Monkey Media Report Archive
The Triangle's near-daily
news and arts Weblog

Second half of June 2003

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7.1.03 - Yeesh. Just finished a call-in to our local Limbaugh (right) after catching the last few minutes of his hilariously fawning interview with Ann Coulter. Before flustered host Jerry Agar cut me off and then insulted me (in that order, as usual), I managed to note how embarrassing it was for him to be hitching his wagon uncritically to a person whose disregard for the truth has been so extensively documented, and also got in a plug for Spinsanity, one of many sites with detailed Coulter coverage. It's hard to pick a favorite example from so many, but the lie on the last page of Slander about media coverage of Dale Earnhardt's death is right up there:

[Coulter wrote:] "The day after seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt died in a race at the Daytona 500, almost every newspaper in America carried the story on the front page. Stock-car racing had been the nation’s fastest-growing sport for a decade, and NASCAR the second-most-watched sport behind the NFL...It took the New York Times two days to deem Earnhardt’s name sufficiently important to mention it on the first page."

Coulter’s question: Why, oh why, did the great New York Times wait two more days to put Dale on its cover? We suspect you know the answer to that; Coulter was inventing. (Again!) In fact, the Times did run the story of Earnhardt’s death on its front page on Monday, February 19. (NEXIS makes this perfectly clear. Which part of “Page 1” doesn’t Coulter understand?) The headline might have provided a clue: “Stock Car Star Killed on Last Lap of Daytona 500.” The piece was written by Robert Lipsyte...

Of course, Coulter didn’t demean the tone of Lipsyte’s work. Instead, she simply lied about it, saying it didn’t exist. Coulter wanted to close with a bang. She wished Lipsyte out of existence.

The folks at TAPPED have lots of other examples, including Coulter's ridiculously misleading use of footnotes. Funnily enough, Agar defended her to me by citing her new book's many footnotes, as if their mere existence proved Coulter was telling the truth. Uh, yeah, dude. It's called "independent research." Learn to do some.

The latest book Coulter's hyping across the right-wing circuit - surprise - uses equally dishonest rhetorical techniques. But that doesn't phase our friendly neighborhood genius over at WPTF, who fumed and ranted about Coulter's critics only having insults to offer, since there's no logical refutation of what she writes. Yeah, right. Free clue for Agar: Just because the little bubble of one-sided information you surround yourself with doesn't include thoughtful left-leaning criticism of dyssemblers like Coulter doesn't mean that criticism doesn't exist. If Coulter has ever corrected the many distortions her critics have documented, I challenge Jerry Agar to show me where.

Amazingly, our local Limbaugh had never even heard of Spinsanity - a truly damning indicator of how out-of-touch he is, given the site's detailed refutations of liberal Michael Moore's distortions and its willingness to take Coulter's critics to task for descending to her level - and immediately interrupted to demand information about who they were before letting me finish. Of course, he never shows similar aggressive skepticism of callers who agree with him, unquestioningly accepting information far less verifiable than what I suggested. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that he's so easily agitated, quickly hanging up and ranting about how I'm trying to take over his show before I do too much damage.

What an embarrassment to the Triangle that Coulter segment was. As a final note in our latest periodic glance in Agar's direction, you should know that I've challenged the guy to public debate in the past, even allowing him to suggest a third-party mediator for a one-on-one about Iraq, but he refused. Like a lot of right-wing talkers, he's not comfortable in a challenging situation where his finger isn't on the button. Revealing, isn't it? The challenge stands. [link]

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6.29.03 - Useful links over at Plastic in a post about three recent, distinctly Southern deaths: unrepentant Strom Thurmond, complex Lester Maddox and pioneering Maynard Jackson. Ah, race and history - two great tastes that go great together.

We'll start with Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of a large Southern city. The coverage in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is broad enough, while the local alt weekly offers a shorter, more critical summary. Elected after years of "white flight" against an opponent whose delightful slogan was "Atlanta's Too Young To Die," Jackson demonstrated by example that black Americans were perfectly capable of becoming classic Southern good ol' boy kingmakers (what the hell, let's call that a good thing). His most-discussed achievement - aside from helping turn the city into a major airline hub - is an aggressive 1970s push to even the playing field for Atlanta's black middle class:

Black-owned businesses got their first contracts from the city in 1973, the year Jackson was elected...Those contracts amounted to $41,800 - less than 0.13 percent of the $33.1 million in work awarded by the city that year. By the end of Jackson's first term in 1978, 38.6 percent of city contracts were with minority-owned firms...

If ever there was a place where that kind of "affirmative action" was appropriate, 1973 Atlanta would be it. One businessman calls Jackson "the Dr. King of the economic movement," but Malcolm X seems just as appropriate for a 35-year-old who shook up banks and law firms by refusing to allow the city to do business with any company whose board didn't include blacks and women.

It's also worth pointing out - as you contemplate Bill Clinton getting down at the funeral - that Jackson ran for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee after the 2000 election. His pitch? Democrats had drifted away from their roots as members of a party for "struggling people." He lost, in large part because Clinton threw his support to centrist Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe. Nice, eh? I'll never understand why so many Af-Am callers to my show spout nonsense about Clinton being "the first black President" despite obvious evidence to the contrary. But let's leave that for another day. [link]

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6.29.03 - Next in line is Strom Thurmond (upside down, right). The SC newspaper The State has an impressive obit package with lots of pics and assorted hilarity, but somehow manages to leave out the fascinating story of Essie Mae Butler, who is almost certainly the daughter of Thurmond and a teenage black maid who worked for his family in the 1920s. (Unless, that is, you can come up with some other reason a diehard segregationist would financially support a young black girl through college.) The State couldn't even find room in a story about Thurmond's well-known sexual "appetites" and "amorous nature" for this particular tidbit.

Fascinating. A Senator with a daughter whose right to equal protection he spent years actively denying. On what oh-so-discreet planet does that not count as newsworthy? Bravo to the Charlotte Observer for including Essie Mae in its coverage. And please don't believe for a second the "Strom repudiated his segregationist past" thing. It's not true, as Timothy Noah demonstrated last December on the occasion of Thurmond's 100th birthday:

The legend of Strom's Remorse was invented, by common unspoken consent within the Beltway culture, in order to provide a plausible explanation why Thurmond should continue to hold power and command at least marginal respectability well past the time when history had condemned Thurmond's most significant political contribution.

Read the whole piece; it includes direct evidence of Thurmond's rather intense denial of his own racist statements. Still, some folks do give the guy credit for at least recognizing that reality had left him behind:

"Maybe the best way to put it was he was not a Jesse Helms. There came a time when Thurmond basically realized that his previous stands were now defeated, and he moved on in a way that Jesse Helms never really did."

Well, that counts for something, I guess. The forgiveness many black people feel in Strom's hometown is probably real enough, but Thurmond's willingness to share federal pork with black politicians is also probably a factor in some folks' softened memories. And there's that good old Southern hospitality, as explained by Rev. Joseph Darby, a vice president of the South Carolina NAACP:

"When you have someone who has just passed away, I expect that many folks don't want to say too much out of respect for grieving families. Also, they have to live in Edgefield. This may be the New South, but it ain't that new. If I was an African American living in Edgefield ... I'd say nice things about him, too."

One more thing: Last December, Timothy Noah alerted us to a fascinating bit of whitewashing at NPR that is once again showing up in media accounts of Thurmond's career. USA Today and AP both substitute the phrase "the Negro race" in place of what is clearly Thurmond's use of "the Nigger race" in his famous 1948 segregationist rant. Listen for yourself to the shockingly stereotypical clip [ram].

How nice of the "liberal" press to honor the Senator by touching up a few nasty spots on the historical record for us. [link]

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6.29.03 - Lastly, there's the amazing career of Georgia governor Lester Maddox (above, with gun), who rose to fame in 1964 by vigorously protesting the forced desegregation of private businesses. Don't kid yourself, by the way; you only need one glance at the continued hullaballoo over Augusta National Golf Club's male-only policy to see that the idea that private businesses have every right to discriminate remains alive and well. If Maddox was making his stand today, I'll bet AM talk radio jocks like Raleigh's Jerry Agar would be fuming at the intrusion of big government into the Pickrick Restaurant's "no-blacks" policy, even as they object to the comparison in conversations about Augusta. But ask them for a logical difference between discrimination against blacks and discrimination against women and all you get are hilariously mealy-mouthed rationalizations.

Sorry guys. You want to live in a country that allows bigots to discriminate in their private businesses? Move somewhere else. It's not done in the USA.

Maddox's career is one of the most unbelievably strange political stories ever to come out of the South, hands-down. The best intro I've found is this 1999 Creative Loafing profile, not least because it generated a six-page, single-spaced response from Maddox himself. Together, they cover the bases nicely. [link]

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6.27.03 - Plep, y'all. Just Plep. [link]

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6.27.03 - The nicest thing about Neal Pollack's Michael Savage-athon is the list of bloggers it exposed me to:

Angry Bear, Ann Slanders, Army Of Fun, Atrios, Bag Times, Big Picnic, Bitter Obscurity, Blah3, Bunsen, Bush Is A Moron, Deckie Holmes, Duckwing., For Freedom Century, Fengi, Haypenny, Genoan Sailor, I Am The Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor, Left Pedal, Liberal Media Conspiracy, Like Father Like Sun, Lisa Rocci, Matthew Tobey, Max Sawicky, Michael Savage's Only Official Website, Monkeytime [er], Mykeru, Nurse Ratched's Notebook, Off the Kuff, Pandagon, Rashomon, Rob Curran, Sam Heldman, Savage Ass Rape, Savage Cruel Bigots, Suckful, Shared Thought, South Knox Bubba, Ted Barlow, The Daily Harrumph, The Donkeypissonian, The Funny Farm, The Plunketts, Utter Wonder, Warblogger Watch, Yankee Pot Roast, Yar's Revenge, Digby, My Kull, Mercuryx23, Rock And Roll Means Fuck, Graywyvern, The Agitator, Ain't No Bad Dude.

For instance, I found a great Friday treat at the blog of All Move Guide reviewer Matthew Tobey: The Box Office Oracle. You pick the writer, director, genre, actrons, budget, MPAA rating and month of release. You get projected box office receipts, chance of winning an Oscar and the names of the critics most likely to praise and pan your movie. What a hoot.

Also, from lawyer Sam Heldman, a great little ironic twist to yesterday's Supreme Court sodomy decision:

You might think that Justice Scalia would have been reminded about the benefit of holding your tongue, when he saw that Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence used one of his old fiery dissents against him. He had dissented snarkily in Romer, in which the Court struck down an anti-gay referendum as discriminatory; Justice Scalia said, more or less, "you want an anti-gay law? I'll show you one: an anti-sodomy law! How can you get more anti-gay than that?!" He thought that somehow this would make people agree with him; but what it ended up doing, was giving Justice O'Connor something nice to cite as a reason to strike down the anti-sodomy law on equal protection grounds.

So did Justice Scalia, upon seeing Justice O'Connor's draft, think to himself, "gee, I should be careful not to shoot myself in the foot again, no matter how angry I get"? Nope. Instead, his dissent (see especially Part IV) affirmatively argues that, under the Court's reasoning, every law that is based on nothing more than the majority's sense of morality and propriety is unconstitutional. Well, that's fine with me. And indeed he goes out of his way to hint that one of the laws that will fall next, under the binding force of the Lawrence decision, is Alabama's silly law against vibrators. Again, fine with me. I love it when Justice Scalia's anger gets the better of him.

I can't wait to explore the rest. Thanks, Neal. [link]

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6.27.03 - I am so totally wearing this on my next trip to Europe.
The American Traveler International Apology Shirt:

As if that wasn't enough, the site is also using its moment in the sun to raise awareness about the horrors of paperless electronic voting machines. Support the troops, y'all. [link]

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6.26.03 - As angry, fundamentalist Jewish Israelis fight with their own army to remain in settlements in the Occupied Territories, it's worth posting a few visuals to help contextualize the West Bank settler debate. What you see circled in red above is an example of a settler "outpost" - similar in concept to the handful recently ordered dismantled by Ariel Sharon. Once the outer edge of a settlement has been extended in this cute little way, it's not long before the "outpost" is surrounded by other buildings, soon followed by fences and electricity. The result? A bigger settlement.

How many times would you, as a Palestinian, have to watch that process before you and your neighbors got fed up? Two? Three? A dozen? Well, the pattern of steady fundamentalist encroachment onto West Bank land has continued for years, regardless of whether the Israeli government was led by Likud (under Begin and Sharon) or Labor (under Barak). It's encouraged by rent subsidies from the Israeli government, as well as money from conservative U.S. Jews and Christian evangelicals. It's unnecessarily provocative, and it's wrong.

What's most amazing is that mainstream Israeli newspapers like Ha'aretz regularly editorialize against the settlers' "acts of Jewish terror," but U.S. newspapers don't - as if fundamentalist Israeli stubbornness is somehow not as bad as the fundamentalist Arab stubbornness at the heart of the problems in the West Bank. Take this editorial from the Raleigh News & Observer; whose fine minds want us to believe that Sharon has been "making good on his promise to follow the Bush administration's 'roadmap to peace' by beginning to dismantle Jewish settlements on the West Bank." Uh, right. It's only small outposts like the one circled in red above that Sharon has agreed to remove, and, according to the Australian newspaper The Age, only 11 of those have been dismantled - 10 of which weren't even inhabited.

In other words, it couldn't be more obvious that there's no serious commitment on Sharon's part to "dismantle Jewish settlements on the West Bank." But somehow, the N&O editorialists found a way to ignore credible reports to the contrary and spin the facts 180 degrees in the opposite direction - without offering a single shred of evidence to back up their opinion..So much for the Raleigh paper's credibility on the Israeli/Palestinian issue.

Meanwhile, fundamentalist rabbis are encouraging settlers to switch strategies and simply set up new, "replacement" settlements for every old one destroyed. Peace Now claims there've been 9 new outposts created since Sharon's government announced its "dismantling" policy. Delightful, eh?

Wait, it gets better. Two peace activist leaders have asked the Israeli Attorney General to order an investigation of 500 fundamentalist rabbis:

The rabbis have published a number of halakhic rulings "that border on incitement," the two charged, citing one in which the rabbis ruled that those who do not prevent implementation of the U.S.-backed road map for peace are commiting a sin, and that the government has no right to give up parts of the Land of Israel.

A ruling from fundamentalist rabbis that support for Bush's "road map" qualifies as a sin? That's serious stuff. In fact, it's hard to distinguish a ruling like that from its Islamic counterpart, the fatwah, especially after you recall what happened the last time a Prime Minister tried to confront Israel's right-wing Jewish extremists:

They assassinated him.

Many mainstream Israelis still believe that fundamentalist rabbis were let off the hook too easily for their complicity in Rabin's murder. I think claims like those are hard to assert without endorsing some kind of limit on free speech, so I'll stick to blaming Yigal Amir, the fundamentalist who pulled the trigger. But there's no denying that Amir is considered a hero by many extremist Jews, which means it's fair to wonder how many of them would endorse future murders as a way to prevent the "sin" of giving up any part of the Occupied Territories.

There isn't an Israeli politician in existence who hasn't thought about that. Too bad the same can't be said for whoever wrote that N&O editorial. [link]

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6.26.03 -

6.26.03 - "Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means...every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best ... But persuading one's fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one's views in absence of democratic majority will is something else."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting from today's far-reaching decision solidifying a Constitutional right to privacy [emphasis added]

Let's all be clear: "Some of my best friends" hilarity aside, Scalia is a bigot (yep, that's the word for someone with non-rational prejudice). He also still believes that a "democratic majority" in the United States thinks government has a right to outlaw oral sex. Uh, yeah, Antonin. For his part, Clarence Thomas (the Newsmax coverage gives both justices plenty of space to rant) still believes there's nothing remotely resembling a right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. Thomas actually disagrees that, as the majority put it, "Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct". What the hell does liberty mean, if not "autonomy of self" in intimate conduct, Clarence?

Both of those jokers - and Rehnquist - were appointed by Republicans. This is a no-brainer of a wedge issue. Democrats should be hammering Republicans with it.

Also, don't miss Justice Kennedy's eye-opening take on the "time-honored" argument against gay rights used in the Court's awful 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision:

Laws against homosexual conduct do not have "roots deep in history," as the court believed, Kennedy said. Some scholars even believe that "the concept of the homosexual as a distinct category of person did not emerge until the late 19th century."

"Laws against sodomy do not seem to have been enforced against consenting adults acting in private," Kennedy said. He insisted that it was not until the 1970s that any state singled out "same-sex relations for criminal prosecution."

So much for the vast weight of tradition. Gay marriage, here we come. [link]

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6.26.03 - New links up at the Monkeytime TV page to various descriptions of the occupation of Iraq. The details should have any fan of democracy furious that 19-year-old American kids are now implementing an increasingly aggressive and undemocratic clampdown on the civilian population of a country that never attacked us.

And centrist Democrats can't figure out a way to use that? Holy crap.

Don't expect the local dailies to help you sort this stuff out; instead, try George Paine at Warblogging and the Daily Kos crew. Paine is particularly good at drawing the big picture, as this biting summary demonstrates. And if you like detail, try this bit at the very end of a recent NYT article:

Around 5:30 p.m. Monday, two men were arguing on the street when one pulled a gun and fired a shot into the air, residents and shopkeepers said. At that moment, a convoy of American Army trucks passed by.

Residents said the soldiers began shooting indiscriminately, killing three people and wounding at least four. As the soldiers continued firing, they blasted out shop and car windows for a three-block stretch on the busy street, witnesses said.

If that's true, what kind of discipline do you think those soldiers should get?

A United States military spokesman in Baghdad said he had no record of the incident but would look into the reports.

Yeah, I'm sure he'll get right back to us. What are we doing to our soldiers? They haven't been trained for this. [link]

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6.26.03 - Anti-censorware activist Bennett Haselton - the man behind the great Peacefire site, which documents idiocies in internet filtering software and the press coverage thereof - emailed some hopeful news. Seems a few librarians have a neat response to the Supreme Court's decision allowing Congress to require censorware in public libraries that get federal money. They're simply shrugging and saying, "Ok. We won't take the money":

In the first article, the library stands to lose $50,000 out of an $84 million budget. The second article doesn't say how big the libraries' budgets are in that story, but it says they only stand to lose $1,000 apiece. And the third article says the library will lose $9,000 out of a $3 million budget. If the federal funds account for only a fraction of 1 percent of a library's total budget, as in these examples, it may be a realistic option for many of them to forgo the funding.

You can hear librarians across the country calculating away. Unfortunately, Tuesday's N&O story about the decision didn't include info about how much Triangle-area libraries stand to lose if they decide not to filter. Shouldn't be hard to find out, right?

A few years back, when I interviewed a then-22-year-old Haselton for a story on internet filtering software, he gave me some great quotes about censorship. They still apply today:

Most of the debate about filtering focuses on how effective it is, how much it costs, that kind of thing. No one is asking the deeper question about the exact nature of the harm that looking at a naked breast does to a kid...

More important, though, is that we need to be training people to see past the aura of credibility that print tends to convey. People brought that with them into the Internet Age -- the idea that if something's in print it must be true. We need to teach kids that it's easy to make a Web page look like a published academic paper, and encourage them to be skeptical about information in general. Teach them basic critical thinking and how to cross-reference and document the information they read online. Schools aren't doing that, and installing software that blocks out controversial sites only makes it worse.

Amen, brother Bennett. Oh, and there's one more thing worth mentioning: A few months back, Haselton posted helpful instructions for turning a computer with DSL or a cable modem into "a miniature Web server that you and your friends can connect to when your Internet access is censored." Whether you're in China, the local high school or your own bedroom. Isn't free speech adorable? [link]

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6.25.03 - So, you're all regularly reading Ted Barlow, right? His site is a real mind-cleanser, and his links point to the best of what I think of as the 2nd- and 3rd-tier blogworld - judged purely on name recognition, not quality, of course.

Which reminds me of a question I have for NC journalist Ed Cone: Congrats on your BloggerCon idea, but surely you've noticed the dishonest debate tactics that regularly show up at Instapundit. So why the continued fawning over him as a leader of the blog world? The sooner his deliberately misleading, logically-challenged style goes by the wayside, the better off smart bloggers of all political stripes will be. You, Josh Marshall, Scott Rosenberg and Glenn Reynolds? Um, one of these things is not like the others, Ed.

Sorry. Little digression there. Back to Barlow, who'll lead you to posts like this one about the consequences for Iraqi children of Bush's use of antiquated cluster bomb technology (scroll to "HEY, WHO CARES ABOUT IRAQI CHILDREN?" if the link doesn't take you to it). The details will curl your hair:

The "dud rate" for cluster grenades can be reduced to less than 1 percent by installing secondary fuses that blow up or neutralize grenades that fail to explode on impact, according to defense contractors. In early 2001, the Pentagon said it would achieve that goal, but not until 2005. In the meantime, the military continues to use a vast arsenal of cluster grenades that fail to meet the new standard.

Former military officials and defense experts say the effort to improve the grenades was given a low priority and little funding.

"The Army is behind, and the Army is moving very slowly," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Davison, now president of the U.S. division of Israel Military Industries, which has made 60 million grenades with secondary fuses. "It's a sorry situation that we didn't have secondary fuses on the artillery submunitions that were fired in the last several wars."

Britain, which joined the United States in the fight to oust Saddam Hussein, fired 2,000 artillery cluster weapons in the war. All were equipped with Israeli-made grenades with secondary fuses and a 2 percent dud rate, the British Defense Ministry said.

You know, there's a word for causing civilian deaths through indifference:

Evil. [link]

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6.25.03 - Well, lookee here; misogynistic Middle East fundamentalism is finally entering the 21st century. The head of a religious council that advises a certain country's Education Ministry has just suggested that it might be time to - gulp - allow women to read God's Sacred Book in public.

What country is it that gives fundamentalists such power? Why, the Middle East's only theocra...I mean, democracy, of course. Remember how the Taliban used to arrest people for missionary activity? Well, it turns out they're not the only ones still around who think years of jail time is the proper punishment for anyone caught converting someone from the One True Way. [link]

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6.25.03 - Thanks very much to all of you who donated yesterday. It's appreciated. [link]

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6.25.03 - Hawks are still insisting with a straight face that Bush & Company invaded to help The Iraqi People, aren't they? Sure they are. Well, here's the Army Times describing the specific "help" U.S. soldiers are increasingly being asked to provide:

For Iraqis living under these security measures, the U.S. occupation has become...increasingly hostile, and the spiraling assaults a just retribution...

As more Americans die of gunshots and grenade blasts, the occupation clamps down harder. Huge sweeps, including the current Operation Desert Scorpion, bring in hundreds of innocent civilians in handcuffs, sometimes dragged from their beds in the middle of the night.

Boosting security means increased pat-downs and raids on homes and businesses, where soldiers bash down doors and force people to the ground with shouts and at gunpoint.

How nice for everyone involved. That sure is some fine assistance we're giving, dragging civilians from their beds in middle-of-the-night sweeps on what appears to be nothing but general suspicion.

“You have to go in there and completely dominate the situation,” Maj. Michael Shrout, operations officer for the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade. “Unfortunately it scares ... them. After it’s resolved, you’ve got to make sure the Iraqis understand why you’re doing it, that it’s for the future of Iraq.”

You mean screaming at them and forcing them to the ground at gunpoint doesn't convince? Why, those damn Iraqis must be savages with no experience of democracy! Imagine not smiling cheerily as Rumsfeld's vision of freedom is forced on them at gunpoint. The ingrates.

With Bushies now talking openly about the years of difficult occupation the left was warning about last winter, is it time yet to remind the hawks that we had better options for removing Saddam? Options that should have been tried before a massive U.S. invasion? Not yet, you say? A few dozen more dead soldiers should do it, you say? Forgive me, I'd rather not wait.

Thoughtful observers may be wondering how this utterly disorganized horror show is playing back home. Not to worry; the Raleigh News & Observer is hot on the case, greeting its readers Monday morning with a front page headline that nicely captured the complexity of the situation:

"You got the bad guys daddy"

I swear I'm not making that up. Let's take it as an acknowledgement of, um, internal debate that the Web version replaces the cutesy nonsense with a slightly more sober hed, although the story still completely avoids any mention of the tough questions now being asked about why U.S. soldiers continue dying over there. Amazing, isn't it? Yet another example of a shallow, TV news-style human interest story knocking important Iraq information off the N&O's front page.

And to think I used to regularly defend the Raleigh daily as a great 2nd- or 3rd-tier outfit. Sigh. [link]

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6.25.03 - Stick a fork in the neoconservative moment and turn it over, suggests Pat Buchanan, because it is done. Pat's recent column is now making the rounds in Pakistan, and while it's obviously self-serving (isolationism and the neocon expansionist dream have never mixed well), it's still worth reading for a biting conservative take on the crew currently creeping through the White House:

...for a movement that is small in number and utterly dependent on its proximity to power, the neocons have made major mistakes. They have insulted too many US allies, boasted too much of their connections and influence, attracted too much attention to themselves, and antagonized too many adversaries. In this snake pit of a city, their over-developed penchant for self-promotion is not necessarily an asset.

By now, all their columnists and house organs—Commentary, National Review, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard—are known. Their front groups—AEI, JINSA—have all been identified and bracketed. Their agents of influence—Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Bolton, Wurmser, Abrams, et alia—have all been outed. Neoconservatives are now seen as separate and apart from the Bush loyalists, with loyalties and an agenda all their own.

The weakness of the neocons is that, politically speaking, they are parasites...they have blundered in isolating themselves from and alienating almost every other once-friendly group on the Right.

Let's hope Pat's on to something. [link]

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6.24.03 - Blogfinds:

Eric Mueller has an excellent explanation for why the Supreme Court set a worrisome precedent yesterday (and trashed its usual commitment to states' rights) in the California insurance company/Holocaust case. I'd heard the relatively superficial NPR story yesterday afternoon and left the car thinking it was a fair decision. It's not.

Via Cursor comes a nice essay by conservative columnist John Leo attacking the idea of carefully managed "free speech zones" for protestors. Leo uses the obnoxious government harassment of Brett Bursey to make the point. Bravo. More from the right like this, please, with feeling.

In case you missed the addition of Making Light to the top of the main page: Teresa's been closely following the bouncing Iraq museum story, keeping her eye steady on the ball the entire time. Her site is just a great read, including the comments. (Now where's that copy of Dante so I can understand exactly how she's poking at Mr. Sullivan...)

The recently returned Digby is going nuts over John Edwards' latest speech, and I have to admit it hits a ton of the right buttons. Edwards really puts it to Bush in a couple of creative ways, blaming his allegedly tax-friendly budget for taxes going up at local and state levels. Smart. But I've seen too many elections to get excited by a speech, and I hope Digby comes back to earth soon. The credit goes to focus grouping, Digby. Edwards is going to have to start standing for some specific left-wing policies - not just pretty words about his hard-scrabble mill-working paw - to make up for his cynical, immoral positioning as an Iraq hawk.

Btw, there's lots more about central North Carolina's textile mill heritage at the Glencoe Research Forum, including some beautiful modern photos, old labels, personal stories and more. And it isn't just Alamance County that has the goods; the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association is even better, with lots of pics and words from the "linthead" area known as Monkey Bottom. It's a dense, amazing collection, carefully documenting the Bull City's heavily textile past. Probably as good a taste you'll find of what life was like for folks like John Edwards' dad. [link]

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6.24.03 - Does group sex, homosexuality, transvestism or general promiscuity make someone a security risk? Not necessarily, says the Department of Defense's surprisingly frank - enlightened, even - adjudicative guidelines on sexual behavior and security concerns:

A common error in thinking about sexuality is to reason that "since I'm normal, most other normal people must think and behave more or less the way I do." Actually, "normal" human sexual behavior is far more diverse than most people realize, and many seemingly unusual behaviors have little or no relationship to security. Normality and abnormality or deviance are not the appropriate criteria for determining the security relevance of sexual behavior. Many unusual sexual fetishes are not "normal," but they are harmless unless carried to an extreme.

This is the Pentagon talking, mind you. And does it talk, offering clinical but thoughtful summaries of research about group sex, the latest on homosexuality and emotional stability and some trés open-minded theories about bisexuality:

There are no clearly defined sexual categories. Exclusive heterosexuality and exclusive homosexuality are polar extremes on a continuum with no sharp distinctions or categories in between.

The guidelines even spend time clarifying which kinds of S/M practice are more likely to lead to security trouble:

From a security viewpoint, sadism and masochism raise several concerns. One is vulnerability to blackmail...Clearly, the senior officer who frequents a sadomasochism club to pick up partners who will chain and whip him, make him crawl and bark like a dog, or swaddle him in diapers presents an attractive blackmail target. On the other hand, the individual who engages in some symbolic sadomasochistic ritual with a willing spouse in private is not a security concern.

Whew. You're safe. Sure is funny how the Defense Department can be so enlightened on one hand but so moronic on the other, eh?

Anyway, that's all prologue. I stumbled onto the fun sexual behavior guidelines while digging around the espionage links at the DOD's Defense Security Service site. These two are worth a few minutes of your boss' time:

Why spies now? Well, the longer I watch the Bush administration in action - particularly the pathetically obvious burying of the 9/11 investigation - the more I find myself wondering just how far Islamists and their supporters have wormed their way into the U.S. government. Come on, it's a fair question; we all know spying is real. We also know that the CIA has been scrambling to recruit new agents and case managers to make up for its documented lack of good field talent (note the fudge in that article about Powell's Feb 5 lies, btw).

And it was this time last year, remember, that translator Sibel Edmonds and manager John Cole went public with their allegations of serious security breaches, incompetence and cover-ups deep inside the FBI.

"No one is going by the rules and regulations" for screening and hiring translators, said Cole. "Investigations are being compromised," wrote Edmonds. "Incorrect or misleading translations are being sent to agents in the field. Translations are being blocked and circumvented." She was fired for raising the alarm, of course, and some of her family members in other countries were threatened with arrest. The FBI, she says, did nothing. Simple careerist ass-covering, as Coleen Rowley suggested? Maybe. But reading over the list of previous espionage cases sure makes me think about the spies who are now active at the CIA, DOD and FBI. You know, the ones we'll find out about when they get arrested in 2008 or so?

Yeah, yeah, I know plenty of folks who say the spy ring goes all the way to the top, where Cheney and Osama are watching porn together and sipping bubbling crude from the sawed-open heads of crying South African babies. Good luck convincing the muddled middle on that one. But if you're looking for a way to convince folks to take another look at the 9/11 investigation, you might make better headway if you start with someone like Sibel Edmonds. Everyone can relate to a good spy story. [link]

*****

6.24.03 - That sound you hear is the shrieking of undead blogger wraiths to whom the sight of a PayPal button burns like the sun. Listen - you can hear the claws scrabbling over concrete as they scurry away.

Hopefully, the rest of you creatures of the night won't begrudge me a teensy bit of curiosity about the oh-so-free market's valuation of this kind of writing. A copy edit/clerical day job at a public university has its moments, yes (particularly when your bosses are involved with interesting ideas), but, you know, I'd rather "freelance blogging" didn't take as long as "shit-for-brains" to get into the OED. Plus, my sainted roommates JB and Lauren have gotten bored with fronting me on the bills until payday. So, knowing full well that it will drive some of you wailing and lamenting back to your underground tombs (right), I'll go ahead and soil our friendship by drooling over your filthy lucre, then drag my gnarled, misshapen bones over to the keyboard to peck out one simple question:

How many of the 250 to 530 of you who visit here every day will pay a buck a week for this stuff?

[Exeunt, crickets chirping.]

[link]

*****

6.23.03 - Raleigh-area blogger Big Arm Woman offers an opinionated tour of local morning radio in the Triangle. I particularly liked her dissection of G105's Bob and Madison:

My rage at the very existence of this show causes me to drive faster, so I get to work on time...Some marketing exec thought, "HEY! I'll put an ignorant fat whiteboy conservative nutjob on the air with a knee-jerk liberal black woman and watch the sparks fly!" Except there are no sparks. It's painfully obvious that "Bob" spends his every waking moment trying really hard to "gin up the controversy" by broaching topics like toejam, fat people, and how Harry Potter is EEEEEVIILLLLLEEE, and all Madison does is occasionally pipe up for A Dinner With Friends. You go, liberal firebrand.

Ga-zing. Talk about nailing something perfectly. Big Arm does make a mistake, though, when she casually dismisses local AM radio. She's missing out on the best morning talk in the area: the Clark Howard show, which airs weekdays from 9am to noon on WPTF 680. From car repairs to credit reports, Howard is one of the most consistently useful fonts of information I've encountered in any medium. Day after day, he offers one of the sharpest, most aggressively pro-consumer perspectives out there - at a time when no-bullshit free market voices are few and far between. (The fact that WPTF dumped the trainwreck Dr. Laura Show and gave Howard her slot is just icing on the cake.)

For what it's worth, I first discovered Big Arm Woman through the regional North State Blogs list, and have enjoyed sorting out her strange politics even if I only sometimes agree. Special note for Big Arm: Disinfo.com is one of the most provocative, educational, and captivating sites around.

I'll be joining North State Blogs shortly, but for now I'll just mention the page's biggest shortcoming. It doesn't mention kudzu once. Appalling. [link]

*****

6.23.03 - Worth noting: DVD rentals exceeded video rentals for the first time ever during the week ending June 15. Even more interesting is this:

...some hit films now enjoy first-weekend disc sales that surpass their box-office openings. Sony Pictures Entertainment's ''Spider-Man,'' for example, rang up more than $190 million in DVD sales on its first weekend, compared with ticket sales of $115 million its first weekend in theaters. [link]

*****

6.23.03 - "Iraq Now: 20 Questions" from the Globe & Mail. I especially like numbers 14 and 20:

14. What's on Iraq TV?
Where once played endless hymns to the glories of Saddam and the Iraqi army, there are now music videos, messages from Mr. Bremer and bad Hollywood movies. But rather than suffering through Lethal Weapon IV and propaganda about how good their lives are getting, Iraqis are installing once-banned satellite dishes everywhere on Baghdad's rooftops and balconies. Al-Jazeera, of course, rules the airwaves.

20. And the weapons of mass destruction?
Brigadier-General Ala Saeed, former head of quality control for the arms program, insisted in a London Times interview last week that Iraq really did get rid of its chemical weapons in 1994. "Why should I lie?" he asked. "We are free now."

Well, for some value of "free," anyway. [via MeFi] [link]

*****

6.22.03 - "Bush May Have Exaggerated, but Did He Lie?" softballs the NY Times today, putting a mainstream liberal spin on Cheney/Bush's concerted effort to mislead the world about the need for an immediate U.S. invasion (and predictably costly occupation) of Iraq.

Did Bush lie? To coin a phrase, it depends on what your definition of "is" is. Sure, it's nearly impossible to prove legally that Bush "lied" about, say, the al-Qaida/Saddam connection. The jerk is on the record denying the existence of a direct link even as his cronies were using every advertising trick in the book to create the impression in the American public's mind that such a link was real. Is there a recorded instance of a clear lie on that one? Probably not. But were Bush & Co. being honest with us about the link? Yeah, tell me another one.

For the stubbornly irrational, Monkey Media Report is happy to (once again) provide a clear case of a direct Bush administration lie during the push to invade Iraq - a case that even many left-wing bloggers seem to have forgotten. To refresh, Colin Powell's February 5 speech before the United Nations included blatant fabrications that cannot be excused by the NYT's softie liberal backpedaling. Here's your tantalizing excerpt:

...Powell's presentation was noteworthy for how much it relied on unidentified sources. The 90-minute talk was laced with references to "numerous intelligence reports," "human sources," "an eyewitness," "according to detainees," "an al-Qaida source tells us," "a senior defector," and so on...In each instance, the audience was dependent on Powell to describe the significance of the images.

Yeah, like the guy who tried to cover up My Lai is a trustworthy source. Here's the payoff, though:

He also played the tapes, in Arabic, of two intercepted conversations, which the State Department translated. Powell referenced the conversations and commented on them.

In the first cited conversation, between two Iraqi military officers discussing how to conceal from U.N. inspectors a certain "modified vehicle," Powell's account of the conversation squared with the State Department's translation. Powell's version of the second conversation, however, departed significantly from it.

"Departed significantly." I love it. Translated from softie liberalspeak, that means, "The jerk lied to us."

This conversation, about possibly forbidden ammunition, was reported by Powell to be between Republican Guard headquarters and an officer in the field. When Powell referred to this conversation, he quoted one of the parties as ostensibly saying, "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."

The State Department's transcript of the actual conversation makes it evident that Powell had embellished the quote to make it appear much more incriminating.

"Embellished the quote." What a hoot. Remember, this is the State Department's own transcript of the tape Powell was describing to the world.

Instead of being a directive to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas and the abandoned areas," as Powell claimed, the transcript shows the message from headquarters was merely "to inspect (emphasis added) the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The damaging admonition that Powell said he quoted, "Make sure there is nothing there" is not in the transcript and appears to be an invention.

"Appears to be an invention." That's like saying it "appears to be an invention" that my aunt grew testicles and became my uncle. In normal English, "Powell lied." To the freaking U.N., in front of the entire freaking world.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, the State Department's press and public affairs offices said I should study Powell's presentation posted on the department's Web site. Instead of clarifying or explaining the discrepancy, the posted material simply confirmed the disparity.

Powell went out of his way to assure the Security Council of his report's integrity: "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions."

Yeah, Colin. Whatever you say. Why don't you just let us translate that tape for ourselves, eh? Apparently, we're all supposed to share the assumption that a fine, upstanding gent like Colin Powell is incapable of a blatant falsehood calculated to help his bosses set up a slew of new American military bases in the Middle East. Yeesh. What kind of idiot would believe that?

Oh, right:

...columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post accepted everything Powell said without a smidgen of skepticism, calling it a "masterful indictment" (James Hoagland) "that would convince any jury" (William Safire). Nor am I aware that any news organization has called attention to the government's evident fabrication.

Where's the blogger outrage over reporting that's "completely lacking in any sort of skepticism" now? I'll send $10 worth of Krispy Kreme donuts to anyone who can point me to a post where anyone in the rightwing blogger amen chorus has addressed this particular point. How many times do you have to hear this stuff before "the Bush administration lied to bring the United States into a war it didn't need" starts to ring true? What other evidence would you have to see? Please, do tell. [link]

*****

6.20.03 - Oop eep. Monkey Media Report now has a theme song. The surreal simian groove of "Apes' Shuffle" comes courtesy of the 365 Days Project, a collaborative site collecting all kinds of sonic gems. There's a production number from a 1963 Xerox corporate musical, Dick Clark's hilariously muddled "Open Letter to the Older Generation" and the oddly soothing 7" single "Religion for Retarded," to name a few. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that last one, whose second half is the hymn "Our table food is not Jesus."

Well, thanks for clearing that up. The links page leads to lots more skewed recordings, if 170 songs (and counting) isn't enough. [found at memepool] [link]

*****

6.20.03 - "Does he think we don't notice?" That was the repeated refrain from independent Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords on June 5, the 2nd anniversary of his decision to leave the GOP:

As he prepared to invade Iraq and win the support of other nations, the President promised the world that the US had a plan in place to rebuild that nation. But it quickly became apparent that there was no plan. While our military guarded the oilfields, we showed no compassion for the Iraqi people as we allowed their national treasures to be looted. All we see now is growing unrest with the US presence in Iraq. Every day we see more lawlessness, more upheaval and more US soldiers being killed. Is it any surprise that a recent Pell Research Center survey of 16,000 people from 20 nations shows a dramatic rise in distrust and skepticism toward the United States?

Does he think we don't notice?

Any chance this guy can run for the Democratic nomination? He's sharper in his opposition to Bush's dishonesty than half of the field we're now stuck with. [link]

*****

6.20.03 - Looks like the AP got it wrong with this headline: "Liberal pariah Ralph Nader flirts with new White House run." Puh-lease. Nader isn't a liberal pariah. He's a Democratic pariah. Let's keep those distinct, shall we? And stop already with this easy lie: "Many of the votes the [Green] party did garner came from disaffected Democrats, whose defection likely gave Bush victory." Puh-lease again. Apparently, we're supposed to believe that Al Gore bears no responsibility for running his own, ridiculously ineffective campaign. Blame Nader! Blame Nader! Whatever.

Still, I find myself laughing at the idea of Nader running as a Republican; I think it's perfect. Let him spend an election cycle or two working folks on the right with his pro-decentralization, pro-alternative energy message. There's plenty of fertile ground there, I'm sure. [link]

*****

6.19.03 - I found something interesting and turned it into a MeFi post. [link]

*****

6.19.03 - Great news for sci-fi fans via Electrolite: The next installment of the amazing online political comic "Spiders" is due out tomorrow. If you haven't seen Patrick Farley's complex, beautifully drawn alternative history of the U.S. attack against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, you're in for a real treat. Imagine that the U.S. dropped one million tiny, spider-like recording devices into the country, which happens to already have its own anti-Taliban resistance movement led by Afghan women. The spiders scamper over the mountains looking for Osama bin Laden, monitored by volunteers in the U.S. who can talk directly to the folks on the ground. What a set-up, eh?

The dense and fascinating story, which takes place in a world just a little more connected than our own, moves things along with the briefest of glimpses into obviously complex characters. That's probably the major reason Farley's near-future scenario rings so true. And his page layouts - wow. They're some of. the most clever and experimental I've seen online, and a dramatic leap ahead of his previous work. Last we were told, the fourth "Spiders" installment was going to be the last. I hope that's not the case. [link]

*****

6.19.03 - Don't forget: Instead of Jazz Anew tonight, there's live, blue-eyed-soulful house music from NYC's Tortured Soul at Retail. This is rare groove indeed for the area, with the mellow, modern 1970s vibe that always seems to get a room smiling. Of the mp3s, I particularly like "Epic" and the so-sweet "Don't Hold Me Down" (I'm hoping it'll have a little more bite live, but I'll leave satisfied either way). Thank Matt from the Soul Power list and the other Matt from the highly useful Triangle Future Music - two of the most community-minded promoters in the area and pals of mine, for full disclosure - for setting this one up. $5 before 10:30pm - how can you beat that? [link]

*****

6.19.03 - Folks who blogged the Orrin Hatch "destroy their computers" story (from which the Senator is backing down already) should enjoy this pointed response from Rep. Rick Boucher at Ed Cone's site. Rather than simply allowing the world to feel his keyboard's righteous wrath, Cone got on the phone to do some (gasp) actual journalism. The co-founder of the Congressional Internet Caucus gives him plenty of juicy quotes:

On Hatch's proposal:

"Such a message would never be reported from committee, and if it made it past a filibuster in the Senate, we’d kill it in the House. The potential for targeting innocent computer users is enormous."

On Apple's new music service:

“It proves that people will pay for permanent, portable downloads. The recording industry should not fool around and waste time, it needs to deploy a Windows version.”

On Congress, which Boucher suggests is slowly figuring out the P2P issue:

“I think it is very important that members of Congress who make judgments on this have a working knowledge of computers and the Internet. Many do, but some members are technology-averse, including some, unfortunately, who are in positions of influence.”

Is that post any less "journalism" because it showed up on a weblog instead of a newspaper? Don't be ridiculous. Ed's careful blogging/reporting on the P2P issue (which annoyed the hell out of RIAA shill Howard Coble) provides a great model for others who want to try blurring the line for themselves. Despite obvious examples to the contrary, it's really not that hard to be opinionated and fair, or to get off your ass and work the phone once in a blue moon. It's looking more and more like Ed's model is the direction in which smart political bloggers will need to go if they're ever going to live up to their own "we're so powerful!" hype. [link]

*****

6.19.03 - Here it is, as promised: The most jaw-droppingly ridiculous cartoon mascot ever. The folks at TotalObscurity call him Mr. Veiny, and while they miss the part where he tells crystal meth injectors to consider stopping, they do a fine job of translating his cheery messages:

Water is important! If you drink lots and lots of water while you shoot your veins full of toxic chemicals, your veins will remain nice and strong, able to deliver as much of the poison to your system as possible. Yay!

Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of the harm reduction approach to drug addiction. I also think the moronic RAVE Act Congress just passed will kill more people than it saves by discouraging club owners from a) having paramedics on call and b) allowing drug education groups to pass out literature. And, in case you missed it, Joe Biden's pet law has already enabled at least one direct attack on the First Amendment; it was recently used to shut down a benefit for pro-legalization groups in Montana. (That sound you hear is the salivating of prosecutors across the country.)

So, puritan moralizers aside, I agree you've got to reach addicts where they are with things like free needle exchanges and detailed, honest information the schools have always been too chicken to provide. It makes perfect public health sense. But come on - a smiling cartoon vein shouting "I feel great! Pump it up!" for crystal meth addicts? Forgive me if that seems a little, uh, tweaked. [link]

*****

6.18.03 - Any straight editors out there who still believe closeted gay Republicans don't count as news should read this fascinating article from Cleveland Scene about the secret gay life of a ruthless longtime Republican county boss. The details offer a revealing glimpse of the outrageous hypocrisy required to live as a closeted right-wing politician. Here's one fave bit:

In the summer of 2001, Curry, who works for the Summit County Board of Elections, spotted Arshinkoff at the Leather Stallion, a gay bar on St. Clair. The Democrat made a point of greeting Arshinkoff "just to freak him out," he says.

Thirty minutes later, Arshinkoff came over and asked him to stay quiet about seeing him there, Curry says. Curry replied that it wasn't his style to out people. "It's just not my belief system," he says.

Arshinkoff seemed relieved. "If there's anything I can do for you, I'd be happy to do it," he said, according to Curry. Joking, Curry seized the gambit. He named two friends, both Democratic judges. "I want to see that the two of them never have any opponents," he said.

"I can do that," Arshinkoff responded.

There you go - the cost of being a closeted fag in the Republican party. The most awful thing about this story, of course, is that lots of folks knew Arshinkoff was gay but avoided publicizing it. It's called "enabling," y'all, and it's wrong. I understand it's a delicate issue, but as the case of Florida Republican Mark Foley proves (yes, that's a must-read), there comes a time when "dancing around the truth is just getting too weird to abide."

Is there any other issue on which journalists are so willing to violate the basic principles of their profession? On what journalistic grounds can you justify a situation where everyone in the state legislature and the local press - but no one in the general public - knows that a given right-wing politician is gay? Answer: None. The Republican Party platform "energetically" endorses the Defense of Marriage Act while denying what it calls "special legal protection" to lesbians and gays (free clue, Republicans: we just want the same legal protection straight folks already have). Given that, and the current push for civil unions/gay marriage, how on earth can any honest editor justify not asking a local gay Republican how they feel about gay and lesbian issues?

The very existence of a gay Republican politician is newsworthy. Avoiding asking tough questions of gay elected officials who prefer to live in the closet is a betrayal of everything journalism is supposed to be about. End of story. [link]

******

6.18.03 - The Museum of Anti-Alcohol Posters from Russia's 1980s anti-alcohol campaign. [via MeFi] [link]

*****

6.17.03 - Hallelujah. "Shit-for-brains" is now officially in the dictionary. And not a moment too soon - something tells me we're going to need that one a lot over the next few years. In case that's not enough of a reason to knock a drink or two back for James Murray sometime this week, the fine scholars at the Oxford English Dictionary also approved both "bazillion" and "gazillion," two of English's best words to say out loud. Feel free to use them frequently, as in, "George Bush's attempt to raise a gazillion dollars before the next election is a sure sign of last-ditch desperation amidst the public unraveling of all of his lies."

Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Anyway, the fact that the OED has expanded to include blunt (as a noun), argileh, grindcore, gaydar, crystal meth and both skank and skanky - as well as new, up-to-date listings for [cough] "basket," "package" and "hump" - is surely cause for some sort of celebration.

On the down side, I'm not sure why it's taken so long for some of the new additions to make the cut. A phrase like democratic socialism [pdf] is hardly 21st Century teenage slang. Neither is conflict of interest, community college, gay pride, low riding (around since the 1930s), hunter-gatherer or - good lord - technical support. Where have these people been? What criteria are they using? American Heritage had roach motel back in 2000. And what's up with only now including a medieval classic like "beyond the pale"? Did someone at OED drop that one behind a desk in 1892 or something?

I know I'm being silly, but indulge me on this one, if you don't mind. As a longtime word freak, I still remember the moment I first understood the idea of cognates in different languages. For some reason, it made me physically happy to think of an invisible network of connections between English, Spanish and French. Laugh if you must. Two years later, I felt a similar rush as the Germanic roots of my native tongue unfolded in front of my eyes. I still get a kick out of the fact that "handwriting" and "manuscript" are essentially the same word in two different languages, masquerading as some strange thing called English.

I loved it, and kept the interest alive as a high school teacher, once using tree branches and index cards to teach an elective on Greek and Latin roots. I pitched it as a sure-fire SAT-booster, but it was also just a helluva lot of fun. Once the kids got the hang of thinking of "astronaut" as "star-sailor," they were off. Hell, I could have built the whole trimester around phobias alone.

Ok, I'll stop now. Next on the agenda is what I promise is the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous cartoon mascot you've ever seen. No, seriously. Ever.

Ok, one teeny bit more: Getting ready for bed, I remembered this "brilliant and effective" book has been by my pillow for the last two weeks. Who knew "sardonic" was a toponym? According to dictionary.com, its bitter meaning might come from a plant on Sardinia "which was said to screw up the face of the eater." I hope it's true. [Thanks to bendy over at alt.music.chapel-hill for the OED pointer] [link]

*****

6.17.03 - Two of NC's best bloggers - Eric Mueller at Is That Legal? and Monkeytime fave Ed Cone - have both pointed to articles in central NC newspapers that demonstrate exactly how angry many people in the Southeast are at the Bush administration's failure to live up to its commitments to the textile industry:

"...it is very easy to see that the problem is in Washington," said Jim Chesnutt, CEO of National Spinning Co. in Washington, N.C...

In a release issued Wednesday, the association groups reminded President Bush of comments he maded Dec. 6, 2001: "In short, I intend to ensure that the interests of our textile industry and workers are at the heart of our trade negotiations." Textile executives said Wednesday they expect the president to live up to his pledge.

"Ultimately, it comes back to President Bush," Moore said. "And quite frankly, his words and deeds haven't meshed so far."

Yeah, well, he got his fast track authorization out of you; there's nothing else the textile industry can do for him. Have a nice day. Is there any doubt that a smart global trade position could cut across party lines and play extremely well in the Southeast? So why isn't anyone really hammering this issue? [link]

*****

6.17.03 - I know, it's not funny that SARS has hit UNC Hospitals just up the road in Chapel Hill. It's also a bit strange that James Reed, the person who died of "heart failure and pneumonia" at the height of the Triangle's recent scare, has tested negative for SARS, even though he worked for three days in the same building as the person who brought the virus here from Toronto. Now there's an interesting coincidence, eh?

Nevertheless, it's time for some art. And via Matt Haughey's always-fine weblog, a few gripping reports from just one of the many informative sites linked at SARSWatch. Hours of fascinating reading material you won't find in the local paper, and plenty of links to great photos related to the virus. [link]

*****

6.16.03 - Two long posts about John Edwards tonight.

First, in a thoughtful column in the Greensboro News & Record, blogger Ed Cone wonders why John Edwards isn't playing to his strength as a populist lawyer on the campaign trail (he also pokes at Edwards' stale Web site, comparing it to Howard Dean's attempt to work the online grassroots). Interestingly, Cone suggests free trade as a subject Edwards could be working to his advantage:

If Edwards can cast himself as a sophisticated economic populist, someone who understands the good things that corporations do as well as the bad ones, maybe his campaign can get some traction. People have complicated feelings about global capitalism, recognizing it as a great engine of wealth creation that often grinds up individuals, industries and whole regions for fuel. There's not much call these days to dismantle the system, but there is a sense that things are too one-sided and that regular people have lost control of their own destinies.

Ah, to dream. It's a nice thought, Ed, but you're overlooking one vital point: Edwards' campaign is being run right out of the "New Democrat" playbook written by the fine conservatives at the Democratic Leadership Council. They've made it quite clear there will be no questioning of free trade, fast track or the ridiculously secretive and undemocratic way decisions are made at the WTO. Why, goshdarnit, raising populist concerns about the speed of the particular strain of globalization now being shoved down our throats is just the kind of "interest-group politics" that causes Democrats to lose elections!

They're cute when they splutter, aren't they? (Be sure to check the final paragraph in that last link.) It gets even better when the DLC goes into full demonization mode. Rather than address issues of basic democracy in trade negotiations, "New Dems" take the hilarious tack of slamming globalization skeptics as people who stand for the "renunciation of wealth and ambition." Sure, that's what the critics of Doha were doing - renouncing wealth and ambition. Whatever you say, DLC.

We've been over all of this before, of course. The real issue here is that the business-first "New Dems" have hijacked the Democratic Party away from ordinary citizens - citizens that John Edwards once had a reputation for protecting. Demanding that global trade agreements include a serious commitment to both U.S. workers and the environment is a huge no-no for money-hungry New Dems.

These are the folks John Edwards is hanging out with as he makes his longshot run for the White House (and hurts NC Democrats' chances of holding onto his Senate seat in the process). Ed Cone is right in wondering why Dems aren't articulating globalization issues more often. But he's wasting breath if he thinks there's a chance in hell John Edwards is going to be the man to lead that particular charge. [link]

*****

6.16.03 - Second Edwards post tonight: Highly regarded political blogger Markos Zúniga, aka Daily Kos, is in the middle of an interesting (if early) series about the six top Democratic presidential candidates, including a not particularly hopeful take on Mr. Edwards. Zúniga claims our senior Senator must place fourth in both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries (ahead of Lieberman and Graham but trailing Kerry, Dean and Gephardt) in order to reach the all-important "Southern" round on Feb. 3, 2004. Even then, Zúniga says, Edwards must kick ass in at least three of the following primaries: South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and Arizona.

Predicting's a silly game (especially given the absurd ease with which voters switch allegiance during primaries), but the above scenario seems unlikely, to say the least. My Magic 8-ball is warning me to expect an early Edwards withdrawal after the "NASCAR Democrat" hype comes crashing to the ground in mid-February. When I ask the 8-ball if Edwards' presidential ambitions will end up handing a Senate seat to the slavering Republicans just outside the light of the campfire, it tells me to "Ask again later." I'm not taking that as a good sign.

You know, at this point only two things about Edwards' bizarre presidential run make sense:

1) Edwards is positioning himself for vice-president as much as anything. Assuming he actually wins a Southern primary or two, his money, his youth, his accent and his position as an Iraq war apologist will make him a formidable choice for that secondary slot.

2) The guy must not like being in the Senate very much. [link]

*****

6.16.03 - I laughed out loud when I saw the News & Observer's Sunday "Q" section yesterday. "Where are the weapons?" asked the ridiculously mealy-mouthed lead article. "Knowing all not possible" opined the second. It briefly noted the possibility that "information was intentionally manipulated to support certain conclusions" while spending paragraph after paragraph offering excuses for the "imperfection" of the heavily manipulated Cheney/Bush "intelligence" used to justify bombing a country that had never attacked us. As if that wasn't enough, we also got a balancing opinion from a Duke University professor that began, "A failure to find weapons of mass destruction does not prove the war on Iraq was based on a lie."

What a crock of shit. If Orage Quarles and Melanie Sill are looking for reasons their paper's market penetration is shrinking in Wake County, they should look no farther than this kind of soft-pedaled pablum. The fact that the N&O can't bring itself to address, for just one example, the blatant lies Colin Powell told before the UN in February - lies that Quarles & Co. passed along as true in editorials they have yet to correct - is all you need to know to understand why so many of us have written the Raleigh paper off on national and international issues. I publicly challenge anyone at the N&O to explain Powell's description of this translated conversation as anything other than a deliberate lie:

The State Department's transcript of the actual conversation makes it evident that Powell had embellished the quote to make it appear much more incriminating. Instead of being a directive to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas and the abandoned areas," as Powell claimed, the transcript shows the message from headquarters was merely "to inspect (emphasis added) the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The damaging admonition that Powell said he quoted, "Make sure there is nothing there" is not in the transcript and appears to be an invention.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, the State Department's press and public affairs offices said I should study Powell's presentation posted on the department's Web site. Instead of clarifying or explaining the discrepancy, the posted material simply confirmed the disparity.

I've got $25 that says Quarles and Sill can't do it. And yet, here's their paper, four months later, still dancing around the issue of the Bush administration's outright fabrications on the road to war. That's war, mind you. Not budget nonsense or redistricting shenanigans, but war. With cluster bombs and innocent civilians dying. And the N&O - that famous defender of the weak against powerful monied interests - is still unable to call a spade a spade. Can you say "irrelevant" to today's news consumers? I knew you could.

McClatchy, are you listening? Your Raleigh daily is rapidly losing whatever semblance of respect it once had in this area. Why should we bother with tentative half-steps that do a disservice to the truth when we can easily find sharper, more intelligent analysis at the click of a mouse? Answer: We shouldn't

It's all downhill from here, McClatchy. Better get used to the ride. [link]

*****

6.15.03 - After last month's evil, carefully orchestrated display aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln - in which a jerk who went AWOL from his cushy National Guard assignment during the Vietnam War was presented as someone with a heroic fighter pilot past while the media obediently looked the other way - I don't want to hear a word about the glee many of us are taking in this hilarious bit of proof that our Fearless Liar (who apparently can't tell if a Segway is turned on before attempting to ride it) just happens to be all-too-human:

Ha. We can play the easy visual game, too, Mr. Rove. By the way, be sure to check awolbush.com's comparison of the military records of now-prominent Democrats and Republicans. Not totally fair, I know, but still an eye-opener. [link]

*****

6.13.03 - Just got back from the Jazz Anew weekly at Bickett Gallery, where the vibe in the room was intimate and friendly, as usual. Sitting on one of the couches, I had a conversation with a friend about meditation, sex and yoga that reminded me why I've always been drawn to Buddhism, even if I never follow through with it for any length of time. (Maybe next time around I'll take existence a bit more seriously.)

Anyway, there's a Bikram Hot Yoga place in town which I've been meaning to check out, and this friend's recommendation did the trick. I'll let you know if I see any benefits aside from 100-megaton atomic testicles. Meanwhile, here's this:

  • Tibetan Buddhism in the West: Is It Working? - fascinating Tricycle interview with a longtime Western Buddhist scholar about commercialism, contemplation, and the often-difficult interaction between touring lamas and American consumers:

The upshot is that a number of lamas generally regard
Westerners—with many fine exceptions—as being impatient,
superficial, and fickle. And in Tibetan society, fickleness is
considered to be one of the worst of vices, while reliability,
integrity, trustworthiness, and perseverance are held in high
regard. So a few of the finest lamas are now refusing even to
come to the West, because they figure they could be spending
their time either teaching Tibetans in Asia, or they could simply
go into retreat and meditate. Some are feeling—given the brevity
and preciousness of human life—that devoting time to people
with such fickleness and so little faith is time not very well spent.

Oh, and be sure to keep next Thursday open. Jazz Anew is moving to Retail that night to host a special live show of ultra-sweet and soulful house by NYC's electronic trio Tortured Soul. Just think of it as good ol' fashioned Western yoga. [link]

*****

6.12.03 - Had a fun chat on Monkeytime TV last night with Margaret Mullen and Greg Hatem, two of the driving forces behind the latest bloom of hope for the future of downtown Raleigh. Mullen is the new president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, where she arrived after working wonders in Phoenix. I figure anyone who helped turn an empty, shapeless city core into the country's "most sought-after example" of a downtown renaissance is worth a listen.

Greg Hatem is a developer who bought up lots of property in the warehouse district about 7-8 years ago (just before prices skyrocketed, I'm told). His company, Empire Properties, focuses more than most on things like preserving historic character. Hatem also seems to appreciate the role that art and history play in creating a thriving downtown. Two years ago, he donated the use of an empty warehouse so that Raleigh's orphaned Contemporary Art Museum could host the amazing Memories of Nature, one of the best gallery shows I've seen around here. And when a caller asked what the guests thought of downtown Asheville's historic urban trail (designed by volunteers and built with donations, by the way), a visibly enthusiastic Hatem said one of the things Raleigh most needed to do was cultivate its heritage in similar ways.

They were fascinating guests; the calls came nearly non-stop. It's obvious that a lot of people in Raleigh are ready for something interesting to happen downtown. Hell, most of Mullen's suggestions were common sense enhancements that should have been made long ago - large green banners hanging along the street to direct folks to public parking, for instance. Opening the private parking lots that close at 5pm. Stopping predatory towing. Water gardens. Public art. It's an embarrassment, really, that Raleigh has yet to implement this stuff. Mullen said the city is about 15 years behind everyone else, which makes me (perhaps unfairly) think of former mayor Tom Fetzer and what I recall as his near-total lack of vision for downtown, and total lack of willingness to commit any money for public culture. Whatever happened to that ol' drag-queen attacker, anyway?.

Ah, who cares; it's his loss. Lots of folks in Raleigh now want to see a unique, communal downtown life, but that's only going to happen if different kinds of people toss their ideas into the mix and convince the more stodgy property owners to expand their limited notions of what downtown can be. The opportunity's clearly right here in front of us. Why shouldn't you have as much of a say in this as someone whose conception of "vibrant downtown culture" is yet another sports bar?

I guess we'll see if the current excitement translates into more downtown landlords willing to host experimental art shows. I'm hopeful, but not holding my breath. [link]

*****

6.11.03 - Great information and visuals at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. The thoroughness of the site's documentation of the racist past - from Daddy Rice to Jar Jar Binks - can be stunning. [via the archive at sharpeworld] [link]

*****

6.11.03 - In this week's Indy, Bob Geary explains what's most absurd about the Meg Scott Phipps scandal:

[T]he saddest thing about Phipps is how stupidly she ran her campaign, because if she'd done things the old-fashioned way, they would've smelled just as bad but would have been legal...one idiot connected to Amusements of America, the company she picked, was giving big wads of cash and writing checks over the "legal" $4,000 limit to intermediaries, instead of doing what Strates had always done--get the concession operators to kick in and pay them back later with smaller fees on their "joints."

That's a fun little allegation. This kind of thing goes on all the time, perfected by years of practice and kept at a slightly lower pitch so it doesn't draw so much attention. Yeah, that sounds about right. Here's the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, Barbara Allen, in the N&O last Sunday:

"I don't think you can single out one party for political corruption. We've got plenty in both parties, I'm sure."

Plenty? Is that so? Well, Barbara, you'd be in a position to know. Any chance you could, er, do something about it? [link]

*****

6.10.03 - Toronto began issuing gay marriage licenses yesterday. Ontario's highest court joined the courts of British Columbia and Quebec by declaring that a heteros-only definition of marriage is a violation of the Constitution. You can imagine the shrieking in right-wing religious circles as it slowly dawns on them that Canada is leaving anti-gay discrimination behind:

All three contenders for the leadership of the governing Liberals plus the leaders of three of the four opposition parties in Canada's parliament Tuesday expressed their unequivocal support for providing equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the free, it's hard to find a Democrat willing to stand up for a radical concept like full social and legal equality:

"It is disheartening that in 2003 six of the nine Democratic candidates - including all of the front-runners - do not support full equality for our families," said Sean Cahill, Director of the Task Force Policy Institute and an author of the report. "Arguing that anything less than the freedom to marry is acceptable is arguing that GLBT people should be content with less than full equality under the law."

I doubt most straight voters know that John Edwards' position on civil unions - let the states handle them - leaves same-sex partners ineligible for Social Security and other federal benefits. (So much for equality, eh, John?) Even the current Straight Gay Savior can't bring himself to say "gay marriage" in public:

Dean, however, does not support gay marriage, as he believes the concept of marriage is a religious issue. As he recently told the Advocate magazine, "the issue for me is not marriage but equal rights under the law. If the Catholic Church doesn't want to marry gay people, I think that's the Catholic Church's right."

I must have missed the day where supporting "gay marriage" became equivalent to forcing the Catholic Church to perform one. Dean's attempt to spin "marriage" as a purely religious word is, frankly, pathetic. Does he seriously expect lesbian and gay folks to believe words like "spouse" and "unmarried" have no civil significance? Please. They're enshrined in all sorts of laws that have nothing to do with religion; he knows that. And screw all of this "civil union," "domestic partnership" and (love this one) "adult interdependent relationships" garbage; that was yesterday. Here's today:

"Only full marriage with all of its tangible and intangible benefits, its social resonance and its personal significance will stand up to the fair and reasonable measure of equality that we as Canadians have as our core belief."

Hey, isn't equality a core belief here, too? So why is the entire Democratic presidential field buying the conservative consultant line about the supposed third rail of "gay marriage"? And why are so many fags and dykes settling for this insulting "We'll give you your civil rights later" nonsense without a fight? Because Gephardt has a lesbian daughter? Because Edwards lets his kids play with the twins over at Elizabeth Birch and Hilary Rosen's place?

Is either of those supposed to mean anything to me? Look, it's simple: My right to equal protection under the law is not negotiable. Edwards, Gephardt, Dean and all the rest know this, but they insult us anyway by refusing to say it out loud. Screw 'em. There's no way I'll support a candidate who can't even be bothered to try telling Americans that gay marriage is a basic right demanded by the U.S. Constitution. [link]

*****

Archive:

First half of June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

2nd half of February 2003

January and first half of February 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

September 2002