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July 13, 2002


How to Bury a Story
Friday night, in the park; you'd think it was the Fourth of July.

And you'd almost be right. It's the fifth. The grills are cold, the fireworks gone dark. But there's still ribs to eat, family to meet, fish to catch, lakes to ski -- it's the Fourth of July weekend, people! Who bothers dealing with anything heavy at a time like that?

Well, you. Because you've got a problem.

By the way -- you're Ga. Gov. Roy Barnes.

Here's the deal: you like this road. Your friends like this road. A good number of your donors like this road. Problem is, a few of those friends and donors -- well, more than a few -- like the road just a little too much.

And those people have lousy timing, because you've got an election coming up. All kinds of folks, from environmentalist wingnuts and angry soccer moms, give you grief day and night. Your opponents are pouncing, the lawsuits are pending, and two crack reporters named Woods and Rubenstein -- Woods and Rubenstein! -- crank out story after story about your knuckleheaded friends' conflicts of interest every week.

So what do you do? You like this road, right?

Sure you do. But you like your job even more. And since it's either it or you . . .

Uh-huh: you kill it. You kill it dead. You've got a campaign on: no point in stretching out the agony, right?

But you're Ga. Gov. Roy Barnes. Everybody knows you like this road. How do you kill it with the whole stinkin' press winging over like buzzards to a carcass?

Hold on a minute. I think I have a plan --

Friday night, in the park; you'd think it was the fifth of July . . .

Greg G. @ 12:06 AM | # |

July 12, 2002


Deep South Political Roundup
William Schneider has a great roundup of a pro-Israel coalition's defeat of the loathsome Rep. Earl Hilliard (D) in an Alabama primary last week. Meanwhile, the Deep South Jewish Voice -- run by an old high school friend -- has some good details of the Congressional Black Caucus's ham-handed attempts to protect Hilliard from a black challenger.

Over in Georgia, Creative Loafing, Atlanta's alternative weekly, has a piece this week on why Democrats' need for high black voter turnout might encourage Gov. Roy Barnes and Sen. Max Cleland to prop up the gaffe-prone Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

Greg G. @ 3:57 PM | # |


Convert to Islam, Lose Your Child
Since we're all about child and family services madness today, take a look at this:
A circuit court judge in South Dakota has granted temporary custody and a restraining order to the grandparents of a 5-year-old boy who say they don't want the child's natural mother rearing him as a Muslim in Egypt.

"My wife and I are very concerned about Trevor's safety and well-being as Trevor's mother has engaged in some bizarre behavior, including wearing Muslim garb and declaring herself a Muslim," Conrad Rederth, the grandfather, stated in an affidavit. . . .

Judge Rodney Steele of the 3rd Judicial Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on June 20, confiscating Trevor's passport and stating that "the only way to protect the child" is to prevent his mother from leaving the country with him.

Judge Steele has scheduled a July 22 hearing on extended custody.
[Link courtesy of MetaFilter.]

Greg G. @ 11:34 AM | # |


I just found out . . .
. . . that today is Van Cliburn's 68th birthday. Let's say we kick back, raise a glass, and listen to some of this, eh?

By the way: here's the CD that sample came from.

Greg G. @ 11:04 AM | # |


Elsewhere on the Web . . .
Reporter Josh Marshall makes a great argument that, politically speaking, invading Iraq won't do President Bush any good. Here's an excerpt:
I suspect that if the US invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam's government with few negative consequences, the typical American voter's response would be something like this: "Wow. That was impressive. Great execution. I guess we're not gonna have to worry about Saddam Hussein any more. But then again I'd never really given the whole thing too much thought anyway. So what's the next issue?"

Greg G. @ 12:19 AM | # |


A Confection We Could Do Without
Some people like to bake cakes. Others bake muffins. Me? I bake great oatmeal cookies.

Today, if you fancy, you can bake a synthetic polio virus with a couple of friends, a net connection and $50,000 in pocket change.

I have a couple of observations about this. First, the virus isn't potent -- it took researchers 10,000 times the usual amount to kill mice. Second, the ability to make polio from natural components has been around for a while now, leading some scientists to call the artificial version -- as the New York Times put it --a 'trivial advance.'

Third, something tells me that folks in the secrecy- and security-minded portions of the Bush administration -- that is to say, the whole administration -- will latch onto this as yet another reason to pull information from the Internet and libraries, and to place a gag order on sensitive biotech research. That's not a bad thing per se -- but we need to have a public debate and come to a consensus before doing that. That isn't likely to happen with an administration that considers debate a foreign concept.

That said, here's the bottom line: technology gets better with time. I just hope the right guys get better faster than the wrong guys do.

Greg G. @ 12:11 AM | # |

July 11, 2002


Innovation at the Air Force
We got a glimpse of the future of military aviation today when Boeing began tests of its new attack drone, the experimental X-45.

The technology behind unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) is still in its infancy. Even in Afghanistan, where drones got glowing coverage, they just keep crashing. But think about the advantages: no pilots; a quicker turnaround, because it doesn't have to wait for the pilot to rest; easy transport, better maneuverability, and -- because we don't have the worry of ensuring a pilot's safety -- lower maintenance costs. What's more, the plane costs about $15 million a copy. The Air Force's newest operational fighter, the F-22, costs seven times as much.

There is one _slight_ disadvantage though: if the Navy had been flying these back in the 1980s, and there hadn't been any hotshot fighter pilot school out in Miramar, how would Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer have jumpstarted their careers?

Greg G. @ 11:30 PM | # |


Breastfeeding's Bad PR Day
NPR can get ho-hum in the morning, and while Neal Boortz does great radio, I can only take him in small doses. So somewhere along the drive into Atlanta for work this morning, I started flipping through stations, and then froze on the dial when I heard this:
. . . so we're talking, if you're just tuning in now, about the woman who still breastfeeds her eight-year-old son . . .

In case you're wondering: yes, the mother's local department of child and family services has already stepped in -- but for naught. A judge let her keep custody, saying the interest in keeping her and her son together outweighed any concerns her fixation with breastfeeding might raise later on.

Now you can argue that point -- rationalizations about moral equivalence drive me nuts, but legally speaking, I can't say whether Illinois (that's where they live) considers post-infancy breastfeeding abusive. The mother says she breastfeeds to comfort her son, and if the law has nothing to say on the subject, that's that.

But I can say this: breastfeeding her son on Good Morning America this Tuesday wasn't just abusive; it was a flat-out disgrace. Having won the government's respect for her private decision to breastfeed for comfort, it's a brazen turnabout to invite the viewing to intrude on the intimate business of comforting her son.

She may feel like exulting over a personal victory here -- after all, she broadcast her case to the world. But she undercut her rationale for breastfeeding, and made a mockery of herself -- and the cause she's hijacked -- in the process.

A few lines into the Chicago Sun-Times account of the story, the paper relays the mother's observation that she's not even sure she still gives milk -- but also writes that the mother "said her son has not been teased at school or in their Champaign neighborhood."

Let's leave that one alone, shall we?

Greg G. @ 10:33 PM | # |


Maybe They Should Settle This on Iron Chef
From The Oni-- err, The New York Times:
Many Palestinians believe that Israelis have stolen falafel, a traditional Arab food, and passed it off as what postcards at tourist kiosks all over Israel call 'Israel's National Snack.'

'We always sort of look at each other and roll our eyeballs when we pass a restaurant that says "Israeli falafel,"' said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American and a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Chicago.

Some do more than roll eyeballs. Aziz Shihab, a Palestinian-American and the author of the cookbook 'A Taste of Palestine,' once picked an argument with the owners of an Israeli restaurant in Dallas that served falafel. 'This is my mother's food,' he said. 'This is my grandfather's food. What do you mean you're serving it as your food?

Greg G. @ 12:52 PM | # |

July 10, 2002


The Clinton Excuse
Here in Atlanta on every Fourth of July, the Atlanta Track Club has a competition called the Peachtree Road Race. The race is a 10K, but a huge one -- runners take the subway to Lenox Square at an ungodly hour of the morning to line up at the start with, oh, 55,000 of their closest friends, and then savor the experience of running flat out down the grandest stretch of Peachtree Street.

Once you start, you get to see half the city lined up on the sidewalk to watch the whole spectacle -- folks with babies on their shoulders, volunteers handing water out at the top of Heartbreak Hill, kids waving flags, disabled people cheering the wheelchair racers, and early-morning tipplers getting their buzz on out in front of the Three Dollar Cafe. And a few runners always get into the spirit by dressing up for the show. I've seen groups of college students blow by wearing suits and ties. This year, a group from the Cobb County Fire Department made the front page of the Journal-Constitution by racing in full gear, complete with loaded air tanks.

Naturally -- what with the competitors getting egged on by half the town, getting to run with their families and friends, getting to take part in the joke or getting to score a small personal triumph by going through, and finishing, a race on the Fourth of July -- the Peachtree has taken on a certain cachet. People pull out all the stops to get into it. On the March weekend when the entry form shows up in the Sunday paper, people line up the Saturday before to buy early editions and steal a two-day march on everyone else.

Others, however, opt to cheat. A few buy numbers from sidelined runners -- I almost got up last Thursday morning to sell mine. The bolder ones dress out in running gear, head out to the packed sidewalks, and then bolt right into the pack once Peachtree gets wall to wall with runners.

The AJC wrote a report about cheaters just before this year's race. A reader wrote a letter in reply. This is what he said.
[P]laying by the rules is taking a hit these days. Coaches lying on resumes. Corporations creating phony profits. And I might add an ex-U.S. president who lied to a federal judge.

Yes, we must thank Bill Clinton for the example he set by lying, cheating and getting away with it with a slap on the wrist while profiting in the millions of dollars since leaving office. Obviously, many believe that if the president of the United States can get away with corrupt behavior and profit from it, they can too.

I might have let it slide with a belly laugh -- until I saw people with a much better bullhorn mouthing the same Clinton-bashing nonsense.
[T]he Republican National Committee yesterday called the 1990s the 'era of irresponsibility' and said, 'Scandal after scandal, revelation after revelation, Clinton-Gore always had an excuse.'"
--'SWAT team' targets fiscal fraud,The Washington Times, July 10, 2002

Let's be frank: in his private life, Bill Clinton was a louse. But to blame Clinton for self-dealing and insider trading is a bit like blaming Hugh Hefner for p©rnography. People read p©rn long before Hefner walked the earth, and they'll be reading it long after the man is dead and forgotten.

I'll even assume for the sake of argument that the '90s were an era of irresponsibility. It was hardly the first. The savings and loan industry imploded on the Reagan administration's watch. I'm told that Nixon dabbled in some dishonesty of his own. Republicans tended the markets during the '20s -- but tell me, was the crash Wilson's fault?

A basic tenet of conservatism is the belief in the changelessness of human nature -- a confidence that sin exists, and that every man can do wrong. Conservatism also stands for the thought that man should take responsibility for his actions and face up to whatever consequences ensue. When I hear self-styled 'movement' conservatives making as though Clinton somehow introduced evil to the world -- as if electing him was akin to biting an apple from the tree of knowledge -- something doesn't compute. One can't be conservative and lay every human sin and foible at Clinton's feet.

Self-dealing, insider trading, and cheating in the Peachtree were here long before Bill Clinton graced the White House, and they'll be around long after he's dead and gone. All the Republican blame-shifting in the world won't change that.

At the end of that article, by the way, The Washington Times quotes Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, saying this:
"Unlike the president, all the Democrats know how to do is blame and point fingers."

Mark, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, eh?

Update: Peter Beinart makes the same point about blame-shifting in the next New Republic.

Greg G. @ 11:51 PM | # |


An All-Star Blunder
Nobody won the All-Star Game last night -- Fox Sports sure as heck didn't -- but it's not too tough to ferret out the loser.

Bud Selig. The commissioner who couldn't thin-- er, shoot straight. The man who stopped an All-Star Game and looked surprised at getting booed.

We could rehash Selig's evasions and screw-ups for a fair approximation of forever, but I'm burned out on him, and besides, there's plenty of writers out there who do a darned fine job of it. What keeps coming to mind, though, is what a former cabinet minister bellowed out to the House of Commons at a question time just before Chamberlain gave up as prime minister:
You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you! In the name of God, go!

(Memo to Don Fehr: That goes for you, too.)

Greg G. @ 9:09 PM | # |


. . . and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
I just caught the tail end of "At the Cross" by The Word -- a gospel cover act slapped together with members of jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood, the blues-revivalist North Mississippi All Stars, and the stupefyingly unheralded 'sacred steel' guitarist Robert Randolph -- on the radio stream from WWOZ a few minutes back. Let me tell you, that is one fabulous record. There was more joy packed into that one five-minute jam than most acts these days manage in an entire career.

Robert Randolph is touring the west right now, and the North Mississippi All Stars are opening for the Dave Matthews Band through the end of July. Give yourself a chance to check one of them out. You'll be glad you did.

Greg G. @ 2:00 PM | # |


Rethinking Larry Klayman
At least one prominent Clinton-era gadfly is on the beat. Larry Klayman's Judicial Watch has filed a suit against the Halliburton Co., as well as its former chief executive officer -- a fellow you may have heard of by the name of Dick Cheney.

As vile as Klayman seemed when he was tormenting the Clintons, I have to say that I owe the man an apology. His tactics might leave me cold -- I'm not a huge fan of prodigious litigation -- but he's been nothing but consistent about pressing for candor from the executive branch. I hope more Democrats come to respect him for that.

Greg G. @ 1:40 PM | # |


It depends on what the meaning of the word 'accounting' is
The President might as well have said that at his press conference on Monday, where he pooh-poohed inquiries about possible insider trading in his oilman days as -- I kid you not -- an "honest disagreement about accounting procedures."

Yeah. I'm sure folks at Arthur Andersen were telling themselves the same thing.

Democratic political consultants in Washington should thank their lucky stars Bush said that, because they'll be replaying that soundbite from now clear through November. What gets me, though, is the other party. When the last president parried a tough question by quibbling over semantics, after all, the Republican Party called for his head. Why the silence now?

Greg G. @ 12:31 PM | # |

July 09, 2002


Republicans Against Capitalism
Nick Denton made a great point about corporate corruption today. To wit:
The real reason to attack corporate corruption, and to let the fatcats swing from the rafters, is to defend the system of American capitalism. The CEOs who inflated earnings, the investment bankers who encouraged them, and the accountants who turned a blind eye: they are not just white-collar criminals, they are traitors. They have done more to undermine the freewheeling culture of American business than any external enemy. . . .
Bush has repeatedly subordinated the national interest to the lobbies: agro-industry, textiles, the country club, and the accounting profession. He is intensely vulnerable to a politician -- a McCain, or a dark-horse Democrat -- who eschews [cheap] populism, and campaigns as a true American patriot, in defense of American capitalism.
My thoughts exactly.

Greg G. @ 8:09 PM | # |


Res Ipsa Loquitur
. . . or, put differently, "the thing speaks for itself." That pretty much sums up what one can say about Zacarias Moussaoui's frenzy of motions in his terrorism case.

Just pick one at random to see what I mean. For instance, try reading this Motion to Stop Leonie Brinkema DJ playing Game with My Life. Or this Motion to Phone and Contact Freely The European Court of Justice, The European Parliament, The International Court of Justice, The British House of Common, The British High Court, The German Parliament, The German High Court, The Deutch Parliament, The Deutch High Court without the FBI Prosecution Listening and Reading My Communication. Or, on an even more baffling note, his Motion to Confirm [His] No Plea Entry in this Case that begin 25 June 2002, No Plea being and Meaning No Contest, Nolo Contendere Plea.

You saw that right. The man actually wants to plead no contest to a bushel of capital charges. He also wants to speak with the grand jury -- where he would have to appear with no counsel to defend him from aggressive, rapid-fire questioning by the prosecution. Moussaoui says his lawyers are part of a conspiracy against his life, but the man's getting the job done just fine by himself.

We have a problem here. We've chosen to put Moussaoui on trial in a civilian court, and he wants to defend himself. In ordinary circumstances, both would be just fine.

But he seems hell bent on reducing Judge Brinkema to the role of a circusmaster, and it doesn't take much of a leap to believe that with his penchant for filing nonsensical motions, he would reduce his trial to a shambles and make it impossible for the court to render even a slight approximation of justice. That could lead to an endless string of appeals -- I bet the Fourth Circuit can't wait for that -- a retrial, or other twists that could drag this case out for years.

On a lighter note, Moussaoui at least had the good wit to tell the court that "Nobody can Prepare Sept 11 in 14 Working Days." I don't think anybody could argue with that.

[Links courtesy of Jason @]

Greg G. @ 5:30 PM | # |


Galbraith Gets It Right
At 93 years old, John Kenneth Galbraith is a wizened wraith of a man, spending most of his time holed up in an upstairs room of his Cambridge home. He still has one of the sharpest minds in economics and politics, though, and he's paying keen attention to recent revelations of boardroom misebehavior. In a recent interview in The Independent, he makes this withering observation:
Recessions catch what the auditors miss.
Somebody help that man take a bow.

[Link courtesy of MaxSpeak.]

Greg G. @ 4:36 PM | # |


Batting alone
What if two baseball teams played in a stadium, but nobody showed up to watch? Ask the Charleston [S.C.] Riverdogs, who set an all-time record low for attendance last night with a resounding count of zero.

(Major league baseball, take note: if the season ends with a strike, you could join Charleston in the record books without even trying.)

Greg G. @ 1:49 PM | # |


Can I get an amen?
I'm not the only one with a lack of confidence in George "Corporate Responsibility is My Middle Name" Bush. The Democratic Leadership Council tells it like it is:
It's hard to imagine an unlikelier figure to play the role of
corporate crime-buster. Unless you go all the way back to
Warren Harding, it's hard to remember an Administration that
has more systematically identified with corporate interests --
not just their natural and appropriate desire for the opportunity
to compete and produce on a level playing field at home and
abroad, but their dangerous temptation to use political pull to
cut corners, squeeze competitors, evade public responsibilities,
and maximize their personal bottom lines at the expense of
their own shareholders, investors and workers. In its
appointments, its policies, and its priorities -- from trade and
taxes to energy and the environment -- the Bush Administration
has in a very short period of time richly earned a reputation for
excessive coziness with big business, often at the expense of
the public interest.

Greg G. @ 1:15 PM | # |


It's Crackdown on Corporate Crime Day
The President took to Wall Street this morning to give corporate executives a 'Come to Jesus' speech about this year's mass outbreak of management suite swindling. This is long past due, and I'm glad Bush has found the courage to pipe up -- but pardon me if I find his past record (e.g., his quest to shape a kinder, gentler SEC, or some managerial funny business of his own that he made a humorously flimsy defense of yesterday) just a bit less than inspiring.

Greg G. @ 12:28 PM | # |

July 07, 2002


What's on tap--
First, you won't see:
Daily beatification of the President;
Stirring defenses of the music industry;
• Paeans to the abiding talent of Emeril Lagasse.
Glad to get that out of the way. I know you all were especially worried about that last one.

As for what we'll jam about here, here's a better question: what won't we? Most of my best writing comes when my mind runs all over the map, so expect randomness. Playful randomness. Nay, a salmagundi of intellectual rambunctiousness -- that's what you'll see!

Ummm, okaaaayy ... while I scratch my head over that last bit, you can read a few some basics:
• Born: July 1972.
• From: The South. Born in Memphis, grew up in Alabama. Tore through his college years in Virginia. Currently biding his time in Georgia.
• Schools:
-- High School: Indian Springs School, Helena, Ala.
-- College: the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
-- Grad: the University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville.
• Politics: Love 'em. Democrat.
• His Gal in Congress: Cynthia McKinney.
• Would Prefer: A sentient being. And this judge more than qualifies.
• How He Does His Part for Humanity: As a regional field director with a major environmental PAC. Its big project right now is bringing a halt to a silly boondoggle of a highway project.
• Likes: Wilco, Krispy Kreme, Belhaven Scottish Ale, the Bellair Market, Hi Ricky, sangria, Dino's, La Fonda Latina. Mmmm, I think I'm getting hungry ...
• Specs: Yep. =,
• Vital Stats: 5'10", 160 lbs.
• Single: Indubitably.
Enough for now? Good -- I thought I was on the verge of writing a memoir. =, Now let's dispense with the small talk and get down to the nitty gritty.

Greg G. @ 8:23 PM | # |


Drumroll, please . . .
After a two-year wait -- and some badgering from my friend Tim Jarrett, plus so many grande mocha frappuccinos™ that I've lost count -- the Green[e]house Effect, my haphazard patch of the blogosphere, has opened up for business. Y'all come over now, y'heah?

Greg G. @ 5:36 PM | # |