Friday, December 10, 2004

The Slow Decay 

They didn't think the Patriot Act went far enough, so they want to juice it up a little bit. What better way to do it then to tack it on the new widely popular 9-11 Terrorism bill. A country as free as ours doesn't come easily. To ensure that the rest of us are free, law enforcement needs the freedom to step on the freedom of those who would threaten our freedom freely.
The intelligence package that Congress approved this week includes a series of little-noticed measures that would broaden the government's power to conduct terrorism investigations, including provisions to loosen standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allow the Justice Department to more easily detain suspects without bail.

Other law-enforcement-related measures in the bill -- expected to be signed by President Bush next week -- include an expansion of the criteria that constitute "material support" to terrorist groups and the ability to share U.S. grand jury information with foreign governments in urgent terrorism cases.

These and other changes designed to strengthen federal counterterrorism programs have long been sought by the Bush administration and the Justice Department but have languished in Congress, in part because of opposition from civil liberties advocates.

Civil liberties advocates. It's so funny that we have those at all. Should we all not be civil liberties advocates? But it's not that way at all. In any government, there is a constant battle between the state and the people over how much freedom we will be allowed. If gone unchallenged, any government will become a monstrous monolith, offering its citizens nothing and taking from them everything. Even here in America.

Does no one remember the 1960s and 1970s (not that I do personally), when the FBI was killing agitators in their sleep and the CIA was assassinating foreign leaders? When American spies kept dossiers on anyone and everyone who said any little thing against the government? This is why we kicked back their power. This is why we developed safeguards. The ebb, it seems, is ebbing.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Poor Little Donnie 

Runsfeld finally got the ass-kicking he deserves in the media, and it came at the hands of a soldier. But now -- woe be they -- it turns out a reporter helped said soldier with his pointed question, and now the Defense Dept is upset. Too fucking bad.
A National Guardsman who asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a bold question about armor on war vehicles went to the microphone after consulting with a Tennessee reporter.

Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who is embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team, wrote about the incident in an e-mail to co-workers sent Wednesday. Pitts said he worked with guardsmen after being told reporters would not be allowed to ask Rumsfeld any questions.

Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson, 31, of Nashville, asked Rumsfeld why, after almost two years of war, soldiers were searching dumps for metal to weld on vehicles destined for hostile territory.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson said.

The question appeared to surprise Rumsfeld and prompted cheers among the soldiers listening to him in a hangar.

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said Rumsfeld gives reporters ample time to ask questions and that his appearance in Kuwait was for the soldiers.

"Town Hall meetings are intended for soldiers to have dialogue with the secretary of defense," Di Rita said. "It would be unfortunate to discover that anyone might have interfered with that opportunity, whatever the intention."
Once again: Too Effin' Bad. Runsfeld had to answer one tough question when he should be rotting in jail, and the Defense Dept has the audacity to get uppity about it. As if it were some sort of outrage. As if it weren't a legitimate question. As if BushCo didn't bully the media around.

The arrogance, my God, the arrogance of these people.


"Mark It, Dude" 

No one says this quite like my friend Tom does, and so flawlessly, too. But Tom's good for those kind of moments: tender and precise turns of phrase; pregnant pauses; a thoughtful stilt and glance.

"What's your cell phone ring, Tom?"

A pause. Tom turns his head over his shoulder, steam billowing from his mouth. "Ice cream man. Man."

And at that he turns and walks away, shoulders bobbing through the doorway.

Dude. Ubiquitous. Informal. Fraternal. Questioning.

For years I was intimidated by the word, afraid of the lax familiarity and utter casualness of the word. I always felt somehow fraudulent when trying to say it. Only in recent years have I felt comfortable with it, and now I even find myself uttering it without thinking. It's in the lexicon.

The word is enough a phenomenon -- though not nearly as complex or powerful as fuck, an amazing and versatile word whose potency, I fear, has been distilled by overuse -- to warrant an academic study. Through Bonnie, who has thankfully returned from dreary old England.
A linguist from the University of Pittsburgh has published a scholarly paper deconstructing and deciphering the word “dude,” contending it is much more than a catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers, skaters, slackers and teenagers.

An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling said the four-letter word has many uses: in greetings ("What’s up, dude?"); as an exclamation ("Whoa, Dude!"); commiseration ("Dude, I’m so sorry."); to one-up someone ("That’s so lame, dude."); as well as agreement, surprise and disgust ("Dude.").

Kiesling says in the fall edition of American Speech that the word derives its power from something he calls cool solidarity – an effortless kinship that’s not too intimate.

To decode the word’s meaning, Kiesling listened to conversations with fraternity members he taped in 1993. He also had undergraduate students in sociolinguistics classes in 2001 and 2002 write down the first 20 times they heard “dude” and who said it during a three-day period.

He found the word taps into nonconformity and a new American image of leisurely success.

Anecdotally, men were the predominant users of the word, but women sometimes call each other dudes. Less frequently, men will call women dudes and vice versa. But that comes with some rules, according to self-reporting from students in a 2002 language and gender class included in the paper.

“Men report that they use dude with women with whom they are close friends, but not with women with whom they are intimate,” according to the study.

Historically, dude originally meant “old rags” – a “dudesman” was a scarecrow. In the late 1800s, a “dude” was akin to a “dandy,” a meticulously dressed man, especially out West. It became “cool” in the 1930s and 1940s, according to Kiesling. Dude began its rise in the teenage lexicon with the 1981 movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”



More Worthless Commentary 

This is a very nice example of how certain messages pass through the main info- arteries, becoming media "fact" by mere saturation and loudness. Here we have a Beltway expert, Deborah Orin, writing for the NY Post. (Who owns the Post? Rupert Murdoch. NONETHELESS,) this is Ms. Orin's chance to share her insider's knowledge of the goings-on in our nation's capitol, an unbiased, nonpartisan look at the making of sausage. Here's the golden nugget she serves up.
Democrats are getting a queasy deja vu feeling that they're in danger of following Howard Dean right off a cliff — by tapping him as Democratic national chairman a year after running away from him as presidential nominee.

"Our biggest problem is if Dean wins. Our second biggest problem is if he loses — because then the Deaniacs will go nuts," says a veteran Democratic activist, speaking of the contest for the next leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course, the Democratic Party's liberal wing will cheer lustily if the antiwar Dean becomes their party's new face, but Republicans will cheer even louder — "Can I contribute to his campaign?" GOP pollster Ed Goeas asks impishly.

Dean crystallizes the quandary facing Dems — more than a month after their election drubbing, they're not ready to face the fact that terrorism was the key issue on Nov. 2, and that's why President Bush won.

Ms. Orin, you are a miracle worker! A downtown news hound with your nose to the ground! You got your finger on the pulse of DC, baby, and you won't let go! Where'd you dig up this massive scoop! And what hard-hitting journalism at that!

An unnamed "veteran Democrat activist" is the soul source for this flimsy and flagrant bit of reporting. He or she did manage to give Ms. Orin a perfect quote, though, confirming what the news media has told us to think all along: Dean is a liability. Why is Dean so dangerous? Because he got excited a friggin' political rally? Why is Dean considered liberal? Because he was against an illegal war? Ms. Orin offers no reasoning behind any of these claims -- because they are groundless and fragile, built on the media image of Dean constructed around the time he became popular, and solidified after he lost the Iowa Caucuses: loud-mouthed, liberal head case. And this has been sounding through the echo chamber ever since, all the way to December, 2004. Ms. Orin does no original thinking, no original reporting, no original anything. Did she call Mr. Dean? No mention. Did she call Mr. McAuliffe? No mention. Did she call any Dean supporters? No mention. She does have a snarky Republican encouraging Democrats to vote for Dean, evidence, supposedly, that it would be their death knell.

An article about the Democratic Party, and not one Democrat is actually quoted. But this is the way of the New Journalism: opinion first, facts later. And when there are facts, they must be bent to fit with the message.

Jesu, it's almost a year later and they can't get off Dean's back. "Dem insiders" tell Ms. Orin, whose charms must be irresistable to get such candid quotes as these, that there is a rampant and pestulent Deanophobia in the ranks. They're running away like first born sons from Pharaoh because Dean, who so wantonly inspired Democrats to get excited, mad, and confident will go Godzilla all over their precious party; as if there are any lower depths for it to sink to! Never mind that most of the young Democrats I know and read are very excited at a Dean chairmanship, and any concerns they have about him are not over his personality or his policies, but over his administrative abilities. Certainly he will inspire, certainly he will be tough, and certainly he will take the party in a new direction, all of which the Democrats desperately need.

Finally, in a brilliant and astounding flash of insight, Orin tells us that Democrats are still unable to come to grips with the fact that terrorism is important and Republicans are tougher. Yes. This coup de grace fails to account for the facts, but it's a well-worn Righty talking point, and you got to go with what you know.

Ms. Orin, you do Americans everywhere a great justice and a priceless service. Thank you. And all of it without having to move your finger past the speed-dial. America!


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Mighty Gonzales 

Bush's Attorney General designate may be a minority politician, but that doesn't mean he's not an asshole. Or that he's extremely dangerous. My guess is that he's a ruthless opportunist, far from any scruples, and completely obsequious so long as it brings him proxy power. Last week, Nat Hentoff wrote about how Gonzales advised the president to ignore the Geneva conventions in regards to Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. This week Hentoff revisits W's reign of death while governor of Texas, and how Gonzales fit in.
I expect that many Americans have forgotten that during his tenure, Governor Bush was the chief executioner in the United States. As Alan Berlow wrote: "During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those presumed facts by his counsel.

"Based on this information, Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one." Berlow says the first 57 of these summaries were written by Gonzales and were Bush's primary sources of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. "Each is only three to seven pages long. . . . Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of the defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim."

One of the cases in the article was that of "Terry Washington, a mentally retarded thirty-three-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old." In his three-page report on Terry Washington, Gonzales never mentioned that Washington, as a child, along with his 10 siblings, was "regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts." And this was "never made known to the jury, although both the district attorney and Washington's trial lawyer knew of this potentially mitigating evidence." Just hours after Gonzales's brief report to Bush, Washington was executed.
And so on.


You Wanna Get Nuts? 

Come on, let's get nuts! Or so seems to be the belligerent challenge from Fox News and Clear Channel to the rest of the world's armies of information as they consolidate media ubiquity and misinformation/propaganda into a searing hot ball of concentrated evil. Read on, but be prepared to gasp. Christ. We need Superman.
News Corp.'s Fox News has reached an agreement to become the primary news provider to radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc.

The pact stands to greatly boost the radio presence of Fox News, which rolled out its service last year, as it looks to compete with the much more entrenched CBS Radio, a unit of Viacom Inc., and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Radio.

The Clear Channel partnership will give Fox News's nascent radio unit close to 300 stations, including 37 in the top 40 markets. There are options in the deal that could increase the number of Clear Channel stations affiliated with Fox News over time. Fox News said that if all options are exercised, its service could have more than 500 affiliates by mid-2005.

An unnamed source confirmed reports that media mogul Lex Luthor would be brought in to streamline the deal, possibly taking over as CEO of the new service.

Take the best in corporate sprawl and combine it with the best in nationalistic media saturation and you have a terrified and shattered American lexicon. Should be a pretty decent five years! Gosh, I wonder how the other news outlets will respond...


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Another tragic milestone in the BushCo Administration.
he number of U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq (news - web sites) hit 1,000 Tuesday when the military said a soldier had been shot dead on patrol in Baghdad.

"One Task Force Baghdad soldier died of wounds received at about 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 7. The soldier was on patrol when the unit came under small arms fire," the military in Iraq said in a typically brief routine statement.

Earlier in the day, the Pentagon had issued a revised combat casualty toll of 999, a figure which had risen sharply last month during the U.S. assault on Sunni Muslim insurgents in the city of Falluja. At least 71 Americans were killed there.

A total of 9,765 U.S. troops have been wounded.

As for the Iraqi numbers -- we don't really bother with that.


Cold Comfort Food 

Even Tommy Thompson couldn't take the heat. And on his way out as Health and Human Services Sec'y, he warns us to beware of everything. Everything, because you never know where the terrorists will strike. And frankly, he's a little disappointed with the evildoers, thinks they're slipping.
"For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," Thompson said at a news conference announcing his resignation.

Seriously, come on, guys. What are you waiting for? The top guy just said it's incredibly easy. Anyone could do it. Unless you're too stupid. Or scared. Is that it? Little scaredycat terrorists, too afriad to put some poison in the infidels' food supply? Huh? Oh, poor terrorist babies.

Get with the program!


Monday, December 06, 2004

Department of Orwellian Relativism 

Capitol Banter brings us a modest reminder today that up is down, down is to the side, and we're all throught the gaddam looking glass, people!
President Bush is awarding the nation's highest civilian honor to three men central to his Iraq policy, the White House announced.

Bush has chosen retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who oversaw combat in Afghanistan and the initial invasion of Iraq, former CIA Director George Tenet and former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer III to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Far from me to question the integrity of these three men. I'll let Capitol Banter do it; she's better than me, anyway.


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