How to solve problems with violence

I’m sure this is meant to be funny. Or, at least, I hope it is — still, it misses so many points as to be laughable, and not in the way I suspect the author intended. He trots out the tired old “if you’re against the war, you must have forgotten about 9/11!” cannard, and populates his arguments with so many straw men as to constitute a fire hazard. The columnist didn’t write this “memo,” and tells us so in his closing lines: “I did not author the Peace Activist Etiquette memo, but I sincerely thank whoever did. This aside: Four members of my family are serving in this war. Don’t tell any of them it’s the ‘American way’ to insult your flag or country.”

Yes, that’s right: protesting a war is now “insulting” to our flag and our country. Again, could you possibly miss the point more?

News Flash: We Never Cared About WMD.

This is pretty stunning. Administration officials have stated that the war never had anything to do with WMD, that instead the real casus belli was a desire to demonstrate American military power in a big, scary way in the wake of 9/11.

There you have it: “Surprise, surprise, the government lies.”

In other news, Presidential hopeful Bob Graham has pointed out that we’ve essentially abandoned Afghanistan. So much for nation-building. As I’ve said before, are we really about to make the same mistake again?

Big Sugar vs. WHO

The sugar lobby is essentially blackmailing the WHO over their proposed sugar intake guidelines. The WHO says no more than 10% of your calories should be sugar. Their lobby, of course, thinks it should be higher — like, up to 25% of your diet. Have they no shame?


And thank God for it. Arcata, California has passed a resolution “urging local law enforcement officials and others contacted by federal officials to refuse requests under the Patriot Act that they believe violate an individual√Ęs civil rights under the Constitution.” Go, Arcata!

Roger Ebert and Civics

Here’s a fine interview with Roger Ebert. A sample quote:

Q: What do you make of the criticism of Hollywood celebrities for speaking out against the war–the Sean Penns, the Susan Sarandons? Ebert: It’s just ignorant; it’s just ignorant. Q: Why do you say that? Ebert: I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don’t understand the First Amendment, don’t understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don’t understand that it’s the responsibility of the citizen to speak out. If Hollywood stars speak out, so do all sorts of other people. Now Hollywood stars can get a better hearing. Oddly enough, the people who mostly seem to hear them are the right wing, so that Fox News can put on its ticker tape in Times Square a vile attack on Michael Moore, and Susan Sarandon is a punchline. These are people who are responsible and are saying what they believe. And there are people on the other side who also speak out, and it’s the way our country works . . . There’s an interesting pattern going on. When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when liberals disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up. That’s the message: “Shut up. Don’t write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?”

Ashcroft to Habeus Corpus: “Drop Dead.”

The NYT Magazine includes a long story on the eroding right to counsel in these United States.

In two cases now before the courts, Attorney General John Ashcroft is asserting that President Bush has the power to detain any American citizen indefinitely, in solitary confinement, without access to a lawyer, if he, the president, designates the detainee an ”enemy combatant.” The detainee cannot effectively challenge that designation. A court may hold a habeas corpus proceeding, but the government need produce only its own assertions of evidence, not subject to cross-examination. ”Some evidence” will suffice — that is, any evidence, however unchecked and second-hand. That is the claim being made by the law officers of the United States.

Watching the Watchers, Congressional Oversight, and PATRIOT

Leaving aside for a moment the Orwellian aspects of calling a civil-liberties hostile bill “PATRIOT” in the first place (it’s enough to make me want some Victory Gin), consider the larger context of secrecy promulgated by this administration, and the ongoing loss of real oversight of the Executive since January, 2001 — even before 9/11. Salon covers this in detail, including Evil Bastard Orrin Hatch’s efforts to remove PATRIOT’s sunset provisions. Yes, it’s gonna piss you off. But if you aren’t already, you should be.

Mmmm, Goldberg.

No, not the wrestler, I mean Rube. The folks at Honda have a commercial (300k Shockwave) involving a Goldbergian sequence of events, all done with car parts. This is supposedly done without CGI, though clearly some of the parts have been altered (e.g., off-center weights added) to encourage proper behavior. (Thanks, Mikey.)

So, how about them WMD?

This war was all about Weapons of Mass Destruction — or, as I’ve heard them retitled, “Weapons of Alarming Nomenclature.” We were sure Saddam had ’em, but he wouldn’t give ’em up. Well, dammit, we’ll just go in and get rid of him and the WAN all at once, right?

Now we’ve won, which comes as a surprise to precisely nobody (except, perhaps, the Iraqi information minister). We’re in Baghdad, Tikrit, and everywhere else. We’ve found cache after cache of firearms and the like, but no WAN whatsoever, unless you could some fertilizer. So where are they?

Ah, Microsoft.

You know those new Tablet PCs? The ones that appear to take all the arbitrary restrictions and instability of Windows and combine them moderate portability, but without a keyboard? ZDNet UK has a really hilarous and scathing review of one.

Stupidty in Security

By now, we’re all used to rampant “security” measures that don’t actually make us any safer — the weird pantomime we all do in airports now is only the tip of this particular iceberg, frankly, but it’s getting worse. Thank God someone’s paying attention. Privacy International has posted their Stupid Security competition “ winners,” and it’s pretty rich.

Closely related and also important — especially in these PATRIOTic times — are the Jefferson Center’s Muzzle Awards. (The link is to their home page; they seem to be a bit overwhelmed at the moment, but give it time.)

I wish this were a surprise.

The GOP is trying to make the temporary, rights-abridging PATRIOT Act permanent. This is important folks: we ought not be giving the government rights they could easily abuse because they smile and say “trust us! we need these to prevent terrorism!” Write & call your congressperson and let them know how you feel. PATRIOT got slammed through the first time in the wake of 9/11; don’t let them get away with it this time.

Pearl Jam as e-business leader

Sunday, Erin and I went to see Pearl Jam. Today, in a spare moment, I went over to their site to see what they were doing online. Since I started working for my current music industry client, I’ve become more interested in how bands and labels handle marketing and online technologies.

At the PJ site, I found something really cool. They’ve got a “satellite” site at devoted to selling recordings of every show on the current tour. They’ve done this before — remember a couple years ago, there were dozens of brown-wrappered live records in all the record stores — but this time around, it’s different. The “bootlegs” aren’t available in retail outlets at all; it’s just online. And when you buy a given show, you can download the unmastered MP3 of the show immediately. These MP3 files are online and available the day after the show; the CD itself ships 7-10 days after. This isn’t technically challenging, of course, but I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it.

Dept. of Cautionary Tales

Men, by and large, don’t have to worry about this sort of thing. We rent tuxes, we look like penguins (or dashing british spies, if we’re lucky), and we buy nothing. However, the nightmare that can be Bridesmaid Dresses — potentially hideous, frequently expensive, invariably unflattering garments worn once and stashed away — has (you guessed it) inspired a site that many might consider mandatory reading for any nuptual-planning young ladies among the Heathen readership.

Those who do not learn from history … etc.

While we’re busy in Iraq, it looks like the Taliban is rising again in Afghanistan.

Have we really learned nothing? Had we supported Afghanistan after the Soviets left, there’s a good chance the Taliban would never have come to power. Instead, we abandoned our erstwhile allies as soon as our enemies lost interest. I’m sure that did plenty to make the locals love us.

Are we really committing the same error again?

Dept. of Completely Out of Touch Idiots

The Sons of Confederate Veterans — an organization that I’m told once concerned itself primarily with history, but now seems to be completely dominated by racist goofballs — are busy opposing a statue of Lincoln recently erected in Richmond. Bragdon Bowling, Virginia division commander of the SCV, spoke at the protest:

“They have no concept of history and how it might be the wrong place to put the statue,” said Bowling, whose great-grandfather John Stephen Cannon fought for the Confederacy. “As a Southerner, I’m offended. You wouldn’t put a statue of Winston Churchill in downtown Berlin, would you? What’s next, a statue of Sherman in Atlanta?”

Thanks, Bragdon. I think people might have been getting the idea that the South wasn’t full of bigots and slack-jawed yokels; I’m glad you cleared that up for us.

More on Privacy

Dan Gillmor’s column from Sunday’s Mercury News makes some familiar but compelling points about the War on Terror and its companion, the War on Privacy and Liberty.

The Bush administration’s attitude, assisted by a Congress that long since abandoned any commitment to liberty, is that government has the right to know absolutely everything about you and that government can violate your fundamental rights with impunity as long as the cause is deemed worthy. You, on the other hand, have absolutely no right to know what the government is doing in your name and with your money, unless the information is deemed harmless by people who have every motive to cover up misdeeds. Bush and his people have turned secrecy into a mantra, and too few people recognize the danger that poses to our freedoms, much less our pocketbooks.

Pray he’s wrong. Work to prove him wrong. Nothing will make him happier, or us safer. (Via BoingBoing.)

John Kerry Bites Back

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry spoke recently in Georgia, where he was introduced by fellow veteran and former Senator Max Cleland. Read his remarks and you’ll recall what actual statesmen sound like; he pulls no punches when it comes to chickenhawks like Tom DeLay. (Via Salon)

Big Brother: Not Dead Yet

The Total Information Awareness plan proposed by the Bush administration and (so far) somewhat stymied by Congress is still alive. We’d do well to let our Congressweasels know what we think of this thing. The point isn’t whether they’ll mean to abuse it; the point is that we shouldn’t let the government have more power that they could abuse.