culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
always use a condom!

Presidents' Day is part of National Condom Week (February 14 – 21), so you should send a condom to Africa in W's name. Because you know he won't do it himself, despite his sudden interest in "preventing" AIDS.

Tragic results will arise from the Republican insistence on pretending that viral diseases have moral causes. Here's an overview of their death-dealing War on Condoms (pdf file from Planned Parenthood).

The matter-of-fact sexuality depicted in the sign above reveals the lack of human reality in the administration's standard approach. People have sex — sometimes without the sanction of church or state. Get over it, you big babies. Because you Republicans auctioned off your power base to radical Christians (not to mention your implicit racism as a party), millions of lives are at stake, and millions more orphans will roam the African continent.

Links via Uppity-Negro.com via Long story; short pier.

Dept. of Told You So: We anticipated a faith-and-abstinence bullshit followup to W's bogus $15 billion for AIDS in Africa "cure" in this post on the State of the Union address. See also David E's blow-by-blow response to W's oral report.
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Favorite antiwar protest signs:
Texas of Evil

Class Warfare Now!

I love my dad too, but jeez!

9-11: 15 Saudis , 0 Iraqis

Don't Mess With Mesopotamia

"It takes a child to raze a village."

"NY GAYS DON'T WANT BUSH"

LESBIANS SAY "I HATE DICK"

Draft the Bush Twins!

One nation under surveillance

How did our oil get underneath their sand?
From
WNYC via URLDJ.
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Is right-wing media bias a loss leader? Sometimes right-wing press bias simply makes no demographic or business sense. Does it then serve as a strategic move to intentionally lose short-term money in the interest of building a long-term opinion monopoly?

That's the impression I got from this letter to
Chicago Magazine's Press Box by Steve Rhodes (scroll down):
Did you catch the columnist line-up in the Commentary section of the Sunday [Chicago] Sun-Times? It featured Bob Novak, George Will, Mark Steyn, and Betsy Hart, not to mention a guest column from the editor of the Jerusalem Post under the headline: 'Liberals Just Refuse to Evolve.' Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading all the above columnists except Hart, but how about giving the other side some space?

The hard right turn at the S-T under Hollinger has me thinking that no newspaper in America is more politically out of step with its readership. Think about it, approximately one-third of the S-T’s audience is African-American, and a hefty portion of the White readership is made up of Democratic-leaning, city-dwellers. Don't forget, Al Gore won every single city ward and Rod Blagojevich lost just one. Only one of Chicago's 50 aldermen is Republican and not a single member of the Chicago delegation in the general assembly is a Republican. Chicago might be the most Democratic city in America, and its newspaper of record (the Trib is a suburban paper) keeps moving to the right.

Can a newspaper keep feeding its readers a diet of opinions that they reject every election day?
Force-fed opinions are the evident goal of such bad business decision-making. Eventually, the tidal wave of right-wing prejudice and conjecture is intended to erode Chicagoans' natural tendencies toward Democratic values like fairness, decency and inclusion. Not that Chicago is especially unique — the journalistic tilt to the right is happening throughout the US. It's just odd to observe in a city as Democratic as this one, as the letter-writer notes.

The time to reinvent the distribution of journalism may be upon us. Thoughts? Email me.
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Monday, February 17, 2003
"A tiny mutation in a gene common to mammals may have changed the destiny of humanity. The gene, foxp2 - identified by British researchers two years ago - could have been the switch that lit up art, culture and social behaviour in Homo sapiens 50,000 years ago." —
The Guardian

This story begs the question: How quickly can Republicans be engineered to catch up?
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Dispatch from the Home Depot trenches. This is a friend of a friend's emailed account of what it was like to be an employee at Home Depot last Thursday (lightly edited for length and broken into paragraphs, but otherwise unaltered):
I was truly entertained today at work. At the HOME DEPOT! From the minute I walked into work this morning at around a quarter to 7 I was stampeded by a herd of woman… all panick stricken about the high terroist alert and accompanied with a government shopping list in hand.

Located right across from my department stands the paint department. This was the happening place to be today. ... Where all the plastic sheeting used for paint drop clothes is on display and in stock for. Not only was this a top demand but equally was the duck tape. Located in the same aisle. These people were all literally nuts.

They presumed I was the expert on the subject. As if I personally had a government connection and new what grade of sheeting was the best for a biological attack. I would tell them "They tell me you need at least 6mil grade to handle anthrax and 4mil to block out mustard gas. Nothing I have is good for radiation"

Some believed me, some gave me a cutesy dirty look. Sad, but true. And I might regret ripping on these people when they are found dead tomorrow morning. After they all suffocate themselves and die of anoxia after they duck tape wrap there precious little abodes. These people live very sad sad tales. It makes you think why the government is not focusing on how they can help these poor lost souls.

I would even make them more neuratic by telling them that to really be affective blocking out these agents you really need to cover your chimney because any hole or air intake coming from the outside would wipe you out right away anyway. Which is true. I did research. Hilarious! These people... They probably go home.... maybe straighten up the house a little bit, wait for their children to come home from school and just WORRY their lives away. And I thought I was neuratic.

Let me just put it this way... These people all have an illness and need to be medicated. Or maybe they are already medicated and just screwed up because of that. Whatever the case may be. So there I am trying to crack jokes with them... trying to have a little fun with them. And more importantly trying to Push Sales. Because it's my job.

I kept Reminding them that tomorrow is Valentines day. And what a better gift to give then duct tape and plastic sheeting. That really shows how much you care for someone close to you. Some bought into this bullshit. Which thrilled me even more. I almost got my rocks off. Playing it serious on the outside but laughing my ass off on the inside. Duct tape and plastic the gift that keeps on giving. But the majority were humourless. Serious to no end. Stricktly business. Needed to get the tape and sheets before they were all sold out. Stock piling there baskets like the end of the world was here or the sky was falling. Then I thought to myself, is this how they act come Holiday time when they have to find the Tickle-Me-Elmo or earlier yet, the Cabbage Patch Kid. It has to be on or pretty close to the same level.

At the same time I was having fun with these people I was also feeling very sad. Thinking why did the government share this info and make all these people nuts. Why couldn't he just tell the local government to be on the look-out. Then I thought... Duct tape is probably the most useful fixer-upper on this planet. Now there is a shortage of it. For every roll we sold today it's a win for the terroist's. Now, when I really could use a roll there won't be any. Little boy who cried wolf. Pallet after pallet was taken down. The reach truck went the full mile today. By three o'clock ALL GONE.

But thats when the laughs got even more out of control. I even had to excuse myself to the bathroom because I could not control myself. I was on the verge of being rude to the customer. People kept flocking in. Wanting to buy more and more duct tape and sheets. "Can you believe it...We are all sold out. Sorry Home Depot was not able to accomodate your needs today." And laughed my ass home.

Stock tip of the day: 3M. Buy it today.
What holds this country together? Not our system of democracy. Not our borders. Not the economy. Not our ideals. Not a vision for the future.

Duct tape.
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The suction economy. Max of
MaxSpeak writes about "vanishing surpluses and false promises" from an economist's perspective at TomPaine.com.

Meanwhile, bankruptcies have risen over 25% during the (latest) Bush administration's first two years, according to this report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (pdf file via FindLaw).
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More than the space shuttle has disintegrated. Media Whores Online presents an emotionally moving protest report called
Then and Now, chronicling the disintegration of international goodwill following 9/11/01 due to an increasingly belligerent US government. (1.7MB Flash show.)
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Speak Out

Lawrence Ferlinghetti


And a vast paranoia sweeps across the land
And America turns the attack on its Twin Towers
Into the beginning of the Third World War
The war with the Third World

And the terrorists in Washington
Are shipping out the young men
To the killing fields again

And no one speaks

And they are rousting out
All the ones with turbans
And they are flushing out
All the strange immigrants

And they are shipping all the young men
To the killing fields again

And no one speaks

And when they come to round up
All the great writers and poets and painters
The National Endowment of the Arts of Complacency
Will not speak

While all the young men
Will be killing all the young men
In the killing fields again

So now is the time for you to speak
All you lovers of liberty
All you lovers of the pursuit of happiness
All you lovers and sleepers
Deep in your private dream
Now is the time for you to speak
O silent majority
Before they come for you!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is San Francisco's first poet laureate (1998) and the owner and founder of City Lights Bookstore. This poem first appeared on the
City Lights Web site.

In contrast to the chickenhawks, Ferlinghetti served his country in the Navy during World War II.

Original link via the indispensable TalkLeft. Ferlinghetti read in Chicago in October 2002, an event we wrote about here.
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Faith-based weather forecast.
Today, Presidents' Day — Snow, 24"

EXTENDED FORECAST
Tue 2/18 — Potomac turns to blood
Wed 2/19 — Frogs, 24"
Thu 2/20 — Lice
Fri 2/21 — West Nile flies
Sat 2/22 — Mad cow disease
Sun 2/23 — Smallpox
Mon 2/24 — Hailstorm
Tue 2/25 — Locusts
Wed 2/26 — Darkness
Thu 2/27 — Death
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Friday, February 14, 2003
The people of Baghdad are in New York City. "On February 13, 2003, teams of artists and activists began postering New York City with snapshots from Baghdad. Quiet and casual, the snapshots show a part of Baghdad we rarely see: the part with people in it."

These are the people W's administration is so hell-bent on bombing. See their faces at
Baghdad Snapshot Action. Link via URLDJ.
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"Dow down 27% under Bush." That Clinton dollar you invested in your 401(k) or IRA is now worth a mere 73¢. More than a quarter of your retirement money has vanished into the fog spewn by Ari, Tom Ridge, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Homeland Sideshow.

We should be on Red Alert any minute now. Duct-tape your battery-operated radio to your head for further instructions.
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Project Steal, Project Plunder, Project Lie.... Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle provides a substantial overview of the 2,700-page congressional report dealing with the
Enron collapse:
enron chartHouston's bankrupt Enron Corp. aggressively pursued complex tax schemes of dubious legitimacy to improve its bottom line by $2 billion before collapsing in 2001, according to a critical new congressional report released Thursday.

The company that left many rank-and-file employees broke paid top executives lavishly, operated its tax division like a profit center and benefited from lax oversight inside and out, investigators said.

[…]

According to the committee investigation, the specially created entities had either flimsy or no true business purpose beyond securing favorable tax and accounting results for Enron.

One entity, noted by the committee for its punlike name, "Project Steele," delivered pretax earnings of $133 million for Enron's bottom line. Internal company documents for the transaction are titled, "Show Me the Money!"

[…]

In devising the transactions, Enron received tax advice that pushed legal boundaries from companies such as Bankers Trust, accounting firms Arthur Andersen and Deloitte & Touche, and from its outside law firm, Vinson & Elkins, the congressional panel said.

The work of outside advisers, which the investigators noted at times reached the level of "collusion," cost the bankrupt energy trader $88 million in fees.

Of Houston-based Vinson & Elkins in particular, the report notes that the "minimal level of review" provided by Enron's outside counsel was "perhaps not unintentional."

[…]

[Enron's former lead tax counsel, Robert J. ] Hermann said that between 1995 and 2001, the tax department booked close to $1 billion in profits [Ed.: !!!] for Enron. In 2000 alone, $296 million, or 30 percent of Enron's profits, came from tax-saving strategies.

"Through September of 2001, I was already putting $300 million on the bottom line for the company that year, but my boss asked if I could come up with another $300 million if I had to," Hermann said. "I said I could, but never got the chance to."

[…]

In 2000, the year before the company filed for bankruptcy, the 200 top Enron executives collected a combined $1.4 billion in salaries, bonuses and stocks.

At the same time, many other employees lost millions in retirements savings when the company failed, in part owing to a corporate culture that promoted investment in Enron stock.

The report notes that in addition to not pushing for diversification of investment, the company's retirement plan required Enron's matching contributions be invested back into Enron stock.


"Enron's 'core management philosophy' was rotten to the core," said Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and a committee member.
handshakeEnron was one of candidate Bush's most generous contributors at the gubernatorial and presidential levels. Enron's brazen financial frauds helped put an unelected candidate into the White House.

Remember when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton shook hands and promised us campaign finance reform? The sorry state of our union is what we get for not badgering our representatives and insisting upon them coming through with a campaign finance system that did not reward candidates backed by money stolen from their employees, their shareholders, and the US Treasury.

Keeping track of these issues is the grunt work of democracy — and it is our responsibility.
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Speaking of liars, GOP media pawn Jerry Bowyer is new to our radar screen. His deceitful defense of Dubya's deficit is divulged by
CalPundit, and TBOGG points to the fat cushion of Scaife foundation money upon which Bowyer's lying ass is seated.
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"You, sir, are a liar!" Emma of
Late Night Thoughts posts good advice to candidates here and here. Such as:
Moderates and liberals in this country believe that discussion will get them somewhere. It will not. The opposition does not speak; they spout, they preach, they revile, they attack. We spend a lot of time on the defensive: "but Bill Clinton didn't..."; "no, I didn't say that..."; "but that is not what happened..." By forcing us to defend ourselves, they make us repeat their lies until they are the only thing people hear. When did we forget the simple sentence: "you are lying?" Why do we have to be mealymouthed about it, and look for euphemisms? Why can't a Democratic politician look one of those blowhards on tv straight in the eye and say: you, sir, are a liar?
Of course, countering every blowhard on television will require superhuman strength and endurance. Can we clone Carville? (Link via Blue Streak.)
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Recent film and video roundup. Ratings (and some reviews) from the highly idiosyncratic Skimble CineSystem™:
8 : Amelie
9 :
Far from Heaven
9 : The Fast Runner
6 : Gosford Park
4 : Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
7 : Nurse Betty
4 : Panic Room
9 : Talk to Her
8 : Y Tu Mamá También
For recent movies, 9 is the highest possible score. The decade-based Skimble CineSystem™ is a 10-point scale, but to receive a rating of 10 a film must be at least ten years old and still be recognized as an indisputable masterpiece — e.g., Citizen Kane, Seven Samurai, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and so on.
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Thursday, February 13, 2003
Two versions of the Party of Lincoln.
George F. Will rhapsodizes about the "boldness" of the Bush budget (link via Zizka):
President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget has little foreign policy content but, properly understood, has immense foreign policy implications. If Baghdad, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Seoul understand this administration's comprehensive boldness, they will understand not only that regime change is coming to Iraq but also that the end of NATO as we have known it, and the removal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, are not unthinkable.

The budget evokes 1862. In that annus mirabilis, with the national government's writ severely restricted and the entire American project in doubt, Lincoln and Congress nevertheless enacted the Homestead Act, which sped the settlement of the Great Plains; the Morrill Act, which begot the land grant college system; and the law that ignited construction of the transcontinental railroad.
This invocation of the ghost of Lincoln is used to qualify every plutocratic, destructive move by an ex-governor of Texas.

But Lincoln, as a congressman, voted against statehood for Texas.

Wouldn't it be a different country now if Lincoln had gotten his way?

"No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent," said Abraham Lincoln, representing the views of the real party of Lincoln. The current Republican administration concerns itself not at all with the consent of anyone but its obsequious minority, and maybe not even that.

A lot more than W's budget evokes 1862. The political climate in 2003 reeks of another civil war spurred by dividend-wielding corporate plantation owners stealing the wages of their worker-slaves.
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Educate Ann Coulter's fan club. Go to the Amazon page for Ann Coulter's newest hate crime in the shape of a book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, and enter your recommendation of Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? instead.

Here's what you do, in two easy steps:
1. Go to the Amazon advice page for Treason and scroll down to "Our Customers' Advice."

2. Cut and paste What Liberal Media's ASIN (same as the ISBN) which is 0465001769 into the "I recommend:" box, and then check off whether you'd like your recommendation to be in addition to or instead of Coulter's screeching rants. (You'll have to have an Amazon ID to recommend a book.)
Extra credit: Then go get (or give a right-wing colleague or relative) a copy of What Liberal Media? if you haven't already.
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Blood and sugar daddies. Don't miss
Orcinus on wealth, who expands Dave Johnson's argument about academic repression to make an even scarier point:
...it has long been apparent that the extremist right in America -- the neo-Nazis and skinheads, tax protesters and "Patriots," gay-bashers and anti-abortion radicals -- are being quietly funded by some very wealthy right-wing "sugar daddies." These people may not necessarily share all the views of these extremists, but they deliberately underwrite their causes as a way of creating "wedge issues" -- mostly racial and class issues that serve to keep the working class firmly entrenched in the conservative camp -- that help drag the national center rightward and start a million fires that keep liberals busy extinguishing them.

As with Johnson's 'Four Sisters' [the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors's Castle Rock Foundation and the Olin Foundation], their money grossly distorts the national body politic by exerting a strong gravitational pull rightward, and helps put a broad array of extreme agendas into play in the mainstream, when they might otherwise be relegated to the fringes. The real danger, as I've been discussing, is that the commingling of all these elements in an anti-liberal right -- especially one that is being whipped up with the kind of rhetoric that traditionally escalates into physically violent reaction -- may bring about a genuine coalition of corporatism and proto-fascism, all bent on destroying liberals.
Upward wealth redistribution isn't enough for these folks. The Ann Coulters of the USA want the alienation, exile, humiliation, and death of any citizens who disagree with them. We haven't seen bloodthirsty, self-indulgent extremists like these since the promotional tour for Mein Kampf.
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Clear Channel prepares for war. Where do you land in the pecking order of interviewability for planned war coverage?
INTERVIEW AND NEWS POSSIBILITIES:
Local and State Universities for a published guide of
'Spokespersons and Experts.'
Local Congressmen (know key committees involved)
Local Senators (same)
Terrorism experts
Chemical/Biological warfare experts
High ranking local military or ex-military officials
Military History professors
Former G-Men
Local Mosque spokesperson
Political Science professor
Government & Politics professor
International affairs experts and/or professor
Hazardous materials expert / Local Haz-Mat Director
Middle Eastern Studies professor
ROTC Instructor
Veterans of Desert Storm or the recent Afghanistan Conflict
Local families with loved ones currently in the Middle East
Local families of business types working in the Middle East
Local Companies with business ties to the Middle East (oil etc.)
Arab League Rep
Jewish Community Center Rep
Local airports and airlines
Military recruiting offices
Hotels ¡V stranded travelers?
National Guard/State Police (Are they on alert?)
Local emergency management officials or agencies
What about public access to Federal and State buildings?
Local schools ¡V business as usual?
Psychologists for effects on children
Is there a foreign consulate nearby (Israel has one in Houston)
Keep focused on the wires whatever for story angles occurring in CC markets
If a local TV station sends someone to the area find a way to use them, radio exclusive
Anti-war types
That's me there, dead last. Link via Seeing the Forest.
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"The longest traditional Senate filibuster in history belongs to recently retired Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to civil rights legislation in 1957." (
New York Times)
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hypnoMesmerizing the IRS. The Headline of the Day award goes to
"Tax Moves by Enron Said to Mystify the I.R.S." (New York Times):
Enron and other big companies have escaped taxes in recent years through financial maneuvers so complex that the Internal Revenue Service has been unable to understand them, the Senate Finance Committee will be told this morning by Congressional tax experts who spent nearly a year going over Enron's tax returns.

[...]

Enron, the Houston-based energy trading company, was one of the most politically connected businesses in the country, with ties to President Bush and many other federal officials. Its name became synonymous with corporate scandal when its stock price collapsed and it sought bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Enron's chief financial officer is awaiting trial on fraud and other charges.

The report's disclosures on corporate tax avoidance, and its details on executive compensation, "are eye-popping," said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of only two people who would speak publicly yesterday about its contents.
Molto misterioso! The scale of Enron's hypnotic powers boggles the mind:
"The report paints quite a shocking picture of Enron's tax gimmicks and structured transactions and executive compensation," Mr. Baucus said. "Bad as Enron is going to come out, the deeper concern is this is just not Enron alone. It involves lots of other companies and how they inundated the I.R.S., out-complexed the I.R.S. The I.R.S. just cannot handle the complexity of some of these transactions."

Enron created 881 offshore subsidiaries, 692 of them in the Cayman Islands, as part of its strategy to avoid taxes.

The committee chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, called the report "an absolute barn-burner."

At a confirmation hearing for new Tax Court judges yesterday, Senator Grassley said the report "provides for the first time the complete story of Enron's efforts to manipulate its taxes and accounting."

"The report is very disturbing in its findings," he added. "From this report, I'm worried about the Tax Court blessing highly artful interpretations of the code."

[...]

Enron did not pay taxes in four of the five years before its collapse, according to the financial statements it sent to shareholders. The company has hinted in the past that it may have actually paid some tax during those four years because of the corporate alternative minimum tax. If Enron did pay some alternative tax in those four years, it would raise fresh questions about the reliability of reports to shareholders and whether the Securities and Exchange Commission is adequately policing rules on the disclosure of material information about corporate finances.
So far none of this is news, although it's worth repeating for a variety of reasons.

Tucked into the article was something a bit less unique to Enron and bit more shocking in its quantification:
Tax shelters are sold primarily to the very biggest companies because they can pay the largest fees to the accounting and law firms and investment houses that design them and sell them on the condition of confidentiality. The I.R.S. has stepped up efforts to find tax shelters, but the agency lacks the resources to address the problem fully, Charles O. Rossotti, the former I.R.S. commissioner, warned last fall in his final report to his oversight board.

Corporate profits reported to the I.R.S. in 1998 were $155 billion less than those reported to shareholders, according to Mihir A. Desai, a Harvard economist. His study and others suggest that tax shelters may be the primary reason for this difference, which is costing the government as much as $54 billion in taxes each year.

The 10,000 or so largest companies paid 20.3 percent of their 1999 profits in federal income taxes, while the next tier of companies paid at a 30.9 percent rate, according to an I.R.S. analysis of corporate tax returns for the year. The largest companies had 26 times the profits of the second tier of companies, which paid income taxes at a rate 50 percent higher than the largest companies, the I.R.S. data shows.
So much for double taxation of dividends. They apparently weren't even properly taxed the first time, if the cash was siphoned off to fund elaborate tax shelters.

The middle class of companies, like the middle class of citizens, is paying more than its share. The wealth redistribution schemes of this administration and the Republican Party are designed to tilt the playing field toward their contributor-masters, so that all wealth rolls uphill and concentrates in the fewest hands.

If we're losing $54 billion a year to shelters, what would it cost for the IRS to "address the problem"? $1 billion? $10 billion? Even if it cost an annual $25 billion to enforce IRS rules, We the People would be getting over 100% return on this investment — the closest thing we'll ever see to a Nasdaq bull market while a sticky-fingered Republican is president.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Poetry in the Bartlet White House. Apparently
iambic tetrameter and cinquains figure in tonight's episode of The West Wing.

With all this poetry talk in the air, First Lady Laura Bush might need to tune in and learn something.
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The Guardian on US voting machines:
By 2004, most voters in the US may well be voting by touch-screen systems, provided by a handful of companies, mainly private. Routine oversight of the counting process is effectively impossible. Even in the event of a court challenge, there is no sure way of telling that the votes have been allocated correctly. I asked a spokesman for Diebold, one of the largest firms involved, how a losing candidate would know they had lost. "Our machines undergo a battery of tests undertaken by independent testing associations for logic and accuracy," he said.

Fine - in theory the machines are perfect: we all have computers that never go wrong, don't we? Unfortunately, there appears to be nothing to stop to a corrupt company, a corrupt official or a corrupt (or merely incompetent) programmer subverting the democratic will.

There has, naturally, been zilch coverage of this issue in the mainstream American press - because the White House hasn't mentioned it. But conspiracy theorists on the web (see, for instance, ecotalk.org and bartcop.com) are hard at work. The Florida election was, of course, a shambles again in the 2002 midterm election, especially in the primaries. The conspiracists, however, are concentrating on two other states.

One is Georgia, where all the votes in 2002 were cast on Diebold screens. The sitting Democratic senator and (to general astonishment) governor were both defeated in the election. Nine of Diebold's 12 directors are listed as Republican donors. The other case is Nebraska, where more than 80% of the votes last November were counted on machines produced by the leader in the field: ES & S. Nebraska handily re-elected its Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, who just happens to be the company's former chief executive and remains a major shareholder. I do not remotely suggest either election was rigged, though Charlie Matulka, Hagel's beaten Democratic opponent, has protested in a manner somewhat unusual for a candidate who only got 15%. This is probably all just paranoia, but the Paranoid party has as much right to participate in elections as anyone else - and to know how and why they have lost.
Much more on this topic at Seeing the Forest. Link via Atrios.
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universe

This is the eye of my God. How long will it be before faith-based budgeting eliminates science-based cosmology?

How does creationism and so-called "intelligent design" square with astrophysics and the geological record? Can believers in "revealed" truth ever peacefully coexist with actual, physical truth? Doesn't the complexity of reality intrude upon the simplistic formulas that govern their souls?
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Even meaningless gossip columns play into right-wing tactics of ridicule. Do you disagree with someone? Call them crybabies, as do the playground pundits of
The New York Post's Page Six:
Iraq hacks

The appeasement mob can add playwright Arthur Miller to its ranks. Miller is joining more than 25 other Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, poet laureates and hip-hoppers who will read "Poems Not Fit for the White House" Feb. 17 at Avery Fisher Hall. The leftie literati - who oppose the liberation of Iraq from genocidal Saddam Hussein - are miffed at First Lady Laura Bush, because she put the kibosh on a White House poetry symposium after poet Sam Hamill submitted antiwar propaganda from his colleagues. Other crybabies include Saul Williams, Robert Pinsky, Stanley Kunitz, Mark Strand and Mos Def.
Could there be more damning evidence of the liberal bias of the New York press than this? [The NY Post link will vanish after today. Link via MobyLives.]

More about responses to the poetry dissenters here.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2003
MSNBC and Osama — before and after.
Atrios talks about how MSNBC is very quickly changing its tune about what "Osama" said. Here's the original screen grab, courtesy of Democratic Underground:

MSNBC old

And here is what the article looked like about an hour later:

MSNBC new

Hmm. Osama and Bush — united in the fight against Hussein? Plausible. Both are beholden to their fundamentalist constituencies.

Bad translation? Or is MSNBC just a GE-owned propaganda mill?
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Democrats grow a spine.
Washington Post:
Senate Democrats, brushing aside a personal appeal from President Bush, vowed today to delay a vote on the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada until they receive more information about his legal views.

In a major escalation of the increasingly bitter partisan fight over Bush's judgeship choices, Democrats announced they had enough votes to block an immediate vote on nomination of the conservative Hispanic attorney to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

While stopping short of saying they would kill the nomination, they said they would filibuster -- or delay a vote -- until Estrada more fully answers questions about his legal views and the Bush administration provides memoranda he wrote while he worked in the office of the solicitor general in the Justice Department.
No mention that Estrada was part of George W. Bush's election-stealing team.
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Formerly anonymous IssuesGuy of Seeing the Forest
outs himself for a good cause (and a very good article about which we posted earlier).
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TBOGG is
pissed off:
Remember when they said that the "grown-ups" were back in charge? What kind of grown-up puts people on the street so they can have a nice shiny war to get re-elected? What kind of grown-up gives the money that they take away from housing and gives to churches so they can build...more churches? If you didn't already know that the Bush Administration was made up of some the most evil bastards to ever roam the Earth...welcome to the new reality. The terrorists have not only won, they're running the government.
Running it into the ground, that is.
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We've got mail. A reader, who will remain nameless, writes (presumably in reference to
this post):
First of all, home owners near the Iraq border might have to deal with fallout of another kind. Has there been one story about what would happen if a cruise missile hits a chemical dump?
Not that I'm aware of. But what would happen if a cruise missile — or 3,000 of them — hits a chemical dump?

The short answer is: death and casualties. The longer answer is: carefully planned and pre-calculated deaths and casualties.
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Via
Notes on the Atrocities comes the very spooky Presidential Prayer Team, a bunch of people convinced that they can communicate with worlds other than the one that our president is actively ruining.

Anecdotal evidence for the "power" of prayer abounds:
Accident victim credits prayer with saving his life after being thrown 25 feet into the air.

An 18-year-old driver credits God with answering his desperate prayers for survival. "God was definitely in control," said Joe R. Thompson, III after he was rescued.

Thompson was driving in Kansas City, Missouri on Monday, January 27 when he lost control of his vehicle. He was thrown 25 feet into the air, bounced off several power lines and fell onto what he believes was a heavy telephone line. When one of his legs caught on the wire, he quickly wrapped his other leg around it and held on.

"I just kept saying a prayer over and over," he said. Police report that Thompson was "bear-hugging" the wires when they arrived. He was also in constant communication with his father while the crew worked to turn off power in order to complete the rescue. His father asked him how long he would be able to hold on, and Joe reported, "I can hold on as long as it takes." Thompson dangled from the wires for 20 minutes before he was brought safely to the ground.
Who can argue with evidence as compelling as this?

If God is "definitely in control," as Joe just informed us, does this mean we can finally blame God for the disintegration of the Columbia space shuttle? 9/11? Vietnam? The Holocaust? Hiroshima? The Inquisition?

The deaths of millions of innocent victims can now be attributed to the feebleness of their efforts at effective, politically motivated prayer. We must kneel and give thanks to American Christians for showing nonbelievers the way to completely shut down rational thought and obey our unelected masters.
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"How ironic, that Powell is now relying on the assistance of Osama Bin Laden to convince Americans and our allies after verbal denunciation and diplomatic bullying has failed.  How ironic and sad."
The ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose

The New York Times background story on this topic is here.
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Dave Johnson of the
Commonweal Institute writes an article on who is behind right-wing attacks on academics:
...the majority of the conservative experts and scholars writing newspaper op-ed pieces, books and magazine articles, and even the organizations that generate the "talking points" and position papers used by TV pundits and radio talk show hosts, are directly funded by, or work for organizations supported by this core group of funders.

[...]

It turns out that many of the most important attacks [on academic freedom] are part of a campaign organized by conservative foundations, as a study by report by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found. In a section entitled, "Targeting the Academy" the report discusses right-wing attacks on academia, including "political correctness" campaigns, efforts to use alumni contributions to advance a conservative agenda, efforts to take over or de-fund the National Endowment for the Humanities and to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts. These attacks follow the pattern outlined in the [influential 1971] Powell memo -- attack the patriotism of liberals and attempt to convince trustees of colleges and universities to remove them, replacing them with ideological "conservatives."
The attacks on academics is part of a larger pattern of replacing qualified and competent people with ideologically compliant mouthpieces.

Dave's article is heavily linked and footnoted for all the backstory you could want. Link via skippy via Thinking It Through.
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Twenty years ago Roz Chast, one of the New Yorker's greatest cartoonists, drew a cartoon entitled
"Recipes from the American Cheese Council" with self-serving recipes like these:
Cheese Omelette

2 eggs
5 lb. Swiss cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Melt butter in pan. Add eggs and cheese. Cook until done. Serves 2.
Now America's Beef Producers™ are targeting teenage girls with something equally inane, their faux-hip Cool 2B Real beef-friendly site, complete with recipes for Nacho Beef Dip, Beef Tacos, Beef Chili, etc.

Conclusion: In contemporary American corporate culture, it is increasingly impossible to distinguish satire or parody from whatever is being satirized or parodied.

Link via MemeMachineGo!
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Monday, February 10, 2003
"Let office plants die to save on water." This actual suggestion by former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was meant to help employees save money at their corporate headquarters, according to a
TomPaine.com quiz from Pigs at the Trough, Arianna Huffington's new book about corporate greed.

WorldCom's Ebbers, in case you forgot, is notorious for the $408 million in personal loans he got from the company. Three farms owned in part by Ebbers or linked to him got more than $4 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture aid from at least 1998 through 2001, according to USA Today. Ebbers was No. 174 on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans in 1999.

Maybe we should let him die to save on litigation.
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Where to invest at the advent of war. Forget the negative returns of the bushwhacked NYSE and Nasdaq markets. Check out the hot investment markets in the Middle East (from
The Economist):
If there is anything in the Middle East mounting faster than the threat of war, it is property prices in Kuwait. More specifically, the price of real estate near the dusty border-crossing into Iraq, where values have doubled and trebled in the past year. Since October alone, Kuwait's stock index has shot up nearly 30%, as businessmen sniff a windfall of opportunities after the smoke has cleared from next door.
Call your broker and ask for shares of the Iraqi Windfall REITs and some kickass Kuwaiti call options, and it'll feel just like a Clinton economy again.
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Two Michaels and the Media. Inexplicably filed under "Entertainment," this story appeared in
Yahoo! News:
WASHINGTON (Variety) Reminding the divided ranks that he's in control, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell made it clear Thursday that Democratic commissioner Michael Copps had no authority to schedule official public hearings on media ownership rules.

Copps, who insists that more of a national debate is needed before the rules are voted on, did not consult Powell, a Republican, before announcing in a press release that he was scheduling two commission hearings, in Seattle and Durham, N.C.

Powell directed the agency to issue a corrected press release, which states that the hearings being arranged by Copps are "field" hearings, not FCC events.

In recent days, Powell has appeared frustrated by the growing outcry over the agency's review of an unprecedented number of regs, an outcry based in part on the perception that the chairman is keen on deregulation.

If the FCC rules in question are undone, companies like News Corp. and Viacom Inc. could expand their empires.
Powell's frustration is our joy. Via Convergence Chaser.
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An amazing speech by MIT's
Neil Gershenfeld.
...he [the Indian general who's in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, the world's current nuclear battlefield] came to the conclusion that the best way to provide border security is through human security, and the best way to provide human security is through human development, and the best way to provide human development is through information, and the best way to provide information is through the network, therefore Indian army soldiers should bring internet connections to Muslim girls!

So, it's this amazing project where his soldiers are going in and bringing these net connections to little villages. And, in particular, the Muslim girls and Buddhist girls in these breeding-grounds of insurgency, who used to run when outsiders came, now they come running to these places. We were helping them with things like low-cost antennae and embedded controllers, so you can make incremental hubs of networks without any central control of the infrastructure. And what's amazing is the extent to which it flipped a community, from being a breeding-ground of insurgency, to having a tremendous sense of connection, a tremendous sense of belonging, transformed by these low-cost, distributed, locally developed technologies. And so, in a very real sense, I believe the deepest consequence of all of this stuff is not just making it easier to win wars, but preventing the need to fight wars in the first place.
A glimpse into the next revolutionary technologies, in every sense of the word. Via Boing Boing.
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Friday, February 07, 2003
Got my copy of Eric Alterman's
What Liberal Media?

Tell you all about it next week.
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Ashcroft only has eyes for you. From the
Center for Public Integrity:
ashbush(WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003) -- The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.
A full text document is available at the source above.

Tonight, Bill Moyers* will feature this story, a smallpox story, as well as a visit from Frank Rich.

*This link will vanish in a few days.
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Bush: "Reptilian entity," or not? Penn & Teller's new show
Bullshit on Showtime tweaks the Pinocchio noses of those who try to scam us, such as telepsychics, magnet therapists, and the like.

Tonight they examine alien abductions and talk about their letter to the White House, in which they invite response to a statement made by UFO author David Ickes. This is an excerpt from the letter (click on "Official Letters to the White House"):
For a segment of this television program, producers recently taped a series of interviews with participants at an event in California called "The UFO Expo." At the event, noted expert and author David Ickes claimed that President George W. Bush is a "reptilian entity." The following is an exact quote from Mr. Ickes: "If we could see beyond the limitations of our five senses, we would see George Bush the father and George Bush the son as reptilian entities."

I am offering Presdient Bush an opportunity to respond to these accusations.
I guess you have to watch the show to find out the outcome.
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Arthur Andersen wasn't the problem. The indicted and crippled accounting firm (and two-word all-purpose punch line) Arthur Andersen turns out to be not the purveyor of a one-off con game, but a small part of a pervasive corruption of the accounting industry that is yet coming to light (
New York Times):
Some wealthy Americans who paid millions in fees to two of the Big Four accounting firms to set up tax shelters are suing the firms after the Internal Revenue Service denied the tax savings that they had been promised.

Although only a few lawsuits have been filed, tax experts and lawyers handling these cases said they expected a flood of similar cases as the I.R.S. stepped up its hunt for tax cheating by hundreds and perhaps thousands of executives, business owners, athletes and entertainers with big incomes.

Two firms being sued, Ernst & Young and KPMG, offered shelters that they said would make taxes on salaries, stock option profits and capital gains from the sale of a business either shrink to pennies on the dollar or disappear.

The fees and savings on taxes can be enormous. Ernst & Young charged some clients $1 million just to hear a sales pitch, according to court papers. And the firms made millions from the sale of each shelter. The shelters allowed accounting firms, their clients and the law firms that blessed the deals to share money that otherwise would have gone to the government.
This is no longer legally justifiable tax avoidance, but industry-wide tax fraud. The sheltered (i.e., stolen) money rightfully belongs to citizens.

The Bush administration's isolation and public crucifixion of Andersen, designed to move the spotlight away from the actual Enron perps who contributed lavishly to several Bush campaigns, also conveniently served to destroy the auditor of Halliburton, whose questionable accounting practices occurred while Dick Cheney was its CEO in the late 1990s. It also managed to avoid any real reform of the accounting industry, thereby prolonging a bearish crisis in the stock markets when more Americans own stock than ever before.
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Last night Larry King interviewed
Bill Clinton. Late in the interview — during which Clinton is extraordinarily informed and articulate by current standards — they are joined by radio host Tom Joyner who said:
I think that right now, as people are watching this, I don't think I'm the only one that wishes that he was still president right now.
Later, Clinton on the topic of Trent Lott:
So I thought what they did was -- that Trent Lott made a boo-boo. It was like the equivalent of, you know, an uneducated guy scratching his ear or picking his nose at a dinner party. And they made him a scapegoat so that other people in America who were uncomfortable with what he said wouldn't think the rest of the Republican Party was doing that.

[...]

They axed him because he embarrassed them and risked undermining their policies. But their policies are what I disagreed with and I just thought it was terrible that used him as a scapegoat.
Via Media Whores Online.
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Thursday, February 06, 2003
The feeling isn't mutual. For the first time in 14 years, US investors removed more money from stock mutual funds than they put in, according to this report from
The Economist:
While the regulators and the industry squabble over the planned reforms, analysts are more worried about whether Americans’ faith in shares [stocks] has been shattered for good. An unlucky few have seen their investments completely wiped out in the past couple of years. Almost all investors are nursing losses. But shares always do well over the long term, right? Not necessarily. Analysts at Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, have worked out that the break-even point for someone investing sensibly on a monthly basis since 1990, when America’s interest in mutual funds exploded, would be around 776 on the Standard & Poors composite index, a level to which it has come perilously close. In other words, the average investor is near to losing his capital. Fund managers are learning a bitter lesson. Just as they benefited from a virtuous cycle of inflows and stockmarket rallies on the way up, they are vulnerable to a vicious cycle on the way down.
chart

No matter where you look in the American economy these days, there's a sinking feeling. This is the price we pay for Enronesque corporate criminality and an ill-conceived (and wildly expensive) Bush family grudge match with Iraq that sidesteps the real threats to this country — North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, home-grown anthrax-mailing terrorists, and so on.
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Neal Pollack covers the pro-war haiku movement. Perhaps Neal is the poet that New Criterion managing editor Roger Kimball (see 2/5/03, "The tragic story of a disappointed Republican poetry fan" below) longs for:
Hussein, ugly rat
Missiles hidden underground
Soon you will be dead.
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Holy piranha! Texas suffers from
biblical plagues. From the Houston Chronicle:
Officials in Corpus Christi have already killed two brown tree snakes, climbing serpents from Guam that eat everything they come upon, according to Howells. One was hiding in a washing machine aboard a ship, he said.

And there have also been reports of a piranha-like fish known as a Pacu that can weigh up to 30 pounds lurking in the waters of Buffalo Bayou.
Earlier in the article we learn that many of these invasions were intentional, but have since spun out of control.

The symbolism is hard to miss.
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The economy worsens. From the New York Times:
The economy has fallen into its worst hiring slump in almost 20 years, and many business executives say they remain unsure when it will end.

[...]

About one million people appear to have dropped out of the labor force since last summer, neither working nor looking for a job, according to government figures.

[...]

The shortage of jobs has also slowed wage growth so that only workers in the most affluent groups are still gaining ground on inflation, ending a six-year streak of broad increases in buying power*.

[...]

The possibility of a war with Iraq and an increase in oil prices offers another reason for hesitation [in hiring], they say. Many companies have also used new technologies and management techniques to produce more with the same number of employees.

"This is what I call the new reality," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, the chief executive of J. D. Edwards, a software maker in Denver that has kept its work force at 5,000 people for the last few years. "The environment we're operating in is what it's going to be like for a while."

[...]

An unusually large number of today's unemployed have been out of work for months, including Mr. Koehn, the South Bend manufacturing worker, who lost his job last spring. Almost 1.9 million people still looking for work have been unemployed for at least six months, triple the number of two years ago.
The young, the poor, the middle class — all must share in the sacrifice as we hand over our wages to our Republicorporate Chief Executive Overlords, in the form of George W. Bush's $2+ trillion tax cuts to benefit the wealthy.

The administration is astute in its opposition to a draft, because if young people were now being forced to go to Iraq against their will we would have riots. Instead we've been lulled into complacency by fear, weariness, and a rah-rah media that can't wait to go to war for the surge in ratings.

Meanwhile, the economy rots.

*A six-year streak that coincided with the administration of a president impeached by the same people who are botching the economy now.
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Wednesday, February 05, 2003
budget


From Fark's Photoshop contest of alternate covers for the
US budget. Image by TranzorZ, on whose page you'll also find an excellent image called "Dude, Where's My War?"

Where are those anthrax perps, anyway?
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The tragic story of a disappointed Republican poetry fan. In today's
Wall Street Journal (and also in OpinionJournal) Roger Kimball, the managing editor of the New Criterion, describes his exasperation with the pothead adolescents who disturbed the First Lady's plan for a respectable poetry luncheon to which he was invited:
Poetry and Politics Don't
Always Mix: A Case in Point


In the Fray

By ROGER KIMBALL

I was looking forward to lunch at the White House. It was to have been next Wednesday, Feb. 12. Laura Bush had invited a flock of poets and critics to a symposium on "Poetry and the American Voice." I have never been to the White House. I was quite bucked at the prospect.

Then came the news that the symposium had been postponed. Why? Because one of the invitees had decided to replay his adolescence rather than go to the White House.

The offending individual is a chap called Sam Hamill. No, I hadn't heard of him either. An AP wire story described him as "a poet and founder of the highly regarded Copper Canyon Press." The poets I canvassed regard that description as a species of poetic license. Milton said that "fame was the spur" that prompted him to "scorn delights and live laborious days." Here was Mr. Hamill's opportunity for, if not fame, at least temporary notoriety. Who knows when or if it would come again. He was not about to let it slip.

It was the work of a moment for Mr. Hamill to broadcast his anguish by e-mail. Homer sang of the wrath of Achilles; Virgil sang of "arms and the man." Mr. Hamill told us about his tummy. Receiving the invitation, he wrote, "I was overcome by a kind of nausea."

The invitation from the White House was one of those elegant stiffies you like to see dotting the mantelpiece: "Laura Bush requests the pleasure," etc., etc. Clearly, Mr. Hamill is a tender fellow.

He is also given to . . . exaggeration. He had, he said, just read "a lengthy report" about the president's Iraq war plans. According to Mr. Hamill, they called for "saturation bombing that would be like the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo, killing countless innocent civilians."

Really? Every report I have seen has dilated on the extraordinary efforts of U.S. military planners to minimize civilian casualties by the use of precision weapons, tactics to isolate Saddam from control of his weapons of mass destruction, and so on.

But somehow the headline "U.S. Strives to Remove Brutal Dictator, Liberate the Iraqi Populace, While Keeping Civilian Casualties and Damage to Infrastructure to a Minimum" doesn't play well to the gallery.

What apparently does play well is the feverish, self-righteous rhetoric of protest. According to Mr. Hamill, "the only legitimate response" to the president's "morally bankrupt" plans for Iraq is "to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organized to speak out against the war in Vietnam."

Ah, the Vietnam War! The days of pot and poses. What a godsend to infantilizing irresponsibility that era was. Dodge the draft, and you are making a "moral statement." Join a protest march, and you are striking a blow against "U.S. imperialism." Sign a petition, and you are "showing solidarity with the oppressed."

What rubbish.

Mr. Hamill ended his dispatch by calling on "every poet to speak up for the conscience of our country" by signing his petition against the war and contributing a "poem or statement" for an "anthology of protest." Now it was my turn to be "overcome by a kind of nausea."

No sooner did the White House get wind of Mr. Hamill's endeavor than it decided -- quite rightly -- to scrap the event. An aide observed that "While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum."

The 19th-century English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote (and did) a lot of stupid and repellent things. Possibly the stupidest thing he wrote was that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." W.H. Auden was right to heap scorn on that statement. But Shelley's fantasy continues to fire the imaginations of people who mistake adolescence for adulthood, self-infatuation for idealism. For them, too, the distinction between a "literary event" and a "political forum" is moot, to the detriment of both literature and politics.

According to one news report, Mr. Hamill has collected more than 1,500 signatures and "contributions," including literary bijoux from the well-known poets W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Yes, well: There is such a thing as a Coney Island of the mind.

What about the many distinguished poets who believe Sam Hamill is a publicity-craving nonentity who spoiled their chance to celebrate American poetry at the White House? They, of course, have not been mentioned much. "Poets for Responsible U.S. Foreign Policy" is not news. But it's a bigger group than you might think. Mr. Hamill will discover this if (as I hope) Mrs. Bush reconsiders her guest list and reconvenes the event.

Mr. Kimball is managing editor of the New Criterion.

Updated February 5, 2003
The mocking tone does not disguise the fact that nowhere in the article (reproduced in its entirety above, with the original WSJ headline) does Kimball talk about the merits of the dissenting poets' argument or their genuine concerns over human lives that are about to end as a natural consequence of an artificial war. Kimball instead focuses on irrelevancies like "pot and poses," draft-dodging (?), and, inexplicably, 19th-century English poet Shelley.

"What about the many distinguished poets who believe Sam Hamill is a publicity-craving nonentity who spoiled their chance to celebrate American poetry at the White House?" Kimball asks. And they would be... who? How many of these distinguished poets can Kimball name? A Google search on Kimball's bogus phrase "Poets for Responsible U.S. Foreign Policy" turned up nothing, nada, zip. Is Kimball implying that W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are not "distinguished"?

Republicans inhabit a culture of exclusion, keeping out the people who don't mesh with their petty world-view. Don't like the untidiness of others' opinions on matters of life and death? "Reconsider the guest list" is an un-American attitude that ridicules basic American concepts of pluralism, freedom of literary speech, and, most profoundly, democracy itself.

The United States is a country, not a country club. But Roger Kimball is just a caddie on the manicured fairway of Laura Bush's stunted cultural imagination.
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Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Ask your senators to represent you for an Estrada filibuster.
The administration is pushing for a vote on Estrada* that will come soon...anytime between now and Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations tomorrow. Distract the people and they'll not think to protest the packing of uber-conservatives with lifetime appointments onto the nation's courts.

Timing is everything. Do these two things. It will take you TEN MINUTES:

1. Pick up the phone - right now - and dial the toll-free congressional switchboard at 1-800-839-5276. Urge your Senator to FILIBUSTER the Estrada nomination. That's it. You'll be asked your name, address and phone. Simple and to the point.

2. Follow up that call with a visit to
True Majority and send off their fax which calls for an Estrada filibuster. The fax is already written. If you agree with the verbage, just sign your name and move on. If you'd like to craft your own personal message, take the opportunity to do so.

We are talking ten minutes of your time. Ten minutes that can make a difference. Our country cannot afford to tolerate the corporate and religious ideologues being pumped out by this administration onto our courts.

Do you have ten minutes to give your country?
*Read Estrada's background and why he's bad for America and the full post from which I lifted this text at RuminateThis. Do it now.
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Mortgaging your children's wages. An excellent overview of the dangerous Bush budget deficits appears this week in
The Economist. After noting that the federal deficits for the next eight years are projected to total over $2 trillion (not million, not billion, but $2 trrrrrrrrrillion), they add the following bit of irony:
Over a ten-year period, the latest tax cuts are estimated to cost nearly $1.5 trillion, and they come on top of tax cuts passed in the first months of Mr Bush’s presidency which will cost $1.35 trillion over a decade.
The long run of forecast deficits reminds some of the Reagan administration in the 1980s, which lumbered successive governments with deficits that took years—and enormous political effort—to reverse.
George W. Bush's one-year budget deficit of $307 billion for 2003 — the highest in history — will break the previous record set by his father (AP via SFGate.com) before the cost of the Iraq invasion is factored in:
President Bush will project a record $307 billion federal deficit for this year in the budget he sends Congress on Monday, followed by another huge shortfall of $304 billion in 2004, congressional and administration officials said Friday.

[...]

The figures, disclosed by officials speaking on condition of anonymity, include the costs of Bush initiatives like tax cuts for stimulating the economy and extra spending for the military and domestic security. They exclude the price tag of a possible war with Iraq, estimated to be at least tens of billions of dollars.

The biggest shortfall ever was $290 billion in 1992, when Bush's father was president.
The Republican Party is double-crossing the American people with their preposterous self-serving charades. The lone president who managed to balance the budget and deliver a surplus in the last few decades was the same one they tried to impeach.

They are not interested in the financial health of this nation. They are not responsible human beings.

To further enrich the rich and to subsidize the energy and defense industries, they are borrowing against your children's wages — because their children will be living on tax-free dividends and inheritances.
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The editorial page editor of the San Francisco Chronicle remarks that the Columbia space shuttle tragedy has prompted some
unusually polarized letters.
.
David Neiwert of Orcinus continues to explore the potential for "
a uniquely American brand of fascism."

An excerpt:
These folks didn’t stop believing that Clinton was the anti-Christ or that he intended to enslave us all under the New World Order. They didn’t stop believing it was appropriate to pre-emptively murder “baby killers” or that Jews secretly conspire to control the world.

No, they’re still with us, but they’re not active much in militias anymore. They’ve been absorbed by the Republican Party.
There's also an update here.
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The Grinch Who Stole America. An online troubadour named Doug Goodkin updates the Dr. Seuss poem of a tiny-hearted greenish fellow who tried to steal the soul of a community:
The Whos down in Whoville liked this country a lot,
But the Grinch in the White House most certainly did not.
He didn't arrive there by the will of the Whos,
But stole the election that he really did lose.
Vowed to "rule from the middle," then installed his regime.
(Did this really happen or is it just a bad dream?) ...
That's just the opening. Now go read the
entire poem. Link via The ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose, who will be added to the permanent links soon.
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Monday, February 03, 2003
Bad judges mean bad judgment. You can't trust a judge who is predisposed to convict and
conceals relevant evidence:
Jurors said pot grower Ed Rosenthal never had a chance with U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer blocking defense attempts to show Rosenthal was growing marijuana for dispensaries and clubs serving seriously ill people. The only evidence left was that Rosenthal was guilty of conspiring to grow more than 100 plants.

Rosenthal might have been acquitted, jurors said, if the judge had allowed the defense to show he was officially working for Oakland under the city's medical marijuana evidence.

"If we'd known he was hired by the city, I would have said this guy didn't deserve any of this," said Pamela Klarkowski, a Petaluma nurse on the jury. "I feel used. It's horrible. We didn't get the whole picture."


"I feel used."Charles Sackett, the jury foreman, said many jurors were frustrated that they faithfully followed the judge's instructions only to learn after the trial that they weren't given any evidence about why Rosenthal was growing the marijuana.

"It's ironic. The public probably knew much more about this case than we did," said Sackett, a Sebastopol landscape contractor.

"The reason some of the jurors have been so angry is because we weren't given all of the evidence. The evidence allowed just tilted the outcome of the case to the point where the outcome was a done deal from the beginning."
This is one of the reasons people hate jury duty so much — they sense that they are mere pawns being manipulated by scheming attorneys and, in this case, a judge with an agenda.
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Mowing the astroturf. Having written about this a number of times before (
"Roboletter III"), we're pleased to see that the Boston Globe is taking responsible steps toward eliminating fake letters to the editor:
Four times since mid-October the Globe has unwittingly published letters that were written not by the local folks who signed them, but by the Republican National Committee. The same letters, all praising President Bush, also appeared verbatim (or nearly so) in papers across the country, each signed by a person in that paper's area.

It's the latest example of what some call ''astroturf'' (as in, fake grass roots), and it has generated a buzz online and in journalism circles.

[...]

The most recent Republican National Committee-authored letter ran in the Globe on Jan. 12 and was signed by Stephanie Johnson of Milton. It praised Bush for ''demonstrating genuine leadership'' on the economy, and detailed his tax relief plan. (Roughly 45 identical, or nearly identical, letters have arrived in the Globe's electronic mailbox - a potential tip-off that it was not an original work.)

Multiple copies were also sent to papers nationwide, and by the time the duplication came to light, dozens of papers had published it. Because the Globe was among the largest, it's been prominently mentioned as one of the papers caught off guard.

But it turns out the Jan. 12 letter was not an isolated incident. Research shows the Globe also ran GOP-authored letters on Jan. 6, Dec. 1, and Oct. 18.

[...]

Certainly the letter-writers I contacted felt they had done nothing wrong. Although Johnson could not be reached, I tracked down five other people who sent the same e-mail. All were surprised to hear that the Globe frowned on form letters.

''It is a convenient way for people who are very busy to participate in the democratic process,'' said one. Another said the form letter she sent expressed ''exactly how I feel, and I appreciate the fact that someone with a better education wrote it for me.'' From a third: ''if I take the time to forward a form letter to anyone, and put my name on it, it should be considered as mine and as good as my signature.''

Fine, except for the nagging matter of readers' trust.

If I am correct in thinking that most readers would answer ''yes'' to the question at the top of this column, doesn't the paper owe them a letters page that is original thought?

Yes, says Editorial Page Editor Renee Loth.

''Readers have a right to assume that what they read on the letters page is not canned public relations material,'' she says. Thus, she has instituted a new policy to confirm original authorship on any letter that could be part of an organized campaign.
Without using the trademark-infringing verb, the Globe goes on to say that they will make a practice of Googling letters that stink of GOP authorship.

And that, as our dear friend Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.
.
Today is the deadline for public comment on FCC proposals to relax media ownership restrictions, enabling gigantic media to get even more gigantic. We wrote about this topic previously in
this post.

Here is an overview from the FCC and here is the comment form. [If you use the form to send comments, you will need to fill out the "Proceeding" field. Enter: 02-277].

Thanks to Convergence Chaser for the reminder. See also I Want Media.
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layLeave no GOP thieves behind. Even while the new plutocratic "savings account" scams (see the 2/2/03 post below) are being perpetrated, the last round of Republican thieves is still in motion (
WSJ.com, subscription only):
Enron Creds Sue Ex-CEO Lay, Wife To Recover Over $70 Mln

WASHINGTON -- Creditors of Enron Corp. (ENRNQ) have sued former Enron Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Lay and his wife Linda to recover more than $70 million in transfers, according to court papers obtained.

The committee representing unsecured creditors in Enron's Chapter 11 case said the suit seeks the return of Enron property for the benefit of the company's creditors. The committee filed the suit late Friday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan with the express authority of the bankruptcy court, according to the suit.

Enron filed for Chapter 11 in December 2001, amid an accounting scandal related to off-balance sheet liabilities.

According to the suit, during the year before Enron's Chapter 11 filing Lay allegedly used Enron common stock to repay loans he had received from the company. The committee says "the tendering of Enron's own stock to repay loans taken in cash was not a fair exchange for Enron ."

In addition to the loan transfers, the committee said that the Lays temporarily assigned their interest in two annuity contracts to Enron in exchange for $10 million in cash. The committee said Enron internal documents estimated that the annuities had a collective value of $4.7 million.

Enron didn't receive equivalent value for these transfers, the committee alleges in the suit, which seeks to void and recover the transfers as fraudulent transfers under bankruptcy and state laws.

Updated February 3, 2003 9:10 a.m. EST
jus' stuffI give it stuff worth jus' $4.70, and then order the company I run to give me $10.00 in cash. Multiply the deal by one million, and I am Ken "Kenny Boy" (and Linda "Jus' Stuff") Lay.

Prediction: The plaintiffs will receive nothing. The lawsuit is too late to be effective. Lay has had plenty of time — over a year — to hide and otherwise legally shield the $70 million he stole by deceiving his employees, shareholders and creditors. That money will be protected by international banking and personal bankruptcy laws, because no doubt Lay has had some pricey Texas legal talent working on saving his ass(ets) since the get-go.

Anybody who has credible inside information — please email me at skimble99@yahoo.com. I will publicize it here and protect your identity if you ask.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle later published a more detailed article here.
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Sunday, February 02, 2003
"Let's be clear, if progressives ignore this danger, we are missing the greatest class war designed on behalf of the non-working rich in American history. This is a plan to leave the investment class completely untaxed over generations, while leaving all tax burdens on those living by wages alone."

Run, do not walk, to
NathanNewman.org, where you will learn of the new loophole big enough to drive a dynasty through.
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Saturday, February 01, 2003
Tom DeLay won't help needy children until you pay his meals and travel expenses to golf at Key Largo. Tom DeLay's first instincts are to
relax the rules that apply to him (Houston Chronicle):
One of Rep. Tom DeLay's first maneuvers as majority leader was to engineer a change of House ethics rules so charities now may pay for lawmakers' travel and meals whenever they participate in charitable fund-raising events.

The change came as DeLay is organizing a Florida golf tournament that will benefit a project in his district south of Houston.

Particularly upset by the change was Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., chair of the House ethics committee, who said he was "blindsided." He told the Washington Post that his committee's job "is to keep people out of trouble. We don't want to have the impression, nor the reality, that we're trying to weasel around ways to live high at someone else's expense."

Citizen watchdog groups, including Common Cause and Democracy 21, are trying to find a Republican willing to reverse the rule change by introducing a measure to repeal it. But few lawmakers, Democrats included, are willing to take on the powerful majority leader -- known for punishing his adversaries by killing funds for projects in their hometowns.

Meanwhile, philanthropists worry the rule change will turn back the clocks to a time when charities were used as fronts for political activity.
"Charities used as fronts for political activities" — if that doesn't describe the redneck-religious-Republican cabal right here, right now, I don't know what does.
"You want to play on a good golf course on a sunny day, and it's helpful to have a few VIPs to attract support for this great cause," DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said of the new rules change that will apply to DeLay's golf tournament, as well as other charitable fund-raisers.
DeLay's comfort at his "charitable" golf tournament is now even more tax deductible by the lobbyists and favor-curriers who grease the already slimy wheels of American corruption.
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Friday, January 31, 2003
W doll

"This doll stands 12 inches tall and says 17 different phrases," according to the
eBay listing for the TALKING! George W. Bush doll.

Do those 17 phrases include "We'll smoke him out of his cave, and we'll get him eventually"? Osama bin Laden, that is.
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To our Saudi Arabian friends: "Win American hearts through sustained lobbying," says Neil Bush. Presidential sib,
S&L crook and dynasty caboose Neil Bush advises Saudis on spinning American media like the pros (ArabNews):
JEDDAH, 22 January — Neil Bush, brother of US President George Bush, said here yesterday that the distorted image of the Arab world could be removed through the sustained lobbying of US politicians.

"The US media campaign against the interests of Arabs and Muslims and the American public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be influenced through a sustained lobbying and PR effort," Bush, chairman and chief executive officer of Ignite! Inc., said in his keynote address on the concluding day of the three-day Jeddah Economic Forum at Hilton Hotel here.

[...]

"Over 3,000 lives were lost through a brutal and horrific act that affected not only Americans but peoples all over the world. I want to express gratitude to all for their support. Without the support of the peace-loving people in this region and all over the world, the US president cannot succeed in his fight against terror," said Bush, who freely interacted with delegates before he began his speech on "The corporate challenges of human resources in a complex global environment."
Q: Fifteen of nineteen 9/11 hijackers had peace-loving Saudi passports?

A: Bomb Iraq!

Here's an interesting postscript:
Later in the day, the focus shifted to the world’s energy markets with Dr. Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive officer of Occidental Petroleum, saying that he was fundamentally opposed to the Kyoto protocol — the international agreement to place controls on the emission of greenhouse gases.
What a coincidence! In contrast with the rest of the world, the chairman and chief executive officer of Occidental Petroleum and George W. Bush are in perfect harmony on the Kyoto protocol.

Will these ironies never cease?
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The Happy Tutor provides today's lesson in charitable 501(c)(3) hatred. In response to PLA's (
here and here) and our thoughts on right-wing philanthropic misanthropy, Wealth Bondage offers a weblog call to action, joined with a clarification of the site's striking name, in this post:
Weblogs can help build "social capital" and solidarity among those whose interests are not represented in the hard right's synthesis of wealth, media, politics, and philanthropy. They call it "freedom, and justice." I call it wealth bondage, the ideology of power exercised ruthlessly from the top down, inflicted upon those who apparently love it.
Overall, the site Wealth Bondage explicitly ties the right wing's ideology, strategy and tactics to a power-lust obsessed with its own sadomasochistic fulfillment.

And if there's any doubt that this obsession is sexual, take a peek at the trembling awe of Peggy Noonan at the feet of her Superman:
[...] In the first, domestic part of the [State of the Union] speech he was serious and contained, but in the second part of the speech, on Iraq, there was a shift. His voice seemed lower and there seemed a kind of full head-heart engagement in his grave but optimistic message. For a moment I though[t] of earnest Clark Kent moving, at the moment of maximum danger, to shed his suit, tear open his shirt and reveal the big "S" on his chest.

[...]

I felt at the end of the speech not roused but moved, and it took me a while to figure out why. It was gratitude.

[...]

A steady hand on the helm in high seas, a knowledge of where we must go and why, a resolve to achieve safe harbor. More and more this presidency is feeling like a gift.
All this Lois Lane groupie-talk is difficult to stomach. But as ludicrous as the American Leni Riefenstahl can be, I have to agree with Peggy Noonan's last statement.

"Gift" is the German word for "poison" and also means "malice" or "spite." This presidency is indeed feeling very much like a poisonous dose of spite.
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Laura Bush to poets: "Write pretty, or shut up!" Art, like Republican First Ladies, should be beauteous and noncontroversial, says Laura Bush (
New York Times):
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 — Laura Bush has postponed a White House symposium on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman after some of the poets invited said they hoped to use the event to protest American military action in Iraq.

Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady's press secretary, said the event, originally planned for Feb. 12, had been designed to celebrate the written word. "While Mrs. Bush respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions," Ms. Rodriguez said today, "she, too, has opinions, and believes that it would be inappropriate to turn what is intended to be a literary event into a political forum."

The poetry symposium, planned as part of a series of White House literary events showcasing American literature, began to attract attention as an opportunity for an anti-war protest. On Sunday, Sam Hamill, a poet and founder of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Wash., sent an e-mail message to 50 friends and colleagues asking them to send him anti-war poems or statements of protest action in Iraq. Mr. Hamill, the author of 40 books of poetry, had been invited to the symposium by Mrs. Bush.

In his message, Mr. Hamill said he felt "overcome by a kind of nausea" as he read his White House invitation, and decided the only response would be to reconstitute a "Poets Against the War Movement." Mr. Hamill said that he had not planned to attend the White House event himself but that the submitted poems and statements would be compiled into an antiwar anthology to be presented to Mrs. Bush on Feb. 12.

By Wednesday, Mr. Hamill said he had received 1,500 responses, and had to create a Web site, which he named poetsagainstthewar.org, to handle the e-mail messages that were overloading his system.
Echoing inside the empty chamber of Laura's head: Those gosh-darn poets are ruining this great country of ours! You never know where the next threats to my husband's my opinions might originate. Poets should celebrate the written word — as long it agrees with my husband me. Any emails to the contrary will be dealt with.

"Noelia, get me Ashcroft on the line. After all, I have opinions too," Laura mutters. "And where's my vodka tonic."

UPDATE: The Boston Globe refreshes our memory as to how poets felt about the previous administration of Bill Clinton:
''We had an event in which President and Mrs. Clinton joined kids from Washington public schools, disabled war veterans, former poets laureate Rita Dove and Robert Hass, and we read poems by Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson. But that was at a time when a lot of poets were happy to be supporting the president, because they thought he was being attacked unfairly.'' [former poet laureate Robert Pinsky]
Note that Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson were two of the same poets to be feted by the cowardly Laura. Meanwhile, her husband is still struggling with the vocabulary requirements of "The Big Book of Limericks."
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Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top






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