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

Saturday, May 07, 2005

We just cut her taxes

It's a good thing we did repeal the unfair inheritance tax so productive members of society like this can get the trust funds they deserve:

Q: So how would you describe your occupation?

PARIS HILTON: I don’t know. I’m an actress, a brand, a businesswoman. I’m all kinds of stuff.

Q: Do you read what’s written about you? Do you pick up the tabloids?

HILTON: I don’t read any of it. I just look at the pictures to see what I was wearing last week and if it was cute.


Q: What kind of wife would you be?

HILTON: A good one. I’d cook and clean.

Q: What would your children’s names be?

HILTON: Paris and London.

Q: Paris for a girl? London for a boy?


Q: Why are you so popular?

HILTON: I don’t know, because of who I am. I’m not like anybody else. I’m like an American princess.

Q: What would you be like if you were -- I don’t know -- Paris Smith?

HILTON: I’d be the same. Maybe I’d be a veterinarian.

Q: In your career, what are you most afraid of happening?

HILTON: I don’t know. Nothing.

Q: Nothing? What about in your personal life?

HILTON: I don’t know. Death.

Q: Why? What’s so scary about death?

HILTON: Because I don’t know what happens.

You know, I thought it was a little unfair during the "death tax" debates for Democrats to use Paris Hilton's name to make their arguments. After all, the real issue was concentration of wealth. Why did we have to reduce it to "Paris Hilton gets a tax cut instead of ordinary Americans like you"?

Well, I just changed my mind.

(By the way, it's officially OK to make fun of Paris Hilton on the Internet because, as she says in the interview, she doesn't know what a blog is. It's kind of like talking crap about the Amish on the radio.)


Friday, May 06, 2005

Means: "But we're justified by the ends!"

I was discussing Iraq with a conservative friend last night, whose main argument seemed to be that it took 10 years for Germany to recover after World War II (wasn't that a four-year war? Didn't Iraq last four weeks?) and you shouldn't make any conclusions about the state of affairs there for another 8 years. That's going to save a lot of editorial space! Moratorium on ANY comments about Iraq, good or bad, until 2013, everybody!

He also parried allegations of official deception by the Bush Administration by simply musing that we got rid of Saddam and it doesn't matter why it happened but it's over and isn't the world a better place and don't you want everyone to be free? The problem with this kind of moral relativism, this kind of "by any means necessary" tactic that just looks at results (and through rose-colored glasses, I might add, considering that Iraq is currently a McDonaldLand Play Park for terrorists) and not what you had to do to get there adds up to nothing so much as the death of the American soul.

Am I putting too fine a point on it? Well, we now have documented proof that the war in Iraq was a fait accompli a full year before the invasion, that "the intelligence was being fixed around the policy" and that the conclusions were made before searching for justification. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) circulated a letter to the President asking for answers about this revelation, signed by 88 members of Congress. This was the money quote:

We have of course known for some time that subsequent to the invasion there have been a variety of varying reasons proffered to justify the invasion, particularly since the time it became evident that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. This leaked document - essentially acknowledged by the Blair government - is the first confirmation that the rationales were shifting well before the invasion as well.

We don't go to war based on misleading the public in America. Well actually, we do, and we have for a while. I guess I mean to say that we shouldn't, and those on the right who whine "Shut up, it's over, give it up" provide aid and comfort to the death of truth. They do not honor our soldiers by sending them into combat for the wrong reasons. They weaken us globally by making America untrustworthy. This is as big a story as the uncovering of phoniness in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, and yet it has gotten almost no play in the US media. The New York Times put it on A9 in a piece largely about how this affected Tony Blair's re-election chances (answer: it did, but he won anyway).

It seems to me that this is why blogs exist: to shine a light on those things that would otherwise fly down the memory hole in this age of celebrity show trials and runaway brides. For example, how many of us would have heard about this story about a North Carolina church EXCOMMUNICATING all of its Democratic members if it weren't for blogs? That went from a story on Democratic Underground to a local news outlet in North Carolina to a diary on Daily Kos to tonight on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Blogs on both sides fill an important role in bubbling these things to the surface.

Many of what I like to call "conservative cowards," these people that swear up and down that they're "centrists," that refuse to be labeled as a Republican, as if it's shameful, but still have no problem voting for them and espousing their views, would rather focus on results (or their version of results, which I like to call "fantasyland"). But here on planet Earth, causes matter just as much as effects, and you are responsible for your actions no matter how they end up. Deciding to go to war and then cherry-picking intelligence to convince the public is not how the game should be played, as a matter of principle. That's the thing: for all the talk about Democrats not having any, it really is the Republicans who are bereft when it comes to principles. They can talk about spreading freedom and democracy and then decide selectively which countries deserve such a thing. They can talk about holding Saddam accountable and then let themselves off the hook for their own war atrocities. They can talk about imminent threats and the need to go to war when the policy was cemented a full year in advance. They can scare citizens about intelligence reports without caring whether or not they were right.

In short, they have no principles, no scruples, no shame.


Hard Hitting Journalism

The second primetime Pat O' Brien interview in 24 hours.

I love that you can visually see what a joke Dr. Phil's "hard hitting" interview with Pat O'Brien was by passing Paramount Studios (as I now do on my way to work) and seeing their respective billboards about 50 feet apart.

Meanwhile, there's this place in Asia, at the confluence of two rivers, used to be called Mesopotamia... ever heard of it? Not in prime time during sweeps on CBS you haven't...


Declare Victory on Social Security

Bill Scher at Liberal Oasis has one of the strongest strategic suggestions I've heard in years for Democrats to deal with the Social Security debate:

The main principle of the current strategy is that “There Is No Crisis,” meaning that there is no pressing need to cut a bad deal with people who can’t be trusted to protect Social Security.

A secondary argument has been that Medicare is clearly closer to crisis than Social Security and we should be talking about that instead.

That’s been said largely to sharpen the point that Social Security isn’t in crisis.

But why not take that argument to the next logical step? To be specific:

1. Declare the Social Security debate over, as the public has clearly rejected privatization and is not demanding any immediate action.

2. In turn, announce that Dems will no longer participate in any Social Security hearings on Capitol Hill, or any Social Security debates in the media.

3. At the same time, unveil a comprehensive Democratic plan (or perhaps, multiple plans) to control the skyrocketing cost of health care and to prevent the Medicare trust fund from becoming insolvent in 2020.

4. Announce a series of Democratic-led hearings on Medicare, with an open invitation for Republicans to participate if they like.

Controlling the agenda in Washington is the key to victory. Democrats have done this on a couple of fronts, from keeping the light shining on DeLay to getting out in front of a GI Bill of Rights. But this would be the boldest stroke to date. And it makes perfect sense, and is in line with core Democratic principles.

As progressives who live in the reality-based community, we can plainly see that Medicare is in far worse shape than Social Security or any other government entitlement. The President has never, NEVER elucidated a plan to deal with Medicare costs in the whole of his Presidency. The prescription drug bill passed last year was such a giveaway to Big Pharma that the Administration had to lie about the actual cost of the bill and threaten the Medicare actuary's job if he didn't go along with the scheme.

The good news is that the public already recognizes the problem with the US health care system, far more than it does with Social Security. This would not be a hard sell to the public, and would show that the Democrats are the party that cares about the issues facing ordinary Americans. Furthermore, it forces the Republicans to answer questions for which they have none. Sure, they'll play the "Democrats are just trying to change the subject on Social Security because they have no ideas" card (which is so interesting since the President's proposal last week was written by a Democrat), but the way the modern media works they'll have to answer some health care questions to balance the debate. And then they're playing on Democratic turf, where they don't want to be, and they'll look as out of touch on health care as they do on Social Security.

Democrats are too often derided for being bereft of new ideas and for not having core principles. This gambit would go a long way to counteracting that.

p.s. The Talent Show has more good thoughts on this.


Moo Goo Saipan

The DeLay scandal gets bigger and bigger, and now we learn that crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff's tentacles spread all the way to the White House.

The LA Times has this today:

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands — Two former top aides of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's brokered a political deal here five years ago that helped land island government contracts worth $1.6 million for a Washington lobbyist now the target of a federal corruption probe.

Using promises of U.S. tax dollars as bartering chips, Edwin A. Buckham and Michael Scanlon traveled to these remote Pacific islands in late 1999 to convince two local legislators to switch their votes for speaker of the territory's 18-member House of Representatives. They succeeded.

Once in office, the new speaker pressed the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to reinstate an expired lobbying pact with Jack Abramoff, now under grand jury and congressional investigation.

Within months of the visit, Abramoff's law firm had a contract paying $100,000 a month from the Marianas government. Also, the island districts of the legislators who switched sides soon won federal budget benefits from Congress, apparently supported by DeLay.

This is pork-barrel politics, trading appropriations for votes, pushed to the extreme - outside the United States. The effect for citizens of Saipan (a US territory) was to deny them an increase in their minimum wage (pegged at a little over $3 an hour), keeping them in sweatshops making clothes for US companies that were allowed to have the "Made in the USA" label sown on them.

The New York Times adds to the Abramoff-Saipan story, showing that he was able to use his vast experience in ripping off brown people:

Many people say hiring Mr. Abramoff was a waste of money. Some accuse him of double-dealing the Marianas, one of his first big lobbying projects, in much the same way he is now accused of defrauding Indian tribes.

An adviser to Gov. Juan N. Babauta, Robert J. Schwalbach, said Mr. Abramoff's policy was "to play both sides against the middle and take the Marianas for millions of dollars in fees."

The documents released here this week - 22 pounds of billing statements, e-mail messages and sales pitches - help explain how Mr. Abramoff wooed this island chain with his connections to powerful Republicans who had recently taken over the United States Congress. He turned the Marianas into a destination for dozens of conservative thinkers and Congressional delegations, for some Democrats, but mostly Republicans.

Over six years, he and his law firm collected nearly $9 million from the Marianas. He also obtained work for friends. A $67,000 contract for one friend, Rabbi David Lapin, chief executive of Strategic Business Ethics Inc. of Los Angeles, to perform eight days of ethics training ballooned to $1.2 million a year later.

Finally, the AP brings this full circle, showing how Abramoff, a big-time fundraiser for President Bush in 2000, was using his influence in the White House to get government contracts for Saipan:

In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show.

The meetings between Abramoff's lobbying team and the administration ranged from Attorney General John Ashcroft to policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, according to his lobbying firm billing records.

That's a whole lot of political capital just to make sure islanders can't make more than $25 a day. But then the President pulls the "Who's Jack Abramoff?" excuse later in the article:

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Thursday that Bush didn't consider Abramoff a friend. "They may have met on occasion, but the president does not know him," she said.

As for the number of Abramoff lobbying team contacts with Bush officials documented in the billing records, Healy said: "We do not know how he defines 'contacts.'"

Abramoff has been cut loose by the Republican Party, but he is simply too tangled with them, all of them, to go quietly. And his scent of lying and stealing and corruption will continue to stink up the right side of the aisle for years to come. That's why Reform Democrats have their best chance in years of taking back the House in '06.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Inherit the Wind II: Judgment Day

It may be 2005, but in Kansas they're partying like it's 1925:

TOPEKA, Kan. (Reuters) - A six-day courtroom-style debate opened on Thursday in Kansas over what children should be taught in schools about the origin of life -- was it natural evolution or did God create the world?

The hearings, complete with opposing attorneys and a long list of witnesses, were arranged amid efforts by some Christian groups in Kansas and nationally to reverse the domination of evolutionary theory in the nation's schools.

I see George Clooney as the dashing Clarence Darrow in this one, with crotchety Wilford Brimley maybe as William Jennings Bryan.

Seriously, is this a fucking time warp or what? Have radical Bible-thumpers gained so much power in parts of our country that they can simply overturn SCIENCE? The answer, of course, is yes. The new face of creationism is called Intelligent Design, which is nothing more than putting a pretty face on ridiculous arguments like "God put million year-old dinosaur fossils in the ground to test our faith."

Here's the front page of the Intelligent Design Network website:

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

In other words, Intelligent Design seeks to find patterns where none exist, rationalize random acts of evolution as pre-planned, and basically confer an order to the chaos that is our entropic universe.

These are the same people that tell you that the conditions that allowed life to sustain on Earth are so improbable that there just HAD to have been a Creator to design it. Never mind the fact that if you look at it that with that long a lens, EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED is also just as improbable. Flipping a coin 1000 times and having it come up heads is next to impossible. So is flipping a coin 1000 times and having it come up 591 heads and 409 tails. But one of them HAS to happen. Intelligent Design is a tautology.

The sttorney for evolution has already scored one point:

(Intelligent Design movement leader William) Harris acknowledged under questioning that there were many people who saw no incompatibility between religious beliefs that God created life and evolutionary teachings about how life evolved through natural processes.

In other words, a Prime Mover might have set out those conditions for life to blossom, and subsequently let nature take its course. There actually is a way to reconcile belief in a higher power and natural law. It's unnecessary and disingenuous to continue to play out these pseudo-debates because conservative Christians will not allow reason to triumph over dogma.

Read these arguments from the National Center of Science Education for a more in-depth look at Intelligent Design and its flaws.


Why Does America Hate America?

A majority of Americans do not think it was worth going to war in Iraq with support at the lowest level since the United States launched the invasion in 2003, according to a CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll released on Tuesday.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said it was not worth going to war compared to 41 percent who thought it was. In a February poll, 48 percent said the war was worth it and half said it was not.

I think this majority of treasonous Americans amounts to a fifth column working against our interests! How can this majority of Americans be so out of touch with mainstream America?



For those of you still burdened with the quaint notion that we live in a free country, take a look at this:

WASHINGTON -- Congressional negotiators have agreed on a sweeping new system that would nationalize standards for driver's licenses and state identification cards, requiring states to verify the authenticity of every document that people use to prove their identity and show their legal residency.

If the House and Senate both pass the bill next week as expected, by May 2008 every state will be required to contact the issuers of birth certificates, mortgage statements, utility bills, Social Security cards, and immigration papers before granting a driver's license. States will also have to keep copies of those documents for seven years.

Touted as an antiterrorism measure, the Real ID Act would effectively erase laws in nine states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain standard driver's licenses, which are widely accepted as official identification for boarding airplanes, opening bank accounts, and entering federal courthouses.

It's a good thing we don't have a problem with fake ID's in this country, otherwise this statute wouldn't mean a thing! I mean, you never hear about college students making fake ID's on their home computers, and you never see books on how to make fake ID's sold in bookstores, or suspected terrorists bribing officials to get driver's licenses or anything like that.

In fact, this Real ID Act would only make that problem worse, since getting a driver's license would be so much tougher, once you presented a reasonably good-looking fake, it would be unquestioned. Not to mention the fact that everyone living in California knows someone who got hit by an uninsured motorist who didn't have it because he couldn't get a driver's license.

Fortunately, this bill has been stripped of its most odious provision:

After a week of conference negotiations, Republicans from both chambers reached a compromise that leaves most of the bill intact. Among the notable changes, the House backed away from its demand that every state submit its driver information into a single national database that would be shared with Mexico and Canada.

Civil libertarians objected to the national database, saying a shared pool of information would be vulnerable to identity thieves and would effectively create a national ID card. That provision was changed so that each state will maintain its own database. Sensenbrenner said the interstate links would be used only to make sure an applicant does not have a license elsewhere.

Or was it?

But Tim Sparapani of the ACLU said the language of the bill does not include restrictions on how the linked state databases can be used; theoretically, every driver's personal information may still be available for unlimited access.

''They have created a national identification card and an interlinked set of databases whereby every driver's most sensitive personal information can be viewed by potentially thousands of employees and bureaucrats around the country," he said.

Either way, it's just another step in the mission creep to Total Information Awareness, where somebody in the government knows who you are, where you live, how much money you make, what Interenet sites you visited today, what you had for breakfast, where you like to shop, and so on and so on and so on. The ostensible reason is terrorism, but don't delude yourself. This is for marketing. These databases will be sold to big business a thousand times over. And the politicians can talk about making you safe when they're actually being made rich to spy on you.

We have (or is it had?) individual freedom in this country at one point. That the Republicans are using fear to co-opt that is distasteful.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"You can't have a one-person conspiracy."

In the trial of Lynndie "Thumbs Up" England, the judge isn't buying that whole "few bad apples" argument:

FORT HOOD, Texas -- A military judge Wednesday threw out Pfc. Lynndie England's guilty plea to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, saying that he was not convinced that she knew that her actions were wrong at the time.

The mistrial for England, a 22-year-old reservist who appeared in some of the most notorious photographs from the 2003 abuse scandal, means the case gets kicked back to the military equivalent of a grand-jury proceeding.

The action came after Graner, the reputed ringleader of the abuse, testified at England's sentencing hearing that pictures he took of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash at Abu Ghraib were meant to be used as a legitimate training aid for other guards.

When England pleaded guilty Monday, she told the judge she knew that the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of the guards.

Pohl said the two statements could not be reconciled.

"You can't have a one-person conspiracy," the judge said before he declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.

I think this pretty much means that England is likely to go to jail for a longer sentence than allowed under her plea agreement. Military courts work differently in that they don't take the guilty plea at face value; it has to be proven.

That the judge says she didn't know her actions were wrong at the time suggests that she was getting instructions from up the chain of command... a principled defense lawyer might use this crack as a way to force the higher-ups to testify. With a grand-jury hearing able to consider whatever evidence it wants, and to follow it along wherever it takes them, the trial then enters the great unknown of uncovering the real answers about Abu Ghraib. Does this means Sanchez gets subpaoenaed? Gonzales? Rumsfeld? I doubt it would unravel this way, but at this point "I was just following orders" is the only defense England's lawyers could use, no?

Still, I fully expect that the military will fight tooth and nail to keep the higher-ups out of this proceeding, and England will probably get scapegoated and sentenced to 20 years instead of 10. AmericaBlog had a comment today about how interesting it is that two of the most high-profile people being made accountable for this scandal are women: England and Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski. How convenient. The old boy's network is alive and well.


Profiles in Leadership

Via James Wolcott, here's how our President has brought "honor and dignity" back to the White House:

(Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez, in Havana for trade talks, told an international gathering of activists here that before an earlier trip to Cuba, a U.S. State Department undersecretary he did not identify warned him not to go because he would no longer be received in Washington.

He said he went ahead with that trip anyway, and later traveled to the United States to visit U.S. President George W. Bush, who he said greeted him with a Coca-Cola in his hand.

"Hey, how ya doin'? Who are you, now? (Sip sip slurp slurp) Want some? I got 'em chillin' in the mini-fridge!"

Not exactly the SALT II talks with this guy, is it?

In the bulk of the article, Chavez, who has cozied up to Castro and Cuba in recent years, and who understands that anti-American rhetoric plays in his country as well as anti-French rhetoric does here, promised that he would not visit the United States again until Americans "liberate" their nation. Last week, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il called the President "a hooligan bereft of any personality as a human being ... and a philistine whom we can never deal with."

Is it wrong that I'm starting to agree with every word these guys say? I mean, I know that's wrong, and yet they appear to be making a lot of sense.

On the serious tip, addressing world leaders while holding a Coke in your hand, and ratcheting up rhetoric against your enemies will do nothing but bring the same kind of disdain and anger back upon you. That's not necessarily bad (it's why they call the Presidency the bully pulpit, after all), but you can't sit back and be outraged by it.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

STOP! Terror Time

Falling poll numbers, DOA Social Security (with the President already backing off his so-called "progressive indexing" proposal), a backlash against the radical Right's war on judges, no public support for the nuclear option, DeLay's shenanigans, Bolton stalling in the Senate... guess it's time for a heaping helping of terror stew:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Al Qaeda is still "very active" recruiting and seeking to attack the United States, although it has been hurt since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said on Monday.

"The enemy that appeared on 9/11 is wounded and off-balance, and on the run -- yet still very active, still seeking recruits, and still trying to find ways to hit us," said Cheney, who reviews intelligence on threats daily.

It's amazing how long the Kool-Aid swallowers on the Right will continue to accept this balancing act of "be afraid enough to vote to keep us in power, but don't be SO afraid that you think we're not protecting you and making you safe." Honestly, if Orwell woke up from the grave today he'd have to give himself a pat on the back for all the predictions he made that turned out right. Only I think he wouldn't be too happy about it.


When you work with terrorists, you tend to ignore the terror

Nick Kristof today:

Incredibly, the Bush administration is fighting to kill the Darfur Accountability Act, which would be the most forceful step the U.S. has taken so far against the genocide. The bill, passed by the Senate, calls for such steps as freezing assets of the genocide's leaders and imposing an internationally backed no-fly zone to stop Sudan's Army from strafing villages.

The White House was roused from its stupor of indifference on Darfur to send a letter, a copy of which I have in my hand, to Congressional leaders, instructing them to delete provisions about Darfur from the legislation.

Mr. Bush might reflect on a saying of President Kennedy: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."

Here's the thing: Arab militia in Darfur are singling out Christians.  Sen. Brownback, the fundiest of the fundies, has probably yelled the loudest about the crisis in Darfur in the past.

Geopolitical interests are so great that the President has decided NOT to back his own base on this.  It is totally in the interest of Christian conservatives to do so. Not to mention those of us in the reality-based community who don't want to see 2 million Africans die at the hands of the janjaweed.

So why are we doing nothing?  Maybe because of that report in last week's LA Times that showed the CIA is partnering heavily with Khartoum on intelligence matters. We're even flying their intelligence chief to DC to discuss the war on terror.

But never mind the dead bodies, we're bringing freedom to the Muslim world!


Robertson & Manson: Tuesdays on FOX

Pat Robertson, who in the past has blamed 9/11 on the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and lesbians, made a statement right in line with that way of thinking this past Sunday, when he stated on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that non-Judeo Christians should never serve as American judges, and that liberals (particularly liberal judges) are a greater threat to America that al-Qaeda, Hitler or Stalin. Crooks and Liars has the video.

This guy should be completely irrelevant, but he's not. He's dead center in the heart of both the Christian conservative community and this White House. And that gets him on purportedly serious Sunday talk shows like This Week.

We need to bring back shunning. It's what the Puritans did when someone got out of line. They wouldn't talk to the person, wouldn't look at them, do nothing but boo and hiss at them on the street. It won't reform Pat Robertson, but he'd be getting what he deserves.

This is a guy who defends a callous murderer like Charles Taylor of Liberia because he makes a good business partner. I actually am praying right now that there is a heaven so that Pat Robertson will have to pass right by it on his way to hell.


Monday, May 02, 2005

The Smartest Guys in the Room

I think the two biggest things that national Democrats ignored at their peril in 2004 were Abu Ghraib and Enron. Now (belatedly) the movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room has been released in LA, and I went on opening day. I was disappointed that the filmmakers never connected Enron to the other numerous accounting scandals that occurred at the same time (Adelphia, Tyco, Global Crossing, HealthSouth, the list goes on and on), and how corporate deregulation and unrestrained capitalism is the catalyst for all of these dirty deeds.

Still, the movie delivers the goods. It entertains, and invites you into the characters of Skilling and Lay, giving you a real sense of their motivations, which are, of course, money, power, and money. It uncovers how the "win at all costs" mentality took root at Enron, and the consequences of an ethics-free zone for real people and real families. The movie does a great job of explaining very complex accounting practices in ways everyone could understand, something Democrats probably let stop them from discussing Enron at all. As a Californian, however, there is nothing complex about the lights getting shut off. I remember very well the rolling blackouts in my office during work hours in San Francisco in 2001. This movie, with its skillful use of audio tapes from actual Enron traders (laughing about bilking the state for millions, telling power plants to shut down their turbines at the height of the crisis, screaming "Burn baby burn!" during wildfires that affected the power grid), has the ability to start a riot in many cities in the Golden State. By linking the issue to the Gray Davis recall (he responds to a question asking if the energy crisis led to the recall by saying "Hello!") and the eventual ascension of Ahnold, this movie (and Enron in general) can still be a campaign issue in 2006.

And the story of Lou Pai is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a movie.

I heard that the filmmakers held the movie back until after the election because they didn't want to seem overly critical of either party. That fact alone shows you how much Democrats dropped the ball by not forcing the issue into the center of the debate.

Go see this movie. It will piss you off to no end, but it should be required viewing. The Lay and Skilling trials are scheduled for early 2006. This can still be a campaign issue.


Military Intelligence

What's the line about that being an oxymoron? That was confirmed once again this weekend when the US put out their official report on the Giuliana Sgrena shooting incident at a Baghdad-area checkpoint:

The U.S. report is full of redactions... but once again an American agency has used the searchable PDF format to distribute a report, and all you have to do is save the report as a text file in order to recover all the redacted parts.

I may go through the report later to see if anything more interesting was redacted, but for now I just wanted to let enterprising journalists know that the full report is available to anyone with a copy of Acrobat Reader.

And we wonder why we are losing all the high-tech jobs to India and China. Good to know that state secrets are held with such vigor.

The redacted items in the report itself show some interesting revelations: the soldiers on patrol were on their first day manning checkpoints; they were not specifically trained for this practice during basic training, but instead told how to perform their duties by the soldiers they replaced; the reason they were on patrol, to guard a vehicle carrying then-Ambassador John Negroponte, was complete by the time Sgrena got there (they never got the message); and it took a matter of seconds from Sgrena's arrival to their firing on her car.

I don't know what's worse, the incompetence in Baghdad that leads to tragedies like this, or the incompetence in Washington that leads to the whole world knowing about tragedies like this. Oh wait, I know what's worse, the incompetence in the White House getting us into tragedies like this. There now.