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»  July 31, 2007

What the...?  

A Big Cigar: Congratulations to my brother and his beautiful wife on the birth today of their baby.


»  July 30, 2007


Back To the Bubble: Reporters Edward Walsh and Jeff Mapes in the Oregonian, just after the 2004 general election, in a font-page article (no longer available for free online) called "Voting In a Bubble":

[subhed and the first line to the story]

Multnomah County has become an island of liberal Democrats that is quickly drifting away from the rest of the state and nation

The political gap between Multnomah County and the rest of Oregon has never been greater than it was in Tuesday's election.

Mapes and Jeff Kosseff today on Sen. Gordon Smith's voting record:
Though Smith votes in support of most Republican policies, his occasional swings to the Democratic side are tolerated by the Republican establishment, which understands Oregon's increasingly Democratic voting pattern.
What is it we're drifting away from again? The pat answer will be that 2004's "island of liberal Democrats" is driving the 2007's "increasingly Democratic voting pattern," but one of the conclusions of the 2004 article was that the Democratic party was "still searching for a way to expand beyond its increasingly urban base." Gordon Smith's been doing his fence-straddling act for a long time now, not just the past seven months.

My own analysis at the time was a bit different, and I had my own maps showing county-by-county voting average deviations from state and national election results and a vote-weighted map of Oregon county deviations from state averages. Plus a couple of other posts at the time, about the arbitrary nature of county boundaries being used to analyze voting patterns and about an assertion that the ratio of urban and rural voters in Multnomah County has been constant for decades.

The other touch I liked in today's article was the mention of Smith's drawing "national attention" for calling John Kerry French-looking in calls he did for the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004 (he also called Kerry a "socialist"). That was particularly funny because -- as I pointed out in an August 2004 post titled "If it Matters to Oregonians, It's in the LA Times" -- that fact didn't appear in the Oregonian until after it got national attention. Harry Esteve and Edward Walsh's mention of the call in an article only noted that Smith participated in the call, not that he was saying "It's not John Kerry's fault that he looks French." That item was reported by The Los Angeles Times because:

Some Republicans have referred jokingly to Kerry's ability to speak French and his physical appearance, but rarely has the reference found its way onto the campaign trail.
Maybe it was unremarkable to Esteve and Walsh. Maybe their editors cut it.

It's been almost three years since I sent a letter to Sen. Smith asking him to apologize to Franco-Americans like myself for his remarks about "looking French". Never got an answer.


»  July 28, 2007


Unserious: In response to a comment by Hillary Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson, Atrios said that "it's wrong to suggest that, you know, most people thought that war wasn't inevitable", then points to Pollster.com, where the video of Wolfson is juxtaposed with data from November 2002 showing that 58% of the sample through that Bush had already decided to invade Iraq.

That should hardly have been news to anyone who presumably was paying attention to the situation, as you might expect a United States Senator to do.

I know everyone likes to laugh at Dennis Kucinich because he's funny-looking, has a wife half his age and a foot taller, and sang "Sixteen Tons" on camera, but boy would I like to be able to go back into the record of one of the current crop of "serious" candidates for the Democratic nomination and find pre-Iraq statement like this one:

Kucinich: Time For Administration To Show its Evidence

Washington, Dec 19, 2002 - It is time for the Administration to end its war rhetoric and present evidence to justify their claims that Iraq has usable weapons of mass destruction, stated Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) today.

Kucinich, Ranking Member of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations issued the following statement:

"Thus far, the Administration has failed to show any evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs to the U.S. Congress, to the inspectors at the United Nations (UN), or to the American people. "Any information the Administration has that counters the Iraqi disclosure should be provided to the United Nations immediately. Iraq has made its disclosure and now is the appropriate time for the Administration to present its evidence.

"Any intelligence information that the Administration may have can only assist the United Nation Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in filling the 'gaps and omissions' that the Administration claims are in the Iraqi report to the UN. In doing so, the Administration can only assist the UN weapons inspectors disarm Iraq, which it claims it is committed to doing.

"If the Administration plans to preempt the UN weapons inspections process, and begin a war early next year, as recent news reports have indicated, then they owe it to the UN and the American people to present evidence to justify a war. Despite their recent increase in rhetoric and 'war talk', the fact remains that to this date they have not provided evidence for a war."

Or this:

Kucinich: New Intelligence Reports Raises Substantial Questions Helps Growing Opposition To War In House

Washington, Oct 9, 2002 - A CIA letter, released yesterday, has raised serious and substantial questions about the rush to war Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) said, today, at a press conference. The letter, sent by CIA Director Tenet on Tuesday, states that unprovoked by the US, Iraq is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States.

"With less than twenty-four to go before the vote, this report raises substantial questions," stated Kucinich. "Less than twenty-four hours after the president addressed the nation, on Monday, the CIA communicated to the Senate information which is directly contradictory. You have to wonder whether the President is getting all the information he needs from his advisors."

Yesterday, Kucinich, who has been leading opposition to the war in the House, released a whip count that stated that 100 Members of Congress will vote against the war resolution.

"These contradictions have raised questions in the minds of Members of Congress and stopped the momentum which the Administration has tried to build," continued Kucinich. "I believe today, in light of these new findings, the number opposed to war will grow."

Or this:

Statement of Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich on War Resolution

Washington, Oct 3, 2002 - This resolution gives authority to the President to act prior to and even without a UN resolution, and it authorizes the President to use US troops to enforce UN resolutions even without UN request for it. This is a violation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which reserves the ability to authorize force for that purpose to the Security Council, alone.

This resolution is the same authorization that the President originally sought. Many members of Congress in both parties objected to previous language, which is still present in this resolution.

Further, the UN resolutions, which could be cited by the President to justify sending US troops to Iraq, go far beyond addressing weapons of mass destruction. These could include, at the President's discretion, such "relevant" resolutions "regarding Iraq" including resolutions to enforce human rights and the recovery of Kuwaiti property.

While these changes are represented as a compromise or a new material development, the effects of this resolution are largely the same as the previous White House proposal.

In conclusion, this resolution does not represent a genuine multilateral approach to solving the conflict in Iraq. It authorizes a unilateral, go-it-alone military attack. Furthermore, it violates international law and U.S. obligations under the UN charter. Lastly, it does not put any reasonable limitations on the use of military force against Iraq. Rather, it gives the President broad discretion to send troops to Iraq.

Senator Clinton's news release page for 2002 has nothing dealing with the Iraq AUMF.


»  July 27, 2007


Catapulting the Propaganda: From the Democratic CNN/YouTube presidential debates:

QUESTION: ... would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?


[HILLARY] CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse.


EDWARDS: Yes, and I think actually Senator Clinton's right though. Before that meeting takes place, we need to do the work, the diplomacy, to make sure that that meeting's not going to be used for propaganda purposes, will not be used to just beat down the United States of America in the world community.

The United States has the world's largest media organizations: broadcast networks, cable networks, movie studios, magazines, and newspapers. And the Democratic candidates are worried about other countries winning some sort of propaganda war? Do they really consider the country so weak that someone else's propaganda would outweigh facts? Any examples?


»  July 26, 2007


The Tell-Tale SWF:

SWF. It seems simple enough to assume that it stands for "Shockwave Flash", doesn't it? Every now and then someone asks if it's true, then someone else responds that it's either "Small Web Format" or that it stands for nothing at all (what is the sound of s-w-f clapping?).

Recently, a discussion on the topic led to a question about whether other forms of Shockwave existed, like for xRes, Macromedia's attempt at a Photoshop killer back in the mid-90s (you used to get a copy with every box of Director!) The answer, as I've said before, is "yes".

There was an xRes server. It used the pyramidal storage scheme for the xRes image files to deliver cropped online multi-resolution images. You could specify the display image size, level of magnification, center of focus, etc., sort of like what Mapquest and Google Maps do with their aerial views.

Here's Macrobe's tech note:

Shockwave -

New Shockwave support enables users to dynamically publish and view streamed hi-res images on the Web without having to download the entire file. Web surfers can pan and zoom into embedded hi-resolution images for greater detail and interactivity.

As for whether SWF actually stands for "Shockwave Flash", again I turn to the source, in the instructions for installing the Flash 9 plugin on Solaris (my emphasis):

4. Verify the installation by typing about:plugins in the location bar or by choosing Help > About Plugins. You should see Adobe Flash Player listed as "Shockwave Flash 9.0 "

Then take a look at a function from the AC_RunActiveContent.js file generated by Adobe Flash CS3, aka Flash 9, used to embed SWF files in pages and get around the EOLAS patent (and released just a couple of months ago):

function AC_FL_RunContent(){
    var ret = AC_GetArgs ( arguments, ".swf", "movie", "clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000", "application/x-shockwave-flash");
    AC_Generateobj(ret.objAttrs, ret.params, ret.embedAttrs);

This kind of thing can't be dismissed as the persistent fallout of a decade-old marketing goof. Macromedia couldn't (and now Adobe can't) get rid of these types of references because they're associated in operating systems with the SWF file extension (Mac OS X identifies the "Kind" of a SWF as "Shockwave Flash Movie"). Take it from the author of the Macromedia Press book on Flash 2 (that was me), it was in the technical specs of things as basic as the MIME type. It's still in the technical specs because they can't be modified without causing more trouble than it's worth. The marketing people might have done their best to kill "Shockwave Flash", but you can still hear its heart beating, beating under the floorboards.



You'd Like to Think So But It Doesn't Always Work Out That Way:

What they do is when there's a bomb goes down, they grab some children and some women and pretend that the bomb hit the women and the children. And it seems to me that it's up to all of us to try to tell the truth, to say what we know, to say what we don't know, and recognize that we're dealing with people that are perfectly willing to lie to the world to attempt to further their case. And to the extent people lie, ultimately, they are caught lying and they lose their credibility, and one would think it wouldn't take very long for that to happen dealing with people like this.
The documentary Control Room used clips of this press "stakeout" of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talking about civilian casualties during war. I happened to look it up and was sort of surprised to see that it was from 29 October 2001, and referred to Afghanistan, not Iraq. Sometimes it's helpful to look back and verify just how far back the lying started; that's just a month and a half after 9/11.


»  July 24, 2007


My Two Worlds Collide: For the past couple of years I've been helping out with former Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgway's web site. And now my political and music interests come together in one big gooey mess when Stan's featured in an interview from waaay back that Atrios put up to make fun of anchor John Roberts.



President Precedent: From the CNN/YouTube debates:

QUESTION: ... This question is to Senator Hillary Clinton. The Arab states, Muslim nations, believe it's women as being second-class citizens. If you're president of the United States, how do you feel that you would even be taken seriously by these states in any kind of talks, negotiations, or any other diplomatic relations? I feel that is a legitimate question.

CLINTON: ... You know, when I was first lady, I was privileged to represent our country in 82 countries. I have met with many officials in Arabic and Muslim countries. I have met with kings and presidents and prime ministers and sheiks and tribal leaders.

And certainly, in the last years during my time in the Senate, I have had many high-level meetings with presidents and prime ministers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan and many other countries.


I believe that other countries have had women presidents and women prime ministers. There are several serving now -- in Germany, in Chile, in Liberia and elsewhere -- and I have noticed that their compatriots on the world stage certainly take them seriously.

I'm not a Hillary fan, but she might have pointed out that two of the most prominent majority-Muslim countries -- Indonesia and Pakistan -- have already elected female heads of state (Megawati Sukarnoputri and Benazir Bhutto, respectively). Then again, given the charges of corruption in Bhutto's case and the fact that both of them were the daughters of former heads of state, maybe not.



Say Hello to the Gravelcam:


At least a couple of times during the few minutes allotted to former senator Mike Gravel during the CNN/YouTube debates this evening, a camera to his left pulled in tight for a cropped shot of him in mid-harangue.

I may just have missed it, but I don't remember seeing any of the other candidates treated to the same kind of "up close and personal" shot where their face fills the screen in the same manner. I don't expect (or want) Gravel to get the nomination, but I don't think the networks should be singling out one candidate for a specific "effect". Use the same camera angles for everyone. If one of them is going to be shown in an unflattering close-up, they all ought to be subjected to the same scrutiny.


»  July 20, 2007

What the...?  

Color Schemes:

Michael Vick Nike Shoes

Nike has indefinitely delayed the release of the Nike Vick V sneaker (bottom) for an image retooling. Could be they intend to add an extra washable layer to the upper and to restore the color scheme of the Vick II (top), both of which would come in handy of you were, say, walking through puddles of dog blood.


»  July 19, 2007


Undeserved Mantle: From an interview with Prospect magazine foreign editor Bartle Breese Bull (who wrote a June opinion piece on Moktada al-Sadr for The New York Times) by Robin Young, host of WBUR's Here & Now (this segment begins at 4:39 in the Real Audio stream):

ROBIN YOUNG: You do say he's smart. You say, in fact, he's one of the canniest politicians in Iraq, but previously we've heard that he wasn't that bright. In fact, that maybe he was maybe kind of dumb and had sort of inherited inherited this mantle from fathers (sic) and uncles but didn't deserve it.

BARTLE BREESE BULL: Yeah. You know, I think he seems very dumb too and when he speaks and so on. He's not a great speaker. He's at the very lowest rung of the Shiite clerical heirarchy -- the equivalent of a village preacher, officially -- but we have to look at his actions, Robin.

Perhaps she was thinking of a different leader.

Bush Gives You the Finger



George McGovern Has Balls:

George McGovern
photo from Dakota Wesleyan University's McGovern Center

George S. McGovern, a World War II bomber pilot, history and political science professor, political activist, U.S. Representative and Senator from South Dakota, John F. Kennedy's Food for Peace director, and 1972 Democratic nominee for President of the United States turns 85 today.

From 1965 on, McGovern was one of the earliest and most consistent voices in government advocating an end to the Vietnam War, opposing not only the policy of Republican Richard Nixon but also Democrat Lyndon Johnson. He advocated opening talks with Communist China years before Nixon was lavishly praised for doing so. McGovern's first speech on the Senate floor, in March 1963 was titled "Our Castro Fixation versus the Alliance for Progress" which addressed how -- as he puts it in his biography Grassroots:

...the [Kennedy] Administration and the Congress were so absorbed in their fears of Fidel Castro that they were overlooking the real challenge to the United States in Latin America -- "the economic, political and social ills" of the nations to the south if us. I described the misery and political instability of Latin America as "a smoldering blockbuster on our doorstep ... a continent cursed by a social system that concentrates enormous wealth in the hands of a few and consigns the many to lives of desperate poverty."
That was a newly-minted US Senator from South Dakota, on the floor of the Senate, just five months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, 44 years ago. Know anybody there now who could do the same?


»  July 18, 2007


Spinning Around the Goalposts: From the Huffington Post, 18 July 2007, 11PM:

Huffington Post headlines

The second story describes how the US has searched for more than a year for "the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq", Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

On Wednesday, the chief United States military spokesman here, Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, provided a new explanation for Mr. Baghdadi’s ability to escape attack: he never existed.

General Bergner told reporters that a senior Iraqi insurgent captured this month said that the elusive Mr. Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose declarations on audiotape were read by a man named Abu Abdullah al-Naima.

The first story explains how that enabled US forces to move the goalposts, retroactively:
BAGHDAD — The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.


Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a "fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.

Of course, al-Baghdadi's non-existence has been vetted as thoroughly as his original existence.


What the...?  

Movie Core Dump: Movies I've watched recently:

Stranger than Fiction
Entertaining exploration of the boundary between reality and storytelling
The Departed
Over the top but it's Scorsese
Flags of Our Fathers
There was something a little too pat and obvious about the story after the return from Iwo Jima but sometimes life is like that, too
Mystic River
Liked the doom and darkness of the story although I didn't exactly buy the local shopkeeper as the leader of a gang
I don't buy how all the white people lived through it
Man of the Year*
Was going to write this story as a book for my thesis project in 1990 but had to write about Shakespeare instead
Thank You for Smoking*
All of a sudden we were getting a lot of movies with references to people dying from smoking or trying to quit smoking, this was the only one I deliberately chose
Children of Men*
Something about this one irked Barbara but she couldn't put her finger on it, OK by me though
The Da Vinci Code
I only got it for the much-hyped Smart car chase scene, which sucked
For Your Consideration*
It wasn't Spinal Tap or Best of Show, but we got some laughs
Paths of Glory
This movie should be shoved down the throats of every Iraq war planner
Taxi Driver
Somehow I'd never seen this before, but I'm really glad now I did
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?*
Another old movie I'd like to force some people to watch, although the people who need it would probably just hoot and holler at Jane Fonda's demise
The Constant Gardner*
We're suckers for Le Carre
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
I was disappointed by this, it just seemed slapdash, but then Greenwald's just sort of churning them out
The Running Man, set in Mesoamarica, a tried and true formula with little dialog needed; you may not admire Mel Gibson but he knows global marketing for action movies
Richard III*
This was the first movie I deliberately chose from what I've seen before; it's a great turn by Ian McKellan who does a fantastic job with the 1930s retelling of Shakespeare
Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie
Realized I'd seen part of this on TV before; it's pedantic and extremely repetative, although there is some interesting information buried in there
Good Night, and Good Luck*
Missed it in the theaters, but it worked well on TV, the medium it portrayed
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind*
A hell of a career for Chuck Barris, even without the killing
The Last King of Scotland
I can't wait for the sequel; seriously, Forest Whitaker was a fantastic Amin, it just seemed like the movie focused too much on the doctor and that there wasn't enough of what was going on around him
Nuts in May
A seriously odd '70s British telemovie about snooty "nature-loving" prigs messing up a camping vacation for the "lesser" people around them
Bill Hicks: Sane Man*
Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-up Comedian
I'd seen some clips of Hicks, so I got a couple of his shows, but something about his delivery just rubs me the wrong way after a little while; it was just a little too mugging and too obvious
God Said Ha!*
After what I said about Hicks, I suppose people would wonder how I could like Julia "It's Pat!" Sweeney's cancer show, but it didn't seem as forced and it was more of a storytelling style I've always thought worked well
Passport to Pimlico
Could anything subversive like this or The Mouse That Roared get made in the US any time in the past decades and be at all successful? A suburb of London finds out they're actually part of France and uses the fact to get around post-war rationing, with not entirely beneficial results
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill*
Obsession about animals; I recognize it
For some reason, this is always trotted out as an example of relativism and different people telling different versions of the same story (Rashomon-like) but now that I've seen it, it's just different people telling different stories, sort of like in criminal court, which is what's going on in the movie
I'm All Right Jack*
An old British film about missile defense plant owners sending getting their stupid upper-class twit relative a job in the workers ranks to muck things up and cause a strike; except that the workers are portrayed as not too bright either. A pox on everyone's house. Entertaining, but not one I screened for dad.
Wages of Fear (and bonus disc)
A very interesting movie from the '50s, about the relationship between the US, Europe, and covered with a thick sheen of oil.
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert*
I'd only ever seen the expurgated version of this on TV. I like Pryor, but it doesn't live up to the hype as the best comic concert performance movie ever and not just because it's dated.
The Battle of Algiers (and 2 bonus discs)
Very gritty and oddly-entertaining portrayal of the French vs. the Algerians.
More old-style political drama I'd never seen, but found quite gripping
You're Gonna Miss Me*
Roky Erickson's adult life on video. Some days I think I'll end up like Roky, just without the talent.
American Hardcore*
This just depressed me. Not because I wasn't in the scene in the big cities or because it exploded, but the bands featured were just the ones I really didn't think were all that good.
Donnie Darko: Director's Cut
I've heard about this movie for years but while I liked it's playing with time and space and I could see how it might be appealing to a teenage crowd, it didn't hang together for me.
* Barbara watched it



The Ronnie Horror Show: Being that traffic here is negligable, I don't usually just point people to more-travelled sites because I figure if you're paying enough attention to things to get this far, you've probably seen most of the stuff I look at already.

But let me just mention Dennis Perrin's latest post in which he indulges his admiration for the short-lived long-ago sketch comedy show Fridays -- which I never saw back when it aired -- by posting their 1980 post-election, pre-inaguration parody The Ronnie Horror Show. As someone who saw a lot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show back in the era, this wasn't funny solely because of the political content.


»  July 17, 2007


Poking the Nest: Slow learner and White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, at a press conference today:

And the answer is, every time you poke the hornet's nest they are bound to come back and push back on you. That doesn't suggest to me that we shouldn't be doing it.
In most cases, hornet "push back" consists of them pushing their stingers into your skin. And for most people -- those who are not masochistic to the point that they enjoy the sting of a good hornet or those mentally incapable of learning a fairly simple lesson -- there is a body of historical evidence and advice that supports the idea that you shouldn't poke hornet nests.

How Not to Get Stung

If you do happen to see a nest, there are few things you can do to avoid being stung:
  • Do not disturb the nest in anyway.
  • Do not make any loud noises.
  • Stay back from the nest.
  • Do not bother a hornet who is trying to go to its nest.
  • Do not disturb the air by moving your hands or arms around.
  • Do not breathe on the nest or on a hornet.
  • Never kill a hornet near its nest.
  • Do not break a hornet’s nest. It is much safer in one piece.
  • Do not attempt to remove a hornet’s nest in the middle of the day. Wait until it is cooler outside.



Run Away! Run Away!: Now it's just getting ridiculous.

The run to the center begins, with people like Rick Perlstein enabling the right wing in their demonization of leftists and "the left" by stepping up their campaign to get SIRIUS to change the name of the liberal talk channel on their satellite radio network from "SIRIUS Left" because the conservative channel is called "SIRIUS Patriot".

So now -- assuming anyone on the right is paying attention -- they'll be able to claim that Democrats and liberals are running away from the idea of being associated with the left. Because we all know that the left is a bad thing.

As a marketing plan, it might not have been a bad idea to work to get them to change the name. Although, if I was given the choice of listening to channels I didn't know anything about labeled "Patriot" and "Liberty", I'd probably leave the radio off, thinking that the former was a bunch of right-wing talkers who find that kind of ostentation necessary the way they need to drive Hummers to show they're big men, and that the latter was a 24-hour loop of George W. Bush speeches about "our liberties".

Stop being so scared people. People who disagree with you are going to call you leftists and communists and socialists and un-American. Hell, they're starting to call George W. Bush a liberal.If it isn't true, refute it or ignore it. If it is true, you can say: "Yes, I'm a leftist. Let me tell you about the wonders of socialized medicine."


»  July 16, 2007


Not SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio apparently has named their liberal and conservative channels "SIRIUS Left" and "SIRIUS Patriot", which has a number of people upset.

I have no problem with "Left". Not that I'm subscribing to SIRIUS. I'm a leftist. A patriotic leftist, but a leftist.

However, I do have some suggestions for those who are offended:

  • SIRIUS Blue
  • SIRIUS Good
  • SIRIUS Better
And some for the other side:
  1. SIRIUS Red (that ought to go over well)
  2. SIRIUS 27% (or whatever)


»  July 15, 2007


Dear Ron: Letter to Sen. Ron Wyden:

Dear Sen. Wyden:

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has proposed S. 185, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, which repeals portions of the 2006 Military Commissions Act that eliminated the a basic constitutional provision from our country's legal system.

More than half of the Democratic Senators have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors since it was put forward, as has one of the independents. I would like to know if you intend to co-sponsor or otherwise support the bill, if you feel there is some flaw in its implementation, or if you do not believe habeas corpus applies to persons covered by the Military Commissions Act and that it should not go through.

On an unrelated note, I'd like to express my profound disgust for the vote you and your colleagues made on the Lieberman amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. You've green-lighted the way for the administration to use cherry-picked intelligence as a reason for air strikes in Iran. One of the Republican presidential hopefuls -- who didn't even vote on the amendment -- said he was ready to preemptively strike Iran within hours of the resolution's passage, long before any of the reports have been churned out.

It's baffling to me that any of you think the administration can be trusted on even the smallest issues at this point, given their record. I hope you know what you're doing, but the past several months haven't exactly given me the impression that that's the case.



97-0: Aaaaaand, cue the missiles:

On Heels Of Senate’s Iran Vote, Brownback Declared I’m Ready To Strike Iran

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-0 to pass a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to censure Iran "for what it said was complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq." The resolution required the Bush administration to regularly report to Congress on Iran’s role in Iraq.


Validating the concern many felt, Sen. Sam Brownback appeared on Fox News shortly after the vote and declared he was ready to preemptively strike Iran. Host Sean Hannity asked Brownback, "There’s probably going to come a point for the next president that they’re going to have to determine whether to go out and have that preemptive strike. And you’re ready and would be ready to do that?"

"Yes, I am, and I think we have to be," Brownback answered. "Sean, if we’re going to be serious about this fight, and we’re in this fight, and probably for a generation. We’re probably in this fight for a generation."

Even before the first report! And Brownback sat out the vote!


»  July 13, 2007


Trivialized: ABC accidentally caught a portion of a post-debate chat between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards at the NAACP convention on Thursday:

The private discussion between Clinton and Edwards began when the former senator walked over to the former first lady to shake hands at the conclusion of the forum. The candidates were not aware that the microphone that Clinton was wearing was still transmitting sound.

"We've got to talk because they, they are, just being trivialized," Clinton said to Edwards.

"They are not serious," Edwards responded.

"No," Clinton said in agreement. "You know, I think there was an effort by our campaigns to do that. We got somehow, you know, detoured. But we've got to get back to that . . ."

Initially, I was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that the "they" Clinton referred to was the lower-polling candidates like Kucinich who has definitely been trivialized by allocation of smaller portions of time, but on a little more reflection, I think that they're discussing the debates themselves, and are probably going to call for the other candidates (like Mike Gravel, who lit into Bill Clinton's part in NAFTA) to be dropped in an effort to "un-trivialize" the show. I predict that they'll still be trivial. Raise your hand if you agree.


»  July 11, 2007


Clinton Did It (He Said 'Did It', Heh-heh): The outrage -- outrage! -- that the Bush administration would put a muzzle on Surgeon General Richard Carmona is fine, I guess. Carmona chose to keep his mouth shut rather than face getting fired from his cushy job doing what I don't know -- I'd really never heard much about him, so I guess the muzzling was pretty complete.

Who could blame him for assuming that if he crossed the administration that he'd be canned. After all, look at what happened to a previous Surgeon General who made remarks the boss didn't like. Jocelyn Elders was dumped by President Bill Clinton right quick when she said at a UN conference that teaching children about masturbation might be a way to prevent riskier sexual behavior and slow the spread of AIDS. Now that's what I call muzzled.

I can't find a clip of Elders saying the words that got her canned in context, but portions of it are in this piece assembled by someone who must have really loved Rush Limbaugh years ago at -- of all places -- Tualatin Valley Community Access.


»  July 10, 2007

What the...?  

Are You Going To Bermuda?: One thing I remember with great fondness during my brief stint in the mid-'80s as a volunteer disc jockey was running across the music of Texas garage band legend Roky Erickson, whose material was going through a bit of a revival. Pink Dust Records put out an album called Don't Slander Me in 1986, which I played to death in the cassette deck of my Pacer.

Don't Slander Me is a vocal extravaganza, like virtually everything of Erickson's. It was recorded several years earlier, after Erickson got out of the mental institutions where he spent much of the '70s.

The title track, "You Drive Me Crazy", and "Burn the Flames" -- a wild rant that equals Arthur ("I am the God of hellfire!") Brown's best -- are probably the best-loved by Roky fans, but I've always been partial to "Bermuda", which sets an amazing pace and drives to an exciting, hoarse finish.

Roky Erickson lived on the edge of everything for years, claiming that he was inhabited by a Martian, having trouble getting by on Social Security, until very recently when his brother managed to get guardianship and see that Roky got the treatment he needed.

He's started performing again the past couple of years, and today a documentary has been released about his story. He's scheduled to play at Bumbershoot in Seattle and rumor says he'll be here in Portland for MusicFest NW in September.

The DVD of the documentary is supposed to be here tomorrow.


»  July 9, 2007


La Question: Little bits and pieces of reality just seem to continue to confirm my sad conclusion that national security issues in this country are the province of people who are not too bright. at best.

Paul Aussaresses
In 2000, former colonel Paul Aussaresses talked more-or-less openly about his role in assassinations and torture during the Algerian War.

The 3-DVD set of Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers from The Criterion Collection includes a number of interesting extras that total more than four hours worth of material.

Paul Teitgen
Secretary-General of the Police, Paul Teitgen recounts the name (after General Marcel Bigeard) given to the countless bodies dumped at sea by the authorities. Teitgen had ordered that all arrests were to be recorded. Comparisons of records to prisoner rolls showed that more than 3,000 of 24,000 men taken into custody had "disappeared" in a year, which prompted Teitgen to resign.

Twenty-five minutes of that, though, is a disheartening discussion on the film and terrorism tactics between ABC News' Christopher Isham, former State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan, and former NSA counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke (the latter two are directors of Good Harbor Consulting). I say disheartening, because both of them seem to have entirely missed one of the most important and obvious points of the film and the real story of the Algerian War.

The Question
Journalist Henri Alleg was arrested and tortured, then held in prison camps. His account of his torture was smuggled out of the country and released in France as a book entitled The Question

First, let's start with the missed facts. In real life as well as in the movie, the FLN guerilla group in Algiers targeted soldiers and police until elements of the police and French civilian population started bombing apartment buildings in the Casbah section of the city. The FLN responds by planting bombs in restaurants and other civilian targets in the European sector. In the movie, the FLN leaders are shown preventing a mob from taking to the streets and being massacred by French police after the Casbah bombings by promising to avenge the dozens of deaths. Clarke and his friends elide the French bombings to use the film as an example of how terrorists attack civilians in an attempt to provoke a heavy-handed reprisal that will push the population over to their side. Maybe the story of the angry mob responding to an attack is false, but if it's not, then Clarke seems to have slipped a cog.

Much of the discussion between the three men focuses on the topic of how best to deal -- both militarily and politically -- with a terrorist insurgency. How do you tamp it down? How do you eradicate the leaders and defang the movement? How do you make the population love you and not the terrorists? Many words were bloviated but one very simple method was never referenced or even hinted at: stop oppressing the population. Stop torturing them. Stop massacring them. Stop handing a group of guerillas an enormous gift of all the reasons you suck. But no, Clarke and Sheehan never take on the question of whether you should be operating as a colonial occupier in the country in the first place.


»  July 3, 2007


Independence Day -- For Criminals!:

A.Q. Khan / AP photo
Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan recovers from prostate cancer treatment. AP photo.

I see that Edward Gomez at SFGate.com has already noted another bizarre juxtaposition of stories:

Around the world, it's summertime for criminals! Throw another shrimp on the barbie!

In the U.S., George W. Bush, Jr., with a stroke of his omnipotent pen, has pardoned [well, commuted -DP] Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's one-time top aide. Now, Libby, who committed perjury [and obstruction of justice] in a court case that investigated the violation of national-security law (in the revelation of the name of a former C.I.A. agent), will not have to go to jail. The faithful Republican has been rewarded for taking a hit for his most senior bosses - and has learned that crime pays.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where the U.S.-backed, democracy-crushing regime of dictator-general-president Pervez Musharraf has been increasingly, openly challenged by opponents demanding real democratic reform, reports have surfaced "that the government had eased restrictions on disgraced nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan."



Last Straws: The Scooter Libby decision seems to have driven a few people over the impeachment edge, for the moment at least. Because they're so mad about it. I just have to think, that of all the things you could be mad about, of all the things this administration has done that overreach authority and abuse power, Scooter Libby's commutation is about the most piss-poor excuse for impeachment I can think of. This was my response to one "last straw" rant.

You know, while I respect the urge to impeach, I really don't think it should be done because Bush and his buddies are smug, or that you or someone in Congress has finally reached the breaking point. Impeachment isn't a tool for retribution or payback. It actually has no penalty. It is not a replacement for criminal or civil trials. What it does is remove the reins of power from someone Congress deems unfit to hold them. That's not punishment. The power belongs to the people of the United States, and if their representatives decide to remove an officer of the United States, that is entirely within their rights and obligations.

It's the Constitutionally-prescribed method for preserving the democratic form of government in the United States of America. It's the bulwark that's supposed to shield the country from rule by fiat (small "f", not the Italian car company).

Which is why I -- as a long-standing advocate of impeachment -- have been wondering at the attitude of a lot of people on and on the other side of the fence for a long time now. Because for quite a while we've been derided as the crazies, the irrational fringe Bush-hating leftists who didn't have a lick of sense about the "reality" of impeachment. Sure, there are some nutjobs on the impeachment train, just as there were nutjobs against the Iraq war. David Duke was against the Iraq war. That didn't make the position inherently wrong any more than people who thought Bush was the Anti-Christ made impeachment wrong.

So I have to shake my head a bit that your anger is what drives you into the arms of the impeachment crazies. It should be common sense. It should be a rational decision, based on a knowledge of the facts and the realization that another eighteen months of this administration could be very, very ugly for America and the world.

It's irresponsible not to support a move to make the administration accountable. It might not work. But there's no reason to think that things are going to get any better in 2009, or that the Democrats have a lock on the White House, or that they'll continue to hold majorities in the Congress. A lot can happen between now and November 2008.



If Libby Did It:

The juxtaposition of the Libby commutation and the news (via Tom Tomorrow) about the family of murder victim Ron Goldman buying the rights to O.J. Simpson's cancelled If I Did It made me wonder how long it would be before this book was being peddled around. I've mocked up the cover, just to help move things along.

If Libby Did It


»  July 2, 2007


The Good News: More from that Washington Post story titled "A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease":

Since winning reelection 2 1/2 years ago, Bush has had few days of good news, and what few he has had rarely lasted.
FDR had over three terms of bad news. There was a Depression going on through his first couple of terms. Despite his efforts, it was a grim slog for the most part and he was aware of an oncoming threat from fascism in Europe and Japanese expansionism. The Nazis attacked Poland, France, England and elsewhere in his second term.

Then in his third term, the US was attacked at Pearl Harbor. I dare say that there may have been a few days of good news on the order of "The attack went well and not as many people on our side died as we thought would die," but it wasn't all vodka gimlets and sailing on the Potomac, wot?

Then he died at the beginning of his fourth. What a whiny Bush.



Diogenes the Texan: TBogg notes that the attempt to cast George Bush as a deep thinker continues with its own surge from the Washington Post:

At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.
What I thought of reading that passage was that the writer was somehow trying to cast Bush as Diogenes and how far off that observation was. Then, while I was checking my reference (because I read that story about the lantern and the "honest man" long, long ago), I looked at Wikipedia's entry on Diogenes and thought maybe the Post hadn't gotten it all that wrong:
The most shocking feature of his philosophy is his rejection of normal ideas about human decency. Performance artist, exhibitionist and philosopher, Diogenes is said to have eaten (and masturbated) in the marketplace, urinated on the man who insulted him, defecated in the ampitheatre, and pointed at people with his middle finger. Sympathizers considered him a devotee of reason and an exemplar of honesty. Detractors have said he was an obnoxious ragpicker and an offensive churl.
I guess that's the part they didn't put into the Golden Book Encyclopedia versions of the lives of the philosophers.

Bush Gives You the Finger