March 12, 2004

And now, for your weekend: drunken Polish nuns on tractors.

You heard me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:06 PM

Burn the witch!

World O'Crap sums up the bipartisan psychotic feeding frenzy that is Susan Lindauer, the woman accused of providing diplomatic services for Iraq.

Okay, a few points (taken from stories from The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, MSNBC, and A.P.): 1. Lindauer is not an "accused spy." Per MSNBC, she was "charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and with engaging in prohibited financial transactions with the Iraqi government." She has not been charged with espionage, and has apparently never had access to classified information. The indictment said she accepted $10,000 for working for the intelligence service from 1999 to 2002, apparently seving as an "agent of influence, " that is, somebody who could persuade people on the hill to look more favorably towards Iraq.

2. Yes, Lindauer did work for four Democratic members of Congress. Among the many, many jobs she's held over a twenty-year work history, she worked for a Democratic Congressmen for a total of less than two years (the last time being an eight-week stint as a press secretary to California Rep. Zoe Lofren in 2002 -- with that position being the only one of her Hill jobs held during the time period she was reportedly working for Iraqi intelligence).

Anyway, her Hill employment is just background, while her relationship with Andrew Card is directly relevent to her arrest, because central to her indictment is a letter she wrote to him, "trying to influence U.S. policy." That, along with the $10,000 she received for her services, seem to be the basis of the charge that she "acted as an unregistered agent of Iraq."

[Card] ... turned her into the FBI. She tried to use him to influence U.S. policy, he reported it -- that's most of the story right there. So, the Card connection is much more relevant to the story than the Democratic employment -- and the papers noting that isn't evidence of a liberal bias, but pundits claiming that it is, is evidence of poor reading and reasoning skills on the part of some conservatives.

Oh, and the fact that Lindauer worked for the Seattle Post Intelligencer for three months in the 1987, while no doubt of interest to local readers (and morons trying to make stupid political points), is not relevant at all to the actual story.

3. Card is Lindauer's second cousin -- not all that "remote" or "distant" of family relationship, as these things go. While Card said he hadn't had contact with her the "January 2001 inaugural events," I think it's significiant that he DID have contact with her at the inaugural events, because it means that he knew who she was, and that she could brag to Iraqi Intelligence that she had a cousin working for the White House whom she'd seen at the inauguration.

Per the A.P story, "Card told the FBI that Lindauer had tried to contact him on behalf of the former regime several times" -- so, it seems to me that the Iraqis were paying her to use her reported influence with her cousin Card to change U.S. policy towards Iraq, and that it didn't work. On a completely unrelated topic, I wonder what the Chinese paid Neil Bush for?

Golly, that's a lot of facts. It sure gets in the way of declaring she's a spy and should be executed for treason.

Now, I'm vague on all the details about the Lindauer case as well... but I'm not opening discussion by asking about what political party she's attached to, or horrifically skipping right to the execution phase of the trial. The bloodlust emitted by so many people over a story they all know so little about is disheartening, to say the least.

Update: Looking at some of the links in this coverage, anyone else find it interesting how important Glenn Reynolds finds this story considering how Valerie Plame was "too complicated?"

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:25 PM

Setting the standard of the substandard before us

Also via MetaFilter today was this story about Jamal al-Harith, who recently returned to the U.K. after being held captive in Guantanamo for two years.

What makes me the angriest about this is that the defenders of the U.S.'s actions will revert to the easiest of comparisons- that this is perfectly alright because somewhere else on the planet something significantly worse happened. "So what if he was imprisoned for two years? Saddam was raping children!" "How dare you say it's a concentration camp, you demean what Hitler did to the Jews by saying that!"

Whenever suggestion of an atrocity is charged against the U.S., the defense is always some form of comparitive defense via the brutality of another. "America: at least we're not Saddam." As if that, you know, makes any sense at all.

If even a fifth of what al-Harith claims is true, then the United States is guilty of war crimes. The fact that there have been worse war crimes doesn't change that... and it certainly doesn't hold the U.S. up to the standard Americans claim this country to hold.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:30 AM

"Lenny and Curtis initially pin the crime on the innocent seeming guy questioned briefly at the beginning of the episode..."

The Random Law and Order Plot Generator. Brilliant. (via Mefi)

I have started to really hate Law & Order after a constant stream of "ripped from the headlines" plots which were ripped from the headlines... for the first five minutes. Then it becomes something new, and usually stupid.

The "ripped from the headlines" plot about a shot NYC councilman turns into an international conspiracy. The "ripped from the headlines" plot about the Puffy/J.Lo club shooting turns into the Puffy-character covering-up for the fact that the J.Lo-character is secretley the shooter. The "ripped from the headlines" plot based on Geraldo's troop-position revealing becomes an anti-war journalist faking his own assisanation at the hands of angry former soldiers. The "ripped from the headlines" plot about the Great Whte concert fire ends up being a secret-daugher conspiracy. It's insulting to both my intelligence and the people involved in the real stories. They'd "rip" 9/11 from the headlines if they could write a script where it suddenly turns out to be the fault of guest star Oliver Platt who was just covering-up his drug problem.

SVU is much better because it's like the entire core cast of Oz went out and passed the Bar exam. Also, the investigators are much better to me. If Ice-T and Richard Belzer were actually in charge of gathering information from people we'd have caught Osama by now.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:16 AM

"The O'Franken Factor." Brilliant.

Air America Radio announced its program schedule the other day. Man, I really hope this thing delivers. The hype for this station is like a left-wing movie trailer... I want so badly for this to come out, but it has, has, HAS to not suck.

It doesn't mention the name on the lineup, but I've been told from other news sites that also involved in the project will be comedian Frank Coniff, who you should all know, lest ye have no soul, from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This is shaping up to be something great. Given all the news this week coming from the Bush Administration there's lots of material to work with. The online community has done a great job with election campaigns this year; maybe it can help make sure a real Liberal Media gets off the ground.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:23 AM

Slow wheels of progress

I doubt most of you will remember my previous mentioning of Theron McGriff on this site. He's a gay man in Idaho who was sued by his ex-wife for sole custody of their children after he wanted to move in with another man whom is is still with today. McGriff's partner has voluntarily lived in a trailer adjacent to his home as to not "live with" McGriff, thus stripping his right to see his children.

This all was brought to my attention in July. Of 2002. McGriff wrote me yesterday to tell me about the site for his case, and to mention that after almost two years he's finally getting his appeal before the Idaho Supreme Court. Let's all take a look, get informed, and wish Theron the best of luck for him, his partner, and his children.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:01 AM

March 11, 2004

So long... and thanks

March 11, 1952 - May 11, 2001

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:45 AM

March 10, 2004

Deliver us from evil, save gluttony

What amazes me about the Congressional drive for lawsuit protection is the utter hypocrisy of the legislators involved.

On the heels of protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits, and legislation protecting the tobacco industry from lawsuits, Congress backed a ban today on lawsuits against fast food chains for health problems.

Are the lawsuits frivilous? No. I would agree that they are questionable, and I would certainly agree that there's a HUGE factor of personal responsibility in regards to eating, smoking, and especially gun ownership. Nevertheless, the question is this: why are Americans expected to exercise "personal responsibility" when so much else of American life has to be regulated to "protect us?"

McDonald's sells greasy, fat-laden food with questionable labelling. The response is that Americans have to have "personal responsibility" and just not eat. Janet Jackson flashes her breast and Congress decides that it's time to demand $500,000 from Howard Stern. Where are the congressmen telling parents to "take personal responsibility" then? It's time to think of the children when they see a breast, but it's "absurd" to consider them when the advertisment for the restaurant that was on the same station ten minutes ago tells them it's alright to break 200 pounds consuming their product.

So apparently, the bottom line from Congress is that parents know what to feed their children; they're all just too stupid to know when to change the channel.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:34 PM

Let's call it a beta test

The new style sheet and template is up, so the site is active again. I have some stuff to do today so error-checking is going to be a work-in-progress.

Basically, the biggest change aside from the style (which was just recoding what was already there a little) was the weblog archive. I'd been using monthly archives, which served okay until I realized that a full month of posts was a 300K file that hundreds of people were loading every week whenever I got linked to. So I've switched to weekly archives which should cut that bandwidth a bit.

Unfortunately, that required changing folders and stuff, so I didn't just have a giant mess in the home directory, hence where everything went to poo. So the end result is that things are in place, with the one drawback being title images in older posts not working the right way.

For new stuff, I've broken the cartoons page into newer and archived sections, added a page about the animation stuff I've done, and fixed up some of the older title graphics.

Unique cartoons and non-blog writing as well as other miscellaneous stuff will go into the aptly-named "Miscellaneous" section. I'll have stuff there by the end of the week. The store is registered at CafePress; it's a matter of making some designs and putting them up, which I hope to do in the next few days as well.

Any noticable massive problems you're more than welcome to notify me about, but what you see is around 90% of what you get. With any luck I'll crank out that last tenth soon.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:08 PM

March 9, 2004

Ummm... just to be clear...

A strange graf from today's AP article on John Allen Muhammad's sentencing:

Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. has the option of upholding the jury's sentence or reducing it to life in prison without parole when Muhammad returns to court Tuesday.

Defense motions filed Friday ask Millette to show leniency, citing Muhammad's lack of a previous criminal background, the effect of an execution on Muhammad's children and the general sanctity of human life.

Now, I'm against the death penalty, including for psychos who clearly deserve it like this guy. And I base that on human rights and moral grounds.

But "lack of previous criminal background?" He shot thirteen people with a rifle. "Not ever doing it before" is a tad irrelevant, you think? If anything, it diminishes the legitimate reasons against the death penalty by making the defense look silly.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:42 AM

"Remember, Election Day is this Wednesday...

The GOP is contacting TV stations to "warn them" to not air any ads because... umm... they think they're bad, basically. That's almost like the time when those black neighborhoods suddenly had flyers everywhere incorrectly saying when Election Day was and subtly suggesting police presence, except in this case Bush top staffers have to start doing the dirty veiled-threat-work themselves. Man, they are worried about the election.

The Republican National Committee is warning television stations across the country not to run ads from the Voter Fund that criticize President Bush, charging that the left-leaning political group is paying for them with money raised in violation of the new campaign-finance law.

But says it has raised $10 million for advertising from 160,000 donors, in amounts averaging $50-$60. It is running two ads in 67 TV markets in what its Web site describes as 17 "battleground" states.

"It's not surprising that [RNC Chairman] Ed Gillespie continues to make false claims about the legality of our campaign in order to silence us," Wes Boyd, president of the voter fund, said in a statement. "Our lawyers continue to assure us that our advertising, and the small contributions from tens of thousands of our members that pay for it, conform in every way to existing campaign-finance laws."

The group maintains that a recent ruling from the Federal Election Commission supports the method it is using to fund the ads.

Meanwhile, the GOP is also at work harassing other candidates directly.

Why isn't Karl Rove just having everyone he opposes killed? Is there a laziness factor involved, or does he need to feel sportsmanlike about all this?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:52 AM

March 8, 2004

Kettles available in one color only

Conservative group runs ad mocking Kerry's wealth, origin:

A conservative group headed by one of former President Clinton 's harshest critics is airing an ad that pokes fun at presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry's haircut, designer clothing and property holdings.

The ad shows Kerry, boats at a marina and oceanfront property as an announcers says: "Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Hairstyle by Christophe's $75. Designer shirts: $250. Forty-two foot luxury yacht: $1 million. Four lavish mansions and beachfront estate: Over $30 million."

Another shot is of Kerry and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., with the words: "Another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he's a man of the people. Priceless."

First: Mastercard parody ad. Man. Are those guys ahead of the curve or what?

Second: George W. Bush. Born in: New Haven, Conn. Educated in: Andover, Mass., then Yale, then Harvard. Value of 1,500-acre ranch: 5 million. Public schools attended during lifetime: 0. Blue-collar jobs worked: 0.

Bush 2004: I'm am East-coast elitist too, just poorer and stupider than the other guy.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:53 PM

I mean it this time.

Advance warning that sometime this week, maybe even as early as tonight or tomorrow, the site will be down a bit for redesign implementations. Nothing major, just some style changes here and there.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:18 PM

And now, some complete BS

According to the SF Gate, California Governor Arn- oh screw it, you know damn well who's governor of California right now- has signed on to be the executive editor of two fitness magazines.

Schwarzenegger, the former action hero and champion bodybuilder, has inked a deal to become executive editor of Muscle and Fitness and Flex Magazines. Both are owned by American Media, Inc., which also publishes The National Enquirer, Star and other celebrity tabloids.
Now, I'm not sure why someone who ran on a platform of how much work needed to be done to fix California suddenly has the time to edit two magazines. Unless, of course, "executive editor" means some kind of non-influential figurehead position.
Pecker said that despite his new title, Schwarzenegger would have few day-to-day responsibilities for editorial content.

"I would like the magazines to represent his vision for health and fitness, what he's done in his career, the direction we should go with bodybuilding," Pecker said. "He's not going to do any editing, and I'm not going to interfere with him governing the state."

Gasp! Could it be? I couldn't imagine a printing chain as credible as a tabloid producer considering hiring a famous movie star for a titular employment position solely for marketing sales! It's just so wrong! But... wait... what's the angle for Arnold here?

I mean, I'm sure that there's Arnold's commitment to physical fitness, and his desire to spread good information about athletics, and-

The relationship between the two magazines and AMI's tabloid publications could have implications for Schwarzenegger, who has been a target of tabloid investigations in the past.

During the state's tumultuous gubernatorial recall campaign later that year, there was a near-total absence of negative stories about him in the celebrity tabloids.

Pecker insisted that he made no "deal" with Weider to dial down the tabloids' coverage of Schwarzenegger, and that despite Schwarzenegger's new role in the company, no deal exists now.

Quick reminder lesson about the print media: when an article actually prints multiple paragraphs defending an accusation no one has made yet, it's because this entire event is for the purpose of what the article claims it's not about.

Arnold took a position that gives him no presitge, no authority, and no income outside of a pittance for a non-charity that he could easily raise anywhere. In return, he gets the "promise" that his position will "in no way effect the company he now promotes saying bad things about him," which, as I just mentioned before, means "he's doing this soley to shut the tabloids up."

What amazes me about stuff like this is that Arnold is such a huge imposing guy. It's funny how for someone everyone seems to fear being beaten up by, Arnold just gets his way on paper like every other shriveled-up fogey in politics.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:15 PM

March 7, 2004

Not getting it

Giuliani is on Meet the Press right now defending Bush's use of 9/11 footage for his campaign ad, including the current standby "Kerry used Vietnam footage" bit.

First of all, Kerry wasn't using footage of bodies being pulled out of the wreckage of a bombed South Vietnamese village. Bush is airing firefighters sorting through wreckage looking for bodies.

Second, is it really wise to mention how Kerry is using "Vietnam footage" when the first part of that footage is Kerry testifying about Vietnam before Congress?

It's nice that Giuliani has made a profitable career out of being considered an authority on 9/11 based on his ability to be a good mayor for twelve days out of an eight-year career, but Rudy Giuliani saying Bush is great doesn't automatically verify the statement, and it ignored why Bush's use of the 9/11 footage is obnoxious.

Bush does want to exploit 9/11 because he wants to selectively choose which part of it you hear about. Bush won't testify to the investigation panel about 9/11. He won't let information about connections to Saudi Arabia be released to public scrutiny. He won't allow footage of dead soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He can't use footage of his "bold leadership" showing at soldiers' funerals because he's been to almost none of them.

Bush cares about reminding everyone that he happened to be president on September 11, 2001. Giuliani is there to accentuate. But until both of them start to get why that in itself means nothing, that's just the level of positive reaction they're going to recieve.

Update: Josh Marshall sums up the outrage issue very well.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:47 AM