Saturday, July 03, 2004

Change the channel

Just so that festering core of Clinton-haters won't feel altogether left out -- what with the release of Bill Clinton's My Life and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 -- the fine folks at ABC News decided to remind its audience just what the corrupt press corps thought was really important back in the 1990s:
'It Started With Me': Paula Jones Reacts to Clinton Memoir; Talks About 'Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy'

Y'know, with the benefit of hindsight, you'd think ABC could've discussed something that really mattered during Clinton's tenure -- e.g., the war on terrorism or the economy. But that might have entailed interviewing people who had, say, lost their jobs in the ensuing four years. In the minds of our so-called liberal media, the only Clinton legacy worth discussing is a fiasco that actually stands as an enduring testament to their own manifest failures.

But then, what should we have expected? The senior producer was none other than Chris Vlasto.

And it is outta here!

From David Letterman:
Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About Fahrenheit 9/11

10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing

9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election

8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words

7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported

6. Didn't have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger

5. Of all Michael Moore's accusations, only 97% are true

4. Not sure -- I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe

3. Where the hell was Spider-Man?

2. Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth

1. I thought this was supposed to be about Dodgeball

[Via James Benjamin.]

Friday, July 02, 2004

Input, please

Paul Lukasiak, who compiled that recent outstanding analysis of Bush's military records, "Deserter: The Story of George W. Bush After He Quit the Air National Guard", is about to release the second part of his work, titled "Discharge? or Desertion? How the Bush Files Show that Bush Deliberately Ignored His Legal Obligations to America's National Security". He's asking for readers to critique the work before he officially "releases" it.

If you're interested, write to him at He'll send you a URL for the latest installment.

I'm particularly eager to read the portion of his work that Paul described in a post at Table Talk:
the "Deserter" article is just a fraction of what I've been able to come up with by comparing the records themselves to the laws and policies of that era.

right now, I'm working on the documents concerning Bush's actual discharge. Those documents make it clear that Bush's INTENTION was to blow off his Military Service Obligation.

The really fun part of all of this is that the White House doesn't realize how much information is in the payroll records that were released...

if they knew, they would never have released them.

At the bottom of each page, there are all these lines of incomprehensible "data" it turns out, those lines are the data that was entered INTO the payroll system.....and THAT information makes it clear that Bush engaged in pre-meditated fraud.

[Update: I see Paul has posted the working draft URL. You can get a sneak peek at it here.]

Big Brother Trucker

Time magazine has a disturbing report on the "Highway Watch" program designed to put 400,000 truckers and the like on the lookout for terrorists:
Highway Watch, which will receive an additional $22 million next year, preserves the part of TIPS concerned with monitoring behavior in public space. The Department of Homeland Security has also launched Port Watch, River Watch and Transit Watch. Then there are the familiar Neighborhood Watch groups, many of which have expanded their missions to include homeland security. In New York City, government outsourcing of surveillance has even trickled down to doormen and building superintendents, thousands of whom are being trained to watch out for strange trucks parked near buildings and tenants who move in without furniture.

After the session in Little Rock, two newly initiated Highway Watch members sat down for the catered barbecue lunch. The truckers, who haul hazardous material across 48 states, explained how easy it is to spot "Islamics" on the road: just look for their turbans. Quite a few of them are truck drivers, says William Westfall of Van Buren, Ark. "I'll be honest. They know they're not welcome at truck stops. There's still a lot of animosity toward Islamics." Eddie Dean of Fort Smith, Ark., also has little doubt about his ability to identify Muslims: "You can tell where they're from. You can hear their accents. They're not real clean people."

Um, yes, Ann Coulter would agree on the cleanliness thing. Except there are also a few other teeny little problems:

-- "Islamic" terrorists planning an attack are extremely unlikely to make themselves stand out or otherwise draw attention to announce their presence by wearing something like a turban.

-- In much of the country, as the story goes on to explain, many of those turban-wearing truck drivers are Sikhs, not Muslims.

-- Tim McVeigh did not wear a turban.

This whole passage makes clear that the purpose of the program is not to do anything serious about terrorism: It's to enable these truck drivers in harassing "non-American" minorities.

In the end, it is not significantly different than government law-enforcement actions that encouraged citizens to "crack down" on their neighboring Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast during World War II.

The story explains further:
That kind of prejudice is hard to undo, but it's a shame Beatty's slide show did not mention that in the U.S., it's almost always Sikhs who wear turbans, not Muslims. Last year a Sikh truck driver who was wearing a turban was shot twice while standing near his tractor trailer in Phoenix, Ariz. He survived the attack, which police are investigating as a hate crime.

Worst of all is the reality that Highway Watch's program is amateurish -- a kind of secret-decoder-ring approach to security at best, and an official sanction of vigilantism at worst.
The Highway Watch website boasts that the program is open to "an elite core [sic] of truck drivers" who must have clean driving and employment records. In fact, their records are not vetted by the American Trucking Associations. At the Little Rock event, some came in off the street without preregistering. However, the organization is highly security conscious about other parts of its operations. It refuses to disclose the exact location of its hotline call center or the number of operators working there. "It could be infiltrated," says Dawn Apple, Highway Watch's director of training and recruitment.

What's clear is that Highway Watch is a morale booster for drivers. "I don't want to sound too hokey, but truck drivers are a very patriotic bunch," says Mike Russell, a spokesman for the organization. "It made sense for us to take advantage of what we do every day -- which is, basically, patrol major highways through a windshield."

Somehow, I'm less than comforted.

Here, BTW, is the Highway ISAC Web site.

[Via BoingBoing and Tom Paine.]

Thursday, July 01, 2004

It's out

My second book, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, is now officially available on bookstands today.

You can, of course, order it through Amazon or some other online seller, or through your bookstore. If it's not on the shelves, ask for it at the desk and they should be able to order it easily.

[Here is the publisher's page for the book.]

A little background, for those interested ...

As you can see from clicking on any of the above links, the book on its surface is about an unusual homicide case that happened in Ocean Shores, Washington, four years ago. Three young Asian men were confronted late at night by a group of young white men shouting racist slogans and epithets, the ringleader of whom eventually assaulted them. But one of the young men fought back, and the young white instigator -- a kid named Chris Kinison -- wound up being stabbed to death.

I became involved in the story in the months that followed because of what the case revealed about the nature of hate crimes. As far as anyone could tell, neither Chris Kinison nor his friends had any organizational or other connection to skinhead or hate groups -- though in the process of assaulting not just the three Asians but a series of other minorities in town throughout the weekend, Kinison and his friends had affected the look, the rhetoric and even the symbology of white supremacists, in the form of a large Confederate flag.

This reflects one of the realities that butts up against the many myths about hate crimes, namely, that only a small percentage of such crimes are committed by real "skinheads" or white supremacists. The average hate criminal is a young white man with no previous criminal record and no organizational "hate group" ties or history. And yet in the vast majority of these crimes, "hate group" rhetoric and symbols are used.

It suggests, for one thing, how broad-reaching the influence of white-supremacist belief systems actually can be, well beyond the rather sparse numbers that "hate groups" enjoy. It also tells us a great deal about the reach of the terroristic impulse that underlies bias crimes.

So I contacted my editors at and asked if they wanted me to cover the trial of the young Asian man, Minh Duc Hong, charged with manslaughter in Kinison's death. They gave me the green light, and I spent two weeks in Aberdeen and Montesano covering it. I was a little shocked to discover, when I entered the courtroom, that I actually was acquainted with Hong already ... but you can read about that in the book.

In any event, the story I turned in to Salon was 10,000 words, a ridiculous length, so it never ran there. Worse yet, I knew there was more to the story, whose surface I'd only begun to scratch. So I decided to make a book out of it.

Here's hoping you all enjoy it. Even if you disagree with my conclusions, I think you'll find it an interesting, informative and worthwhile read.

[You'll note that the subtitle on the photo above doesn't match the book's actual subtitle. I'm working to correct that soon.]

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

AWOL: The final analysis

My old Table Talk cohort Paul Lukasiak -- whose research skills are top-notch, and whose judgment I've learned to implicitly trust -- has examined all the officially released documents relating to George W. Bush's service records and has just released the following report:
Deserter: The Story of George W. Bush After He Quit the Air National Guard

Paul's piece most carefully examines the records that appear in Bush's records after he was transferred to the Air Personnel Reserve Center once he had failed to maintain his flight status:

An examination of the Bush military files within the context of US Statutory Law, Department of Defense regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era lead to a single conclusion: George W. Bush was considered a deserter by the United States Air Force.

After Bush quit TXANG, he still had nine months of his six-year military commitment left to serve. As a result, Bush became a member of the Air Force Reserves and was transferred to the authority of the Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in Denver, Colorado. Because this was supposed to be a temporary assignment, ARPC had to review Bush's records to determine where he should ultimately be assigned. That examination would have led to three conclusions: That Bush had "failed to satisfactorily participate" as defined by United States law and Air Force policy, that TXANG could not account for Bush’s actions for an entire year, and that Bush's medical records were not up to date. Regardless of what actions ARPC contemplated when reviewing Bush's records, all options required that Bush be certified as physically fit to serve, or as unfit to serve. ARPC thus had to order Bush to get a physical examination, for which Bush did not show up. ARPC then designated Bush as AWOL and a "non-locatee" (i.e. a deserter) who had failed to satisfactorily participate in TXANG, and certified him for immediate induction through his local draft board. Once the Houston draft board got wind of the situation, strings were pulled; and documents were generated which directly contradict Air Force policy, and which were inconsistent with the rest of the records released by the White House.

Lukasiak also agrees with earlier reports that Bush's records were tampered with:
It is also clear that the Bush records were tampered with to hide this fact. Many documents were thrown out that should have been kept, and there is indisputable evidence that at least one key documents has been altered.

The documentary evidence also strongly suggests that when news of Bush's situation reached Texas, strings were pulled that resulted in Bush being "rehabilitated" in a manner completely inconsistent with Air Force policy.

The paper trail is incomplete, and in some cases ambiguous. But "clerical error" is not sufficient to explain the anomalies, because the level of "coincidence" required for a "clerical error" explanation is well beyond any rational possibility.

Paul has done yeoman's work on this. It appears Michael Moore's shot from the hip may have been on target after all. And it makes clear, irrevocably, that Bush's military record should be a scandal not merely for what it contains (or rather, doesn't) but because of the extent to which it has been tampered with and lied about in the past eight years or so.

[For handy reference, here is a post that contains links to most of my AWOL posts. Here and here are the most recent posts.]

Monday, June 28, 2004

Liberals: The root of all evil

Yo, Tucker, come check out the lovely sentiments coming from another "mainstream" right-winger, Doug Giles, who, after selecting an especially fetid slice of Ann Coulter, offers the following:
It's hard for salt of the earth, hard working, hard playing pro-American types to wrap their minds around why their liberal neighbors hate the U.S. so much. But liberals do, and it's a staple of their worldview's diet. They reflexively root for that which will undo our great land.

As far as the liberals are concerned, the battle is joined ... the war is on. We must recognize the primal nature of the contest, the fundamental loathing the left has for virtually everything that conservatives cherish.

Concerned citizens of our amazing country need to be aware of the fear and loathing of the liberals and meet them head on at the polls, through the media and in the public square.

Please talk to us again about civility in about, oh, another decade or so, Doug. You too, Tucker.

[Via World O' Crap.]


Just realized that over the weekend, while I was away, I reached my one millionth visitor.

On previous big-number watermarks, I've paused to pontificate about the meaning of it all.

This time, I'll keep it simple:

Thanks, everyone.

And here's to the next million.

Nadering nabobs

Look, every time I post something pointing out that not only is Ralph Nader a right-wing tool, he continues to confirm it beyond any serious deniability, his defenders come out of the woodwork and whine that I'm demonizing or somehow attacking the man personally ("Nader-bashing").

So let's be clear: I'm not saying that Nader is a bad man. All I'm saying is that any serious progressive should question his credentials as someone representing their vote.

Nader was never my man. His record on civil rights, labor and immigration policy was enough to convince me Al Gore was a better vote. I also was mature enough to understand that democracy is an imperfect thing, and voting forces us sometimes to make imperfect choices that in the end must be pragmatic. A progressive voter in 2004 should be asking (as they should have in 2000), "Do I want to be playing offense for the next four years, or defense?"

But I have many friends who were Nader voters in 2000, and I understand their choices. This year, as it happens, all of them are voting for Kerry. Which leaves me wondering about the diehards who continue to lend his candidacy any credence.

Obviously, the pragmatic need is both crystal-clear and great now not to vote for Nader. If the past four years haven't convinced progressive purists just how disastrous Republican rule can be, they haven't been paying attention.

But even clearer now is what I only suspected in 2000, which is that Nader is a right-wing tool. I'm not saying that to demonize the man, but simply as a strategic reality. He's a stalking horse for progressive votes whose most ardent silent supporters are Bushevik conservatives, and his continuing flirtations with rightist elements underscores this fact in a poignant way -- because they call into serious question Nader's progressive credentials.

A recent report by Max Blumenthal for American Prospect lays it out:
Nader's Dubious Raiders: Ralph's Arizona ballot tactics are worse than this week's Democratic lawsuit alleges. Some petitions piggybacked on a reactionary anti-immigrant initiative -- and others were paid for by a former executive director of the state GOP.

The story explains it in detail:
In its effort to get on the ballot in the key battleground state of Arizona, the Prospect has learned, the Nader campaign hired a petition company that is also gathering signatures for a draconian anti-immigrant initiative pushed by right-wing elements in the state. The initiative, called Protect Arizona Now (PAN), would restrict access to public services by undocumented immigrants.

In addition, according to several sources, the Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul. Sources say Sproul -- who is also spearheading an initiative to block public funding from political campaigns in the state -- made payments to the petition contractors working on his public-funding initiative to gather signatures for Nader as well.

Moreover, according to several sources, the signature-gathering drive for PAN is mostly funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based anti-immigrant group that has spent tens of millions in the last two decades to roll back the rights of both legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The Arizona ballot drive was never the grassroots effort that Nader characterizes his campaign as. In trying to garner the 14,694 signatures necessary to get on the Arizona ballot, the Nader campaign first unsuccessfully solicited a Republican consulting firm to handle its ballot-qualification bid. This spring, as droves of professional petitioners descended on Arizona like traveling carnival folk to gather signatures for PAN -- and to collect the $2–4 that a petitioner is awarded for each signature delivered -- they also presented signatories with the Nader petition, according to several sources. This petition piggybacking helped Nader get more than the amount of signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot -- most of them from Republicans. In fact, according to a volunteer for the Arizona Democratic Party who has reviewed Nader's signatures, of the more than 21,000 signatures Nader garnered, a whopping 65 percent percent came from Republicans, compared to 18 percent from Democrats.

I'm sure I'll still be flooded with heated denials from his diehard supporters. But at some point, you'd think they'd have to stop sniffing the kool-aid and understand that George Bush and Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are all counting on their "purity".

UPDATE: Joe Conason has a report on a similar situation in Oregon, where Bush-Cheney operatives worked behind the scenes to get Nader on the ballot.

Tedster update

Following up on my speculation that Ted Olson's sudden departure as Solicitor General may have been related to the Abu Ghraib mess, Salon had an item the other day indicating it wasn't Abu Ghraib, but today's ruling on "enemy combatants" -- in which the Bush administration largely received a slap upside the head -- that induced Olson to step aside.
The Washington Post reports that Olson was "known inside the Justice Department to be unhappy that he was not informed about controversial memos authored by the Office of Legal Counsel on the use of harsh interrogation methods on detainees overseas." The head of that office, Jack L. Goldsmith III, announced his resignation last week.

By announcing his own departure Thursday, Olson may be hoping to head off suggestions that he resigned as a result of unfavorable Supreme Court rulings related to the torture issue. The Supreme Court will likely issue its decisions next week in cases involving "enemy combatants" Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi and the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Justice Department lawyers are braced for what Newsweek calls a "crushing defeat" in those cases, so much so that they're scrambling to find alternative theories for keeping Padilla in prison.

Olson seemed to acknowledge, albeit obliquely, that he was getting out ahead of the storm. He told the Post he wanted to announce his resignation before the court issues its final decisions of the term because it's "going to be a big deal next week."

The item goes on to note that while the Tedster's inimitable style simply can't be replaced, Paul Clement is likely to be Olson's successor. Bet that catches Eric Muller's attention.

[Thanks to R. Prichard at Table Talk for the Salon pointer.]