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February 29, 2004
Leap day. Frankly, if I only feel this sick every four years, that’ll be too frequently. I have prairie dogs in my sinuses, throat, and bronchial passages. Hundreds of them. Lively and active prairie dogs. They’ve been increasing since about a week ago, but today I actually hit the point of being seriously unable to think, read complex prose, or do much of anything other than softly moan.

Apologies to the many people to whom I owe e-mail, phone calls, or other responses. No doubt I’ll either recover or be euthanised soon.

[04:57 PM : 32 comments]

February 24, 2004
Dirty people take what’s mine. Busy week. More quick takes.

Disentangling disinformation: Teresa and her commenters conclusively establish that a particular bit of propaganda being billed as “from a paper in Durham, NC” is anything but.

“Who is Bandar Bush?” Koufax Award-winning weblog commenter John J. Emerson (or perhaps his superhero alter ego, the mysterious Zizka) assembles a “long file documenting the Bush-Saudi ties (including the Bin Ladens), Bush favoritism to the Saudis, Saudi involvement in terrorism, Bush indifference to counter-terrorism before 9/11, the irrelevance of the Second Iraq War to terrorism, Blowback, etc.” As the headline reads: “Does George W. Bush have what it takes to fight the war on terrorism?” Indeed.

Slacktivist quotes from the Mexican War-era correspondence of one Abraham Lincoln:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,—I see no probability of the British invading us”; but he will say to you, “Be silent: I see it, if you don’t.”

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.

More here and here. Even more here.

Finally, a reminder: Whisperado plays the C-Note tomorrow night—that’s Wednesday, February 25, at 7 PM, 157 Avenue A at 10th Street. Featuring, if all goes well, Patrick’s Telecaster not going wiggy from bad AC power like it did at our last gig. And more ventures into the exciting new world of singing actual backup vocals. Next month, Patrick takes up the ocarina.

[10:19 PM : 22 comments]

February 23, 2004
Your eye-on-the-ball report for today. Howard Dean takes Digby’s advice:
When I announced last week that I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency, I urged my supporters not to be tempted by any independent or third party candidate. I said I would support the nominee of the Democratic Party, because the bottom line is that we must defeat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes. […]

Ralph Nader has made many great contributions to America over 40 years. But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental, and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined. George Bush’s right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges fifty years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of, and for, the corporations—exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against.

Those who truly want America’s leaders to stand up to the corporate special interests and build a better country for working people should recognize that, in 2004, a vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush.

Mind you, I’m as weirded out as anybody by this strange idea of Democratic party unit—, I mean unif—, I mean, well, you can see that as a Democrat my brain cells can’t quite encompass the concept. Strange times.

[05:28 PM : 76 comments]

And we’re off. Click here to listen to Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot blithely asserting on NPR that George W. Bush volunteered to be sent to Vietnam.

Click here to see the document where young George W. Bush clearly checked off the box marked “Do Not Volunteer for Overseas” service.

Click here to hear NPR interviewer Juan Williams’s hard-hitting followup question to this bald-faced lie by the chairman of the national Republican Party.

Click here to see the amount of money any of you should donate to NPR in the foreseeable future, in view of its novel notion of what constitutes public-service broadcasting.

(Via Calpundit, Atrios, and probably a zillion other pissed-off liberal sites by the time I finish typing this sentence.)

[02:12 PM : 16 comments]

Quick takes. Short bits from all over.

As a Pentagon aide in 1964, Daniel Ellsberg knew the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was based on straight-up lies while it was being drafted and passed. For forty years he’s lived with the knowledge that if he’d gone to the press then instead of seven years later, he might have spared the country the Vietnam War. Now he notes that “there are surely drawers full of documents in Washington right now—the Pentagon Papers of Iraq—that, if leaked in bulk, would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should have sent our children to kill and to die in Iraq, and more urgently, whether we should continue to do so.” Just a thought.

Oliver Willis links to a Snopes page debunking the widely-circulated letter, allegedly from a “retired admiral”, charging that John Kerry’s service medals were earned under “fishy” circumstances. Of course, on the internet there’s a sucker born every minute, and this week’s lucky winner is right-wing gargoyle David Horowitz, whose Front Page credulously reproduces the debunked nonsense verbatim. Adds Oliver: “Up next—Nigerian bankers!”

Worth clicking past the ad to read: David Weinberger, in Salon, points out the limitations of the “echo chamber” rap laid against the Dean campaign’s online community. “The relationships of belief and doubt, and belief and actions, are far more subtle than the echo chamber meme credits.” Good point. Read his whole argument.

I’m confused. So, like, liberalism is somehow a function of higher education, which is either good or bad. So if I actually got my high-school diploma and went to college, would I become a moderate managerial Democrat or would the tremendous gravitic force of higher education amplify my leftward tendencies to near-lightspeed? Would the entire rest of the political spectrum shift to red as I tore through the fabric of political space-time? Or would I pop through a wormhole into the LaRouche Dimension? Jim Henley is very good on the relationship of superhero comics to SF and fantasy, though.

Finally, the Decembrist responds to the Nader Threat: “Bring. It. On.”

[01:20 PM : 10 comments]

You probably didn’t know owls could do that. Neil Gaiman discovers the magic of winter in the Midwest.
Last night I went out owling, with a number of people, led by Sharon Stiteler, official bird lady of Neilgaiman.com, just like in Jane Yolen’s lovely children’s book Owl Moon.

This is what happens when you go owling. You tromp through the deep snow in the darkness, until you’re on the edge of the woods. Then you play a CD of owls hooting and wait for a few moments, silently marvelling at the beautiful starry night and the almost magical stillness, at which point drunk people on snowmobiles roar past incredibly noisily.

You wait in silence, holding your breath, until the sound of snowmobiles and the hoarse singing and yells of the snowmobilers has finally died away, and then, in the pregnant, perfect stillness, you play the CD of owls hooting again, and, after a few moments, as if by magic, from nowhere you hear the sound of another bunch of drunk people on snowmobiles coming toward you.

I don’t think anyone’s done a proper scientific study on the way that recorded owl-calls can summon snowmobilers, but I think it’s pretty much magical.

[12:02 PM : 14 comments]

February 20, 2004
Cyprus. John Quiggin has a good roundup on what he (not unreasonably) says “will probably turn out to be the biggest geopolitical event of the year.”

[12:05 AM : 10 comments]

February 19, 2004
Our fellow Americans.
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Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove;

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error, and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.


(From a comment by Rea, on Eschaton. Photos from “Justly Married”, at ephemera.org.)

[05:08 PM : 50 comments]

They’ll think it’s a movement. Send flowers to a random couple waiting in that San Francisco line. (Via BoingBoing.)

UPDATE: More places ready and willing to deliver flowers for you.

[02:43 PM : 8 comments]

Commedia dell’Arte among the gatekeepers. One of the more diverting sideshows of the last few weeks has been the spectacle of Columbia Journalism Review’s blog-like Campaign Desk trying to have it both ways—claiming the mantle of bloggy authenticity while repeatedly lecturing bloggers about the sinfulness of, for instance, discussing the same election-day exit polls that are simultaneously being circulated among the 5,271,009 members of the Credentialed Press. Perish forbid that anyone but the sanctified herd of “official” reporters should be allowed to know this information—I mean, who do you think this “free press” stuff is for, you? Leaving aside the fact that, as we’ve seen in several recent primaries, these exit polls are sometimes about as reliable as palmistry.

Anyway, upon delivering these sober moral instructions, the savants of the Columbia Journalism Review then hit one another over the head with inflated pig bladders and ran out of the room, leaving behind a torn pair of patchwork breeches. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has a fine summary and smackdown of the whole business, replete with appropriately funny bits:

Question, reader: If you were serious about not wanting to sound too strident, too preachy; if you were worried that such a tone might harm your credibility, would you in your wisdom:

  • title one of your arguments, “The Moral Obligation of a Free Press”;
  • lecture Jack Shafer that what he wants he does not necessarily need;
  • announce to the creator of the Daily Kos that he is at splendid risk for not being taken seriously by Campaign Desk;
  • further inform the Kos that he is “behaving like a two-year-old who has just discovered he can break things”;
  • speak severely to webloggers about the “moral burden” that comes with enjoying our great American freedoms;
  • remind webloggers twice how often they like to celebrate themselves, while you play “one more round of whack-a-mole” on their heads?
  • and place on your Who We Are page this description: “Columbia Journalism Review is recognized throughout the world as America’s premier media monitor”?
(Via Big, Left, Outside.)

[12:34 PM : 1 comments]

Your questions answered. Buried in the epic comment thread attached to her post Slushkiller—over 500 comments and counting!—Teresa explains how bad books get published, in a comment equaled only by her earlier disquisition on literary agents and how to discern the good ones.

Several people have recently suggested that Teresa start pulling this material together into a book. Hey, she could call it Maki—no, wait.

[11:35 AM : 13 comments]

Constituency politics at work. Via Atrios, this report of another American mayor declaring he would have “no problem” if the county clerk were to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, in San Francisco-style defiance of state law. What crusader for of far-out liberal politics is this, you ask? Why, that well-known devotee of progressive hermeneutics Richard M. Daley:
“They’re your doctors, your lawyers, your journalists, your politicians,” the mayor said. “They’re someone’s son or daughter. They’re someone’s mother or father…I’ve seen people of the same sex adopt children, have families. [They’re] great parents. […]

A devout Catholic, Daley scoffed at the suggestion that gay marriage would somehow undermine the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

“Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don’t tell me about marriage. You’re not going to lecture me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. Marriage has been undermined for a number of years if you look at the facts and figures on it. Don’t blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community. Please don’t blame them for it,” he said.

Daley said he has no control over marriage licenses in Cook County. But if [County Clerk David] Orr wants to take that bold step, the mayor has no problem with it.

Orr said he was “game to looking at options” provided a consensus could be built.

As Teresa remarked when she heard this, “Are we going to have a revolution led by mayors?”

[10:01 AM : 46 comments]

February 18, 2004
Real journalism. Calpundit has the definitive roundup of what’s known and what’s speculative about GWB’s service in the Guard and the Reserves.

It’s remarkable how crazy this makes the wingnut commenters, all the way from the broad fertile plains of Calpundit to the craggy uplands of nielsenhayden.com.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum just doesn’t stop.

[10:48 PM : 5 comments]

Nailing it. Eric Alterman on the end of the Dean campaign:
Howard Dean is like the old reel-to-reel tape in ‘Mission Impossible.’ He gave the rest of the candidates their instructions and then self-destructed. In doing so, he may have helped save the party and the country. Thanks Howard.
If we actually succeed in evicting GWB, a lot of the credit will belong to Howard Dean. I hope the other movers and shakers of the Democratic Party remember this.

[01:42 PM : 118 comments]

Upholding standards. From yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, via commenter Ray Radlein:
SAN FRANCISCO�Conservative groups trying to stop the city from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples failed to win any immediate action today in two separate court hearings.

Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs late this afternoon that they would likely succeed on the merits of their case but said he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

“I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal. That semicolon is a big deal,” Warren told attorneys, according to an account by Associated Press.

In documents filed with the court, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had requested a court order that would force the city “cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before this court.”

“The way you’ve written this it has a semicolon where it should have the word ‘or’,” the judge said. “I don’t have the authority to issue it under these circumstances.”

Comrade!

[08:11 AM : 29 comments]

February 17, 2004
I got your subtext right here. I mean, if you’re the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, mustering to fight the vampires of the Right for control of Congress, what better name for your official blog than The Stakeholder? In every generation there is a chosen one. Well, then.

[01:30 PM : 6 comments]

February 14, 2004
Reading Michael Lind with Scott Martens. Commenting on Lind’s excellent overview of modern neoconservatism—itself worth reading in its entirety—Scott of Pedantry is struck by the persistence of some of the Left’s more questionable genetic material in the polemics of the modern neocons. As both Lind and Martens observe, many of these calls for America to spread “global democratic revolution” at gunpoint read like manifestos of the Fourth International with a few of the proper nouns changed. Martens remarks:
To view the state as inherently ideological is certainly a defensible position. To view its primary function to be the propagation of an ideology is not. States are at their most effective when they are very conservative institutions, devoted not to the expansion of their ideologies or those of their citizens but to the perpetuation of the conditions for their existence.
There’s a lot to be said for actual conservatism. But the people Lind is writing about are as “conservative” as an anarchist’s bomb, and less responsible.

[03:31 PM : 22 comments]

February 09, 2004
“Detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Denied a visa to attend the Grammy Awards, in which he’s a nominee: Buena Vista Social Club musician Ibrahim Ferrer. And five colleagues.

ferrer.jpg Did the people who made this decision see Wim Wenders’ movie? The sheer joy of these elderly Cuban musicians when they finally got to New York City—if there’s a better advertisement for America, I can’t think of it.

Oh, that’s right: the people making these visa decisions hate New York City as much as they hate Cuba, and anything else outside their poisonous, pinched, provincial worldview.

Tell me again how John Kerry, with all his drawbacks, would be “barely any improvement” on this crowd of censorious, vengeful, authoritarian pecksniffs.

[12:08 AM : 57 comments]

February 07, 2004
Reading Peggy Noonan with Rivka. Who writes:
I’m a psychologist in an HIV clinic. I meet people every day who have problems like, “I just found out I have HIV, and I’m seven months pregnant, and I don’t have anywhere to live or enough money for food.” I face common diagnostic questions like, “is this person just crazy, or has HIV irrevocably eaten away part of her brain?” I worry about things like, “Do I even want to know whether that psychotic guy brings a gun to the clinic?” “Family values” problems in my world are things like, “Ever since I told my parents I have HIV, they make me eat off a paper plate when I visit.”

I actually love my job. But it’s spoiled me for modern living, because I come home from the clinic, log on to my computer and read things like this:

But strangely enough, I’m feeling another emotion besides anger. I feel overwhelmed by sadness at this most recent (and most prominent) example of the flush of our nation’s cesspool we call prime-time entertainment. Sure, I was shocked and appalled by what these performers did. But I can’t shake this pervasive feeling of sadness. So many people to feel sorry for, so much hurt and harm done by one tasteless, classless act on an international stage like halftime of the Super Bowl.
…and I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or go batshit crazy myself. “So much hurt and harm done.” By a breast.

See, this is why people don’t invite me to parties.

[12:41 AM : 20 comments]

February 06, 2004
Everybody knows. The always-wonderful Charles Pierce, writing to Eric Alterman’s un-permalinked Altercation, reminisces about his father’s experiences in World War II:
After a scary couple of years in the North Atlantic at the beginning of WWII, my father got transferred to a ship bound for the forward areas of the Pacific. Once there, he told me he met at least three guys who claimed to have lost money playing poker with the young Lt. Nixon, who was one of the most notorious cardsharps in the Pacific Theater. (One of Bravo’s True Tales Of The West Wing concerns the youthful Dick’s way with a deck on deck.) Further, he also met about 10 guys who claimed to know guys who got similarly fleeced.

My point is this. The forward areas of the Pacific were, I think we can all agree, a slightly more chaotic and random duty station than was, say, Air National Guard billet in Alabama in the early 1970s. Yet, by his own reckoning, my father met at least 13 guys claiming at least a secondhand acquaintance with a future president of the United States. By contrast, the Republicans can’t find one single person who remembers encountering the young C-Plus Augustus in peaceful Alabama as the age of Aquarius faded.

Not…one…single…person.

They apparently can’t even find anyone who saw him in the Piggly Wiggly, let alone in the cockpit of a jet fighter.

They apparently can’t even find one barracks braggart to come out and lie about it.

They apparently can’t even find anyone who’ll do it just for the reward money.

That is the ground on which I call bulls**t on every bit of Republican spin on this story. You lied. You’re still lying. You buried the documentary evidence. Admit it and move along, please.

As many people have pointed out, every Presidential candidate with a military record in the past several decades has released those records to the public as a matter of course. Except for George W. Bush. Why is this? Oh, come on. Everybody knows.

[02:32 PM : 105 comments]

February 05, 2004
What liberalism isn’t. Mark Schmitt at The Decembrist, a very sharp centrist-Democrat weblog I just now became aware of, responds to the bizarre notion (evidently promulgated by someone on The Volokh Conspiracy) that liberals ought to embrace George W. Bush because he’s proved to be a big spender:
Liberalism is not about throwing money at problems. It’s about trying to solve public problems by public means. As a liberal, do I celebrate the news that the Medicare bill will cost more than $500 billion, rather than $400 billion—a 25% cost overrun in just two months? Of course not. In fact the news gives me a pain in the pit of my stomach. It doesn’t mean we’re doing 25% better at solving the health care problems of seniors. It just means we’re doing whatever it is the bill does even less efficiently. The bill doesn’t do the job, at any cost, and so every dollar spent on it is a dollar that’s taken away from what could be a more effective program, or from long-term fiscal stability. The same is true in education, where No Child Left Behind is a mess, and makes so many more promises and demands than can possibly be met with the funding available, and thus invites deceit.

The shorter version of Paul O’Neill’s complaint in The Price of Loyalty, after all, is “I thought this would be the Nixon or Ford administration, but it wasn’t.” What liberals dislike about Bush is the very same thing that O’Neill disliked: reckless incompetence, Karl Rove running policy, nihilism on a grand scale.

“Nihilism on a grand scale.” Exactly right.

[10:41 PM : 9 comments]

Your pop culture moment. Skot Kurruk of Izzle Pfaff! on a different portion of the Superbowl entertainment:
Things did not start auspiciously (do they ever?): some idiotic flack unwisely exhumed Aerosmith and turned them loose onto the stage for the pre-show. Aerosmith. These antediluvian fucks. Whose idea was this? Anyway, there they were, prancing ridiculously; they looked like the Living Avatars of Fruit Leather. Joe Perry arthritically strangled his guitar like a recalcitrant stepchild, and Steven Tyler…good god. He clutched frantically at the microphone, like a drowning man, as his glassine bones moaned under the weight of his terrible array of scarves. And of course his voice is just ruined any more: he searched myopically for notes the way a frustrated man looks for a missing sock in the back of the dryer, and unable to locate any, resorted to some terrible, grainy shrieking. At this point, mysteriously, tiny men began parachuting into the stadium, for unclear purposes. Tyler eyed them nervously, and I thought, ecstatically, They’re coming to kill Steven Tyler! Finally! But no, the weird ‘chuters touched down and just kind of scampered off, pointlessly, and Tyler flashed a relieved smile at the apparent reprieve from Death from Above.
Instant messaging transcript:
[Lucy Huntzinger] (4:59:00 PM): The terrible array of scarves is probably part of his warding. Without them he shrinks and implodes like the Witch-King of Angmar in the movie.
[Patrick Nielsen Hayden] (5:00:27 PM): I’m trying to work out some connection between that and the indigestable fact that Steven Tyler is Liv Tyler’s father, but all I can think of is that there are evil things in the deep places of the earth that surpass even the Dark Lord’s comprehension.

[05:03 PM : 18 comments]

So much for those “Federalists”. Chris Farah of Salon cautions us against the menace of those who have
made names for themselves by having no names at all—and by using the safety and security of their secret identities to spread gossip, make accusations and levy the most vicious of insults with impunity.
Good point. I’ll be sure to take these guys off my bookmarks list immediately.

(In a further irony, Farah’s Salon assault against the grave menace of anonymous webloggers is, cough cough, currently lacking a byline. This, after Salon’s grossly unbecoming climbdown following their misconceived attack on Atrios. I’ve tried very hard to like Salon over the years, but at this point it’s clear that it’s run by morons and that everyone who associates with them gets moron cooties.)

[12:19 AM : 16 comments]

February 04, 2004
What happened. Clay Shirky writes:
Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Generations of zealots have tacked these words up on various walls, never noticing that the two systems that run the modern world—markets and democracies—are working right precisely when they defeat these attempted hijackings by small groups.

Voting in particular is designed as a repudiation of Mead’s notion. In the line at the polling booth, the guy with the non-ironic trucker hat and nothing other than instinct for who he trusts cancels the vote of the politics junkie who can tell you the name of Joe Lieberman’s Delaware field manager.

In Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?, I suggested that Dean had accidentally created a movement instead of a campaign. I still believe that, and this is one of the things I think falls out from that. It’s hard to understand, when you sense yourself to be one of Mead’s thoughtful and committed people, that someone who doesn’t even understand the issues can amble on down to the local elementary school and wipe out your vote, and it’s even harder to understand that the system is designed to work that way.

You can ring doorbells and carry signs and donate and stay up til 4 in the morning talking with fellow believers about the sorry state of politics today, and you still only get one vote. If you want more votes than that, you have to do the hardest, most humbling thing in the world. You have to change someone else’s mind.

[10:44 PM : 68 comments]