Friday, April 28, 2006

Still Too Many Questions

I know the film United 93 directed by Paul Greengrass opened in this area today, and based on what I’ve read from Steven Rea of the Inquirer, David Denby of The New Yorker and others, it is an expertly made film that captures the events leading up to the doomed flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. on September 11, 2001 (though the events themselves are subject to a bit more interpretation as far as I’m concerned).

And of course, the freeper brigade has been crying out in full force for everyone to see this movie. Kathryn Jean Lopez of The National Review beat the drum as loudly as she could, and Michael Smerconish over on The Huffington Post has been bleating over the fact that the judge in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial will not allow the tape of the plane’s final moments to ever be made public.

Lopez and Smerconish make me sick (to be honest, the main reason I linked to Smerconish’s post is so you could read the author get obliterated in the comments).

The goal of these individuals is to create and/or maintain a level of fear and outrage that will keep America unquestioningly subservient to Bushco and The Eternal, Forvever And Ever War On Terror That We Will Fight Without Ever Holding bin Laden Accountable, particularly given the fact that this is an election year and the polling numbers for the Republicans are so bad.

They don’t care about the families or the victims or honoring their memory in any way. It is all about politics.

Their goal is to score partisan points.


With this in mind, I’ve been reading some posts from this site, and it poses some questions that I thought were interesting.

According to the official story, the remains of people that were in or near the Flight 93 cockpit were found outside the crater, whereas all other passenger remains were found in the hole. BUT-- both types of remains were quite minimal-- they only found about 10% of the total possible remains from the known passengers. In other words, there should have been about 7000 pounds of body parts but they only found 700 pounds worth.

Things that don't make sense:

1) That the front of the plane broke up while the rest of the plane went in the ground. By normal physical principles, either the nose went into the ground first followed by the fuselage or the plane didn't go into the ground period. I don't see any way around it. A good comparison would be with the planes crashing into the WTC: the nose didn't break off as the planes hit and broke through the wall-- the nose went in first. Moreover, the front of the plane smashing into bits should slow down the momentum of the plane quite a bit and thus it is not clear what drove the rest of the plane into the ground.

2) How did the front of the plane that supposedly didn't go into the ground break entirely into very small pieces? There wasn't even large sections of seats-- it's as if the front of the plane totally disintegrated. How would smashing into soft ground do this? Even an explosion doesn't rip everything into small unrecognizable pieces.

3) I can see bodies vaporizing to some degree if they were outside the crater and were subjected to the full force of the explosion and fire, but I don't understand why more intact bodies weren't recovered from the crumpled plane in the crater. What force shredded even these bodies to such an extreme degree?

4) What caused some debris from the plane to be found miles away? Some significant debris, including human remains and pieces of seats were found two miles away at Indian Lake.
Also, the “Flight 93 Hoax” site links to a great column written by Will Bunch that asks, among other things, how NORAD, the jet fighter squadron that should have intercepted the plane, apparently failed to do so (which was borne out, I suppose, by the flight recording). That by itself should warrant a congressional investigation.

Getting back to “Flight 93,” I should say that I am not trying to demean Paul Greengrass or his work. He is perfectly entitled to make what is apparently a great film.

I’m just saying that we don’t know all of the answers, and given the way the Bush Administration operates, I’m not sure that we ever will.

My sentiments were largely echoed pretty well by this opinion column that appeared in the Inquirer today:

Too much exploitation, too soon
There has been nowhere near enough time or resolution for movies to be made about 9/11.

By Tom Matthews

The movie United 93 opens today, but the early word is that it is not Pearl Harbor. Writer-director Paul Greengrass is a serious and respected filmmaker, and I believe this is a sincere attempt to dramatize the actions of those who died in the airliner brought down in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. I also believe that is completely beside the point.

The dramatization of any event for commercial consumption is, by definition, exploitive regardless of the filmmaker's intentions. The reshaping of reality and the wholesale invention of "truth" when facts are not known (or convenient) are manipulations necessary to engage an audience. It is a common practice that has resulted in some of Hollywood's most glorious historical movies, but with a tragedy this fresh and this lacerating to the nation's psyche, it seems grotesque to me that we are already trying to reduce 9/11 to speculative melodrama.

What bothers me most about this movie and the numerous other 9/11 projects in the pipeline is what none of us likes to admit:

We are all slaves to our baser instincts. We are all inescapably drawn toward violence visited upon others, and the more gruesome the better. Look at the ghouls who flourish on the news networks, exploiting every grotesque rape and homicide for ratings. More important, look to the millions who tune in to watch.

There is no reason to think that 9/11 is any different. When newscasters recently warned their viewers of the impending graphic testimony aired in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, many of us leaned in with a Pavlovian eagerness. When the judge first announced that recordings from the cockpit of Flight 93 would be shared with the jury but not the public, many of us were disappointed.

Even when we have the decency to turn away - which is what I have conditioned myself to do - we want to look. It's hardwired into us. And I know this is what is partially driving these movies.

If you're conflicted about seeing United 93, ask yourself this: What do you need to know about what happened that day, and what do you want to know? Much of what actually happened on that plane will never be known. What facts there are to be had have been disseminated, so your needs have long ago been met. That just leaves morbid curiosity:

What does it look like when a passenger gets her throat slashed? What does it feel like when a man calls his wife for the last time? What does it sound like when innocent people scream their way into the ground? Honestly, what other reason could there be for paying $8 to buy a ticket on this flight?

I clearly remember thinking on 9/11 that the only thing I could offer those people in their final, horror-stricken seconds of life was dignity. Even though they perished at the heart of a national calamity, I never felt it was my right to spy on their murders - not when they were being aired over, and over, and over again on television, and not now that they are being franchised for movie audiences.

In time, the right filmmaker with the necessary intelligence and sensitivity will yield a worthy account of the events of 9/11. But there has been nowhere near enough time or resolution for these movies to be made right now. If enough people stay home and keep United 93 from taking flight, Hollywood will know from the sting in its pocketbook that it has been premature in its rush to dramatize this particular horror story.

Tom Matthews is a screenwriter and novelist. He wrote the Costa-Gavras movie "Mad City" and the novel "Like We Care."
I’m not telling anyone not to see the film. I don’t have the right to do that. All I ask is that, if you do, you reserve a certain degree of skepticism knowing that this is one mystery that, to my mind, may never be completely solved.

"Real Time" Notes

I don’t have a lot to say about last week’s show. One reason I’ve mentioned is that I don’t have as much time to write detailed posts as I’ve had before. I’ll explain the second reason later.

The show opened with a funny (but true, unfortunately) swipe at CNN, which has turned into the “All Blondes Network, All The Time” (“blondes reporting on blondes, with commentary by blondes”). And as long as I’m mentioning the network, I should also salute (with one finger) CNN’s web site for having such “hard hitting” features yesterday as a slide show of Dubya pretending to rebuild a house in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity (along with Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco in a couple of photos, posing in equally opportunistic fashion), and also an in-depth analysis of whether of not Hillary Clinton should use her maiden name when running for president.

Some good lines from the monologue:

“The Minutemen in Arizona were telling Bush, ‘Hey, you build a fence along our border, or we’ll do it instead!’ Let’s see how far they get trying to build a 2,000-mile-long fence along their border without the help of some Mexicans.”

“In Washington this week, Bush met with the leader of China, and the two were referred to by some as President Hu and President Huh? It was difficult a bit because even though one of the leaders was facing human rights issues in his country, Hu agreed to meet with Bush anyway.”

“Katie Holmes gave birth this week, as we know. She was reported to be resting comfortably on The Mother Ship. It was also reported that she received an epidural, though it was during the conception.”

The first guest to appear remotely was Rahm Emanuel, who of course was hawking a book called “The Plan” to “bring our country back” (noble sentiments, I’ll give him that). Emanuel said that the country was “tired of the weightless recovery and endless occupation.” Maher said that the Democrats never seemed to stand out enough as being different from the Republicans, and asked if the Democrats shouldn’t embrace the very un-sexy but important topic of lobbying reform (a la the Jimmy Smits character on “The West Wing” who is now the president), since nothing else can really be fixed without the lobbyists preventing it on behalf of their corporate clients. Emanuel kind of dodged that a bit and mentioned five major goals that a Democratic congress and president should address – I don’t recall verbatim what they were, but they sounded good except for one. Emanuel stated that “if you work in this country, you should have health care coverage.” I don’t know how anyone could possibly say that that’s a bad thing, but I would wonder how that’s going to be paid for. If it is mandated for the employer to provide it, I’m afraid that will give employers an excuse to outsource/offshore more jobs. If it is mandated for the government, then the Democrats will have to “stick to their guns” and not wuss out on it. We’ll see what happens, of course.

Emanuel also spoke eloquently I thought as he absolutely deflated any comparison between Dubya and FDR made by the Repugs in their sickening arrogance. However, the one thing I’ll remember about Emanuel, unfortunately, is that he was once ambushed on “Meet The Press” by Tim Russert about Iraq; Russert asked Emanuel if we still should have invaded if Saddam Hussein didn’t have WMD, and Emanuel said yes. I know that that pales to the fact that the Repugs actually carried out the invasion, but unfortunately, Emanuel’s misstatement gave them more than a bit of cover.

The panel discussion began with Mort Zuckerman, publisher of U.S. News and World Report, Heather Higgins of something called the International Women’s Forum, and General Anthony Zinni.

The first topic, of course, was the retired generals (such as Zinni) speaking out against Rumsfeld, with Maher saying that generals speaking out against the politicians sounds “too South American” for him. Zinni said, “I’ve spent 40 years defending the Constitution, and now I want to practice the First Amendment” (well said). Maher then asked, “Why does the military love Bush?” and mentioned how the Bush administration has cut military benefits and dropped the ball on armor for our troops, and Zuckerman said, “He succeeded a president who was unpopular with the military because he addressed ‘gays in the military’ first” (I shook my head and realized that Zuckerman was right).

(By the way, I should point out that Mort Zuckerman is a conservative who I will actually listen to because he’s primarily a businessman. Way back in another time when I would watch “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show,” Zuckerman would display more tact and patience than I could ever muster bringing the show’s host back to reality after he lapsed into a psychotic episode while the cameras were rolling. I would put Zuckerman in the same category with David Gergen. I may disagree with these people more often than not, but they plainly aren’t stupid).

Maher asked, “Why are we building an embassy in Iraq, which is on schedule for completion, the size of 80 football fields?” and Heather Higgins said, I believe, that it was intended to replace “State Department trailers” (that sounded fishy, and that was the beginning of my problem with her). Higgins also said that Iraq supposedly had more water and electricity now than before the invasion, a claim which is highly specious and would require proof as far as I’m concerned.

Zinni added that, among Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the other architects of the Iraq debacle, “the ‘O’ word for occupation was dismissed as ‘a dirty word’ and ‘too negative’.” Zuckerman said that the Bush Administration made “the wrong calculation after the war…no planning for after the war was a critical error.” Maher then moved to Iran, noting that everyone is “worried that Bush will drop a nuke on Iran…wouldn’t it be funny if we dropped a dud on them, and that’s the one they used (to attack other countries),” a remark that made me a bit squeamish, I have to admit. Zinni said that, “Iran doesn’t want to be isolated,” mentioning Russia and China and the hope that other countries would stand up to Iran also. Higgins said that Iran was “primarily a political issue and not a military one” (I hope she’s right).

Higgins, however, then “dug her grave” when she returned to Iraq, comparing mistakes made in Iraq to “mistakes” made in World War II, and saying “deciding to lose” is the worst thing we can do (typical freeper propaganda). Among the “mistakes” made during World War II, according to Higgins, were our unpreparedness for the hedgerows at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the fact that we were caught by surprise by the Nazis at The Battle Of The Bulge.

At that point, I became so enraged that I turned off the TV.

Please understand that I’m not blaming Bill Maher for this. He went right back at her, saying “I’d take FDR and Eisenhower over Bush and Rumsfeld any day.” However, Higgins was doing her best to monopolize the panel discussion and talk over Zinni and Zuckerman, a bit of a “kinder, gentler” version of the performance by that utter misery Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a few weeks ago.

Let me just say this…I don’t recall if the Allied Command had received intelligence on the fortifications around Normandy at the time of the D-Day invasion, but since France was under German occupation, it would have been difficult for the Allies to know that. It would have been an utter slaughter regardless (partly because we didn’t have the atomic bomb yet either). I’m not a World War II historian, so I’m not entirely positive of this (and Higgins has a very minor point in saying that we didn’t know the Germans were rallying for The Battle Of The Bulge, which turned out to be their last stand) and I’ll welcome any additional input from reputable sources on this topic.

However, I want to state now and for all times that I’m SICK AND TIRED of refuting freeper nonsense comparing the Iraq War to World War II. There is no basis for comparison. Period. The fact that this is still in public discourse anywhere in the universe is beyond pathetic. And life is too short for your humble narrator or any other life form to have to endure that garbage.

I would have liked to hear more from Zinni and Zuckerman, as well as Stephen A. Smith of the Inquirer and ESPN who appeared later (and talked about Barry Bonds getting ready to break Hank Aaron’s home run record and the problem that that poses for MLB, I’m sure), but maybe I will in another discussion at some point later with an ENTIRE PANEL of reasonably intelligent adults.

Update: This link to Dick Polman’s post on Rahm Emanuel’s appearance on “Real Time” contains the five points that Emanuel mentioned in his interview. Also, though I pointed out how Emanuel stumbled on Iraq, not anticipating the “gotcha” moment from Russert, Polman also chides Emanuel for not articulating a position on the war endorsed by the Democrats.

I have two points to add. First, I don’t know if Polman saw Joe Biden’s appearance on “Real Time” a couple of weeks ago, but Biden spoke superbly about how the war should be managed, what Bush and Rumsfeld SHOULD be doing (Rummy, actually, should have been out of the picture long ago), and how we should determine the right time to get out and under what conditions. Biden also pointed out that the argument about pulling our troops is irrelevant since Bush is doing that already anyway. So it is possible for a Democrat to speak with authority on how to manage the mess created by Bushco.

Second (speaking of the cabal that rules our government), I would like to see Polman hold them to SOMETHING THAT APPROXIMATES THE STANDARD to which he holds the Democrats. I’m actually amused to a point by Polman’s dwelling on what he perceives as Democratic negativity when I can recall that we had a pretty nice run in this country not that long ago under a Democratic president having to manage a Republican congress (for six years of his eight-year term).

Yep, things have just gone so well under Bush in Iraq, haven’t they? And the oil is just flowing out of that country with the perpetual force of the mighty Mississippi too...right.

(And speaking of oil, here is a "golden oldie" from our dear freinds at Faux News - I don't know about you, but I just LOVE the exclamation point for emphasis!)

But Bush “scored a PR victory” yesterday in hiring Tony Snow to replace Scott McClellan, and to Polman, that is apparently all that matters.

Pucker Up, Swannie

So this is what passes for a legitimate issue in the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Campaign as far as Repug Lynn Swann is concerned?

I’ll tell you what; to return this contest to reality a bit, I’ll link to Dan Deagler’s great Guest Opinion on Swann that he wrote in The Bucks County Courier Times a few weeks ago.

I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be a loooooong campaign.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Corporate Greed For 100, Alex

(Dollars, that is)...

So those kind Republicans want to give all Americans a $100 gas credit, huh? Gee, that will sure accomplish a lot.

Anyone who believes that this ISN'T actually a way to sneak in legislation to allow drilling in the ANWR (as I've said before, the Repugs are nothing if not relentless on this stuff) should be forced to read every word of Ramesh Ponnuru's tome "The Party Of Death" (charming title).

Otherwise, this to me is a one-and-done, mini tax cut of a sort, and it brings to mind what actor Bradley Whitford of “The West Wing” said some time ago on “Real Time.” To him, tax cuts was the Republicans’ answer to everything; “It’s like a religion with them…tax cuts are their Jesus.”

Well, if our elected representatives want to really “get religion,” they can do something about what is described in the article you can read here.

And gee, wasn’t it a year ago when the Liar-In-Chief said “there would be no price gouging”? Wonder how Tony Snow will spin that one if any reporter dares to mention it at a White House press conference?

Also, I’ll be honest with you – after reading this story, I’m not sure who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are, but I’m just putting it out there. On the one hand, it doesn’t make me happy that Ted Kennedy is standing in the way of this, but I know he’s trying to protect the tourism and fishing industries in Massachusetts. On the other hand, two guys in New Mexico (Senators Bingaman and – especially – Domenici) shouldn’t have the right to cram a wind farm down the throats of people on the other side of the country. However, these are some of the issues we’ll have to face if we plan to get serious about energy independence one day.

PR Isn’t Good Enough Any More

So, if I am to understand Dick Polman’s analysis on Bush’s decision to hire Tony Snow to replace Scott McClellan as White House press secretary, the Democrats dropped the ball because…

We have one party organ (the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) circulating Snow's anti-Bush remarks, yet we have another party organ (the Democratic National Committee) sticking with the bubble theme and painting Snow as a mouthpiece: "This is an interdepartmental move from one part of the conservative infrastructure to another that allows a darling of the right-wing to deliver the same misleading message, cherry-picked information and spin to the American people."
I don’t know when seasoned journalists like Polman who are usually on the money and others of either political stripe are going to understand this, so please allow me to fill in the gaps a bit here.

Tony Snow is a trained propagandist, having plied his dark art for Faux News and other conservative interests for many years. He is also capable of being highly confrontational, which is something that Scott McClellan (or most other people who held McClellan’s job) did not demonstrate during his time (Ari Fleischer, McClellan’s predecessor, demonstrated, at worst, condescending sarcasm, usually with a big grin on his face).

It is not about facts, news gathering or serious analysis with this administration. It has NEVER been about that with this administration. It is about creating and manipulating images and perceptions first, foremost, and always. It is only about getting “the message” out at any cost and utterly destroying anyone who demonstrates that that message is nothing but garbage. That will become readily apparent the first few times that Snow conducts a press briefing.

Scott McClellan lied, hedged, obsfuscated, and showed his disdain for the press. Snow will do all of this also, and with an attitude to boot (something which, I dare say, would be close to a typical Texas swagger).

Actually, Polman would do well to view coverage of his blog post in this morning’s Inquirer, because right next to his entry appears this quote:

“You can only spin so much. It doesn’t matter what a press secretary says if you’re paying $3.50 at the pump.”
That was spoken by Paul Levinson, chairman of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University.

And to me, that trumps any imagined “PR victories” scored by Dubya because, to quote Joe Biden on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “the American people have figured this guy out by now.”

(Speaking of which, I have no idea if I will have any writeup of last week’s show. If I do, it will be brief, and it will have to be for tomorrow, because I haven’t been able to watch it yet.)

Update: Apparently, Polman isn't the only one trying to hand Bush a "PR victory" (via Atrios).

Why So Quiet, Mikey?

A hand-wringing opinion column from Philip Gailey of the St. Petersburg Times appeared in this morning’s Bucks County Courier Times in which he states that it is “unseemly” for Americans to be complaining about high gas prices ($3.20 a gallon for premium at the Mobil in Lower Makefield, PA, by the way) because our troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Uh, can someone please explain to me why the bloody hell the sacrifices of our brave service people should automatically disallow Americans from voicing their opinion in a constructive manner?

That, however, was tame by comparison with William Rusher’s rant about how we must support Saint George W. in The Everlasting, Eternal, Now And Forever Never Ending For The Rest Of Our Lives Global War on Terror because God forbid Hillary Clinton is elected and she starts pulling our troops out of Iraq (I hate to break the news to Rusher, but Dubya is already doing that).

In the midst of this nonsense, the paper asked a surprisingly sensible question in one of its editorials.

Why doesn’t Mike Fitzpatrick state whether or not Don (The Defense Secretary You Have) Rumsfeld should be fired?

Patrick Murphy and Andy (Only Positive Comments Allowed To Posts On My Blog) Warren have stated that Rumsfeld should go (Murphy said Rummy should resign – the honorable thing for Rumsfeld to do, assuming he knows what that virtue even is – and Warren said Rumsfeld should be fired).

But as for Fitz, here is what the editorial said.

“We asked the congressman and he wouldn’t tell us. When pressed to say whether his silence indicated agreement with the president, we were told not to make such an inference. Through a spokesman, Fitzpatrick said he doesn’t feel it’s his place to offer an opinion, since he didn’t hire Rumsfeld and only the president can fire him.”
I have a news flash for Mikey. He, Dubya, the rest of Congress…all of you jokers ANSWER TO US! And indirectly, that means the president’s cabinet appointees also. Dubya says this is “a CEO presidency,” and he sure as hell acts like it’s “a CEO presidency,” but THAT’s NOT HOW THIS COUNTRY WORKS!

Let’s cut the BS, Mike, OK? If a Democrat were in the White House or if that party were running Congress and all of this was going on, you would be SCREAMING YOUR HEAD OFF RIGHT NOW!

I’m curious to know how families in Bucks County whose sons and daughters are serving us in the military feel about Fitzpatrick’s non-position (I have a feeling opinion will be split along partisan lines as usual, but I could be wrong). If I find out anything on that, I will post to this site accordingly.

Update: I would say that this is not a good time to take "The Rummy And Condi Show" on the road, as they say.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hate. Shoutbox. Freeper.

I don’t know if “inspired” is the right way to put it, but let’s just say I was “motivated” to use this post title after reading this from Digby via Atrios.

“Rope. Tree. Journalist.” huh? Wow, that speaks volumes about any thought of right-wing intelligent dialogue, doesn’t it?

In a similar vein, I noted that the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Blog Cabin” feature appeared today (a regular Wednesday thing). In the past, I’ve pilloried the paper for trying to find out what “the blogosphere” (I hate that term) thinks of whatever issue is raging at the moment, when in fact the paper inevitably came up with some topic that nobody cared about.

Lately, however, they’ve been “on the mark” with this feature, compiling both intelligent posts and wingnut idiocy about topics that are genuinely relevant. Today, the topic is former CIA employee Mary O. McCarthy, who was fired by the agency for allegedly leaking information to the press about the agency’s overseas prisons, a charge McCarthy denies (and by the way, she has compiled a sterling record of service during her time with the agency, which is conveniently forgotten by those who seek to tarnish her good name).

Here are the “Blog Cabin” posts:

Not only was Mary McCarthy branded a traitor all weekend - complete with angry protests that she was not yet imprisoned - but anyone associated with her was all but branded a traitor as well. They don't need to wait for evidence or know any facts. ... That is just a microcosm of the same distorted, indescribably undemocratic and plainly un-American dynamic that has guided most of the radical policies of this administration for the last five years.
Typically sound and well-written analysis from Glenn Greenwald. Reading his blog is a genuine pleasure, and I’m sure his new book is chock full of the same good stuff.

The Washington Post ran a sympathetic profile of fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy on Sunday. Astonishingly, the article didn't mention that McCarthy donated some $7,500 to Democrats in 2004, including $2,000 to Sen. John Kerry and $5,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party. ... Assume Mary McCarthy made something on the order of $120,000 at the CIA. After taxes that comes to something like $70,000. If that's right, she contributed 10 percent of her take-home salary to political campaigns! Astonishing. How many other Americans tithe to politicians?
This was a sloppy bit of editing by the Inquirer.

“Sympathetic” of course being in “the eye of the beholder” for freeper Barone, who I believe is an editorial writer for U.S. News and World Report. And maybe the reason the Post didn’t report on her campaign contributions is because IT IS BLEEPING IRRELEVANT! Since when is contributing to the Democratic Party a crime in this country?

Barone, however, in typical wingnut fashion, may have accidentally stumbled onto the truth in this whole mess. McCarthy is a Democrat working for Bushco, so to their way of thinking, she must be abused, humiliated and ultimately fired, regardless of the facts.

(And by the way, how ironic is it that a person who probably is innocent of any wrongdoing being persecuted for political reasons is named McCarthy?)

It sounds as if the CIA and the administration have found the perfect scapegoat in Ms. McCarthy. She acknowledges an acquaintanceship with reporters, and worst of all (or best, depending on your bookings on cable TV talk shows), she gave money to John Kerry's campaign. To the Bush administration, that makes her the poster child for everything that's wrong with the intelligence community that led them down the garden path to invading Iraq; remember, in the eyes of the Bush administration, you always have to have someone else to blame your failures on ...
I’m in total agreement with Bobby Cramer on that.

If McCarthy really thought that the program either violated the law or the public interest, she had other avenues to take. ... She could go to the FBI or the Department of Justice ... If that didn't get her concerns addressed, Congress has at least two standing committees on intelligence, as well as judiciary committees, foreign relations committees, and so on. McCarthy has extensive political connections and would have had immediate support for her efforts.

Did she choose any of those paths? No. ... She chose a path that any fool with the lowest-level clearance working on the most mundane project knows to be criminal ... and people want to applaud her for it.
McCarthy chose “a criminal path”? Talking to the press can be stupid at times, but when is it “criminal”?

First of all, Captain Ed, McCarthy has denied the charges, as I mentioned earlier (though I'll admit that failing a polygraph doesn't look good). Second of all, all of the governmental bodies and agencies you mentioned are controlled by the Republicans. Do you SERIOUSLY BELIEVE that they would have given her a fair hearing?

What about her secrecy agreement? I have not spoken with Mary McCarthy in 10 years, but it seems clear to me she realized that she was confronted by an unwelcome choice between her oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and the secrecy agreement. ... Agency alumnae, at least those of my vintage, believe we must always give priority to the Constitution. Mary chose well and, in so doing, offers an example to emulate.
Well said, Ray (would that the current administration had shown such respect for the document that serves as the cornerstone of our republic).

And by the way, speaking of McCarthy, “Crazy Curt” Weldon has given us another reason to vote him out of office. He has demanded that challenger Joe Sestak return the $350 donated by McCarthy to his campaign.

That’s right, $350 (and by the way, I purposely linked to Free Republic for additional laughs…so McCarthy may be “Able Danger,” huh? Why doesn’t Weldon look under Dubya’s desk for A.D., since Bush looked there for the WMDs?).

See, Weldon is in a snit because he’s been linked to about $2K of Tom DeLay/Abramoff dough, and he’s trying to deflect that any way he can. The problem is that $350 is about what it costs for appetizers for 4-6 people at The Monocle (an upscale dining joint near Capitol Hill). In a town where the Repugs write tax laws to give back billions to their benefactors, complaining about $350 amounts to an insult to our intelligence.

I’ve said that Weldon should be voted out of office, but that really isn’t enough. Once Sestak is elected, Weldon should be committed to a sanitarium.

The Bard Was Right

He once said we should “first, kill the lawyers”. Yes, I know that’s a bit of hyperbole, but after reading this story, I would say not by much.

The sociopath Eric Rudolph is convicted of bombing the Birmingham, Alabama family planning clinic and the Atlanta Olympics (in the Birmingham bombing, nurse Emily Lyons is maimed and loses an eye), and in the process, draws praise from fellow insects here.

The lawyers defending Rudolph, according to the CNN story, receive $4 million.

What does bombing victim Lyons receive?


I hope you have better luck controlling the churning in your guts than I am having at this moment.

Snow In April

I’ll state from the top again that I hope Tony Snow is free of any cancer that had afflicted him previously. That being said, though, I should comment on the news that he will replace Scott McClellan as White House press secretary by providing links here and here to previous unflattering quotes from Snow about Bushco, the Repug congress, and the Democrats, Harry Reid in particular. If anything, I think we can look forward to Snow being more pugnacious and openly hostile than McClellan, who was merely borderline confrontational, evasive and totally disingenuous.

By the way, if Snow is wondering why Reid would choose not to confirm "a nice guy" like John Roberts, I think this provides at least part of the answer.

(I have to give Snow credit for coming up with a new “winger” catch phrase – I’d never heard the term “Moonbat Grotto” before…the bile just never stops from them, does it?)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sound In Mind And Body?

This is another one of those posts that probably no one is going to care about except me, but I’ve had this on my mind for a couple of days and I have to vent about it. Also, there are some photos of the human body in the links below which may be unsettling to some, though it really isn’t that big of a deal.

First, though, I have to set this up.

An exhibit just closed at The Franklin Institute (staying in Philly for this) called “Body Worlds” by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, which shows the human body in various stages of activity. The point of the exhibit is to show how complex the workings of the human body really are through all of its internal organs and other elements in ways that we never see.

This exhibit has drawn controversy because von Hagens’ models are plasticized cadavers. However, as he has pointed out in the past, he received all legal signoffs from the people displayed and their family members before using their bodies this way. I did not see the exhibit, though I would like to at some point. However, some family members did, and after getting over an unsettled feeling for a minute or two when first viewing the display, they ended up enjoying it very much.

Before the exhibit closed, the Institute staged what was, in effect, a “Body Worlds” 66-hour marathon last weekend, and Inquirer reporter Melissa Dribben wrote an article about it (Dribben used to be a columnist and then became a feature writer, though I personally had no problem with her in the former role).

In case you can’t read what Dribben wrote because of registration, I want to highlight this paragraph:

As 2 a.m. came and went, it became obvious that it was past bedtime for some visitors. The elderly, walking with canes or lowering themselves into chairs, talked about enlarged hearts, metastases and swollen prostates with personal insight. Parents struggled with cranky toddlers and bugeyed infants sucking on pacifiers.
What the hell is a child, especially a toddler, doing up at 2 A.M? What kind of numbskull parent would drag a bleary-eyed, cranky kid out of bed to see this or anything else for that matter?

This, to me, is craven self-indulgence. As a parent, I’ve had to forego a bunch of things that I wish I hadn’t (like a clutter-free house and a clean living room rug, for example). There are a bunch of movies I hope to catch up on at some point that actually DON’T involve talking animals, cartoon characters on amphetamines or other Disney machinations. That’s THE PRICE OF DOING BUSINESS!

Well, then, I guess I now understand why such individuals would want to see an exhibit of the human body in a calcified, plasticized state. I would guess that their brains are in approximately the same condition.

Kenny Boy, "The Joint" Is Calling

(I’m picturing an Irish tenor crooning at this moment, though not a soul is weeping.)

I guess this was inevitable; I mean, whether we’re talking about a dictatorial politician or a corporate crook, either way we’re eventually going to see an attack strategy of one type or another when cornered.

Should I actually feel sorry for Ken Lay? Of course not. And to prove it, here is a little reminder of how Enron “gamed” the California energy market, as well as the effect on pensioners who held Enron stock as a security in their retirement plans.

And here’s more interesting information on just how far back the connections go between the Bushes and Ken Lay.

Get ready to spend the vast majority of your remaining years, as well as your fortune, negotiating through the criminal justice system of this country, you lowlife.

See No GE(vil)

General Electric Corporation’s 2006 Annual Shareholder meeting is currently taking place at the Philadelphia Convention Center, running from yesterday April 24th until Friday April 28th.

Well, since they have chosen our fair city to have their party, allow me to provide an appropriate welcome for them the best way I know how.

Let’s start with the following (from this link):

GE has a lengthy record of criminal, civil, political and ethical transgressions, some of them shocking in disregard for the integrity of human beings. Here are a few examples:

In 1995, with the establishment of a Presidential Advisory Commission, the full extent of GE’s human experiments with nuclear radiation was revealed. General Electric ran the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland, Washington as part of the U.S. weapons program. Beginning in 1949, General Electric deliberately released radioactive material to see how far downwind it would travel. One cloud drifted 400 miles, all the way down to the California-Oregon border, carrying perhaps thousands of times more radiation than that emitted at Three Mile Island.
Oh, but they “bring good things to life”, don’t they? And since they own MSNBC, they’re also responsible for developing the careers of titans of journalistic advocacy and integrity, such as Tucker Carlson.

And here’s more…

On September 29, 1998, General Electric agreed to a $200 million settlement in principle of environmental claims resulting from pollution of the Housatonic River and other areas by chemical releases from GE’s plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (The settlement was reached with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice.)
Such an environmentally friendly bunch, right

General Electric is currently attempting to overturn the US Superfund Law of 1980, which allows the government to hold polluters responsible for cleaning up their toxic chemicals. GE argues that it is “unconstitutional” for the Environmental Protection Agency to force the company to pay $500 million for the cleanup of the Hudson River, where GE dumped carcinogenic PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, over three decades. In March 2004, a federal appeals court has revived GE’s lawsuit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that GE is trying to change the Superfund Law: the company is responsible for 78 Superfund sites around the US.
So the company is a “bad apple” concerning the environment, but they must at least be straight shooters, so to speak, when it comes to helping defend our country. Right?


On July 23, 1992, GE pled guilty in federal court to civil and criminal charges of defrauding the Pentagon and agreed to pay $69 million to the U.S. government in fines — one of the largest defense contracting fines ever.

General Electric said in a statement that it took responsibility for the actions of a former marketing employee who, along with an Israeli Air Force General, diverted Pentagon funds to their own bank accounts and to fund Israeli military programs not authorized by the United States.

Under the settlement with the Justice Department over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, GE paid $59.5 million in civil fraud claims and $9.5 million in criminal fines.
And remember this if you ever hear General Electric mentioned in the same sentence with the words “nuclear reactors” again…

GE has designed 91 nuclear power plants in 11 countries, yet its nuclear reactors around the world have a fatal flaw. In the event of a nuclear meltdown, there is a 90 percent chance that radiation from GE-designed reactors would be discharged directly into the atmosphere. While the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is aware of the problem, it continues to license GE nuclear reactors.
But all of those happy, positive, soft focus commercials with the kids smiling and the dog running around in the grassy, white-picket-fenced backyard must be legit, right? I mean, this is the company that makes all of those wonderful consumer products that enhance our lives. How can this be?

I have a personal horror story to communicate about these people. When we moved into our home, our GE appliances were free, which we thought was a great deal. Over time, we have had to replace most of them, and we anticipate they all will have to be replaced after functioning for about 5-7 years (maybe we’re fortunate they lasted THAT long). During a period of great family stress, I had to communicate with some life forms in their consumer products service operations center in Lexington, Kentucky over a broken door handle for our microwave (which cost $70…stick the barrel of the gun a little deeper in my ribs next time, OK?). After dealing with individuals who were more fluent in something closer to guttural ebonics than actual English for about three days (trying to ship a replacement part for free), I finally found a handyman in our area who fixed the door handle at cost. I later found out that, like with most consumer products companies, you can’t catch influenza from GE in a situation like this unless you have a service contract.

Also, here is my fond tribute to that titan of industry and Friend of the Working Man Jack Welch. With all of this in mind, you can learn more about the documentary “Deadly Deception” about General Electric.

Finally, I noticed today that GE (and I must point this out to be fair) has joined the tiny chorus of companies calling out for Congress and Bushco to DO SOMETHING about the increase in greenhouse gasses emitted primarily from the U.S. and China in an effort to stem global warming, assuming that is still possible at this point. However, I don’t consider this a point in anyone’s favor; I know I’m being harsh, but I don’t care. The time to act on all of this came during ratification of the Kyoto Protocols.

The only reason GE is PRETENDING TO CARE about this now is because the polling data for their back-pocketed Repug politicians currently in power is SO BAD. This company wouldn’t understand the phrase, “corporate responsibility” if they had to write it a thousand times on a sign posted next to one of their faulty nuclear reactors.

Well, now that I’ve dispensed with all of that unpleasantness, I should back up and show the spirit of “the city that loves you back” (suuure) and wish everyone attending the GE Shareholders meeting a good stay. Take in a Phillies game. Buy some quality produce at the Reading Terminal Market. Go to Pat’s or Geno's for a cheesesteak (and remember to do the “Philly flip” if you’re wearing a tie). Have your picture taken next to the clothespin at 15th and Market or on the steps of the Art Museum, recreating the “Rocky” run of course. Better yet, go park illegally on North Broad Street and get ticketed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

I know I shouldn’t indulge in name calling, but I can’t help it. I truly loathe these bastards.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Last Now And Always

Uh oh, I feel another freeper attack on those nasty little unkempt, unshaven (for the guys only, I suppose), immature little liberal bloggers coming on again, courtesy of Jonathan Last in the Philadelphia Inquirer (this appeared yesterday). And by the way, I use a bad word later in this post (sorry, but it’s appropriate).

Good writing, news-gathering lose to speed and vehemence.
By Jonathan Last

It wasn't until last year that I became convinced the Internet was the locus of all evil in the known universe.

You may find this statement odd. After all, the Internet pays my mortgage, so I have a vested interest in its continued success. I've been the online editor of
the Weekly Standard since 2001, and I was dabbling on the InterWeb long before that. I launched a Web zine with two college friends in 1997, before Web zines were cool. In 2004, I started a little blog. I may be an idiot, but I'm not a Luddite.
This is a particularly clever tactic by Last, I have to admit. His first sentence is a nice hook that makes you want to keep reading, but then he sneaks in plugs to other internet stuff he’s done that I basically don’t care about in an effort to establish his online “cred” (with a touch of humility, which is welcome for a change). I really haven’t found any lefty bloggers who beat you over the head with their accomplishments like that (though some easily could), but I’ve stumbled across a few right wingers who absolutely insist on telling you how accomplished they are before they get to the point they’re trying to make, assuming they ever do that.

But last year, a flack called me from one of America's most prestigious think tanks and invited me to participate in a panel on "The Impact of the New Media." The event, he explained, would work like this: Six distinguished panelists, three from the Old Media and three from the New Media, would argue onstage in a discussion moderated by another famous Old Media personage. I was invited to be one of five bloggers who would sit in the audience blogging about the panel discussion, with our comments to be projected on a screen above the stage, in real time!
An interesting idea, I have to admit. But to me, some sort of “dog and pony show” like this helps reinforce the image of bloggers as self-obsessed, myopic head cases who think that their opinions should reign supreme over all proven fact and any other aspect of discernible reality. To me, the importance of this “new media” is in the capability of providing context and opinion to a story or editorial of some type or another, like I’m trying to do at this moment. Yeah, sure, I throw in “snark” (and I have a feeling I’ll be doing that shortly), but I’m really also trying to provide substance, and the unfortunate fact is that it’s very hard for me to do that in “real time” or certainly in anything like the forum Last described above.

This stunt struck me as a good bit of synecdoche. The New Media in general, and blogs in particular, are concerned primarily with the meta (that is, commenting on commentary), which makes the blogosphere occasionally useful, often harmful, and ultimately pointless.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “synecdoche,” by the way, as “sense, interpretation,” or “a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole.” So the answer to the question is no; I don’t know what the hell Last is talking about either. He seemed to be agreeing with me with his “commenting on the commentary” statement, but then he says blogs are “ultimately pointless”?

Well, gee, I guess that just wraps it up for yours truly, then, doesn’t it? Bye bye, so long, farewell, I’m shutting this site down forever. See ya’ (no name-calling, Doomsy, got it?).

I've met, interviewed, and worked with a lot of bloggers over the years, and for the most part, they're swell folks.
I’m sure they send you cards at Christmas also (nice blogger, nice blogger…here’s another “exclusive” White House memoranda on Dubya that just got leaked so you can post about it and tell all your friends – make sure you play nice and put away all your toys).

The defects I see are largely - maybe even exclusively - inherent in the medium, and not the result of individual failings. Whether the person blogging is a pajama-clad lawyer or a Pulitzer-winning journalist, the medium is the message, and the message of blogging is: More! FASTER!
Uh, OK, I agree a bit, though it sounds like he’s trying to absolve individuals of culpability in this, though I’m not sure why. If I screw something up, I have to stand up and “take the hit” and not blame it on the notion that “this is a blog and I have to get my post out before everybody else.”

And by the way, I hope Last isn’t trying to sneak in a plug for Roger Simon’s “Pajamas Media” mess with that reference. Besides, I haven’t worn PJs for years. If I’m REALLY steamed at Dubya, for example, I may even “go commando” when blogging. You know what I’m saying?

Blogs can be a real force for good when they act as supra fact-checkers. They can add serious value when they quickly elevate experts in obscure topics to the fore of public discussion (see, for example, the Bush "National Guard memo" fracas here).
Oh, cute. How typical for a freeper to cite something that absolves their side of any blame. You want to mention the Bush National Guard memo that Dan Rather couldn’t prove was authentic (which, by the way, DOES NOT invalidate the fact that Dubya, like other sons of privilege during the Vietnam War era, received preferential treatment in the process of securing National Guard service, with such service being A MUCH EASIER GIG then than now)? OK. How about mentioning the numerous high-profile lefty sites that exposed the fact that the only thing not plagiarized by one time red-state Washington Post blogger Ben Domenech was his name? You want to try that one on?

And they have enormous potential to enable on-the-ground reporting when news happens suddenly or in remote locations. We've seen some of this potential realized, as in sites such as Iraq the Model, but not nearly so much as one might have hoped.
I acknowledge your good point about the ability for blogs to capture live news stories (so blogs aren’t “ultimately pointless” after all?).

Balanced against these goods are the pernicious effects of blogs: They elevate analysis over news-gathering; they value speed over judiciousness; and they encourage the practice of journalism to turn in on itself, to tend ever more toward navel-gazing.
I agreed with that up to the “navel-gazing” part. Why is it that when reporters editorialize it’s called “analysis” - hopefully valuable to a degree - but when bloggers do that, it’s automatically “navel gazing”?

This last bit is the most annoying. Show me a New York Times story on war in Sudan, and I'll show you 20 bloggers who think the real story is how the Times fails in its coverage of war in Sudan.
And why exactly is that a problem? If 20 bloggers care enough to bring the war in Sudan to the attention of anyone who may read their posts, isn’t that a lot better than reading, for example, every little nauseating detail on Katie Holmes’s “silent” birth (and by the way, does it make me a prude to point out that no one is saying anything about the fact that those two show biz egotists have essentially “parented” a child out of wedlock? As long as Cruise’s publicity mill is generating all of these “stories” about their daughter and related developments, as well as whatever movie it is that he’ll be starring in next – Mission: Impossible 3 I guess – why doesn’t he have anything to say about that?).

But the biggest evil of blogs is that first flaw, blogging's original sin: the discounting of news-gathering in favor of news analysis. Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is, yet very few of them have ever really practiced it.
I have never said in this space that journalism is easy, and I never would. I obtained a degree in journalism a whole other lifetime ago, and I remember full well how hard I had to work for it. With many of these posts – though not this one, I suppose – I try to lead in with information about the topic so you, dear reader, are “on board” with me before I subject you to my opinion.

What lefty bloggers rail about generally (including me) is the cozy relationship much of the established media that we know and at times respect has with those in power, whether we are talking about corporations or politicians. We also get highly POed when we see legitimate journalists caving to the so-called “liberal bias” straw man and trying to “dumb down” stories to audiences who primarily won’t get what the story is about anyway because they’re hopelessly uninformed (lots of reasons there) or hopelessly biased. We think of what we grew up with as established media in this country and see those who should be honoring that legacy failing miserably at it or deciding not to even respect or understand the traditions and values to which they have been entrusted by their forbears (sorry for the literary flourish here, but I take this stuff HIGHLY SERIOUSLY).

Sure, they may have written opinion pieces that compare favorably to the work of Molly Ivins or Ann Coulter…
To pair Molly Ivins with the female right-wing criminal in this context is highly insulting to the former, who is a legendary, accomplished professional, as opposed to the latter, who is a shrieking literary psychotic.

…but opinion writing is a tiny - and let's be honest, inconsequential - corner of the journalism world.
I suppose, with people like Jim Brady and Deborah Howell in charge of that task at The Washington Post, I would be forced reluctantly to agree with Last on that one (though it certainly should not be that way, of course…yes, I’m being a bit facetious here).

Real journalism - the practice of adding to the store of public knowledge by reporting news - is a difficult, thankless, and often unpleasant task. Bloggers want no part of it.
How the hell do you know? Besides, you stated previously that some bloggers ARE journalists (such as Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox).

Everyone wants E.J. Dionne's job; no one wants to be Michael Dobbs.
Gee, I wonder why Last would mention the reporter Michael Dobbs from The Washington Post? Why, I can’t possibly imagine…

And by the way, I could never be E.J. Dionne – I have great respect for his writing because, whether or not I agree with it, though I almost always do, I can tell it is a product of great intelligence and compassion. I can only be myself, for better or worse.

There are other substantive critiques of the blogosphere. Writing for the Financial Times, Trevor Butterworth notes that the "dismal fate of blogging" is that "it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence."

Andrew Keen worries that the outbreak of blogs has turned us into a world where everyone writes and no one reads: "Without an elite mainstream media, we will lose our memory for things learnt, read, experienced, or heard."
Last is right about what Keen and Butterworth have written. They are “substantive, literary critiques,” and after reading a good bit of each, I should point out that addressing them would be the subject of at least one other entire post, though they are largely well-researched pieces of reporting. However, it should not be a surprise to learn that they are slanted towards the conservative side of things, which is, after all, the world Last knows.

Keen and Butterworth’s pieces take a dim view of blogging in general, playing up the ultimate obsolescence of the writing. That has some truth, but I would argue that it has only a slightly shorter “shelf life” than news from established media sources would have anyway.

Another worry is that, as a medium, the blog does not value well-crafted writing. Except for Mark Steyn and James Lileks, it's hard to pick out even three beautiful writers from the millions of bloggers.
I’m not familiar with either Steyn or Lileks, but as I searched online to learn more about them, I found that they seem to be held in high regard by Little Green Footballs, Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, and the Jewish World Review, among others. It’s not fair for me to criticize someone’s work sight unseen, but I have to tell you that that discovery sets off all kinds of alarms with me. I’ll try to learn more about them, though.

Again, the fault here lies with the medium: Being a good writer helps a blogger about as much as a good singing voice helps a broadcast anchor.
That’s bullshit! If you can’t write, you can’t communicate. That’s where it all starts. It doesn’t matter if you have a keyboard, modem, and a monitor or a quill, inkwell, and a piece of parchment. That’s a shocking statement from Last, and it really discredits any valid points he wants to make.

Take out these two essentials - news-gathering and prose style - and what are you left with? A medium that values speed, volume, and vehemence. While none of these traits is antithetical to good journalism, none of them is particularly conducive to it, either.

As a long-term proposition, I don't buy the superiority of blogs and the New Media any more than I bought the notion that America Online was more valuable than Time Warner. The Old Media - the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Atlantic Monthly - add to the store of public information in ways which seem irreplaceable. Do they have problems? Sure. Are some journalists bad at their jobs? Absolutely. But taken as a whole, the Old Media performs an enormous and valuable function that the New Media is neither able, nor inclined, to emulate.

And the marketplace is slowly coming to understand that.
Yes, but the new media can complement the old (and forgive this corporate word, please) in a “synergistic” way (ouch). There are all kinds of examples of traditional media delivering online content to new readers and providing dimensions to the delivery of that content that cannot be provided through traditional print media. There are strengths and weaknesses on both sides; I, for one, have no hesitation about linking to a well-written or interesting news or opinion piece whether or not it is “old” media online or “new” media from a blog or some special interest source such as Common Cause or Working For Change (or, in the case of Paul Craig Roberts, even Human Events Online).

With columns such as this one which is severely skewed in a way to demean bloggers and the emerging potential of online content, I think “the marketplace” will come to understand the place of blogging in the realm of exchanging ideas, among other things, and the author will truly be the Last one to get the picture (sorry – it was too easy).

Update 4/25: If I hadn't had the technical issues yesterday, I would have discovered this great column by Will Bunch that provides more on this (via Atrios).

Baby You're A Rich Man

Aha, it’s “The Return Of Bush’s iPod™,” featuring The Fab Four(leave it to Dubya not to know when he’s doing something illegal; after all, when have laws, treaties, the weight of popular opinion both domestically and overseas and internationally recognized and accepted protocols ever stopped him before?).

(In the immortal words of that noted philosopher Bugs Bunny, “what a maroon.”)

Remember when the whole thing with Bush’s iPod first broke last year? Well, if not, this link should help refresh your memory.

By the way, yours truly is having A LOT of connectivity issues so far today; I have no idea how many posts will be forthcoming. I’ll try to work things out.