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4.30.2004

Answer the Question

Watching Hardball last night was painful. Matthews looked very much like he might just explode.
...
RUMSFELD: I guess in life, things are never quite as simple as they seem. There‘s no doubt but that we‘re fighting terrorists in Iraq today and that it‘s part of the global war on terror.

The direct connection between 9/11 and Iraq is a different one.

MATTHEWS: Do you see a direct connection?

RUMSFELD: No.

MATTHEWS: Do you see one?

RUMSFELD: No.

MATTHEWS: You don‘t see an al Qaeda-Iraq connection before 9/11?

RUMSFELD: Well, I—it‘s not a matter for me to see it. The Central Intelligence Agency and the director of central intelligence has testified to the relationships between Iraq and terrorists. We know he was paying $25,000 to suicide bombers.

MATTHEWS: Sure, for the ones in Israel. Sure, those people.

RUMSFELD: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But in terms of 9/11, there‘s no connection? Or is there between Iraq and 9/11?

RUMSFELD: It‘s too complex a subject for me to answer yes or no. George Tenet has testified publicly and privately on that subject before Congress, and that is the official position of the United States government.

MATTHEWS: Which one? There‘s no connection?

RUMSFELD: No. You have to go back and read it, because it is a complex set of issues and imperfect intelligence facts.

MATTHEWS: But the president said recently when he was asked—it was with Tony Blair that time, the prime minister of Great Britain. And he said there‘s no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

RUMSFELD: If you‘re asking, were the Iraqis, who were the 18 people engaged in 9/11, the answer is no.

MATTHEWS: You believe there‘s still a possibility that the Iraqi government had something to do with planning the attack on us, 9/11?

RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge.

MATTHEWS: Therefore, this war is not payback for what was done to us 9/11?

RUMSFELD: The...

MATTHEWS: The Iraqi war is not getting even with the people that hit us 9/11?

RUMSFELD: No. I see your point, yes.

MATTHEWS: Is that the case? It‘s not payback?

RUMSFELD: You asked it originally in a different way.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me try it correctly. Is this payback—is this war, in the line—in the sentiments of the music, in the culture in our country, in many people‘s minds, this is somehow justice for what happened to us 9/11. Is it? Or is it unrelated? Or is it not directly related? How would you connect the two?

You were hit in the Pentagon. We‘re hitting them in Iraq. Is that connected? Is it justice?

RUMSFELD: If you‘re asking, is it a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, the answer is no. If you‘re asking, is the United—the threat to the United States from terrorists that exists and was demonstrated on 9/11 in one manifestation, but exists in a variety of manifestations, and is what we‘re doing in Iraq today a part of that effort against terrorists, most certainly it is.

MATTHEWS: We‘ll come right back with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.



Hearts and Minds

Awful.

"According to sealed charging papers that were provided to The Washington Post, soldiers forced prisoners to lie in "a pyramid of naked detainees" and jumped on their prone bodies, while other detainees were ordered to strip and perform or simulate sex acts. In one case, a hooded man allegedly was made to stand on a box of MREs, or meals ready to eat, and told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off. In another example, the papers allege, a soldier unzipped a body bag and took snapshots of a detainee's frozen corpse inside."

Maybe someone should encourage the President to read this article.
According to MSNBC, on Friday he said:

"A year ago I did give the speech from the carrier saying we had achieved an important objective, accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein,” Bush said.

As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq,” the president said."



4.21.2004

TNR v. TNR

It's Chait (New Republic) v. Ponnuru (National Review) over at Opinion Duel, debating pre-9/11 intelligence gathering. Good reading in a Slate-esque manner of weeklong, rolling debate. (Only for some reason the bottom-up production makes it a tad hard to follow.)

Chait on Richard Clarke (though it could be about a lot of others):
Some people have faulty memories, but faulty memories rarely cause them to imagine conversations that never happened, especially when they're testifying under oath. I don't doubt that he wants to hurt Ashcroft. Maybe that's because Ashcroft told him to stop bothering him about terrorism shortly before terrorists conducted the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. But this seems to be the circular logic by which the administration discredits its internal critics. Loyal bureaucrats become disgusted with Bush due to his negligence or irresponsibility, and they feel compelled to speak out against him. The fact that they speak out against him turns them ipso facto into anti-Bush partisans, who therefore lack credibility. And, needless to say, those who haven't been in the administration don't know anything about its internal deliberations, so they lack credibility as well. Therefore, the only people who do have credibility to discuss Bush's internal policymaking are those who are in the administration and still support Bush.


4.19.2004

for what it's worth,

tony blair on iraq

whatever my views on the war, I can't help but imagine what the world would think of Bush if he could speak and write like this. People tell me there was a time when presidents were intellectuals, respected regardless of their standpoint.

But what we got was this (quicktime, links to a rather wacky anti new-world-order site):

bush on the insinuation that he knew ahead of time about 9/11


4.18.2004

Contrarian at All Costs!

Got a notion? Think it's irrefutable? Well, The New Republic can counter it for you! Witness the following sub heads:

STUCK
This week's press conference reinforced what most Americans already think of the president: He's not stupid, just stubborn.

and

LAUGH DETER
Why Jon Stewart isn't Funny

And in our forthcoming issue:

You May think You Like Pizza. You'd be wrong.

Here you can see the templates they use.


4.17.2004

The Flak, the Shills, the Gray Lady and the Green Jackets

The Augusta National kerfuffle won't seem to die, which is just fine as far as I’m concerned.

I lacked a forum like this one a year ago amid the height of the controversy, which is a shame because I would have provided the definitive commentary on the issue, swatting away all other arguments (yes, like flies!).

Sports Illustrated writer Alan Shipnuck, whom Freepers have branded as part of the liberal sports media (I guess it's him and Charles Pierce), has a new book on the battle, with Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan as featured players. Shipnuck writes that Jim McCarthy, whose PR firm the Little Green Jackets hired, made Kaus and Sullivan their chief shills, playing on their natural hostility to Howell Raines:

From the moment he was hired by Augusta National, McCarthy began “steering information and planting ideas” with about a dozen bloggers and online media critics. “I recognized that the mainstream golf press was going to be resistant,” he says. “Certainly there was a core group of writers who were openly hostile to the club’s views." Blogs opened up a new front. It was a process of germination. The plan was to construct ideas with the media that would act as a filter so they would read subsequent pieces of information with the lens that you created.” McCarthy had no trouble picking out his first target (though, as he puts it, “I like to think it was a defense, not an attack.”)

[snip]

An added bonus was that much of the blogosphere is openly contemptuous of the Gray Lady. “There has always been a low roar about Howell Raines and the Times,” says TimesWatch’s Waters.

[snip]

McCarthy’s description of the viral nature of blogging was well illustrated in how opinions about the Times spread from website to website and, ergo, from reader to reader. Sullivan blogged the Slate column the next day, writing “Jack Shafer does an excellent job of limning the now almost comical hyping of nonnews stories to fit Raines’s Paleo-liberal agenda, particularly on the Augusta National Golf Club . . . . The Mickster has sharper comments.” That would be Mickey Daus, whom McCarthy had been pestering for months abou the Times. Earlier on Nov. 26 Kaus had written, “Jack Shafer points out the strained quality”—and here he supplied a link to the Slate story—“of the most recent NYT front-pager”—yet another link to that story—“on the Augusta National Golf Club controversy . . . which might as well have been headlined CBS FAILS TO PAY ATTENTION TO NEW YORK TIMES CRUSADE.

[snip]

The roar was so loud that the mainstream media could no longer ignore the story.


Andy and Mickey were not just part of Augusta's PR strategy, they were the strategy. At the time the whole shindy was seen as a Trent Lott moment for the center-right bloggers, but now it looks like the issue had different significance: It was the moment when flaks learned to play the blogger game.

Elsewhere in the book, Shipnuck gives the following assessment of the blogosphere:

Liberalism is about as rare in the blogosphere as it is on the PGA Tour. [Eds. note for non golf fans: liberalism is rare on the PGA Tour.] “It is a fundamentally conservative/libertarian medium because liberals already have their own media outlets, says Clay Waters, the founder of the blog TimesWatch, which is dedicated to “documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of The New York Times” at timeswatch.org.

Are you like me? Do you get together with your liberal buddies at night with a bottle of Wild Turkey and read passages aloud, marveling at how anything could so thoroughly echo your views?


The Professor's Wisdom

Dad, I know I got drunk and crashed your car. But why are we dwelling on that now? Why do you want to re-fight that fight? The questions is not whether I should have drank two 40s of Steel Reserve and then tried to drive home, but what we do now. You see, we don’t have a car and I don’t have a license. And you don’t have a plan for that. All you’ve got is angry diatribes and empty platitudes.




4.15.2004

Still a most able groom of the stool.*

Among Karl Rove’s lesser known talents is an almost super-human ability to keep a straight face:

"Take a look at the language of this president and how he has treated political opponents and compare it to previous administrations -- particularly his most immediate predecessor," says Rove, senior advisor to the president and the guy who runs Bush's political operation.

"You will find that he treats political opponents with dignity and respect," says Rove, who visited El Paso earlier this week for a Bush fund-raiser. "You will not see the kind of personal vindictiveness and vicious comments that came out of the previous administration."

When Bush needles a political opponent, he usually does so with "a bit of good humor," Rove says.

"He has definitely changed the tone in Washington," he says.


Blair, who has been among the model housesitters at Sadly No! while proprietor Seb is ailing, has more.

* In pre-modern England, the groom of the stool was usually the king’s most powerful advisor, because of his proximity in His Majesty’s most private moments. Feel free to speculate on what the groom's duties might mave been.


4.13.2004

Last Bush Post For a Whole Week. Probably.

It's gonna be all about David Beckham and John Stamos from now on. (I think they're getting married. You heard it here first.)

From the transcript of the President's press conference tonight.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), Mr. President. To move to the 9-11 commission, you yourself have acknowledged that Osama bin Laden was not a central focus of the administration in the months before September 11th. I was not on point, you told the journalist Bob Woodward. I didn't feel that sense of urgency.

Bush: There are some things I wish we'd have done, when I look back. I mean, hindsight's easy. It's easy for a president to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place.
...
We were kind of stovepiped, I guess is a way to describe it. There was, you know, kind of departments that at times didn't communicate -- because of law, in the FBI's case.

And the other thing I look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing.

And we've been on a war ever since. "


And will be forever, seemingly. Now that he's mentioned it, we might all take 20 minutes to re-read Seymour Hersh's "stovepiping" piece in the New Yorker.


more on analogising

I went to see Todd Waterbury (executive creative director at Wieden Kennedy NY) speak last night.

Mostly he was very, very boring, having written out his entire script, verbatim. He read it as if reading a novel: "'No', replied the client anxiously, a smirk crossing his face". etc. It reeked of pretension and grandeur and I caught my eyelids drooping more than a couple of times.

And he annoyed the hell out of me by suggesting that OK Cola failed not because of its name, advertising or unsellable packaging (all developed by his team), but because Coca-Cola had the temerity to pull it out of the stores after only a year of its agonising trickle off the shelves. No, jackass, here's why it didn't sell: because you had a picture of some stoned kid on the side and you were Coca-Cola. If it came out of leftfield from a couple of skaters trying to make a few bucks, maybe I would have bought it (um, had I been in the country. I don't think it was sold in the UK; nonetheless, it managed to annoy me from 5000 miles away). But it's Coke. Everybody knew it, and I doubt very many people felt warm and fuzzy about a megacorporation appropriating their visual language.

But when I buy a soft drink, I want the packaging to look refreshing in some way. I don't want it to taste, as one of the copywriters requested of the scientists, 'ironic'. And when you put some stoner on the side of the can, the only conclusion I can draw is that this is what I'm going to look like if I, too, imbibe from your gen-x chalice: drowning in carbonated apathy.

He defended his whole line of reasoning by rounding off the talk with a shot of the product juxtaposed with a SPIN cover from the nineties with a similar-looking expression on Beck's face - discovered by chance later on. As if it somehow vindicated the circle-jerk design and character of the product. See? We were spot on!

They couldn't have been further off. While I like the design, I just don't like it on a can of soft drink. I especially don't like the idea of a bunch of adults ripping off comic book aesthetics and counter-culture sensibilities and trying to make millions of dollars on it, while asserting their respect for 'the kids'.

Which brings me circuitously to the point. Nowhere in any of the advertising was the taste mentioned - possibly because it was only nailed down four weeks before the brand was baked - and Waterbury noted that people would often ask "well, what does it taste like". Like, note. Not "what does it taste of". Like, because people wanted a frame of reference from which they could see a difference. Kind of like the whole iraq-like-vietnam thing, I guess? But fizzier.

(ps: a lot of Waterbury's work was quite good)


Way Back When

Don't mind me, I'm just cataloging two stories on former SF-pal Ana Marie Cox. For posterity.

Media Bistro's take

Wonkette in the Christian Science Monitor


Onward, Faulty Analogies!

Hitchens: Vietnam? Goodness, no. Actually, I'm in agreement. But all this analogizing puzzles me - why do we insist on having everything be "just like" some other thing?

On other days, Hitchens is perfectly happy to keep running along with the bankrupt War-on-Terror-is-WWII analogy.
"On its own, that would now surprise nobody. Nor does it contradict anything we know already. My own analogy for the Baathist/al-Qaida collusion has always been that of a Hitler-Stalin pact: a cynical agreement on common interests and common enemies by ostensible and actual rivals. The analogy would break down a bit in point of relative scale: Saddam used to have a state machine, and the jihadists (at least after the fall of Kabul) did not. But that doesn't affect the argument very much. At all times—the case of Ansar al-Islam in Kurdistan might be another example, or the less Islamist Abu Nidal network—Saddam wanted to be the one using, not the one used. And he wanted control. He was an absolutist dictator, before we forget."

Fred Kaplan had an excellent response:
Christopher Hitchens' historical analogy—Saddam is to Osama as Stalin is to Hitler (or should it be "as Hitler is to Stalin"?)—is more than a bit strained. But if the comparison is valid, then it follows that invading Iraq in response to 9/11 was like invading the Soviet Union in response to Nazi Germany's aggression against Czechoslovakia.

I wonder when Hitch'll revisit his paeon to Ahmad Chalabi?


This Week's Model

Krugman nails it.

"Again and again, administration officials have insisted that some particular evildoer is causing all our problems. Last July they confidently predicted an end to the insurgency after Saddam's sons were killed. In December, they predicted an end to the insurgency after capturing Saddam himself. Six weeks ago — was it only six weeks? — Al Qaeda was orchestrating the insurgency, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the root of all evil. The obvious point that we're facing widespread religious and nationalist resentment in Iraq, which is exploited but not caused by the bad guy du jour, never seems to sink in."


EJ Dionne: Will Bush Own Up?

Bush:
"We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of this country from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life."

Great piece here. I think the simple explanation is that Bush doesn't understand the distinctions between 'responsibility' and 'blame.' He can only use 'responsibility' in the context of events he considers positive, while 'blame' is only for negatives. The 'blame' lies with the terrorists.

(Update, 6:10pm: Bush has just reiterated this at tonight's press conference when asked if he'd be willing to offer an apology to America. His last sentence was that the terrorists were 'responsible.' Sorta shakes my argument, right?)

Semi-related: this is part of Bush's larger hubris. Another good example is his disdain for affirmative action while being unable to recognize that he's the biggest beneficiary, ever, period, of the Old Boy Network version of affirmative action. Great cheeky CNN article from last year on this here.

More Dionne:
Perhaps Bush fears that admitting fallibility would dent his standing as a war president. Perhaps he doesn't want to admit that if law enforcement had done a better job and received a stronger push from the top, the attacks might have been prevented. Acknowledging that the battle against terrorism is as much about police and intelligence work as it is a military matter would contradict the White House line, put succinctly last week by Condoleezza Rice: "The president doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He thinks of this as war."


Middle Class Tax Break

No wonder tax cuts are so much of a priority. Bush and Cheney each paid more in taxes than i've made in the last three years. Good use of itemization by Cheney, if you read the rest of the article.

From CNN.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush reported $822,126 in adjusted gross income for last year, on which he paid $227,490 in federal income taxes -- or about 28 percent, according to the president's federal returns released Tuesday by the White House.
...
The White House also released the 2003 tax return filed by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. They reported $1.3 million in adjusted gross income and owed $253,067 in federal taxes. The Cheneys' 2003 tax bill -- much lower than the $341,114 they paid for 2002 on just slightly less money -- represented just 20 percent of their income."


4.12.2004

Facts All Come With Points of View...

CNN's Money dances around the average v. median & gross (pre-tax) v. net (after-tax) argument of declining average income figures, arguing that the 3 year decline might be a growth of 5.9% instead of Kerry's argued 3.3% loss. But they don't attempt to unpack the way in which massive tax cuts for the rich have affected this number...or what it'd look like without them. This is a case of getting so bogged down in confusing minutiae that we're left not knowing what the real answer is; article suggests that both Bush AND Kerry are right, but leads with Bush's AVERAGE (5.9% gain !)assertion. If your head's not spinning by the time you get to the bottom, you can read about different calculations for the MEDIAN (2.1% loss!) numbers.

(UPDATE: Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly has a more concise post about this.)

In fact, average after-tax income, adjusted for inflation, showed about 5.9 percent growth in the three years after Bush took office, said Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wachovia Securities. That works out to about 2 percent annual growth rate during that period. Much of that gain is due to the impact of the tax cuts, Vitner said.
...
The Census Department's data shows pretax median household income rose 0.6 percent to $42,409 between 2000 and 2002, the most recent year available from that agency. When adjusted for inflation, that gain became a 3.3 percent decline during the same period -- the figure that Kerry has been using in his "misery index."

At least part of the reason for the decline in median income at the same time that average income rose is that the wealthy have seen more gains from both the tax cuts and the overall economic climate, according to economists.
...
Census data show after-tax median household income between 2000 and 2002, adjusted for inflation, fell only 2.1 percent, not the 3.3 percent pre-tax decline. The median income family's tax bill fell by $625 during that period. Add in government entitlements, which increased by $560, and the income decline was only 0.6 percent to $42,061.


4.11.2004

On Smoking Cohibas Beside Swimming Pools in Baghdad...

From Victor Davis Hanson's latest piece on nationalreview.com.

Bush yet again must remind the American people that we are at war not merely in the Sunni Triangle or in the Afghan badlands, but rather globally and for the liberal values of Western civilization. There is no mythical pipeline in Afghanistan; Halliburton executives are not lounging around the pool in Baghdad chomping on cigars and quaffing cocktails; and in this age of sky-high gas prices there is no sinister cabal that has hijacked Iraq oil. Sharon is not getting daily intelligence briefings about Iraq. The war is what it always was — a terrible struggle against an evil and determined enemy, a Minotaur of sorts that harvested Americans in increments for decades before mass murdering 3,000 more on September 11.

Three brief points on these sour, sneering comments: a) it's not as if Halliburton execs need to smoke poolside in Iraq. It's easier just to submit a bid to the US gov't to scoop up the oil reconstruction money. It may also be too dangerous to do lounge poolside in Baghdad right now. b) There may be no "mythical pipeline" in Afghanistan, but as Unocal and others have tried before to create one, it'll probably happen eventually. c) There's no sinister cabal that's hijacked Iraqi oil, but the friendly cabal that we call OPEC (& namely the Saudis) saw fit to cut production and export, thereby driving prices higher in the past few weeks than we've seen in 20 years. (They claim prices have risen because the US doesn't have enough refineries and too-strict environmental regulation.)

(From the US Govt's Energy Information Administration's brief on Afghanistan from October 2002 :

Afghanistan as an Energy Transit Route
Due to its location between the oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Basin and the Indian Ocean, Afghanistan has long been mentioned as a potential pipeline route, though in the near term, several obstacles will likely prevent Afghanistan from becoming an energy transit corridor.
)


4.10.2004

Out of the Skilling and into the fire.

Poor guy!
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was taken to a Manhattan hospital early Friday after several people called police saying he was pulling on their clothes and accusing them of being FBI agents, a police source told The Associated Press.

Police took Skilling to the hospital after finding him at 4 a.m. at the corner of Park Avenue and East 73rd Street and determining he might be an "emotionally disturbed person," said the source, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity.
...
Skilling was at two bars in Manhattan -- American Trash and The Voodoo Lounge -- where he allegedly ran up to patrons and pulled open their clothes, the source said. "He was shouting at them 'You're an FBI agent and you're following me,"' the source said.


4.08.2004

"Hospital patients forced to watch TV you can't turn off"

http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/news/0,8363,1188137,00.html

This is like that channel one thing that they broadcast to american schoolkids. Except it's relentless - fifteen hours a day of piped 'infotainment'. Fucking scandalous; I don't know how the omission of an on/off switch could possibly be seen as an accident.


4.04.2004

On-Message Ad Nauseam.

Allow me to beat you over the head with Karen Hughes' talking points: a vote for Bush = no more terror attacks. But has anyone explained how the 9/11 commission could in/directly lead to another attack? Because this is clearly what Hughes implies here, repeatedly.

Also, note her mention in the last quoted graf that she's not speaking "on behalf of the White House." Good thing she clarifies this, because otherwise, y'know, it might seem that way. Of course, since previously she crafted talking points and messages for the WH to disseminate...we can now put any doubts to bed. She's just speaking as a "normal" American mother who used to hang out with the PotUS every day.

Pay attention to the last sentence below. The WH, from which the Plame leak originated, and from where there's been no serious in-House effort to find the leaker..is now concerned with risking the life of intelligence operatives? Interesting. Not that Hughes speaks on behalf of the WH, of course.

From her appearance on Meet The Press. Transcript's about halfway down here.
Tim Russert: Many observers will point to the fact that the president and vice president resisted or discouraged the creation of the commission. They had to be threatened with subpoena in order to provide documents and Dr. Condoleezza Rice for weeks refused to testify in public under oath. Why such resistance and reluctance to cooperate fully with the commission?

MS. HUGHES: Well, Tim, I'm not sure that I characterize it that way, because what I've heard the president say is he wants all the facts to come out, he wants the commission to be able to report fully to the American people. After all, he and his national security team are responsible for preventing another attack.
...
MR. RUSSERT: But now in hindsight the president believes the commission's a good idea.

MS. HUGHES: Well, I think, Tim, I don't know if the president ever opposed the creation of the commission. What he did was try to balance and look at all those different things.

Remember, our first and foremost priority right now has to be to prevent the American people from another attack, and he wanted to make sure in a thoughtful way--you know, this process tends to value speed as opposed to thoughtfulness.
...
MR. RUSSERT: You just heard the chairman and vice chairman say they will submit their commission report to the White House in July. Can you guarantee to the American people that the White House will release that commission report before the November election?

MS. HUGHES: Well, I no longer speak, as you know, on behalf of the White House, but I certainly believe it is their intention and hope to do so, and I would strongly urge that they are able to do so, again, with the understanding that they are responsible for guarding America's national security and for making sure that there's no information disclosed that could risk the life of an intelligence operative somewhere or disclose methods that we're relying on to protect us from further attack.


Three Guesses



Who is it? I saw this pic online recently under the headline "Telling Truth" and I honestly had no idea who it was. Ralph Nader? Anderson Cooper? Bill Maher?

Nice to know I'm still an idiot. Click here to read the interview.


4.02.2004

Passivator

Cool little utility here that checks the tense of pages you're reading and reveals usages of passive tense. Could anyone be more guilty of this than I?

More:
Now, when you suspect a page of lacking the proper active outlook, click the Passivator, and witness weak writing—yours, that of your favorite or least favorite weblogger, or that of the New York Times—in its yellow-and-blue glory. The speckled text of long threads on discussion sites (Slashdot, Metafilter) shows some writers as adverb-and-passive-verb addicts, and others brusque and active. Thrills, chills.


another reason to love jon stewart

from http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/comment/story/0,14259,1183887,00.html

"There is no record of the president being in the situation room that day."

...

The TV satirist Jon Stewart leapt on the absurdity of this statement. "Let me get this straight," he said. "The day after September 11 2001, the president wasn't in the situation room. Just what kind of situation was he saving it for?"


I don't stand for anything

welcome to SBC park!

As a brand engineer, I'm always slightly torn between the Naomi Klein school of thought and the sweatily excited come-to-jesus manifestos of Interbrand and their ilk. Either way this article is great, written with a beautiful wry tone that quietly highlights the oddity of Pac Bell Park's rebranding.

"Not a single fan was calling the Giants ballpark by its new name, SBC Park, on Thursday, despite a zillion dollars' worth of new signs, placards and logos plastered on everything from the front gate to the defibrillation machines."

"Not a single fan knew what SBC stands for. A few fans said it stood for Southwestern Bell Corporation, which was the new phone company's old name. But some years ago, the company declared that SBC didn't stand for anything any more. It's just SBC."


As Ian put it, "I love how a company can try to erase its 'heritage.'". So why did SBC overwrite Pac Bell? Corporate ego? So their branding consultants could bill more? To harmonise their national presence and reduce costs? Perhaps it'll work as a long-term strategy; we'll have to wait and see. But at least until the memory of Pac Bell fades, it's seen as little more than another marketing gimmick, and another example of the homogenisation of local culture.

"It's another B.S. corporate name,'' said longtime fan Rob Shapiro. "Totally meaningless. Just white noise. In today's era, everything is for sale.''

And it's refreshing to think that the $8 beers are probably subsidising the multi-million dollar refit.

These days, the majority of branding is simply an effort to shout louder than the competition. The idea of a brand as something meaningful, relating to the way you actually feel about the product or the service itself, is almost passé, ignored by all but the few companies that realise that it's about more than a just-edgy-enough logo and expensive superbowl spots. These companies tend to experience steady growth and enjoy customer loyalty. But somehow that's not the fashionable thing to do.

PS: If you're into branding, I heartily recommend On Brand, by Wally Olins.


4.01.2004

Krugman! Marshall! Pack up your laptops and go home!

Gregg Easterbrook, master of the factesque, has declared the entire Clarke fracas "absurd." Bloggers and commentators, please desist, and send a note of thanks to Mr. Easterbrook for all the work he’s just saved you.

But before we go, let's reflect on some of his more devastating arguments:

Clarke left government in February 2003, when there was still a chance the Iraq war might not happen. Do you remember the intense international news coverage of the speeches and the "60 Minutes" interviews Clarke gave in early 2003, warning that attacking Iraq would divert attention from the war on Al Qaeda? Of course you don't remember, because it never happened. When he might have changed policy, Clarke kept quiet. Now that he's got a book to sell, he claims he knew it all along.

Because, as we all know, if just one more person of authority had spoken out before the war, the balance would have tipped and they would have called the whole thing off.

It is equally futile and silly for Democrats to assert that Al Qaeda has benefited by George W. Bush's action against Iraq. What resource, precisely, have field commanders hunting for Al Qaeda been denied?

I know, that's a bit hard to reconcile with this, but you heard the man. Move along.


Insert play on words “Curb” and “Enthusiasm” here

Stories of Gephardt as Kerry's running mate may be premature. Larry David, a la Dick Cheney, has offered up himself (Membership req.):

I know it sounds a little crazy on its face. Why would he consider a bald, tactless dishonest—and dare I say, Jew—to be his running mate? But . . . think about this. Out of all the other potential candidates, I am the only one who offsets Bush and balances out the ticket . . . because whatever qualities he has that people find appealing, I have those same qualities in spades.

[snip]

Go ahead, ask me whose the president of Japan? I don’t know. Ask me what foreign countries I’ve been to. None! [The president] avoided Vietnam by going into the Air National Guard. I avoided it by going into the Army Reserve . . . He couldn’t out-chicken me. My cowardice is legendary. And I’m homophobic to boot! Don’t tell me that’s not gonna swing some voters.


Trying to avoid obviously snide title

Warning: may cause perturbation

http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/Southwest/04/01/children.slain.ap/index.html

"A sobbing Laney recounted in a videotape played at her capital murder trial Wednesday how she smashed her sons' skulls with rocks to prove her faith to God."

I can't really think of anything wise to say about this; it won't be my most incisive post ever. It just seems that, as more and more people move away from religion, the remaining few just appear increasingly unhinged. Crusades in the Middle East against the 'uncivilised world'; people trying to crucify themselves after seeing The Passion (before realising, after the first nail, that it's actually impossible to complete without assistance); vicars getting jiggy with little boys on a regular basis while Ashcroft's running amok trying to cover up statues' breasts. And then this poor woman, apparently convinced that she and Andrea Yates were "chosen by God to be witnesses after the world ends".

My trigger-happy, unsupported hypothesis, as offensive as it may be: religion is for the weak and the barmy, the people who can't find strength or kindness or morality or responsibility within themselves.


Laci and Connor and Megan and Caitlyn's Law

As my friend and potential Factesque contributor Jerod has asked: Does this mean fetuses have the right to bear arms?

I assume that though the president mentioned Laci and Connor, the bill does not just apply to photogenic white fetuses.


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