George, Rummy — Listen Up

From Justice Louis Brandeis’s dissent in Olmstead vs. United States:

“… Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. …”

Nice Dog

By way of a post on Salon, we have this wonderful juxtaposition of images as well as this heartwarming story from the heartland: “Dog from Iraq Finds New Home in Area Town.” From the Clinton (Iowa) Herald:

“A thin, hungry stray in Iraq, the dog’s chances for a long, happy life were slim. Dogs are not welcome house pets in that country, but rather are forced to live off roots, bugs or whatever they can find to survive. Some of the animals, like Sheeba, even eat rocks that make them feel full.”

The Layoff

Wired News:TechTV to Lay Off 285 Lays Off San Francisco Staff

And there were other stories, too. Just to comment on one little detail in both of these: You’d think that Comcast gave us 60 days’ notice out of the goodness of its soft ol’ cable heart. Witness the quote from the G4 spokesguy (who is named David Shane in one of the linked pieces above and David Shone in the other):

“Today we gave notice to 285 employees that they’ll be impacted by the merger. We wanted to give employees as much notice aspossible so that they can begin to make other plans.”

Uh huh. As I noted yesterday, though, Comcast and G4 had no choice in the matter. The 60-day notice is required by federal law because shutting down a workplace of our size is considered a plant closing (the company needs to do other things under the law, too, like notifying the mayor of San Francisco that it’s putting a bunch of people on the street). So I can now consider myself the beneficiary of one of the few labor-friendly laws to get through Congress in recent memory.

The staff gets to meet with G4’s CEO, Charles Hirschhorn, on Monday and hear what else is in store for us (for instance, will we continue producing our daily show all the way through July, when the 60 days is up?).

More on Torturegate (the Word)

The number of Google references was at 13 on Thursday and is 31 this evening (mostly on blogs, and counting my two earlier posts). Nexis shows two mentions: One during "Hannity and Colmes" on Fox News on Thursday and
one in a short news item in a paper somewhere. Google News shows one reference, Yahoo! News shows zero, and Google’s search ofUsenet groups shows three (all Thursday). "Torturegate" doesn’t appear at all on two
select indexes of blog content, Daypop and Blogdex.

OK, so that’s today’s unscientific take on one new word. However, some people are trying to be a little more scientific about how new wordsand ideas spread in cyberspace. Wired News has a story today called "How the Word Gets Around," on an experiment to follow the spread of a new memeonline. After reading the article, I’m not sure what the project proves, though, because it invited people to participate as a sort of self-conscious exercise. It’d be more interesting to trace an idea that just sort of gets thrown into the collective consciousness. Like

Some Military Heroes

Good New York Times story on some of the military officers defending terror-war detainees in upcoming military tribunals. It takes a lot of courage, and belief in what are often termed basic American values, to fight the system:

"Last month, an audience at Oxford University in England was stunned, witnesses said, when two of the lawyers, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift ofthe Navy and Maj. Mark Bridges of the Army, said the tribunals were not capable of producing a fair and just result.

"The several hundred people who had gathered for a talk about the Guantánamo detention facility did not expect to hear the American officers’ objections.

"Murray Wesson, a Rhodes Scholar from South Africa who attended, wrote on his Web log: ‘What I was unprepared for, given that these were, after all, military lawyers, was how critical of the process they were. Indeed, they went so far as to describe the tribunals as`fundamentally flawed’ and insinuated that they would not amount to fair trials.’ "

I Was Going to Say …

… something funny earlier this morning. But then I, and just about everyone else at TechTV, got laid off. It’s not a shock — the station was sold several weeks ago and it was clear from the grapevine that the new owner (Comcast) wasn’t too interested in continuing our original programming. Anyway, it’s actually a relief to know what’s happening and that our office will be shut down.The down side — maybe it’s this way every time a shutdown or layoff happens, though we upper-middle-class types might not think about it when the closure involves a can factory or a poultry processor — is the hurt among all the people here who really have given their best to do something good here. The up side is that under the WARN Act,the federal law governing plant closures, we got 60 days’ notice plus a severance package. It could be a lot worse. More later.

Man, I’m a Genius

Language history was made right here, or several posts below this one, on Sunday afternoon. That’s when I published
the first known (to me) use of the term "torturegate" to describe the
current furor and recriminations over the U.S. Army abuse of prisoners
in Iraq. I know it’s a big claim. But earlier today, I noticed that
someone had visited the blog from a Google listing for "torturegate."
At that point — it was about 2 in the afternoon, Pacific time, that
was the only indexed reference to that word. Now, about eight hours later, the Google search
on "torturegate" shows two more references, both more recent than mine.
Also, a search of Nexis for the last couple of months shows zero
instances of "torturegate."

Before you use the word, just remember this blog is copyrighted, and
words invented here can only be used by the express written consent of
myself and the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Royalties for
using this new word will be set at rates affordable to all. And stay
tuned for our full line of Torturegate (marca registrada; patent
pending) products (and if there’s a particular Torturegate product
you’d like to see, please write the management).

Haymarket Square


May 4, 1886: A bomb kills 12 people (including eight police officers) during a labor rally on Chicago’s near West Side. The bomber was never caught, but police arrested eight leaders of the rally, who were subsequently convicted despite the lack of evidence tying them to the attack. A year and a half after the bombing, despite a worldwide outcry at the miscarriage of justice, four of the organizers were hanged, and one committed suicide.

Actually, I wasn’t thinking of the anniversary at all, but I saw it in a list of events for May 4 (for me, May 4 is mostly the day in 1864 U.S. Grant launched his bloody but ultimately successful campaign against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia). Taking a very short look around, I found a couple of great online resources about Haymarket (which resonated through Illinois and national politics for years afterward and played a role in one of my favorite historical novels, Howard Fast’s "The American," about the life of Governor John P. Altgeld). Check out the Chicago Historical Society’s  detailed history of the case. Also good: The Chicago Public Library’s online Haymarket collections (from which the picture above is taken), which includes a brief writeup on the history of the famous (in Chicago) Haymarket statue memorializing the police victims of the bombing and was still attracting bombing attempts as late as 1970.

Iraq Numbers

Sources for following the casualty count in Iraq.
There are a couple very good sources on U.S. and allied casualties.
Sources on Iraqi casualties are speculative and unclear by comparison.
That’s because the United States got out of what’s been termed "the
body-count business" (an allusion to the weekly totals provided during
most of
the Vietnam War) during the Gulf War. I guess that’s because it was
politically tricky to report the magnitude of the casualties we were
inflicting. But enough of memory lane, and on to the casualty

Coalition Casualties
A very reliable and up-to-date summary
of U.S. and allied casualties, backed up by press and military reports
of killed and wounded. Includes a list of every U.S./allied soldier
killed in action since the war started.
gives a slightly different count.
Its totals vary slightly from those on the previous site. Maybe the
best feature of the list is the longish explanatory
, with some historical perspective, on the numbers and
how they’re derived.

Iraq Body Count:
An explicitly antiwar site that attempts to do what the governments
involved will not do and what the media cannot do (or haven’t gotten
around to doing): tally civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of
the war (the current estimated range is 9,018 to 10,873).

Good News — from Iraq!

The Bush people, from the president to Rummy on down, insist the U.S. media just aren’t relaying all the good news happening outside the shooting zones in Iraq. To help do my small part, here’s a tidbit gleaned from the press office of the Coalition Provisional Authority:

“In support of the national holiday honoring the birthday of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Coalition Provisional Authority is giving more than 950 soccer balls to Iraqi children, schools, and sports clubs in South Central Iraq.” [That soccer pitch in Fallujah that the natives have turned into a cemetery for people killed during the current siege is probably off-limits to games right now, though.]

I checked to see whether any of the naysaying mainstream media have picked up on the prophet’s birthday balls. None have, so far as I can see. But The New York Times was actually ahead of the curve, with a piece from sports columnist George Vecsey on a Long Island soldier who’s gotten a kid’s soccer league together. Vecsey even alludes to the kill-joy media:

“The smiles. You rarely see smiles like these on the 6 o’clock news or on the front page. Alex Fyfe gets to see Iraqi children with a happy look on their faces, as they kick soccer balls on the dust and rocks.”