Friday, April 09, 2004

The Shiite Revolution and the Martyr of Karbala 

"Sadr also announced that he and his followers "have laid the foundation stone of the state of the Mehdi" a reference to Al-Mehdi Al-Montazer, or the "hidden imam", the 12th and last revered leader of the Shiite Muslims who disappeared in 907 AD. - Yahoo News

It's a rule, I think, that if you leave a large enough void of power, someone is going to step up to fill it- and eventually, through a confluence of leadership, luck, and cultural sentiment, one of them will stick. This one is particularly disconcerting, but not at all surprising, and here's why:

Shiism is the branch of Islam that believes in the idea that Mohammad's male descendants were the only pure carriers of Mohammad's wisdom. A rough analogy would be to imagine if Popes were literally the descendants of Christ. Shiism is just one branch of Islam in Iraq- the Sunnis are another- and Shiites are further divided by which descendants are believed to be "true", since only pure blood (and male) descendants of Mohammad should be revered. (For the record, Mohammad only had a daughter- so the wisdom was passed on to her husband. I'm not kidding.) Some say there are five ("the Fivers"), some say seven and some say 12- you guessed it, "the Twelvers." The group in Iraq declaring revolution are "Twelvers". By what I am sure is not coincidence, "Twelvers" also form the official state religion of Iran.

If you look at the history of these Imams, you can begin to understand why the Shiites are so much more upset and impassioned about our presence than you might think. It is not simply a matter of "foreign occupation". We should be so lucky that their hostility stemmed from such simplistic, secular rationalizations.

No no, friends: It is so much more fucked than you could ever imagine.

For one: The last three Imams were all forced to spend their lives in prisons by an opposing branch of Islam. They communicated only through secret communications with their followers. The last, 12th Imam, Muhammad al Mahdi, either disappeared or threw himself down a well to escape these foreign oppressors. (Non Twelvers will often claim he didn't exist.) This week, Sadr's followers were expected to sit around and allow the Americans who invaded their land to then go and imprison their religious leader. They weren't so hot for that idea, and now Sadr is using that parallel to aggravate and already inflamed religious furor.

Consider is the importance of Karbala: this is where Imam Hussayn, considered to be one of the direct descendants of Mohammad, was killed by troops imposing an opposing brand of Islam. In other words, a descendant of Mohammad was killed as a martyr defending Islam from infidels who imposed a foreign religion onto their territory. This weekend is Ashura, the weekend where they will mourn his death, or, as one source puts it, a day that "also makes us aware of the people, then and now, who tried to destroy Islam and the family of the Prophet and all that they stood for - as well as those who watched, listened and did nothing." Sadr is locked up in Hussayn's mausoleum. Got it, kids?

If not, consider this: Twelver Shiites believe that the 12th Imam will be resurrected to fight with those who have been loyal to him in a final battle before the Apocalypse. Iraq, invaded by the Nation long called "The Great Satan" by Fundamentalist Islamic Preachers, which decimated it's national history, put women on the ground to kill "proud martyrs", and filled the sky with massive silver eagles that breath fire and turn the night sky to daylight? Yeah, you can imagine where the whole "apocalypse" idea could gain traction.

So considering all of this, let us imagine for a moment, once again, the notion that we would be greeted as liberators with rose petals tossed on our feet as we literally invaded the area where, 1000 years ago, foreign armies with an opposing religion came in and killed Mohammad's great grandson. Consider that this belief is backed up by the majority of the Iranian population, and then consider that those who died in that battle 1000 years ago were considered martyrs, and that the holiday this weekend is not exactly "The Islamic Easter", it's a holiday celebrating martyrdom against a foreign occupation.

A Very Progressive Easter 

A nice interview with Mr. Jimmy Carter on why the Christian Right is neither.

What has attracted conservative Christians to a party that protects corporate interests and promotes an aggressive foreign-policy agenda? How do those square?

There is an element of fundamentalism involved, which involves the belief on the part of a human being that [his or her] own concept of God is the proper one. And since [he or she has] the proper concept of God, [he or she is] particularly blessed and singled out for special consideration above and beyond those who disagree with [him or her].

Secondly, anyone who does disagree with [him or her], since [he or she is] harnessed to God in a unique way, then, by definition, must be wrong. And the second step is if you are in disagreement with [his or her] concept of the way to worship, even among the Christian community, is that you are inferior to [him or her]. And then the ultimate progression of that is that you're not only different and wrong and inferior but in some ways you are subhuman. So there's a loss of concern even for the death of those who disagree. And this takes fundamentalism to the extreme. This is an element of the fundamentalist cause in this country. If you are a wealthy white man, then you are naturally inclined to think that the poor are inferior and don't deserve your first consideration. If you are a wealthy white man, then you also take on the proposition that women are inherently inferior. This builds up a sense of prejudice and alienation that permeates the Christian right during these days.


"The Passion of the Christ," with its two hours of slow-motion bloodletting, is posting record sales in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. "It has beaten all records," says Johnny Masri, general manager of Prime Pictures, the movie's Middle East distributors. "It's more popular than Titanic and the James Bond films. We completely underestimated the huge success this movie would have."

Maybe this isn't politically correct, but I get the feeling that if "Titanic" had blamed a the Jews instead of an iceberg, it would probably have done just as well over there. And if you're wondering about the "good" this movie can do in the Oil-Stained Heatsink of Religious Fanaticism, check this:

"Some Muslims who have seen "The Passion" even equate the death of Jesus with the death of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement, who was assassinated in Gaza last month."

That's exactly what we need. I don't know who the bigger fucking genius is: Ariel Sharon or Mel Gibson? Because they are both total fucking geniuses.

Something To Do 

Sign Here online to voice your opposition to the "Fairness In Asbestos Injury Resolution" Act, which would help out companies like Halliburton that have poisoned their workers with Asbestos. If that's not enough, consider that is sponsored by Bill Frist and Orrin Hatch. So, you know what to do.


Today, a visit from Yeshiva University brought me to my 15,000th hit. Thanks all!

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Atrios has a timeline:

August 6, 2001: Bush gets briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US."
August 7, 2001: Bush begins month long vacation in Crawford, TX.

But the memo also makes his behavior in that classroom on the morning of 9/11 all the more inexplicable. If you get a briefing like this, if you have advisors who know that there was a planned hijacking, why oh why do you sit in a classroom reading with school children for a full fifteen minutes? ("So as not to scare the children", we are told.) You would think that, if there was knowledge of a terrorist attack- or even, for that matter, the "traditional hijacking" they claim to have expected- there would have been, like, a contingency plan. But apparently Steady Leadership's "contingency plan" was prioritized around not frightening a group of school children in Florida while the sky is falling on top of 3000 American citizens, then standing in the rubble for a photo opportunity to sell for a $150.00 donation.

No Indication That We Would Be Struck Domestically. At All.  

Mr. Ben-Veniste persisted, asking, "Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice" that the presidential daily briefing on Aug. 6 [2001] "warned against possible attacks in this country?"

He ended the question by asking her to give the name of the memo, to which she replied: "I believe the title was `Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'"
-New York Times

Incredible. Let's see if the media goes after this, or if they go after how "poised and articulate" the celebrity they've been grooming all week behaved.

Our Informed Counter Terrorism Policy 

LEHMAN: Were you told that there were numerous young Arab males in flight training, had taken flight training, were in flight training?

RICE: I was not. And I'm not sure that that was known at the center.

LEHMAN: Were you told that the U.S. Marshal program had been changed to drop any U.S. marshals on domestic flights?

RICE: I was not told that.

LEHMAN: Were you told that the red team in FAA -- the red teams for 10 years had reported their hard data that the U.S. airport security system never got higher than 20 percent effective and was usually down around 10 percent for 10 straight years?

RICE: To the best of my recollection, I was not told that.

LEHMAN: Were you aware that INS had been lobbying for years to get the airlines to drop the "transit without visa" loophole that enabled terrorists and illegals to simply buy a ticket through the transit-without- visa-waiver and pay the airlines extra money and come in?

RICE: I learned about that after September 11th.

LEHMAN: Were you aware that the INS had quietly, internally, halved its internal security enforcement budget?

RICE: I was not made aware of that. I don't remember being made aware of that, no.

LEHMAN: Were you aware that it was the U.S. government established policy not to question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, San Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from cooperating at all with federal immigration authorities?

RICE: I do not believe I was aware of that.

LEHMAN: Were you aware -- to shift a little bit to Saudi Arabia -- were you aware of the program that was well established that allowed Saudi citizens to get visas without interviews?

RICE: I learned of that after 9/11.

LEHMAN: Were you aware of the activities of the Saudi ministry of religious affairs here in the United States during that transition?

RICE: I believe that only after September 11th did the full extent of what was going on with the ministry of religious affairs became evident.

LEHMAN: Were you aware of the extensive activities of the Saudi government in supporting over 300 radical teaching schools and mosques around the country, including right here in the United States?

RICE: I believe we've learned a great deal more about this and addressed it with the Saudi government since 9/11.

LEHMAN: Were you aware at the time of the fact that Saudi Arabia had and were you told that they had in their custody the CFO and the closest confidant of Al Qaida -- of Osama bin Laden, and refused direct access to the United States?

RICE: I don't remember anything of that kind.


LEHMAN: ...were you aware that the FAA up until 9/11 thought it was perfectly permissible to allow four-inch knife blades aboard?

RICE: I was not aware.

The January 25th Memo 

LEHMAN: ...were you told before the summer that there were functioning Al Qaida cells in the United States?

RICE: In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on January 25th, he mentions sleeper cells. There is no mention or recommendation of anything that needs to be done about them. And the FBI was pursuing them. And usually when things come to me, it's because I'm supposed to do something about it, and there was no indication that the FBI was not adequately pursuing the sleeper cells.

So Clarke sent her a memo, but it was a useless memo because it didn't outline anything that needed to be done about them, and usually it is her job to figure out what to do about the information in memos that were given to her, but she didn't do anything, anyway. Perfectly reasonable, perfectly logical.

Regardless, there was concrete information in his memo, as reported in the 9/11 commission summary: "On January 25th, Clarke forwarded his December strategy paper to the new national security adviser, and it proposed covert action to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, significantly increasing CIA funding, retaliating for the USS Cole, arming the Predator aircraft, going after terrorist fund raising."

On Meet The Press, Clarke had said of this memo: "Now, Dr. Rice has characterized this as not a plan, not a strategy, not a series of decisions which could be made right away, but warmed-over Clinton material. Let's declassify that memo I sent on January 25th and let's declassify the national security directive that Dr. Rice's committee approved nine months later on September 4th, and let's see if there's any difference between those two, because there isn't. And what we'll see when we declassify what they were given on January 25th and what they finally agreed to on September 4th, is that they're basically the same thing and they wasted months when we could have had some action." -March 28th 2004.

So, she's under oath. Let's see.

Hear Condi Say Nothing 

KERREY: Dr. Rice, everybody who does national security in this town knows the FBI and the CIA don't talk. So if you have a meeting on the 5th of July, where you're trying to make certain that your domestic agencies are preparing a defense against a possible attack, you knew Al Qaida cells were in the United States, you've got to follow up. And the question is, what was your follow-up? What's the paper trail that shows that you and Andy Card followed up from this meeting, and made certain that the FBI and the CIA were talking?

RICE: I followed up with Dick Clarke, who had in his group, and with him, the key counterterrorism person for the FBI. You have to remember that Louis Freeh was, by this time, gone. Louis Freeh had left in late June. And so the chief counterterrorism person for the FBI was working these issues, was working with Dick Clarke. I talked to Dick Clarke about this all the time. But let's be very clear, the threat information that we were dealing with -- and when you have something that says, something very big may happen, you have no time, you have no place, you have no how, the ability to somehow respond to that threat is just not there. Now, you said...

Later, Kerrey reads this:

KERREY: In the spirit of further declassification, this is what the August 6th memo said to the president: that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking. That's the language of the memo that was briefed to the president on the 6th of August.

RICE: And that was checked out and steps were taken through FAA circulars to warn of hijackings. But when you cannot tell people where a hijacking might occur, under what circumstances -- I can tell you that I think the best antidote to what happened in that regard would have been many years before to think about what you could do for instance to harden cockpits. That would have made a difference.

So, first off, Condi says we didn't know what would happen. Kerrey offers evidence that they did know what would happen. Then Condi says they did know a hijacking would have happened- and boy, if only Clinton had put hard cockpit doors in, everything would have been great. Also, you will notice that "she met with Dick Clarke about this all the time", a far cry from Cheney's "out of the loop" comment.

Bush Sues to Void Payments to Tortured POW's 

Support the Troops, indeed.

The Bush administration urged an appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's order awarding nearly $1 billion in Iraqi money to 17 Americans taken prisoner by Saddam Hussein's government during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. - ABC News

These guys were beaten, tortured and electrocuted with Cattle Prods. Last year, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan argued at a press gaggle about giving the POW's money (which was already rewarded) and it was like talking to Teddy Ruxpin with a cassette recording of the party line. You can (and should) read the full thing here. (Scroll down half way.)

MR. McCLELLAN: This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there's simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein...

Read the whole thing for the full impact, though. It may have been the best McClellan moment of 2003.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Why Do They Keep Hiring Careerist Partisan Democrats? 

"Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has faced a steady exodus of counterterrorism officials, many disappointed by a preoccupation with Iraq they said undermined the U.S. fight against terrorism." -Forbes

They've gone through six since September 11th. There are 12 in the entire department. That's right, twelve people in charge of advising Presidential counterterrorism policy in the United States. That's Bush's tough-assed war on terror. They are hired for their expertise, and they leave because their expertise isn't being listened to. Instead, we're listening to Dick "No Connections To Halliburton" Cheney:

"Some also left because they felt President Bush had sidelined his counterterrorism experts and paid almost exclusive heed to the vice president, the defense secretary and other Cabinet members in planning the "war on terror," former counterterrorism officials said."

These are, by the way, the same allegations made by Richard Clarke.

Oh, The Irony 

Justice Scalia was speaking at High School in Mississippi.

"During the speech, a woman identifying herself as a deputy federal marshal demanded that a reporter for The Associated Press erase a tape recording of the justice's comments. She said the justice had asked that his appearance not be recorded.

The reporter initially resisted, but later showed the deputy how to erase the digital recording after the officer took the device from her hands. The exchange occurred in the front row of the auditorium while Scalia delivered his speech about the Constitution."

Certainly Freedom of the Press was involved somewhere in that speech- too bad we'll never know, eh? But last year, he did mention this:

"The Constitution of the United States is extraordinary and amazing. People just don't revere it like they used to."

"The Swan" 

Anyone seen this female body image torture parade on Fox?

The premise is that they will take five women who are of moderate attractiveness and enter them into a beauty pageant. But to get them "ready", they get plastic surgery, are put on a diet and exercise routine, and have their teeth surgically altered. And everyone goes to these perfect looking specialists with perfect hair and teeth- plastic surgeons, dieticians, oral surgeons, etc- and the specialists are like "Well, Dorothy is going to need a lot of work..." says the plastic surgeon. And one girl has a drawing that her friends made of all the parts they suggested she have surgically altered so she can "dedicate" the surgeries to them. And then after the surgery one of the doctors says "well I am worried about (Susan, or whatever) because she seems very emotional, and some people go into profound depression after having this surgery." To which some talking head comes on and says, "she's been all whining and depressed after her surgery" and "she has to get herself together and fight to pull through this if she is going to win the pageant."

They show one woman who's husband, on the phone, doesn't say a word to her after a month of absence, no "I miss you" or even "how are you doing", and then the host asks her, "You had some problems with your, after this surgery, how do you think things will be?"

It's seriously an atrocity, and that's only half of one show.

New York Times 

More violence today in Iraq.

This New York Times Reporter knows how to utilize the placement of quotations for maximum effect:

"We will stay the course in Iraq," [Bush] said. "We're not going to be intimidated by thugs or assassins. We're not going to cut and run from the people who long for freedom. Because, you know what? We understand a free Iraq is an historic opportunity to help change the world to be more peaceful." In Baghdad, fighting between American forces and Mr. Sadr's militia continued, as young men with machine guns traded fire with American soldiers in several neighborhoods and braced themselves for more bloodshed.

GW Bush, Lovely Man 

Michael Deutsch was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in July.

From the state of Iowa, the Deutsch family received a perfectly folded American flag that flew for one day in Michael's honor above the Capitol in Des Moines. And from the White House came a letter of condolence signed by President Bush. Two letters, actually.

"The exact same one, twice," Wayne Deutsch noted dryly, sitting at the kitchen table of their wood-frame house in Dubuque's working-class North End neighborhood. "What does that tell you? It was a form letter."
-Washington Post

So That Explains Donald Rumsfeld 

Turns out that Afghanistan's top export this year is going to be Heroin, according to an article by the Washington Today (not online that I could find, but MSNBC ripped it off pretty quickly).

And Colonel Hy Rothstein was commissioned by the Pentagon to write a report on the War in Afghanistan. In it, he wrote that Bush's steady leadership in times of change "effectively destroyed the Taliban but has been significantly less successful at being able to achieve the primary policy goal of ensuring that al Qaeda could no longer operate in Afghanistan [...] The failure to adjust US operations in line with the post-Taliban change in theater conditions cost the United States some of the fruits of victory and imposed additional, avoidable humanitarian and stability costs on Afghanistan..." -The New Yorker

Of course, as it always goes with the Bush administration, you'll never guess what they did:

The Pentagon returned the report to Rothstein with a request he cut it drastically and soften his conclusions, the magazine reported.

Condoleezza Rice and the SCLM 

Interesting thing about how the so-called liberal media (SCLM) is handling the build up to Condoleezza Rice's testimony for the 9/11 panel: They are making her a celebrity. CNN's Paula Zahn had an interview with Condi's best friend today, after a rather long profile of her life. Then, today, the AP ran a story, which read with all the quality of a fluff piece on Jessica Simpson. It started with this inspirational story:

The scene was Goree Island in Senegal, a place of great beauty and horrific history. As Condoleezza Rice stood at the Door of No Return, the transit point for so many Africans sold into slavery, a lump swelled in her throat as she quietly wondered which of her ancestors might have passed this way. Rice, on that African trip with President Bush last year, marveled at the "tremendous spirit and toughness" of those unknown forebears who would somehow survive all the trials to come. "It just makes me extremely proud to be descended from those people," she said then. - AP

You can almost hear the choir humming "Glory Glory Hallelujah." Which has nothing to do with Rice's use of fear to manipulate the American People into the quagmire that is the Iraq Implosion. They don't mention, at all, that she most notably stated point blank: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a Mushroom Cloud." Instead, there's "...with her poise and quiet self-assurance...", "Rice - Condi to Bush and her friends - has shown both her soft, approachable side and the tenaciousness that have earned her descriptions like "steel magnolia" and 'velvet hammer.'" and the information that "Her eclectic background includes credits as an accomplished pianist, competitive ice skater, all-around sports fan and avid exerciser."

They quote her friends, but don't balance that out with quotes from any of the many people who believe she deserves prison time: "...a very warm and genuine, deep person. She can give that sense of comfort to people in a friendly, small setting."

Compare the same reporter's language in her story on Richard Clarke:

"Over four administrations and three decades in government, Clarke became known as "a very hard-driving, arrogant, not especially pleasant or polite fellow who manages to get an extremely impressive amount of work done,"

"Clarke "has annoyed and angered everybody he's worked with for 30 years. ... But everybody wanted him around because he could actually get the job done."

It even manages to end on a "nice note" for Clarke that seems a bit back handed:

"He likes to go on nice vacations. He likes good wine. He is your fairly typical cultivated upper-middle-class Washingtonian with cultivated upper-middle-class tastes."

I googled her to make sure, and Nancy Benac, the writer of both stories, has usually written very fair and balanced articles. But the overall mainstream media "story" on Condoleezza and the mainstream media's "story" on Clarke have been universally different. The message seems to be: Clarke is a career opportunist with a book to sell, but Condi is a celebrity and we're not going to talk about her potential motivations.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Branding The President 

Seeing The Forest has a post on the subject of "branding" the president, it is definately worth a read.

57 and 236 

57 dead and 236 wounded in three days.

All sorts of shit is going on in Iraq since this weekend, and I am not going to write about it. Not because I don't think it's important, but because there are too many other places talking about it, including people who are in the midst of it, (and others, as well as people who are smarter observers than I am) and that is what blogs are for. I can't imagine the right to pontificate on the hell on Earth that has taken root amongst all those people and all that oil.

In the meantime, all of this turmoil will likely be used as cover for a great variety of other things, and that's what I am going to keep my eye on- including what will inevitably be one damaging revelation or another in the Rice Testimony. I don't think this is petty so much as it is focused.

Is Pollution Bad For Children? Maybe Not, say Republican Press Strategists 

Worried about being "hit hard" by Democrats about the environment, a memo was circulated by the Bush campaign to Republican Press Secretaries with advice on how to "hit back". It gives us a nice insider's look at how the Republican machine- a smelly, gas guzzling, carbon-monoxide spewing, toxic and irradiated Republican machine that eats trees- operates when it comes to that little slab of embattled foreign soil we call "The Earth".

Among the memo's assertions are 'global warming is not a fact', 'links between air quality and asthma in children remain cloudy', and the US Environment Protection Agency is exaggerating when it says that at least 40 per cent of streams, rivers and lakes are too polluted for drinking, fishing or swimming.

It gives a list of alleged facts taken from contentious sources. For instance, to back its claim that air quality is improving it cites a report from Pacific Research Institute - an organization that has received $130,000 from Exxon Mobil since 1998.

I think that when they say "links between air pollution and asthma in children remain cloudy" They missed an opportunity for some clever wordplay. I would have liked it better if the links were "still cloudy, like a mid summer L.A. traffic jam, and everyone knows those are just fine for your health".

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bush Lies List Updated 

Three Additions.

The Fourth Estate 

Missed this: A reporter apologizes for the way he, and the "elite mainstream media" reported on the lead up to the Iraq War. It's a long article, here's an excerpt:

Most disturbing of all, some of these journalists still don't get it. When Massing asked the Times' Miller--an investigative reporter covering intelligence--why she didn't include more comments in her stories by experts who contested White House assertions, she replied: "My job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."

But even a cub reporter should know that if the government tells her the sky is blue, it's her job to check whether it might not be red or gray or black. And skepticism must be exercised most strongly when the matter at hand is whether the nation will go to war.

By neglecting to fully employ their critical-thinking faculties, Miller and many of her colleagues in the elite print media not only failed their readers during the countdown to the Iraq invasion, they failed our democracy.

And there's no excusing that failure. The only thing that can be said is, Sorry.

America is the Land of Opportunity, Sweden is Socialist... 

...and yet, a Swede is now the richest man in the world. Take that, anarcho-capitalists!

Gay Marriage 

The Gay and Lesbian Task Force has come out with a report (Careful! It's a .pdf) on the economic benefits of Gay Marriage. Sure, it's partisan, but here's some interesting facts:

"One of the couples profiled in the report, Donna Triggs and Donna Moore, both 54, pay $2,177 (13%) more each year in state and federal income taxes than a married couple earning the same amount because they cannot file a joint return. The analysis also finds that if Ms. Triggs died as a result of an injury at work, her spouse would receive $884 per week ($45,968 per year, up to a maximum of $207,722) in workers' compensation benefits. Because Ms. Triggs and Ms. Moore cannot now marry, however, Ms. Moore would receive zero workers' compensation benefits."

What this means is, if we can't have Gay Marriage, maybe Bush will next push to fight for a Gay Currency. At first he'll say it will be to adjust the value of the Gay Dollar to have more spending power than the Straight dollar and equalize the playing field, but then he'll "accidentally" allow a loophole where businesses don't have to accept the gay dollar. So separate stores will pop up that take exclusively one kind of currency. Of course, we could skip all this by just legalizing gay fucking marriage.

In slightly related news, it turns out that "Houston, Texas, contains one of the ten "gayest" neighborhoods in the country", according to the new Gay and Lesbian Atlas.

Great News For Everyone Who Ever Watched Television 

Watching television during infancy dramatically reduces your ability to concentrate in adulthood. And Sesame Street isn't a safe neighborhood either:

"The underlying hypothesis was not about the content of television but the rapidity of scene change," Christakis said. "The rapid scene change may be brain candy of some kind but, like candy, in excess it can be potentially damaging."

9/11 Commission Update 

The leaders of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks agreed Sunday that evidence gathered by their panel showed the attacks could probably have been prevented.

Their remarks drew sharp disagreement from one of President Bush's closest political advisers, who insisted that the Bush and Clinton administrations had no opportunity to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot. They also offered a preview of the difficult questions likely to confront Condoleezza Rice when she testifies before the panel at a long-awaited public hearing this week.
-New York Times

That long awaited public hearing, by the way, may just be Condi's job interview for a Cabinet position in a second Bush term.

A Major Defeat 

Anyone think this quote from President Bush is really odd?

"Terrorists can't stand freedom," said Bush, declaring that he will "stay the course" and bring democracy to Iraq. "We're still being challenged in Iraq and the reason why is a free Iraq will be a major defeat in the cause of freedom."

The next sentence quoted in that article is even weirder:

"I had a choice to make after Saddam Hussein once again refused to disarm," adding that "I will defend America every time."

Needless to say, Saddam Hussein didn't "refuse to disarm". He had no weapons! And this wasn't Bush speaking a year and a half ago, or even six months ago. It was today. George Bush still thinks Saddam had WMD's today!

Bedford Falls, Meet Pottersville 

Looks like WalMart wants to start its own city within the city of Inglewood, California.

"The proposal would essentially exempt Wal-Mart from all of Inglewood's planning, zoning and environmental regulations, creating a city-within-a-city subject only to its own rules."

But even more frightening is this possibility touted by critics:
"If the initiative succeeds here, they say, it will become a model for Wal-Mart sovereignty across the nation and around the globe."

-c/o Buck Hill

MP3: Dennis Kucinich's Campaign Theme Song 

World Famous.

Male: I'm a patriot can't you see? I can't believe they named a missile after me!
Female: I'm a matriot, can't you see? Don't you dare name a missile after me...

The Daily Kos, Meme Consolidation, and Blog Pledge Drives 

(Warning: Metablogging)

It seems to me that the new upheaval over what went on over at the Daily Kos is something beyond the mobilization of right wing bloggers against the left wing bloggers, in a land where it was once said that everyone was united by their love of blogs.

Matt Stoller is right to say that this was inevitable once Kos became powerful, but then the question is a matter of: how does "power" compromise a blog? I complained a while back, half jokingly, that bloggers seem to link almost exclusively to Kos, Atrios and a select few others. The joke was that this was on par with "media consolidation." In other words, if what blogs can contribute to Democracy is the exchange of ideas outside the loop of a corporate media, isn't it very strange indeed that what immediately rises out of the rhizome is not a "network" but pillars with gradual fallout of power as you get further and further away from each pillar?

This consolidation has immediately introduced the notion of a market to what was once purely an economy of ideas. This isn't all bad, of course: more popular blogs- due to strong writing, analysis, etc- are also more expensive blogs for the blogger to maintain. (I don't know what Atrios' traffic looks like, but after an article about some work I did appeared in the New York Times, I was bombarded with so much traffic that, if it had been sustained, it would have cost me $1500 a month to support.) Some amount of advertising revenue is a good thing, clearly, but is it the best model to pursue?

The problem is not the money of the market per se, it's what that money introduces to the market: liabilities and responsibilities to parties outside of one's own interests. Including, as happened with Kos, a dramatic need to cut down the intensity of any rhetoric, lest you be made a target of an uproar from your detractors that could damage your ability to obtain willing advertisers. In other words, you've suddenly got shareholders. I don't know if anything worse has happened to the notion of discourse than the notion of currency. A true gift economy hasn't blossomed yet, in spite of the Howard Dean campaign telling people it could.

Simply put, advertising is not a model that bloggers should pursue, or be comfortable with, for just this reason. Paradoxically, Ideas can't be free until people start paying for them. Which is why I find the notion of a pledge drive all the more appealing, and very possible, for bloggers to work with. While it would be devastating for small blogs like mine, a week of earnest and honest appeals every three months could possibly raise a fortune for independent bloggers. It would also mean that bloggers had full freedom intellectually to put forward any ideas they want to.

This isn't a plea for cash, either- I'm covering this site just fine. But when you look at what Kos has done, it's enormous. It's a functioning community, it's an empowering individual experience (users can start accounts for their own "daily diary" which is linked off of the front page). So I wonder if there is revenue in that audience? Certainly, almost everything left of value in this culture operates at a loss. I just wonder if readers started acting, independently, more like subscribers- a public radio model instead of a magazine start up model- if the culture of blogs could veer away from this commercialism of the consolidated, as we're seeing now?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Sunday Blog Outsourcing 

Okay. This is going to be abbreviated, as Daylight Savings time has cut the time I have to get this done in half. That is a reminder, by the way, to make sure you set your clock an hour ahead, kids.

First, two blogs that need mentioning: Riverbend is an Iraqi Blogger. Worth your time if only because a human element to news reports of explosions and screaming tends to numb you to the soul crushing chaos that is going on at the center of the world right now.

Which brings us to Noam Chomsky's Blog, which I've already mentioned, but figured I had to mention in the outsourcing as well.

That said, here's a tour of the blogosphere:

Blogging the President has a great write up of the current heat being put on blogger Kos as a result of his comments on the dead civilians this week in Iraq. Kos is losing advertisers because of what he's said; the BOP explains why what he said wasn't so far from the truth.

Buck Hill on Liberal Bias in academia.

Make Me A Commentator on the matter of John Kerry's ski trip a while back where he managed to call a secret service agent a "son of a bitch." I always wonder if the guy was kidding. Tonight, I personally called my friend a motherfucker, an asshole, and a motherfucking jack ass all in the span of three hours, and I don't think there were any hard feelings. Maybe Kerry just curses like a sailor. We're both from Massachusetts, maybe it's related to that.

New World Blogger has a great catch on a guy who found a bunch of notes, originally intended for a meeting with Donald Rumsfeld, left on a table at Starbucks. (I hope I have time this weekend to cover them in an independent post.)

Edwardpig dissects some of the latest Bush ads. Including digging up the stunning revelation that Kerry never once supported (in legislation, anyway) the dramatic "fifty percent gas tax" that is the centerpiece of one Bush commercial.

Chris Brown on "Random Acts of Bushness": Go out to your favorite restaurant. Tell the waiter/waitress how much you liked their service, that you approve of their waiter/waitress program, and then proceed to reduce their tip. There's more, and he's looking for suggestions. (I left a few in the comments area.)

Invisible Library is kicking out some poetry over there. Something must be in the air, it seems to be in the same spirit of my earlier post here.

Sooner Thought has Al Franken's Air America launch press release in its entirety. Gets me all fired up. Not to mention that the network is totally incredibly good. I listened to it and it is such a relief to be able to laugh with people on the radio instead of at them.

Archy has the shocking revelation that Jimmy Carter went medieval on Ralph Nader's ass.

Mustang Bobby with a brief history of the right vs left "entertainment wars".

NTodd reads the Economist so you might want to. The cover this month is a charmer.

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