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January 24, 2003


In a single sentence in this morning's New York Times, writer Michael R. Gordon eviscerates White House policy on Iraq by terming it one that Lewis Carroll might love: sentence first, trial afterwards.
The Bush administration's case against Iraq can be summed up in one sentence: Iraq has not led United Nations inspectors to the weapons Washington insists Baghdad is hiding.

In the administration's most comprehensive policy statement to date, the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, argued yesterday that inspectors are not investigators who patiently try to peel away the layers of deception to get to the facts. Rather, they can only perform spot checks to determine if Iraq is voluntarily disarming itself.
So, let's get this straight: if the inspectors find weapons, we mount an attack. If the inspectors find no weapons, that serves as proof that Iraq must be hiding them — so we mount an attack.

That's not a policy. It's a taunt. And the troops the White House might ask to pay in blood to settle this question deserve better.

Greg G. @ 1:25 AM | # |

January 23, 2003


Atlanta Hangs the DJ
Not exactly in a writerly mood tonight, but dig we must . . .

If the latest Arbitron radio ratings from the Atlanta market can be taken as any indication, the Clear Channel has no clothes. Three of the area's top stations sloughed off listeners en masse in the last three months of 2002, with defecting fans opting instead to tune in . . . nothing.

Absorbing the worst of it were two local rock institutions — classic-rock stalwart Z93 and alternative trailblazer 99X — whose listeners have apparently grown disenchanted to the point that they've turned their radios off and picked up a good book.
Atlantans who left 99X and Z93 would logically wander over to solid-performing 96rock (WKLS-FM) or year-old 96.7/The Buzz (WBZY-FM), a rival alternative rock station. But neither station saw significant gains. Rather, rock-loving guys seemed to scatter. "If our listeners had gone to 96rock or the Buzz, we would at least have some indication of what they want," said a perplexed 99X General Manager Mark Renier. "Those males just fell off the radar."
Hmmm. All of a sudden, next month's Wired magazine cover story predicting the fall of the music industry sounds a whole lot less implausible.

Link courtesy of Tim @ Notes from Atlanta.

Greg G. @ 11:43 PM | # |


This Can't Be Right
My efforts at sarcasm about this are ringing hollow, so I'm just going to post it:
The Bush administration has chosen Jerry Thacker, a Pennsylvania marketing consultant who has characterized AIDS as the "gay plague," to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS.

Next week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson is scheduled to swear in several new commission members. They include Thacker, a former Bob Jones University employee, who says he contracted the AIDS virus after his wife was infected through a blood transfusion. . . .

In his speeches and writings on his Web site and elsewhere, Thacker has described homosexuality as a "deathstyle" rather than a lifestyle and asserted that "Christ can rescue the homosexual." After word of his selection spread among gays in recent days, some material disappeared from the Web site. Earlier versions located by The Washington Post that referred to the "gay plague," for instance, were changed as of yesterday to "plague."

Greg G. @ 1:03 AM | # |

January 22, 2003


Pinch Me, This Is Just Too Good
Remember when the President used to walk on water? Well, it looks as though his pants have started to get wet. While surfing through the comments at The Daily Kos, I caught a link to a Reuters story whose lead paragraph is absolutely priceless:
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - With public doubts about his handling of the economy growing, President Bush on Wednesday took his tax cut plan to middle America and predicted his Treasury secretary nominee, John Snow, would be confirmed despite a drunken driving arrest and a child custody dispute.
My, my, my. I'm going to bed with a smile tonight.

Greg G. @ 11:50 PM | # |


Bon Mots of the Day
Gary Hart, in a Jan. 21 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations:
War is not an instrument of policy; it is a failure of policy.
I'm quoting Gary Hart?! Am I really quoting Gary Hart?

Greg G. @ 8:19 PM | # |


"But All the Cool Kids Drive One!"
The backlash against SUVs has apparently caused enough of a stir to rouse conservative commentator David Brooks to action. He took to the Wall Street Journal earlier this week to offer this sophisticated exegesis:
This anti-SUV fervor strikes me as a classic geek assault on jock culture. Here are the geeks: thoughtful, socially and environmentally conscious. They understand that only spiritually shallow people could possibly get pleasure from a motor vehicle. Then there are those jocks. They cruise through life infuriatingly unaware of how morally inferior they are to the geeks. They make money, become popular, play golf and have homes that are too large. And they're happy! For all the wrong reasons! And so every few years the geeks pick on some feature of jock life (McMansions, corporations, fraternities, country clubs) and get all worked up about it. And you know what? The jocks don't care! They just keep being happy. The geeks write, protest and fume. The jocks go to St. Croix.
Wait a sec — jocks? Geeks? What in hell is this, Sweet Valley High?

How unbecoming. People have started to develop a substantive case against SUVs as unsafe and wasteful. If the best Brooks can do in response is sputter about how the people casting light on the issue are player haters, it's easy to see who has the better of the argument.

Greg G. @ 6:44 PM | # |


Annals of Republican Priorities, Ch. 438—
Remember how Kenneth Starr shelled out $70 million to fund his roving commission to prosecute the Clintons?

Okay, good. Now read this.

Apparently, the sage of Crawford and his pals in Congress believe the lives of 3,000 innocent Americans are worth less than a chance to nail President Clinton for enjoying the occasional hummer.

Link courtesy of Atrios.

Greg G. @ 12:18 AM | # |

January 21, 2003


Good Reads
Worthwhile writings from elsewhere today:

Greg G. @ 8:35 PM | # |


Strike the Flag
Governor Perdue continues to baste in his own juices over the state flag controversy — not that he's accepted any responsibility for the problem, of course. He's taken to blaming the press now for "bringing up the flag" at "every stage of the game."

If debate over the flag is going to bring this level of grief to Republican and Democratic governors alike, finding the best solution ought to be a cinch: why not just be done with the thing? Let Georgia be the no-flag state. This letter from the Sunday Journal-Constitution makes the case:
For what use is the state flag, anyway? Nations need flags in order for their enemies to know which way to point their weapons. But states?

No one has fired a shot at anyone standing under a Georgia flag in more than 130 years. Nixing the flag would rid us of the current controversy. Think, too, of the money in bunting and flag cloth we would save by simply getting rid of this unnecessary and irritating icon. We could even put those saved funds into education so that our state might not be last in test scores in the nation.
Of course, being in last place in test scores probably explains why Georgia is doomed to stay neck deep in flag nonsense for the next few years. But as far as I'm concerned, that ain't no rag — it's a needless pain in the arse.

Greg G. @ 8:20 PM | # |


Bon Mots of the Day
From Time Europe, this quote from Sir Peter Ustinov, on his view of President Bush:
If the American people are really happy with George Bush, Clinton was a man of unnecessary brilliance.

Greg G. @ 7:22 PM | # |


Turfing Out the Astroturfers
Tim invited me to join him the other day in merrily slagging a letter-writing campaign on behalf of our fearless leader's economic plan. I opted not to take him up on it, and his post today prompts me to explain why: long story short, the good guys astroturf, too. It's part of the kabuki theater of politics -- both sides try to get their perspectives in print in as many ways as possible.

I can claim personal guilt -- I've ghostwritten some letters to the editor myself. At a § 501(c)(4) I've worked for, one of my jobs was to run a system that could prompt up to a thousand people to send a fax to the official or legislator of our choice about a hot-button environmental issue.

Since most people — unfortunately — spend very little time thinking about politics, I think it's good, on balance, to make it easier for people to make their voices heard. Of course, I have the advantage of writing with a clear conscience; I don't stretch the truth, and I work hard to make sure that my writings don't parrot anyone's canned talking points. What makes the GOP Team Leader letter so noxious is that it resembled nothing so much as Ari Fleischer's interior monologue.

All that said, it's still good to see people bring Google and the 'net to bear to smoke the astroturfers out. More citizens need to learn how to discern the difference between a real groundswell and the scripted kind. Politics would be healthier for it.

Update (1/22/2003): A reader on Declan McCullagh's Politechbot has found another one, this time hailing el Presidente for "taking a courageous stand against Saddam."

Greg G. @ 7:15 PM | # |

January 20, 2003


Old Enough to Know Better
Just found an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times: it turns out that those who've seen war most want Bush's war least. If only the twitchy-trigger-finger crowd would take that as food for thought.

Link courtesy of Stonefishspine.

Greg G. @ 2:52 PM | # |


It Always Comes Back to Jefferson, Doesn't It?
Todd Dominey flogs some new Mac OS X shareware:
In my line of work, Jefferson isn't exactly a handy application, nor will it be for anyone working outside of politics or law. That said, if you are constantly looking up information from the Library of Congress, then Jefferson will easily fit the 'killer app' category for those in need. The small app provides an Aqua front-end for Thomas — an online database of legislation maintained by the Library of Congress. But instead of paging through ungodly amounts of data, Jefferson allows you to search by bill number, by subject matter (i.e. "Estate Tax"), or by a bill's sponsors (last names of Senators, Representatives). You can also pick from the 108th Congress all the way down to the 101st in your search requests.
Muy cool. You can download it here.

Greg G. @ 2:30 PM | # |


Missing the Larger Point
I was reading through yesterday's New York Times a moment ago when I spotted this quote from Joe Lieberman regarding the mass clemency grant in Illinois:
Governor Ryan's action was shockingly wrong. It did terrible damage to the credibility of our system of justice, and particularly for the victims.
I dunno. I thought having seventeen people consigned to death row on faulty convictions, or for crimes they didn't commit — or having one man come within two days of the state taking his life before undergraduate volunteers found the evidence to exonerate him — did terrible damage to the credibility of our system of justice. But maybe that was just me.

Someone tell me again: who wants Joe Lieberman to be president? And why?

Update: Tom Tomorrow agrees. Great minds think alike.

Greg G. @ 2:22 PM | # |


Blogroll Madness
Just gave the blogroll a good shaking — take a gander at some of the new listings over there. They're top choice.

On another note: Esta's back! Everybody head over to give her a warm welcome. In fact, everybody should head over for another reason: to congratulate her on her decision to apply to the Union Theological Seminary. It's a brave move to make at any age — from my corner, at least, she's getting a warm round of applause.

Greg G. @ 1:55 PM | # |


High Noon
We're exactly halfway through Dubya's term as of 12 o'clock today. Two down — God willing, two to go.

Greg G. @ 12:07 PM | # |

January 19, 2003


Meet Stephen Covey, Political Guru
Who's your favorite political philosopher? If you're the newly minted Republican governor of Georgia, you've got that question down cold. Sonny Perdue has an ideological patron — but he doesn't serf, he doesn't shrug, and he doesn't waste much time pondering God and man at Yale.

No, people who want to get to know Perdue should stroll past the political science aisle and make their way to the management section — which is where to find the masterworks of one Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and — as the senior officials who've been told they have to read his books to keep their jobs can tell you — the man who powers the mind of the most powerful man in Georgia.

Not that the two have ever met, of course. But:
[I]n the two most important speeches Perdue has given as governor, Covey's influence is undeniable.

The governor used the word "trust" five times in his inaugural address and "principles" and "character" a total of six times in his budget speech to the Legislature. The budget address, typically full of numbers, also mentioned concepts such as truth, maturity, compassion and optimism.

Those principles, along with fairness, kindness and integrity, are key themes of Covey's philosophy, as articulated in his 334-page book [Principle-Centered Leadership].

Perdue has said he wants to change the culture of state government to inspire innovation, empower employees and spur productivity. That's where Covey comes in. His book is supposed to help leaders accomplish those goals by showing them how to build trust throughout an organization --- in this case, state government.

"Trust --- or the lack of it --- is at the root of success or failure in relationships and in the bottom-line results of business, industry, education and government," Covey writes.
One of the hallmarks of Covey's philosophy is the "win-win" — the notion that people and teams can, through collaboration, acheive outcomes that improve the welfare of everyone who participates. It's a potent concept.

Politics being what it is, however — dependent on zero-sum elections in which one side or the other has to suffer the welfare-depleting fate of losing — Perdue might find making Covey work for him a tad difficult. Already the major parties are refusing to follow the script, instead insisting on positioning themselves to beat the tar out of each other:
Democrats will not make it easy for Perdue to enact his budget. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor (D), a potential opponent in 2006, said, "I am totally stunned the governor would take the easy way out by asking for tax increases. We are not like Washington, D.C., Democrats. We will oppose the tax increases."
That's okay, though. One trick highly effective people have to learn is imagining themselves succeeding at the end of the day. It's already clear that Perdue has one robust imagination.

Greg G. @ 11:19 PM | # |


The Cheapness of Bush's 'Compassion'
Since the president has made the imposition of caps on damages in medical malpractice cases a national priority — just below tax breaks for the wealthy in wartime — the time has come to answer once and for all an eternal question: what price suffering?

According to the sage of Crawford, a life of bedridden agony — spent shuttling from hospital to hospice, hardwired to machines that help you eat and breathe — rings up to about $250,000, plus or minus a few cents in change. Dwight Meredith has some pointers on how much that's worth.

Greg G. @ 10:00 PM | # |


Pouring Salt on a Wound
President Bush may have the best intentions in the world on matters of race, but his unending blindness to the messages he conveys through his actions — inadvertently or otherwise — makes all his sugary pronouncements on the topic just so much gossamer nonsense. I challenge anyone to explain how the Bush administration could believe this wouldn't somehow get caught up in the brambles of race:
Last Memorial Day, for the second year in a row, Bush's White House sent a floral wreath to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. Six days later, as the United Daughters of the Confederacy celebrated Jefferson Davis' birthday there, Washington chapter president Vicki Heilig offered a "word of gratitude to George W. Bush" for "honoring" the Old South's dead.

Bush has quietly reinstated a tradition dating back to Woodrow Wilson that his father had halted in 1990. The elder Bush was weary of infighting among various Confederacy groups, so his White House quit participating altogether. The current Bush White House denies any change in policy. But John Edward Hurley, head of the Confederate Memorial Association in Washington, says, "No one saw a wreath from 1990 until George W. Bush got elected," and other participants in the annual event support his account.
The GOP will never get so much as a day's peace on racial issues as long as it keeps embracing pointless symbols and irritants in its efforts to romance the troglodyte wing of the right. If the president catches flak for this, good — he couldn't more richly deserve it.

Here's something else he deserves: a 41 percent disapproval rating, according to this week's CNN/Time poll ? the worst negative rating of his presidency. Hallelujah. Things look swell, things look great . . .

Update (1/24/2003): Time retracted the story today, so I've stricken this post to correct the record. Shame to have to do that to such a fine piece of writing, though. =,

Greg G. @ 7:32 PM | # |


Resegregation and Southern Schools
Matthew Yglesias, well on his way to becoming the best one-man band in blogdom, let loose with a remarkable tear of posts this morning on topics ranging from the tax code to the latest in Russian pop. He went a little astray, however, with these comments about a story from CNN:
The lede says it all
A dozen years after the Supreme Court made it easier for public schools to escape court-ordered desegregation plans, black and Hispanic students across the country are increasingly less likely to learn side-by-side with their white counterparts, according to the findings of a study released Sunday.
Of course, I'm sure that all those school districts newly enabled to escape desegregation plans haven't been escaping them out of any motivation of racism. Clearly not. It's about local control or something. And then again there's this:
High private school enrollment, particularly in the South, also contributes to the decline in integration in public schools by decreasing the white population, the study found -- and white students attending private schools learn in an even more racially segregated environment than their public school counterparts.
Now some of us attended private high schools which, though largely white, used affirmative action in admissions and targeted financial aid to boost minority enrollment. Somehow I'm guessing they do things a bit differently down South.
I'm a Southern private-school brat myself, so I'm gonna have to call bulls--- on this. Lots of people down South have motivations less nefarious than Matthew might think.

For starters, much of the educational resegregation in the South's public schools owes to residential patterns. As time has gone by, not only have many Southern cities become ever more predominantly black (although, in Atlanta, that's begun to reverse itself) — entire counties have also begun to do the same. If places like these "escaped" desegregation, that's only because — what with white flight and other trends — any possibility of successful desegregation escaped first. [There's a federal district court case from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County system in N.C. that talks about this, 'though I can't remember the citation right now.]

Matthew also jumps the gun in dismissing the honor of a great many Southern private schools. While the region does have its share of former segregation acadamies in rural areas — most of which, alas, probably couldn't give a whit about diversity in their enrollments — I know of some headmasters, parents, and kids at prep schools down here who would be horror-stricken to hear someone lump all Southern private schools together. Some of Atlanta's tonier prep schools have healthy black enrollments — and speaking from personal experience, the private school I attended in Birmingham made yeoman's efforts not only to recruit me, but also to keep me there when the 'rents moved out of town (thanks to a boarding scholarship). That sounds like seriousness about minority enrollment to me.

That hardly excuses Southerners from facing up to the fact that their public schools are resegregating, of course. But — with all due respect — being careless about where blame lies does absolutely nothing to solve the problem.

Greg G. @ 6:49 PM | # |