Monthly Archives: January 2008

SOTU Crack Van

Debate can be seen HERE.

As always, posts in the van are the property of their authors. First Draft makes no claim to responsibility for any baboon sounds, kitten mewing, sirens or other nonsense. Play nicely or I will turn this van around and you will all go to bed without crack.

Update: Van closed! Thanks for coming and discussing, all!



The government of Nouri al Maliki refuses to share martality statistics with the UN.

The United Nations is unable to determine how many Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year because the Iraqi government won’t share the information, a U.N. agency said in a Wednesday report.

An Iraqi government official denied that the information was withheld to cover up the number of civilian deaths, and the prime minister’s office said the U.N. report “lacks accuracy.”

Even without the numbers, the report delivers a grim message: Iraq is facing “immense security challenges in the face of growing violence and armed opposition to its authority and the rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis.”

The report also contains a laundry list of human rights concerns.


The quarterly human rights report written by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq is considered the most reliable tally of civilians killed in Iraq, but Wednesday’s report did not include the numbers for January, February and March.


In its Wednesday report, the U.N. says the Iraqi government provided no “substantive explanation or justification” for its decision to withhold information from the Ministry of Health and the Medico-Legal Institute, the capital’s main morgue.

It Doesn’t End With Us: Reading Dates & Amazon Sales

Finally, finally, finally we have Amazon salesgoing. This was, for some reason, a huge drama, to do with the amount of discount Amazon would get, and a bunch of other crap I wasn’t involved in but which occupied I kid you not every day since early November, but you can get it there now. Whew. It’s alsofront-paged at the publisher’s.

Now, for the fun stuff. The dates, times and places for readings thus far, with more to come:

Chicago: Feb. 21 – 7 p.m. The Ernest Hemingway Museum, 200 N. Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 60303.Map here. There’s a parking garage about two blocks south on Oak Park Avenue, and tons of good restaurants for dinner and drinks before and after.

Madison, Wis.: Feb. 24 – 2 p.m.A Room of One’s Own Feminist Bookstore. This one’s special because back when I lived in Madison, I used to write in the mornings there.

Philadelphia: March 28-30. I’ll be speaking on theEschaCon08 panel about blogging and journalism on Saturday, March 29. It’s going to be a good time.

New York, DC, St. Louis and Seattle all still under consideration. I’ll post more details when I get them. And don’t forget to send me links if you review so I can give you proper thanks.


“Ah Think Ah See Mah Penis.”


You knew this blog was missing something, didn’t you.


The Selling of the Student Press

Sell student media? Why not:

Officials with The Coloradoan in Fort Collins met Tuesday with Colorado State University leaders to discuss a “strategic partnership” to run the campus paper, a university spokesman said.

The spokesman described talks over the school’s The Rocky Mountain Collegian as “very preliminary.”

“The Coloradoan had contacted us late last year … to talk about potential partnerships,” spokesman Brad Bohlander said. “The university had not sought to sell the Collegian… Today was in response to that, to set up the first meeting to see what they had to say.”

Bohlander said the university has asked The Coloradoan’s parent company, Gannett Co., to write a formal proposal.

The Collegian has been a campus paper since 1891.

And you know, why bother with a campus institution, especially one that with all the truth-telling and such, tends to get inconvenient when you’re trying to look shiny to potentialinvestors partners?

At some point Americans are going to have to decide whether they want their public universities to become wholly owned subsidiaries of large corporations. Because universities, starved for cash due to reactionary Republican legislators who fear the liberal influence of all that book-learnin’, have to get money somewhere, and if we’re not willing to support them, they’ll find corporations who will — after a fashion.

Quoth the newspaper staff: FUCK THIS.

The editor of Colorado State University’s newspaper is asking students to protest a possible partnership between the student-run newspaper and media giant Gannett.

Executives from a Gannett newspaper in Fort Collins, The Coloradoan, have met with university officials about the possibility of a strategic partnership with CSU’s Rocky Mountain Collegian.

“This is a takeover,” Rocky Mountain Collegian Editor David McSwain said today. “Students would lose their salary. The next thing you know, we are volunteering for big media. This has never been the mission statement of this newspaper.”

Gannett spokescreatures hasten to make the point that student editors would continue to be paid, but that’s not really the point here. Corporate ownership has been devastating for so-called grown-up newspapers, which see themselves starved for profits and sliced and diced until journalism is barely an option. The student press is one of the very few institutions where journalism is still the order of the day, and more money is put into the newsroom than into someone’s pocket. And in case you doubt how important the free student press is, consider this:

A lecture scheduled for Tuesday night in the Indiana Memorial Union was canceled after the speaker began feeling ill and after questions arose about the legality of requiring a public speech to be off-the-record.

Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security advisor to President Bush, was sick to her stomach, said Gene Coyle, faculty adviser for the Student Alliance for National Security, the group that sponsored the event. The lecture, which was set to begin at 6:30 p.m., was delayed because of O’Sullivan’s sickness and legal issues surrounding her speech.

Adam Newman, assistant director of the group, said the lecture was going to be about what students can learn from the country’s experiences in Iraq and what to anticipate in the future.

At about 6:45 p.m., Coyle announced to the crowd of about 70 that the lecture was being delayed until the group leaders discussed the situation with the Indiana Daily Student. According to a press release from the group, the lecture was supposed to be off-the-record. However, because the event was free and open to the public, the IDS refused to agree to the speaker’s off-the-record stipulation.

More often than not, it’s the kids who stand up, to show the rest of us what standing up looks like. Remember all the stories we read in the run-up to the war full of “administration officials” lying through their teeth to willing reporters eager to get whatever “access” they could squeeze from those professional bullshit artists? Try to imagine if any one of them had had the courage to demand that those who speak to the public put their names behind their words. Where would we be now?

It’s no secret, my affection for the student press. I’m a product of it and I write about it and I have first-hand experience of its benefits and even its drawbacks. Not all student newspapers are editorially or financially free, not all are as aggressive or as well-funded as they should be. But the ones that are, the ones with rich histories and strong traditions and the ones that make noise (the Collegian recently took heat for publishing an editorial titled: Taser This: Fuck Bush) deserve kudos, not buyouts.

They’ve gotten to journalism from the outside in, and now they’re trying to get at it from the inside out, and universities should be resisting this kind of pernicious worming-in, not looking for the quick buck.

Send a message of support to the paper’s staff.

Hat tip to Jake.


Nice Work If You Can Get It


A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.

Overall, the contractor’s employees at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait worked about 188,000 additional hours to fix Humvees, heavy transporters and fighting vehicles that allegedly were mended but flunked a military inspection, the Government Accountability Office said.

The GAO estimates the Army paid $4.2 million for the additional labor. Under the terms of the $581 million contract, the company is to be paid for all maintenance hours worked. That includes “labor hours associated with maintenance performed after the Army rejects equipment that fails to meet Army maintenance standards,” said the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress.

The contractor is not named in the GAO audit. The contract number is, however. The Federal Procurement Data System, a Web site that tracks government contracts, shows ITT Federal Services International of Colorado Springs, Colo., as the company performing the work.


In one case, a semitrailer used for hauling massive M-1 tanks was fixed and submitted to the Army as ready for return to the field. It failed inspection. After that, the contractor charged the government for 636 hours of repair work before it passed inspection more than three months later.

In another instance, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle failed inspection after a cotter pin in the brake assembly was found to be missing and could have left the heavy vehicle with no way to stop.

South Carolina Primary Open Thread

Because I’m out of town tonight. And we need to save the Van for Monday afternoon’s FISA cloture vote and Monday night’s SOTU.

So be here then!


Pony Up, Bitches!

NewNBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll:

Bush Job Approval
Approve: 31% (-3)
Disapprove: 63% (+3)

Direction of the country
Right Track: 19%
Wrong Track: 68%

Bush Stank Contaminates Pickles

Heh. AnotherPew Poll:

Laura Bush, once almost universally liked, has seen her favorability ratings slip along with her husband’s over the past three years. Currently, a slim majority of Americans (54%) say they have a favorable impression of the First Lady, down from 70% in August of 2004. The number saying they have an unfavorable view of Laura Bush has risen from 18% to 29% over the same time period.

While trending downward, views of Laura Bush have changed less dramatically than have views of her husband over the past five years. The poll, conducted Dec. 19-30 among 1,430 adults nationwide, finds Laura Bush’s favorability rating has fallen by 16 points since August 2004; by contrast, George W. Bush’s favorability has declined by 25 points over the same period (from 58% to 33%).

Dodd to Senate: SACK UP

Read the whole thing. I’ve been trying for an hour to pick out the best bit, and I can’t. I can only wish I’d heard it, because holy shit, does this guy ever blow the doors off when he’s on a hot streak:

We’ve let outrage upon outrage upon outrage slide with nothing more than a promise to stop the next one.

There is only one issue here. Only one. The law issue. Attack the president’s contempt for the law at any point, and it will be wounded at all points.

That’s why I’m here today. I am speaking for the American people’s right to know what the president and the telecoms did to them. But more than that, I am speaking against the president’s conviction that he is the law. Strike it at any point, with courage, and it will wither.

That’s the big deal. That is why immunity matters—dangerous in itself, but even worse in all it represents. No more. No more. This far, Mr. President—but no further.

More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both.

It speaks volumes about the president’s estimation of the American people that he expects them to accept that choice.

The truth, though, is that shielding corporations from lawsuits does absolutely nothing for our security. I challenge the president to prove otherwise. I challenge him to show us how putting these companies above the law makes us safer by an iota.

That, I am convinced, he can’t do.

More every day. More every fucking day.

Hat tip to reader Paddy.


I’ve Been Going Through Jacob Withdrawal

It’s not that I think I’m too good to watch American Idol or anything. I mean, I watch Survivor and love every stupid catty minute of it. I watch a Robin Hood show in which Little John wears jeans and they have Maid Marian dressed in, like, a cardigan she bought at H&M last week. I am not immune to the charms of cheese, and most of the movies I really love are absolute crap (American Pie II, no joke: “He happened to notice there’s an abundance of weiner here.”).

It’s that I tried to watch American Idol and it was so bad, so cheap-looking and badly produced, that I wanted to stab my eyeballs out and bleach my brain. So I haven’t been watching American Idol, but I’ve been reading Jacob writing about it because I’ll read Jacob writing about cereal or even the Bush administration.

And here, he pretty much nails celebrity philanthrophy and why it pisses me off, and why it’s simultaneously hard to be pissed at it:

So far here’s what I’ve got: I am glad that Sting wasn’t there. It’s pretty cynical to trade on the misfortune of others when you’re part of the very multinational conglomerate that depends on keeping them down; it’s pretty awesome to do something to make a change, even if it’s something small. What makes me feel cynical is patting yourself on the back for doing so, when what you really need to be feeling is not fake bullshit Hallmark pride and a sensitive Phil Stacey kind of feeling that you cannot name, that will fade by tomorrow morning, when your real life starts up again. What you need is a holy Sanjaya kind of anger that doesn’t stop until you’ve accomplished the job, today and all the days that come after that, until the end of your life, and that’s how you know you changed the world.



JPod puts a move on Sully.

Andrew Sullivan Is Right [John Podhoretz]

Honestly, with all the pain in the world, how dare anyone laugh at anything? I agree, Andrew. You’ve sold me. I will never again make fun of anything. That is, except for your obsession with hairy backs. I reserve the right to laugh at that.

02/09 02:20 PM

Aerial view of JPod.

Your President Speaks!

Recently, during aFox News interview.

Gotten Damn!

Bush says in the interview he’s confident bin Laden ultimately will be found.

“He’ll be gotten by a president,” Bush says.

Columnwhoring: GOP edition

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Fail:

As titular head of the GOP for his two presidential terms, George W. Bush held three disparate constituencies together by promising them all their dreams tied up in pretty red bows. To the religious right, that gay marriage would be banned by a Constitutional amendment and that his Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.

To the neoconservative Middle-East interventionists, largely brought to the table by his father and Dick Cheney, that he would remake the region in the image of American democracy by force, if necessary.

To the pragmatic pro-business types, who fetishize any tax cut no matter how much long-term damage it does to the economy, that he would make government smaller and less expensive.

And to America at large, Bush pretended to be a compassionate conservative, a moderate who could appeal to the suburban women who vote in great enough numbers to make the difference in close contests.

Trouble was, Bush couldn’t satisfy the gay-hating evangelicals without abandoning his compassionate rhetoric. And he couldn’t dramatically remake the Middle East without spending billions, which gave the low-tax people the vapors. The quagmire he led us into in Iraq has made it impossible to continue the neoconservatives’ forced-democracy march into Iran.

(Don’t even get former Bush supporters like the vigilante border-patrollers started on his work with the immigration issue; after all his “path to citizenship” talk, they refer to him as “Jorge.”)

All three of his chief constituencies, which together made up Bush’s 51 percent margin of electoral supremacy, have been disappointed by his presidency. All three have been angered and now are seeking their salvation (some, literally) in candidates of their own choosing, without the burden of the others’ interference.

Worse, by selecting the aging and unhealthy (not to mention staggeringly unpopular) Cheney as his vice president, Bush is left without a natural successor, someone even those who enjoyed his divisive term could look to for uncomplicated continuance of the past eight years’ political reality.


MetaQuotes Pwns Huckabee

Because I’m in a silly mood right now:

It’s times like this that I wish the Dalai Lama (he of “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”) weren’t a pacifist. I’d love to see him in a cage match with Huckabee. And, admittedly, I like the mental image of the Dalai Lama shouting “OH NO YOU DIDN’T.”


Miserable Failure

Chimpy’s job approval rating in the latestPew Poll is stuck at 31%; most Americans view the Bush Assministration as aMiserable Failure.

As he begins his final year in office, President Bush’s standing with the public continues to worsen. While his overall job approval ratings are holding steady, the balance of opinion is roughly two-to-one negative (31% approve, 59% disapprove). And the number of Americans – including many within the president’s own party – who see the failures of his administration outweighing the accomplishments continues to rise, and a record high number say this year’s State of the Union address is less important than in past years.

A 59% majority of Americans believe that, in the long run, the failures of the Bush administration will outweigh the accomplishments, up from 53% a year ago. Half as many (28%) say Bush’s accomplishments will outweigh his failures. By comparison, in January 2004 – at the outset of Bush’s re-election campaign – more saw the administrations accomplishments carrying more weight (49%) than its failures (36%).

This dour view of the Bush presidency stands in contrast to public sentiment at the same point in Bill Clinton’s presidency. In January of 2000, 51% felt the Clinton administrations main legacy would be its accomplishments, while just 37% said the failures would stand out.

At the time, a quarter of Republicans felt that Clinton’s legacy would be positive, compared with just 9% of Democrats who say the same about Bush today. And fewer Republicans today (62%) see Bush’s accomplishments standing out compared with Democrats in 2000 (75%). Yet the most striking difference in views of the two presidents’ legacies is among independents. In January 2000, a majority of independents (53%) said that Clinton’s legacy would be marked by his administration’s accomplishments.

Today, by a 64% to 23% margin, most independents say Bush’s legacy will be marked by his administration’s failures.

Journal of American History Katrina issue


The Journal of American History has a special issue out called “Through the Eye of Katrina: The Past as Prologue?”

It has 20 Katrina related articles all of which can be read online.LINK