Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Friday, August 30, 2002
"You have not enough respect for the written word and you are altering the story."
- Kafka, "The Trial"

Yale pundit Mitch Webber criticized this Times op-ed, saying:

In today's NYT, conspiracy theory enthusiast James Bamford begins his guest column with a comparison of Ashcroft's Justice Department to the irrational, inscrutable law courts depicted in Kafka's The Trial....

Granted, it's a catchy hook. Too bad the column's content doesn't even make a pretense at validating the analogy.

As Bamford himself quotes, The Trial opens with this famous sentence: "Someone must have been slandering Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested."...

There's a big difference between prosecuting the innocent - as is done in "The Trial" - and searching (arguably) over-zealously for the guilty

In arguendo does a nice job of discussing some of the political reasons why Webber is wrong. Granting that protecting the Bill of Rights is more important than literary criticism, as a long-time reader of Kafka I was more struck by how badly Webber misses the point on literary grounds.

I guess it's no surprise that students aren't expected any longer to have actually read the books they cite. But at Yale, they're apparently so po-mo that you aren't even expected to skim the Cliff Notes before you make a cite, or criticize someone else's. I wonder if Mitch ever got past that first sentence.

If he got far past it, he would know that "The Trial" is not about 'prosecuting the innocent'. We never find out if Joseph K is innocent, because neither the reader nor K ever has any knowledge of what he has been charged with. K is so far from knowing the charges that he wants to,

Draw up an written defense and hand it in to the Court. In this defense, he would give a short account of his life, and when he came to an event of any importance explain for what reasons he had acted as he did, intimate whether he approved or condemned his way of action in retrospect, and adduce grounds for the condemnation or approval.

A defense before Kafka's Court must be this vague because,

The proceedings were not public. They could certainly, if the Court considered it necessary, become public, but the Law did not prescribe that they must be made public. Naturally, therefore, the legal records of the case, and above all the actual charge-sheets, were inaccessible to the accused and his counsel.... In such circumstances the Defense was naturally in a very ticklish and difficult position. Yet that, too, was intentional. For the Defense was not actually countenanced by the Law, but only tolerated, and there were differences of opinion even on that point, whether the law could be interpreted to admit such tolerance at all.

It is the helplessness of Joseph K before the Law and the Law's authority, capricious, unknowable, yet omnipotent, that is the theme of "The Trial".

This theme is indeed supported in Bamford's column, making the Kafka 'hook' entirely appropriate:

With increasing speed, the Justice Department of Attorney General John Ashcroft is starting to resemble the "always vengeful bureaucracy" that crushed Josef K. Recently, in two federal cases, the Justice Department argued that it is within the president's inherent power to indefinitely detain, without any charges, any person, including any United States citizen, whom the president (through the Justice Department) designates an "enemy combatant." Further, the person can be locked away, held incommunicado and denied counsel. Finally, Mr. Ashcroft argues that such a decision is not subject to review by federal or state courts. This situation is beyond even Kafka, who in his parable of punishment and paranoia at least supplied Josef K. with an attorney.

The Kafka theme is less directly referenced in the main section of Bamford's article, which focuses on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), but it is there on a careful examination. FISC approves requested wiretaps for intelligence (not law enforcement) purposes. Obviously the person whose phone the government wishes to tap isn't informed of the FISC proceedings.

Ashcroft is seeking to tear down most or all of the distinction between intelligence and gathering evidence. In the Ashcroft procedures, it is entirely possible that an individual could be tapped with approval of FISC, declared an enemy combatant on the basis of that tap, then arrested and held indefinitely as a combatant. The first knowledge they would have of being under investigation would be their arrest, the only judges involved would be the FISC judges (who almost never refuse requests), they would not ever necessarily have the right to contact an attorney or face specific charges. The comparison to Kafka fits quite well.

Webber also objects rather strangely to the translation Bamford chooses to quote from. I am a fan of the Muir translation that Webber cites; it's what I read when I first read Kafka and what I used for the passages above. The Muirs' prose does generally flow more smoothly than later translations I've seen. But it is worth noting that the Muirs translated shortly after Kafka's death from early German editions. Since their work, far more extensive study of Kafka's texts has been done, which is important because 'The Trial', like much of Kafka's work, is drawn from manuscripts that Kafka himself never completed or prepared for publication. We don't even really know the correct order of the chapters. Webber's suggestion that Bamford's use of a later translation is somehow related to the frequent criticisms of Israel in his foreign policy writings is, to put it kindly, a stretch.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Little did I know when I wrote this post that it would generate more, um, interesting search hits than anything else I've done. The latest entries, "Natalie Portman torture fantasy" and "gay torture techniques" join such previous winners as "straight pants feces", "toilet restraint", and more variants on "teen sex" than I can keep track of.

The Nuisance is, incidentally, the #1 site on the entire Net, in both Yahoo and Google, for the phrase, "straight pants feces". Mom would be so proud.

Monday, August 26, 2002
Gary Farber notes that Buffy has secured the prestigious top spot on the Parents Television Council list of the worst prime time shows.

To which my response is 'finally'. I was wondering how long it would take for somebody in our community of self-appointed decency watchers to notice that one of the most popular shows among teenagers features a supporting heroine who is a lesbian witch. (The lesbian factor seems to have played a large role, since Angel, which is equally violent and has probably more occult plot elements, was unranked. The implied cunnilingus in 'Once More With Feeling' was mentioned specifically.) The fact that it took so long is an indication of how thoroughly the right has lost the culture wars.

Incidentally, the list of the 10 worst shows includes 5 that I watch consistently or semi-regularly. The 10 best include only one (Smallville) that I watch often.

William Safire is using the infiltration of Al Qaeda elements into northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) as an argument for an invasion. The problem with this argument is that the al Qaeda elements in Iraqi Kurdistan recieve relatively little support from Hussein.

Hussein wants to undermine the de facto autonomous state that the Kurds have established with US protection, and he is using the tools at hand to do so. But the real source of the problem is the same in Kurdistan as elsewhere - our 'allies' in Saudi Arabia.

Didar was a member of the Jund-ul-Islam, an extremist group with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation. In recent months the Jund-ul-Islam have occupied a series of villages and valleys close to the Iranian border and imposed a harsh Taliban-style administration complete with bans on television, reprisals against 'immodest' women and guerrilla training camps. Though some of Jund-ul-Islam are militants from elsewhere in the Middle East 90 percent of its membership are Kurdish. Worrying proof, say local officals and clerics, that militant Islam has made significant inroads among the previously moderate Kurds.

"The Kurds have always been Muslims but good Muslims who respect other religions and have a honest and open faith that is about peace and compassion," said Mullah Majjed Ismael Mohammed, who leads the Friday prayers at Sulaimaniya's main mosque....

Mullah Majjed and his secular counterparts blame a campaign of preaching linked to aid distribution by Islamic charities backed by wealthy Gulf governments - including that of Saudi Arabia - and private donors....
"These people are stealing our youth. They are preaching intolerance where once there was tolerance," said Sadi Ahmed Pire of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main parties who split the government of the Kurdish enclave.

The charities have been targeting Kurdistan ever since senior hardline Islamist clerics announced that the flood of Western NGO's into the area after the 1991 Gulf War was a ploy to undermine the Kurds Islamic faith. Most tie their aid distribution explicitly to observance of the strict rituals of the 'Whahabi' strand of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia and, increasingly, elsewhere in the Middle East. Students are subsidised on the condition that they attend prayer meetings and women in their family wear the veil. For orphans to receive aid they have to study the Koran. Wahabi literature is widely printed and disseminated. Thousands of mosques have been built in villages that do not even have schools.

I'm not really opposed to a move into Iraq. But more and more, I'm convinced that the current administration is unready to do it competently. There really is no solid evidence linking Hussein to terrorism, so the invasion would have to be based on blocking his WMD programs. That is a sufficient reason - given the history of this regime that has launched two wars across its borders and made genocidal use of nerve gas within them, there is more than sufficient grounds to eliminate it as a risk to pretty much everyone. But we should first demand a return to the earlier UN inspection program, with broader rights being given to the inspectors to search intrusively and eliminate WMD peacefully. If that is refused (and I think it would be), we would have justification for military action and would be able to assemble an adequate coalition. (This is more or less the position of the noted far-left peaceniks Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft.)

The obvious disinterest of the Bush team in even looking for a diplomatic solution is a major factor in the unwillingness of even our allies to join us against a regime that nobody really wants to see continued. It is also a profoundly short-term vision - there are other nations currently developing WMD, and will be more in the future. Only sound international institutions can have any real hope of preventing WMD proliferation.

Incidentally, new blogger Norah Vincent is also discussing US policy toward Iraq and Pakistan. (Link from Atrios.) Vincent's discussion is unexpectedly sensible, but she does cite the same Safore column mentioned above oddly: "Bill Safire was right when he made the case in yesterday’s column that we need to find out more about exactly what Saddam is up to with regard to terrorism before we send in the commandos." Nothing in the column resembles the conclusion the Vincent has drawn from it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
War on Accoutability

The Bush administration continues to hide behind an ever-growing wall of secrecy. David Corn recently found that the names of members of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which have previously been public information and could be found on an official web page in the Clinton administration, are now secret.

An article in USA Today shows a big reason why the administration doesn't want the public well informed on anti-terrorism activities - the programs are a mess. The Air Marshals program is in disarray. Some of the lowlights:

Hiring standards for marshals added since Sept. 11 have been lowered dramatically, sources say. No longer must applicants pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the make-or-break test for the program. In addition, many new hires were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.

At some of the agency's more than 20 regional offices, the program has struggled to provide ammunition for shooting practice, sources say. Despite the undercover nature of the work, officials have implemented a dress code that marshals worry identifies them to terrorists. And scheduling has been haphazard: While some marshals have not flown for weeks at a time, sources say others are working 12- to 16-hour days and are falling asleep or getting sick aboard flights....

In one incident last month, a marshal was removed from a flight in Washington after smelling of alcohol. The head of the air marshal program confirms at least two cases in which marshals accidentally discharged their weapons, one in a hotel room in Las Vegas. And sources say one marshal was suspended after he left his gun in a lavatory aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington to Las Vegas in December. A passenger discovered the weapon....

Although they work undercover, marshals at some regional offices have been ordered to adhere to a dress code that requires them to wear "conservative male or female business attire" during most of their trips, documents show. Without special permission, they cannot dress more casually....

Marshals say making them look and dress alike is what threatens their cover. "This is really dangerous," says one marshal, who left the Justice Department for the air marshal program five months ago. "We are so obvious, the terrorists don't need to bring guns on the planes anymore. They just need to gang up on us and take our guns."

The whole article is very much worth a look. One thing that I've omitted from the excerpts above are quotes from the program management, which seems far more concerned about preventing leaks of defencicies than actually fixing them.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
For this site to continue what is becoming a tradition of beating on Bill Simon is possibly excessive and almost certainly superfluous, but he makes it so easy. Such as in his defense in this (now rather old) article:

Simon took no further steps Thursday to discuss the suit or further explain his dealings, sticking to two scheduled appearances in Southern California. Speaking with reporters outside a Los Angeles High School, he noted that he was not named as an individual defendant in the case and never took the stand.

"The fact that I wasn't called is indicative of the fact that, frankly, I had very little involvement in this," he said.

Simon is a straight-shooting honest businessman, not a tricky word-chopping spinner like Bill Clinton, so I'm sure that when he made a big point of the true statement that he didn't testify in the trial, he didn't actually mean to neglect mentioning that he was deposed. He probably just forgot about it. After all, the depo was way back in May, and it only lasted 2 days with a transcript that runs 577 pages.

The transcript shows that Mr Simon does have some problems with his memory on quite a few points. My favorite one is this q & a:

Q: Have you, at any time sir, heard of . . . going into an investment where the Simon company has presented itself as being skilled, experienced or successful investors?

A: You know, I would have to scratch my head on that one. We have been involved in a lot of situations over the years, so off the top of my head, I don't remember a precise conversation on that respect.

So Mr Simon was for 12 years a manager and co-owner of an investment firm which never, to his recollection, claimed to have any skills or expertise in its own area of business.

In international diplomacy, it seems, size matters. Or at least the belief that it does has lead to an explosion of new and grandiose embassies in Washington. Courtesy of Red Rock Eater.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Slip Sliding Away

The most recent polls from the Christian Science Monitor/Investor's Business Daily ae bad news for Bush. Approval numbers, both personal and job, are the lowest since 9/11, while both disapproval numbers are at new highs. Link from Counterspin.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Mo Bitchier Blues

Most of my readers probably already read the popular Eschaton blog, but some may have missed this gem in the comments section to a recent Atrios post, where one Jeffrey Kramer, who doesn't seem to have a blog but clearly should, hits the bull's eye on feeble columnist Maureen Dowd:

And even that wouldn't be so bad if Dowd could actually MAKE it amusing: but here we have a supposedly prime time performer who thinks she's opening the floodgates of mirth with the killer line "Oedipus, Schmoedipus." If Maureen Dowd earned a Pulitzer with this kind of commentary, then Andrew Northrup is entitled to at least two Nobel Prizes, and Dave Barry deserves to have human sacrifices performed in his honor. Preferably beginning with Maureen Dowd.

Saturday, August 17, 2002
The full text and signers list of the Ashcroft letter I mentioned before is now available. Although an aide to one of the signers said when the letter was first publicized that "lawmakers did not want FBI agents to arrest casual users", the operative word there seems to be casual, since the letter does explicitly call for federal prosecution of users who allow "mass copying".

The complete list of signers:

Lamar Smith (R-TX)
James Sensenbrenner(R-WI)
Bobby Scott(D-VA)
John Conyers(D-MI)
Howard Coble(R-NC)
Henry Hyde(R-IL)
Bob Goodlatte(R-VA)
Robert Wexler(D-FL)
William Jenkins(R-TN)
Ed Bryant(R-TN)
Lindsey Graham(R-SC)
Adam Schiff(D-CA)
Ric Keller(R-FL))
Darrell Issa(R-CA))
Melissa Hart(R-PA)

Dianne Feinstein(D-CA)
Joseph Biden(D-DE)
Rick Santorum(R-PA))
Gordon Smith(R-WA)

Paging John Varley

I suppose this had to happen eventually. Link from Palit.

I want to comment on the recent Spinsanity attack on MWO, even though several fine bloggers have gotten there before me. Charles Kuffner goes philosophical, quoting Niebuhr to make his point, while Sideshow has perhaps the strongest post, hardly a rare occurence.

Spinsanity is right in saying that MWO is usually harsh and sometimes excessive. But Brendan is entirely wrong in charging that it "pollute[s] the public discourse". The unfortunate reality is that the public discourse is already utterly polluted by the right wing smear machine.

Does this mean that MWO is justified in using the same tactics for opposing political goals? It doesn't, but MWO doesn't stoop to the tactics common on the right. It is factually reliable and it attacks individuals, instead of smearing 'liberals' or other meaninglessly broad categories of people.

The mainstream media loves to hide behind the pretense that they're merely passive observers reporting on the political process, not active participants who are shaping it. This allows them to evade responsibility for their real role. MWO gives them a level of accountability that is very modest indeed, just a public exposure of their dishonesty and an overflowing e-mail inbox, but even that seems to be more than quite a few of them are willing to accept. This tactic of encouraging e-mail campaigns seems to be the main reason why MWO draws a stronger response than other sites which have similar content - a graphic example of how very thin-skinned the big media types who love to destroy the reputation of others get when they are exposed to any form of criticism.

Spinsanity suggests that MWO will encourage escalating vicious rhetoric from the right: "The editors' claim that their actions are a justified response to the tactics used by others is both insufficient and, ultimately, circular: anyone who listens to Limbaugh, for example, knows that he often uses the same rationale. The reality is that, with liberals increasingly agitated, both sides will continue to escalate their rhetoric to the point of hysteria, all the while pointing wildly at each other to rationalize their actions." The reality is that Limbaugh, Coulter, et al used these tactics long before MWO existed. They won't play nice just because liberals agree to.

Let's be realistic here. Of the last two Democrats elected President in this country, one was accused, not only by fringe groups, of crimes that included mass murder and treason, then impeached for committing adultery, and the other wasn't even allowed to take office. People who claim that in this environment it's the Democrats who are going too far either aren't paying attention or are just giving their opponents an unsubtle request to roll over and play dead.

Monday, August 12, 2002
Safe House

Republicans are now basing their hopes for the 2002 Congressional elections largely on the assumption that they will be able to neutralize an interest group largely hostile to them - voters. Redistricting from the 2000 census has been carefully done to protect incumbents. Very few seats are now competitive, and the GOP money machine guarantees enormous funds will be available for their candidates in those few races.

Republicans say they have seen no evidence of that to date. Still, in expressing confidence that they would hold the House, party leaders pointed not to the national mood, but rather to political, fund raising and demographic forces that have created a political fire wall for Republicans.

"I've seen grim off-years and we're a 1,000 miles from that," Mr. McInturff said. "Thank goodness for the Republicans that there are far fewer competitive seats than there normally are in a reapportionment year, and that they are well-funded."

The broad picture looks very favorable for Democrats. The 2001 elections, which were generally described as a draw, were actually a sweeping victory for the Democrats. Every change that has occurred since - the decline in Bush's popularity, the continuing weakness of the economy and a likely double-dip recession, the business bankruptcies and scandals, the return of perpetual budget deficits - works mostly in our favor.

Republicans now seem to have conceded the Senate, and only the small number of seats available protects them in the House. This study finds only 19 competitive seats available; most analyses put the number around 40, still only 9% of the total.

Republicans couldn't and didn't pull this off alone. Democrats have been just as eager to gerrymander to protect their own. Here in California, with a Democratic Governor and and solid majorities in both houses of the legislature, it is expected that every incumbent in both parties, other than Condit, is likely to be re-elected without a serious challenge. Condit's seat is described as competitive, but will almost certainly stay Democratic.

So we now have the standard of performance required in the gerrymandered incumbent-protection system. For a Congressman to keep his seat, he must avoid being caught having an adulterous affair with a woman he may possibly have murdered to shut her up.

Since both parties are joined in what amounts to a conspiracy to undermine democracy, the only alternative is to take the process out of their hands and let non-partisan boards draw district lines, which is done in most other democracies.

Saturday, August 10, 2002
Sleaze Swapping

A bipartisan group of lowlifes politicians has urged John Ashcroft to stop wasting time on terrorism and devote more resources to blocking file swapping, a truly dangerous activity that can lead to decreased campaign contributions, wide exposure for bands not preselected by labels, and, in extreme cases, actual dancing.

I was unable to find any further information than the linked article tonight. The article does contain a partial list of signers; a full list of culprits will be posted when it becomes available.

Lamar Smith (R=TX)
James Sensenbrenner(R-WI)
Bobby Scott(D-VA)
John Conyers(D-MI)
Howard Coble(R-NC)

Dianne Feinstein(D-CA)
Joseph Biden(D-DE)

Atrios, quoting Jason Vest of TAP, made a silly statement about the incomplete Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr:

According to multiple national security sources, plans for a "preemptive" strike against Iran's nearly completed nuclear reactor at Bushehr have already been developed. According to one source familiar with the plan, the logic behind it calls for debate, too. "The hawks believe that because the Iranians have given Hizbollah small arms, they're going to give them radioactive waste to make dirty bombs. I'm sorry, but state sponsors of terrorism are very reluctant to give up control of that stuff to surrogates," he says.

The plans to prevent the reactor from coming on line have very little to do with the possibility that radioactive materials from the plant might be given to Hizbollah. That is not so unlikely given that Hizbollah is now not merely a surrogate but also seems to be essential to the government's domestic security, but even that isn't the main issue. The more serious problem is that senior Iranian officials have publicly said that Islamic nations should develop nuclear weapons for use against Israel, on the grounds that Israel is small enough to be destroyed by a few bombs and the Islamic world is large enough to survive any retaliatory striike.

Friday, August 09, 2002
Open to All Viewpoints Except Disagreement

All you need to know about the Bush Economic Forum is in the Post story, but buried in the very last graf:

A media guide says the participants on the eight panels will have "diverse points of view," but the White House official acknowledged that there are limits. "I don't think there's any point in picking someone who has the opposite point of view," the official said.

Thanks to Maru.

Maybe a Cold Shower?

I hope the reader who came here from the search string "to get rid of excessive sex thought" went away satisfied. Or unsatisfied, if that is his/her preference. In spite of being Google's #3 site for this well-known problem, the Nuisance is fresh out of original solutions. If watching Anna Nicole Smith on E! doesn't cure you, perhaps you should seek guidance from Professor T. W. Shannon.
Blogger David Yaseen notes that the US is intervening for Exxon in a suit filed by Indonesian villagers who claim that "Exxon Mobil, which operates a natural gas field in the province, paid and directed Indonesian security forces that carried out murder, torture and rape in the course of protecting the company's operations in the 1990s."

The government is concerned that Exxon losing the suit could make other companies reluctant to invest in Indonesia. I can certainly understand that. How can anybody be expected to turn a profit in a business environment where they aren't even allowed to kill people? Really, this excessive regulation is just ruining the economy.

Some may say it's incompetence, but for me the major theme of the Bush administration has been arrogance. A new article (via Tapped) shows how the White House has been refusing to cooperate with Congress, ignoring Republicans as much as Democrats.

A few days ago, there was the decision to simply ignore a court order to turn over documents regarding detainee Yaser Hamdi. Not long before that was the threat to arrest anybody who dared attempt the lese majeste of serving a lawsuit on Cheney. When Congress wanted to investigate the FBI's decisions before 9/11, the FBI decided to investigate Congress and ask members to take polygraph exams. And while Bush denies that he has made a final decision on war with Iraq, he clearly feels that it's his decision and the Congress has no say at all in determining whether the country goes to war.

The general attitude is that the executive branch is tasked with running the country, and the legislative and judicial branches seemingly tasked mainly with staying out of its way. The most extreme and disturbing position has been the continuing attempt to block any judicial review of detention of enemy combatants. The Bush position is that the government can simply pick up any person without restriction and hold them indefinitely on the assertion that they are enemy combatants. Pro-Bush libertarians in the Blogosphere have at least had the sense to oppose this position, but it remains to be seen whether they will also have the sense to stop supporting a man whose actions show a consistent disdain for freedom.

The position that the President makes unilateral decisions on war and peace at least has respectability in being the position of most recent presidents. For a genuine strict constructionist, that would hardly outweigh the obvious contradiction with the text of the Constitution, but I have seen no evidence that for Bush strict construction means anything other than 'precedents don`t count unless I want them to'.

Calling a Spade an Implement

The Times takes note of today's atrocity in a story from Reuters:

Three Pakistani nurses were killed on Friday when militants lobbed two grenades at a crowd of women leaving a missionary hospital chapel, the second assault on a Christian target in Pakistan in less than a week.

Doctors said 23 people, mostly female nurses, were injured and two were in serious condition.

Three men had been waiting by the hospital gates for the daily morning service to end before they struck at 7.45 a.m., according to police at the scene in Taxila, some 12 miles west of the capital Islamabad.

One attacker died, but it was unclear whether he was shot by accomplices or died from a shrapnel wound. A hand grenade was found on him.

Meanwhile MSNBC reported a few days ago:

Suspected Islamic militants lobbed a grenade and opened fire Tuesday on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir, killing nine of them and wounding 27 others, police said. In other parts of the disputed region, five suspected militants and three soldiers were killed, a news report said....

Police suspect Islamic militants were behind the pre-dawn ambush. A half-dozen militants sneaked into the pilgrimage transit camp in Nunwan, about 55 miles southeast of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s northern Jammu-Kashmir state, said Nirmal Raj, commander of the Central Reserve Police guarding the camp.

If just a few 'militants' can cause all that destruction, we can only be thankful there were no terrorists there. Then things might have gotten really ugly.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002
The time I got mugged, it wasn't nearly this fun. (Link via Jesse.)
Glenn Frazier reports that police in Iran used heavy violence last night to break up demonstrations marking the anniversary of the Constitutional Revolution in 1906. How severe the violence was is hard to say - no major news service seems to be reporting anything at all, but phone service to and from Iran was interrupted, a strong sign that something did happen. Rantburg links to a number of stories giving some details. It should be noted that these stories come from the website of SMCCDI, an Iranian anti-government student group, so I feel some hesitancy fully accepting them with no confirming source.

There are some interesting Iran stories on the web today. You can read here how the mullahs are trying to use anti-American nationalism to prop up their sagging popularity. It's sagged so badly that, as this blog has already discussed, the government now has to import Arab thugs, due to a lack of Iranians willing to do their dirty work.

Several opposition newspapers have recently been closed - but they've re-organized on the web. News is still circulating, and the popularity of Internet cafes in Iran seems to be booming. Unfortunately, the article gives no URLs, probably because the sites involved are in Farsi.

One reason for the rising opposition movement is the failing economy. Prostitution is spreading, due to a lack of other economic opportunities for young women. There is discussion of using the traditional Shia practice of temporary marriage to substitute for prostitution. Since these 'marriages' would last for a few hours and involve money changing hands, the distinction between this and prostitution is a rather subtle one. The proposal to label these legalized bordellos as 'Chastitiy Houses' has a nice Orwellian ring.

Monday, August 05, 2002
Grasping at Stems

Bill Simon announced a particularly audacious attempt recently to salvage his failing gubernatorial campaign.

"I am sure now that Davis' people are busily making new ads, and I hope they do," Simon said. "Because if they want to attack me now for a bad verdict and take the side of a convicted drug trafficker ... then Davis is welcome to choose that side."

Let's look at the sequence of events here:

  • 1981: Paul Hindelang convicted of importing marijuana. Begins a prison sentence.

  • 1986: Released from prison, Hindelang starts Pacific Coin, a pay phone company.

  • 1998: Simon & Sons pay $16.5 M for 39% share of Pacific Coin. Simon & Sons now claim they were defrauded by Hindelang's failure to disclose his background - an admission that $16.5 M was invested without a minimal investigation of the company and its officers. Any due diligence check would have revealed the felony conviction, which is a public record.

  • 2000: Having gone into debt on a failed plan to make an IPO, Pacific Coin comes under the control of its lender.

  • 2002: A jury rules for Hindelang in a fraud suit against Simon & Sons. Simon now can't remember the investment, although Simon & Sons is his family company, he has been an executive in it since its founding, he claimed losses related to the Pacific Coin investment of $1.2 M in his tax returns which show an income of 3.3 M, and evidence in the case includes a 10 page memo discussing the investment with several marginal notes in Simon's handwriting.

  • Simon now claims that criticism of his family's Pacific Coin deal would be "[taking] the side of a convicted drug trafficker".

I guess if patriotism isn't available as your last refuge, you can always give the War on Some Drugs a try.

Findlaw has published a strong article essentially arguing that since judicial nominations are based on political criteria, there is no reason the Senate should be shy of using similar criteria in confirmations.

The specific case focussed on is Priscilla Owens, Bush's nominee for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In making the nomination, Bush chose between two women on the Texas Supreme Court, Owens and Deborah Hankinson. (Presumably, although the article didn't discuss this, the fact that the candidates considered were both women was another political decision.) Hankinson was later told directly that she had been eliminated due to her relatively moderate views on abortion, although according to the article "[it] is no secret around the Texas courthouse, Hankinson enjoys a substantially better reputation as a jurist than does Owen".

Owen is said to have a reputation for being slow to write decisions, and the case cited on the subject is astonishing. In Miles v Ford, plaintiffs were the parents of a teenage boy who had been made quadriplegic in an auto accident, and were alleging that defects in the Ranger he was riding in contributed to his injury. A lower court had awarded $40 M in actual and punitive damages. In responding to Ford's appeal, the Mileses requested an early adjudication because they were receiving no money while the case was under appeal and the medical fees they were paying for their son's care were causing them serious hardship, Ford joined in the request for the case to be disposed of promptly.

Owens wrote the majority opinion in a 5 - 4 ruling that overturned the original verdict on the grounds that the suit had been filed in the wrong court, forcing the Mileses to start over from the beginning after already spending many years in litigation. The decision was handed down 17 months after arguments in the case had been heard. The court also formally denied the request for expedited action with the statement, "The request is overruled, not because it should not have been granted, but because, in fact, it was not granted."

Owens supporters now argue that the Senate has been improperly slow in granting her a hearing. Maybe Leahy should just respond, "A prompt hearing on the Owens nomination was denied, not because it should not have been granted, but because, in fact, it was not granted." I'm sure Owens would understand.

Gimme Shelter

If born-again antisleaze crusader George Bush is determined to go after companies that use dubious off-shore subsidiaries to evade taxes, he doesn't have to look very far to find targets.

Halliburton, which Cheney ran before becoming vice president, was even more aggressive in its use of offshore tax havens, according to an analysis of company filings with the Securities and Exchange Committee by Citizen Works, a nonpartisan group founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

The number of Halliburton subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens rose from 9 to 44 while Cheney served as chief executive between 1995 and 2000, the group said.

The analysis was distributed by congressional Democrats, who hoped to use it to their political advantage in the November elections. Democrats have seized on the Harken transactions and Cheney's tenure at Halliburton to paint the Bush administration and its Republican allies in Congress as compromised by insider deals and close business connections.

Cheney's spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise, had no comment on Halliburton's offshore subsidiaries and other business practices. The SEC is currently investigating how Halliburton accounted for cost overruns on construction jobs. Millerwise said the SEC has not contacted Cheney as part of that inquiry.

Saturday, August 03, 2002
Whistle Stop
Several bloggers have already noted that Bush issued rulings to undermine the whistle-blower protection in the recent corporate crime bill the same day it was signed. The protection is now to be afforded only to whistle-blowers who assist an ongoing investigation, but denied to those who report misconduct not currently known to regulators or under investigation. Aside from being dubious policy, legal blogger Sam Heldman shows that the Bush rules are a blatant misreading of the actual text of the law. (Link from Hauser Report.)
Friday, August 02, 2002
It Depends on what the Meaning of Resign Is

Avedon Carol notes the 'resignation' of Katherine Harris as Florida Secretary of State. Harris's resignation, submitted in August, is effective July 15, becasue she was legally required to resign then. However, she has been appointed acting Secretary of State by Jeb Bush, so she continues to hold the office and presumably receive the pay even though she resigned yesterday and her resignation 'took effect' a few weeks ago.

Hey, why bother actually being honest when you can do whatever you like and then define honest as whatever you did?

Thursday, August 01, 2002
Just Wait for the Video

Robert Musil has dubbed your humble Nuisance along with some other bloggers and commenters of the southpaw persuasion as "Atriettes". This proves that he is obviously just a shill for our record company, which will soon be releasing 'Vast Left Wing Conspiracy', the hot new CD from Atrios and the Atriettes. In order to prove myself worthy of joining the band, I have written the lyrics to our upcoming single, which is sung to the tune of "I Wanna be Sedated".

Now, "I Wanna be Sedated" doesn't have much of a tune and isn't, in the strictest sense of the word, really sung. But given the amount of musical talent in this particular band, which industry insiders have already dubbed "Un Sync", that can only be an advantage.

So many many many left tales to shill
I wanna be an Atriette
Atrios says 'spin it' so spin it I will
I wanna be an Atriette
Just get me to my PC
Let me make a post
I've gotta tell my story
Before Bob Rubin's toast
But now my modem's crashing
I can't connect my host
Oh, no-oh-oh-oh-oh

So many many many left tales to shill
I wanna be an Atriette
Atrios says 'spin it' so spin it I will
I wanna be an Atriette
We have our marching orders
From the Washington Post
We'll blame the market meltdown
On Tricky Dick's ghost
But now my hard drive's thrashing
I can't connect my host
Oh, no-oh-oh-oh-oh

So many many many left tales to shill
I wanna be an Atriette
Atrios says 'spin it' so spin it I will
I wanna be an Atriette
Just get me to a PDA
Put me on the net
Instapundit's on vacation
So we aren't beaten yet
But the packets that I'm sending
All get routed to Tibet
Oh, no-oh-oh-oh-oh

Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba
I wanna be an Atriette
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba
I wanna be an Atriette
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba
I wanna be an Atriette
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba
I wanna be an Atriette

Robert George has no fewer than three posts up at NRO Corner on the subpoena Rubin issue. What's striking about it is that he takes for granted, and certainly feels unconstrained to apologize for, that the point of subpoenaing Rubin is political, not investigatory. He thinks, and he's probably right, that there's no real political profit to be gained, and he also notes that putting Rubin in a very public forum would lead to contrasts not likely to be favorable with the far less capable current Treas Sec.