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September 30, 2004

I like to watch

ABCNews says that there is a 70% chance that Mt. St. Helens will erupt within days, and they should know. They'd already posted the results from tonight's debate this morning. Though they've since taken down the article, apparently they had posted something several hours ago.

Anyway, if you want to stay on top of the mounting pressure at St. Helens (which last blew its stack, by the way, on my 7th birthday), you can just bookmark the VolcanoCam page and check it between visits to the real-time traffic map site to see how the seismic activity might impact your commute.

Doing my duty to save our language

In this week's Savage Love, Dan mentioned that after a visit to NPR's The Next Big Thing, he was challenged with resurrecting a few words that have fallen into obsolescence. Although they were all perfectly fine words, my personal favorite--and the one that I can see pushing into very relevant usage these days--is kakistocracy (a society governed by its worst citizens).

In fact, I'm going one step further. I bet we would actually find that there will be quite a few posts that would easily fit into the kakistocracy category.

why you shouldn't bother watching the debates

Invest 25 minutes and find out why the debates won't include anything new or meaningful. This is your plutocracy at work.

September 29, 2004

Finally, somebody has found a pair

Three cheers for the Democrats in this NY Times article. Everyone seems to have forgotten what a prick Henry Hyde is, glad to see he is refresing everyone's memory.


At House Hearing, Quips, Insults and Some Official Business
By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 — The House committee hearing began as a serious discussion about the coming elections in Afghanistan. It ended in insults, so partisan and personal that the committee chairman expressed relief upon adjournment.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told the House International Relations Committee that he expected the Taliban to try to disrupt the elections in Afghanistan "perhaps even by attempting a large-scale attack on election day itself," Oct. 9.

Mr. Armitage did not suggest that he thought the elections might fail, or that the new Afghanistan might stumble on the road to democracy. In fact, Mr. Armitage had several friendly exchanges with lawmakers of both parties.

The mood seemed to change when Representative Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, seized on President Bush's declaration in Ohio last week that "as a result of the United States military, the Taliban is no longer in existence."

So, Mr. Menendez asked Mr. Armitage, "did you fail to give the president a briefing that the Taliban is still in existence?"

Mr. Armitage said the president meant that the Taliban "is not shackling 28 million people anymore," not that it had literally vanished.

The reply did not entirely satisfy Mr. Menendez, who said, "I think we have to stop sugar-coating the realities of what is happening in Afghanistan and in our other conflicts and be honest with the American people."

Mr. Armitage did not respond directly to Mr. Menendez's "sugar-coating" metaphor, choosing instead to use one of his own. "The Taliban is very much running from hidey hole to hidey hole," he said.

Moments later, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, opined that "nitpicking the president of the United States' words is not really constructive in this type of situation." Mr. Rohrabacher said Mr. Bush had driven the Taliban out instead of unwisely tolerating it, as he said President Bill Clinton had.

A bit later, emotions warmed even more as Representative Donald M. Payne, Democrat of New Jersey, asserted that Mr. Bush had misled the American people by taking the country to war against Iraq ("It wasn't difficult, because many people have a difficult time getting the details straight"), while the main mission was still Afghanistan.

"And I have never seen such a misuse of our power," Mr. Payne observed.

That was too much for Representative Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who heads the committee. He said that "calling the commander in chief a liar by every hour on the hour" was simply wrong, and was helpful to "the other side," by which he appeared to mean America's terrorist enemies.

Moments later, Representative Gary Ackerman, Democrat of New York, said he and his colleagues were "sick and tired" of hearing their patriotism questioned whenever they exercised their responsibilities and rights, as citizens as well as members of Congress.

Mr. Hyde did not mollify Mr. Ackerman a bit. "Nobody questions your patriotism," Mr. Hyde said. "It's your judgment that's under question."

The two lawmakers interrupted each other a few more times, until Mr. Ackerman said, "What's obvious, Mr. Chairman, is that you are a rather vicious partisan."

"Now you're really getting personal," Mr. Hyde observed.

"Well," Mr. Ackerman countered, "I think that willful ignorance is kind of personal also, Mr. Chairman."

"Just remember," Mr. Hyde shot back, "ignorance is salvageable, but stupid is forever."

"I know that," Mr. Ackerman said, "and I'm glad that you've memorized that." He went on to say that Mr. Hyde's insults notwithstanding, he had never called the president a liar.

If nothing else, the session underlined the importance of specificity in language, especially on the eve of President Bush's foreign-policy debate with Senator John Kerry, and the dangers of hyperbole.

"The time has expired, happily," Mr. Hyde said on adjournment.

And the answer to life, the universe and everything is...

With the spirit of humour in which it is clearly intended, I offer you the Official God FAQ.

(Thanks to Ray.)

September 28, 2004

The Dirty Work

Face it. The phone calls are a drag. It’s telemarketing, plain and simple; it’s a politician you’re selling, not magazines or timeshares. And it sucks. It’s wearing and dull. And people are angry. They’ve been called 97 times by 97 different campaigns. They don’t want to talk about their politics to a stranger on the phone. And hell, why should they? As they reminded me repeatedly, it’s their right not to tell anyone how they’re voting. They are right. I can’t argue with them. Also, it turns out, duh, there’s a ton of policy I know f*ck all about.

The hardcore Republicans? Very nice to me. Really nice. Polite. The undecided voters? Totally inscrutable. I’d ask them what issues were important to them in the election and they didn’t know. Are they kidding with that? A bunch of people hung up on me. And I talked to one funny old coot who said this in a slow southern twang:

“I don't like that Bush. We shouldn’t have gone in there.I fought in WWII. I was 19 years old when I enlisted and I don't like how we went into Iraq. They’ve been fighting there since time began. And our Lord was there, Jesus was there and they were fighting then and they’re still fighting.” How do you respond to that?

The staffers do the dirty work too, it's not just the volunteers. the staffer next to me cranked through her list of phone calls while I did mine. What a day. I’m whacked. I must have made a hundred phone calls.

I turned on the radio when I got in to the car. American Pie had just started and I sang along. When I got off the freeway, the huge orange moon was hanging low in the sky. I guess that's the payoff. The orange moon and "this'll be the day that I die."

My family's favorite wingnut strikes again

Watergate felon and prison convert Chuck Colson is treated like one step down from the Second Coming by many people in my family. So Why Does He Hate America???

We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let's acknowledge that America's increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.

Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

One vital goal of the war in Iraq, and the war against terrorism, is to bring democracy to the heart of the Islamic world. Our hope is to make freedom so attractive that other Muslim countries will follow suit. But when radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being "married" in U.S. towns, we make our kind of freedom abhorrent--the kind they see as a blot on Allah's creation.

Um, isn't this traditionally known as appeasement? If Kerry suggested we should avoid irritating Muslim extremists, what would happen?

The scarier thing is how Colson is finding common ground with Jihadi murderers in order to foist his morality here at home. To simplify and personalize this; "Because Osama bin Laden exists, Jay and David can't get married."

But wait-- I thought when Bush says "They hate us for our freedom," we are supposed to like freedom. I guess not. Real Americans hate gay freedom. And so does Osama. Which brings me to an epiphany: after all these years of being a wedge issue, it feels kind of good to be a uniter, not a divider.

But wait, here's how he closes his article: "This makes reversing U.S. decadence an urgent priority, not just for Christians, but for all Americans. If our cultural rot continues unabated, a Talibanized West may no longer be a joke, but grim reality."

If by "cultural rot" he means "self-righteous convicted felons hijacking our religious and political systems," I totally agree. Because from where I sit, Chuck Colson is the Mullah-fucking-Omar of our own Christo-Taliban. Frankly, he and his ilk have done a lot more to hurt me over the course of my life than the Taliban, Osama, and Saddam Hussein combined. The hate Colson, Dobson, and Falwell preach is just as dangerous as the filth that flows from any madrassa in Peshawar or Jeddah. It motivates people to hatred in the name of religion and leads to policies that have killed tens of thousands of gays in this country in the past 20 years: AIDS, gay bashing, and the shameful statistic that gay kids are three times more likely to kill themselves. And not a day goes by that I don't thank God that none of those fates befell me.

So go Taliban yourself, you lousy criminal. And may you-- despite your pretense of following Christ-- join Osama and Saddam in their "special place in Hell."

The Justices: also scum

SCOTUSBlog has posted the enture October 2004 Vanity Fair investigative piece that quotes Supreme Court clerks telling us just how ugly and political were the machinations that accomplished the 2000 coup. Talk about your activist fucking judges! You must read this-- just not on a full stomach. As Lawyers Guns and Money's Scott Lemieux notes, "The liberals are simply playing at a different level, inexplicably assuming their opponents are acting in good faith no matter how much evidence of the opposite accumulates. While it's the thieves of the 2000 election who deserve the most blame, let's not forget that the timorous likes of Christopher, Gore, Lieberman, and Ginsburg made it a lot easier."

To quote Digby, "This time, we must operate on that assumption and prepare for a knife fight --- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. There are no rules other than winning."

Rove is scum

Talking Points Memo has a post that Rove look like the most evilly effective propagandist since Goebbels.

"So now we get some details about how the Rove treatment works -- and not just speculation, but with descriptions from former Rove staffers who helped organize some of his trademark whispering campaigns."

"An article out this week in The Atlantic Monthly focuses specifically on a series of races Rove ran in Texas and Alabama in the 1990s."

"The Alabama races in particular haven't gotten that much national press attention in the past. And one of the most lizardly passages in the article describes how Rove launched a whispering campaign against one Democratic opponent suggesting that the candidate -- a sitting Alabama state Supreme Court Justice, who had long worked on child welfare issues -- was in fact a pedophile ..."

When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children. In the early 1980s he had helped to start the Children's Trust Fund of Alabama, and he later established the Corporate Foundation for Children, a private, nonprofit organization. At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children. "We were trying to counter the positives from that ad," a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile. "It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information," the staffer went on. "That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that's one of the ways that Karl got the information out—he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out." This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state. "What Rove does," says Joe Perkins, "is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin', tobacco-chewin', pickup-drivin' kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take."

So really, my friends, Kerry is getting off easy with the Swift Boat thing. It could be a lot worse.

September 27, 2004

Election 2004: Lawyers, start your engines

There's a good chance that we may not know the outcome of the Presidential election for many days after November 2. Many of the reasons why have been covered elsewhere, but one provision of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) sn't aware of was mentioned in this BBC article discussing how for the first time, representatives from the OSCE (the European body which has traditionally monitored elections in fledgling democracies) will observe the election. In addition to providing funds to "upgrade" election equipment, HAVA also mandates the concept of a "provisional ballot":

The Help America Vote Act (Hava), passed in October 2002, mandated all states to introduce provisional ballots as a means of avoiding what happened in Florida during the 2000 poll, when thousands of voters incorrectly listed as criminals were alleged to have been removed from voter rolls and turned away.

Under the new system, everyone who believes they are entitled to vote - regardless of whether their name features on a roll or not - may cast a ballot. The validity of their vote will be decided later - although how this will be decided has also been a subject of some speculation.

(My emphasis.) If the election is close, expect not just lawsuits around hanging chads (which will still exist) and faulty electronic voting machines, but also around each end every provisional ballot cast.

September 26, 2004

The literary marketability of self-indulgent self-recrimination

I have a compulsion to read while I’m waiting. And while I’m waiting for something, as opposed to someone, more often than not, I seem to have a compulsion to read magazine articles, the more horrid the better. Even if I’ve got something actually worthwhile to read in my own purse.

Which is how I came to reading a story last night at about 2 am about a guy who broke his own arm off after getting his hand pinned to a rock wall by a boulder, in the veterinary emergency clinic waiting room, even though I had a Tobias Wolf novel in my handbag that I really was looking forward to reading.

Ok. So I know that what you’re thinking is, back up a step or two, chica. What were you doing in the veterinary emergency room? And what kind of opportunistic, self-absorbed mother is going to come away from an experience like that and write about what she read while her poor puppy was subjected to hours of tests by complete strangers?

The answer to the first question is spending several hours and several hundreds of dollars to find out that there doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with Yogi that would actually explain his behavior and vomiting for the last several days. The answer to the second is that, well, the point of this piece is going to be about the cult of self-indulgent self-recrimination as a literary genre.

You see, the guy who broke his own arm off, rather than die stuck to a boulder, got a book deal out of it.

And that kind of pisses me off.

Now, I’m not going to go buy the book. I read enough in the preview article in Outside magazine in the consulting room of the puppy ER. I had physical reactions to the mildly graphic details of how he went about doing this feat of self-mutilation similar to those I had during the hobbling scene in Misery. Only this was real, told from the point of view of the guy who’d actually been through this hell who’d come to the realization that he was only there because of his own stupid choices and not through some karmic pyramid scheme making its way through the Utah desert; who’d been forced to drink his own urine for days before finally realizing that if he didn’t amputate his arm he’d die not of hypothermia or dehydration, but from the effects of myonecrosis; and who eventually accepted his fate, mustered up the courage to do what had to be done, and saved himself.

Yeah, whatever, dude. This is worthy of a book? To me, this is just more validation that my whole theory about appropriate ways to spend one’s time away from work should not include any activity that precludes calling a cab, an ambulance, or just hopping in the car and going home, the minute it stops being fun. And to be absolutely clear about this, having your hand crushed between a boulder and a rock wall does count as the fun having ceased.

There are two points in the article that I believe are supposed to be the main pivot points—you know, those realizations, twists, unfolding layer-type things that all submissions to This American Life are supposed to contain every 45 seconds or so? Two. And this wasn’t a short article. And these weren’t exactly stunning realizations. In fact, they were kind of pendantic, really.

The first was of the “stop blaming the world for your misfortune; you got yourself into this, dude” variety. Wow, really? So, you go out into the desert completely alone, without telling anyone where you are going, to climb mountains or something with no protective clothing and only enough water and gear for a good walk in the woods, and you’re the only one to blame for the mess you find yourself in? So your assumption before that was that people who actually take precautions are just missing out? Nervous Nellies? I wonder if this guy ever wore seatbelts. Caution is merely for the faint of heart!

Ok, so I realize I’m being harsh. The guy lost his hand because he made some stupid choices and put himself in a bad situation, so yeah, that sucks. I have sympathy for people who’ve been to hell and back, even when they themselves chose to get off the freeway at Hell's Exit (14a on the NJ Turnpike, for example). Sometimes you have to test your limits. Sometimes you’ve got to really screw up to come to some realizations about yourself, about your motivations, or about why you need to change direction in life. But does that really warrant a book deal?

The second pivot point comes at the end. It’s a pivot point in that he invites you to continue following his survival saga by buying his book. Yes, you’ve just heard his horrific tale of fear and pain, and you’ve just gotten through a squirm-inducing depiction of a person BREAKING HIS OWN ARM OFF!!! But this is just the beginning of the survival tale, he tells you in the last line of the article. Presumably, the book offers 200-300 pages more worth of his heroic escape. Allow me to be the first to say, "yippee".

One assumes that might include a lot of the sort of self-reflection hinted at in the preview article. The sort where he realizes that everyone else in his family who he has looked down upon all these years for taking the safe route, who have lived responsibly while he went off trying to climb mountains in winter by himself, might not be the cowards he always thought they were. And he might not be the noble heroic character he always saw himself as. There’s a surprise.

So what have we learned from this story? That if you go off by yourself doing extreme sports without the proper safety equipment or a backup plan and something goes wrong, there is a good chance you could seriously blow it and have something really bad happen, like losing a limb, or having to drink your own pee, or dying. On the other hand, we’ve also learned that if you can avoid the third option, you should start looking for a literary agent.

So I admit it, I rubbernecked and read the article. I slowed down to see how many ambulances there were and if anyone was being carried off on a back board. But somehow I doubt I’ll be buying the guy’s book. I'm not going to be one of those people who comes to an almost complete stop to get an accurate body count.

On the other hand, somehow I also think there is a better chance than I’d previously believed to hyping some of my travel misadventures into some reflective narrative where I am forced to do something extreme (like pee in a girlie bar in Tudela?) and realize that perhaps I should be focusing my energies elsewhere and get a big fat advance on the promise that rest of the story will enlighten and inspire others to make their decisions more wisely or something.

At the very least, maybe I should shop the story to an agent.

September 23, 2004

Since I sense a theme here

Pam, I added a category called "No, I am NOT blogging my time at the campaign office." I'm sure in a few weeks I'll be posting under that heading as well.

I Have No Idea Where that Number Came From

From the "No, I am NOT blogging my time at the campaign office" files comes today's clip:

"600,000 Democrats threatening to leave the country? How is that good for the campaign? We need to keep in mind that it's not over yet. What's with the defeatist attitude? We need to be saying we're winning with Kerry and Edwards. It's not over yet."

I Think Jimmy Swaggart is HOT and SEXY!!

I am sure that I need to go back and ask the Sister’s a few things, because this is not what I learned in Sunday School, nor can I find any guidance from the “Good Book” that allows me to use such ideas of hatred and actually get laughter and applause!
Well, thank heaven for the NY Daily News! Just when you think that the Christian Right cannot possibly top them selves, they actually do it!!! Now ya know when an article includes the prostitute toting Jimmy Swaggart, it’s going to be good…and Jimmy ya didn’t let us down!
BATON ROUGE, La. — Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologized Wednesday for saying in a televised worship service that he would kill any gay man who looked at him romantically.
A complaint was filed with a Canadian broadcasting group, and Swaggart said his Baton Rouge-based Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has received complaints from gay groups over the remarks made on the Sept. 12 telecast.
In the broadcast, Swaggart was discussing his opposition to gay marriage when he said “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry.” “And I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died,” Swaggart said to laughter and applause from the congregation.

I am sure the interview was meant to go something like this:
BATON ROUGE, La. — Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologized Wednesday for saying in a televised worship service that he would kill any gay man who looked at him romantically. “What I meant to say,” replied Swaggart, “ is that I would bash his faggot ass face in with a baseball bat and then shove it up his pansy queer ass, and then tell God that he must have slipped.” “If this offends anyone, I apologize,” Swaggart said, “ I use this saying all the time and you can’t lie to God, I’m just a damn dumb ass!”

CSI: Seattle

It's time, isn't it? A young software engineer is found dead behind the Fremont Troll of a heroin overdose. A Pocket PC lies smashed nearby. The engineer's backpack contains only two empty cans of Talking Rain, a Starbucks card, a half-eaten Essential Sandwich, and the current issue of The Stranger. Was the victim headed home? The cans are not yet recycled. The engineer's drug kit consists only of a tourniquet and a hypodermic needle. Was someone else present? There's nothing to identify who smashed the Pocket PC... but the SmartMedia card is still in it, and decrypting its contents back at the lab reveals some unusual personal contacts, including a former cellular phone executive from the Eastside.

And hey, where is the engineer's cell phone?

This Crime Scene Investigator thing could be franchised to stations all over the country with fill-in-the-blank scripts for place and character names that match the local geography and culture. Affiliates would film scenes in their own cities and put these together with the same computer graphics used everywhere. It's like Mad Libs!

[Name of principal CSI to rest of team]:
"It was [military rank][condiment] in the [room in a home] with the [handheld object that can induce death quickly]."

Eventually, of course, even this level of customization will be replaced when actors can be computer-generated or -altered in real-time by the viewer's television. We'll be able to configure our entertainment preferences on the television, right down to adding our own names to the show!

Hey, wanna get your message out to millions? Write a virus that takes over characters on the viewers' televisions! After the hot young star of the moment turns to the viewers and entreats them by name to some sort of action, the virus can check the television/computer for the viewer's friends and add the viewer's name to the messages delivered to his/her friends. "Hi, Jay. You don't want Gary to be the only one of your friends to get in on the action, do you?"

September 22, 2004

Are they mentally disabled, too?

This has just got to be satire, but it doesn't appear to be a repost from The Onion: Black Gay Republicans Break with Log Cabin Republicans, Endorse Bush. I mean, come on. It was bad enough that the Log Cabin Republicans took so long to work out that the Bush Administration mightn't be the best thing ever for gays and lesbians in the USA, but to learn that black gay republicans still haven't figured it out ... well, the mind simply boggles.

Ride on the peace train...

But not on the peace plane, apparently, if you're Cat Stevens.

Pentagon blocking overseas voting website

The International Herald Tribune has this infuriating yet unsurprising item:

"In a decision that could affect Americans abroad who are not yet registered to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election, the Pentagon has begun restricting international access to the official Web site intended to help overseas absentee voters cast ballots."

Apparently, the site "keeps getting hacked." I can't decide under which case we are the more fucked: if the Pentagon can't build a reasonably secure and available website, or if they think we're all so stupid that they can get by with an abuse like that.

Because really, the soldiers who are fighting and dying don't deserve the right to vote. If they want to vote against Bush, clearly they hate America. Why do our soldiers hate America?

More to the point, why does the Pentagon administer this program at all?

September 21, 2004

You Said It, Sister!

From the "No, I am NOT blogging my time at the campaign office" files comes this tiny vignette. A 70ish lady, fully decked out in Kerry/Edwards regalia. Upon handing off her project of the morning, she said this to the staffer at my left:

"You know, I LOVE this country, but when I think about what our government has done in Iraq, I just get so damn angry! Don't GET me started!"

DOMABSA

Read my latest The Seattle Times Backyard Blog post for the whole story, but let me ask you this?

Who among us is not ready to pass a Defense of Marriage Against Britney Spears Act??? She gets married twice in one year, and David and I can't do it legally even once?

DOMABSA. y'all. Let's write our congresscritters.

Gaymerica

Our dear friends Cathy Carl has sent us a link to one of the best political satires of the season. Those crazy kids at DDB have created Gaymerica for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to show us exactly the kind of homo-friendly republic we can create if we kick Bush out. That's all I'm saying. You've got to check it out!

September 20, 2004

Fire, brimstone, and FAAAABULOUSNESS

The hilarious Ladies Village Improvement Society has this surreal update. Facing the subway-car onslaught of crazy preaching folk, our new favorite blogger announced the following:

"If you all don't lower your voices and cease calling me Satan, I will have to sing show tunes."

Seriously, this is a must read. Especially for homos, New Yorkers, or both.

Louisiana is for haters, too

The following amendment to the Louisiana state constitution just passed with an 80% margin:


Marriage in the state of Louisiana shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall construe this constitution or any state law to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any member of a union other than the union of one man and one woman. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall recognize any marriage contracted in any other jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up perfectly:

This is a radical denial of any civil protections for gay couples at all - the most radical attack on an American minority since Jim Crow. Even the mildest protections for a gay couple that are integral to any meaningful bond - visitation rights in hospital, inheritance rights, the right not to testify against one another in court, and so on - will now be vulnerable to legal challenge or flat-out denied gay couples under the law.

So much for visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Louisiana is off the list.

September 19, 2004

The Selfish Democrat

I’ve just spent the day with the Kerry organizers at an office north of here. They’re recruiting precinct captains for the last 45 days before the election. It’s all about getting out the vote, people, and they really need your help.

Apparently, they’re all really hush hush about what’s going on in their offices. When I asked if I could take some pictures, they asked me a bunch of questions about who they were for. Another campaign staffer asked me if I was going to be writing about what I’m up to for anyone. They really want to keep things under wraps. This is a huge bummer for me, because you all know there’s nothing I’d rather do than blab on and on about what I got up to during the day. Well, the second best thing to that is going to be having you there with me. So as things progress and I get more involved, I’m going to be asking you to join me. That way I won’t have to describe it to you in sanitized terms, you can experience it for yourself. You folks who aren’t my neighbors, I beg you, get in touch with your local office and go sign up.

I will tell you about one thing that happened today. I met a really nice guy today - he’s been volunteering for political campaigns since 1964. He’s a DBA, runs his own small business, kind of an old hippie, I’d guess he was about 55? 60 maybe? Anyway, he told me that he’d signed up to work for the campaign because his son is serving in Afghanistan. He says he can’t bear to hear the Bush administration talking about what’s torture and what’s not because, well, his son is in Afghanistan. He’s been there for nine months. “It’s personal,” he said to me.

That’s the surprising thing I learned today – that it’s okay that politics is personal. I’ve been feeling sort of funny about it being so personal. See I’ve been under this illusion that there should be a certain community minded sacrifice around being involved in politics, when I’ve been all, hey, I want this government OUT because it’s really way better for ME. But for everyone who spoke at the training session I attended today, it was personal. The fact that I care deeply about US foreign policy because I have to answer for it when I’m in Europe makes me an ideal campaigner. The fact that I pay 3000 dollars a year for health insurance – without dental or optical coverage - and it still costs me 40 bucks to see a doctor - makes me an ideal campaigner. The fact that I’m surrounded by people I adore who can’t get married makes me an ideal campaigner. For the union guy who’s lost his job, it’s personal. For the woman that works at the base that can’t live on her military salary, it’s personal. You know what it is for you. And now’s your chance to talk about it. Your story can swing a vote that makes a difference.

So get on downtown, okay? Lots of folks are talking about their plans to head to Canada or Europe if the election doesn’t go their way. But before you start packing, please do something, anything, to help take this election. Contact your local campaign office. Pick up the phone and call them, or, better yet, just go down there and talk to a human being who can sign you up to help. Don’t have time? Send money to the DNC. Send money to someone you know who’s giving their time to the campaign. Call your local office and say “I’m going to Costco, you need anything?” Write to your local papers and tell them why this election is personal. Write to your friends and tell them to get themselves downtown to the campaign HQ. Won’t take you but 10-15 minutes.

Here’s how to get involved

1.Go to the US map on the Kerry/ Edwards website here.
2.Click on your state.
3.The Contacts box is in the top right corner. You may need to click “Contacts in ” to get the information you need.
4.Pick up the phone and call the office. I really recommend calling or showing up in person, the campaign folks are bogged down in web input. Just go.

That’s it. If you have trouble, let me know, I’ll help you find a contact. (Email me.) The campaign needs you. More importantly, I need you. This election is all about me. I am so tired of explaining US foreign policy to Europeans who think that we must be out of our collective minds to even consider re-electing a president who wasn’t elected in the first place. And I’m tired of paying through the nose for health insurance that’s barely adequate and eats all my profits. I'm tired of hearing my friends say they're waiting for the Supreme Court to let them marry. Help me out, okay? It’s personal.

September 17, 2004

Those crazy christians

I am finally going this weekend to get passport photos taken so I can get mine renewed. I know Jay is all happy over Jimmy Breslin's assertion that cell phone users are the dark matter that will decide the election, but I'm looking at those electoral college numbers and thinking I really do need to pay more heed to plan B.

I was still flabergasted that Bush can still be doing that well, despite everything everything about him lying about his service, WMDs, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc. Then I get a reminder buried in an article today on CNN about some stupid anti-gay group boycotting Proctor and Gamble for not supporting Cincinatti's law discriminating against gay couples' marriages.

In the 1980's, a rumor spread through evangelical Protestant churches that the company was connected to Satan. The company eventually filed libel suits against individuals it said were spreading the rumor.

I tend to forget how much of this country is just plain insane. Maybe I should plan to move anyway.

Breslin calls BS on polls

God bless Jimmy Breslin for the best news of my day:

Anybody who believes these national political polls are giving you facts is a gullible fool.

Any editors of newspapers or television news shows who use poll results as a story are beyond gullible. On behalf of the public they profess to serve, they are indolent salesmen of falsehoods.

This is because these political polls are done by telephone. Land-line telephones, as your house phone is called.

The telephone polls do not include cellular phones. There are almost 169 million cell phones being used in America today - 168,900,019 as of Sept. 15, according to the cell phone institute in Washington.

So not only are these polls not touching the several hundred thousand new votes recruited by the 527s and other groups, they are structured to miss the large, growing, and overwhelmingly young group that has only a cell phone.

This is great news. But it's also another example of lazy political and media institutions skewing our perception of events. Do NOT despair about the polls... Kerry may be doing far better than any of the numbers show.

Soap, Steam and Golden Tans


As we move into the Seattle Fall Season of five to eight months of rain, it gave me great pleasure to find a little quip that caught my eye in the current issue of Dwell. Now that the boating season has come to a close my greatest worry is the maintenance of my bronze glowing skin. I mean, what is more is more important than retaining the appearance of winters in the desert and holiday trips to Mexico? Who know you could do it in your very own shower!!! Having become ever so increasingly bored with multiple jets and fiber-optic lighting, I am thrilled to know that in the process of cleaning my butt cheeks I can tan them as well. Glory be to modern inventions. Let us raise a can of beer in the shower and cheer clean Hoo-Has and tanned Tally-winkers!!!
If the down right fear of getting electrocuted in the shower doesn’t get you, knowing that you beautiful bronze skin will fall off one day, will!

September 16, 2004

How to find a math geek

So it's confirmed: those wierd billboards with the text "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com" are from Google. (Believe me now, Jay?) But instead of just being an ad for Google as I'd assumed, it's actually a plot by Google to recruit math geeks. Pretty neat, huh?

If you're interested, the answer to the puzzle is http://www.7427466391.com, but that just leads to another puzzle...

September 15, 2004

War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Opportunity is Risk.

Bush's economic policies actually make sense if you replace each occurrence of the word "opportunity" with the word "risk". And of course, that's an easy transposition for a guy like Bush to make:


But if there's one enduring motif in the life of George W. Bush, it is that he's always been sheltered from the consequences of risk -- that is, of failure. Exposed to the draft, he had business and political associates of his father get him a slot in a National Guard unit far from Vietnam. As an oil bidness entrepreneur, he would have gone belly-up on several occasions but for the intervention of more such associates, for whom the notion of helping out the vice president's boy had a certain je ne sais quoi.

Now it all makes sense.

Don't support the president? No hot meal for you, soldier!

From Daily Kos:

What did you think about President Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Iraq?

I was there when President Bush came to the [Baghdad] airport. The day before, you had to fill out a questionnaire and answer questions, that would determine whether they would allow you in the room with the President.

What was on the questionnaire?

"Do you support the president?"

Really!

Yes.

Members of the military were asked whether they support the president politically?

Yes. And if the answer was not a gung-ho, A-1, 100 percent yes, then you were not allowed into the cafeteria. You were not allowed to eat the Thanksgiving meal that day. You had an MRE.

What's an MRE?

Meals ready to eat. We also call them "meals refused by Ethiopians."

a diamond is your best friend

This is taking recycling way too far.

Bush AWOL

No discussions of typography in this Flash animation, but it's fun, it makes its point, and it has a kick-ass A-team soundrack. Go check it out.

September 14, 2004

This is Broken

This Is Broken is not broken at all. It's a wonderful way to "make businesses more aware of their
customer experience, and how to fix it." Check it out!

Get the Drunk Home

Just in case you haven’t had the chance to stumble home on your own, now you can pretend you’re the DRUNK in the privacy of your office!!!!

GET THE DRUNK HOME

Move your mouse left to right (no clicking) to keep him walking in a straight line!! The object of the game is the keep him walking without falling over! The problem, as in real life, you can’t really see where you’re going (i.e.: you can’t see you cursor!)
Apparently the record is 82 meters!

September 13, 2004

Backyard Blog update

I've written about 5 posts for the Seattle Times Backyard Blog but only two have been posted... too long, too "speculative," etc. But I got up in a dander about some other posts about First Ladies... read The my response here. "Seen but not heard." I still can't believe these people.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

The ghost of Orwell lingers heavy on this anniversary of 9/11. While Cheney continues to insist that the war in Iraq is the leading front on the War on Terror, it is becoming increasingly clear that not only are we losing Iraq to the insurgents, but that this unneccessary war has stripped us of perhaps the only chance we had to control terrorism, as this excellent essay explains. Choice quotes:


The US cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan...

After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.


Meanwhile, the Bush administration remains happy to admit known terrorists into US borders when it suits their political purposes.

Headline of the day

"Putin Seeks to Increase Power, Citing Effort to Fight Terror"

Did Bush, Cheney, and Putin all go to some teen leadership camp in the seventies and plot this out? Something like this:

Putin: OK, Bushy, you get your father's friends to help you steal the White House and then get your Saudi friends to bomb America. The country will collapse in fear. Then, you, Dick, step in and manipulate the fear into an attitude of Us v. Them. It will completely destroy your precious democracy!!! Vodka for all!!

Cheney: Yes! Then, you, Vlady, help your country fall into civil war by not addressing the legitimate issues of minorities. Let some terrorists do to you what we have the Saudi government do here, and then consolidate all power into your office. Death to democracy!! Vodka!!

Bush: He He He.

Read all about Vlady below.

MOSCOW (AP) -- Responding to a series of deadly terror attacks, President Vladimir Putin on Monday moved to significantly strengthen the Kremlin's grip on power, with new measures that include the naming of regional governors and an overhaul of the electoral system.

Putin told Cabinet members and security officials convened in special session that the future of Russia was at stake and urged the creation of a central, powerful anti-terror agency.

``The organizers and perpetrators of the terror attack are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the breakup of Russia,'' he said. ``We need a single organization capable of not only dealing with terror attacks but also working to avert them, destroy criminals in their hideouts, and if necessary, abroad.''

Putin's declaration followed a series of stunning terror attacks blamed on Chechen rebels, climaxing in the three-day school seizure in southern Russia in which more than 330 people were killed.

He said he would propose legislation abolishing the election of local governors by popular vote. Instead, they would be nominated by the president and confirmed by local legislatures -- a move that would undo the remaining vestiges of the local autonomy already chipped away by Putin during his first term in office.

Putin explained his move by the need to streamline and strengthen the executive branch to make it more capable of combating terror.

His critics immediately assailed the proposal as a self-destructive effort that could fuel dissent in the provinces.

``The abolition of elections in the Russian regions deals a blow to the foundations of Russian federalism and means the return to the extremely inefficient system of government,'' said Sergei Mitrokhin, a leading member of the liberal Yabloko party.

Sergei Markov, a political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin, said the president's move against the governors could help curb corruption that has flourished in some regions.

``At the same time, it means ... a lowering of (their) general political authority and a serious lowering of political pluralism,'' Markov told Ekho Moskvy radio.

In another move aimed to strengthen the federal authorities, Putin recommended eliminating the individual races that currently fill half of the seats in the national parliament and have the entire lower house filled by parties on a proportional basis.

Putin said that the move would help foster dialogue by expanding the clout of political parties, but his opponents warned it would further increase the clout of the Kremlin-controlled parliament factions that already enjoy an overwhelming majority in the lower house, the State Duma.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the few opposition deputies, scorned the president's political proposals and said if they were approved, ``the next Duma will be simply virtual, it will consist of just marionette party lists and won't enjoy any authority.''

``How is it possible the president doesn't understand that it won't strengthen the country, it will further tear apart the unity of the country and tear federal organs power away from the people?'' he told Ekho Moskvy radio. ``Yes, the Kremlin's authority will be strengthened, but the country will be weakened.''

Although Putin has been criticized for strengthening his own powers in the past, three weeks of violence and the deaths of 430 people have led to increased support among the Russian people for measures to combat terrorism.

Putin named one of his closest confidants, Cabinet chief of staff Dmitry Kozak, to represent him in the southern district that includes the Caucasus.

Putin said official corruption that had helped terrorists -- such as the issuing of documents ``leading to grave consequences,'' should be punished with particular severity.

He also signaled a possible government crackdown on Islamic groups, proposing that extremist organizations serving as a cover for terrorists should be outlawed.

A new structure called the Public Chamber would strengthen public oversight of the government and the actions of law enforcement agencies, he said. The chamber would involve non-governmental organizations and other groups in the fight against terror.

Putin said that terrorism is rooted in the North Caucasus' low living standards, in widespread unemployment, and in poor education.

``This is a rich, fertile ground for the growth of extremist propaganda and the recruitment of new supporters of terror,'' Putin said. ``The North Caucasus is a key strategic region for Russia. It is a victim of terrorism and also a springboard for it.''

Seattle Ukulele Players at Victrola

I've kept this from you long enough, I can keep it to myself no longer: I play the ukulele. There. I feel better now, and you kind of suspected it all along, didn't you?

We're playing Thursday night, that's right, THIS THURSDAY from 8-10, right here on Cap Hill at the coolest, hippest, uke-friendliest coffee house in the whole damn city. Come to Victrola, get a cuppa joe, and sing along with us as we stumble our way through classics like "Don't Fence Me In" and "Five Foot Two - Has Anybody Seen My Gal?"

In answer to your questions:

Can we sing? Meh, not really, but that doesn't stop us.
Can we play? Some of us can, some of us can't, I ain't saying who's who.
Who the hell are the Seattle Ukulele Players Association? Visit the site, here.
Do we have a good time? Oh my, YES. YES we do. Please join us.

My Brief Career as a Republican

I'm a little worried about the Kerry campaign. See, I signed up to volunteer for them not once, not twice, but three times, and they have yet to contact me. Okay, I thought, the Kerry campaign is full in Seattle and they don't need me. All right. I'll go to the DNC. So I signed up with them twice. And I sent them an email with my phone number, the days I'd be available and a very brief blah de blah about what I know how to do. I stated I'd be willing to help out in any way I can and that I could start immediately. Have they called? Nope. Not once. I get the mass generated emails, the calls to host a debate party, the pleas to write to my senators or contact my neighbors, the stuff that makes the whole campaign seem like a video game. "Host a Q and A night, earn 10 points! Send email to your friends, earn 15 points!"

I don't want to win some virtual game that will get me a skateboard or a t-shirt or a trip to the Sun Dome. I want John Kerry to win the election. I decided to see what would happen if I signed up to volunteer for the GOP. I took a deep breath, went to the Bush/Cheney site, and clicked. I filled out the form, selecting "small business owners", "W is for women" and one other subgroup to join, and god help me, I hit submit. This took me to another form to fill out and that's where I was stumped. Here's the text:

By filling out this form, I acknowledge that I am endorsing President Bush for reelection. I understand that my name may be publicly released as a supporter of the President and that this is a personal, individual endorsement and my organization will be listed for identification purposes only. I further understand that I will be notified by Bush-Cheney '04 prior to being officially associated with Small Business Leaders for Bush-Cheney '04.

See, I ain't filling out a loyalty oath, no matter how cantankerous I'm feeling about the Kerry campaign. Plus, I don't see Bush as elected, so I certainly don't see him as getting reelected. Gad. So ended my days as a volunteer for the Republican party. I'm only mildly disappointed, after all, I was not looking forward to putting on pantyhose and heading over to the campaign HQ at Southcenter. I was probably looking for an excuse not to go through with it, and that creepy loyalty pledge was all I needed.

Still, I'm mad at the Kerry campaign. They've created this vast internet presence but they've overlooked that sitting at the other end of it are people like me. We're wired and willing, they just have to send us a note that says, "Thanks, come downtown on Tuesday at 1030 and talk with our volunteer coordinator." Which is what I'm going to do, even though I've not been invited. I'll ask them if they need help getting in touch with the folks who have volunteered for the campaign, because clearly, they are falling down in that arena. Or maybe they'll tell me they are so overstaffed with eager volunteers that they don't need me. That would be okay too, so long as they tell me SOMETHING.

It's a good thing I'm not a swing voter, or I'd be swallowing the bitter pill of Republicanism because of this.

September 11, 2004

Too good not to post

David gave you the link, but we need the actual image... priceless.

jesusbush.jpg

September 10, 2004

I love eggplant

IMG_0428.JPG

Also, I'm not over the romance with my new camera.

September 09, 2004

If I could write a book

I probably would be too lazy to do it anyway. I've talked for years about writing a cookbook, and I've made up plenty of recipes, and so far, nothing. Nada. No book. No agent. No tours. No signings and author readings.

But maybe someday. For now, I've created an alter ego for myself, the culinary adventurist. And I'm writing a cookblog. Or whatever you would call a fairly neurotic and long-winded, self-indulgent and, probably, self-mocking online cookbook and waystation for culinary musings. There's not much in the way of design--yet. Give me time, or at least the weekend. But there's at least the first recipe posted.

a whole new demographic for the nra?

It's a total cliche, right, to say that dog bites man is not newsworthy, but what about dog shoots man? And especially when it's a man who so richly desserves it.

Bad day for good targets

Which is, of course a good day for the Republic. The American Prospect catches Cheney in his lies about Kerry being soft on defense:

In March of this year, Cheney attacked Kerry for having “repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military,” hammering the senator for voting “against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.” He said this record has “given us ample doubts about [Kerry’s] judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.”

What Cheney leaves out of his stump speeches is the ironic fact that almost all of the cuts Kerry voted for were endorsed or originally proposed by Cheney himself. At issue is not the cuts themselves, but the hypocrisy of Cheney attacking an opponent who merely followed his lead.

Cheney accuses Kerry of calling for “major reductions or outright cancellations of many of our most important weapons systems”; Bush ads attack the senator for voting “against 13 weapons systems for our troops” over 20 years. But it was Defense Secretary Cheney who gloated that he had “put an end to more than 100 systems” in less than three years. In December 1991, he bragged to the Washington Post that he was setting “an all-time record as Defense Secretary for canceling or stopping production” of weapons and equipment.

And Cheney has gotten specific. He regularly attacks Kerry’s vote against the B-2 stealth bomber in October 1990. But seven months earlier, Cheney had put forth the proposal to cut the B-2 bomber program. Cheney cites Kerry’s vote against the AH-64 Apache helicopter. But it was Cheney who told Congress in 1989, “I forced the Army to make choices . . . I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out.”

Cheney slams Kerry’s vote against the F-14 aircraft in October 1990; according to the Post, Cheney “asked Congress to kill” the F-14 in 1991 and had been “skeptical" of a proposal to continue production of the planes as early as 1990. Cheney hammers Kerry for voting against the F-16 aircraft and the Trident submarine, yet Kerry was merely endorsing cancellations proposed by Cheney -- who, according to The Boston Globe, had “decided the military already [had] enough” of those weapons. Cheney accuses Kerry of voting against “even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle." But in 1991 it was Cheney’s Pentagon that said it wanted “to terminate such Gulf War veterans as the . . . Bradley Fighting Vehicle.”

At one point, Cheney told the Post he had terminated “the F-14, F-15 and F-16 fighters, the A-6, A-12, AV-8B and P-3 Navy and Marine planes, and the Army's Apache helicopter and M-1A1 tank.” Five of these weapons systems are listed by the Bush campaign in its attempts to chastise Kerry for his anti-defense votes. Cheney was so successful at cutting weapons that The Boston Globe worried “The Army's cupboard is left particularly bare . . . [it] will soon have virtually no major weapons in production.”

Cheney has even gotten specific about dates, condemning Kerry for supposedly calling for defense cuts “in 1984, in the middle of the Cold War.” But it was near the end of 1984, at the height of Cold War tensions, that Cheney told the Washington Post that President Reagan needed to “take a whack” at defense if he wanted to be a credible commander-in-chief. If Reagan “doesn't really cut defense,” Cheney told the Post, “he becomes the No. 1 special pleader in town.”

Huhn. This, coupled with the embarrassing explosion of evidence the White House tried to hide about Bush's disobeying a direct order while slithering out of his National Guard service, makes me downright gleeful.

The only thing that could be better? Hearing that Chimpy snorted coke at Camp David while Poppy was president. Oh, wait--that's exactly what Kitty Kelley says Bush's former sister-in-law told her. Sharon Bush is now backing off, but Kelley is a celebrity dirt muckraker-- but there is no way her publishers would have printed such a charge without backup. Clearly, Bush would sue them... if it were false.

September 08, 2004

And while I'm feeling pissed off and outraged

I'm going to say that I am sick and tired of these suburban asswipes who can't just sit back and relax and realize how lucky they are to have houses to go home to every night, instead of trying to fight the good people who run the areas tent cities to provide some level of safety and short-term shelter to people who have nowhere else to go.

So to Shane Davies, Steve Pyeatt and Ron Swicord, the three members of the Citizens' Advisory Commission on Homeless Encampments who are against the tent cities and all those they are representing, I send a big old Cheney Yourself. But I hope that when you really need someone to show some compassion to you in life, that there are people out there who aren't as selfish as you.

And I really can't wait for things to start getting better so I can go back to writing about food and wine and funny Japanese translations of signs and things that don't raise my blood pressure.


I bet you Shane Davies, Steve Pyeatt and Ron Swicord are even Bush supporters.

Excellent Targets, Really

But are the good enough? Is there a target good enough to convince the majority of people in this country that W is a lying sack of shit? We have, today, stories about all of the folks saying that W not only got his ass out of going to Vietnam by joining the National Guard, but plenty of credible witnesses saying he didn't even bother showing up for duty. And yet those Swiftboat Veterans for Bush can hurt Kerry.

And we've got Bob Graham publishing a book about how as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee was blocked by the Bush administration from investigating Saudi government ties to 9/11.

I see that little election ticker on this site and I'm amazed that the race is so close even though it's been shown that Bush lied about the two main reasons for going into Iraq--weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9/11 attacks. That should have made it clear to any person with half a brain that Bush was a liar and a war criminal.

So why should it make a difference to anyone that Bush didn't go after those he knew to be involved but were close personal allies? It seems clearer and clearer that the Saudis were very willingly and actively providing support to al Qaeda, and yet we accept that bin Laden asking for money from Iraq, a request which was ignored, constitutes enough collusion to justify invading and occupying a country.

Graham was interviewed by Salon about his upcoming book on this very topic today. In discussing Omar al-Bayoumi, who provided assistance to the 9/11 hijackers, Graham says:

Let me say that what we know about this comes primarily from FBI and CIA reports that were in the file in San Diego. And in those files, FBI agents referred to Bayoumi as being a Saudi Arabian agent or Saudi Arabian spy. In the summer of 2002, a CIA agent filed a report that said it was "incontrovertible" that terrorists were receiving assistance, financial and otherwise, from Saudis in San Diego. No. 2: Bayoumi was supposed to be working for a firm that was a subcontractor for the Saudi civil aviation authority. Yet he never showed up for work. His boss tried to fire him, and he received a letter from the Saudi civil aviation authority demanding that he be retained on their payroll despite the fact he wasn't performing any services. And the subcontracting company that employed Bayoumi was owned by a Saudi national who, according to documents seized in Bosnia, was an early financial backer of al-Qaida. Now, that's rather suspicious.

Also suspicious is the number of telephone conversations between Bayoumi and Saudi government representatives. It was a very substantial number that remains classified. Then, the event that really raised our suspicions was that shortly after Alhazmi and Almihdhar flew from Bangkok [Thailand] to Los Angeles [after attending an al-Qaida conference in Malaysia that resulted in their being added to a CIA watch list], Bayoumi tells various persons that he was going to Los Angeles to "pick up some visitors." He drives from San Diego to Los Angeles with a friend. His first stop in Los Angeles was at the consulate of the Saudi government, where he stays for an hour and meets with a diplomat named Fahad al-Thumairy, who subsequently was deported for terrorist-related activities.

He goes on to talk about how after that meeting Bayoumi and friend went to a Middle Eastern restaurant and met with two of the 9/11 hijackers. How convenient.

If there ever was a smoking gun in this whole thing, it should be this story. Again, Graham, "there has been a long-term special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and that relationship has probably reached a new high under the George W. Bush administration, in part because of the long and close family relationship that the Bushes have had with the Saudi royal family."

It is absolutely unbelievable to me that our Congress spent so much time, energy, and money investigating whether or not Bill Clinton got a blow job in the Oval Office and that we're not actively pursuing charges against the current president for what can, at best, be described as serious war crimes.

This is too serious not to read, so I encourage you all to go read the whole article, but if you don't have a membership and can't wait through the 30 second Verizon ad to get to whole story, continue on for some more of the interview.

Along those lines, you said that in a meeting at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., in February 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks, who was then conducting the war in Afghanistan, told you that resources were already being shifted quietly to Iraq. Additionally, you write that Franks told you that Somalia and Yemen, not Iraq, were the next logical targets in any action to combat terrorism.
Yes. I had just received a briefing on Afghanistan when Gen. Franks invited me to come into his office, just the two of us. He told me that military and intelligence resources were being redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq. What that suggested to me was [first] that the decision to go to war in Iraq had been made at least 14 months before we actually went to Iraq, and long before there was authorization from Congress and long before the United Nations was sought out for a resolution of support. Secondly, it suggested we couldn't fight the two wars concurrently to victory, but that it would take redeployment of personnel from Afghanistan to Iraq to make that a successful invasion. Third, it suggested that somebody -- I assume the president -- had decided that Iraq was a higher priority for the United States than was completing the war in Afghanistan.

Why do you think Franks told you this?
I don't know what his motivation was, but we had just heard a report on the status of the war in Afghanistan, which was very upbeat, [saying] we were making a lot of progress. So one motivation may have been to caution me that things in reality weren't necessarily what they appeared to be.

Do you believe the White House manipulated the intelligence to persuade the public to back the invasion? "Manipulate" may be too strong a word for you. But it took a request from you and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to get the intelligence community to produce a National Intelligence Estimate on the danger posed by Iraq, a step that would seem an obvious one to take, considering the stakes to the nation.
I am comfortable with the word "manipulate." There was a chapter that did not become known until three or four months ago that occurred in May 2002. Various leaders of the CIA were called down to the White House and told that the White House wanted to have a public document that could be released under the CIA's label but which would make the case for going to war with Iraq. I think one of the reasons they didn't want to do a formal National Intelligence Estimate was because it would be done not by the CIA alone but by all of the members of the intelligence community, and it was likely to reach a different conclusion. At least it would contain dissenting opinions and caveats that wouldn't be in a CIA public document.

This description of the CIA is one that is under the complete control of the White House, an agency that is not independent but highly politicized.
That's right. It is the expression of the leadership of the intelligence agencies, trying to placate their masters in the administration.

A later inquiry conducted by the Senate intelligence committee under your successor as chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., looked at the quality of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and concluded that it was execrable. Yet the Republicans on the panel blocked any probe of whether the administration pressured the intelligence agencies to manufacture the conclusions it sought to justify a war that it had already decided to wage. If you had still been the top Democrat on the committee, would you have insisted that the White House and the agencies be included in that probe?
I think Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D-W.Va.], who is the vice chairman of the committee, did insist, and the effect of that was to make clear to him that there would be no investigation of anything if he persisted. I think he decided the better course was to agree to just do the first component if there was a commitment to do the rest at a reasonably close later date.

Please tell me this is a joke

Check out the comment from "Dr. Stacy Ingersol" on this post, which claims, in part:

Investigative reporter, Simon Marshall in Cheney: The Story He Cannot Tell (Doubleday) to be released next month, reveals Dick Cheney was recruited into a secret black-ops team called Alpha Major within the Special Forces. Although he "took to the training like a salami to a pizza" it quickly became apparent that Cheney was one of the anti-gods who would not play the game according to the rules of war. Additionally, in defiance to Army regulations, when Cheney went into the field, he defied orders that the officially-damned beret of the Green Beret would not be worn.

Are the Rethuglicans really going to follow up the Swift Boat to Hell campaign with an arms-length effort to suggest that Cheney is, basically, a Tom Clancy character? I wouldn't put it past them, but it really does strain credulity.

The link to the National Federation of Republican Women tell a bit more. Also, the mysterious "Dr. Ingersoll" seems to be making the rounds on a few blogs. Could she be a sort of online Special Forces soldier in a new front on the GOP's war on reality?

September 07, 2004

Small joys

If anyone's wondering why I haven't posted much in a while, it's 8:40 pm and I'm still stuck in my office in deepest Bellevue. Crazy, crazy workload right now. In this weakened state, it was a mis-addressed email that almost sent me over the edge. I can't live without the stupid auto-complete function in Outlook (it would take 3x as long to address my mails) but I can't live with it pulling up every damn David I've ever emailed when I just want to ping Smithlet.

So I Googled for a few minutes and, bless the Lord, finally learned how to edit the Outlook email-address autocomplete list. And it's so easy I wanted the cry--you just highlight an offending name in the drop down and... press delete. Looking at the comments on the linked page, I'm not the only frustrated by the very un-Microsoft simplicty of this approach.

Still, it made my day. And that, my friends, is a sad comment on my day.

September 05, 2004

Alaska adventure

I know a lot of you were anxious for proof that I actually did hike during our trip to Alaska last month. Photographic evidence is now available here. Enjoy!

September 03, 2004

Unbelievable: experimental weapons on hand at RNC

Breaking news: our friend Kevin Slavin (known to many nonfamous nonstrangers as "the man in the 'hate fuck' hoodie") reported on Boing Boing last night that the NYPD showed up at a protest in NYC last night with an experimental long range acoustic device (LRAD) most recently used on insurgents in Fallujah.

Earlier this month, the New York Police Department showed off a machine called the Long Range Acoustic Device, developed for the military and capable of blasting at an earsplitting 150 decibels -- as loud as a firecracker, a jet engine taking off or artillery fire at 500 feet, according to the Noise Center at the League for the Hard of Hearing. The NYPD said it would use the machine to direct crowds to safety if there's a terrorist attack or remind protesters where they're allowed to march. Police said they wouldn't use the earsplitting screeching noise feature at the convention. "It's only to communicate in large crowds," Inspector Thomas Graham of the police department's crowd control unit said.

Luckily, they didn't use the device and our friend Kevin can still hear. But you should definitely read the BoingBoing article to see how much the police enjoyed showing off their new toy-- which looks like something that belongs on the Death Star. Of course its specifications are secret but some "non-lethal" sound weapons have been reported to deafen targets--and to add insult to injury, the sounds can cause you to lose muscle control. That's right, peaceful protesters... "The Man" can now shut you up, deafen you, and make you shit your pants.

Remember the good old days when we used to make fun of the Soviets' Orwellian use of loudspeakers to broadcast propaganda? The presence of this kind of sonic weapon on our own streets is far, far sadder and a real comment on the commitment to free discourse in our fading democracy. Peaceful protesters now know that their chants will be met by a military technology that can not only drown them out but could deafen them.

The only thing worse than hearing W repeat "Americans are safer" and "we've turned the corner" 1,000 times? Hearing them repeated at 150 decibels. Welcome to the future, friends. If you plan on protesting, bring your earplugs.

The Ownership Society

Ownership. It’s a big theme with the President. We’re supposed to own more of the decisions and processes that affect our lives, this will make us more empowered Americans. That’s what I got from the speech last night. Here’s what we’re going to own if the president is “reelected.”

Our health insurance. If we own our health insurance we’ll be able to take it with us when we change jobs in our highly mobile society. Buying coops will give small business folks like myself the purchasing power of large corporations. Medical savings accounts will let me own the money I use to pay for services. First, that whole medical savings plan isn’t new – lots of employers offer that now. And owning the insurance means, oh yes, I own the payments. Having ownership has done nothing to make it more affordable; it’s made it less affordable. And furthermore, though I do own my teeth and eyes, as an individual buyer, I’ve been unable to find a way to own insurance for them.

Our decisions about health care. (George, you really should have checked in with Jeb on this.) Check out the Terri Schiavo case and tell me who owns decisions about medical treatment for us and our families. Are the choices owned by us, or are they owned by the same politicians and bureaucrats that the president says should not own those decisions?

Our homes. Don’t get me wrong, I love owning my little condo on the hill. But home ownership isn’t, of itself, a virtue. I don’t understand why home ownership is so key to our perceived success. Almost anyone can get a mortgage, There are FHA programs that will help you buy a home with next to no capital. But home ownership comes with great expense. The home goes in to the hands of your mortgage lender. The bank owns your home and you own the debt.

Our bodies? Oh, wait, no. The rights of the unborn are pretty important to the President, more so than a woman’s right to choose. You might think you own your body, but from the President’s speech, it sounds like the government is trying pretty hard to own the contents of your uterus.

Our marriages. No one was surprised when the president brought up the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s not up to you to decide if you’re married to your same sex partner. That definition is owned by the government.

Our future. Yeah, we own this alright. And if the president is “reelected” my future is going to involve owning a one way plane ticket and a pocket of cash from my sidewalk sale. It’s taken me years to realize that I really do love America. I really do believe it’s the land of opportunity. But after watching last night’s speech, things looked really bleak. If this is the future, I want out. We have got to take this election. It’s personal. If W wins, I’m going to have to pack up and head to Austria. When you think it’s a better idea to live in a place where it’s okay to have crucifixes in public school classrooms, where the society is culturally xenophobic, and where you can not for the life of you find even a mediocre serving of Pad Thai then things are very bad indeed. I don't want that. I want the America I love back.

At least I own my vote.

September 02, 2004

Lost: Brass Eye DVD

Non-local readers, please excuse this personal plea...

I've lost my Brass Eye DVD. If you don't know Brass Eye, it's an amazing satirical spoof news show that aired in the UK in the 90's. A bit like the Daily Show, but more controversial and much, much darker.

Unfortunately, it's only available as a Region 2 DVD from the UK and it's tricky to replace. I think we might have loaned it to a visitor to Casa Nonfamous a few months ago. If you've got it, I miss it. Thanks!

Rabid-eyed whack-jobs ... and stalkers too!

I know how this guy feels. Getting unsolicited letters from an undesired suitor is one thing, but when it turns into outright stalking, that's just creepy. Jay and I have also been receiving autographed copies of George and Laura, and I wish it would stop. I don't want anyone to think I'm associated with a party which offers rabid-eyed whack jobs as the keynote speaker of their convention, while simultaneously claiming that the DNC offered "little but bitterness and anger" at theirs.

September 01, 2004

How "Swift"ly the lies are exposed

Well, well, it seems that smell has been traced to a rat. I didn't read the original Washington Post article, but Misleader.org reports

"Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr., the man who claims Kerry was not under fire when he received his first Purple Heart, is a top lobbyist for a defense contractor that recently won a $40 million grant from the Bush administration. According to a March 18 legal filing by Schachte's firm, Blank Rome, Schachte was one of the lobbyists working for FastShip's effort to secure federal contracts.2 On Feb. 2, FastShip announced the Bush administration had awarded it $40 million."

It's just great that a man of integrity is in the White House.

Repub Convention—empty?

I'm going to New York tomorrow for an eight-day excursion. I would have chosen some time when there is not a neo-con horde there, but there's an event at a retreat center in the Catskills this weekend that I want to attend. For at least a few hours, though, I'll be in New York City when Mr. Bush is there, and hope to check out some of the street action in person.

Here's a short piece on Mother Jones's web site about Madison Square Garden being empty. I wonder if we can tell from the television coverage that the cameras are avoiding parts of the floor?

I did consider flying in to Buffalo instead, but ultimately chose the more exciting city, partly because by the time I got down to buying the ticket this week, LGA and JFK were significantly cheaper destinations than BUF.