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June 30, 2008
Where the Hell Is Matt?
Posted by Teresa at 10:49 PM * 76 comments

A film in which Matthew Harding dances, and is joined by other dancers. “Utterly wonderful,” said Patrick after watching it, “because it’s so totally gratuitous.” Watching it for the fourth time, he said “That’s the best moment. … No, that’s the best moment. … There are so many best moments.”

Thanks be to Jason McIntosh for the link, and to Stride Gum, Cadbury Adams LLC, for sponsoring it without turning it into a commercial.

Things that ought to be obvious
Posted by Patrick at 02:40 PM *

Persons who are against political censorship and corporate malfeasance are not for that reason obliged to live their entire personal and professional lives in a goldfish bowl. Believing that public utilities ought to be accountable to the public does not make one into a public utility, no matter how hard anyone tries to spin it that way.

Advocating “transparency” for government proceedings, or for the beneficiaries of chartered monopolies and public largesse, doesn’t oblige the advocate to be “transparent” in every personal or artistic decision they themselves make.

This kind of bad-faith attack is common against reformers: “So-and-so claims to call us to virtue, but look, they’re not a saint after all!” is nastily effective, even when the so-and-so in question never claimed to be a saint. Some people will always fall for it, including people you thought were surely smarter than that.

“No,” he said apartmently
Posted by Patrick at 11:38 AM * 69 comments

Courtesy of the American Family Association, their AP feed, and ill-considered auto-replace: US Olympic sprinter Tyson Homosexual.

(Via The Carpetbagger Report.)

Consumer notes
Posted by Patrick at 11:15 AM * 48 comments

Rhapsody is easy to set up and easy to use, and (despite their recent troubles) arguably a good deal if you want to listen to an impressively large catalog of on-demand streaming music. But after several months, I realized that I simply wasn’t using it, so I decided to cancel.

Which is when I discovered that Rhapsody is one of those online services that’s deliberately engineered to be easy to sign up for, and difficult to leave. To start giving them $12.99 a month entails just a few mouse clicks. To stop involves phoning an 800 number, waiting in a queue while loud music is pumped over the phone, and eventually dealing with a script-driven humanoid who demands to know your reasons for canceling.

I know perfectly well why businesses do this sort of thing. I just won’t support them when they do. If I can possibly avoid it, I’ll never give Real Networks another dime.

I Can Has Cheezburger
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:42 AM * 108 comments

This being the summer, and therefore the Hamburger Grilling Months, I present the recipe that we’re using here to Great Applause.

We follow the Alton Brown school of hamburgering: “For medium-rare burgers, cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. For medium burgers, cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the burgers only once during cooking.”

The important statement there is “flip the burgers only once.” Also, do not (no matter how sorely tempted) press on the burgers with your spatula. After the flip, put on a slice of cheese (provolone is very nice).

For the patties we take normal store-bought hamburger meat and mix in an envelope of dry onion-soup mix.

Serve with sliced onion, tomato, lettuce, etc. The local custom in northern New England is to use mayonnaise as a spread.

[Recipe Index]

If I Had Another Penny
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:52 AM *

I first ran into “Byker Hill” on a Boiled in Lead album, Old Lead.

This is the song that begins:

If I had another penny
I would have another gill
I would make the piper play
The Bonny Lass of Byker Hill.

And there it would have stayed, if not while listening to I hadn’t heard another version by The Cottars.

In the midst of Byker Hill, what should I hear but:

A pitman and a keelman trim
They drink bumble made of gin
Then to dance they do begin
To the tune of Elsie Marley

Pitmen and keelmen were both apparently hard-drinking sorts.

The tune of Elsie Marley is easily found. (That’s Duck Baker teaching it, and teaching the Secret Chord that Segovia Didn’t Know, too.)

Long-time readers of Making Light will recall that I like gin drinks (not to excess, of course).

“What the hey,” said I to myself, “is bumble? Is it good?”

Alas, while a quick google finds a gin drink called a “Bumble Bee,” (2 oz. gin, 1 cup crushed ice, two dashes lemon juice, 2 tsp honey) the Bumble Bee doesn’t go any farther back than the 1920s, while “Byker Hill” (so I learn over at dates to 1812.

The word “Bumble” is associated with gin in Oliver Twist (1838), when Mr. Bumble visits the orphanage (in Chapter Two):

“Now don’t you be offended at what I’m a going to say,” observed Mrs. Mann, with captivating sweetness. “You’ve had a long walk, you know, or I wouldn’t mention it. Now, will you take a little drop of somethink, Mr. Bumble?”

“Not a drop. Not a drop,” said Mr. Bumble, waving his right hand in a dignified, but placid manner.

“I think you will,” said Mrs. Mann, who had noticed the tone of the refusal, and the gesture that had accompanied it. “Just a leetle drop, with a little cold water, and a lump of sugar.”

Mr. Bumble coughed.

“Now, just a leetle drop,” said Mrs. Mann persuasively.

“What is it?” inquired the beadle.

“Why, it’s what I’m obliged to keep a little of in the house to put into the blessed infants’ Daffy, when they ain’t well, Mr. Bumble,” replied Mrs. Mann as she opened a corner cupboard, and took down a bottle and glass. “It’s gin. I’ll not deceive you, Mr. B. It’s gin.”

Now that is promising: gin, water, and a lump of sugar. But it’s far from fixed; “Bumble” is an old word, far pre-dating gin, and Mr. Bumble could have been named thusly by Boz for many reasons other than fondness for a particular drink.

Turning to the exhaustive ten-year thread discussion of Byker Hill at Mudcat, we learn much about the geography of Newcastle, the sources and analogs of Geordie Johnson’s pig (Geordie Johnson had a pig/ And he hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig/ All the way to Byker Hill/ He danced the Elsie Marley) but not a word about what “bumble” is. “Elsie Marley” is in 6/8 time so you can dance a jig to it. There’s a discussion of the perfidity of interpolating stanzas of “My Dearie Sits Ower Late Up” (as do Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick) between verses of “Byker Hill,” but no recipe for bumble. There’s a long digression about what the proper tune might be (apparently The Cottars have the Wrong One), and some notes on which trolleys ran by Byker Hill in the 1950s, but nothing of gin bumble at all.

What to do?

Seek out Elsie Marley, of course.

Elsie Marley’s grown so fine,
She won’t get up to feed the swine,
But lies in bed ‘till eight or nine!
And surely she does take her time
Alice “Elsie” Marley (nee Harrison), was a historical person, it seems, a Tyne-side tavern-keeper, and among the stanzas in her song is a verse similar to the one that appears in “Byker Hill”:
The pitmen and the keelmen trim,
They drink bumbo made from gin,
And for to dance they do begin
To the tune of “Elsie Marley”, honey.

And would ye look at that: “Bumble” here is spelled “bumbo,” and there is indeed a drink called “bumbo.”

By golly, look at that: darned near the same recipe as what Mrs. Mann offered Mr. Bumble, too: 2 oz. rum, chilled water, two sugar cubes, sprinkle cinnamon, sprinkle nutmeg. The difference being that one was made with gin, the other rum. (Thus, I suppose, having to specify “bumbo made of gin.”) Bumbo has a number of alternate spellings, and a long history.

From this I conclude that “bumble made of gin” is:

Cold water
Cube sugar
nutmeg and cinnamon

Which doesn’t sound half bad.

[Recipe Index]

June 29, 2008
Point, counterpoint, set, match
Posted by Patrick at 11:16 PM *

Via Crooked Timber: the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and, simultaneously, pretty much everything else.

June 25, 2008
I Can See Your Lips Are Moving, I Can’t Hear a Single Word You Say
Posted by Patrick at 12:10 AM *

From the New York Times:

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

I’ve got my fingers in my ears I’m going la la la la la la la la la la, I can’t hear you.

(Audio here.)

June 24, 2008
Unprecedented wildfires in California
Posted by Teresa at 11:55 AM * 172 comments

Estimates are that 842 separate wildfires are burning in California—and for once, they aren’t in Southern California. The southernmost fire is near Monterey, and they range northward all the way to Siskiyou county, just south of the California-Oregon border. The LA Times has a good story about it, and an excellent map. News 10 has a more recently updated version, plus a slideshow.

They’re saying it was caused by three highly unusual circumstances: a record shortage of rain that’s left the entire region tinder-dry, a huge batch of lightning storms that rolled in off the Pacific, and uncharacteristically high winds.

June 23, 2008
So close
Posted by Avram Grumer at 09:50 PM * 86 comments

McCain aide Mark Soohoo, when asked to defend McCain for being computer-illiterate:

“You don’t actually have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country, […] John McCain is aware of the Internet,” says Soohoo. “This is a man who has a very long history of understanding on a range of issues.”

Maybe this is a deliberate strategy. Maybe the next few months will see McCain and his aides talking about having cheeseburgers and terrorists setting up bombs, eventually causing politically-aware Net users (who are disproportionately Obama supporters) to collapse of nervous exhaustion just before Election Day.

Posted by Avram Grumer at 04:45 PM *

George Carlin is dead of a heart attack (“a gawddamned myocahdial infahction” as he once described an earlier attack) at age 71.

Two of Carlin’s albums, Class Clown and FM & AM, were constant companions of mine one summer when I was a kid. I listened to them so often that parts of them are permanently etched into my brain.

One of those sketches, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”, from Class Clown, is probably one of the most famous pieces of stand-up comedy ever. To me, it remains the quintessential George Carlin comedy routine, because it’s not just funny, it’s also an examination of why things are funny, and an exploration of the relationship between sound and meaning. Carlin got me thinking about sentences and meaning in a way I hadn’t before.

A follow-up to “Seven Words”, “Filthy Words”, was the first (and I think only, so far) stand-up comedy routine ever to be entered into the text of a US Supreme Court decision, FCC v Pacifica Foundation.

June 20, 2008
Art links
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:10 PM *

Rick Veitch has a new comic miniseries called The Art of War, part of his Army@Love series. The covers seem (based on the first two) to be parodies of famous paintings. First issue has the Mona Lisa (look at it next to the original to see how the background detail carries over), and the second has one of the best parodies of Hopper’s “Nighthawks” I’ve ever seen. (And I see that the second Army@Love trade is coming out soon, so I should probably go pick up the first.)

I’m not a big fan of Squidbillies, one of the quarter-hour cartoons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. I don’t like the writing, or the animation, or the character design. Yet whenever it comes on, I can’t help but look at the backgrounds by artist Ben Prisk. They’re full of chaotic shapes, skewed perspective, and lush, sloppy, saturated washes of glowing color, like stained-glass windows designed by Ralph Steadman. Prisk’s blog, full of paintings and sketches, is inspirational too.

Rod McKie has scanned in some pages from Wally Wood’s old fanzine witzend, including a Steve Ditko Mr A story that starts with a full page of Mr A shouting Objectivist philosophy at the reader. If I were a billionaire, I’d try to get Ditko and Dave Sim to collaborate on a philosophical comic, just for the sheer skull-busting awesome craziness of it.

June 19, 2008
High On Life
Posted by Patrick at 07:58 AM *

Dear Tristero:

All that music you cite is outstanding. And I’m not personally eager to join Neal Pollack in messing around with salvia.

And yet the urge to tinker with our brain chemistry has been with us at least as long as music. Disapprove of it if you like, but it seems a shame to use great music as a tool to grind such a petty ax with. The practice of sneering at other people’s pleasures while claiming superior virtue for one’s own is no lovelier when liberals do it.

June 18, 2008
AP to negotiate with sham “Media Bloggers Association”
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM *

This weblog does not belong to the Media Bloggers Association. This weblog had never heard of the Media Bloggers Association until yesterday, when the Associated Press made an announcement:

AP to meet with blogging group to form guidelines

The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over an AP assertion of copyright, plans to meet this week with a bloggers’ group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.

Jim Kennedy, the AP’s director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it. …

Cox, the head of the bloggers’ association, said there needed to be a clearer understanding among bloggers about what kinds of use of AP stories would or would not trigger legal complaints.

Oh yeah?

This weblog was not born yesterday.

I’ve been monitoring reactions to the AP story. I haven’t seen a single weblog indicate that it had heard of the Media Bloggers Association before this story broke. Naturally, I was suspicious. It sounded like one of those setups where “tribal representatives” who have no actual standing with the tribe sign a treaty ceding some large tract of land to white developers. What the hell is the Media Bloggers Association?

I went looking. Let me just say that the research has been distractingly interesting. I can’t possibly work everything into this post. Shortest possible version: Daily Kos is right in all particulars about this supposed negotiation. His major points: [1.] The Associated Press doesn’t make the law. Their current campaign is in violation of established copyright law. Talking to the MBA won’t change that. [2.] Kos isn’t going to boycott the AP. He intends to go on using his right to fair-use quotations from news stories. He says if the AP wants to sue him for this, bring it on. [3.] And I quote:

The dumbasses at the Media Bloggers Association, of course, are walking right into that meeting because they crave nothing more than creating the impression that they, you know, represent bloggers (they don’t).
Spot on.

The Media Bloggers Association substantially consists of one lackluster blogger named Robert Cox. His weblog, Words in Edgewise, and the MBA website, are two halves of the same site. Robert Cox isn’t all that interested in blogging per se. What he’s really into is self-aggrandizement by representing himself as someone who speaks for bloggers and blogging. An embarrassing number of organizations have fallen for this.

(There’s more yummy goodness to come, but I’m going to post this much now. Expect this entry to get longer as I continue to work on it.)

2. Robert Cox is speaking for you!

Meeting with the Associated Press on behalf of the blogosphere is right up Robert Cox’s alley. His appearances at conferences and on roundtable discussions, his interviews and his published opinions, are the by far the biggest subject of his weblog.

An incomplete list: RC is on the Poynter committee, which is “evolving a guidebook for online ethics” (but I haven’t seen Cox participating in any of the major online ethics thrashes over the past few years). :: RC appears on a panel on the Future of Alternative Journalism. :: RC attends the We Media conference on blogging and social media. :: RC participates in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s roundtable on the future of online media. :: RC attends a Justice in Journalism conference in Nashville. :: (He quotes some of his own remarks, which are fatuous.) :: RC is interviewed about blogging by the Congressional Quarterly Researcher. :: RC participates in a State of the News Media 2006 online roundtable. :: RC puts together a panel on the Maine Blogger case for the Media Giraffe Summit. :: RC speaks at the SPJ annual conference. :: Legislators and advocacy groups ask RC to opine on blogging. :: RC writes op ed for DFW Star-Telegram. :: RC appears on the Fox News Neil Cavuto Show. :: (That piece will give you a good sense of Robert Cox’s blogging style, if you’re interested; or try RC meets Gerald Ford for a picosecond during a seventh-grade class trip.) :: RC appears on a panel on changing media at the Justice & Journalism conference in Phoenix. :: RC engages in name-dropping at BloggerCon IV. :: RC is mentioned in an editorial by Matt Tapscott. :: Lauren Gelman of the Stanford Law School Clinical Education Center asks RC to sign on to an Amicus brief. :: RC travels this great land of ours, meeting “…educational institutions, foundations, media associations, financial services companies, law firms and legal associations, government agencies, book publishers, movie companies and many more. I have met with executive editors for major newspapers, supreme court justices, White House officials, deans of law schools, general counsels for major corporations. I have spoken at conferences for corporations, public information officers, major media associations, journalism schools. I have also personally met with hundreds of bloggers.”

Please tell me you get the idea.

Given the quality of Robert Cox’s opinions and analyses, you’d think we’d have heard more about all this activity of his. I expect the liberal mainstream media is to blame. (Yup, Cox is one of those. He’s also a racist.)

Sometimes, alas, Robert Cox is denied a voice at some event where he’d like to speak, like this one, at the Museum of Television & Radio. Then he’s hard put to say a single good thing about the gathering. (Click through and have a look at who they invited instead.) But for real vituperative anger—the only circumstance that ever gets Robert Cox to write at substantial length and use specific detail—the winner and champeen is a 2005 panel discussion following a special showing of George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck that left RC permanently ticked-off at Nick Lemann. You can read about it in RC’s Blogs to Lemann: Drop Dead!.

In that entry, he also mentions that he wrote up the event at the time in his old weblog, The National Debate. TND has since been taken down, but through the miracle of the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. the Internet Archive, you can still read it.* Even better, you can watch RC’s own video of himself asking the panel the kind of question that makes panel moderators wish they carried firearms, and the panelists doing what RC claims they “studiously avoided” doing: answering his question. Watch this video! THERE IS NO BETTER INTRODUCTION TO THE MIND OF ROBERT COX.

3. Some smaller tidbits before I dive into the next big section:

Robert Cox (then Bob Cox) was or is the proprietor of Olbermann Watch, a nutbar right-wing attack site. I don’t want to link to it. You can read about the blog, Robert Cox, the early days of the MBA, and the kind of things RC does with his prized “journalistic credentials”, in Watching Olbermann Watch. This ties Cox to the likes of Rupert Murdoch. It’s definitely food for paranoia.


Robert Cox isn’t accustomed to having other sites respond to his writing. When they do, he gets nettled, whiny and defensive, at length. Worse, he fails to identify who it is he’s responding to! It’s enough to make you wonder whether, at heart, he’s really a blogger at all. Here’s his reaction to this entry (plus someone else’s response). Even more fun, here he is picking a fight with Gawker Media.

You just keep thinkin’, Butch.

That’s all for this segment. Again, expect this entry to get longer as I continue working on it.

4. A bad Wikipedia entry, an interesting item from a Salon letter column, and an unseemly obsession with being first; also, Tlönista reads the MBA News Archive so you don’t have to:

A bad Wikipedia entry:

I first divined the existence of Robert Cox by looking at the Wikipedia entry on the Media Bloggers Association. It’s short:

The Media Bloggers Association, or MBA, is an American membership-based, non-partisan organization involved in activities that support the development of blogs as an emerging distinct form of media.

In January 2007, MBA members were among the first bloggers to receive press credentials identical to those of broadcast and print journalists at a federal court, to cover the trial of Lewis Libby, alongside bloggers from more established sites including the Huffington Post and Daily Kos. The MBA described this as a significant step forward in its efforts on behalf of its members.

What’s the problem? Simple. There’s one humongous and glaring omission: Firedoglake owned that story. Their coverage was the wonder of the world. The mainstream media and bloggers across the entire political spectrum were using Firedoglake’s coverage to follow the story. It got written up at length by Glenn Greenwald in Salon (“Firedoglake’s Libby reporting forces a reevaluation of blogs”), Liz Halloran in U.S. News and World Report (Media Takes: A Dogged Blogger at the Libby Trial), and Jay Rosen in PressThink (“They’re Not in Your Club but They Are in Your League: Firedoglake at the Libby Trial”). If you look at SourceWatch’s list of external links on the trial of Scooter Libby, you can see how thoroughly they dominated the coverage.

I typed “media blogging association” firedoglake into Google. Up popped result #1: the New York Times article on Firedoglake’s coverage of the Libby trial. Two and a half screens down, there it was:

For blogs, the Libby trial marks a courthouse coming of age. It is the first federal case for which independent bloggers have been given official credentials along with reporters from the traditional news media, said Robert A. Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association.
“I see you,” I said out loud. I went back to the Wikipedia article and looked at the entry’s revision history. Sure enough, the original version and the first two rounds of revisions were credited to “Robertissimo.” (Yes, I know: there’s always the possibility that it was written and revised by some other Robertissimo of the same name—one who uses the standard MBA wording, is familiar with the organization’s doings, cares enough to keep a close watch on the entry, cares far too much about who gets credit for being the first bloggers to get journalistic credentials, and has a writing style very like that of Robert Cox. It’s well to keep such improbabilities in mind.)

The next revision was by Raph Levien, whose laconic explanation said “tone down self-promotion, giving due credit to other blogs.” Levien amended Robertissimo’s untruthful claim that MBA members had been the first bloggers to receive press credentials identical those of print journalists, and added mentions of Daily Kos and The Huffington Post: if not completely accurate, a considerable improvement. Another Wikipedian, Outsider3, disputed some of the entry’s other claims. Then, alas, Robertissimo came back and removed Outsider3’s additions, piously noting in the “Talk” section that “…while the information may be factual, it needs reliable sources per WP guidelines on attribution.” I’d have thought that “There’s a good chance that I’m the president of the organization being criticized” was the more pertinent information.

Further down in the “Talk” section, I think it’s Robertissimo who quotes Robert Cox explaining that the reason the MBA members weren’t the first-ever bloggers to get journalistic credentials was because an earlier blogger, Gene Borio, had claimed that he received federal credentials long before the Libby trial. If so, Robertissimo did a good job of maintaining his initial enormous lie: that Firedoglake had no part in the coverage of the Libby trial.

(Dear Wikipedia: may I suggest that you have a look at Robertissimo’s other entries and edits? Dishonesty is so seldom a one-time event. Also, someone should fix that entry.)

An interesting item from a Salon letter column:

This letter to the editor is from the letter column following Glenn Greenwald’s article on Firedoglake’s coverage of the Libby trial. The letter writer is referring to the New York Times’ story about the coverage:

You Left Out the Unfortunate Part of That Article…

… the shameless credit-grabbing by Robert A. Cox, president of “the America Bloggers Association.”

For blogs, the Libby trial marks a courthouse coming of age. It is the first federal case for which independent bloggers have been given official credentials along with reporters from the traditional news media, said Robert A. Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Mr. Cox negotiated access for the bloggers.
Mr. Cox had absolutely no role in negotiation access for Firedoglake, which did so independently long ago, most likely before Mr. Cox even thought about it. Cox has also tried to force FDL into his “pool” deal with AP, which, I believe, FDL rebuffed. And yet Cox not only continues to act like this was all his doing, the Times dutifully goes along.

FDL’s coverage was FDL’s alone, and in no way, shape, or form, associated with whatever con game Cox is pushing.

— dave

(I added the underline.)

This version of events was confirmed by Christy Hardin Smith in Firedoglake:

One correction, though: the MBA did NOT negotiate our media passes. We have been working on getting passes for this trial from the moment Libby was indicted. Jane and I made calls to the courthouse, e-mailed, wrote letters, and worked on getting credentialed from very early on. To emphasize our commitment to doing serious coverage, we enlisted the help of Arianna, whose Huffington Post name was more recognizable than FDL to folks not familiar with how blogs had been covering this investigation. But the gaining of our three media passes? That was OUR work. And it was our consistent work on this case—for years—that got us the passes, and not anyone from the outside. I don’t want to get into a pissing contest with some other blog group because, frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time this morning, but I wanted to be clear on that point—we worked our butts off to get credentialed for this case, and we were credentialed early. Mr. Shane may have misunderstood on that point, so I wanted to make that perfectly clear.
To summarize thus far: Robert Cox shoehorned himself into the story, fibbed about being the intermediator through whose agency all the bloggers got their credentials, already had a deal going with AP, and tried to force the Firedoglake bloggers to join the AP pool, which would have given AP complete access to their superior and quite valuable reportage.

Now we’re supposed to believe he’s dickering in good faith with the AP on behalf of blogdom? No way. Even if his motives were purer than Ivory soap, he should have more sense than to go anywhere near this issue.

An unseemly obsession with being first:

Let’s go back once more to that New York Times article. At the bottom of the story, it has two corrections. The first one says:

A front-page article yesterday about bloggers covering the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. referred imprecisely to the role of Robert A. Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, in securing credentials. Mr. Cox negotiated access for his association, which was the first blogger group to be granted credentials to cover the trial. He did not negotiate on behalf of and other blogs that received their credentials later.
This has to have originated with Robert Cox and the MBA. It’s not very believable. Jane Hamsher and Christy Hardin Smith had been hot on the trail of the Valerie Plame/Dick Cheney/Scooter Libby story for years, and applied for credentials as soon as Libby was indicted. Robert Cox didn’t take a strong early interest in the story. He primarily covers stories that involve blogging, and he usually writes about them after they’ve happened. During the trial itself, his coverage was diffuse, imitative, and not terribly well-informed. He was enthusiastic about having credentials—RC really, really likes credentials—but evidenced no great passion for the story itself.

In short, I’d need solid and convincing proof from a reliable third party before I could believe Robert Cox & Co. got their credentials before the Firedoglake bloggers. Why should it matter whether they did? No reason. In fact, it’s not especially important. What’s weird is that Robert Cox thinks it’s that important. This is not something a grownup should be obsessing about.

Tlönista reads the MBA News Archive so you don’t have to:

In the comment thread of this post, the estimable Tlönista has posted a summary of the MBA News Archive, and all the important work it does on behalf of bloggers. Conclusion: it doesn’t do much work on behalf of bloggers. To quote:

In summary, it looks like the MBA is a vehicle for getting Robert Cox quoted in papers. And they’ve been awfully cozy with the AP for a long while (well, two years is a long while in Internet time).
We could still use a patient volunter to watch and report on the Youtube video about MBA’s deal with the AP.

And that’s it for this segment. It’s been a long day.

Still to come, possibly tomorrow: the Newsweek connection, Oliver Willis held blameless, the MBA’s hastily rejiggered membership page, the quest for a membership list, the case of the Maine Blogger, further revelations of the Wayback Machine, and Walt Willis and Bob Shaw.

(To be continued …)

The internet filters! They perform inadequately!
Posted by Patrick at 12:25 AM *

Actual human beings over the age of 12 thought this campaign video was a good idea.

Produced, of course, for the very same gathering of Texas Republicans where these buttons were openly for sale.

(Wonkette is overcome.)

June 17, 2008
A great day
Posted by Patrick at 11:15 PM *

May equality live long and prosper.

(Photo via Nick Mamatas.)

I was never much of a Star Trek fan, but I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing George Takei last year. Getting up to speed on his life in advance of the interview, I came to realize what a stand-up progressive he is and always has been. And, in person, he lived up to his reputation. Congratulations to him, to Brad, and to everyone else in California now finally able to get as married as anyone else. Justice is slow and unevenly distributed, but we can celebrate it when it happens. And we should.

The Associated Press: worse than merely foolish
Posted by Patrick at 08:23 AM *

It’s hard to believe the AP’s recent behavior could be more odious than what’s already been discussed, but on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow spots further humdingers in their fine print.

First, their licensing system explicitly recruits people to “report piracy”—“you may be eligible for a reward of up to $1 million”! Remember, the Associated Press believes you should have to pay in order to quote as few as five words from their content, so that’s a lot of piracy-reportin’ to be done, junior woodchucks.

Second, their Terms of Use explicitly prohibit you, even if you’ve paid them, from quoting the Associated Press in order to criticize the Associated Press:

You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content. You agree not to use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to or damaging to the reputation of Publisher, its licensors, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or referenced in the Content […]

Publisher reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher’s reputation.

In other words, no more criticizing AP reporting, not if you’re foolish enough to pay them money and sign off on their terms.

Obviously, professional media-critic organizations like Media Matters for America are just going to laugh at these demands. But failing some really sustained publicity about this stuff (ideally accompanied by intense personal humiliation for the executives who dreamed it up), the AP will certainly manage to intimidate a certain number of net users who happen to be less affluent and well-connected than A-list bloggers and DC-based watchdog groups. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

[Above image: From the AP’s “Copyright Don’ts”. Certainly, don’t think copyright, as currently instantiated, has become a racket by which the powerful bully the weak and bad actors seek to suppress exposure of their misdeeds. Don’t!]

The Red Cross is strapped for funds
Posted by Teresa at 12:03 AM * 39 comments

From the comment thread on Five Feet High and Rising:

#120 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 09:19 PM:

The American Red Cross announced today that its disaster relief fund is completely spent, and that it is now borrowing money to continue intensive relief efforts across the midwest.

Many of my fellow volunteers from the Minneapolis Chapter are using their own vehicles and paying for their own gas, lodging and food to go help these folks. I’ll probably be joining them shortly.

Even with the volunteers paying their own way, these efforts still consume huge amounts of cash. To donate, please click here. Thank you.

#121 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Edward, what’s your local chapter?

I ask because some people are recommending donating to the chapters rather than the national organization, which doesn’t always put the money where the donors intend.

#122 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 10:03 PM:

PJ @ #122, Here’s the page which shows ARC chapters by state, with links to each one’s website.

Go and do whatever seems right to you. And pass it on.

June 16, 2008
Secret Masters
Posted by Patrick at 07:04 PM *

First Charles Stross, now Doctor Who: the very distinguished Paul Krugman continues to out himself as a gigantic science fiction geek.

What is it with these eminent economists, anyway?

The Associated Press wants to charge you $12.50 to quote five words from them
Posted by Patrick at 03:05 PM *

The Associated Press, having already announced its intention to harass bloggers who publish snippets as short as 39 words from AP stories, has now published a web form through which intimidated parties can give the AP money in return for “permission” to publish as few as five words.

In this spirit, I will shortly be putting up my own Web form through which people can PayPal me money in exchange for my promise to not blow up the moon.

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.” Hey, why have laws? Let’s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we’ll save.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.

The people pushing for this stuff are not well-meaning, and they are not interested in making life better for artists, writers, or any other kind of individual creators. They are would-be aristocrats who fully intend to return us to a society of orders and classes, and they’re using so-called “intellectual property” law as a tool with which to do it. Whether or not you have ever personally taped a TV show or written a blog post, if you think you’re going to wind up on top in the sort of world these people are working to build, you are out of your mind.

[UPDATES: Commenters Greg Andrews and Irai correctly point out that the AP’s bizarre price list predates their recent round of threats against bloggers. Meanwhile, more on the AP and their Terms-of-Use chicanery here.]

“The truth of a matter”
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:55 PM *

Some advice from playwright and screenwriter Todd Alcott on writing dialog:

To every extent possible, characters should not tell each other how they feel. Any time a character tells another character how he or she feels, the audience is going to wonder “what the heck is he or she getting at?” Any time a character says “Here’s the truth of a matter:” what should follow the colon is anything other than the truth of the matter. Think of it: any time someone comes to you in your daily goings-about and says “Let me tell you something about myself” or “I have some feelings I want to share with you” or “The fact of the matter is…” you want to turn around and run in the opposite direction. Because the only reason someone would come up to you and offer you some kind of truth is because they want something from you.

Ever notice how often trolls in an online discussion forum will start a comment with “The truth is…” or “I hate to tell you this, but…”? Or any similar kind of introductory puffing-up of what they’re about to say to try and make it seem more important than it really is?

Are Internet trolls actually just characters in badly-written fiction?

John Scalzi Gives You Tomorrow’s Punditry—Today!
Posted by Patrick at 10:39 AM *

John Scalzi, June 7, 2008:

I do think that when the dust settles what we’re going to find is that Clinton’s stock is going to go way up. Just as being gaveled out of the presidency was the best thing to happen to Al Gore personally (if not the best thing to happen to the nation, given what the alternative turned out to be), I think Clinton’s going to find herself completely springboarded out of her husband’s political shadow, and able to write her own ticket, politically and otherwise, from here on out. She’s the Most Important Clinton now, which is not insignificant (and which must kind of burn Bill, no matter what he says publicly).
Cover story by John Heilemann, New York magazine, June 23, 2008: The Fall and Rise of Hillary Clinton:
What strikes me as inarguable is that Hillary is today a more resonant, consequential, and potent figure than she has ever been before. No longer merely a political persona, she has been elevated to a rarefied plane in our cultural consciousness. With her back against the wall, she both found her groove and let loose her raging id, turning herself into a character at once awful and wonderful, confounding and inspiring—thus enlarging herself to the point where she became iconic. She is bigger now than any woman in the country. Certainly, she is bigger than her husband.
There’s more, mixing acute observations with overdramatized baloney in the usual breathless oh-what-a-big-deal-this-is manner of New York magazine’s political coverage. But I think Scalzi and Heilemann’s core point is correct: whichever party wins the general election, Hillary Clinton is now firmly established as a cultural figure of transcendent power and reach. She’s not just a former First Lady, a junior Senator from a large state, or a failed Presidential candidate. She’s a rock star. And she’s not done yet.

June 13, 2008
Five Feet High and Rising
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:15 PM *

Flooding. Downtown Des Moines is being evacuated even as we speak. Included are all areas in Des Moines’ 500-year floodplain.

400 blocks in Cedar Rapids are under water.

“We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring,” said Brian Pierce, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Davenport, Iowa. “We’re in uncharted territory — this is an event beyond what anybody could even imagine.”

If you’re affected, recall Tips for an Apocalypse.

Next suggestion, for anyone in a flood zone or near one: Boil your water.

An engine that runs on water?
Posted by Teresa at 10:59 AM * 175 comments

A Japanese company, Genepax, has announced and demonstrated a new fuel cell system that runs on water.

No, really.

Some links:

From Reuters India:

Tired of petrol prices rising daily at the pump? A Japanese company has invented an electric-powered, and environmentally friendly, car that it says runs solely on water.

Genepax unveiled the car in the western city of Osaka on Thursday, saying that a liter (2.1 pints) of any kind of water—rain, river or sea—was all you needed to get the engine going for about an hour at a speed of 80 km (50 miles).

“The car will continue to run as long as you have a bottle of water to top up from time to time,” Genepax CEO Kiyoshi Hirasawa told local broadcaster TV Tokyo. “It does not require you to build up an infrastructure to recharge your batteries, which is usually the case for most electric cars,” he added.

Once the water is poured into the tank at the back of the car, the a generator breaks it down and uses it to create electrical power, TV Tokyo said.

Whether the car makes it into showrooms remains to be seen. Genepax said it had just applied for a patent and is hoping to collaborate with Japanese auto manufacturers in the future.

From Fuel Cell Today:
It is claimed the Water Energy System (WES) developed by Genepax can generate power by supplying water and air to the fuel and air electrodes. The basic power generation mechanism of the system is similar to that of a standard fuel cell. The main feature of the new system is that it uses a membrane electrode assembly (MEA), which contains a material that breaks down the water to hydrogen and oxygen.

Though the company did not reveal any more detail the company president said that they had “succeeded in adopting a well-known process to produce hydrogen from water to the MEA”, similar to the mechanism that produces hydrogen by a reaction of metal hydride and water. However the company claims that compared with the existing method, the new process produces hydrogen from water for a longer time.

Genepax unveiled a fuel cell stack with a rated output of 120W and a fuel cell system with a rated output of 300W. The 300W system is an active system, which supplies water and air with a pump. In the demonstration, the company powered the TV and the lighting equipment with a lead-acid battery charged by using the system. In addition, the 300W system was mounted in the luggage room of a compact electric vehicle “Reva” manufactured by Takeoka Mini Car Products Co Ltd, and the vehicle was driven by the system.

From TechOn:
According to Genepax, the main feature of the new system is that it uses the company’s membrane electrode assembly (MEA), which contains a material capable of breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen through a chemical reaction.

Though the company did not reveal the details, it “succeeded in adopting a well-known process to produce hydrogen from water to the MEA,” said Hirasawa Kiyoshi, the company’s president. This process is allegedly similar to the mechanism that produces hydrogen by a reaction of metal hydride and water. But compared with the existing method, the new process is expected to produce hydrogen from water for longer time, the company said.

With the new process, the cell needs only water and air, eliminating the need for a hydrogen reformer and high-pressure hydrogen tank. Moreover, the MEA requires no special catalysts, and the required amount of rare metals such as platinum is almost the same as that of existing systems, Genepax said.

Unlike the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC), which uses methanol as a fuel, the new system does not emit CO2. In addition, it is expected to have a longer life because catalyst degradation (poisoning) caused by CO does not occur on the fuel electrode side. As it has only been slightly more than a year since the company completed the prototype, it plans to collect more data on the product life.

At the conference, Genepax unveiled a fuel cell stack with a rated output of 120W and a fuel cell system with a rated output of 300W. In the demonstration, the 120W fuel cell stack was first supplied with water by using a dry-cell battery operated pump. After power was generated, it was operated as a passive system with the pump turned off.

This time, the voltage of the fuel cell stack was 25-30V. Because the stack is composed of 40 cells connected in series, it is expected that the output per cell is 3W or higher, the voltage is about 0.5-0.7V, and the current is about 6-7A. The power density is likely to be not less than 30mW/cm2 because the reaction area of the cell is 10 x 10 cm. …

For the future, the company intends to provide 1kw-class generation systems for use in electric vehicles and houses. Instead of driving electric vehicles with this system alone, the company expects to use it as a generator to charge the secondary battery used in electric vehicles.

This looks kinda real. How much more do we know, or can we guess? Also, would I be correct in assuming the system throws off oxygen? That could get exciting. (Thank you, Bill Brazell.)

“Dog-whistling so loudly that it’s vibrating the windows”
Posted by Patrick at 07:17 AM * 108 comments

John Scalzi serves up the rantage, fresh and piping-hot. A classic, already being linked to from far and wide.

A precedent that will reach to himself
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:49 AM * 78 comments

Thursday, as you’ve probably heard by now, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantánamo Bay do have habeas corpus rights. I’ve skimmed the decision (in PDF form), and part of it rests on the recognition that there’s a strong bullshit component to the claim that Cuba has “ultimate sovereignty” over the area of the bay, based in the 1903 Cuban-America Treaty, signed at gunpoint in the wake of the Spanish-American War. Though Justice Kennedy phrases it somewhat more genteelly:

Accordingly, for purposes of our analysis, we accept the Government’s position that Cuba, and not the United States, retains de jure sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay. As we did in Rasul, however, we take notice of the obvious and uncontested fact that the United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control over the base, maintains de facto sovereignty over this territory.

I’ve also skimmed Scalia’s dissent (starting on page 110 of that PDF), in which, having seen a terrorist scurrying around the floorboards of his kitchen, he leaps up onto a chair, robes clutched around his knees, and shrieks for a big strong executive branch to do away with our essential liberties so he can have a little temporary safety. But the real gem comes on page 127:

But so long as there are some places to which habeas does not run — so long as the Court’s new “functional” test will not be satisfied in every case — then there will be circumstances in which “it would be possible for the political branches to govern without legal constraint.” Or, to put it more impartially, areas in which the legal determinations of the other branches will be (shudder!) supreme.

Yes, he actually wrote “(shudder!)”! But don’t let that distract you. Check out the first half of that quote. The thing Scalia’s actually worried about is that this decision places limits on the power of the executive branch. He’s actually offended at the notion that there might be circumstances under which the President can’t operate “without legal restraint”. In Scalia’s mind, the notion that the President might not have legitimate dictatorial powers is so offensive that he expects us to shudder at it. And let us remember, this is a man who publicly stated that he prefers monarchy to democracy:

It is easy to see the hand of the Almighty behind rulers whose forebears, in the dim mists of history, were supposedly anointed by God, or who at least obtained their thrones in awful and unpredictable battles whose outcome was determined by the Lord of Hosts, that is, the Lord of Armies. It is much more difficult to see the hand of God — or any higher moral authority — behind the fools and rogues (as the losers would have it) whom we ourselves elect to do our own will.

June 12, 2008
Posted by Patrick at 09:23 PM * 56 comments

In America. Now. Here. Today.

This is what we get for letting unions wither. This is what we get for our libertarian delusions. Forced labor. Workers forbidden by law to change jobs. Held captive at gunpoint when they dare to protest.

Fellow Americans: Odds are these particular workers don’t look like you. Do you think that will save you when the time comes?

What we can agree about—and what we can’t (and shouldn’t try)
Posted by Patrick at 08:13 AM * 76 comments

Two ways of making the same point. Both worth your time. Discuss.

June 10, 2008
Sumer Is Icumen In (Lightning Strikes)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:58 PM * 211 comments

Yesterday it was 100 degrees in Manchester, New Hampshire. So it’s time to remind folks that heat stress (hyperthermia) can kill you.

We’ve talked about Heat Stress before, and I’d like to invite everyone’s attention back to that post and comment thread.

Here’s the short version: Drink water. Even if you’re not thirsty. Eat salty snacks. Then drink some more. Wear a hat. And get out of the hot environment if you’re starting to feel the effects, because by the time you start to feel it, you’re already in heat stress.

We all know about sun screen, and sun block and such.

So, what else shall we talk about? Accompanying hot weather (which can kill you all on its own: old folks in unventilated apartments, kids in cars, and anyone else) you can see other damaging weather. Heat energy in the atmosphere has to go somewhere, and one of the places it can go is into storms.

We just had a storm here in northern New Hampshire that knocked power out for about four hours.

Everyone has their flashlights and candles and wind-up clocks and battery-operated radios and such, right? Know where they are, checked to make sure the batteries are okay? Very good.

Last Sunday there was a lightning strike in Connecticut at a beach that took out five folks (1 dead, 4 injured). That’s a not-unexpected casualty rate: Lightning strikes are around 20% fatal. In a thunderstorm, if you can hear the thunder you are already in range of a ground strike.

Lightning strikes are one of the cases where prolonged CPR is indicated. What do I mean by “prolonged”? Think “hours, if necessary.”

Lightning characteristically creates an interesting fern-like burn pattern on the patient’s skin.

Okay, say you’re outdoors and it gets all thundery. That’s a hint that it’s time to go inside. If a house isn’t convenient, your car is as good if not better. The rubber tires don’t insulate you from ground (there’s enough energy to push a spark through thousands of feet of air — two inches of rubber won’t help), Rather, the metal skin of the car acts like a Faraday Cage and routes the energy around you.

Bad places to be in a thunderstorm: An open boat in the middle of a lake. All by yourself on a golf course. Being the highest thing around no matter where you are.

Under a tree isn’t very good for two reasons: One being that if the tree is struck, the lightning is coming your way. The other being that in high winds (or a lightning strike) a branch can come off the top of the tree and clonk you on the noggin.

No house, no car, what to do? Get into a stand of low brush or saplings half-way up a slope, hunker down, and wait it out. Another good place is in a cave, well back from the cave mouth (provided the silly thing won’t collapse or flood on you). Electricity, after it strikes the ground, sometimes flows downhill. You don’t want to be in the flow path. And since lightning is often accompanied by heavy rain, you don’t want to be in ditches or gullies (or dry washes) in any case. No slope, no brush, just dead-level ground as far as the eye can see? Squat down into a ball with only the soles of your feet touching the ground and with your hands over your ears.

Speaking of that — only flash floods and river floods cause more severe-weather-related deaths than lightning strikes. Moving water has a tremendous amount of energy in it. If a road is flooded with moving water, Do Not Enter. Don’t try to drive through it, even if it looks like it’s only a couple of inches deep. Trying means that you might get to feature in a Reader’s Digest Drama In Real Life (AKA Too Stupid To Live) article. Stay away from flooded streams in general unless you’re personally trained in swift water rescue, or you want to meet some nice gentlemen who are.

If someone nearby is in a stream and you aren’t, don’t try to enter the water to rescue him unless you’re trained to do it. The rule is throw, tow, row, and go. That is — throw a line, extend a stick they can grab onto, get in a boat (and don’t do this unless you know what the flip you’re doing in a boat), and only get in the water after you’ve exhausted those options and if you’re tired of life yourself.

You might invest in a weather radio that sounds alerts if you live where tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other such things can be expected. Being somewhere else is the best defense against any number of unpleasant happenings.

So far this has been a nasty year for storms and the season is just beginning.

Okay, kids. That’s it for right now. Heat energy = potential hurt. Stay safe.

Index to Medical Posts.

Bush Lied, and Fred Hiatt Lied Too
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:20 PM *

Currently stirring up the faithful in the right-wing blogosphere is this article in the Washington Post titled ‘Bush Lied’? If Only It Were That Simple.

The subject is the long-awaited Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information .

Fred Hiatt, over at the Washington Post, makes much of the phrase found in many of the conclusions of the report, “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.” What he doesn’t tell you is that the committee only examined five of George Bush’s speeches, not the totality of the administration’s statements, so this bit from Bush wasn’t addressed:

Q: Weapons of mass destruction haven’t been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?

Bush, May 29, 2003: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

or this:

Bush, Sept. 17, 2003: We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th . What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Sarawak, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He’s the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He’s a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.

Or this:

Cheney, March 16, 2003: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators… .

Q: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

Cheney: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators… . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Or this:

Cheney, March 16, 2003: I’m confident that our troops will be successful, and I think it’ll go relatively quickly, but we can’t…

Q: Weeks?

Cheney: …we can’t count on that.

Q: Months?

Cheney: Weeks rather than months. There’s always the possibility of—of complications that you can’t anticipate, but I’m—I have great confidence in our troops. The men and women who serve in our military today are superb. Our capabilities as a force are the finest the world has ever known. They’re very ably led by General Tommy Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld. And so I have great confidence in the conduct of the military campaign. The really challenging part of it to some extent may come in the—in the aftermath once the military segment is over and we move to try and stand up a new government and—and turn over to the Iraqi people the responsibilities to their nation.

Or this:

Q: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?

Rumsfeld, May 30, 2003: Not at all. If you think — let me take that, both pieces — the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Or this:

Q: Based on what you know right now, how close is Saddam Hussein’s government — how close is that government to developing a nuclear capability?

Rice, September 8, 2002: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance — into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.

We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device.

The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

All that aside, Hiatt is right, the Rockefeller report says, several times, that Bush administration statements “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates…” But he leaves out the second half of the sentence, “…but did not convey the substantial disagreements or evolving views that existed in the intelligence community.”

“Did not convey”? When you look at what they did convey, like “And let there be no doubt about it, his regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their range in violation of U.N. restrictions” (Donald Rumsfeld, testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, 18 Sep 2002) that’s an understatement.

In other cases, the “generally substantiated” bit is this: “Both of these statements were substantiated by intelligence assessments, however both referred to pre-Gulf War programs.”

“Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well [as] additional statements, regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qa’ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policy-makers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessment of the nature of those contacts, and left the impression that those contacts led to substantial cooperation between Iraq and al-Qa’ida.”

That is to say, they didn’t actually lie, but they deliberately left you with a false impression that they didn’t bother to correct.

Then there are the conclusions that don’t waffle even a little bit. For example: “Statements by the President and Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was preparing to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.”

That is to say, Bush lied.

Impeach Bush
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:36 AM * 124 comments

Thanks to Paula Lieberman for noting that Congressman Dennis Kucinich has read 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush on the floor of Congress.

More on that here.

In my opinion:
Warrantless wiretapping is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
“Outing” Valerie Plame is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
Approving torture is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
“Preemptive war” is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
Use of “Signing statements” to violate the law even as the law is being signed is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
Violation of habeas corpus is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
Extraordinary rendition is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.
Employment of mercenary armies is a high crime or misdemeanor that rises to an impeachable offense.

June 09, 2008
Obama and Healthcare
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:26 PM * 54 comments

According to the Boston Globe, Obama will be working with Elizabeth Edwards on a healthcare plan.

Barack Obama announced in his economy speech today that Elizabeth Edwards will work with him on healthcare policy — the issue that is the cause of her life and on which she preferred Hillary Clinton.

While her husband John Edwards gave Obama a high-profile endorsement, Elizabeth Edwards had stayed neutral, all the way through Clinton’s concession and suspension of her bid on Saturday.

In his speech, Obama repeated his pledges to make available the same healthcare plan that members of Congress get, to reduce insurance premiums by $2,500 a year for the typical family, and to prevent insurance companies from discriminating.

McCain Lies
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 PM * 98 comments

John McCain claims “I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the [Katrina] tragedy.”

This is a lie.

As we reported on 14 September 2005 in this thread:

Senate kills bid for Katrina commission
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments’ response to Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Democrat’s bid to establish the panel — which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government’s disaster response apparatus — failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.

“Just as with 9/11, we did not get to the point where we believed we understood what happened until an independent investigation was conducted,” Clinton said.

Got that? In a straight party-line vote, John “Straightalk” McCain backed up his buddy George W. Bush in an attempt to avoid investigating the mess. Today, with New Orleans still a mess, Ol’ Straightalk lies about it.

Oh, yeah — to prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time, he also voted against an independent investigation in February, 2006.

June 07, 2008
The Mall Ninja made visible
Posted by Teresa at 08:46 PM *

I know I’ve linked to it before: LonelyMachines’ Shrine of the Mall Ninja, which preserves a string of messages posted to the GlockTalk forum by someone calling himself Gecko45. Have you ever wanted to save something because it so perfectly encapsulates a particular style of stupidity? That’s why Gecko45’s messages got saved. As it’s explained at LonelyMachines:

This is a collection of the wisdom posted on the internet by a guy calling himself Gecko45. It all started back at the end of the halcyon summer of 2001, and his posts have created a certain urban legend that many refer to as the Mall Ninja. Hang out at any gun shop, gun show or shooting match and you’ll see one of these guys; you might even see a group of them since they are known to associate in the wild.

The Mall Ninja is easily distinguished by an abundance of “tactical” gear, such as fatigues, a thigh holster (with, of course, a Glock), combat boots, bandolier and other accouterments that you’d usually only see on a SWAT operative. Median age is usually 19-25, and they tend to boast about their various exploits with certain Special Forces units, all of which they’re too young and idiotic to have joined (real Special Forces types don’t brag). They typically have opinions on everything, regardless of expertise, they are uniformly poor shots, and they tend to exhibit a frightening lack of safety training.

The shadowy and shrill figure known as Gecko45 is the holy Dalai Lama of these dolts, but trust me, there are more. Many, many more.

Boy, is he right.

I recommend the saga of the Mall Ninja, if you didn’t catch it the first time around. However, the reason I’m re-posting it is that when I was idly browsing this morning, I came across a photo I instantly recognized as Gecko45 or one of his many brothers in arms. FailBlog has it labeled “Militia Fail,” but I know better. That there is a Mall Ninja.

Additional terrifying updates:

Clifton Royston has unearthed the thread on Something Awful that’s the source of that photo. Our Mall Ninja is the fellow posting as Aperture Science. His icon causes trauma.

Marilee points out that there are further photos linked from the comment thread on FailBlog:

Did you see the other picture linked in the comments? He’s on his bed, with a guitar, guns, ammo, and he’s aiming a gun at his testicles. I bet he didn’t realize that was how it would look when he set it up.
I’m sorry, Marilee, but I didn’t have time to wonder how he thought it would look when he set it up. I was too busy trying to go back to a point in time before I noticed the darker, damp-looking circle on the front of his posing thong which forms a sort of halo around the muzzle of the handgun he appears to be using to, er, nudge himself.

The power of storytelling…to make us stupid and crazy
Posted by Patrick at 11:00 AM * 165 comments

Bruce Schneier in the Guardian:

What is it with photographers these days? Are they really all terrorists, or does everyone just think they are?

Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harrassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about—the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6—no photography.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Bruce’s answer is that “we’re a species of storytellers,” and thus persistently vulnerable to a particular variety of logic failure, the movie-plot threat.
Terrorists taking pictures is a quintessential detail in any good movie. Of course it makes sense that terrorists will take pictures of their targets. They have to do reconnaissance, don’t they? We need 45 minutes of television action before the actual terrorist attack—90 minutes if it’s a movie—and a photography scene is just perfect. It’s our movie-plot terrorists that are photographers, even if the real-world ones are not.
It’s disturbing to contemplate that the same species-specific brain wiring that makes us create and enjoy stories might also be responsible for the insane “security” panic that’s eating our culture alive. But the idea has an awful plausibility.

June 06, 2008
Open thread 110
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:55 PM *

Today is one of twelve Date Unity Days* of the year. Now the Americans and the Europeans can relax and agree that it’s 6/6/08, regardless of whether the first 6 or the second refers to the month of June†.

This confluence does not go unnoticed among the servers and the wires. Indeed, it is scrutinised and studied, almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the mathematical niceties of the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

But this is no sinister invasion to be repelled at the last minute by some computer virus. Rather, let us invite the Internet to this party of sixes, and make it at home. What could be more fitting for this purpose than Open thread 110**?

Go on, say something interesting. Entertain our guest.

* Acronym intentional

† The only US date that goes unquestioned in Europe is 9/11‡

‡ Which brings us to the other reference for 110. (Thank you, Xopher, for reminding me.)

** Don’t make me spell it out.

June 02, 2008
That sounds painful
Posted by Patrick at 10:36 AM * 107 comments

From The Politico:

In April of last year, Drudge featured an image of a dark spot on the head of the Republican candidate, who had previously been treated for skin cancer, spurring a round of media inquiries and speculation on a possible recurrence.

The campaign later said McCain had hit his head on a plane.

Presumably it was flying unusually low.

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