December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas: A very surreal cruise, so far. After a nine-hour flight, we decamped in Papeete, exhausted and a bit staggered to go from an air conditioned airplane to the tropical humidity of Tahiti. There's usually a ceremonial bit at the beginning, where a band plays "Margaritaville" and we wave farewell, but since the ship didn't sail until 4:00 a.m., that just wasn't practical. Not much life so far.

The first stop was the island of Moorea, which is quite beautiful if you are into that sort of thing, but since I don't snorkel or sunbathe, I made only a perfunctory walk off the pier, realized there wasn't a resort within walking distance, and returned to the ship. Also, this is French Polynesia, so good luck watching the NFL.

The Tahitian Princess is a relatively small cruise ship. The cruiseline purchased the beast from the Renaissance cruiseline after that company went under in the aftermath of 9/11, and have pretty much left the ship intact; even the on-board dining rooms have the same names they did. Still, as anybody who has cruised before will tell you, the larger the ship, the less enjoyable the cruise. On a ship this size, you get to know a lot more people in a shorter time, and all the amenities that one comes to expect are delivered, but in a smaller, more accessible space.

We sail for a couple of days, which, of course, means two days of the social event of any cruise, Bingo. So once again, Merry Christmas to believer and infidel alike.

December 23, 2004

Gone to South Pacific for long overdue vacation. Will be blogging even more sporadically than normal. Bush lied.

December 22, 2004

Ten Votes: How would you like to have been the 2004 GOTV director for the Washington Republican Party today?

December 20, 2004

Not even Nat Hentoff, who is usually willing to roll over when it comes to the Senate asserting its "advise and consent" function with judicial nominees, can stomach the Bush Administration's architect of torture, Alberto Gonzalez.
The terrorists won:
F.B.I. memorandums portray abuse of prisoners by American military personnel in Iraq that included detainees' being beaten and choked and having lit cigarettes placed in their ears, according to newly released government documents.

The documents, released Monday in connection with a lawsuit accusing the government of being complicit in torture, also include accounts by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who said they had seen detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, being chained in uncomfortable positions for up to 24 hours and left to urinate and defecate on themselves. An agent wrote that in one case a detainee who was nearly unconscious had pulled out much of his hair during the night.


Another message sent to F.B.I. officials including Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau's top lawyer, recounted witnessing detainees chained in interrogation rooms at Guantánamo, where about 550 prisoners are being held in a detention camp on the edge of a naval base.

The agent, whose name was deleted from the document, wrote on July 29, 2004: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18 24 hours or more."

The agent said that on another occasion, the air-conditioning had been turned up so high that a chained detainee was shivering. The agent said the military police had explained what was happening by saying that interrogators from the previous day had ordered the treatment and "that the detainee was not to be moved."

The agent also wrote: "On another occasion, the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."
N.Y. Times, 12-21-2004
In all the talk about the President's propasal to abolish Social Security in favor of private accounts, the elephant in the room, the issue the media seems to be avoiding, is Iraq. Bush is asking the American people to take an enormous risk in abandoning a program that has worked successfully for almost seventy years, because there is a possibility, in a worst-case-scenario, that it might have trouble making full payments to retirees forty (or fifty, depending on who's doing the estimate) years from now. Most of us aren't policy wonks on the issue, so we pretty much have to make assumptions as to who is giving us reliable information about the problem. Even if you don't believe the President lied about Iraq's possession of WMD's, you have to admit his statements leading into war were reckless, and for the most part, untrue, and he didn't go out of his way to avail himself of differing viewpoints. And it's also safe to say that his handling of the economy has not been reassuring; if anything, he won reelection in spite of his economic policies, not because of them.

So what, if anything, has changed since March, 2003 that would give us any reason to trust him now?

December 19, 2004

Were he alive today, Josef Goebbels would have a blog, linked to approvingly (and even feted) by Instapundit, Roger Simon and Hugh Hewitt for his scathing attacks on liberals, Democrats, Hollywood, and, of course, the "MSM". His anti-Semitism would be explained away, or perhaps tidied up a bit, in the same way that the fundamentalist base of the Republican Party is excused for its politically incorrect view that non-believers in Jesus will spend eternity in hell. Come to think of it, as long as the former Minister of Propaganda can find it in his heart to support Israel, and to transfer his invective from Jews to A-rabs, he might find himself profiled in Time Magazine as its "Blogger of the Year".

Which brings me to the news that Powerline, the website that was instrumental in publicizing the discredited tale of the "Swift Boat Vets", has been named "Blog of the Year" by Time Magazine (Red State president George Bush was named "Man" of the year by the weekly). Considering how 2004 will be seen as the year in which the early promise of the blogosphere to produce "journalism of the individual" was perverted into a medium of lies, gossip and parroted talking points for whatever ideological agenda you follow, the award is well-deserved. Even the story profiled in the magazine, the exposure of the fake TANG documents used on 60 Minutes II, was fitting: a trivial scandal ginned up by the Internet (Bush's non-service in the National Guard in the waning days of the Vietnam War), reported on breathlessly by the leading TV news mag, only to have the producers suckered by obviously forged documents that dealt with a relatively minor point (and one that, to this day, Bush has not denied). The very thing that gives blogs credibility, that they originate outside of the mainstream of media commerce, from the individual, writing alone at his computer, is what makes them such an indispensible tool for the powerful.