Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Sunday, June 29, 2003  

Speaking of conservatives:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said yesterday he supports a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in the United States....

"I have this fear that this zone of privacy that we all want protected in our own homes is gradually -- or I'm concerned about the potential for it gradually being encroached upon, where criminal activity within the home would in some way be condoned."

This is scary, folks. Not that he'll get a Constitutional amendment through--that's just election year grandstanding. No, what's scary is that the Senate Majority Leader is threatening to make consensual sex the government's business. It's not a big stretch to recall the Southern politicians during the civil rights movement, vowing to protect racist laws. The Senate Majority Leader.

posted by Jeff | 9:45 PM |

Bush is dancin' to the conservatives' tune, and they like it.

Mr. Bush has named Ralph Reed, who first rose to prominence as executive director the Christian Coalition, as a senior member of his campaign team. Beyond that, Mr. Rove and Mr. Mehlman are viewed by conservatives as advocates for their point of view in the White House.

Question is, what do the moderates think? (Maybe there are none left.)

posted by Jeff | 9:45 PM |

Lots of bright lights dimming lately. None brighter than Kate.

You were one of the great ones, Ms. Hepburn; we'll all remember you very, very warmly. Obituary here, or recall some of the good lines.

Philadelphia Story
George Kittredge: Oh, it's grand, Tracy. It's what everybody feels about you. It's what I first worshipped you for from afar.
Tracy Lord: I don't want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.

African Queen
Charlie Allnut: How'd you like it?
Rose Sayer: Like it?
Charlie Allnut: White water rapids!
Rose Sayer: I never dreamed...
Charlie Allnut: I don't blame you for being scared - not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of white water...
Rose Sayer: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!

Linda: What's the use of having all this jack around if it can't get us a superior kind of man?

Adam's Rib
Amanda Bonner: What I said was true, there's no difference between the sexes. Men, women, the same.
Adam Bonner: They are?
Amanda: Well, maybe there is a difference, but it's a little difference.
Adamr: Well, you know as the French say...
Amanda: What do they say?
Adam: Vive la difference!
Amanda: Which means?
Adam: Which means hurrah for that little difference.

posted by Jeff | 9:21 PM |

Saturday, June 28, 2003  

Dennis Kucinich is for real: according to an email from the campaign, he raised $1 million in the last quarter .

posted by Jeff | 9:38 PM |

Mary has some fascinating analysis about George W. Bush's shoddy oversight of Texas executions.

How much of it is because Bush really doesn't want to worry about the details? He prides himself on his decisiveness, but this can be a very bad trait when the decisions are made without insight and/or thoughtfulness. For Bush, it seems to be yet one more case where a basically lazy and unreflective man relies on his gut feelings and his supreme self-confidence in his own capabilities. That and the fact that God tells him what to do.

I don't promote The Watch as often as I ought to. Great blog.

posted by Jeff | 9:35 PM |

[In the comments to my MoveOn poll analysis, a reader named Aard gave such good analysis, I'm posting the whole of his comment here.]

As a fellow Kucinich supporter, but in the heart of Dean & Kerry country (Massachusetts), I think this is better for Dennis than you have imagined.

First of all, the Dean people will be massively disappointed in their failure to get 50%. They expected to do it (especially for the money) and mobilized their forces. Likewise the Kerry campaign put in a large effort. As you know, the Kucinich folks (and that includes me) aren't organized enough yet to put the effort in to mobilize supporters.

If I had to bet, I think there were a lot of MoveOn members who looked at the candidate comparisons for the first time and chose Dennis. I also think that there are still a lot of activists who don't know Kucinich very well, which would explain the lower level of "enthusiastically support." I also suspect that almost all of the Kucinich supporters said that they could support any nominee, while the hostility I've felt from supporters of other leading candidates means that they would not have checked Dennis' name.

Money is the big issue for most of the other candidates. With Kucinich, the most important thing is the conversations that volunteer supporters will have with other Democratic voters. Dennis' blue collar background will make a huge difference here and among other populations that won't show up in an Internet poll. As long as we can maintain Kucinich on the cheap for a few months, I think the money will be where it needs to be.

And I'd be wary of the national spotlight. With the kind of national press that we have out there, Dennis is unlikely to get good press. Take the whole Cleveland bankruptcy thing. He did the right thing, people now recognize that and re-elect him to Congress from the same city. But we're unlikely to hear that story in the press. Universal health care? That's what the Clintons tried to do (never mind that their plan was more like Gephardt's).

I think Dennis will do much better at the grass roots level, where we have the time to explain who he is. This campaign may be won by thousands of VCR tapes of Dennis speaking, all handed around and shown at meetings and in individual homes.

And the best part of it all for me is that we may bury the notion of the Greens as a progressive alternative to the Democratic Party, by re-attaching progressive Democrats to our party.

This is long, but it's a day I feel like celebrating, because the big winner today was the Democratic Party and American democracy.

posted by Jeff | 9:18 PM |

Friday, June 27, 2003  

Just a few words about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Texas sodomy law. First: it's great news. This will be cast as "culture wars" decision, and the Falwell types will use it to galvanize the Christian right. But as a matter of law, it's a fantastic decision. Since 9/11 the Bush administration has been assualting civil liberties on every front, and an individuals' right to any privacy has been an open question. The righties will play this up as a further erosion of all that's good and wholesome in America, but it's quite the opposite: the federal goverment has never had a right to peer into the beds of consenting adults. The Supreme Court affirmed that they did not have that right with this decision, and our country will be the better for it.

Climbing down off my soapbox, let me say that what happens next will be deliciously interesting. Most folks who vote Democrat are fairly socially liberal; they don't want to know what goes on in their neighbor's bedroom, and they don't want the government to know. I'd bet that polls would show self-identified Dems endorsing this decision in large numbers.

But that's not the case among Republican voters. This is going to be a booger of a mess for them. On the one hand are the Christian right, who are interested in politics mainly to the degree that they can affect these kinds of "family values" laws. Then you have your old-fashioned New England moderates who are socially liberal. While both can agree on tax cuts (to a point), this is the kind of issue that splits them wide open.

But the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, warned on the courthouse steps, "We're talking about moving toward sanctioning homosexual marriage, slam dunk, across America in this decision. There is going to come a real line drawn in the sand."

| link |

Recognizing the danger this rift can create, Bush has remained silent on the issue. But he won't be able to maintain that silence for long. Yesterday, Ari dodged the question, and wasn't pressured for further response:

Q And on the Texas sodomy case, does the President believe that gay men have the legal right to have sexual relations in the privacy of their own home?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think on this decision, the administration did not file a brief in this case, unlike in the Michigan case. And this is now a state matter.

Q So he has no position on this?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's just as I indicated, the administration did not file a brief on this -- as, I think, you know.

But that's going to change. You can bet that while the press is willing to let it go, the Christian right won't. What results is going to be mighty fascinating.

posted by Jeff | 11:15 AM |

The results are in, and now it's time to spin. First the facts. When asked to select a single candidate, the votes came down like this:

44% Dean
24% Kucinich
16% Kerry

3% Edwards
2% Gephardt
2% Graham
2% Braun
2% Lieberman
1% Sharpton
2% Other
2% Undecided

Big victory for Dean and Kucinich, right? Yes, but there's more. MoveOn asked a subsequent question, "Please select all of the candidates who you would enthusiastically support in the 2004 general election against George W. Bush, if chosen as the Democratic Party nominee next summer after the Democratic Primaries." I like this question, because it gets at the incredibly fluid nature of support this early in a campaign. While Move On's members have begun support one of three central candidates, their support is not Nader-like. Look:

86% Dean
75% Kerry
68% Kucinich
56% Edwards
53% Gephardt
51% Braun
50% Graham
42% Lieberman
35% Sharpton

What the numbers mean
Move On's members are the liberal, activist core of the Democratic Party. Obviously, these results don't reflect the opinions of the national Dems. In the primaries, liberals always do better among Democrats than they do in the general election. So, it's not surprising to see that the three candidates seen as most liberal took 84% of the vote.

The big winner is Dean. Almost half of the party's liberal wing voted for him, and although he's a populist, he's one of the most conservative candidates. That means that if he wins the primary, he'll run strong on the moderate platform he's already established. The message will be different, but his policy positions will remain the same.

The big loser is Dick Gephardt. Predictably, he did poorly in the single-vote portion of the poll. The bad news is that only half of the voters said they'd back him if he emerged as the Democratic candidate. The news gets even worse when you consider that 28% of respondents said they'd back any Dem (explaining Sharpton's good showing).

Kerry, Kucinich, and Edwards should regard this as a mixed bag. Kerry's numbers show that Democrats generally support him, but they don't particularly favor him. If he's going to win the primary, he's got to start winning hearts. This is especially true because of the other New Englander and the New Hampshire primary. Only one is likely to emerge as a viable candidate.

Edwards is in a similar boat, but he'll do far better among moderate Democrats than Kerry, so his low numbers don't reflect Democrats in general. Still, he would liked to have done better on both of these questions to solidify his standing among the activist core.

Finally, my man Kucinich. The news is mostly good, but there are a number of caveats. You can interpret Kucinich's numbers as the inverse of Edwards: he's far more well-known among liberals than the general population. His two-thirds approval among those polled by Move On is misleading because he has no name recognition among moderate Dems. The good news for Kucinch is that this shows his emerging strength among liberals--he's starting to steal some of Dean's populist momentum. The real questions for Kucinich haven't changed: 1) can he get enough momentum to get him into the national spotlight so he can get his views known, and 2) will there be enough money coming in for him to seriously challenge candidates with millions more dollars to spend?

posted by Jeff | 10:39 AM |

Thursday, June 26, 2003  

Why you should be backing Kucinch

The most common thing I hear when I urge people to support Kucinich is: "why?--he can't win." (Actually, the first thing is often "Who?" But that's a different story.) Unelectable? Really? Let's review the facts.

Elections in General
The polls are all over the place. Kucinich gets anywhere from 1% to 8% in national polls I've seen. Other candidates poll differently as well, depending on how well the constituency knows the candidates. And then when the base is polled, Dean and Kucinich do far better than when the general public is polled (Kucinich finished second in the Move On straw poll). Which is to say, few of the candidates have any real momentum right now. All the talk about "electability" is wildly premature.

And of course, there are the classic example of the upsets. The most recent--and the most relevant--was when Jesse Ventura won a remarkable upset bid in Minnesota. In September of 1998, he was polling at 2.7%. Two months later he won the 3-way election with 37% of the vote. Ross Perot similarly captured the voter's attention in '92, and in the summer was leading Clinton and Bush. Had it not been for his scary paranoia and extremely poor Veep selection, he might well have won the election.

In both cases you had an angry electorate ready for revolutionary change. Sound familiar?

Backing Kucinich now: no risk
If everyone who admires Dennis Kucinich's politics starts supporting him and his campaign gets a few million dollars, this talk of "electability" is out the window. Anyone's electable who has the support. In my view, Kucinich is--at this moment--far more electable than Joe Lieberman. Joe's damaged goods. Kucinich is a tabula rasa candidate--the sky's the limit.

If any progressive is ever to be elected in this country, we have to stand up and support him. Choosing to support Kucinich now doesn't mean you can't support Dean later, if he wins the nomination. Kucinich, a Democrat, will support Dean. He's not a Nader spoiler candidate. With 15 months left before the election, we should all be supporting the person we really admire, the person with the best politics.

The "electability" issue is one for the candidate who emerges. At this point, electability is all about having a good, solid base of support. In that regard, Kucinich is a very strong candidate. Go look at Kucinich's platform. If you like it, have some courage, support him. He's a good candidate. He offers a very serious alternative to George W. Bush, and he's a man you can be proud to support. What do you have to lose?

posted by Jeff | 4:18 PM |

Since they announced their candidacy for President, the Dem hopefuls have been missing some votes. A lot of votes.

Votes missed this year
Gephardt 89%
Kerry 43%
Lieberman 29%
Edwards 19%
Graham 17%

But my man Dennis Kucinich? How 'bout none.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, a longshot in the Democratic presidential race, has maintained a perfect attendance record. He rushed back to Washington even to vote for naming a post office after Walt Disney.

"It's called the House of Representatives," Kucinich said. "We are called representatives If you don't show up for a vote, you're not representing people."

(The New York Times also reported on this, citing slightly different voting records.)

posted by Jeff | 3:37 PM |

posted by Jeff | 8:34 AM |

I don’t know about you and your friends, but I and mine enjoy the game "find the lie." It’s an entertaining diversion because proving lies is such hard business (lacking, of course, a blue dress). I mean, even the most confirmed Bushie knows the President lied--they just don’t see anything wrong with it. (I suspect righties play a different game: looking for the latest leftist theory about how the President lied. Then laughing.)

Tuesday, Paul Krugman illustrated this by example: "Consider, for example, what Mr. Bush said in his ‘denial and deception’ speech about the supposed Saddam-Osama link: that there were ‘high-level contacts that go back a decade.’ In fact, intelligence agencies knew of tentative contacts between Saddam and an infant Al Qaeda in the early 1990's, but found no good evidence of a continuing relationship."

So reading through the most comprehensive material to date--the New Republic’s recent "Selling of the Iraq War"--I discovered a possible reason why we can’t find the lie. According to the article, the administration exerted enormous pressure on the CIA to produce damning evidence of WMD. And guess what? The CIA provided it.

Graham and Durbin had been demanding for more than a month that the CIA produce an NIE on the Iraqi threat--a summary of the available intelligence, reflecting the judgment of the entire intelligence community--and toward the end of September, it was delivered. Like Tenet's earlier letter, the classified NIE was balanced in its assessments. Graham called on Tenet to produce a declassified version of the report that could guide members in voting on the resolution. Graham and Durbin both hoped the declassified report would rebut the kinds of overheated claims they were hearing from administration spokespeople.

…On October 1, 2002, Tenet produced a declassified NIE. But Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war.

My reading of these facts is the possibility that the President (at least, and possibly some key members of the administration) carefully coaxed the CIA to produce damning evidence about Iraq’s WMD he could then cite. Whether or not it was accurate wasn’t germane. No doubt the President assumed, along with everyone else, that the Marines would flush something out during the invasion to justify the claims. And, in the unlikely event that no weapons were found, Bush had deniability: Tenet was his fall guy.

Not that it much matters. Republican apathy about whether the President lied is as deep and wide as the sea: apparently, as long as they’re in power, the health of the union is of no concern. According to the New Republic piece, Republicans are unwilling to call for an investigation. Either they know he’s lying and they’re covering for him, or they don’t much care to find out if he lied.

Yet they somehow managed their duty of Constitutional protection when the last President was in office. Any whiff of wrongdoing, and they were pleased to invoke the health of the republic. Surely the evidence is ample in this case to hold hearings. Congress was too quick to politically target the President in the last administration, and this Congress is wise to be more cautious. But we’re not talking about, say, whether the President engaged in insider trading (for which he might have been investigated--recall Harken), we’re talking about lying about the need to pre-emptively invade a sovereign nation. Partisanism? As long as Republicans refuse to investigate the President’s possible wrongdoing, they better not invoke this argument. This is the most grave form of partisanism.

The nation deserves better.

posted by Jeff | 8:26 AM |

Wednesday, June 25, 2003  

Maureen Dowd tears Clarence Thomas apart. Of course, tearing people apart is her column, but this one goes beyond snide -- and it hits home. (Teaser: "In his dissent, he snidely dismisses the University of Michigan Law School's desire to see minority faces in the mix as "racial aesthetics," giving the effort to balance bigotry in society the moral weight of a Benetton ad. The phrase 'racial aesthetics' would be more appropriately applied to W.'s nominating convention in Philadelphia, when the Republicans put on a minstrel show for the white fat cats in the audience.") More.

And then how about the story that Tim Russert's a tool for the Bush Administration? According to the Post, when Doctor Dean was sandbagged on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Tim Russert was using administration-provided research. (Which reminds me of Bush's proposal in the summer of 2000 to scrap debates with Gore and just "go on Tim Russert's show.") This is the kind of news that makes paranoid freaks out of all of us. Welcome to my padded cell.

Also, the Times is in trouble again. But guess what: you won't hear as much from conservatives about this one, though.

And this just in: Bush is a divider, not a uniter.

Finally, I have a better question that Tim Noah. He asked "Can Bush Be Both Ignorant and a Liar?" (Yes.) My question is, "Can Rummy Be Both Crazy and a Liar?"

(No, he's just lying.)

posted by Jeff | 10:36 AM |

Tuesday, June 24, 2003  

There's a proxy for discussing race in America--it's called "merit." And boy, has it been on display since the Michigan decision came down yesterday. As in "Improved lower schools would ensure that minority (and majority) kids learn their subjects and qualify for admission based on merit instead of relying on a system designed to excuse underachievement." (Modesto Bee)

Invoking the "merit" argument is a socially-accepted way of playing the race card without actually playing the race card. ("Race preference" is a less successful sleight-of-lip.) How so? Let's have a look.

Meritocracy Debunked
In the Michigan admissions process, there are a number of factors that have nothing to do with merit--geography, genes (e.g., Dad went there), income, race. If it were a pure meritocracy, none of these factors would be considered. That the three non-race factors aren't challenged indicates that the public (and the law) pretty much agree: it's appropriate to consider factors which will strengthen the student body as a whole. Makes you wonder--why do people get angry about the black applicants beating them out, but not the fifth-generation ones?

Race Reconsidered
Touting "merit" and "race-neutrality" seems like a PC thing to do. After all, it was MLK's dream. But it conceals the fact that whites have a definite advantage in college admissions. According to the census, 32% of white Americans aged 25-34 have a college degree, and only 15% of blacks do. Based on the numbers, there's no reason to think that blacks are disproportionately edging out whites for college slots--even under the policy of affirmative action, they were being admitted in lower numbers.

So blacks don't get into college proportionately, and Michigan's policy of uses race as only one factor--along with other non-achievement criteria. So why is there such a furor over this decision? It's because we still have a big problem with race in America. This shouldn't come as a surprise. The current right swing of the Republicans began back in the 60's, when Lincoln's Party began recruiting racist Southern blue-collar workers who were disenchanted by their party's civil rights agenda. Recent conservative politics have had a definite racist cast--witness the "Southern Strategy" of confederate flags and pilgrimages to Bob Jones University. Somewhere between Nixon and Bush, racists figured out that cloaking one's racism in the Constitution was both more effective and more noble.

I'm no defender of Affirmative Action. It was an inelegant (and possibly unconstitutional) solution to a very real problem. Moreover, it set up a psychological two-tiered system in which one group became regarded as a charity case (and aggrandized the nobility of the patron). The reason I like Michigan's policy is because it recognizes a critical piece of the solution to our problem of race: it brings people together. It's the stated goal--and I think the real goal--of the policy.

I don't generally call out people on the other side of the fence on issues political, but I will on this one. If you're so offended by this decision, let me ask you this: why is it that this particular inequity (that blacks are getting preferential treatment) so offends you above all others? People go to bed hungry in our country, they wander the streets, they live on dirt-poor reservations, they work two jobs to feed their families. Why is it that the possibility of a white college applicant getting edged out by a black applicant is so abhorrent? I may be out of line, but that's my question.

posted by Jeff | 3:59 PM |

Thinking Kucinich may be the candidate for you, but wishing you could see them in a side-by-side comparison? Thank Bob Harris for some serious labor. He's gathered their views together and posted them in this handy table. (All right, all right, Bob's an obvious partisan, but I think the info is accurate, even if Bob's prose does polish up Kucinich's position all bright and shiny.)

posted by Jeff | 10:53 AM |

Monday, June 23, 2003  

Dennis Kucinch has started his own blog. I don't know if he's going to be able to keep it up, but he's currently doing some of the posting himself. There are comments, as well, so you can actually respond to his posts. Imagine that, telling the next President of the United States what you think. Blogging totally rules.

(All right, all right, it's early. Don't mean to jump the gun: your Democratic candidate for President of the United States.)

posted by Jeff | 4:33 PM |

Fred over at Rantavation forwarded me that transcript of Howard Dean and Tim Russert. Interesting. Dean made a number of blunders. As I advance my case for becoming the Rove of the left, let me offer a critique. (Doctor, this one's gratis, but the next one will cost you.)

Doctor Dean on Taxes:

MR. RUSSERT: But you would raise taxes?

DR. DEAN: I would go back to the Clinton era of taxes because I think most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president if they could only have the same economy that they had when Bill Clinton was president.

Invoking the name "Clinton" is doom. Everything about Bill worked because it was Bill sending the message, not the message. His policies weren't particularly strong, certainly not coherent, and he got lucky with a booming economy. The name says nostalgia. Look forward.

MR. RUSSERT: Ted Kennedy says that we should have a prescription drug plan. It's the first step, a compromise. Democratic leader Tom Daschle says he's right. Are you with Ted Kennedy?

DR. DEAN: . . .First, this is an opportunity to set up an entitlement program for people who need a prescription drug benefit.

Lose the word "entitlement" while you're at it. That's a neo-con word, which, roughly translated, means: "welfare queen spending my paycheck on liquor."

MR. RUSSERT: ...calling for that, and this is what Howard Dean said. "The way to balance the budget, [Gov. Howard] Dean said, is for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70, cut defense, Medicare and veterans pensions, while the states cut almost everything else. 'It would be tough but we could do it,' he said."

DR. DEAN: ...Well, because that was the middle of--I mean, I don't recall saying that, but I'm sure I did, if you have it on your show, because I know your researchers are very good.

Find out what the hell you were talking about and back way, way off it. What the hell were you talking about?

So, if you ask that to most Americans, they're going to say, "I would much rather pay the taxes that I was paying when Bill Clinton was president if I could have health care and my property taxes would go down and we could have jobs again." Because they never got the president's tax cut. The vast majority of people in this country either got no tax cut or got a small few hundred dollars.

Hammer this. Well said.

DR. DEAN: There are a number of people, Tim, who have gone out on the campaign trail, one as recently as last week, and said "I only voted for the resolution to go to war with Iraq because I knew that the resolution would force the president to send the matter to the United Nations." That is false.

MR. RUSSERT: Who said that?

DR. DEAN: I'm not going to tell you who said that.

They spent a lot of time on this. Russert kept pointing out how Dean tends to speak boldly against candidates one day, then back off the next. I expect this is early difficulty that Dean will smooth out, but he needs to do it, and fast. He needs to figure out if he's going after his rivals, or just going to let his policies speak for themselves. Later on, he had some nice context: "This whole campaign really has been about it's time for Democrats to be proud of being Democrats again. Stop voting with the president and then try to justify your actions, stop supporting stuff that makes no sense and stand up for what you believe in."

This is a winner--calling out the other Dems for not standing up to Bush. And boy is it legitimate. Don't waffle.

Other notes. If Dean considers himself left enough to be called "another McGovern," he should start explaining why. Otherwise, he should say, "look, my policies are extremely centrist--just a little right of Bill Clinton's--and this 'liberal' label is inaccurate."

He's fine on the gay issue, he just needs to streamline his message.

Like a lot of governors, Dean's weak on foreign policy. Because he's the only governor in the race, and because we're in the middle of a "war on terror," the other Dems and the media will continue to hammer him on it. He needs to know it backwards and forwards. It wouldn't hurt to have a high-profile committee of former generals help him draft a comprehensive foreign policy and then make that one of his highlights. Turn the disadvantage into an advantage.

posted by Jeff | 3:53 PM |

Extremely alarming news from the Supreme Court on the library filter case. Our rights are being eroded before our eyes by the Puritanical fringe of the culture wars. Now, sadly, that fringe is in control of the judiciary (as well as the Presidency and legislature). Maybe I'll go have a mid-afternoon beer, while I still can...

posted by Jeff | 2:58 PM |

Note: Squawkbox is on the fritz again, which makes loading this site a booger. Thus I have disabled it. If you wish to post a comment, come back later today, when, internet gods willing, it'll be working again. Apologies, as usual--

[Update: all right, let's give it a try.]

posted by Jeff | 10:10 AM |

Interesting news from the Supreme Court on the Michigan admissions policies. A yea and a nay. They ruled that the undergrad policy--in which 20 points were assigned for minority students on a 150-point scale--amounted to a quota. But in the law school, the use of of race as one factor was regarded (narrowly) as passing Constitutional muster.

(I 'spose it just barely bears mentioning that the law school ruling, at 5-4, shows the tenuousness of the balance of law in America. If Dubya gets to replace one of the four--Sandra Day, say--laws will start to change, and dramatically. Saddle up, Dems, you're about to be in the fight of your lives.)

posted by Jeff | 8:06 AM |

Sunday, June 22, 2003  

Around the blogosphere

Via Suburban Guerrilla, a bit of news I missed. Last weekend, Wesley Clark told Tim Russert that beginning the very day of the World Trade Center bombings, the Bush administration was trying to implicate Iraq. A fascinating report here.

Cyndy over at Mouse Musings is a woman after my own heart. First of all, she wisely notes "Dennis Kucinich rocks!" But more to the point, look at her post here, wherein she discusses the missing WMDs. She also notes, with appropriate wild-eyed paranoia, that many of the links from her earlier posts on the subjects are now dead. You, me, and Mulder, Cyndy: the truth is out there.

The Mighty Reason Man insists he's not a fanatic. Yeah right, tell that to da man, Man--me and Cyndy know better. His thesis is that the Dean detractors detract because they assert Dean can't win. Yeah right, because with 15 months left to go, the decision's made. Look, for whomever is slagging the Man, you just don't get how much sympathy there is to tap into by the right candidate. The only thing the Man's got wrong is the candidate: Kucinich is the real deal.

Speaking of Dean and Russert, did you see their chat this morning? Andrew Northrup did, and he wasn't impressed.

And he got killed on the national defense issue, absolutely slaughtered. Shades of Bush in 2000, unable to name the leader of Pakistan. It's pathetic to offer critiques on how we should use the military when you don't know anything about it. . . .

He's not "too liberal", he just stinks. People don't like him because he's very unlikeable, and a few more performances like that and the press will start eating him alive.


From Peppermint Patty--and without comment (Mom, stop reading)--the remote controlled sex toys. "Have you ever been chatting with someone on the Internet and wanted to do more than just chat? Then you've come to the right place! Here you'll find sex toys with a twist--Remote Control Sex Toys you and your partner can control over the Internet." The graphic is pretty funny (and safe to open at work).

Tora Bora stopped by and left a comment a couple days ago, and I checked out her site. Damn funny. You might admire the entry "Neo-Conservatives-Erm What's That?" Yes, Tora's somewhere in the UK (the "erm" might have clued you in) and she makes me laugh.

Some big-nosed chick (her first name was Mayrev) was very smugly telling the camera that Neo-Conservatives (she’s one of them) haven’t brainwashed the president, it’s just that he’s so very open to their suggestions and willing to listen to their logic. (she actually used the word susceptible)

I don’t know why they even both pretending about this ‘war for democracy and freedom’ and crap. It’s just good old fashioned colonialism. The US is locking in cheap oil prices and safeguarding their interests. They’re not making the world safe for anything but themselves. (last I checked, dropping bombs was a distinctly un-safe thing to do)

posted by Jeff | 6:49 PM |

Maxspeak wisely. Any more of that and I'll blogroll him.

posted by Jeff | 1:55 PM |

Toward the end of the movie "Lawrence of Arabia," there's a scene in which Lawrence is driving his united desert tribes to Damascus and they encounter a fleeing column of Turks. The Arabs will follow Lawrence's lead, though they desperately want to wade in for the slaughter. Earlier in the film, the Turks tortured Lawrence, and he shares their old tribal enmity. It's one of the most poignant moments in film, as the director David Lean allows the camera to watch dispassionately on as Peter O'Toole--as Lawrence--slides into insanity. He can't resist his hatred, and soon the sands are stained with blood.

I saw the movie on Friday at our local repertory theater, and so it's fresh in my mind. Yesterday, seeing the quotes of hate-ridden soldiers in Iraq, I was awash in their sense--as seen on Lawrence's face--of being overtaken by emotion. As Tacitus pointed out in comments to the post, though, what that emotion meant to me wasn't clear.

In terms of human experience, war (in the broadest sense--including huddling in a basement, watching your wife being raped, being pinned under fire, watching loved ones die, and so on and so on and so on) creates the space for the most uncontrolled, reactive emotion we are capable of. In 2003, we forget this. Our power is so overwhelming, our technology so many years ahead of our (usual) enemies, our press so favorable to the heroes of war, that we forget that men and women still must go out and fight. They enter a conflict in which metal is exchanged at hundreds of miles an hour. It doesn't matter much if your army has stealth bombers and ICBMs when a civilian pulls a gun from underneath his robes and starts blasting at you. So of course, this extreme circumstance creates extreme emotion: hatred.

I'm a Buddhist. My views on war are pretty much well outside the mainstream on the issue. It's my view that if you look at the level of human suffering on the globe at any given time, it's constant. The suffering just moves around. Taking the view that war accomplishes some useful outcome is parsing the situation very carefully, defining outcomes very specifically. Empires rise and fall. Wars are waged, and evanescent cultural comforts gained and lost. Even within countries, the levels of suffering wax and wane, depressions to boom times. And so it is with individual lives. We live, we experience, we suffer, we rejoice. It's life. Taking this larger view, it's my conclusion that engaging in war is the riskiest of all ventures. In almost every case, it creates the seeds for more wars. And for those unfortunate enough to be in a war, the Lawrence-like insanity and uncontrollable hatred is never far away.

But I also know that this doesn't reflect the realpolitik of global conflict. You marginalize yourself when you say that war, as an institution is enormously dangerous. In comments to another blog, Lawrence Krubner wrote that the only way to handle the situation in the Middle East is with force. It's a widely-held sentiment.

So is there a secondary message even a Buddhist has the credibility to deliver? I think there may be. War is enormously dangerous. The chicken hawks like to preen and trash talk, and so far no one's seriously opposing them. But the danger isn't to their well-being. In terms of realpolitik, it's exactly what they want--they want to rally patriotism and put their leader in a jet. The danger is to the long-term health of America. Before the Iraq invasion, plenty of folks saw the danger of this muddled effort--we saw the dead piling up, we saw the post-war confusion, we saw America presiding over a powder keg.

And we also saw the US soldiers subjected to a situation that would inevitably damage them. It's impossible to kill, watch your friends and comrades die, to be shot at without incurring serious psychological (not to mention physical) damage.. If we're going to submit our citizens to that situation, what's the goal? To have Bush appear like a Caesar and appeal to our vanity of empire? We're dealing with realpolitik here, right? So let's not go sentimental and think that we were invading Iraq for the sake of oppressed people (Congo and Burma stand as refutation to that). Let's not think that we did it to make America safer--not a single source has ever credibly linked Iraq to terror, and no one was seriously arguing that it was the most threatening country to the US. And let's not think that invading was done with any real confidence of bringing American-style Democracy to the deeply divided country. So the question is, with all the damage this war has caused, is causing, and will continue to cause, why did it make the most sense of all possible options?

Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson has a right to know. As a Buddhist, a witness to all the damage this war has caused the world, I do, too.

posted by Jeff | 10:35 AM |

Saturday, June 21, 2003  

Emma Debates the DNC

Over on an Atrios comment thread, I've been having a discussion with an unlinked fellow who styles himself "DNC Doug." By the looks of it, he may well be a part of the DNC. Highlights of the conversation:

The DNC is listening to bloggers and we welcome your suggestions. Regarding ePatriots, so far it's been a great success, thanks to people like you, and it will make a big difference for the Dem. nominee against Bush.
dncdoug | Homepage | 06.20.03 - 1:20 pm | #

There was some back and forth after that. I asserted (as always) the three-point plan, and pointed out that Bush is mentioned 6 times more often on the DNC site than any Democrat. A DNC backer rallied to the defence, and Doug posted this:

Bill Rehm frames a strong argument. Our Dem. candidates are out there telling everyone what their vision and plans are, and it's our job to make the most effective, compelling case possible against the Bush administration.
dncdoug | Homepage | 06.21.03 - 7:55 am | #

To which I responded with the following.

DNC Doug,

Well, he "frames" your argument. The question is--are you actually listening to bloggers, or just using the blogosphere to shape opinion? (Not that there's anything wrong with that--however you choose to conduct your campaign is your business.)

If you are listening, rather than shaping, I'd be interested in hearing your reaction to my post about the DNC's solely anti-Bush focus. Why, exactly, do you imagine that's a winning strategy when it has consistently failed in the past?

I know you are in the position of supporting all Dems, which limits your ability to craft a really clear image of the party (the primaries are all about distinguishing oneself). But you have the opportunity to begin building long-term for the future. If you only build a platform on deposing Bush, what is the foundation of the Democratic message? What if you win?

I would like to gently suggest that it's not your "job to make the most effective, compelling case possible against the Bush administration." It's your job to build a coherent message--a vision, a platform, and a set of policy initiatives--that will build a broad base of support among a majority of Americans.

That's where your hope lies.

I'd really love it if this kind of discussion went somewhere. If DNC Doug visits the site, I invite him to respond. In any case, it's somewhat heartening to think the DNC's out reading blogs and posting in comments.

posted by Jeff | 10:58 AM |

Back during the active phase of the war, I wrote that I didn't support the troops. (A view less controversial than I imagined--at least by the readers of this blog.) More reasons continue to surface.

The Mirror is reporting that Americans are arbitrarily gunning down Iraqi civilians (link via Pandagon.)

As distrust of the invading forces increases amongst the local population US soldiers said they have killed civilians without hesitation, shot injured opponents and abandoned them to die in agony. . . .

The account quotes a couple of soldiers, and their frame of mind is revealing. Below are two quotes from Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson. (Here he's talking about killing other soldiers, not civilians.)

"Once you'd reached the objective, and once you'd shot them and you're moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified, you can't really convey the feeling, but you don't want them to live."

"There's a picture of the World Trade Centre hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my flak jacket. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think, 'They hit us at home and, now, it's our turn.' I don't want to say payback but, you know, it's pretty much payback."

All right, it's the Mirror--useless propoganda from the pantywaist, Saddam-loving left, right? Well, no. Even Fox has reported on some pretty un-heroic battlefield stories.

And then there's this exchange, from a non-embedded reporter writing for Harper's (July 2003). The reporter, Paul William Roberts, has spent a great deal of time in Iraq, and was traveling in Arab dress with an aquaintance while following a story. He was stopped by American military, and what follows is a shortened version of their exchange.

"Hey!" shouted [an American soldier] as I approached. "Stop right there!"

The dishdasha and turban had obviously thrown him, so I searched for my Harper's press card, saying, "It's okay, I'm a Brit journalist.

"I said, 'Stop,' fucker!" he growled, pointing his machine gun at me. "You understand 'stop'?"

I nodded.

Another soldier appeared and asked me in an Arabic worse than my own what I wanted.

"I do speak English," I pointed out in my best Oxonian accent.

"Get this motherfucker!"

There follows an exchange about his Harper's credentials ("It have naked chicks in it?"), and then the suspiciousness of his many national ties.

"Let me get this straight," he said. "You got a British passport, you live in Canada, and you write for an American magazine..."


"You gotta admit it sounds weird."

I admitted it did.

"So why you dressed like this fucking scum?" He indicated the growing crowd of locals, some of them clearly concerned for [my welfare]. I told him I found his remark deeply offensive.

"Thatta fact?"


"Fuck you."

posted by Jeff | 9:55 AM |

Friday, June 20, 2003  

I believe we have Eric Schlosser to thank for this:

CHICAGO, June 19 — Responding to public health concerns about the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, the McDonald's Corporation said today that it would ask its meat suppliers around the world to reduce their dependence on antibiotics.

McDonald's said it expected its suppliers to phase out the use of some antibiotics that promote growth in healthy animals and to significantly reduce the use of other antibiotics that typically protect animals against disease. The company's decision was reported in The Washington Post today.

McDonald's said it was making the change because of growing evidence that the use of antibiotics in farm animals was creating antibiotic resistance in animals and in the bacteria that cause diseases in humans.

This is absolutely wonderful news. Now we just have to get them to demand different meat-processing practices. One victory at a time, though...

posted by Jeff | 12:22 PM |

Via Atrios, an article on the most influential blogs (as rated by the most influential bloggers). The usual suspects were fingered most often--Reynolds, Sullivan, Alterman, Marshall, Lileks, etc. There were almost no non-pro bloggers mentioned, either (Atrios came in tenth on one list). This is reasonable, because the methodology was this: "So we've created a graphical depiction of what I believe are the most influential blogs, pushing the direction of media coverage and perhaps even public policy."

But it got me thinking. The blogosphere isn't really just an alternative news/commentary medium. In terms of influencing the major media, it makes sense that the pros are going to be visible. But when it comes to organizing a protest of the FCC vote, you turn to the non-pros. The pros view their role mostly as journalism--partisan, certainly--but they stop short of activism. The non-pros are actually as interested in the community as they are simply in posting the news or thoughts about the news. The pros, as journalists, rightly stay a little bit to the side of the fray.

The blogosphere will become a killer app, though, only through this synthesis of community and issues. The reason the pros are relevant is because their blogs provide them an opportunity to print speech that's not regarded as commercial enough to be published. Essentially, these articles are like those in newspapers and magazines (though generally they're written much more informally). In a larger sense, though, the blogosphere will become relevant when it transcends this single-direction flow of ideas. That's its real advantage.

(As if to disprove my thesis, as I was writing this, I had an exchange with the author of the article in question, Mark Glaser. I wrote him a rumination akin to what's in this post and he wrote back (in part): "I agree that smaller blogs have had an impact, and will continue to do so, and appreciate your comments. You're welcome to post them alongside the column, if you wish, by hitting the Speak Up button. But I think I might cover the smaller blogs in a future column -- keep in touch.")

posted by Jeff | 10:27 AM |

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

What to say about the President's "revisionist historians" thing? I guess first, the obvious: by "revisionist historian" he must mean anyone who wasn't hit in the head with a lead pipe recently. For we all stood there and listed, earlier this year, to his argument about WMD. He's not referencing an artifact from the distant reaches of time: he's talking about something he said in March. So it fails on both counts--it's neither revisionism nor history.

But how about this? I don't think the phrase came from Bush--I think it came from Karl Rove. It seems like a calculated phrase (and one that, like "homicide bomber," seems so patently doublespeakish that it's doomed to fail). Listen to the two times Bush used the phrase on Monday, and see how he repeated it almost word for word on Tuesday.

Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 16
This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq. Now, there are some who would like to rewrite history -- revisionist historians is what I like to call them. Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted. And one thing is for certain and this is for certain: Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States and our friends and allies.

Annandale, Virginia June 17
And we acted in Iraq, as well. We made it clear to the dictator of Iraq that he must disarm. We asked other nations to join us in seeing to it that he would disarm, and he chose not to do so, so we disarmed him. And I know there's a lot of revisionist history now going on, but one thing is certain. He is no longer a threat to the free world, and the people of Iraq are free.

On the other hand, you could make the argument that the President does believe America is indulging in revisionism. He was being sincere when he talked about "moral clarity" and the need to invade Iraq. And he was never really that concerned about the petty details of justification. He wanted to kick some ass, and that was that. He might feel genuinely aggreived that, having kicked some ass, and subsequently shown that that ass was indeed some nasty, dictatorial ass, this is all just a partisan smear. Not that it matters--as a President, we can hold him to a higher standard than his own delusions.

Bonus Material
Now that he's retiring from the press sectretary biz, Ari might consider a sitcom ("Oh That Ari!" would be a good title). I'll start out with the postmodern stuff, then move into the snappy patter. From Tuesday's press briefing.

MR. FLEISCHER: Yesterday, in the President's remarks, he referred to -- he referred it to revisionist historians who are seeming to make the case that Saddam Hussein likely did not have, or did not have, weapons of mass destruction prior to the war. And the President bases that on some of the statements that he has heard where people are expressing doubt about whether or not the intelligence that was provided to the administration, as well as to Congress for many years was accurate intelligence information.

MR. FLEISCHER: ...How come Saddam Hussein didn't prove to the world that he had destroyed them if, when, indeed, he had them, yet he was not able to show the inspectors who were just in Iraq that he did, indeed, destroy them. That's a fanciful interpretation. That's what the President judges as revisionist.

Q That's not evidence, that's an argument.

I wasn't kidding, I'm really going to miss Ari. (Bush not so much.)

posted by Jeff | 1:40 PM |

A little later today, I'll get into this whole "revisionist history" thing, but first, a little revisionist science.

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

The report, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about various environmental problems, where gaps in understanding exist and how to fill them. . . .

Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.

Now that's bad (or predictable) enough, but check out this tidbit:

James L. Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory group, said, "It would be utterly inaccurate to suggest that this administration has not provided quite an extensive discussion about the state of the climate. Ultimately, E.P.A. made the decision not to include the section on climate change because we had these ample discussions of the subject already."

(The EPA had not made that decision. Christine Whitman's first draft included it, and versions of that report have "been circulating for months.")

Now, talk about your revision. First the President rewrites an agency report, then rolls out some flunkie to lie about revising it, all the while trying to keep a straight face while maintaining that they wished the EPA had kept the damaging information in there.

Damaging, you say? Sure Bush lied about it, but how could that information be damaging? Well, let's check the record. In 2000, George Bush received $3 million from oil, gas, and electrical companies--over 600% more than any other politician received that year. His running mate had just left an oil-services contract, after having created a superhighway between his former company and federal money. His Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, was the number 1 recipient of campaign contributions from the automotive industry. Condi Rice sat on Chevron's board, and was popular enough with the company that they named a ship after her. Gale Norton, the Interior Secretary--charged with protecting our wild lands--represented Delta Petroleum and was chair of a PAC backed by Ford and BP Amoco.

So Bush scrubs a government record of any reference to the industries that are causing grave damage to the earth--the very industries that overwhelming got him elected. So the damage could be to his buddies and the little "arrangement" that keeps the companies rich and the money flowing to George.

It seems criminal, but I suspect that things like trotting out this functionary who heads an Orwellian doublespeak fake "advisory group" will provide sufficient cover. In any case, it's more deception and ass-covering from a man who makes Bill Clinton look like a piker in that arena. Yup, revisionism in Washington is rampant, all right, and the revisionists' King is George Bush.

posted by Jeff | 9:14 AM |

Wednesday, June 18, 2003  

George Bush should fear this man. Every great scandal unfolds like a string of falling dominoes--leading back to what seemed at first like an unlikely source. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the first domino. His name is Robin Cook, and we lefty bloggers all admired him when he quit Prime Minister Blair's cabinet back in March because of the rush to war. Back then, he said some pretty prescient things in his resignation speech. Listen:

Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq. . . .

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?

. . . On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.

It was, therefore, uncomfortable when he stood in front of the same body yesterday and said in essence 'I told you so.' (Or in his words: "I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base a decision about policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which to justify a policy on which we had already settled.")

Why should the President care? Because while he had the Democrats yipping agreement for the war, the probe into Blair's intelligence will ultimately be a probe of the President. Blair is already in hot water over his dodgy dossier, and presumably, it's only going to get worse. I'll go ahead and make a prediction here and now and say that if the heat gets too intense, Blair will blame his decision on US intelligence. Blair has been defending himself well in front of the House of Commons, but a man with Cook's credibility on the issue is harder to quiet.

If the intelligence was as weak (or absent) as I imagine it was, Cook could be the loose thread that unravels two leaders. Or for metaphoric consistency, the first domino.

posted by Jeff | 1:49 PM |

Everyone's writing good stuff on the FCC issue, and here's someone else, from the local paper.

Senate Bill 1046, introduced in the commerce committee by Sens. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, seeks to restore the limits on station ownership and may also bring back the rule against cross-ownership. The committee will vote on the bill Thursday morning, and if they approve it for a floor vote as expected, the entire Senate will vote on the issue. And, almost certainly, pass it by a wide margin, moving it along to the House of Representatives.

Where, according to Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the bill will almost certainly die. [But] Walden isn't sure this is a bad idea. He's says he's not crazy about all of the new revisions in the FCC rules -- particularly the easing of ownership restrictions -- but as the owner of five radio stations in Hood River and The Dalles, he is more than sympathetic to the need for economies of scale.

"Some level of consolidation is necessary," Walden said in a telephone interview. "If you're artificially prevented from doing that, you risk taking a lot of broadcast properties underwater."

But there's a big distinction between Columbia Gorge Broadcasters, the 17-employee company Walden operates with his wife, Mylene, and the small handful of multinational conglomerates that could end up with a near-monopoly on the nation's TV airwaves.

That was a slightly-edited article by Peter Ames Carlin. The distinction, as you well know, is that Fox might well squeeze Walden off the air, but Walden damn sure's not squeezing Fox. Carlin urges Oregonians to bomb Senator Gordon Smith, who's still waflling on the issue, with phone calls. That number, for Oregonians, is 202-224-3753 (or visit his website for a local number). Or, you could also call Billy Tauzin, who's been bought off by big media, and isn't likely to allow the bill to be introduced to the House. His number is: 202-225-4031.

Lisa at Ruminate This is your one-stop clearinghouse for news on the number of ways you can try to influence the process. (I encourage you to avail yourself of them all.)

posted by Jeff | 9:07 AM |

Tuesday, June 17, 2003  

Around the blogosphere

"I guess if Ari had to rebel, being a Republican is better than being on drugs, but not by much."
--Ari's father, Alan Fleischer (via Tom Tomorrow)

1.) Big Air Fred apologizes for driving an SUV.

2.) Jesse wonders how to get a job with a BA in religion during a Bush recession. (I was in exactly the same situation, back in 1990. All right, different Bush, same degree.)

3.) Jake wonders why the Bushies are so excited about their big lead in the polls.

4.) Everyone loves a Krugman column. Kevin and Tom and Atrios (sorry, Lambert) and. . .

5.) Lane got a touch of Bushitis. I've seen it before--it's chronic. Dennis Kucinich is working on a cure.

6.) Tarek writes a magnificent treatise on the federal judiciary, but also seems to have a touch of the Bushitis.

It seems to be spreading.

posted by Jeff | 5:05 PM |

Well, this is bad:

A federal appeals court, reversing a lower-court decision, ruled today that the government did not have to disclose the names of more than 700 people detained in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, agreeing with the Justice Department that making that information public could "allow Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to map the course of the investigation."

The 2-to-1 decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was a rebuff to the civil liberties and other groups that were challenging the Bush administration's refusal to provide the names and other information about people, mostly immigrants, held in connection with the 9/11 terrorism investigation, on the ground of national security.

The court said the government could withhold the dates and locations of arrest, detention and release of all detainees, including those charged with federal crimes, and the names of lawyers representing them.

It's weird, too, because I was just compiling information on John Ashcroft for the Dossiers Project when I stumbled across it. In fact, some of the stuff I was compiling related directly to this issue.

As if it's not obvious enough--the packing-the-courts agenda is really paying off. At one time, we all had some confidence in the courts as impartial arbiters of the law. Now it just seems like the different guys from the same country club solidifying an extremely conservative agenda. So now: the executive branch has discretion over the creation or implementation of law (which is the Congressional branch's duty)--it was Ashcroft who initially told his department to start rejecting FOIA requests; then the judges, who were put in place by the President, agree that he has this authority. Viola!--there's your trifecta.

The article continues, quoting Ashcroft:

Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement on the Justice Department's Web site, "We are pleased the court agreed we should not give terrorists a virtual road map to our investigation that could allow terrorists to chart a potentially deadly detour around our efforts."

The President of the People for the American Way, one of the members of the coalition who brought the lawsuit, called it a "stunning rollback of rights in America." He continues:

“We’re very disappointed with this decision. We’ve said again and again that the American people have a right to know what the government is doing in their name. Instead, this ruling gives amazing deference to the Justice Department, and cripples the critical role of oversight in protecting rights in America.

“This ruling allows the Department of Justice to bury these secret arrests even deeper. Now the public is denied access even to the names of attorneys representing detainees. There is no way abuses — like those chronicled in the report by the Justice Department inspector general — can be fully investigated and exposed if every aspect of these arrests is kept in the dark. This ruling could be complicit in a stunning rollback of rights in America. Indeed, this ruling takes us closer to authorizing the government to use secret arrests and detentions on a broad range of criminal suspects — or just outspoken critics. The repercussions could be disastrous.”

Hide the kiddies, moms, especially if they aren't white . . . .

posted by Jeff | 4:11 PM |

Media Concentration in Two Paragraphs


Advocates of deregulation like to point out that the media landscape is sunnier than it was in the sixties, when ninety per cent of TV viewers watched only the three networks. But that was a different kind of concentration of power. Now big media players control both programming and distribution. Five companies own all the broadcast networks, four of the major movie studios, and ninety per cent of the top fifty cable channels. Those companies also produce three-quarters of all prime-time programming. Ten years ago, four of them accounted for just a quarter of it.

The control that these companies have over supply and demand doesn’t leave much room for newcomers. It’s impossible to imagine someone today pulling off what Diller and Murdoch did in the mid-eighties, when they started the Fox network, or what Turner did when he started TBS and CNN. There aren’t enough independent distribution outlets or independent sources of programming to make the gamble worthwhile. Deregulation is leading to fewer choices, not more.

| link |

posted by Jeff | 12:22 PM |

Dennis Kucinich, the Progressive Candidate

Dean's a populist, and a damn good one. But he ain't a progressive. He's a solid New England moderate of the Olympia Snowe, Jim Jeffords variety. He appears to be speaking from conviction rather than political calculation, and my sense is that we can take him at his word. He appears to be a good and honorable man, and I expect he would make a sober and reliable president. Spin his candidacy any way you like, though, and you can't turn him into a progressive.

In this election, there's only one progressive: Dennis Kucinich. Whereas Dean's issues are security, fiscal responsibility, and health care, Kucinich has a real vision for the big picture. He's the only candidate who doesn't essentially give de facto support to the idea of an American empire and its various institutions of power. He opposes the drug war and capital punishment. He wants to repeal the Patriot Act. He is suspicious of the increasing power of corporations in our foods, our politics, and our health care system. And finally, he's the only candidate who wants to engage the rest of the world and promote peace at home and abroad to undermine the causes of violence and terror.

While Dean supports the "Circle of Preparation" as an approach to security, Kucinich proposes a Department of Peace. Listen:

Citizens across the United States are now uniting in a great cause to establish a Department of Peace, seeking nothing less than the transformation of our society, to make non-violence an organizing principle, to make war archaic through creating a paradigm shift in our culture for human development for economic and political justice and for violence control. Its work in violence control will be to support disarmament, treaties, peaceful coexistence and peaceful consensus building. Its focus on economic and political justice will examine and enhance resource distribution, human and economic rights and strengthen democratic values.

Domestically, the Department of Peace would address violence in the home, spousal abuse, child abuse, gangs, police-community relations conflicts and work with individuals and groups to achieve changes in attitudes that examine the mythologies of cherished world views, such as 'violence is inevitable' or 'war is inevitable'. Thus it will help with the discovery of new selves and new paths toward peaceful consensus. . . .

Violence is not inevitable. War is not inevitable. Nonviolence and peace are inevitable. We can make of this world a gift of peace which will confirm the presence of universal spirit in our lives. We can send into the future the gift which will protect our children from fear, from harm, from destruction.

(He is also the only candidate who doesn't speak in the third person on his website, which is nice. Somehow, writing those things in the third person freaks me out. I don't want to know what your press agent thinks you think, I want to know what YOU think.)

Dean's a great anti-Bush candidate, but I believe we can do better. I believe that the conservatives have controlled the discussion long enough; it's time for someone with a new vision for America to emerge from the left. We need to switch the argument from "the future's dangerous, but I can protect you" to "we have an opportunity to make the country and the world a wonderful place to live." We need to see someone with ideas about how that can be done. And we need candidates who have a positive vision about America that can inspire people about leftist politics again. (Sounds familiar, I hope.)

For those of you who saw Nader as a real progressive solution, this is actually your candidate. Nader's message was incomplete and mostly angry and aggressive (hey, that's Nader's mode, and it's served America well). But Kucinich is someone who actually has a large, progressive vision. It's time for a progressive candidate to emerge, and it's time for progressives to support him. Kucinich only has $180,000 and is a long, long shot. But if we can give him support, he might at least make it onto the national stage and cause people to discuss his vision of the future. Imagine that--the debate turning from whether we should have invaded Iraq to whether or not the Department of Peace is the best way to promote cooperation and mutual respect.

If you want to hear those kinds of discussions, Kucinich is the candidate to support.

posted by Jeff | 10:05 AM |

Monday, June 16, 2003  

So I figure that if people are going to be convinced that Kucinich is the man, they're gonna need the data. Fair enough.

Global Stewards has compiled some stats on those candidates currently in office (which means no Dean). It's not a bad place to start, just to eliminate the other slackers. They have scores on environment, labor, civil rights, animal rights (?), authority on the Iraq invasion, and an overall "liberal quotient." These ratings mostly come from outside sources (League of Conservation Voters, AFL-CIO, NAACP, The Humane Society and Fund for Animals, and Americans for Democratic Action, respectively).

Because I don't know how to insert a table, you can go look at their aggregate table here. Kucinich was third of six on the environment (90%), first on labor rights (98%; Gephardt, tellingly, was 4th), tied for fifth on civil rights (89%), first on animal rights (100%), and was one of only two to vote against the war resolution (Graham was the other, though this is misleading; he felt it was too timid).

I will show the "liberal quotient" scores, because they're interesting. (Website explanation: "'Liberal Quotient' Ratings (0-100%) for each of the possible or declared current Congressional candidates based on how they voted each year on 20 key votes that covered a wide range of social and economic issues, both domestic and international. Shown below: Lifetime Average Rating.")

93% Senator John Kerry (MA)
90% Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (OH)
88% Senator John Edwards (NC)
83% Congressman Richard Gephardt (MO)
76% Senator Joe Lieberman (CT)
69% Senator Robert Graham (FL)

I think the message on all of these is that they're only guages: if a candidate has voted well on a eight of ten key pieces of legislation, but has voted badly on the last two as well as most of a number of lesser bills, that needs to be taken into account. Character also counts for a lot--which is why Dean's captured the hearts of a number of bloggers.

Civil Rights
He voted no on one bill, and the NAACP didn't know how he voted on the other. The thing he voted against was actually an amendment to an education bill that would have stricken the federal requirement that states test children for math and reading in grades 3-8. The one they didn't know what his vote was a resolution to encourage humanitarian relief and assistance to sub-saharan Africa. I'm guessing he either supported it or would have; the vote was 400-9. Hard to call him lacking on his civil rights record.

There's no way to tell from the the League's numbers how he voted on particular items. His low score comes from an 86% rating in the 105th Congress--the last two (106th and 7th) he was 90% and 95%. No lifetime statistic is given.

Here he's really getting whumped. According to the most recent data I could find (here and here), Kucinich has a paltry $180k. That compares to millions raised by others, including $2.6 mil raised by Dean.

Translation: he needs help! Starting today, he's getting mine.

posted by Jeff | 9:53 PM |

I'm ready to back Dennis Kucinich.

Dean's cool, but I think it's time for an old-fashioned liberal. So the question is, how do we get the bloggers going for Kucinich? Dean clearly has the most organized grassroots effort, but Kucinich should be able to tap into the same pool.

I've been trying to figure out how to contact Kucinich or one of his staffers, but so far, I see only emails that go nowhere. Anyone had any more luck?

posted by Jeff | 3:15 PM |


The volume of my blogging over the past couple weeks has been down, and it looks like that's going to continue to be the situation.

The central reason for this is my impending unemployment (T minus 14 days and counting), a result of Oregon's budget woes. Yes, now it can be told: I'm one of those parasites who work for state government (or was, or soon-to-be-was).

There are some benefits to the situation, though. I'm in the midst of trying to kick-start my freelancing career. I had a meager one going for a few years in the late 90s, in a small backwater of the food-writing genre (itself a backwater). So I'll soon be building on that promising start, which will limit my blog time. With any luck, all will go swimmingly and eventually the blogging will kick back in. I'll do my best in the meantime.

(And I guess I should go ahead and say that if you own your own publication, pay your freelancers, and have long wondered how to get me to expand on say, the three-point plan, now's your chance. I work well with copy editors, and I always make deadlines. What more can you ask from your freelancers? Email me.)

posted by Jeff | 11:26 AM |

Sunday, June 15, 2003  


Symbol (n) [from the Greek sumbolon: mark, token] 1. a thing conventionally regard as typifying, representing, or recalling something. (Oxford)

Flag day is an odd thing. Other national holidays more obviously celebrate events or people--New Year's, MLK jr. Day--or concepts, as in Labor or Memorial Day. But for Flag Day we ritually celebrate a symbol. The flag, after all, represents the US. But we have a holiday for that--Independence Day. For flag day we honor not the country but one of the country's symbols.

(Presumably, this means the positive elements of our liberal democracy--our Constitution, freedoms, government and so on. Yet we don't hold that opinion when we see the flags of other nations. China's, for example, reminds us more of the government's repression than its original, pure fidelity to human equality. Likewise, one could argue that the flag represents the whole of America, too--the Bill of Rights as well as slavery; the liberation of Europe and the horrors of Vietnam, and so on.)

The US has always regarded its own government with something of the awe afforded to religion, and flag day is a psychological tell to this tendency. The flag, as representation of the sacred faith, is itself worthy of veneration. Normally we don't confuse the symbol with the thing it's symbolizing--tearing a picture in half is not like killing the person in the portrait. But that's not the case with the flag. For Americans, the flag is itself more than dyed and sewn cotton fiber. It is somehow imbued with the very sacred nature of the country.

When the founding fathers cleared the continent of timber and Indians, they built a society based on values, rather than race. This may not have been the first such occasion, but it was certainly a rare thing. America's self-image has always been one of values: founded by "the people"--equal, not part of a medieval caste system--who wanted to create a more perfect union celebrating life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was a country of beliefs, not heritage. Though those beliefs have always been open to interpretation, the nature of being an American means only a belief in these ideas--nothing else is required.

It's a strange quirk then that the religion of most of the early citizens in this country-of-ideas had an almost identical theology: it doesn't matter who you are or where you came from, just what you believe. The result was an emotional response to the beliefs of the country that mirrored the emotion people felt for their Protestant Christianity. Subsequent democracies, borrowing almost wholesale from the US Constitution, resisted this identification--partly because they hadn't knitted the country together solely from the fabric of thought, partly because they had other, pre-existing self-images about what it meant to be, say, French or Indian.

So America has always deified itself, inadvertently, innocently, and unconsciously. So many examples exist, but veneration of the flag has always been the most provocative. That veneration leads self-proclaimed patriots burn the flag--either in celebration of the purity of the rights granted in the Constitution, or ritually, once a flag had become stained and tattered. The debate isn't as much about the sacredness of the flag as to the appropriate ritual with which it should be honored.

But at the end of the day, the flag is nothing more than cloth, a symbol. What it represents--liberty or enslavement, opportunity or oppression--is a moving target. In American history we find all of them. As a symbol, the flag is only a reflection of the civic good we embody in our policies and actions. This weekend, I've heard a lot of discussion about how people plan to celebrate flag day. But thinking about the celebration of the flag (or even its ritual meaning) misses the larger point: it's not the symbol we should be considering, it's the policies of the country that flag represents. After all, a symbol can only reflect the thing for which it stands.

posted by Jeff | 1:31 PM |

Saturday, June 14, 2003  

Why Bush Won't Win Oregon

[Note: I thought I had posted this on the Oregon Blog, as was my intent. But, obviously, that wasn't the case. Too little coffee? Early-onset Alzheimers? I'll leave it up here anyway, though, with a little more context. All politics are local right? Okay, here's some local politics for you.]

News today that Bush plans to barnstorm our fair state in '04.

"Smith and other Republican leaders say White House officials -- particularly Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove -- are anxious to break the Democratic dominance on the West Coast. They believe their best target is in the Northwest, particularly in Oregon where Bush lost in 2000 by fewer than 6,800 votes. Democrat Al Gore defeated Bush by 5 percentage points in Washington."

(Background: Oregon was one of the states where Nader might have swung the vote. Although Gore only beat Bush by 6,000 votes, Nader got 77,000, or 5%--his largest support in the country. So go ahead and figure those 77,000 votes aren't going to Bush in '04, putting him in a hole a lot deeper than a mere 6,000 votes.)

Well, I have a little news for the Prez: ain't gonna happen. He may have lost Oregon by just a hair in the double aught debacle, but that was a long, long time ago. As is usual with the President, he only dimly understands the consequences of his actions. Let's review:

- He got out of the gates by backing Ashcroft's attempt to overturn Oregon's Death with Dignity law.

- Ashcroft had further troubles here when he tried to get ahold of library records. (Multnomah County led a national lawsuit to prevent this.)

- After 9/11, Bush and Ashcroft again ran against the state when they tried to crack down on immigrants and Portland refused to cooperate. (We took a lot of heat for that nationally. The city was again called anti-American, terrorist lovin' "Little Beirut." Doesn't look quite as bad today.)

- Bush waged a war that was wildly-unpopular here. (The local newspaper--The Oregonian--which has statewide distribution, was getting letters to the editor running 95% against the war.)

- Bush tax cuts have very visibly damaged our listing economy, and insult to injury, he refuses to fund his own "no child left behind" legislation, even while Oregon schools make national headlines for their poverty.

Did I miss anything?

Bush may be able to fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, but very few of them live in Oregon. Go find your suckers somewhere else, pal.

posted by Jeff | 10:00 AM |

Friday, June 13, 2003  

Somehow I missed this exchange the President had with Polish television while he was there mawkishly perusing the horrors of WWII.

THE PRESIDENT: ...Poland is a member of this coalition of the willing, who stood up for freedom and stood up for peace and stood up for security. And Poland also recognizes that there's more work to do. And I'm -- also I'm going to Poland to thank the Polish people for caring about freedom in other parts of the world.

Q But, still, those countries who didn't support the Iraqi Freedom operation use the same argument, weapons of mass destruction haven't been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?

THE PRESIDENT: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them. (Emphasis, of course, is added.)

These were comments he made on May 29, after the discovery of those two trailers the Pentagon speculated might have been used in bioweapons production. Even after they were first discovered, no one was willing to verify they were mobile labs--only that they seemed unlikely to be used for anything else.

So when Bush, two days after their discovery, says "We found the weapons of mass destruction," this can't be confused with an intelligence failure. It's a--come on, say it with me--it's a blatant lie. What's worse, shaking your finger and saying, "I did not have sex with that woman," or telling the country you've found the very thing you lied about to justify a war?

Where the hell's Ken Starr when you really need him?

(Oh, and just to maintain my blog cred as a conspiracy theory nut, let me point out that the CIA report on those trailers isn't online anymore. Or at least, the link to that report that I found here is dead. They buried it, I tell you!)

posted by Jeff | 10:15 PM |

Again, I have to apologize that things are languishing here on the blog this week. I remain busybusybusy.

Nevertheless, reading the hometown paper this morning with my cup o' joe, I came across a new argument in the President's-lying-about-WMD issue. Seemed to good to pass up, so I'll blog it on the run. From David Sarasohn, a local columnist, and one of the best I know.

"And as President Bush affirmed the next night, announcing the opening of the war, 'Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.'

"So the war had to happen immediately, March 19, and even a Canadian resolution to wait until the end of March was too dangerous. . . .

"But March, if you remember, was all about urgency. That was why we couldn't wait around for the United Nations, not another month, not another couple of weeks. Fundamentally, that's why we're now virtually alone in Iraq, with tens and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers trying to maintain order and defend themselves. It's why the rest of the world is not only not with us in Baghdad, but also deeply dubious about what we're doing next -- and why."

The President and the President's men are desperately trying to revise history, even history barely three months old. They argue now that WMD never really had much to do with the justification for war, and anyway, the fact that there are no WMD isn't proof of a lie, but an intelligence failure. Sarasohn reminds us all, again, that that simply wasn't the case.

posted by Jeff | 11:48 AM |

Thursday, June 12, 2003  

An astute reader pointed out a serious flaw in the polling data I reported on a coupla days ago. I'm talking about the NPR poll (.pdf file) I described as dispiriting. Well, turns out there's a durn good reason why: it polled mostly conservatives.

If you read down into the demographic data, it becomes pretty interesting. NPR asked the question, "Do you consider yourself to be a conservative, moderate, or liberal?" Only 16% fessed up to being liberal. Forty-three percent called themselves conservative. That's nearly three times as many, for those of you scoring at home. Asked whom they voted for in the last election, 51% voted Bush, 41% for Gore and Nader. (And of course, no one's forgetting Gore got more votes than Bush in the election.) So, given that the deck was heartily stacked in favor of King George, it's not quite as surprising--or dispiriting--that the numbers looked so bad for Dems.

On a related note, this is further evidence that polling data are no longer particularly reliable. In the past two elections, the polls (both before for and, notoriously, after the election) proved to be inaccurate. Why? Well, it's not a statistical issue--that is, no one believes that someone ran the numbers wrong. But let's look at the NPR poll. According to pollsters, it had a plus or minus of 3.64%. This is a mathematical over/under, based mainly on the number of warm bodies they found to talk to. But a quick glance at that demographic data point out that the sample doesn't look much like the US (and fortunately, we have a reliable sample with whom to compare NPR's--actual voters).

It's a question of sampling. I've heard a couple theories that are convincing logically (though I haven't seen any studies). 1) Cell phones. They're unlisted, and a huge number of Americans use them, meaning that although they're part of the population, they're not in any phone sample. 2) Only a small part of the population answers the phone, or (if they don't recognize the person on the other end) stay on the phone. Telemarketers have made pariahs of anyone non-personal callers, and so only a few people are willing to be surveyed. I think Americans are increasingly suspicious of pollsters, and they may not be as truthful as they once were.

In any case, for a country that conducts politics by way of polling data, we sure have an imprecise way of measuring voters' positions. In fact, so skewed is that NPR study that I wouldn't even call it valid.

posted by Jeff | 12:59 PM |
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