Saturday, November 01, 2003

Shoot High, Aim Low

It's long, so I won't bother excerpting anything but this NYT Mag article entitled "Blueprint for a Mess" should be on everyone's weekend reading list.

The Calling

Jeez. Prisoners are getting ripped off by phone companies.

Making it easy and inexpensive for them to maintain contact with their families would appear to be an obvious way to improve the odds of a succesful rehabilitation and return to the outside.

Damn, I used "Long Distance Runaround" too early.


I think I understand the disconnect of the Bushies who are at least in some cases genuine in their belief that the media isn't reporting the "true" story in Iraq. Consider this from the NYT:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — "I have come to hate the media," a senior aide to L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the occupational authority in Iraq, wrote in a recent e-mail message to family and friends. "I have worked in politics for a while and I have always, ALWAYS given them the benefit of the doubt. But, I simply cannot continue to sit here and say, `Oh well, they will turn around eventually and get the story straight.' "

The "straight story" the journalists are not reporting, she said, is the progress that has been made here in the last six months. "There is LIFE here," she wrote in her message, the latest in a continuing letter to the folks back home, which received wider circulation when one recipient sent it to many others, including officials who continued passing it along. "The streets are full of life," the message said. "There are children playing in the streets with other kids. . . . The markets are bustling. . . . People are crossing the streets, playing in traffic. Traffic jams are occurring."

Aside from the obvious "dog bites man" explanation for some of this, I think these people simply have fundamentally altered expectations of what "life" is like under adverse circumstances. Of course life goes on. The alternative is curling up under your bed in the fetal position and closing your eyes for 6 months straight.

Look, life went on in London during the Blitz. Life went on in France under occupation. People were eating and drinking and screwing and cracking jokes as the German army rolled into Russia. Life goes on under every authoritarian regime, throughout every war, and during every period of political instability. Life goes on in the crossfire of urban drug wars, during natural disasters, and everything else. Life went on under Saddam.

These people see every smiling face, every open market, every child walking down the street, as evidence that things are much better than the media is portraying. While we should applaud every instance of "normal life," they really aren't evidence of much of anything. Aside from the imposition of a 24 hour curfew, nothing much is going to stop "normal life" from happening.

But, what we also know is this:

In her e-mail message, Mr. Bremer's aide wrote, "I don't think anybody has a clue of what is really going on out here" except those who leave "their sheltered homes and come out here" from Washington to see the progress for themselves.

On that score, she would appear to be right. But she and the other Americans here typically do not mingle with ordinary Iraqis. The e-mail writer lives in a guarded compound and, as she noted in her message, must have an armed escort to go even a few blocks to get a pizza.

When reporters who do venture into the street meet Iraqis there, they aren't typically greeted with stories about all the schools built, or praise for what America has done. The Iraqis, typically, are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. Now they want security. They expect Americans to provide it. So far, Americans haven't been doing that to the Iraqis' satisfaction. And the Iraqis complain that reporters are not telling that part of the story strongly enough.

Read the whole article. It's quite interesting.

South Side of the Sky

More Murdoch family values:

Lawyers acting for the six men trying to stop Sky broadcasting a reality show in which they are seen unwittingly kissing and caressing a male transsexual are planning a litany of legal charges against the broadcaster, including conspiracy to commit sexual assualt.

The extent of the planned claims was disclosed today after law firm Schillings confirmed it was acting on behalf of the contestants.

Sky TV has been given until the end of today to shelve the show, There's Something About Miriam, due to be broadcast on November 16, or face court action.


The men claim they were tricked into kissing, cuddling and holding hands with Miriam and say it was only after three weeks of filming that they were told the beautiful woman was, in fact, a man.

While viewers would know from the start that Miriam is a male-to-female transsexual, the contestants - who include a Royal Marine commando, a ski instructor and an ex-lifeguard - only discover the truth when Miriam picks the winner and then lifts up "her" skirt.

One contestant was so furious he is said to have punched the show's producer when he found out.

I've always wondered how the networks, particularly Fox with its more deceptive reality shows like Joe Millionaire, manage to write the contracts with the show participants so that they don't get sued.
(via warliberal)

Lightning Strikes

Big Media Matt has the must-read post of the day.

More of this, and Matt will solidify his position as Michael Kinsley's heir apparent.

Big Generator

More on Fox. There's a bit more at the link.

From MATT GROSS, assistant editor, New York magazine:
As a former editor at -- and therefore clearly a disgruntled ex-employee -- let me just say that the right-wing bias was there in the newsroom, up-front and obvious, from the day a certain executive editor was sent down from the channel to bring us in line with their coverage. His first directive to us: Seek out stories that cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk radio and yell at their televisions. (Oh, how I'd love to stick quotation marks around what is nearly a direct quote.)

What followed was a dumbing-down of what had been an ambitious and talented news operation. Stories could be no more than 1,000 words, then 800 (I heard it was reduced further after I left, in March 2001). More and more effort was devoted to adapting FNC "scripts" into Web stories, which meant we were essentially correcting the errors of FNC "reporters" who couldn't be bothered to get the facts.

Five Per Cent For Nothing

I've made it policy, at least for the moment, of staying as-neutral-as-possible in the Democratic primary. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, it's early still. Two, I don't want this devolve into a "my candidate versus your candidate" fighting blog - there are more important things to focus on.

But, on the other hand, I can be bought - or at least advertising space can be bought. The Kerry campaign has purchased an ad, and while this shouldn't be seen as any endorsement by me, go check out what they're advertising.

And, if you're inclined to contribute to the Kerry campaign, feel free to do it through that link. (No, I don't get five percent - ad space is purchased for a time period).

Close to the Edge

A guardian of civil discourse on the right has gone as far as publishing a column which contains a "note from the friend" expressing the desire that all of the Democratic candidates fror president should be "lined up and shot."

Imagine the equivalent in a shrill Paul Krugman column. You can't. In fact, I started writing up a parody and stopped, figuring the secret service would be at my door if I did.

UPDATE: Ms. Parker is now saying they should be "lined up and slapped." Is she now misquoting her manly friend?

(and, this was via Counterspin which I inadvertently didn't link).'s a screenshot.

Friday, October 31, 2003


The Right Christians discusses a Volokher's defense of the Lochner legacy. This is a bit of judicial history I know nothing about, but it's reminiscent of the states' rights Calvinball we've gotten recently. Don't like what the federal government does - say it's a power reserved to the states. Don't like what a state does - declare it unconsitutional or superseded by federal law.

Long Distance Runaround

Nasty Nasty

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ten lawmakers whose trip to North Korea was canceled by the White House have sent a scathing letter to President Bush, complaining of the "arrogant and disrespectful" treatment from his national security advisers.

The five Republicans and five Democrats said they were offended "and believe you are being ill-served by your National Security Council staff." A copy of the 5 1/2-page letter, dated Thursday, was obtained by The Associated Press.


The lawmakers' letter said they don't believe a president has ever prohibited congressional travel, except to an active war zone.

"It is extremely ironic that in this case you canceled military transport of a bipartisan delegation that is in total and complete support of your state foreign policy agenda in North Korea," they said.

Weldon had contacted the White House within an hour of receiving the North Korean invitation on Oct. 13, the letter said. But it wasn't until Oct. 23, two days before the trip, that White House chief of staff Andrew Card called Weldon to say the administration was pulling its support for the trip. No one in the National Security Council staff had called before to express concerns about the trip, the lawmakers said.

The letter said there had also been problems related to a congressional delegation Weldon led to North Korea in May. Citing an unidentified military officer, it said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had called the Defense Department at one point to say the trip had been canceled. The Pentagon did not tell them the mission could leave until one day before the scheduled departure.

The letter said the National Security Council had "irresponsibly fabricated, with malicious intent, a rumor" that the May delegation had passed a 30-page document to North Korean officials, presenting it as "some type of sinister leak of information."

The document was actually a 48-page report on U.S.-Russians relation available on the Internet, the letter said.

Gates of Delirium

If two years ago I'd suggested that the political party which effectively ran all 3 branches of government would start demanding the right to review the content of television programs before they aired you all woulda called me crazy.

Incivility Throughout the Centuries

Arthur Silber gives us some nasty quotes from some nasty people.

Civil Disobedience

Kudos to all the students and others who are mirroring the Diebold memos.

I sorta moved away from this issue for awhile because I didn't want it to appear to be a partisan issue when it isn't, but them machines are scary.


The top one is priceless.

Bush Causes California Fires

I don't actually believe in politicizing everything, but on that score the Republicans usually start the battle so it's only fair to join in.

"The Bush administration took six months to evaluate Gov. Gray Davis' emergency request last spring for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California.

The request was finally denied Oct. 24, only hours before wildfires roared out of control in what has become the largest fire disaster in California history.

Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), a leader in the effort to get federal assistance for fire prevention, questioned Thursday why the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not rule sooner.

"FEMA's decision was wrong," Bono said. "The timing couldn't have been worse.... We knew this disaster was going to happen with certainty. It was only a matter of when, and we were trying to beat the clock with removing the dead trees."

If Davis had received the denial earlier, Bono said, he would have had time to wage an appeal."

Of course I don't really believe that Bush caused the fires, though obviously had this money come through in a timely fashion maybe they would have been less likely to happen or been weaker.

But, the wingnut Borg has for the past week been blaming...what else? Yep, you guessed it -- THE CLENIS -- for these fires, so I suppose I should be allowed to do likewise.

Girl Power

Locally a group of catholic school girls just attacked and beat up a man who had exposed himself to them on several occasions. It's hard not feel a little happy when the normal power dynamics are inverted, but I agree with Bob that this isn't exactly a "good thing," Vigilante justice should never be condoned, with the possible exception of when the legal system has completely failed (I'm thinking of, say,when racist murders go unprosecuted by local authorities).

The Memo

Let me join Political Wire and positively beg for any fed up FNC employee to leak the morning memos to the world.

Your Tax Dollars at Work


To get a job at the Orange County Rescue Mission near Los Angeles, you must sign a statement declaring, ``I have received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior'' and that you believe those who haven't will suffer ``eternal separation from God,'' according to the form provided by the mission.

The mission's aim is to ``reconstruct'' each homeless man and woman it shelters into a ``productive Christian member of society.'' To treat addicts, the mission uses ``the actual words of Jesus,'' according to the mission's Web site.

Bush and other administration officials have repeatedly said they find it just plain wrong that under the old rules the Orange County Rescue Mission was denied federal Housing and Urban Development funds because it refused to secularize.

``Government action like this is pure discrimination,'' Bush said in a speech this week in Dallas, again singling out the Orange County mission.

Ah, but things are changing.

Mission Accomplished

``After the regulations are finalized, groups like Orange County Rescue Mission will be able to apply for HUD funds while maintaining their religious identity,'' says a statement posted on the White House Web site.

History Lessons by Condi

So, Condi had this to say:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — President Bush's national security adviser said on Thursday that the Clinton and other past administrations had ignored evidence of growing terrorist threats and that despite repeated attacks on American interests, "until Sept. 11, the terrorists faced no sustained, systematic and global response" from the United States.

"They became emboldened," the adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said of Al Qaeda, "and the result was more terror and more victims."

It's interesting. A Nexis search of all major papers for "bush" and "al qaeda" before 9/11/01 reveals not one news report of Bush ever mentioning them. I did find this however - I wonder why this is never mentioned alongside the "Sudan Bin Laden offer" that Clinton was supposed to have turned down;

The Ottawa Citizen

February 5, 2001 Monday FINAL EDITION


The Taliban authorities will consider sending Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist behind the World Trade Center bombing, to a third country if the West will recognize them as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

"We hope the new American administration will be more flexible and engage with us," said Abdul Wakil Muttawakil, the Taliban foreign minister, as new UN sanctions begin to squeeze the hardline group.

Mr. Muttawakil has written to President George W. Bush saying his administration is prepared to resolve the Bin Laden issue through negotiations.

General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, said the suggestion of sending Bin Laden abroad appeared workable. He added it was not clear which country might provide sanctuary to the world's most wanted terrorist but Yemen had been mentioned.Pakistan is the closest ally of the conservative administration.

I have no idea if there was a reasonable workable deal or if officially recognizing the Taliban in exchange for it would have been a good idea, but all those basic caveats apply to the bogus "Clinton could have had Bin Laden" nonsense we always hear.

More on Civility

The day a mainstream columnist writes a column like this for a major paper, we can talk:

Bush's speech was one no minimally decent politician could have delivered. It was entirely dishonest, cheap, low. It was utterly hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts--bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in smarmy tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

Big Media Matt has more...

Norms of Civility

People can link to whomever they want to, but justifying your linking behavior based on some norms of civility and then linking to Andrew Sullivan is a bit, well...

My norm of civility is, roughly, tit for tat. I'm civil to people who are civil to me and "libruls" more generally, and I'm not civil to people who aren't. There's no point in trying to waste time grappling with why exactly Ann and Andy think I'm a traitor who secretly wants Osama and Saddam to establish a Muslim Theocracy in America, because after all theocracies are what liberals are all about!

More generally, there's no point in trying to get the people who have spent years debasing the political discourse in this country to elevate it. And, there's also no point in grappling with why exactly some people are now pretending that somehow it was those evil liberals who have lowered the quality of discourse.

It wasn't the Democrats that had HateRadio-Apalooza on the White House lawn.

Hack Lou's Xenophobia

Julian Sanchez has a nice article about Dobbs.

Reasonable people can have wildly different views about the appropriate levels of immigration, but Lou's reporting on this topic is straight from the land of bullshit.

A Letter to Zell

(via wyeth)

Senator Zell Miller
257 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Zell,

Saw you on Fox last night endorsing George Bush and trashing the Democratic Party, and just had to write.

You know I have been a lifelong supporter of yours. I wrote my first campaign check to you when I was still in law school, admired you as you fought Herman Talmadge, worked with you on Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign, and was never prouder to be a Georgia Democrat than when you gave the keynote address at the National Convention that nominated Bill Clinton.

After all, as Governor you established the HOPE scholarship so that every hardworking Georgia student could go to college, and focused on the “kitchen table” issues that affected working families.

When people called you “Zig-Zag” Zell, and said you had no fixed beliefs, I said your days damning the Civil Rights Act when you ran for Congress in 1964 and your years as Lester Maddox’s chief of staff were just a misspent youth. I pointed instead to your political courage in trying to take the Confederate battle emblem off the state flag, even though you bowed to political expediency and backed down from that fight.

Changing the flag may have cost Roy Barnes his job, but he left office with his character intact and his head high for standing for his beliefs regardless of the consequences.

As head of the Georgia Democratic Party I pushed for your appointment to the Senate, and chaired the meeting that put you on the ballot as our nominee. The party supported you as I and thousands of other Georgia Democrats worked to elect you. Together we raised every penny we could to help you and the entire ticket win election.

I didn’t hear a single complaint from you during that campaign about the Democratic Party.

I first became worried that you were bending your views to the political winds when you ducked the Democratic Convention that nominated Al Gore. You always had a “scheduling conflict“ when asked to appear at his Georgia campaign events. I got a little more concerned when your first major vote in the Senate was to gut labor regulations that would protect injured workers. I did wonder if you’d spent too much time on the Southern Company board and as a Philip Morris consultant when you worked against environmental and health regulations.

I held my tongue when you endorsed President Bush’s tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, and when you voted against Democratic attempts to spread those tax cuts to the middle class. And just this month you were the only Democrat to favor the Bush plan to gut overtime protections for American workers—a measure that 9 Republican Senators crossed the aisle to vote against.

Now, with the hot political wind blowing from conservative networks, talk radio and corporate boardrooms, when it’s become the fashion to bash the Democratic Party, you’ve joined in, writing a book betraying the people who stood behind every one of your campaigns—not party activists, but hardworking Georgia families. You cast stone after stone at Democrats. Your silly, petty, and often personal attacks remind me of no one more than your old boss, Lester Maddox.

To add insult to injury, you flatter Sonny Perdue, who was elected governor by campaigning on the same symbol of hate you tried to remove from the flag, with an inscription that says Georgia is in good hands. Remember Zell, this is the same Sonny Perdue who proposed a $900 million tax increase on the middle class the first week he was in office. The same Sonny Perdue who is looking to cut off the HOPE scholarship to the B average student in two-thirds of the rural counties in Georgia, meaning they won’t go to college—a move that would not only deny many Georgians a better life than their parents but also tarnish the only legacy you have left.

And now you’re kicking off your book tour by endorsing George W. Bush.

I thought a genuine ex-Marine like you would see through the phony flyboy “made for television” carrier stunt, especially now that Bush is blaming the troops for mistakenly bragging about a “mission accomplished.”

I thought you would remember that Bush opposed creating a Department of Homeland Security, until Karl Rove and polling told him he could shamelessly use the issue to question the patriotism of Senators like our friend Max Cleland, who, you’ll remember, left three limbs on the battlefield in Vietnam

I thought a man who claims to revere FDR like you, prides himself on being a penny pincher, and says he cares about kitchen table issues would see through Bush’s attempt to starve Social Security and Medicare by running up enormous deficits.

I thought the history professor in you would know that Republicans built their success in the South on appeals to race and that you would speak out as again this year, in Mississippi, Republicans campaign on the Confederate flag while George Bush stands by approving yet silent.

I even thought a man like you, who always rightly talks about how his widowed mother built her own home by hauling stones out of the local river, would insist that the Iraqi people contribute to the rebuilding of their own country. Instead, you voted last week, at President Bush’s insistence, against requiring Iraq to use its oil money to repay any of the $87 billion we’re spending on their country this year alone. I guess teaching W. a corps value of helping those who help themselves wasn’t on your book tour.

I do know his corporate friends won’t have forgotten what you’ve done in your few years in the Senate. Zell, you’ll excuse me if I don’t buy your book. I’ll let the corporate directorships you’ll soon get fund your retirement. I’m betting you’ll hit the trifecta—Philip Morris, Southern Company, and soon Halliburton. And you’ll excuse me if I don’t follow your advice on my vote for President. I prefer a candidate who did his growing up in Vietnam, like John Kerry, rather than AWOL from the Air National Guard, like your friend George.

You once wrote a country song with a great line: “Every place I’ve ever been was on my way back home.” Looks like you’re on you’re way back home, Zell, back to the hateful rhetoric of the Lester Maddox days, with frequent well-paid stops along the way in corporate boardrooms. Too bad that’s the final legacy you’re leaving.

In your finest hour as Governor, you said “You cannot lead with a finger to the wind and an ear to the ground. It is an undignified position.” Only now, as you teeter with your hindquarters in the air, do I fully understand how right you were.

Very truly,

David Worley
David Worley, an Atlanta attorney, is the immediate past Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia

(ajc link)

Craptacular Media

As Tristero notes, the fact that it takes some underfunded dude with a website to realize that you can easily un-redact redacted .pdf files should embarrass the hell out of our professional media.

Aside from all of the normal complaints about media bias, lazyness, etc... we do have a serious problem. Beltway journalism has simply become a battle of the quotes. One of the complaints that journalists make about bloggers is that they aren't doing real journalism. Sure, most of the stuff on this website is simply links to news stories with commentary. But, some of it is actual journalism - just not the kind of journalism that is commonly practiced today.

What I, and most (but not all) bloggers, don't do is get quotes from official sources. No senior administration officials here. But, what we do manage to do sometimes is come up with timely and revealing information which is relevant to current events. Journalists have a bias against "old news" - that is, if it was ever published somewhere, anywhere, it isn't "news." This makes the only "new" news either breaking news events, press releases, or new quotes from important people. That's a rather limited view of what journalism is.

There are of course great exceptions to this. A fairly recent one which comes to mind was the study done by OC Register who demonstrated that a local power company was likely gaming the system in California by using EPA emissions data to demonstrate the timing of electricity production.

Anyway, I'm not one who thinks that blogs will save the world - but I do think that bloggers are more likely to do the type of research that reporters largely avoid.

Someone wrote many of these same points recently - I believe it was in a letter to Romanesko, but I can't find it now...

Lord Help Us All


SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 30 - Wall Street is not the only one wooing Google. Microsoft is as well.

Google, the highflying Silicon Valley Web search company, recently began holding meetings with bankers in preparation for its highly anticipated initial public offering as it was still engaged in meetings of another kind: exploring a partnership or even a merger with Microsoft.

According to company executives and others briefed on the discussions, Microsoft - desperate to capture a slice of the popular and ad-generating search business - approached Google within the last two months to discuss options, including the possibility of a takeover.

While the overture appears to have gained little traction - Google indicated that it preferred the initial offering route, the executives said - it demonstrates the enormous importance that Google represents as both a competitive threat to Microsoft and as Silicon Valley's latest hope for a new financial boom.

Though seemingly spurned, Microsoft may still be interested in pursuing Google at a later date, according to an executive briefed on the discussions.

Let's hope MS is genuinely being spurned. Though others may contradict this, from what I've seen Google so far has been a pretty good, if not perfect, internet player. Let's hope it remains that way.


My God! It's full of idiots!

Ha Ha Ha Ha

Condi's hitting Monty Python territory.

Inverse Judo Flip

I'm sad to report I think Lou Dobbs is winning. I (we) managed to beat Wolf Blitzer into submission - he now usually, if not always, links to CNN's main page poll. Lou, however, has responded with increasingly ambiguously worded bizarre poll questions which are impossible to crack.

Today, however, he has crossed the line. The online poll he has up now says "Do you believe students should begin each school day reciting the pledge of allegiance without the phrase 'under God?"

I have to admit that's a work of art. A true masterpiece. If the answer is no, the implication is that students should "begin each school day reciting the pledge of allegiance with the phrase 'under God.'"

Okay, I'd grant him the Annual Goebbels-Luntz award for creative use of bullshit polls, except for one thing. Earlier the poll read "Do you believe students should begin each school day reciting the pledge of allegiance with or without the phrase 'under God?'"

All together now... HACK!

(thanks to David in Austin)

Shorter Easterbrook

Link to original.

Despite the fact that California receives only 76 cents for every $1 it sends to the federal government, I will still accuse the state of unfairly wanting other states to pay its bills.

To be fair, I'm sure he was unaware of this point. It isn't as if he's, like, a journalist or something.

I know I know, we're tired of poor Gregg, but at least it's a change of pace from Luskin.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Yay! Yet another cute nickname!

BAGHDAD, Iraq — World War II had its "krauts," Vietnam had its "gooks," and now, the war on terrorism has its own dehumanizing name: "hajji."

That's what many U.S. troops across Iraq and in coalition bases in Kuwait now call anyone from the Middle East or South Asia. Soldiers who served in Afghanistan say it also is used there.


Among Muslims, the word is used mainly as a title of respect. It means "one who has made the hajj," the pilgrimage to Mecca.

But that's not how soldiers use it.

Some talk about "killing some hajjis" or "mowing down some hajjis." One soldier in Iraq inked "Hodgie Killer" onto his footlocker.

Hearts and minds.

Neal Pollack on Daily Show

Coming up. Unless they switch him out again.

More Kudos to Adler

I assume they're the same person, though I can't be sure.

Jonathan H. Adler

Lakewood's business and political leaders are right to be concerned about the fu ture of their city. Economic renewal is important for Lakewood and much of Greater Cleveland. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing conventional methods of economic development, the Lakewood political class has decided to sacrifice the property rights of West End residents by forcibly seizing their homes to pave the way for luxury homes and high-end retail development. Even valid concerns about the city's tax base do not justify trampling the rights of private property owners. Using the government's power of eminent domain to forcibly seize the property of longtime residents and transfer it to private developers is unjust and contrary to core constitutional values.

Both the U.S. and the Ohio constitutions provide that private property may be taken only for public use and with just compensation. Historically, this was understood to mean that government could take private property through eminent domain only when the land was to be put to a truly public purpose, such as the construction of bridges, railroads, military facilities and various public works; "public necessity" justified the taking of private land.

The abuse of eminent domain by state and local governments is a constant problem. At issue is the fact that the value of the land post re-development is greater than the value of the individual plots pre re-development. That is, when the land is converted to a new use its price goes up. Developers want to grab large parcels of land paying only market price (or less) for the existing individual properties, instead of paying either what the property owners would be willing to sell for or what the entire parcel is actually worth to the developers.

Land assembly can always be a problem - if you're trying to convert a city block to some new use, and there's one holdout, then the entire project can be sunk. If that project is, say, a new school - fine, bring on the eminent domain. But, if it's new luxury condos or McMansions....

Luskin Flashback

From the Street

The worst solution to the problem of manipulation on discussion boards is to shift the responsibility for enforcement from the regulators to the board sponsors. The host of an online discussion board is no more in a position to monitor and assure the quality of every posted message than a "common carrier" such as AT&T is to monitor every utterance made over its telephone network.

There is a long legal tradition of the exemption of common carriers from such unbearable burdens. Section 509(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in 1996, states: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Parts of the act were overturned by the Supreme Court, but this section still stands. At least two federal court decisions have enforced this statute in favor of America Online. This is analogous to the court rulings that have absolved newspapers and magazines from undue burdens in quality-assuring letters to the editor.


Discussion boards are valuable forums for sharing information and debating stocks and markets. The simple adaptation of regulations I have proposed would stop most of the worst abuses. But let's not do anything draconian that might have the effect of inhibiting the freewheeling, empowering nature of online discussion boards. Let's not destroy the village in order to save it.

The regulations he refers to are SEC or NASD rules preventing anonymous postings by professional brokers.

(from World O'Crap)

The Corner Chimes In

Kudos to Adler.

I'm anything but an Atrios fan -- and I appreciate a good Krugman takedown as much as the next guy -- but what's Luskin thinking with this.

The real question is, what is NRO thinking?

...Robert George too. George is about the only one over there I have much respect for (though, I don't read enough to have an opinion about many of them)

New Jobless Claims Fall Every Single Week

They've discovered a way for new jobless claims to fall every week while simultaneously remaining exactly the same.

Tweety Revolts

It's no secret that Tweety plays a much more reasonable guy in reality than the drooling suckup character he plays on Hardball. Or, at least, he panders to his audience no matter who they are. But, it looks like someone told the White House...

See Dick run ... the U.S.?

Vice President Dick Cheney better remain in a secure, undisclosed location - at least if MSNBC's Chris Matthews is lurking.

Speaking at Brown University this week, the "Hardball" player told students that the White House's rationale for invading Iraq was "totally dishonest" and that the Veep "is behind it all. The whole neo-conservative power vortex, it all goes through his office. He has become the chief executive ...It's scary."

Cheney and the neo-cons saw in George W. Bush "a man who never read any books, who didn't think too deeply, and they gave him something to think about for the first time in his life," Matthews said, according to Rhode Island's Woonsocket Call.

A White House spokesman tells us Matthews' analysis is "disrespectful, totally false and irresponsible. Mr. Matthews has lost touch with reality. The President made the decision to go to war using the same facts as the previous administration and the United Nations, which judged Saddam Hussein as a threat to the region."

Ha Ha[/muntz]

Armed Man in Cannon House Office Building

MSNBC reporting.

...toy gun, part of halloween costume.

Balkin on Luskin

The Yale law professor offers an opinion.

What's most upsetting is that he is employing a frivolous lawsuit in order to punish someone for exercising their First Amendment rights and that he is piggybacking an abusive subpoena to expose Atrios' identity. So he's not only engaged in frivolous litigation (aren't conservatives against frivolous lawsuits?), but also an abuse of the discovery process (aren't conservatives opposed to the dirty tricks of trial lawyers?). I guess Luskin is only opposed to frivolous lawsuits by other people, and dirty tricks by lawyers who are not representing him.

That's a protected statement of opinion too, by the way.

Busy Morning

Many many emails to read.

Nice Doggie

The Nice Doggie does the right thing. Go pat him on the head and give him a bone.

Colmes on CSPAN

Call in and ask him about the "morning memo."

Bad News Rising

Jesse Berney has some advance news.

I think it's time to mobilize the first infantry chickenblogger division myself.


Scary stuff:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, important buildings in the capitals bristle with gun-toting Americans in sunglasses. They favor khaki photographers' vests and a few military accoutrements, but lack the name tags and identifying patches of a soldier.

Ask who they work for and one often hears "no comment" or "I can't tell you that."

Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops.

Global Risks Strategies, a security firm with about 1,100 workers on the ground - mainly armed former Nepalese and Fijian soldiers - is among security companies that have more personnel in Iraq than some other countries taking part in the occupation, Singer said.

To the consternation of U.S. lawmakers, there is little or no Congressional oversight of contractors hired by the executive branch of government - whether through the State Department, Pentagon or the CIA.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A roundup of comments

War Liberal.
Tim Lambert
Tom Tomorrow
Rittenhouse Review
Pandagon 2
A. Pollak
Major Barbara
Tristero and Tristero 2 and Tristero 3
Joe V
18 Minute Gap
Light of Reason
The Poor Man
Pesky Fly
League of Liberals
Armed Liberal , with gratuitous insult!
En Banc
Brad DeLong
Randy Paul
Tom Spencer
Invisible Library
Talking Dog
John Moltz thing, all, I haven't been sued. I've been informed that blogger will be subpoenad in order to unearth my identity and that "further legal action will be taken" if I fail to comply with the demands.

(if anyone wants to get the Slashdot geeks interested in this story...)


Someone's been posing as Matt Margolis in the comments section and saying some pretty offensive things. Please don't. I know people jokingly post as public figures at times, and that's fine because we all know it's a joke, but since Margolis isn't exactly a household name the joke isn't obvious.

Margolis wants everyone to know that he has no intention of posting comments here, so if anyone does it isn't him.

(for the record, the real Matt Margolis says some pretty offensive things as well, but the fake one went beyond that...)

Inside the Beast

Life at Fox News:

From CHARLIE REINA: So Chris Wallace says Fox News Channel really is fair and balanced. Well, I guess that settles it. We can all go home now. I mean, so what if Wallace's salary as Fox's newest big-name anchor ends with a whole lot of zeroes? So what if he hasn't spent a day in the FNC newsroom yet?

My advice to the pundits: If you really want to know about bias at Fox, talk to the grunts who work there - the desk assistants, tape editors, writers, researchers and assorted producers who have to deal with it every day. Ask enough of them what goes on, promise them anonymity, and you'll get the real story.

The fact is, daily life at FNC is all about management politics. I say this having served six years there - as producer of the media criticism show, News Watch, as a writer/producer of specials and (for the last year of my stay) as a newsroom copy editor. Not once in the 20+ years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox - including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America - did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn't warning me to "be careful" how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan ("You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him."), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean ("You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don't get the last word.")

Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct. First of all, it's a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, "Roger's Revenge" - against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are non-union, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss.

Sometimes, this eagerness to serve Fox's ideological interests goes even beyond what management expects. For example, in June of last year, when a California judge ruled the Pledge of Allegiance's "Under God" wording unconstitutional, FNC's newsroom chief ordered the judge's mailing address and phone number put on the screen. The anchor, reading from the Teleprompter, found himself explaining that Fox was taking this unusual step so viewers could go directly to the judge and get "as much information as possible" about his decision. To their credit, the big bosses recognized that their underling's transparent attempt to serve their political interests might well threaten the judge's physical safety and ordered the offending information removed from the screen as soon as they saw it. A few months later, this same eager-to-please newsroom chief ordered the removal of a graphic quoting UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as saying his team had not yet found WMDs in Iraq. Fortunately, the electronic equipment was quicker on the uptake (and less susceptible to office politics) than the toady and displayed the graphic before his order could be obeyed.

But the roots of FNC's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it.

The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious - information on who is where and what they'll be covering - there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors' copy. For instance, from the March 20th memo: "There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan's remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are 'with the Iraqi people.' One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought." Can there be any doubt that the memo was offering not only "food for thought," but a direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go? Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary General's remarks as "utterly incomprehensible"?

The sad truth is, such subtlety is often all it takes to send Fox's newsroom personnel into action - or inaction, as the case may be. One day this past spring, just after the U.S. invaded Iraq, The Memo warned us that anti-war protesters would be "whining" about U.S. bombs killing Iraqi civilians, and suggested they could tell that to the families of American soldiers dying there. Editing copy that morning, I was not surprised when an eager young producer killed a correspondent's report on the day's fighting - simply because it included a brief shot of children in an Iraqi hospital.

These are not isolated incidents at Fox News Channel, where virtually no one of authority in the newsroom makes a move unmeasured against management's politics, actual or perceived. At the Fair and Balanced network, everyone knows management's point of view, and, in case they're not sure how to get it on air, The Memo is there to remind them.

Donald Luskin Greatest Hits

Luskin encourages readers to assault Krugman with a pie.

Luskin article about Krugman has title "We Stalked. He Balked."

Instapundit says Luskin is stalking Krugman.

Luskin accuses Bobby, who runs the Paul Krugman archive, of a cyber-crime.

Luskin accuses Paul Krugman of falsifying his academic credentials when he states "He masquerades as an economic scientist." (thanks to Sadly, No.)

Calling All Right Wing Bloggers

Obviously this kind of thing has a potential chilling effect on all of us - bloggers, anyone who posts comments, etc. This is a nuisance suit without any legal merit, with the not veiled threat to "out" me as the real purpose.

So, I would suggest that bloggers do what bloggers can do - and delink this guy if you have him on the blogroll. Over to you, AG Android.

In my correspondence with Luskin he asked that I take down the post because of the comments, and said I had an obligation to do so. I asked if he meant a legal or ethical obligation, and he didn't respond. I then informed him that if he would tell me which comments he specifically was unhappy with I would be happy to delete them. He declined this offer, and said I should just take them all down.


Here specifically is what I wrote to him:

There are a lot of comments. I'm sure not all of them fit your definition, and I cannot determine which ones do. I can't delete all of the comments without deleting the post, and deleting them one by one would take a very very long time.

If you would like to send me the links to the specific comments (the "#" after each post in the comments box) that you consider troubling, I'd be happy to take a look.

We Get Letters


October 29, 2003

Author and Publisher of “Eschaton” Weblog

Dear “Atrios”:

This firm represents Donald L. Luskin, a Contributing Editor to National Review Online and author and host of, among other activities. You recently linked to Mr. Luskin’s October 7, 2003, posting on his website entitled “Face To Face With Evil,” in which he chronicles his attendance at a lecture and book signing presented by Paul Krugman. You chose the unfortunate caption “Diary of a Stalker” for your link. More importantly, your readers, in responding to your invitation to comment, have posted numerous libelous statements regarding Mr. Luskin. Picking up on the theme you introduced, several have made false assertions that Mr. Luskin has committed the crime of stalking. Such a statement constitutes libel per se, an actionable tort subjecting both the author and the publisher to liability for both actual and punitive damages. As a result of your control over and participation in the comment section of your site, as well as the fact that Mr. Luskin has personally brought these libelous comments to your attention already, you face personal liability for their distribution. Determining your identity for the purpose of making service of process can be easily accomplished through a subpoena to

Other posters have made similarly actionable statements, straying beyond mere expressions of opinion and making false and defamatory statements of alleged fact. One has even threatened physical violence. To permit these posts to remain on your web site would be utterly reckless.

Mr. Luskin demands that you remove the October 7th link and caption, and the comments section associated with that caption, as well as the comments posted in response to another link that you posted on October 10th, titled “Liberal Incivility Watch,” immediately. This is your opportunity to resolve this matter without legal expense and exposure to liability and damages. If the offending posts are not removed within 72 hours, further legal action will be taken.



Jeffrey J. Upton

Banner Day

May 4, 2003 WaPo:

Still, it's also impossible to agree with the banner that was draped near Mr. Bush on the carrier deck, proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." Aides say the slogan was chosen in part to mark a presidential turn toward domestic affairs as his campaign for reelection approaches.

Third Party Consent

Here's a novel legal idea:

DENVER -- Two years after a woman alleged she was gang-raped by University of Colorado football players and recruits, court documents suggest the men escaped charges because prosecutors thought they had "third party consent" to have sex with the drunken, sleeping woman.

The alleged assault by several players and recruits took place at an off-campus party during a "recruiting weekend" intended to persuade high school players to join the team.

Although prosecutors believed the woman's account, they decided against filing charges because the men had been promised sex by a player and a student who organized the party, according to a lawsuit filed against the university by the woman.

"They had been built up by the players to believe that the situation they were going into was specifically to provide them with sex," Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a sworn statement included in a court filing Monday.

"Their mind-set coming into it was that it was consensual because they had been told it had been set up for that very purpose, and that's what was going to happen," Keenan's statement said.

Obligatory Easterbrook joke - "It isn't rape, she didn't even say no!"

Take the Ball and Go Home

So, now the new rumor is that the Bushies are planning to start withdrawing from Iraq in March. This jibes with Bush's rumored "no more fatalities after March" demand.

I have no doubt that right now the strategy is to find some way to at least appear as if they're withdrawing, though how they'd pull that off I have no idea.

UPDATE: Reader lt writes in:

If you want to know how Bush will make it look like they're pulling the troops out of Iraq, but not actually do it, read what I wrote to a friend on Oct 9, 2003:

I strongly suspect that Bush's recent move to bring "control" of the whole Iraq mess into the White House and give it to the clearly less than capable and very un-military Condi Rice is the first shot in a one year plan that will go something like this: they'll pressure the Iraq Governing Council to spit out a "constitution" by early next spring. They will hold some sort of fake "election" in the early summer. Along about August, Bush will declare that our forces have been "victorious" against the forces of evil, that Iraq is "stable," and that "our troops are coming home." TV screens beginning the week before the Republican convention until November will be filled with shots of returning troops being welcomed by loved ones. Sometime in October, they’ll bring back the remnants of an actual division or brigade – civilians don’t know the difference and couldn’t care less -- and Bush will be head cheerleader for a parade in some state he’s behind in. By the end of October, there will be a far more sober "mission accomplished" photo op, maybe at Arlington, “honoring the brave” who gave their lives, and Bush will gravely announce that our job is done and our troops are continuing to return home, and the TV screens will show yet even more teary-eyed wives being hugged by returning troops...

Meanwhile, since no one will be doing an actual, on-the-ground count, there wil still be 100,000 or so troops in Iraq and another 25,000 or so parked in Kuwait and another 15,000 or so in the region stationed at Air Force bases and on ships in the Gulf.

The whole thing will be a “reality” TV show scripted by Rove – “Survivor” for the political classes, “Fear Factor” for the troops hired as extras still facing daily attacks.

That's roughly what I had in mind, but I just don't think they can get away with it. If they could pull the troops down to about 40,000 and the daily body bag stops happening, sure, but otherwise...

Mow the Whole Place Down

Trent Lott, offering up his hearts and minds strategy:

"Honestly, it's a little tougher than I thought it was going to be," Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: "If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out."

More on Framing

Digby has some good stuff up about it here.

Andy Again

A lot of people don't seem to understand why I posted the Sullivan contrast. For some, it seems that simply posting his own words, which was all I did, is off limits.

Like everything else he writes about, Sullivan's imaginings of the "gay image" has evolved over time. He never acknowledges that his opinion has changed, and more importantly he's always on the attack. Once upon a time he attacked "muscle queens" until he became one. He attacked "leather queens" until he became one. And, he's always barking about the media image of gay people - not to make some reasonable general point about stereotypes, but simply because it doesn't conform to what he is at that moment.

It's dishonest narcissism posing as social commentary. It's how he is on every issue. Once upon a time (and still does) he blasted certain media people for violating people's "sexual privacy" by outing them, and then one day he himself outed a few public figures in a NYT Magazine article.

It's fair to change your mind, but when you do it's reasonable to acknowledge that you have...and more reasonable to not adopt the strident tone you previously took as if you were never on the other side of the issue.

All this wouldn't matter one bit if Sullivan weren't the media Spokesperson for Gay America, but he is.

Crazy Camille

I'm not even going to read it. Discuss here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Andy S. Then and Now

Okay, I admit this post is going to require a bit of brain bleach, but here goes. Then:

It being Easter, the streets were dotted with the usual hairy-backed homos - this time in large, floral Easter bonnets. I saw one hirsute fellow dressed from head to toe in flamingo motifs. And they say it's not a culture. The afternoon beer-bust at the Eagle, a San Francisco ritual, was, however, a bust. Rarely have I seen such a scary crowd - and in the full glare of the afternoon sun. At times, it seems that San Francisco is almost frozen in time - roughly 1977. Gay life in the rest of the U.S. is increasingly suburban, mainstream, assimilable. Here in the belly of the beast, Village People look-alikes predominate; and sex is still central to the culture. This can be fun for a tourist, but I'd go nuts if I had to live here full-time.


"The bear phenomenon is real and strong and one of themost hopeful cultural trends in gay life right now.But among many younger gay men, the bear thing stillresonates with prejudiced notions of fat, older guys, who are rationalizing their own unattractiveness. The gyms and bars are still full of the feminized, shaved, plucked, exfoliated creatures that dominate the fashion ads. On 'Queer Eye,' the Fab Five have recommended that even straight guys trim, shave or remove what makes them sexy."


"Hairy backs do not lessen my sexual attraction to another guy: their extreme masculinity -- and their comfort with it, more than anything -- is deeply attractive. I'll leave the joys of hairy asses to others (although my own dismay at being what the personal ads call 'lightly hairy' on my upper body is immensely relieved by the fact that my genes covered me in hair from the waist down). And there is nothing more masculine than the weather-pattern of hair-cyclones on a chest leading to a thick, dense trail of hairiness down to the crotch. Anyone who shaves off this natural masterpiece is a vandal."

--Gay writer Andrew Sullivan in New York City's H/X,
Oct. 16.

Shorter Andrew Sullivan:

Now that I'm hairy, old, and chubby, I will declare hairy, old, and chubby to be the male physical ideal.

Where's Drudge?

I'm a bit surprised. I would've thought he would have been all over the "Cher on C-Span" thing.


According to the eggman, here are the latest prime time cable news ratings:


The obvious observation is that the ratings continue to decline across the board for the news networks. The other observation is that on CNN the most "liberal" guy, Brown,* is beating Anderson (fairly neutral) and Zahn (ex-Fox), though comparing across time slots is admittedly problematic.

*Brown, of course, isn't nearly as "liberal" as any of the Fox conservatives are conservative. Hell, he isn't even as liberal as Colmes. He's just, as Alterman put it, "not obviously insane," though he's light years away from being a partisan Democrat.

Fox News Style Guide

Someone needs to tell Fox News that the new president approved media style guide calls them "suiciders" and not "homicide bombers."

Phone Call

Mrs. Atrios is an immigrant, though she was a citizen before we met. Her last name pretty much identifies what her native language is, though there are assuredly people living here with her last name who are not recent immigrants and are not able to speak that language.

I just answered the phone and had someone speak to me in the language. I assumed initially it was a family member, but when the person on the phone switched to English he informed me that he was calling to encourage my wife to vote for Sam Katz (R) for mayor.

Anyway, it was a rather odd experience. On one hand I supppose it's a pretty sophisticated approach - on the other hand it's a bit disturbing that it's assumed that by virtue of her last name she would speak the language. She isn't a member of any group or anything which would put her on an ethnicity-specific mailing list, so they had to just be going by the name.

But, the good news is that Mayor "bugged office" Street is pulling ahead of Katz.... It's no doubt the result of Street scoring the crucial Rittenhouse Review endorsement.

Racicot Flashback

From 2000:

Montana Gov. Marc Racicot has taken it a step farther and officially blamed Clinton administration policy for causing this summer's conflagrations. "On their watch, they have not made forest health a priority," Racicot recently said on ABC's "This Week." Racicot claimed that although fire is a natural process in western forests, fire management and resulting fuel buildup has created, "a situation that is unnatural," and thus, this summer's fires.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Now now, it appears what Bush said could be technically true. As the Horse notes, Bush said:

The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff..."

I'm sure the sign was put up by the "members" (?) of the USS Lincoln. But, the Navy is now saying that the White House produced the sign.

BILL PRESS: Bush said...the crew of the ship put that sign up. Now we find out the White House has just confirmed, we just got this handed to us...Senior Navy officials now confirm the sign was in fact produced by the White House.

Bush in 30 Seconds

From Moby:

ok, so here's the information on the contest that i'm organizing with, david fenton, lee solomon, jonathan soros and laura dawn.
the contest is called 'bushin30seconds', and for the contest anyone can make & submit a 30 second tv ad that is somehow based around 'the truth about george bush'.
the ads will be put up on our website ( and will be voted on by moveon's 2 million subscribers and the general public.
10 finalist ads (or 15 finalist ads) will then be chosen and sent to our celebrity judges, who at present are:

Jack Black
Donna Brazile
James Carville
Margaret Cho
David Fenton
Janeane Garafalo
Stan Greenberg
Michael Moore
Mark Pellington
Tony Shalhoub
Michael Stipe
Gus Van Sant
Eddie Vedder

and a winner (or possibly winners) will be chosen and broadcast on tv before george bush's january state of the union address.
the idea behind the ad is best summed up in eli's 'why we're doing this' essay:

"Year after year, a few dozen Washington consultants make the great majority of political ads. They look the same, they sound the same and even the actors seem familiar.
Perhaps as a result, voters tune out, even when there are critically important messages to convey.

For the last three years, President Bush's policies have ransacked the environment, put our national security at risk, damaged our economy, and redistributed wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest Americans. Yet thanks to a complacent media, the President has managed to hide behind a carefully constructed "compassionate" image. As the 2004 election nears, it's crucial that voters understand what President Bush's policies really mean for our country. And to do that, we need creative new ads that clearly show what's at stake.

Thats why we decided to launch Bush in 30 Seconds, an ad contest that's intended to bring new talent and new messages into the world of mainstream political advertising.
We're looking for the ad that best explains what this President and his policies are really about -- in only 30 seconds.

The Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest has been developed and run by a small team of people:
Laura Dawn, David Fenton, Moby, Eli Pariser, Lee Solomon, and Jonathan Soros. We've come together because we believe that by tapping into the vast talent pool of creative people beyond the Beltway, we'll find the right messages and ads to expose the failure of President Bush's policies.
Legally, Bush in 30 Seconds is a project of the Voter Fund, a new 527 fund affiliated with, the pre-eminent online advocacy group in the United States. The Voter Fund's mission is to create and run powerful political ads in swing states to challenge President Bush's policies and his administration."

so please go and look at '', and, if you feel inspired, make an ad and help us to tell the truth about george bush.

I wanna be a celebrity judge too!

We'll Out Who We Want to Out

Signorile has a good column on the media's laughable "standards" about private lives.

Anyone who has followed my ramblings for even a short period of time knows that I am not in the slightest opposed to journalists reporting on public figures’ sexual orientation–whatever it may be–when relevant to a larger story. I have also excoriated much of the media for running from an uncomfortable issue, hiding behind the banner of the "respect for privacy" though, in fact, when it comes to heterosexual public figures, they threw privacy out the window eons ago. And the argument can certainly be made that David Gest has opened himself up to this kind of inquiry, putting all the wacky intimate matters between him and Minnelli onto the front pages.

But why does Fox only out the freaks? If we’re going to be fair and balanced about it, how about outing all of those family-friendly celebrities –including the conservative ones on the country music circuit–who get into sham marriages and join radical Christian sects or the Church of Scientology in a desperate effort to conceal their homosexuality, and who have pasts that would make David Gest’s pale?

Or how about those Republican members of Congress who are gay and try to pawn themselves off as straight while they pander to the religious right, one of which was outed in the Florida papers a few months ago?

Mission Accomplished

" I am happy to see you, an so are the long-suffering people of Iraq. America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished."

-Bush to troops in Qatar, 6/05/03.

(via Kos)

Don't Tell Tim Graham

Tim Robbins will host a Johnny Cash tribute concert.

Here's what corner-dweller Graham had to say about Cash's death:

Rest in peace, Johnny Cash. For many red-staters, this resonates deep.


It appears that the romantic "fantasy" that had Kennedy lived, Vietnam would never have escalated, might actually be true.

Press Conference

I didn't see it, and I haven't read the transcript yet, but here it is. Snark on!

Stupid Radio Hosts

I try to be fairly lenient when it comes to radio hosts - anyone who spends an hour or more doing unscripted talk is going to slip up every now and then, but listening to NPR earlier something really pissed me off. I'm not sure which show it was, but the host was discussing the case of Eloy Amador - the Mexican-American man who was ordered by a judge not to speak "that Hispanic language" to his 5 year old daughter.

The host had a guy on who was against the judge's ruling, so it's fair enough that the host took "the other side" to play devil's advocate. However, at one point the host was explaining the judge's and mother's reasoning - that the daughter would get confused when she went to her father's because things were different - he would speak Spanish to her and feed her "Spanish food."

Oy. For all I know he was serving up some righteous paella, but somehow I doubt it.


Wow, I didn't know that Easterbrook was an Intelligent Design wanker, too.

...Crooked Timber does a much better job than I did on his "Spiritual Plane" nonsense.

Free Market Conservatives

NY Post:

New York Post publisher Lachlan Murdoch conceded that the tabloid was losing close to $40 million annually.

"Yeah," Murdoch the younger said when asked last year about the $40 million by Ken Auletta, The New Yorker's media writer.

The Post has lost more than $500 million since he first took it over in 1975, Auletta reports.

According to the author, when former News publisher James Hoge once said to Murdoch the Post had to be losing $20 million a year, the media mogul remarked, "That's one week's interest to me."

Murdoch's News Corp. declined to comment yesterday.

Just What the Country Needs

Another Republican who can't keep his zipper zipped.

Well Lit Pumpkin

Excellent Toles toon.

Rock the Vote

Rock the Vote is having a voter registration contest.

The Man Comes Around

Awhile back a generous reader purchased Cash's last CD, The Man Comes Around, for me from my wishlist. This person requested that I write a review of it, so somewhat belatedly I'm obliging.

Let my preface this by saying I wouldn't classify myself as a Johnny Cash fan. I have only a general familiarity with his work, and have only recently become more of a fan of the broad "folk/country singer-songwriter genre."

I find that the CD is oddly less than the sum of its parts. That isn't actually meant to be a harsh assessment - it's more that Cash's songs tend to, in isolation, have a surprising power which is diluted when they're strung together. I prefer to listen to a couple of songs and move on, instead of listening to the whole CD at once.

Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails's "Hurt" alone is worth the 13 bucks. Not since L.L. Cool J's performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out" on MTV's Unplugged has the quality of a song been so revealed by its acoustic deconstruction. I can do without the cover of "Desperado," but otherwise this is a great CD, even if it's best taken in small doses.

Here ends my career is a rock critic.

New Laptop

Just wanted to say - my new laptop rocks! And thank the generous person who got it for me, as well as everyone else who had contributed. I think I managed to send off thank-you emails to about 3/4 of you, so apologies if you were missed.


I'm not entirely sure why, but to me the California fires are really quite disturbing (obviously they're disturbing to the victims). Fortunately the death toll isn't very high, and probably won't get very high, but nonetheless a lot of people are in a world of hurt right now. Assuming they're all reasonably insured, and assuming the insurance companies don't jerk them around, the disruptions to their lives are to some degree only temporary.

Personally, I've moved around so much and I don't have kids, so I've never really established a "Home" in the grander sense. And, I've never really been one to have strong connections to "stuff." But, I understand people who do have those things. In addition, homeowners in California tend to stay put for a long time, largely due to the odd property tax laws. Given this, and home prices, many people have their entire wealth in their homes. Again, one assumes insurance covers most of it, but nonetheless.

When I lived in OC I lived in the shadow of a hilltop community which had been decimated by fire a decade ago. The town still hadn't rebounded mentally, as far as I could tell, even though the houses had been rebuilt.

Riversbend Mystery Likely Solved

See here.

Sucks to be Them

It's pretty easy to conclude from this article that firefighters in CA face an obvious choice -- pick and choose their battles more narrowly and have some success or fight fire wherever it springs up ineffectually. The former, even if it's the correct strategy, forces them to choose between neighborhoods.

The winner? Arnold - excuse to not lower the car tax he didn't have the power to lower (nor Davis the power to raise.)

Monday, October 27, 2003

Angry Fire

This picture, captioned by the NYT as "Flames removed the homes along a street in the Scripps Ranch section of San Diego almost surgically, leaving much of the greenery intact" is creepy.


I find it pretty frightening that TNR is paying Easterbrook to write the equivalent of a late night (stoned) college dorm conversation. His concluding paragraph:

Yet if at Yale, Princeton, Stanford, or top schools, you proposed that there exists just one unobservable dimension--the plane of the spirit--and that it is real despite our inability to sense it directly, you'd be laughed out of the room. Or conversation would grind to a halt to avoid offending your irrational religious superstitions.

To modern thought, one extra spiritual dimension is a preposterous idea, while the notion that there are incredible numbers of extra physical dimensions gives no pause. Yet which idea sounds more implausible--one unseen dimension or billions of them?

Can he really be this stupid? I don't know, maybe he can. I've known a lot of people like him - overly educated, overly enamored with their own thoughts, utterly unaware of their own banality.

For the record, many physicists are religious. Many physicists have expressed the notion that their work is literally a quest to find and understand God. But these physicists also understand that science, religion, and faith are not the same thing. "A spiritual plane" is a phrase which means something in Easterbrook's mind, but which is otherwise meaningless. Physicists understand, even if Easterbrook does not, what their posited extra dimensions mean.

In a country which is overwhelmingly religious, this weird defensiveness by the faithful is odd. How often are people "laughed out of the room" for proposing the existence of some spiritual reality? As an atheist-leaning agnostic I get a president telling me that he doesn't consider me a citizen. I'm not going into victim mode over it, while Easterbrook is channeling David Limbaugh here.

Physicists look at the available empirical evidence, try and construct models which are consistent with it, use their models to try and determine what additional information they might need to deny the confirm or deny the validity of them, and then try again. That, roughly, is science. At the end of it, who knows - they may find God or something like that.

Easterbrook believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the existence of God, and the existence of some fuzzy concept of "spirit." He's welcome to all of these beliefs, but his ridiculous attempts to link science and religion are adolescent blather. And, as a truly oppressed (though only slightly) religious minority, I'm getting really sick of this martyr complex by many Christians in this country.

Jesse from Pandagon Needs a Couple Bucks

Here's his plea. And here's where you can give it.

It's hard to comprehend - someone actually pays Ben Shapiro for his drivel but no one, as of yet, has hired Jesse to put his talents to good use. Let's hope the new job he's hinting at is a good one.

Framing the Issue

This guy gets it. can buy his books here and here.

Playstations of Mass Destruction

This is a few years old, but man it's hilarious, and not from the Onion:

US defence experts believe Saddam Hussein may be building a weapons supercomputer from Sony PlayStation 2s.

Individual units of the powerful games console can be linked up and boosted so their computing powers can be used to design and control long-range missiles or even nuclear devices.

A leaked US Defence Intelligence Agency report confirms that up to 4,000 of the consoles have been shipped to Iraq in the last three months.

Both US Customs and the FBI are investigating.

The news confirms the worst fears of the Japanese government, which first warned of the potential danger of the high-specification PlayStation 2 eight months ago.

Experts say that the PlayStation 2 designers may have unwittingly built a machine ideal for weapons work because its technology is so advanced.

Exports of the console to Iraq are illegal in Japan.

One source tells WorldNet Daily: "Applications for this system are potentially frightening. One expert I spoke with estimated that an integrated bundle of 12 to 15 PlayStations could provide enough power to control an Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle."

It is believed Saddam Hussein may have exacerbated the Sony PlayStation 2 shortage.

(nice catch by jsg)

Lust in His Heart

I hardly even found this noteworthy, but as many others have already noted, there was no nuclear weapons program. No weapons. No program. No nothing.

Charter Schools Waste Money, Fail to Educate Kids

Not surprised.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Six companies responsible for teaching 17,000 Michigan's charter school students fail to produce test scores that match even low-scoring traditional public schools, records show.

The companies manage about $123.7 million in tax money each year.

The low-performing companies include three of the biggest for-profit charter school managers in the state, The Detroit News said Sunday.

They are Mosaica Foundation, The Leona Group and Charter School Administration Services. Together, they manage schools with more than a quarter of the 63,000 students in charter schools in the state.

Let me just add that this Michigan program is essentially more like a voucher program than a normal charter school program. From what I understand there are some very good charter schools, but as with vouchers the devil is in the details. It isn't enough to say "voucher system" or "charter school program" - without further qualifications those are meaningless phrases.


This is new to me, anyway. Someone in comments alerted me to the existence of this fake Riverbend weblog which is trying to pose as the real one.

Today in Iraq

As always, yankee doodle provides the full rundown. One-stop shop for all things Iraq.

Who Let the Negroes Vote?

Josh Marshall has the latest on GOP attempts at voter suppression. No word yet if they're being advised by Bill Rehnquist.

Cher on Cspan

[edited 14 years later: back in the day the string and tin can internet didn't let us embed video, so here it is!]

This morning.

Transcript provided by norn:

CHER c-span transcript
C-Span Moderator: Good Morning Miami Beach

caller: Good morning! Thank you for C-span, I watch it every day! Uh, I would like to say I had the occasion the other day to spend the entire day with troops that had come back from Iraq and had been wounded also visited troops during the Vietnam era...but the thing that I was most shocked I walked into the hospital the first person I ran into was a boy about 19 or 20 years old who'd lost both of his arms...and when I walked into the hospital & visited all these boys all day long...uh...everyone had lost either one limb or two limbs or had lost one limb and there were...there were a lot of legs that seemed to be missing and a couple of the boys told me it was because that their vehicles ...that the rockets pierce the vehicles so much it's like being kind of in a tin doesn't have...there isn't...the walls of the Humvees are very soft and there's no protection...but three guys in the same vehicle have lost a leg. ...and another thing that I saw was they'd lost one leg that... that shrapnel that had hit the other leg had been so devastating that they were having to pull like the know...the muscle and the thigh around the bottom of the calf to try to make the leg workable but in some cases these boys had lost one legand the other leg was so damaged that they weren't sure what they were gonna be able to do.

C-Span Moderator: Where did you spend the day?

caller: Walter-Reed.

C-Span Moderator: And youre down in Miami beach, back in Miami beach?

caller: I'm down here today.

C-Span Moderator: what were you doing at walter -reed? are you a volunteer?

caller: no, I was just asked to come and spend the day. I was working that day in Washington, DC and...

C-Span Moderator: what kind of work do you do?

caller: um, I'm an entertainer.

C-Span Moderator: oh, what kind of entertaining? are you USO?

caller: no, I actually was called by the USO but I'm...I'm...I'm just...I'm an entertainer. And I really dont want to go much past that

C-Span Moderator: Is this CHER?

caller: yeah.

C-Span Moderator: (worshipful silence) ok. And you spent the day at walter-reed.

caller: Yeah. And I spent the day with, I mean they were great guys...and the the men that took me around were in know...the services,you know, they were fabulous men...uh...Mike and John ...and they these boys had unbelievable courage and they still said for the most part hat they were glad that they they did it, they felt that it was their duty...and there were a few of the national guards that felt it was their duty that once they were over there but they wondered why they were taken out of America to spend that much time as actual service men when they really felt that their job was to be, you know, protecting this country. ...but I I have to say that they had the most unbelievable courage and it took everything that I have as a person know... break down while I was talking to these guys...but I just think that if there was no reason for this war this was the most heinous thing I'd ever seen... and also I wonder why...why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president, why aren't they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I dont understand why these guys are so hidden and why... and why there arent pictures of them because you know, talking about the dead and the wounded...that's two different things but these wounded are so devastatedly know...that I think that... the wounded...its just... it''s unbelievable...its just unbelieivable to me and i'm an independent but I....

C-Span Moderator: Are you supporting anyone yet for 2004? You supported Ross Perot, correct? in 92?

caller: Yeah, I mean when I heard him talk right in the beginning I thought that he would bring some sort of common-sense business approach and also less partisanship but then of know... I was completely disappointed like everyone else when he just kind of cut and run and no one knew exactly why know...being that maybe he couldn't have withstood all the investigation that goes on know...I'm not a bush supporter, that for sure...and I'm definitely not Ashcroft or Cheney or any of them...but I would just like to see them know, if youre going to send these people to war then don't hide them, you know...and have some... have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing how they are and seeing their spirit and its just... I just... I think its a crime.

C-Span Moderator: When you were up here for your farewell concert earlier this month, is that when you went to walter reed?

caller: Yeah.

C-Span Moderator: Ok well thanks for your time this morning, thanks for watching.

caller: Oh I have to tell you I watch you every day and I really appreciate it because I go all over the world and I must say that the news we get in America has nothing to do with the news that you get outside of this country And I think that's why people don't..people don't understand why so many of the allies did know, our usual allies did not join us because if you get outside the United States you hear a different kind of news you know and so...

C-Span Moderator: What's your favorite news source outside the US?

Caller: Well there's a source that I really like inside the US that gives you special documentaries called WORLDLINK but I think my favorite source outside the US is BBC because they are our allies but you still get...on the nightly news you know, much more coverage and I think much more honest coverage...I dont know, I guess they're not...well...they're independent so they're not owned by any of the major corporations that are... you know, have vested interest in this war.

C-Span Moderator: thanks for your call this morning.

caller: ok, thank you!

A history of the Blue Slip

A handy dandy reference from Calpundit.

Feel the love

Gene Robinson is under 24 hour FBI protection:

The first openly gay man to become an Episcopal bishop is under round the clock FBI protection following threats on his life, according to media reports.

Gene Robinson is to be formally installed as Bishop of New Hampshire on Sunday.

"The only thing that will stop this happening is if I am not around any more," Canon Gene Robinson, who is to become the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire, told the British newspaper The Independent in an interview published today. "We have to take that seriously."

A spokesperson for the bishop-elect declined comment on the FBI protection. But several British papers Monday reported that the threats had come from conservative extremists.

Feel the love from the Chalcedon foundation:

In academia we like to talk about "culture wars." This is a proper undertaking, but there is a great deal more at stake here than a mere disagreement about how to interpret the Bible. There are spiritual realities at play that must be addressed openly and forthrightly. The liberal church in Holland — and other places as well — has suffered greatly by starting down the path of "religious tolerance."

Let there be no mistake: We are engaged in a serious warfare over right and wrong, good and evil, God's people and a modern Sodom and Gomorrah.

Returning Soldiers

Reader j writes in:

I'm a counselor at a psychiatric triage unit in *****. I just had a long talk with one of our clients, a soldier just back from Iraq with classic PTSD symptoms. He's a wreck, reliving an incident where he was forced to fire on Iraqi children and now he can't live with himself. His family has abandoned him because he drinks nightly to drown the demons, he can't sleep because of the fear of "seeing the faces of those kids", and naturally, he feels that he can't go on with life anymore.

I've probably counseled 20 soldiers back from Iraq here and EVERY SINGLE ONE has issues, feels betrayed by Bush and the government, almost all say they realized that once they were over there, the freedom of the Iraqi people is only incidental to our government, that it's clear it's only been about oil and Haliburton stock price. They've also said that for every one of them stating this anger at betrayal, there's at least 50 more still back in Iraq.

I noticed the influx of admissions from ***** back in August and had an opportunity to ask a social worker at **** what the deal is. "Get used to it," she replied, "It's only going to get worse. These guys and gals are coming back after having served with no clear mission, getting attacked out of the blue, and realizing they were lied to by Bush. Plus, the military wants to avoid what went on at Fort Bragg after the Afghanistan War (domestic violence episodes that ended up with dead military wives).

I can't say that these soldiers are representative of the military as a whole; it's definitely a skewed sample. However, my gut tells me that BushCo is going to have to answer to more than just the families of those killed and wounded over in Iraq. The soldiers who have been permanently psychologically scarred by this immoral war (and the families who have been affected by this) are going to be demanding some answers as well.