Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What's in a Name?

And you thought things got stoopid in Washington sometimes:

AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan's parliament rejected a bill Wednesday that would enable the government to prevent parents from naming their children Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
Quit giving the moron contingent in the U.S. House of Representatives ideas! Sheesh. I guess now we can expect one of our finest legislators to attach a similar idea as an amendment to a water projects bill or something.


I want to laugh. Hilary would be such a lightning rod as to take all focus off of Kerry, and there is just no way to coax fence-sitters with her on the ticket. So what could it all be about, this report from a "top Washington insider?"

Read the language closely. . .
"There are three issues that this campaign will be decided on-- national security, health care, and the economy, not necessarily in that order."

"Kerry believes that no one is better on national security than he is, he served in Vietnam after all, so he has that covered and the suggestion that he needs to strengthen the ticket with someone who has national security credentials is dismissed as foolish."

The insider continues: "The Democrats feel like health care is the domestic issue. But how to make it the dominant topic of conversation-- break through war and terrorism? Hillary Clinton. She catapults it out front with her commission. She tried to provide health care before and the Republicans in congress attacked her and her husband and used a bunch of scandals dirty tricks to stop it, we know they are scandals dirty tricks because the former president book says so. So now you have the number two person on the ticket who is a 'health care expert' and what will Republicans do? Attack on health care pointing to her commission saying that it was government medicine. Her response-- it wasn't, and the Republicans are a bunch of dirty tricksters, "Liars and Crooks," as Kerry calls them, and its been too long and Democrats wont let the Republicans do it to them again. By the way, it puts prescription drugs on the back burner, the republicans health care ace. You will have a fully engaged national debate on health care from now until the election."

Drudge's supposed "scoop"
Look at the way the supposed insider couches how Kerry thinks, what the issues are, etcetera. Can there be any doubt when reading here that the supposed insider is antagonistic to Kerry?

This story is a plant, and Drudge, who may as well have the intelligence of a plant, has eaten it up as if it were Miracle Gro. I can't even give him credit for knowing his base and having the foresight to serve them up the kinds of lies and rumors they'll love. He's been spun by some Republican operative who has no clue as to Kerry's VP selection process is my read.

There's just no story here, or about as much as when Drudge scooped the world on Kerry's fictional mistress.

What does this really say? The Republicans are nervous enough to be planting such rumors. Yes, they are very nervous.

I've been following the development of an interesting little story for awhile now. It's starting to get a bit more press. Considering the unknown number of "detainees" being held in the U.S. (and elsewhere) in connection with September 11, 2001 and other alleged terrorist plotting / activity, this just strikes me as sort of curious:

WASHINGTON - Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are demanding to know why the Bush administration chose to release to Syria a terror suspect when several prosecutors and FBI agents had collected evidence for a possible criminal case.

The circumstances surrounding Nabil al-Marabh's release, detailed in a recent Associated Press story, are "of deep concern and appear to be a departure from an aggressive, proactive approach to the war on terrorism," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Tuesday in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"Al-Marabh was at one time No. 27 on the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) list of Most Wanted Terrorists," wrote Grassley, who leads the committee that controls federal spending and also is a member of the Judiciary Committee (news - web sites) that oversees the Justice Department (news - web sites). "He appears to have links to a number of terrorists and suspected terrorists in several U.S. cities..."
Now, for all of the misfires the U.S. government has had on terrorist "suspects" here in the U.S., al-Marabh appears to be a genuine bad guy.

This is really odd. We had the guy, at a minimum, under surveillance. He wasn't going to be doing anything overt here in the U.S. because of his high profile. And then Ashcroft goes ahead and ships him to his sponsor state, Syria.

I don't get it. Perhaps they implanted a tracking device in his prostate gland or something.

Check it out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Am I Being Too Sensitive? Or Just a Petulant Asshole?

We here at ASZ like to think we're just a small, insignificant zephyr that contributes to the overall velocity of the Left Blogistan wind machine. So, it's always uplifting to receive confirmation of just how insignificant we truly are - approximately that of a fart in a hurricane. The most recent example of ASZ's "insignificantness" is demonstrated by contrasting ASZ's view of Fahrenheit 9/11 to that of the hoity toidy big guy left leaning blogs.

I swear, it's like the opinion makers in Left Blogistan are apologizing for Michael Moore. Or agreeing more with the "right" than the "left" on overall impressions of the movie. I mean, fuck. What's up with that? Michael Moore has graciously given the progressive movement in the U.S. an absolutely wonderful tool with which to work. And what are some progressives doing with it?

Throwing it out the friggin’ window or giving the Freepers of the world ammo for their own noise machines. Downplaying or apologizing. Here's the most recent example - Kevin Drum of Political Animal:

What to say? The argument over the film mostly seems to revolve around whether it's factually accurate and presents a logical case, a conversation so pointless as to be laughable. I mean, it's a polemical film from Michael Moore, not a Brookings Institution white paper. It's like complaining that editorial cartoons are unfair because they don't portray the nuance of serious policy discussions.

Now, as it happens, I thought Fahrenheit 9/11 was a bit mediocre even as polemic, but the thing that really struck me about the film was the almost poetic parallellism between its own slanders and cheap shots and the slanders and cheap shots of pro-war supporters themselves over the past couple of years. If Moore had done this deliberately, it would have been worthy of Henry James.

Take the first half hour of the film, in which Moore exposes the close relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud. Sure, it relies mostly on innuendo and imagery, but then again, he never really makes the case anyway. He never flat out says that the Bush family is on the Saudi payroll. Rather, he simply includes "9/11," "Bush," and "Saudi Arabia" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that George Bush is a bought and paid for subsidiary of the Saudi royal family.
Kevin, did you and I see the same movie? Here's what I got of out the same scene you're describing - Mike Moore relied heavily on the input of Craig Unger, author of the bestseller House of Bush, House of Saud. I thought that both Moore and Unger were quite successful in building their case for the connection. There is a connection. That's all they wanted you to know. Now, if you want to get into it deeper and understand specific connections and favors exchanged between the Bushes and bin Ladens, go buy the goddam book. For goodness sakes, no one could build an airtight case in 15 or 20 minutes, but Moore did a pretty damn good job.

And regarding mediocre even as polemic - when have you seen a better polemic movie - and no, I'm not taking about Shindler's List or something similar. I'm talking about a populist documentary movie (I'm already tired of the word, "crockumentary").

Over at Whiskey Bar, the proprietor (Billmon) touched off a shitstorm this past weekend by damning Moore with faint praise, having not even seen the movie. I'll admit that Billmon actually gives some backhanded compliments to Moore's “playing” of the media (which Mike does quite well) but Christ, Bill:

For years now, Limbaugh, Coulter and their inferior imitations have been passing off their slanted misreadings, unproven allegations and flimsy lies as factual reporting. When caught out on a lie or a smear, they either ignore the evidence, or - like Limbaugh - retreat into the phony defense of arguing that all they're doing is expressing a subjective opinion. "I'm just in the entertainment business," Rush likes to say.

Well, now there's someone on the left who knows how to play their game, and play it brilliantly. Moore may be an egomaniac, and a huckster showman in the best (or worst) tradition of P.T. Barnum and Walter Winchell, but man, he's effective. He's learned to play the mainstream media like a Stradivarius.
Juan Cole over at "Informed Consent", one of the most progressive, thoughtful blogs around opines:

The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense...

The story Moore tells about the Turkmenistan gas pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan also makes no sense...

But some of the innuendo about the Saudis and Afghans just seems an attempt to damn by association, and seem to me to be based on faulty logic and inaccurate assertions...
ARRGH! Come ON, guys - we progressives have been given manna from heaven from Michael Moore. Perhaps he's right when he says, "You can see us coming down the street. You know, ‘Hey! Hi! How’s it going?’ We’ve got that big shit eating grin on our face all the time because our brains aren’t loaded down." Mike drops this great, big, juicy, liberal wet kiss in our lap in the form of Fahrenheit 9/11, and leading progressive bloggers are tripping all over themselves to find fault with either Moore himself or the movie??

For crap's sake, build this movie up! "Faulty logic and innacurate assertions"?? Is it just me, or is that supposed to be the exclusive domain of Coulter, Limbaugh, Savage, and Hannity? Mike Moore is on our side! There's more truth in the worst 5 minutes of Fahrenheit 9/11 than there is in a week's worth of bloviating by any of the aforementioned neocon megaphones.

So I'm asking the leaders in Left Blogistan: quit back-lighting the minor faults of this celluloid screed against the object of our disaffection, and get onboard the bus. Quit trying to impress people with your ability to discern intellectual nuance. Go ahead and get candy-sticky-stupid-sweet about this movie. Right now, Mike Moore should be reveling in universal praise from opinion makers on the left, not defending himself from negativity on both sides of the aisle. Life’s difficult enough for an instigator when the brickbats are being flung from only one side.

Folks, if I've hammered on nothing else since I started this blog, it's that progressives need to keep "Team Bush" on the defensive from now to until November. We need to be using Fahrenheit 9/11 as a springboard for our own talking points. In the final analysis, the movie hangs together quite well, and it does deliver a very strong central theme. Allow me, as an admittedly insignificant zephyr, to boil Mike Moore's 120 minute message down to 12 shorts words for you:


And that's what DOUBLE BURN is all about.

I'll end my rant with a snippet from Patrick over at Yelladog (check his music out):

The Right is left squalling about this film without having seen it. They do so at peril to their own credibility, especially when those of us that have seen it have found it to be such a pro-American and (in the best possible way) pro-life film.
Now that's the F9/11 that I saw.

Update, 10/10/04, 10:30PM: Yes, campers, there's comments below - lots of them. Haloscan just forgets old postings after awhile, and doesn't log the number of comments for some reason. Check 'em out. It was quite the lively discussion.

Quick Links to other ASZ F9/11 Postings:
Richard's F9/11 Review
More Moore

How Thoughtless of Me
I'm reminded that we need to save the children as well as the goats!

Mark Morford at SFGate (The San Francisco Chronicle) : Who Will Save The Children?! Aww, heck. The FCC says curse words now cost $500,000! And your child might just hear one, and explode!

Morford is one of my all-time favorite social and political commentators. I get his bursts of consciousness in e-mail. I've been neglecting to read him of late, and have felt less sane as a consequence. His style is not everyone's cup o' tea, though. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Read. ;-)
Goatskin Shield Hired to Protect the Iraq PMO:
Good News for the PMO, Bad News for Goats!

My spin on the spin for today is inspired by Naomi Klein's piece in The Nation, Shameless in Iraq

Excerpt: "Good news out of Baghdad: the Program Management Office, which oversees the $18.4 billion in US reconstruction funds, has finally set a goal it can meet. Sure, electricity is below prewar levels, streets are rivers of sewage and more Iraqis have been fired than hired. But now the PMO has contracted with British mercenary firm Aegis to protect its employees from "assassination, kidnapping, injury and"--get this--"embarrassment." I don't know if Aegis will succeed in protecting PMO employees from violent attack, but embarrassment? I'd say mission already accomplished. The people in charge of rebuilding Iraq can't be embarrassed, because clearly they have no shame."

In case you missed it in the above quote, the section of the press release that caught Naomi's eye (and mine) from the PMO, the Iraq Program Management Office is: "But now the PMO has contracted with British mercenary firm Aegis to protect its employees from "assassination, kidnapping, injury and ... embarrassment."

The word "aegis" is from Greek mythology, by the way ... the goatskin shield or breastplate of Zeus or Athena. Athena's aegis carried at its center the head of Medusa. And we certainly have a multi-snake-headed mess over there in the way of "contractors" "helping", eh? Check out the PMO link above for the list of sna ... um, contractors giving Olympian-like aid to the good people of the PMO.

A rudimentary understanding of human psychology tells us that mentally and emotionally healthy human beings have healthy shame. Being embarrassed for doing something wrong or harmful or stupid comes from healthy shame. It is the internal mechanism that keeps us from committing daily heinous and harmful acts. Our internal "good parent" you might say. Like the governor on an accelerator pedal... People who regularly harm and abuse people and things seem to have an underdeveloped or absent "good parent" inside of them.

Now I always thought it was PR agencies that protected their clients from embarrassment, didn't you? Since when do mercenary security corporations do it?

Absurdities pile up. That has to be axiomatic on the Happy Planet by now I think. The coincidences, the choosing of names ... etc. One of my "heroes" Albert Camus had much to say on the nature of the absurd. He devoted at least three of his larger works to it:

"For Camus, the absurd was not negative, not a synonym for "ridiculous," but the true state of existence. Accepting the view that life is absurd is to embrace a "realistic" view of life: the absence of universal logic. ... One might rephrase Camus' absurdism as "God? No thanks… I'm on my own.""
(Scroll down to the section called "The Absurds")

I salute Camus today, and Naomi too, for noticing the sheer terribleness and silliness of it all. And ask you to think about the poor goats.
Moving On, Moving Forward

Traveling around left blogistan over the past 24 hours, I’m a bit struck by some of the caterwauling I’m reading about the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq. Hey, it was going to happen eventually – they pulled the trigger a few days early, and it appears to (at least initially) have had the intended result. The transfer caught everyone by surprise, and probably at least delayed more mayhem leading up to the original date of June 30.

What’s so bad about that? Nothing.

Listen, if for no other reason than the Iraqi people need to be running their own country (regardless of the number of strings attached), this event should have happened a long time ago. It’s hard to understand how anyone could deny that manifest destiny of Iraq should be in Iraqi hands.

The real work begins now. The problem is, the real work should have begun over a year ago. So by almost any tripe-laden definition of success, the occupation of Iraq has been an abject failure for the United States. We can argue about the reasons for invading Iraq all day long, and never reach successful consensus. What is almost impossible to argue is that the post-invasion planning was inadequate (at best), the “rebuilding process” is and was rife with corruption, and acts committed in the name of occupation were criminal (at worst).

So we turn the page. Where do we go from here? Well, basically nowhere as things now stand. The corruption of the rebuilding process will most certainly continue. Coalition forces are staying put – in fact, it looks like the number of boots on the ground might actually be increasing. And now the Bush administration has a convenient target when things don’t go so well – the interim Iraqi government.

Is the whole thing a net positive for the Bush administration? I don’t think so. Not even close. In the voter’s minds, barring significant bloodshed between now election day, it will end up being a zero-sum event in the voter’s minds back here in the good old U.S. of A.

Let’s strike a deal – I want the Bush administration to be held politically (if not criminally) accountable for the past couple of years as much as anyone on the planet. But let’s save that discussion for tomorrow, or the next day, or day after that.

As far as turnover goes, my good thing / bad thing litmus test will be the impact on the folks like Riverbend and Raed in Iraq. Regardless of my own feelings, does this bring them any closer to some kind of closure and the ability to truly begin piecing their lives back together? Their lives and that of their families have been in (again, at best) holding patterns since March, 2003. That’s what has made their stories so compelling. So to answer the question: will putting Iraqis (provisionally) back in charge of Iraq make things any better than what they dealt with under formal occupation? While it’s really too soon to tell, I think the answer is probably "yes".

For that, I am eternally grateful that Jerry Bremer and crew have finally hopped their last rides out of Baghdad.

And now, I want MY country back.

Monday, June 28, 2004

In the Headlines...

Just sayin'.

ASZ's "DOUBLE BURN" Campaign

What if "word of mouth" and repeat viewings of Fahrenheit 9/11 literally blew the doors off over July 4 weekend? Right at this moment, it's hard to say if distribution will expand this week, but given all the sellouts, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the movie hit a lot more screens.

Now, we realize that Spiderman 2 is coming out this weekend, and realistically, there is simply no way that F9/11 beats out S2 at the box office. We may be liberal pollyannas, but we're not dopes.

But what if F9/11 came in a barnburning second, and made the $22 million box office from this past weekend look like chump change?

ASZ is pleased to roll out the DOUBLE BURN campaign. All you have to do to participate is see Fahrenheit 9/11 this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday (July 2, 3, 4 or 5). The purpose of this campaign is to keep F9/11 in the news by shattering records. Here's the plan:

  1. Talk up the movie this week to friends, family, and co-workers.
  2. Go see it again yourself. The first time was simply shock and awe. The second time is for critical understanding.
  3. Most importantly, if you run a blog, or have an email list, announce the DOUBLE BURN campaign to everyone you can reach.

Not that Mike Moore needs to get any richer. He's doing OK. But think "Titanic". How did "Titanic" break every conceivable record for movie attendance? Word of mouth and repeat viewings.

Let's make Fahrenheit 9/11 the "Titanic" of documentaries. Why? Simple. There's no way that the Bush administration and the Republican National Committee can ignore the gate from the opening weekend. A couple of weeks of box office records will get their undivided attention, and send a message in the most clear and undeniable way - that the policies of the Bush administration are morally and politically bankrupt, and that George W. Bush is as unelectable this year as Jack Ryan.

We at ASZ have previously asked you to take action - and this is as easy and cheap as it gets. You don't have to talk to strangers. You don't have to canvass for voters. You get to sit in an air-conditioned theatre for 2 hours. Your only commitment is the time and price of admission. And your participation sends an extremely powerful message.

So, what do you say? Are you willing to commit? Are you willing to spread the gospel according to Mike? Let us know - click on the comment link.

See you (again!) at the movies, as we DOUBLE BURN!!

Quick Links to other ASZ F9/11 Postings:
Richard's F9/11 Review
More Moore

Sunday, June 27, 2004

More Moore

Karl and the Rovians must be having a group stroke this weekend. There is no credible neocon counterpunch to Fahrenheit 9/11. They can only crank up the Fox News wind machine so much.

It's a thing of beauty, really.

I spent the afternoon in the big outdoors, and after a nice BBQ, had some time to think. While I'm gushing about F9/11, at the same time, I'm also a bit concerned about the future of this type of "politicing". OK, we've got a certifiable hit at the boxoffice. You know people are paying attention. Some of them belong to, as Bush termed it in F9/11, the Republican elite. They've got money. They can make movies, too.

I'm hoping that the whole environment that led to F9/11 is a one time phenomena - extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, etc. etc. But what's to stop the GOP from backing, after Kerry's first two or three years, some type of bizzaro F9/11 based on whatever "scandal" they're going to be cooking up in the coming 24 or 36 months? I guess I'm speaking in terms of the precedence that F9/11 sets in the film industry AND politics.

After ruminating over this a bit, I came to the conclusion that we really have no such worries. Number one, we've really been in a confluence of extraordinary circumstances over the past 3 years. That confluence of events (generated by BushCo, for the most part) gave Moore the fertile ground to till. I just don't foresee such an amazing set of events occurring over the course of my lifetime again, much less the next 3 years. At least I hope not.

And let's face it - I just don't see neocons ever being as domestically energized by events, and actually plunking down 10 bucks at the local art theatre to see "The Heinz Chronicles - Following the Billions" (I'm just making that up, but you get my point).

So, for now, let's just bask in the glow of a master storyteller weaving events of the past 4 years into an artistic, celluloid tapestry. We'll deal with the future when it comes.

Lastly, here's a link to some great perspective from around the country (scroll down the page a bit when you get there), and don't miss ASZ's take on Fahrenheit 9/11 (below).

Today's New York Times

It is a rare occasion, but it does happen, that the New York Times magazine produces such a focus of fine writing and features that the rest of the paper is made nearly superfluous. Yes, the paper then is worth its full $5.00 price. Those are the kind of days where coffee on the balcony and the leisurely reading of the Times can stretch into the afternoon. Let me recommend the following:

Michael Ignatieff's "Mirage in the Desert" is a fine essay on the capacity of America for blinding itself to what it does in the name of evil. He mediates his argument through the events of remembering the D-Day warriors, Ronald Reagan, and Abu Ghraib, three of the most pivotal events on our recent newsscape. I am particularly struck by this paragraph, and am searching for the full text of Sorensen's speech. . .

Theodore Sorensen, who as a young man wrote President Kennedy's best speeches, gave a commencement speech of his own recently that was not so much an address as a cry of anguish. He remembered a time when you could go overseas and walk down avenues named after Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Hardly anyone is naming streets after Americans in the cities of the world these days. ''What has happened to our country?'' Sorensen exclaimed. ''We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross, without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world.''
Ah, the full text of that speech given at the New School, headed no coincidentally by a Democrat, former Senator Bob Kerrey, is HERE.

The issue also includes an interview with Ron Reagan that is powerful as well. The Son Also Rises is a much better interview than those I've seen on television, though it is short. I like this shot he takes at Mr. Cheney, the token Dick in the Bush Administration:

How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?

Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80's, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being. That's probably the nicest way I can put it.

I'm headed back to the rest of the Magazine now, then maybe I'll break out a ballpoint and tackle the puzzle.

Happy Sunday, folks, and don't forget to floss.

Circular Firing Squads

This time, it isn't the Democrats. Yay!

There's a minor snit being made about a new ad on In fact, I even received an email from the DNC about it.

The snit boils down to this: the Bush campaign is "floating" an ad on their website. There are several snippets of good speeches from Al Gore, Howard Dean, and JFK himself. Those snippets are juxtaposed around a few other snippets from an ad that was submitted to in a contest last fall - one which contained some images of Hitler. Now, the DNC is (wink wink,nudge nudge) crying foul, the same way the RNC did last fall.

After watching the ad myself, I wondered what the DNC snit was about? I mean, go view the ad yourself. I swear it should say, "I'm John Kerry, and I approved this message" at the end. What the hell is the Bush campaign thinking putting this ad on the web? Then I got it.

The DNC gets it! Make a media stink, get a bunch of people to watch the ad (both sides of the aisle), and maybe chip away another GOP vote or two, because the Gore and Dean snippets are particularly powerful. Let the Bush Campaign pay for DNC ads!

Heh. Smart guys, those DNC staffers. For the price of an email and a little free media publicity via press release, the DNC gets a great ad.

Morons, those RNC staffers.

Go view the ad and tell me what you think.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Ok, I'm sitting here on Saturday night, halfway into a half pint of my good friend, Mr. Daniels, and writing a blog entry about my impressions of Fahrenheit 9/11. I think I needed it (the JD) just to calm down a bit after returning from the movie.

I'll give you a quick description of the movie in a single word: powerful.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, was moved (but not shocked) at some of the scenes, and the entire theatre (sold out and standing room only), as far as I could tell, stood up and clapped and cheered for 2 full minutes as the closing credits started to roll.

Just to set the scene, I went to the 5PM showing with three of my best like-minded friends. Signs on the theatre door proclaimed that the rest of the showings for the day were already sold out. Thank God for

Folks, regardless of what you might think of Michael Moore, he's an artist and a storyteller. That might be the highest compliment that you can pay any movie maker.

Based on my own knowledge of the topics, he was fairly spot-on in most areas of the film. I'd like to see the film again - there's so much crammed into 120 minutes. Moore succinctly packages much of what many of us already know into those 120 minutes. And he does it sooooo very well.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was an affirmation of my loathe for BushCo. I think the most powerful part of the film was right after the opening credits rolled, and the screen went dark for four or five minutes. All you were left with was the audio, and your own mental images of that moment in time. And you probably know what I'm talking about, even if you haven't seen the movie (no 'spoilers' here). It was unbelievably powerful. Five minutes of dark screen with nothing but audio to refresh your mental imagery. And more importantly, the lost opportunities for real change.

What's more striking is that it brought back for me how this asshole who is running (ruining?) our country had his countrymen (and the world) in the palm of his hand - and instead of true leadership, George W. Bush squandered the whole political fortune that was dropped into his lap. Instead of using that fortune for the collective good, he reverted to his true typecasting: a tragic Willie Loman-esque character. Only Dubya still has people telling him he's not "tragic".

One of the more interesting acts for me was that of the footage from inauguration day, 2001. I'd never seen the footage of all those protestors at Bush's inauguration, or the eggs hitting the incoming pResident's limo. You never saw that footage. You never saw the speedup of the limos, and the SS running alongside out of concern for the soon-to-be Boy King. You never heard that Bush was the first pResident-select that chose not to walk part of the way up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill to take the oath of office. Monkey Boy™ rode the motorcade all the way, sanitized for his protection. And I sat wondering if he paid attention to the protest signs all along the way...

So, adding to the firepower of F911 was the footage you've never seen - because the press wouldn't air it or talk about it at the time (or even now).

Let me backtrack for a moment. In the leadup to the inauguration, there was congressional certification of election results from 2000. This is something (again) I'd never really seen. I've heard Donna Brazille talk about the complete Floridian coup / disenfranchisement in 2000, but I hadn't really seen the congressional response in action. With then Vice President Albert Gore presiding over the congressional certification of election results, the Congressional Black Caucus, one by one, took the podium to protest. All it would have taken was one single Senator to stand up and object to the results to deny certification. Not one damn Senator would stand up and object to the And it would have only taken one.

There's so much more to talk about regarding F911. The Sunday talkie's will be full of it. But at the end of the day, it's the affirmation thing I talked about earlier for we liberals who actually follow this stuff. Fuck it if the brownshirts miss it. Every single person who sees the Willie Loman I see in George Bush needs to see this movie.

Quit listening to the noise machine. Fahrenheit 9/11 is perhaps the most important political statement I've seen in my 50 years on the planet. And Mike Moore's the messenger, in all his glorious bias.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

**If You'll Be My Bodyguard,
I could be your long-lost pal...

Call him Al...

Meanwhile, Ireland's Taoiseach, Mr. Ahern is smiling and waving, but the people of the Emerald Isle are having none of it. (Link to The Guardian)

Quote: "...this weekend's visit by George Bush, the US president, has turned tradition on its head. Irish lawyers have signed a petition against Mr Bush and suggested he should be arrested as soon as he arrives. Clerics have questioned the president's morals and the leader of the Irish senate has boycotted a US embassy dinner to mark his visit. Anti-war protesters say they are being censored by a government desperate to keep a lid on demonstrations. The terrorism risk has resulted in the biggest security operation in the country's history." The above photo comes from an Irish Times article on the "state visit" - Iraq handover to dominate summit talks with Bush

I mentioned this morning over at the Whiskey Bar, that I thought Ireland a strange stupid choice for such a PR moment for the Little Smirk. He's already had one unbecoming interview, and the Irish people know something about what it's like to be an occupied people, and they don't like it. But we know Gray Matter Rove believes only in images with the sound turned down -- AND -- he gets to pick the images, of course. I can't wait for the coverage of the protests to hit the Irish media. I'll post a few in a bit.

Update: for The Doc ... hehehe I'm hunting wabbits! Paul Simon channels Dubya:
"I need a photo opportunity.
I want a shot at redemption.
Don't wanna end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard."

**"You Can Call Me Al", by Paul Simon

Update:from Reuters -- Protesters invoke Shakespeare to blitz Bush
Update, 4:30 AM PDT: Photos from the Dublin, Ireland protests
"If you think Dick Cheney is cursing today, wait until you hear what he says on Nov. 2," he said.

That's John Kerry quoted in today's LA Times. He was in Ohio and Stark County bemoaning job losses in Massilon, home of the Tigers and the famous Paul Brown. Also nearby Canton is home of Timken, whose owners are among the nation's biggest Bush supporters and also laid off hundreds of workers recently. I know Massilon. Massilon is not Democrat country, but I would urge Kerry to visit early and often. When these guys get upset at their Republicans, you'll see some fireworks.

So, Dick Cheney dropped the "F" bomb on Pat Leahy, and now he's going around strutting about it. Would that play in Massilon? Nope, that is values country. This CNN article shows the Cheney strut. He talks about how Leahy had questioned Cheney's integrity concerning Halliburton. Many of you reading here are wondering where that integrity resides.

One thing you'll notice in that article, is that while Cheney puffs up his chest and justifies a personal attack on the Senate floor, he will not actually admit to saying that word. He continues in his role as Designated Weasel. And there is one thing the farmers and hard workers of Massilon, Ohio don't like -- weasels.

I guess it is all in the definition of the word "sleaze."
Froomkin Touches all the Bases

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post usually cranks out a pretty good product. With both the Cheney meltdown yesterday, and now a Bush implosion today, Dan's having himself a good old time. Lots of testy, testy, testy words to read here.

If you're video minded, make sure that you click on the link that features an Irish TV interview with an incredibly snarky Dubya. Here's an excerpt from Froomkin's column:

Shawn Pogatchnik writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq and insisted most of Europe backed the move during a tense interview Thursday on Irish television.

"On several occasions during the 15-minute interview, Bush asked RTE correspondent Carole Coleman not to interrupt him.

"When Coleman said most Irish people thought the world was more dangerous today than before the Iraq invasion, Bush disagreed and responded, 'What was it like Sept. 11th, 2001?' "

Here's the video of the interview with Coleman in the Map Room. Irish television viewers saw it prefaced by a report about how much Europe hates Bush, the "Toxic Texan."
Carole Coleman pulled no punches in this 15 minute interview. This begs the question: why we don't have any Carole Coleman's working for networks on this side of the pond?

Bush's remark about "this fella Allawi" is precious - and later he proclaims, "You've got democracy in Turkey, you've got a democracy emerging in Afghanistan, you've got a democracy in Pakistan..." Can you find the untruths in that prolaimation?

Seriously speaking, I think Bush's handlers keep him wrapped in such a tight bubble, that the guy doesn't even realize the depth to which many people actually despise him. After watching the interview with Ms. Coleman, you'll perhaps understand more fully how the rest of the world sees our fearless leader.

He's not only snarky, he's scary. This is a side of George W. Bush that you don't see on American TV, because no journalist working for American network television will challenge him like Ms. Coleman.

At the risk of being repetatively repetative, I urge you to watch this interview. The flat out disdain for reality and disrespect for anyone who challenges him should be of grave concern every American.

Update, 2:05AM - for those of you who can't or don't wish to view the interview, a transcript is available on the White House website at (I'm not hot linking to it on purpose; you'll have to cut and paste the url). Tip of the hat to Doug at Whiskey Bar for the pointer. But really, try to watch the actual video of the interview if you can. This is one of those things that you actually have to see to get the tone and nuance.

Picture, 1000 words, yada yada yada.

Friday, June 25, 2004

So Broke We Can't Even Pay Attention ...

That's what we used to say back in the dark ages (the late 1960s when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, and color TV had just recently been invented). I'm so broke I can't even pay attention. Funny, we don't hear that phrase from the White House these days. After all, the US government is accumulating debt like a teenager on a drunken spree with dad's credit cards. So much for the fiscal conservatism of the current crop of politicians in power, eh?

I am struggling financially, and can't imagine what it would be like if I had any credit card debt. I don't have credit cards...I only have my mortgage and utilities and food and such -- no car payment. (Credit is the road to slavery ... ask me later if you're interested in talking more about this).

I still feel the crunch of the debt that's being passed down from the federal level -- $8 Trillion ... that's TRILLION DOLLARS -- to state to county to me. even so. It's in your grocery bill, and sundry and unsundry other things. The personal IS political where YOUR money and your debt load is concerned.

Now add to the $8 Trillion ... yes ... that's $8 Trillion of national debt, another estimated $2 Trillion in what they cutely call "consumer debt" ... and I'm sure both those numbers are parsed to the max in the media. I'm not an economist -- merely a skeptical brat when it comes to numbers coming to us from the Feds via their "courtly" scribes, um... stenographers.

From the Fear Factor Files, some articles on our cute and cuddly consumer debt: here, here, here and here.

"Neither a borrower, nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend" - The annoying Polonius to his hot-headed son Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Negating the "Fear Factor"

We've all nervously chuckled at one time or another as terror alerts have been raised from 'poppycock' to 'burnt umber' to 'chartreuse'. The Bush administration has become quite adept at manipulating America's "fear factor" - especially when it comes to terrorism and your chances of becoming a victim in one way or another.

I've been doing a little statistics research (actually, about 5 minutes worth on Google, but that was enough). My inherent sense was that your chances of being personally impacted by terrorism are somewhere south of negligible, regardless of how much the ghost of Osama cranks up the threat machine noise. The bottom line is that the concept of terrorism scares the shit out of us. It's the fear of the unknown, kind of like dying, I suppose. You don't know when, where, or how it's going to happen.

The fear of, as Don Rumsfeld says, the "unknown unknowns" is what drives us to distraction in our daily lives. My message, based on in-depth research? Calm the fuck down.

The next time Tom Ridge (or even John "I couldn't beat a dead man for a Senate seat" Ashcroft) tries to stoke your terror fears, please refer to the following statistics as compiled by the San Diego Union, and share them with your scaredy cat friends and family. Here's your statistical odds:

Of getting hemorrhoids: 25 to 1
Of being born a twin in North America: 90 to 1
Of being on plane with a drunken pilot: 117 to 1
Of being audited by the IRS: 175 to 1
Of having your identity stolen: 200 to 1
Of dating a millionaire: 215 to 1
Of dating a supermodel: 88,000 to 1
Of writing a New York Times best seller: 220 to 1
Of finding out your child is a genius: 250 to 1
Of catching a ball at a major league ballgame: 563 to 1
Of becoming a pro athlete: 22,000 to 1
Of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
Of finding a four-leaf clover on first try: 10,000 to 1
Of a person in the military winning the Medal of Honor: 11,000 to 1
Of winning an Academy Award: 11,500 to 1
Of striking it rich on Antiques Roadshow: 60,000 to 1
Of getting a royal flush in poker on first five cards dealt: 649,740 to 1
Of dying in a terrorist attack: 650,000 to 1
Of spotting a UFO today: 3 million to 1
Of becoming president: 10 million to 1
Of winning the California lottery: 13 million to 1
Of becoming a saint: 20 million to 1
Of a meteor landing on your house 182,138,880,000,000 to 1

So, your chances of becoming a victim of a terrorist attack are somewhere between that of making a ton-o-money playing Vegas Stud Poker and hitching a ride on a flying saucer. I'll take those kind of odds any day of the week.

Sleep well tonight, America!
Broken Clocks

June 24, 2004:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents set off car bombs and seized police stations Thursday in a six-city offensive aimed at creating chaos ahead of next week's handover of power to a new Iraqi government. U.S. and Iraqi forces took back control in heavy fighting that killed more than 100 people and wounded about 320.
May 24, 2004:

General Myers told the House Armed Services Committee that, far from calming the violence in Iraq, the June 30 turnover is likely to usher in a period of more turmoil, comments echoed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker. ‘The threat will continue to intensify after June 30.'
It's kind of refreshing (in an ironic sort of way) that they finally got something right. But then, even a broken clock is right twice per day.

The Fine Art of Persuasion

Ralph Nader gets a lot of heat on these pages - not so much for his ideas, but for the fact that he's disingenuous in trying to use the bully pulpit of consumer activism outside of the establishment rather than working for incremental change from the inside. His tactics were perhaps appropriate in the activist 60's and 70's; however, the strategies that Nader continues clinging to just don't work in today's government.

The Don Quixote-cum-Jedi force has always been strong in Ralph, but probably even more so in his legions of supporters. Tilting at windmills while you have the steering wind of a cheering section (no matter how small) at your back is also an ego stroking exercise. But Ralph's idealized notion of how the system is supposed to operate,“in the public interest”, just doesn't fit today's political memes.

It’s human nature that as time goes by, we learn from life’s experiences. It's part of growing up. Our ideals might not change, but our strategic approach evolves for achieving the goals that those ideals entail. A confrontational strategy (one that we might be forgiven for due to youth and inexperience) doesn’t necessarily translate to action as we gain real-life experience. Ralph Nader, for whatever reason, hasn’t embraced the need to modify strategy as both he and his causes have grayed.

Criticisms of Nader aside, his argument that both Republican and Democratic party office holders are often times just two sides of the same, beholden, coin is most certainly true. Our elected representatives, regardless of party affiliation, don't even bother anymore to hide the obvious conflicts of interest in the "fuck Grandma Millie" era of big government. What's more depressing is the way that many people, inside and outside of Washington, have come to accept that this is just the way the people's business gets done.

Nader's activist group, Public Citizen, released a report yesterday on recent changes to the Medicare system, with a focus on the new prescription discount card program. From the very beginning of discussions on the new plan, it was obvious that such changes were being driven by both the pharmaceutical and managed healthcare industries. During the congressional debate on the prescription discount card program, I recall listening to a congressman on CSPAN, from the House floor, claiming that in advance of what was almost a guaranteed passage of the bill, pharmaceutical companies had increased prices 25% to 35% across the board. Interestingly enough, this is almost exactly the same average discount that was being touted in the prescription drug program. So in essence, prices were raised, the bill was passed, seniors now have to pay for the card, prescription prices are basically the same, and the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies just grew fatter.

Beyond the real lack of help to seniors in the prescription drug bill, one significant administrative point really jumps out of the Public Citizen report:

At least 11 top staffers who left the Bush administration lobbied for the drug industry and HMOs in 2003. White House and administration insiders working as lobbyists on the Medicare bill included several former top advisers to Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson. The exodus from the administration has accelerated since Bush signed the new Medicare law.
Bold. Brazen. Eleven top staffers who helped write the lion's share of the Bush Administration's healthcare and pharmaceutical legislation over the past three years now work for big pharma and managed healthcare organizations. $141 million in lobbying costs. And the list goes on and on. Yep, they know where their bread was (and is) buttered. Would the end result have been any different with a Democratic Party administration or congress? I rather doubt it.

The Public Citizen report is the reason I began this posting by going off on Ralph Nader. This is important stuff, and could most certainly be used to advantage in Democratic Party campaigns this fall for both the presidential and congressional races (although part of the problem is that the Democrats are not clean on these issues, either). And in this respect, I fully support Nader’s ideology, if not his methodology.

In a utopian model of the political world, Nader would work for incremental changes to both the laws and the deliberative process that leads to legislation. The best way to do this work would be within the party that's most closely aligned with his goals, and certainly the Democratic Party fits this description. That he chooses to continue his Quixotic quest in the “margins”, so to speak, almost ensures that he and his supporters will remain marginalized by both parties. And because Ralph and Public Citizen remain marginalized, the import and impact of the report are marginalized.

It's easy to see, though, how even a veteran political operative like Ralph Nader can get jaded with an entire process that's supposed to make life easier for people, but more often than not results in day-to-day life being more difficult for the average person.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What is Nader up to?

I was minding my business. Well, not really. I had MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on in the background while reading an article linked off of Drudge about those torturous White House memos. (My dirty secret is that I also go to Drudge.) Anyway, Joe comes on and announces his guest, that Queen of Mean, Ann Coulter (who a friend of mine calls Skeletor). In a reaction almost as kneejerk as, well, a kneejerk, I got up and turned the channel to the Cubbies, where I can at least monitor whether we need to worry about the end of the world. (The Cubs winning the World Series, after all, is mentioned in the Book of Revelations, or so I am told.) My next thought was to immediately email Scarborough, and tell him why I turned off his show. Not an angry email, but just to let him know.

Anyways, as an odd internet caricature named "Stimpy" is wont to say (I'd give you a link to this delightful example of internet persona run amok, but you need to register to get into or view the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board.) What do I find on the MSNBC site but the following headlines right next to each other:


Now, the first article is careful to note that Arizona Democrats were the ones trying to decertify, and that the Kerry camp wasn't involved.

Pederson said, "we are not speaking for the Kerry campaign, we are not speaking for the Democratic National Committee. This is strictly an effort by Arizonans to make sure that our presidential election in Arizona is legitimate and it's legal."

Pederson said he had told some Kerry campaign officials that "we were filing the lawsuit.... They said, 'You're on your own.'"
So the Kerry camp, at the very least, does not want to appear to be against the presence of Nader in the race, and Nader? Well, he's advising Kerry on a running mate!

In an open letter sent Wednesday, the independent presidential candidate urged Kerry to choose John Edwards as his running mate, saying the North Carolina senator and former trial lawyer has been thoroughly vetted and is committed to protecting the right of consumers to sue corporations that harm them.

“(Edwards) has already gone through a primary campaign and has his rhythm and oratory (the "Two Americas" speech) all well-honed,” Nader wrote to Kerry. “After a slow start, Sen. Edwards closed fast and has won praise from the media.”

Edwards, the last Democrat to bow out after Kerry’s series of primary wins, won several large verdicts before he was elected to the Senate. Nader said Edwards is committed to preserving a civil justice system that is under attack by “corporate supremacists.”

Is it true that Nader just wants to boost a fellow warrior against corporate America, or is Nader not long for this campaign, and ready to move his voters over to Kerry? Why an open letter, if not to show some kind of support for Kerry?

Anyways, as Stimpy would put it, it all looks good from here.
Woman's Womb and Politics

If the theocon-neocons have their way with us (pun absolutely intended), women in the US will be returned to those not-so-thrilling days of yesteryear. The Politics of Contraception, by Ruth Rosen at SFGate discusses the politicization of the FDA in the matter of birth control.

You'd think those who oppose abortion would embrace a safe method of contraception. A December 2002 study by the prestigious Alan Guttmacher Institute estimated that emergency contraception probably prevented 51,000 abortions in 2000. But many social conservatives support "abstinence only" as strongly as they oppose abortion.

We live in an excessively sexualized culture that uses sex to sell us everything from cars to clothes. Yet we are also heirs of a Victorian legacy that makes us uncomfortable teaching young people about sex and that insists that if nice girls and women "do it," they -- and not men -- should suffer the wages of sin.

And from the Lysistrata Project a link to many articles about the US government in women's wombs (all around the world, not just in the US), and another to how women's control of contraception might solve a multitude of problems on the Happy Planet.

Just a few brief words on the document dump of torture memos by the White House:

Why aren't every one of these fuckers ladies and gentlemen who are in any way responsible for the "discussion" of torture in jail right now? These wankers represent America to the world, folks. I am literally agasp at the fact that the American people haven't yet seen fit to run these graduates of the Henrich Himmler School of Big Thinkers out of the White House, and frog march them down Pennsylvania Avenue in shackles.

Perhaps there's hope yet.
King Fahd's War on Terra

Saudi Arabia has been in the news quite a bit over the past few weeks. There's been a lot of speculation on the future of the current monarchy and the House of Saud. Here's an interesting tidbit that came across the wire today:

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia announced an amnesty Wednesday for Muslim militants who surrender in the next month, saying they will not face the death penalty and will only be prosecuted if they committed acts that hurt others.
I'm not quite sure what to make of such an offer. My guess is that it's little more than a bit of P.R. window dressing. I mean, does anyone really expect al Qaida operatives to walk into a local Riyadh police precinct and turn themselves in?

This move doesn't even make the situation look better, much less actually make any sense. The cultural and social issues that directly led to the rise of al Qaida and anti-Western views in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to fester for many years, and have become largely unmanageable for the Saudi government (and by extension, the U.S. government). The Saudis created the problem. Any window there might have been to solve the problem closed long ago. The upshot becomes that the House of Saud must coexist with the radical clerics and groups like al Qaida simply to stay in power.

The mixed messages from both governments show neither the ability or will to effectively end the reign of al Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia. If we can't fight Dubya's "war on terra" with a "cooperating" government, how the heck can we expect it to be fought elsewhere in the absence of cooperation?

Update, 7:15PM: Driving home tonight, two thoughts occurred to me:

1. Why 30 days? Why not the next 48 hours? The wording of the statement from King Fahd boiled down to, "Turn yourself over in the next 30 days, or we're going to get tough. Really really. We mean it this time. Not like the other 20 times we said we really mean it. We really really mean it this time. Grrr." ABC News reported tonight that 'amnesty' has actually been in effect for over a year now. Not one jihadist has repudiated his/her evil ways and reported to the local constable.

2. What the hell do the jihadists care anyway if King Fahd promises not to execute them? The jihadists (by definition) are just waiting for the opportunity for martyrdom and to have their shot at their own 72 virgins. Or whatever the lucky number is this week.

All in all, it looks like the amnesty announcement today was simply a staged event by the Saudi government, calculated to take some heat off of Prince Bandar (and our own boy king) back here in the good old USA.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

FBI Probing Anti-Bush Teddy Bear

Evidently going all out, the Bush Administration terrorist task forces have focused on this notorious weapon of mass destruction in a case in Detroit. It is unclear from what has been uncovered so far by whether this is the break in the case needed to tie Saddam and Osama together.

Tune in at 11 for a full report.

OK, this is too ludicrous for words. I would love to just leave the story there with no comment, but you guys won't click on the link and see that IT IS NOT A JOKE! The FBI really hunted down the person who bought this Teddy Bear and the case is evidently before a Grand Jury.

I will sleep well tonight. Yeah, sure.
Har De Har


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United States plans to turn over legal, but not physical, custody of Saddam Hussein and some other prisoners to the Iraqi interim government soon after it takes over on June 30, a senior official said on Tuesday.
So, how does that work? Wouldn't that fall under the heading of unlawful detainment, if the U.S. no longer has jurisdiction over him? I told you, my brain isn't big enough for this shit.
Get Involved

This is becoming like a weekly post for me. There's a little more than five months left until the general election. I know, the dog days of summer haven't even hit yet. But those five months will sneak up on us quickly.

And the question I'll have for you then: what did you do to run the Bush administration out of town? Did you hook up with like-minded locals in your area and hold a voter registration drive? Did you do any voter outreach? Pass out absentee ballots to those who needed them? Put a bumper sticker on your car? Wear a button to work? Talk to at least one person a day who was on the fence? Pump up five people a day who are already on board with the program? Hold up a sign at a busy intersection?

I ask the question because if we don't' succeed in running the squatters out of the White House, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves for whatever happens over the next four years.

There's a lot of work to be done between now and November 2nd. I don't believe that one person in the progressive camp can take a Bush defeat for granted, even though he's trailing in the polls. Circumstances change, and the polls become very volatile in the fall. So, the more momentum we build right now, the harder it's going to be for the Rovians to reverse course on their fate.

Take a few minutes and get involved today. There's many, many worthy organizations out there that need your financial support and your boots on the ground. Here's a couple that carry the Richard Cranium Seal of Approval™ :

America Coming Together : a grassroots organization whose sole purpose is canvassing and registering voters. Every dollar contributed is expensed on just that task - getting boots on the ground with clipboards in hand. If you don't have a spare buck to contribute, call the local office and ask how you can help.

Wellstone Action Network: Camp Wellstone is an exciting and energetic 2.5 day program that trains participants in the philosophy, strategy and tactics for winning grassroots political and electoral campaigns. This national program teaches a distinctive approach that integrates electoral politics, issues advocacy community organizing and leadership development.

Verified Voting: The Verified Voting Foundation and champion transparent, reliable, and publicly verifiable elections in the United States.

The bottom line - I feel that everyone who takes the time to read All Spin Zone, as backwater a political blog as there is, are truly committed to regime change. You probably wouldn't waste your time here otherwise. But as I've said before, we all need to do more than sit on our asses in front of the monitor. While the keyboard is powerful, personal outreach is even more so. Plus, you get the added health benefit of fresh air and walking. :-)
Ok, I've Got a Beef

Driving into work this morning, I was listening to the local "all news" radio station. Their lede at the top (and bottom) of the hour was, "Despite panning reviews, Bill Clinton's new book, My Life, hits the street today. The New York Times book critic said, 'eye-crossingly boring'..." And, of course, the host delivered the piece in the snarkiest tone possible. Then, the station proceeded to a local report from Borders where people were lined up to buy the book, even though the store didn't open for two full hours.


Ok, so the book may stink. Don't know. Haven't read it. But I'm getting sick of this particular "all news station" in an urban area being decidedly slanted toward the conservative side. The whole point of the lede was simply to frame the book (and the former president) as badly as possible.

How did I get all of that out of a two sentence lede? Because I know the station and their editorial slant. Their ombudsman will be receiving a testily worded email later today, because I've had it with them.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Sometimes I feel like such a gomer. I should write more about things I actually think I know something about.

Hmmm. That would limit the field severely. And not allow me to chide intellectually proposed anarchy.
Ramblin' Man
(Apologies in advance to Duane Allman.)

This is what military insurgency looks like. I guess we can't call it "war" anymore, because the term "war" denotes armed conflict between two nation-states. We're not battling a nation-state. The U.S. is battling an insurgency largely of its own making due to poor pre and post invasion planning.

Yes, those are American soldiers lying there on the ground. Yes, they're dead. And yes, more continue to die because of the arrogance of a few powerful guys in a few powerful places. The Bush administration is more focused on nuancing the meaning of the word "collaboration", and desperately trying to spin the news in their direction, rather than doing any meaningful conflict resolution.

One of the refrains I hear from the LGF'ers of the world is, "Well, give me your solution you whiney, liberul, traitorous scuzzball." I don't have an instant fix or magic wand. My brain isn't big enough. But my brain is big enough to know that the theocons don't have one either, other than pointing the fingers at whiney, liberal, traitorous scuzzballs or something that ends with the rapid splitting of atoms.

I apologize for getting off on several tangents here, but I'm going to ramble for a moment. Here's how AP characterized the story of the dead American soldiers:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents gunned down four U.S. service members west of Baghdad on Monday, and South Korea said it would go ahead with plans to send thousands more troops to Iraq despite a threat by Iraqi kidnappers to kill a South Korean seen pleading for his life on a videotape.

Elsewhere, Iraq resumed oil exports Monday, six days after attackers blasted pipelines carrying crude oil to the Basra terminal on the Persian Gulf. Iraqi officials have announced stepped-up measures to protect the oil industry - the foundation of the nation's economy.
One third of one sentence on four U.S. soldiers being gunned down - shot in the head repeatedly, according to other accounts. Two thirds of one sentence devoted to showing South Korea "is not capitulating to terrorists". And two full sentences on Iraq resuming oil exports. Look, we already know where the priorities reside, AP. Why rub it in?

And this whole sham with Prime Minister Iyad Allawi? Just that. Every day, his words seem handpicked to juxtapose quite well with the party line of the Coalition Provisional Authority. It's looking like Jerry Bremer couldn't have picked a better lackey:

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has promised to crush the terrorist threat and said Sunday his administration was considering martial law in some areas to restore law and order.

"They are trying to destroy our country, and we are not going to allow this," Allawi said Sunday.
I'm sure that Iraqis who have lived "in country" over the course of their lifetimes would find Allawi's statement quite laughable. An ex-pat, 25 years removed from living in the country - threatening martial law - and cracking heads in the process - I'm sure this guy is going to go over really well with the locals. Iraqi viewpoint: the occupiers have appointed Saddam 2.0, only without the Iraqi-led goon squads. On the other hand, Allawi doesn't need them. Americans are doing the heavy lifting. (Free-associating here...I wonder if Mr. Allawi has ever ventured to poke his head outside of the green zone blast walls?)

(Sorry, I warned you I was going to ramble.)

After all of that, how's this for a shorter news blurb of the situation in Iraq today?

4 GI's dead, the oil she is a-pumping PRAISE JESUS, S. Korea stands firm, Bremer's Chihuahua barks.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Look! It's the Goodyear Blimp!

We pointed to the sky with happy surprise on our faces. It's what we used to say jokingly when I was a kid when we wanted to "change the subject" or distract.

Now we have other more contemporary references for the "distraction du jour". Like: Look! It's Osama bin Laden! Look! It's Weapons of Mass Destruction! Look! A terrorist! Look! A beheading! Look! A tax rebate!

" It was a slow day
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry
Don't cry"
Paul Simon - "The Boy in the Bubble"

I find myself sometimes longing nostalgically for the Goodyear blimp days, but you can't always get what you want, eh? And we don't have Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine any longer. We do have the days of miracle and wonder -- instant "news" -- when we are directed to look at ourselves looking at ourselves... and encouraged to wonder what we look like to distant places and people and planets who are also looking at us.

Here are some heady psychological musings on dissonance, distraction and manipulation.
Here is TV News Lies, which is a pretty good regular read.

Mother Culture's loudspeakers blare at us daily and hourly to stay distracted. I see the challenge is to stay focused -- to filter out the obvious, purposeful and accidental distractions. Stay in the here and now. Feeling my feet on the planet. Sometimes distraction is a good thing. Hopefully, we'll come to know which is which, and when such discrimination is necessary.

Here's a Gain in the Senate for the Dems!

Barack Obama. An up and coming black man running for Senate in Illinois and he's ahead by 16% in the polls. On top of that, his opponent has just given up on blocking the release of court documents concerning and evidently highly unseemly divorce.

Hmm, wonder if any more seats in the Senate are ripe for the picking. One thing you can be sure of, the conservative attack machine is already out there trying to tear down Obama.

There's something to look forward to for the future of progressivism and the Democratic Party, and that something is Obama!
The Call

If I'm a rabid sports fan, it's because of one guy's influence. He grew up a Tigers and Red Wings fan. At UW, he became a Badgers alum, and bled red and white for the rest of his life as much as I bleed midnight green. His loyalty was rewarded in his later years. When I was in Madison on business a few years back, I bought him a bunch of UW stuff, including a Badgers slammer (you whack it on something and it proclaims, "Go Badgers!"). It was still on his end table next to the lounge chair the last time I was in his house, and now occupies a place of honor in my home.

As I was growing up, I became (to his everlasting chagrin) a Yankees fan in one season, even though we lived in the Southwest. Though I was a young pup at the time, I lived through the classic Maris / Mantle battle - and he was as excited as me. I was hooked on baseball forever, even though baseball wasn't hooked on me as a fan. I sucked at the game, but he never missed one that I played in during several seasons with the Goens Garage team.

And then he taught me football. I wasn't a fast learner, though. Baseball always had more appeal to me, but he suffered that indiscretion with me, and somehow knew that I'd catch on eventually. Like most things, he was right. There's no doubt in my mind that he was secretly thrilled when I embarked on my journey through higher education at the first college Roger Staubauch played for (if you thought it was Navy, you would be wrong). He was thrilled because he was a Cowboys fan, back when someone like Staubauch could make a person proud to be a Cowboys fan. And so I became one, by default or inheritance, I'm not so sure.

But I learned the error of my ways quite a few years ago. I married a Cardinal Dougherty lady, and would not be let into the family until I swore my allegiance to the Eagles green and Phillies pinstripes. Maybe it was just karmatic, but when the Eagles whipped the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC championship to get to the Super Bowl, there was a measure of sweet filial justice - but that justice started a tradition, at least twice per year. The loser made the call. In the subsequent 23 years, I made many more phone calls than he did.

They say that with age comes wisdom. So, it kind of surprised me several years back when the die hard Cowboys fan began to see the error of his ways. I could probably trace the falling out back to when the Cowboys unceremoniously dumped his icon, Tom Landry. "The Cowboys organization lost its star when they dumped Tom," he groused to me. So he kind of adopted my team, although the phone calls still continued. His phone bill mounted in the last couple of seasons. So did mine. We commiserated when the Birds lost; we cheered beer-induced chants when they won.

A year ago this month, he delivered some bad news to me in his usually stoic and strong tone. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but told me he was optimistic. He was always the optimist - it was in his nature. On reflection, I think it's the nature of every sports fan. But I suppose I knew the deal even then. When he entered the hopsice program last August, I was emphatic that I expected a phone call from him after the Birds whipped the Cowgirl's butt in their first meeting season. I was even more insistent that he be around for the Eagles parade at the beginning of this year. Ok, so the parade never happened. Perhaps I inherited my optimism from him.

On an early morning in mid-September last year, after enduring the remnants of a hurricane that dumped a tree in my yard and brought police to my house at 3AM telling me a voluntary evacuation was in effect because the river was rising, I received word from my sister that Dad had passed away. He went strong, and raged against the disease that took him. We had talked last the prior Sunday about the Eagles getting whipped by the Patriots, and he assured me that the season would turn around. Even in his obvious pain, it turned out he was right, sort of.

I'll still be waiting for the call after the first Dallas game this year. Happy day, Pop! Love ya!

(PS - Dad was a raving lunatic Roosevelt Democrat. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, huh? ;-)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Well Spoken, Mate

Especially Update #2.
Why Ith It Hard to Thspeak with My Tongue In My Cheek?
Th-elebrate the TholStice!

I know about the Summer Solstice because it's often the day before my birthday. According to my calendar at home, this year it is Monday, 21st, 3:10 PM EST. My husband's birthday is two days after mine. We are solstice babies. We often celebrate, sorta, for three days including what we call the "Inbetween". Today I mentioned that it's getting to be about that time, and wondered aloud if we shouldn't sacrifice some small, vile vegetable and dance around a fire naked this year, and he replied as I thought he might.......... that particular vegetable is too well-guarded. (Thsee what I meant about that pethsky tongue and cheek thing?)

But if you're getting ready for your annual summer solstice celebration, rest assured that no sacrifice is necessary. ;-) Here's a blurb on some traditions. And for the Stonehenge lovers, a link for great photos.

Happy Summer. Live long and prothsper. Blessed Be!
NYT Editorial, Redux: Blind Faith

Another smokin' editorial today from the New York Times (registration, yada yada). The end cap:

Mr. Cheney said he had lots of documents to prove his claims. We have heard that before, but Mr. Cheney always seems too pressed for time or too concerned about secrets to share them. Last September, Mr. Cheney's adviser, Mary Matalin, explained to The Washington Post that Mr. Cheney had access to lots of secret stuff. She said he had to "tiptoe through the land mines of what's sayable and not sayable" to the public, but that "his job is to connect the dots."

The message, if we hear it properly, is that when it comes to this critical issue, the vice president is not prepared to offer any evidence beyond the flimsy-to-nonexistent arguments he has used in the past, but he wants us to trust him when he says there's more behind the screen. So far, when it comes to Iraq, blind faith in this administration has been a losing strategy.
A. I really don't think Monkey Boy™ and his handler want to get in a pissing contest with the New York Times. But then, maybe they do. The Rovian Gambit behind such a move would be obvious - New York City (and it's environs) is pretty much a lost cause for them, anyway. But the NYT, being arguably the most influential newspaper in the country, could be cast in the heartland by Rove and crew as "elitist East Coast fishwrap".

B. Here's what I really don't get. Why did it take the New York Times editorial board nearly two years to articulate the "blind faith" concept that folks like me have been saying since the winds of war started blowing toward Iraq? Back in the 2002 runup to Iraq, I was telling anyone who would listen (precious few folks) that these guys were spouting a lot of sabre rattling words but providing not one shred of proof for their claims. Or, as I put it more succinctly on January 30, 2003:

If there is a demonstrable threat to our sovereignty or health / well being as a nation, we have an absolute right to use force. The obligation of our government leaders is to we, the folks who write the checks -- that obligation is to prove the threat exists. That hasn't been done. All we've gotten is a lot of "trust me on this one" coming from Washington. A lot of accusations and harsh words have been forthcoming, but not enough evidence to convict Saddam of enough malfeasance to support even a traffic ticket.
So, thanks for having my back, NYT! I wish you would have stepped up a little sooner, though. It might have saved us all a little heartburn.

Welcome to The Happy Planet Cafe!

Hi! My name is Kate, and I'll be your server. Today's special is fillet a la Gregory Bateson and studies connected to 2004 in a delicate hypertext sauce.

"Oh, Paladins, the lesson for today"... (Robert Frost)

"The myth of power, is of course, a very powerful myth; and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it... But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to all sorts of disaster... If we continue to operate in terms of a Cartesian dualism of mind versus matter, we shall probably also come to see the world in terms of God versus man; élite versus people; chosen race versus others; nation versus nation and man versus environment. It is doubtful whether a species having both an advanced technology and this strange way of looking at the world can endure...

The whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured. This is not funny, and I do not know how long we have to do it in. If we continue to operate on the premises that were fashionable during the Pre-Cybernetic era, and which were especially underlined during the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to validate the Darwinian unit of survival, we may have twenty or thirty years before the logical reductio ad absurdum of our old positions destroys us. Nobody knows how long we have, under the present system, before some disaster strikes us, more serious than the destruction of any group of nations. The most important task today is, perhaps, to learn to think in the new way." Gregory Bateson (Bateson quote essay)

The last link above has the following Batesonian analysis of the War on Terra:

"The US government's so-called "war on terror" is perhaps the most outstanding example of a total lack of Cybernetic wisdom. Rather than examine and change its brutal foreign policy which, as Noam Chomsky so exhaustively documented, has repeatedly attempted to control other nations – and nourished the resentment and Islamic fundamentalism which apparently resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center – the US-led wars on Afghanistan and Iraq are certain to produce precisely the opposite of the results intended, increasing the support for terrorism whilst simulataneously degrading the democratic principles of the USA itself and of the United Nations system so painstakingly built up for the sake of peace." - Michael O'Callaghan

For dessert you will be asked to show how the state of the world in 2004 and YOU fit in with Bateson's statement, and the rest of the accumulated knowledge associated with it. I will take your check to the cashier. Here are your after dinner mints. Thank you for your patronage.
Do Overs

Other commission officials disclosed on Friday that the White House had sent a letter to the commission — stamped "secret" — on the eve of this week's hearings that demanded a variety of changes in its staff reports this week. But the officials said the White House letter did not seek any changes in the portions of the report that dispute any relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
NY Times, June 19, 2004

CLARKE: Yes. The president -- we were in the situation room complex -- the president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said 'Iraq did this.'

STAHL: Didn't you tell him that you'd looked and there'd been no connection?

CLARKE: I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.' He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean, that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.

STAHL: In other words, you did go back and look.

CLARKE: We went back again and we looked.

STAHL: You did. And was it a serious look? Did you really ... ?

CLARKE: It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and down to FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report and we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer.'

STAHL: Come on!

CLARKE: Do it again.

STAHL: Wrong answer?

CLARKE: Do it again.
CBS Sixty Minutes, March 21, 2004

Friday, June 18, 2004

From the Alternative Press: Bush and the Religious Right's Holy Crusade

Neal Pollack. Where do I recognize that name? I'm not at all sure where. This bad boy of the body modifications and outspoken sexuality really skewers the Bushies and their ties to the whacked out religious right (as opposed to the sane religious right). He does so today at It's a good read, though it is pretty much over the top for my taste. Still, I'll give a couple excerpts from this very long article.

Writers for alternative newspapers on the West Coast generally aren't prone to making hyperbolic, paranoid statements, but I'll smash the mold: Our country is being run by a lunatic Christian cult. The evidence grows tumescent. Example one is General Jerry Boykin, a deputy undersecretary of defense who, after September 11, started making the rounds of evangelical churches preaching that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would "only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus." The U.S. is in a "holy war," he preached, against Satan, who wants to destroy our "Christian army." Guess what work Boykin was engaged in while making those speeches on the weekend? That's right. He was helping Donald Rumsfeld craft the specifics of Operation Copper Green, that top-secret Christian program that got us into so much trouble at Camp Redemption. At one of his preaching sessions, Boykin established the pecking order of moral authority. "George Bush was not elected by a majority of voters in the U.S.," he said. "He was appointed by God." Yes, sir! God approves of making prisoners masturbate each other, sir!

Hah-hah, you say. This is just one crazy general, an aberrational escapee from the lost reel of Dr. Strangelove. I mean, a guy who throws a retreat at Fort Bragg for Baptist preachers, like Boykin did in April 2003, must be one of a kind. One reverend wrote in an invitation letter, "It is believed by you, me, and others that we must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have the guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival!" But still, this isn't the kind of country where preachers go to military bases to watch a demonstration of "today's war-fighting weapons" with a high-ranking federal military officer.

Actually, it is. This is also the kind of country where the president meets with the members of a radical, far-right millennialist Christian sect three weeks before he counteracts all known international law and opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. That sect, known as the Apostolic Congress, opposes any deal with the Palestinians because it believes that Christ won't return to Earth until all of Israel belongs to the Jews and Solomon's temple is rebuilt. To those of us who like a dose of sanity in our morning coffee, such ideas are anathema, but to President Bush, they're a daily briefing. Even Ronald Reagan, that holy-rollerist of presidents, didn't give apocalyptic Christians weekly telephone briefings on White House policy. It's almost impossible for Kofi Annan to get a meeting with the president, but Robert G. Upton, of the United Pentecostal Church, can say, as he did a couple of weeks ago in that house organ of fundamentalism, the Village Voice, "We're in constant contact with the White House."
This article makes just oodles of connections of how Bush is beholden to the religious right, yes, that section of it that believes in creation science and also that the End Days are upon us. Let us pray, as does Pollack, fervently and constantly, that the Bushies are only in there for a few more months.