Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Sunday, May 30, 2004


Bush, the Environment, and “Governing by Polls”

It takes a library …to describe the damage Bush is doing to the environment.

In the June 10 issue of The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben tackles this pentagon report, plus nine recent books, calling the Bush policy “institutionalized corruption: a steady payback to the logging, mining, corporate farming, fossil fuel, and other industries that contributed heavily to put Bush in power:”
The scale of this assault on the environment is so large as to be numbing. With a hundred battles occurring simultaneously and without a majority in either chamber of Congress to hold hearings or issue subpoenas, the environmental movement has been almost paralyzed. In Congress and the administration, loss has followed loss in such steady succession that even the most conventional environmentalists, usually bipartisan to a fault and reluctant to jump into electoral politics, now find themselves with a single goal: defeating Bush in November.

There is much of interest in the article, but what caught my attention were a few tangential, but highly illuminating, tidbits concerning Bush’s use of polls. Specifically, the comments illustrate how Bush relies on poll data to frame policies that might otherwise encounter considerable resistance. For example, it was Bush's pollster, Frank Luntz, who created the phrase “Healthy Forests Initiative”-- to describe a bill that others have described less charitably as the “No Tree Left Behind Act.” The same pollster also christened the “Clear Skies” bill -- the most brazen cave to mercury and sulfur polluters in recent memory. And there’s more:

Luntz told Bush to stop using the phrase "global warming" (in a leaked memo, he stressed that "while 'global warming' has catastrophic connotations attached to it, 'climate change' sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge") and to emphasize the (false) statement that there is no consensus among scientists on the issue. "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly," Luntz wrote. "The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed."

These clever bits of framing, in turn, may allow Bush to believe he’s actually being truthful when he says that he doesn’t “govern by polls” -- at least from the perspective of what Peter Singer (in The President of Good & Evil) describes as Bush’s “arrested moral development:” a “childishly literal notion of what it is to be truthful.”

After all, it’s not the policy that’s being adjusted to respond to the polls, it’s merely the words that are being adjusted to tailor the spin to the political reality. All so Bush can go on governing as he damn well pleases.

It wouldn’t surprise me, in fact, to learn that the very phrase – “We don’t govern by polls” – is itself poll-tested. At the very least, it’s true to form: deeply misleading, without being literally untrue.


Saturday, May 29, 2004


Feasting at the Schadenfreude Buffet

Billmon, after a brief hiatus, is back in fine form.
I must confess that I spent a good part of my week off feasting at the schadenfreude buffet – and many good things to eat and drink did I find there, including such delicacies as skewered neocon, fricasseed Judith Miller, fried huevos de Sanchez (and you know I’m not talking about eggs), Republicans on the half shell (or in Denny Hastert’s case, on the half wit) and, last but certainly not least, Shrub-a-la-road, smothered in Max Factor.

The ability to cackle with delight at the misfortunes of others certainly isn’t the most attractive human quality, but given the events of the past year – and the great geysers of noxious slime spewed out over that time by the conservative agitprop machine – I think I can be forgiven my moment of weakness. It’s not every week you see the tracks completely come off the GOP tank.

This is not just a good post: it's essential reading.


Friday, May 28, 2004


A Better Way to Play the Rising Oil Price Problem

A week ago, I went off on the astonishingly amateurish flash ad put out by the Kerry Campaign, "The House of Oil."

Today, Luke Francl points out a refreshingly professional, hard-hitting ad, put out by The Campaign for America's Future. The ad demonstrates nicely what can be done with essentially the same material. Go watch.

Essentially -- everything that the Kerry campaign got wrong -- these guys do right. The visuals are strong, the sound track powerful and appropriate, the message focused, clear, and absolutely unmistakable.

More to the point, the message is correctly calibrated, planting the right associations without undermining itself by making weak or unnecessary claims. Sensibly, they steer clear of "blaming" bush for higher oil prices -- opting instead to connect a few of the most damning & irrefutable dots. That's enough.


Channeling John Ashcroft

Tom Toles sets the tone. The Center for American Progress has the details.


Mmmm. Diseased Lobster.

It could just be me. But somehow the phrase "diseased but not inedible" -- coupled with the blithe assurance that the "baffling" condition "doesn't affect the meat" -- doesn't exactly whet my appetite:
A baffling disease that makes lobsters ugly, but not inedible, has crept northward from the Buzzards Bay hotspot where it's afflicted lobsters for several years.

The numbers of infected lobsters are far too tiny to cause panic, but researchers and lobstermen are weary of the disease's progress. The disease doesn't affect the meat, but a lobster with a corroded, blackened shell is a tough sell.

"You go and spend $8 for a lobster, you want a good-looking lobster," said Edward Heaphy, a lobsterman of 50 years from Dover, N.H.

In 1998, diseased lobsters began filling traps in the Buzzards Bay area, off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts. Almost a quarter of all lobsters sampled by the state in the bay that year had the disease, known as shell burn.

More here.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Pretty Polling Pictures

Chris Bowers at MyDD has the state-by-state map. His current projection: a Kerry win by 116 electoral votes. Sweet, if it happens -- but don't anybody get complacent.


Bush and Kerry alike on Iraq?

Did it strike you as odd that, on the same day the NYT was running their now-famous Mea Culpa piece, they were peddling the notion that Kerry's and Bush's Iraq policies are "broadly indistinguishable"? As if their rhetoric should be the deciding factor?

This claim, from yesterday's Times, made my head spin:
They still differ on some details, and Kerry continues to assert that Bush has lost so much credibility around the world that only a new president can rally other nations to provide the necessary assistance, a point he made on Tuesday while campaigning in Oregon.

That dismissive "continues to assert" effectively discards one of the largest and most obvious differences between the two candidates -- as if "credibility around the world" were a minor point.

I could go on -- but conveniently, there's a good rundown already out there. Thanks to a tip from Mr. Skippy, we find this excellent guest post over at Liberal Oasis, with further comments on the same article:
NYT also ran yesterday a separate piece suggesting that Bush’s repositioning makes it much harder for Kerry to take advantage of Bush’s political crisis.

That assumes that Kerry needs to stake out a dramatic policy difference with Bush rather than a dramatic ability difference.

Kerry needn’t risk taking a supposed politically expedient position on Iraq.

This is Bush’s war and, to paraphrase a man who was once considered to have had integrity, Bush broke it, it’s his responsibility to fix it and so far, he hasn’t come close to convincing anyone that he has the ability to even stop breaking it.

The Times would do well to heed Molly Ivins' advice, and pay more attention to what the man does, and less to what he says.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Spotted on the Westside Highway:

A vanity plate (attached to a red SUV), bearing the letters IMCOOL. Unsurprisingly, the driver was alone (Would you want to be seen in that car?).

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Oddly Missing from Today's News

The re-scheduled, relocated Destination Baghdad Expo, originally scheduled to take place in Baghdad four weeks ago. The event, which began yesterday, continues through Thursday in Diyarbakir, Turkey -- at a presumably safe 250 kilometers from the Iraqi border.

The earlier plan, according to this article, was "postponed after reviewing the security situation with coalition officials." Apparently, the prospect of a bunch of American profiteers running around with laptops and nametags on the "Baghdad International Fairgrounds" -- only days after the Fallujah incident -- was just too much to stomach, even for the willfully blind.


Saletan on the Speech

Just brilliant:
In press conferences, TV ads, and interviews this year, President Bush has manifested a series of psychopathologies: an abstract notion of reality, confidence unhinged from facts and circumstances, and a conception of credibility that requires no correspondence to the external world. Tonight, as he vowed to stay the course in Iraq, Bush demonstrated another mental defect: incomprehension of his role in history as a fallible human agent. Absent such comprehension, Bush can't fix his mistakes in Iraq because he can't see how—or even that—he screwed up.

Read the rest.


Monday, May 24, 2004


A few questions about the Speech

Yes, that speech. These are for you, GW:

  1. Why is "help establish the stability and security that democracy requires" the second step in your five step plan? If it wasn't the first, what have been doing there for the past year?

  2. Why do have to wait until we build a "modern, maximum security prison" before we can tear down Abu Ghraib? Haven't we already admitted that 70-90% of the prisoners don't really need be there? Are you seriously suggesting that we should continue to operate this symbol of oppression while we spend untold US tax dollars on a new prison?

  3. And just out of curiousity -- you wouldn't happen to know who's going to get the contract to build that prison? It couldn't possibly be ... Halliburton? Just asking....

I could go on, but somehow I don't think the world will suffer from a crippling commentary shortage if I just stop here.


Rendering Satire Useless Since January, 2001

Take a look at this cartoon, then this post, and this news article.


Not ... Much...Energy...Today

Maybe I need to try one of these.

William Grimes, the erstwhile New York Times Restaurant critic & and demographically untypical consumer of "energy drinks," explores the effects of the "demon spawn of Jolt Cola" -- downing thirteen of the little 8-ounce cans of club-kid propellant in three days.

After replacing his customary morning cup of tea with one can each of New York Minute, Stacker2Stinger, and Bottle Rocket, Grimes describes his mental state:

At this point, my energy level was not only elevated, it was speeding toward the red line. I felt myself staring holes through my computer screen, typing at five times my normal rate and thinking far too creatively about life questions like how many AA batteries I needed to buy when I went to the drug store. My mood was chipper. Too chipper. I was beginning to see why the sale of Red Bull, the leading energy drink in Europe, has been restricted to pharmacies in some countries there because of its high caffeine content. Young club-goers smooth out their energy drinks by mixing them with vodka. A bad idea at 8 a.m., I decided. Better to catalog my neckties.

Since the article sadly lacked a convenient accompanying table (perhaps Frank Prial couldn't be talked into joining this effort), I'll note what appeared to be the favorites: Liquid Ice, which "looks exactly like Windex," but is "refreshingly tart and lemony;" and Adrenaline Rush, "which turned out to be delicious."

The worst? Stacker2Stinger's "Sinful Citrus," which combines "an insipid, vaguely lemon flavor with a shocking blue-green color" and "looks like a product intended to be poured in the toilet."

Most interesting side effect? His wife's reaction:
My wife eyed me curiously. "Have you been drinking those weird drinks?" she asked. A goofy, out-of-context smile on my face provided the answer.

"You know, I think I like you better after you drink those things," she said. "They make you a better person." I will analyze this statement closely for the next several months.



Saturday, May 22, 2004


The Economist on the Gay Marriage Wars

I'd say they're about right, when they pose the question, "Another Thirty Years War in the making?"

It will be a long battle -- but calling it a battle between "gay activists" and "social conservatives" marginalizes one side, while sugar-coating the other.

Those "gay activists" could just as easily be characterized as "citizens standing up for their rights" -- and even social conservatives like William Safire and David Brooks have gone on record supporting gay marriage, so we should probably find another name for the virulently anti-marriage brigade -- like religious extremists, shameless bigots, or brazen homophobes. To call them "social conservatives" is to credit their intolerance with a respectability it simply doesn't deserve.


Pointless Food-Safety Measures

A section of twenty-third street was closed off just North of here for a "street fair" -- complete with the usual array of food vendors selling everything from juice drinks to corn-on-the-cob to sausages to empanadas. I couldn't help noticing one detail: a lot of them were wearing the same latex gloves to handle food and cash. As if that could possibly help.


Friday, May 21, 2004


Kerry Flash Ad: "The House of Oil"

It’s almost too easy to criticize the latest Kerry flash ad.

They start with a weak message, and then make an incoherent mess of it by getting virtually everything wrong: imagery, tone, sound, script and voice. To deliver what ought to be an alarming message, they’ve created something with the look and sound of a pinball game, then combined it with a bad script – read by an adenoidal college kid.

Let’s start with the message. If you look at the report that was presumably used as the basis for this disaster, a few facts jump out -- all of which are much more compelling than anything that the ad actually contains. Using those facts, I might have written something more like this:

Since George Bush took office, gas prices have gone up by 41% -- costing American consumers twenty-five billion dollars. And while you’ve been paying more, Bush’s friends in Big Oil have been making more: thirty-three billion dollars more, in their pockets, in extra profits. You think George Bush is looking out for your interests? Think again.

You could read that script in thirty seconds -- and get a better point across. Show the meter on a gas pump running up, up, up … all the way to $25 Billion. Reinforce it with sound effects that work. And get an authoritative, grown-up voice to read the script – and you just might have the beginngs of a decent ad.

This thing, however, belongs in trash bin.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


Feel the Love

Via this post from Kevin Drum, we learn of this poll, conducted before the Abu Ghraib revelations, and before yesterday's wedding mishap, showing that nearly 9 out of 10 Iraqis regard the US as "occupiers" rather than "liberators" -- and 68% either "strongly" or "somewhat" support Muqtada al-Sadr. More than half want us out, compared with 20% in October.

Meanwhile, Gen. Abizaid says the violence may get "even worse" after June 30.


Remember those Karen Ryan "news releases"?

"Deceptive," "covert progaganda," flawed by "notable omissions," and illegal, all according to the GAO.

This story, by the Times Robert Pear, has the details:

The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said yesterday that the Bush administration had violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news segments that portray the new Medicare law as a boon to the elderly.

The consequences? So far: a story buried on page A23 (NYT), and legislation that -- if passed -- would require the richest campaign in history to reimburse the the production cost of $42,750. Ed Gillespie must be devastated.


Morning funnies

Tom the Dancing Bug presents: "Bush Discovered to Be Evil Cyborg; Kerry still lags in polls."

Go read this, now

Hal Crowther, of North Carolina's Independent, manages to contain his fury just well enough, and just long enough, to deliver a lucid summation of the Bush presidency. I'll quote just his close -- but read every word:
I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.

And once again, a nod of thanks to JJ over at The Daily Cookie, without whom I could have easily missed this gem. Now, go read.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Blogging Around

Ryan Lizza brings us up-to-date on yet another White House revolving door.

The History News Network brings us a survey of 415 historians on the Bush Presidency. The verdict: 81% rate it a failure; 15% call it the “worst ever;” with overwhelming majorities picking either worse than Nixon, or worse than someone earlier than Nixon

Salon gives me a reason to go back to the movie theaters.

TBogg neatly sums up the latest in Homeland Security planning.

Skippy reminds us that it’s Don’t Buy Gas day (not exactly the greatest of challenges for yours truly, since I live in Manhattan and don’t have a car).

Carlson and Toles illustrate the Chain of Command.

Uggabugga highlights, literally, William Safire’s use of scare words – a piece Josh Marshall calls a “clotted mix of discredited ridiculousness, slurs, false claims of racism, disinformation and lies.”


New York's Olympic Bid

After hearing the news that New York has made the final cut for the 2012 Olympics, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki declared, according to Newsday, that “they would do ‘whatever is necessary’ to make New York City the most appealing host to the IOC.”

Really? Whatever? Then I have a suggestion....

If you honestly, seriously want to win the right to host the Olympics – then there’s one little detail we’ll need to take care of first, before the final vote comes up next year.

Bear in mind, first of all, that we are not in the lead, not by any stretch of the imagination. In the published scoring, Paris is leading, followed closely by Madrid, then London, and only then New York. That's right, we're in fourth place. In a horse race, that's called "out of the money."

We have a challenge ahead of us – and we can’t just count on the European votes to cancel each other out. To win, we’ll have to overcome a little problem that Crain's points out: “widespread Anti-American sentiment.”

And we all know where that comes from.

So Mr. Mayor, Mr. Governor, here is your assignment: help us get rid of George Bush.

Yes, I know you’re both Republicans, but remember that you both got elected in one of the most Democratic states in the union. The voters will forgive you, even if some of your fellow Republicans may not. After all (and this means you, Mr. Mayor), it's not as if you've never switched parties before.

You'd be doing the right thing for your city, for your state, and for the voters. And here’s a detail that will warm your conservative little cockles: you'd also be doing the right thing for business.

Honestly, it’s a no-brainer. Let’s face it: this isn’t the only area where “anti-American sentiment” stands to hurt us, directly, in our wallets. And the best (and possibly only) way to start turning the problem around is by soundly repudiating George Bush.

There's no doubt you'd be helping our Olympic bid -- and you'd certainly win my respect.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004


After Abu Ghraib

Via Ezra over at Pandagon, we pick up on this excellent Fred Kaplan piece, which names names -- and examines what comes next for the Bush adminstration. The prognosis? "The story is not going away:"
Bush knew about it. Rumsfeld ordered it. His undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steven Cambone, administered it. Cambone's deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, instructed Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been executing the program involving al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo, to go do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the 800th Military Brigade, that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, also seems to have had a hand in this sequence, as did William Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned about the improper interrogations—from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if not from anyone else—but said or did nothing about it for two months, until it was clear that photographs were coming out. Meanwhile, those involved in the interrogations included officers from military intelligence, the CIA, and private contractors, as well as the mysterious figures from the Pentagon's secret operation.

That's a lot more people than the seven low-grade soldiers and reservists currently facing courts-martial.

The challenge for Bush, Kaplan notes, is that there isn't much that he can do, and what little he can do may not help. Even firing Rumsfeld "won't stop the investigations:"
In fact, the confirmation hearings for Rummy's replacement would serve as yet another forum for all the questions—about Abu Ghraib, the war in Iraq, and military policy generally—that the administration is trying to stave off. More than that, Bush has said repeatedly that he won't get rid of Rumsfeld. If he did, especially if he did so under political pressure, he would undermine his most appealing campaign slogan—that he stays the course, doesn't buckle, says what he means and does what he says.

What Kaplan is also pointing out, albeit indirectly, is that even the most plausible scenario for Rumsfeld's departure -- in which Bush 'reluctantly accepts' his putatively voluntary resignation -- is not, when carefully examined, all that plausible. It still wouldn't fix the problem of a confirmation hearing -- which wouldn't be pretty.

My bet? Well let me put it this way: at this point, the story has more staying power than Bush does.

[UPDATE: Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down), joins the fray with this piece for the new Atlantic Monthly. While it appears to have been written just before the latest Seymour Hersh and Newsweek pieces, it deserves a read for its excellent take on the moral dimensions of the scandal, and for correctly focusing on a problem which the administration has never bothered to deny: an atmosphere of tacit approval, which created a "license to abuse" and "unleashed the sadists."]


Oh, the Horror

JJ, from The Daily Cookie, sends us the shocking photgraphic evidence ... of what Midwesterners eat.


A Note to Visitors

If you’ve come from TNR’s Campaign journal, or Google, read on.

The TNR Campaign Journal traffic seems to have subsided, but if you’re among that group, the items you’re looking for – the posts on Richard Clarke’s successors -- start here.

As for all of you Google folks – well, I seem to be showing up fairly well lately on a lot of searches, but it’s not always clear to me how easy it is for you to find what you’re looking for once you get here.

If you’ve come to this main page, the odds are pretty good that what you’re looking for was on the main page recently – but if it’s over a week old, it may have slipped off into the archives, so you may want to look there, starting with May.

Oh, and yes – I have tested the Google Site Search tool. Suffice it to say that I haven’t figured out how to get helpful results out of it, or I would have already added it to the site. Any suggestions here are welcome.

The best bet at this point, as far as I can tell, is to use the highlighter on your Google toolbar. If that fails, you can always hit the link on the upper right, and e-mail me.

Thanks for visiting – and come back soon…


Bush Without Irony

From the President’s remarks yesterday, in Topeka:

Fifty years ago today, nine judges announced that they had looked at the Constitution and saw no justification for the segregation and humiliation of an entire race.


And however it was defended, segregation could never be squared with the ideals of America.


On this day, in this place, we remember with gratitude the good souls who saw a great wrong, and stood their ground, and won their case.

En route to make that speech, Bush also released this statement:
The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges. All Americans have a right to be heard in this debate. I called on the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today.

Leaving aside for the moment, Mr. President, your profound confusion regarding the roles of church and state, let me sum it up for you.

Six months ago, judges in Massachusetts looked at their constitution and saw no justification for excluding an entire class of citizens from the rights & benefits of marriage. For this principled & constitutional stance, you deride them as ‘activists.”

To those good souls in Massachusetts who also saw a great wrong, stood their ground, and won their case -- you have shown no gratitude.

Instead, to those who cloak their prejudices in religious beliefs, you have shown your true colors. However you may defend your position, Mr. President, it can never be squared with the ideals of America.


Monday, May 17, 2004


Pentagon Non-denials

In precisely the manner that, on Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps was always led to expect -- the Pentagon has been busily "disavowing all knowledge" of the secret operation recently exposed by Seymour Hersh. In the words of a "senior intelligence official" quoted by CNN, "The unit described simply does not exist."

Notice that the unnamed source doesn't say that it never existed. Just that -- present tense -- it doesn't. You have to watch these things.

Tellingly, the Pentagon's public pronouncements manage to sound like denials, without actually denying much of anything. Billmon breaks it down:
If you read Sy's story, he makes it pretty clear that the operation - the "special access program" - was specifically designed to provide the men at the top the maximum amount of plausible (well, semi-plausible) denial. The operative principle, Sy quotes one source as saying, was:

“The rules are ‘Grab whom you must. Do what you want.’”

In other words, if you believe Hersh, the SAP was specifically structured so that none of the interrogation methods adopted could be traced back to any "sanctioned program, training manual, instruction, or order."

Can it be any surprise that the most frequently repeated "denial" is that "we've found no evidence." These instructions will self-destruct in five seconds ....


The Ethics of Belief

I had promised a bit more on Peter Singer's book, so here goes. I'll start the easy way, by quoting Colin McGinn's review from the Washington Post, where he argues that Singer "refutes the myth" that, while Bush "is a man of marked intellectual limitations, he is governed by a consistent set of deeply held moral convictions."

The President of Good & Evil, Peter Singer's timely and searching new book, is in effect an ethics tutorial directed toward the leader of the "free world." Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, gives Bush a D, if not an outright fail. The bulk of the book is a litany of moral inconsistencies and failures, of persistent hypocrisy and doublethink. Singer's method is to contrast Bush's enunciations of principle with the realities of his policies, finding repeatedly that political expediency triumphs over declarations of principle.

Indeed, most of the book is a very direct and briskly readable analysis of posture versus policy. Among my favorite bits, however, is this short little parable, which appears under the heading, “The Ethics of Belief:”
The nineteenth-century English mathematician and philosopher William Clilfford wrote an essay about the ethics of belief that began with a story about a shipowner about to send off to sea a ship full of emigrants. He knew that the ship was old and needed repairs, so he had doubts about whether it was seaworthy, and wondered if he should go to the expense of having it thoroughly overhauled and refitted. But he decided instead to put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all those families leaving their homeland to seek a better life abroad. So he convinced himself that all would be well, and watched the ship sail without qualms. When the ship sank with great loss of life, his losses were covered by the insurance company.

Clifford’s point is that the sincerity of the shipowner’s belief does not absolve him of guilt for the lives lost, because on the evidence he had before him, he had no right to believe that the ship was fit to make the voyage. As Clifford says, “He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.” Even is the ship had proved sound and made the journey safely, it would not mean that the owner was justified in believing it seaworthy. He would have still been wrong to allow the lives of the passengers to hang on his faith, rather than on sound evidence that the ship was seaworthy.

What more can I add?


It's never too soon to beg...

...and other template updates. I'm considering a major template overhaul -- but I haven't gotten around to tackling it just yet. I'm sure I will, eventually -- but in the meantime, I've made a few of the more essential changes:

  1. I've added one of those Paypal "donate" buttons on the upper right. Mind you, I'm not expecting to get rich this way -- but then I'm not exactly rolling in dough at this point, and blogging does take some time. Suffice it to say that anything you might care to contribute to this little enterprise would be greatly appreciated. If nothing else, I'd really love to know that the damned button works. So if you care to, it's there.

  2. The "Recent Posts" section now has the right code to update itself automatically, so it really does show the most recent stuff. This should be helpful for folks who come looking for something I wrote a few days ago -- though the downside is that some of the links to my favorite earlier stuff are now gone. Well, there's still the archive...

  3. There's now a separate set of links to the recipes. This, as it turns out, may be an incentive for me to post recipes more often -- and also guarantees that the recipes won't be consigned to archive oblivion before anyone gets around to trying them.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging....


Yes, but … are any of these folks married yet?

New organizations, apparently intent to christen May 17 as the official start-date for same-sex marriages, are mostly burying the news of what is -- and isn't -- really happening today. Granted, what is happening is momentous – but, at least as of this writing, I have seen no reports of actual weddings.

CNN is practically breathless, with this lead:
The champagne is chilled, the cakes are frosted, and gay and lesbian couples across Massachusetts are ready to make history Monday by saying "I do."

So are they performing ceremonies? Actually, no. Here’s the “what” that should have been in the first paragraph:
At the stroke of midnight, thousands of people broke into cheers as city clerks in Cambridge issued the first marriage license applications to to gay and lesbian couples.

That’s right. They issued … applications. Not licenses. And no, they didn’t perform weddings. At least not yet. It seems there’s a catch:
Once the applications are in hand, couples will either have to wait three days, or seek a waiver of the waiting period from a judge, before they can get a license to marry. The decision on whether to grant a waiver is up to each individual judge.
There's no mention from CNN whether any such waivers have been issued.
The Washington Post manages to tell one story with the headline, yet another with the subhead, veer closer to the truth with the lead -- and then further confuse us on the matter of wiavers and waiting periods.
Gay Couples Line Up for Mass. Marriages

At Midnight, Cambridge Becomes First to Issue State-Sanctioned Licenses

After months of eager anticipation mixed with nagging worries that this day may never come, gay couples across Massachusetts and beyond converged on Cambridge on Sunday night to apply for the nation's first state-sanctioned, same-sex marriage licenses.

Oh, and about that waiting period ...

All couples planning to marry Monday must have submitted their applications, then paid a fee to waive the required three-day waiting period before picking up their licenses.

The Times isn't much better (can't get the link to work, so I'm cribbing from the print edition). Under a small head on the front page -- "The First Day to Exchange Gay Vows," the lead begins, "Gay and Lesbian couples...began applying for marriage licenses." Then, in the fourteeth paragraph of the full article (on A16), is this:
Weddings are planned for as early as Monday, with many couples intending to seek permission from judges to waive the three-day wait that is normally required between applying for a license on receiving one.

So what do we have so far, folks? Well, we have the intention, and capability to marry. And unmistakable evidence of license-related program activities.

[UPDATE: CNN has posted a new story, which includes the news we've all been waiting for: first actual vows, at 9:15 AM, for a couple that went "at a breakneck pace to fill out paperwork, get a waiver from the usual three-day waiting period, then return to city hall."]


Sunday, May 16, 2004


Zogby Poll

Poll analysis, in general, has too much of the whiff of accountancy about it to attract my attention. But indulge me a moment and check out the new Zogby Poll.

The headline bits are now common knowledge: Bush approval sinks to record low, at 42%; Kerry leading 47/42 -- mostly because Bush supporters seem to be shifting into the "undecided" column.

The bit that made my jaw drop, however, was this one:
In the Blues States, those that were won by former Vice-President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, Kerry receives 49.1% of support, as compared to Bush with 38.4%. In Red States Kerry and Bush are in a statistically [sic] tie with 45% a piece.

This may yet turn into a Kerry landslide. (But don't get complacent.)


Saturday, May 15, 2004


Tom Paine on Abu Ghraib

No, not these guys. This guy.

Somehow, watching the still-unfolding debacle of Abu Ghraib, this tidbit from The Rights of Man (quoted in Peter Singer’s new book), seems especially timely:

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.

More good stuff from the same book later ....


This Man Deserves Another Pultizer

Seymour Hersh is at it again, this time tracing the responsibility for Abu Ghraib directly to Rumsfeld's office, and that of his Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone:
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld’s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, “Some people think you can bullshit anyone.”

You have to admire Hersch, and the New Yorker, for the canny way this story is getting out. The facts alone are damning enough, but the fact that Rummy and Cambone have spent most of the last two weeks denying the linkages that Hersch has just detailed, makes it -- as Rummy might put it -- "radioactive."

The story also explains at lot about Cambone's sudden appearance alongside Major General Taguba during the recent Congressional hearings -- and confirms that Evan Bayh was on the right track during this memorable exhcange:

BAYH: My second question involves the dispute between you and the general about who had tactical control at the prison. As I understand it, he believes that the military intelligence individuals did exert practical, tactical control and it's your opinion that they did not.

As I understand your position, the intelligence authorities were given control over the facility but not control over the individuals running the facility.

What exactly does that mean? How do you have control over a facility but not the people who are running it?

CAMBONE: The same way that...

BAYH: What? Were they in charge of the plumbing, or the...

CAMBONE: No, sir. Well -- in the same way you have a building supervisor who doesn't tell the tenants how to do their business.

Right. Some people think you can bullshit anyone. I have a feeling we have another interesting week ahead of us.


Friday, May 14, 2004


Name that source

Who said the following?

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration’s diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries."

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

"Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments."

"The current administration has casually sent American armed forces on ... missions without clear goals, realizable objectives, favorable rules of engagement, or defined exit strategies.

Was it Ted Kennedy? John Kerry? Wes Clark? Richard Clarke?

Nope. None of the above. Every last word of the preceeding quotes comes directly from the Republican Party's 2000 Election Platform. Honestly, I'm not making this up.

For more, see Matt Stoller's excellent post on the subject, "Let's Base Our Party Platform on Irony."


Clarke Successor Watch

At last, the revolving door seems to be getting some attention.

Back in March, I had posted a rundown on the string of successors to Richard Clarke's anti-terrorism post. This was followed up with a couple more posts on General Wayne Downing (here and here), and then most recently with this one, from May 3rd, on the promotion (or kicking upstairs, we may never know) of Fran Townsend. I concluded that most recent post with these questions:
Now what I’d love to know – and here’s where I could use some help – is what exactly is going on here? For starters, what is the current status of John Gordon, who last we heard also held the title of “Homeland Security Advisor.” Is he moving on to something else, or will there be several "Homeland Security Advisors"? Are there any candidates for Ms. Towsend's replacement? If not, why not? And what does it say about the priorities of the Bush adminstration that the nation's most senior counter-terrorism post is now apparently a part-time job?

And more to the point, why isn’t anyone in the press even asking the question?

Well, now it looks like Ryan Lizza, over at TNR's Campaign Journal, is on the case (though I can't help noticing a certain resemblance between his post, and some of my own earlier stuff). Ryan ads the news, without indicating why he believes this, that John Gordon is "apparently resigning" -- and then neatly summarizes the core problem:
It seems an odd time for the country to be without a fulltime terrorism adviser at the NSC. Bush will be attending three international summits over the next two months, and the summer will bring both political parties' conventions as well as the Olympics. In short, we are approaching the peak season for splashy terrorist opportunities, and the White House can't seem to stabilize its anti-terror team.

This, in turn, has garnered some attention elsewhere on the Internet, including this post, by Kevin Drum, and this one, by Barry Ritholtz at BOP News.

Here's Kevin:
There doesn't seem to be a single person who knows anything about counterterrorism who can stand to be in Bush's White House for more than a few months. What does this tell you about both their competence and their dedication to building a counterterrorism program that actually works?

Good question -- especially since, two weeks after the announcement of Ms. Townsend's "promotion" -- there's still not a word on possible successors.

[Minor update: This item from The Hill confirms that John Gordon is "retiring." You don't suppose there could be a book deal in the works?]

[Update: Ryan Lizza has updated his original post and e-mailed me since this morning. Apparently, he hadn't seen my earlier posts -- but is still nice enough to plug 'em anyway.]


Thursday, May 13, 2004


Light posting today

So get your Mark Fiore Cartoon, then go read Joe Conason.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Private England Speaks

In what was no doubt intended as an effort at damage control, Private Lynndie England went public this morning in an interview with CBS news. A four-minute video clip can be found here, along with summary version of the story.

Go watch it, and tell me if you don’t get the feeling that Pvt. England thinks the whole thing is somehow funny. Watch her odd little half-smiles when she puts the blame on others. Watch her reaction when she's asked, “did you want to be in that picture?” She grimaces, looks all over the room, and then answers obliquely ("I didn't want to be in any pictures"). Then she grins a bit too much, catches herself, and recovers. It's not what I would call the picture of candor.

Almost none of what she says is surprising.

Of course she blames “persons in higher rank.” She's trying to cover her ass. And of course she doesn't name anyone yet -- she's saving that for the plea deal. After what she's seen, I'd imagine she's especially eager to stay out of prison.

What I found remarkable, however, is that she expects us to believe that her actions were not merely condoned, or encouraged, or even directly ordered. She wants us to believe that they were choreographed down to last detail: “I was told to stand there and hold this leash and look at the camera;” “I was told to stand there, give the thumbs up and smile.”

Right. I halfway expected her to claim she "was instructed" to pretend she was having fun.

What's even more remarkable, however, is that the CBS reporters simply listen to this nonsense, without ever pointing out its obvious problems.

Remember folks? This stuff is so discredited that it has a name: it's called the Nuremberg Defense. Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School had this to say, in a separate interview regarding another of the accused:

You can't simply point fingers and get away with it. Before Nuremberg, people who committed the crimes, actually physically did the acts, would say "I was just following orders," and people who ordered them would say "we didn't know what was going on." What Nuremberg made clear was everybody is responsible -- the people who did it and the people who ordered it. And so you can't simply point the finger at someone else and escape liability.

You hear that, private?

Asked if she thought if there was anything wrong with what she and the others were doing, she just repeats her claim: "We think everything was justified, because we were instructed to do this and to do that."

For all her protests, there's never a shred of remorse, nor any indication that she was the least bit reluctant to do what she claims was her job.

It's just a hunch, really. But I'd be willing to bet that her only real regret is that she has to face charges.


Ann, mirror. Mirror, Ann.

Ann Coulter, on Hannity & Colmes:
"I think the other point that no one is making about the abuse photos is just the disproportionate number of women involved, including a girl general running the entire operation. I mean, this is lesson, you know, one million and 47 on why women shouldn't be in the military. In addition to not being able to carry even a medium-sized backpack, women are too vicious."

You don't think, just possibly, that Ann could be projecting?

Pentagon PR Lesson

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a “communications” officer for the US Central Command. Imagine that you have a potentially explosive scandal on your hands, complete with vivid photographic evidence. Then imagine your dilemma: you know you’re screwed, sooner or later, if you say nothing at all; yet you also know that the less you say, the better the odds are that the problem will simply slip away unnoticed.

So what would you do?

Simple: you’d put out a very short, very dull press release. Ideally, you’d make it as brief and uninteresting as possible. You'd just want to put something out, in order to get it on record, so that if (or when) it becomes a problem -- you can always go back and say, not completely untruthfully, that you “did the right thing” and “went out and told the world.”

It might read a lot like this one, the one that Rumsfeld keeps citing, which I quote here in its entirety:
January 16, 2004
Release Number: 04-01-43



BAGHDAD, Iraq – An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility. The release of specific information concerning the incidents could hinder the investigation, which is in its early stages. The investigation will be conducted in a thorough and professional manner. The Coalition is committed to treating all persons under its control with dignity, respect and humanity. Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the Commanding General, has reiterated this requirement to all members of CJTF-7.

Deft work, you must admit. Short, clichéd, and not only lacking in specifics -- but complete with a convenient explanation for why the specifics cannot be released. If you wanted it to be ignored, it would be hard to improve on.


Proof lies work

A couple of weeks ago on hardball, Bill Maher said that, with $180 Million to spend, George Bush “could convince Americans to drink paint.”

That may not be much of an exaggeration.

In this morning’s NY Times, Adam Clymer has the rundown on a revealing new poll. The upshot: people do believe political ads, even when they're demonstrably misleading, much more often then even they themselves are willing to admit.

The Annenberg survey recently interviewed 1,026 adults in the 18 battleground states where the campaigns have been showing commercials since March. In those states, 61 percent of respondents believe Mr. Bush “favors sending American jobs overseas” and 56 percent believe Mr. Kerry “voted for higher taxes 350 times.” Both of these statements have been repeated countless times on commercials – but neither is accurate.


In the survey, only 19 percent admit to learning something from commercials. But it’s plain that is where Americans get many of their “factual” conclusions. The 46 percent who believe that Kerry wants to raise gas taxes could not have “learned” that from anything except Mr. Bush’s ads.

The first and most obvious set of conclusions concern the source of the problem: (1) our media isn't doing a very good job of debunking this bullshit, (2) hardly anyone is paying attention, or (3)-- and this would be my vote -- some combination of the two.

The source of the problem, however, isn't the real issue here. What matters is the cure -- and the inescapable conclusion is that the most effective antidotes are better ads, more money for media buys, and more contributions to make it all possible.

So, in other words, it may not be a bad time to cough up a bit more for John Kerry. From the looks of this survey, he's going to need it.


Morning funnies

Oliphant explains accountability. Tom Tomorrow reaches the obvious conclusion. And, via Interesting Times, we discover Iraq Jima.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


It gets worse

I wish I could say this was surprising: Islamist website shows 'beheading' -- of an American "Civilian Contractor."


Jesus's General Writes to the Editor

I posted yesterday,here and here, on the matter of the Wisonsin newspaper that was soliciting pro-Bush letters in the name of "balance," in the hope that a few folks might, um, answer the call. Here's the General's contribution:
Dear Editor,

I support George W. Bush's visionary plan to turn the Middle East into one large terrorist incubator. His daily efforts to fuel that region's hatred of Americans has been wildly successful. Thanks to the President's bold leadership, there are now more American-hating terrorists on the loose than at any other time in our history.

Eventually, every single resident of the Middle East who could possibly become a terrorist, will be one. Then, it's just a matter of time until we round them all up and end the threat of terrorism once and for all.

JC Christian, patriot

Even the papers own local readers, in what (correct me if I'm wrong here) was apparently once pro-Bush territory, have already been unloading:
If you are receiving so many letters, indicating an imbalance of opinions, it is because your readers feel they need to do your job for you. They are telling you that there isn’t enough public scrutiny of this administration’s policies and actions.


I say thank you to all those who write critical letters about this president. I can assure you that many, many more are needed.

We can probably give these guys a break at these point, and go back to writing our own local editors....

[UPDATE: The chastened editors of the piece that set all this in motion have a follow-up, here.]

Cole on Bush on Rumsfeld

Juan Cole thoroughly demolishes Bush's remarks from yesterday. Be patient, though: as always, it takes a lot more time to untangle the lies than it takes for Bush to make them.

Sample Bush quote:
Mr. Secretary, thank you for your hospitality, and thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense. And our nation owes you a debt of gratitude . . . "

Juan Cole's response:
Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership has brought the country to the brink of international disaster. It was his leadership that allowed dozens of Iraqi prisoners (the Red Cross estimates 90% of all prisoners held by the US were innocent) to be tortured, some tortured to death. His determination to create spaces of extra-judicial status contributed centrally to the practice of torture at Abu Ghuraib. Rumsfeld is personally responsible for most of the things that have gone wrong in Iraq. His one good enterprise, the war in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda, now appears to have been undertaken with great reluctance, half-heartedly, and to have been abandoned as soon as possible, all so he could plunge the US into the Iraq quagmire. He even stole $700 million from a Congressional appropriation for Afghanistan and spent it on Iraq. The sums involved dwarf even the Iran-contra scandal.

Go read.


Monday, May 10, 2004


Apartheid-era killers hired by U.S. firm to protect Iraqi oil. (Tip o' the hat to The Left End of the Dial)

Now, here's a meme that deserves to take hold ...

Digby links to this post, from the Daily Brew:

Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality. Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.

Not that anyone who could still vote for Bush actually cares what the world thinks....

Newspaper Solicits Pro-Bush Letters

Via Media Matters, we learn of this little head-spinner.

The editors of a Wisconsin paper, shortly after describing its letters section as a useful way “to take the political and social temperature” of its readership, offer the following lament:
We’ve been getting more letters critical of President Bush than those that support him. We’re not sure why, nor do we want to guess. But in today’s increasingly polarized political environment, we would prefer our offering to put forward a better sense of balance.

“Bewildered” doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction. You’re not sure why? And you don’t even want to guess? And you’re the editor of a goddamned newspaper? Has it occurred to you that the "balance" might be shifting? Sheesh.

There’s more:
If you would like to help us “balance” things out, send us a letter, make a call or punch out an e-mail. Read the handy box at the bottom of the page for more information. We’d love to hear from you.

Somehow, I have a funny feeling they’ll be hearing from a lot of folks. For the record, I’ve already alerted my favorite Bush supporters: Billionaires for Bush, and the inestimable letter-writer General J.C. Christian. If you’d like to contact the paper yourself, you can do so here.


Saturday, May 08, 2004

My small contribution to the cause of Google-bombing:

Total failure of leadership
Essential Reading

One doesn't normally look for brilliant political commentary in the Arts & Leisure section, but don't miss Frank Rich's piece on the triviality of the press, the anniversary of "mission accomplished," and the power of images on Nightline and from Abu Ghraib:

Koppel's salute to the fallen was heartbreaking, no matter what you think about the war. The Abu Ghraib images shocked us into remembering that real obscenity is distinct from the revelation of Janet Jackson's breast.

As we know from "Mission Accomplished" and Colin Powell's aerial reconnaissance shots displayed as evidence to the United Nations, pictures can be made to lie - easily. But over time pictures, because they have a true story to tell, can trump the phonies. Eventually there comes a point when the old Marx Brothers gag comes into play: "Who are you going to believe - me or your own eyes?" Last weekend, many, if not most, of us had little choice but to believe our own eyes.

Rich is merciless in his treatment of the coverage of war as well:
If that coverage had been more skeptical of administration propaganda, more of the fictions that sent the United States to war would have been punctured before it signed on. Perhaps a majority of Americans would not have been conned into accepting as fact (as it still does, an April poll shows) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda.

Rich's piece is just a warmup, however, for this grand tirade from Orcinus.
We still treat our national politics like a combination sporting event and gossipfest. We're still demeaning the national discourse with a steady diet of propaganda/spin souffle served up on a platter of triviality, with a side of slander.

In the process, we keep the public (a large portion of it willingly) in the dark about the very real politics and policies that directly affect their security and well-being, both here and now and for the long haul.


The ... entire framing of the debate -- as a question of "character" as opposed to such boring details as policy -- heavily favors the party that relies more on imagery and jingoism, wrapping itself in the flag and pounding its chest about moral superiority: in other words, conservatives.

One hopes that Frank Rich is right -- and that this time around, the true images will trump the phonies.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Weekend Food Section: Cuban-style Pulled Pork

I haven’t done a recipe post in a while, but this one I thought was worth sharing. It takes planning, but very little effort at all to make – and makes brilliant use of a very inexpensive cut of meat: pork butt (or shoulder roast). Do give it a try.

I grew up in North Carolina – so I have an abiding appreciation for pulled pork barbeque, a dish which is utterly impossible to re-create in anything resembling a home environment. It takes many hours over low heat (175°F), an assortment of carefully selected charcoals, and a whole lot of smoke. You could conceivably do it, quite nicely actually, if you were to spring for something like the ingenious Traeger pellet-smoker. But even that option is not available to apartment-dwellers like me.

As a result, I had pretty much abandoned the idea of preparing pulled pork in any form, until I ran across a recipe that suggested another tack altogether. The recipe, for a Cuban-style braise in Douglas Rodriguez’s Nuevo Latino, turns out to be eminently suitable for home preparation. It also struck me that the method would turn out a product that was quite appealing in it’s own right – and far more interesting than some tepid imitation of honest-to-god barbeque. It turns out that does, and it couldn’t be much easier.

Essentially, you make a marinade – perhaps a ten-minute process, tops. Then the pork goes into the marinade, and into the fridge, overnight. Then pork and marinade spend a few hours in the oven the next day, and voilá: you’ve got deeply flavorful, tender pork, ready to go into sandwiches, quesadillas, or whatever else comes to mind. That’s really about it.

Herewith, the details. I bought my pork butt yesterday, marinated it overnight, and then braised it this morning while spending entirely too much time watching the Rummy-before-Congress spectacle.

Here’s the marinade formula, enough for a 3-5 lb pork butt:

1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic (peeled)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
2 Tablespoons salt
3 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
½ cup distilled white vinegar
1 qt water.

There’s very little to do to prepare the marinade. Just get out your food processor, and work your way down the list. Apart from peeling the onion and garlic, and cleaning the cilantro (which is often sandy), even the ingredients require very little handling. Just toss in everything but the water, and start the machine. Then pour in only enough of the water to allow the mix to puree smoothly. Mix in the rest of the water after you dump the marinade it into your cooking vessel. (I learned the hard way that even when your food processor doesn’t look like it’s overflowing, it can do so via that hollow center post that holds the blade. You really don’t want to get green sludge all over your kitchen, as I did…).

Once you’ve got your marinade ready – immerse the pork in it, cover, and refrigerate overnight. You can peek and turn it once or twice, just to make sure everything marinates evenly. But there’s no need to fuss. Time does the magic.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300°F, put the pot with the pork and marinade on top of the stove, and bring it to a boil uncovered. The moment it boils, remove it from the heat, cover it, and place it in the oven. You’ll want to check on it from time to time, maybe every 30 or 40 minutes or so, but that's about all. Just turn the roast in the liquid occasionally, and make sure that the liquid is just barely simmering, and not more. You may even need to lower the oven heat to 250°F or less, which is fine. Low and slow are the watchwords here.

Doug Rodriguez claims the process should take about two hours. I found that it took three – though that didn’t surprise me. Braising recipes often lie. The times are almost always wishful-thinking, more than likely the least amount of time that there is any chance, ever, that the dish will be ready. It’s done when the pork is tender enough to pull apart easily with a fork, and not a moment sooner. The clock won’t tell you this; the meat will.

Once it’s done, let it cool in the liquid for a couple of hours. Then fish the meat out, drain it a moment, and then, using two forks, shred it by hand. In the process, you’ll be able to tidily separate out any yucky sinewy stuff. At this point, you should taste and adjust the seasonings. There’s salt and pepper in the marinade, but you may want a bit more. And, while Chef Rodriquez doesn’t call for it – Chef Ned likes a splash of Tabasco here, along with a light drizzle of champagne vinegar. It may not be authentically Cuban, but that's beside the point: somehow pulled pork without a bit of red pepper just doesn't seem right ...

At this point, you can serve it, or refrigerate or freeze it and reheat it later. Reheated in a bit of olive oil over high heat, the pork will brown and crisp in places, simply adding another dimension to the experience.

For the definitive North Carolina test, I had to serve this in the traditional, un-fancy manner: on toasted hamburger buns, topped with homemade coleslaw. Yum.

Is it barbeque? Of course not. Will I cook it again – absolutely.

In fact, I may have to pick up some good melting cheese and some fresh tortillas tomorrow, to explore that quesadilla option….

UPDATE: Alert reader Shari points out South Knox Bubba's post, from the same day, outlining a method for pulled pork on the grill -- which sounds like it should work nicely (though I would still vote for one of those barbeque-smoker grills, like the Traeger mentioned above, and would take the advice of the old pit masters I've met, and keep the fire down to 175°F if at all possible). ALSO -- for those who are interested -- the quesadilla's made with this stuff were a hit. The method: reheat and crisp up some of the pork, and set it aside. Grate some good melting cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Mexican Chihuahua cheese. Preheat a small skillet; brush one side of a fresh tortilla with oil. Lay it oiled side down in the pan. Sprinkle on grated cheese, keeping about 1/2" border clear. Add the pork to one half, then fold the tortilla over into a half moon. Press down, and turn a couple times until the quesadilla is golden and crisp on the outside. Serve.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Two Words for John Kerry

Short sentences.

There was a diary entry over a dKos this morning, complaining that Kerry is “whacking Bush hard” and that “the media chooses not to cover it.” Perhaps, on both counts. But, after looking at what Kerry said, and how he said it, I’m not surprised that the media may have missed the message.

He might actually make news if he'd learn to tighten up his message -- and quit letting Bush off the hook.

Take these statements as an example:

"I think the world needs to hear from the president that the United States of America regrets any kind of abuse of this kind or any kind of effort like this. Because we have to show the world that we're willing to correct our own mistakes."

"The president of the United States needs to offer the world an explanation and needs to take appropriate responsibility," he said. "And if that includes apologizing for the behavior of those soldiers and what happened, they ought to do that."

Don't say "I think." These are your words. We can assume they’re your thoughts.

And for Christ's sake don't muddle up “the president”, “the United States,” "we" and “they” -- when you’re really talking about George Bush. He is not an abstraction. And he is certainly not "us."

And whatever you do, don’t act as if “explanations” will suffice. You are fond of saying that Bush says one thing while doing another. So don’t give him a pass to try that again here, of all places.

Here's my version:

Words aren't enough. George Bush needs to do more than tell the world that he regrets these abuses. Of course he regrets them. We all do. They're an unholy outrage.

But regret, and spin, won't fix the problem.

He needs to show the world that he is willing to correct his own mistakes, and stand up and be accountable for mistakes that happened on his watch, in his war, in the military that he controls as commander-in-chief.

It's time to stop just talking about accountability...and actually show some.

Maybe, just maybe, John Kerry, if the press can figure out what you're saying ... there's a chance that the voters will.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

More Burger Alarms.

JJ, over at The Daily Cookie, alerts us to a disturbing item on the lack of vigilance on the Mad Cow front, “Don’t Read this over a burger”.

Mind you, that sort of admonition has about the same effect on me as someone saying, please, whatever you do, for the next ten minutes, do not even think about fried onion rings. Mention a burger, and I tend to want one. Fresh from a charcoal grill, if possible.

So, while the alarms do have some merit– it also bears mentioning that there are some useful steps that you can take that will minimize the risks.

Your first, and most crucial precaution, is to avoid beef that is ground in commercial facilities. This stuff shows up in everything from frozen patties to hot dogs to fast-food tacos. The sad fact is, it is very hard to know exactly what's in it. Commercial processors have been the culprits in using "Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) Systems" – scary systems that crush bones (including spinal bones) to remove the last bits of meat, often with bits of the spinal cord matter that is the core of the problem with Mad Cow transmission. And, as the CSPI notes, "manufacturers are not required to identify AMR beef on food labels." This and other risks (did we mention E. Coli?) form the core of the problem, all of which are compounded by the sheer scale of commercial plants (to state the problem simply, one contaminated animal can get mixed into literally tons of product). (For the record, Hebrew National & other Kosher producers get a pass here; I’m not aware of any evidence of suspect contaminants, for example, in Kosher hot dogs).

The next move is to avoid generically labeled ground “beef.” Go for something from an identified part of the animal, such as Round or Chuck or Sirloin, ideally ground the day you bought it, by your local butcher. As Eric Schlosser points out in Fast Food Nation, this greatly improves the odds that your hamburger came from a single animal, rather than hundreds.

Grinding as late as possible is also advisable – which is yet another reason to have your local butcher do it, or do it yourself. The concern here is that the very act of grinding drives any surface bacteria deep into the interior of the meat – which means that, to the extent possible, the meat should be ground as closely as possible to the time you plan to cook it – especially if you like your burgers juicy & pink in the middle.

The ideal – and highly recommended – method is the Judy Rodgers approach, described in The Zuni Café Cookbook: Start with an intact chuck roast, trimmed of any discoloration but with ample fat intact; cut the roast into 1” strips, toss with salt (using about ¾ teaspoon per pound), and refrigerate overnight. The overnight salting will help kill exterior bacteria, and render the meat more succulent & flavorful. Then, shortly before you plan to cook the meat, using a chilled meat grinder fitted with a 3/16” (coarse) blade, grind the meat twice, and then form into patties. The go ahead and cook ‘em medium rare: the results are stunning. (And if you really want to go all out, there’s a dandy recipe for homemade hamburger buns in Julia Child’s The Way to Cook.)

Now if I could only get away with grilling with charcoal in a New York apartment...

Anagrams: Special Quagmire Edition

George W. Bush: He grew bogus; also: Begs Huge Row.
War on Terror: Roar, won't err
Stay the Course: Yes, utter chaos.

[Corrected: this is what I get for posting late at night. I inadvertently posted one of the many possible anagrams for Taguba Report by the War on Terror. Fixed.]

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Hmmm. Does this pattern look familiar?

Business Week looks at how family dynamics affect oval office workplace behavior. I couldn't help noticing this item, from the accompanying chart:

Family Dynamic: Parent inflates child's importance.
Workplace Reenactment: Executive overconfidence. Can do no wrong. Above the rules.


GO watch this flash ad, via Hit & Run, the blog of Reason magazine.

Branding Freshness

The Bush team has nothing on the nation's giant food companies when it comes to stretching definitions for fun & profit: Arby's brings us Market Fresh® Salads; The former Kentucky Fried Chicken is re-defining KFC as "Kitchen-Fresh Chicken" ;while the ubiquitous Cargill peddles "frozen liquid egg products" under the brand name Sunny Fresh.

Advice to John Kerry

Thanks to a diary post by MaryScott O'Connor over at dKos, we learn of this fine rant from the Rude Pundit:

Look, dude, you became the nominee almost by default. If Edwards had had a house to mortgage for 6 mill, you’d be history. If the press hadn’t gotten so scared of Dean, you’d be toast. And if Gore – oh, let’s just not go there. It’s just so goddamn tragic. So you are the man. And you’re being perceived as hemorrhaging. Now is the critical time. You can’t let people go into the summer thinking certain things about you. It’s time to change the rules. It's time to get ahead of the game. It's time to start fucking with them.

1. Stop nuancing your arguments. No one gives a good goddamn if you voted for the military spending and then voted against it because an amendment was not passed. Take a stand and stick with it. That’s why people admire Bush – that's politics in the post-Rove era: it’s about style, not substance. Say you voted against the $87 billion because the President was being dishonest about the spending on Iraq and he refused to find a way to pay for the war without driving the country deeper into debt. People will understand that.

Remember: don't overestimate the attention span of Americans. It's all about black and white, good vs. evil. Clarity, even less-than-completely-honest clarity, is preferrable to trying to think.

Go, now, and read the rest. It'll brighten your day. |

Monday, May 03, 2004

Richard Clarke Successor Watch

Help me out on this folks. Just over a month ago, I wrote a brief post on the string of successors to Richard Clarke’s anti-terrorism post, figuring that maybe we should keep an eye on these folks. Today, there’s more – but first some background.

So far, one of Clarke’s successors quit in frustration to become a consultant and NBC military analyst (Gen. Wayne Downing), another quit in frustration to become John Kerry’s Foreign Policy Advisor (Rand Beers); then the next was promoted (or kicked upstairs) to the post of Homeland Security Advisor (John Gordon), followed by the latest to hold the post, Fran Townsend. I joked at the time that, given the track record of her predecessors, Ms. Townsend “might well be in line for a promotion.”

Well, apparently she was. Today, deeply buried in an AP article that reads like a puff piece from the subject’s own publicist, we learn that -- sure enough -- Fran Townsend has a new job:

On Friday, she was promoted to homeland security adviser at the White House, responsible for coordinating strategies for protecting Americans. She will hold onto her anti-terrorism duties until a replacement is named.

Now what I’d love to know – and here’s where I could use some help – is what exactly is going on here? For starters, what is the current status of John Gordon, who last we heard also held the title of “Homeland Security Advisor.” Is he moving on to something else, or will there be several "Homeland Security Advisors"? Are there any candidates for Ms. Towsend's replacement? If not, why not? And what does it say about the priorities of the Bush adminstration that the nation's most senior counter-terrorism post is now apparently a part-time job?

And more to the point, why isn’t anyone in the press even asking the question?

Just asking....

No Wonder the Public is Un-informed

Anderson Cooper is on CNN, carrying on an apparently serious conversation with legal analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom. The subject matter: Michael Jackson's underwear.

Really, trust us....

September 19, 2001 (CNN):

Results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances," EPA Administrator Christine Whitman said Wednesday.

"Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink," she said.

August 23, 2003 (AP):

The White House Council on Environmental Quality...which coordinates federal environmental efforts, in turn "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones," the inspector general found.

For example, the report found, EPA was convinced to omit from its early public statements guidance for cleaning indoor spaces and tips on potential health effects from airborne dust containing asbestos, lead, glass fibers and concrete.

May 3, 2003 (National Institues of Health):

"Our results indicate that the environmental exposures following the WTC disaster were associated with profound adverse effects on respiratory health," said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and director of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Mount Sinai, and principal author of the study.

"The collapse of the towers generated thousands of tons of particulate matter comprised of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, aromatic hydrocarbons, and organochlorine compounds, many of which significantly increased the subjects' susceptibility to bronchial spasms and asthma," said Landrigan. "These respiratory effects were most pronounced in subjects who were in or around the WTC buildings during the first 12 hours of the disaster."

Juan Cole Nails it:

The opening graf from his welcome "Rant on US News Coverage:"

It is remarkable how the US press allows themselves to be manipulated by the government. When the Abu Ghuraib story broke, Bush just issued a statement that he was disgusted, taking no responsibility. The headlines the next day? "Bush Disgusted by Photos." The proper headline would have been "Permanent Damage to US Image in Muslim World; Bush Fires No One.

Read the rest.

New Watchdog

From this piece in the New York Times, we learn of David Brock’s new web venture: Media Matters for America, a site with a substantial research staff that “will document and correct conservative misinformation in each news cycle.”

Since April 24, the site has already taken on misleading statements and outright lies by the likes of Chuck Scarborough (twice) Bill O’Reilly (three times), Townhall columnist Doug Giles (twice), Matt Drudge, Bill Kristol, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh (three times), Sean Hannity, Bob Novak, Linda Chavez, and others.

Sample catch: Linda Chavez, denying that she had called John Kerry a “communist apologist,” just four days after she had done exactly that, twice, in a nationally syndicated column.

Take a look.

General Myers & the Prison Scandal

I managed to catch a bit of General Richard Myers on Stephanopolous's show yesterday. What astonished me was the General's display of willful ignorance: first, the frank acknowledgement that he had not read either today's damning Seymour Hersh piece, or Major General Taguba's 53-page report (completed in "late February") on which it was based; then this statement:

"I would say that categorically," Myers told ABC's "This Week."

"There is no, no evidence of systematic abuse in this system at all."

Billmon, ever-ready with the perfect headline, captures it this way:
Foxes: Henhouse Abuses Rare

Notwithstanding all those feathers lying around


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