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:: Friday, August 29, 2003 ::

Children's Book Recommendations.

I'll probably do a book list every week or so, for two reasons. First off, I've always been grateful when someone pointed out a good book I hadn't seen, so a little payback is in order. Secondly, I hope to get feedback or recommendations on books I haven't read...or haven't heard of. All told, I hope that I'll be able to find out which books I should have read, but haven't, and which books I want to read, but probably shouldn't. This week, I'm doing children's literature, focusing on books that are a cut above the rest. These books are of roughly the same reading level as the Harry Potter books, or the Chronicles of Narnia. And, I might add, these are all books that are good enough to be enjoyable to adult readers as well.

Next week, if I actually remember, I might list some of (in my humble opinion) the better (and more interesting) early teen stuff. There are some great authors out there who don't get nearly the exposure they should.

In the meantime, enjoy! This "Children's Book List" was brought to you courtesy of the Open House night I attended at my son's school, the long lecture we got on literacy and Texas requirements, and the happy thought that my son wasn't too far from being able to read and appreciate the books I loved as a child.
:: Morat 1:38 PM :: ::

Time to Flood the Zone

Flood the Zone Friday: Unstable Stewardship:
You asked and we're delivering. This week's 'Flood the Zone Friday' topic is The Environment! This is one of those areas where the Bush administration has given us so much to work with that research was quite difficult. We were spread thin. We only had to look through archives from the last week or so to find example after example of pure hilarity. Well, hilarity, if it wasn't our air and water.
Head on over to Not Geniuses, read through their letter writing advice and talking points list, and go flood the zone. It's time both sides of the story make it into the papers.
:: Morat 10:30 AM :: ::

More on Hakim

Slain Iraqi Shiite cleric was anti-occupation but preached moderation:
Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, Iraq (news - web sites)'s best-known Shiite Muslim politician, was a voice of moderation despite his fierce opposition to the presence of foreign troops in his homeland.

Hakim, killed Friday in a car bombing here, told his followers that the way to remove the US and British soldiers was not by guns, but by unifying and speeding up the reconstruction of the war-shattered country.
[...]
Tens of thousands turned out to listen to him give an emotional address at Ali's shrine, the very spot where he died Friday in a car bomb attack that killed at least 16 others.

Minutes before the blast, he denounced again in his weekly sermon attacks on the coalition forces. He told worshippers that these were being carried out by Saddam loyalists and former Baathists.
The list of potential suspects is huge. Any anti-occupation group, ranging from the inevitable "Ba'athist renegades" to the more anti-occupation Shi'a (that's a nasty thought. Civil war potential there) to any group with an interest in see the US fail....

Motive aside, it removes a powerful voice urging Shi'a to cooperate with the American occupation, and further destabilize Iraq as a whole. I'd imagine that the British are most worried about this, since they'll be the first up against the wall should the Shi'a decide "Enough is enough".

:: Morat 10:15 AM :: ::

Dying soldiers in Iraq

When Matt Yglesias responded to this Michael Novak article about US body counts in Iraq, he noted:
Dead is dead, whether by accident, enemy fire, friendly fire, or disease (indeed, historically campaign-related disease was the number one source of military casualties). Novak says that accidents 'happen in military life every day, everywhere' which seems designed to try and imply that accidental deaths really have nothing to do with the war per se. But by Novak's number's, we've been suffering accidental deaths at a rate of somewhat faster than one every 48 hours. I don't know what the peacetime accidental death rate is, but it must be lower than that, because even now most of the US military isn't in Iraq and the vast majority of casualties are happening there.
One of the comments to that posted that peacetime casualties for 150,000 soldiers are about 7 per month, and that most of the "non-combat" casualties in Iraq can be traced to things like mine-clearing and vehicle accidents after (or during) ambushes.

I think it's a good point to separate combat and non-combat deaths, but I think the line between the two is a hell of a lot blurrier than Michael Novak wants to think. I'm with the national press on this one: Report them all, because it's pretty obvious that most of them are a direct result of the Iraqi occupation.
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

Sweet Contracty Goodness

Atrios pointed out a new Baghdad blog, with a very interesting story about the reconstruction of Iraq. Baghdad Burning:
As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!
I keep hearing that one issue that is particularly vexing to the Iraqi populace is the lack of work. They don't have jobs. And then I note we're rebuilding Iraq. And then I wonder: Why, exactly, are we doing it? Why not provide the funds, and when necessary the expertise, and let the Iraqis do it? It's cheaper, faster, and far better PR material for Iraq than having Bush's campaign donors charge us 10 times to much for the same work....

I think I just answered my own question. I love the smell of graft, corruption, and political kickbacks in the morning.
:: Morat 9:15 AM :: ::

Bomb Explosion in Najaf; Hospital Reports 75 Dead

Bomb Explosion in Najaf; Hospital Reports 75 Dead:
A massive car bomb exploded at the Imam Ali mosque during Friday prayers in this holy city, possibly killing one of Iraq's most important Shiite clerics.
Likely among the dead was Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, 64, who had just delivered a sermon calling for Iraqi unity at the shrine, the holiest in Iraq.
A survey of Najaf's medical facilities showed 75 dead and 140 wounded, many seriously, said Dr. Safaa al-Ameedi, chief doctor at the central hospital in the city, 110 miles southwest of Baghdad
Medical facilities were jammed with people looking for relatives who may have been hurt in the bombing, which occurred as thousands were pouring out of the mosque, he said.
This is bad. Very bad. I got this off of Daily Kos, and it looks like at least one, possible more, of the bigger Shi'ite clerics are dead. To add insult to injury, it occurred at one of the most holy sites in Iraq.

I can draw two conclusions at the moment. First, whomever did this should probably start running. The Shi'a are going to be very angry about this, and probably wanting to express their anger in violent ways. Wars start over things like this.

Secondly, the US is going to be blamed for it. Not for planting the bomb (although I'm sure some extremists will claim that) but for the utter lack of security.
:: Morat 8:59 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, August 28, 2003 ::

I wonder....

If blogspot has been acting up today. I glanced at my hit counter and saw roughly a third of my usual hit count.

I had some problems getting the page to load this morning. Is anyone else having difficulties?

UPDATE: Apparently blogspot is having some troubles. Hopefully it'll be fixed soon.
:: Morat 2:55 PM :: ::

Further thoughts on "clever double agents"

I had some more thoughts on the LA Times' story on Iraq's WMD. (First post here). Reading the lead again, I had a thought. The article states:
Frustrated at the failure to find Saddam Hussein's suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have launched a major effort to determine if they were victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war.
I'm wondering if this isn't the "optimistic" version. For instance, we all know that Chalabi has a somewhat checkered history of telling the truth about WMD's (see all of Judith Miller's New York Times articles during the war) and an obvious motive for playing up Saddam's threats.

While I wouldn't be surprised if Saddam was throwing hints to other Arab states that he was still baddest boy on the block, I'm wondering if Chalabi had a far more active role than the LA Times mentions.


:: Morat 9:46 AM :: ::

Halliburton's Deals Greater Than Thought

Halliburton's Deals Greater Than Thought:
Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents.
I love the sweet smell of corruption in the mornings.... Does this mean Lott's cutting domestic spending so that Dick Cheney's company can make a big profit this year? Why, I think it does!

Seriously, has anyone noted that the Washington Post, despite the occasional oddities in their editorial section, has really started digging on the Bush administration? Defying the conventional wisdom? Or the beginnings of a new trend of media skepticism? (Link via Atrios)
:: Morat 9:25 AM :: ::

More Bad News for Bush

Daily Kos notes:
Chris Matthews is beating up on Trent Lott right now, asking how much 'Bush's war' will cost US taxpayers in a time of record deficits. Given the choice between raising taxes, more deficit spending, or cutting domestic services, Trent chose door number three -- cutting domestic services."
That's a bad sign. If it was Bill O'Reilly, I'd wonder if the GOP was looking around for someone to run against Bush in the primary, but Matthews attacking Lott the war and deficits is something that's probably got Rove reaching for the valium.

Rove's biggest worry has got to be the small government conservatives and libertarians. Between the Patriot Act, an exploding deficit, and no Democratic bogeymen to blame it on, he's got to be worried they'll go look up Ross Perot again. Or, even worse, start wondering if maybe some of the Democratic candidates could do better....

:: Morat 9:14 AM :: ::

Bush Holds Federal Pay Raise to 2% in 2004

Bush Holds Federal Pay Raise to 2% in 2004
President Bush exercised an escape clause in federal pay law yesterday that allows him to stick to his proposed 2 percent pay raise for civilian employees next year rather than agree to a formula that would trigger an increase of about 15 percent.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Bush said the larger increase 'would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending or federal employment to stay within budget.'
In other news, Howard Dean's spokesman said "Man, the campaign ads just write themselves...thanks George!"
:: Morat 9:07 AM :: ::

U.S. Suspects It Received False Iraq Arms Tips

U.S. Suspects It Received False Iraq Arms Tips
Frustrated at the failure to find Saddam Hussein's suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have launched a major effort to determine if they were victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war.
[...]
The far-reaching review was started after a political firestorm erupted this summer over revelations that President Bush's claim in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought to import uranium from Niger was based on forged documents.

Although senior CIA officials insist that defectors were only partly responsible for the intelligence that triggered the decision to invade Iraq in March, other intelligence officials now fear that key portions of the prewar information may have been flawed. The issue raises fresh doubts as to whether illicit weapons will be found in Iraq.

As evidence, officials say former Iraqi operatives have confirmed since the war that Hussein's regime sent "double agents" disguised as defectors to the West to plant fabricated intelligence. In other cases, Baghdad apparently tricked legitimate defectors into funneling phony tips about weapons production and storage sites.
[...]
Critics had charged that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence on Iraq to bolster support for the war. The broader question now is whether some of the actual intelligence was fabricated and U.S. officials failed to detect it.

One U.S. intelligence official said analysts may have been too eager to find evidence to support the White House's claims. As a result, he said, defectors "were just telling us what we wanted to hear."
[...]
Evidence collected over the last two months suggests that Hussein's regime abandoned large-scale weapons development and production programs in favor of a much smaller "just in time" operation that could churn out poison gases or germ agents if they were suddenly needed, survey group members say. The transition supposedly took place between 1996 and 2000.

But survey group mobile collection teams are still unable to prove that any nerve gases or microbe weapons were produced during or after that period, the officials said. Indeed, the weapons hunters have yet to find proof that any chemical or bio-warfare agents were produced after 1991.
[...]
In addition, some Iraqi scientists and technicians have claimed during interrogation that chemical and biological agents were produced under the "just in time" system as recently as 2002. But other Iraqis have said the system was never used or only produced small "test batches" in the mid- to late 1990s.
Well, this is a pretty pickle for the Bush Administration. First off, I'm fairly sure that Kay's September report will push the "just in time" material heavily.

We can fully expect Bush and the White House to claim that they were vindicated, despite the lack of "just in time" facilities or any evidence they were actually used.

The question becomes: Will the American public buy it? I'm going to go out on a limb and say "no", for multiple reasons.

First off, the ongoing Democratic primary means that Howard Dean, at the least, will loudly question whether or not these facilities truly constituted an "imminent threat". As Democratic frontrunner, his voice will be heard, offering a counterpoint to Bush's claims. Secondly, the media appears to have taken off the kid gloves. Bush isn't being treated as harshly as Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but the Washington Post and a few other "majors" are starting to turn the heat up. Thirdly, the question of justification is likely to be swallowed up by the increasing costs of the occupation, both monetary and in terms of US lives. Even GOP figures are starting to question the wisdom of a unilateral occupation.

There are things Bush can do to defuse this situation. He can hope -- which I'm guessing is the current plan -- that whatever minor WMD programs Saddam had going will be accepted by the public as a reasonable cause for war. Should that fail, Bush could always break down and use the UN for political cover. If that doesn't work, he can use basically dump the problem in the Iraqi's lap and bail.

I just don't see any of that happening. Kay's report faces several obstacles, from the fact that it's existence alone will validate claims that the White House heavily hyped pre-war intelligence, to the fact that if these facilities do exist, Saddam didn't use them...even as we took over his country. It's hard to make a case for imminent threat there. Going to the UN would require Bush to dump a lot of ideology, and would be widely seen as an admission of error and weakness. (Asking the French for help isn't going to play well with Bush's more rabid supporters. Or, I think, Bush himself). Leaving Iraq entirely isn't much different.
:: Morat 8:33 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 ::

Some good stuff

The Left Coaster has some good stuff up today. A short and nasty blurb about Iraq
A day after Bush outlined his Iraq accomplishments in front of the detached-from-reality American Legion, Paul Bremer was forced to admit that the basic services Bush claimed weeks ago to have been restored have in fact not been. He was also forced to admit that the US will have to pay many billions in costs to fix Iraq, possibly as much as $30 billion, with no oil revenue in sight to pay our expenses. And things, contrary to Bush’s statements are actually getting worse and more and more Iraqis are losing hope. But editorial opinion here at home is turning against Bush, and after seeing more soldiers die during “liberation” time than during “combat”, we lost two more overnight.
followed by a look at the Democratic field.

Next post down is a post about Dean (it really is a Howard Dean day, isn't it?) and how Dean's fundraising numbers (projecting 10.3 million for Q3) have to be keeping Rove up at night. And this is from a Kerry supporter, not one of the Deaniacs.

It only gets better. Go read. It's good stuff.
:: Morat 10:47 AM :: ::

Breaking 10,000

Well, I just had my 10,000th visitor. Thanks a lot to everyone whose come by! 10,000 isn't a bad number for my first four months.
:: Morat 10:35 AM :: ::

Dean, grassroots, and energy

Dave Cullen, in the midst of dismantling a Times article on Dean, says something interesting about Dean's grassroots energy.
Conclusive Evidence--of Dave Cullen's existence
It's also ironic that she talks about the danger of struggling to keep people interested. That's exactly what has been so unusual about the Dean campaign. Joe Trippi said early on that all successful campaigns energize lots of people early, but then have nothing for them to do for months, and the people wander away. He said back in the spring that he was going to look for creative ways to engage them, and he has.

A candidate can only swing through each town once or twice a quarter if they're lucky (aside from a few key spots like NH & IA), but Dean supporters gather each month at the meetups to organize and energize themselves. They don't need the candidate there to keep busy. They are doing creative things like writing letters to IA and NH voters, organizing college groups, senior groups, professional groups . . . They're volunteering for public service work in groups, walking in AIDS Walks, marching in gay pride parades . . . (those last two I'm aware of because it's my own demo, but they're all over the place.)

This is the very campaign that has finally made it a priority to harness all that volunteer energy and it's working. How embarrassing to hear her worry about the very thing Trippi is revolutionizing. She must not have been on this story for long.
That is something I hadn't really heard, and it appears to be pretty central to Dean's continuing success. Dean's built his campaign and his fundraising on his grassroots. They've moved him into the frontrunner position, and given him the funds to connect with groups outside his grassroots organization.

And he's doing it without losing touch with his own grassroots. That's a pretty good piece of political footwork, and I think Joe Trippi deserves some serious credit for his work. Even if Dean implodes next week, Trippi's work is going to change the way primaries, and elections, work. At least as far as strategy goes...
:: Morat 10:31 AM :: ::

Fundaising Success for Dean

Breaking the Bat:
I think it was 9:51 or 9:53 pm ET that we hit $1 million dollars, raised during the Sleepless Summer Tour. The excitement was incredible down here in Bryant Park. At 9:58, as you can see from the bat, 17,115 Americans had raised $1,003,620-- doing better than what George W. Bush raised from the special interests at his exclusive fundraiser in Portland last week.
And now for the last bat update: as of midnight, 17,717 Americans have contributed $1,032,903.94 to the Raise a Million against Bush challenge.
Well, let's run the numbers. Dean managed to raise a million dollars in five days, with an average donation of around 60 dollars. I think we can all, Dean fans and Dean haters alike, consider that pretty damn impressive.
:: Morat 10:19 AM :: ::

I'm starting to see a pattern

Remember when I mentioned the Pennsylvania GOP's stupidity in trying to create a recall law so that they could recall their Democratic Governor for the high crime of "advancing his agenda"? Turns out they're not the only idiots on the block. In Nevada, efforts are underway to recall the Governor for the sin of raising taxes.
A statewide group of activists and conservatives angered by Nevada's record tax increases will notify the Secretary of State's office Wednesday of their intent to recall Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Let's look at that. In the last six month's we've seen the GOP do the following.
  • Redistrict Colorado in a non-census year.
  • Attempt to redistrict Texas in a non-census year.
  • Considering redistricting Ohio
  • Recall the California Governor for, well, no reason other than he was unpopular.
  • Attempt to recall the Nevada Governor for raising taxes
  • Try to add a recall provision to Pennsylvania in order to recall the Governor for "advancing his agenda"
It's even worse if you consider their rule changing in Texas (removing the 2/3rds requirement. Hell, the Texas Senate is levying fines right and left and making increasing irrational threats against the Texas 11. Despite the fact that, without a quorum, nothing they do is legal), the rule changing in the Senate (blue-slip rules, proposed changes in filibuster rules) and the recent fun antics in the House (calling the cops on evil Democrats wishing to actually read a bill before voting on it).

This has become nothing less than a sustained assault on the foundations of our democracy. Recalling Governors for, in all honesty, the crime of not being a Republican. Redistricting solely because the voters made the mistake of electing a Democrat.

I can't come to any conclusion other than this: The GOP has finally fallen prey to the rigid and uncompromising mentality that characterizes a good chunk of it's base. They are so unwilling to compromise, so unwilling to negotiate, so unwilling to actually practice democracy that they are willing to break the system if they cannot get their way.

The question becomes: What are we going to do about it?

Update: The Nevada Governor is a Republican, which doesn't change things much. I'm guessing his tax increases got him a RINO label.
:: Morat 9:29 AM :: ::

All about Clark

Josh Marshall pointed out this Washington Monthly article about Clark's potential in the Democratic field. It's a good, if highly optimistic piece. Amy Sullivan, however, is pretty quick to dismiss the entire Democratic field (I'd agree with her assessment of at least 6 or 7 of them), especially Howard Dean.
The one guy who has surged ahead, Howard Dean, is widely seen as, in Texas-speak, snakebit. He was adamantly against the war in Iraq, which 62 percent of the country still supports, and while he is no dove--he says he supported every post-Vietnam U.S. intervention through Kosovo--he lacks national security experience. Leading Democrats are increasingly worried that he just can't beat Bush next year. And so are voters.
I find this an odd statement. (Yes, I do like Dean. Yes, I do think he's a good candidate. No, I have not sold my mother into slavery to raise more money for Dean.)

There is a lot to be said here, but in short: The majority of people supported a UN-endorsed, multilateral effort. Which isn't, I might add, what we got. The majority of people supported a war based on the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein. A threat which, I might add, turned out to be false. The majority of people supported a war because the aftermath would the quick flowering of Democracy and love in the Middle East. An aftermath, I might add, that has turned out to be more expensive and more bloody than we were told.

In short, while the majority of people (including Dean, as I understand it) supported a war that didn't happen, for reasons which turned out to be lies. Even if Amy can't be bothered to look up polls from February or March to verify this, she should be aware of the increasing buyer's remorse concerning Iraq.

Sadly, the entire article is like that. It's oversimplified, highly optimistic, and pretty much just a Clark puff piece. Not that I begrudge Clark his puff pieces, but while Amy is right that the conventional wisdom may not apply to Clark in terms of a late entry, her belief in his candidacy is isn't nearly so solidly reasoned.

I'd be happy to see Clark run. Perhaps he is all the things Amy hopes him to be. But just because he was General Clark doesn't mean he's bulletproof on national security. Ask Max Cleland, if you don't believe me. The conventional wisdom was that a man who came back from Vietnam three limbs short was immune to questions of his patriotism and dedication to America's safety and defense.

Further more, just because Clark was a general doesn't mean that national security suddenly becomes a Democratic plus. It might, it might not. But to pin your election hopes on a man who isn't running, whose qualifications are untested (however sterling a general he was), and whose positions are unknown....
:: Morat 9:04 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, August 26, 2003 ::

Geeky joy of the day

My local Dave and Buster's has completed upgrading their Battletech systems to Firestorm. While it's rather expensive to play (around 8 bucks for a nine minute game) I thoroughly enjoy it.

It's pretty immersive (you're in a battlepod, surrounded by quite a few screens and lots of buttons) and if you enjoy Mechwarrior or the virtual reality type of game, it's worth the money. Firestorm updated the graphics, gameplay, and mechs to something a bit closer to MechWarrior 4. And, even better, they now have bots, which means no more "one on one" games if you want more players than are signed up.

Let's put it this way: The old version ran on 386's networked through a Mac. The new version uses P4s and the graphics and gameplay have been changed accordingly.

Now, if only I could find some time to go....
:: Morat 3:35 PM :: ::

Lenny Bruce died for our sins

Salon had an interesting piece up on Ashcroft's latest attempt to bust pornographers.
Lenny Bruce died for our sins:
Legally, Ashcroft is on strong ground: pornography is obviously obscene, and obscene speech can be restricted. But law and the real world have diverged here to the point of absurdity, and a common-sense analysis reveals his singling out the Extreme films to be ludicrous. With the possible exception of 'Forced Entry,' in which an actress was apparently actually beaten (albeit with her consent), the Extreme Associates movies deemed obscene by the feds -- 'Extreme Teen #24,' 'Cocktails #2: Director's Cut,' 'Ass Clowns #3: Director's Cut,' and '1001 Ways to Eat My Jizz' -- don't appear (to judge by the images on the Extreme Web site) to be fundamentally different from the standard run of porn films. Raunchier, maybe; a little more outrageous, perhaps. But not in an altogether different league. Once you're in the realm of hardcore, drawing distinctions about what is and isn't obscene becomes an exercise in Aristotelean hairsplitting, using Clarence Thomas' fabled pubic hair. As Susannah Breslin noted in a Salon piece two years ago about the L.A. police department's crackdown on so-called extreme porn, 'It remains unclear why 100 men masturbating on a woman is less protected by the First Amendment than, say, three men doing the same thing.'
First off, just to get this out of the way, I'm amused that any reporter managed to work the phrase "1001 Ways to Eat My Jizz" into any article, even for Salon. Secondly, I'm curious as to how many hits those porn titles will generate. However that's just a happy coincidence.

And, amusing side-bets about web hits aside, that article really sums up some of the problems with obscenity decisions. "I know it when I see it" is an entirely subjective standard. Judges are trained and educated to discriminate the subtleties of the law, not to project their own subjective standards of obscenity.

I wanted to talk about porn, about obscenity, and about the useless "community standards" definition the Supreme Court uses. Obscenity is about the most subjective word I can think of. Pretty much everything is obscene to someone. All obscenity is "mass opinion" and given that in every other case the First Amendment is interpreted to protect minority viewpoints, it's rather odd that in this one case things are just the opposite. The court was trying to reconcile their belief that porn was "bad" with their desire to protect minority viewpoints. They had to come up with some way to reconcile the desire to ban pornography with the Constitution's protection of free speech.

What they came up with, 'community standards', was ludicrous. Step across the right city line, and your protected work of art became obscene works of pornography. What was legal and protected in New York would get you thrown in jail in Alabama. In essence, the Constitution meant what your local sheriff, or mayor, or police officer said....not what the Supreme Court, or Congress, or the President or the federal government said.

I welcome this crackdown. The American pornography business is a large one (most of you have patronized it at some point or another, whether you will admit it or not. 10 billion a year doesn't just appear) and certainly capable of hiring the best lawyers. And I think this will be an excellent change to revisit the issue. In face, in light of the Lawrence decision and it's reaffirmation of privacy, I expect Scalia is already practicing his vitriolic dissent.

Ultimately every attempt to ban obscenity falls to the same obstacle.
At the end of his career, in an extraordinary interview, Brennan admitted that his Herculean attempts to come up with a workable obscenity formula -- he penned seven obscenity decisions -- had failed. Speaking to journalist Nat Hentoff, a staunch Bruce defender and free-speech advocate, Brennan said, "I put 16 years into that damn obscenity thing. I tried and tried, and I waffled back and forth, and finally I gave up." The key point, for Brennan: "If you can't define it, you can't prosecute people for it. And that's why ... I finally abandoned the whole effort."
You cannot ban what you cannot define. And a definition that is so fluid it changes from state to state, city to city, even neighborhood to neighborhood....is worse than no definition at all.
:: Morat 2:34 PM :: ::

The nadir of politics

PA GOP looking at recall bill
Unlike California, Pennsylvania currently has no procedure to recall a sitting governor.
But an effort to change that could be in the offing, fueled in part by dissatisfaction on the part of some Pennsylvania lawmakers with the current governor.
Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, says there is talk of drafting recall legislation:
'There are members of the House of Representatives that are looking at the feasibility of a recall. To them, the issue is credibility.'
The problem with Governor Rendell, Miskin says, is his efforts to advance his agenda.
I got this link from Atrios, and helpfully bolded the section that represents the utter death of American politics.

They want to create a recall option, so that they can then recall a sitting governor because he dared to promote his own agenda.

Can you even conceive of the stupidity required to make that statement? It boggles the mind that any man capable of making such a statement can even tie his own shoes, much less advance in politics (even GOP politics). I wish I could believe this was a misquote, but with recent events....that's too much to hope for.

Meet the new face of the GOP. Power hungry, short-sighted, and stupider than you can possibly believe.
:: Morat 10:54 AM :: ::

Clinton Obstructed Probe!

Cheney stifled energy probe — GAO
THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said it was impossible to tell how much energy companies or industry groups may have influenced the task force’s 2001 report because the administration withheld important records.
“The extent to which submissions from any of these stakeholders were solicited, influenced policy deliberations or were incorporated into the final report is not something that we can determine based on the limited information at our disposal,” the GAO said.
I'm sorry, did I say Clinton? I meant Cheney. After all, if Clinton or Gore had obstructed a GAO probe, Tom DeLay would be foaming at the mouth.

And, of course, you'd hear it from Fox News 24/7. This, I predict, will go quietly into the night...(Link via Tom Spencer)
:: Morat 8:44 AM :: ::

Holy Flaming Accusations, Batman!

According to Mark Kleiman, Joseph Wilson finally got tired of waiting for justice. He stated:
At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.
I can only surmise that if he's naming Karl Rove, he's got real evidence to back it up. Given the stakes at hand, it's not the sort of thing you guess about.

You know, or you hint, but you don't name names unless you're sure.
:: Morat 8:36 AM :: ::

Tipping Points

Postwar Iraq Toll Exceeds Combat Deaths
The toll of U.S. troops killed in postwar Iraq (news - web sites) surpassed the number killed in major combat on Tuesday, reaching 139 with the death of a soldier in a roadside bombing.
This is something of a critical time for George Bush. The media loves simple symbolism, and if Bush can't rise to the occasion, they'll turn on him like a pack of wolves. Or maybe not. Perhaps the Wurlizter can manage....
:: Morat 8:28 AM :: ::

:: Monday, August 25, 2003 ::

The Drones of Death!

Analysts Doubt U.S. Claim on Iraqi Drones
Huddled over a fleet of abandoned Iraqi drones, U.S. weapons experts in Baghdad came to one conclusion: Despite the Bush administration's public assertions, these unmanned aerial vehicles weren't designed to dispense biological or chemical weapons.
The evidence gathered this summer matched the dissenting views of Air Force intelligence analysts who argued in a national intelligence assessment of Iraq before the war that the remotely piloted planes were unarmed reconnaissance drones.
Of course, all it took was one picture of that thing to start the giggling and laughing. I'm still not sure if anyone outside the White House took this seriously, but watching Bush make the claim was pretty damn insulting. Anyone who expected me to believe that drone was a "threat the United States" obviously has a low opinion of my intelligence. Or is a Grade-A moron in his own right. Or both.

I'm willing to bet that, in zoos across the country, one ape would turn to another and say "Is he serious? I gotta tell ya, there's no way we share a common ancestor with that guy...."
:: Morat 2:05 PM :: ::

A Weapons Cache We'll Never See

A Weapons Cache We'll Never See
And it seems that after the coalition troops moved into Baghdad, the records were all there for the taking. According to several senior directorate officials I have spoken to since the war — one a brigadier general who had been a high-ranking administrator at the complex — the entire archive had been consolidated into metal containers before the war and stored at the directorate's Jadariyah headquarters for protection.
Yet these eyewitnesses have provided me with a troubling tale. On April 8, they say, the buildings were occupied by soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division. For two weeks, the Iraqi scientists and administrators showed up for work but, according to several I have spoken to, no one from the coalition interviewed them or tried to take control of the archive.
Rather, these staff members have told me, after occupying the facility for two weeks, the American soldiers simply withdrew. Soon after, looters entered the facility and ransacked it. Overnight, every computer was stolen, disks and video records were destroyed, and the carefully organized documents were ripped from their binders and either burned or scattered about. According to the former brigadier general, who went back to the building after the mob had gone, some Iraqi scientists did their best to recover and reconstitute what they could, but for the vast majority of the archive the damage was irreversible.
Well isn't that a kick in the teeth. Still, it's understandable. Having actual records would get in the way of Bush's "faith based" WMD search....

But don't you worry, because in September Bush will unveil the "smoking gun" of his own personal war. We'll see pages upon pages of documents detailing Saddam's weapons program. It'll be quite impressive, if we manage to ignore the badly forged dates. You see, George really wanted to do that himself....he's always been into arts and crafts and there's not much else to do in Crawford.
:: Morat 1:54 PM :: ::

Busy, busy, busy

For once, I'm rather busy today at work. Don't know when I'll be able to blog more (things died down for the moment) but hopefully I'll start posting stuff soon. But don't hold your breath. It may not be until this evening.

Oh well, Mondays are generally slow anyways....
:: Morat 1:27 PM :: ::

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