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June 30, 2004

Bush's War on HIV... education

Just to prove the gravity of the things that are slipping under the radar these days, I had to hear from the great security risk blog about Bush's plan to censor sex-education plans. Wait, not censor, GUT. Not just ignoring condoms, but denouncing them. Read more in the LA Weekly, which says the laws go even further, blocking the vital research that lets us know how people actually get HIV:

Under the new regs, it will be impossible even to track the spread of unsafe sexual practices -- because the CDC's politically inspired censorship includes "questionnaires and survey materials" and thus would forbid asking people if they engage in specific sexual acts without protection against HIV. For that too would be "obscene." (Questions about gay kids have already disappeared from the CDC's national Youth Risk Survey after Christian-right pressure).

The new regulations are in their "comment period" until August 16. So right this minute, send an email (cc: a few hundred friends, too!) and tell the CDC that if they won't tell kids how important condoms are, we'll start stopping every teen we see and showing them how to put one on. I mean sure, we'd get arrested, but it seems a small price to pay.

I ask you again--is this our country? From a President who seeks to get credit for fighting AIDS in Africa, the true obscenity is his willingness to help spread it here.

Or, show up wearing a Signal Orange tshirt

That'll teach 'em. The Republicans are having trouble finding the 8,000 volunteers they need to watch their Triumph of the Will re-enactment (er, I mean, convention), so the new scheme is to get would-be protesters to sign up, take the training, and then not show up.

I love it!

If there was a God of Law it would be David Cole. Read all about his experience with Bill O'Reilly.

The Party Line

One needs no more evidence that the Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq is a full parnter with the US web of disinformation about the Iraq war than this quote from last night's interview with Tom Brokaw:

Allawi: We know that this is an extension to what has happened in New York. And — the war have been taken out to Iraq by the same terrorists. Saddam was a potential friend and partner and natural ally of terrorism.

At least this time our man in Bagdad didn't nod his head in agreement:

Brokaw: Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq. The 9/11 commission in America says there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and those terrorists of al-Qaida.

There's a partial transcript of the interview here.

The US is truly remaking Iraq in its own image, complete with the faith based politics embraced by our own leader. The administration's stonewalling in the face of facts is hard to take on any day, but watching the supposedly independant Prime Minister of Iraq parrot the party line so accurately made my stomach turn.

Saddam was a tyrant and and a dictator and I've no doubt that many people in Iraq are happy to see him deposed. But I don't understand how the new Iraqi government can stand on the same rhetoric that we used to justify the war. Does Allawi really think it's okay that we bombed the shit out of Iraq in after 9-11, even if it was in supposed self-defense?

Google turns up a few interesting things about Allawi and his ties to the CIA (during the Bush senior years) and unspecified business interests in Saudi Arabia.

What did Condi say? (Can't find the quote, sorry.) Something like, "Make no mistake about it, they will have an independant and sovereign government."


June 29, 2004

"I Ruck, therefore I am"

The Village Voice's "25th Annual Queer Issues" has a great meditation on gay rugby by Christopher Stahl of the Gotham Knights. But if you really want to see what the Knights are all about, check out this month's issue of Out magazine. Fashionable ruggers? It was inevitable when you think about it! Seriously, they are running like 20 pages of Gotham's hottest. I have to say, though, I'm feeling like this "gay rugby" thing might have peaked. It felt so much more transgressive in, like, 2002. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just dreading the work involved in getting my fat ass back on the pitch!

Clarke reviews "Imperial Hubris"

Wow... if you want to be really upset, read what Dick Clarke has to say about the new anti-Bush screed by an "Anonymous" CIA agent: Finally, the CIA Gets It Right. (Copied below.)

Or just buy the book and read it yourself.

The Washington Post
Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page BW03

IMPERIAL HUBRIS

Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror

By Anonymous. Brassey's.320 pp. $27.50

For those Americans who had begun to doubt whether the Central Intelligence Agency could produce good analysis, Imperial Hubris clearly demonstrates otherwise. It is a powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it. The CIA carefully vetted the book to ensure that no "sources and methods" were exposed, but the anonymous author -- a current CIA official -- draws effectively on the years he's spent carefully studying detailed intelligence reports from several U.S. and many foreign spy agencies. His criticism is damning.

The writer, author of the 2002 book Through Our Enemies' Eyes, declares that the U.S. war on terrorism is a failure. While admitting that President George W. Bush is technically correct when he says that "two-thirds of the known al Qaeda managers have been caught or killed," the author points out that other leaders have emerged to take their place. The president's often-repeated "two thirds" claim is based on an assessment of al Qaeda Shura Council members in September 2001. Some of them, like Muhammad Atef, are dead; he was killed by a CIA-controlled Predator flying over Kabul. Others, like Khalid Sheik Muhammad, are in U.S. custody; he was arrested in Pakistan. Many are under "house arrest" in Iran, in large part because the United States refused to bargain for their handover. Others, notably bin Laden and his deputy, are alive and apparently well, issuing audio tapes to the faithful.

The original al Qaeda, as the author points out, has been overtaken by a series of regionally based, autonomous jihadist terrorist groups, which carried out post-Sept. 11 attacks in Bali, Riyadh, Madrid, Istanbul, Casablanca, Chechnya, the Philippines, Thailand and Iraq. Despite the initial claim of State Department analysts -- in the annual report on terrorism -- that attacks have gone down, this new network of al Qaeda spinoffs has actually staged twice as many attacks since Sept. 11 as al Qaeda had prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (The State Department has now withdrawn its report and corrected its error, admitting that 2003 marked an all-time high for the terrorist incidents.)

Anonymous writes that the conduct of U.S. military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan has left both countries "seething with anti-U.S. sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al Qaeda and kindred groups." This CIA officer believes the U.S. invasion of Iraq was exactly what bin Laden and his associates had hoped would happen -- a belief that many counterterroism experts privately share. The Iraq invasion gave a new cause to the jihadists and new evidence to Arab militants that Americans are the "new crusaders" -- i.e., foreign infidels bent on conquest. The result has been more recruits, more suicide bombers and more money to the jihadists.

Anonymous underlines a central point: The United States must realize who the enemy is. "The one thing accomplished by refusing to admit a war exists with an enemy of immense durability, manpower, and resources is to delay design of a strategy for victory."

Anonymous has painted a detailed picture of that enemy -- and, despite the administration's ubiquitous phrase, it is not "terrorism," faceless and abstract. Terrorism is a tactic. The enemy is "an Islamic insurgency," a multinational movement to replace governments in the Islamic world with fundamentalist theocracies. Jihadist leaders believe they must eliminate the American presence in the region and U.S. support for existing governments there so that they can seize power. Later, some of them may fight to establish Islamist governments in Europe and America. For now, their combat against the "far enemy" (i.e., us) is designed merely to kick out the struts supporting the "near enemy" (governments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere). Like President Bush, Anonymous argues that we have made the mistake in the past of thinking about these enemies as criminals. But unlike Bush, Anonymous argues that having thus isolated the threat as an Islamic insurgency, the appropriate response is to fight not just with bullets and warrants, but also with ideas -- politically and socially.

To be sure, this will be difficult, given America's loss of credibility around the globe. In order to succeed in this battle, the United States must work with friends in the Islamic world to counter what Anonymous calls the "power of focused, principled hatred." And we must cease acts that fuel the hatred; such conduct is entirely self-defeating and counterproductive. As the U.S. Marines were pulverizing the city of Fallujah in April, members of the U.S.- appointed Iraqi ruling council made just this point. Fortunately, their words of horror made it through to the National Security Council principals meeting at Camp David. But thanks to short-sighted policy decisions, the United States has armed and is now paying the very militia members it was fighting in Fallujah, which only deepens the prospect that the future Iraq will not be a Jeffersonian democracy, but a breeding ground for anti-American jihadists.

Regrettably, Anonymous does not write much on working with Islamic friends. He tends to lump all Muslims into a single group, bound by their dogmatic hatred of America. In that, he is surely wrong -- although less wrong every day. For as he notes, Osama bin Laden is a hero to an ever-increasing percentage of the Muslim world. Should the CIA or the U.S. military ever manage to kill bin Laden, he will be at least as powerful as a martyr as he is now as a fugitive producer of audio tapes.

One would hope that Anonymous is also wrong in predicting that another attack, more powerful than Sept. 11 and perhaps involving weapons of mass destruction, is all but inevitable. Few things are predestined to happen, and hewing to that belief may only create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous is bitterly critical of the leadership of the CIA, but the most remarkable thing about this book is that the director of Central Intelligence allowed it to be published. Since Imperial Hubris is an important contribution to a necessary debate, we should be grateful to the agency for that clearance -- and for its anonymous author's considerable courage and insight. •

Richard A. Clarke is the author of "Against All Enemies

Regime Change Guide

To quote one of our recent American heroes, "Let's roll." We all need to read this site and pick some activities we can get behind. (I'm up for a voter-registration road trip to a swing state!) Anyway, check out Regime Change Guide :: What You Can Actually Do to Defeat Bush.

Inspiration, and its absence

It seemed so sad during the primary season this year that so many people chose John Kerry as their man over Howard Dean largely because they deemed him more electable. The goal of the election this year, has from the beginning not been about finding a great president to lead us boldly through the next four years, but about firing the current bad president. Howard Dean inspired a lot of us, but he was too liberal and too full of bravado to carry the more moderate democratic voting base, and much too, well, Howard Dean, to get many republican fence-sitters. Kerry was the man. And for one main reason--his electability. And so he's the candidate.

The problem is, that we now have a candidate who a lot of people don't know much about. They didn't choose Kerry because they agreed with his stance on taxes, health care, or same-sex marriage. They chose him because he wasn't a freakshow like Dean (and I mean that in the most flattering way, Howard). They didn't need to know much about him, because they weren't choosing him so much as they were not choosing someone else. Is anyone all that excited about Kerry? Do they know what he stands for? Do they care? Or just that he isn't Bush?

So there are lots of people rallied around Bush. We've got lots of people that are rallied around the cause of getting rid of Bush. But are that many people rallied around Kerry? The polls don't really seem to show it. With approval ratings that low for Bush, Kerry should be riding high, but he's still running pretty even with him. At this point, it's not a race between Kerry and Bush. It's a race between Bush and notBush. (Or nonBush, if you prefer).

And people are worried. Because how can you maintain momentum through to November if you never built any up in the first place? Arianna Huffington is one of those trying to get Kerry to start getting his hands dirty. Together with Joe Trippi, late of Dean's campaign, she's started an online petition asking Kerry to start inspiring voters to want him rather than relying on them to not want the other guy. Why his people aren't pushing for that too, I don't understand, unless there is some strategy to holding back. Otherwise, it makes me a little concerned that they know that if he did open his mouth, we'd want to turn the clock back to the hour before he did.

update on tribunals

OK, here is an update for my posting on tribunals. The news is really fresh, so the story is getting fuller by the minute. Check out this from the Washington Post:

Defense lawyers have criticized the process as stacked against them, but the military has said tribunals would offer full and fair trials.

Smith [Air Force Maj. John Smith, a lawyer who helped draft commission rules]said Monday's Supreme Court ruling made no difference to plans for the tribunals, which the military calls commissions.

"The Supreme Court right now doesn't directly affect military commissions at all," he said. "Everyone would like to move this cases forward as quickly as possible."

Unfucking believable.

I called it!

Well, just one day after the Supreme Court said that the Guantanamo detainees should have access to U.S. Courts, our government has created a military tribunal for them. Can these people not read? What part of "U.S. Court" is unclear?

Of course this is no surprise as this administration's approach to everything is to try to wring all that it can out of any opportunity. Just as it created "enemy combatants" and the Court let that slide, the Court might say this is enough, even though it seemed pretty clear to me that this wasn't what was envisioned. The modus operandi is clearly "let's do 100 things that we know are wrong because we might get away with at least a few" and between the media and the courts and the legislature it usually works out that way. The rule of law is being worn away in front of our eyes and we are just too tired to fight. Sickening.

June 28, 2004

Could the wagons be circling already?

It hasn't been a good summer for the Bush Adminstration, what with Abu Ghraib and the 9/11 commission and Michael Moore to rub the salt into the wound. But something tells me things might get much, much worse.

No-one's saying it out loud yet, but the indications are there. Joe Klein in Time suggests that the recent irritability of Bushies -- Cheney's F-bomb, Wolfie's blast at journalists -- is related to looming revelations, rather than events already passed. Could it be the forthcoming tome from an anonymous CIA official describing failures in the war on terror? (As the author of Primary Colors, Klein has experience in anonymous revelations.) Or could it be simmering scandal around the uranium-from-Niger-to-Saddam story, hinted at on TalkingPointsMemo? And could those hints be related to these conspiracy-laden ramblings about an impeding coup d'état by the CIA following the Valerie Plame outing? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Yoda Nader Becomes... emmhuh? Strange it is!

Nader calls Moore a 'giant beach ball'

Quoting the WaPo quoting Nader:

Nader, whose 6-foot-4 frame is a lean 190 pounds, said Moore's former Naderite friends are "trim and take care of themselves. Girth they avoid. The more you let them see you, the less they will see of you."

Mmmm... Girth. Sign of the Dark Side. Make fun of Nader they do, know not he is the lone Jedi, defending the Republic!

Justice?

I'm starting to think that we need a category of "politics (yippee!)" as things have gone so well for us lefties lately.

Anyone else think it isn't coincidence that the Iraqi transfer (read "huge news story") happened on the same day that the Supreme Court issued rulings going in large part against the Bush administration? Seems like the slap-down is playing sloppy seconds to the Iraq news.

As for the rulings-- the Court did slap down Bush, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. It is unclear what the practical effect will be. We will have to wait and see how the government acts-- they might choose the obstinent route and "interpret" the opinions very narrowly, which would just delay things while more lawsuits play themselves out.

On the Hamdi case it seems there is some room for interpretation on the issue of if the hearing have to be in US courts or if military tribunals will be sufficient-- the actual language is "a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker"-- that doesn't scream "US FEDERAL COURT" to me. Pretty scary considering that he is a US citizen. I think it is very unclear how fair a military tribunal would be. We don't really know as they are fairly shrouded in secrecy.

On the Guantanamo detainees' case the Court did hold that US courts have jurisdiction, which is fabulous. Frankly I thought that Hamdi was more of a sure thing than this case, but it turns out to be reversed.

And on Padilla...the dissent is awesome. It chronicles the timeline on Padilla's detention and shows how the after his attorney began representing him, the President issued a command to Rumsfeld on a Sunday to take control of him. The District Court held a hearing on Sunday without Padilla's attorney present, where he was given over to the Department of Defense. The next day Ashcroft told the world about Padilla and the next day Padilla's attorney filed the writ. Not knowing where her client was, she filed it in New York-- the last place she had seen him (and where she was appointed counsel). The majority opinion said that since he was in South Carolina by then, the wrong court had the case and refused to rule on it. The dissent points out what complete bullshit this is-- and how it rewards the bullshit action by the government-- and how this type of law is full of holes and exceptions, so why not grant one to Padilla? Stevens calls a spade a spade and says that we all know what is going on here, so just get to it and decide the case on its merits. Of course that is not what happened...

These are huge cases, but there other cases that were decided this week that have major ramifications as well.

More SCOTUS analysis

SCOTUSBlog has an excellent analysis of the decisions (link courtesy of Atrios). The headline: "Hamdi and Padilla Appear to be a Huge Loss for the Government."

They start with the big line from Stevens' dissent in Padilla (essentially an argument for deciding against the case on its merits, instead of sending it back to the lower courts on technical grounds):

"At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society. Even more important than the method of selecting the people's rulers and their successors is the character of the constraints imposed on the Executive by the rule of law. Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber. Access to counsel for the purpose of protecting the citizen from official mistakes and mistreatment is the hallmark of due process. Executive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction. It may not, however, be justified by the naked interest in using unlawful procedures to extract information. Incommunicado detention for months on end is such a procedure. Whether the information so procured is more or less reliable than that acquired by more extreme forms of torture is of no consequence. For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."
To which we can only say, Yeah! (And, perhaps, note a subtle slam at the Court's own hand in deciding the last election for the people. Sort of a "well, we really Cheneyed that one up, so we better get it right here" moment, italics mine.) It's also a good idea to brush up on the history of the "Star Chamber," to see where we would have ended up if Bush et al. had gotten their way here.

SCOTUSblog continues:

In Hamdi, four Justices, including Justice Scalia, conclude that Hamdi's detention itself is unlawful -- a result that Hamdi himself barely argued for (his briefs being more focused on the opportunity to challenge his enemy-combatant status). Four other Justices -- Justice O'Connor, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy and Breyer -- conclude that Congress's 9/18/01 authorization of military force (AUMF) authorizes detention of a "narrow" category of persons: those who are "part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners" in Afghanistan and who "engaged in an armed conflict against the United States there." They read the AUMF to authorize detention of such persons "for the duration of the particular conflict in which they were captured" (because, says the plurality, such detention "is so fundamental and accepted an incident to war as to be an exercise of the 'necessary and appropriate force' Congress has authorized the President to use").

The plurality goes on to emphasize, however, that the detention must be "to prevent a combatant's return to the battlefield," which the plurality views as "a fundamental incident of waging war." This means that Hamdi can be held, the plurality concludes, not until the end of the "war on terror," which the plurality acknowledges may not come in Hamdi's lifetime, but only until the end of the "active combat operations in Afghanistan." And here's the key sentence: "Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized."

This should mean that Padilla's detention -- which the Government acknowledges is principally for the purpose of interrogation -- likewise is not authorized. Even if Justice O'Connor's opinion might not conclusively dictate that result, there are (at least) five votes for it: the four dissenters in Hamdi, as well as Justice Breyer, who joins the Stevens dissent in Padilla.


In other words, taking the three cases as a whole, not even the Republican-appointed majority is prepared to back the Bush junta on this one.

A good day for the Republic

In a stunning slapdown for the Bush junta, the Supreme Court came through on the side of liberty in three separate post-9/11 cases. As the NYT The New York Times > Washington >reports,"The Supreme Court ruled today that people being held by the United States as enemy combatants can challenge their detention in American courts -- the court's most important statement in decades on the balance between personal liberties and national security."

For those of you who have been following the cases, Hamdi came down 8-1 (with Clarence Thomas, somehow, dissenting), Guantánamo 6-3, and Padilla 5-4. (The Padilla decision was a more limited ruling apparently based on several technicalities, including where he initially filed for habeas corpus and the questionably naming of Rumsfeld as defendant.)

While the court does appear to sanction the term "illegal combatants," which appears nowhere in international law, it tells the executive branch in no uncertain terms that these individuals do have access to US courts. Quoting O'Connor's opinion in Hamdi: "[the court] made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

Once these people have a legal voice, you can be sure we're going to hear some nasty things. So while the decisions are not a complete rebuke, it's clear that the administration will not be happy with the results, either now or as these cases cause continuing abuses of power to come to light.

Marti, care to weigh in on this with your probing legal analysis???

Support Your Independent Movie Theater

After the parade yesterday afternoon (Hi Jay! Hi!), we went down to see Fahrenheit 9/11. (I laughed. I cried. I got a little queasy. I laughed some more. I cried some more.) On the way out my friend N. said this: Didn't I read somewhere that Loews is owned by The Carlyle Group?

Yup, it's true. There's a decent blog post here discussing why this matters - in case you're one of the 8 or 9 people in Seattle who read this and haven't seen the movie yet. And if you are, you might think about going to the Neptune instead.

My movie going companions are looking in to what else Carlyle owns that we've been buying or using and are wondering if it isn't time to seek those things elsewhere.

Aside: things I loved about seeing the movie here in Seattle? The way a guy down in the front row let how a horror movie scream the first time Condi appeared on screen and the way everyone burst in to applause when our guy Jim McDermott showed up.

June 27, 2004

Is That a Cell Phone In Your Pocket or...

Having recently purchased a cell phone small enough to fit comfortably in my front pants pocket, this report on sperm motility piqued my interest. Not that I'm looking to impregnate anyone, but I guess this is evidence that I cannot necessary assume that there are no negative physical effects.

If cell phones could provide reliable and reversible sterility, their market would become even wider. Think of the branding opportunity! Actor: "My Trojan-brand cell phone offers a higher becquerel rating than any other phone currently on the market." [Cut to picture of nuclear cooling tower covered in colossal condom.]

June 26, 2004

Presidential Respect

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night at the Neptune, which was followed by a speech by Jay Inslee. Inslee asked us all to commit 911 minutes to actual campaign action. Viewers were definitely anti-Bush, but Kerry wasn't terribly popular; considering that this was an event organized by Democracy for Washington, the post-campaign Dean-centric organization, that's not surprising.

Watching the film, I felt surprised that so many in this country would vote for our current fratboy-in-chief. If this happens again... Inslee claims there's a lot of anger brewing across the country, and I hope he's right.

I've been reading news stories about attendance and reactions, and I don't think there are going to be many surprises in that regard (with Dan Bartlett's comment being the prevailing feeling among Bush supporters).

There were many people outside the theater last night trying to hand out all kinds of political information. Considering who will see the film, I wonder if that's the best use of their time. I wasn't surprised to see them there, actually, but I did wonder where the Republicans were—shouldn't they be trying to talk moviegoers out of aborting this administration? I know, it's probably not an effective use of their time either, but I would have enjoyed witnessing the effort.

However, this story in the New York Times has some comments from Republicans who saw the film; it is the quote at the end of the article that has me posting this right now:


"Oh my goodness, I cried," Ms. Moody said. "I'm still trying to process everything. It really makes me question what I feel about the president. I'm still going to respect him as our president, but it makes me question his motives. Of course, I think that's the whole point of the film, to question his motives. But after watching it, I do question my loyalty to the president. And that's scary for me."

Wow. It was kind of scary for me when I seriously questioned my belief in God, but I'd never characterize my failing faith in a president as scary. How many voters feel this way about their choice? And when she says that she'll question his motives but still respect him, what does that mean? I don't think she means the kind of respect one has for a hurricane; in that way, I myself respect the president.

Is she contemplating revising her assessment of him to that of a Good Man who has temporarily gotten confused by his circumstances? (I do think the evil quotient of the administration would drop considerably if the Cheney was excised, but only complete amputation of this executive will really save the government.) Ah, maybe she just believes that the office invests the holder with some justly demanded deference.

Just like Miss Cleo

Check out the genius of White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett on "Fahrenheit 9/11":

"This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know it's filled with factual inaccuracies."

Need I comment?

June 25, 2004

One last outrage for the day

Today has to be our busiest blogging day ever! But I couldn't resist adding this one from Daily Kos:

"A new series of whimsical public service announcements from the Environmental Protection Agency are lampooning the notion that cars can be made more energy efficient while the ads encourage conservation at home."

Furreal, foos, as Margaret Cho would say. Apparently the want you to buy a new stove instead of a more fuel-efficient car. Believe me, I want a new stove pretty badly, but this is wack.

No Dick, FUCK YOU!!! Wow--I feel better!

Cheney Says He 'Felt Better' After Bitter Exchange (washingtonpost.com)

Vice President Cheney today acknowledged that he had a bitter exchange on the Senate floor with a senior Democratic senator, in which Cheney uttered a big-time obscenity, but said he had no regrets and that he "felt better after I had done it." . . . Later in the interview, Cheney added, laughing, that "a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue." . . . As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.
The more I think about this, the angrier I get. A childhood full of mouth-washing from a society (and religion) that nearly fainted over a few vigorous Anglo-saxon syllables--but had no problem with words like "faggot," "dyke," and "nigger"--has made me sick of the hypocrisy. Our VP's "vocabulary malfunction" changes things for me--like lancing a boil.

From now on, regardless of context, I'm going to use whatever words I like to describe the despots and their neocon toadies. However inappropriate it may be, it probably won't be on the Senate floor--and I won't be running for re-election as Christ's Vicar on Pennsylvania Avenue and Defender of the Faith.

To wit:

That lying sack of shit Cheney may be one heartbeat away from the Presidency, but his name is only two letters away from his (and my) favorite curseword. Henceforth, let all the nonfamously uninhibited join me in referring to him as "Fuck" Cheney. Or, better yet, Dick "Fuck" Cheney... kind of like my elementary school principal was E.O. "Buster" Meeks. Come to think of it, I got sent to his office for cussing not long before he got "reassigned" for... far greater indiscretions.

Classy, really classy.

This is how our (ouch!) Vice-President, the President of the Senate explains how he was justified in telling a U.S. Senator "fuck yourself" at an official Senate event:

He had challenged my integrity. And I didn't like that. But, most of all, I didn't like the fact that after he had done so then he wanted to act like, you know, everything's peaches and cream. And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms."

EXCUSE ME? Who is acting like "everything's peaches and cream"? Close to a thousand U.S. soldiers have died and Cheney tells us the war was a great idea and then accuses someone else of putting on a happy face? Unbelievable.

The Washington Post points out that the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1. The same article details how the White House Chief of Staff reacted when John Kerry said Bush's Iraq policy was "fucked" up:

"That's beneath John Kerry," Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said. "I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language. I'm hoping that he's apologizing at least to himself, because that's not the John Kerry that I know."

No, that's the Dick Cheney that you know.

Ok, I lied

I had to post about this one. On the front page of Bush's campaign site, he has an ad that is so perverted and disgusting. My blood is boiling. He's showing a bunch of lefties, from Gore to Moore to Kerry, talking about the awful things Bush has done leading us into war, with a little chronological and geopgraphical detour to Hitler giving an equally angry speech. I guess he figures that anyone dumb enough to vote for him will buy into the parallels he's trying to draw here, but this, this takes a lot of cakes. There are not words to describe the baseness and tactlessness of our president. Whoever said he was the anti-christ on this board the other day, was most likely correct.

Portersmiths on the front page

Last post for the day. The Seattle Gay News has a front page article on Virginiaisforhaters.org.

More Friday Political Funnies

This one from Kinky Friedman, in the usually drab Seattle Times, explaining his decision to run for governor of Texas in 2006. He's got as good a platform as any to back up his gubernatorial bid, "How Hard Could it Be?"

Iacocca endorses Kerry, Cheney cusses, and Fox lies

For people like my Dad, Lee Iacocca embodies the idea of "CEO as Patriotic Hero." So the news that Iacocca is endorsing Kerry is pretty huge. He stumped for Bush in 2000, but now says "the country needs a change," in large part due to job losses sustained under W. This will be big news in swing states like Michigan and Ohio.

The news might even provoke Cheney to cuss him out, just like he did Sen. Patrick Leahy yesterday on the floor of the Senate. (If only it had been televised so the FCC could sue him!) "Cheney, the aide said, abruptly ended the conversation with a vulgar directive to Leahy. The exact phrasing used is unclear," says the Boston Globe, which in my mind is a pretty clear fig leaf for "go fuck yourself." I could observe on the complete hypocrisy of GOP calls for civility and righteousness, but that's exactly what I'd like to say to Cheney myself if I ran into him on the floor of the Senate so I won't fight for the high ground too hard. (I actually spent some time on the floor of the Senate during my internship for Sen. Boren--the chamber is much smaller than it looks on camera).

Speaking of swing states and news that makes Republicans utter profanities, check out electoral-vote.com, which has Kerry leading 300-238 taking the latest polls into account. They also report that Fox News' latest Florida poll diverges wildly from that of Repub-leaning independent pollster Scott Rasmussen, wondering aloud "if Fox polls are reliable."

Democratic CEOs, cussing Repubs, and questions about Fox's trustworthiness. Yes, today looks like a day when all the things we count on have been called into question!

Pressuring your wife into going to sex clubs just isn't cool

Looks like Illinois is about to get a great senator. Republican Jack Ryan has announced that he is dropping out after it was made public that he is a bit of a perv. This wouldn't delight me so much if his opponent State Sen. Barack Obama wasn't such a cool guy.

Thirty years ago in Gay History

MSNBC links to a good PI article on gay rights then and now. The story quotes Jamie Pedersen, an old friend of mine who David met for the first time at the gay-marriage discussion we attended recently at the new Library.

Of course the important thing to remember is how many people want to drag us back down Memory Lane, and how quickly that could happen if we're not careful.

I'm a little prickly about the "Pride" in gay pride (as if Monday will be back to another 364 days of crippling shame). But if being gay (as opposed to being a good person) is something to be proud about, our collective ability to get out of the closet and keep from being shoved back in is that thing.

And if the Irish decided the Geneva convention didn't apply to them either...

Now, I kind of like this idea. Even though it's all symbolic, the Green Party in Ireland has decide to put out an arrest warrent for our president as he prepares to visit there. (I'm so proud of my people right now.) More countries should draw up arrest warrants for Bush. That might eventually send a message. But they would all have to ask themselves if they felt bound by the Geneva convention to offer him a lawyer, or clothes during his detention, or if, in the pursuit of information vital to their safety, they weren't bound by their national or international laws during interrogation sessions.

a friday funny

This is amusing. And making fun of Bush/Cheney. Which is always good for a laugh. You know. It's funny because it's true, and all that.

June 24, 2004

CB2: thoughts?

So like probably a lot of other good consumers, I just got an email from Crate and Barrel about CB2, which is clearly their new hipper! younger! brighter! (slightly) cheaper! brand. So far there's only one store (Chicago) but the ecommerce site is pretty good. But some of the products are a bit wack if well-intentioned. If I surfed here too much, David and I would end up with a lot of cool stuff that doesn't really fit our house all that well.

It's clearly a reaction to last year's launch of West Elm by Williams-Sonoma as a hipper East Coast offset to PB's crushingly expensive simulacra of West Coast trust fund decor. (My feeling about West Elm is, "great if you like that sort of thing." It also fairly screams "lipstick lesbian" with all those purple sequins.) It also feels like a bit of a feint towards the Design Within Reach market. All of these brands are desperately shouting "Put down the IKEA catalog now, and nobody gets hurt!"

Oh, yeah. This is a new category: Consume or Consumerr? As in, is this something you'd want, or something that looks like a grevious error from the net guy to be fired from Product Dev? (I'm hoping this category will finally lure Marti to post and not just comment.) Have fun with it!

Qui custodiet ipsos custodes

It almost seems perverse to be worrying about ancient artifacts buried in the sands for millennia when citizens are dying by the score in the streets of Iraq, but the irony is to poignant to ignore. As reported on NPR this morning (and, seemingly, nowhere else), the US Army, deployed to Babylon to protect its ancient temple area from the looters who surfaced after the fall of Saddam, is now systematically destroying the site. This includes scooping up most of the archeologically rich sand and dumping it into sandbags.

So, it seems, the proctectors have, in a way, become looters themselves, in much the same way the saviours of Abu Ghraib became torturers. Let's just hope the leader of the free world doesn't likewise turn into "despised international despot".

All Daily Show, all the time

Fact: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is indispensible. If I didn't watch this show, I could never bear to watch the actual news (following the Jimmy Buffet Doctrine that if we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane).

But I know that there are some people who do not have the particular combination of DirecTV and Tivo that lets David and I get our fix whenever we need it. So rectify this problem, I am happy to provide a link to the Daily Show's website, which is replete with amazing clips of the show. If you can only watch a couple, be sure to see Rob Corddry get freaked out by an anti-gay activist with an overactive imagination, or Stephen Colbert's surreal interview with nouveau-Repub Don King.

Unfortunately I can't find a clip of Jon Stewart ripping Stephen Hayes a new one Monday night (but you can read part of the transcript here). Hayes, author of "The Connection," a poorly reported piece of propanda about those "relationships" Saddam and Al Qaeda had, was utterly demolished, and knew it. Stewart is a great host even when he clearly disagrees with the guest, but for once he totally took the gloves off and went in for the kill. I was too exhausted to listen to an idiot like Hayes and (stupidly) went to bed befoe the show was over. But from what David and everyone else says about it, it was like watching a lion eat a particularly smart-ass gazelle. I'm sure a clip will turn up somewhere soon.

Biden to Bush: Fire Cheney and Rummy

You just thought he was pissed off at Ashcroft about the torture memos. The WaPo is reporting today that Senator Joe Biden told W in the Oval office in front of Cheney that he should "get rid of" both the VP and the Secretary of Defense. Apparently Biden revealed this in a Rolling Stone article (they still get some political scoops!), telling the story thusly:

"I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, 'Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required.' I turned back to the president and said, 'Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President . . .' They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me."


June 23, 2004

BlogPulse rocks

As much as I love the Sifry boys and their sweet Technorati site, I have to say that Intelliseek may have the most promising set of blog tracking tools with their BlogPulse. Having correctly identified that blogs are the place where trends can most clearly and quickly be spotted online, they have developed some very impressive tool. I learned, for instance, how closely mentions of the Virginia site tracked to overall mentions of HB 751 over the past month (very closely). For a PR firm, for instance, trying to seed product mentions in blogs, this is how you would get paid. But more than that, it's just cool.

Unfortunately, I also found some scary stuff... like some Tolkien-toked Catholo-fascist who refers to gay activists as "rainbow orcs." For real.

Doctorin' the Bush Doctrine

Quick review: 40 years of boycotting Cuba because, well, because we can. Almost 15 years, billions of dollars in "smart bombs" and two wars against Iraq because they had weapons of mass... errrr, colloborated with al Q... ummm... because Saddam's a "bad man, evil tyrant." We apparently have a whole method for dealing with dangerous totalitarian regimes, and it works like a charm, right!?

So why, then, has the Bush Administration decided, in its infinite and highly doctrinaire wisdom, to coddle the world's most megalomaniacal psycho-dictator? Basically because they have ignored the growing threat (glowing threat?) for three years and have no real choice but to try to play nice! No choice, that is, short of a land war in Asia. Or perhaps an air burst right over it.

As this post on PoorMan's excellent site points out, this is basically the same plan Clinton tried years ago, to Republican howls of "appeasement." Now we have much better evidence of just how far along N. Korea's nuke program is (not to mention those missles that can reach Seattle!), but what's a little appeasement between friends?

Seriously... think about it. I think W kinda likes crazy ol' Kim-- and why not? They both enjoy the benefits of inherited wealth and power, surround themselves with ideologically blinded functionaries who view their leader as infallible, pride themselves on being out of touch with reality, and have a shared love of dressing up in Daddy's military clothes. It's a short jump from "Strong Leader" to "Dear Leader," my friends.

Now that we've bankrupted ourselves in Iraq, how does a little "newk-ya-lurr" conflagration in East Asia sound? It might be a little unpleasant for "Coalition of the Willing" members S. Korea and Japan, but look on the bright side for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. If you reduce your enemies to piles of glow-in-the-dark ash, there will be nobody left you can be accused of torturing. Say goodbye to all the "Geneva Convention" carping by those liberals in the media.

And you know, with the way things are going in Iraq, Bush is going to need another war before the election. Something quick and clean, and easy to schedule in late October. I can hear Rove now: "Thermonuclear war: more sanitary that urban guerilla fighting, and cheaper, too." Why do I have a feeling that would focus-test well with a large portion of the American electorate?

While gays were busy destroying marriage...

...Illinois republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan was busy trying to salvage his own rocky union. What was this upstanding Repub's recipe for marital bliss? Trying to force his then-wife Jeri Ryan to have sex with him in sex clubs while others watched. (I bet you he even said "Resistance is futile.") And yes, he's still in the race.

To recap: I'm gay. But let me tell you something: if I were married to this woman, I would be content to have sex with her in the private confines of our home. Poor Jeri. Not only did she have to deal with this creep, she now has to suffer the embarrasment of having their divorce papers unsealed by a Federal judge who ruled that Ryan's candidacy created a legitimate "public interest" in the details. (Thanks Ken Starr--now we get to know the details of every politician's sex life!)

For this offense against the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, does Ryan get dumped by the holier-than-thou GOP? Of course not. In fact, just this week he got campaign help from one of the High Priests of God's Own Party. Sen. Rick "Man-on-dog" Santorum. Saint Rick threw several fundraisers for Ryan in his home state of Pennsylvania just this week. It is not reported how much these events actually took in, or whether anyone would actually shake Ryan's hand.

For today's completely rhetorical question... Is this just an egregious example, or is hypocracy the official Repub mode of existence now?

June 22, 2004

Super-Size My Salad

Be sure to load up on fresh vegetables, especially of the frozen variety: the USDA has reclassified frozen french fries as fresh vegetables. Like David Stockman, I like mine with ketchup. (And for Jay, here's a reference by Noonan to the ketchup politics.)

Hating Peggy Noonan

For many years I have been unable to tolerate Peggy Noonan. (And there are plenty of other bloggers who seem to share my feelings.) Her fatuous and nauseatingly ill-conceived books epitomize the Washington insider tradition of retelling history with one's own minor-functionary self as the Center of the Known Universe and the Hinge of History. She has turned her minor brush with power into a cottage industry, offering so much "wisdom" about American politics and American culture that she has apparently retained none for herself. Seeing her on television is almost painful for me; as much as I despite Ann Coulter, at least she has the courage of her our essential nastiness. Noonan is the saccharine fake who likes to talk about how nice and sweet she is to dogs and children. But she is known in Beltway circles as a notoriously bitchy and driven climber.

Apparently, her efforts to bask in the reflected glory of Dead Reagan and claim for herself all of his Great Communicator qualities were finally too much for the (ahem) Real Insiders (you know, the people who really made it happen). While I realize there is a little irony in the climbers climbing over each other to dance on top of the casket, and of course hate linking to NewsMax, I do love the scent of venom that drips from this little attack piece on Noonan. The most damning bit: "For all her self-promotion, the facts are that she never wrote many major presidential speeches and had quite limited access to the president." And apparently the other speechwriters wouldn't even let her sit with them at the funeral. (Link via Atrios.)

June 21, 2004

Hersh's latest NYer article

We won't get our copy until Thursday or so, but the The New Yorker online has Seymour Hersh's latest damning article about the conduct of the Iraq war. (Hersh, of course, broke the Abu Ghraib scandal and is worth, in a professional sense, the next 50 top journos in the country.)

The gist of this article is so frightening as to be pathetic. Basically, when the Israelis can tell you how badly you've fucked up an occupation, you can be sure you're fucked in an absolute, not a relative, sense. To wit:


A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall. He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. "I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community," the former official recalled. "Their concern was 'You're not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn't we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?'"

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel "had learned that there's no way to win an occupation." The only issue, Barak told Cheney, "was choosing the size of your humiliation." Cheney did not respond to Barak's assessment. (Cheney's office declined to comment.)

In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel's strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq's Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon's decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.

So far from improving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq war has made Israel less secure (to the extent that they are now running even riskier black ops). Iran, in addition to its likiely nuclear weapons program, now has its spy apparatus deep in "Free Iraq." And the creation of an independent Kurdistan, however much the Kurds deserve one, may create another pariah state that its neighbors will all want to destroy in perpetuity. (Imagine the Middle East with another Israel right in the middle!)

I'm beginning to think W really, truly is trying to bring about the end of the world. I know the saying goes "assume ignorance, not malice," but how much ignorance do we have to endure before assuming the worst?

When, in other words, do we get to "preempt the president"? He launched the war on far shakier evidence than we have against him!

Until now I've giggled at those "Impeach Bush" buttons. But no more. Certainly if he is reelected, I'll be gunning for a repeat of Nixon's second term. Or, perhaps, we could get a taste of Nixon's first term, when VP Spiro Agnew was forced to resign.

Hotmail blocks Gmail

This Slashdot article shows us how bareknuckle Google's competitors are getting. Basically, Hotmail users who are sent mail from (or invitations to join) Gmail never see the mail. The senders never get a bounce. This represents an attack on the fundamental innovation and openness that make the Internet work. If Microsoft gets away with this and others follow suit, this would be far worse for email than spam. (Yahoo puts Gmail messages in the "bulk sender" box, despite the fact that Gmail is so far a tiny, invitation-only beta.) For a long time I've been frightened of this kind of corporate Balkanization of the web, but never thought Microsoft would go this far.

If Google would offer an IM client, I'd be off Hotmail completely. From what I've seen of Gmail, it's about a million times better. Microsoft needs to innovate, not knock over the chess board like a spoiled child.

CorporateMofo's Reagan eulogy

A lovely reimagining W's eulogy to Reagan, seemingly rewritten in the style of his Correspondent's Dinner speech.

A sample:


Of course, his leadership was back in the 1980s and I was too drunk and fried to remember much. But I understand that while I was face down in my own vomit he saved the world from evildoers. This is a subject close to my own heart. And also to my Vice President's heart (which isn't worth a damn these days, but hey, he doesn't use it anyway. . . heh-heh).

June 20, 2004

Um, but I have a note from my mom!

Marti sends this along, with her deepest professional censure. This is apparently the kind of quality the Bush administration offers up for the Federal appeals court in Washington. "I just forgot" is as good as his excuses get for why he served for years as Brigham Young University's general counsel for three years without being admitted to the bar in Utah. Oh, and he had previously let his D.C. license lapse as well. If you can forget professional necessities like that, it would probably be easy to forget, oh, the First Amendment. Or the Fifth. Or the Fourteenth. Hmmm... perhaps this is what they administration has in mind!

"Don't go there? I LIVE there!"

Slate has a good piece on Margaret Cho's new Sundance Channel concert film Revolution. David and I saw the show live in Seattle last year, so the content wasn't fresh but it's always fun having Hurricane Margaret (or should that be Typhoon?) rush over your consciousness. The Persimmon Poop riff is a bit much, but it plays to great effect. If anyone wants to see it, we still have it on Tivo.

June 18, 2004

Bush's crib notes

Gotta love Atrios... a reader sent him a photo that allows us to see Bush's notes from his post-Cabinet Meeting press op yesterday, much like those "OJ's Legal Pad" books of some years ago. In addition to his "key themes" (uh... terrorists evil, we strong, don't say "torture," etc.) it clearly shows that even after three years Bush doesn't know the names of even the top WH press corps. So much for the comparisons to Reagan, who knew the names of their kids and dogs. Since the "major league asshole" episode during the 2000 campaign I had at least thought W recognized them. I guess it's just the loyal stenographers he cares about.

File under: ingrate

While I prefer to focus my frustrations on the good targets, some people just like to be pissed off at everyone. Not since my New Journal days have I been the object of such vituperation from someone so clearly in the grip of the narcissism of small differences!

Despite my repeated efforts to find middle ground, one gay business owner in Virginia keeps bashing us for launching VAhaters. Mind you plenty of straight Virginians have emailed to tell me they don't mind if it hurts their business--an honorable stance if ever there was one. But not this guy. He thinks we are out to shut down his internet radio station. Whatev.

Y'all know I never was very good at minding my own business, a fact that really seems to bother this guy. Apparently he thinks Viriginian homos can fight this one alone... given that the bill passed by an 80% margin, I beg to differ.

Gary, I've been thinking a lot about your "good Jews" post in conjuction with this, as you'll see if you read my latest response to this guy. Good jews and good germans--those are the officially sanctioned options these day, aren't they? F*** that.

In honour of Pride Month

In honour of Pride Month it's ...

A gay pride of lions

A gay pride of lions!

Well, it made me laugh anyway.

Mr Pot, meet Mr Kettle

Cheney's not too happy, it seems, about the media reports around the 9-11 commission's conclusion that there were no links between Saddam and al-Qaeda related to the 9-11 plot. Check out this transcript of an interview between Cheney and CNBC's Gloria Borger:

BORGER: Mr. Vice President, I don't think I've ever seen you, in all the years I've interviewed you, as exercised about something as you seem today.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: I was. I admit, Gloria, and you and I have known each other a long time. But I do believe that the press has been irresponsible, that there's this temptation to take...

BORGER: But the press is making a distinction between 9/11 and...

Vice Pres. CHENEY: No, they're not. They're not. The New York Times does not. The Panel Finds No Qaida-Iraq Ties. That's what it says. That's the vaunted New York Times. Numerous--I've watched a lot of the coverage on it and the fact of the matter is they don't make a distinction. They fuzz it up. Sometimes it's through ignorance. Sometimes it's malicious. But you'll take a statement that's geared specifically to say there's no connection in relation to the 9/11 attack and then say, `Well, obviously there's no case here.' And then jump over to challenge the president's credibility or my credibility and say ...(unintelligible).

So, the media is "fuzzing up" the connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, eh? Well, that's a turnaround for the books. Let's compare the fuzziness of the New York Times article with the administration's own statements on the matter (as reported in Slate):

[A]cting pursuant to the Constitution and [the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002] is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
—President Bush, in a letter to Congress outlining the legal justification for commencing war against Iraq, March 18, 2003

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001. With that attack, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.
—President Bush, May 1 2003 ("Mission Accomplished" speech aboard USS Lincoln)

[a U.S. success in Iraq will mean] that we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.
—Vice President Cheney, Sep 14 2003, Meet The Press

Who's being fuzzy now?

Doctorow tells it straight to MS

I've done some work for the Microsoft DRM folks, all smart people. Another smart person is Cory Doctorow, an EFF staffer, sci-fi writer, and one of the guys behind BoingBoing. He was recently invited by wicked smart people at Microsoft Research to give them his thoughts on why Microsoft shouldn't develop DRM technologies.

He's a few years late, but his arguments are solid. Especially in an environment when Senatorial idiots like Orrin Hatch are poised to broaden copyright to the point where little in the way of artistic or technological innovation will be feasible. If these expansions of copyright are the rope, DRM is the noose. On the other hand, if we could roll copyright back to its Constitutional roots, I'd be all for better protection for IP owners. (More on this today on Slashdot)

June 17, 2004

Great new blog

One of the only pleasant things about being locked in mortal combat with Virginia and its bumper crop of haters is getting email from thoughtful and intelligent gays and lesbians from across the country. Tim, one such person, posted a really thoughtful comment on the site today, about needing to state more clearly that companies can "escape the boycott" by publicly urging the Commonwealth to reconsider. Turns out he has a brand new blog, security risk, which is as well-designed as it is well-written. And lo and behold, he has a whole mini-VAhaters thing going on there... including a much more economical summary of what the boycott is about that I have produced to date. In addition to that, there's a wealth of insightful posts based on great links--more than anyone's average week worth, if you ask me. If the death of Reagan isn't a good reason to start blogging, I don't know what is. But welcome Timothy to the blogosphere with a little traffic, won't you?

The language of torture and the torture of reality

This was going to be just a comment on David's post, but then I had an epiphany and decided it was a bigger point.

I think where we are at is really quite simple: any recourse to external facts is "political," and therefore inadmissable to what we might call the "Bushiverse." Anything that has not already appeared in minutes of the Politburo--whoops, I mean statements of the Press Office-- is simply delegitimized, scorned, and ignored. In the chilling phrase of the day, any threatening or inconvenient fact from outside the Green Zone on Pennsylvania Avenue that they don't want to acknowledge becomes a "ghost prisoner." Like those prisoners, the ideés fixes of the Administration are held indefinitely but never questioned.

I could get all media-philosophe about this (per Baudrillard's analysis of the simulacrum, Bush doesn't have to use force to enact this hegemony of thought because the masses have "pre-capitulated") but it's really more simple. "Think what we tell you to think, say what we tell you to say." This should be a familiar model to those who have followed the rise of the radical right. The White House is now just another station on your talk radio dial.

If Reagan was our first Actor-in-Chief, Bush seems to be our first Talkshow-Host-in-Chief. His butchered elocutions are on par with the staccato stranglings of the AM maniacs, and his ever-certain/over-certain "style" is stolen from Rush Limbaugh--when Rush was high, no doubt.

W (read: Cheney 'n' Rove) seeks to use "Presidential power at its absolute apex" to mold an electorate that merely repeats the words it hears repeated. W would lead us into Dittohead Nation.

Speaking of that "absolute apex," it's worth thinking about the effect of "Bushiversese" on those of us accustomed to the careful use of legitimate language towards the formation of thoughtful opinion and sensible policy. It feels like torture. I don't mean to demean the horrors recently wrought in our name in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. But we've all felt this way. Listening to Bush speak is almost physically painful. Hearing him praise Rumsfeld as "fabulous" today actually made my stomach churn. If one truly listens to what is said, and tries to reconcile it against any external reality, one begins to go mad. At times, I have actually suffered from aphasia--the inability to speak--while watching Bush speak. And those of you who know me know that I consider that, well, torture. In torturing the language, Bush tortures we who treasure it.

We are being robbed of the most important tool, perhaps the only tool, of civil society. Orwell fought against the corruption of language by demagogues his whole career, and summarized all we can ever know (and must never forget) on the topic here.

It must be bliss to be one of those Americans who can listen and nod and hear only the good words: "strong," "freedom," "victory." Eventually, if allowed, Bush and Co. will carry this trend to its logical conclusion: appearing at the podium only to deliver those achingly familiar slogans of Orwellian purity:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
And Goddammit if they are not close today.

And W won't even have to worry about shooting the rest of us. We will have either given ourselves over to the flood of useless syllables and pretty toys, fled the country, or fled inside ourselves--driven mad by the wily madness of the King George.

Rejecting criticism as a political act

Responding to a bipartisan collection of ambassors and generals denouncement of the Bush Administration's foreign policy, Colin Powell merely rejected the criticism as a political act.

Apparently, a "political act" is worthy of no further discussion, and can be denounced solely on the grounds of partisanship. As a result, the fact that this is a political act immediately renders void any of the criticisms contained therein, including that:

[Bush] led the United States into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain.

Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations.

[Bush is] motivated more by ideology than by reasoned analysis.

[The Bush Administration] is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance.

But then, any criticism of the President is, de facto, a political act, which neatly sidesteps the requirements of actually having to respond to such criticisms. How very, very convenient.

The Passion of Michael Moore

Oh, for crying out loud. First they try to tag it as an 'R' rated movie because it shows graphic clips from the war in Iraq. And now, this.

All this from the people who got the Reagan TV movie canned from CBS. I wasn't in the US during the flap over The Passion - can someone tell me, did anyone take out television ads calling for the movie not to be shown?

And what's with the public cry for censorship? Are protests over Farenheit 9/11 to be punctuated with book-burnings, just for good measure? Don't forget your Salinger and your Harry Potter, folks!

When, again, is "Take a Teenager to Michael Moore's Movie" day?

Rummy must go

Or this administration shields war criminals. (Which we know they do, but Rummy needs to go first. Actually, they should be hauling his ass to The Hague.)

Spokesman: Rumsfeld ordered secret detention

Spokesman: Rumsfeld ordered secret detention
By Associated Press
Thursday, June 17, 2004

A Pentagon spokesman says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the military to secretly hold a suspected terrorist in Iraq.

The spokesman says the Iraqi has been held since October without an ID number and without the knowledge of the Red Cross. Both of those conditions violate the Geneva Accords on prisoners of war.

The spokesman says CIA Director George Tenet asked Rumsfeld to make the secret detention while the intelligence agency tried to determine the suspect's ``precise disposition.''

The Pentagon spokesman says the prisoner will be given a number and the Red Cross will be formally notified soon.

June 16, 2004

Forget the polls

Thanks to our ridiculous white elephant electoral college system, tiny fractions of the populations of just a few states will decide the election. While it has been interesting to look at the simple percentage polls, it's getting close enough that we need to start worrying about electoral votes.

The Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 lets you do just that. Bush is currently ahead by 18 votes according to the site's projections.

The margins in some of these states are so small that everyone needs to do what they can to ensure that people in those states vote (for Kerry) in November. Those of you with friends in Michigan (17 votes), Wisconsin (10 votes), and Virginia (13 votes) need to call them with a big pep talk--those states are listed as "barely Bush." Perhaps waking up Virginia liberals on their state issues will help a bit in getting them to the polls in November--or maybe they will all have moved elsewhere by then!

June 15, 2004

Site goes up, Virginia goes down

The site is back up, thanks to donations that will cover several months of our new hosting service. We can't thank those of you who donated enough. If everyone could visit the site and post a comment, we might be able to keep ahead of the crazy people who enjoy posting sermons and/or detailed descriptions of gay sex acts. Thanks!

Virginia: "If there's grass on the field..."

OK, OK... check out this Washington Post article and tell me: are same-sex couples really the biggest thing Virginia has to worry about?

RICHMOND, June 14 -- The blunt message will be pasted on billboards and barroom coasters across Virginia: "Isn't she a little young?" it will ask in bold pink and white lettering against a black backdrop. "Sex with a minor," the wording will continue. "Don't go there." The Virginia Department of Health is launching a campaign in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Roanoke to stop men from engaging in sex with underage girls. Health officials say they hope their program will reduce the number of pregnancies that result from such illegal conduct. The campaign, to begin this month with the distribution of hundreds of thousands of coasters, cocktail napkins and postcard-size messages in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, is one of the few such programs in the nation, public health officials and consultants said. "We are concerned about minors who are coerced into sexual relationships with adult men and the resulting health and social problems, which include pregnancy, fatherless children, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health problems," state Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube said.

So gays and lesbians get a law stripping us of our right to private contract because we (horror of horrors!) want to protect our consensual adult relationships. The horny straight guys get posters in bars--and only a misdemeanor for sex with a 15-year-old?

So many posters to the boycott site hewed to the tired old line about gays recruiting children. Does the Virginia Department of Health see that happening? Nope. As respected social scientists have known for years, straight men make up the vast majority of sexual predators. Maybe church groups could start there, do you think? Naaah. It's just more fun to pick on gays.

As my colleague Diane said in forwarding the article to me, "This article needs some audio with it--a banjo, perhaps?"

June 14, 2004

www.virginiaisforhaters.org forced offline

Jay and I regret to report that the Virginia is for Haters site has been forced offline by unknown anti-gay groups that wish to silence us. After switching to a new hosting service, a second denial-of-service attack (apparently a distributed attack out of China) has caused the hosting company to drop us. We seem to be out of options. My submitted question to Ask Slashdot (which was rejected) summarizes the problem:

Several weeks ago, my partner and I created www.virginiaisforhaters.org, to raise awareness about a damaging and patently unconstitutional law to come into effect in Virginia on July 1, which seeks to nullify contracts (such as wills and healthcare directives) between same-sex couples. We finally got some media coverage on Friday, but by Saturday the site was down: some anti-gay geek had launched a denial-of-service attack which overwhelmed our provider. We switched to a new provider which claimed to have DOS provisions, but following a second, distributed attack launched out of China they dropped us before the site was even live. They recommended switching to RackSpace, but we can't afford the several hundred dollars a month that would cost. It seems we're out of options for getting the site back up. Is there some other way we can continue to exercise our First Amendment rights on the Web?

Any suggestions?

[Update by Jay: Assuming we do get a new hoster--and I think we're close--you can help us pay the $100+/month fees by donating even a few bucks at our Amazon Honor System page.]

June 12, 2004

Fun with http

Wow. 150 newspapers publish the AP story about Virginiaisforhaters.org and as a reward we get a denial of service attack that our hosting provider couldn't handle. So thanks to one idiot 17-year-old in California, VAhaters has no host. And I have a mailbox full of the most vile email imaginable. Who knew there were so many ways to misspell "faggot." We have all these media interviews set up, and no website to point them to. It's really, really frustrating. What a crazy couple of days.

On the plus side, a couple million more people know about the Virginia law. But then again, 70% of them are now more likely to support Virginia. Australia now doesn't recognize gay marriage, and now even Canada looks shaky. Does everyone hate us? Should we just go eat worms and die??? Somebody cheer me up.

June 11, 2004

Cyclists are Sexy

Once again, I use my magic deflector ray to bring you news of this cheering event.

Losing the war on terror ... and on truth

Consider the following two statements:

Worldwide terrorism dropped by 45 percent between 2001 and 2003. The number of terrorist acts committed last year represents the lowest annual total of international terrorist attacks since 1969.
The number of terrorist events has risen each year since 2001, and in 2003 reached its highest level in more than 20 years.

You can't get more diametrically opposite than that. And yet, these two conclusions are both drawn from the same report, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003, an annual round-up of terrorism activity from the State Department. Unsurprisingly, the Bush Administration stands behind the first conclusion (the first quote comes from Dick Armitage). The second comes from a re-analysis of the underlying data by the Washington Post, as reported in this May 17 editorial.

They say in war the first casualty is truth, and this Salon article conducts the field autopsy. The decline in terrorism reported by Armitage is entirely due to a decline in "nonsignificant events". The State Department tallies but refuses to disclose what constitutes a nonsignificant event. Clearly though, a nonsignificant event is something less significant than destroying an ATM or throwing a molotov cocktail at a McDonald's without causing damage, both "significant events" by the State Department's own definition. They won't even disclose who decides what constitutes an event (significant or otherwise), or provide data to validate the nonsignificant events. The data for significant events is, however, tabled and verified, and those have clearly risen, even if you ignore (as the 2003 report curiously did) events after November 11 2003, including the November bombings in Istanbul that killed dozens and wounded hundreds. (And don't get me started on the misleading scale break in this chart of Total US Citizen Casualties.)

Clearly, we are not winning the war on terror, despite State of the Union speeches and daily briefings to the contrary. But when the definition of "to win" is set by Bush creations -- the data in the report was collected by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the Department of Homeland Security -- what other conclusion can you expect?

Soothing the Savage Beasts

I'm no critic when it comes to classical music; I just don't have any education in that area. But my ear isn't dead, I can tell what sounds good, and I'm here to tell you, the American String Project sounds pretty damn good. Last night I heard a little Schubert, which took me right back to the streets of Vienna. There was also some brooding and intense Shostakovich, which made me wonder what, exactly, makes music sound so Soviet. The odd droning of the cellos? The minor tones? Anyway, for about two hours, I didn't think about the state of the nation.

In the latest Harry Potter movie, Professor Lupin tells Harry to eat chocolate when confronted with the evil dementors. They're everywhere these days and if I responded with chocolate to every one, well, let's just say I'm already way over-carbed. Music seems to serve the same purpose. And tonight and Sunday, there's Mozart on the program. I'm not sure I could sit through the Shostakovich again, but I am thinking of going back for the Mozart. There were still a ton of tickets available at the hall.

June 10, 2004

More on the end of the world

So apparently there's an email going around saying someone heard from their friend who bumped into someone from CNN who was recently at the Pentagon ... (you get the drill) ... that there's going to be a terrorist attack tomorrow, June 11. I didn't receive it myself, but I read about it on snopes, along with the usual, perfectly rational debunking.

And yet ... there's one detail in there that gave me pause to wonder. I was surprised when they announced that the NYSE would close tomorrow in honour of Reagan's death. Has the NYSE ever been closed for such a reason before? If not, this gives some small amount of credence to the rumour.

Proving Riemann with style

I can't claim to understand precisely what the Riemann Hypothesis is about (zeta function blah blah blah), but I know enough about the history of mathematics to know this it was the biggest outstanding problem in the field. What's more, I know enough about people to know that Louis de Branges de Bourcia, the Purdue University mathematician who has apparently arrived at a successful proof for it, it both a genius and a really interesting guy (and probably a lot richer soon). But why do mathematician have to apologize for solving things? Ignoring all the funny symbols, it's a great read.

Pray for Reason

To follow up on Paulette's post... I had actually read all of that stuff Pollack mentioned. This probably explains why I sleep so poorly. Everything, that is, except for the Texas Republican Party platform. (I'm scared to think what their 2004 platform will be!) As my friend Trav (who is from Texas) says sometimes: "Keee-rist!"

I love what Pollackis doing with Pray For Reason. I pledged, and the happy little prayer is up on my monitor. Fighting fire with fire, as they say. Can't hurt, right?

Pas de SUV en Paris? Oui!

Lately I’m feeling increasingly hostile towards the Large Car Drivers in our midst. My fists clench and get sweaty every time I see a Hummer. When I do drive to work (and I carpool, thank you), I have to squeeze my little car squeeze in between the giant 4x4 trucks and SUVs with Bush in 2004 stickers on them. It makes my blood pressure rise and a Tourettes like syndrome takes me over. Yesterday while walking back from lunch we saw a red Hummer parked in my narrow street neighborhood, and in front of my house we watched a Ford Explorer unload two tiny people.

So I was pretty excited to see this story on MSNBC this morning. Okay, it’s in France and we all know what a bunch of freedom hating commies the French are, but still, still. This is a nice sequel to the London law which charges you 8$ a day to drive your car in town.

I’ve been missing the brave guys and gals that started the “I’m changing the environment, ask me how” bumper sticker campaign, though I did think they were way too subtle. I’ve been joking about creating “Fuck the Environment” stickers for the big ass cars choking the streets of my neighborhood, but I hear stickering cars that aren’t your own is vandalism.

The other night we watched a PBS broadcast of Scientific American Frontiers in which Alan Alda questioned a number of upper management white shirts about why it’s taking so long to get alternatively fueled cars on the market. “The market demands it” was the single note reply. “No one thinks they need 500 horsepower,” the husband scoffed at the TV. “They wouldn’t even consider it if it wasn’t on the market.”

We talked about this a little bit in my carpool this morning. One of the things that came up was how Iceland is trying to build a fuel economy based solely on hydrogen produced using their considerable geothermal power. It makes good sense to me. I hear you can make hydrogen fuel using wind and sun. We've got plenty of both in the US. Plus, imagine how peaceful we'd be if we were able to produce our own fuel.

It's the end of the world as we know, and W feels fine

Now, I know it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I don't have a streak of conspiracy theorist in me, or that I'm not prone to at least a little bit of paranoia about the underground dealings of the people that run this country, even in the best of times. But I'm generally also a bit blase about the whole thing. I mean, I kind of believe some of the conspiracy theory stuff I'll spout every so often (like who I think was really behind Sept 11), but I'm not really sure I actually believe it. Essentially, how most of us probably feel about the more believable alien plot lines on the X-Files.

But I am really trying hard not to believe any of the stuff in Neal Pollack's Stranger piece today. I really want to believe that Neal has developed an unnatural fascination with Agent Scully and it's addling his brain. But I can't, because as unbelievable and terrifying a lot of what he covers in the article is, knowing good ol' W, it's probably true.

And I had read the bit about Bush consulting with the freakshows of the Pentecostal church to change US policy toward Isreal in attempt to bring about the apocalypse in the Village Voice a few weeks ago. So, I can't really accuse him of making that one up.

And, a fair amount of the scary shit he covers he got from Frontline's "The Jesus Factor," which I missed (for better or for worse) but which also provides some ample evidence that Bush is pretty much on his way to turning the whole of America into New Jonestown.

And I guess I missed where Rumsfeld decided to rename Abu Ghraib prison, Camp Repemption. But the Guardian covered it, too, so Neal didn't pull that one out of his paranoid fantasy either.

I'll tell you, I nearly shorted out my computer keyboard this afternoon by spitting out the swig of soda I'd just taken upon reading that undersecretary of defense Jerry Boykin, after September 11 went around on a preaching tour of Christian churches claiming that "George Bush was not elected by a majority of voters in the U.S. He was appointed by God."

If that's not enough to scare the pants off everyone of you, then you need to start watching more X-Files reruns, people. The man is nuts, and what's worse, he's surrounded by Jesus freaks foaming at the mouth imagining themselves as heros of the next Left Behind installment. He's crazy as a loon.

Of course, if he was appointed by God, then I guess it's reasonable for him to claim that he's not bound by the laws of men, either.

But in the end what really scares me is how many people in this country will gladly take that cup of Kool-Aid when he hands it to them.

Pink Alert: Kiki and Herb in Seattle!

OK people, this is serious! God knows we could all use a laugh, and if Kiki and Herb can't make you do it, nobody can. David and I saw them last summer in New York (albeit not at the same time), and David has been a fan for years. I just reserved eight tickets for Friday, June 25... email me if you want to go (first-come, first served, tickets are $18). The show is at 9, which leaves plenty of time for a nice dinner ahead of time. And thank God, the show's 21+, so we can all try to keep pace with Kiki during the show.

Fake or photo?

Think you can spot the difference between a real photo and a computer-generated one? Take this quiz. I got 8 out of 10. And for bonus credit: is this a real photo or not? Check out others in this gallery to decide. I'd love to see an exhibition of work like this sometime ... although maybe it wouldn't bear such close scrutiny.

Purple sash v Green sash

And you thought the treatment of Iraqi detainees was bad. What about the way the army treats its own soldiers?

June 09, 2004

Learn "Rum Fu"

With everyone beating up on Rummy these days, it's hardly surprising he has developed his very own martial art. (On the excellent POE News, link courtesy of the inimitable The Black Table.)

Practice your skills, old man, we are coming after you!

Signal Orange: amazing idea, amazing execution

My good friend and colleague Kevin has launched SIGNAL ORANGE ahead of the GOP convention in New York. Check out the site... it's just amazing. Priority for participation is New York, but if you really want to get involved, I could probably talk him into agreeing to a Seattle chapter.

Working with people this smart and committed is probably the best part of my job. Kevin is also the guy who got the Virginia site its kick-ass blog postings.

Selling out to the man: Google AdWords

OK, don't shoot me. We're going to try this Google Adwords thing for the rest of the month. I'm sure it's not going to make us millionaires, but our costs for the site are increasing and I'm cautiously optimistic it can become self-supporting.

MovableType, the software that runs the blog, is going to cost several hundred dollars starting with the next upgrade (which includes features that promise to lock out the content spammers). It's a good product, and the creators should be able to earn a living.

We will get paid by clickthrough, and of course the ads are based on the content of the site. While the main page content may be a little too broad to target effectively, I think we'll find that the individual entries will be pretty spot-on.

NB: It may take a few hours or days to get truly tailored ads. In the mean time, I know you ALL want to buy those Reagan stamps and Jewish books. (Not sure how that came up.)

So please, give me your feedback. And by all means, if you see an interesting ad, click on through!

Seattle wasn't built in a day

But you can see it being built over the course of 95 years with this ingenious slider overlaying images of the waterfront in 1907 and 2002. Try the "Fader 1 300x4040" link.

June 08, 2004

Where we are, and where we are going

As the media has us dancing to the dirge, possibly the most disturbing story I've yet read on the Bush administration is sailing under the radar. It's in the pay-only WSJ online, but as many other sites have done I'm posting it below.

The article is so stunning that most commentators have skipped right past its status as the ultimate Abu Ghraib smoking gun:

Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren't getting enough information from prisoners.

The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities.
...
A Pentagon official said some military lawyers involved objected to some of the proposed interrogation methods as "different than what our people had been trained to do under the Geneva Conventions," but those lawyers ultimately signed on to the final report in April 2003, shortly after the war in Iraq began.

The really scary part is this:

A military lawyer who helped prepare the report said that political appointees heading the working group sought to assign to the president virtually unlimited authority on matters of torture -- to assert "presidential power at its absolute apex," the lawyer said. Although career military lawyers were uncomfortable with that conclusion, the military lawyer said they focused their efforts on reining in the more extreme interrogation methods, rather than challenging the constitutional powers that administration lawyers were saying President Bush could claim.
...
The working-group report elaborated the Bush administration's view that the president has virtually unlimited power to wage war as he sees fit, and neither Congress, the courts nor international law can interfere. It concluded that neither the president nor anyone following his instructions was bound by the federal Torture Statute, which makes it a crime for Americans working for the government overseas to commit or attempt torture, defined as any act intended to "inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Punishment is up to 20 years imprisonment, or a death sentence or life imprisonment if the victim dies.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority," the report asserted.
...
Likewise, the lawyers found that "constitutional principles" make it impossible to "punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities" and neither Congress nor the courts could "require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

Billmon usefully compares this to Hitler's advocacy (as early as the 1920s) of the Fuehrerprinzip (an authoritarian state with power emanating from the top). He also has some great quotes from the oh-so-Christian lawyer who headed up the commission, juxtaposed against the report's justifications for torture.

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has this to say about the story:


So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

So that is where we are. The president asserts in his person the right to set aside law, and to protect lawbreakers by his very word. This story isn't hitting the mainstream media with anything like the meteoric force it should, so apparently it falls to us to spread the word. We have an unelected president arrogating unprecedented powers to himself, taking the nation in a patently undemocratic and despotic direction. If we do not make our collective voices heard on this, things can only get worse. Where the nation goes is, as it has always been, our choice and our responsibility.

Security or Legal Factors Could Trump Restrictions, Memo to Rumsfeld Argued

by Jess Bravin
Monday, June 7, 2004
Wall Street Journal

Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren't getting enough information from prisoners.

The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities. In a March 6, 2003, draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, passages were deleted as was an attachment listing specific interrogation techniques and whether Mr. Rumsfeld himself or other officials must grant permission before they could be used. The complete draft document was classified "secret" by Mr. Rumsfeld and scheduled for declassification in 2013.

The draft report, which exceeds 100 pages, deals with a range of legal issues related to interrogations, offering definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawful. But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply.

The president, despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the report argued. Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or "superior orders," sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no "moral choice was in fact possible."

According to Bush administration officials, the report was compiled by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II. Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker headed the group, which comprised top civilian and uniformed lawyers from each military branch and consulted with the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. It isn't known if President Bush has ever seen the report.

A Pentagon official said some military lawyers involved objected to some of the proposed interrogation methods as "different than what our people had been trained to do under the Geneva Conventions," but those lawyers ultimately signed on to the final report in April 2003, shortly after the war in Iraq began. The Journal hasn't seen the full final report, but people familiar with it say there were few substantial changes in legal analysis between the draft and final versions.

A Pentagon official said some military lawyers involved objected to some of the proposed interrogation methods as "different than what our people had been trained to do under the Geneva Conventions," but those lawyers ultimately signed on to the final report in April 2003, shortly after the war in Iraq began. A military lawyer who helped prepare the report said that political appointees heading the working group sought to assign to the president virtually unlimited authority on matters of torture -- to assert "presidential power at its absolute apex," the lawyer said. Although career military lawyers were uncomfortable with that conclusion, the military lawyer said they focused their efforts on reining in the more extreme interrogation methods, rather than challenging the constitutional powers that administration lawyers were saying President Bush could claim.

The Pentagon disclosed last month that the working group had been assembled to review interrogation policies after intelligence officials in Guantanamo reported frustration in extracting information from prisoners. At a news conference last week, Gen. James T. Hill, who oversees the offshore prison at Guantanamo as head of the U.S. Southern Command, said the working group sought to identify "what is legal and consistent with not only Geneva [but] ... what is right for our soldiers." He said Guantanamo is "a professional, humane detention and interrogation operation ... bounded by law and guided by the American spirit."

Gen. Hill said Mr. Rumsfeld gave him the final set of approved interrogation techniques on April 16, 2003. Four of the methods require the defense secretary's approval, he said, and those methods had been used on two prisoners. He said interrogators had stopped short of using all the methods lawyers had approved. It remains unclear what actions U.S. officials took as a result of the legal advice.

Critics who have seen the draft report said it undercuts the administration's claims that it recognized a duty to treat prisoners humanely. The "claim that the president's commander-in-chief power includes the authority to use torture should be unheard of in this day and age," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York advocacy group that has filed lawsuits against U.S. detention policies. "Can one imagine the reaction if those on trial for atrocities in the former Yugoslavia had tried this defense?"

Following scattered reports last year of harsh interrogation techniques used by the U.S. overseas, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice asking for clarification. The response came in June 2003 from Mr. Haynes, who wrote that the U.S. was obliged to conduct interrogations "consistent with" the 1994 international Convention Against Torture and the federal Torture Statute enacted to implement the convention outside the U.S.

The U.S. "does not permit, tolerate or condone any such torture by its employees under any circumstances," Mr. Haynes wrote. The U.S. also followed its legal duty, required by the torture convention, "to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture," he wrote.

The U.S. position is that domestic criminal laws and the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments already met the Convention Against Torture's requirements within U.S. territory.

The Convention Against Torture was proposed in 1984 by the United Nations General Assembly and was ratified by the U.S. in 1994. It states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," and that orders from superiors "may not be invoked as a justification of torture."

That prohibition was reaffirmed after the Sept. 11 attacks by the U.N. panel that oversees the treaty, the Committee Against Torture, and the March 2003 report acknowledged that "other nations and international bodies may take a more restrictive view" of permissible interrogation methods than did the Bush administration.

The report then offers a series of legal justifications for limiting or disregarding antitorture laws and proposed legal defenses that government officials could use if they were accused of torture.

A military official who helped prepare the report said it came after frustrated Guantanamo interrogators had begun trying unorthodox methods on recalcitrant prisoners. "We'd been at this for a year-plus and got nothing out of them" so officials concluded "we need to have a less-cramped view of what torture is and is not."

The official said, "People were trying like hell how to ratchet up the pressure," and used techniques that ranged from drawing on prisoners' bodies and placing women's underwear on prisoners heads -- a practice that later reappeared in the Abu Ghraib prison -- to telling subjects, "I'm on the line with somebody in Yemen and he's in a room with your family and a grenade that's going to pop unless you talk."

Senior officers at Guantanamo requested a "rethinking of the whole approach to defending your country when you have an enemy that does not follow the rules," the official said. Rather than license torture, this official said that the report helped rein in more "assertive" approaches.

Methods now used at Guantanamo include limiting prisoners' food, denying them clothing, subjecting them to body-cavity searches, depriving them of sleep for as much as 96 hours and shackling them in so-called stress positions, a military-intelligence official said. Although the interrogators consider the methods to be humiliating and unpleasant, they don't view them as torture, the official said.

The working-group report elaborated the Bush administration's view that the president has virtually unlimited power to wage war as he sees fit, and neither Congress, the courts nor international law can interfere. It concluded that neither the president nor anyone following his instructions was bound by the federal Torture Statute, which makes it a crime for Americans working for the government overseas to commit or attempt torture, defined as any act intended to "inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Punishment is up to 20 years imprisonment, or a death sentence or life imprisonment if the victim dies.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority," the report asserted. (The parenthetical comment is in the original document.) The Justice Department "concluded that it could not bring a criminal prosecution against a defendant who had acted pursuant to an exercise of the president's constitutional power," the report said. Citing confidential Justice Department opinions drafted after Sept. 11, 2001, the report advised that the executive branch of the government had "sweeping" powers to act as it sees fit because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

The lawyers concluded that the Torture Statute applied to Afghanistan but not Guantanamo, because the latter lies within the "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and accordingly is within the United States" when applying a law that regulates only government conduct abroad.

Administration lawyers also concluded that the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 1789 statute that allows noncitizens to sue in U.S. courts for violations of international law, couldn't be invoked against the U.S. government unless it consents, and that the 1992 Torture Victims Protection Act allowed suits only against foreign officials for torture or "extrajudicial killing" and "does not apply to the conduct of U.S. agents acting under the color of law."

The Bush administration has argued before the Supreme Court that foreigners held at Guantanamo have no constitutional rights and can't challenge their detention in court. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on that question by month's end.

For Afghanistan and other foreign locations where the Torture Statute applies, the March 2003 report offers a narrow definition of torture and then lays out defenses that government officials could use should they be charged with committing torture, such as mistakenly relying in good faith on the advice of lawyers or experts that their actions were permissible. "Good faith may be a complete defense" to a torture charge, the report advised.

"The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture," the report advises. Such suffering must be "severe," the lawyers advise, and they rely on a dictionary definition to suggest it "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure."

The law says torture can be caused by administering or threatening to administer "mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the sense of personality." The Bush lawyers advised, though, that it "does not preclude any and all use of drugs" and "disruption of the senses or personality alone is insufficient" to be illegal. For involuntarily administered drugs or other psychological methods, the "acts must penetrate to the core of an individual's ability to perceive the world around him," the lawyers found.

Gen. Hill said last week that the military didn't use injections or chemicals on prisoners.

After defining torture and other prohibited acts, the memo presents "legal doctrines ... that could render specific conduct, otherwise criminal, not unlawful." Foremost, the lawyers rely on the "commander-in-chief authority," concluding that "without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority" to wage war. Moreover, "any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the commander-in-chief authority in the president," the lawyers advised.

Likewise, the lawyers found that "constitutional principles" make it impossible to "punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities" and neither Congress nor the courts could "require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

The report advised that government officials could argue that "necessity" justified the use of torture. "Sometimes the greater good for society will be accomplished by violating the literal language of the criminal law," the lawyers wrote, citing a standard legal text, "Substantive Criminal Law" by Wayne LaFave and Austin W. Scott. "In particular, the necessity defense can justify the intentional killing of one person ... so long as the harm avoided is greater."

In addition, the report advised that torture or homicide could be justified as "self-defense," should an official "honestly believe" it was necessary to head off an imminent attack on the U.S. The self-defense doctrine generally has been asserted by individuals fending off assaults, and in 1890, the Supreme Court upheld a U.S. deputy marshal's right to shoot an assailant of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field as involving both self-defense and defense of the nation. Citing Justice Department opinions, the report concluded that "if a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate criminal prohibition," he could be justified "in doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network."

Mr. LaFave, a law professor at the University of Illinois, said he was unaware that the Pentagon used his textbook in preparing its legal analysis. He agreed, however, that in some cases necessity could be a defense to torture charges. "Here's a guy who knows with certainty where there's a bomb that will blow New York City to smithereens. Should we torture him? Seems to me that's an easy one," Mr. LaFave said. But he said necessity couldn't be a blanket justification for torturing prisoners because of a general fear that "the nation is in danger."

For members of the military, the report suggested that officials could escape torture convictions by arguing that they were following superior orders, since such orders "may be inferred to be lawful" and are "disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate." Examining the "superior orders" defense at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, the Vietnam War prosecution of U.S. Army Lt. William Calley for the My Lai massacre and the current U.N. war-crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the report concluded it could be asserted by "U.S. armed forces personnel engaged in exceptional interrogations except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful."

The report seemed "designed to find the legal loopholes that will permit the use of torture against detainees," said Mary Ellen O'Connell, an international-law professor at the Ohio State University who has seen the report. "CIA operatives will think they are covered because they are not going to face liability."

Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

June 07, 2004

Hitch on The Gipper, with some notes of my own

All weekend, David has been flipping on the TV and announcing "NEWS FLASH: Ronald Reagan still dead!" Clearly, he is new to America's reflexive hagiography, in which dead presidents enter the firmament washed of their sins by an entirely unquestioning media.

Don't get me wrong... I have, in spite of myself, a warm feeling towards Reagan. Indeed, his better qualities (chiefly the ability to communicate like a sentient human being) shine all the brighter with Shrub as a foil. He is the paterfamilias shining in a lot of dim memories of the 1980s. I was, for most of that decade, a dutiful Reagan Youth, even playing him in the 1984 mock elections at my elementary school. I recall shaming my opponent (my blond-tressed nemesis Erika, playing Mondale) with the shocking news that Managua was closer to Dallas than Washington D.C. How could she (or, um, he) remain blind to the red threat to the south? What, I asked, if Mexico fell to the communists?! (I could have titled this "Notes from a Cold War childhood.")

Reagan was, though, eventually the agent of my conversion to liberalism as well. The Iran-Contra affair occured just as I was beginning to study American history in a critical, adult fashion, and I saw it as a threat to the rule of law, which of course it was. The more I dug into the question of America's role in Central America, the more disillusioned I became. My rebellion was swift and strong: by 1988 I had hung a Sandinista flag in my room (to the horror of my grandparents, who had given money to the Contras following their personal friendship with Anastazio Somoza), subscribed to Harper's, and started receiving mail from the ACLU. My mother will be horrified in her latter-day enlightenment to recall once threatening me, upon the arrival of my ACLU membership card, "Not if you are going to live in this house!" The card went in the trash, and I stayed at home. But I would never go back to the simple faith of my youth.

"Times have changed, and we've often re-wound the clock," as Cole Porter put it so well. My mother is in the minority of Americans who have moved left since Reagan. The tidal forces he unleashed have reshaped the country's politics irrevocably. Where before the American narrative was one of progress, Reagan brought us the essentially pessimistic idea that there was a prelapsarian Golden Age that we could and should return to (eliding the excesses of the Gilded Age, Jim Crow, and the policies that led to the Great Depression); what's more, he was able to package this reactionary vision as optimism about America's future. He taught the GOP that the country would buy (on credit, no less) this revanchist vision of a foregone future. He sold us the sugar-plum fantasy of Star Wars defenses, while unable to mention--even once--the bitter reality of AIDS. His leadership could have slowed the epidemic, but of course his communications director was Pat Buchanan, who opined publicly that AIDS was "nature's revenge" on homosexuals.

I could go on... Reagan's disastrous environmental policies, the huge national debt he wrung up, his cavalier attitude towards human rights worldwide, the policy toward Soviet Afghanistan that aided the rise of Osama bin Laden and transnational Islamic militancy in general, his attacks on free speech and freedom of information... the list goes on and on. I do think it's impossible to neglect the fact that his policy toward the USSR, however it looked like brinkmanship at the time, worked out quite well. And his suppleness in recognizing Gorbachev's true willingness to reform is something of a miracle (again, especially compared with W's unchangeable mind). So we'll give him that, and credit his charm. But I think it's critical that we be critical in looking back... something the mainstream media have no interest in doing. Reagan is the patron saint of the right, and they will brook no criticism at all of his record.

Of course, Christopher Hitchens doesn't care about that, and his article on the stupidity of Ronald Reagan in Slate today is an important read. Hitchens, like almost everyone else, has lurched to the right in recent years (especially in his support of the war on Iraq), but not so far that he forgets what he knows to be true. Bless him for being brave enough to tell the truth--something missing from the ad nauseum encomiums to Reagan we'll be enduring for weeks.

50 Camels

I was feeling a little better about women's rights after the San Francisco courts overturned the late term abortion ban, but I was being naiive. It was a brief moment of hopefulness in an otherwise bleak landscape.

But now, I can't get this story out of my mind. Here's the part that's sticking to me:

The woman's family demanded 50 camels, which is the traditional Somali compensation offered for the death of a woman.

The woman's family say she is as good as dead because she can no longer bear children.

This story makes it so I can't stop thinking about Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. Plus, and don't mistake me for thinking this makes it any better, I forget sometimes that here in the US, we don't have it nearly as bad as our sisters in other places in the world where they're able to put an actual price on a woman's fertility.

Still, I guess it's only a matter of time before we get taxed for not bearing children. Oh, wait. Never mind. I'd better just go back to being rambling and angry offline.

June 05, 2004

Never Too Old To Hit the Street

David Dellinger, famously known as one of the Chicago Seven/Eight, died on Tuesday at age 88. During the '69 trial for his involvement in what became a riot at the Democratic National Convention, he was known as the old man, and at age 85, he got up at 2:45 AM to lead a protest against FTAA Quebec.

Here's a quote in some versions of the AP story. At the trial for the DNC incident, when Judge Julius Hoffman invited Dellinger to address the court during sentencing, Dellinger continued to speak after the judge ordered him to stop.


"You want us to be like good Germans, supporting the evils of our decade, and then when we refused to be good Germans and came to Chicago and demonstrated, now you want us to be like good Jews, going quietly and politely to the concentration camps while you and this court suppress freedom and the truth," Dellinger told the judge. "And the fact is, I am not prepared to do that."

Dellinger deserves for me to say more about him, but I gotta run.

June 04, 2004

Cheney's smoking Halliburton gun

Time has apparently proved me wrong, and officially removed any benefit of the doubt I might, foolishly, still be tempted to give the Bush Administration. Like an idiot (and John Kerry), I thought I could believe the President about WMD, and for that reason actually supported the war (if not the unilateral rush to war).

But even after all that has happened, of all the charges about Iraq war profiteering, I was perhaps most skeptical of the idea tha Dick Cheney actually influenced the awarding of no-bid contracts to Halliburton (of which we was, disastrously, CEO before becoming VP). After all, Halliburton is one of a very few companies equipped for the huge and specialized task of restoring Iraq's oil production. And I know first-hand that Halliburton has highly skilled and ethical managers, particularly in its core oil-services operations. (My uncle is a high-ranking Halliburton executive overseeing operations in the former Soviet Union.) But most of all, I assumed that Cheney was too smart to do something so stupid, knowing that every administration skeptic was on the lookout for oily hands in the post-war cookie jar.

Apparently, though, he was both that stupid and that arrogant. The email discussed in the Time story is as good a smoking gun as you get. Feith and Wolfowitz have been doing Cheney's bidding on everything else, and it's now clear that Halliburton's no-bid contract was just another drop in the bucket.

So after the yellowcake distortion, the "45 minutes" lie, the Plame affair, the illegal diversion of $700 million from Afghanistan to Iraq, the Chalabi clusterfuck, Rumsfeld's madness in denying the Joint Chiefs the number of soldiers they requested, the complete and total mismanagement of the post-"Mission Accomplished" mission in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib abuse and coverup, and now this... how could anyone trust this administration to do anything right, doubt any accustation of corruption, ineptness, madness or malice? It boggles the mind. But Bush is still polling at a dead heat with Kerry.

If this administration wins re-election (or, uh, election), we will know, officially, that the nation has ceased to function as a democratic republic. While no doubt some fault for the current dire state lies our institutions and the media, we really have no one to blame but ourselves. We are a population no longer competent (or perhaps no longer interested enough) to safeguard government by the people and for the people.

Thinking about Bush, Cheney, and their disgusting junta makes me think invariably about the Ben Franklin quote Gore Vidal cited when David and I heard him speak in January, saying that our form of government, however successful for a time, "can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

Sofia Coppola in a can

That's right, Coppola vineyards is offering a "Sofia blanc de blancs" champagne (er, sparkling wine, pace the French) in 187 ml cans, with a straw attached, to make champagn more palatable and convenient for younger drinkers. I actually think it's a great idea, especially if it tastes decent. Meg and David's visit left me with a greater appreciation of champagne... having a few of these cans around could be a good way to have that impromptu celebration when you don't want to open a whole bottle of champy.

June 03, 2004

Subtlety gets you nowhere

While it does little to elevate the discourse this election year, this anti-W Flash movie is quite satisfying. (Thanks Tom!)

The Greatest Generation

I’ve been reading Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. I picked it up at the library a few weeks ago; some subversive librarian must have put it out on the 'interesting reads' table in anticipation of Memorial Day. I checked it out expecting a a history of WWII, but the book is more a collection of profiles of the people who fought in that war. It’s about their lives and how they served both on and off the battlefield. It's about who they were before the war and who they became after the war ended.

I’m only about a short ways in to the book, but I can’t help but be touched by the modesty and patriotism of the people Brokaw writes about. And I can’t help but draw comparisons between these unassuming Americans and the men running our country today.

I watched Donald Rumsfeld address the graduating class of West Point and I wondered how he got the nerve to stand up in front of them. I watched the President dedicate the new WWII memorial and I wondered the same thing. Today, as the President heads out to Europe to engage in coalition building and mark the anniversary of D-Day I wonder how he’ll hold his head up as he stands on the beach at Normandy. And I wonder how the soldiers of the past, present, and future will vote.

Colin Powell. Bob Dole. John McCain. These are Republicans who (in my mind) get to address the troops. Regardless of how you feel about their politics, they are men who know what it means to be a soldier.

Anyway, it's a few years old and there are many other fine reads, but The Greatest Generation is worth leaving on the coffee table for a while. Especially during these war memorial days.

June 02, 2004

Calling all sci-fi geeks

My friend Nancy is doing some research about why people who love science fiction (particularly sci-fi books) love it so dang much. So, if you are a geek, email her, preferably before this weekend, with info about how and when to get a hold of you. Won't take long, you'll enjoy it, and in the future sci-fi fans like yourself will be marketed to even more skillfully than you are today.

June 01, 2004

The rest of the honeymoon

I'm predictably buried at work after almost three weeks away, but I know people want to hear how it went. For better or worse, my computer has me locked out of email while it backs things up and generally goes about the business of getting back to work, so here goes... hopefully David can add more later, and we can upload our (admittedly paltry) pictures from along the way.

The rest of our time in Florence was lovely. We ate twice at an astounding little place called Trattoria il Contadino, with a fixed-price 9 Euro lunch that just totally blew us away. Totally a local place, with workers and students grabbing a quick lunch. We had a much more expensive, and not quite as good lunch at another place the Rough Guide recommended, which precipitated a completely lost evening as our 3:00 nap turned into complete collapse back at the B&B. At about 9 David decided he wouldn't be able to sleep without some dinner, so he set out and brought back this amazing Florentine hamburger (on foccaccia, of course) from a street vendor. All the proof we needed that you really can't get a bad meal in Tuscany. Before leaving, we also did the bus tour of Florence, which was great, including a trip out to the old Etruscan town of Fiesole. So many places to go back and visit in the future... you could spend several weeks just in Florence and environs, and someday I hope we can.

Oh, just so everyone knows, we missed the newly-cleaned David (Michaelangelo's David, that is!) by a day... it was still scaffolded when we were there. Florence is replete with replicas, and we have several postcards of everyone's favorite marble stud, if anyone wants one. Next trip, right?

Our next stop, Montecatini Terme, is the oldest of the Italian spa towns. It's small, pretty, and overrun with old people. Also, it apparently believes that if the process of getting your relaxation arranged is stressful and confusing, the relaxation will be all the better. In short, I should have booked my desired mud-and-massage appointment weeks in advance, because when we got there we were SOL for anything other than a not-very-appealing soak in a mineral pool with All Germany's Grandmas. But we ended up having a lovely evening, taking the funicular up to Montecatini Alta... the ride was breathtaking and the village easily one of the most picturesque and unspoiled places I've ever been... just imagine cobblestone perfection overlooking your dream of sweeping Tuscan views at sunset. Plus, a really nice light dinner with an amazing Brunello di Montalcino.

The next morning we were off to Viareggio for the "lie on the beach vegging" part of the trip. If I had it to do over again, this would have been a good way to start the trip... it was beautiful and relaxing, and just what we needed after wedding, travel, etc. And if the spa experience was trying, I have to give the Italians credit for really knowing how to do beaches. Almost none of them are public... instead, the strip is lined with beach clubs ("balaeri," from the Italian for whale, as in "beached like," I suppose) that get expensive in the high season. But for us, 5 Euro for a beach umbrella and two sun chairs was a bargain. We spent the better part of a couple of days doing lying there reading, getting beer and potato chips from the bar, etc. It was just what the doctor ordered. We also ate at an amazing new-Italian place called Quinto Elemento (my restaurant-radar find of the trip, not listed in any guidebook) and Cafe Margherita, originator of the eponymous basil and tomato pizza.

Our silliest adventure of the trip had to be our effort to find the strip of gay clubs in Torre del Lago, the next town over. Versilia, the subregion the comprises the "Tuscan Riviera," is apparently Italy's gay-friendliest region. Torre del Lago is home to several well-reviewed dance clubs, restaurant, and even a gay beach club. So David and I set out by bus, only to find it dropped us in town, not at the beach. After a 30 minute trek through what was basically a mosquito-infested forest preserve, we reached the beach... which was mostly shut. Apparently, Wednesday in late May is still not high season. There were a few restaurants open, but it was a shellfish lover's heaven and therefore almost entirely unfit for David consumption. We finally found a pizza place open and had a nice meal. We went on to check out Mamma Mia, the one open club, which was hosting basically a karaoke version of the Eurovision song contest. The Italian boys were cute in a completely standoffish sort of way, continuing our trend of meeting almost nobody on our whole trip. (We were hoping to meet landed gay gentry who would find our newly-married status touching and invite us to come back every summer to their beachfront villas, of course.) After some confusion, the bartender was able to summon a cab for us back to our hotel (a great, campy combination of Art Deco, Liberty, and Austin Powers style)

During our cloudy day in Viareggio, we hopped a bus for Lucca, which is a magnificently preserved renaissance town with its siege-proof fortifications intact. We had a nice lunch and a lovely walk along the walls, and visited (more) lovely old churches.

From Viareggio Friday morning (5/28) we hopped the train to Pisa for a quick tour of the town before leaving for London. Quick summary: the Leaning Tower is impressive and leans even more than you think. The rest of Pisa: a pedestrian-unfriendly, dirty, and generally unsatisfying stop on the tour. And yes, let me confirm my status as American-on-holiday by saying, "why did they put the three things you want to see on the opposite side of town from the station?" Generally exhausted by Pisa, I was infuriated by the airport, Ryanair's extra-baggage shakedown tactics (which cost us like 80 Euro, almost as much as one of our tickets), and the worst-designed airport cafe in the world. But our flight to London was fine (after a delay). Ryanair is probably great if you've got carryon bags for a three-day beach weekend; for anything else, I'd say skip the only carrier I've flown that somehow manages to make Southwest Airlines seems luxurious by comparison.

Anyway, I may have more time later to talk about London, but the summary of our time there is pretty easy: great rugby, horrible organization. The second Mark Bingham Cup international gay rugby tournament featured some great rugby, good socializing, and easily the worst attempt at pulling together an event I've ever witnessed. It was ridiculously overpriced (more than $500 for the two of us) yet we got one meal, two parties with admittedly good entertainment, and not even a single free drink. Given London's crushing expense and the Pound's overwhelming (almost $2) strength, just enjoying a beer with our rugby brothers required serious financial planning. Being there with the Quake was great--confirming for both of us that we've made some wonderful friends through the team--but for a lot of the guys it was a struggle to get there, and I felt really bad that the tournament's stingy chaos made their time there something of a nightmare.

Probably the best part of our visit to London was getting to spend more time with Woody and Sara Robinson and their lovely daughter Ellie. Woody (Mike, to most people) was of course David's best man at the wedding. They had just returned from Canada on Wednesday, but managed to come spend the afternoon with us Saturday at the tournament and see David play. Afterwards, we went for an authentic pub dinner. It was more time with them than we got to the wedding weekend, and it was a great visit. Everyone knows how much David has come to love my old friends, and for me the feeling is just as strong about his.

Someday I want to go to London at the beginning, not the end, of a marathon European vacation... this is my second year in a row to get there already worn out, and it just doesn't make for a fun stop. London is exhausting under the best circumstances, and feeling tired, broke, and ripped-off isn't the best way to experience London, or end a honeymoon. Friday night, furious that as things happened I wouldn't have a chance to play even five minutes with the Quake the next day (due either to the absence of a loser's bracket, or the Quake's unwillingness to play in one, depending on whom you ask), I had a minor meltdown after a tour of several of London's loudest, smokiest, sweatiest gay venues, and was a really pissy about it to David (whose fault none of the above was). But being the prince that he is, he forgave me, we made up, and we enjoyed a day of window-shopping in Covent Garden before headed to the tournament to watch the finals. (My knee-nemesis, the SF Fog, won the Bingham Cup again, in a crushing defeat against the Manchester Spartans.) In all fairness to the tournament, David got to play in three great games (which I tremendously enjoyed watching), and it was a great chance to meet rugby players from all over. But by Monday morning, we were definitely ready to return to Casa Nonfamous and our very own bed. Thanks to an unexpected upgrade to World Traveller Plus on BA, our trip home was really, really lovely.

I (or better yet David) will write in a separate post the great news we got upon our return... but it was the perfect end to a honeymoon that was perfect in its own way. David and I enjoyed much of the best the world has to offer, in terms of food, beautiful sights, and amazing art--and so much the more for being together, really together as "husbands for life", for the first time. At the points in the journey that were rougher, we never failed (after a fashion) to look at one another and realize that whatever happened, we were together and would get through smiling at the end. And if that is not a great introduction to married life together, I don't know what is.