Friday, May 02, 2003


Lazy reporter after lazy reporter parrots the conventional wisdom that, as a result of Natalie Maines' dig at the incredibly thin-skinned George W. Bush, Dixie Chicks' career is on the skids. Here's the AP's Jacob Jordan, in an article that will appear in dozens of papers today:

Sales of their album "Home" have dropped sharply and many country radio stations pulled their music from their playlists ...

This is in an article, mind you, about their sold-out concert.

The album is currently back up to No. 2 on Billboard's country chart. It's the only album in the top 15 with a "bullet" -- indicating still-thriving sales.

The No. 1 album is Darryl Worley's confused anthem "Have You Forgotten?" A song in which Worley asserts that 1) Iraq and al-Qaida are identical, and 2) he personally was more deeply, emotionally and patriotically moved by the 9/11 attacks than anybody in New York was. Worley had best invest his money wisely as he heads for achy-breaky obscurity. He's got the No. 1 album, but it hasn't even gone "gold" yet (for 500,000 total sales).

By contrast, the Dixie Chicks' Home has sold more than 6 million copies. That's twice as many as any other album on the country charts (the closest contender is Elvis' 30 #1 Hits -- hardly a country album, really).

Home won critical raves and a slew of Grammys, so one needn't look for some external cause for the album's phenomenal sales (a sexy Entertainment Weekly cover doesn't hurt either). Yet the album got a bump after Maines' dig at Bush, and it's hard not to allow the possibility that thousands of Americans seem to have said, "She said what about Bush? I should get that album."

UPDATE: Paula Zahn came through, a bit. CNN booked a lisping, eye-rolling, smirking anti-Chicks activist who talked about how poorly their album was selling. Zahn pointed out that, after an initial dip, the album has been climbing the charts. (She should also point this out to her colleague Anderson Cooper, who was still repeating the Dissing-Bush-is-bad-for-sales trope last week.)

posted by Fred Clark 2:00 AM

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Apologies for the slow pace of blogging lately -- been moving to new digs. Nicer apartment. Accountable owner. Less litigious landlord.

Comcast is supposed to arrive Friday between 11 and 2 to hook me back into the lifeline.


'Til then, some words to ponder from Cynthia P. Johnson of West Chester, Pa., who was so upset with criticisms of Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum that she fired off a letter to the newspaper ... in Delaware:

Let someone like Sen. Rick Santorum state the views from the Bible and everyone screams for him to be removed from office. Where is his freedom of speech? What a nation of hypocrites we have become.

It's about time more people began listening to the godly majority in the country. Get back to the biblical principles that this nation was founded upon.

If not, [h]e will withdraw [h]is protection from us and then where will we be? Under foreign domination. Then there will be no freedoms at all. We will have another Saddam Hussein in charge of America.

Cynthia P. Johnson
West Chester, Pa.

1. Ms. Johnson's hysterical (in every sense of the word) letter conveys the usual religious right dissonance about America's spiritual state. There is, she asserts, "a godly majority in this country." At the same time she displays the sense of imagined persecution -- the circle-the-wagons around the chosen few attitude -- that fuels so much of their fear-driven agenda. (Note the use of Saddam as bogeyman -- he was of course the ruler of Babylon, the great biblical archetype for a foreign power that crushes the persecuted minority struggling to sing the Lord's song in a foreign land.) In conversations with some religious right folks, you can get them to toggle back and forth -- godly majority/persecuted minority -- sometimes in a single sentence.

2. The worry that God might withdraw divine protection and deliver Pennsylvania into the hands of foreign domination actually has an old and distinguished pedigree. The early (pacifist) Quakers in Penn's colony worried that accepting the armed protection of British soldiers would be considered an insult to Providence, trading God's infinite protection for the finite protection of the world's strongest military. Many considered this reliance on military might to be a form of idolatry and blasphemy. I'm still not 100 percent convinced they were wrong. I am, however, convinced that Ms. Johnson is 100 percent wrong. I'm guessing she reads Betty Bowers for her daily quiet time.

3. At least Ms. Johnson managed to avoid going on about "man on dog."

posted by Fred Clark 3:12 AM

Sunday, April 27, 2003


Lt. Col. Johnson admits violating the Geneva Conventions

The AP's Michelle Faul tells us that the children being detained in the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo are being treated very well.

In the mornings they learn to read and write in their native languages, clean their rooms and rake the lawn. Recreation includes soccer and watching movies like "Cast Away," one of their favorites. During afternoons, psychologists work to heal the scars of physical and emotional abuse.

How does she know they're being treated so well? Because, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, she placed a phone call to Lt. Col. Barry Johnson and he told her so. And a reporter should never doubt or try to independently verify the word of an official military spokesperson, right?

The children in question -- at least three detainees between the ages of 13 and 15 -- have been in the prison camp since early this year. Like all of the 600+ prisoners held at the camp, they are deliberately kept outside of the U.S. and therefore outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and, you know, constitutional protections and stuff.

They're also -- since the U.S. is steadfastly pretending insisting that they are not prisoners of war -- kept outside the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions. That body of law would not allow us to hold hundreds of people, including juveniles, indefinitely while subjecting at least some to interrogation under physical duress. This is why -- for the U.S. to maintain at least the appearance of legitimacy for this prison camp -- it is very, very important that U.S. officials never refer to the detainees at the camp as "prisoners of war."

Lt. Col. Johnson, so eager to explain away the apparent impropriety of holding children in the camp, seems to have forgotten this all-important facade of doublespeak (from the uncut article:

"I'm not sure where else in the world -- given their status as enemy combatants -- they would get this type of setup, an environment designed to facilitate their development," Johnson said.

"Enemy combatants?" Wouldn't that make these kids prisoners of war? And therefore protected by the Geneva Conventions that Camp X-ray has been so willfully disregarding?

Amnesty International called for [the juveniles'] immediate release. Spokesman Alistair Hodgett said the United States was violating the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that states "every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance."

But Mr. Hodgett forgets that the U.S. cannot violate the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child because "the United States is one of three countries that has not ratified the treaty." The U.S. is under no obligation to obey a convention we have not ratified -- just as North Korea is not obliged to adhere to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The U.S. and North Korea are not being international scofflaws -- we're just enjoying the privileges of our pariah status. Washington and Pyongyang are not lawbreakers -- they're simply lawless. (President Bush wants the U.N. to impose sanctions on North Korea for its avoidance of the NPT -- a novel legal theory, the "Ratify or Else" approach to international treaties. Mr. Bush recognizes this is a double standard, but he thinks there ought to be two standards. One for Good Guys and one for Bad Guys.)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, not one to bother with the niceties of international law, takes an even more radical approach to why the Convention on the Rights of the Child doesn't apply to the children held at Camp X-ray: "These are not children," Rumsfeld said.

He appeared irritated Friday by "this constant refrain of 'the juveniles,' as though there's 100 children in there."

The juvenile detainees are between the ages of 13 and 15 but, the secretary insists, "These are not children." His argument precisely echoes that of every statutory rapist ever convicted of unlawful sexual contact with a minor between the ages of 13 and 15. (It also echoes Sen. Rick Santorum's -- Bigot, Pa. -- argument that Catholic priests' sexual abuse of post-pubescent minors was "consensual.") If Rummy keeps this up, he's going to have to register under Megan's Law.

It's hard to know, reading the AP article, who is more hopelessly naive: Michelle Faul, for dutifully, unquestioningly transcribing paragraph after paragraph of clumsy propaganda; or Lt. Col. Johnson, for thinking these kids like Castaway because they love the ocean.

Far away from landlocked Afghanistan, the detainees watch movies in their spare time and have taken a liking to "Cast Away," in which Tom Hanks crashes on an uninhabited island and is isolated for years before being rescued.

"Apparently they like ocean films, because they can see the sea," Johnson said.

Johnson seems to have missed the part of the movie where Tom Hanks -- trapped on an island -- builds a raft to escape from that island. Some other movies the kids at Camp X-ray might like: Papillon and The Count of Monte Cristo, both of which feature lovely seascapes, and The Shawshank Redemption, which ends with an ocean view that rivals what the children can see through the fence of their island prison.

posted by Fred Clark 4:49 AM

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