Thursday, September 11, 2003

Two years ago, Dubya said "Freedom was attacked today".

Yesterday, Rumsfeld proclaimed that most of the inmates of the Guantanamo Gulag will be held indefinitely without trial for as long as the "war on terror" lasts. Elsewhere, administration officials have said that they aren't sure that it will ever end -- that they see it as less a finite conflict than a permanent condition. American citizens are as subject to indefinite detention at Dubya's pleasure as anyone else -- the Lackawanna 6 plead guilty on the advice of their lawyers, having been told by the government that if it looked like their clients would be found innocent, they would be yanked out of the courts into Guantanamo's extra-judicial limbo. And when Ashcroft talks about the successes of his anti-terror efforts, he talks about the Lackawanna 6.

So much for attacks on freedom.

As for the war on terror, the increasingly indispensable Riverbend responds to Dubya's speech on Sunday from on the scene in Baghdad:

The one thing I agreed with was this: there are terrorists in Iraq. It’s true. Ever since the occupation, they’ve been here by the hundreds and thousands. They are seeping in from neighboring countries through the borders the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ could not protect and would not let the Iraqi army protect. Some of them are even a part of the Governing Council now. Al-Daawa Party is responsible for some of the most terrible bombings in Iraq and other countries in the region.

There's more there. There always is (don't miss her comments on his grasp of Iraqi geography). But best to wind up, as she does, with a take on what Dubya's rhetoric -- all of it -- really means:

“Friends, Americans, Countrymen, lend me your ears… lend me your sons and daughters, lend me your tax dollars… so we can wage war in the name of American national security (people worldwide are willing to die for it)… so I can cover up my incompetence in failing to protect you… so I can add to the Bush and Cheney family coffers at your expense and the expense of the Iraqi people. I don’t know what I’m doing, but if you spend enough money, you’ll want to believe that I do."

I can't top that.

(Rumsfeld comment also via Talkleft).

One more note: "Freedom" wasn't attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. People were. And many survivors are as unhappy as I am about how the tragedy has become fodder for the Dubya crew's self-serving rhetoric...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

As Kevin Drum notes, the new CAPPS II screening system is intended to ban something like one percent of current passengers from flying commercially -- effectively barring them from a lot of high-paying jobs which require frequent travel. Something of a concern considering how many people who appear to be on the existing "watch list" seem to have nothing to point them out as threats other than peaceful opposition to the current party in power.

Of course, this doesn't apply to trains and buses, or toll highways. Yet. Nevertheless, the overall effect is that people who want to travel much, or quickly, will have to fit some vague criteria, unknown to them, of being in the good graces of the government. (And if people get a little overcautious about pushing the limit because they have no idea where it is, well that's just fine with the powers that be).

In any case, this system of travel bans starts to create at least the same type of social control that the old Soviet Union got with its system of internal passports. Which brings up this little flashback from a post some time ago, about the confinement of protestors in Pennsylvania to "free speech zones" where no one would see them (wasn't the whole country a "free speech zone" once upon a time?):

When I was learning about the evils of communism in school, I didn't hear so much about the massacres, or even the gulag. It was instead the conditions of daily life that got to you --- people subject to search and arrest without any review, the informants, the restrictions on mass media, the inefficient, government-connected industries despoiling the environment (with a few apparatchiks at the top skimming off cash for a sumptuous lifestyle), the government agencies stocked only by the politically reliable, and the goons in the politburo able to impose whatever half-baked policy they liked, justify it with whatever lies they liked, enforced by a government apparatus stocked high with only those chosen to be politically reliable, and never be subject to any meaningful review. I'm starting to get the feeling that someone got the same lessons I did --- and thought to themselves, "Wow, what a neat idea!"

Ooops: Corrected Kevin's name.

The recording industry's case against file-swappers is that it deprives them of revenue that they would otherwise have received for the music that gets shipped around. (Well, actually, they talk about the money that would have gone to the artists, but most of them wind up seeing bupkes).

The RIAA just settled their lawsuit against a 12-year-old girl from a New York City housing project who'd downloaded new music, for $2000. I'm sure that's comparable to the revenue they actually lost on her purchases. Why ever would they have sued otherwise?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Calpundit comments, echoing a Times editorial, that

I can't think of a single major policy initiative he's taken that compares, say, to Bill Clinton's healthcare plan: something that he believes in so deeply that it's worth pushing for even though it runs the risk of being unpopular. This is one of the key differences between Bush and Tony Blair, for example.

Now that's unfair. I can think of one -- a tax policy that combines deep tax cuts massively stacked in favor of the already rich, with new enforcement efforts targeted directly at the poor...

So, did I miss the blogsphere brigade attack on Safire for bashing "failuremongers" who claim that the Iraq occupation has been longer, more troublesome and more costly than anticipated, as a result of overly optimistic ans starry-eyed plans, the day after Dubya gave a speech admitting that the Iraq occupation has been longer, more troublesome and more costly than anticipated, and that his plans had been overly optimistic? Or am I just the last person to really care about the old Nixon shill?

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Between the real fake president giving his speech on the networks, and the fake fake president saving the nation on cable, there was only one thing to do -- find out how much sound was leaking over the walls from the Springsteen concert at Fenway Park.

(Enough to know that the folks inside were getting a heck of a show, but regrettably, not enough to share in the experience. And while it wasn't enough for me to stick it out all the way through, it was, on the whole, a more pleasant way to spend the evening).

In reviewing the transcript, though, there are a few bits that stick out. What hit me hardest was this:

Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council resolution, which would authorize the creation of a multinational force in Iraq, to be led by America.

According to the recent CBO report, we don't just want assistance, we need it -- current force levels have not been sufficient to maintain order, according to everyone not actively shilling for the administration, and we can't even sustain those for more than another few months. But the countries with large numbers of troops to commit aren't so hot on "American leadership"; they want a much more active role for multilateral bodies. And even if they view bailing us out as a "duty", the way Dubya put it, they may think that it's best served, long term, by waiting another few months until we see the wisdom of pursuing it their way...

The newest Esquire (just on newsstands, not yet on line) has an interview with the mysterious Isabella V.. Supposedly in meatspace.

Isabella, you may or may not recall, describes herself as an heiress from an ancient, wealthy and very powerful family, on the run from an arranged marriage, a phenomenally jealous and "ethically flexible" father, and the squadrons of high-priced detectives which he has hired to try to retrieve her, or at least, the millions of dollars which she's using to finance her escape. Some of her readers have been politely skeptical. Some of them haven't been polite.

Myself, I've blown hot and cold; on the one hand, the story is, at the very least, well enough researched to withstand any attempt I've seen to poke holes in it. On the other hand, well... there are a lot more high quality pranksters in the world than heiresses on the lam. As to other sources, the best independant witness to her existance to date was a facsimile of a letter purportedly received by The Agonist from her family lawyers, or people purporting to be her family lawyers.

Until now, when John Richardson reports in Esquire on his own meeting with Isabella -- and in the process adds some new, fanciful elements to an already weird tale (did I mention the field trip she took to visit the drug smugglers?), including a cantankerous Panamanian lawyer and a buff, dapper, machine-gun-toting bodyguard who seems to have wandered in from a high-concept fashion spread elsewhere in the magazine.

Does this prove anything? Even Richardson winds up saying he can't prove the people he met weren't actors. But as to the "more pranksters in the world..." argument, this would, at this point, be a very, very good prank. Someone has either enlisted Richardson in perpetuating the gag, at the risk of his professional career (after the recent cautionary examples of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass), or faked the whole complicated set of logistics of the meeting as described in the article. And faking that, would make Isabella's various activities (including a fair amount of net-related skulduggery to hide her actual location), to my admittedly nonprofessional reckoning, comparable to anything that Joey "cathouse for dogs" Skaggs ever did. And after putting in this kind of effort, Skaggs would have national press coming out of his ears. Even for a committed hoaxster, it's questionable whether the payoff would be worth it. Though on the third hand, Skaggs did sometimes enlist compliant media. And around we go.

And for what little it's worth, the notion of a blogger in Baghdad initially seemed almost as far out.

Should you believe it? I dunno. I'm not sure what to think myself; for one thing, if the bare outlines of her story are true, Isabella has every reason to be lying through her teeth about the rest of it. Which means she's either lying, or she's lying, or she's... reckless, at the very least. But you certainly shouldn't believe everything you read on the web. Take this blog, for instance. The author claims to be 3500 years old. (Well, at least that old; that's about when she woke up after getting badly conked on the head, and she's got no memories of anything before that). But a real 3500 year old would certainly be enlightened enough to agree with me about politics far more often than this person actually does. Gotta be a fake.