Friday, October 31, 2003

France turning its back on 'Le Halloween'

It's Halloween Night (actually late Halloween afternoon), my front porch light is on, and I'm hoping some of the neighborhood rugrats show up to take some of this candy or else I'm going to have to eat it.

The transformation of a fun kiddie holiday into a pop-cultural monster is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only within the last 12 or 15 years has Halloween become what we now know it to be. Of course, Halloween as we know it is not a worldwide phenomenon. As the Associated Press reports above, the vile French can't seem to bring themselves to get into it.

Stick This

Seen on a bumper sticker this afternoon: "Re-Defeat Bush in 2004."

Which reminds me it's been almost a year since I saw my all-time favorite sticker, a delight so subtle and ironic it made me laugh out loud after the car had driven away and it had a chance to sink in: "President Nixon: Now More Than Ever."

Duck Walk

Let us begin this morning's meditation with another text from David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation. He takes on William Boykin's "apology" and Bush's latest characterization of Al Qaeda as terrorists who "seek to control every mind and soul." Bush is nothing if not stubbornly consistent, and there he goes again. Let's take it from the top: Al Qaeda has political goals, which Corn neatly summarizes. The group is not simply a clutch of madmen bent on world domination, and Osama Bin Laden is not simply Lex Luthor in a funny hat. Any thinking person with a rudimentary knowledge of history and politics knows that. But we've just defined what Bush is not, haven't we?

When the news came down yesterday that the economy had grown at the fastest rate in 19 years during the third quarter, my first reaction was: Really? Faster than at any time in the go-go 1990s? Even with continuing job losses and low consumer confidence? The folks at It's Still the Economy, Stupid, had the same reaction, but they know enough about economics to break down the numbers. The verdict: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck, provided we're talking about ducks. Economies can walk and quack like robust recovering patients, but they might still be dead ducks.

Recommended reading: Chicagoan Studs Terkel is 91 now and has seen damn near everything. In the current edition of In These Times, he writes about the pro-Bush, pro-war media spin and America's "national Alzheimer's disease". Terkel also observes that both he and John Ashcroft attended the University of Chicago: "I was there 30 years before he was, but he is much older than I am. I maintain John Ashcroft is at least 300 years old...." Great writer, great reading.

Also, MoveOn.Org reports on Bush's misdirection involving the National Park Service--praise them as a national treasure, underfund or privatize their operations when no one is looking.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

You Really Can Use "Bush" and "Intelligence" in the Same Sentence

Here's the link to NPR's Eric Westervelt on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts in Iraq, mentioned below. Westervelt notes that one thing that would help is to move people out of the fruitless search for WMDs and into more useful forms of intelligence-gathering. This, of course, would be evidence that the WMD search is a failure, which the Bush Administration would sooner eat worms and die than do. Disturbingly, the Iraqi resistance seems to have better intelligence about us than we do about them.

I Like to Watch

As an antidote to the depressing crap I plowed through to compile my post of a few minutes ago, I clicked over to Salon, where TV columnist Heather Havrilesky has written a hilarious summary of what she watched yesterday--wildfire coverage, Survivor, 24, and Joe Schmo, all of which apparently have more in common than you might think.

Thursday Morning Surf

Here's a pretty even-handed piece from The Hill in which Republicans actually sound reasonable, and not like zombified Kool-Aid drinkers who'd happily go to hell if Bush led them there. (All except for Trent Lott, whose comments sound disturbingly like "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.")

In the article, Senator Roberts of Kansas criticizes the lack of intelligence information necessary to fight a guerilla war--criticisms echoed in an NPR report this morning, which I will link to later today. The United States has had few intelligence assets on the ground in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War--practically nobody on the inside, doing the hard work of spying, producing the sort of critical, credible information that can be used against an enemy. The NPR report this morning noted that U.S. commanders, hoping to do something to forestall the increasing daily attacks, may be now willing to rely on whatever information they can lay their hands on about the attackers--and to act based on information that's less than credible. It's a grim twist on a theme we've heard before. American policymakers from Dick Cheney on down laid many of their plans for this war based on inside information from Iraqi exiles like Ahmed Chalabi--the man who promised our troops would be greeted by rose-petal-throwing Iraqi damsels--which turned out to be, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit. Now, U.S. commanders are forced to try to protect their troops by relying on similar bullshit because it's the only option geniuses like Cheney and Chalabi have left them with.

With the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq since "Mission Accomplished" having passed the number incurred while the mission was being "accomplished," the Guardian reported yesterday on the number of Iraqis killed while the mission was being "accomplished." The estimate: somewhere around 9,200 "combatants" and 3,800 civilians.

This, of course, will not be widely reported in the American media. We don't like to think that our sons and daughters are slaughtering people over there. Which means that our only president will never see it. Of course, as he admitted last week, he doesn't read the papers anyhow, preferring to get his news from briefers like Condoleezza Rice. (As Paul Krugman hilariously observed earlier this week: "Emperor. Clothes.") Yet that doesn't stop him from criticizing the media he claims not to pay attention to. David Corn--a writer always worth reading--examines the conundrum.

I wonder if Bush will watch the Jessica Lynch TV movie this weekend, or her interview with Diane Sawyer in a couple of weeks. Lynch, who either was or was not heroically rescued from Iraqi captivity this spring, is back home in Palestine, West Virginia--where the Iraqi lawyer who is said to have tipped off American soldiers to her location paid a visit this week. Except Jessica was too busy to meet him--and that wasn't the only thing that went wrong on the trip. Marcus Lynch of the Telegraph reports, hilariously.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Attack Brought Sniper Victim 'Closer to God'

Oh, dear. This is what happens when 14-year-olds get religion. I don't doubt that the experience of being shot in the chest by the DC sniper was horrific for 14-year-old Iran Brown. But his statement that it "brought me closer to God" is curious.

I am guessing that, being 14, Iran is not saying this in an ironic way--that is, "It brought me closer to God because I could see him at the end of the bright tunnel alongside my dog Sparky, who got run over by a milk truck in 1998." And I am also guessing that Iran was probably not an atheist before this. Thus we can guess he was a person who would have expected God to be looking out for him already on the morning of October 7, 2002. So I wonder what he thinks God was doing, precisely, in the moments when John Muhammad had Iran lined up in the crosshairs, and Iran needed his intervention like never before.

Now, far from finding God derelict in his duty or simply incompetent, people who believe in him often trot out the idea of free will. God can't prevent people from committing evil acts because that would interfere with a person's free will to choose good or evil and would thus make people into automatons. Well, how come John Muhammad's free-will decision to shoot Iran Brown is more important than Iran Brown's free-will choice to ride to school in the morning without getting his spleen blown off?

I have raised this sort of point in the past and people think it's impolite or intolerant or sacrilegious. Which it may be. But nobody has answered me satisfactorily yet, either. "God has a plan and we aren't supposed to know what it is" doesn't count.

Come Play With the Cool Kids

Last week, I linked to a column by Mark Morford on SF Gate in which he wrote about a National Rifle Association blacklist of people supporting gun control. Well now, you can put your name on the blacklist also by clicking the link above. Well, not really. But you can sign your name to a petition that says you support the same things the blacklisted do--stronger gun control and opposition to the NRA agenda.

(A Reuters news story about the blacklist is among the most e-mailed on Yahoo today, and the link for adding your own name to the blacklist is currently down, most likely because of heavy traffic.)

Once again, real life is like high school: The bullies and brown-nosers may be in charge, but all the cool kids hate them.

This Just In: Morning TV Still Sucks

When I first started seeing promos for ESPN2's morning show Cold Pizza, which Salon's King Kauffman reviews at the link above, I guessed that it would be pretty much like Kauffman portrays it. It is hosted by a blandly handsome everyman who is enough of a cipher to allow male viewers to imagine it is they who are surrounded by the three female co-hosts: the cute one, the smart one, and the outrageous one. All four of them prattle on for two hours about the sorts of things that we used to call "kicker stories" back when I was still in broadcasting (in what now seems like the Paleozoic era)--lifestyle and celebrity news and human oddities that used to merit 10 seconds before the weather forecast but now power entire television networks 24-7. And because this is ESPN, there is also lots of sports.

Kauffman notes that instead of going for the young male demographic, which ESPN should own pretty much by default to begin with, this show appears to grab for the soccer mom crowd--the same people likely to watch perky Katie Couric, perky Kelly Ripa of Regis and Kelly , or perky Robin Meade on the perky morning edition of the continually perky Headline News (a woman who epitomizes almost everything that's wrong with broadcast anchors these days, which is quite an accomplishment if you think about it). And maybe that's a smart move, as the young male TV watching demographic, ages 18-24, appears to be shrinking. This group is one of the most desirable to advertisers, and executives of the major networks have been scratching their heads wondering why viewership among the group is down 20 percent in the first month of the new fall TV season. Many theories are being floated--quality of the programming, better choices on cable, higher Internet usage--but my favorite is that the mobilization of reservists to Iraq, most of whom are young males aged 18-24, is to blame. Nice try, but we ain't sent that many over there. Yet.


On a morning when the newspaper and Internet headlines blare Bush's claims that we are continuing to make progress in Iraq (and his plans to run for reelection as a great peacemaker), Robert Fisk's reporting serves as a necessary cold shower. Fisk's gloomy assessment of the long view in Iraq shows Bush's statements yesterday for what they are--propaganda at odds with the truth.

Or maybe Bush isn't a skillful propagandist, just ignorant, as Paul Krugman speculated in the New York Times yesterday. But the end result is the same--Bush is trying to get reelected by any means necessary, twisting the facts and relying on a gullible media and citizenry to buy it. Given that the administration's policies are an utter disaster, lying is the only thing left that reliably works, the only thing they can control.

Also, on the Times op-ed page today, T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose novel A Friend of the Earth took place in a future world ravaged by environmental catastrophe, reports from Santa Barbara on the California wildfires and wonders when it will be his turn to see his home burned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Bush in 30 Seconds

The latest idea from MoveOn.org. Can't wait to see what results.

Thirty seconds is about how long this idea should be considered credible by Bush's reelection team. George W. Bush, the candidate of peace. And he supposedly quit using drugs back in the '80s.

Bush Says Americans Not Misled on Iraq Campaign

If you want more evidence that our Maximum Leader and his minions are utterly unconstrained by conscience and will say anything, scroll down to paragraphs six and seven of the story linked above.

The "Mission Accomplished" banner wasn't the White House staff's idea? How stupid does he think people are? There is no way in hell the White House staff DIDN'T have anything to do with that banner. The U.S.S. Lincoln stunt was a photo op--it was all about the way it looked on TV--thus there is no way the White House would leave something as critical as the president's backdrop to the staff of the aircraft carrier. It is simply not credible to believe it--unless you're already congenitally disposed to believe whatever noxious effrontery to common sense comes out of the man's mouth on any given day.

Contemptible. Absolutely contemptible, but absolutely in character. Worst. President. Ever.

Ed Garvey: Kucinich stands for true Democratic principles

Well, I was afraid it might come to this. Wisconsin's most visible progressive drinks the Kool-Aid and signs on aboard the good ship Titanic with an endorsement of Dennis Kucinich in the Wisconsin Democratic primary.

I admire Dennis Kucinich, but I am a realist in politics, which is famously defined as the "art of the possible." And it is impossible for Kucinich to be elected president of the United States at this moment in history, with the electorate closely divided and scared of terrorists under the bed. While Kucinich excites a slice of the activist community and gets a rise out of political junkies, Mr. and Mrs. Average American Voter are simply not going to choose a vegan who wants to start a Department of Peace, and who has a naive and unrealistic view of what we ought to be doing in Iraq. Republicans could simply portray him as a McGovernesque nutjob who is weak on evil and nobody would ever hear one word he says, no matter how right those words are. Bush would have the landslide he acts like he got in 2000, and a mandate to continue burning down the village in the guise of saving it. And then where will we be?

Progressives need to be reminded--yet again, because it looks like the lessons of Ralph Nader have gone unlearned--that winning this election is all that matters. Progressive causes have suffered immeasurable damage during the first Bush term, and there will be little worth saving of them after a second. Nothing we want to do can start to get done unless we win the 2004 election first. Moral victories are losses, period. Support for a candidate who cannot win is a waste of time, and frankly, it's damned dangerous.

I hope that when it becomes clear that Kucinich has utterly no shot, probably after the New Hampshire primary, that he and his supporters will support the eventual nominee, and not go running to Nader or some other doomed candidate who allows them to maintain their political purity but has the effect of delivering the country up to further rape and pillage by the Bush gang. That will be the real test of whether Kucinich supporters really understand what is at stake in 2004--or if they're just dilettantes playing at politics.

Smart Enough to Pay Attention

In Salon, Michelle Goldberg reported yesterday on Saturday's antiwar march in Washington, and the hard fact that liberals who want the troops brought home now (are you listening, Dennis Kucinich supporters?) just don't get that we have a responsibility to ameliorate the conditions we caused there--up to and including spending the controversial $87 billion approved by Congress earlier this month. Goldberg, one of the best reporters working right now, suggests that liberals need is a positive progressive plan that's more nuanced than "bring the troops home," and not just more expressions of hatred for Bush in particular and the war in general. Today's letters in response to the story add further illumination.

Recommended reading: The boys over at Spinsanity have had a good week, with posts on Ann Coulter's feeble attempt to correct a handful of the dozens of factual errors, ad hominem attacks, and straw-man fallacies in her books Treason and Slander, and Bill O'Reilly's attempt to counter criticism of his self-important belligerence. Spinsanity's work is devastating precisely because it's measured, quiet, and utterly factual--something Coulter and O'Reilly know nothing about.

One other thing: Tonight is the third-season premiere of Fox's 24. The show will have to go quite a distance to top last season's plotline, which started with terrorists threatening to detonate a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles and ended with several stunning twists. This season takes place three years later, with several new characters--and, no doubt, surprising appearances by some of the old ones. The show is a wonder for a number of reasons—but the best one is that it's made for adults and presumes that the audience is smart enough to pay attention. Fox doesn't always serve it well—its on-air promos for the show last season tended to give away significant plot points and always played up the show's violence—but the fact that something so good ever made it to network TV, let alone survived, is something to rejoice about.

Monday, October 27, 2003

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I have been living with Van Morrison the last couple of weeks. First, I picked up Clinton Heylin's new biography, Can You Feel the Silence?; then last week, just as I finished the book, Morrison's new CD, What's Wrong With This Picture? hit the stores and my CD player.

Morrison's music is sublime. Indeed, if I were going to a desert island forever, I'd want Morrison's Back on Top and Down the Road in my backpack, and probably What's Wrong With This Picture?, too, even if there are at least five songs on it that talk about what a bitch it is to be a famous recording artist.

And that's a key point in understanding Morrison as a person. According to Heylin, the creator of these terrific albums is a thin-skinned, embittered man with little use for most of his fellow human beings. The adulation of his audience is a burden to him. Morrison lives eternally in the now at least as far as his music is concerned, not interested in playing his old hits and often responding to such requests with shockingly rude refusals from the stage. Yet he remembers personal and professional slights from ages past in great detail, even if he sometimes revises and embellishes the tales in the telling. (Heylin observes that Morrison is a very poor source regarding events of his own life.)

So it's an odd thing to contemplate. Here's a man whose music is, at its best, magnificent, even transcendant stuff. Think Moondance, or Astral Weeks, the 1969 album that made Morrison's reputation in a way that his records with the group Them and his solo hit "Brown Eyed Girl" never could. But it comes from the mind, heart, and soul of a person whose art does not satisfy his own soul the way it does the souls of his audience. He seems to take little sustained pleasure in his work, and is greatly suspicious of the motives of audiences, record labels, and even other musicians. And he's been this way for his whole career. Strong sales figures don't change it; love doesn't change it; even being left alone, which he claims to want most of all, doesn't change it.

Morrison is neither the first famously difficult artist in history, nor the first to produce great beauty from a tortured soul. But I can't think of another artist in whom the contrast between the outer artist and the inner man is so great.

Predictable Nonsense Alert

SmokemoutdeadoralivebringitonSeptember11victimsAmurricawillnotfail. Repeat as necessary until safely reelected.

Yada yada yada.

Call Out the Cops

One hopes that after nearly getting smoked in his bed at the Al Rashid Hotel, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul "Dr. Strangelove" Wolfowitz might change his views on the wisdom of the Iraq war. One hopes in vain, of course. American governor-general Paul Bremer has promised a full investigation, as if the incident were an act of vandalism or something. Fact is, Wolfie went into a war zone, and these things happen in war zones. Ironic, also to see U.S. officials responding to what looks like an act of war as if it were a police matter--which is damn well what we should have done on September 11, and what an administration that hadn't made its mind up to fight a war on Iraq years before and only needed an excuse probably would have done.

Nobody reading this blog probably needs to read another piece about hatred of George W. Bush and his lying administration. But if you do, William Rivers Pitt of Truthout.Org provides a good one.

Friday, October 24, 2003

One Fine Friday Morning in Wisconsin

Our legislative Republicans have had themselves a good week, getting a bill legalizing the concealed carrying of guns through committee and passing a bill in the Assembly that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The so-called "Defense of Marriage" bill is co-sponsored by a number of legislators, seven of whom are either divorced or getting divorced. But when a Democrat pointed out that fact on the floor yesterday, Republicans whined that it was unfair.


Presidential candidates are thick on the ground up here today. Carol Moseley Braun is in Milwaukee, Wesley Clark is in Madison, and Theresa Heinz Kerry will open her husband's Wisconsin office today also. But according to Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic's DC Dispatch, Mrs. Kerry should save herself the trip. Rauch says that like milk and bread, presidential candidates have an expiration date, and John Kerry, among others, has gone stale. This is not just Rauch's opinion--he's got the numbers to back it up.

We are also enduring another Wisconsin Public Radio pledge drive up here. WPR has two statewide networks and syndicates several popular national programs, such as Whad'ya Know and To the Best of Our Knowledge (which is This American Life without the intense smugness). But for a week every spring and fall, it stops doing what it does best to shill for money. I know it's necessary (and I'm a contributor myself), but it's as profoundly annoying as anything I've ever heard on the radio. Yesterday morning I heard one of the classical music hosts lamenting that he'd been on the air for half-an-hour and hadn't received any pledge calls yet. Yeah, I thought, that's because you drove everybody away during Morning Edition.

Speaking of public radio, John Nichols of the Capital Times writes about the Bill O'Reilly/Terry Gross throwdown earlier this month, and NPR's surprising reaction to it.

Yes, it is a fine Friday in Wisconsin. This feature will be light on new entries until sometime Sunday or Monday, when the pace will pick up again.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

John Mellencamp Attacks President Bush In Open Letter

How long until some conservative pundit weighs in with another "there they go again" against the showbiz elite? By noon, maybe?

Real life really is like high school. The brown-nosers and bullies are in charge, but all the cool kids hate them.

Thursday Morning Surf

The Washington Post reports this morning on the Lieberman/Clark/Edwards strategy of skipping Iowa, and in Lieberman and Edwards's case, New Hampshire, in the Democratic nomination fight. Among other things, the article points out one big oddity in the process as it now exists--why it's often better to finish third than second. Also in the Post, Terry Neal writes about a straw poll scheduled at Florida's state Democratic convention in December. The Democratic National Committee has urged the nine candidates to skip it, saying it would be a distraction so close to the Iowa Caucuses in January. The article quotes the Dean and Edwards campaigns as saying they will be there, but not Dick Gephardt. His spokesman says, "We're not likely to participate in the straw poll because it's against the DNC rules. The rules are pretty clear on it."

As Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Dick Gephardt wouldn't fight. Now as a candidate for president, he won't fight either. And if he won't fight for the nomination, he won't fight in the general election either. It's more evidence that Gephardt would be the worst nominee picked to face a sitting president since crusading newspaper editor Horace Greeley was chosen to oppose U.S. Grant, the general who won the Civil War, in 1872.

And finally: A few days after September 11, a friend e-mailed me to say that we were in for a holy war, and he noted that the only way a holy war ends is for one side to admit their god's a loser. This, of course, never happens. So General William "Mine's bigger than yours" Boykin's comments this week only serve to remind us of what's really going on out there. On the floor of the House yesterday, Republican Mike Pence of Indiana declaimed that "God is not neutral. Let it be said that in this Congress, God is on our side. And may it ever be so." Even the New York Times seems to think so, as Dave Lindorff reports.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Interesting Things We Have Learned From Republicans Lately

Tom Tomorrow is God.

The Nuremberg Election

From Eat the State, Geov Parrish looks at the strange case of Wesley Clark, "peace candidate," and his links to mistreatment of Haitian refugees fleeing Baby Doc, the assault on the Branch Davidians at Waco, Colombian death squads, and the targeting of civilian infrastructure during the war in Kosovo. Parrish says: "Clark's political ascent is an indication of how firmly embedded a bellicose foreign policy is in both major parties; of how feeble the American public's imagination has become when trying to consider how best to conduct ourselves in a shrinking world; and how susceptible progressives and peace activists have become to that same failure."

And Now, Some Good News

MoveOn.Org sent out a member bulletin this afternoon touting the group's achievement in opposition to the $87 billion appropriation for Bush's war. These bulletins don't seem to be available on the organization's website for me to link to, so I'll take the liberty of quoting from it here:

"Members of True Majority, Working Assets, and MoveOn sent a whopping 326,671 messages to Congress in the last 48 hours before the vote. MoveOn members alone made over 64,092 phone calls to Congress between Wednesday and Friday -- over 100 per member of Congress. The volume was so heavy that we got calls from Congressional offices asking us to 'turn it off.' This was in addition to over 28,000 calls MoveOn members had already made on the issue.

"325,000 people signed our petition to Congress, calling on it to vote no unless President Bush changed course and fired the team responsible for the quagmire in Iraq.

"We ran print ads in the New York Times, as well as papers in West Virginia and Ohio. We also launched a new TV ad on the $87 billion, which was covered widely in the press and aired on NBC Nightly News, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. You can view the ads on our homepage (http://www.moveon.org).

"After the vote on the $87 billion was delayed -- itself a sign of the stronger-than-expected opposition -- Win Without War partners pulled together citizen visits to all 100 Senate offices in under a week. Over 2,000 people participated in the visits -- some driving for hours to deliver a clear message to their Senator."

The challenge is great. The power of $250 billion in campaign ads aimed at distorting the truth and confusing the electorate is great. But it's clear that more and more Americans are finding the strength and the voice to stand in front of the train and say "No more." Perhaps there will be enough of us in one year to end the reign of Bush.

If you are not a member of MoveOn.Org, hie thee to their website forthwith and register.

Britney Spears Doesn't Bang

Reading this Mark Morford column just now reminded me of an NPR report from a National Rifle Association convention a couple of years ago that did more to persuade me of the need to simply ban all guns than anything else might have. The NRA's gun fetishism is unhealthy for society, sure, but even more unhealthy for the gun nuts themselves.

The Morning Surf
Harper's Weekly Review is available only on the Internet, and is delivered by e-mail once a week. It's a collection of one- and two-sentence news items, but it's the way they're arranged that makes the Review a must read. Primary writer Roger D. Hodge juxtaposes stories so that they subtly comment on one another. Unlike many things on the web, if you skim it, you miss it. This week's review is particularly pointed, starting with "President George W. Bush traveled to Asia and gave a speech in Manila comparing Iraq to the Philippines, a former U.S. colony that was 'liberated' from Spain in 1898 and occupied for 48 years. Bush said that the Philippines, which he called 'the oldest democracy in Asia,' should be seen as the model for a new democratic Iraq, and then quickly left the country because of security concerns." Other publications (including sometimes mine) spend hundreds of words saying less effectively what Hodge put across there in less than 70.

In a little squib at the bottom of one of this week's "Mondo Washington" reports, James Ridgeway observes that California Democrats are pushing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a vice-presidential candidate in 2004. This will never happen. Pelosi is earning Ted Kennedy-style enmity among conservatives for her leadership of the fight against the $87 billion for Bush's war. And not only that, the other night on C-SPAN, during the special order speeches--those given on any subject a member likes, mostly to an empty chamber--Republicans were lining up to bash her for a statement she made several months ago, in which she suggested she didn't believe the war on terrorism was really a war. Whichever Democrat gets the presidential nomination is going to have to endure 250 million dollars' worth of attack ads suggesting he's soft on evil. Explaining Pelosi--even though she's right--just won't get through the din. Never mind that she's no more inspiring a leader than Dick Gephardt was.

The story came out yesterday that this year's federal budget deficit is something like 374 billion dollars. Bridget Gibson of ICH News reports it's more like 500 billion once you account for the money that we spent but didn't count. Gibson's piece, Fatal Vision, is mostly an accounting of the human cost of war, and includes a damning quote from Barbara Bush about the irrelevance of casualties in Iraq, back before we had any to talk about. (ICH, International Clearing House, is what its webmaster calls "News You Won't Hear on CNN or Fox Mooooos." In yesterday's daily digest alone, there were stories about the administration's ban on covering the return of dead soldiers to the US, about dissention and desertion in the American ranks, and the usual boatload of stories about Israel--if you really want to know what's going on over there, ICH has the links every day.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Favorite Waste of Time
I just put high-speed internet access in my office, so the thing is on all the time. That, combined with the ease of posting on this site as opposed to my other one, and I think I have discovered the greatest waste of time since the yo-yo.

Anyhow--browsing the news headlines again just now, it occurs to me that we're seeing Republicanism in a nutshell today. If you're an individual making a private choice, they rush to step in. If you are ripping off the American taxpayer as a whole, they pretty much leave you alone. And if you are threatening to incinerate thousands or millions, they'll poke you through the bars of your cage because it might make you back off.

So much for moral clarity and the consistency it brings to political decisions.

Misleader.org: Daily Mislead

Of the many, many things Bush does that give this site its title, the link above, which discusses his underfunding of veterans' medical care is one of the biggest. Add that to the story that broke over the weekend about the squalid conditions in which wounded Iraq war veterans are housed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and you understand just how hollow Bush's rhetoric about military sacrifice is. Our troops are just the help, that's all--completely expendable. And it seems to me that even the most dimwitted, Kool-Aid drinking Republican, ought to be able to see how wrong that is. If they weren't too busy legislating against abortion, of course.

Big Projects
One of George W. Bush's big projects as president—before September 11, anyhow—was to do for tort reform in the whole country what he did for it in Texas: making it harder for people to sue corporations for damages and also limiting the amount of damages a person could collect. On a national level, this strategy involves requiring many such suits to be tried in federal courts, which are considered less sympathetic to plaintiffs than state courts. There's no need, however, to do it on the sort of broad and sweeping basis that gets the public up in arms. It can be done surreptitiously, as in the proposed rule that would exempt companies that manufacture anti-terrorist technology from being sued if their products cause harm or don't work, even during a terrorist attack.

Elsewhere:For over two years, we have heard that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam or a war on Arabs. But with one of America's top generals saying that God put Bush in charge to smash the idol worshippers, maybe it's time we stopped believing this. From the Guardian via Information Clearing House, Neil Clark writes about the long history of Arabophobia in the West.

I wrote yesterday about the Washington insiders and their distaste for anything that doesn't serve the court of the king. Here's more, said better.

Moving Day
It occurs to me that for a blogger to change Internet Service Providers is nearly as traumatic as physically moving to a new address. I have been blogging steadily for nearly seven months now, and everything is on a site hosted by my old ISP, which I will be cutting loose in a few days. So I have to pack it up and take it all with me, then find a place to put it when I get there. This is not as easy as it seems, because it means changing the names of nearly every file and many of the links.

Enter Blogspot. I will be using this as my primary blog tool from here on out. At some fine future point, entries posted on the old blog will be resurrected in an archive of some sort, but maybe not for a while. And away we go . . .

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