Thursday, June 26, 2003

From the annals of the classless society:

The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period.

Note that this is under Clinton -- and one of the biggest factors in the increase was a cut in the capital gains tax rate which Clinton signed into law.

When you heard that Dubya's FERC dealt the "death penalty" to Enron, was your first reaction to wonder when the other shoe would drop?

Here it is:

Federal energy regulators today rejected a request by California to invalidate more than $12 billion in energy contracts signed at the height of the state's electricity crisis, even though they have determined that widespread manipulation helped drive prices higher.

That's the free market, Dubya style: they stole it fair and square, so they get to keep it.

A reminder -- the folks who broadcast Michael Savage think little enough of their show, or their listeners, to think that some of them might mistake this for his official web site. As to why that's topical, look here...
Dubya reportedly told the Palestinian Prime Minister

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.

I guess he's just got that old-time religion:

When Ashur, who selected me, who made my kingship great, entrusted his merciless weapon into my lordly arms, I verily struck down the widespread troops of Lullumu with weapons, during the battle encounter. As for the troops of the lands of Nairi, Habhu, Shubaru, and Nirbu, I roared over them like Adad the destroyer, with the aid of Shamash and Adad, my helper gods. [I am] the king who caused [the lands] from the other bank of the Tigris to the Lebanon and the Great Sea, the whole of Laqu, and Suhu as far as Rapiqu, to submit; [who] himself conquered [the territory] from the source of the Subnat River to Urartu; [who] annexed as my own territory [the area] from the pass of Kirruru to Gilzanu, from the other bank of the Lower Zab to Til Bari which is upstream from Zaban, from Til sha Abtani to Til sha Zabdani. I counted as my own people [those who occupy the territory] from the pass of Babite to Hashmar. I set my resident [official]s in the lands over which I ruled [and imposed upon them] obeisance and [forced labor].

That's from a king of Assyria, whose territory included most, if not all, of modern-day Iraq. So that's what was behind the war -- not so much the debatable WMD evidence, nor the promises of democracy which we seem less and less likely to follow through on, just Dubya going back to his roots.

(via The Agonist)

Update: Here, via Gallowglass, is yet another explanation:

Sitchin's thesis of an ancient ET presence in Sumer combined with the notion of a variety of ET transportation devices described by other authors in their research of ancient civilizations, and resumption of archaeological excavations of the first Sumerian capital Uruk in 2002, give support to William Henry's thesis of a Stargate that lies buried in the sands of southern Iraq. This provides important contextual information that is helpful in understanding the true motivations of the Bush administration in launching a preemptive attack on Iraq.

It may be argued that the Bush administration and the Hussein Regime are both in a race against time to gain access and control of the Stargate in the ruins of Uruk or some other location in Iraq, before the prophesied return of the Anunnaki. At the moment, a stalemate exists. Hussein controls the ground in Southern Iraq, and is permitting the German led excavations in Uruk, while the US led coalition controls the sky and is monitoring the situation. The Bush administration wants control of Iraq territory to take control of excavations of Uruk to uncover its buried Stargate, and closely monitor and control it. In contrast, Hussein wants to find and activate the Stargate for his greater glory and presumably the benefit of humanity.

This jibes with the available evidence at least as well as a typical Ari Fleischer press conference

What is it with Pulitzer-prize winning writers for the New York Times? First, Tom Friedman uses his perch on the editorial page to argue for regime change in Iraq as a kind of political outreach to the Arab masses (reach out and crush someone?) completely heedless of whether Dubya's crew would deliver the kind of follow-through required to make that project work.

Now it seems that Judith Miller, a supposedly straight reporter, was doing more than reporting on the search for Iraqi WMD:

On April 21, when the MET Alpha team was ordered to withdraw to the southern Iraqi town of Talil, Miller objected in a handwritten note to two public affairs officers. It said:

"I see no reason for me to waste time (or MET Alpha, for that matter) in Talil. . . . Request permission to stay on here with colleagues at the Palestine Hotel til MET Alpha returns or order to return is rescinded. I intend to write about this decision in the NY Times to send a successful team back home just as progress on WMD is being made."

One military officer, who says that Miller sometimes "intimidated" Army soldiers by invoking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Undersecretary Douglas Feith, was sharply critical of the note. "Essentially, she threatened them," the officer said, describing the threat as that "she would publish a negative story."

An Army officer, who regarded Miller's presence as "detrimental," said: "Judith was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat," this person said, and MET Alpha "was allowed to bend the rules."

Given the stakes in the WMD hunt -- particularly if you believe that there's enough real stuff out there to talk sensibly about "progress ... being made", you've really got to wonder about Miller's qualifications to deal like this with the Army team, who are supposed to be qualified professionals...

Update: more from Swopa and Billmon on how Miller's ties to Ahmed Chalabi and to Rummy's neocon faction, respectively, screwed up this search...

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I've heard some folks say some amazingly nasty things about Princess Diana. But Marvel comics has come up with a new one: in upcoming issues of one of their books, she's portrayed as a mutant...

(via... darnit, where did I get this?)

Well, just call him Baghdad Bremer:

Asked about Baghdad's lack of electricity at an air-conditioned press conference, Paul Bremer, the American head of the occupation authority, looking cool in a dark suit and quiet purple tie, simply asserted that, with a few exceptions, Baghdad was now receiving 20 hours of electricity a day. "It simply isn't true," said one Iraqi, shaking his head in disbelief after listening to Mr. Bremer. "Everybody in Baghdad knows it."

Why doesn't this sort of thing get more attention? Tom Friedman thinks he has the answer:

President Bush is sure lucky no weapons of mass destruction have been found yet in Iraq.

Because had we found these weapons our entire focus today would be on the real issue: why the Bush team -- which wanted this war so badly and had telegraphed it for so long -- was so poorly prepared for postwar Iraq.

Which is, of course, nonsense -- if anything that could credibly be called a Weapon of Mass Destruction had been found, Dubya's crew would be using that to drown out the critics. (Besides, you've got to wonder whose focus Friedman is talking about, given how many Americans believe the weapons have been found, or just don't care).

But it's followed up with a stunner:

I still believe that with the right effort Iraq can be made a decent place. But that task has been made much harder because of the Pentagon's poor planning for postwar Iraq. If the Pentagon's lapses can be overcome -- and I hope they will be -- then we should learn from them for future wars. If they can't be overcome, then they will be grist for next year's who-lost-Iraq debate.

Recall that Friedman was saying even before the war that the right reason to attack was to light a beacon of democracy, and that the whole WMD thing was nothing more than an excuse to try to rope in some allies -- who were, of course, slow-witted enough to fall for that sort of deception even if he was writing about it in the New York Times. Now he's astounded to discover -- as anti-war folks were saying before the war -- that Dubya's crew isn't actually prepared to follow through on what was, after all, his project, not theirs. For which he really has no excuse -- the short shrift that Dubya's crew was giving their much smaller project in Afghanistan was already obvious.

Friedman's clearly right about one thing -- what shapes up in Iraq will shape Arab views of the United States, and the West as a whole, for decades. Arabs' hostile view of the West, and the terrorist attacks which it engenders, were the problem that (he argued) a successful occupation would fix. From that perspective, a failed occupation would be a disaster. And he knew what kind of commitment would be required after the war to succeed, and not fail -- witness this account of his appearance on Oprah, where he shocked the audience by talking about a full-scale occupation lasting twenty years. How irresponsible was he to advocate going in, without any real knowledge that Dubya's crowd would make that commitment?

Speaking of bloggers returning from a long silence, here's one. This is, once again, Isabella V., who describes herself as an heiress on the lam from her wealthy, and extraordinarily nasty, father. Her latest entry: a loopy discourse on state fair carny rides as a metaphor for life, which wouldn't look out of place on Bellona Times. Which is a stylistic departure, but... so what? At least it's an interesting read.

I've never known quite what to think of this blog. On the one hand, the story hangs together a great deal better than some scoffers give it credit for (particularly if you assume she went to one or two prep schools in the midwest which line up unusually well with some of her, or her character's, professed oddities). And she put unusual effort into setting up the blog; the domain name is registered to a privately owned Panamanian corporation to avoid tracing the author's legal identity (though the technical contact is a real guy). But on the other hand... there are more really good pranksters in the world than heiresses on the lam.

And frankly, while some people would rather it be real, I'd rather the whole thing be an interactive network performance piece -- if the author's real situation is anything like what she describes, it's No Damn Fun At All. Why wish that on anybody?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

When the New York Times was under the baleful influence of Howell Raines, Paul Krugman found himself under an explicit edict not to refer to Dubya's campaign rhetoric as "lies". With Raines gone, it would seem that the gloves are off. To all the conservatives in the blogsphere who demanded his removal -- thanks.

On the same page, reporting from Basra, Nick Kristof finds the real winner in Iraq:

Still no luck in my quest to help the administration find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But meanwhile, I'm getting the impression that America fought Saddam, and the Islamic fundamentalists won.

Christian liquor merchants who had been unmolested under Saddam are being shot dead in broad daylight, the schools are feeling pressure to separate male and femaled students, and even movie theaters are under threat.

Boy, I'll bet Osama bin Laden is really crying over this...

More: Tom Tomorrow wonders how much he'll be reading about this from the folks who were bragging about that one Iraqi's hopes for "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy".

It looks like the Movable Type folks have gotten themselves, and their users, into a real pickle, with somewhat ambiguous licensing terms; it isn't at all clear what's allowed, and some users have been surprised.

You'd think that using stuff licensed as free software, less featured though it may be would save you from this. Regrettably, you'd be wrong, and even use of fairly standard free software licenses won't entirely save you. The Free Software Foundation's Gnu Public License in particular has some clauses which are ambiguous enough to be in dispute, in part because it's not clear how, or whether, they apply to types of software, like blog authoring tools, which didn't exist at the time it was written. And it's not clear what will show up in GPL version 3 -- something prospective authors of GPL software might want to bear in mind before using the FSF's suggested "GPL v2, or any later version" language in licensing their software. Linus Torvalds in particular is rather pointed about licensing his work under GPL v2 only.

The difficulty here, then, isn't related so much to the freedom, or otherwise, of the software, as to whether the users can be confident they know what the deal is up front, and that the terms won't be changed later, for example, to bar competitors to some commercial venture of the author's, even if the author only deems it to be a competitor after the fact. And that's a problem that goes well beyond blogging tools.

Monday, June 23, 2003

It's now official -- Ann is the Coultergeist.

via tbogg.

Dubya apparently expects to raise $200 million for his presidential campaign -- a sum which covers only the primaries, in which he'll almost certainly be running unopposed, as there is public funding for major party candidates in the general election. Imagine how much money he'd have to raise if he had opposition. That's just about double what he raised for the last campaign -- and, coincidentally, the limit on individual contributions to campaigns has also doubled (under the one provision of the McCain Feingold law which is not under attack in the courts).

But seriously, folks. This is all going to be used to attack the Democrats early and often -- as the Democrats will, no doubt, spend quite a bit of time attacking each other. I've got a bad feeling about this...

Sunday, June 22, 2003

While I'm not blogging much, Wampum and Digby are posting again...