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November 23, 2002

 

More Gore
Did Pavlov ever conduct experiments on political reporters? You have to wonder. If I read one more piece like this Dan Balz article in today's Post, I just might convert to the belief that bashing Al Gore whenever he speaks is a trained reflex.

Look at this paragraph:
But Gore also praises the president for winning unanimous support from the United Nations for a new resolution calling on Hussein to disarm. Asked why he had been so critical of Bush on Iraq at the very moment the administration was pursuing the U.N. resolution, Gore said that his critical speech had come before Bush initiated action at the United Nations. In reality, Gore criticized Bush on Iraq 11 days after the president spoke to the United Nations.
What's the story? That Gore got his timeline wrong? I wouldn't call that earthshaking news. After all, when it comes to Iraq, you can hardly accuse the President of being consistent. Following the endless flips and flops of Bush and his aides over the last few months would be enough to make the most rigorous observer misremember the facts.

We can't expect the Post to mention Bush every time it talks about Gore. But how about a little perspective? Claiming exoneration from having to worry about budget deficits all because of a joke the president never made seems a little more serious than, say, an off-the-cuff answer that misses the timing of a policy shift by ten days. And some of Bush's misstatements are even more breathtaking. I could go on. Some of us already have.

But dropping the Paint-by-Numbers™ approach to Gore would force the press to think, y'know, about the merits of his ideas. Seriously: who practices journalism that way these days?

Greg G. @ 1:25 AM | # |


November 22, 2002

 

The Saudi Connection
Newsweek lobbed a bombshell tonight: Michael Isikoff reports that part of the funding for the Sept. 11 hijackings may have come from the Saudi government. Associates of the hijackers, according to the magazine's account, received thousands of dollars in funds through the bank account of the wife of Bandar bin Sultan, a longtime Saudi ambassador with a seemingly permanent perch on 'A' lists all over official Washington.

The Newsweek report continues:
        [S]ources (outside the White House) describe the financial records as “explosive” and say the information has spurred an intense, behind-the-scenes battle between congressional leaders and the Bush administration over whether evidence highly embarrassing to the Saudi government should be publicly disclosed — especially at a time that the White House is aggressively seeking Saudi support for a possible war against Iraq. “This is a matter of the foreign-policy interests of the United States,” said another administration official, who cited the need to prevent a rift in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
A matter of the "interests of the United States"? Oh. And I suppose this isn't?

This story could bolster the growing conception that some among our friends the Saudis have an interesting understanding of the word 'friendship.' It could also give ammunition to those who argue that the way to stop terrorism is to stop the funding at its source. That all depends, though, on whether our friends in the White House consider us mature enough to handle the news.

Greg G. @ 11:37 PM | # |


 

In Case You Haven't Noticed . . .
. . . I spent some time reworking the blogroll this morning. Have fun!

Greg G. @ 6:56 PM | # |


 

Going Out with Style
Don't pity Max Cleland — he lost his job, but found true love. Bully for him.

Greg G. @ 4:57 PM | # |


 

Open to Question
Does Georgia law allow the new governor to call a referendum on bringing back the old state flag? I'm working on finding out. Stay tuned.

Greg G. @ 4:00 PM | # |


November 21, 2002

 

Constantly Getting Gored
Dwight Meredith trains a floodlight on the fundamental dishonesty of conventional wisdom about Al Gore.

Greg G. @ 1:58 PM | # |


 

They Have Adapted—
I waged guerrilla warfare against spam earlier in the year, setting up a Maginot Line-rivaling network of filters that whittled my e-mail intake down to a manageable handful. Now, just a few months later, I can open the progress window in Outlook Express and see 40 or more messages from a few hours' time pour into my Mac.com account.

I could tear my hair out. Spam all but nuked my Hotmail account a few months ago, and in my main accounts it comes in such torrents that I can delete blocks of 20 to 30 messages wholesale. Was this the promised efficiency the internet was supposed to bring to my life?

A program that Jason Levine mentions takes a step toward changing the ground rules — rather than forcing users to figure out how to block mail, the program would make companies certify that they never send spam. Kevin Werbach has discussed another method of self-defense: adopting whitelists that exclude e-mail from everyone but the senders whose e-mail you opt to accept.

I'm willing to experiment with that. I want to give the self-correcting filter in MacOS X a chance first, but unless that techique works, it may take radical surgery to keep spam from rendering my e-mail accounts useless.

Greg G. @ 1:35 PM | # |


 

Trust Them, They Know What They're Doing
The New Scientist is reporting yet another Microsoft© Windows™ security hole: a defect that can let a hacker disable security controls and hijack a user's computer. The company suggests that users protect themselves by deleting Microsoft from a file of "trusted" code publishers.

I'm not too worried. I stopped trusting Microsoft a long time ago.

(No offense intended, Tim!)

Greg G. @ 12:52 PM | # |


 

Role Reversal
Remember the days when Prince freaked people out and Michael Jackson was considered the wholesome one?

Greg G. @ 12:28 PM | # |


November 20, 2002

 

Don't Look Now, Here Comes Newt Gingrich . . .
. . . reviewing paperbacks on Amazon.com!

With a war book here, and a crime book there — here a book, there a book, everywhere a book book . . .

Expecting a snarky comment here? Sorry — no can do. I don't have the heart. He plugged a few books that really looked interesting, and the fact that he's just as eager to goof off at his computer like the rest of us bloggers seems, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden put it, fairly endearing.

Many thanks to Jeanne d'Arc.

The title of this post actually name-checks a excellent negative ad from the congressional campaign of 1992; his opponent slammed him for bounced checks, a pay raise, and a $67,000 chauffeured limousine, all to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." The consultant behind that spot really needs to dig it out of the archives, make a streaming video with it, and put it up. It was that good.

Greg G. @ 5:57 PM | # |


 

Daydreaming
Winter suits me well. I know that sounds nuts — I'm from Alabama, for Pete's sake! — but something about crisp air and cold wind makes me feel chipper.

This monsoon season that Atlanta has fallen into, though, I could do without. We've had such endless rain lately that I walk out of the front door every morning to find my car smothered under leaves with a dank, moldy haze. Yuck.

Today we had yet another gray afternoon, and I had to spend part of it locked up in a meeting with a man far too enamored of his own voice. I can usually handle prattle, but somewhere in the middle of his twenty-first or twenty-second monologue, I started thinking I'd rather be someplace different. Radically different.

Eze would hit the spot. Clear views, high mountains, great wine, no Republicans . . . what more do I need? If I could only afford the air fare . . .

Okay, so this talk of jetting off to France is just idle musing. But that's good for you! After all, I used to dream of having an office on One Infinite Loop, which is just as unlikely to happen as my spending next week in an easy chair on the Cote d'Azur. But it sounds like big fun, doesn't it?

Greg G. @ 5:17 PM | # |


November 19, 2002

 

Hit and Run
And now, a quick wrap-up of choice moments from elsewhere in Blogland:
  • A secret court upheld secret wiretaps the other day, and Anil Dash feels like busting out with glee.
  • Does the GOP cut taxes for the irresponsible hell of it? Of course not, according to Berkeley professor Brad DeLong — it's really the first step of a clever plot! Problem is, the Republicans might have been a little too clever . . .
  • Back to silly clichés of the Republican kind: that Charles Krauthammer sure is brave for facing the mortal threat that Barbra Streisand poses to the American way of life, eh?
  • Bush administration
    überhawk Richard Perle just won the Nobel prize for obliviousness.
  • Glenn Reynolds tells us that President Bush is Harry Potter, and Beliefnet wonders whether Harry Potter is Jesus Christ. Anyone thinking through the transitive implications of that statement, please stop now.
  • Local blogger Todd Dominey goes to the Apple Store, but yieldeth not to temptation. Yea, verily!
  • A final note: did anyone notice that The Onion rocked the house last week? Who dreamt up the Senator Mix-a-Lot satire? (Scroll down to find the headline.)

Greg G. @ 9:33 PM | # |


 

Hah!
Has anyone else noticed how much of a resemblance the logo for the Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto bears to the French flag? Oh, the irony . . .

Logo, you ask? Bien sur! What would a revolutionary worldwide movement be without a snappy logo?

Greg G. @ 7:20 PM | # |


 

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
The bloggers at Tapped have worked up a funny — and apt — set of revisions to the old Usenet maxim, Godwin's Law:
1. A pundit or blogger is worth reading in inverse proportion to the frequency with which he or she uses the word "leftist."

2. A conservative pundit or blogger immediately loses whatever argument he or she is trying to make once they compare any Democrat in Congress to a socialist or Communist.
Fairness demands application of the same standards to liberal bloggers who rant about "the far right." I'm okay with that. But some conservative blogs out there have this rule written all over them. Let the hijinks begin!

Greg G. @ 7:06 PM | # |


 

Campaign Finance: Time for a Little Revolution
The president's policies run the gamut from obnoxious to laughable, but I have a pet theory: that what we're witnessing right now is the apotheosis of a campaign finance system gone awry.

Everywhere you look — from the corporate responsibility dog-and-pony show at the Securities and Exchange Commission to the pending anti-environmentalist hoe-down in the Senate, from the maximum-security lockdown of the notes of the vice president's energy task force to the attempt to use the homeland security bill to absolve GOP-backing pharmaceutical companies of responsibility for harm inflicted by potentially defective vaccines — you see an administration totally unashamed to sell policies to the highest bidder. It's a dismal spectacle.

Fortunately, the corporate influence on the Bush administration is about as blatant as one could imagine. One would be hard put to envision more absurd circumstances than these, short of actually having Karl Rove running an open-air auction for naming rights to the Rose Garden. Consider it safe to say, in short, that we've hit bottom.

Now that we're here, though, the Democrats need to ponder an undertaking more ambtious than the usual cosmetic changes that sponge up the appearance of impropriety. Been there, done that. Been there since Watergate, in fact — and what can we show for the effort? McCain-Feingold? That's a Rube Goldberg contraption if ever I saw one, and the parties have already riddled the law with new loopholes to replace the old ones.

So why go that route again, and let hope triumph over cold experience? Forget about tinkering at the edges. Blow the campaign finance laws up and start afresh.

Sounds daft? Sure. Radical change usually does. But most good ideas sounded daft at the outset — in the end that hardly matters. Besides, the insurgent campaigns of recent years — Ross Perot, Ralph Nater, Jesse Ventura — demonstrate, if nothing else, that more that a few voters feel sick of the politics of tweedledee and tweedledum, and might vote for something completely different if given a chance.

Democrats have an opportunity to stoke popular outrage about the auctioneering going on at the highest levels of government. Anyone who tries it can count on getting laughed offstage, though, as long as voters believe the party is just out to make loot under the same rules itself. It will take a radical proposal to break through the public's cynicism &mdash and I know just the one the party needs.

Sick of Ernst & Young buying the administration's accounting policies? Then how about telling the company that it's free to give Republicans however much it wants — but with the catch that no one but the firm itself gets to know about it? The check would go into a blind trust, which would bundle the donations every few days, deposit them, and wire the candidate a check for a lump sum.

The proposal wins on three fronts. Without knowing which nameless contributors to thank for their largesse, candidates would have a hard time determining whose checks might have bought what policies. As a flip-side bonus, candidates would also have a hard time trusting ostensible donors who might crawl through the woodwork to claim credit and ask for favors. Third, companies could use mandatory anonymity to shield themselves from the badgering of Rep. Tom DeLay and his fellow pay-to-play shakedown artists.

I've talked about these ideas once before, in a post in August. They're still well worth considering. In an age when the greatest guessing game in politics focuses on which Bush contributors get the quickest rewards for their loyalty, a proposal that does away with that spectacle might provide just the change in direction that disaffected voters are looking for.

Greg G. @ 2:28 AM | # |


 

Selling Off the Government
President Bush, according to Paul Krugman's column today, stands to gain something useful from putting 850,000 federal jobs up for sale: a passel of new — not to mention generous — allies. Read how he puts it:
A few months ago Mr. Rove compared his boss to Andrew Jackson. As some of us noted at the time, one of Jackson's key legacies was the "spoils system," under which federal jobs were reserved for political supporters. The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints.

We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."

What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
It's dispiriting to give in to cynicism about a president's motives, but in the context of the administration's furtive attempts to nudge federal employees into Republican campaign activities — including this anecdote about Chief Justice Rehnquist's daughter — Krugman's theory has the ring of plausibility. Hard as it is to accept — an American president, selling government off to friends so he can run it as a fully owned subsidiary of his political machine? — that might happen unless Democrats put up a fight.

Greg G. @ 12:06 AM | # |