As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, April 30, 2004

Watch Nightline tonight

No message, just do it.


What Passes For Right-Wing "Thought"

This is a letter to CBS News, who aired (on 60 Minutes II) a story about the atrocities committed by US military personnel in Iraqi prisons (See my earlier post on this topic):

"Why in God's name would you choose to air such a story at this time? This is something our country didn't need to know now. Everyone in this country is hanging on for dear life to support the troops, and you have taken all our faith in goodness away. How many more reports can we watch like this before support fades?

We are losing our fight with other countries to support us, and now you have just sealed it. ... We've just lost the goal of helping anyone over there because of this show, and God help us. You are no better then those who did these horrible acts. Your reports are bringing down this country."
--Betsy Berra

If you Google "Why are Americans so willfully ignorant?" Betsy Berra's homepage comes up.

Here's another simpleton:

"Was I supposed to be horrified by the report of Iraqi prisoners being positioned in "pornographic" positions and humiliated by American soldiers? I was not. During your report, all I could think of was the murder, torture, maiming, burning and beheading of innocent civilians, women and children included, carried out by terrorists and supporters of Saddam Hussein. At least these men were men of war.

They had to pose for pornographic pictures? So what. We cannot imagine sitting at home on our couches the horrors our soldiers must face every day. Why not focus your attention on the unfair practices of our enemy?"
--Sally Ainsley

And finally:

At one time I would have condemned the way they were treated, but after recently seeing them burning Americans there, I say they should give those troops medals. An eye for an eye.
--J Guzzi

I will be expecting all of your citizenship renouncement letters in the mail tout de suite. (I knew it, he's French!)


Wolfowitz' Fuzzy Math

At hearing, Wolfowitz falls short
By Associated Press  |  April 30, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian estimated yesterday the total was about 500 -- more than 200 soldiers short.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked about the toll at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It's approximately 500, of which . . . approximately 350 are combat deaths," he responded.

"He misspoke," spokesman Charley Cooper said later. "That's all."

Since the invasion of Iraq last year, 722 US troops have died there, 521 of them in combat. 
The guy doesn't give a damn about your sausage... I mean your kids. My biggest surprise of this story is that it was reported at all. That thing growing in the back of American news organizations is a spine.

Oh yeah... something tells me this wasn't so much ignorance as a deliberate lie. The second in command at the Pentagon knows how many soldiers are dead. He just dialed it down so he could get his appropriation through. Which, of course, is worse than ignorance. It's evil.


We've become what we despise

I'm really just saddened today. Saddened and sickened by the latest reports that have come from Iraq, tales of torture and humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (which should now be called My Lai 2.0), of forcing naked Iraqis into simulated sexual positions, of attaching electrical wires to others.

Somehow, we live in a country where we still believe we can take the moral high ground, despite all evidence to the contrary. The official Army reaction was that "this is a small minority of the military, and it's not the Army." In fact, it seems that mercenaries have been running the prison, which is enough of an outrage, that the military is not even in direct control of prisoners of war (This is the true inevitable consequence of outsourcing, as a nation not of workers but of administrators we eventually descend into chaos as we lose all sense of what anyone is doing in our name). This is fucked up on so many levels the eyes are bugging out of my head.

There are links to all of this, a lot of other outlets have covered this better than I ever could. We deserve to be condemned internationally, we deserve to be isolated from the world community, just like any other sponsor of human rights abuse. Yet we'll continue to hear wingnuts say that "We had to get rid of Saddam because he had torture chambers and rape rooms!" Right, so we could install our OWN torture chambers and rape rooms.


I'm sure all the other links to your right have details on this story as well.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

I could've gotten more out! If I just swindled more people!

In a case of "art doesn't always imitate life," Polish filmmaker Lew Rywin was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years in prison for attempting to swindle daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza out of $17.5 million. Rywin, who co-produced "Schindler's List" cried as he was convicted for claiming he could help rig Polish law to benefit the media outlet.

While the newspaper is saved money and a little bit of face, the real loser is Prime Minister Leszek Miller. Although vindicated during the trial, the political fallout clearly led to his party, the Democratic Left Alliance, forcing him to resign from power. "I would like to hear the word 'sorry' from all those who have continuously connected me with this affair," said Miller- a very small favor to ask considering the situation.

When all is said and done, Rywin appears to be at least one person short from saving "the world entire."


Quick thought

News organizations should not be allowed to quote T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land by saying "April is the cruelest month" regarding all the dead soldiers in Iraq. I've seen this at least 5 times. You're using statistics of dead people to make a literary allusion? Please. Spare us your rudimentary knowledge of poetry, achieved, no doubt, through a 10-minute Lexis/Nexis search. Here's a better poem to cite:

Wilfred Owen

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


Yeah, there's no racism left in America

A community near Tampa, Florida has voted to change the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue back to Sixth Avenue. Here's the story.

Zephyrhills recently elected a new city councilwoman named Gina King, a political neophyte who ran entirely on the issue of changing the street name back to Sixth Avenue. Allow me to quote her: "I fail to see how a street sign promotes community fellowship." But revoking the name of a street sign, and the ensuing bitter debate and hurt feelings, that's the greatest bonding experience a town can have! Why, look at the community spirit:

ZEPHYRHILLS - A group of people unhappy with Monday's city council vote to return Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to its original Sixth Avenue name plan to protest at city hall today.

Elaine Jones, one of the organizers and vice president of the Pasco County Black Caucus, said she expects at least 30 people from community groups to show up. Protesters also will picket at U.S. 301 and Fifth and Sixth avenues. The protest will be from 1 to 6 p.m.
We're back to bus protests? Come a long way, haven't we?


Tales of freedom of speech, Pt. 2

So Nightline decided to devote its entire Friday broadcast to reading the names of soldiers killed in action in Iraq. Sounds simple enough, right? A tribute to soldiers. How could anyone be against that?


The ABC Television network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30th edition of “Nightline” will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.
While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of “Nightline” this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.
We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of the 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.

We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to pre-empt "Nightline's" tribute to America's fallen soldiers which will air this Friday, April 30. The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country. ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with neither fear nor favor -- as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands. Contrary to the statement issued by Sinclair, which takes issue with our level of coverage of the effects of terrorism on our citizens, ABC News and all of our broadcasts, including "Nightline," have reported hundreds of stories on 9-11. Indeed, on the first anniversary of 9-11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims of that horrific attack.  
In sum, we are particularly proud of the journalism and award winning coverage ABC News has produced since September 11, 2001.  ABC News will continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which ABC News has set for decades.

I love that part in ABC's response statement. "Umm, we did broadcast the names of September 11 victims." "Oh." ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos routinely broadcasts killed soldier's names at the end of each show. I guess Sinclair should pre-empt that, too.

The hiding of the dead continues... although it doesn't appear to be helping from a public opinion standpoint.

Just 32 percent, the lowest number ever, say Iraq was a threat that required immediate military action a year ago.

Less than half, 47 percent, now say the U.S. did the right thing taking military action in Iraq, the lowest support recorded in CBS News/New York Times Polls since the war began... Nearly half say the war in Iraq was a mistake -- a finding similar to the public’s assessment of the Vietnam War as measured by the Gallup Poll in 1968.

But then again, who believes polls? According to a recent one, 50% still believe Iraq and al Qaeda worked together on 9/11. People are idiots, don't listen to their concerns! Right G.W.?



"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" (this film) read a message sent April 1st to Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."

The film? The Day After Tomorrow. The source? "HQ," aka The White House. Apparently the tale of global pollution ushering in an instant ice age so rattled the administration that they thought muzzling scientists was the only way to quiet fears about the multitude of (real) effects that are the result of environmental damage.

The New York Times reported that eventually cooler heads prevailed, and there was apparently the first indications of dialectic detente. But the White House, always ready to hide a spilled drink with a handy rug, once again resort to obfuscation rather than simply admitting bad judgement. 'Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which handles policy on environmental issues, said she was "not aware of any White House discussion about this movie with anyone — none at all."'

It all kinda makes you long for the honest and caring administrations of such presidential giants like Morgan Freeman in "Deep Impact," or the man who clearly didn't skip out of National Guard duty, Bill Pullman, from "Independence Day."

But that would be confusing fact with fiction.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Air America... I mean Air New York and some of Maine

Bad news for Air America Radio. They're still nowhere closer to restoring their signal in LA, and they lose Chicago on Friday:


Before they were taken off in LA, I had my problems with the station. I remember hearing a lot of inadvertent dead air, duplicated station promos back-to-back, and week-old news reports. Plus, the whole simulcasting from East Coast time bugged me. When Condi Rice testified for the 9/11 commission, AAR carried it live. But instead of carrying it live in LA too, they ran their same morning show during the hearing, and played it "live" at noon, after it was all over. I chalked this up to working out the kinks. But I didn't think it'd take this long to handle this carriage situation. And their weird name-calling letter to Arthur Liu of Multicultural Radio the day he pulled the Chicago and LA feeds seemed only to prolong the situation and burn bridges. I hate to side with the right-wingers who mocked the stupidity of that press release (which was taken down within minutes and is now nowhere to be found in full online), but they're right.

Here's a long quote from it:

SLUDGE REPORT: This Liu-ser [i.e., Arthur Liu, the guy who owns Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, and who earlier today said that Air America bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million] was ripping off our boss Evan Cohen big time (he can’t do that, that’s our job). Evan found out about it and he stopped payment on a check to keep Liu-cifer from ripping him off even more. You can touch Evan for the occasional meal or drinks but a million bucks is crossing the line. And if we ever get low on cash, we can always call Barbra Streisand. Or any of the Baldwins. Except Stephen.

So we got screwed, Liu’d, and tattooed. How Liu can you get? In Liu of payment. Liu’d and lascivious behavior. These write themselves. What we’re getting at is that we hate him.

So now everyone’s saying we’re going down the dumper in Chicago and Los Angeles, but what they don’t tell you is that we’re still on in Portland. And we OWN Portland. And let’s not forget Riverside and Plattsburgh. And New
York. And streaming on the internet. And XM. And Sirius. Actually we’re fine.

So cool your jets. Air America Radio isn’t dead, we’re in court and we’re going to slam Liu’s head in a car door. Another metaphor. We hope to be back on the air tomorrow or the next day in those markets.

Doesn't exactly bolster a liberal's case that we're the adults. At least the Web streaming works (even on my dialup at home).

postscript: I actually interviewed Dave Logan, one of the AAR execs that quit today, when he was working at XM. I found him to be a bit smarmy and Herb Tarlek-like (any WKRP fans out there?), all he talked about were how many great partnerships and sponsorships they had. Not sure if his leaving Air America is a bad thing.


John Dean

I saw John Dean speak at the LA Times Book Festival on Sunday, where he talked about his new book about the Bush administration, Worse than Watergate. And if anyone ought to know about whether or not something's worse than Watergate, it'd be him. His basic point was that secrecy in the Bush administration is dangerous to our democracy. (So shut up about it then! Stop telling everyone!) We know that these guys want everything in secret, from who they meet with to what information they reveal to what pictures they let out into the public. Dean mentioned that there was "a big break" in the Valerie Plame case (The latest here), and that "it's a lot like Watergate, there was a grand jury investigation all through 1972, through the election year, just like they're investigating now." He also said that if our government ever found out that a terrorist had obtained a weapon of mass destruction, that would basically be the end of all civil liberties as we know them. Some interesting stuff, I want to read the book.

Another recommendation: Frontline's The Man Who Knew, about John O'Neill, an FBI man who was so frustrated by the stonewalling of his attempts to go after al Qaeda before September 11 that he quit the bureau - to become head of security at the WTC. Every American should watch this. Many PBS stations rebroadcast it recently, you can also buy it at their site.


No Vasari, YOU'RE Stupid

Art critics have apparently declared open season on "New Blood," an exhibition of contemporary works at London's Saatchi Gallery. But according to the Telegraph, art collector Saatchi himself isn't fooled: "It is pitiful that so many critics find it easier to review me than the art." Saatchi shot back at the detractors on Monday in an interview in which he suggested the criticisms were directed at himself, not the show.

But does he really believe it? The rest of the interview directed attention away from the insinuation of personal attacks, and simply berates critics for being out of touch, and lauds the wise judgement of ordinary folks. "Although there are some critics out there you can learn a lot from, too many know remarkably little about new art, can't cope without their PC guidebook or a press release and are always, but always, 10 years late getting their heads around anything new."

The show, described as an "aesthetic Titanic," carries on Saatchi's tradition of displaying works of artists like Damien Hirst and Ron Mueck. According to the Telegraph, it features "a stuffed horse, a groaning mummy and a portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, begging her butler for help, by Stella Vine, a former stripper."

The Telegraph's own Richard Dorment seems to have taken issue with the exhibition space rather than the collector himself. But in a bizarre tit-for-tat, Dorment suggests that Saatchi should for some reason accept criticism in whatever form it may take.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004


As part of a two week-long "Smear Crap All Over the American Soldier" campaign, Dick Cheney yesterday spent most of a speech at Westminster College in Missouri bashing John Kerry's defense record. All of which came as a surprise to the President of the College:

Lamkin was so unhappy with Cheney's partisan address, which included swipes at Democratic candidate John F. Kerry, that he sent a campuswide letter expressing his displeasure.   
Fletcher wrote that he was "surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech."

The school's president had anticipated a foreign policy talk on the situation in Iraq. Given the political content of Cheney's speech, Fletcher said in his letter that he had invited Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, to speak on campus "in the interest of balance and fairness and integrity." Fletcher could not be reached for further comment.
By the way, Dr. Lamkin happens to be a Brigadier General:

Dr. Lamkin received a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point... Prior to his appointment as Dean at West Point, Dr. Lamkin served in numerous command and staff positions in the Army, including battery command in Vietnam, battalion operations officer in Korea, and battalion command in Germany.  While at West Point, he served as a department head and as Vice Dean prior to being appointed as West Point’s tenth Dean.  He retired from the Army as a Brigadier General to take his position at Westminster.
I'm guessing that's one more Democratic vote in Missouri this November.


Monday, April 26, 2004

The whole world's watching... your ass

Activism in America used to have a home on our leafy liberal campuses (Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor), where passionate, earnest students would fight for such issues as world peace, nuclear disarmament and human rights. These days, the student body prefers to protest in favor of, well, their body.

U. of Michigan students run alternative Naked Mile a day earlier than expected.

Seeking to keep an 18-year-old tradition alive, a group of University students and alumni participated in an alternative Naked Mile run at 11:00 last night.

They evaded a police campaign against the run by scheduling it one night early and altering the route.

Not exactly the 60s, is it? Compared with the one million that gathered for abortion rights and women's health issues yesterday, standing up for your right to run naked after graduating doesn't pack the resonance of, say, Students for a Democratic Society.


Commodify Your Assent

The first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule? You do not allow spin-off products to dilute the message of your work.

Vivendi first announced in December its intention to give "Fight Club" the console treatment. But don't expect a lot of virtual soul searching when the title arrives in the Fall: "Fight Club is set to deliver a fighting game that will portray the experience of a realistic fighter that incorporates many elements from the Fight Club movie." That from Luc Vanhal, COO and North American president of Vivendi Universal.

The game is being produced in partnership with Genuine Games, who Vanhal gushes, "Has stepped up to the plate to develop a fighting game that will capture the raw intensity of street fighting that will appeal to movie fans, hardcore fighting game fans, and casual gamers alike." On their website, Genuine Games offers up a handy definition of the word "genuine" direct from Mirriam-Webster, which helpfully reminds us that it means "... ACTUAL, TRUE (a genuine improvement) 2: free from hypocrisy or pretense..."

All of this seems odd in the extreme considering the ranting in the film against the obsession with Ikea furniture, and the admonishments that "you are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis." What does recently outed (and come on, he WAS outed) author Chuck Palhunuik think about this? I couldn't find any direct response to the game itself, but in an interview at, Palhunuik spoke of games in general: "When I started writing, I said my goal was to bring people back to reading, people who had given up on reading. So I wrote for people who didn't read at that point. Today, you have to write books that can compete against video games and music videos and professional wrestling and all the other things people can do with their time. And those people want plot. People don't want stasis and description. They want the plot to move, they want lots of verbs. You know, verbs on top of verbs."

Or double-combos on top of double-combos.


Forgotten Clarke Stuff

After a snafu with Amazon, I finally got my copy of the Richard Clarke book. I know, that's a whole ONE BOOK behind the news cycle. But something I read on page 98 struck me...

"I sought the new legal ban on fund-raising for terrorist groups because several people in the [Clinton] administration had thwarted the CSG's attempts to go after terrorist money... FBI Director Louis Freeh and Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin objected. Freeh was concerned with alienating Arabs in America and claimed the use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act might be challenged in court. Rubin claimed that he feared the law might not hold up under a challenge. He had also been reluctant to support any moves against money laundering for fear that it would cause capital flight from the US..."

Yeah, we wouldn't want to alienate the terrorists. The real issue here, I think, is Robert Rubin's continual nods to big business and multinational capital uber alles. In case you're unaware, Kerry's economic team proudly boasts that they are "consulting literally daily with Bob Rubin," and as recently as last month he was mentioned as a possible VP candidate.

Then there's this gem on p.99:

"Incredibly, the legal authorities we sought were not approved by the Congress in 1995. I had thought these issues were bipartisan, but the distrust and animosity between the Democratic White House and Republicans in the Congress was strong and boiled over into counter-terrorism policy. The World Trade Center attack had happened [in 1993], the New York landmarks and Pacific 747 attacks had almost happened, sarin had been sprayed in the Tokyo subway, buses were blown up on Israeli streets, a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City had been smashed to bits, but many in the Congress opposed the counter-terrorism bill. Republicans in the Senate, such as Orrin Hatch, opposed expanding criminal wiretap provisions to terrorists. Tom DeLay and other Republicans in the House agreed with the National Rifle Association that the proposed restrictions on bomb making infringed on the right to bear arms."

Why do Orrin Hatch and Tom DeLay hate freedom? Incidentally, the wiretap law is part of the PATRIOT Act, but the problem is how it has been implemented, covering not only terrorists, but pretty much anyone the DoJ wants to bug. Like protest organizations, anti-Bush lobbies, etc.

Another similar revelation in the book, on page 103, talks about when Clinton by Executive Order imposed a ban on all trade with Iran for sponsoring Hezbollah in '95 and '96. The biggest critic of the policy? Head of Halliburton. You might've heard of him. Guy named Cheney. Not that he had a vested financial interest in Iran or anything, it's not like they're in the Middle East and have large oil revenues...