May 31, 2004

Who's the nabob of negativity now?

How 'bout them negative ads? Do they work? Depressingly, yes.

"Politics is about putting your best foot forward and putting the other person in the worst light," Mr. Goldstein said. "Do we expect someone who's advertising to say, `You know, I really don't want to put this person's record in the worst light because that's not fair'?"
That's an interview with one of the people behind Annenberg's FactCheck has an e-mail subscription service, by the way; if you're not on it, you're in danger of being misled by phony claims from both sides (maybe even three sides, if Nader gets enough money to advertise!).

Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei have a remarkable study of the advertising done by the Kerry and Bush campaigns in Saturday's Post.

They itemize a whole slew of recent ads by the Bushies against Kerry, and then say this:

The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.


Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.

The assault on Kerry is multi-tiered: It involves television ads, news releases, Web sites and e-mail, and statements by Bush spokesmen and surrogates -- all coordinated to drive home the message that Kerry has equivocated and "flip-flopped" on Iraq, support for the military, taxes, education and other matters.


But Bush has outdone Kerry in the number of untruths, in part because Bush has leveled so many specific charges (and Kerry has such a lengthy voting record), but also because Kerry has learned from the troubles caused by Al Gore's misstatements in 2000. "The balance of misleading claims tips to Bush," Jamieson said, "in part because the Kerry team has been more careful."

Milbank and VandeHei have been meticulous, and they conclude that the Bush campaign is by far the most egregious offender of the two in the "lies, deceptions, and misstatements" sweepstakes. They also find some corroboration for my thought that President Bush can't run on his record because it's universally awful.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2004

Whither the music biz?

How the heck did I miss Frontline the other night? I knew the subject was gonna be the music business, and I still missed it! Fool! Oh, well, it's available online. (Note to self: broadband is becoming a necessity; take advantage of special offer from Verizon.) Here's a lovely quote from David Crosby, talking about the way the business is run nowadays:

But they're making little cardboard cutouts. They hire a producer, they hire writers, and the people that they put out in these little boy bands. And in the current stuff now, they don't even bother getting people to play. Don't bother with that guitar player, bass player, drummer -- nonsense. That's all nonsense to them. Got to look cute, have a flat tummy, and be controllable. And then they put you in these little cardboard cutout bands.

The people in those bands can't write, play, or sing. They make them sound good with pro-tools, because if they sing out of tune, they can just say, "Oh, punch a button. Put it in tune." Which is very frustrating to people like me, who spent, you know, 30, 40 years learning how to sing in tune in the first place. It is partly their own, you know, greed and, and lack of taste, but it's also partly a condition that's endemic in the country.

He has lots more to say, of course; when did you ever know David Crosby to not have an opinion? There are opposing views presented, naturally, but...well, see for yourself.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:47 PM | Comments (3)

Twain on War

Twain's War Prayer is quite something. I found it over in the comments at N's place. There's no good pull quote; you'll have to read the entire thing to get the full meaning, but here's the short version: "Great. You ask Me to bless your work as your shells rip the enemy to shreds, leave his youth dead in the fields, and leave his citizens wounded, in pain and homeless."

I've never read that bit of Twain before. The next time you hear a politician espouse the idea that God is on our side, think of that prayer.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2004

Memorial Dedication


Photo credit: Rick Latoff / American Battle Monuments Commission

Here's a guide to the celebrations for the opening of the World War 2 Memorial this weekend. My Dad and Uncle are listed in the registry, and we contributed to the construction fund.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2004

Science Friday

Here are some oddities from the world of science reported this week: your doctor's ties may be bacteria vectors. One more reason to see a doctor only if he or she wears aloha attire. Then there's this item: the hippopotamus, it's learned, has developed its own method of blocking UV rays; it's called sweat. And for years we've been told that red wine may be good for you; now we may know why.

Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in a number of plants, including grape skins, raspberries, mulberries and peanuts. Its job in nature is to fight fungus during the rainy season, and it is especially prevalent in grapes used in making red wine.
The good life, huh? Sip red wine and eat peanuts from the shell. Since Yankee Stadium has just dumped Cracker Jack in favor of Crunch N' Munch, will Anheuser Busch be replaced with Christian Brothers soon?

Resveratrol is sold in some nutrition stores as a supplement now; somewhere there's an enterprising soul thinking about how to bottle the hippo's glandular excretions. I can't wait.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

Road Food

I haven't been off this island since 1992, and that was only to Kona (see The Purple Moose for details about that part of the state). I always used to take driving vacations; the last time I rented a car in Phoenix and headed East towards New Mexico. I sure wish I'd known about this Roadfood site back then (if I'd had the Internet; if the site had existed; etc. etc.). If you explore it, you'll find a forum where you can find interesting restaurants all around the country, among other useful things.

Next vacation, whenever it may be, I'll be sure to look up places along the route.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:33 PM | Comments (4)

May 26, 2004

Technical intrusions

Today is our last day of keeping Nielsen diaries, thank God. This is the second time in six months we've been selected to do this (something which was quite a surprise to the follow-up caller from the company; she said she'd never heard of the same family being chosen twice in such a short period), and it's tiresome as hell. If you watch the same channel for longer than 15 minutes you have to log it; if there's more than one person watching the same tv at the same time, you have to log that; if you have the thing on but no one is actively (?) watching it, you have to keep track of it. Not again, please!

In other cultural notes, last night I attended a presentation sponsored by my principal client, and it was a first for me; during the entire three-hour period with 30 people there not a single cell phone went off. And many of these people were doctors!

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2004

Smokey the Bear interrogates?

Interior administers the contracts for civilian interrogators in Iraq???

What's more, legal experts say, contractors for nonmilitary agencies such as the Department of the Interior may be able to escape prosecution for crimes they commit overseas because of an apparent loophole in the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The law, passed in 2000, applies only to contractors with the Department of Defense - a flaw some members of Congress want to remedy.

This was apparently done to "reduce" the costs of contract administration by the Feds. Good grief. (Link from Skarlet).

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

Don't forget Carl!

"What did the president know and when did he know it?" a Republican senator — Howard Baker of Tennessee — famously asked of Nixon 30 springtimes ago.


Having read the report of Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, I expect Baker's question will resound again in another congressional investigation. The equally relevant question is whether Republicans will, Pavlov-like, continue to defend their president with ideological and partisan reflex, or remember the example of principled predecessors who pursued truth at another dark moment.

Today, the issue may not be high crimes and misdemeanors, but rather Bush's failure, or inability, to lead competently and honestly.


What did George W. Bush know and when did he know it? Another wartime president, Harry Truman, observed that the buck stops at the president's desk, not the Pentagon.

That's Carl Bernstein, the other half of the most famous team of journalists in American history, writing in USA Today Monday.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004


I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.

A nice call to arms, what? I really do enjoy good polemics. From The Independent Weekly via The Gamer's Nook.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2004

Hire Me! I'm breathing!

Yessiree bob, we're competent managers, alright. Why do you ask? Sure we did our recruiting to help run the Coalition Provisional Authority with blind e-mails sent to kids who'd posted their resumés with the Heritage Foundation; you got a problem with that?

For Ledeen, the offer seemed like fate. One of her family friends had been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and it had affected her family deeply. Without hesitation, she responded "Sure" to the e-mail and waited -- for an interview, a background check or some other follow-up. Apparently none was necessary. A week later, she got a second e-mail telling her to look for a packet in the mail regarding her move to Baghdad.


Several had impressive paper credentials, but in the wrong fields. Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement.


The group's primary responsibility was to hand out money. Each month, it sent out authorizations for the release of several hundred million dollars for government employees' salaries, reconstruction projects and sundry other expenses.

But they were also involved in higher-level policy decisions -- revising the 2004 budget, shifting around money as priorities changed and formulating plans for replacing the food baskets Iraqi families got each month with cash payments.

Now look. These kids had as much idealism as I did at their age, and I commend them for it. But who in his right mind sends people with no appropriate skills to a place as badly in need of those skills as Baghdad? Not only that, but it sent those kids to a place which had planned for 3,700 personnel, and it was trying to run on 1,300. I grant you that finding people willing to go to such a dangerous place isn't easy, but sending raw recruits to a battle front is just asking for disaster. No wonder the CPA is viewed with such disdain in that country, and no wonder it's done what appears to be a lousy job.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2004


It's so hot this stuff has turned sluggish.

Postscript: In the "There oughtta be a law" department, that link, taken from the picture at my home page, was broken. That's right; the people at the Hawai'i Volcano Observatory changed their directory! Shouldn't people be required to send out notices?

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:30 PM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2004

Blogs and dogs

You may have seen a post somewhere about a survey being done by the provider/middleman for Blogads. The results are in, and they make for interesting reading.

The genetic structure of dogs has been discovered, and there are some surprises and some huge potential benefits to the study of human disease.

However, for a disease such as cancer, genes are only thought to be half of the puzzle - environment also plays a role. And being the close companion of humans for millennia has exposed dogs to many of the same chemicals, foods, and lifestyles.

"Dogs pretty much do everything we do, except drive and play the piano," says Modiano.

Ha! Mr.Modiano doesn't know Tigger! She can find Middle C as easily as Mozart!

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

Let's you and them pay

On May 12 union leaders, academics, and community activists met to discuss a strategy to rein in Wal-Mart's growing influence on pay and benefit scales throughout the American economy. In response to news of this meeting, here's what Wal-Mart had to say:

Sarah Clark, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company knew little about the meeting. "We believe that we pay good and fair wages and offer a comprehensive benefit package,'' she said. "There are numerous groups who do not want us to succeed for their own reasons."


She said that while critics say 40 percent of Wal-Mart's workers do not have company health insurance, 90 percent of its employees have health benefits through some plan - perhaps a spouse's or through state Medicaid.

So, um, Wal-Mart thinks it's just fine that its employees have health insurance as long as some other entity besides Wal-Mart has to pay for it? And that one of those prospective other payers is the federal government (i.e. you and me)?

Nice people, those billionaires. (Link found belatedly from Nathan Newman).

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2004


Is the Modern Era history?

That 500-year period, marked by the age of exploration, the creation of nations and the Enlightenment that unleashed ideologies designed to empower the individual, faces its last great challenge in the 50 disparate countries that constitute the Islamic world -- ruled by the last bloc of authoritarian monarchs, dictators and leaders-for-life. The Iraq war was supposed to produce a new model for democratic transformation, a catalyst after which the United States and its allies could launch an ambitious initiative for regional change.

But now, whatever America's good intentions may have been , that historic moment may be lost for a long time to come.

Over the past dozen years many factors favored transformation in the world's most volatile region. The buzz among students at Tehran University, editorial writers in Beirut and Amman, the leading human rights activist in Cairo, a feminist leader in Rabat, intellectuals in Lahore and teenage girls in Jakarta has increasingly been about democratic reforms and how to achieve them. New public voices, daring publications, occasionally defiant protests in widely diverse locales gave shape to an energetic, if somewhat disjointed, trend.

Thanks to satellite dishes, shortwave radios and the Internet, Muslims have longingly watched societies from South Africa to Chile to the former Soviet republics shed odious ideologies and repressive regimes. Many haven't wanted to be left behind; they've wanted much of what we've wanted for them.

And despite the initial flirtation with fiery versions of political Islam after they emerged a quarter-century ago, Muslims of vastly diverse cultures and languages, in areas stretching from North Africa through the Arab heartland into Asia, ended up rejecting the ideas propagated by Iran's "mullahcracy" in the 1980s and the Taliban's intolerant theocracy in Afghanistan of the 1990s.

The recent patterns of regional change -- education, a new middle class and a demographic bulge heavily favoring the young generation -- have pointed societies in another direction. In the end, the quest for genuine freedoms either left many militant movements on the margins or forced them to join the mainstream.

That's Robin Wright in last Sunday's WaPo Outlook section. She says she's scared, and her fear may be well placed.

Yet I am scared because the foundation for the region's democratic transformation has steadily eroded over the past year. Whether the U.S.-led occupation was wise or well-handled, the way it unfolded in Iraq has profoundly disappointed many Muslims both near and far from Iraq's borders. The accumulation of events threatens to undo rather than remake the region, in turn delaying or diverting the course of the Modern Era's final phase.

The occupation of Iraq has affirmed the worst fears of the Islamic world, reinforcing distaste for America and what it represents, and spawning wild conspiracy theories about the motives of the West. Many Muslims now see the American intervention as a devastating betrayal, starkly reflected by the Red Cross's recent conclusion that 70 to 90 percent of all Iraqis who were "deprived of their liberty" -- by the world champion of democracy -- "were arrested by mistake." Others in the region react with fury to the symbolism of a naked Arab male on a concrete floor tethered to a female American soldier looking down with disinterested arrogance on her prisoner at Abu Ghraib.

"Beyond those frolicking soldiers, there is a certain cavalier attitude toward Arabs and Muslims that has created a sense that Arabs are guilty until proven otherwise," reflected Hisham Melham, a Washington correspondent for al-Arabiya television. So while America's ambitious postwar initiative to promote democracy in the "greater Middle East," -- which includes imaginative proposals, such as training 100,000 female teachers to instruct and empower girls by closing the gender gap -- will probably still make its debut at three international summits next month, it's unlikely to generate much traction anytime soon.

Read the whole thing. Something's wrong with the Post's website, so you may have to scroll down a little to get to the copy, but it's worth it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Mac Security problem

If you have a Macintosh running OSX, you have a problem. Deal with it right now. Today. Seriously.

Summary and Remedy.

I'm getting this from Making Light, who's trustworthy. Go to her place and read the rest, including more links and discussion. This appears to be serious. Apparently it can invoke Apple's Help program, which gives rise to horrifying potentialities.

Here's what Jay Allen (of MT-Blacklist fame) says about this in Teresa's comments:

"It is possible to write a URL that, when invoked from one’s default browser, invokes Apple’s Help program, which is itself a mini-browser which uses a subset of HTML. The trouble is that unlike a well-written, full-fledged, OSX browser, the Help program is (a.) fully scriptable; and (b.) fully capable of running any application or command for which the user has privileges."

That is a pretty damn near perfect laymen's explanation.

"This is where “rm -rf” and other nightmares come in. "

Well, I actually, that's where we're "lucky". Due to a technical restriction, the command actually can't have any spaces in it. Thank God for small miracles.

However, just before kicking off the help:// link, the malicious web page could launch a send your browser a "disk://..." URI which would download, say, a disk image to you which would be automatically mounted on your desktop (with or without the safe files checkbox checked mind you) and containing a shell script or Applescript contained inside with exactly the same instructions (Delete what you can).

After THAT, the browser would send the "help://" URI with the path to the script in the mouted diskimage on your desktop.

Roundabout for sure, but not too hard to create. THAT'S what scares me so much.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2004

Incoming spam

I just had a really odd experience. My mail program was open, and I started receiving a lot of mail, all directed to my blog comments folder. Anybody who reads this site knows I tend to average two comments per post if I'm lucky, so watching 98 (98!!) roll into that folder was disconcerting. I immediately went over to Jay Allen's Comment Spam Clearinghouse and got the latest copy of the Blacklist file, opened up my local blacklist, and imported the new version. To my surprise, however, none of the current spam was covered by it. Fortunately it was all coming from the same address, so I was able to add the originating URL to my new copy of the list and get rid of them easily, but...

The most distressing part of this was that the originating server address had been cannibalized from a site I know; I promptly sent off a message to warn the owner. I shudder to think how much hassle may ensue for the proprietor.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:47 AM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2004


I just met Moosie at the airport, gave her and Mr. Moose a brief tour among the hills above Pearl Harbor, had lunch, and then found the Harley-Davidson shop so they could buy localized versions of H-D paraphernalia. They look well; Ali and Tom gave them a pleasant tour of the Big Island. They get on a plane back to the Mainland in just a little while. It's always fun to put faces to the names of other bloggers!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2004

Purchasing Power 101

Back in 1980 I got hired as Data Processing Manager for the Honolulu Club for the princely sum of $10,800 per annum. Suppose I wanted to know just how much that $11K is worth in today's dollars? By going to Economic History Services and clicking the How Much Is That link I could go to the Purchasing Power link, enter the number into a little box, enter the year into another little box, click the button, and learn that it has the same purchasing power as $24,128.84 does today. For a reality check, I could reach back into memory and remember that I could buy three packs of cigarettes and a 12-pack of Bud for just under $10 at the time. Now that would cost me about $27; $5 apiece for the smokes and $12 for the beer. Yup, the calculator seems to work.

There's a ton of fascinating (well, if you like the dismal science) material on that site.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:24 PM | Comments (2)

May 15, 2004

Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints...

Found in an otherwise ordinary article about a Christies auction of some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's papers:

The papers are to be auctioned off Wednesday, perhaps to disappear again into the obscurity of private ownership, a fate that had obsessed Richard Lancelyn Green, a former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

Lancelyn Green, 50, was found dead in his bed on March 27, garroted with a shoelace tightened by a wooden spoon, and surrounded by stuffed toys.

At an inquest last month, Coroner Paul Knapman said suicide was the most likely explanation, but he acknowledged there was no note, that garroting was a painful way to kill oneself, and that it therefore had been a "very unusual death." He said the deceased had been acting paranoid, but that people assumed it was baseless.

From the BBC's story about the inquest:

"Mr Lancelyn Green's sister, Priscilla, told the inquest she had become worried about her brother in the week before his death after a string of bizarre conversations.

"It was clear he was very concerned about the upcoming Sherlock Holmes sale," she said.

"This was Richard's life - Conan Doyle. It seemed that something about this sale was worrying him enormously and I tried to get him to explain to me what it was.

"He made comments about his own reputation, about the possibility of his name being in the papers, about people behaving in a way he did not expect them to and doing things he did not expect them to."

He had sent here a strange note with three names and their telephone numbers on it which had seemed to Ms Lancelyn Green "to be the beginning of a thriller novel".

The document had "Please keep these names safe" written on it.

The game is afoot indeed.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:03 PM | Comments (4)

May 14, 2004

Church and city-state

This is why the separation of church and state is so important.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has issued a pastoral letter saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.
There is another view, however; it's expressed by the Washington correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publication:
"There's probably a rather small number of bishops who are strongly in favor of denying communion," Mr. Shaw said. "Probably a somewhat larger but not overwhelming number rather strongly oppose doing that. And the third and far away largest group are those who just wish the whole issue would go away."
Anybody wanna disagree with Mr. Shaw? I know I'd want nothing to do with this, were I a bishop.

In religious news of a different form: "Fenway is now home to the largest men's restroom in Major League Baseball and the two largest women's restrooms." Considering that they've increased the number of concession stands selling beer, that's only prudent.

Yet more architectural news:

Starting today, visitors to the museum's web site can use the map to zoom into a neighborhood, select one of 120 big buildings and see its past depicted through postcards, construction photographs and other documents from the museum's archives. Each building is also shown as a three-dimensional drawing that can be viewed from four angles as a stand-alone structure or surrounded by its neighbors.
The article mentions several other virtual exhibitions; wanna see the tombs below Thebes? Try The Theban Mapping Project. Now that's cool.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:10 AM | Comments (1)


All you Movable Type bloggers, go read Jay Allen's thoughtful explanation of what MT is doing, and then breathe a little easier. As I suggested to Jay, maybe he should be an adjunct community relations advisor to Six Apart.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:07 AM | Comments (2)

May 13, 2004

Internet news

This news is not good for the multiple weblog owner. Movable Type has announced ver. 3.0, which is good, but it's also announced a new pricing structure. As I read it, one blogger keeping up to three blogs can get a license for the special introductory price of $69.95; any more and the price goes up considerably. I ain't averse to paying for tools, but the price structure seems a little odd. I think I'll wait for this to shake out before I panic.

As you might expect, the user community has gone ballistic; check out the number of trackbacks attached to that post. I suggest you go there to read what Mena Trott has to say; don't get the news from third parties.

Update: Third parties like me. Upon further review, a single user can run three blogs free. If you want to run more than that, you have to pay at least that $69.95 price.

In less startling news, here's a review of Google's new Gmail service; it sounds a lot less threatening than the EFF and other privacy advocates (on whose side I usually can be found) first thought.

Finally, did anyone else have trouble with Blogrolling today? I couldn't get it to load for most of the day.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:57 PM | Comments (4)

Pens and info needed

Here's about the easiest and cheapest way to help Afghan kids I can think of: send pens. That's right, ordinary writing instruments. Here's the address:

Terry L. Welch
105th MPAD
Kandahar Public Affairs Office
APO AE 09355

From Nitpicker via Talk Left.

On an unrelated note, I just downloaded and installed Ad-Aware and ran a scan on my two hard drives. I got 408 "objects;" many of them look like cookies, though, so how does one determine which to quarantine and which to keep? Who's got advice?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (5)

May 12, 2004

What fools these mortals be

If you, like me, often think you're smarter than the Washington punditocracy, now's your chance to prove it. This week Jeopardy has many of them as panelists. The lineup includes

  • Ashleigh Banfield
  • Maria Bartiromo
  • Aaron Brown
  • Gretchen Carlson
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Anderson Cooper
  • Ari Fleischer
  • Al Franken
  • Kweisi Mfume
  • Peggy Noonan
  • Keith Olbermann
  • Tim Russert
  • Tavis Smiley
  • Christine Todd Whitman
  • Bob Woodward

Check your local listings for the time and date in your area.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:39 PM | Comments (2)

Don't misread history

General Clark has written a very good opinion piece in Washington Monthly. He discusses what he thinks is the false history the neoconservative movement (Perle, Feith, Libby, Wolfowitz, et. al.) believes, and how it led them to think that the Middle East could be democratized quite simply.

The reaction of the Middle East to America's invasion of Iraq should hardly have been surprising. Only willful blindness could obscure the obvious fact that the political and cultural conditions in the Middle East are profoundly different than those in the states of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. To one degree or another, the values and forms of democracy were part of the historic culture of the states of Central and Eastern Europe: There were constitutions and parliaments, in one form or another, in the Baltic States, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere before World War II. In some cases, these precedent experiences with democracy dated back into the 19th century.

Go read the rest; it's quite good. While you're at it, read the NYT's lead editorial today; the board has suddenly realized it's been taken for a ride by the Bush Administration, and it doesn't like it.

Update: The WaPo has suddenly recognized that it's been conned, too.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2004

Pride of service

You've probably heard about the editorial from the Army Times by now. Here it is:

There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.

But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.

The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.

In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world.


This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential — even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.

The Army Times and its sister publications (Navy, Marine and Air Force) are not what I'd call crusading newspapers (I used to read Navy Times when I was in that service), so when an editorial of that nature is judged necessary, I'd say you've lost the confidence of a key constituency.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

May 10, 2004

Who said what when?

Here's a useful chronology of our leaders' public statements while the abuse at Abu Ghraib was occurring. From Electrolite.

Repeat after me: The cover-up is [politically] worse than the crime. In this instance, I'm not sure that aphorism holds up without the parenthetical phrase.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:13 PM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2004

Regression beyond the mean

Today, May 9, is the 43rd anniversary of Newton Minow's first speech as chairman of the FCC. That's the one where he memorably said:

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

What do you suppose he'd make of reality TV?

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2004

Something's fishy

Well now. Back here I called attention to the Administration's decision to count hatchery fish as the same as wild for the purpose of eliminating the need to regulate salmon fisheries under the Endangered Species Act. Now comes word that the guy who three years ago

...was the timber industry's top lawyer trying to overturn fish and wildlife protections that loggers viewed as overly restrictive [now works for the Administration]. Back then, he outlined to his clients a new strategy for dealing with diminishing salmon runs. By counting hatchery fish along with wild salmon, the government would help the timber industry by getting salmon off the endangered species list, Mr. Rutzick wrote.

Now, as a high-ranking political appointee in the Bush administration who is a legal adviser to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mr. Rutzick is helping to shape government policy on endangered Pacific salmon. And in an abrupt change, the Bush administration has decided for the first time to consider counting fish raised in hatcheries when determining if some species are going extinct.

The new plan, which officials have said is expected to be formally announced at the end of the month, closely follows the position that Mr. Rutzick advocated when he represented the timber industry.

Should we infer something from this? Or is it a mere coincidence? I link, you decide.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004

Yup, I'm covered, all right

Tax season always gives me pause. For example, I had to figure out how much my health insurance cost me for the just-past year, since it's now 100% deductible on Schedule C. Gulp. So just how much do I spend on insurance?

  • Health and Dental $2,821
  • Car $1,536
  • Life $610
  • Full 15% FICA & Medicare
Who the hell am I working for here?

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)


Regarding Abu Ghraib, I said in comments to this post that I blamed Bush for creating a climate which encouraged the kind of behavior we've now seen by American soldiers at that prison. Anthony Lewis agrees with me:

Again and again, over these last years, President Bush has made clear his view that law must bend to what he regards as necessity. National security as he defines it trumps our commitments to international law. The Constitution must yield to novel infringements on American freedom.


In all these matters, there is a pervasive attitude: that to follow the law is to be weak in the face of terrorism. But commitment to law is not a weakness. It has been the great strength of the United States from the beginning. Our leaders depart from that commitment at their peril, and ours, for a reason that Justice Louis D. Brandeis memorably expressed 75 years ago.

"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher," he wrote. "For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself."

I said in this post that I thought al-Qaeda could and would use the photos of the torture at Abu Ghraib as a recruiting tool; the NYT's editorial board agrees with me:

Despite its best efforts, the government has never been able to demonstrate any strong link between Iraq and Al Qaeda before the invasion. But since then, Iraqi prisoners have been treated like suspected terrorists. The abuses in Abu Ghraib and throughout the military detention system stain this country's reputation and play into Osama bin Laden's portrait of an evil America. The Bush administration has given a gift to Al Qaeda's worldwide recruitment efforts.

At some point your advisers no longer deserve the credit for this on their own; you signed off on it. Nicely done, Mr. President.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004


Here's what you can expect to see all over the nightly news this evening: More pictures from Abu Ghraib. If your stomach is strong enough, you can click on the "More photos" link at the right sidebar within that article.

Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face.

The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's "60 Minutes II" and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" that were inflicted on detainees.

Here's the full text of the Taguba report.

Here are pertinent references to military doctrine and to news stories about this disaster.

I'm not so naive as to think that Americans "don't do this sort of thing." But I really have to wonder just what sort of command structure would allow this to go on. Taguba's report is from January. It is now May. Taguba is a Major General; he doesn't report to some colonel at the staff level. It should have gone to Myers, to Kimmit, and to Sanchez among the uniforms, and to Rumsfeld himself among the civilians. So why was nothing done until the press got hold of it?

People at the top need to be fired, although even that may not be enough. I suspect that these photos have created a whole new batch of terrorists al-Qaeda will be quite happy to recruit.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

May 05, 2004

National Parks

If you're traveling within the country this summer, here's a list of National Park experiences compiled by the National Park Foundation. Click to get more info including links to the individual park sites.

  • Best place to watch a sunrise - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Best photo opportunity - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
  • Best beach - Olympic National Park, Washington State
  • Best "watering hole" - Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Best place to take a date - Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Virginia
  • Best access to breathtaking beauty - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Best proud moment - Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Alabama
  • Best place to see fossils - Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  • Best stargazing - Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Best place to experience goosebumps - Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland
  • Best setting for a wedding - Chapel at Yosemite National Park, California

Hmm. I've been to Yellowstone, Olympic, Grand Teton, Carlsbad, and Yosemite. I may have been to Antietam on the way to or from Gettysburg, but I don't remember it. Wolf Trap may have been under construction while I lived in the area, but I don't think it had fully opened by the time we headed West in 1968. I saw Yellowstone and Jackson Hole on that cross-country trip. I went to Olympic on an Oregon-Washington coast driving vacation back in 1986; Yosemite was part of a similar vacation in 1985. I've seen Carlsbad at least twice, once in 1962 (again on a cross-country trip, this time heading East) and again in 1992.

Time to get out the Parks Life List again.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:40 PM | Comments (3)


Worst pun ever?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

American Dynasty

I just finished Kevin Phillips' book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. This is from the introduction.

National politics, in short, has begun to take on the aura of a great family arena. Of the four wives of the major-party presidential nominees in 1996 and 2000, two quickly gained Senate seats: Hillary Clinton in 2000 and Elizabeth Dole in 2002. A third, Tipper Gore, decided not to make a Senate bid in Tennessee. Other seats in the U.S. Senate, in the meantime, began to pass more like membership in Britain's House of Lords.

Regionally, the prime example of family continuity in national government has been New England. In Rhode Island, Republican Lincoln Chafeee took the Senate seat of his father, John Chafee, when the latter died in 1999. Next door, Edward Kennedy occupies the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by his brother when he became president, and just to the west in Connecticut, Senator Christopher Dodd sits where his father sat from 1958 to 1970. Parenthetically, both senators from New Hampshire are the sons of former governors. One of those from Maine is the wife of a former governor.

Phillips left Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (appointed by her father when he won the governorship) and Jean Carnahan of Missouri (now a private citizen again) off his list, but I take his point. He views this trend with alarm, and when you see it compiled in a couple of paragraphs like that, it's a little startling. He doesn't think dynasties are a good thing for republics; he particularly doesn't think the Bush dynasty is good for the republic, and he spends roughly 400 pages detailing why. The Bushes have a history of involvement in highly questionable activities stretching back four generations, from arms dealing with Germany between the wars all the way up to Iran-Contra, BCCI, Iraqgate and Enron.

He goes into some detail as to how the current Bush managed to woo the Religious Right into supporting his Episcopalian father in 1988, and how there was no need to ask for their support for himself. He also tries to explain the rise of the Religious Right as a political entity, including some statistics regarding the beliefs of its members about Israel and the imminence of Armageddon. He explains some of the murkier details behind the pardons of Caspar Weinberger and Eliot Abrams and the rest of the Iran-Contra conspirators, and he posits that bringing some of those men back into the current administration is typical dynastic behavior.

Besides all the heavily-sourced facts presented, it's also a much better read than his Wealth and Democracy. It belongs in a slightly different category than all the other books currently out by Clarke, Wilson and the rest; it's both a history and a political science treatise. He concludes that the "military-industry complex" Eisenhower warned us against in his final speech was two legs short; he adds banking and intelligence activities to those, and finds it a far more serious problem than even Ike had thought. Highly recommended.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

Spare a thought

Something that's in danger of being lost in all the uproar about the distasteful, disgraceful and inhumane behavior of American jailers in Iraq is that all those prisoners, no matter their guilt or innocence, have family members.

I keep thinking of the hostage crisis in the 70s - thanks to Nightline (and other news sources) we saw their faces - they were faces of people held against their will, suffering. We've had soldiers in the news recently - taken prisoner and shown on tv. I read an interview with the mother of one of those soldiers. Now I wonder what the families of these Iraqi prisoners must be feeling. The prisoners' faces are covered but I'm sure every family with someone in the prison is wondering if it's their relative in those photos.

Yes indeed. Very well said, Batty.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:59 PM | Comments (5)

What would Fred & Barney say?

If the Italian evolution brouhaha wasn't enough for you, behold the Dinosaur theme park.

At Dinosaur Adventure Land, visitors can make their own Grand Canyon replica with sand and read a sign deriding textbooks for teaching that the Colorado River formed the canyon over millions of years: "This is clearly not possible. The top of the Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet higher than where the river enters the canyon! Rivers do not flow up hill!"

Mind you, the guy who started this park is a former public school science teacher.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (5)

May 02, 2004

Sunday funnies

For your Sunday afternoon leisure (hey, it's afternoon here!), you could do a lot worse than go over to the Literary lions cartoon archive. Think of New Yorker cartoons with books and their readers as their sole subject. It's probably best with a fast connection, but I had little difficulty with my pokey dialup. I found the link over at Making Light.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2004

May Day mutterings

I swear, someday I'm gonna create a mythical consumer basket of prices for Hawai'i. This item about the price of milk rising in LA (a gallon may cost more than $4) made me laugh out loud. I bought a half-gallon three days ago for $3.59, and that was 30 cents off the usual price.

If you plan to upgrade your computer, but not for a couple of years, your hard drive may have been cleaned with green tea.

Much more seriously, do not put intact eggs into microwaves; here's a horror story about the potential consequences.

You know, I feel sorry for these guys: "MannKind of Valencia, California, has filed to go public with a stock offering worth $86.25 million." Good on you, folks, but you might have scheduled this announcement on a day other than the one on which Google announced its IPO. If you're interested, here's a Q & A about how you can buy Google's stock.

Evolution update: Italy's Minister of education, universities, and research reversed her decision of the other day (see here) and has now agreed that evolution will be taught starting at the primary school level in her country.

I'm very tired of having to go to the shredder every other day with a new set of blank checks from my credit card company. Is it any wonder identity theft is on the rise?

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:36 AM | Comments (3)