"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense."
- Mark Twain

"Anyone who combines politics and baseball is an idiot, because everyone knows that ping-pong is the greatest sport. Oh, and I'm really a Communist who hates NASCAR and listens to Joan Baez in the dark.
-- Glenn Reynolds

About the author
Andre Vladimir Sebastian is a figment of your imagination. Honestly, you really could have done better than him, now couldn't you? Next time, put a little effort into it.

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Poems By Andre
Today, we at Curveball introduce a new feature sure to be a fan favorite for years to come. We call it, Poems By Andre (tm). Everyone on staff here at Curveball has read poetry, and we have concluded that 99.9999999999% of all poetry stinks.

We have read the works of idiots, fools, drunkards, and poet laureates, and honestly, we can't tell the difference. What's worse, some of those authors (usually the drunks) have actually been paid money for their work! (No doubt they laughed all the way to the bank, saying "suckers!" to themselves over and over and over again.)

We figured, since nobody on God's Green Earth understands poetry anyway, least of all poets, we may as well try our hand at it too. Maybe someone will pay us and we can laugh and say "suckers!" all the way to the bank. So, here you are, the inaugural edition of Poems by Andre (tm).

In the white hot glow of summer,
yellow and orange kites flutter and dart against the sky.
I stare at the shimmering, rolling sea,
the sand coating my calves in patches
as she says goodbye.

Four days of wanting, two of flirting, one of caressing.
She smiles as she leaves,
as if we'll meet again tomorrow.
The brown of her shoulders fades to black in the distance
and I smile, too.
That kid just dropped his ice cream in the sand; what a dork.

A Man Called Steve
My name is Charles.

Red Commie bastards
I want to fight you all, but
Poor, I need Wal-Mart

A Man Called Steve II
I said my name is Charles!

  posted by AVS @ 18.9.03


Our War With France
Thomas Friedman writes of our so-called ally:

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.

France wants America to sink in a quagmire there in the crazy hope that a weakened U.S. will pave the way for France to assume its "rightful" place as America's equal, if not superior, in shaping world affairs.

The thing I find interesting about Friedman is that he is clear-headed enough to see realities such as this, but misty-headed enough to adhere to an inflexible political leftism. I guess that's why he's rarely boring to read.

  posted by AVS @ 18.9.03

Congress IS An ATM
“Congress is not an ATM.”

So said Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Paleolithic Era) in opposing the Bush administration's request for $87 billion to fight the war on terror and secure the liberty of the American people. The unspoken follow-up sentence was, "Unless you're a senior senator who knows how to lubricate the voting levers back home by showering the people with an endless stream of cashola pilfered from the public treasury."

  posted by AVS @ 17.9.03


Gilligan's Lie Land
BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan admitted today that his report in which he asserted that Tony Blair's government had intentionally "sexed up" its Iraq dossier by falsely claiming that Saddam could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes was filled with falsehoods, that he knew it was filled with falsehoods, and that he made no effort to correct them. The Washington Post reports:

Gilligan said he was mistaken in reporting in his original, unscripted broadcast that Blair's aides had ordered a claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes to be inserted into a dossier; the insertion, Gilligan's report said, took place over the objections of intelligence chiefs even though the aides had known "it was probably wrong." The first broadcast went out at 6:07 a.m. on May 29 on BBC radio's popular "Today" program.

He said that on a scripted 7:32 a.m. report on the same program he had corrected the misstatement by stating that the intelligence involved was genuine, even if questionable. Gilligan said his error was "the kind of slip of the tongue that does happen often during live broadcasts, an occupational hazard."

But he conceded he made another misstatement when in a later broadcast that same morning he cited "my intelligence source" when in fact Kelly did not work for an intelligence agency.

The BBC compounded Gilligan's error several times in the ensuing weeks, repeating the claim that his confidential source was "a member of the intelligence services," in subsequent news reports, in a June 27 press statement that Gilligan said he read and signed off on, and in a statement issued by the corporation's Board of Governors on July 6.

Gilligan said he made no effort to correct these claims in part because he was trying to protect the identity of his source.

I think Gilligan intentionally exaggerated his own report because he just knew the Blair government was lying about the WMD issue in general, if not his claims in particular, and he thought time would bear him out. He obviously believed he would be the one left standing in the end. Why else would he repeatedly have defended claims that he knew he made up?

Now that we know who was lying and who wasn't, will Gilligan suffer any consequences for what he characterizes as "the kind of slip of the tongue that does happen often during live broadcasts, an occupational hazard"? If the error was merely a slip of the tongue, why was it uncorrected, and even vigorously defended, for months? Gilligan's original story wasn't credible, his months-long defense of it wasn't credible, and now his excuse for how it got aired isn't credible, either.

Gilligan ought to be out of a job, along with BBC News Director Richard Sambrook, who, according to the BBC itself, "said there were errors in the BBC's strongly-worded response to the government's complaints about the dossier story."

Sambrook and Gilligan both knowingly allowed the BBC to repeat erroneous claims from Gilligan's first report because, they said, making a correction would have risked revealing Dr. David Kelly as the source. So, the company's news director and one of its top reporters decided that keeping their source a secret was more important than being accurate. Why would any journalist do that? The easy answer is because if Dr. Kelly had been revealed, he would have talked to other reporters, which would have uncovered the falsehoods in the BBC's story.

Even if Gilligan and Sambrook keep their jobs -- no, especially if they keep their jobs -- the BBC's credibility will have been severely tarnished. Either way, it will be fun to watch the fallout of Gilligan's and Sambrook's admissions. I wonder if this will give Blair's poll numbers a boost?

  posted by AVS @ 17.9.03

Disenfranchized By A Ballot Machine?
The Democrats in California successfully halted the recall election by charging that all voters who used the old voting machines would be disenfranchised by the machines. But Poliblogger links to an analysis by Cal Tech and M.I.T. (It's a pdf file) found the following error rates between various machines:

Percentage of uncounted votes:

Optical Scan: 1.5% for president; 3.5% for governor

Paper Ballot: 1.8%; 3.3%

Punch Card: 2.5%; 4.7%

Touch Screen: 2.3%; 5.9%

Lever: 1.5%; 7.5%

So much for the idea that punchcard ballots invalidate an election. As Poliblogger noted:

Again, one might assume that the choice is between the potential loss of 40,000 or so votes and perfection, but it isn't. The real choice is between the potential loss of 40,000-some vote and some smaller number. Again: there is vote-counting error in every election.

And, the difference between the error rate of a punchcard ballot and that with a touchscreen ballot is not great. In fact, the error rate of the new technology appears worse. Sure makes it look like the real reason for halting the election was to DISENFRANCHISE ALL CALIFORNIA VOTERS BY NOT HOLDING THE ELECTION AT ALL.

  posted by AVS @ 17.9.03

How The Saudis Finance Hamas
The New York Times reports that at least half of Hamas' budget comes from Saudi Arabia.

Nearly a year ago, Khalid Mishaal, a senior leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization, attended a charitable fund-raising conference here where he talked at length with Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto Saudi ruler.

According to a summary of the meeting written by a Hamas official, Mr. Mishaal and other Hamas representatives thanked their Saudi hosts for continuing "to send aid to the people through the civilian and popular channels, despite all the American pressures exerted on them."

"This is indeed a brave posture deserving appreciation," the Hamas officials said, the document said.

Today Mr. Mishaal, who was recently added to the United States Treasury Department list of what it calls terrorist financiers, controls a wing of Hamas that advocates violent confrontation with Israel, including suicide bombings.

As relations between the Israelis and Palestinians continue to deteriorate, in no small part because of recent Hamas-sponsored suicide bombings, Saudis have come under fresh scrutiny by American and European investigators here and in Israel for their political and financial support of the group.

At least 50 percent of Hamas's current operating budget of about $10 million a year comes from people in Saudi Arabia, according to estimates by American law enforcement officials, American diplomats in the Middle East and Israeli officials. After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Saudi portion of Hamas financing grew larger as donations from the United States, Europe and other Persian Gulf countries dried up, American officials and analysts said.

The estimated donations coming from Saudi Arabia — about $5 million a year — are a significant sum for Hamas but a very small portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow into Saudi charities each year, officials said. Nearly all the donations are given in cash, making it extremely difficult for Saudi and American authorities to track the money.

Of course, Crown Prince Abdullah denies everything, saying the accusations that some Saudi government money goes to Hamas "ridiculous." The rat.

  posted by AVS @ 17.9.03

Republicans For Dean
In his latest column, David Brooks displays the humor, skilled research, and insightful analysis that got him hired as a New York Times columnist despite his being a conservative. (Were he a liberal, his political leanings would be credential enough.) He begins:

The results of the highly prestigious Poll of the Pollsters are in! I called eight of the best G.O.P. pollsters and strategists and asked them, on a not-for-attribution basis, if they thought Howard Dean would be easier to beat than the other major Democratic presidential candidates. Here, and I'm paraphrasing, are the results:

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

You would have thought I had asked them if Danny DeVito would be easier to beat in a one-on-one basketball game than Shaquille O'Neal. They all thought Dean would be easier to beat, notwithstanding his impressive rise. Some feared John Kerry, others John Edwards, because his personality wears well over time, and others even Bob Graham, because he can carry Florida, more than Dean. As their colleague Bill McInturff put it atop a memo on the Dean surge: "Happy Days Are Here Again (for Republicans)."

I think the pollsters are probably right, but I'd feel a lot more confident if I could find somebody who really understood the forces that are reshaping the American electorate.

It gets better from there.

  posted by AVS @ 16.9.03


How The Media Bowed To Saddam
John Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, says in an interview for an upcoming book on the media's coverage of the war in Iraq that almost all of the reporters there censored their own coverage, downplaying the terror and repression of Saddam's regime, so they could have greater access and freedom of movement within the country. The interview, reprinted in Editor and Publisher (I ran across it on provides a really jaw-dropping account of the lengths to which reporters went to suck up to Saddam's bullies and cover up the regime's atrocities.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance. CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in The New York Times missed that point completely. The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us. Of course we do. But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq. So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq? It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror. Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered.

Burns also says that The New York Times was given 24 hour advanced warning that the Iraq Ministry of Information building would be struck. He says the warning was given so people could be evacuated. If that is true, and it is doubtful Burns would make it up because it would take only a few phone calls to his editors to verify that they told him this, it underscores the efforts of the Bush administration to avoid unnecessary casualties.

  posted by AVS @ 16.9.03

The WUSA, ESPN, And Sexism
Women's professional soccer has folded for lack of financial support. The league finished the year $16 million in the red. Virtually no one watched women's soccer (though it could be quite entertaining). But such realities don't stop professors from writing stupid papers about sexism in the media's coverage of women's sports. A University of North Carolina professor has chastized ESPN for not covering more women's sports, saying the network is biased against women.

This, of course, is idiotic. The network exists to make money. If women's sports were popular, ESPN would show them. But women's sports are far, far less popular than men's sports. Hence, ESPN shows mostly men's sports. The professor didn't bother measuring fan interest in women's sports before proclaiming ESPN hostile to women. He simply concluded that because the network shows few women's sports, it must be anti-woman.

One of the findings the professor considered disturbing: Thirteen of 16 stories about women were read by men.

Oh, the humiliation!

This passes for research worthy of a press release at a major American university.

  posted by AVS @ 15.9.03


Hating Mr. Williams
I've run across a good young blog that, because of this post, I will continue to read regularly:

This Is Just To Say
That I hate William Carlos Williams with passion otherwise reserved for oppressive dictators who listen to Justin Timberlake while molesting children with one hand and posting on Indymedia with the other.

Having read some William Carolos Williams, I'd have to agree with those sentiments. If you don't hate William Carlos Williams, just read this, and you will, assuming you're sane.

The blogger is Sterile Thunder. I don't know what that means, exactly, but he or she (he, I think) is a Stanford biology major, so it's probably something over my head.

  posted by AVS @ 14.9.03


Western Ways Of Life Harm Non-Westerner Youth?
New blogger Argghhh! notes a Voice of America report that the World Health Organization has claimed that young people in the third world are harmed by exposure to Western life. The W.H.O. seems to believe that exposure to the West explains the increase in alcohol and drug use as well as HIV/AIDS cases among people under age 30 in central Europe and Asia. Implied, but not said, of course, is that all of these people would be better off had they had no contact with the West. Ahem, obviously the young people in question don't think so because they keep seeking out that contact! Interesting that the W.H.O., doesn't mention -- at least the VOA doesn't report any mention -- the substantial health benefits (modern medicine, electriciy, sanitation, etc.) that the West brings to the East.

For those of you who don't know what "showcase" means, it means I'm voting in the New Blog Showcase over at truthlaidbear. It's a pretty nifty contest in which new blogs get to showcase their talent on a very widely read blog, and readers vote for the one they like the best. As they say in the ghetto, check it out, yo.

  posted by AVS @ 14.9.03

Ban Frivolous SUV uses?
Alan over at Elegance against Ignorance notes that the Liberal Democrats really would love to ban people from using their SUVs for frivolous purposes, but realize this is, in the words of the party leader "not a runner", meaning won't win them votes, so instead they are ramping up public and political pressure to get people out of their SUVs and onto public transportation.

  posted by AVS @ 14.9.03

More anti-Americanism at the BBC

  posted by AVS @ 14.9.03

Finally, A Real-Life James Bond Car
This car can reach speeds of 100 mph on land -- and 30 mph on water. And it's only a mere $150k! The question is, how many years until it is mass-produced at an affordable price, which is, happily, just what the inventor hopes to do?

  posted by AVS @ 14.9.03

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