Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: July 2005

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why We're Fat

A Yankelovich Preventative Healthcare Study from a couple of months ago reveals that, although 72% of Americans are overweight, with more than half of them--39% of the total population--obese, few of us are making a huge effort to get the weight off. Why is that? According to Yankelovich, which surveyed 6,000 consumers, the two main barriers are motivation and education. In other words, we don't want to lose weight, and we don't know how anyway.

To anyone who's slept too late on the weekend or had an extra couple of pieces of pizza or glasses of beer, the motivation part is easy to understand, but what about the lack of education? Surely we know how to do it, we just don't make the effort. Apparently not. When asked to identify the top ten ways to be healthy, respondents put the following factors at one through three: "maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness" (identified by 64%), "maintaining a positive attitude" (identified by 58%) and "maintaining/cultivating good family relationships" (identified by 53%). Diet, named by 39%, came in at 13, with exercise, listed by 34%, following at 17.

I'm inspired. I'm going to see what I can accomplish for my health by eating whatever I want, lazing around watching TV, and maintaining a positive attitude.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

There's Something Out There

Astronomers have found a couple of new objects in our solar system, but there's not complete agreement on how to classify them. One is called 2003 UB313--it's larger than Pluto and farther away from the Sun, and some astronomers want to call it the tenth planet. The other, announced shortly before 2003 UB313 and causing some confusion with it, is 2003 EL61. It's smaller than Pluto, but it has its own moon. The second object is likely part of the Kuiper Belt, a vaguely understood band of objects orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune. Some astronomers are wanting simply to identify 2003 UB313 as a Kuiper Belt object, but others claim it deserves planet status. Of course, there's also the debate among astronomers over whether Pluto itself is actually a planet and not just a Kuiper Belt object. There's no guarantee that Pluto will maintain its planetary status. The MSNBC poll linked to by the news article asks an interesting question: How many planets should there be? I'm thinking seven is a good number. But which ones do we get rid of?

Leno Is the New Dangerfield

Earlier this week, you may have seen something about the slight flap over whether W flipped off reporters while visiting Capitol Hill. The White House claimed he's giving a thumbs up. The picture's not clear enough to know for sure, and while I find it believable that he'd do it, based on the picture, I can't rule out the thumb, either. You're welcome to come to your own conclusion by looking at the video.

But I'm less interested in whether he did or didn't. Scott McClellan didn't exactly deny it at the next day's press briefing, but what caught my eye was the reporter's question itself. Jay Leno showed the video on The Tonight Show, which provided the reporter's set up: "Scott, last night on the Tonight Show, Jay Leno, who apparently is subbing for Johnnie [sic], displayed a video of the President at the Capitol yesterday." McClellan referred to the reporter as Ken, but I couldn't otherwise identify him any further. But Johnny Carson hasn't hosted The Tonight Show since the original Bush administration--long enough that whoever transcribed the briefing may not even have gotten the reference. Leno's into his fourteenth year as host, and he still can't make a clean break. How long did Johnny have to put up with Jack Paar comparisons?

Friday, July 29, 2005

How Long Must This Continue?

I'm sure that everyone, like me, had assumed this event could never come again, but it appears that Paul McCartney is releasing another new album. I know, the world cries out, "Why?" but apparently Lord Paul hasn't noticed. This is the first one in four years, and just like every time, it's being touted as the one that recaptures Paul's former glory. I'm certainly not going out on a limb to say this one's got the goods, but it's possible that it does have the potential.

Behind the producing desk for this go round is Nigel Godrich, who's previously produced Radiohead, Pavement, and Beck. Apparently he wasn't afraid to give Paul a kick in the ass when necessary. The former Beatle described the recording process to NME:

I've produced a lot of records, been on a lot of Beatles records, Wings records, on my own, I've had a lot of hits. [Godrich] said "I just want to make a great album, and for the album to be you." Once we got in the studio, and we're playing head to head on a couple of songs that I thought as good and he didn't, I thought of immediately firing him. I just thought, "I don't have to take this." But the point is, "This is why you're working with him."

. . .

He'd be like "Look, I've got to tell you that I don't like this," and I said "What don't you like about it?" He'd say "You've done better than that." In the end I started to value that more, it's what I need. We kept the standard up that way, but we had our moments.

Paul has needed someone to ride herd on him for decades. Will this record start turning things around for him? Who can say. I've only got one friend who's virtually certain to buy this album, and if he tells me it's as good as Band on the Run--heck, even if it's another Venus and Mars--I may get around to hearing it.

In the meantime, I'm much more interested in the new Franz Ferdinand single, which is due out a week after Paul's new album. The day after the single comes out, they open a new North American tour here in Chicago at the Aragon ballroom, and then the new album (like the first one, it's also self-titled) follows a couple of weeks later. That's where you'll be able to find my interest in the weeks ahead.

An Oldie but Goodie

I've been curious about what the original President Bush thinks about Karl Rove and the Valerie Plame leak. He was CIA director under Richard Nixon, and he's always seemed to have a soft spot for the agency whose headquarters now carries his name. Well, Think Progress has found an old video (hat tip to Atrios). It's from Bush's speech at the 1999 dedication ceremony of the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.

The CIA Website offers the full transcript of the speech.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Senate on the Case?

So is the Senate finally seeing the light and getting ready to live up to its oversight responsibilities? Don't count on it. On Monday The New York Times reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee was going to look into the CIA's use of cover to protect the identities of its operatives. Kansas Repub Pat Roberts, chair of the committee, started off talking a good game: "You cannot be in the business of outing somebody" who's undercover. Fair enough. But unfortunately, he wasn't finished yet. "I must say from a common-sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the CIA headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert." In other words, maybe the CIA is getting a little carried away with itself, granting cover to every Tom, Dick, and Harry (excuse me, every John Doe, John Doe, and John Doe) who might come up with a lame excuse to get it. But don't get the wrong idea--"Generically speaking, it is a very serious matter," he continued.

Somebody over at the comments to a Daily Kos post about the hearings suggested that the real agenda here was to get Rove, Libby, and whoever else up to Capitol Hill to grant them immunity for their testimony. I mentioned Ollie North a couple of days ago, and that's similar to how his situation played out. Congress (held by Democrats at the time, so this appeared to be a stupid mistake rather than a cunning plan) gave him immunity for anything he might say before them, and he confessed to lying previously to the legislative body. He was later tried and convicted on various counts, but he was let off on a technicality when an appeals court ruled that the jury pool had been contaminated by his Congressional testimony, and it wasn't possible for Ollie to get a fair trial. While it could work the same for the current White House boys, I'm not sure they'll make it that far. Even though he ultimately won his freedom and his conviction was overturned, Oliver North still had to go through the indignity of a trial, and he was still found guilty. I think odds remain far better that W will just randomly hand out pardons to whomever seems to need them at the time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Does Anyone Sense a Draft?

This story got a little bit of play a few days ago, but it didn't raise the red flags it should've. Although they've been meeting their quotas for the last couple of months, the Army, the Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard continue to be short on personnel. They're all expected to miss their goals for 2005. Recruitment within the available pool of potential recruits has become more and more ineffective, so what can they do? There's one easy answer, according to The New York Times: Expand the available pool!

The Pentagon has requested that Congress raise the maximum age of recruits to 42. Currently, volunteers without previous military experience cannot be accepted for active duty if they are older than 35 or for the Reserves or the Guard if they're older than 39. If approved, 42 will become the maximum age across the board.

In truth, the Pentagon has little choice. They have to get soldiers from somewhere, and there's only so many times the hitches of those currently serving can be extended through stop-loss. Surely many of those extensions will be up soon, and forcing soldiers to continue their service yet again will quickly result in diminishing returns. Of course, one way to expand the pool of potential recruits would be to reinstate the draft. Once the military could force draftees to enlist rather have to convince them to volunteer, the pool would be many times larger, so older recruits would be less necessary. The Pentagon might keep the age at 42 for volunteers, but a draft would surely stop somewhere in the 20s. Michael at AMERICAblog cited a USA Today report stating that the Army is already behind on its recruiting goals for 2006, and it seems unlikely that simply raising the age of eligibility would add enough to catch up. A draft can't be far away. But then again, maybe not. Now that I think of it, maybe the troop pullouts expected next year are not entirely by the military's choice.

Stockyards Theatre Company Fundraiser

For everybody in Chicagoland, come out tomorrow evening for a Networking Party and all 'round fun night out with Stockyards Theatre Company. It's in the back room of T's Bar Restaurant at 5025 N. Clark St. in Chicago on Thursday, July 28th, from 6pm to 10pm.

Although it is a fundraiser, there will be no cover charge and no asking for money! How can that work? T's is planning to donate 10% of their proceeds during that time to Stockyards Theatre Company. That's it! That's all! Come on out and have dinner and drinks and generally hang with all your cool theatre friends. There will be live music, some blackjack, and maybe a raffle or two.

One of the things Stockyards is raising money for is costuming for their production of Henry IV (Part 1), which opens next month. I'll post another reminder when that gets closer to opening.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lollapalooza Triumphs

I must say that I'm a bit surprised, given last year's complete cancellation and the somewhat shaky start this year in prematurely announcing the festival before all the necessary arrangements had been made with the city, but by all accounts, Lollapalooza was rousing success.

Attendance was estimated at about 33,000 on each day, which is not bad when you consider that on Sunday the temperature rose to over 100 degrees, making it the hottest day here in more than a decade. The Arcade Fire seems to have been a hit, receiving praise pretty much across the board, and various reviewers singled out . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Death Cab for Cutie, Pixies, Spoon, Kaiser Chiefs, and Dinosaur, Jr. Jon Pareles of The New York Times kept an online journal (yeah, I know, there's another word for that these days, but let's humor the mainstream media anyway) and offered a wrap up this morning. Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune was extremely happy with the festival, and Billboard also weighed in with positive notices. Jim DeRogatis offered his thoughts and provided the following list in the Sun-Times:

1. Ork-popsters the Arcade Fire.
2. Texas prog-rock punks ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.
3. English glam-popsters the Kaiser Chiefs.
4. The incendiary rapper Saul Williams.
5. Sex-crazed glam-popsters Louis XIV.

1. Jammers Widespread Panic.
2. Widespread Panic (they performed twice).
3. Living relic Billy Idol.
4. The now sadly soulless Liz Phair.
5. The Changes (I should correct Monday's report: These Chicago popsters did not win the battle of the bands; they were inexplicably booked on their own merits, which completely escaped me).

Unfortunately, the Sun-Times also provided an almost unbearably sentimental column by a self-described 51-year-old there to chaperone his daughter who made fun of a bald 45-year-old, apparently there by choice rather than with a daughter as an excuse, playing Frisbee. "The bald guy looks pathetic, like he's never moved on." Before too long, though, the columnist (who refers to himself in the third person--I'd mock him for it, but I've been known to slip into the first-person plural from time to time myself, so I'll let it slide) began to get the hang of the festival idea. "[T]his Lollapalooza thing is looking pretty good. He can watch one band for a while, then walk across the field and watch a different one." Ah, the magic of discovery.

There's even talk of making Lollapalooza into a permanent Chicago-based festival. We'll (see--there I go again) have to watch how it develops.

The White House Gets a Running Start

To pick just one point from a post that, in retrospect, was just too darn packed with them, I'm curious about this 12-hour delay Alberto Gonzales asked for in alerting the White House staff to preserve any documents they might have concerning the Valerie Plame case. Gonzales says he asked the Justice Department if it was OK, and they didn't have a problem. But if a lawyer is told that his client is under investigation, why would the lawyer want to delay letting that client know--or at least letting the client know officially? On Face the Nation Sunday, (transcript in pdf) Gonzales explained that he did mention the impending investigation to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card but then didn't get around to mentioning it to anyone else until the next morning. Even Joe Biden, who also appeared in the program, could identify the obvious questions:

[T]he real question now is who did the chief of staff speak to? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call Karl Rove? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call anybody else? Ordinarily, you would think that he would immediately send out an e-mail to every member of the staff and say--you know, you don't have to call them. Every of those staff members carries around a BlackBerry and--send an e-mail saying 'Boom.'

At this point, we can only wonder what Card might've done with the information. But we should also keep in mind that it's not exactly like they needed another 12 hours to get rid of incriminating evidence. According to a letter (also pdf) from the CIA to Rep. John Conyers that Josh Marshall had almost a year and a half ago at Talking Points Memo, the Department of Justice, then under the leadership of John Ashcroft, didn't open an investigation into the matter until more than two months after initially being alerted by the CIA. That's plenty of time for all involved parties to be informed that an inquiry might be coming down the pike. It was clear to the White House, as Gonzales implied on Face the Nation when asked why, as White House counsel, he didn't conduct his own investigation:

I think that this is the kind of issue that I felt that we should wait and see whether or not there would be some kind of criminal investigation. And, of course, there was, and once the criminal investigation began, I've always felt that it would be counterproductive and would be in the way and might, in fact, hinder the criminal investigation. And that's why the decision was made and it wasn't just solely my decision.

Unfortunately, Bob Schieffer didn't ask who else contributed to that decision.

Well, this post has gone longer than I'd expected, too, but while we're on the subject, I'll also mention a nostalgic post by Eric Boehlert recalling a similar delay by Attorney General Ed Meese at the beginning of the Iran-Contra investigation. You may recall that this is what gave Oliver North and Fawn Hall the opportunity to do so much shredding.

But That's What He's Called!

Today's Doonesbury has apparently upset a few newspaper editors (about 10 to 12, according to this AP story). Garry Trudeau makes reference to the nickname W lovingly (and appropriately) bestowed on Karl Rove: Turd Blossom. Some of the papers are replacing the strip with an older one, but others, such as The Providence Journal, did some slight editing. Executive Editor Joel Rawson simply said, "I didn't think (taking out the word) hurt it." No, how could it hurt it? That nickname was only the punchline!

Trudeau isn't happy:

Editors obviously have a responsibility to determine what's appropriate for inclusion in their papers. The syndicate and I accept that from time to time individual editors may object to particular strips and decide to drop them. What's not acceptable to us, however, is for editors to alter the content of a strip and represent it as what I sent them. In most cases, changing the dialogue compromises its meaning or rhythm or humor. Sometimes, the strip no longer even makes sense. Who benefits from that? We'd prefer that an offending strip be dropped altogether.

I'd suggest this is one of those times when, without the offending term, the strip makes no sense. Has anybody seen an edited version?

It's not like the nickname isn't widely known. Rove himself proudly repeated it to Barbara Walters last year when Walters (for whatever reason) named him the most fascinating person of 2004. And you sure can't argue that it doesn't fit him.

Trudeau uses the nickname again tomorrow, so if you don't read Doonesbury regularly anyway, you might check it out again.

[UPDATED to correct misplaced links.]

Is It Real or Just an Incredible Simulation?

Our pal Don at Article 19 directs us toward a new Republican Jesus cartoon from General JC Christian, Patriot. The general runs a delightfully satirical blog, Jesus' General, that I should check more often than I do.

The general does more than just blogging, though. A while back he joined a group called Protest Warriors that claims to fight terrorism not by actually fighting terrorists (in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter) but by disrupting protests against the Iraq war (you can google them if you want to see, but I've got no interest in linking to their site). After the general suggested they all put their money where their mouths were and sign up for military duty, he was found out and, in the words of the Austin American-Statesman, "excommunicated." The general posted his side of the story last month.

He's also the prime mover behind Operation Yellow Elephant, which started out as an effort to shame College Republicans and Young Republicans at their respective annual conventions into joining the military (it didn't work--who'da thunk it?--but it did manage to inspire a number of defensive justifications about why it's just as important to fight the good fight on the home front). Now that those conventions are past, it's shifting its focus toward diminishing the influence College Republicans wield on campus. OYE maintains a group blog with the slogan, "It's their war. Why aren't they fighting it?"

Although he posted it on the OYE blog rather than his own, this statement could easily serve as the general's Prime Directive: "Above all, remember the power of ridicule. Laughter is our ultimate weapon. It destroys their credibility as an organization, and God knows, they deserve it." Words to live by.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Long John Baldry

Blues singer Long John Baldry died in Vancouver on Thursday night. Although known today more for his musical connections than the actual music itself, Baldry was a seminal figure in early British rock'n'roll. Born in 1941, he was a contemporary of the British Invasion musicians, but his own success remained primarily in the UK. His first band, Blues Incorporated, which is reputed to be the first British electric blues band, included Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Jack Bruce as members. Later bands featured Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, and Nicky Hopkins. Eric Clapton has said watching Baldry perform was his inspiration to take up the guitar and the life of a musician. Another band from the mid-60s, Bluesology, featured Baldry on vocals, Elton Dean on saxophone, and Reg Dwight at the piano. Taking inspiration from (and the two first names of) his bandmates, Dwight reinvented himself as Elton John. Baldry remained close to Elton John and, according to rumor, was the Someone from "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."

Baldry later immigrated to Canada, where he continued his musical career but also branched out to other activities. I didn't know, for instance, that he had a successful voiceover career. Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog will recognize him as the voice of Dr. Ivo Robotnik. He also performed voices for ReBoot and Bucky O’Hare. You can visit Baldry's Website (which also features a musical tree that details his bands and personnel). NME offers a very short obit, and you can find longer remembrances from the BBC or CTV.

A Quick Question

Although it's important to pay attention to new developments, the previous Abu Ghraib post isn't the most pleasant subject for a Monday morning (or any time, for that matter), so I'll supplant it with something I've wondered about. Why do people on their way to the gym take an elevator or escalator instead of using the stairs? Any insights are appreciated.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What's Still Being Hidden in Abu Ghraib?

We've all known for a while that there were more Abu Ghraib photos and other materials we haven't seen yet. A federal judge has demanded that the Defense Department turn those photos and videos over, but late on Thursday, the department refused to comply, stating that they'd explain themselves in a sealed brief yet to be filed. They previously tried to argue that release of the photos would embarrass and humiliate the prisoners who were victimized in them, as if the well-being of Abu Ghraib prisoners has been their primary concern all along, but the judge didn't buy it. Since the explanation is intended to be sealed, we may have to wait for someone to leak the information to see what's going on.

When we've got very few investigative reporters actively ferreting out information like this these days, we've got to get our insight where we can. Editor & Publisher has stepped into the breech this time and offered a summary of what we know about this material so far. The article by Greg Mitchell almost reads like a blog entry, as Mitchell goes back to a CNN report from last year that quoted Lindsey Graham: "We're talking about rape and murder--and some very serious charges." Rumsfeld himself described some of these still-secret acts as "blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." Mitchell also dug up a speech from last year by Seymour Hersh, one of the very few who can still unequivocally be called an investigative reporter. One example of his work is that he helped to bring the Abu Ghraib atrocities to light in the first place. Speaking before an ACLU convention last year, Hersh claimed some of the unseen material portrayed the rape of young boys in front of their mothers. He specifically had this to say: "The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has."

When you consider it, it's hardly surprising that the Defense Department would refuse to release material like this. Of course, as unpleasant as it might be, if this has been going on at Abu Ghraib in the name of the United States of America, we have to known about it. Just as crimes such as these cannot be acceptable, neither can covering them up.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

That Rove Thing Again

One of the double-edged swords of a summer scandal is the fact that it usually happens in slow news cycles. The news isn't slow because nothing is going on in the world--we can all see plenty of newsworthy events happening every day--but because, what with vacations and all, nobody much is paying attention. So we get coverage of world and national events, but nobody's reading and nobody's curious, so nothing new captures the public's imagination and nobody demands much follow up. The good side of the sword for a scandal is that the country is far from riveted on every new announcement. The bad side is that nobody's focusing on anything else, either, so the media can place its attention where it wants. In this case, now that there's blood in the water that seems to be spreading daily, what the media wants to watch is the Karl Rove scandal.

There aren't many new developments each day--this being summer and all--so we get a lot of rehashes, summaries, and analyses. We've had a fair bit of each over the last couple of days. One new item on Friday was a hearing Democrats held on the matter, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman and Senator Byron Dorgan. Former CIA operative Larry Johnson, a registered Repub who trained with Valerie Plame and has become quite outspoken on her behalf, testified on the damage that outing her has done. He said that, although he knew Plame in the agency, he didn't even know her full name until he read it in Novak's column. Read his prepared testimony in full.

In the Washington Post online on Friday, Dan Froomkin summarized recent reporting on the grand jury investigation.

Bloomberg and the New York Times move the ball forward today, courtesy of what appear to be a growing number of leakers.

And here, culled from those and other reports, are what would seem to be some of the harder-to-reconcile contradictions in the case, which started out as an investigation into who leaked a CIA agent's identity -- but which now could be turning into another testament to the Washington maxim that the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

· White House chief political strategist Karl Rove reportedly told the grand jury that he first learned of Valerie Plame's identity from columnist Robert Novak -- but Novak's version of the story is that Rove already knew about her when the two spoke.

· Rove didn't mention his conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to investigators at first and then said it was primarily about welfare reform. But Cooper has testified that the topic of welfare reform didn't came up.

· Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby apparently told prosecutors he first heard about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert, but Russert has testified that he neither offered nor received information about Plame in his conversation with Libby.

· And former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer apparently told prosecutors that he never saw a classified State Department memo that disclosed Plame's identity, but another former official reportedly saw him perusing it on Air Force One.

The New York Times put together a nifty little timeline for the whole affair.

Over at Daily Kos, Hunter has a summary of where we stand on all these new developments now, complete with links to some of the stories cited be Froomkin.

And in an attempt to show how current events reflect back on aspects of the case that we've probably all forgotten (if we were ever aware of them in the first place), Frank Rich speculates in Sunday's NYTimes on why W passed over his pal Alberto for a spot on the highest court in the land:

When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It's Mr. Gonzales's proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear.

As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.

Thus is Mr. Gonzales's Supreme Court aspiration the first White House casualty of this affair. It won't be the last. When you look at the early timeline of this case, rather than the latest investigatory scraps, two damning story lines emerge and both have legs.

The first: for half a year White House hands made the fatal mistake of thinking they could get away with trashing the Wilsons scot-free.

. . .

The second narrative to be unearthed in the scandal's early timeline is the motive for this reckless vindictiveness against anyone questioning the war. On May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished." On May 29, Mr. Bush announced that "we found the weapons of mass destruction." On July 2, as attacks increased on American troops, Mr. Bush dared the insurgents to "bring 'em on." But the mission was not accomplished, the weapons were not found and the enemy kept bringing 'em on. It was against this backdrop of mounting desperation on July 6 that Mr. Wilson went public with his incriminating claim that the most potent argument for the war in the first place, the administration's repeated intimations of nuclear Armageddon, involved twisted intelligence.

To quote New Fast Automatic Daffodils (who were talking about something else entirely): "It just grows, it just grows."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Midsummer White Sox

With the All-Star break behind us, we're into the second half of the baseball season. Toward the beginning of the season, I posted about the White Sox being Chicago's favorite also-rans. They led the league with a win record above .700, but hardly anyone paid them any attention.

I'm pleased to report that things are looking up for the White Sox. They're no longer over .700, but with .663, they still have the best record in baseball, and people are starting to notice. I was at the ballpark last night (to see my beloved Red Sox beat the White Sox by one; the tables were turned tonight, though, and Chicago was triumphant in the second game of the series), and it was virtually sold out. Chicago finally seems to be paying attention (although it doesn't hurt that those northside boys have been particularly annoying this year, utterly refusing on the field to live up to the team they seem to be on paper--for more details, read Stu Shea's
Baseball, Music, and Real Life
). If the White Sox can keep this up, they might even be winning new fans. They're certainly on a pace to get into the post season with ease, and it would a lovely change if the city could work up more than indifference this time. If matters continue to warrant it, I may just revisit this subject again after the regular season is over.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blogging Straight to the Point

I've been wrestling with my computer tonight as it continues to freeze up on me. I've lost two blog entry pages, and it's getting very late, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to be clever, but I'll leave you with a couple of nuggets to click on and ponder.

As I predicted (and hoped desperately), the scintillating nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court only caused a very temporary diversion from all the speculation over Karl Rove. It was the lead story in today's Washington Post, and it's got a meaty place in The New York Times tomorrow, which features the introduction of Karen Hughes and John Bolton as players in the scandal. In addition, both AMERICAblog and Atrios are reporting that tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will feature even more damning information about the top-secret memo (possibly the original source to out Joe Wilson's wife as a CIA agent) that's been described in various places over the last couple of days. What the WSJ adds to the picture is the fact that the information in the memo was not only labeled secret and not to be passed around to others, it was specifically not be shared with foreigners, a higher level of secret. That makes the Plame leak a much larger issue for the CIA than what we've been told so far, and it starts to explain why the agency asked for this investigation in the first place.

It's a fair question about why Rove might leak this information. I was most amused at the idea that he just wanted to help journalists avoid mistake. It's really too bad that a similar call couldn't have been placed to Dan Rather before he went on the air in support of the forged documents about W's hitch in the Texas air national guard. The Architect could have helped Rather hold on to the anchor's chair until he was ready to leave on his own terms. But I guess Rove can't be everywhere at once, no matter how hard he tries. And, according to this essay by Charlie Pierce at The American Prospect online edition, he tries very hard indeed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Putting the Press in Its Place

I was going to add this on to the previous post, but then I decided that it deserved its own. What was the story on all the misinformation the White House was spreading yesterday about the identity of the nominee? Was it them just flexing their muscles, showing who gets to set the agenda of what gets covered and what doesn't after more than a week of getting pushed around by the White House press corps? Were they just taunting the liberal media with, "Who's your daddy?" If so, it may feel good to them for a little while, but it's just going to reinforce the traditionally antagonistic relationship the press usually has with the White House that they're only just starting to remember.

Advice and Consent

The President seems to have gotten what he wanted, Karl Rove off the front page. I'm not sure quite how long that will last, because Roberts doesn't seem to provide enough intrigue to soak up too much news time. There's some attempt to sell him as a stealth candidate, which I guess means we can all hope he's really on our side, that conservatives will believe he'll overturn Roe v. Wade and affirmative action, while progressives will expect him to be more reasonable and measured. His conservative bona fides seem pretty firm, though, and I harbor no illusions that he's not the conservative bogeyman we fear (although, by all accounts, a very pleasant, well mannered one). Democrats have a responsibility to ask whatever questions they deem appropriate, although I don't expect they'll get any answers. They should then vote against him. I'm not sure a filibuster will get them anywhere, because the seven Repubs from the "Gang of 14" will certainly not allow an "extreme circumstances" waiver. The nuclear option would come out again, and we'd get a chance to see who was bluffing and who wasn't last time around. Substituting for Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly's Political Animal, Lindsay Beyerstein (who usually blogs at Majikthise) makes some good points about Democrats examining the views of the nominee and maintaining party discipline. If the White House gets to take political realities into consideration in choosing a nominee, why shouldn't the Democrats get to do the same in advising and consenting?

Roberts, Roberts, Roberts

AMERICAblog is quickly putting together a compendium of all things John G. Roberts. A one-stop source of information and links for anything you might want to know about the new Supreme Court nominee, it includes this tidbit from The New York Times:

"The president is a man of his word," said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. "He promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas, and that is exactly what he has done."

The religious right is very happy with the choice. That can't be good for the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Never Mind

That's what I get for speculating about breaking news. AP, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN (they have no link yet, just a "Breaking News" on the home page) all are naming Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as W's nominee for the court. He's the second potential candidate discussed in the Slate rundown I mentioned in my previous post. Although Roberts has apparently been touted as a potential consensus candidate, Slate isn't so sure. However, at least until W makes it all official, I guess there's nothing left to do except go to the bar next door and wait for the reviews.


Nick Hornby interviews Bruce Springsteen in Sunday's Observer Music Monthly, in which they discuss stagecraft, writing, and the synth duo Suicide.

I haven't seen OMM before, but I assume it's a regular feature in the Sunday Observer. This month they've also got interesting articles by Jon Savage on the commodification of pop and what it's cost us, and Dylan Jones on how the ubiquity of pop has revitalized his interest and love of music. There's also an archive of issues back to September 2003, which I plan on perusing.

A New Supreme

So W is going on TV tonight (preempting House, Big Brother 6, and I Want to Be a Hilton--except for FOX, I don’t guess anybody'll be complaining about losing the ratings) to announce his new pick for the Supreme Court. Speculation is strong that it'll be Edith Clement of the 5th circuit, but nobody's promising a confirmation of the name before W faces the cameras tonight.

There's some logic to the idea that making the nomination now, earlier than most expected, is a way to get Rove and the Plame affair off the front pages. In fact, Atrios quotes CNN to the effect that it's already worked: "Speaking of the Karl Rove matter, of course, that is news that is considered at the moment, so yesterday. We've moved on." But at the same time, Clement seems to be a boring enough nominee that such a strategy might not work. In a Slate rundown on potential nominees a couple of weeks back, here's all they've got to say about her: "Clement doesn't provide much ammunition for opposition groups, but perhaps not much for conservatives to get excited about either. She hasn't written anything notable off the bench (or at least nothing that's come to light yet), and most of her judicial decisions have been in relatively routine and uncontroversial cases."

To get Rove off the front page, they need a controversy, and Clement doesn't seem like a good choice to pick a fight with Dems. But could the strategy be even more daring? Maybe the White House is looking to create a distraction by picking a fight with its base. An AP story earlier today has this to say about Clement: "She has stated that the Supreme Court 'has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion' and that 'the law is settled in that regard.'" A fight amongst the right would certainly get the attention of the liberal media, and it might even stir up some excitement among the lefty blogosphere, distracting it from the much more perilous Rove grand jury shenanigans. W might take some heat as well, but he can pull the nomination later and mend any fences by naming the hardcore nominee we've all been expecting all along. If he is willing to draw fire to change the subject, that would be an indication of how desperate life is in the White House these days.

Of course, his televised address to the nation could come and go leaving behind another name for nomination altogether. If that turns out to be the case, then nevermind. But in the meantime, speculation is so much more fun than cold, hard facts.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Press and the Public

This week has not started out well for the Bush Administration. Matt Cooper said that not only did he tell the grand jury about his conversation with Karl Rove, he also mentioned a discussion he had with Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby ("Scooter" to his pals), in which Libby also identified Valerie Plame's position with the CIA. This had been much rumored but not confirmed until now, and proves that two-thirds of Scott McClellan's Axis of Not Involved were actually up to their eyeballs. Keep your eye out for Elliott Abrams to enter the picture soon, as well. On a related front, Bush changed his criteria for how he'll deal with people involved in the Plame leak. Last year, he confirmed that anyone involved would be fired. Today however, he specified that anyone who committed a crime would be fired, presumably meaning that involvement alone is no longer enough. Since Rove's own lawyer has admitted that his client is involved, Bush had no choice but to raise the bar.

But the most interesting new development today may be a new ABC News-Washington Post poll that shows only 25 percent of people surveyed thought the White House was cooperating fully with the special prosecutor. Of course, when respondents were broken down by party, those numbers shifted, but even so, Republicans weren't able to muster 50 percent support. Only 47 percent of Republicans agreed that the White House is cooperating. On the question of whether Karl Rove should continue to work in the White House if he leaked classified info, 71 percent of Republicans, and 75 percent of respondents overall, felt he should be fired. Those are strong numbers that the President so far is ignoring.

It seems like the dynamic here is the opposite of what it was during the Clinton years. When Clinton was having his troubles, the liberal media was all over it, insisting that BIG ISSUES were at stake, but the public couldn't get excited about it. No matter how much it was hyped, the polls never reflected a large groundswell of concern among the public. In the current situation, the liberal media hasn't seemed so impressed with the wrongdoing, and they've only recently been spurred to press the matter at all (even if it is because McClellan lied directly to them and this time it's personal). Will the liberal media continue to pay attention and give the public what it seems to want? Or will they return to lecture mode and educate us about how things "really work" in Washington?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Eisner Awards

As I said last night, one of the highlights of the San Diego Comic Con is giving out the Eisner Awards. I don't know if this could ever happen because there are too many competing interests, but it would be nice if the comics industry could agree on one award. As it is now, we've got the Eisners, named after Will Eisner; the Harveys, named after Harvey Kurtzman; and various others, such as the Wizard Fan Awards, named after Wizard magazine and voted by the fans. There's so much division that it's hard to figure out what's what. It reminds me somewhat of boxing, in which several organizations sponsor different championships so there are sometimes rival world heavyweight champions at the same time. In terms of comics, the Eisners are one of the big ones, though, so you have to pay attention to them.

The winners were fairly spread around this year, with few double winners. Kyle Baker won for Best Writer/Artist—Humor, and his series Plastic Man won Best Publication for a Younger Audience. Brian K. Vaughan won Best Writer, and his series Ex Machina won Best New Series. Eric Powell's The Goon won both Best Humor Publication and Best Continuing Series. You can get the whole rundown from Heidi at The Beat.

Michael Chabon Presents The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist won Best Anthology, beating out the comics issue of McSweeneys, edited by Chris Ware. Chabon accepted his award with the question, "Have you seen the McSweeney's?" Tom Spurgeon said that this sums up his own reaction to awards like these (scroll down to item #7).

It's not that what I feel is the best book as a critic never wins Eisners, but it's more like it seems that the Eisners are always given to whatever comic brings the most pleasure in any way as opposed to the one that reaches excellence, which is a perfectly fine standard to have as a reader and kind of a sad one to project as an industry.

He's got a point, but I'm not sure the Eisners are particularly different than the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, or whatever. It would be nice to celebrate excellence, though, wouldn't it?

The Forest for the Trees

Don't lose track of the big picture. That's the point Frank Rich makes today. The Rove-Plame situation isn't the whole show by itself, it only opens up a door to a much bigger story.

[W]e shouldn't get hung up on [Karl Rove]--or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.
. . .

Let me reiterate: This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock's parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops." Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam's supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife's outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh's theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in "Psycho."

Rich isn't the first to point this out, of course, but whatever scandal comes out of this, it's about how the U.S. came to send troops to Iraq and how the government bamboozled the American public to support that action. The subtext to this whole situation is how the Bush Administration has operated from day one with secrecy and innuendo to get what it wants. I'd disagree that Rove is just secondary, but that really comes down to what exactly his relationship to Bush is. If Rove is Bush's brain, as has been said, then he's as big a catch as Bush himself, even if he doesn't have all the Constitutional powers. If Bush is his own man, even to some degree (and I expect that he believes that of himself), then it's harder to say. But I do think we shouldn't rush to judgment about what's going on in the investigation. Fitzgerald will play the whole thing out on his own schedule.

As I was writing this item, The Sweet Smell of Success came on TV. I've never seen the movie before (although I did waste a couple of hours seeing the lame stage musical adaptation a few years back), and what's amazing is, even with its hep jazz soundtrack and fabulous noir cinematography, how timely it is today. Although originally inspired by Walter Winchell, J. J. Hunsecker today can easily be read as Karl Rove (much to Novak's consternation--he's always believed he was Hunsecker). Novak could be Sidney Falco, but Washington these days is filled with Sidney Falcos. Seeing the film is a reminder that what's going on in Washington is nothing new, and if Rove and even Bush go down over this, there will be a new gang in town in no time. Still, it never hurts for the rest of us to keep them honest and on their toes.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Miner's "Hot Type"

Except for the entertainment listings, I'm usually pretty slow to get around to each edition of the Chicago Reader. I happened to look at this week's more quickly, so I'm able to recommend Michael Miner's "Hot Type" column while it's still timely. Miner's column of press criticism is always worth reading, something I consistently do, even if the issue it's in is weeks or sometimes months old.

This week he takes a look at the whole Rove-Plame thing and takes special care to point out many of the contradictions and ironies. His sense is that journalists support Fitzgerald's investigation into the Bush White House but are not happy that another journalist is in jail as a result. He also notes what Ron pointed out earlier this week in a comment on another post, that we're glad the investigation seems to be moving forward, even if it is because Matt Cooper and Time magazine gave up their sources. But Miner's most salient point addresses how the press has--or hasn't--been doing its job:

The press has been second-guessing its heavy reliance on anonymous sources for some time now, and Miller is the ultimate example of how far out of hand things have gotten: going to jail for someone she should be helping send to jail. Another [point commentators are making] is that the Bush administration needs to be turned inside out. That's supposed to be journalism's job, but Fitzgerald's been doing journalism's work for it, charging it one reporter's freedom for the favor.

If Fitzgerald were the best friend journalism ever had, he might have decided to do exactly what he's done. He's angered it, shamed it, and awakened it. Plenty of newspaper readers must wonder why other reporters--at the Times or anyplace else--didn't do the work of reporters and find out who was feeding the media information about Valerie Plame. If they had, they could have saved Fitzgerald time and Miller anguish. Surely Miller couldn't promise any silence but her own.

It seems the White House press corps has actually started taking their press briefings more seriously, but we still haven't seen any indication that they're digging up their own stories rather than waiting for Scott McClellan or various anonymous administration sources to spoon feed them information. Still, I guess we should be grateful that we've seen a change for the better at all.

Comic-Con International

This weekend, comics' largest convention--part trade show, part fan convention, part media extravaganza--is being held in San Diego. It's a huge show that lasts four days (actually, I think they've edged it to four-and-a-half) and it seems to get huger every year. I used to go for a day when we lived in LA, but it's been ten years since I've been there, and from everything I've heard, it's grown exponentially since then.

A lot happens at San Diego--new books and book lines are launched, plans for current books are laid out, the Eisner Awards are given out, and there's networking, networking, networking. I'm not even going to try to convey everything, but you can get news updates from The Pulse, Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, or, as Tom Spurgeon recommends, Jeffrey Stevenson's news feed. You can also find some interesting ongoing blogging views of the convention from Heidi MacDonald at The Beat, Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, and Mark Evanier. I've been looking at some of the info, but I haven't come close to keeping up with everything. I'll wade through more later this evening and tomorrow, and if anything catches my eye (I'm betting something will), I'll comment on it later.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Quick Hits

Here are a handful of interesting links.

This morning Paul Krugman put into words something we've all probably noticed but that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere other than in casual conversation. We're living in Karl Rove's America, and Krugman tells us why: "What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth."

From AMERICAblog (they're just full of great info these days), RadarOnline answers a question that's had everybody stumped for weeks. Robert Novak continues to claim that he never testified to the grand jury, which raises the question of why isn't he in jail, too? Radar claims he didn't bother with the grand jury because he gave up everything he had to the special prosecutor himself. And among the tidbits he offered, again according to Radar, was that he first learned about Valerie Plame's connection to the CIA from NY Times reporter Judith Miller, who's currently cooling her heals behind bars while Novak continues to gallivant around Washington. I guess these days being a successful columnist and TV personality means never having to admit you squealed.

Finally, the Brad Blog tells us that Comcast was killing e-mail that mentioned When Brad and investigated, they discovered that a company called Bright Mail controlled the filter for Comcast e-mail, as well as that for some other ISPs, and they were filtering the term. When pressed, they lifted the ban, so apparently Comcast customers can again read about

Disturbing Developments About London

ABC News is reporting that last week's London bombing appears to be connected to a two-year-old plot hatched in Pakistan. Authorities arrested a number of people involved in the plot last year, but apparently they didn't get everybody.

Bloggers have been filling in the rest of the story. John Aravosis at AMERICAblog puts together a lot of information about that plot and the investigation of it. Apparently, authorities had developed a mole at al Queda who was helping them gather information. The Bush Administration, probably looking to score some political points by distracting from the Democratic convention in Boston, raised terror alerts to orange, tipped off the investigation in the press, and opened the door to identifying the mole. Once the mole's name, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, appeared in the papers, there could be no more investigation, and the Brits had to scramble to mop up what they could. They feared at the time that some terrorists had slipped through their fingers, and now we know.

The Bush people have flirted back and forth with admitting responsibility for blowing the lid off the investigation, but the story has been on the back burner (if it's even still on the stove at all) for almost a year, so none of it is in the public consciousness. The details are long and somewhat complicated, but if the implications are followed through to their logical conclusions, this could be far more significant than the Karl Rove imbroglio. Radamisto has more press reports from last year. I'm sure this will continue to develop, among bloggers if not in the liberal media itself, so it will be worth keeping up with.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille Day

This is the day that proves that even the French, still much maligned in this country, can reach a point where they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. The White House press corps celebrated the occasion by again storming Scott McClellan. They were on Air Force One on the way to the Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis (where, for some reason, W was presented with a lifetime achievement award). The White House hasn't posted a transcript yet, but Raw Story has a partial one. The most sarcastically disingenuous moment comes at the top:

Q Will Karl come back and talk to us at the event?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't expect that today.

Q Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just don't -- there's no plans for him to do that.

Elsewhere, Kevin Drum offers an unflattering comparison, pointing out that in outing Valerie Plame, Rove has blundered into territory where not even Richard Nixon would venture, even to save his failing 1960 bid for president. Drum closes out his comments with: "Welcome to the leadership of the modern Republican party. Who would have thought that one day the White House would be run by someone who made Richard Nixon look responsible and forbearing?"

John at AMERICAblog reports that Harry Reid offered the following amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill:

No federal employee who discloses or has disclosed classified information, including the identity of a covert agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, to a person not authorized to receive such information shall be entitled to hold a security clearance for access to such information.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Press Feistiness--Day 3

Yep, it's three days in a row, and the press hasn't gone back to sleep yet. Here's my favorite part of today's press gaggle:

Q Scott, you know what, to make a general observation here, in a previous administration, if a press secretary had given the sort of answers you've just given in referring to the fact that everybody who works here enjoys the confidence of the President, Republicans would have hammered them as having a kind of legalistic and sleazy defense. I mean, the reality is that you're parsing words, and you've been doing it for a few days now. So does the President think Karl Rove did something wrong, or doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, David, I'm not at all. I told you and the President told you earlier today that we don't want to prejudge the outcome of an ongoing investigation. And I think we've been round and round on this for two days now.

Q Even if it wasn't a crime? You know, there are those who believe that even if Karl Rove was trying to debunk bogus information, as Ken Mehlman suggested yesterday -- perhaps speaking on behalf of the White House -- that when you're dealing with a covert operative, that a senior official of the government should be darn well sure that that person is not undercover, is not covert, before speaking about them in any way, shape, or form. Does the President agree with that or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we've been round and round on this for a couple of days now. I don't have anything to add to what I've said the previous two days.

Q That's a different question, and it's not round and round --

MR. McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier.

Q It has nothing to do with the investigation, Scott, and you know it.

MR. McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier today, and the President said he's not --

Q That's a dodge to my question. It has nothing to do with the investigation. Is it appropriate for a senior official to speak about a covert agent in any way, shape, or form without first finding out whether that person is working as a covert officer.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you're wrong. This is all relating to questions about an ongoing investigation, and I've been through this.

Q If I wanted to ask you about an ongoing investigation, I would ask you about the statute, and I'm not doing that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days.

Q You haven't even scratched the surface.

Q It hasn't started.

A little later, after someone mentioned this cartoon from this morning's Washington Times, McClelland replied:

MR. McCLELLAN: It may not look like it, but there's a little flesh that's been taken out of me the past few days. (Laughter.)

Q Where?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, it may not look like it. (Laughter.) I can assure you that it has been.

So if McClelland continues to stonewall--and we know he's going to--will it be enough to cause the White House press corps to actually try to do some reporting, maybe do some digging to find out the truth? I'm still not ready to put money down on it, but it's certainly a possibility.

New Wave Now

The July Blender has a pretty good primer on new wave by Douglas Wolk. He divides it into reasonable catagories such as the first round of Brit new wave performers (Costello, Dury, Squeeze [although maybe they should've been a bit later]), proto new wavers (Bowie, Roxy, Iggy), American (Blondie, Heads), guitar bands (XTC, Banshees, Cure), synth bands (Human League, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell), etc. Wolk is also savvy enough to mention a few people who deserve to be remembered but mostly aren't, such as the Only Ones and Pylon.

Although he gives lip service to the separation of punk and new wave, I wasn't sure where he drew the line. He listed Siouxsie and the Banshees, but left out the Jam. You can argue that the Jam started out as punks, but so did Siouxsie, and by the time of All Mod Cons, the Jam had moved on. He mentions Billy Idol, but overlooks GenX. Again, the first Generation X album was definitely punk, but don't forget "Dancing with Myself" appeared on the third GenX album before Billy released it as a solo single. Was his criteria if you started punk, you stayed punk (unless you broke up the band, a la Billy Idol and John Lydon--PIL also gets a mention)? The Stranglers may have maintained a good punk front with "Peaches," but "Golden Brown" gave the lie to that a few years later (when a friend of mine heard La Folie, he exclaimed, "I knew it--they've been progrockers in disguise all along!"), and in case we still hadn't gotten the hint, Feline gave up any punk pretense whatsoever (although the cat had been pretty much out of the bag since The Gospel According to the Meninblack, if anybody'd actually listened to that album). And where's Magazine? "Shot by Both Sides" is arguably punk, but it's also a declaration that this band would have no allies in any movement, and Howard Devoto studiously moved away from punk with the first album (maybe Wolk would say he took them out of new wave, too). Finally, we can't overlook the Clash--after the Pistols, they were the prototypical punks. They stayed true to the cause for a little while, but London Calling proclaimed that they were stretching the boundaries, Sandanista! kicked the legs out from under anyone who still thought they were punks, and by the time they got around to "Rock the Casbah," no one could classify them that way at all. But these are just a few quibbles. All my complaints would do would be just to open the list up a little farther.

As an added bonus, Blender gives us their list of the 40 best new wave singles of all time. And they want us to fight about it. I own 28 of the songs, and there are a handful more that I'd be happy to have if they were tucked into the right compilation, so I don't have a lot of argument. But I don't know that "Take on Me" really rates, and I'm sure we'd all be happy to take "I Ran (so far away)" off the list. You might be able to argue that they wanted to include songs we'd all know, but then you'd have to explain the inclusion of the Normal's "Warm Leatherette." I'd complain that the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" ranks ahead of Gang of Four, not because "House" isn't a great single, but because it becomes great by completely lifting the essence (if not quite the dialectics) of Gang of Four. I'd probably have included "Gangsters" by the Specials; something by Siouxsie, probably "Christine" (which does appear on the U2-compiled CD available with the latest MOJO); Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" (although I've been picking up the remastered Echo CDs, and the music doesn't seem to hold up as well as I'd've wished); "Come on Eileen," a much-reviled song that still brings a smile to my face; possibly "Turning Japanese," which just seemed to personify "new wave" when it came out; and, speaking of what seemed to be iconic new wave at the time, maybe "I Melt with You." In all these complaints, though, I'll forever be appreciative to Blender for not including a song I've always loathed but that I'd've expected to be a sure thing: "My Sharona." To whoever made this list, I'm forever in your debt.

(I'm studiously ignoring choice number 40, which obviously doesn't belong on a list of this sort and is clearly present just to piss off people like me. New wave didn't have as much aggression as punk, but few of the performers minded sticking their thumb in your eye every now and again, so I'm just assuming the 40th single was offered in that spirit. And who knows, when that song was chosen, maybe somebody in the Blender offices pointed out, "This will be so annoying, we don't even need 'My Sharona'!")

(June 14--Edited to add a word inadvertently left out of the final paragraph.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Press on the Offensive--Day 2

We got at least one more day of the press swarming over something worthwhile. And there aren't even any missing white women involved (as far as we know). Scott McClellan had another what I'm sure seemed like a marathon press briefing in which he continued to refuse to answer any questions about Karl Rove. Roughly 60 percent of the questions involved Rove, including such queries as whether the White House and McClellan in particular had any credibility left and whether the journalists would be better off talking instead to McClellan's attorney. It can't have been a good time.

And W got into the action today, as well. Or rather, joined Scotty in avoiding the action. In a press appearance with the prime minister of Singapore, Bush was twice asked if he'd fire Rove. According to The New York Times, the President responded with "stony silence."

Will the press's interest in the story linger into Day 3? The New York Times fronts "Rove Case May Test Bush's Loyalty to His Closest Aides," but The Washington Post ("GOP on Offense in Defense of Rove") and the LA Times ("White House Deflects Questions on Rove as RNC Defends Him") look to be straying over to the GOP's point of view. Can the press keep their focus? One big hint will be tomorrow's press gaggle. If the White House press corps lightens up on McClellan and starts to let him off the hook, Rove can start breathing a sigh of relief, as he'll probably survive this downturn, at least in the court of public opinion.

But then, there's always Fitzgerald's legal case. He's the U.S. attorney in Chicago and he's known as a good Republican, but he didn't hesitate to go after former Republican governor George Ryan when everybody was sure Ryan would skate. That situation ended in a somewhat startling indictment of Illinois's most recent ex-governor (he goes on trial in a couple of months). Fitzgerald, by all accounts, takes his job very seriously and shouldn't be underestimated. Everybody tonight seems to be linking to Murray Waas on Novak's testimony before the grand jury, and if Waas is even half right, Novak, Rove, and who knows who all else could be in big legal trouble. If Rove gets hung out to dry in federal court, it's not going to much matter what the court of public opinion thinks about him.

Adolescent Sex Education

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released recommendations for an updated policy on teen pregnancy that argues abstinence education must be paired with information about and access to contraception. Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the committee that devised the new recommendations, told the Associated Press: "Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy." Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who advised the committee, argued that promoting abstinence without also providing contraception leaves teens who do engage in intercourse far more likely to practice unsafe sex, opening the door to unwanted pregnancies and the threat of sexually transmitted diseases.

It goes without saying these days that the Bush Administration opposes such measures. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, reaffirmed the administration line that abstinence-only education provides adolescents with consistent information, arguing that offering contraception just makes the message confusing for them. He did admit that, although teens who aren't sexually active should not be distracted by contraception, access should be available to those who are active. Exactly how and when teens could gain information about and access to contraception so they could make use of it when they actually cross the line from nonactive to active was not clear.

That teens who might become sexually active should have all the options for abstinence and contraception available to them is such a no-brainer that it's amazing we're still fighting about it. But when I remind myself of the current political climate and the culture wars being waged every day, I come back to reality, and the situation all makes sense again. The new recommendations can be found in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Press Aggression

What was the deal with the White House Press corps today? When did they grow a spine? The story of Matt Cooper's e-mails naming Karl Rove as his source outing Valerie Plame from the CIA broke last week, yet no one even mentioned it to Scott McClellan the whole time they were in Scotland together. Were they afraid that the White House would get pissed about it and make them buy their own plane ticket home? Were they afraid Bush might put in a bad word with Bono and they wouldn't get their copy of Joshua Tree autographed? Was one Newsweek story not enough? Did they need to wait for a second Newsweek article, a page one story in The Washington Post, and a New York Times story buried deep inside? Apparently so. That doesn't bode well for this story having legs. No matter what the lefty bloggers do, if the liberal media doesn't continue the story, the Bush people are going to succeed with the stonewall that not even the Nixon Administration could pull off. Democrats can continue to call for investigations, but as the minority party in both houses, unless they can keep the liberal media interested, the story dies out in a couple of days. The most optimistic prediction I've heard so far comes from Garance Franke-Ruta at TAPPED:

If there is one thing that reporters hate, it's being played for patsies. McClellan has publicly humiliated some of the most prominent reporters in the country by persistently feeding them information that has now been revealed to be false, and I'm pretty darn sure that they are not going to grant him any favors and extend him the benefit of the doubt in the future. Talk about the last in a long line of straws!

Maybe this time it's personal, but the White House press corps have been willing participants in their humiliation all along. Nothing has come out in the last couple of days that wasn't sitting waiting to be dug up by some intrepid reporter who was willing to get just a little bit aggressive, but clearly no one wanted to. But if the press is willing to continue dogging this story now, I'm not going to complain about impure motivations.

No matter what turn all this takes tomorrow or the day after, we've still got today's press performance in which the liberal media conveys its displeasure to Scott McClellan. There are a number of highlights, but I'll just start with the first question and answer:

Q Does the President stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked relating to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point. And as I've previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren't going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Q Excuse me, but I wasn't actually talking about any investigation. But in June of 2004, the President said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak, to press of information. And I just want to know, is that still his position?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that's why I said that our policy continues to be that we're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium. The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium. And so that's why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation, or questions related to it.

Scotty held on to that nonresponse response with each new challenge, but it wasn't long until the press tired of that approach.

Q Scott, I mean, just -- I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said, and I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation --

Q Why are you choosing when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish --

Q No, you're not finishing -- you're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke out about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved, or was he not? Because, contrary to what you told the American people, he did, indeed, talk about his wife, didn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

. . .

Q Wait, wait -- so you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore, and since then, you haven't?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation, and I'm just not going to respond any further.

Q When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you peg down a date?

MR. McCLELLAN: Back at that time period.

Q Well, then the President commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.

Clearly this all knocked McClellan off his game. Here's his reply to a query about a story from London on Sunday and in The Washington Post this morning on U.S. and UK plans for significant troop reductions in Iraq by early 2006:

Q A secret British memo says plans are underway for a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq early next year. Does the President agree with those plans? And even though he doesn't want to give an exact date --

MR. McCLELLAN: Who? Who has a plan? I'm sorry.

Will the press keep up the pressure on McClellan tomorrow? He can probably expect unpleasant encounters for a couple more days, but we'll have to see whether the new spine transplant takes or if the body of the press will reject it.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Where's the Common Ground?

Tom Tomorrow's current cartoon in Monday's Salon (subscription necessary or watch a short ad for a day pass) raises an interesting question. How can the two groups in this country--blue state/red state, liberal/conservative, left/right, whatever labels you want to use--how can they (we) have any kind of dialogue if the self-evident truths we each blatantly see in current events are contradictory?

De-Evolutionary Ideas

Anybody still hoping that the election of Pope Benedict XVI wasn't a huge step back toward the Middle Ages for the Catholic Church should be sure not to miss the opinion piece in Thursday's New York Times, "Finding Design in Nature," by Christoph Schönborn, Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna. For almost ten years, since Pope John Paul II identified evolution as "more than just a hypothesis," most people assumed that the official church position made room for Darwin's ideas. Wrong, writes Cardinal Schönborn. "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

This sounds suspiciously like the cardinal is buying into intelligent design, suspicions that were realized in a follow-up article in Friday's Times, "Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution." Cardinal Schönborn consulted with the Discovery Institute, one of the leading proponents of that Trojan horse for creationism. Mark Ryland, a vice president of the institute, said he was "very excited" by the essay, and institute president Bruce Chapman claims it "helps blunt the claims" that the Church is willing to coexist with Darwinian evolution. And for anyone who hoped the cardinal was strictly speaking for himself, he told the Times that, although the Vatican had not vetted the piece, he had discussed it with a very encouraging Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger a couple of weeks before Ratzinger's election as Pope. If the message isn't sufficiently conveyed by this shot across the bow, expect a doctrinal note from Benedict himself to follow. This will be a huge step forward toward undermining the hold that the teaching of evolution still maintains in the schools. I'm afraid that it's also just a hint of the backward steps the Church may be in for under Benedict's reign.

You Know What They Said? Well, Some of It Was True!

James Walcott highlights a post from Tom Watson that reminds us the Clash remain up-to-the-minute relevant, even three-and-a-half years after Joe left us to fend for ourselves (not that it's a surprise). Featuring the lyrics of "London Calling," it's chock-full of links showing various aspects of London's recent travails and proves once again that art provides a context through which we understand the world.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Bono Vs. Paul Martin

While surfing for some links for the previous post, I came across an odd quote from Bono. I was going to add it in at the bottom of that post, but then I decided I liked it too much and wanted to shine a larger spotlight on it.

Whether it was intentional or not, Bono and Bob Geldof upstaged the reputed "most powerful people in the world." Perhaps The Globe and Mail put it best: "At the summit, the rock stars' status as virtual sovereign nations unto themselves was all but assumed, beginning with Mr. Martin's morning flight from Dublin to Glasgow, where his aides came to tell reporters that he had scheduled 'bilaterals with Japan, Germany and Bono.'"

After Paul Martin held his mini-summit with Bono, the singer was not entirely happy. In fact, Bono complained about the Canadian prime minister, calling a certain trait "very frustrating and annoying and infuriating." And what was Martin's sin? Again quoting Bono, "He is very difficult to deal with, because he won't agree to things that he doesn't believe he can deliver." I hate it when politicians refuse to make empty promises, too.

Empty Promises

As news reports congratulate Tony Blair on getting part of what he wanted at the G8 summit, which promised to "double" aid to Africa from $25 billion to $50 billion (such as here and here), and Bob Geldof and Bono claim victory (Geldof gave the summit "10 out of 10 on aid, eight out of 10 on debt," but he didn't mention if it had a good beat and was easy to dance to; Bono said, "The world spoke out and the politicians listened"), don't overlook the shell game Bush is playing with the numbers. In fact, Bush doesn't even want you to miss it. On the way back from the Scotland, Faryar Shirzad, a deputy national security adviser (or, as Scott McLellan introduced him, "our Sherpa"), told reporters on Air Force One that the American contribution to that $50 billion was made up of only money that had already been set aside for African aid. Asked by a reporter point-blank, "So there's no promise of new money from the U.S. in that statement," Shirzad said no. Michael at AMERICAblog also discusses this situation and reminds us that Bush utilized the same strategy earlier this year when Blair visited the White House, appearing to promise new aid to Africa while only publicizing money that had already been committed. No wonder the White House called this a "successful summit."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Court Still Unsettled

Well, the day has come and gone, and still no announcement from Rehnquist. So that means, of course, that now there are rumors about the rumors. Josh Marshall has it on good reportorial authority that the administration is holding the announcement so it can focus on terrorism PR for the weekend. The Raw Story details Robert Novak's reporting about the announcement today, which has not come to pass. Apparently CNN reporters had given up on the expectation of Novak's accuracy earlier this afternoon. When asked about the situation this morning by reporters outside his house, Rehnquist himself commented, "That's for me to know and you to find out."

There's also no new developments on a rumored Stevens retirement. FOX News reports that Stevens hired two new clerks within the past two weeks, which suggests he's intending to hang around for at least a little while longer. But if he's not planning to retire soon, perhaps he should consider it. On tonight's Newshour, David Brooks suggested that a third vacancy might not work to Bush's advantage like we've all assumed: "If there are three . . . I think, then, the country gets nervous--are we seeing too big a shift too soon?--and that, I think, would make the Bush administration have to be more careful" (audio link). That's a twist I hadn't considered.

Unfinished Business

As we focus on the attacks in London, there's a simple fact that we shouldn't let slip our minds. Osama bin Laden, who Bush promised to bring in "dead or alive," is somehow still out there. CIA Director Porter Goss even claims to have an "excellent idea where he is," but, you know, it's complicated. It didn't sound complicated when W said you're either with us or you're with the terrorists. As al Queda proves that they're still dangerous, maybe we should ask the administration why it isn't trying harder.

A Word from the Mayor

Still in Singapore after the IOC's announcement of London as the site of the 2012 Olympics, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone delivered a strong and inspiring statement. I'm not quoting the whole thing, but editing it down for soundbites fails to do it justice, so here are some fairly hefty excerpts:

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith--it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. . . . [Londoners] will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Instead of offering vague platitudes about not letting the terrorists affect their routines, Livingstone spoke directly to the terrorists to provide specifics for how Londoners will continue to react:

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others--that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

The full transcript can be found here.

Livingstone has long been known in England as a leftist politician, but even Rush Limbaugh had to give him props for this speech. Limbaugh admitted that Livingstone "did say good things" and called it "a great statement." After playing his own excerpt (which included the last quote I highlighted), Rush said, "Very powerful, excellent."