supporter from Alabama. It's funny; you should read it. Via Atrios. I do hope we'll be hearing more of Ms. Gobbell.

  • Wonkette reports that the Sloganator came up, then went down again. In the interim, she was able to make this poster, among others:



  • Greg Palast has been the go-to guy on a number of important issues for some time now, including the efforts by Florida in 2000 to prevent blacks from voting and the threat to democracy that is paperless electronic voting machines. Today, Ezra wants everyone to take notice and spread the word about Greg Palast's latest. As summarized by Ezra, this one's on Geoge Bush's Corruption:
    • Barnes, as he now admits, pulled strings to get a young George W. Bush into the Guard.
    • Barnes, a former Lt. Governor of Texas, was a corporate lobbyist when Bush ran for governor in 1994.
    • Barnes' client, GTech, was accused of corruption (and were being investigated by the FBI for attempting to influence lawmakers) and about to lose its license to run the Texas state lottery.
    • Barnes made a deal with Bush, under which he kept silent about Bush's Guard connections if Bush got Gtech the deal again.
    • Bush spoke to the head of the lottery commission and the commission reversed itself, giving GTech a no-bid contract.
    • Barnes got paid $23 million, Bush took the governor's mansion.

    Palast has an unsigned letter which details this information, as well as other sources - though those are unnamed. How reliable is this letter? Can the Democrats push this line of attack when a major premise of at least much of the evidence is that Barnes was being dishonest before, but is being honest now?

  • Update on the North Korean explosion: Colin Powell (aka Mr. Invisible) now says NK's explanation (it was a demolition for a hydroelectric project) is consistent with US observations.

  • Current results for today's unscientific Globe and Mail online poll question "Do you think the first ministers' meetings will result in a long-term fix for our health-care system?":
    Yes... 836 votes (10%)
    No... 7296 votes (90%)

    Canadians: not an optimistic bunch.

  • More explosions in Baghdad. CNN quotes Iraqi officials as saying at least 27 people are dead. It is getting very hairy.

    Late Update: The Globe and Mail now quotes Iraqi officials as saying 47 people dead, over a hundred wounded. The targets were Iraqis applying to join the police force. This is in addition to other attacks: 11 police shot to death in Baqouba, an oil pipline blown up.

    Atrios covers Wolf Blitzer's moronic coverage.

  • Kerry is on the offensive:
    "They have taken their eye off the real ball," Mr. Kerry said, his voice almost shaking in anger. "They took it off in Afghanistan and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in North Korea and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in Russia, and the nuclear materials there, and shifted it to Iraq."

    The focus is aboveall on North Korea.
    On Sunday night, Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, told of Mr. Kerry's comments, said: "Senator Kerry wants to return to the failed policies of the previous administration, where the U.S. was duped. We've been down that road before and we have no intention of letting it happen again."

    Presumably, Scott is implying that Clinton was duped by North Korea. Does he really want to be talking about duping? Two words for Scott McClellan: Ahmed Chalabi.

  • I'm happy to retract my earlier statement that linking the lapse of the Assault-Weapons ban and Al-Qaeda is ludicrous. Here's why:
    'Al Qaida, having put in its own manuals that we discovered in Afghanistan, an encouragement for its recruits: go to America to buy assault weapons. Find assault weapons in America,' said Mr. Kerry.

    Way to go, Kerry.

  • As I may have hinted at earlier, the Congressional Republicans have been going more than a little over the top as they begin to sense the approaching election. So, they're clever plan is to schedule a bunch of votes on stupid-ass issues designed to put Democrats on the spot. The most blatant example of this is a vote on a flag-desecration amendment. Kevin Drum has got the bestest response to this Republican-style stupidity, namely: some Democrat-style stupidity:
    Maybe some bright Democrat should propose an amendment that creates a new entitlement requiring the federal government to provide a new flag once a year to every family in America. Not only is it the patriotic thing to do, but it would help small, family-owned, American flag-making businesses. Do I hear a motion?

  • Monday, September 13, 2004
  • You should take the time to read TIME's interview with John Kerry. It'll make you feel better. My favourite bits:
    TIME: Our latest poll indicates that terrorism has become the No. 1 issue for voters.

    KERRY: I will fight a more effective war on terror, and over the next weeks the American people will see the phoniness of the Bush efforts.

    They haven't done port security; they're cutting cops; they haven't taken assault weapons off the streets. Firehouses are opened in Iraq; they're shut in the United States. Port security: 95% of our containers come in, and they are uninspected.

    The fact is that these guys talk tough, but they haven't done what is necessary to make America as safe as it can be. There have been more terrorist incidents around the world in the last months than any time in recent history. Whole parts of Iraq are under the control of terrorists, and they never were. Afghanistan is exporting drugs like opium like never before, and whole parts of the country are under the control of the Taliban and terrorists again.

    We're in a stronger place than I've been in any campaign I've ever run before. You looked at the polls; there wasn't one of you who said I'd be the nominee. Well, I'm going to win this race because Americans want better leadership.


    TIME: One question that has left the President at a loss for words is whether he has had regrets. Do you?

    KERRY: I've made mistakes, and I've done things that I regret, sure. I regret voting for Justice Scalia. I regret that any of us put faith in what the President said about how he would take America to war.

  • Josh Marshall has just about the best critique of anything ever, which he puts to good use against the newly resurgent flypaper thesis:
    Logically it is nonsensical; strategically it is moronic; morally it is close to indefensible.

  • Mysteriously, no matter how many times I bang my head against the wall, I can't shake out the idea that Republican politicians are totally insane.

  • So much for the sewage treatment. Bush is shifting $3.46 billion from the water, power and other reconstruction projects to improve security, boost oil output and prepare for elections scheduled for January. Oh, and also for elections scheduled for November. Oodgay ost-warpay anningplay, Mr. Bush.

  • To read this report, at least, there can be no denying that Putin is doing his best to acquire as much personal power as possible in the wake of the Beslan tragedy. Sound familiar? But really, at least the Patriot Act was nominally related to counterterrorism. Putin's reforms include switching to proportional representation in the Duma and letting the head of state appoint regional governors. I remain convinced that a strong presidency is a good plan for Russia - but outright authoritarianism is always bad.

  • North Korea's official explanation for that large explosion last week:
    North Korea on Monday reportedly told a visiting British diplomat in Pyongyang that a billowing cloud of smoke caused by an explosion last week was the planned demolition of a mountain for a hydroelectric project, according to news reports.

    South Korea and the US remain, according to the report, dubious, though Pyongyang has made invitations to their ambassadors to come and view the site. Some kind of military accident is not being ruled out, though everyone's emphasizing that it was not a nuclear event. Speaking as someone who knows very little about these sorts of things, I do think that it would not be possible to cover up a nuclear explosion for very long. Various private groups all over the world with geiger counters would notice.

  • Sunday, September 12, 2004
  • Reuters' latest on the chaos today in Baghdad:
    It was one of the heaviest barrages in the capital in months. "We've seen a tremendous increase in the number of attacks," Brigadier General Erv Lessel, a U.S. military spokesman, told Reuters.

    The story says at least 110 peope died Sunday in Iraq. There seems to be a simultaneous push from both sides (i.e. US and insurgent).

  • OK, while I blame the major media for ignoring Afghanistan, I realize my own laziness has contributed to my ignorance as well. So, if you're like me, check out Radio Free Europe's Afghanistan reports to catch up on what's been going on.

  • Heh. Via Kevin Drum and the Guardian:
    A furious row has broken out over claims in a new book by BBC broadcaster James Naughtie that US Secretary of State Colin Powell described neo-conservatives in the Bush administration as 'fucking crazies' during the build-up to war in Iraq.

    Powell's extraordinary outburst is alleged to have taken place during a telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The two became close friends during the intense negotiations in the summer of 2002 to build an international coalition for intervention via the United Nations. The 'crazies' are said to be Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

  • No, you just can't trust those Reuters reporters:
    A Reuters reporter saw Khan backers shouting 'Death to Karzai' and 'Death to America' before setting fire to the offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.N. Assistance Mission and the U.N. Development Program.

    Damn pyromaniac journalists.
    Anyway, Karzai is attempting to consolidate his position.
    Karzai replaced the governors of Herat and the restive province of Ghor after launching his election manifesto with a pledge to rein in warlords.

    I have very little sense of what's happening in Afghanistan. I blame the media.

  • The news is coming in fast and furious this morning. I should probably just stop posting, but, well, here's another post.

    First, a US official (why are they always nameless?) is now saying the large cloud over North Korea could be due to a forest fire. While I'm tempted to add "or a weather baloon", I realize that would be hasty.

    Meanwhile, heavy fighting in central Baghdad.

  • Just ranting:

    Kerry needs to get on a few things. The W stands for Wrong thing is at least the right message to be sending (even if Wonkette says it's stupid).
    But the Dems need to make it very clear why W is so wrong. And frankly, while it's a good idea to focus on the assault-weapons ban, trying to say its lapse strengthens Al-Qaeda is a little ludicrous.
    But we're seeing reports of a possible Nuclear Test by NK. The fact that we're even on such pins and needles about it (i.e. regardless of whether it's true) means Bush's policy of disengagement, flip-flopping into a belated policy of multilateral engagement, and labelling of NK one of the axis of evil, has been a miserable failure.
    Playing off the headlines again, Kerry should be in Florida right now talking about the weather. He doesn't have to be all crazy-alarmist, but he can point to Ivan the Terrible and say "the US and the world have got to try and do something about the weather" and he can point out the threat to the US economy and US lives and say that Bush's pro-Oil, anti-environmental agenda is a miserable, short-sighted failure. A better leader could not have prevented these storms, but he would be doing something to try to protect the US from even worse storms in the future, instead of just pretending the problem doesn't exist.

  • Via Jazz Shaw, it seems that the GOP missed the deadline to get on Florida's ballot. Florida, of course, is happy to bend the rules.

  • Reports of a possible nuclear test by North Korea.
    UPDATE: For what it's worth, South Korea's Unification Minister says the explosion (which happened three days ago, but is only now getting press) was unlikely to be nuclear.

  • Reports of more than a dozen explosions in Baghdad. These ones, though they apparently produced "thick plumes of smoke" did not make any mushroom clouds.

  • Saturday, September 11, 2004
  • Movie Review: HERO

    As I watched this movie, I felt I was experiencing a very interesting moment in world history. This is Chinese propaganda. It's very good Chinese propaganda, and well worth seeing, but it remains propaganda. Just as Hollywood produces a massive amount of highly-effective American propaganda, Hong Kong is starting to produce similar Chinese propaganda. Hero is a defence of authoritarianism as a governing principle. Going further it is, at minimum, a defence of a unified Chinese state (with obvious implications for Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet). At a maximum, it is a defence of the attainment of global hegemony through war. If you've seen the film, you should read this post at Daily Kos, which elucidates these themes and also focusses on the film's patriarchal message.

    Update: More at this IMDB thread.

  • Read Juan Cole's September 11 and Its Aftermath. Why Al-Qaeda attacked the US, how Bush screwed up the response, and how that screw-up plays right into the hands of Al-Qaeda's ideologues.

  • Via Atrios, the latest outrage. A Texas utility company is forging a new path in rate-setting. The company will charge higher rates to people with low "credit scores." Slacktivist explains:
    Your "credit score" can be lowered for many reasons -- some legitimate, some arbitrary, many which you are helpless to change regardless of how responsible you may be. One variable which inevitably results in a lower credit score is a lower income.

    So, in other words, the billing mechanism is "regressive," it will charge poor people more than rich people. To be sure, poor people often pay more per unit on utilities because they use less of them; the rich (as heavy consumers) get bulk rates. But this is something else entirely.
    The bottom line is this: TXU wants to charge poor people a higher rate than they charge rich people. Why? Because those poor people were having trouble paying the lower rate. This ain't a bank loan, it's the freaking utility bill.

    Class warfare indeed.

  • A veritable study in error, misinformation, confusion, and forgetfulness: you absolutely must read this response to the typewriter controversy by Gary Farber, who is somewhat older than I am.

    The background to this, in case you're not avidly following it yourself, is that (unsurprisingly) some people have raised questions about the authenticity of the memos revealed by CBS a couple of days ago. It's all gotten rather absurd. The Philosoraptor has called for rationality, but nobody's listening.

  • Yup. Bush has been paying the Iraqi insurgents. Oh, and arming them. Way to go, W.

    To be fair, the Fallujah Brigade, which was originally under the command of the US Marines, seems to me like a relatively creative attempt to solve a pretty much intractable problem.
    The Marines' hope was that because of their military training and pride in having responsibility for their town, brigade members would stand up against those who fought the American military and Iraqi interim government forces.

    Creative, but bound to fail. The Fallujah Brigade has just been dissolved. Many of its members are joining the insurgents (or were already working with them anyway), and they are now better armed, thanks to the Marines. Read the article. Kevin Drum is just about ready to declare that Iraq has become America's West Bank.

  • September 11, 2004.

  • Friday, September 10, 2004
  • Blog alterations:

    You may notice that I've added (in as inoffensive a way as possible) some Google-based ads over on the right. I've also dropped the Buzzflash column. I found I never much used the Buzzflash column, even though Buzzflash's articles are often good reading. I don't anticipate making any money from the Googleads, what with my three regular visitors, but I wanted to see how it's done. Comments or suggestions on these or any other alterations you'd like to see done are always welcome.

    Update: I've added a Googlesearch box too. Clicking on ads that come up when you run a search through that box will also get me money, but I expect it will be more useful as a quick way of searching through the archives.

  • Richard Pipes, whose Concise History of the Russian Revolution I highly recommend, says Russia should give up Chechnya and tries to make the case that the US and others are wrong to link the Chechen issue with Al-Qaeda.
    The attacks on New York and the Pentagon were unprovoked and had no specific objective. Rather, they were part of a general assault of Islamic extremists bent on destroying non-Islamic civilizations. As such, America's war with Al Qaeda is non-negotiable. But the Chechens do not seek to destroy Russia - thus there is always an opportunity for compromise.


  • Recently Bush has been cooing over the diminished US deficit as evidence of his successful management of the economy. The claim is that we should pay no attention to the fact that the deficit is totally out of control, we should care only about the fact that the deficit is much lower than expected (because his tax breaks are helping to grow the economy). Today, Paul Krugman explains why in fact the deficit is so much lower than predicted. The logic should be familiar to Canadians who've seen pretty much the same thing time and again from Paul Martin. The US Office of Budget Management inflated the original expectations.

  • Thursday, September 09, 2004
  • I'm curious to see both public reaction to and political spin on the new tape from Bin Laden advisor Ayman al-Zawahri. Is it good news for Bush when scary Arab faces show up on TV, or bad news when Americans are reminded that his whole 'war on terror' thing has been a massive failure?

  • Josh Marshall asks, since when do transcripts of White House press gaggles include editorial comments?
    Q This was a direct order he defied, right? I mean, he did have a direct order that he defied?*

    MR. McCLELLAN: John, these issues have come up every year. This was all part of the records -- that he was seeking to transfer to a unit in Alabama because he was going there to work in a civilian capacity. And he was granted permission to do so. And he was proud of his service and he was honorably discharged in October '73, after meeting his obligations.

    *The memos that were released, in fact, show the President was working with his commanders to comply with the order.

    PDF copies of the memos in question are available here, here, here, and here.

    UPDATE: Atrios points out that in fact, Scott was "speaking out of his asterisk" as early as August 18th.

  • File this for future reference:

    This article by Columbia Law Prof. Michael Dorf examines the US Supreme Court's Florida 2000 decision and the question of whether or not Americans have a constitutional right to vote in their own presidential elections. The Supreme Court ruled that they don't. It's up to the state legislatures how the state's electoral college votes are determined. According to the Supreme Court's narrow interpretation, those legislatures are under no constitutional obligation even to hold a vote for the federal presidency.

    I came across this as I'm following up various details of this very well written piece by Charles Pierce, linked to today by Atrios, which argues that American democracy is threatened by an alignment of rightist forces with the commercial media and by the idea of the Daddy State.
    Our president is our Daddy. He will make his wars to keep us safe, and all we have to do is love him back, and do what he tells us to do. Go shopping. Go on happy vacations. Leave the decisions to Daddy and to Daddy’s friends. They run things so we don’t have to.

  • I suppose the big news in this story is that a hefty number of Americans are concerned about "foreign antipathy to the US," including its president. But I think this is the most interesting bit:
    According to a separate Globescan survey of public opinion in 35 countries, in 30 of them a majority wanted Mr Kerry to win, on average by a more than two to one margin. Only in Poland, Nigeria and the Philippines among countries surveyed was Mr Bush preferred. In two others, India and Thailand, opinion was more or less split.

    I'd wager that Bush supporters in India are of two kinds: anti-Muslim types (Hindu or Christian), and people beneffiting from outsourced American jobs who fear Kerry's focus on American employment.

  • Another attack, probably a car bomb, in Jakarta, this one at the Australian embassy.

  • Wednesday, September 08, 2004
  • Ah, like a breath of fresh air. Breathe it in. Breathe it in deep:
    Basically, they're shitting bricks.

    Smells good, don't it?

    Link via Eschaton.

  • Flip-flop. Bush, backing down, now says the new Intelligence Czar should have budgetary powers. I wonder which was more important in bringing about this volte-face: the bad PR of ignoring the September 11th Commission, or the weakening of Rumsfeld as the Abu Ghraib reports put the blame on the Office of the Secretary of Defence.

  • Juan Cole on why Cheney wanted to benefit Halliburton by going to Iraq:
    What was in it for Cheney? I don't think it was a matter of money. At least I hope it wasn't. Cheney sold half his Halliburton stock options in 2000 for $5 million, and it is hard to imagine a man taking his country to war to increase the other half in value by a few million.

    I suspect it is political. Not all corporations make money on war. Some actually lose money. But Halliburton, Bechtel and a few other components of the Military Industrial Complex do benefit from war. Strengthening that sector of the American economy strengthens the political Right. Turning the Republic into a praetorian state would permanently yield profits for the military industrial complex in such a way as to create a permanent Republican dominance of all the branches of the US government.

  • You know things are getting bad when...
    Dozens of international aid agencies considered quitting Iraq Wednesday following the abduction of two Italian women, and as the U.S. military death toll rose above 1,000.

  • See Dick Cross the Line

    To introduce an otherwise decent article, two USA Today writers use this unfortunate sentence:
    The presidential campaign spiked to a new level of rhetorical heat Tuesday when Vice President Cheney warned that a vote for Democrat John Kerry could bring terrorist attacks on the USA.

    Spiked. To a new level. Of rhetorical heat.

    First, "spiked" is a bad verb choice here, because a "spike" goes both up and down, and we have yet to see whether the campaign's "level of rhetorical heat" will go down again. For now, "rose" or some similar verb of ascension would be more accurate. Second, what the hell could be meant by the campaign's "level of rhetorical heat"? I will assume it means "amount of nasty bullshit," but the phrase is hopelessly unclear. Third (and probably most importantly), we'll wrap up this analytic exercise by noting the authors' misattribution of the sentence's action. To wit: "the presidential campaign" did nothing; Dick Cheney cranked the pyscho-knob all the way up to 11. So, let's just make the corrections, shall we?
    Dick Cheney cranked his nasty bullshit all the way up to 11 Tuesday when he warned that a vote for John Kerry could bring terrorist attacks on the USA.

    Much better.

    P.S. I'm really offended by the authors' mistake number 3. It clearly softens Dick Cheney's nastiness and implies that the "rhetorical heat" was coming from the other side as well. But here's the Kerry-Edwards response, given by Edwards:
    “Dick Cheney's scare tactics crossed the line today, showing once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs. Protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it's an American issue and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that.
    “John Kerry and I will keep America safe, and we will not divide the American people to do it.”

    Not much rhetorical heat there. Just saying it like it is. Dick crossed the line.

    Late Update: Maybe now, mid-Wednesday, would be an appropriate time to use the word "spiked." From this commentary by Dan Froomkin (well worth a read), we learn that Cheney's staff has been qualifying the offending statement, trying to brind down the rhetorical heat, I guess.

  • The Demonstration Effect or Why Bush's Doctrine of Unilateralism is Bad for the USA:
    Russia may try to assassinate Chechens in the West after announcing it reserved the right to attack "terrorist bases" anywhere in the world, the spokesman for the rebel region's main separatist leader says. ... The chief of Russia's general staff, Yuri Baluevsky, said on Wednesday Moscow would "carry out all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world".

    The [latter] statement implies a threat of military strikes, rather than assassinations, and experts said a target could be Georgia, which Moscow has long accused of harbouring rebel bases.

    My point is not that Russia will launch an attack on a Western country, or even that it is likely to try to assassinate anyone on Western soil. My point is that a new level of unpredictability is being created in world affairs, and as the world's dominant power, the US has the most to lose. As if the unstability released by US unilateralism weren't enough, there's another 2,000-pound gorilla trying to throw its weight around.

    That's bad enough, but if Bush's decision that Iraq had al-Qaeda ties was self-serving and based on no evidence, one can only imagine the justifications and false evidence Russia might turn up.

  • Moldova Update: The new schoolyear brings heightened tensions. The Transdniester authorities insist that Moldovan-language schools use the Cyrillic alphabet (like Russian), but a few of them persist in using the Latin Alphabet (used in the rest of Moldova and Romania). This continues a long history of making language a central front in the political struggle for control over the Transdniester. Here's a good photo from the BBC:
    Soldier on guard in Trans-dniester

  • Tuesday, September 07, 2004
  • No level too low for Dick Cheney. Via Josh Marshall.
    If Kerry were elected, Cheney said the nation risks falling back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that terrorist attacks are criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he said Bush's offensive approach works to root out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressure countries that harbor terrorists.

    Josh has a couple of other particularly good posts this evening. Make sure you check them out.

  • When commas go amissing:
    With the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicting this year's federal deficit will reach $422 billion less than earlier forecasts but still the highest ever Kerry told supporters in North Carolina that the deficit represented other bad Bush choices.

    $422 billion less? The highest ever Kerry? Clearly, Bush is leading the economy in the right direction while the drug-loving hippy Democrat just wants to take the country for a ride!

  • Today's letter is the letter W. W stands for Wrong... And as if it weren't totally redundant at this point, I'd like to point out the gaul of Mr. Cheney, who had this to say when Kerry said the Coalition of the Willing was phony:
    "Demeaning our allies is an interesting approach for someone seeking the office of the presidency."

    The Bush administration's Petulant Unilateralism is demeaning to every other country on the planet. Their attitude toward the UN is: Fuck you, we don't need you wimps. You want to talk about demeaning? April 2003:
    Ambassador Paul Cellucci said Canada’s failure to join Washington’s war coalition would lead to “short-term strains” in Canada-US relations. Asked what form those strains might take, Cellucci replied, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

    Adding insult to injury, the day after it was made public Bush would not be coming to Ottawa, the White House announced that the president has invited Australian Prime Minister John Howard to visit his Texas ranch May 2-3.

    This is obviously just the first example I could come up with. There are surely thousands more. The absurdity of the White House's claim (repeated over and over and over again) that anyone who suggests the Coalition of the Willing is a sham is somehow insulting the Willing is, well, absurd. It's an absurd way of deflecting the criticism without answering it. How many non-US troops are there in Iraq? How much of the military cost is being borne by the US taxpayers?

  • Perspective:
    An average of 115 persons die each day in motor vehicle crashes in The United States -- one every 13 minutes.

  • If you're like me, you've been thinking for some time now that actually being insane would have to be better than this. Well, friends, I think I've found the way there. But be warned, you follow that link at your own risk.

  • Don't miss Homestar Runner's Labour Day video.

  • Monday, September 06, 2004
  • If you're scanning the news this evening, you may see some references to the Poincare Conjecture. For what it's worth, here it is:
    In its original form, the Poincaré conjecture states that every simply connected closed three-manifold is homeomorphic to the three-sphere (in a topologist's sense) , where a three-sphere is simply a generalization of the usual sphere to one dimension higher. More colloquially, the conjecture says that the three-sphere is the only type of bounded three-dimensional space possible that contains no holes. This conjecture was first proposed in 1904 by H. Poincaré (Poincaré 1953, pp. 486 and 498), and subsequently generalized to the conjecture that every compact n-manifold is homotopy-equivalent to the n-sphere iff it is homeomorphic to the n-sphere. The generalized statement reduces to the original conjecture for n = 3.

  • Matt Yglesias comments on Chechnya and Al-Qaeda.

  • Dude needs a carwash. This is pretty funny, so check it out. Via Pandagon.

  • Last night I referred to the notorious Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith. But I had completely forgotten about this account by Gen. Tommy Franks of working with Mr. Feith:
    I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day.

    Shrillblog has more. Link via Eschaton.

  • Ach:
    A massive car bomb exploded today on the outskirts of Falluja, killing seven U.S. marines and wounding several others in the deadliest attack on Americans since May.

    ...Four Iraqis were wounded by fire from U.S. troops near the site of the bombing, said Ahmed Bassem of the Fallujah General Hospital.

    ...With today’s deaths and those of two U.S. soldiers in a mortar barrage outside Baghdad a day earlier, 985 U.S. service members have died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, according to the U.S. Defence Department.

    U.S. forces have not patrolled inside Falluja since April, when U.S. marines ended a three-week siege. The city has since fallen into the hands of insurgents who have used it as a base to manufacture car bombs and launch attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government forces.

  • Juan Cole has an interesting update on the FBI investigation into, as he puts it, "the pro-Likud Neocon clique in Washington." The gist of this is that some of the Neocons, who are indeed radically pro-Israel, operating from within the Pentagon, may have illegally provided classified information to an influential Israeli Lobby group (AIPAC) in Washington, perhaps as a way of using the Lobby group's influence in Congress to move the legislative branch's perspective closer to their own. However, over the past week it has gradually emerged that the investigation into this matter, which has focussed on a guy by the name of Lawrence Franklin in the office of the notorious Undersecretary of Intelligence Dougless Feith, goes well beyond Franklin himself and indeed beyond the AIPAC leak and appears to be tied to other intelligence leaks, such as the Valerie Plame case. So that's the gist. Cole makes this interesting point:
    The politics of the investigation of AIPAC within the FBI would be fascinating to know more about. There have been suspicions that post-9/11, the FBI has been worried about being penetrated by the Israeli intelligence and military, because it now needs the expertise of Arabists, and one recruiting pool for Arabists is Sephardic Jews from, or who are close to, Israel.

    Perhaps regrettably, that link provided by Cole is to a WorldNetDaily story.

  • Atrios links to an article reporting some pretty nasty claims against one of the Swift Boat Vets for War Crimes.

  • This is truly beyond the pale.
    The Pentagon has ordered an investigation into the awarding of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's five Vietnam War decorations.

    The highly unusual inquiry is to be carried out by the Inspector-General's Office of the US Navy.

    The lying, stinking, cheating bastards. They've time and again demonstrated their readiness to abuse the executive power. If this goes ahead, and if the media is content to be led around by the nose as per usual, and if Bush wins the election, I will consider it a coup d'etat.

  • Sunday, September 05, 2004
  • Via Josh Marshall, the Clinton Family Statement on Bill's upcoming surgery.
    We are also thankful for the excellent care provided by the doctors, nurses and the staff of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. And we are fortunate to have great health care coverage - and continue to hope for the day when every American will enjoy this basic right.

  • Somewhat a propos of my post below on militarism among Republicans and Democrats, Kevin Drum today discusses what he sees as "the critical point in the debate on terror":
    Bush has surrounded himself with people who fundamentally believe in the use of military power and flatly don't understand that conventional assaults aren't always the answer in a nonconventional war.

  • Bad reason

    Quoth the Pope:
    "The institution of marriage necessarily entails the complementarity of husbands and wives who participate in God's creative activity through the raising of children," said the pontiff, according to the text of the speech released by the Vatican.
    "Spouses thereby ensure the survival of society and culture, and rightly deserve specific and categorical legal recognition by the State.
    "Any attempts to change the meaning of the word 'spouse' contradict right reason: legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, cannot be applied to unions between persons of the same sex without creating a false understanding of the nature of marriage."

    No word on how the Pope (er, I mean to say, God) feels about the marriage of infertile heterosexual couples. Also, shouldn't the Pope be worried about using vague language about the "raising of children"? I'm pretty sure he means "making babies by having sex with each other and then raising those same babies themselves." After all, homosexual couples can raise children just fine and have a lot of options in terms of how to procure those babies (i.e. surrogates, artificial insemination, and soon cloning).

  • More on the mess in Beslan, North Ossetia.
    Questions have persisted about the storming of the school and how the gunmen managed to transport huge quantities of explosives and ammunition into the school.

    Soslan Bidoyev, 23, was shocked by his brother's account of events at the school when it was seized last Wednesday.

    "He told us that when the hostages were brought in, the gunmen made the adults pry open the gymnasium floor. They took out supplies of weapons from underneath the floor," he said.

  • Saturday, September 04, 2004
  • Russian officials: more than 200 dead at the school in Beslan, North Ossetia.
    Officials overseeing the operation said Russian forces had killed 27 hostage takers, among the dead were Arabs, Russian officials said. Three hostage takers were reportedly captured alive.

  • Radio Free Europe asks: Is Al-Qaeda operating in Russia?

  • Friday, September 03, 2004
  • I think I have thus far avoided commenting on Alan Keyes, who is opposing Barrack Obama in the Senate contest in Illinois. He's a crazy asshole at whom Josh Marshall clearly enjoys laughing... rather a lot. Like, really.
    Anyway, following Wonkette's link today, I could avoid him no longer. Keyes recently described homosexuals as "selfish hedonists":
    "In a homosexual relationship, there is nothing implied except the self-fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction of the parties involved in the relationship," said Keyes, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard University. "That means it is a self-centered, self-fulfilling, selfish relationship that seeks to use the organs intended for procreation for purposes of pleasure. The word pleasure in Greek is hedone and we get the word hedonism from that word."

    When asked if he would say Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, were a selfish hedonist, Keyes confirmed that he would. This has created a bit of a problem. The Illinois Republican Party Chairwoman described the comment as "idiotic". Nevermind, of course, that this is official Republican policy. We can't go around criticizing the VP or trumpeting our bigotry while we're trying to appeal to swing voters, after all.

    Read the article for a laugh. My favourite part is when Keyes completely ducks this question:
    Keyes was asked if heterosexual couples who don't or can't have children are hedonists.

    "The heterosexual relationship is haunted by the possibility of the child, which means you have to commit yourself somewhere to your head to the possibility of a lifelong commitment that involves not only selfish pleasure but sometimes sacrifice."

    Meanwhile, at the GOP Convention, Cheney's party is trying to hide his daughter and her partner.

  • Despite its harshness, I'm inclined to think Kerry's taking the right approach:
    The Vice President even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.

    Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without healthcare makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi Royal Family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney. And it's not going to change. I believe it's time to move America in a new direction; I believe it's time to set a new course for America.

  • Juan Cole makes this rather interesting observation:
    It is astonishing that Chalabi's militia is still operating in Iraq. It was flown to Iraq by the Pentagon soon after Saddam fell, but has been ordered to disband. Chalabi himself has been indicted for counterfeiting and fraud. But he attended the national assembly meeting on Wednesday and is ordering his militia around the country, which in turn is engaging in firefights.

  • Reuters on the Russian seige
    Amid confusion and carnage, authorities said they had been forced into an unplanned operation by hostage-takers who opened fire on fleeing children. Some children were still being held hours after the raid, officials told Interfax news agency.

    Machinegun fire and explosions boomed out and helicopters clattered overhead as naked children ran for safety, screaming.

    ...The authorities said events had forced their hand after insisting from the outset they would not resort to violence.

    What a sickening mess. And frankly, I'm disappointed that I've yet to see either US presidential candidate comment on this. No words of sympathy. Nor, I think, have any Canadian officials commented, though this is less surprising.

  • Website recommendation: American Idle, just discovered via Eschaton.

  • True to form, Russian troops stormed the school.

  • Thursday, September 02, 2004
  • If you're puzzled about poll results and the concepts of the 'margin of error' or a 'statistal tie', read this post from Kevin Drum. I thought I understood these things; I was wrong.

  • If you missed it, the Daily Show's Bush Campaign Film is online. Even if you didn't miss it, it's well worth watching it twice.

  • Jeff Greenfield interviewing Senior Kerry Advisor Tad Devine on CNN:
    GREENFIELD: Tad, let's broaden this out a bit. John Kerry came to public life like many Democrats as an opponent of the Vietnam War. Through the '80s and '90s, there was a substantial, if not majority, wing of the Democratic Party that was extremely skeptical about the use of force in American power, opposing things like Ronald Reagan's deployment of missiles in Western Europe and defense budgets in general.

    Now as candidly as a Democratic operative can say, in the post- 9/11 conflicts, doesn't that record, whatever the details, pose a problem for John Kerry in attempting to say I would be the leader of a strong quasi-wartime America?

    DEVINE: Jeff, I don't think it does because I think all Americans realized in the wake of 9/11 that we had to change our posture. John Kerry has said repeatedly -- and the vice president chose to ignore this tonight -- that he is prepared to use force to defend America, that he would use force without anyone else's approval, that he understands that his first priority and commitment as president of the United States is to defend the nation.

    I regret that the Democrats have taken this position. Strategically, it's a missed opportunity at best, something of a loss at worst, in that it basically says the Republican militarism was right all along and now, having watched a few thousand of our compatriots die, we're militarists too. More importantly, the Republicans (and now the Democrats) are just wrong.

    There is a far better response to that question, a far better position to take. It involves distinguishing Iraq from Afghanistan/Al-Qaeda, recognizing the real nature of Al-Qaeda and its allies and imitators, and seeing that lessons can be learned from Vietnam.

    Specifically, one must say that Vietnam showed the US that even nuclear-armed superpowers should never assume that a war of occupation/liberation will be easy. Therefore someone like John Kerry, who fought in Vietnam and thought seriously about what happened there, would have been very cautious about invading Iraq. Would have had a better sense of American military strength: it's possibilities, as well as its limitations. (Contrarily, Bush didn't, didn't, and wasn't.) When the usefulness of brute force is seen for what it is, other political tools (virtually unknown to the Bush administration) start to look much more useful. Trying to repress the memories of Vietnam is a very good way to ensure history's repetition.

    The real threat was Al-Qaeda, not Iraq (which was barely a threat at all). Because Al-Qaeda is a terrorist network rather than a country, its eradication does not necessarily require a massive army or many of the big military toys Bush is so fond of. It requires quick and precise actions based on exceptional intelligence and combined with a major diplomatic effort to (a) change the minds of the millions of Muslims who think that the US hates them; and (b) secure the cooperation (better: assistance) of countries all over the world to track down and capture or kill Al-Qaeda operatives, as well as to eliminate the sources of their funding and/or the means by which they move their funds around.

    Going into Afghanistan was obviously a good thing. There, Al-Qaeda had many of the characteristics of a country, and an approach similar to an interstate war was appropriate. But once Al-Qaeda had dispersed, the US needed to adopt the approach described above, which would have meant that a top priority (second only to the hunting down of Al-Qaeda's members) would have been the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

    September 11th didn't change anything except to focus the American agenda. Missiles in Western Europe don't make sense as a result of it. Neither do expensive and ineffectual anti-missile systems. A war on terrorism, properly conducted, would look very different from the wars of GW Bush. Democrats' record of anti-militancy shouldn't be a problem for them, because in large measure, current events have proven them right. The goals of multilateralism and nation-building, of support for the third world and an environmental agenda that focusses on freeing the country of its oil dependence, are the essential features of a real fight against Al-Qaeda and other groups like it, while Bush's approach will only lead to a clash of civilizations.

    Regrettably, the Democrats conceded this argument a long time ago when they decided to back Bush's Iraq invasion. By and large, it looks like they've now found their spines, and of course a Kerry administration would be much more likely to head back in the right direction than another Bush one would. But I'm sure the Democrats would be in a much better position now if they'd been a bit more honest back then: able to say they opposed a bad war and supported a good one.

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