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July 29, 2004
The State Of Things

Are there really burgeoning terrorism plots here in the USofA? (Does anyone doubt it? There have been for decades, as far as I know, most of them USofA citizens with no connections to any international groups.)

Still, one wonders why this stuff doesn't get bigger headlines if we're all really worried about impending attacks? (Maybe they actually decided the guy was just an average nut, who knows?)

Lunacy: Alive and Well

So, what's the legal status of a USofA citizen arrested at the request of the USofA government and held, again at our request, on foreign soil?

The FBI has questioned Abu Ali at least twice, but he has not been charged with any crime or allowed to see a lawyer, the suit said. The Saudi government has no plan to charge him and would release him to U.S. custody if asked, the suit said.

Okay, now I'm really confused. When I was young, the FBI was allowed to operate inside the USofA only. How do they get access to someone held by Saudi Arabia? And if the crime they think this guy has committed falls under the USofA's jurisdiction, why not bring him here and charge him?

I'm really, really, really not happy with this trend of arresting people and holding them without charges. I don't like arresting people and holding them 'indefinitely' while we refuse to say what they're being held for.

The irony in us starting to act like a lawless, totalitarian state while we're pretending to fight "terrorism" is indescribable.

Democracy in the USofA: Not going well.

Hmmm...surely they wouldn't go back to that well again? They wouldn't just retread 2000 and Gore Kerry?

Lies and Misdemeanors: Thriving

A. Co**ter, in case I haven't mentioned it before, is an idiot. (I'm not using her name again. I don't want her mindless horde of twelve adoring fans in my neighborhood.) (Nor am I providing a link to her words. I refuse to encourage her self-love.)

Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the "F-word" are my opponents. Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.

For those wondering, that little piece of pointlessness is how she opened the rejected USAToday column*.

*I'm puzzled by the reference to "pretty girls." I suppose there's no reason C**lter can't be a lesbian, which is how the sentence read to me at first, but then it occurred to me that maybe she's implying that all the "girls" on the Left are ugly? (If so, us "girls" on the Left would like to thank her for the sexist language and only wish we could offer her a suitable tribute for the way she's personally setting women's liberation back a decade every time she opens her mouth.)

I read this woman's words, and I find myself staring at the Right in disbelief.

This is the kind of person you identify with? (I mean, say what you will about Hightower, the Left's most visible example of partisanship over facts, but at least he doesn't stoop to childish name-calling because he can't think of any real issues to write about. Well, not in his paid writing, anyhow. On his blog he's not so restrained, although nothing like C**lter.)

I think what I find least forgivable about C**lter is that she's not really a good writer. If she were clever, if she could turn a memorable phrase or create and sustain any kind of original metaphor, I could probably forgive the way she makes things up to suit her bias. But her stuff is usually a mish-mash of tired clichés and predictable name-calling.

Poor writing. The ultimate sin!

Still. She's entitled to write that way if she wants to. And USAToday is entitled to decline to pay her money to do so.

Freedom of the Press: Alive and well.

Tim Rutten was right. It was "casting" and she turned out not to be right for the part.

In fact, this is what he had to say (in part):

This is casting, not editing. It is an extension of the noxious talk radio ethos that confuses a provocation with an idea and abuse with entertainment. It makes a mockery of the fundamental journalistic standard of balance, because pitting two utterly predictable writers with a demonstrable disrespect for the truth is not a debate, it's mud wrestling.

Freedom of the Press: Alive and well, but hard to locate.

On the other hand, the poor quality of Convention coverage may not be the money-grubbing corporate networks' fault. Not entirely.

ABC News President David Westin, who didn't even bother to ask headquarters back in Burbank for more time. He told the Times: "What we've been given [at the conventions] is not something I can take to the West Coast in good conscience and say this is something we need to cover on the broadcast television network."

He has a point. It's a pre-scripted, polished waltz of glitz and glamour. Networks aren't adverse to "live" coverage of politics if something might happen. Maybe if the Conventions loosened up on the rules, they'd find it easier to get network coverage? (Not that I really think, "boring" is a good reason for the networks to fail to live up to their obligations, mind you.) (Nor do I believe that the Bush re-election squad and handlers who have fought to hard to script and pre-approve every public second of Bush's time for the last four years would ever, for one, single instant, consider loosening up the rules at the Convention and risking their guy falling on his face.)

Read Rutten's column. It's worth the time.

(He also answers my question of what precisely it was C**lter was saying in the paragraph I quoted before, something I would have known had I not stopped reading the "column" because of an abrupt wave of nausea.

[C**lter] went on to note that her "pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

Ann C**lter: Stupidity Ambassador From the Right.)

Moving on to considering Real Issues again, maybe the networks are just looking for Convention news in the wrong places?

Conventioneering: Borrring, yes, but why?

On the other hand, maybe I take back what I said yesterday evening about the "protest zone" at the DNC. From the sounds of things, maybe I approve of the decision by the police (or someone in charge) not to confine protesters to "the protest pen.". Sounds like an unsavory place.

And, speaking of protesters:

On Monday, a group wore black hoods to protest both the abuse at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad and the repression of free speech in Boston.

The two things aren't that similar, they shouldn't have been mixing their protests together that way. They should have chosen a message and stuck with it, you need to focus to get the word across. You can't just toss a handful of things in a barrel and assume anyone is going to understand your platform. (Isn't there anyone there to explain to them how to do it?)

Also? If they're protesting the DNC for Abu Ghraib, I certainly hope they intend to protest the RNC, where the people actually in charge of the mess that produced the abuses are to be found.

On Tuesday, demonstrators — most of them from an anti-abortion rights group — wore white gags and posted signs reading "this is a farce" and "pens aren't for people."

Looks like this group also allowed themselves to be distracted from their actual topic of protest, although the way this reads, it oculd be that they stopped protesting abortion for a day to protest their squalid surroundings.

And it's true. Boston should have done a helluva lot better than this. It's a disgrace.

I do understand the need for security. All question of terrorists aside, we have plenty of nuts in this country that public figures need to be protected against. But the protesters are right that the area provided for them is a farce. Boston should be ashamed.

A district judge ruled last Thursday that the protest site, while "an offense to the spirit of the First Amendment," was legal given the space constraints outside the FleetCenter and concerns that violent protests seen at the Los Angeles convention might be repeated. An appeals court backed the district court ruling on Monday.

I could be remembering wrong, but as I recall it, the police starting in whacking on people sparked the "violence" in LA. I'd suggest that telling the police not to, you know, start in whacking on people, is a good way to avoid violence.

Also? We all need to understand that today's Conventions are carefully scripted television extravaganzas that have nothing to do with whatever issues the public cares about. Attempting to get your message across on the Convention floor is a mistake.

Freedom of Speech: A touch wobbly.

(But, to balance that, we're not actually a repressive, totalitarian regime, and I do know that. If we were, the people and films mentioned here would have been silenced, and they weren't. We're just...in the hands of people whose intentions may be good but who are not only mistaken but who are proving inept at implementing their own agenda.)

Here are some entertaining accounts of the Convention, so far.

Teresa Heinz Kerry:

"I can't be packaged. I won't be packaged. If I have to be packaged, then I can't be part of the process."

Let's hear it for realism in politics.

And, finally, in the category of "dumbest headline I've read today" I'd like to nominate, "Nevada Newspaper Responds to Wildfire With Blog".

Next time, try a bucket of water, guys.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:47 AM


"When I was young, the FBI was allowed to operate inside the USofA only"

I'm afraid that's a misconception, and has never, ever, been true.

In 1939, the FBI was ordered by President Roosevelt to set up a Secret Intelligence Section, which, after much bureaucratic tussling, was given the responsibility for foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence throughout the Americas. See here for considerable detail.

Although the briefly lived Coordinator of Intelligence, the also briefly lived Central Intelligence Group, then the CIA, took over those jobs in the post-war era, the FBI has always maintained attaches at a large number of embassies to liase with the relevant government in all sorts of criminal investigatory matters, training (the FBI Academy at Quantico takes in tons of people from local US agencies, and many foreigners, as well), and other duties.

You can check this in about eighty-gazillion books on the history of the FBI and intelligence; it is not obscure. Or, say, look here. Here is some Congressional testimony by the Director.

I'm not sure where you got this notion; the closest I can come to a reflection in reality is that post the Church Committee in the Seventies, the CIA was forbidden to act in the US (although this injunction is now, unsurprisingly, a tad blurrier). (It's also worth keeping in mind, in proportion, that the FBI is not a gigantic organization, although it's not small, either; there are far more cops in NYC than FBI agents in the entire world including the US.)

Posted by: Gary Farber at July 30, 2004 01:52 AM

Gary -

I got it from school.

I should have known it was going to turn out to be a lie.

Posted by: Anne at July 30, 2004 08:13 AM

My conclusion in elementary school was that said teachers didn't know a lot, and I commenced proving that, to their pain, and I continued my obnoxious approach in high school, but since I''ve also made the mistake of doing so in the blogosphere, I've sporadically regretted it.

I love high school teachers for what they do, but, as a rule, as I learned then, and learned later, they actually turn out to be, often, but, of course, not always, fairly badly educated.

That was why I had such fun being an auto-didact throughout elementary school, and high school, and all between. Man, I was obnoxious, and a snot. But, you know, right. (Let's not even get into my battle, as a seven-year-old, over the Pledge of Allegiance, in 1968.)

Where did you go to school, by the way?

Posted by: Gary Farber at July 30, 2004 03:17 PM

I wasn't raised like that, as I've said before. :) I was raised with the whole, "respect your elders and children should be seen and not heard" thing.

Besides, I was very shy. I wouldn't have relished the attention acting out in class would have caused!

I went to school in a small town in Kansas. (I did this bit already, right?) Lawrence, in fact. The home of Kansas University.

Posted by: Anne at July 30, 2004 06:55 PM