Tuesday, December 30, 2003

December 30, 2003, the day they appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Valerie Plame leak. John Ashcroft finally buckled under presure and recused himself from the investigation of the White House. It was rather difficult to accept that he could impartially and vigorously go after a group including the guy who gave him his job and the guy he hired to run his Senate campaign. Well, the ball's rolling now. Watergate started as the investigation of a minor break-in, and we all remember where the Whitewater investigations led. Once one of these guys gets rolling, he's going to find whatever there is to find; inquiring minds want to know exactly what that is.
I think this one takes the cake. The FBI has alerted cops around the country to watch out for people carrying... almanacs. Yes, almanacs. The FBI points out that while possession of an almanac may be "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities," it also "may point to possible terrorist planning."

OK, no, we're not getting a little paranoid here or anything. This is totally normal! We want our police to pull us over for carrying bloody almanacs. How can we be safe if we don't all panic about EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. Please, protect me Big Brother! War is peace! Freedom is slavery! SHOE PRODUCTION IS UP!


Sunday, December 28, 2003

Now that's just dumb. While Howard Dean's been attacking the Bush administration for holding secret meetings with power company executives to formulate the nation's energy policy, it turns out that while he was Governor of Vermont, Dean, uh, held secret meetings with power company executives to formulate the state's energy policy. Now there are differences between the two situations, but he still looks like a moron accusing Bush of doing exactly what he's doing. Release the docs, Howie. Set an example.

Dean has also been getting a lot of flak lately for his insistence that Osama bin Laden should have a trial before we decide what we do with him. The quote goes as follows:

"I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found. I have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

Some have interpreted this as proof Dean is soft on terror. In fact, it's a thought I first had when President Bush declared that Osama should be executed. I thought, "since when do presidents get to play judge, jury, and executioner? I thought that's what we had the judges and juries for in the first place." Everyone, from suspected shoplifters whose convictions hang on a single officer's word to suspected mass murderers with a mountain of evidence supporting the allegations, gets a fair trial. I have faith that the judicial system will see him convicted and dealt with in a manner befitting his crimes. If Mr. Bush no longer trusts the courts to do justice, he must see our Constitution, the one he vowed to uphold, as unsuited to his vision of the future. If he no longer beleives in it, should he not resign his post to someone who does?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Hannity's new book: "Deliver Us from Evil : Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism". What an ass.
I've been participating in Moveon's Bush in 30 Seconds project. 1200 people sent in 30 second anti-Bush ad spots, and now they're asking everyone else (yes, I'm part of everyone else) to watch and rate them. The top 15 rated will be sent to their celebrity panel to pick one to actually air. After you rate a given ad (the server will give you a max of 20 per day), it tells you what the spot's average score has been. So far, I'm a little worried. Almost everything has averaged between 3 and 3.5 (out of 5), with a few truly horrendous ones between 3 and 2.5. It seems to me there are two possibilities here. One, a lot of people are giving these ads the benefit of the doubt, either because they hate Bush and like anything anyone says against him or because they don't want to hurt the producers' feelings. These motivations, of course, defeat the whole purpose of the thing, which is to pick one ad which is better than the others. To do that, you've got to be willing to say A is good, and B is just bad. The second possibility is that people are in fact being brutally honest in their assessments; those assessments just happen to be so scattered as to make distinction impossible. You can't argue with that, of course, but it's worrisome nonetheless. Some of these ads just aren't very good - I've grown up around at least one successful advertiser and have done a bit myself, so I've seen good ads - and they're getting the same, sometimes better, ratings than some things that are really quite excellent.

A certain style of I've been consistently panning has been doing remarkably well in the overall polls. Some might call them Red Meat; to me, they just sound like preaching to the choir. They're all full of heated accusations and rhetoric, mostly about the war and tax cuts and how the American people are going to rise up against these injustices. The problem is, uh, at least half the people watching these ads - the ones we're trying to sell to - don't think those were injustices, and the ads do nothing to persuade them. If anything, these spots will just solidify their visions of the loony left. Conversely, other spots which struck me as ingenious have faired rather poorly. One, also a favorite of my advertiser friend, features an earnest, hard-working looking American man sitting on his front porch, worrying over the state of the economy and his job security, but smiling when he remembers that George W. Bush is in Washington, working hard to set things right. As he speaks, subtitles point out some facts that might rather change his opinion of the president; the fact that the far from saving the ailing economy, the Bush's supply-side economics are hastening its collapse, and that far from "working hard", Mr. Bush has taken more vacation time than any president in history. Another one features dozens of quotes from respected conservative politicians and organizations blasting the policies of the Bush administration, ending with a shot of an abandoned and disarrayed GOP event. See, these ads speak to who we want. They speak to the guy on the street who knows what's going on but hasn't had the time to dig real deep into any of it, the guy who thinks that George W. Bush is a Joe Everyman who's got the same interests as you and me. He's not, and that's what we've got to say. Calling him evil is going to get you nowhere; calling him a liar will do no good as long as he can keep up his "straight-shootin' Texan" facade. People can accept an honest guy who lies sometimes for the greater good. What they can't accept is a flat out fraud. Fortunately for his opponents, that's exactly what President Bush is. Now we've just gotta figure out how to prove it to everyone else.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Good point on the Democratic party's DLC/Deaniac rift in an Arizona Republic editorial: "The Democratic Party hasn't split; rather, the sleeping half of it is finally awake". It's hard to have divisions when only the people on one side are talking. Maybe the vast differences between the candidates are actually a sign of healthy changes to an ineffective orthodoxy. It'd be a lot more healthy, though, if they'd stop directing so much of their fire at each other.
Maybe it's just me, but I can't figure out why Russia would bother rolling out new stationary nuclear missiles - or new nuclear weapons of any kind. What are they for? The US isn't going to invade them. China maybe? According to the article, the Russians are also drawing up specifications for a new line of strategic bombers (big, nuclear capable beasts like the B-52) to enter service in 2014. Again, of all the things to add to your military, why nuclear first strike weapons? Not only do they already have thousands of missiles and bombers already deployed (and rusting away without proper funding for maintanance), they things are utterly useless for the fighting they've been doing in Chechnya, etc. You can't fight with nuclear weapons, all you can do is indiscriminately destroy. What are they thinking? They don't have the money for this kind of thing. They don't have the money for any kind of thing. Is this sheer pig-headed Cold War-based bloody-mindedness? Or is there something else going on? Either way, more nukes at large is the last thing anyone needs.

I'm really starting to worry about Putin. He runs a distressingly authoritarian ship, what with imprisoning and exiling his political opponents, cracking down on Chechen separatists, taking over the Russian media, and all the rest. When he's called on discrepancies in the vote, he points (irony alert) to Florida 2000 and says "if they can do it there, I can do it here". There are rumors of renationalizing major industries. This sort of increased militarization only adds to my fears. Well, Russia is a faraway place, dealing with crime and corruption problems I can't comprehend. I can't pretend to knows what's best for them. I only know what I see... but what I see, I don't like. Any detractor of the government may well be a criminal, but the Kremlin's line seems to be that all of them are. A little to convenient for my tastes.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Not long ago, a guy name William Krar was arrested in Texas with "a fully functional sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing hundreds, as well as neo-Nazi and antigovernment literature, illegal weapons, half a million rounds of ammunition, and more than 100 explosives, including bombs disguised as suitcases." Well hey, now we know where the Weapons of Mass Destruction went! So where's Ashcroft, Bush, et al on this one? They don't seem to really care. As Atrios puts it (well, actually it's his bud Thumb for this particular post), "Remember folks, sodium cyanide bombs, illegal weapons, half a million rounds of ammunition, and more than 100 explosives, including bombs disguised as suitcases don't threaten American security, terrorists do. And they're not terrorists if they're Americans with real American names like William, Judith or Edward. But it would be a very different story if their names were Mohammad. Or Jose." I fail to see another plausible explanation, although I'm waiting to hear it. It would be quite disturbing to think our that when Our Leaders say the "War on Terror" isn't a "War on Islam", what they really mean is it's a "War on Islamic Terrorism *wink wink nudge nudge say no more*"

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

So, we got Saddam. My first response was "Holy #&%!" (direct quote). I really didn't think it was gonna happen. But it did, and it's a damn fine thing, too. That rat bastard had it coming. My greatest congratulations to the troops for reeling in this lousy excuse for a human, and I hope he enjoys all the hospitality of the Iraqi justice system. This is probably our first chance to really get the new Iraq moving. On top of that, if he does have NBC weapons stashed somewhere, now we're going to find out about it (if the CIA can't get it out of him, I have a feeling certain Iraqi, uh, "experts" will.) Unfortunately, I can't go as far as some pundits do in my expectations for how this will affect anything. I don't think capturing Saddam makes the US any safer, because I don't think Saddam posed a threat in the first place. I don't think it's really going to cut down on attacks on US troops in Iraq (and so far, it hasn't), because I find it highly unlikely that Saddam was doing much orchestrating from his spider-hole. And I don't think this means "mission accomplished", because we're still $150 Billion in the hole and all we have to show for it is a brutal despotism overthrown into violent anarchy. Someone's going to have to explain to me how that works out to a positive cost-benefit ratio.
The US Government has decided to build a new Pan-Arab satellite television network to compete with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, bringing the good world of US benevolence to the ignorant masses of the Muslim world. The slogan of the new network? "Fair and Balanced". Holy crap, I couldn't make this stuff up. Now someone want to tell me that FOX News isn't a frickin' tool of the government?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Correction to my last post. Mainly, that it was completely wrong. As a faithful reader (and proprietor of the excellent InternetBumperStickers.com) pointed out, 60 Minutes is easily the most watched news show on television; in fact, according to the most recent Neilsen ratings, it's the 7th most watched show period. The Simpsons, meanwhile, which I thought was tearing things up, doesn't even make the Top 20. Just a function of spending so much time around college students, I guess - my impression was that 60 Minutes was so unpopular, and The Simpsons so prominent, that I just assumed the latter was obliterating the former and didn't check the actual numbers, which should have been a no-brainer. My bad. I still stand by my statement that I wish the two shows didn't conflict, however. I had to miss the Lawrence Taylor interview yesterday!

Anyway, there was a great quote in the part of the show I did see. When asked the cliché question about whether one person can make a difference, the old black woman who was the subject/heroine of the segment responded "Even huge, heavy doors turn on little tiny hinges. Some people say, 'I can't be that big.' That's OK. Maybe you can't be a door, but you can be a hinge."