Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener...
Idle ramblings of an intermittently philosophical nature... Apologies to Martin Gardner, whose The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is one of the best books you've (probably) never read.

An Idle Thought...
What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that [Glenn "InstaPundit"] Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.
--Brian Leiter, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

About Me (the condensed version)
A member of the tail end of the boomers; a middle aged recovering lawyer turned professional computer geek. Native of St. Louis, Missouri, transplanted to Memphis, Tennessee. Avid reader, amateur philosopher, St. Louis Cardinals fan, one of the last Renaissance men.

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A bit about me (The uncondensed version) Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything
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Listed on Blogwise

And in case you're interested, here's how many other 'net denizens need a life, or at least more compelling reading:

A blog worth reading:

Bloggus Caesari (Julius Caesar's Warblog)

Two blogs worth reading that I'll plug because the blogger is another Linux geek and a fellow Cardinals fan besides:

Frankly, I'd Rather Not

Other links of interest (to me, at least), in no particular order:

The Daily Howler
Bill Maher Blog
The Progressive
The O'Franken Factor
Majority Report Radio
The Gadflyer
Daily Kos
Steve Gilliard's Blog
Whiskey Bar
Just a Bump in the Beltway
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians)
Juan Cole *Informed Comment*
Christopher Orlet
The Online Gadfly
The Crisis Papers
Ted Rall Online
The Smirking Chimp
Talking Points Memo
Molly Ivins
This Modern World, By Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Reuben Bolling
Bob the Angry Flower
Conservatively Incorrect, by Rack Jite
Media Whores Online
Butterflies and Wheels
The Leiter Reports
Nathan Newman
Brief Intelligence
Half the Sins of Mankind
The Swing State Project
Glorfindel of Gondolin
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Missouri Liberal
different strings
Shock and Awe
Gotham City 13
Pen-Elayne on the Web
Empty Days
Censored Story of the Day
Roger's Profanisaurus
Rhonda & Jane present: 525 Reasons to Dump Bush
The Bush Scorecard of Evil
Sherman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog
Quaker in a Basement
World Phamous
NLSO Subic Bay (Navy unit alumni blog.)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Bracing against the wind
Rants Vitriol and Spleen – JRI
Apostate's Weekly
Redbird Nation
Go Cardinals
The Cardinals' Birdhouse
The Birdhouse Minor League Report
The Cardinals Fan Site
St. Louis Cardinals Ultimate Fan Site
RedBird Central
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties and Cardinalate (an all-MO baseball blog)
Pro Sports Daily: St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals news
Rob Neyer's column
The Hardball Times
The Baseball Widow
Management by Baseball
The Nashville Files (RTB member in waiting?)
Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog
The Select Group of Toys
Pesky the Rat
I, Cringely
The Gripe Line Weblog, by Ed Foster
The Register
Evil Empire
Watching Microsoft Like a Hawk
Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil
Public Defender Dude
Punishment Theory
Savage Cruel Bigots
Treason Online
Hell for Halliburton
Hollywood Lost and Found
Popdex Citations

Rocky Top Brigade:

RTB Lounge
NationStates Region

A Little More to the Right
A Moveable Beast
A Smoky Mountain Journal
Beyond the Whispers
Big Stupid Tommy
Bjorn, Again
Bully Pulpit
Busy Mom
Celtic Grove
Classless Warfare Jane
Conservative Zone
Dagley Dagley Daily
Damn Art Diary
Damn Foreigner
Democratic Veteran
Doc B
Doug McDaniel
Drawing Dead
Elephant Rants
Filthy Hippy Speak
Frank Cagle
Free Speech News
Granny Rant
Growth Spurt
Guy Montag
Hypotheses Non Fingo
In a Mays
Inn of the Last Home
Jaded Journal
Johnson City Stories
Lay Lines
Lean Left
Les Jones
Loco Parentis
Long Pauses
Mike Hollihan
Mike Reed
Mind Warp
Missives Anonymous
Mr. Lawson
My Quiet Life
Newton's Kumquat
No Quarters
One Hand Clapping
Pathetic Earthlings
Philosophical Scrivener
Queen Medb's Castle
Rebel Yell
Rex Hammock
Rich Hailey
Road Warrior
Sick of Bush
South Knox Bubba
Southern Reporter
Straight White Guy
Team Rock
The Golden Calf
Up For Anything
Voluntarily in China
Wandering Hillbilly
William Burton
InstaPundit (link removed, because I think Reynolds is an idiot, and he doesn't need the linkage. If you really want to waste your time reading his drivel, you know where to find him.)
Adam Groves (MIA)
Fat Ass Politics (MIA)
Oz's Lion (MIA)
Rapmaster (MIA)
Rush Limbaughtomy (MIA)
Secret City Scene (MIA)
Twelfth Parsec (MIA)
Uncommon Sense (KIA)
Underground Man (MIA)
Xyon's Rambles (MIA)

Memphis Blogs not in the Rocky Top Brigade

Signifying Nothing
m e m p h i s . c o o l (Jon W. Sparks's personal blog)
Sparks on Memphis (Jon W. Sparks's CA blog)
Peggy Phillip
Tread lightly on the things of earth
Rachel and the City
Well, I think I'm funny
Voice of Golden Eagle
when you're 21, you're no fun

The League of Liberals:

Democratic Veteran
The Spy Game
Cosmic Iguana
People's Republic of Seabrook
Philosophical Scrivener
The Mahablog
WTF is it NOW?
blunted on reality
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time
All Facts and Opinions
Dubya's Daily Diary
ARMACT Action Alerts
Cup O' Joe
Grateful Dread on the Web
The Poison Kitchen
Indigo Ocean
The Felonious Elephant
Sick of Bush
Arms and the Man
Rick's Cafe Americain
A-Changin' Times(ACT)
Estimated Prophet
Gotham City 13
Officially Unofficial
The Gunther Concept
The Mudshark
Screaming Points
Ink from the Squid
Left Is Right
Byte Back
The Huck Upchuck
The Sesquipedalian
DeanLand - Dean Landsman's Weblog
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Wilson's Blogmanac
Ayn Clouter
Anarchy Xero

The Liberal Coalition

01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003
02/01/2003 - 02/28/2003
03/01/2003 - 03/31/2003
04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003
05/01/2003 - 05/31/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/30/2003
07/01/2003 - 07/31/2003
08/01/2003 - 08/31/2003
09/01/2003 - 09/30/2003
10/01/2003 - 10/31/2003
11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/01/2003 - 12/31/2003
01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/01/2004 - 03/31/2004
04/01/2004 - 04/30/2004

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Friday, August 29, 2003

Thought for the day:
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.
--Bertrand Russell

Thursday, August 28, 2003

More stupid legislation department:
From Randy Nieland's Lockergnome Tech Specialist mailing:

Chalk up another stupid law. A proposed law in Florida seeks to, get this, tax local area networks! That's right, folks, if your business has computers that talk to each other over some sort of network, you gotta pay the government money. How much? 9.17 percent. Precisely what number is used in figuring that tax is a mystery, but that's really beside the point. It amazes me that people actually dream this stuff up, and manage to convince at least a few others that it's a good idea. For the sake of all Floridians, I sincerely hope your state doesn't become a laughing stock over this one. Write to anyone you think might be related to someone that knows the guy sweeping the floor of the offices where this is happening, and let them know you don't want to be laughed at. And you thought the mini-DMCA laws were bad? This one will actually have a major impact if it materializes, and it certainly won't be toward the benefit of the taxpaying businesses.

Was it Twain who said "No man's life, liberty or property are safe as long as the legislature is in session"?

Thought for the Day:
The two most beautiful words in the English language are "check enclosed."
--Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I have been honored...
as you can see if you look to the list of links to the left. Owing to my status as a Memphian (soon to be made completely official next week when I move across the river to my new apartment in Midtown), I've been inducted into the Union of Tennessee Volunteer Bloggers and Big Orange Expeditionary Forces a/k/a the Rocky Top Brigade. I'm glad to see that some folks I respect think my feeble contribution to the blogosphere is worth linking to, and I'll do my best to uphold the highest traditions of the Rocky Top Brigade.

Bill Maher makes an excellent point:
From The Bill Maher Blog:


“The National Enquirer” is reporting that Kobe Bryant and his lawyers have offered Kobe’s accuser millions in an out-of-court settlement, making it the second time he’s suggested greasing her palm. The money in these situations (remember Michael Jackson’s accusers going away?) is never offered as direct payment regarding the criminal case but always under the guise of settling a possible civil suit. Come on, isn’t this just paying off a witness? We are all supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law – is allowing the rich to manipulate witness testimony with cash really any different than allowing the poor to do it with threats? Also, doesn’t allowing these kind of payouts just encourage future false accusations?

I wouldn't believe this, but for several factors...
First of all Randy Nieland's a pretty sharp guy, and isn't easily taken in. Second, we have the misadventures of the RIAA, culminating in the greatest music industry PR coup of all time, suing individuals for file sharing. And then again there was the TV executive who claimed that if you record a show off the air to watch later, and you fast forward through the commercials (or worse, use the new technology available for making sure that the recorder skips commercials automatically when it records), you're guilty of theft.... Given that background, this doesn't surprise me at all. From Randy Nieland's Lockergnome Tech Specialist email Newsletter:

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, but it can work against you as well as it works for you, perhaps even more effectively where negative opinions are concerned. It seems that the movie industry is throwing a tantrum about the impact of technology services, such as text/instant messaging, on their ability to lure cattle into the chute. So let me get this straight, Hollywood. I'm supposed to just trust you when you say that a movie is a sure smash hit? Wrong answer. I don't trust a paid advertisement any more than I do a car salesman that insists you won't find a higher quality vehicle than the brown Ford Pinto wagon he's been trying to sell for two years.

Word gets around, and how dare an entertainment industry try to imply any fault on the part of consumers for being informed about the products being sold to them. If I paid good money to see the dumbest flick of the year, you had better believe I'm going to tell everyone I can to stay at home, including those that might be standing in line for the next viewing!

My opinion matters, and if it can save the next guy the time, money and boredom of having to endure a lame picture, so be it. We, as consumers of products and services, are in charge here. Not the other way around. Offer crummy products, and you won't be offering them for long. There's a term for this... accountability. For that reason, blogging will continue to shape the web culture, and inevitably spill over into offline life. I wouldn't want it any other way. Trust must be earned, not paid for and not implied.

For my part, I haven't been to a movie theater in several years, preferring to wait out the hype and spend money only on entertaining entertainment. I have yet to see Terminator 3, Matrix Reloaded or Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, though the latter will go on sale Tuesday, so perhaps I'll pick up that DVD since I did like the first episode of the trilogy. If I were seeing an enormous amount of online activity stating that the second part didn't live up to the first, I would listen.

Thought for the Day:
Animals have these advantages over man: They have no theologians to instruct them, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

From a random email exchange...
on the SKEPTIC list. The one name thereon has been changed to preserve privacy:

From: "D P"
> It's one of the Great Myths of the gun nut
> faction that your average criminal spends a lot of time worrying about
> whether his intended victim might be packing heat.
> Dunno if it still exists, but there used to be a famous cop bar not too far
> from LAPD main headquarters. It was run by a retired cop, it's where
> virtually all the patrons were off-duty (or even ON-duty) cops. It had a
> cop bar name, something like "Code 40" or whatever, it had cop car lights
> and police department patches decorating the interior. It was *really
> obviously* a COP BAR.
> And yet, one, two times a year, some jagoff would burst in waving a
> fearsome weapon like a 4-shot .22 pistol and yell, "this is a stickup!"

There's a gun store here in town with an indoor pistol range.

Let's be clear about's a gun store. The employees are armed (they
openly carry handguns in belt holsters). They are, at any given time within
arms reach of several handguns and/or rifles and/or shotguns, plus boxes of
ammunition. At any given time, there's an unknown--possibly as high as
10--number of customers in the store, WITH LOADED WEAPONS IN THEIR HANDS,
firing them at targets. Some of these people are no doubt daydreaming about
plugging some burglar or gang member or something as they do so.

And this place has been robbed at least twice in the last 10 years, both
times resulting in the robber being killed.

I'm tempted to believe that people who try to rob cop bars or pistol ranges
during business hours have simply got to be trying to kill themselves...but
then I'm reminded how colossally dumb many criminals really are...

Here's hoping....
that life will settle down today, and I'll actually get a little time to throw a few musings down on the blog. All in all, it's been an exhausting couple weeks to be an IT drone....

Thought for the Day:
The ethos of engineering is very different from that of physics. A good physicist is a man with original ideas. A good engineer is a man who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.
--Freeman Dyson

Monday, August 25, 2003

Thought for the Day:
Why are some people brought into this world to hobble down Beulah Avenue in grotesquely-twisted bodies and to devote their life's energy to peddling peanuts? Christian thinkers tend to avoid questions like that. They leave the sad dimension of life to the Buddhas and Schopenhauers and Clarence Darrows and Mark Twains. But the tragic dimension of life will not go away. It causes us from a human viewpoint--the only viewpoint us humans have--to question the nature of God. So I was able, at least, to understand why a Tylertown Baptist said to me, "Preacher, the greatest fear I have is when I die and pass over to the other side I'll discover God is the bastard I've sometimes feared him to be."
--Clayton Sullivan

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Thought for the Day:
There are three things that the average man thinks he can do better than anybody else: build a fire, run a hotel and manage a baseball team.
--Rocky Bridges

Friday, August 22, 2003

More SCO news....
Apparently, SCO hosted a trade show at which they presented a PowerPoint slide show documenting some of their allegations of copyright infringement in Linux, ,and released the slides to journalists without getting them under an non-disclosure agreement. The results are as might be expected; the journalists passed on the slides to some open source advocates. Bruce Perens has since analyzed those slides, and you can read some of his analysis here. Bruce's bottom line:

I will start with SCO's demonstrations regarding "copied" software. It is likely that SCO would present the very best examples that they have of "copied" code in their slide show. But I was easily able to determine that of the two examples, one isn't SCO's property at all, and the other is used in Linux under a valid license. If this is the best SCO has to offer, they will lose.

Come hear Darl McBride whine and snivel....
SCO CEO says IBM behind open source attacks

IBM has been quietly stage-managing the open source community's response to The SCO Group's $3 billion lawsuit over Big Blue's contributions to the Linux source code, SCO's CEO Darl McBride said in an interview at his company's SCO Forum user conference in Las Vegas this week.

"We have absolute direct knowledge of this. If you go behind the scenes, the attacks that we get that don't have IBM's name on them, underneath the covers, are sponsored by IBM," McBride said.

Responding to criticism that his company is trying its case against IBM in the press, McBride said that SCO has simply been responding to attacks and standing up for its rights when attacked.

Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhttttttttttttttttt...... On all counts. Did it ever occur to you, Darl, that you've pretty well pissed off the entire Open Source community, and that IBM doesn't have to stage manage their response to your lawsuit?

Wake up and smell the coffee, Darl. We all hate your guts. We don't need IBM to manage that for us.

I suppose that I can be proud....
According to a recent report, my alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, just got ranked as tied for 9th best college in the United States according to U.S. News and World Report. Apparently the list is:

1. Princeton
1. Harvard
3. Yale
4. MIT
5. Cal Tech
5. Duke
5. Stanford
5. Pennsylvania
9. Dartmouth
9. Washington University in St. Louis

What I should really do now is give my first ex-wife loads of shit, since she has always put on airs for being a University of Chicago graduate. You'll notice Chicago conspicuous by its absence in that list.....

Yesterday was a red-letter day!!!
I received (finally) my copy of Kraftwerk's Tour de France Soundtracks. Music Nonstop (the Kraftwerk mail list) had been somewhat lukewarm about the release at first, but I'm finding that the album grows on me. Probably right now, my favorite track is "Vitamin", but I've always been a fan of the '83 "Tour de France", which is included on this album. I'll be keeping my eyes out to see if Kraftwerk does anything approaching a U.S. tour in support of the album; I have fond memories of the '98 tour (when I travelled to Chicago to see them live; best damn concert I've ever attended), and I'd love to do it again....

Talking out of both sides of their mouths....
I know, I know, I've been dreadfully remiss on SCO v. IBM reportage, but basically I don't recall that a lot has happened there ever since IBM countersued and Red Hat sued SCO. But Randy Nieland at Lockergnome Tech Specialist reports something interesting; apparently one of SCO's claims in its suit is that the GNU General Public License is invalid and not legally enforcable. Yet, at the same time, SCO is touting the inclusion of Samba (open source Microsoft-compatible Server Messaging Block software) in their latest version of Unixware, not realizing (or strategically ignoring) the fact that Samba itself is licensed under the GPL...

Consistency, people, consistency. This could come back to bite SCO in the ass, and frankly, I hope it does.

Thought for the Day:
Yet the final indictment against the television decision-makers is more profound and more serious. Their recent splurge of paranormalism debauches true science and undermines the efforts of their own excellent science departments. The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudoscientific charlatans. The public appetite for wonder can be fed, through the powerful medium of television, without compromising the principles of honesty and reason.
--Richard Dawkins

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Excellent news from the Zogby organization:
see here

Released: August 20, 2003

Bush Job Performance Continues to Slip; Re-elect Numbers Worsen; 43%-43% Bush vs. any Democratic Contender; Slight Bump in Overall Opinion, New Zogby Poll Reveals

President George W. Bush’s job performance rating has slipped to 52% positive, 48% negative, according to a poll of 1,011 likely U.S. voters by Zogby International. From a post-September 11th peak of 82%, his rating has slipped steadily with the exception of a slight increase following the official end of the war in Iraq.

Falsifiability and foreign policy
Some excellent points from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I see from Matthew Yglesias' site that there is a notion being peddled by certain conservative columnists that the bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad is actually a sign that the bad guys are on the ropes. Now, that strikes me as a rather creative of interpretation of the event. To the extent that the form of attack is different -- mass casualty terrorism versus isolated guerilla attacks on soldiers -- I suspect it's because the perpetrators are not the same people. But that's just a supposition on my part.

However that may be, this new theory from the war-hawks suggests a broader question, a deeper problem.

I'm probably getting certain particulars of this wrong, but there's a basic principle in scientific theory: an hypothesis, to be a real hypothesis, must be capable of disproof. In other words, for an hypothesis to be a valid basis for research, there must be some data which, if found to be true, would prove the hypothesis was false. Otherwise, there's no way to test it.

Now, foreign policy is no science. But some looser version of this principle must apply here as well. To be a policy, as opposed to a theological position, there must be some potential results that would show the policy was not working. The proponents of the policy should be able to say ahead of time that if this or that result happens, the policy has failed.

The utility of requiring this would be that if the result of the invasion of Iraq is an Islamic theocracy, governed by Osama bin Laden, and purchasing nuclear weapons from Pakistan at bargain-basement prices, we'd have the hawks on record saying this was in fact not a positive development.

Now, we've already had the 'flypaper' theory: that guerilla attacks against American troops are a good thing because we're pulling 'the terrorists' out of the woodwork and attacking them on our own terms. And now we have what I guess we could call the 'paradoxically positive mass-casualty terrorism event' theory: that mass-casualty terrorism events show the success of our policy since they are a sign 'the terrorists' are becoming desperate.

For my part, I don't think either guerrilla attacks or mass-casualty terror attacks in themselves show the administration's policy is a failure. This is a difficult business. But they also don't strike me as positive developments.

So I think it's time for the hawks to give us a few examples of events that would show that our policy was not working or at least facing setbacks. You know, just so we can put down some benchmarks, so we can know what we're working with ...

But of course, the hawks aren't going to give us benchmarks. Their whole worldview isn't scientific, it's faith based. And their faith is such that there will be nothing that can happen that will convince them that things are not going well. In the secular world, we call that spin.....

As Mencken said....
nobody ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the American people. And we have more evidence; apparently the more incompetently Bush fucks up foreign policy, the more Americans approve of him... From Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune:

President Bush may have trouble with voters on his handling of the economy, the deficit and other domestic matters, but when it comes to foreign policy, he's been riding high. The latest Gallup Poll found he gets his best ratings in international affairs, with 54 percent of Americans approving of his policies. Given recent events, that's the equivalent of New Yorkers throwing a party for the people who caused the blackout.

His record on foreign policy, after all, is not exactly studded with triumphs. The Middle East is awash in blood from Baghdad to Jerusalem. Almost everywhere the United States is engaged, things are going from bad to worse. With each passing day, the administration looks more and more like the helpless victim of its own hubris.

"A Spanish Civil War for Islamic revivalists"
From Steve Gilliard's News Blog:

We have created a Spanish Civil War for Islamic revivalists. This isn't some backwater like Afghanistan, filled with ever-quarelling tribes. This is the heart of Arab civilization. Baghdad and Cairo define the Muslim world's education ans culture. Instead of hillbillies with AK's, you have educated, urban people with AK's.

Any Arab revivalist worth his salt and looking for adventure is flocking to Iraq. Where he will find friendly people, good food, warm beds and plenty of weapons and targets to use them on. The Americans are alien creatures who bring pain, misery and death, with little of their promised democracy. The viceroy, in a cruel live action version of animal farm, has turned into Saddam with better suits and less kinky underlings. Except of course, Saddam's police state worked and Bremer's occupation is a brutal failure.

When Iraqis, out of desperation or decency and the risk of their lives, try to work with us, we cannot protect them. Shia clerics run ramapant, the police are a hollow joke, US forces live in misery and hate and insult the Iraqis. All of the lies issued from the PNAC crowd are turning into a brutal, grinding defeat. US troops are so trigger happy that they shoot anyone that frightens them. When a Reuters reporter was blown away, the other reporters said it was done on purpose. Unfortunately, given the maturity level of the average teenager, that is probably not the case. That kid would have greased his mother at this point.

We have a disaster on our hands and it could end far worse than anyone now wants to imagine. The UN isn't one of Bush's rich friends. No lucky land deals or mystery money will save him this time. America has been too arrogant for too long and our friends think we need to be humbled. The way out is to let the UN run the show, but the vainglorious men in Washington have images of remaking the middle east. Their enablers, writing in their columns, want to sneer at the UN and then demand help. They are immune to the reality that we are not only losing the war in Iraq, losing the war in Afghanistan, and have alienated out allies. We are facing two fast approaching realities. One, the Iraqi people are tiring of our incompetence. The Sunni tribes are in rebellion and the Shia are close. Once the Turks enter the picture, there will be a war with the Kurds and they may show their disgust with yet another American betrayal. Two, anything done to improve Iraq has to be under the auspices of the UN or not at all. We can't beg for money for Iraq and then allow only American companies to benefit. That's a fantasy. Bush and his foriegn policy three-ring circus better realize that the time for compromise is past, the choice is between aquiesence and outright eviction and defeat.

Oh wow... Ann Coulter's as big a coward as Bush...
This from the NY Daily News via Daily Kos

Tough-talking Ann Coulter wouldn't say a word last night.

At the last minute, the conservative pundit canceled her appearance opposite best-selling "Big Lies" author Joe Conason on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer" - this after having programmers change the debate to fit her schedule.

One might think the roundtable, which featured Wall Streeter James Cramer and Reaganite Lawrence Kudlow, would be a breeze for Coulter. Could she have been afraid of facing Conason, whose book presents evidence that her arguments are ill-researched and calls her lifestyle hypocritical?

Coulter didn't answer our E-mail.

Meanwhile, we hear fellow right-wing tough guy Bill O'Reilly won't even let Conason on his show.

Thought for the Day:
Van Inwagen concluded his lectures by saying that although his own belief in God was not based on reasons he could state, no one had provided a particularly good argument for supposing it was irrational. By symmetry, if you just happen to be of an atheist kidney, like Katha Pollitt and Christopher Hitchens, or indeed Marlon Brando and Jodie Foster, no theist will be able to convict you of irrationality, either.

For everyone else, there would appear to be three theological options. 1) You can believe, as I do, that the universe is presided over by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective (which explains pretty much everything). 2) You can agree with logical positivists, who claimed that "God exists" is cognitively meaningless and hence neither true nor false. Or 3) you can become a Unitarian.

Which puts me in mind of a joke. Q: How do you protest the fact that a Unitarian family has moved into your neighborhood? A: You burn a question mark on their lawn.
--Jim Holt, in Slate's The Atheist Christmas Challenge

Because of Holt's gem here "the universe is presided over by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective (which explains pretty much everything)" I'm going to forgive him for getting the joke wrong. The Real Joke goes something like this: "Q. How do you know you've been visited by the Unitarian branch of the Ku Klux Klan? A. They burn a question mark on your lawn."

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Joe Conason shines, as always....
From: Regulation-haters spreading more lies

At this point, an alert citizen might have noticed that the wonders of the deregulated market in energy have yet to become manifest. That alert citizen might also have noticed that deregulation has led to a few rather costly dislocations. Enron’s rise and sudden demise created a catastrophe that radiated outward from Houston to wreak tremendous damage in the energy and financial markets. California’s manipulated energy "crisis" in the winter of 2001 leeched $70 billion from the state, caused severe economic damage, and plunged its politics into their present clownish disarray.

And last week that same thoughtful citizen, plunged abruptly into darkness, had time to contemplate the fact that deregulation exacerbates the corporate tendency to neglect unprofitable yet utterly essential infrastructure—including power transmission lines and facilities. If the citizen were of a certain age, he or she might dimly remember how the nation’s economy grew for decades with regulated utilities (and some that were even owned by the public—like the Los Angeles power plants that continued to supply electricity even during the blackouts).

Gray Davis fights back....
Kos thinks that Davis may pull it off. And if he does, he'll probably do it by once again being, as some perceptive Slate writer put it (sorry; I'll try to look up the reference later), "Mr. None-of-the-above". But at least he's fighting back some now. From a speech Davis delivered at UCLA:

Now let's talk about the recall. This recall is bigger than California. What's happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win.

It started with the impeachment of President Clinton, when the Republicans could not beat him in 1996. It continued in Florida, where they stopped the vote count, depriving thousands of Americans of the right to vote.

This year, they're trying to steal additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas, overturning legal redistricting plans. Here in California, the Republicans lost the governor's race last November. Now they're trying to use this recall to seize control of California just before the next presidential election.

They spent $3 million to put this recall on the ballot, but you're going to have to spend $65 million of your hard-working tax dollars to conduct that election. I'm sure you'll agree with me that money could be better spent educating our children.

Call me old fashion, and I am. Call me old fashion, but I believe when an election is over, the people have spoken and it's time to get to work and do the public's business. There are many reasons to be against this recall. It's expensive, it's undemocratic, it's a bad precedent, and it almost certainly will breed more recalls. The end result will be more campaigning, not less, more politics, not less, and less time to do the public's business.

The Republicans behind this recall say they want you to oust me for past mistakes. My friends, they don't give a rip about past mistakes. This is all about control in the future, seizing back the governor's chair and believing with so many candidates running they can do it with just a handful of California voters. That's what this is all about.

In the next seven weeks, my highest priority will be doing the job you elected me to do. But make no mistake, I am going to fight this recall and the right-wing forces behind it. Take that to the bank.

Blatantly stolen from the "Column of the Americas"
Forwarded to me by a correspondent:

COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez


If political doublespeak has got you scratching your head, here's a guide to help cut through the muck.

Q: Why is big government bad?
A: It's bad only when totalitarian liberals are at the helm. They tend to get socialistic, trying to spread around the wealth as if this were the New Iraq. Outside of exploding the budget by creating an even larger military to help spread our values, big government isn't so bad.

Q: Should we be afraid of Big Brother?
A: Only if liberals are at the helm. They're usually hatching harebrained schemes such as a national health-care system. Conservatives are interested only in protecting the homeland. If you've nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Q: Why are fewer taxes for the rich a good thing?
A: Because the more they invest, the more everyone eventually benefits (voodoo economics).

Q: Why do liberals like to tax and spend and create huge deficits?
A: Actually, conservatives are better at that, but why drop a good line when it sticks?

Q: Is deregulation and privatization a good thing?
A: Yes, because this means there are no penalties for violating nonexistent labor, safety, health and environmental standards. And privatization is great because prisons and schools can also be run like deregulated businesses.

Q: What's a political outsider?
A: Someone who's not in office when he/she first runs. If you're an Ivy Leaguer and your father's been in the highest levels of government all his life, then he's an insider, but you're still an outsider.

Q: Do Americans vote against their own interests?
A: Yes. Most think they're either rich or will soon be (they keep faith in the lotto, a faith-based initiative). That's why when taxes are cut or special laws are created for the rich, polls tell us most Americans concur.

Q: Why do we have a zero tolerance for quotas, but not for
A: Will someone tell Ward Connerly that his Proposition 54 -- which prohibits the gathering of racial data in California -- is a great idea once we've achieved a colorblind society. The prescription: Do not voluntarily go blind. Dismantle the system of discrimination first.

Q: Why don't we test presidential candidates?
A: Unlike graduate school, the presidency is not an intellectual pursuit. It simply means others do your work, and you read other people's speeches. And if anyone goofs up, you can always blame British intelligence.

Q: Why did the 2000 presidential candidate with fewer votes become
A: Because we live in a republic, not a democracy. The nation's forefathers didn't want mob rule (might have abolished slavery), so they created a nation of laws, not men ... or so they said.

Q: Do truth and character count? And what is the rule of law?
A: Conservatives have no time to be bothered by slogans meant to keep liberals in check. Only winning and the bottom line matter -- by any means necessary.

Q: What is propaganda and why is the media so liberal?
A: Actually, this question is propaganda. Most of the major media are owned by fewer than a dozen multibillion-dollar corporations. There are as many liberals in this club as there are peace activists working for defense chief Donald Rumsfeld.

Q: What is campaign finance reform?
A: It's what permits politicians to stay in power. It's what allows the president to politic at taxpayers' expense and raise millions from fat-cat contributors.

Q: What constitutes an "imminent threat" to the United States and the free world?
A: The possession of (or once having possessed) slingshots and the existence of stones.

Q: If U.S. soldiers are fighting to defend our freedoms, why is the government taking them away?
A: Not to worry! Our now secret government says that the loss of our rights, freedoms and privacy are but temporary measures. (Coming soon: Patriot Act II.)

Q: Are all walls created equal?
A: The Berlin Wall is gone. And President Bush has acknowledged that the Jerusalem wall being built may be an obstacle to peace. Might he wish to interrupt his vacation to comment about the rising toll of migrant deaths caused by the walls along the U.S./Mexico border?

Q: Why does Bill Clinton still get blamed for everything?
A: Because Hillary hasn't declared her presidential candidacy yet.

Thought for the Day:
You people! If there isn't a movie about it, it's not worth knowing, is it?
--Metatron [film "Dogma"]

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Comments are back.....
and about fscking time, though it's not like the commenting system has exactly been in danger of breaking from overuse....

My buddy Alan is doing well tonight....
The Memphis Redbirds are playing the New Orleans Zephyrs tonight. Playing with them is one Alan Zinter, whose major league career is probably going to be a mere 39 games (only 9 of them where he'd actually played the field) and 44 at bats with a .136 BA. Alan did manage to hit a homer and hurt us, which inspired the TV announcers to sing his praises. Surprising, because he'd been outrighted to New Orleans by Houston last season (which is why the facially unimpressive numbers I relate are probably going to be his major league career stats). The sad thing is that once upon a time, Alan was the first round draft pick of the New York Mets, and he gave the statutory New York press conference, at which time Zinter predicted that he'd be playing in the Big Apple within three years. Whereupon, poor Alan managed to spend about 12-15 years or so toiling in various minor leagues, and bouncing around a couple organizations before Houston gave him his time in the Show.

As John Lennon is supposed to have said, life is what happens to you when you are making other plans.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alan last November, though. The College of Pharmacy had sent me to Buffalo, New York to take some training on a software application we use there, and I was staying at the Buffalo Marriott. Zinter had come to Buffalo at the same time to attend a buddy's wedding, and we shared a limo ride back to the airport. It was kind of funny; I was talking a bit of baseball since my then-current reading was The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, and my talking baseball inspired the limo driver to start bad-mouthing major league ballplayers as being a bunch of overpaid, underworked whining....well, you get the idea. And as you might imagine, Zinter had some (unlike mine or the limo driver's) informed opinions on that topic. I have to give Zinter credit; he had a good humor about it, and he came off as a really nice guy.

Apparently Zinter is doing pretty well in AAA, and is considering going into coaching after his playing career ends. I wish him well.

And why did the lights go out?
Paul Krugman makes some excellent points in his column today in the New York Times.

We still don't know what started the chain reaction on Thursday. Whatever the initial cause, however, the current guess is that a local event turned into an epic blackout because the transmission network has been neglected. That is, the power industry hasn't spent enough on the control systems and safeguards that are supposed to prevent such things.

And the cause of that neglect is faith-based deregulation.


Incidentally, there seems to be a weird reluctance to face up to what happened in California. Since the blackout, I've seen national news reports attributing California's woes in part to environmental restrictions, while ignoring the role of market manipulation. Huh? There's no evidence that environmental restrictions played any role; meanwhile, even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which strongly backs deregulation, has concluded that market manipulation played a major role. What's with the revisionist history?


Have we learned our lesson? Early indications are not promising. President Bush now says that "our grid needs to be modernized . . . and I've said so all along." But two years ago Tom DeLay blocked a modest Democratic plan for loan guarantees for system upgrades, calling it "pure demagoguery." And press reports say that despite the blackout, the administration will bow to pressure from Senate Republicans and put on ice the only part of its energy plan that had any relevance to the blackout, a FERC proposal for expanded oversight of the transmission system.

This nation needs to invest billions in its power grid, yet given recent history, it's crucial that this investment not be simply another occasion for energy-industry profiteering. Somehow, I'm not optimistic.

Lunatic or liar?
We sure know he's not lord, though he thinks he gets his orders from the Lord. This from Arab News:

Assuming, as seems reasonable, that the president of the United States was neither drunk nor on LSD, there can be only two possible explanations for this statement [i.e., Bush's statement a few months ago that he elected to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein would not allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq]:

Explanation1 : The president of the United States believed what he said. In this case, he is so dim-witted and/or totally divorced from reality as to be mentally unfit to hold his current job — or, indeed, any job — and should be taken into medical care.

Explanation2 : The president did not believe what he said but, rather, believes (unfortunately not without compelling post-Sept. 11evidence) that the vast majority of the American people are so dim-witted and/or uninformed and the vast majority of the American media is so sycophantic and/or terrified of being branded “unpatriotic” (or simply losing White House “access”) that he can now tell any lie, no matter how obvious and outrageous, and get away with it. In this case, he is morally unfit to hold his current job and should, by constitutional means, be forced to relinquish it as soon as possible.

Either explanation should scare the wits out of anyone who is not comatose.

The temptation will be to indulge in some schadenfreud...
As it becomes clearer and clearer that what the neocon's "splendid little war" will accomplish is exactly that which they didn't want: the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. See Iraq becomes a battleground in war on infidels for a good rundown on everything that's going wrong.

An excellent example of the law of unintended consequences.

Why we're losing in Iraq....
From Steve Gilliard's News Blog:

With exploding pipelines and flooded streets, it's time to ask why we're losing this war.

First, the entire war was based on a series of false assumptions, which centered on the political fiction that exiles would be warmly accepted by the Iraqi people as viable representatives of a post-Saddam Iraq. Why that assumption was made is beyond me, but since ideology trumped basic common sense, there was no way that the kind of people who are eventually going to run Iraq would have been acceptable. The idea that we would fight a war to make Ayatollah Hakim President of Iraq would have gotten zero support.

In reality, the exiles, many of whom had dealings with Saddam or were completely unknown, were resented as tools of the US. One cleric allied with the US was chopped into tiny bits by Shias in Najaf. The great neocon hope, Ahmed Chalabi, is now the most hated non-Baathist in Iraq. Far too little was understood about how dissident politics would play out, even though, it is clear that only home grown heroes would ever make the cut. Only an exile leader with demonstrable suffering, like a Hakim, can have any credibility. Exiles who have grown up with fairy tales about life in Iraq, or who left as children, have little chance to be accepted by average Iraqis.

Second, at every opportunity, we have been giving the wrong signals. Relying on exiles, attacking Islamicist parties, living in Saddam's palaces. Iraqis figured the score as their libraries and museums were looted while the oil ministry was protected. Jerry Bremer, completely untrained in any civil skill useful to rebuilding a country, acts like a viceroy. Instead his expertise is in "terrorism". It's like Red Dawn where the Russians bring in a guy who's expert on hunting partisans. You don't have to be a scholar in American studies to see what the Americans are really thinking. He lives in Saddam's palace, drinks his booze and drives around in an armored SUV. To the average Iraqi, the only difference is that he doesn't have people tortured by his sons.

The conduct of the troops belies a deep contempt and racism for Iraqis. But unlilke uneducated Somalis, many of these folks not only speak and read English, they understand the world. Iraq is not some backwards swamp, but a complex, cultured country with plenty of educated people. Baghdad is not Kabul. They know how Americans live and how they live and they think it's not funny they're suffering and the Americans are not. We have completely underestimated the attitudes and resolve of the Iraqi people, who see no reason for their continue joblessness and wretched misery.

Third, there is no information gap. Iraq is not Somalia or Afghanistan, where the locals barely read and are lucky to have radios. Kids in Iraqi streets worship David Beckham, watch Premiership soccer, listen to the BBC and go online. When ABCNews runs a story on Halliburton and Bush, they can read it or watch the video. The BBC tells them about Tony Blair's lies the same time they tell us. Iraq is a wired country with lots of information available to the public. Within minutes of lights going down on the east coast of the US, Iraqis were laughing about it in their tea houses. We are dealing with a sophisticated, educated, armed populace. We act as if we are dealing with ignorant children. They are not.

The racist assumptions about Iraqi awareness means that we discount real threats like Sadr and his tacit working arrangement with Hakim and Sistani and seek to blame our problems on Saddam and his friends and Al Qaeda. At no point has the US been able even to manage the anarchy. The police are ineffective because we don't fully trust them. We expect Iraqis to work with the US, yet provide them no protection or safety. We use them and they get killed, at points, by their own families.

Fourth, US tactics range from the abysmal to the common sense. It is increasingly clear that there is a leadership problem in the 4th Infantry Division. Their battalion commanders seem to lack basic common sense in dealing with Iraqis. While the 3rd ID is burnt out, the 4th ID seems to revel in bad tactics and bad leadership. You have commanders using questionable tactics and the command staff living in luxury while the manuever units live in hell. Special Ops is uneven at best. The vaunted and secretive Task Force 20 seems to have little regard for Iraqis or their safety. Meanwhile, the 101st, while losing men, has a much better commander and command structure. The difference in their operations seems to be night and day. But it goes deeper than leadership.

The US military is tactically at sea in Iraq. Each battalion, in each brigade, in each division seems to be doing its own thing. Not in terms of tactics, but in terms of everything. Some units are well supplied, some are not. Some sweep through towns and make enemies, some don't. It seems to be that every unit is working off of a different playbook, yet none of the plays work. It seems clear that the leadership at the top of CENTCOM is so busy trying to run two wars, they haven't noticed the 4ID is a disaster in the making. The current use of partisan sweeps is a failure. The locals are not going to help the US find their relatives. Every time they announce that they've taken 20 AK's, remember Iraq has over 5 million of them. Or about 55 for every GI in country. We are fighting a colonial war against the best armed population in history. Iraq was a vast storehouse of weapons and those who wanted them, took them. We are sending in units against Iraqis who have the same basic weapons we do, automatic rifles, machineguns, mines, grenades. No colonial population has ever had the chance to resist their occupiers on nearly as even terms. Most Iraqi men have military training, hundreds of thousands have combat experience. Their tactics negate our equipment. They are able to use signal flares to manuever, which is a basic infantry manuever, but almost impossible for the untrained to master correctly. These are no fat former secret policemen doing this.

US troops are so trigger happy and so poorly trained, they shoot civilians without pause. A cameraman shooting US troops was gunned down. Whole families have been blown away by US troops. Abuse of Iraqis is common. You have to wonder what isn't making the papers. Our MOUT (urban warfare) training is so unrealistic, that basic car stops often end in tragedy, while guerrillas brag about shipping guns past them. Most American soldiers patrol with their weapons pointed at the locals, off safe. We often shoot recklessly among civilians as well. The desire to go home is obvious, but when troopers kill a child because they freak when Iraqis fire guns in celebration, that's a failure of training. The brutal fact is that the US Army was unprepared to occupy Iraq and its current methods make the occupation worse.

This is from today's Guardian:

But colleagues who were with the award-winning cameraman when he was killed told a different story.

Nael al-Shyoukhi, a Reuters soundman, said the soldiers "saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission.

"After we filmed we went into the car and prepared to go when a convoy led by a tank arrived and Mazen stepped out of the car to film.

"I followed him and Mazen walked three to four metres. We were noted and seen clearly.

"A soldier on the tank shot at us. I lay on the ground. I heard Mazen and I saw him scream and touching his chest. I cried at the soldier, telling him 'you killed a journalist'. They shouted at me and asked me to step back and I said 'I will step back but please help, please help'."

He said they tried to help but Dana was bleeding heavily. "Mazen took a last breath and died before my eyes."

Stephan Breitner, of France 2 television, added: "We were all there for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists. After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was an accident. They are very tense. They are crazy."

Fifth, the occupation has no political supporters. You have some exiles, some grifters and some parasites, but even most of Saddam's stooges won't suck up to the US. You would think that a country riven with informers would be either in civil war or vying to get close to Uncle Sugar. Instead, they're not supporting the US and turning their back when the guerrillas strike. No one serious in Iraq wants anything to do with this occupation. Those that do are angling for power at best. The US is unable to deliver basic services and is, thus, losing the middle and working classes they desperately need to support them.

The US, unable to provide basic security, is discredited by this more than anything else. Without power, light and gas,the US are just occupiers who need to leave.

Finally, the cost of rebuilding Iraq is begining to dawn on the administration. The lack of consensus from our European allies means they will refuse to help. Without UN help, the cost of running Iraq is too much to bear. We can't afford it, not the $2b for the electrical grid, forget the billions to rebuild the oil industry, forget the actual war-related damage. The guerrillas don't have to do much, just blow thing up the US cannot afford to fix. Of course, there is no relation to the fact that Bush's cronies have gotten all the big contracts, despite rank imcompetence. Why should France sink billions into Iraq so Dick Cheney can make more money?

The Iraqis know this. They know the jury-rigged CPA is an obstacle, not an aid, to real rebuilding. Why should they support an occupation which, at its core, seeks to remake their country for the safety of Halliburton? A free, independent, Iraq sounds great. But since the US is allowing the exploitation of the oil fields in the name of crony capitalism, they know that's a pipedream. When they go online and read the NY Times, they take the hint.

Everyone talks about 4th generation warfare. Well, we live in a 4th generation information age. If we write it and say it, they see it. Forgetting that fact, gets Americans killed.

Republican achievment:
The Treasury Department has certified it: with two more months left to go in the fiscal year, the current U.S. budget deficit is the highest it has ever been in the history of the U.S.

Did Dubya think that he'd get a writeup in the Guinness Book of World Records for this one?

It has to be true...
Because if you read it in a novel, you'd never believe it. Or so said a teacher of mine way back when.

An excerpt from one of Bill Maher's blog entries today:

Not-So-Super Cuts

There’s a new movement in Washington DC to help homeless women feel better about themselves by giving them free hairdos, free manicures, and free massages. Like these desperate, urine-soaked alley-sulkers don’t have enough problems; now, when they’re picking through a dumpster, they have to worry about breaking a nail. It’s just so perfectly… American: instead of giving a meal or a job, we give them a makeover.

As American as refusing to provide decent universal health care, but to going to great lengths to raise money for special trust funds for people who get catastrophic illnesses or suffer devastating injuries....

Strange "days" on the calendar Department:
According to the daily Dr. Science mailing, today is Penguin Awareness Day in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ.

News to me that they have many penguins to be aware of in Point Pleasant Beach.

Thought for the Day:
When I signed Larry Doby, the first Negro player in the American League, we received 20,000 letters, most of them in violent and sometimes obscene protest. Over a period of time, I answered all. In each answer, I included a paragraph congratulating them on being wise enough to have chosen parents so obviously to their liking. If everyone knew their precious secret, I told them, I was sure everyone would conform to the majority. Until that happy day, I wrote, I was sure they would agree that any man should be judged on his personal merit and allowed to exploit his talents to the fullest, wheether he happened to be black, green, or blue with pink dots.

I am afraid irony is lost on these people, but that's not the point I want to make here. A year later, I was a collector for what is now called the Combined Jewish Appeal. This time I got something close to 5,000 violent and sometimes obscene letters. In answering, something very interesting happened. The names began to have a familiar ring. I became curious enough to check our files and I found they were to an astonishing degree--about 95 percent--the same people. A year after that I converted to Catholicism. about 2,000 anti-Catholics were concerned enough about my soul to write me violent and again often obscene letters. All but a handful of them were already in our anti-Negro and anti-Semitic files.

So I am one man who has documentary proof that prejudice is indivisible. The jackal, after all, doesn't care what kind of animal he sinks his teeth into.
--Bill Veeck

Monday, August 18, 2003

Republican juggernaut? Maybe not....
Here's an interesting analysis of the Republican "mandate" from The Austin American-Statesman:

If the people oppose the Bushites' agenda, why did they vote to give Republicans a sweeping victory -- indeed, claims the GOP, a "mandate" -- in last year's congressional elections?

They didn't. The big story in that sorry election was not that Bush gained slim majorities in both houses of Congress, but that the vast majority of voters gagged on their choices and didn't vote at all -- only 33 percent of those eligible cast a ballot. The bottom line is that Bush's GOP got only 17 percent of eligible voters.

That's it. That's the big "mandate." That's not exactly the "political juggernaut" that awed pundits proclaimed it to be -- it's merely the core Republican base.

More pathetic is that the Democrats draw only 15 percent of eligible voters. They did so poorly because their consultants and money baggers persuaded them not to run against Bush's extremist agenda. Instead, Democrats offered this bumper sticker to the 2002 electorate: "Hey we supported those tax breaks for the rich too and we also backed Bush's war, plus we voted for that big honking homeland security department, only we're not quite as enthusiastic about it all as the Republicans are so vote for us."

It's hard for the donkeys to win the race if they're going to carry the elephants on their backs.

Do unto others...
A chilling double standard turns U.S. into its own enemy

We would howl -- and rightly so.

Suppose the following American commandos are captured in North Korea. For 18 months they are held in small cages with no access to lawyers or courts, no charges, and denied prisoner-of-war status. Imagine our reaction when, at long last, North Korea announces that they may be put on "trial" under the following conditions:

They will be tried by panels of North Korean military officers, hand-picked by Kim Jong Il's minister of defense, on whom their careers depend. Only one need be a lawyer.

Their trials may be closed on grounds of North Korean national security.

They will be defended by North Korean military lawyers.

They may request civilian lawyers, but only North Koreans, who must first be granted security clearances by the government.

They cannot be assured of private communications with their civilian lawyers; North Korea's military reserves the right to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Their civilian lawyers may be denied access to secret evidence against them and excluded from closed hearings.

Their civilian lawyers may not make any public statements about the case without military approval.

Their civilian lawyers may not discuss the case with other lawyers or outside consultants, may not leave the base without military permission, and may not request any delay to attend to other professional commitments.

They may be convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of evidence that would not be admitted in a court of law.

They may not ask any court to review the lawfulness of their detention or trial.

If convicted, they may not appeal to any court. They can appeal findings of fact against them only to Kim Jong Il or his minister of defense. They can appeal questions of law only to a second panel of military officers (only one of whom need have experience as a judge), and then, again, to Kim or his minister.

Even if they are found not guilty, North Korea reserves the right to imprison them indefinitely, until it deems America no longer a threat.

None of us would stand for such an outrage. Our State Department would denounce North Korea for violating human rights and minimum international standards for fair trials and due process of law.

Yet these rules for military trials have in fact been announced, not by Kim, but by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

From BuzzFlash: Forgive me: I voted for George W. Bush

Bush and Rove are deploying a political style that transcends cynicism. They have begun a new American campaign, where the only constituency of merit is the gigantic corporation, which supplies the money for an overwhelming marketing campaign. The president is now, more than ever in our history, a product to be branded and sold. Unfortunately, there is no lemon law governing the presidency. We can't get our money or our votes back when we discover we’ve bought something defective. We’re stuck until the next election.

This approach works because Mr. Rove relies on Americans to be too busy with their daily lives to pay attention to the details. The president can land on an aircraft carrier, and comport himself as a warrior leader without fear of accusations of hypocrisy because the media has been cowed, and the public has a short memory. George W. Bush avoided combat in Vietnam by using family privilege, and connections, and then disappeared from his champagne flight unit for the last two years of his hitch. Had our soldiers in Iraq been as capricious about their commitments to America, what might have happened? Yet he dared to stand in their honored midst and suggest to us that he was one of their number. Rove was right. We weren't listening.

Our troops now move around Iraq, their lives potentially jeopardized by every person passing on the street, and the Bush White House quietly is cutting both their combat pay and family separation allowance. A modest monthly stipend of $150 was raised to $225 for "imminent danger" pay, and is being reduced to its original level. The family separation payment of $100 a month was raised to $250, an amount designed to help families pay bills while their soldiers are off working for America. But Mr. Bush is planning to cut that figure back to its original level.

As the first shipload of soldiers was leaving from San Diego, California, the administration was pulling a federal supplement from local schools, which would harm education for the children of our troops. Because the San Diego Independent School District cannot levy taxes against federal property when students live on base, the government provides a payment to help the school district fund the education of the children of our servicemen and women. George Bush is eliminating this money. Ultimately, this means not only do the children of our military endure larger classes, less qualified teachers, and poor curriculum, so does everyone else’s child.

Perhaps, Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are finally getting our attention.

I find it disturbing when the president can stand in front of television cameras, his crooked Texas smirk hiding his true character, and tell us he is worried about people without jobs and his tax cut will help them find employment. He says such things even as Nobel laureate economists are pouring ridicule over his policies and financial behemoths like Warren Buffet are scoffing. The photo-op presidency holds a news conference to sign the "Leave No Child Behind Act" with Sen. Ted Kennedy, and then guts $8 billion from its budget, after forcing federal mandates on schools with no money to pay for implementation. Sen. Kennedy, I’m afraid, got had, too.

There is neither time nor space to even begin to write of the Bush administration’s hypocrisies and deceptions. History will, eventually, conclude that his reckless taxation reduction and deficit increases, his disingenuous campaigning and rhetoric, imperialist foreign policies, and corporate greed moved America closer to its recessional from the grand stage of true liberty and equality. The only way to stop this cascade of wrongs is for voters to take their citizenship more seriously. Democracy only works when the electorate is vigilant, and informed. Rove knows we’re too busy worrying about jobs, mortgages, and lost retirement funds, to closely monitor the president’s work. He’s right. And George W. Bush is doing as he pleases, not as Americans prefer.

And because I voted for him, some of this is being done in my name.

Please forgive me.

An excellent summary:
America two years after 9/11: 25 things we know now. Read it; it's well worth the investment of time.

A gem from the Kansas City Star:
Bush toy not much fun

Dear Blue Box:

With great disappointment, I am returning the George W. Bush “action figure,” which you will find enclosed in this package. I am seeking a full refund for this defective toy for the following reasons:

• Despite its billing as an action figure to pair up with my GI Joes, it was obviously not made to be a soldier. Never mind the lack of any scar on its face. The bigger problem is that I cannot find any weapons of mass destruction anywhere in the box. Heck, I can't find any weapons at all!

• When I pull the string to make it talk, the results are muffled and unintelligible or make no sense at all. Is this supposed to be some kind of rotten joke on your customers?

• Every time I turn the doll upside down and shake it, white powder comes out. What's with that?

• Even worse, my GI Joe dolls don't seem to like this one at all, and I'm beginning to understand why:

All last week, during the grueling sandbox battles in my backyard between my GI Joes and the hideous armies of Grog, the GW Bush doll was missing. I thought it was lost for good. But then, after my GI Joes won the day and made the sandbox safe again, there the Bush doll was, front and center, looking splendid and unruffled in pristine army fatigues. Evidently it'd been playing dress-up all week with my sister's Ken doll but was right there to take the credit for the GI Joe's victory.

Rummy prophesizes....
From The Straits Times

Iraq, [Rumsfeld] vows, will not be another Vietnam.

'I don't do quagmires,' he told reporters last month. -- Los Angeles Times

We will see, Rummy. My guess is that you do do quagmires; you're just not aware of it yet.

In the inbox this morning....
An email with the subject line: "You can look like J-Lo."

Hmmmmmm... what makes these people think I want to look like J-Lo?

Thought for the Day:
In one of many very funny moments in "Bowling For Columbine", Michael Moore's film about fear, Moore asks the producer of Fox TV's tacky "Cops" show (the one where cameras follow the police as they go around arresting black people) how he might make a show about white collar crime televisually appealing. "Maybe if they took their shirts off, and threw their cellphones at the cameras?" the producer replies.
--Andrew Orlowski []

Saturday, August 16, 2003

We get some advice from the Iraqis...
Iraqis offer blackout tips

However, some of them aren't being entirely charitable to us:

Daily highs have soared above 120 degrees recently as Iraq's U.S. administrators have been unable to get power back to prewar levels. Some said it was poetic justice that some Americans should suffer the same fate, if only briefly.

"Let them taste what we have tasted," said Ali Abdul Hussein, selling "Keep Cold" brand ice chests on a sidewalk. "Let them sit outside drinking tea and smoking cigarettes waiting for the power to come back, just like the Iraqis."


SIT IN THE SHADE. Many Iraqis head outside when the power's off. "We sit in the shade," said George Ruweid, 27, playing cards with friends on the sidewalk. Of the U.S. blackout, he said: "I hope it lasts for 20 years. Let them feel our suffering."

Thought for the Day:
As you probably know by now, my recently adopted home state of California [motto: "the land of fruits and nuts"] will be holding a special election on Tuesday, October 7th, to determine if Governor Gray Davis is recalled and, if so, who will succeed him. At last count, 247 candidates have filed candidacy papers. [In the end, I chose not to run for Governor because I was concerned that my gubernatorial campaign would significantly interfere with my career as a professional Microsoft mine sweeper player.]
--Patrick Douglas Crispin [The Internet Tourbus]

Friday, August 15, 2003

A gem from Conan...
O'Brien, not the Barbarian running for governor in California. I don't know that this is Conan, and I wasn't given a source, but it sounds like his material. Besides, it's good enough to share even if it isn't him...

"There's now a George Bush action figure. By posing him and making him talk, kids can get an idea what it's like to be Dick Cheney."

How long is too long?
From this week's I, Cringely, by Robert X. "The Real Bob" Cringely (the context is a brief discussion of the MSBlaster worm):

Microsoft is hardly blameless, either. A very good friend of mine (one of Microsoft's major customers at the time) recommended to Redmond precisely the e-mail safeguards that would have made this week's problem impossible. Since he was a big customer, they said they'd look into it, but did nothing. That was in 1991. Is 12 years too long to wait for vendor responsibility?


Thought for the Day:
[Joel Furr is] not real fond of the Libertarians either, though, because most Libertarians he's known have been so selfish and "it's MY money why should I pay ONE RED CENT to help the POOR"-oriented that he's learned to ignore them. Furr worked for a little over two years in a public library and learned the importance of basic governmental services such as libraries. Libertarians would have you believe that we should ban such services and let for-profit libraries come into being -- never mind the fact that a lot of residents of Furr's hometown in Appalachia couldn't afford basic telephone service much less "luxuries" like a for-profit library. What would happen to the poor in a world where the Libertarian Party has closed down all the libraries (i.e., the creation of an illiterate, ignorant underclass) does not seem to matter to the Libertarians. As someone put it recently, you don't see a lot of poor Libertarians. People only become Libertarians when they decide "hmm, okay, I've made a lot of money, it's time to change the rules so I don't have to share it with anyone or pay for any government services." FQA [Frequently Questioned Answers]

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Personally, I only need one....
but here's a list of One Thousand Reasons to get rid of George W. Bush

Wonderful work here:
The Propaganda Remix Project

A copy of Photoshop, a set of vintage war posters, and a whole lotta free time....

Tell us what you really think, Steve!
From Steve Gilliard's blog:

The Greens: This isn't a Democratic Party site, as you'll notice I don't link to candidates or anything to do with the party. I could give a shit about "party unity". This is my site, my opinions, and as I said, I don't have any political agenda. I'll make it clear, I don't like the Greens. I don't like the way they do business, take money from the GOP and harm people who they should have something in common with. I have scant respect for the stock speculator Nader either. And it goes beyond his supping with Grover Norquist and Phyllis Schaffely. I think he diverted concerns about social justice into making middle class life a safer place for his friends. Good theories, little regard for people.

Do I blame Nader for 2000? Somewhat, but I also blame Gore and Lieberman's half-assed, no-fight campaign. Gore ran a bad camapaign and still won. But Nader acted out of pique and as a professional politician, he should know better. He didn't owe the Dems a thing. Except for 20 years of access to their committees in Congress, hiring his staffers and giving him unwarranted influence. So when Greens conviently forget that their "standard bearer" sucked on the hind teat of Democratic politics for a couple of decades, I find it both hypocritical and amusing. Ralph Nader was a creation of Democratic Party politics, his fame comes from Democratic Party support and now, because he doesn't get to play kingmaker, he runs off, joins with the naive Greens and makes war against his former patrons.

Now, I do believe in third parties, progessive politics, but the academic/Marin County tint of the greens leave me cold. New York has several parties, Working Families, Right to Life, Conservative. They get on the ballot and have organizations. The Greens, mostly a nice way for professors to hide their affairs with their TA's and for "activists" more wedded to "identity politics" and meetings than real political work.

Bill Maher sparkles today
This gem over at Maher's blog today:


New Rule: Stop insulting our intelligence! President Bush says he wants to put an end to wildfires by "forest thinning," which is just code for "logging." Basically, he wants to prevent forest fires by chopping down all trees. It's an idea he and Dick Cheney came up with while working on another program: eliminating shark attacks through oil tanker spills.

Commenting suspended temporarily
Haven't been able to get to in a while, and because of that it's been taking ungodly long for the blog to load. When appears to be back in business, we'll reinstate the comments.

How about a geek entry, for a change?
OS Shootout: MacOS X vs. Windows EcchsPee vs. Linux

UPDATE: now having had a chance to read the article, I have to say it was interesting, and for the most part pretty fair and balanced (Note to Fox News Network attorneys: kiss my ass). In a few categories I think they gave Linux downchecks it didn't really deserve (I don't think it's a downcheck, for example, to say that Linux is the worst in CD writing because it only provides CD write support through third party apps, when just about every distro includes one (or, usually, more) of those third party apps to use, for no charge). But in general, their treatment of Linux was fair, while I think that Linux (especially a distro like Mandrake, especially in the recent releases) is getting more and more user friendly, it's still got a ways to go.

Our President is a whiny, little, sniveling loser....
This one stolen from Daily Kos, without any more comment from me:

Bush cries

You know how little kids act when they aren't getting the attention they crave? They pout, and sulk, and cry? Well check this out:

Speaking to reporters at his Crawford, Texas ranch, Bush seemed miffed this week when one asked him about the recall election in California. The reporter prefaced the question by describing it as the "biggest political story in the country."

That phrase caught the president's attention and he just couldn't let it go.

Bush: "It is the biggest political story in the country? That's interesting. That says a lot. That speaks volumes."

Reporter: "Means you don't agree?"

Bush: "I don't get to decide the biggest political story. You decide the biggest political story. But I find it interesting that that is the biggest political story in the country, as you just said."

Pressed on the matter, Bush said, "Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories. Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up?"


The best part is his whining, "I don't get to decide the biggest political story. You decide the biggest political story." Because, as we all already know, it's all about him.

And if he's not the center of attention, he pouts.

Kos neglected to mention this little gem from the original CNN story (linked above), though:

Repeating a line he said last week, Bush said the movie star would make a "good governor," but this time he added "as would others running for governor of California."

A CSM tells it like it is
I blatantly stole this in toto from Col. David Hackworth's site, Soldiers for the Truth, because it's another one of those pieces that needs distribution as far as it can be distributed.

SGT Major Sounds Off

This is a recent letter written by the Command Sergeant Major of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) to Senator Warner explaining why he is retiring earlier than planned. It is a sombering and articulate accounting of the state of our military. This letter was forwarded with the idea that one must understand a problem in order to fix it. I agree that this retiring CSM's thoughts are very much worth considering. It is also published here due to the fact that it very astutely and genuinely describes a situation that I have heard repeated time and time again in recent months, both from the U.S. special operations community and the conventional military.


Dear Senator Warner,

My name is Clifton P. O'Brien II and I serve as the Regimental Command Sergeant Major of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) based at FT Campbell, Ky. We are the only Special Operations Aviation Regiment in the US Military and we have played a major role in every conflict since Operation "Urgent Fury" in Grenada. I am very proud of the 160th and the soldiers that serve here. I am a career soldier with 25 years of service. I have served 11 years in the 160th and other tours include the 82d Airborne, 101st Airborne, 2d Infantry Division, Military District of Washington, Recruiting Command, 8th Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division. Last month I submitted my retirement paperwork and will end my career at 26 years instead of 30. I could easily stay to 30, but I choose not to do so as I will try to explain in this letter.

I watched the hearings on C-Span yesterday and that is what has prompted me to write you. The Joint Chiefs are truly great men dealing with some very complicated issues during some tough times. I am not politically astute, but will try to give you a soldiers perspective on why we are starting a nosedive. If we don't start taking steps now to correct the issues we face the dollar amount and energy expended to turn things around may be more than we can afford.

I disagree with General Reimer in one area. I think we will reach the "hollow" Army in 3 to 5 years, maybe sooner. The pace of operations is exhausting the force and combined with reductions in what soldiers perceive as benefits is causing us to lose many good soldiers. We are losing many of our very best in large numbers and potential recruits are not beating the doors down. This is not good and we can't afford it. I have a daughter serving in the Army and her mother and I have advised her to get out when her enlistment is up. She will get out next year, finish her college and become a Registered Nurse in the civilian sector.

Listed below are the areas that is hurting recruiting, retention AND our credibility:


This applies to our elected representatives. Many feel we are simply pawns with little value until we are needed. Promises are made, and quickly broken based on political climate. Unneeded programs are pushed and money not used to take care of the force. Pork Barrel politics are evident. Do we need what we did 20 years ago? Probably not. But we do need good, high quality soldiers and individuals with the desire to serve and make a career out of defending our nation and our interest.

Every time a program or benefit that was promised is cut it damages the credibility of our leaders. "Implied Promises" are a verbal contract, not written and we all understand that. But a contract is a contract and the old saying "you are only as good as your word" applies here. Break enough promises and people will walk away.


It's not where it should be. Too many deployments coupled with a shortage of personnel makes everyone work harder. The infrastructure at most Army installations is in bad shape with limited funds to fix problems, no money to make improvements and sometimes needed services are delayed or cancelled. My Commander reminds all of us leaders that we enlist soldiers, but we almost always reenlist families. If we don't provide what the families need or mom and dad are never there they look for a different lifestyle.


What a farce this turned out to be. Tri-Care and Delta Dental don't meet the needs and don't even come close to what was promised to most soldiers and families. Once again, an implied promise that has been broken. Young soldiers at FT Campbell come in contact with retirees every day and the retirees let them know if you stay to retirement you will be treated like a 3d class citizen, you can't count on any commitments or promises made and the truth will always change to meet current popular politics. I don't think the retirees mean any harm but they are frustrated and disillusioned. After attending my retirement brief I can honestly say I don't blame them. I just choose to say nothing to my soldiers.


"Being a soldier is more than about money". I've heard this a hundred times and it is true. If it wasn't I would not have stayed. I make a decent living, but not a great living. Compared to my peers in the civilian world with the level of responsibility I have I can say I am well behind them. That has been my choice and have no regrets. Keep in mind we haven't had a decent pay raise in years and the economy is booming. A soldier can get out of the Army and work at unskilled labor earning $9.00 to $10.00 per hour in Nashville. If a soldier has a marketable technical skill they can land a well paying job with good benefits that exceed what we can offer. As a civilian they aren't faced with 16 hour workdays, constant deployments, family separations, alert recalls, field exercises year round etc etc. The bottom line is "Patriotism is great, but it don't put food on the table or provide for your family". One soldier that requires food stamps or a program like WIC is a shame. We can do better for those we ask so much from.


Another huge sore spot. The vast majority of kids coming in today will not make a career out of the Army for 35% of their base pay. What makes our Army the best in the world is a professional NCO corps. Ask any General from the former Warsaw pact countries. The soldiers coming in today won't stay and suffer the hardships for so little in return. They will vote with their feet and we are starting to see that now. They get out, go to college, get a higher paying job with the ability to make and save more with none of the danger or hardship the Army provides. Last year my son-in-law turned down promotion to Staff Sergeant (E-6) and got out of the Army after five years. He was a stellar soldier that was selected as Battalion Soldier of the Year and Brigade Soldier of the Year. He was qualified to work on two different types of helicopters and was top-rated on every evaluation report.

He returned to Louisiana where he is employed as a helicopter mechanic. He works 7 days on, 12 hour days and gets 7 days off. He makes $16.50 per hour starting and can earn more by working overtime. Just working normal hours he makes considerably more than if he stayed in uniform. His medical and dental benefits are easily equal to what we offer. My daughter was raised as an Army brat and wanted him to stay in. She is now very happy he got out. They own a home, have a stable life and she knows he is home at night and safe.

If you want a committed professional force you have to make commitments, but even more importantly, you have to keep your commitments. Our National leadership has not done that. Freedom isn't free and you must be willing to pay for that security. My son in law told me " I'm not staying in the Army because they make promises they don't keep, they say you will get this, then they take it away". We've cut the Army by more than 40%, stagnated pay, cut funding at every level, increased deployment time and took away promised programs and benefits. Then we wonder why our recruiting and retention is low. You can't expect folks to make the commitment required or the sacrifice needed if you keep reducing all they were promised or expect. The very best, like my son in law will leave for a better life.

As a final thought I want to share with you what bothers me most. You don't fund them, you don't train them, you don't properly equip them or take care of them, they may fail when we need them most. The price we will pay can't be measured in dollars or social program gains. Our sons and daughters will pay the price in blood. We will fill many more bodybags than we should because
of politics. Rhetoric and social programs haven't won a war yet. We are in a dive. It gets worse monthly. If we don't take some steps to remedy the situation I advise our leaders to dust off the draft, and make it fair this time by granting no exemptions except medical. We all live here in the greatest nation on earth because that freedom has been bought with soldiers blood. Everyone bears a responsibility to serve.

I have enjoyed the Army. I am proud of the Army, my country and the service I was allowed to provide. It has been an honor for me to serve. I just don't like what I see happening to our military.

Very Respectfully,

Clifton P. O'Brien
Command Sergeant Major
Unites States Army

Interesting coincidences department:
According to the Dr. Science mailing list, today is the birthday of both Gary "The Far Side" Larson, and comedian Steve Martin.

Happy birthday, guys!

It's official!
From today's Buzzword of the Day mailing:

FAITH-BASED INTELLIGENCE: A top-down approach to management in which the top executives' philosophy is: "We know the answers -- now give us the intelligence to support those answers."
Nominated by Mark Worden

John Walston

To see the full Buzzword Compliant Dictionary,
just click here.

Thought for the Day:
In many ways, it's difficult to judge a Bond film by the same standards applied to other movies. The series has lasted long enough to establish its own set of rules, and, as long as the latest movie plays by them, it usually works. Plot credibility, for example, is not a key element. Bond stories shouldn't be taken with just a grain of salt - you need the whole shaker. It's somehow easier to suspend disbelief to an extraordinary level while watching 007 execute the expected series of superhuman tricks. The fact is, when it comes to a Bond movie, the last thing anyone wants is believability. We're there to see the formula applied in the most ostentatious fashion possible - the louder and more over-the-top, the better.
--James Berardinelli [on the James Bond film corpus]

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A stroke of genius:
From eBay: Texas ANG George W Bush Action Figure

I love Media Whores Online's link text: "It's So Lifelike"

From A Warning Shot

It hit 100.2 degrees in London, England yesterday. Here in the US, that wouldn’t be major news, since every state in the Union, including Alaska, has experienced triple digit readings. But England is a cold and damp place. I lived in London for three years, and it never got above 85 in all that time. The average daytime high in August is a hair under 70F (21C). This time, they set an all-time record, and their records go back to 1659. [my emphasis--LRC]

As seen on BartCop:
The punchline of a recent "Boondocks" strip (Bart never gives the dates of the strip, so I don't know when it ran). The characters are discussing gay marriage:

"I don't understand what the big deal is. How can a gay marriage be any less legitimate than a Jennifer Lopez marriage."

From Bahrain's Gulf Daily News:
Arms 'will be found in Iraq'
SYDNEY: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said yesterday US troops would not leave Iraq until they found weapons of mass destruction there.

"We will (find them). I have absolute confidence about that," he told an Asia Society lunch in Sydney - after talks with Australia's Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday.

While the US did not want to remain in Iraq any longer than necessary, "we are not going to leave until we find and destroy Iraq's capability to launch biological, chemical and nuclear weapons," Armitage said.

He said the fact that no weapons had so far emerged was a "chilling" reminder that they were "far too easy to move and far too easy to hide."

I wish I knew who Armitage's connection is. I would dearly love to sample the drugs he must be using....

2004's "Dukakis in a tank"?
This was forwarded via email from a correspondent without attribution, though it appears to be from either a newspaper or newspaper website:

Steak Raises Stakes for Kerry in Philly

By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, August 13, 2003; Page A03

If Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential aspirations melt like a dollop of Cheez Whiz in the sun, the trouble may well be traced to an incident in South Philadelphia on Monday.

There, the Massachusetts Democrat went to Pat's Steaks and ordered a cheesesteak -- with Swiss cheese. If that weren't bad enough, the candidate asked photographers not to take his picture while he ate the sandwich; shutters clicked anyway, and Kerry was caught nibbling daintily at his sandwich -- another serious faux pas.

"It will doom his candidacy in Philadelphia," predicted Craig LaBan, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the Sandwich Scandal. After all, Philly cheesesteaks come with Cheez Whiz, or occasionally American or provolone. But Swiss cheese? "In Philadelphia, that's an alternative lifestyle," LaBan explained.

And don't even mention Kerry's dainty bites. "Obviously, Kerry's a high-class candidate, and he misread the etiquette," LaBan said. "Throwing fistfuls of steak into the gaping maw, fingers dripping -- that's the proper way."

For Kerry, a Boston Brahmin, this is something of a sore spot. As he seeks to lose his reputation for $75 Salon Cristophe haircuts, Turnbull &Asser shirts and long fingernails to play classical guitar, he has been seen riding a motorcycle and doing other regular-guy things.

Appearing out of touch with the common man can be deadly for a candidate. Recall George H.W. Bush's wonderment in the 1992 campaign upon coming across a supermarket scanner, and Sargent Shriver's legendary request for a Courvoisier while visiting a milltown bar in 1972.

Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the candidate was "not taking a dainty nibble" of the steak. "I suspect that Kerry was thinking about provolone cheese but became distracted by thinking of the more than 3 million jobs that have slipped through the holes of George W. Bush's economic plan."

The owner of Pat's Steaks, Frank Olivieri, was forgiving, though he points out that Bill Clinton and Al Gore knew to ask for Whiz. "It happens," he said. "I swayed him to the Cheez Whiz. If you're eating in Philadelphia, you eat what I serve you."

At least Kerry didn't ask for Camembert.

UPDATE: Media Whores Online makes an eminently reasonable suggestion:

Assume this is anti-media satire, because the alternative would be unbearable, and mark the beginning of the end of our great nation [whereupon followed the paragraphs quoted above...]

I see that the Bush misAdministration believes in the right man for the job.
According to conservative news website WorldNetDaily, Thomas Rider, the Department of Energy's representative to the prewar intelligence meeting which hammered out the October 1992 National Intelligence Estimate (which, among other things came to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear weapons program) was a human relations specialist with little intelligence experience. While he might not have known what was going on, he made sure that the DOE's intelligence analysts toed the White House line. According to another WorldNetDaily article:

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Rider ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting.

For which yeoman service, Rider was rewarded with $20,500 in bonuses in the months leading up to the war.

Can you say, "high priced whore"? I knew you could....

This day in baseball history, dept.:
According to the broadcast team for Fox Sports Midwest (broadcasting the Cardinals-Pirates game tonight), on August 13, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a promotional night where any fan coming to Ebbets Field with a musical instrument received free admission to the game. Supposedly, one man took advantage of the promotion by bringing a grand piano to the ballpark.

(According to Cards colorman Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky: "Sure, they let him in, but they made him buy a block of tickets for the piano.")

Linux becomes a campaign issue: Today, the Seattle Public Schools; tomorrow, the world!!!

I'm running for a seat on the Seattle School Board and am making "freedomware" - my term for open-source software - a campaign issue.

I'm a newbie and can't possibly promote open-source as an insider. I put my first website on a Linux server just last night and am just beginning to learn Apache and PHP. It will probably be a few months before I have time to convert to a Linux desktop operating system.

But I'm focusing on the political, social and economic aspects of freedomware, which I'm promoting as an antidote to corporate corruption and the Microsoft empire.

Please visit my campaign website at and read my Freedomware article at I'll certainly be revising this article and welcome any feedback you care to offer.

I also have a technical question: Does anyone know of a way to run Dreamweaver smoothly on Linux? It's my favorite software program, but it appears that it just isn't Linux-friendly.

Thank you.

David Blomstrom

Things keep getting stranger and stranger in the dog days of August
This from Slate's Emily Bazelon:

If you like farce, the upcoming judicial confirmation hearing for Judge Charles W. Pickering should make for some satisfying C-SPAN. The Mississippi federal judge is the Bush administration's nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. To defend him against charges of racial insensitivity, Republicans are marketing Pickering's record of giving lenient sentences to black drug offenders. It's nice to see conservative lawmakers deferring to a judge's belief that some criminals deserve a second chance. Except these are the same lawmakers who spent their last term chipping away at the power of federal judges to reduce criminal sentences.

But then again, these are the same lawmakers who want to put new rules in place to stop minority party lawmakers from holding up judicial confirmations, after spending Clinton's two terms doing the exact same thing they want to put a stop to now....

Excellent critical analysis in Slate:
where Jack Shafer takes on a sensationalistic Newsweek article claiming an alarming increase in teen prostitution (what makes it especially alarming, as Newsweek paints the story, is that the new teen prostitutes are middle class and white (for the most part)).


The story starts with the sort of powerful anecdote you find in most bogus trend stories: "Cute, blond and chatty" 17-year-old Stacey "lives with her parents in an upscale neighborhood, gets good grades in high school and plans to try out for the tennis team." One day she let a stranger buy her clothes at Minnesota's Mall of America. Then she started stripping for men she met at the mall in exchange for money, with which she bought clothes. Pretty soon she was advertising her skills on a personals service "offering 'wealthy, generous' men 'an evening of fun' for $400."


But after her shocking lede, Smalley offers this wobbly nut-graf assertion:

"Over the last year, local and federal law-enforcement officials say they have noted a marked increase in teen prostitution in cities across the country. Solid numbers are difficult to come by—a government-sponsored study puts the figure in the hundreds of thousands—but law-enforcement agencies and advocacy groups that work with teen prostitutes say they are increasingly alarmed by the trend lines: the kids are getting younger; according to the FBI, the average age of a new recruit is just 13; some are as young as 9. The girls—many fewer are boys, most experts believe—are subjected to more violence from pimps."

This paragraph, the fulcrum upon which the remainder of the article rests, doesn't convince. If law-enforcement officials say there is "a marked increase in teen prostitution," but "solid numbers are difficult to come by," what exactly are we to make of the "hundreds of thousands" figure that follows? Is Smalley saying that there are hundreds of thousands of teen prostitutes? Or that there are "hundreds of thousands" more teen prostitutes than there once were? If that's the case, how reliable is a study that advances such a vague number? Over what period was this "government-sponsored" population study of teen prostitutes conducted? And who conducted it? Smalley neglects to point her readers to her primary source.

And if kids are getting younger, with the FBI claiming the average age of a new recruit is "just 13," what was the average age last year? Or two years ago? Do any of these numbers really exist?

Excellent points, and excellent questions to raise. The pity is that the vast majority of Newsweek readers would never think of them on their own, but would let their case of "false authority syndrome" kick in, and accept the Newsweek reporter's statistics as fact. It's a shame that the schools generally do so poorly at teaching students the critical thinking skills that would help them peform such an analysis on their own.

That being said, I have to admit that I found this part of the Newsweek article most puzzling. It's "Stacey" being quoted:

“Potentially good sex is a small price to pay for the freedom to spend money on what I want.” The easiest way, she discovered, was to offer her body in trade.

"Potentially good sex is a small price to pay"? For most 17 year olds, potentially good sex is the holiest of Holy Grails, a search that occupies most of their waking hours (ok, yes, I do exaggerate, but not by much). For Stacey, there's a good chance that potentially good sex wasn't a price to pay, it was probably a fringe benefit: "You mean, I get all this money and orgasms, too? Am I ever going to be late to this job?" But you probably can't quote a 17 year old girl that way in a national newsmagazine. Not without alienating her parents and parents' friends, at any rate.

Thought for the Day:
Q. Are you never afraid of God's judgment in denying him?
A. Most certainly not. I also deny Zeus and Jupiter and Odin and Brahma, but this causes me no qualms. I observe that a very large portion of the human race does not believe in God and suffers no visible punishment in consequence. And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.
--Bertrand Russell ["What is an Agnostic?"]

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

An excellent point:
From Atrios, via Sick of Bush:

I'm not an isolationist, but I see our numerous deployments as part of the terrorism problem. There are 192 countries in the world, and we have a presence in 130 of them. Bush asked "why do they hate us?" He concluded that they "hate our freedom." No. They hate how our tentacles cover two-thirds of the globe. They hate how we require the world to follow rules as we willfully ignore them. They hate how we export violence. Time to choose a different path, or our empire will fall just as the Romans did.

Keep score on Dubya:
Wage Slave Journal: The Bush Scorecard of Evil

This one's too good to ignore; it's going into the links section.

Shameful. Simply shameful.
If there's been one hallmark of the American method of waging war, it's that the American soldier/Marine is lavishly supplied. But not in George Bush's America. Steve Gilliard has a good piece in his blog today ("Pounds for the wealthy, pennies for the poor", 8/12/2003) about how the Bush misAdministration's insistance on privatizing practically everything connected with government--including military logistics--has resulted in sending our troops to Iraq with insufficient supplies.

It seemed no one realized that civilians wouldn't sign up for nightly mortar attacks and the occasional ambush. Better to be sued and alive than perform a contract which will get you killed, is the way a lot of people think. It's nice to know that Halliburton's subcontractors are that patriotic.

And for more cogent analysis on the subject, check out Paul Krugman's New York Times column, "Thanks for the M.R.E.s", where Krugman notes:

Letters published in Stars and Stripes and e-mail published on the Web site of Col. David Hackworth (a decorated veteran and Pentagon critic) describe shortages of water. One writer reported that in his unit, "each soldier is limited to two 1.5-liter bottles a day," and that inadequate water rations were leading to "heat casualties." An American soldier died of heat stroke on Saturday; are poor supply and living conditions one reason why U.S. troops in Iraq are suffering such a high rate of noncombat deaths?

The U.S. military has always had superb logistics. What happened? The answer is a mix of penny-pinching and privatization — which makes our soldiers' discomfort a symptom of something more general.

Colonel Hackworth blames "dilettantes in the Pentagon" who "thought they could run a war and an occupation on the cheap." But the cheapness isn't restricted to Iraq. In general, the "support our troops" crowd draws the line when that support might actually cost something.

The usually conservative Army Times has run blistering editorials on this subject. Its June 30 blast, titled "Nothing but Lip Service," begins: "In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately." The article goes on to detail a series of promises broken and benefits cut.

Military corner-cutting is part of a broader picture of penny-wise-pound-foolish government. When it comes to tax cuts or subsidies to powerful interest groups, money is no object. But elsewhere, including homeland security, small-government ideology reigns. The Bush administration has been unwilling to spend enough on any aspect of homeland security, whether it's providing firefighters and police officers with radios or protecting the nation's ports. The decision to pull air marshals off some flights to save on hotel bills — reversed when the public heard about it — was simply a sound-bite-worthy example. (Air marshals have told that a "witch hunt" is now under way at the Transportation Security Administration, and that those who reveal cost-cutting measures to the media are being threatened with the Patriot Act.)

There's also another element in the Iraq logistical snafu: privatization. The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat — and the system failed.


Military privatization, like military penny-pinching, is part of a pattern. Both for ideological reasons and, one suspects, because of the patronage involved, the people now running the country seem determined to have public services provided by private corporations, no matter what the circumstances. For example, you may recall that in the weeks after 9/11 the Bush administration and its Congressional allies fought tooth and nail to leave airport screening in the hands of private security companies, giving in only in the face of overwhelming public pressure. In Iraq, reports The Baltimore Sun, "the Bush administration continues to use American corporations to perform work that United Nations agencies and nonprofit aid groups can do more cheaply."

In short, the logistical mess in Iraq isn't an isolated case of poor planning and mismanagement: it's telling us what's wrong with our current philosophy of government.

From Bill Maher's blog (see links to the left; one of the August 12th entries):

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has just signed into law an important piece of legislation designed to regulate the practice of cosmetic tongue-splitting, which makes him the first politician in history to speak on forked tongues. In taking on the powerful and deep-pocketed pro-tongue-splitting lobby, Blagojevich distinguishes himself from his predecessor Governor George Ryan, who sadly frittered away his time in the Illinois state house with silly issues such as freeing the innocent from Death Row. Someone help me out here, please—which state’s Governor is being recalled again?

Mom said there'd be days like today....
but dammit, she never said there'd be so many.

Anyway, the office got fairly heavily hit by the MSBlaster worm, with at least three PCs that I know of being affected, and of course with the Blaster worm searching the local network for machines to spread to, that means the network was slower than molasses in January, to coin a cliche. It'll be interesting to see how things fall out tomorrow. At any rate... I'll just take tonight easy, but I may not have a whole lot of spare time to blog the next few days.

In InfoWorld...
we receive this news from Robert X. "Not The Real Bob" Cringely(TM):

$6 Million, Man

What does it cost to license an OS you don't really need? A cool $6 million. That's the figure a Microsoft sales pro let slip when asked why the Redmond boys acquired a Unix license from The SCO Group. According to my source, the pro said Microsoft ponied up because "SCO needed money for their lawsuit problem." SCO PR dude Blake Stowell issued a staunch denial, saying MS wants the code for its Services for Unix product. Still, $6 mil would certainly keep SCO attorney David Boies' legal machine nicely oiled -- and the news is sure to make thousands of Microsoft conspiracy theorists happy.

The truth will out...

A rant? Well, no, but go look anyway
Jakob Nielsen has a great piece at on information pollution. Probably a hopeless cause by now, but well worth pondering.

Thought for the Day:
What experience and history teach is this - that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
--Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Monday, August 11, 2003

It's Monday night.....
Which lately means I've got SciFi Channel and reruns of "Stargate SG-1" on the tube as background noise as I take care of email and the blog. The past few weeks have shown that's a fairly benign and fairly enjoyable way to spend an evening (assuming something more important, like a Cardinals game, isn't on). But alas... Tonight Planter's nuts is a sponsor of Stargate, and Planter's, for some reason known only to Satan (who is the only entity that can be responsible for this development) has unveiled a commercial featuring a dancing Mr. Peanut. Not that bad, I suppose, but the song they had to pick for Mr. Peanut to dance to is none other than the excremental "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers....That's bringing back some BAD memories....

(On the other hand, at the same time that the Bay City Rollers were stinking up the airwaves with "Saturday Night" and other atrocities, "The Boss" was beginning his rise to prominence.... Come on, Len, just gotta keep this in perspective....)

A gem from Pundit Pap, this week...

There is yet more evidence that key Doofus Administration players lied to America about the threat Iraq actually posed to our interests. Our kids continue to die and get wounded in Iraq as attempts to stabilize the nation stymie an administration that failed to adequately plan for a postwar occupation. A new scandal -- involving Iran-Contra arms dealer Manuchar Ghorbanifar -- is also emerging. And the Texas "Killer D's" are at it again, enjoying asylum in New Mexico and throwing a monkey wrench in the plot to shamelessly redistrict the Lone Smirk State and driving Tom DeLay and his Texas Tory toadie, Governor Rick Perry into spasms of apoplexy.

So what did the Sunday pundits choose to make issue one?

Are you kidding?

Unless you've been socked away in some exotic secluded spot as a contestant on one of the many "reality" series coming this fall, you just knew that the news divisions of our corporate media outlets wouldn't be able to resist playing up the bizarre California recall-and-gubernatorial race, especially given the "surprise" announcement by implausibly popular Austrian bodybuilder and (ahem) actor Arnold Schwarzenegger that he's taking a run at Gray Davis' job.

Let's face it -- the announcement invites the ultimate in infotainment synergy for the ratings-and-money-obsessed media monoliths: a (cough) glamorous (well, at least steroid-virile) celebrity and his glamorous Kennedy clan wife in a story as welcome on PBS News Hour as on Entertainment Tonight, especially given that August is the traditional "off season" for politics.

Government by tantrum
Ross Baker, professor of political science at Rutgers (New Brunswick), argues persuasively that the new right wing love affair with participatory democracy isn't a good idea....

Translated to as large and complex a place as California, direct democracy results in wild policy gyrations, hasty actions that courts must correct and damage to institutions. Term limits for California Assembly and Senate members have, for example, forced out lawmakers just as they're beginning to comprehend the complexity of the policies they must enact, and magnified the influence of lobbyists.

Californians have, by initiative and referendum, capped property taxes, reduced local governments to mendicants, denied health care to illegal immigrants and will now likely vote to recall an unpopular governor and set in motion a scramble to choose his successor.


California is far too important to be manipulated by political pitchmen. From Howard Jarvis and his tax-cutting gimmicks to Darrell Issa and his feel-good remedy for popular dissatisfaction with Davis, these hucksters unleash on Californians an avalanche of advertising designed to gull the public. If direct democracy California style is presented as a way to curb the influence of special interests, it is pure, undiluted snake oil.

A blast from the past:
Sam Dash, former counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, joins John Dean in the list of Watergate figures suggesting parallels between Watergate and the acts of the Bush misAdministration. My reading between the lines leads me to believe that Dash wouldn't be opposed to a Bush impeachment; what do you think?

It is the time of the anonymous informer and the chilling threat, reminiscent of Watergate, that dissent is unpatriotic and giving aid to the enemy. The logic of the government appears to be that the only way we can preserve our freedom and liberty from the efforts of terrorists to destroy them is to temporarily destroy them ourselves. But true security comes from our being a free society blessed with constitutional democracy and a Bill of Rights - rights that if lost cannot be easily recovered.

An alert Congress would check the administration's grab for greater power than the Constitution permits. It would hold hearings and inform the people of the dangers they faced. Unfortunately, Congress today is shirking its constitutional responsibilities. There are no Sam Ervins in the Senate now. Instead of offering leadership, our congressional representatives defer to the White House in an attempt to show they are as patriotic as the president.

The lesson of Watergate should teach them that a president free to assert excessive power could, even unintentionally, irreparably harm our democracy. Benjamin Franklin wisely wrote, "They that would give up essential liberty to attain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

And the worst may be yet to come.
An article in the Toronto Globe and Mail states that a new Iraqi army is being raised, one whose aim is to drive the U.S. out.

If we're saddened by the casualty numbers now, let's just wait til they really start coming after us.

Also from the Austin paper...
on the same webpage as the Bob Kemper article I posted about, this blurb for the paper's web based dating service:

Fancy A Chance?
Love, like or loathing. They're all to be found when you join Austin360 Personals. The thrill is finding out which one you'll develop.

Wow! You mean I can really be "thrilled" at finding out that I can't stand the woman I met on the personals site? Or worse, while I might be interested, she can't stand me?

I don't know if I can handle that excitement.

From the Chicago Tribune, via the Austin American-Statesman:
Bob Kemper brings us up to date on the veracity of all of Bush's reasons for rushing into the Iraq war:

Four months after U.S. forces seized Baghdad, an in-depth look at the White House's primary case for war -- that Iraq posed a direct, immediate threat to America -- shows that virtually all the Bush administration's allegations about Iraq's weapons capabilities remain unproved or in dispute, according to outside experts, former intelligence analysts and a variety of foreign-policy think tanks.

There still is no clear-cut evidence that Saddam Hussein had ready-to-use chemical or biological weapons, a functioning nuclear weapons program or direct ties to al Qaeda's terrorist network, as President Bush and his aides have said since last summer.

Can't trust Dubya as far as we can throw a fit, can we?

The incomparable Bob Somerby...
is once again doing yeoman work over there in today's Daily Howler. The whole article is, of course, well worth reading, but Bob's discussion of the Condileeza Rice-Gwen Ifill mutual admiration society knocked me over. Bob has, for several weeks, been documenting how Ifill has been less than diligent in pinning Rice down on inconsistencies in her public comments on her failure to read the National Intelligence Estimates relative to the Iraq-Niger-yellowcake debacle. Today, he reports:

Needless to say, Ifill made no attempt to follow up on Rice’s statement [Rice has recently publicly claimed to have actually read the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate which set forth State Department misgivings on the Iraq-Niger-yellowcake connection, contrary to earlier White House statements]. More specifically, Ifill didn’t ask about the change in the official White House account. After all, if Rice did read the NIE, then she must have known that the State Department objected to the uranium story. Any real journalist would have asked her about it. But as we saw in her recent NewsHour session with Rice, Ifill is a pure press corps shill (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/03).

Needless to say, Rice and Ifill continued the mutual panderthon they staged on that July 30 NewsHour. Here’s one part of their Dallas exchange. Get your barf bags ready:

     IFILL: Someone said to me last week, after you said that you took responsibility for—
     as the president said he took responsibility for [the 16 words]—that you actually got
     off easy; that George Tenet, the CIA director, fell on his sword in a very public,
     spectacular fashion; that Stephen Hadley, your deputy, went in front of the hordes
     of White House press corps and they picked him apart, and that you got to come out
     and say, “Oh, sorry,” and disappear behind a curtain. Did you get off easy?
     RICE: You know what, Gwen, I don’t think being with you on the Lehrer Report was
     disappearing behind a curtain by any stretch of the imagination.

Gag us! But for the record, things were even worse when Rice was introduced. Here were the good doctor’s comments:

     RICE: Thank you very much. I’d like to thank Gwen for that wonderful introduction. And
     even if you aren’t getting invited, I can tell you that she is, in fact, an excellent cook. I’ve
     been able to partake of that since I’ve been in Washington.

So Ifill provides home cooking off the air, too! Can anyone offer a clearer picture of our deeply compromised press corps culture? Meanwhile, let’s note where the rubber meets the road. Jim Lehrer sits on his ass while fraternization—followed by roll-over interviews—makes a sick joke of his program.

On the other hand, at least we can say there's one good thing about this: Rice did openly admit that Ifill and she fraternize off the set. If she hadn't, would we know about this taint on her interviews with Ifill?

More good news:
From NetworkWorld Fusion: LinuxWorld bustles despite SCO flap From the article:

"If there was a theme, it was likely that it's time to take Linux in the enterprise seriously. A sub-theme was that enterprise Linux isn't just about lower acquisition costs or [total cost of ownership] anymore - it's also about performance, reliability, stability, and real business benefits and ROI," says Michael Dortch, principal analyst at the Robert Frances Group. "Curiously, no one with whom I spoke with at the show even mentioned the SCO lawsuit, and no one seemed to care when the subject was placed before them."

Can't argue with this:
Bob Herbert, in an op-ed in today's New York Times:

There's something at least a little crazy about an environment in which people are literally stumbling over one another to hear what Arnold Schwarzenegger has to say about the budget crisis in California (short answer: nothing), while ignoring what a thoughtful former vice president has to say about the budget and the economy of the U.S.

Thought for the Day:
He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Another gem from Molly Ivins:
From the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

A recent newspaper advertising campaign by "independent" groups supporting President Bush shows a closed courtroom door with the sign "Catholics Need Not Apply" hanging on it. The ad argues that William Pryor Jr., attorney general of Alabama and a right-wing, anti-abortion nominee to the federal appeals court, is under attack for his "deeply held" Catholic beliefs.

Actually, Pryor is under attack because he's a hopeless dipstick. That he also happens to be Catholic and anti-abortion has nothing to do with his unfitness for the federal bench.

Better late than never?
Tom Brazaitis of the Cleveland Plain Dealer comments on the recent criticisms of Bush by Al Gore and Fritz Hollings:

It is tempting to dismiss the warnings by Gore and Hollings as the usual partisan carping, and many in the Bush camp will yield to that temptation. But if the cost in lives and dollars keeps rising in Iraq and the economy continues sputtering at home, more Americans will be drawn into the debate we should have had before we got into this mess.

I am reminded of Molly Ivins comment at a promo for her latest book on life in Bush's America: "The publisher wants me to talk about the new book, and I will, but I should point out to you that if y'all had read the first book [Shrub] I woudn't have had to write the second."

Just what we didn't need: the CEO in Chief:
As David Sirotta notes in his column for

George Bush is a CEO, alright. And that's the problem.

Today, the most well known CEOs are the people who pose for the front of magazines when times are good, and creep out the back door with the company safe when things go south. They are often not the brave commanders of the sinking ship helping everyone to safety first — they are increasingly the people who, after navigating the ship into an iceberg, sneak out of the control room, elbow women and children to the deck, steal the only working lifeboat for themselves, and then blame everyone else for the disaster. They are the Ken Lays of Enron, the Bernie Ebberses of WorldCom, and unfortunately now the George W. Bushes of the White House.

The similarities between Bush and his business contemporaries could always be seen in his reflexive first-to-take-credit, last-to-take-responsibility ethic, common in today's crooked crony capitalism. He was the first to take credit for passing a giant tax cut for the wealthy, but refuses to take responsibility for the fact that it provided little relief for the average American and created huge deficits. He was first to take credit for bombing the Taliban after September 11th, yet refuses to take any responsibility for the security failures that allowed September 11th to happen. He was the first to take credit for supposedly winning the war in Iraq, yet now he's refusing to take any responsibility for the poor planning that could lose the peace.


[Bush] accrued business experience as CEO of Harken Energy. But his experience was in running the company into the ground, being investigated by the SEC for securities fraud, and claiming no responsibility for the damage he did to stockholders — all while making sure to pocket millions on his way out the door. Sure he seemed to be an innocent political neophyte when he entered politics. But one of his closest advisers and biggest contributors as Texas governor was Ken Lay, and now his most influential confidant as President is Dick Cheney — a man who took just two years as CEO of Halliburton to guide the company into near-bankruptcy, decimate stockholder investments in an accounting scandal, and bail out with a multi-million-dollar retirement package and an ongoing one-million-dollar-a-year stipend.

After a little over two months "offline", as it were (i.e., without any updates), Mike Hersh is back in business, having now posted several things since August 5 (including something of an explanation of why he's been gone). I'm glad to see he hasn't disappeared completely.

Steve Gilliard makes a good point in his new blog...
discussing Speciall Operations forces and the changing needs of the army:

We're clearly moving into an era of peacekeeping where actual infantry is needed. The US is man short in Iraq because of our incredible investment in technology. We have armor everywhere and troops used to working with armor instead of foot patrols. One of the dirty little secrets of US deployments is that we've relied upon other people's infantry. It's the Pakistanis. Nigerians and the French who we expected to actually walk the streets, while we would sit back and provide the punch. This strategy led Delta Force and Rangers into Mogudishu's streets, killed 18 and wounded 81. We would swoop in, pop down, do missions and leave. The problem with this is that US troops have scant idea of how to patrol and survive. Many of the troops are unskilled in foot patrols and rely on either fragile humvees or large, noisy Brads. We'd simply contracted that work out to anyone and everyone else. While US doctrine was still focused on armored and airmobile warfare, the missions required good old fashioned foot infantry.

Now, they want to rebuild the Army without seeming to admit that the role of the US Army is going to change. Infantry warfare is coming back and you need men, not robot planes and armored cars. There is a great temptation to take the lessons of SpecOps and spread them throughout the Army. And some of them are applicable. But others, especially those which maximize weaponry over actual infantry are risky at best. American troops need to learn to work with people, establish a foot presence and to lose unfounded fear of the locals. More machines cannot do this. Only men can.

Worth mentioning:
Sherman P. Wright's Celebration of Political Moderation. Sher seems to be a "small c" conservative (as opposed to the "big C" Conservatives in the present misAdministration). Some good stuff here, especially his Big-C Conservative Devil's Dictionary Project. Example definitions:

Campaign Contributors 1. Noble Americans who share their hard-earned personal and organizational resources for the betterment of humanity through support of Conservative political candidates. 2. Homosexual movie stars intent on destroying America by supporting Liberal political candidates.

Clinton Evil incarnate. Either one of them. She’s probably worse; we got the goods on


Foreign Country 1. An evil collection of enemies intent on destroying all that America stands for. 2. A tolerable but still pathetic group of people who sometimes don’t speak English, and the ones that do don’t speak it right. The only thing going for them is their support for the most recent example of American Foreign Policy.


Liberal A misbegotten endangered species, half Satan, half Bozo the Clown.

Military 1. An organization somewhat like the US Olympic Team, but with a less regular performance schedule. A major source of US commercial capital. Has a secondary role for preventing invasion by the other nations of the North American continent. 2. (Archaic) An institution that, under Liberal Presidents Lincoln and Eisenhower, acted against states’ rights Patriots (imagine!) to “preserve the Constitution,” and that, under Eisenhower, allied with a global coalition of Foreign Countries (shocking!) to defeat overt military aggression by would-be world dictators. As if this weren’t enough, Eisenhower, as President, actually had the effrontery to try to balance spending on the Military to the threat of armed aggression (Stop! I can’t take it! How did the country survive so many Liberal commanders-in-chief!)

Moderate See Liberal.

Moderate Republican 1. Huh? 2. (Archaic) Term for certain marginal historical figures, including Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. In disuse since 1980.


Patriot 1. The normal Conservative attitude towards America during periods when 1) the Military is kicking butt, 2) the Military would be kicking butt if there were any butt we could get away with kicking (patience, patience), 3) there is no Liberal draft. 2. A Conservative gun owner (sorry, another redundancy) fully prepared to take up arms to defend the Constitution (except for the Liberal parts that shyster lawyers love) from encroachments by elected representatives. Of course, to defend the Constitution they’d have to, technically speaking, overthrow it, but hey! you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

If that has the creative juices flowing, Sher's taking contributions. Go to his website for the email address...

Thought for the Day:
At a press conference sponsored by Berlei bras, she took questions from the throng of reporters. Asked whether she was wearing an engagement ring, she snapped. "My private life is private." Without any irony, she then said, "I'm here to talk about my bras."
--L. Jon Wertheim [on tennis star Anna Kournakova]

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Are we seeing the press treating Dean like Gore in 2004?
Why does the press demand candidates to kiss their ass? Bob Somerby, in The Daily Howler, noted that Bush won the heart of the pundit corps by providing better food and playing to their "inner goof-off", as it were, where Al Gore provided inferior food and acted like a "know-it-all".. Now, Ruth Conniff in The Progressive (via AlterNet) reports a similar phenomenon happening in the Democratic nominating race:

Peter Hart of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting sees a subtler dynamic. The problem for Dean, according to Hart, is something like the problem Al Gore faced in the last election. Reporters just don't like him much. Indeed, Dean had a reputation in Vermont for being impatient and sometimes downright rude. Newsweek recently ran a piece that described Dean getting annoyed and sarcastic with members of the national press corps.

"He doesn't seem to like journalists, and the feeling is mutual," Hart says. That leads the press to jump on unflattering stories, even if they're not quite accurate. A public stumble that might be overlooked in another candidate could become the dreaded Jimmy-Carter-attack-rabbit episode. Look for more anecdotes about Dean losing his cool and getting his facts mixed up, says Hart.

The Washington press corps can be like a gang of mean junior high school kids. But there is more than fickle dislike for a certain personality in the media tarring of Dean. Dean is an outsider. As the most identifiably progressive candidate-or at least the one with the most money, since Dennis Kucinich, who is running to the left of Dean, hasn't raised millions and has been almost completely ignored by the press-Dean sticks out. The "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," which Dean claims to represent, is not much in evidence in Washington these days.

To the inside-the-Beltway media, which lives and dies by connections, contacts, and conventional wisdom, "there is something appealing and at the same time unappealing about someone who comes from the outside," says Hart. "They need to take an extra look. They need to neutralize him by showing that this guy isn't ready for prime time." That's because, at bottom, what most stands out about Dean to Washington insiders is that he's not an insider himself. That threatens their sense of superiority-not just of the insider candidates in the field, but also of the press corps that follows and anoints them. "Political veterans, insiders, would never get a pop quiz," says Hart.

We're finding out how the Administration works...
NY Times: Iraqi Trailers Said to Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms

First, we come to our conclusion, then we announce it. Then we wait for our own experts to decide we were wrong.

The Defense Intelligence Agency's engineering teams had not concluded their work in Iraq at the time the white paper was drafted, and so their views were not taken into account at that time, the government officials said. They said the engineering teams had discussed their findings in meetings in Washington in June and again last month.

"We stand by the white paper," the Defense Department official said. "But based on the assessment of the engineering team, it has caused us to pursue additional information about possible alternative uses for the trailers."

Fascinating coincidence
The Missouri state quarter is going to be released tomorrow, August 10, 2003, which happens to be the 182nd anniversary of Missouri statehood (the Show-Me state was admitted to the Union on August 10, 1821). According to officials, it's the first time in the history of the state quarters program that the date of issue of a state quarter has coincided with the anniversary of the state's admission to statehood.

Most excellent....
This entry at Whiskey Bar: Action Figure

which inspired this comment (which I quote in full, apologies to the author):

[Billmon:] If there's one thing I can't stand, it's historical revisionism.

That's interesting; for me, it's George Bush:

I do not like that George Bush man.
I do not like him, Uncle Sam.

He would not, could not go to war.
Instead he became a corporate whore.
He would not admit to doing coke.
Relentless lies were all he spoke.

I do not like that George Bush man.
I do not like him, Uncle Sam.

He would not lean on Ariel Sharon;
He ruined the economy at home.
He could not catch our foe bin Laden;
To the core, this man is rotten.

I do not like that George Bush man.
I do not like him, Uncle Sam.

Posted by: Matt Davis at August 9, 2003 09:28 AM

Thought for the Day:
[George W. Bush] combines the oratory of Calvin Coolidge, the economic sense of Herbert Hoover, the respect for liberty of Richard Nixon together with the intellectual depth of Ronald Reagan.
--Ben Avery [SKEPTIC mailing list]

Friday, August 08, 2003

A good point being made....
Media Whores Online reprints this from "Cmdr. MacBragg"; it purports to be a letter to the AP. Regardless of whether it is or not, it's a very good point being made here....

AP has been misusing the word "casualty" with regard to the "preemptive" US action in Iraq with dismaying regularity.

Today's example from Yahoo:

      Since President Bush announced an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1, 56 soldiers
      have died in combat. The total combat casualties in the war has climbed to 170...

The true number of casualties is much higher, likely in the thousands.

A "casualty" is not only a dead soldier. The word also signifies the injured, captured, and MIA.

Misusing the word "casualty" to report only combat deaths misleads the reader into believing the number of US soldiers whose lives have been shattered by this chosen war is an order of magnitude smaller than is actually the case.

If your only experience of war is from watching TV where bloodless bullets drop soldiers with a gentle "Ugh", perhaps it's hard to appreciate how long it takes for a skull fracture to heal, how demoralizing it feels to return to your wife without legs, or the unimaginable frustration of doing anything without hands. Please do not trivialize the sacrifice of these men by washing away their numbers away through a dishonest choice of words.

If you were the Faux News Network I wouldn't even bother writing, their agenda being as transparent as it is. But AP still maintains appearances of being something more than a steno pool for KKKarl Rove, so perhaps you will encourage your otherwise sufficiently educated writers to use words as they are defined rather than to invent new meanings for them. The former is called "journalism", and the latter "Newspeak".

If you mean to count the dead, dare to use the word "dead". If you mean to count casualties, dare to count them all.

Rethinking right-wing dogma

From Common Dreams: The Failures of Privatization:

They might want to read a new report, Private Participation in Infrastructure in Developing Countries, available on the World Bank Web site, before they rush the last few bits of family silver to market. This report looked at the results of the massive influx of private investment in developing countries in the past decade, which averaged $60-billion (U.S.) a year between 1990 and 2001. Toll roads in Mexico, mobile phone systems in India, power distribution grids in Brazil, and water utilities in Latin America were among the 2,500 projects built or purchased with these funds.

While by no means a blanket condemnation of privatization, the report found that private ownership did not automatically solve problems in government-run enterprises.

In the best cases, private companies introduced better management, replaced outdated water pipes or transmission lines, and reduced swollen payrolls, although layoffs were unpopular. These changes often led to better services.

But privatization sometimes replaced some forms of corruption -- awarding jobs to cronies and pilfering by employees -- with others, such as allowing friends and relatives to buy lucrative companies for a song. It has had a negative impact on the poor when new owners raise rates to pay for improvements and make a return on their investment. And it has reduced public accountability. Consumers can threaten not to re-elect a government that fails to provide adequate services. They have a harder time holding private companies to account. A Latin barometer poll that covered 17 countries in 2001 found that 63 per cent of respondents felt they had not benefited from privatization.

Evidence that it's the dumbing down of the world, not just America....
From Spiked Online we get reports that British undergrads find it difficult to develop the historical mindset:

And the history book itself is going out of fashion. John Gooch from Leeds University says that very few A-level students have read 'even one history book all the way through'. And they can do pretty well without, it seems - Gooch says that one candidate for an academic post at Leeds admitted to having worked solely from duplicated notes as an undergraduate, without opening the pages of a book.

Instead, there is a preference for more bite-sized, experiential media, like TV history programs or websites. Apparently, TV provides a model for what students expect from their university courses, as something involving 'color, action, biography and narrative'. There are complaints that students see history as 'basically a narrative, descriptive subject', and 'expect to be told stories rather than acquire the skills of the historian'.

No comment
From The Progressive Review's daily "Undernews" newsletter:


ORGANIC CONSUMERS - The Pentagon has awarded Colorado State researchers a half million bucks to genetically engineer a tree that would change colors when exposed to a germ or chemical attack. Taxpayers and government watchdog groups are befuddled by this expenditure - as if the thousands of people keeling over in the streets from a chemical attack wouldn't be indicative enough that there was something wrong.

It's official...
Shumaker's out.

Not surprising, in the least. Sad, in a way, but not in the least surprising.

Sad milestone
From Daily Kos:

CENTCOM has announced the death today of yet another servicemember in Iraq, this one a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division.

It's an unexeceptional death, as far as these things have gone. The media will likely ignore it, as it's wont to do these days.

But the killing is significant. We have now officially lost more people after Bush's "mission accomplished" speech than before. The total is now 257 Americans lost, and 301 if you include the Brits.

53 Americans have been killed since Bush's "bring them on" moment.

And military families are now organizing against Bush.

He's 30-100
Albert Pujols got his 100th RBI last night, to become the second player to go 30 homers/100 RBI in his first three major-league seasons. Now, all he has to do is keep the average over .300 to be the first player to go .300/30/100 in his first three big league seasons.

Go Albert!!!

At BBSpot:
Top 11 Signs You're Becoming a Geek

"Not a good omen" department:
From Information Week's daily email:

''She lost it.'' - Martin Lowney, director of federal wildlife services in Virginia, describing the reaction a woman at a hospital for cancer counseling when not one but two black vultures landed on the ledge outside her window

Well it's about f*cking time...
IBM countersues SCO: alleges SCO violated the GPL, and that SCO has no right to revoke IBM's Unix license.

IBM went on the offensive Thursday when it added a countersuit against the SCO Group to the multibillion-dollar legal battle between the companies. The countersuit alleges, among other things, that SCO Group has violated the GNU General Public License, under which it accepted Linux contributions and distributed the open-source operating system. The suit also alleges that SCO Group doesn't have the right to revoke IBM's Unix license--an allegation backed by Novell, the former owner of the Unix System V source code that sold IBM its license.

IBM is also attempting to turn the tables on SCO Group by alleging that SCO has directly infringed on four IBM patents related to SCO's UnixWare, Open Server, SCO Manager, and Reliant HA clustering software products.


Legal analysts agree that it was only a matter of time before IBM used its vast resources to attack SCO Group. "I'm a little surprised it has taken as long as it has," says Thomas Carey, a partner with Boston law firm Bromberg & Sunstein LLP. "IBM has a huge patent portfolio, which could present problems for SCO. If IBM wanted to enforce its patents aggressively, it could cause a lot of problems for a lot of companies."

IBM and other companies that sell Linux and open-source software have been criticized of late for not protecting their customers from suits such as the one SCO Group brought against IBM in March, Carey says. "The average business should find IBM's countersuit tremendously reassuring."

SCO Group's claims that IBM and other Unix licensees have leaked SCO's copyrighted Unix System V source code into the Linux kernel, starting with version 2.4, have neither been proved nor disproved. Either way, SCO Group's actions don't sit well with the IT community, Carey says. "If SCO's allegations are true, they're in a difficult position of having to rain on everyone's parade," he says, adding that SCO's most critical mistake could turn out to be its decision to remedy the problem through lawsuits and licensing schemes rather than "giving the Linux community the opportunity to fix the code."

La Reg also has more about this development: IBM sues SCO for selling Linux. And we have this from Network World Fusion.

Thought for the Day:
The notion of a global village, while appealing to Web surfers and CNN junkies, is a dangerous illusion--witness the ongoing debacle in Iraq, which has come to pass in part because U.S. leaders kidded themselves into believing that Iraqis were just like us and would embrace democracy as soon as Saddam Hussein was gone.
--Cecil Adams

Thursday, August 07, 2003

There is none so blind....
A propos of the California recall.... A random blog entry I stumbled across:

What is going on in California? Arnold is running for governor? I guess that is one way to get a Kennedy in a Governor's Mansion.

How come when the Democratics had one speaker give a pep rally at Wellstone's funeral it backlashed and they lost the race. Republicans can recall a governor because they don't like him and where is the outrage? Not living in California, I have heard only heard the rumors how bad things are going there. I know in my state they are cutting benefits, but no one is talking about a recall.

I remember when I was out in LA a few years back. We were having dinner at some restaurant in a basement about one block away from Rodeo Drive. I was talking with this woman who was complaining that the school system was so bad she had to send her children to private schools. I told her that is the price of Prop 2 1/2. You don't want to pay property taxes, guess what, your schools are going to suck. Just look at New Hampshire "live free or die and be ignorant". They have the worst schools in New England.

I don't know how much of the problems is truly his fault. You can't pin the Dot Bomb on him, you can't blame Enron creating an energy crisis on him (I believe it was republican dirty work), you can't blame the federal government financial crisis which is causing them to cut back on money to the states on him, you can't even blame 9-11 on him. Some one needs to tell me what he is did that is so bad.

As far as I know he hasn't done any worse than Bush. Maybe better he hasn't invaded any other states.

The latest, and most important, casualty of the war....
From the Fredericksburg, VA Free Lance-Star: Sshhhh, someone may hear you exercising free speech

THESE ARE troubling times for Americans who cherish their freedom.

A few days ago, a public official called me over to his car to discuss his displeasure with the war in Iraq and the way the Bush administration is handling the nation's economy. This well-respected man would talk only from his vehicle, saying he was fearful of criticizing the president or his policies in public.

Before our conversation ended, the man told me of other public officials who also are fearful of speaking out. "You have to be careful what you say in public these days," he added.

I instinctively looked around to see if anyone was hiding in the gathering twilight. For a moment, I felt like I was in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. Never did I think I would live to see the day when an honest man was afraid to speak his mind on political issues in America.

These days, it happens all the time. For the first time in my life, I see concerned Americans who are afraid to criticize Washington.

Where there's a will....
Dogged Determination

Kinda heartwarming, if you're a dog person.

Are we even uglier Americans?
From the Hartford Advocate: Give or Take

In 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, Americans gave 3.3 percent of their income to religious organizations. In 2000, before Bush destroyed the nation's record prosperity, that number was down to 2.6 percent. These statistics could be interpreted in a couple of ways.

One, that religion is a less important part of American life. Or two, that Americans are richer but stingier now than they were then, when they had next to nothing. I think the latter nails it. Whiny, sanctimonious, wasteful, selfish, attention-deficit-disordered, anxiety-riddled, drunk, drugged, anorexic, obese, xenophobic, incurious, etc. Every stereotype of the Ugly American, to some extent, holds these days. It is a national cluelessness on a scale not seen since the last days of the Roman Empire, embodied by something I saw recently: a teeny woman driving a gigantic, lane-engorging, ozone-depleting Humvee -- an increasingly popular vehicle even more obnoxious than the SUV -- with a Nature Conservancy sticker on its bumper.

Interesting analysis by Ted Rall
Rall's Rule of Ideological Balance:

Turning left means disaster, argues the centrist Democratic Leadership Council: they say Dean, who opposes the Iraq war, would be 2004's George McGovern. When DLC poster boy Bill Clinton co-opted GOP platform planks like welfare reform and deficit reduction in 1992, he defeated the first President Bush. "The Democratic Party has an important choice to make: Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?" asks DLC chairman Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. "The [Bush] administration is being run by the far right. The Democratic Party is being taken over by the far left."

History suggests that that may be a good thing.

Try to imagine an ideological 50-yard line, a perfect middle-of-the-road position that represents the median of American political thinking at any given time. George W. Bush falls as far to the right of that line as any president in memory. Bill Clinton sat a little to the left of that line; FDR was about as far to the left as Bush is to the right. In modern history, challengers have been most likely to beat incumbent presidents or vice presidents when they seemed to reside the same distance from that 50-yard line as their opponent. If you're trying to unseat a moderate, swing voters are key. Your best bet is to run as one yourself. But moderates don't beat extremists--extremists do, by motivating their base.

Call it Rall's Rule of Ideological Counterbalance.


As Democrats decide which approach to take against George W. Bush, a right-wing extremist whose agenda makes Barry Goldwater look tame by comparison, they should carefully consider recent history. A moderate nominee like Lieberman might have been a safe bet against Bush's father, but he's extremely unlikely to beat his radical son.

A couple gems from Gene Lyons...
via The Smirking Chimp:

Back in 2000, George W. Bush made "personal responsibility" one of his campaign themes. Everybody understood that the phrase had two meanings: first, the traditional Republican one of disciplining unruly children, whiny minorities, complaining women, indolent workers and lesser breeds outside the country club; second, an implied vow to keep his pants on in the Oval Office. Only in the third year of President Junior's court-appointed term do we learn that it has another meaning as well: When Bush says he takes "personal responsibility" for something, it means he's run out of phony alibis, so sit down and shut up.


From a purely psychological point of view, the most fascinating aspect of a Bush press conference is watching this under-qualified aristocrat veer from mild panic to smug arrogance within a few sentences. Here's another example of Bush-style "personal responsibility."

Why aren't his economic policies producing jobs? Try to believe your president said this: "Remember on our TV screens -- I'm not suggesting which network did this -- but it said, ' March to War,' every day from last summer until the spring -- ' March to War, ' 'March to War.' That's not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, 'March to War' all the time." And whose fault was that? Anybody but Junior's.

Re-elect Gore in '04?
Gore speech fuels campaign talk

He'd be better than Dumbya, for sure....

Like Cuomo, however, those urging Gore to run said their desire stems from frustration that the current candidates have not spoken out effectively against Bush at a time when the president's vulnerabilities are apparent, including the admission that he used discredited intelligence in his State of the Union speech, the ongoing guerrilla war against American forces in Iraq, and persistent weakness in the economy.

Democratic candidates have raised those points repeatedly, but they've also saved some of the choicest cuts for themselves, particularly Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's sweeping claim that the candidates attacking the Iraq war are making the party look weak on national security.

''We need somebody who can unite the different factions of the Democratic Party,'' said Monica Friedlander, a longtime Gore volunteer who started Draft Gore 2004, which says it has secured $500,000 in pledges for a new Gore campaign. ''Right now, it just feels like the party is splintering. Al Gore has the potential to bring the party together.''

Watch out you soft on crime judges: Big Brother Asshole... er, Ashcroft... is watching!
Ashcroft targets lenient judges: U.S. attorneys to report light sentences to Justice Department

From the article:

Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered federal prosecutors across the country to become much more aggressive in reporting to the Justice Department cases in which federal judges impose lighter sentences than called for in federal sentencing guidelines.

The directive, contained in a July 28 memo, is the latest salvo in an escalating battle over how much discretion federal judges should have in handing down sentences in criminal cases.

The more extensive reporting will lay the groundwork for the Justice Department to appeal many more of those sentencing decisions than it has in the past.

The Ashcroft memo amended a section of the United States Attorneys' Manual that said federal prosecutors had to report to the Justice Department only those sentences that the prosecutors had objected to and wanted to appeal.


"The purpose of this is to make sure that all of our U.S. attorneys understand that we intend to apply U.S. law evenly across all jurisdictions," he said. "They should be aware of excessive downward departures and, if necessary, appeal those decisions."

"...apply U.S. law evenly across all jurisdictions..."? Like such a thing is even possible?

Congress set the stage for the latest showdown over sentencing practices in April when it adopted an amendment to the "Amber Alert" legislation on child abductions.

The amendment, crafted and pushed by the Justice Department, restricted the ability of federal judges to depart from the sentencing guidelines and made it easier to appeal and overturn "downward departures" from the guidelines.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the American Bar Association and others strongly objected to the amendment.

Think for this a minute: How oppressive and unfair do you think a piece of legislation will be if Rehnquist objects to it?

And the Shumaker dirt just keeps getting shovelled....
The latest, from the Nashville Tennessean: Shumaker, nanny filed to marry but didn't wed

Damn, this case is getting curiouser and curiouser.....

But I don't want to shortchange you SCO litigation fans....
From The Financial Times: Free software faces a rocky road to court

And of course, Gates has to spread a little FUD and dis the Open Source community:

As Linux grows into a formidable competitor to Microsoft and other IT systems, lack of effective intellectual property controls, if proven, could be its Achilles' heel. Already, Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, has raised the prospect that Microsoft's intellectual property may have been violated by Linux.

At Microsoft's recent analyst conference, Mr Gates said: "Certainly there's no question that, particularly in some of the more cloning-type activities, intellectual property from many, many companies, including Microsoft, is being used in open-source software."

Mr Murdock says Mr Gates might be right, "but there is probably Linux IP in some of Microsoft's products. That is the way that software is developed. It is difficult to define intellectual property and assign ownership."

On the litigation front (no, not SCO v. IBM or Red Hat v. SCO, for a change):
Voting suit gains momentum

ACM has an E-voting resource page, too. Well worth the time to look into.

Here's an example of "The Holy Spirit" at work....
CBS News: Sex Crimes Cover-Up By Vatican?

Sure looks like it, doesn't it:

For decades, priests in this country abused children in parish after parish while their superiors covered it all up. Now it turns out the orders for this cover up were written in Rome at the highest levels of the Vatican.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales has uncovered a church document kept secret for 40 years.

The confidential Vatican document, obtained by CBS News, lays out a church policy that calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests - anyone who speaks out could be thrown out of the church.

The policy was written in 1962 by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani.

The EC issues a final warning to Microsoft
From La Reg: Open up servers, unbundle WMP, Europe tells MS

From the article:

Microsoft must open up on its server interfaces and either unbundle Media Player from Windows or ship competing players with the product, the European Commission said today in a 'last warning' to the company. According to the Commission, "Microsoft's [antitrust] abuses are still ongoing," and the company is being given one final chance to answer the objections before Europe pushes the button.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has been investigating Microsoft since before computers were invented - or at any rate, that's what it feels like. But the two outline remedies put forward in the Commission's third and last "statement of objections" indicate that the two key beefs, leveraging client dominance in order to gain share in the server market, and tying of Media Player, have remained constant and unshaken throughout.

The latest puts forward evidence garnered in a "last" market enquiry, and says this "confirms that Microsoft is leveraging its overwhelmingly dominant position from the PC into low-end servers." The data here was gathered from "a significant number of small, medium and large enterprises selected from all industrial sectors and from across the entire EEA, and [provides] information on whether interoperability considerations were a factor in their purchasing choices, and whether non-disclosures of such information by Microsoft influenced their purchase decisions." From the response the Commission concludes that an "overwhelming majority of customers" felt their purchasing choices were skewed in favour of Microsoft by the company's non-disclosure of interface information.

If you think that SETI@Home is silly....
Then you'll just "go ape" over this: The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator

Thought for the day:
Commissioner K.M. Landis: Young man, I'd like to change places with you right now.
Pepper Martin: Well Judge--$75,000 against $7,500? I'll swap you!
--Random exchange during the 1931 World Series

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Extra bonus Thought for the Day:
The last time a Rhodes scholar from Arkansas announced against an incumbent named Bush who had just won a war in Iraq, he did okay. And he declared in October.
--Josh Margulies (a prime mover in the "Draft Wesley Clark" movement) on the conventional wisdom that Clark has waited too long to run

Typical, oh so typical.....
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reports (via the AP) that Mahdi Obeidi, the Iraqi nuclear scientist that hid the centrifuge parts and the nuke blueprints under his rosebush, is apparently under house arrest in Kuwait (even though he may have been promised asylum in the U.S. And why is he under house arrest? Because he won't tell the CIA what they want to hear.

From Molly Ivins:
One of her classic great lines. But do read the whole article.

The "death tax," as the Republicans so cleverly misnamed the estate tax, which affects 2 percent of all Americans, has now been replaced by the Bush birth tax -- if you're born in this country, you're in debt -- you have to help pay back the money the Bushies took out of Social Security, plus the interest on the debts they're running up.

It seems to me that the writing is on the wall for the Democrats
To borrow a catchphrase from a wildly successful Democratic president: It's the economy, stupid. And as an op-ed in the Boston Globe points out, if the fruits of Dubyanomics ripen between now and the 2004 election, Dubya could be in a world of hurt:

GEORGE W. BUSH faces a race between the ill-advised economic policies sown in the first half of his term and the bitter fruit that those policies are starting to bear. If the sour effects of his economic policies are evident by mid-2004, he is in deep political trouble. For now, at least, Bush can say that the economic news is mixed. The unemployment rate went up to 6.4 percent in May. It dropped slightly, to 6.2 percent, in June -- but only because more and more people have dropped out of the labor force entirely as payrolls continued to shrink.

Economic growth came in at 2.4 percent for the second quarter of 2003. That was better than expected, but it needs to hit 4 percent or higher to reduce unemployment. Bush's cheerleaders say that will happen, in well-choreographed fashion, in the election year.

But will it? Timing is everything. George Bush the first missed his rendezvous with prosperity in 1992. And the policies of Bush I were not as damaging as those of Bush II.

A voice from the front...
We don't feel like heroes anymore by PFC Isaac Kindblade.

Another one of those worth quoting in full:

I am a private first class in the Army's 671st Engineer Company out of Portland. I just wanted to let you know a little bit of what we are up to, maybe so that you can have another opinion of what's going on over here in Iraq.

We have been in country since Feb. 14 and were a part of the Third Infantry Division's march into Baghdad. In fact, as a result of some serious miscommunications, we were the front line of the charge on two very distinct occasions.

We haven't been a huge part of the war. We are bridge builders, and we were here in the event that the Iraqis blew up the bridges on their retreat. They didn't, so we didn't have to do much.

We were scheduled for 13 missions at the start of the war. We did three or four bridge-related missions. We fill in where we are needed, whether it be guarding enemy prisoners of war, operating traffic control points, patrols on the Tigris River or guard duty of police stations. Our primary mission at this point is transportation, because we happen to drive very large trucks.

A lot is being said about poor morale. That seems to be the case all over the place. It's hot, we've been here for a long time, it's dangerous, we haven't had any real down time in months and we don't know when we're going home.

I think a big aspect has been the people here. When the war had just ended, we were the liberators, and all the people loved us. Convoys were like one long parade. Somewhere down the line, we became an occupation force in their eyes. We don't feel like heroes anymore.

We are doing the best we can, trying to get this place back on its feet so we can go home -- making friends with the locals and trying to enforce peace and stability.

A lot is made of our military's might. Our Abrams tanks, our Apache helicopters, computers, satellites, this and that. All that stuff is great, but it's essentially useless in peacekeeping ops. It is up to the soldiers on the ground armed with M-16s and a precious few words of Arabic.

The task is daunting, and the conditions are frightening. We can't help but think of "Black Hawk Down" when we're in Baghdad surrounded by swarms of people. Soldiers are being attacked, injured and killed every day. The rules of engagement are crippling. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads.

The president says, "Bring 'em on." The generals say we don't need more troops. Well, they're not over here.

It would take a group of supermen to do what's been asked of us. Maybe people back home think we are. Hell, maybe we are. I'm 20, and I can't help but think that serving in a war is a rite of passage, earning my generation a place in the history books.

I'm honored to be over here, and I realize that this is the experience of a lifetime. All the same, we are ready to come home.

Pfc. Isaac Kindblade of Cornelius enlisted in the Army at age 17 before his graduation from Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton.

Meanwhile, on the home front....
Legal scholars file amicus briefs in Padilla case.

From the article:

Accused "dirty bomb" terrorist suspect Jose Padilla has been isolated in a naval brig for more than a year, ever since President George W. Bush classified him as an "enemy combatant" and called him a "threat to the nation."

But last week, nine thick friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in Padilla's appellate case, arguing against what they see as just as serious a threat to the nation: Bush's assertion that he can, as commander-in-chief, order the military to detain an American citizen picked up on U.S. soil indefinitely without charges, a trial or access to a lawyer.

"The precedent the executive asks this court to set, represents one of the gravest threats to the rule of law, and to the liberty our Constitution enshrines, that the nation has ever faced," said one brief by 14 retired federal appellate judges and former government officials, including Abner Mikva, Harold Tyler and Philip Allen Lacovara.

"[O]ne of the gravest threats to the rule of law, and to... liberty...." Their honors aren't exaggerating. If anything, they're understating the case.

No visitors, no lawyers; just like Gitmo
US holding Iraqis at notorious prison

What does Bush fear?
Why is he so afraid of criticism? Why does he herd protesters against him into "First Amendment" zones where he can't see them? Why is he such a coward?

And now this: Muffling the Left

From the article:

The Bush administration is actively seeking to gag or punish social service organizations that challenge the party line on such matters as health care for poor children and HIV prevention, according to a new report. Nonprofits that disagree with the president's own solutions, or go further and blame him for problems in the first place, have come to expect unpleasant consequences. Those might include audits of federal-funds spending and reviews of content, such as workshop literature.

"If you disagree with the administration on ideological grounds, they're going to come down with a hammer. This has huge implications for the free flow of speech in this country," says Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, itself a nonprofit, which released the report last week as part of its 20-year-old mission to monitor White House budget and spending decisions.

No problem: We'll just make being homeless illegal....
As homelessness increases, number of laws targeting homeless people rise

This is truly a sad state of affairs:

In Milwaukee, a church has been declared a public nuisance for feeding homeless people and allowing them to sleep there. In Gainesville, police threatened University of Florida students with arrest if they did not stop serving meals to homeless people in a public park. In Santa Barbara, it is illegal to lean against the front of a building or store, and no one can park a motor home on the street in one place for more than two hours.

These ordinances and activities demonstrate the increasingly hostile attitude in the United States toward people who are homeless, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless that was released today. This report examines occurrences since January 2002 and documents civil rights violations perpetrated against people experiencing homelessness.
With the highest unemployment rates in almost a decade, more people are becoming homeless, and as the economy continues to tighten, it is causing financial crises for shelters and service-providing agencies. Though nearly all cities still lack sufficient shelter beds and social services, many continue to pass laws prohibiting people experiencing homelessness from sleeping outside.

George W. Bush tells you his accomplishments....
From an email correspondent. No attribution as to source.

By George W. Bush

I attacked and took over two sovereign countries without provocation.

I spent the U.S. surplus and bankrupted the Treasury.

I shattered the record for the biggest annual deficit of any country in the world. Due to my tax breaks, that largely benefit the wealthy and make sure the poor get nothing, we now have the largest federal deficit in US history.

I set an economic record for the most private bankruptcies filed in the US in any 12-month period.

I set an all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the US stock market.

I am the first president in US history to enter office with a criminal record.

In my first year in office I set the all-time record for most days on vacation of any president in US history.

After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided over the worst security failure in US history.

I set the record for most campaign fund raising trips by any president in US history.

In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their jobs.

I cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any other president in US history.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I appointed more convicted criminals to administration positions than any president in US history.

I set the record for the fewest press conferences held by any president since the advent of TV.

I presided over the biggest energy crises in US history and refused to intervene when corruption was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in US history and refused to use the national reserves as past presidents have.

I cut health care benefits for war veterans.

I set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously take to the streets to protest me (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any other person in the history of humankind.

I dissolved more international treaties than any president in US history.

I've made my presidency the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.

Members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in US history. (The poorest multimillionaire, Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her).

I am the first president in US history to have all 50 states of the union simultaneously go bankrupt.

I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud in any market in any country in the history of the world.

I am the first president in US history to order a US attack and military occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the United Nations and the world community.

I have created the largest government department bureaucracy in the history of the US.

I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than any other president in US history.

I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Human Rights Commission.

I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Elections Monitoring Board.

I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of congressional oversight of any presidential administration in US history.

I rendered the entire United Nations irrelevant.

I withdrew from the World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspectors access to US prisoners of war and by default no longer abide by the Geneva Conventions.

I am the first president in US history to refuse United Nations election inspectors access during the 2002 US elections.

I am the all-time US (and world) record-holder for most corporate campaign donations.

The biggest lifetime contributor to my campaign, who is also one of my best personal friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron.)

I spent more money on polls and focus groups than any other president in US history.

I am the first president to run and hide when the US came under attack (and then lied, saying the enemy had the code to Air Force 1).

I am the first US president to establish a secret shadow government.

I took the world's sympathy for the US after 9/11 and, in less than a year, made the US the most resented country in the world (possibly the biggest diplomatic failure in US and world history.)

I am the first US president in history to have a majority of the people of Europe (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability in the world.

I am the first US president in history to have the people of South Korea feel more threatened by the US than by their immediate neighbor, North Korea.

I changed US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.

I set the all-time record for the number of administration appointees who violated US law by not selling their huge investments in corporations bidding for government contracts.

I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.

I have removed more freedoms and civil liberties from Americans than any other president in US history. In a little over two years I have created the most divided country in decades, possibly the most divided that the US has been since the Civil War.

I entered office with the strongest economy in US history and in less than two years turned every single economic category heading straight down.

I have appointed more ultra-conservative judges than any administration in history, changing the nature of the courts.

I won't even mention my accomplishments in destroying the environment and our natural resources because they are too numerous to list.


I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record has been erased and is not available).

I was AWOL from the National Guard and deserted the military during time of war. I refuse to take a drug test or even answer any questions about drug use.

All records of my tenure as governor of Texas have been spirited away to my father's library, sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All minutes of meetings of any public corporation for which I served on the board are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

Any records or minutes from meetings I (or my VP) attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.


For personal references, please speak to my dad or uncle James Baker. (They can be reached in their offices at the Carlyle Group where they are helping divide up the spoils of the US-Iraq war and plan for the next war.)

From a Post-Dispatch review of a recent concert in St. Louis....
The opening act was characterized as "A lounge singer in search of his own Ramada Inn...."

Give that critic a prize...

And the kooks come out of the woodwork.
According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis received a bizarre letter from a St. Louis School Board member saying that Slay will be hit with a curse of "Biblical proportions" because of his alleged interference with the St. Louis Public Schools. From the article:

"The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto Francis Slay and anyone who helps him, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it," she writes, modifying a passage found in Deuteronomy 28:21. "The Lord shall smite Francis Slay and anyone who helps him with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword and with blasting and with mildew; and the angel of the Lord shall pursue Francis Slay until he perishes."

I can almost feel a little sorry for Slay; reading the exerpts from that letter brings back some memories; I had to deal with some of the same kind of crazies every week as a public defender. From the P-D article, I think Slay is handling the situation about as well as one can.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Well, at first noted felon-released-on-technicality John Poindexter tried to come up with a big mega-database called "Total Information Awareness", which scared the bejeezus out of a lot of people who aren't particularly paranoid. In order to soften the impact, they changed the name to "Terrorism Information Awareness" before enough scared Congressdroids banded together and killed the whole project by cutting its funding. However, the WaPo is reporting yesterday that the DOJ is interested in (and apparently helping to fund) a very similar project down in Florida, developed by "wealthy data entrepreneur" Hank Asher. Interesting, though that another project of Hank's was cancelled by the DEA and the FBI:

In 1999, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI suspended information service contracts with an earlier Asher-run company because of concerns about his past, according to law enforcement sources. The Chicago Tribune reported in 1987 that court documents in a federal drug case said defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who identified Asher as a pilot and onetime smuggler, offered him as an informant.

Here's a clue that we have no clue.
Thanks to Daily Kos for this.

Steve Gilliard in Daily Kos quotes Maureen Dowd quoting Paul Wolfowitz: He told Charlie Rose about his vice-regal trip to Iraq, where he said at last grateful Iraqis were thronging. "As we would drive by, little kids would run up to the road and give us a thumbs up sign," he said. Yep, them Eye-rakees are giving us the thumbs up to show us they're with us....

HOWEVER, if one does a little research (this is something I learned in my "Business Communications" class back in my first year of grad school at UM-St. Louis), one finds out that gestures that mean one thing here in North America mean something quite different elsewhere. The "thumbs up" is one of them. According to V for Victory: Five North American gestures which foreigners might find confusing (ok, in this case it's a Middle Eastern gesture that North Americans might find confusing, but the same general principle applies): "Thumbs up" as a positive gesture quickly gained popularity in the U.S.A.... However, in most of the Middle East and parts of Africa (notably Nigeria), this symbol can be obscene.

In other words, Wolfie, the Iraqi kids were giving you the finger, Iraqi style.

As an employee of the University of Tennessee....
I've been following the deveolping situation surrounding UT president John Shumaker (something that South Knox Bubba, living as he does in the UT "company town", has been following even more intensely; I've been getting most of my coverage of the situation from Bubba, myself). This latest from the Nashville Tenneseean: Shumaker broke law, officials believe. Of course, the law alleged to have been broken was Connecticut's, and the allegation of misbehavior is something like two jobs ago for Shumaker, but one can see the sharks circling the victim for the kill.

Much of the dirt that appears to be being thrown at and around Shumaker is being dug out of the evidence in his rather high profile divorce case in Louisville. Among the allegations is a rather lurid story that Shumaker's ex-wife (who was his wife during his University of Louisville presidency) didn't want to come to Knoxville and supposedly told Shumaker after he'd accepted the UT post, "you're going to pay for this". And apparently, he is....

Clever analysis.
On the SKEPTIC mail list, someone recently posted a reference to a wonderful blog entry by Chris Lawson: Evolutionary pressure on Creationists. The introductory paragraphs:

Out of the primordial Judaeo-Christian soup stomped the Young Earth Creationists. They believed in six-day creations and static geology. Their great evolutionary advantage was simplicity, and so they are still with us today, like the slime molds. But their brains were too small to compete with Darwinists for the spoils of intellectual credibility. No organism can resist an ecological niche, and so a new Creationist evolved: the Creation Scientist. These Creationists had the brain capacity to read scientific material and could even perform simple abstract analyses, such as attacking radio-isotope dating methods and concocting Flood-friendly geological theories. Creation Scientists were moderately successful. They captured a large ecological niche, feeding off the ignorance of those who knew just enough to recognise scientific terms as scientific, but who did not know enough to evaluate the actual scientific validity of Creation Science. This is a pretty good evolutionary strategy. Good enough to temporarily colonise a district school board in Kansas. But it was still not the Big Niche. The Creation Scientists were soon crushed by the heavy evolutionists and the school board returned to its ante-diluvean state.

Now the Creationists have evolved again. They're bigger. They're smarter. They have cranial capacities measured in volumes larger than thimblefuls. They are Intelligent Design Theorists. The most famous is Michael Behe, a qualified biochemist. The next most famous is Phillip Johnson, who has no scientific credentials, but is a professor emeritus of law from Berkeley. The latest is William Dembski, who has a PhD in philosophy, a PhD in mathematics, and a Master of Divinity. These are not intellectual slouches.

Like all Creationists, the Intelligent Design (ID) Theorists reject Darwinism, and specifically natural selection as an explanation for the complexity of living creatures. As Michael Behe puts it, organisms are made up of too many "irreducibly complex" systems to be the work of random mutation and natural selection, and they must be the work of intelligent design. The ID theorists do not reject the existence of Darwinian evolution - after all, Darwinism can explain the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the fluctuating beaks of Galapagos finches. The ID theorists accept that the Universe is billions of years old. They do not reject science itself. They don't lie about their opponents. This makes them more formidable than their primitive ancestors.

Lawson goes on to review H. Allen Orr's review of one of Dembski's books, and then he continues:

Orr's review utterly demolishes Dembski's argument that biological organisms are too complex to be explained by Darwinism. But let's suppose that Dembski is right. Let's suppose that there are biological systems that are too complex. This is a hypothetical, understand. Dembski is wrong. But let's pretend that he is right. The problem here is that even if Darwinism cannot account for biological complexity, Dembski has offered no evidence that Intelligent Design is the only plausible alternative. Like all the ID theorists, he assumes that what cannot be explained by Darwinism must be God's work. This is the old God of the Gaps argument. But science doesn't work this way. Proving the Scottsboro Boys innocent doesn't mean that Elvis raped the women.

Scientific theories are judged on two key criteria: (i) that they explain the known facts, and (ii) that they lead to testable predictions. Intelligent Design certainly can explain the known facts, but that's because
any facts can be put down to Intelligent Design. Something doesn't make sense? Well that's not a flaw in the theory, that just means God made it that way. And that's the problem. It makes no testable predictions. Any scientific observation can be explained away as God's direct intervention. There is no such thing as contrary evidence to an ID theorist. This is not science. It is rationalisation of faith.

A former Bushie knew we'd need a lot more troops in Iraq.
Good piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate: He Saw It Coming--The former Bushie who knew Iraq would go to pot.

From the article:

It's one thing to be wrong. It's another to be incapable of imagining yourself wrong. Much of what has gone wrong in the Bush administration's postwar Iraq policy can be attributed to a failure of imagination. But there was no excuse for this particular failure. In the previous dozen years, U.S. armed forces had taken part in five major post-conflict nation-building exercises, four of them in predominantly Muslim nations. There is a record of what works and what doesn't. Had Wolfowitz studied the record, or talked with those who had, he wouldn't have made such a wrongheaded remark.

Through much of the Bush administration, Wolfowitz could merely have picked up the phone and called a colleague named James Dobbins.

Dobbins was Bush's special envoy to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Through the 1990s, under Presidents Clinton and (the first) Bush, Dobbins oversaw postwar reconstruction in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia. Now a policy director at the Washington office of the Rand Corp., he has co-authored a book,
America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (released just last week), which concludes—based on research done mainly before Gulf War II got under way—that nearly everything this administration has said and done about postwar Iraq is wrong.


To see just how wrong Wolfowitz was, look at Dobbins' account of how many troops have been needed to create stability in previous postwar occupations. Kosovo is widely considered the most successful exercise in recent nation-building. Dobbins calculates that establishing a Kosovo-level occupation-force in Iraq (in terms of troops per capita) would require 526,000 troops through the year 2005. A Bosnia-level occupation would require 258,000 troops—which could be reduced to 145,000 by 2008. Yet there are currently only about 150,000 foreign (mainly American) troops in Iraq—about the same as the number that fought the war.

To match the stabilization effort in Kosovo, Iraq should also be protected by an international police force numbering 53,000. Yet those 150,000 soldiers now in Iraq are also doing double-duty as cops.

In other words, had Wolfowitz talked with Dobbins (or any other high-ranking officials who'd been involved in nation-building), he would have learned that stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq would take at least twice the number of forces that were being amassed to defeat Saddam's army.


It seems, then, that the real problem with American nation-building is that American officials don't give it much thought, don't read up on its history, don't appear even to recognize that there is a history from which lessons can be learned. Paul Wolfowitz has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He's often portrayed as a deep thinker, the leader of a circle of national security intellectuals in and around the Bush administration. Their big mistake on postwar Iraq, it turns out, is that they failed to think.

Thought for the Day:
Dean, to the physics department: "Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff? Why couldn't you be like the math department--all they need is pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper."

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Col. David Hackworth speaks his mind....
on Salon (warning: "Premium" content; if you're not a subscriber you have to view an ad or do without). From the interview (boldface indicates Salon interviewer's questions):

How long do you think U.S. troops will be needed in Iraq?

God only knows, the way things are going. At least 30 years. Tommy Franks [recently retired commander of U.S. troops in Iraq] said four to 10 years. Based on Cyprus and other commitments in this kind of warfare, it is going to be a long time -- unless the price gets too heavy. We say it is costing the U.S. $4 billion a month; I bet it is costing $6 billion a month. Where the hell is that money going to come from?


Do you see any similarities to the U.S. engagement in Vietnam?

The mistake in Vietnam was we failed to understand the nature of the war and we failed to understand our enemy. In Vietnam we were fighting World War II. Up to now in Iraq we have been fighting Desert Storm with tank brigade attacks. The tanks move into a village, swoop down, the tank gunner sees a silhouette atop a house, aims, fires, kills and it turns out to be a 12-year-old boy. Now, the father of that boy said, "We will kill 10 Americans for this." This is exactly what happened in Vietnam; a village was friendly, then some pilot turns around and blows away the village, the village goes from pro-Saigon to pro-Hanoi.

What kind of weapons would you be using in this war if you were running it? Would you trade the pistols for grenade launchers? Would you bring in more Apache helicopters, more snipers, what?

You have to use surgical weapons, not weapons that can reach out and strike innocents. The American Army is trained to break things and kill people -- not the kind of selective work that is needed. You don't use a tank brigade to surround a village; instead, you set up ambushes along the route. It is all so similar to what I saw in Vietnam, this tendency to be mesmerized by big-unit operations. But if you fight like a G
[guerilla], everything is under the table, in the dark, done by stealth and surprise; there is no great glory -- except the end result. America has never been capable of fighting the G; from [Gen.] Custer who fucked it up, you can fast-forward to today. [In Iraq] they are proving it again. The U.S. military never, never learns from the past. They make the same mistake over and over again.


American troops in Iraq are complaining of basics like clean clothes, hot food and mail from home. Is there anything wrong with the Pentagon's famous supply chain?

This goes back to the shitty estimate on the part of Rumsfeld. He did not provide enough troops or the logistical backup, because his Army was not staying, it was coming home. So who needs a warehouse full of shit?

One letter I got today, written by a sergeant in a tank unit, said that of its 18 armored vehicles -- Bradley or Abrams -- only four are operational. The rest were down because of burned-out transmissions or the tracks eaten out. So it is not just the shitty food and bad water -- a soldier can live with short rations -- but spare parts, baby! If you don't have them, your weapons don't work. Most of the resupply is by wheeled vehicles, and the roads and terrain out there is gobbling up tires like you won't believe. Michelin's whole production for civilians has been stopped [at certain plants] and have dedicated their entire production to the U.S. military in Iraq -- and they can't keep up!

Do you think there is any truth to the sense that British soldiers are better at nation-building than the Americans?

I would say so. They have a long history -- going back to the days of the colonies. If you look at their achievements in some places where they have established solid governments -- in Africa, in India, they have done a very good job. They were very good at lining up local folks to do the job like operating the sewers and turning on the electricity. Far better than us -- we are heavy-handed, and in Iraq we don't understand the people and the culture. Thus we did not immediately employ locals in police and military activities to get them to build and stabilize their nation. (Pauses) Yeah, the Brits are better.

What would you tell Rumsfeld if you could talk to him?

In mid April, I wrote a piece that asks for Rumsfeld to be fired, to be relieved. I took enormous heat for that. He went in light, on the cheap, he has misunderstood the whole war, he should go ... Rumsfeld is an arrogant asshole. That's a quote, by the way.

Sam Smith: the Web's favorite liberal

Whatever happens I suspect that Bush's popularity has peaked and is on the way down. This is primarily because con men always need new marks and he's running out of them. (For much the same reason I don't expect Hillary Clinton to do as well as some have predicted. In fact, in the few polls in which she has been included she was doing better before her book came out than after.) Besides, I think at some point, the public is going look in its wallet and realize that Bush is the Washington Gray Davis.


Dean is interesting because he engages in the sort of crossover politics that I think the Democrats need. For example, his hands-off approach to gun control. Why is he doing well? For one thing, if you watch him you realize that, whatever his faults or your disagreements, he's a real human. That's nice and kind of rare in politics these days. Second, I think a lot of people are looking for a different sort of candidate and are expressing their alienation from Democratic politics as much as they are their support for Dean. In a sense, Dean may be just the excuse for the meet-up.

My hunch is that the strongest candidate the Democrats can field is Gephardt. He's one of the few you'll still like on Election Day. He's sort of a Democratic Jerry Ford. You can't come up with many good reasons to support him, but you can't think of anything really wrong, either. And he will have been saying all the right things if either the economy or Bush tank.

More SCO news than you want....
eWeek has a page on The Battle Over Unix. Looks pretty good, though I have to snicker at Scott McNealy taking the opportunity to spread a little subtle FUD in favor of Solaris by emphasizing that he paid for a Unix license from Novell way back when.

Damn, I'm screwing the SCO v. IBM front up royally!
The latest news there: Red Hat sues SCO over Linux threats

I like this development. I'm sure that Red Hat's lawyers have examined SCO's claims thoroughly, and determined that there's no there there. What better way to break things open, and force a resolution than to hold SCO's feet to the fire and demand that they show their evidence.

Demand a speedy trial, boys!

From the conservative Cato Institute:
'Conservative' Bush Spends More than 'Liberal' Presidents Clinton, Carter

From the article:

That the nation's budgetary situation continues to deteriorate is because the administration's fiscal policy has been decidedly more about politics than policy. Even the tax cuts, which happened to be good policy, were still political in nature considering their appeal to the Republican's conservative base. At the same time, the politicos running the Bush reelection machine have consistently tried to placate or silence the liberals and special interests by throwing money at their every whim and desire. In mathematical terms, the administration calculates that satiated conservatives plus silenced liberals equals reelection.

How else can one explain the administration publishing a glossy report criticizing farm programs and then proceeding to sign a farm bill that expands those same programs? How else can one explain the administration acknowledging that entitlements are going to bankrupt the nation if left unreformed yet pushing the largest historical expansion in Medicare one year before the election? Such blatant political maneuvering can only be described as Clintonian.

But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton. After all, in inflation-adjusted terms, Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending.

Sadly, the Bush administration has consistently sacrificed sound policy to the god of political expediency. From farm subsidies to Medicare expansion, purchasing reelection votes has consistently trumped principle. In fact, what we have now is a president who spends like Carter and panders like Clinton. Our only hope is that the exploding deficit will finally cause the administration to get serious about controlling spending.

"Spends like Carter and panders like Clinton." And this is from the conservatives....


Microsoft must be running scared.
About three days straight now, I've been receiving security bulletins from various sources about the RPC buffer overrun security hole, and today (rather, more like late yesterday afternoon) I receive what I can only characterize as a "panicked-if-you-read-between-the-lines" email from MS itself strongly urging us to update our systems to patch this hole yesterday. Some sort of serious shit must be going on, on the level of the SQL Slammer worm or worse...


Thought for the Day:
My favorite review described me as the cinematic equivalent of junk mail. I don't know what that means, but it sounds like a dig.
--Steve Buscemi

Monday, August 04, 2003

Pujols just continues to impress....
The newswire tells me that Albert Pujols just hit his 30th home run, which makes him only the second player (since Jose Canseco) to hit 30 or more homers in his first three seasons (for Canseco, that's '86, '87 and '88). Homer #30 was Albert's 99th RBI for this year (according to he's still holding at 30-99 as of this morning); if Albert gets one more RBI (and realistically, with about two more months left in the season how impossible is that?) he'll be the first player since Canseco to go 30 homers and 100 RBI in his first three seasons. And as long as Albert keeps his average over .300, he'll be the only player to bat over .300 with 30+ homers and 100 RBI in his first three seasons.

Cooperstown, here comes Albert...

Today South Africa, tomorrow the world?
Word reaches us that Microsoft has finally given up on it's "our secure software makes hackers extinct" ad that the South African authorities had ordered them to drop on the grounds that it was misleading and unsubstantiated. Truth wins out again!!!!

Ever think you'd see a career military officer pine for the Clinton days?
Well, not quite, but this is close: Pentagon has a lot of explaining to do.

LTC Kwiatkowski on Pentagon decisionmaking in the Bush Administration:

Groupthink. Defined as "reasoning or decision-making by a group, often characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view," groupthink was, and probably remains, the predominant characteristic of Pentagon Middle East policy development. The result of groupthink is the elevation of opinion into a kind of accepted "fact," and uncritical acceptance of extremely narrow and isolated points of view.


Thought for the Day:
I suspect, also, that most people do and say most of the things they do and say for exactly the same reason: they never stop to think about it. I know this sounds brutally cynical, but at least it explains the religious and political behaviors of our species, which otherwise seem totally beyond rational comprehension.
--Robert Anton Wilson

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Thought for the Day:
Why do people keep insisting that I join the 21st Century? I LIVE in the 21st Century! I just don't want to be bothered by the shitheads on the internet!
--Harlan Ellison

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Thought for the day:
before I leave on a short road trip...

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.
--Groucho Marx

Friday, August 01, 2003

A gem from Joe Conason:
BUZZFLASH: When you listen to them, they’re very bitter, angry, hostile at things. Rush is a "great broadcaster" in a classic broadcaster sense (he knows how to exploit the medium), but they’re so angry.

CONASON: Let me tell you something. I don't believe they’re so angry. I certainly don't believe Rush is that angry.

BUZZFLASH: Well, they’re living a good life because of the money they’re making, and enjoying themselves off the show’s profits.

CONASON: I don't doubt that Rush probably hates a lot of liberals, but he also is not nearly as angry as he pretends to be. Why would he live in New York? Why would he spend his vacations in places like London and Paris? Why would he, for example, smoke Cuban cigars, as he boasts about doing? This is somebody who knows how to exploit other people’s anger. He knows how to exploit the anger of people who are not nearly as well off as he is -- their frustrations, their prejudices, their insecurities -- for his own profit.

And by doing so, he divides the country without so much as a twinge of conscience. He doesn't mind doing that. I don't believe he actually cares about America very much. He cares about Rush. This is something that most people don't understand about the contemporary conservative movement: They’re not really particularly interested in the promotion of the general welfare, as the Constitution puts it, or about uniting the country against foreign enemies or helping to achieve domestic tranquility.

All the goals that the founders had for the United States are not ideas that contemporary so-called conservatives are much interested in. I’ll tell you what they’re interested in: They’re interested in achieving their own power, in amassing their own wealth, in protecting themselves -- and their interests -- against the interests of the majority. Those are the goals of the leaders of the movement that now calls itself conservatism. And it has very little to do with American traditions and American ideals.

From the Buzzflash interview at:

A gem from Greg Palast:
Well, well, well. President George was in one hell of bind this week when it turned that that Saudi Arabia funded Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Realizing we'd invaded the wrong country, Bush did the honorable thing: he's come out against gay marriages.


From UPI, a seven story series on the US in Iraq.
The first installment is about the cost of the invasion and occupation.

From the article:

What happened to the vast oil production bonanza that was going to flow from Iraq? It hasn't happened and quite possibly never will. No one doubts the oil is there. But what the war planners and energy strategists never factored into their considerations was that, far from welcoming the U.S. Army and Marines as their liberators, the Iraqis -- Sunni and Shiite alike -- might resent any continued U.S. military occupation and very quickly make it too hot to handle, which is exactly what has happened.

The Pentagon hawks and their favorite energy strategists also turned out to have no strategy for rebuilding Iraq or maintaining security in the oil fields and pipelines running from them.

First, they assumed an almost bloodless march to Baghdad instead of three weeks of high-speed and utterly successful, but still heavy, fighting. Collateral damage to oil facilities was considerably greater than anticipated.

Second, and far more important, the grand strategy, insofar as there was one, anticipated an orderly takeover of occupation duties by an undersized U.S. military force that could rapidly be half evacuated. This plan ignored the warnings of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops would be needed to ensure security in Iraq, including the security necessary to rebuild and operate the country's oil industry.


So far, no significant amounts of Iraqi oil have been produced for world markets since the war ended. Therefore Iraqi oil exports, which were running at 2.6 million to 2.8 million barrels per day before the war began in March, have now further dropped.

The complete failure of two successive U.S. administrators in Baghdad to restore security, order and basic services to Iraq is a major reason why this has not happened.

The administration, indeed, has been unable to even recruit any significant number of volunteers from conservative think tanks or the federal government to volunteer to work in Iraq for the next year or two, so the occupation administration there remains seriously undermanned.

But there is a second reason that is in large part a consequence of the first -- U.S. planners never anticipated the rapid emergence of nationwide guerrilla war against the U.S. occupation, which is already costing up to one U.S. soldier killed per day. And as part of this guerrilla war, sabotage operations against oil pipelines are already widespread.

Even with 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, they are spread far too thinly to aggressively fight the guerrilla war, lock down Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria and protect the oil facilities and pipelines at the same time. Furthermore, the troops currently deployed are not trained in police tactics.

Pentagon officers speaking on condition of anonymity to United Press International have said at least twice the current manpower -- 300,000 U.S. or allied troops -- may be necessary to do this.

In the meantime, the supposed "macro-economic" benefit of "liberating" Iraqi oil for the world market not only has not happened, precisely the opposite has occurred. Iraq is now in far-worse position to export either crude or refined oil to the world markets. As a result, the continuing effect of the war has been to strengthen the market position of the three leading global producers, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, while keeping global energy prices relatively high and thereby adding a further burden to the U.S. annual balance of trade deficit, already by far the largest of any country in world history.

And even if Iraqi oil finally starts to flow under optimum conditions, the total amount of revenue realistically projected from it would do no more than balance the already horrendous costs of the U.S. occupation.

John Cassidy made the relevant calculations in the July 14 issue of The New Yorker. He wrote: "Assuming that oil prices hover around twenty-five dollars a barrel, which is in the middle of OPEC's target range (twenty-two to twenty-eight dollars a barrel), a resurgent Iraqi oil industry producing six million barrels of oil a day for export would generate about fifty-five billion dollars a year in revenues."

But the cost to the United States of occupying Iraq is already running at between $52 billion to $78 billion a year on the U.S. government's own projections. And even if none of that $55 billion went to offset the costs of U.S. occupation, divided among the 30 million people of Iraq, it comes to, as Cassidy wrote "about five dollars per person per day -- enough to place Iraq above the World Bank's global poverty line of two dollars a day, but not by very much."

This is hardly a region-transforming bonanza.

Yet so confident were Office of the Secretary of Defense planners and their neo-conservative allies of the coming oil bonanza from Iraq that they openly advocated using it, as Judis wrote in The New Republic "to remake the Middle East in our democratic, capitalist image by leveraging Iraqi oil production to undermine Saudi dominance in the region and, perhaps, to destroy OPEC itself."

Instead, the escalating woes of Iraq and the soaring costs of the war look likely to boost the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and, by imposing huge additional budgetary strains on the United States at the worst possible time, weaken democracy and capitalism back in the United States itself.

History repeats itself?
Interesting reprint at History News Network (reprinted from the L.A. Times: Is President Bush Repeating McKinley's Mistake in the Philippines?

More interesting to see it hit home...
From the blog of a gay Catholic that I randomly stumbled on:

If I may steal Andrea's link Vatican launches campaign against gay marriage, says Catholic politicians have ``moral duty'' to oppose them absolutely breaks my heart. Yes, I'm gay, I can't change that any more than I could change having red hair, being 5'6" or having been adopted. But I'm also Catholic and to hear my church's leader asking people in the Catholic community that I was born into to shun me, to call my life immoral or state explicitly that I wouldn't be a good parent, that leaves me in tears.

I don't know why it seems so clear that God made the trees, the earth, the birds and bees and all the rest, but it's so confusing to people that at the same time, God made me gay. There, I said it. Don't fool yourself by thinking that I have a choice in the matter. I don't. The 'choice' is really to pretend that everything's fine, to date men knowing that something very large is missing in those relationships for me. Sure, I could've married a man, had some 'legitimate' children and lived a miserable life, lying every day and in every way to that man, to those children, to my parents, never mind myself. Is that really what God wants from people? To choose a life of lies over the 'truth' in 2 mis-interpreted lines in the Bible?

I think no. It seems to me that Jesus' message, more than telling people what they can and cannot do, more than trying to manipulate who they should or should not be was simply to love one another. That message so buried in their rhetoric of hate and ignorance that my pope cannot see it. I cannot imagine for one second that Jesus would want his leaders preaching exclusion, hatred, or shunning anyone. Was Mary Magdelene just a fluke? Were the lepers just a one-time thing? No! Jesus walked through this world, extending his arms and his words to all who would listen.

So why, then, is it okay for my pope today to tell my community that I would harm my own child or that I'm some sort of blight on humanity? It's just who I am. Why is that so hard to see?

Reasons not to invade Iraq
Back in March of '98, George H.W. Bush (Bush the Elder) and his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, wrote an op-ed for Time justifying their decision not to extend Gulf War I into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein at that time. Recently, The Memory Hole noticed that this essay is no longer available on the Time website, so they did us a favor and reprinted it there (see the first link, above). From the essay:

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

The Debunkers
I'm marginally acquainted with David "snopes" Mikkelson of The Urban Legend Reference Pages (we are both on the SKEPTIC mail list, and have traded very occasional emails), therefore I found this interview with David interesting. You may too.

The unasked question I'm asking
The WaPo is saying that the military is investigating 7 suspected suicides in Iraq, a fact which has been reported around the liberal press and Internet for a little while now. What I'm more interested in is, of the non-combat deaths reported in Iraq, how many of them are suspected homicides? The first I've heard was a blog (Daily Kos? ) reference to some "fragging" incidents. I'm sure there's more of a story there than the U.S. press is letting on.

Dammit, I knew I should have blogged it first.
Today's Daily Kos features Kos musing a bit on something I've been giving some thought to recently:

Evidence of that old adage can be found in July's unemployment numbers: the jobless rate fell from 6.4 to 6.2, but the nation suffered 44,000 job losses. How to reconcile seemingly contradictory findings? Well, the jobless rate only includes people actively looking for work. Last month, a ton of them simply gave up.

The article that Kos cites for this information has some distressing information:

The Labor Department's report showed 556,000 people departed the labor force, the biggest drop since May 1995. The labor pool can shrink when job seekers become discouraged and abandon their searches. Unless they are actively searching for a job, workers are not counted as "unemployed."

Over half a million people simply gave up, and have decided that they're never going to have a job again.

Think about that.

I really hate to see Tony Blair go down this way....
as a result of the David Kelly suicide scandal, but he did have to jump on the Iraq war bandwagon along with President Puppet, and in his eagerness to please the Texas Cowboy he juiced the reports that Whitehall gave the White House.

Tony, we have a saying on this side of the pond: "If you lay down with dogs, you're going to get up with fleas."

You may want to remember that next time, if there is a next time.

Ashcroft gets slapped down!
According to the New York Times today, a Puerto Rican jury gave a complete acquittal to Joel Rivera Alejandro and Héctor Oscar Acosta Martinez after three day's deliberations. The case was noteworthy in that Attorney General John "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" Ashcroft initiated the federal prosecution (rather than a prosecution in the courts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) in order to insure that the prosecutors could seek the death penalty in the case (Puerto Rico's constitution is straight and to the point on the matter--"The death penalty shall not exist"--and a majority of Puerto Ricans oppose the death penalty on religious and moral grounds). From the story:

William D. Matthewman, a lawyer for Mr. Acosta Martinez, said last night that the acquittal was a blow to the Justice Department's attempts to administer the death penalty even in regions that oppose or outlaw it for nonfederal trials. In addition to Puerto Rico, 12 states and the District of Columbia do not have the death penalty.

Under Attorney General John Ashcroft, the department has been seeking the death penalty more often and in more places than earlier administrations had, and officials in Washington regularly override local recommendations not to seek the death penalty. The idea, Justice Department officials have said, was to treat those charged with serious crimes similarly regardless of where the crime took place.

"Imposing the death penalty in Puerto Rico is like pouring oil on one of their beautiful beaches," Mr. Matthewman said in a phone interview. "It's unnecessary, and the federal government has been dealt a severe blow in their attempt to nationalize the death penalty."

Mr. Matthewman added, however, that he believed the jury acquitted the defendants primarily because of a lack of evidence. For example, he said, none of more than 200 DNA samples collected from the crime scene matched his client.

Maybe some hope for the future
Survey Shows Support for First Amendment Increasing. Though the fact that almost 20 percent of the populace still thinks the First Amendment goes too far bothers me, at least it isn't the 41% of folks who said that after 9/11.

A "pot call the kettle..." moment.
In my incoming mail queue today: a spam with the subject line "Stop sending me CRAP!"

Thought for the Day:
I describe these details only because this kind of story amuses me, and always has, ever since those long-ago days when I curled up on the sofa with H. Rider Haggard's She. Adventures involving the ancient, the occult and the exotic are much superior to those involving modern cars and guns and cops. A perfect adventure should have at least one magnificent private library somewhere in it and a butler. Also ancient crumbling temples, things that shine real bright and cool costumes.
--Roger Ebert [on the film "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"]