The Sideshow

Archive for August 2002

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Saturday, 31 August 2002

20:40 BST: Permalink

From the Banned Book Project, a review:

When I learned that the novel I most enjoyed teaching in high school was number 41 on the most challenged book list, I was nearly floored. I could not imagine why anyone would ever challenge Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
(Via wood zilla lot. Er....)

19:45 BST: Permalink
Daniel Cainer wrote a song to commemorate the opening of the London Eye a couple years back, and if you haven't yet heard this beautiful song about the city where I live, do give a listen to London Cries. (RealPlayer)

19:30 BST: Permalink
This isn't a criticism of the sex industry.

17:19 BST: Permalink
An editorial in The Washington Post
Fundraiser-in-Chief II

WHEN WHITE HOUSE officials announced that President Bush was going to spend most of August in Crawford, Tex., they also warned reporters not to describe the sojourn as a vacation. Now we know why. Mr. Bush has indeed been working hard -- at raising money for Republican congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial candidates. On Thursday he attended his 49th and 50th fundraisers of 2002, pushing his total take for the year past $110 million. Just this month, while based in Crawford, he has raised money in 11 states. Mr. Bush is making President Clinton, who raised something like $50 million for his first midterm election, look like a model of restraint.

Gee, what a surprise. For the whole first year of his campaign (which, you may recall, started about a year earlier than anyone else's), the headline about Bush was that he was breaking all records in fundraising. In fact, aside from the occasional reference to his "experience" as governor of Texas (an experience that we were often told - when news leaked out about how rotten Texas governance had been - involved no power and few activities), his fundraising abilities were apparently his only recommendation. By the end of the campaign, it was well-known that he had not only continued to break all records but had pulled in twice what his Democratic opponant had. Nevertheless, the same newsmedia that had breathlessly reported on this fantastic ability to rake in the bucks didn't bat an eye when Bush said, during the first presidential debate, that Gore had pulled down twice as much as Bush in contributions.

Like Mr. Clinton and presidents before him, Mr. Bush has every right to campaign for his party and to try to win a Congress more to his liking. There's nothing illegal about bending your schedule and travel itinerary to the electoral map. But, just as some Republicans pointed out in Mr. Clinton's case, there are reasons to worry when speaking for money seems to be a president's chief pursuit. It doesn't enhance the prestige of the office when most people can meet or hear you only if they pay up front. When the vice president is articulating foreign policy while the president is concentrating on pulling in the bucks, it's bound to raise questions about governing priorities.
Except that, in Clinton's case, people could see and hear him all the time without paying up front, and there were no "First Amendment Zones" to prevent the serfs from showing up and maybe even heckling.

There's a particular reason for disquiet when the nation is at war and, as Mr. Bush has stated many times, in peril. In Washington, he appeals for bipartisan support; in fighting the war against terrorism, he has mostly received it. Yet when appealing for donations, he suggests that only Republicans really can be counted on. It's important to have members of Congress "who understand the need for this nation to be steady and resolved and determined and honest about the difference between good and evil," Mr. Bush said at a fundraiser Thursday. To suggest on the hustings that Democrats don't understand that distinction can't much help Mr. Bush's justifiable desire for bipartisan support on the war when he returns after his unvacation in Crawford.
Right, he's "a uniter, not a divider."

04:19 BST: Permalink
MWO has the red light flashing:

President Gore Manfully Quiet
And Where Are The Whores?

In developments virtually ignored by the American press, the state of Florida and two remaining Florida counties have quietly settled, out of court, a suit by the NAACP which charged systematic vote fraud and turning away of eligible black voters during the 2000 election.

The decision by the Jeb Bush Administration to settle rather than face trial casts more doubt than ever upon the 537-vote margin that the Scalia Five on the United States Supreme Court seized upon, as grounds for halting the recounting of presidential ballots and declaring Dubya Bush the only legitimate winner in Florida.

Had the NAACP suits gone to trial, the G.O.P. 2000 coup would, almost certainly, been exposed in open court -- just as Governor Jeb, one of the alleged plotters, is in the thick of a hotly contested re-election campaign.

If the State of Florida were innocent, having a trial would have played out in Jeb's favor.

Halting a trial and settling with the NAACP carries the presumption that the State of Florida was far from innocent, and that the evidence to that effect is deeply embarrassing to Bush and the Florida G.O.P.

At last report, President Al Gore maintained a dignified silence about the bombshell settlement.

But where, apart from the Boston Globe, are the Media Whores? They don't report, so you can't decide.

Full Story

Friday, 30 August 2002

14:50 BST: Permalink

Elton Beard detects the Mickey Kaus trap:

Here's my take. I think that Mickey Kaus is the journalistic equivalent of a Trojan horse, with a shtick designed to penetrate enemy defenses by masquerading as a liberal while spreading conservative memes (in this case the fear of a moral hazard). He's been doing this for years. And I don't know whether Kaus is a hustler, a true believer or both, but there is one thing I know for sure: Mickey Kaus is an imposter. At once an artifact and an agent of the dominant conservative media, he may sport a boomer-cool facade - but that man is no liberal. Reader beware.
14:00 BST: Permalink
Jim Henley thinks I was being catty about Coulter, but it's really just honest pity. I suppose I should be jealous of her - after all, she makes money being over the top while I am poor but honest, most of the time trying to restrain my more irresponsible impulses. But I just can't help thinking that someone is deliberately getting her drunk before she goes out in public and says all those outrageous things. Then they get to look reasonable simply by not being Ann Coulter.

And Avram Grumer is right that Jim is falling for a line on public libraries.

On the other hand, Jim is so, so right about Bloomberg's smoking ban. People who at this late date don't know that smoking is bad for them aren't going to be out there accidentally frequenting smoking establishments, because they are too stupid to get dressed. The rest of us can make our choice. Non-smokers don't have to feel comfortable everywhere, and god knows they can find plenty of places where smoking is banned. Anti-smokers can congregate comfortably in the majority of spaces at this point; but smokers are entitled to go out and have a good time, too.

Oh, yeah, and the argument that a smoking environment is an imposition on those who work there neatly omits the probability that a high percentage of those people are smokers themselves and probably want to work someplace that won't oppress them for being smokers. These are low-end jobs, and that's where most of the smokers are. Something the anti-smokers don't get is that adults who are still smoking in the current climate are by and large people for whom quitting is especially difficult. Making it harder for them to get jobs only exacerbates that problem for them.

04:31 BST: Permalink
Much good stuff at Bertramonline, such as A healthy society for all, and also he knows which Dead Russian Composer he is. (I'm Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.)

04:10 BST: Permalink
Frog Liberation Front?

Could George Bush pass this test?

04:00 BST: Permalink
The top search string leading to this site for the last two days has been:
"Name President Herbert Hoover's pet dog while in office."

You dorks, the answer is "Fala". Jeez.

UPDATE: [smacks forehead] No, no, I was thinking of FDR. Why would anyone remember Hoover's dog, for that matter? Unless it was a good crossword word, of course.

01:15 BST: Permalink
Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America

Religion                Adherents, 2001    % of population
Christianity            159,030,000           76.5%
Nonreligious/Secular     27,539,000           13.2%
Judaism                   2,831,000            1.3%
Islam                     1,104,000            0.5%
Buddhism                  1,082,000            0.5%
Agnostic                    991,000            0.5%
Atheist                     902,000            0.4%

Thursday, 29 August 2002

11:50 BST: Permalink

Salman Rushdie on the US/Europe divide.

And Carville knows the score:

Republicans have learned that they can say anything they want to. When you answer it, a lot of Democrats are horrified. They say you can't do that, that it's negativism. No, it's not. It's deciding that you aren't going to let thuggery work.

Wednesday, 28 August 2002

23:08 BST: Permalink

Bush is ripping off DC again:

THE FEDERAL government is trying to have it both ways on the coming World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings, all at the District of Columbia's expense. City leaders should not let the feds get away with it. In the past, the D.C. police have provided security for the fall events, in support of the U.S. Treasury Department, which hosts the international gatherings. This year, as in recent years, security will be a tall and expensive order. Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Washington, some with announced plans for five days of marches, rallies, teach-ins and traffic disruptions, beginning Sept. 25. In addition to street protests, the federal government, eager to make a good impression on the world visitors, expects District police to escort cars carrying delegates and to beef up security at their hotels. But here's the rub: District police already incurred heavy expenses providing security for IMF-World Bank meetings last April -- expenses for which the city has not been properly reimbursed. Now the Bush administration wants to provide $15 million to cover the cost of events such as the IMF-World Bank meetings, but only for costs incurred in fiscal 2003. The feds want to turn a blind eye to costs incurred during fiscal 2002. The District is rightly balking at that unfair proposal.
18:11 BST: Permalink
I meant to refer to this when Patrick originally posted it last month, but I was distracted. But just in case you didn't see it the first time, or failed to mark its importance, here it is again:

Look, a clue

Artemis Records has a wild and crazy marketing idea: how about getting their artists played on thousands of Internet radio stations? Duh.

Courtesy of Erik V. Olson, here's their announcement.

Artemis Records has agreed to issue licenses to internet radio for one year for the master use of songs by all Artemis recording artists. This announcement was made today by Danny Goldberg, Chairman and CEO, Artemis Records and Daniel Glass, President, Artemis Records. During this period, beginning August 1, 2002, Artemis will waive the royalty payments that would otherwise be due them.
Artemis artists include Warren Zevon, Rickie Lee Jones, Boston, the Reverend Horton Heat, and (blogger red-meat alert) Steve Earle.
17:59 BST: Permalink
This might be a useful news site.

15:09 BST: Permalink
I've broken down and added more links over there at the right, and broken them up a bit so it's not just one mind-numbing list. There are a couple I'm still trying to make up my mind about but the discovery last night of Jack Cluth (via Charles Kuffner) seems to have pushed me over the edge. He's got way too much of his autobiographical information on his front page (mercifully, down at the bottom), but I like it.
14:45 BST: Permalink
There was some good news yesterday, if it lasts:

The federal appeals court in Cincinnati declared yesterday that the Bush administration acted unlawfully in holding hundreds of deportation hearings in secret based only on the government's assertion that the people involved may have links to terrorism.

The decision, which was laced with stinging language questioning the administration's commitment to an open democracy, is the first major appellate ruling on the government's legal tactics concerning Sept. 11.

"Democracies die behind closed doors," wrote Judge Damon J. Keith for the unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Bush administration has sought, the panel said, to place its actions "beyond public scrutiny."

"When the government begins closing doors," the panel continued, "it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation."
"The task of designating a case special interest is performed in secret, without any established standards or procedures, and the process is, thus, not subject to any sort of review," Judge Keith wrote. "A government operating in the shadow of secrecy stands in complete opposition to the society envisioned by the framers of our Constitution."

03:42 BST: Permalink
Jim Henley is recommending Spiders, a web comic that projects a whole different sort of war in Afghanistan. It is, as he says, "pretty damn cool".

The relationships between money and water and government and privatization are explained at Through the Looking Glass.

Liberal Oasis has some good stuff on the Sharpton problem and on why Cheney's position on weapons inspections in Iraq doesn't work.

02:50 BST: Permalink
Some great links from MWO:

Clinton gives 'em the spirit in home state:

"The Republicans campaign on ideology and resentment," he told about 400 people at the West Memphis Civic Auditorium. "They're good and the rest of us are bad. They spent $70 million of your money to prove I was a sinner, and you could have told 'em that for free."
Inarticulate, and proud of it:

"I'M A PATIENT man," President Bush said the other day. He was dressed in cowboy clothes. "And when I say I'm a patient man," he added, somewhat impatiently, "I mean I'm a patient man." The president was responding to reporters' attempts to make sense of the administration's scorching but confusing rhetoric about Iraq. His declaration of patience amended his declarations of war, seeking to douse expectations of imminent attack while promising that hostile action will come eventually.
02:27 BST: Permalink
The Washington Post says Bush Seeks Secrecy For Pardon Discussions:

President Bush's lawyers are trying to keep secret the inside stories of President Bill Clinton's last-day pardons by invoking a claim of executive privilege that extends far beyond the White House.

In pleadings filed in U.S. District Court here this month, including affidavits from White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, the Bush administration contends that the privilege covers not only advice given to a president about individual pardons, but also government papers he has never seen and officials he has never talked to, such as the sentencing judge in a particular case.

The stance, taken in opposition to a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit group Judicial Watch for access to Clinton pardon records, represents a hard line that the government has never taken. In the past, executive privilege has been recognized for advisers who operate within the White House. Bush's lawyers say it covers officials in any part of the government who are asked for input about pardon requests.

This is just too rich. (So to speak.) Gee, I wonder what they're trying to hide this time - and is it just to avoid exonerating Clinton, or have they got covering-up their own sleazy dealings in mind? Oh, yeah, they want to cover up Scooter Libby's part in the deal!

Oh, but there's more (as Atrios also notes):

Clinton repeatedly short-circuited the pardon process, which requires applications to the U.S. pardon attorney at the Justice Department; investigation by the FBI; consultation with interested parties, from the sentencing judge to the victim; and a report and recommendation by the pardon attorney to the president, after a review by the deputy attorney general.
No, it doesn't, actually. The Constitution places almost no restrictions on a President's power to pardon. (You don't think Ford and Bush1 bothered with all that process when they pardoned Nixon, Cap, & friends, do ya?) Haven't we been through all this before? Do these people have the collective attention span of a gnat? Even I can remember January of 2001 well enough to recall that lots and lots of people were repeatedly pointing this out; why can't the damn Post remember this stuff?

02:10 BST: Permalink
Rittenhouse Review has looked at that curious quote from Katherine Harris' book:

A sample of Harris’s insightful review and analysis of the post-election controversy: "Regardless of what course of action we chose, we knew we had landed in a no-win situation. Before I made my first public statement, we all knew that my office would come under fire."

"When the Gore campaign began to unleash the dogs of war upon me during the difficult recount controversy, I was not inordinately surprised," Harris writes, adding that Gore’s "aggressive tactics" may have spoiled an opportunity for a full recount.

As best we can tell, the "dogs of war" include "the media," particularly unnamed editors who pressured unnamed reporters to slant their stories against Harris, President George W. Bush, and Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.); David Letterman; Jay Leno; the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, particularly Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry; Democratic Party activists; and editorial cartoonists.

Harris dresses up her argument with a tortured legal analysis but it really seems to boil down to one word: Spite.

Yes, that's right: Apparently, Harris had every intention of doing her duty, but when she, uh, didn't, and that evil Al Gore tried to make her, she got so mad that she decided not to do it after all.

Funnily enough, I rather enjoy this new piece of spin in which Al Gore was too aggressive in Florida, which rather conflicts with the previous spin that he wasn't aggressive enough and therefore dropped the ball.

01:35 BST: Permalink
I guess Maureen Dowd really does hate everyone, or else writing something like this might mean she was rethinking some of her other positions:

"Usually I run six days a week," the magazine's leggy cover boy expounds. "When I don't run, I use an elliptical trainer, lift weights and stretch. But when I run, I run hard. On Sundays, if I'm at Camp David, I'll go for a hard morning run — these days about 20:30 to 20:45 for three miles on a tough course. . . . I try to go for longer runs, but it's tough around here at the White House on the outdoor track. . . . It's sad that I can't run longer. It's one of the saddest things about the presidency."

Another one of the saddest things about this presidency is that it has no voice. The greatest president of the last century could not even walk, but he recognized that he had to talk — that if the people did not understand the reasons for his actions, they could not become his partners in history.

About the grave crises facing us today, there is a deafening silence at the top. Mr. Bush's policies on the economy, the Middle East, North Korea and Iraq are obscure and even opaque, but his policy on physical fitness policy is crystal clear: "I expect the White House staff to be on time and sharp and to exercise." (Ask not what your abs can do for you. . . .)

00:52 BST: Permalink
Max recommends this Salon article with this Merle Haggard quote:

MERLE HAGGARD ON JOHN ASHCROFT, August 25, 2002, Kansas City: "I think we should give John Ashcroft a big hand...(pause)...right in the mouth! . . . The way things are going I'll probably be thrown in jail tomorrow for saying that, so I hope ya'll will bail me out."

Tuesday, 27 August 2002

23:00 BST: Permalink

I apologize for posting earlier without enough coffee. We now return to our regularly scheduled hobbyhorse, in this case an interesting letter to MWO from Mark Weber:

Michael Powell is worried about shock jocks. I suppose he feels that they coarsen our culture.

Funny, because Powell and other like-minded Republicans are directly responsible for the sad state of radio today.

The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is currently directing an investigation into a radio stunt pulled by WNEW's Opie and Anthony.

The two Howard Stern wannabes were recently fired after they aired a live broadcast of a couple allegedly having sex in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

It looks as if the FCC is out for blood this time.
But the press, as usual, has missed the bigger story.

Before we start, let's state the obvious: Opie and Andy are a couple of chuckleheads. Their St. Pat's stunt was offensive, idiotic and spectacularly unfunny.

But why is Powell pressing for an investigation? The morons have been fired. The station's general manager and the program director have been suspended. The couple who allegedly had sex, and the producer who described it, are under arrest.

Even William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, seems satisfied by the outcome, and has backed off on his call to pull WNEW's broadcast license. Powell, who wants to keep the government out of corporate media, should be thrilled - the market has removed offensive speech all by itself. So why investigate?

A quick look at the history of Republicans and the FCC might clue us in:

From 1949 to 1987, the FCC enforced a policy known as the Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine ensured that at least some diversity of opinion was offered on the nation's airwaves. It called on broadcasters to offer balancing views about political issues as a way of serving the public interest.

But when Congress tried to write the doctrine into law (in a bill supported by both Newt Gingrich and Jesse Helms), Ronald Reagan vetoed it.

All through the first Bush administration, the Fairness Doctrine enjoyed wide support - except in the White House. The constant threat of a veto kept the doctrine from being passed into law.

Around this time, Rush Limbaugh and other right wing radio squawkers began their syndicated ascendancy. Rush was praised as the "Majority Maker" by Republicans in 1994; from then on, Gingrich's House would ensure that the Fairness Doctrine could never become law.

It was then that the Republicans ran their first Statue of Liberty play. By adding the Communications Decency Act to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Republicans turned the focus of the debate toward shock radio and away from the increasingly bellicose and one-sided commentary being offered by Limbaugh and others.

The younger Powell is now in charge of keeping that Republican tradition of media distraction alive. Powell has already levied fines against several radio stations for indecency, even as he clears a path for larger media conglomerates to dominate the airwaves - conglomerates that are happy to cut costs by broadcasting more and more syndicated programming.

And, as long as they keep it "clean," these mega-media corporations have fewer and fewer content restrictions to worry about. Take the Personal Attack and Political Editorial Rules. As the FCC's Web site explains:

"The political editorial rule provides generally that if a licensee airs an editorial supporting a political candidate, it must notify other candidates for that office of the editorial and provide them an opportunity to respond on-the-air. Similarly, the personal attack rule provides generally that when, during a program on a controversial issue of public importance, an attack is made on someone's integrity, the licensee must inform the subject of the attack and provide an opportunity to respond on-the-air."
On the one hand, Powell demands that shock jocks clean up their act, because the public owns the airwaves and insists that the radio spectrum be used in the public interest.

On the other hand, Powell frets that providing for a real political dialogue on radio is an unnecessary infringement on broadcasters' First Amendment rights.

In other words, if you talk about sex, you're outta here. But if you talk about Bill Clinton having sex, your rights are secure.

There's more there, including some sources. (Anyone remember my earlier rants about how "the public interest" used to mean something more than suppressing sex and dirty words?)

One of the projects I keep never getting around to is compiling a single list of links for all the stories on how the Bad Guys have been crippling free speech on the public airwaves and on the 'net. This is scary stuff, it really is.

14:21 BST: Permalink

I'm sorry, but this is not what a President of the United States should sound like.

Here's some cartoons:

Patrick alerted me to this one.

Maia Cowan sent me this one. (A couple of months ago, actually, but I kept forgetting.)

I'm still on my first cup of coffee, and I'm perusing stuff I downloaded last night that has more on the unsavory subject of Ann Coulter, and I keep remembering this collage someone gave me back in the early '70s that had a quote clipped from Rolling Stone running across it: "Sullen sexuality doesn't make you a great singer anymore than bad manners makes you a great ball." - Paul Williams

(I never did find out which Paul Williams said it.)

I've never seen Ann Coulter except in still photographs, but the tone of her words in transcripts is often sullen. Yet she doesn't convey sullen sexuality. What she conveys is a sort of drunken desperation, as if she'd go home with just about anyone. She certainly has bad manners. I hope to god she doesn't speak in her higher register much, she's bad enough already. Maybe if she gets drunk enough she's fun, but she comes across as such a harridan that it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to wake up to her.

Oh, god, I need more coffee.

Monday, 26 August 2002

18:39 BST: Permalink

The New Republic remembers when Trent Lott said, "I think, as Jesse Jackson would say, give peace a chance here."

18:15 BST: Permalink
Lisa English knows what's important:

In this war of tit for tat which focuses on the value of incendiary semi-journalism (Drudge, Rush, MWO, et al), it sure looks like we've lost our bearing and the drive for solution. We The People are being royally screwed by a campaign of media deregulation which threatens the foundation of our democracy and what is our response? To play Gotcha or invariably, to sit back in silence and ignorance while Colin's kid, FCC Chairman Michael Powell systematically whittles away at what's left of communications anti-trust. Is tit for tat really that more fulfilling an avenue to travel?

Regardless of which party we've registered as our personal political savior, our voice, the voice of the people, is being slowly snuffed out. That's right...the voices of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, etc. ... the whole lot of us - the public citizen's voice is being legislatively silenced by a corporate media elite which bears no relationship to the so called and mythological "liberal media" and which couldn't care less about the people's voice. But dig this: these are our airwaves, folks.. and those who lease our airwaves should be required to GIVE BACK in the form of election debate and public airtime as well as with programming that provides alternative to the corporate view, etc. Without that alternative and regulations which prohibit the monopolizing of newspapers in a given market (so that the only voice you get is GE's or AOL/Time Warner, etc), millions of Americans will continue to walk around like zombies...ignorant of the reality that our corporate media is keeping information out of our newspapers, radio and tv because it's not in line with their business agenda. Think about this day and age, media conglomerates own pieces of power companies, pharmaceutical concerns, newspapers, theme parks, online services. There are inherent conflicts of interest here. I'm not speaking of conspiracy...I'm talking about your basic biz school profit-minded decisionmaking - they're not about to screw the profit pooch and if left to further deregulate, they'll just screw us.

Sunday, 25 August 2002

19:10 BST: Permalink

Patrick just messaged me on AoL Instant Messenger to correct me:

Patrick: No, feudalism does not grow out of libertarianism. What you mean to say is that authoritarian and inequitable systems grow out of the Hobbesian state of nature. In that you're probably correct. Feudalism grows out the collapse of the Roman system, and was revolutionary in its way: in the feudal great chain of being, everyone is a full-fledged human being with value, and even the most powerful have obligations to the powerless.

Classical antiquity was built on slavery. Feudalism is post-slavery. Serfs aren't slaves. One has obligations to one's serfs.

Avedon: Yes, you're right. I forgot. *chagrin*

Patrick: I do think you're generalizing a bit about libertarians. Many libertarians are well engaged with the question of how do you have a freer society without reverting to a war of all against all, in which society would wind up run by the strongest thugs. What you say is true, but it's kind of like arguing with democratic socialists by exclaiming over the moral and practical deficiencies of Bolshevism.

Avedon: Well, yes and no. Because I think the answer to that "libertarian" question has always been, clearly, liberalism.

Patrick: Well, I do too, but I think libertarians raise a lot of the issues that liberals need to address in more detail. I also think many liberals get altogether too darn comfortable exercising power for its own sake. Which is why I describe my own politics as "liberalism boiled in libertarianism."

Avedon: I agree, but what I think this is is an argument between liberalism and liberalism.

Patrick: Well, modern liberals and libertarians are both descendants of 19th-century liberalism, if that's what you mean. Both are critiques of the kind of aristocratic and entrenched power that just sits there and says Fuck You.

Avedon: But part of the argument here is whether power that comes from entrenched Great Wealth can be trusted to run unchecked by government. Adam Smith said no; modern libertarians have made a habit of ignoring that.

Patrick: Ayup.

Avedon: The pro-corporate argument is not liberal, but aristocratic.

Patrick: Many (not all) libertarians have a hard time grasping that big business is, by and large, an arm of big government.

Avedon: Or vice versa.

Patrick: Not many corporations grew up as the unfettered creations of single brilliant Randian heroes.

Corporations are inherently creations of the government's monopoly on force.

BY DEFINITION the "limited liability corporation" can't exist if government power isn't deployed to protect it.

Avedon: Yes.

Patrick: Some libertarians do grasp this.

Avedon: Yes. But they vote Democratic. :)

18:15 BST: Permalink
From Chris Nelson:

From Counterspin, here's a link to audio (RealAudion format) from the Portland protests. As suggested on Counterspin, fast-forward to the 6 minute mark and listen to the comments from a female participant.
18:12 BST: Permalink
Atrios has posted a thoughtful comment from one of his readers on the subject of the way Bush uses hubris as a substitute for "patient planning, consultation with Congressional leaders as well as allies, substantive debate and careful building of support among the American people."

18:05 BST: Permalink
Blimey! Moose & Squirrel has started a blog! No permalinks, but go cruise around and enjoy the pictures. But oh, Moosie, please, a larger font size!

18:00 BST: Permalink

NEW YORK--The United States is a nation of laws. The police arrest suspects they reasonably believe to have broken the law, not citizens who happen to disagree with the government's politics. Cops don't go after people preemptively because they might commit a crime someday. In America, people are considered innocent until they're proven guilty in a court of law. They enjoy the right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers as quickly as possible. And of course they're entitled to the counsel of an attorney.

These fundamental rights, taught in every civics class, define what it means to be American. When other countries fill their prisons with political dissidents, we wonder aloud what it must be like to live in such lawless places. When we watch films like "Midnight Express," in which an American drug smuggler rots in a Turkish prison, we shake our heads not at the sentence--after all, he's guilty--but at the lead character's railroading through the court system and the abuse he suffers at the hands of his guards.

Before September 11, no patriotic American would have disputed the last two paragraphs. Sadly, legal guarantees that every American considered a sacred birthright have been shredded virtually overnight, and many people don't seem to care. Just as a World Trade Center built over the course of five years was destroyed in under two hours, a presidential impostor has used a phony "war on terror" to systematically unraveled two centuries of basic jurisprudence in less than a year.

George W. Bush may not have read Gibbon but he possesses the morals and cunning of a gangster; in a country still stunned by last fall's attacks, that seems to be enough.
There are few more sickening sights than George W. Bush wearing a lapel pin bearing an image of the American flag. Bush and his creepy henchmen can wrap themselves in nationalistic symbolism all they want, but these right-wing thugs aren't patriots. They may pledge allegiance to the flag, but they despise the republic for which it stands.

16:47 BST: Permalink
Brad DeLong's got a nice little discussion going on the topic of the shameless Bush treatment of veterans and Mickey Kaus' indefensible defense of it:

First, some background. Joshua Micah Marshall posted a memo in which the Veterans Affairs Department brass directed that outreach activities to veterans be severely restricted, in the hope that it would allow them to save money: if you treat a smaller proportion of eligible veterans, after all, you save dollars. Paul Krugman picked up the story. It seemed pretty sleazy, yes? To try to save money by keeping veterans unaware that there exist hospitals where they have a right to have their diseases treated is just one half step above trying to balance your budget by stealing from the blind.

But then comes Mickey Kaus to argue before the bar that eliminating veterans hospitals is a good-government cause, and so keeping as many veterans as possible ignorant of them and their rights is a good-government cause too. This is what leads Jason McCullough to assign Kaus to the Dark Side.

And this is where I disagree. I agree that welshing on the government's promise to provide medical care for veterans is reprehensible. I agree that Kaus's attempt to claim that the budgetary savings come from reduced "marketing activities" rather than from more untreated sick veterans is mendacious. But Mickey Kaus can't join the Dark Side. After all, the Dark Side does believe in free medical care for veterans. On this John Derbyshire, Chancellor Palpatine, and Ming the Merciless agree.

While people in the comment section speculate on what causes Mickey to behave the way he does, I'm more interested in where Brad draws the line on "the Dark Side" on this issue. From where I'm sitting, the Dark Side has a number of different types of members and levels of troops, such as:

  • the reigning aristocracy (who actually don't care about anyone but themselves, and just use whatever rhetoric they think will sell in order to try to, um, manufacture consent for their plundering of our resources for their own gain)
  • the genuine theofascists (who would happily use the government to provide any means necessary to suppress any other lifestyle, any dissent, any deviation from a strict adherence to their own belief system - yes, complete with gulags and extermination, given the option)
  • true-believer libertarian free-marketeers (who sincerely think that removing all regulations from the marketplace will make it a better, more efficient system for rewarding creativity and hard work and for providing products and services to society)
  • hustlers (who know it's all rubbish but, like the aristos, are out for themselves, and want to attach themselves to the power-brokers)
  • dupes (who actually believe all the hype about Social Security being a shambles, Bush being more honorable and dignified than Clinton, Gore having slandered Bradley during his primary campaign, Democrats trying to queer the ballot-counts in Florida, etc.).
I had to force myself to separate the libertarians from the "dupe" category, because I think in large part libertarians are fairly deluded. Many of them have confused arguments against violations of individual civil liberties with arguments against regulation of corporate bodies. Many of them still seem to think that because some high-profile members of "the left" have demonstrated streaks of authoritarianism (e.g., anti-porn feminists) or corporate toadying (Fritz Hollings, for example), they are the exemplars of what "liberalism" really means. That conservatives have actually been even more prone to such behaviors seems to have escaped their notice. They think libertarianism is a smart new idea that's never been tried, but have somehow overlooked that it is in fact the natural state, the starting point from which aristocracies, dictatorships, feudal systems grow. We've seen libertarianism over and over; it makes people long for democracy.

I think Kaus is a hustler with aristo ambitions, myself, but that puts him well into the Dark Side, from my perspective. The true-believer libertarians and the out-and-out dupes are at least hoping for a system that works better and is fairer to all, but Kaus is not an honest broker. He is a "liberal" only to the extent that he likes essentially conservative ideas when they are signed into law by purportedly "liberal" leaders (Clinton and welfare reform), but he's basically a shill for power. His personal instincts are probably in line with his generation's social behavior, but politically - well, let's just say that he probably applauded Michael Douglas rather than Martin Sheen when he saw Wall Street.

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From The Grauniad:

A creep and a great man: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate

And a story I regret to say I missed when it was still hot, Free bus pass for Nibbles the hamster:

A hamster at the centre of a cash-for-travel row has been awarded a free travel pass, it was announced yesterday. The 10-year-old owner of Nibbles, Jordan Underwood, was stunned when a bus driver demanded that he pay an additional 10p on top of his own 55p fare to take his pet on a bus ride into Northampton town centre.

The bus company First Northampton apologised to the pair for the top-up charge yesterday, awarding Jordan free bus travel for a month and giving Nibbles his own lifetime travel pass.

The pair were then given a trip around the town on one of the company's buses, which carried a sign reading "The Hamster Special".

Austin Birks, a spokesman for the company, apologised to the pair and thanked them for drawing attention to a gap in the firm's travel policy.

He said: "We realised we had no policy for hamster travel so we have released the first ever guidelines for hamsters using our buses.

"First, hamsters are encouraged to travel free of charge on any of our services, preferably accompanied by a fee-paying human.

"Second, young hamsters will be asked to give up their seat to an elderly or infirm hamster.

"Thirdly, we request that hamsters do not use mobile telephones or Walkmans while travelling on our buses for the comfort and convenience of other hamsters."

Saturday, 24 August 2002

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Looking for some gorgeous wallpaper images? (Via Bartcop.)

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Jacob Sullum is not jubilant:

The Libertarian Party is celebrating the defeat of U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, whom it calls the "worst Drug Warrior in Congress." Although I spend much of my time criticizing the war on drugs, I do not share the L.P.'s enthusiasm.

There's no question that Barr, who recently lost his bid for the Republican nomination to represent Georgia's newly redrawn 7th District, is an enthusiastic prohibitionist. The four-term congressman has bucked public opinion by doggedly opposing the medical use of marijuana. He even supports a ban on hemp products because they sometimes contain trace amounts of THC--too little to get anyone high, but enough to offend Barr's sensibilities.

Yet Barr is also, paradoxically, a vocal champion of privacy and civil liberties. The tragedy of his career is that he does not recognize how the war on drugs undermines those values.

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Ha ha ha

Patrick announces the return of The Poor Man citing this post reacting to the awful appearance of Horowitz on Nightline, and also commenting on Andrew's template, generating many comments at Electrolite and finally this post from Andrew. Hey, I can always use a good laugh.

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The New Republic on The Sheriff-of-Nottingham Party:

At last the results of the Republican revolution are in. When the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, it promised to scale back government across the board--"shared sacrifice," as then-Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich put it at the time. Well, this week the Associated Press studied the changes in federal spending that have taken place under Republican control, and the outcome turns out to have been neither shared nor, from the point of view of Republican constituents, sacrifice. Rather, Congress mainly shifted programs away from Democratic districts and toward Republican ones. In the 1995 budget--the last one written by a Democratic majority--the average Democratic district received $35 million more than the average Republican district. By 2001 the average Republican district received a whopping $612 million more than the average Democratic one. This turnabout might seem like fair play but for one fact: Democratic districts tend to be poorer and thus in greater need of help from the federal government. These days they're not getting it. For six years Republicans have cut programs that help the struggling--such as child care food programs and public housing--and raised spending on programs that help the relatively well-off, such as farm subsidies and business loans. House Majority Leader Dick Armey offered this gloating explanation for his party's efforts at upward redistribution: "To the victor go the spoils." Now there's a moral basis for government.
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I dont want to put any .jpgs on my site (it downloads slow enough already), but this is kinda cool. They've also got some useful HTML stuff like this really neat color map. And, most importantly, this.

Friday, 23 August 2002

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Contrast and Compare

Bob Somerby is unhappy with how the Wise Men of the press - and here he's talking about some of its more restrained members - simply ignore outrageous statements by the RNC and the likes of Ann Coulter.

But take a good look at some of those outrageous statements by those people, the lies and even the longing for the murder of liberals and Democrats. And then remember that Spinsanity accused Media Whores Online of using the worst tactics of their opposition.

Go ahead, Spinsanity, show me anything from MWO that compares with this kind of crap. This is what's on talk radio for hours every day, this is what's on television - even on Crossfire (and even when Coulter isn't on the show, Tucker Carlson does his own version of truth-killing). A moral equivalence between MWO and "the worst tactics of its opponents"? You won't find it; it isn't there.

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At last!

"Good evening, I'm Congressman Bernie Sanders and I want to welcome you to what I believe is the first Congressional Town Meeting ever organized to address the issue of corporate control of the media."

Thus began the first of two public town meetings in late April 2002, where U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (Vt.-Ind.) did what perhaps no member of Congress has done before--suggested that media can be a political issue in America. By focusing on corporate control of the media, the severe problems it creates for self-government and what can be done about it, the six-term congressmember opened a new chapter in the struggle for media reform.

Thursday, 22 August 2002

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Max on a popular subject:

Which brings us to the conservative narrative of moral equivalence. Often a radical's response to the allegation of a crime by someone deemed unsavory is to respond with some parallel deed for which the U.S. government bears responsibility. Conservatives say this is an error of moral equivalence because the USG are the good guys and the other guys are not. It is wrong to evaluate actors in light of actions because the actors are fundamentally different.

The logic here is precisely backwards, albeit ingenious. Ordinarily we would infer morality from actions. If two parties each commit murder, they are equally wrong. The moral equivalence narrative says we must begin with the implicit assumption that the USG represents the greater good, hence one may not evaluate our enemies by the same standards by which we evaluate ourselves. If we each commit murder, the USG murder deserves at least the benefit of the doubt, if not automatic approval. If the U.S. indulges the use of WMD by Saddam Hussein, our motives are honorable while his are despicable.

Everyone is a good guy in their own movie. Some of the most horrible evils are carried out by people who are awash with a sense of righteousness, moral outrage, justified anger, confrontation with intolerable evil. They are unquestionably capable of being wrong, whether their enemy is truly evil or not. But they think it's okay, because they are Good.

The idea that the world can be so simply divided up into "good guys" (who sometimes make mistakes - but that's forgivable, because they are basically good people) and "bad guys" (who act only out of evil purpose) is something we expect from children but also expect them to outgrow. The conservative narrative to which Max refers is, to me, a sign of arrested development.

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The Nielsen Haydens have re-posted 110 Stories by John M. Ford on their site. It has 110 lines. Go read it if you haven't seen it yet.

Wednesday, 21 August 2002

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Uggabugga thinks Spinsanity is spinning.

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Joe Conason knows where to get the dirt:

Cartoon characters clash
Bob Barr's accidental discharge of an antique handgun has provided considerable mirth to supporters of John Linder, his opponent in the increasingly bitter Republican primary in Georgia's Seventh District. One of them recently showed up at a Barr rally dressed as Yosemite Sam (the outraged Warner Bros.'s cartoon dude who always shot himself in the foot), billing himself as the wacky winger's "official gun safety instructor." Unfortunately, Barr's blazer-wearing goons, including his son, didn't get the joke, as this video of the event indicates. It's a bit reminiscent of certain events in Florida in November 2000. The same Republican underground Website, Political Vine, offers acid commentary on divisions within the Georgia GOP, now chaired by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed. On Political Vine, members of the ultra-right faction in the Peach State party led by Barr and Reed are known as "Neo-Nasties."
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I worked on the The Memphis Blues Festival in 1969 and saw these guys play.

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Max has some very good things to say about Democrats and populism, and also links to a useful article in The American Prospect. Both of these are very much worth clicking on, folks, please do it.

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An interview with Frank Zappa, in which he talks about, among other things, the myth of the liberal media. (Via Bartcop.) We miss you, Uncle Frank.

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I've got to agree with Josh Marshall: Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate is an insane idea, for all of the reasons he outlines.
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I'm so slow, I just noticed this at Uncertain Principles:

In my office, I'm pretty much stuck with the radio, thanks to my lemon of a desktop computer, which doesn't deal well with streaming audio. In the lab, though, I've found a better solution, or, rather, the student who's working with me for the summer has found a solution. It's one of the handful of Web radio stations that hasn't been driven out of business by the ridiculous royalty policy bought lobbied for by the record industry, operating out of Seattle.
He's right, KEXP does have that old WHFS feel. Brings back a lot of good memories of sitting up there late at night when I wasn't supposed to be there....

Tuesday, 20 August 2002

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Mystified by the new wonder drug LSD, the psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West and his colleague at the University of Oklahoma, Chester M Pierce, were looking for a new way to investigate the drug in 1962. They came up with an idea so outlandish it could only happen in the world of experimental psychology.

Male elephants are prone to bouts of madness; LSD seems to cause a temporary form of madness; perhaps if we combine the two, they reasoned, we could make an elephant go mad. Their research paper about this venture is a tragicomedy of high hopes and lessons not learnt. For only mindless optimism and blind faith can account for the events that unfolded on a hot summer day in Oklahoma City's Lincoln Park Zoo 40 years ago.

Having established that "one of the strangest things about elephants is the phenomenon of going 'on musth'," a form of madness that sees the animal "run berserk for a period of about two weeks, during which time he may attack or attempt to attack anything in his path," West and Pierce enrolled the assistance of Warren D Thomas of the local zoo.

Thomas volunteered the services of Tusko, a 3,200kg, 14-year-old male elephant. They were all set to establish what an elephant on acid would get up to. One crucial point had to be decided - how much LSD would it take to make him run amok? Research had established that lower animals are less susceptible to the mind-altering effects of LSD than humans. It would be a waste to have an elephant ready to go and then miss out on the unique opportunity by giving it an insufficient dose.

West and Pierce decided to go for it. While 297mg might not sound a lot, it is enough LSD to make nearly 3,000 people experience hours of "marked mental disturbance," to use the researchers' phrase. This was the record-breaking quantity of the most potent psychoactive substance in existence fired into one of Tusko's rumps with a rifle-powered dart at 8am on August 3. What happened next is captured with an oddly moving economy of expression in the clinical voice of the research paper:

I'll let you read it. Bear in mind that where pure LSD is concerned, 100 micrograms is a potent dose for a full-grown man.

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From Body & Soul:

Talk about a change of heart. A year ago, David Corn wrote a piece in The Nation headlined Al, Don't Run, arguing that Gore was a horrible campaigner and an unbelievable populist, and that Democrats ought to do everything they could to discourage him from running. His latest piece is called All For Gore in '04. The reason for the change is not a re-evaluation of Gore's populist credentials, but a sense that only Gore can stop Joe Lieberman from running.

At this point, I'll take any Democrat, including Lieberman, over Bush. But I think David Corn's change of heart is interesting and may reflect an increasing willingness of people on the left to accept the good and not hold out for the perfect.

I hope so.

Me, too.

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I am wrong, according to Alas, a blog.

Avedon claims that after sex a man "becomes an innocent bystander," and therefore he has no responsibility for what happens. This is "hot potato" morality; instead of splitting responsibility between all decision-makers, the last person to make a decision gets 100% of the responsibility.

To see why hot potato morality doesn't work, consider the meat industry. Bob's meat plant sells Jane's meat shop unsafe meat - even though Bob knows it's unsafe. Jane's meat shop then sells the meat, even though Jane also knows it's unsafe. Then, several consumers eat the meat and go blind. According to Avedon's hot potato morality, only Jane is responsible for that outcome, and those blinded folks may sue Jane but not Bob. After all, the decision to sell the meat to consumers was "made solely by Jane"; once the meat had passed out of Bob's hands, Bob "becomes an innocent bystander."

Er, um, I suppose this works out okay if we equate sex with poisoned meat, but, gosh, I just can't. Bob and Jane may both know that they're selling poisoned meat, but Suzie and Pete just thought they were having sex - which, in fact, they were.

Look, sex is this great way we have of making contact with each other, developing relationships, cementing bonds. Granted, we've messed it up a bit and we all know it doesn't always work out, but life is a great deal more bleak if you delete sex from the formula. Treating sex like it's a bad thing - poisoned meat - is part of the problem.

Bob and Jane are each knowingly choosing to sell poisoned meat. But we're talking about a situation where two people want to make opposite choices. One of them, at least, is wrong. I think the woman who expects a man to take responsibility for an agreement he did not make is the one who is poisoning the meat. She bought perfectly good meat from Pete in an honest and open deal, and then added the poison herself - and tried to feed it to Pete. Remember, Pete only agreed to sex, not fatherhood; Suzie wants to change the rules after the fact. It's not responsibility, it's fraud.

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This is a new one going on the list at right: Talk Left, who have the subheader, "the politics of crime".

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From MWO:

Bush has taken not a single action since beginning his White House occupation that demonstrates he is more concerned about the American people than his own interests. He has advanced no policy that was not the result of a political calculation that his action would either "appease the base" or satisfy the cronies and the contributors.
Election 2000 matters. Election 2000 provided the answer to the single most important question one would ask in evaluating whether Bush's judgment on the economy, Iraq and other world affairs, and all other critical issues should be trusted: "Is George W. Bush's priority the American people, or his own interests and agenda?"

Election 2000 matters, because Bush provided us irrefutable evidence throughout that controversy that he does not consider the people's interests or American principles to be paramount, but instead his own political ends.

Bush -- whose most obvious character trait is entitlement -- knowingly, deliberately, and without apology mounted a brutal and vicious battle against American citizens and principles throughout November and December 2000. He knew then that Al Gore was elected by the people. He knows it now. Mr. Gore knows it, and every journalist in America knows it.

But Bush's mission at that time was to do anything and everything in his and his Poppy's appointees' power to prevent the outcome he knew the American people had chosen for themselves. (No one can forget that creepy scene election night, with the Bush Crime Family sequestered together in a small room, insisting the Florida call was incorrect. And no one to this day can quite explain it either.)

Once he had stolen the election as a result of requesting an abuse of power by the Supreme Court that was ultimately granted, Bush proceeded to knowingly abuse his own ill-gotten power by ramming a rejected agenda down the throats of the American people.

Is there any justification for Bush's actions in Election 2000? None. That's why the topic is taboo in the Whore-American community. No one can defend those actions, or their own complicity in the theft of an election from the American voters. And no one dares contemplate what they mean in the current context of domestic and global crises.

Monday, 19 August 2002

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To me she will always be the woman who protected Michael Rennie and helped save his life when she uttered the immortal words, "Gort, Klaatu barada nictu," but there are many reasons to admire Patricia Neal.

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Rebecca Knight is still angry and has the citations to back it up:

WOW! You really have to hand it to Al Gore. Apparently when he speaks everybody listens. At least all the mainstream media pundits listen. Then they run like scalded dogs to write their tirades and set Mr. Gore straight. What is this anti-Gore illness with the media all about? It is really hard to get a handle on exactly what causes it, but the symptoms definitely exist. One would think that just a glance at what the Bush administration has done to this nation would be enough to give any critical thinking pundit reason to self-examine his or her previously held beliefs about Al Gore. Oh, but no! Wouldn't be prudent, as Poppy Bush likes to say.

And it's not just the media that goes negative on Gore. Joe Lieberman, of all people, had the nerve to criticize the populist theme of Gore's campaign 2000. Oh, Joe, we gotta know how you came up with that one! Did you express those thoughts during the campaign in your strategy sessions with Al? Were you thinking those thoughts when you sat like a wuss and got out-debated by Cheney? Were you thinking those thoughts when you appeared on national television and inserted foot in mouth about the military votes in Florida? Uh, Joe, clear the cobwebs dear. Gore got more. Simply put, the populist theme worked then and it will work again because it is a very relevant issue, even more so now. So, Joe, cut the crap and stop with your pathetic shenanigans. We all know you are trying to position yourself for a presidential run in 2004. Not gonna happen dear boy.

What's wrong with this picture? The candidate who tells the truth to the people is branded as a habitual liar and the candidate who lies as easily as he breathes gets a free pass. Not only that, the liar candidate sneaks around in Florida with his brother Jebbie and Katherine (Cruella) Harris manipulating the voting process, the recounts, and the judicial system so that he becomes the leader of the free world. Something is fundamentally wrong in America. Something is so wrong that, as stated in a previous column, this writer will get over it when pigs fly!

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There are some things you never expect:

A Crisis Of Conscience By Roger Wilkins

When I was writing editorials on Watergate for The Washington Post, I would have bet that not in a million years would I side with Charles Colson [op-ed, July 30] against a Post editorial [July 10]. And yet here it is, only 30 years later and I agree wholeheartedly with his belief that conscience is essential for healthy capitalism -- and, I would add, for a healthy civic life as well.

Slavery was about as conscienceless a capitalistic endeavor as can be imagined. Its morality was debated at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Assessing the international slave trade, Luther Martin of Maryland asserted, among other things, that slavery was dishonorable. John Rutledge of South Carolina lashed back coldly: "Religion and humanity have nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations. . . . If the Northern states consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of slaves which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers."

The profound Virginian, George Mason, himself a slave owner, delivered a stirring rebuttal to Rutledge topped by this thunderous conclusion: "Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. [Slaves] bring the judgment of heaven on a country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins, by national calamities." Mason and Martin lost, and the calamities, begun when the first African was enslaved here, continued rumbling down the decades toward the Civil War.

Mason wasn't the only delegate who understood the role of conscience in the life of the new nation. As the secret constitutional conclave was ending, a woman stopped Benjamin Franklin on the street. "What have you made for us in there?" she asked. "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it." Franklin replied.

If you can keep it! Franklin was instructing us that in order to survive, the republic needed a polity with a democratic conscience. The Founders had given us a vivid lesson in what that meant in the period from the Stamp Act Crisis in 1765 to the shots fired at Lexington and Concord in 1775 -- the time that John Adams called the "real American Revolution," because in that period much of the population in the colonies changed its self-conception from that of subject to King George to that of self-governing American.

These people had spent that decade carefully following public affairs, reading, reflecting and then discussing issues with their colleagues. They organized their resistance, framed petitions and wrote learned treatises, undertook arduous travel to meet with each other as they created new institutions and, finally, created a government and an army and prosecuted a revolution. So it is no wonder they thought that taking care of public affairs was the first concern of the democratic citizen. At the Constitutional Convention they created institutions in their own likeness that needed tending by people who had a passion for democracy and freedom.

But over time, this lush, vast continent and the riches it promised turned human minds toward notions of freedom without restraint and of wealth without democratic responsibility. The force of this culture increased immeasurably as the nation accumulated enormous wealth and power, all wrapped in the idealistic generalities we inherited from the founding. In such an environment it appears that the most admirable virtues are demonstrated by the acquisition of wealth and fame without very much regard to how they have been acquired. As Colson points out, the law alone cannot protect us from our worst cultural impulses. The law is necessary, but not sufficient. There is moral ambiguity in the life of every nation just as there is in the lives of all human beings (as the conflicted life of George Mason surely indicates). Without the ethical constraints and imperatives of conscience that give potency to the aspiration toward decency and toward robust self-government, the law will always be engaged in a losing race with the avaricious and the corrupt.

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Ginger reckons I'm wrong:

Once the woman has declined to exercise her right to terminate a pregnancy--and the fact that it terminates parental responsibility in the future is a byproduct of that right--the question stops being about the rights of the parents, and becomes about their responsibilities, and the rights of the child they're (both) bringing into the world. The child's rights include the right to care from both its parents, male and female. Avedon's comments, and the comments of the people she's quoting, miss that part of the equation.
No, unfortunately, they don't. Responsibility has to start before that, either way. If responsibility doesn't include taking the father's willingness to parent into account, it's a meaningless concept. A child neither has nor needs the "right" to a father who has no desire to be part of that child's life, who may be seething with so much resentment (even hatred) of the mother that their every encounter is poisonous, and who may project that resentment onto the child and even demonstrate it in very visible and very hurtful ways.

And that "(both)" up there is just plain wrong: she is bringing the child into the world; he is not. He can do his damnedest to influence her decision, he can facilitate as much as he wants or can do, but he cannot bring the child into the world by himself, and she can. The ultimate responsibility - or blame - for making that decision is hers and hers alone.

I speak from pretty intimate knowledge, having seen in counselling sessions how women make these decisions. (I am, of course, a woman myself, and these questions have crossed my mind on an even more intimate level, too.) Most women, thank goodness, do ask themselves, "Can he cope with this?" And most women, when the answer is "no", choose to terminate or, if they have that option, raise the child independently.

Can he cope with it? Sometimes the answer really is "no". And why reserve all our protective instincts only for small children and pregnant women? I promise you that a grown man trapped in a horrible situation that makes him feel helpless and betrayed is just someone's child in trouble.

Having a sex partner get pregnant doesn't suddenly make you economically stable, it doesn't suddenly make you emotionally strong, it doesn't magically turn you into a great provider and terrific emotional support for your child. We need to internalize that fact before this debate can proceed.

Sunday, 18 August 2002

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Jim Henley has been listening to Steve Earle's new album (Flash player) and thinks it's just "pretty good".

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Solomon's Refuge says we may be Slouching Toward Fascism.

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If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss Frank Rich laying it all out nice and neat in The Waco Road to Baghdad:

George W. Bush tossed the nation's press a softball and they hit it out of the park. There was not a single good review, not even from his minions at The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for the White House's feel-good-about-your-401(k) jamboree at Waco. It was a "forum," the critics suggested, in the sense that the Politburo was a "legislature." Only Mr. Bush, who is on record as having loved "Cats," pronounced the event a "great show."

But it's Mr. Bush who was right. What his critics miss is that by this administration's standards of governance, Waco was a triumph. It was expressly designed to be content-free (rather like "Cats," in fact). The goal was never to produce policy but solely to serve up a video bite of Mr. Bush looking engaged by the woes of what his chief of staff, Andrew Card, referred to on CNN as "so-called real Americans." If the White House wanted anyone to listen, it would not have staged eight separate panels simultaneously on a Tuesday morning in the dog days of August, assuring that complete coverage would be available only on C-Span.

Imagine. Finally, a show of contempt so blatant that even the Stepford Press seemed to wake up for a moment and see the scam for what it is. Can it last? Will the Dana Milbanks, at least, begin to realize that they are dealing not with statesmen but with con artists?

What makes the morning-after outrage of the nation's commentariat seem a bit over the top is that the preordained hollowness of the Waco show is not news. This is how this administration always governs. Mr. Bush has two inviolate, one-size-fits-all policies (if obsessions can be called policies): the tax cut (for domestic affairs) and "regime change" in Iraq (foreign affairs). Everything else is a great show designed to provide the illusion of administration activity when it has no plan.

The show takes the form not only of the Orwellian slogans emblazoned on the backdrops ("Small Investors/Retirement Security" loomed above the president and Chuck in Waco) but also of bogus announcements of muscular action. At the forum's final curtain, the president declared that he would teach Congress a tough lesson about fiscal responsibility by holding back $5.1 billion it had appropriated for such low-priority items as equipment for firefighters and health monitoring at ground zero. But what about the $190 billion in wasteful farm subsidies he has already thrown to the winds? Besides, he would have to cut spending by $5 billion five days a week for more than a year to compensate for the red ink of his $1.35 trillion tax cut.

Though the president's harshest critics think he's stupid, I've always maintained that the real problem is that he thinks we are stupid. He never doubts that his show will distract us from bad news. Waco was supposed to make us forget the latest round of economic headlines: stagnant wages, slowed growth, new all-time records in personal bankruptcies and consumer borrowing. All this is on top of a falloff in the Dow that The Economist measures as identical in percentage to that of Herbert Hoover's first 18 months, which included the crash of '29.

Well, the economy is only money. It's when the same governance technique is applied to life-and-death matters like war and domestic security that the farce curdles. Here, too, there are new headlines the administration wants us to forget. At the F.B.I., a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed, the prehistoric computer system remains in disarray even as the agency's top executives are either pushed out or flee for private employment (as the counterterrorism chief abruptly did on Thursday). The Wall Street Journal discovered that when the federal government issued a terrorist warning to shopping centers four months ago, the Mall of America learned about it only by watching CNN. Not only are our airlines collapsing but, according to Thursday's USA Today, so is the undercover air marshal program that was supposed to be strengthened after Sept. 11. One marshal called it "a laughingstock."

And what does the administration propose as a solution? Last week John Ashcroft went on TV to announce what he calls the "first ever White House conference on missing and exploited children." It takes an exploiter to know one. F.B.I. figures show a decline in the kidnapping of children — except on cable TV. But if you can't crack the anthrax case, why not create some distracting hysteria by glomming onto a local law enforcement issue that is the biggest showbiz phenomenon since shark attacks? The administration loves the bait-and-switch. It hyped the cases of "the American Taliban," John Walker Lindh, and the "dirty bomber," Jose Padilla, to cover for its failure to snare the actual Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the actual bomber, Osama bin Laden, much as it has hyped the perp walks of second-rung executives from WorldCom to make us forget about Halliburton, Harken and Ken Lay.

Next stop: Iraq. Just as a tax cut is billed as the miracle antidote to every possible economic ill — "We've got the best tax policy in the world!" Mr. Bush said at Waco — so we're asked to believe that taking out Saddam Hussein will bring democracy to Iraq and the rest of the Arab world, miraculously repair the chaos wrought by our disengagement from the Middle East and win the war on terrorism all at once. The silver bullet that gets Saddam, it appears, will cure all international ills with the possible exception of the arrogance of the French.

By the way, does it bother anyone but me that while we're supposed to be at war with a virulent strain of religious extremists, Bush wants to pretend there's nothing more important than going after one of the few countries in the area that is not theocratically dominated?

Randolph Fritz wrote to me recently and suggested this scary thought: "Has it ever crossed your mind that US policy towards the Saudis and Salafi Islam for at least the past decade and probably longer looks very much like appeasement?" Well, yes. I'm sure the Saudis were very much in (the elder) Miles Copeland's mind a few years ago when he said, "You cannot win a war against the Muslim world."

But we have been told for decades that the reason we play patty-cake with awful governments is that there is nothing to replace them with that isn't worse - get rid of Pakistan's military junta, for example, and you'll end up with more crazy Muslim extremists, just like what happened in Iran during the '70s. Horribly, its probably all true.

While Saddam is an authentic genocidal monster, there are more plausible links between Al Qaeda and our dear friend Saudi Arabia than between Al Qaeda and Saddam; it could be argued that toppling him would strengthen Al Qaeda. But what the administration is mainly hoping is that a march on Baghdad will make us forget about Al Qaeda, wherever it may be lying in wait. It's not good P.R. for our war on terrorism that Islamic terrorists have been linked to eight attacks abroad since Daniel Pearl's murder in January, including the assassination of the Afghan vice president in Kabul and the slaughter of an American diplomat, among others, at a church in Islamabad.

The White House keeps saying that no decision has been made about Iraq, but of course a decision has been made. Richard Perle, an administration Iraq hawk, gave away the game in yesterday's Times: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said" would lead to "a collapse of confidence." Translation: If Mr. Bush doesn't get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since — well, his father. Democrats, as timid in challenging Mr. Bush on Iraq as they were in letting his tax cut through Congress, keep calling for a "debate." What world are they living in? Mr. Bush is no sooner going to abandon his pursuit of Saddam than his crusade to eliminate the estate tax. These are his only core beliefs.

They are, too. Not the economic stability of our nation, and not protecting our shores and our citizens from attack, but tax cuts and killing Saddam.

What's been most remarkable about the Iraq project so far is how an administration as effectively secretive as this one could spring so many leaks of invasion scenarios to the press. It strains credulity to assert that this is all an ingenious conspiracy to fake out Saddam. The leaks fake us out instead, inuring us to the new war to come.

The only mystery is when D-Day will be. Given the administration's history, I'd guess that it will put on the big show as soon as its political self-preservation is at stake. Certainly the White House's priorities are clear enough. It has guarded the records of Dick Cheney's energy task force and the S.E.C. investigation of Harken far more zealously than war plans that might endanger the lives of the so-called real Americans who will have to fight Saddam.

16:00 BST: Permalink
Time travel:

Is time travel possible?

Could evidence for it be found in the story of a man who appeared suddenly on the streets of New York City in 1950, bearing the property and identity of a man who had vanished in 1876?

Chris Aubeck loves a good mystery, so the Londoner who lives in Madrid, Spain, decided to get to the root of a tale that has received a lot of press in Europe.

This month, the Spanish magazine Enigmas will publish the yearlong odyssey of Aubeck, who doggedly traced a piece of paranormal folklore through six countries and back six decades to its source -- in Akron.

Aubeck, 31, who researches modern and ancient mysteries as a hobby, said fellow researchers in Europe often use the case of Rudolph Fentz as proof of time travel.

"They had been using the story for years in articles and books... and many of them accepted the Fentz story at face value," Aubeck said in an e-mail interview. "When I asked them if it had been solved, I was told it had been tried but never successfully."

To Aubeck, that sounded like a challenge he couldn't pass up.

I won't spoil the punchline for you, go read it.

15:30 BST: Permalink
Charles Kuffner contributes to the MWO discussion:

These words struck a chord with me. I don't want all political discourse to be like what's on MWO, but without MWO or something like it I don't believe that liberal and progressive ideas would be as widely heard. There's a lot of shouting out there, and for better or worse you're going to have a hard time being heard unless you do a little shouting yourself. Asking others to hush so you don't have to raise your voice accomplishes little.

I believe, therefore, that it's silly to ask MWO to be more like Jack Germond or EJ Dionne, and it's silly to denigrate MWO for not being like that. It's like asking Shaquille O'Neill to play point guard - their talents are best used on other things. But just as five Shaqs would make a lousy basketball team, a lineup of all MWOs or all EJ Dionnes would be a poor way of making the case for liberalism.

Does this mean that I therefore approve of Rush Limbaugh? Well, no, I firmly believe the world would be a better place without him. My reason for that belief isn't just because I think Limbaugh is an overheated blowhard. It's because I know damn well how much effect Limbaugh has on the public debate. Whether or not you agree with his methods and veracity, he gets the word out to a lot of people. I'd much rather people saw things my way because of appeals to logic and reason, but on Election Day it doesn't matter why they're punching a chad for a particular candidate. If a little MWO frothing helps to elect the people who will implement policies I approve of, I say bring it on.

I keep coming back to the idea that we aren't all going to express ourselves the same way, or have the same priorities, and that's okay. I think it's good to have a lot of different voices with our own different styles, and I think it's destructive to pit the quiet, thoughtful, measured voices against the over-exuberant ones. I don't want to divide us all up into opposed categories of those of us who are fine writers, thoughtful, and never call people names, and those who get a bit carried away. MWO never gets carried away enough to lie, but they have the energy to write more than the occasional article. That's a good thing. Maybe they'll hone their craft so that they're even better, but I'm happy to give them some time and support, just like I was given all those years ago.

Saturday, 17 August 2002

20:45 BST: Permalink

"Who are the girly boys?"

How right-wing smears work

Fascism defined

Gene Lyons channels me

Nixon didn't like them, either.

Christine Quiñones weighs in on MWO

20:15 BST: Permalink
Bob Somerby finds Chris Matthews' original opinion of Gore's debate performance:

MATTHEWS (10/4/00): I couldn’t believe the number of people who chickened out last night. It was clear to me—and I’m no fan of either of these guys entirely, and I can certainly say that about the one who I thought won last night, that’s Al Gore—I thought he cleaned the other guy’s clock, and I said so last night. All four national polls agreed with that…I don’t understand why people are afraid to say so.
That’s what Matthews said in real time. But in his book, he says that Gore’s best performance was in Debate III, and that he lost all three outings. Remember: Given the rank dysfunction of our modern press corps, intelligent citizens will be very careful when offered the corps’ Treasured Tales.
20:00 BST: Permalink
Back to an earlier topic, Matthew Yglesias says:

I know everyone disagrees, but Noah Snyder is still right about this.
But I wasn't previously aware of "this", so:

The argument is not that men have exactly as much of a right to annul paternity as women do to an abortion. The argument is that every argument for abortion has a analogue (albeit sometimes weeker) which argues for paternalt annulment. I'm not claiming that a right to control your bank account is equivalent to a right to control your own body, but that doesn't mean we don't have some right to control our bank accounts.

The question at hand here is why is it reasonable to force a man to pay for the rest of his life for a child which he did not want to have. If you argue that by choosing to have sex he has agreed to live with the consequences, then you are on slippery ground because you could make the same argument that a woman agrees to part with certain rights to control her own body when she chooses to have sex. Perhaps the argument for men is weeker, but that doesn't make it incorrect.

I'm about as strong a pro-choice advocate as you're likely to find when it comes to abortion, and I will say that this guy is absolutely wrong about not proof-reading his entries or using a spell-checker, but as for substance, I think he's spot on. Women should certainly have a unilateral right to decide whether to carry to term, but I can see no good argument for also allowing us the unilateral right to impose a decision made solely by the woman on a man who, at that point, becomes an innocent bystander. You can't claim that his responsibility for having sex is any greater than hers unless it's either rape or you really think women are too stupid to live (and never initiate sex). They both did it, and if you argue that the resulting pregnancy is his responsibility for the next 18 years just because he happened to have sex with her, you're going to have to work pretty hard to explain why she didn't take on the same responsibility when she chose to engage in the same sex act.

Now, there's an argument that supposedly trumps this that goes something like this: Whether she chooses to abort or carry to term, she always has to deal with some consequences, either in arranging and enduring an abortion or in actually carrying to term.

To which I say, "Yes. So?" Look, that's just a fact of biology: it's happening in the woman's body; that's why she has the right to choose what to do about what's going on in her body. But if she chooses to continue the pregnancy and has a baby, that part of the argument is over, null and void, dead. (Okay, you can, uh, milk the game for the next four years by nursing if you want to, but that isn't what people are talking about, and some people would argue that nursing is a benefit rather than a hardship.)

It seems to me that the real basis of this argument is a desire for some kind of tit-for-tat: Goddamn it, I had to carry this damn thing for nine months and push it out this tiny little opening, and if I hadn't I still would have had to have some kind of icky medical thing happen to me even though my belly wouldn't have gotten all distorted, and now by god you're going to endure some lousy crap too just to make things even.

In fairness, women aren't the only people who present this argument, but it still amounts to: If women suffer, even a little (and most abortions, physically speaking, are not all that horrible for women to endure), then we have to do something to make men share the suffering, even if it is grossly disproportionate to what women go through. (And let's not pretend that men don't go through any emotional crap when a partner gets pregnant, please.) When it gets down to the cheese, you're weighing about ten minutes of discomfort against 18 years of servitude. People think it's fair to try to balance things out by making men suffer economically. Well, it balances out fine to me if the guy pays the full cost of the abortion, or at least as much as he can contribute. It does not balance out fine to me if the guy is forced to pay (sometimes usurious) child support for a child he never chose to have because someone else unilaterally decided to impose it on him.

Some people argue that the simple way to end this problem is marriage. That, after all, is pretty much what it's for - to decide the technical issues of who gets the rights and responsibilities in reproduction. If the guy marries the mother, he agrees to share the burden of any children she has (and, under present law, that includes children who are not biologically his own). But marriage, in its current incarnation, doesn't really protect men from having their parental rights ultimately denied to them. There's a lot more to be sorted out on this score, but I don't think we should settle for what we have now.

15:00 BST: Permalink
Long ago, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast a bell that is one of the most famous in the world (well, they've cast most of 'em, I think), housed in Philadelphia. And now...

September will see the dedication of not one but two very special Whitechapel bells in the USA. The first of these, a full size replica of the Liberty Bell, was cast here at the Foundry some months ago within yards of where its predecessor was cast a quarter-millennium earlier and commemorates the landing on American soil of the original Liberty Bell 250 years ago in September 1752. The other commemorates much more recent and tragic events and will be dedicated at Trinity Church on Wall Street on 11th September 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City. This bell is 31" (785mm) in diameter and weighing approximately 650 pounds, bears the inscription:



A gift from London to New York. With pictures.

14:25 BST: Permalink
Hmm, this looks new: Nick Kessler. Only a few posts so far but he has the intestinal fortitude to read, which is more than I can usually do.

14:10 BST: Permalink
Origami (via Bartcop).

Also: Invention & Technology has a feature on the space art of Chesley Bonestell - with pictures!

Friday, 16 August 2002

15:02 BST: Permalink

The term "Teflon president" actually means the press just doesn't bother to take criticisms of that president seriously. The man can be deteriorating before your eyes, but they don't say so. The man's policies can range from hugely unpopular to manifestly criminal to terrifyingly insane, and the press acts like it's all perfectly normal and acceptable. By an astonishing coincidence, Teflon only seems to adhere to Republican presidents, no matter how criminal, no matter how incompetent, no matter how negligent, no matter how demented.

I'm not saying it's 100%. Even during the impeachment, the mighty New York Times, whose own malpractice helped cause the whole mess in the first place, was publishing excellent articles telling the real story behind Starr, Whitewater, the Arkansas Project, and so on. But those pieces were not given the prominence of the mendacious stories about Clinton's alleged criminality, nor were their authors given Pulitzer Prizes. Maureen Dowd got a Pulitzer Prize.

Who wrote those thorough investigative reports that actually told the truth about the campaign against Clinton? Do you know their names? Are they media stars today? Is their opinion given the same weight in Washington circles and the rest of Big Media as that of the right-wing pundits who continue to pretend that Clinton was the most dishonest president we've ever had, and who still treat Bush as if he were a better man than Clinton was?

In a parallel universe, The Washington Post and The New York Times never once gave their support to special investigations of Whitewater, and demanded that the case remain in the normal channels it had begun in. They insisted in their editorials that under no circumstances should the presidency be subject to every obviously politically-motivated nuisance suit that Scaife's minions could drum up. They published clear and prominent articles detailing just how little substance the Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate stories were made of. They made abundantly clear to their readers just who was behind the attempts to slander Bill Clinton, and why. On the front page, above the fold.

In that Universe, a thoughtful press grabbed hold of lies propagated by Rush Limbaugh and the RNC about Clinton and Gore and instantly headlined deconstructions of them, exposing each lie for what it was. (In that world, Rush Limbaugh is not a mouthpiece who is given hours every day to fulminate in a near-monopoly radio market controlled by Clear Channel, with virtually no competition permitted.)

In that world, Matt Drudge is a partisan hack barely acknowledged by the mainstream press, Maureen Dowd is a minor novelist, and Gene Lyons won the Pulitzer Prize for his thoughtful and informative coverage of the background behind the campaign against the President.

In that world, the media responded to suggestions that Al Gore is a liar by pointing out that none of his so-called lies were actually untruths at all, and that in fact he has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation for integrity. In that world, the idea that George W. Bush should be allowed to run our country was treated as an insult to the people and to the office of the presidency. And in that world, despite numerous criminal actions by partisan officials to steal the election for Bush, Al Gore won by a historic landslide.

In that world, there is no need for Media Whores Online.

In this world, however, Spinsanity is just plain wrong - dishonest, in fact - when they say this:

MWO's tactics simply pollute the public discourse. While many intelligent people read the site and are not seduced by its methods, the overall effect is to build a self-reinforcing community of aggrieved partisans and to help break down taboos among liberals against the rhetorical viciousness promoted. The editors' claim that their actions are a justified response to the tactics used by others is both insufficient and, ultimately, circular: anyone who listens to Limbaugh, for example, knows that he often uses the same rationale. The reality is that, with liberals increasingly agitated, both sides will continue to escalate their rhetoric to the point of hysteria, all the while pointing wildly at each other to rationalize their actions. In the end, these tactics are unacceptable no matter who uses them.
They are wrong because MWO cannot pollute the discourse - it is already fatally polluted. The damage has already been done by the likes of Coulter, Dowd, Limbaugh, Olsen & Olsen, et alia. Worse, the thoughtful, measured websites and articles that in a sane world should serve to disinfect the disease propagated by the right-wing media have had virtually no impact in trying to bring the discourse back to sanity, despite the admirably optimistic values Brendan Nyhan and Patrick Nielsen Hayden express in their criticisms of MWO.

How can anyone miss this point? Being "reasonable", well-spoken, and truthful has been tried for a very long time - and it was completely trampled by the right wing's willingness to not just name-call, but to lie and to demand extreme measures for the most petty of offenses. The right wing succeeded by doing this. But MWO has not stooped to their level; while they may be partisan and may have let their positions influence their interpretations of events, the fact of the matter is they try very hard to stick to the truth. Even so, by raising the volume, they have done what more serious, thoughtful and restrained commentators had failed to do - they and their arguments have received attention from the media. So much so that now it's time to attack them for daring to be interesting enough to be noticed.

Because that's what it's all about. For years we have heard that the popularity of right-wing radio over moderate or left-wing commentators is because the right-wingers are the only ones who are interesting. Lefties are boring, we're told. Centrists are boring. "Objective" commentators are boring. Of course, this is false; the "popularity" of right-wing media owes a great deal to the fact that no alternative is permitted to hold such sway, no wealthy and powerful benefactors give genuine liberals or lefties whole hours a day on their cable networks, no alternative to Clear Channel brings liberal commentary to audiences in every market. It has nothing to do with what's popular; it's about what they want to broadcast.

We have also been told that the reason the press ran with all that RNC propaganda is that the left just didn't send them all those angry faxes and e-mails and letters like the right did. Of course, this, too, leaves out the fact that the media actually preferred to spread RNC propaganda, but certainly getting blast-faxed from the left makes you aware that someone sees through the bull.

So MWO have made themselves interesting and more difficult to ignore. They've managed to actually bestir their readers to actually write those letters rather than just hoping someone else will. I suggest to my readers that they write letters, too, but I bet the percentage who respond to those calls from MWO is a lot higher, because they get the adrenalin going. And good for them. The media has actually been forced to notice them.

Gene Lyons, by the way, was writing those more restrained articles all along, but no one noticed until MWO kept bringing him to our attention. They made him a bit of a celebrity in their own little circle and now, at long last, it looks like he is finally getting a bit of syndication. Pity they didn't do it sooner.

No, MWO has not polluted the discourse; on the contrary, they have injected a dose of equivalent outrage laced with some badly needed BS-detecting. It's exactly what the media needs.

Spinsanity has tried to equate MWO with Limbaugh and Coulter. This is a bad joke; there is simply no equivalence at all. MWO attacks media sources for delivering "fair and balanced news" that is manifestly slanted and false. Rush and Ann are propagators of such falsehoods. MWO is a single page a day on a website with no Big Media connection; Limbaugh has massive exposure on AM radio throughout the country, and Coulter appears on television and has a book at the top of the NYT best seller list. Perhaps most importantly, MWO makes no pretense of being "balanced" or "non-partisan" - and why should they? In a world where a Bush-supporter knowingly called a national election for the loser on national television, it's a lot better to know where your partisans stand. How can they possibly be equivalent?

There is a difference between being ardent and being rabid. There is a difference between being passionate and being grossly dishonest. There is a difference between being partisan and being out-and-out wrong. In a world controlled by those who are rabid, grossly dishonest, out-and-out wrong and partisan, MWO is a welcome relief. Dispassion is all very well, but what MWO does actually works. And they're right.

Some folks keep advising our Green friends that we shouldn't demand perfection - that we shouldn't sacrifice the good in the name of an unachievable perfection. Well, the quiet, thoughtful, measured perfection we all hope for has failed and failed again, and in this world, MWO looks pretty damn good.

03:32 BST: Permalink
She's a breath of fresh air.

"My friends and I are collecting prom dresses to give to girls who can't afford them for their proms." -Lauren Bush, on the importance of charity
01:04 BST: Permalink
Tapped says:

WHAT LIBERTARIANS? The blogosphere is said to be full of libertarians. Why, then, do they spend so much time moaning about Norman Mineta when John Ashcroft has revealed himself to be a far greater menace to liberty (not to mention open government, the quaint notion of checks and balances, and the prerogatives of Congress)? Here's the latest. You have to go down to the last third to get a sense of why what this article discusses is so unprecedented.
The story they cite, Justice Dept. Balks at Effort to Study Antiterror Powers by Adam Clymer, makes this administration look even scarier than they already are. Which takes some doing.

Thursday, 15 August 2002

17:10 BST: Permalink

For what it's worth

From The Los Angeles Times (via Buzzflash), Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision:

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties.

The camp plan was forged at an optimistic time for Ashcroft's small inner circle, which has been carefully watching two test cases to see whether this vision could become a reality. The cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi will determine whether U.S. citizens can be held without charges and subject to the arbitrary and unchecked authority of the government.

Hamdi has been held without charge even though the facts of his case are virtually identical to those in the case of John Walker Lindh. Both Hamdi and Lindh were captured in Afghanistan as foot soldiers in Taliban units. Yet Lindh was given a lawyer and a trial, while Hamdi rots in a floating Navy brig in Norfolk, Va.

This week, the government refused to comply with a federal judge who ordered that he be given the underlying evidence justifying Hamdi's treatment. The Justice Department has insisted that the judge must simply accept its declaration and cannot interfere with the president's absolute authority in "a time of war."

In Padilla's case, Ashcroft initially claimed that the arrest stopped a plan to detonate a radioactive bomb in New York or Washington, D.C. The administration later issued an embarrassing correction that there was no evidence Padilla was on such a mission. What is clear is that Padilla is an American citizen and was arrested in the United States--two facts that should trigger the full application of constitutional rights.

Ashcroft hopes to use his self-made "enemy combatant" stamp for any citizen whom he deems to be part of a wider terrorist conspiracy.

Perhaps because of his discredited claims of preventing radiological terrorism, aides have indicated that a "high-level committee" will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and sent to Ashcroft's new camps.

Few would have imagined any attorney general seeking to reestablish such camps for citizens. Of course, Ashcroft is not considering camps on the order of the internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese American citizens in World War II. But he can be credited only with thinking smaller; we have learned from painful experience that unchecked authority, once tasted, easily becomes insatiable.

We are only now getting a full vision of Ashcroft's America. Some of his predecessors dreamed of creating a great society or a nation unfettered by racism. Ashcroft seems to dream of a country secured from itself, neatly contained and controlled by his judgment of loyalty.

For more than 200 years, security and liberty have been viewed as coexistent values. Ashcroft and his aides appear to view this relationship as lineal, where security must precede liberty.

Since the nation will never be entirely safe from terrorism, liberty has become a mere rhetorical justification for increased security.

Ashcroft is a catalyst for constitutional devolution, encouraging citizens to accept autocratic rule as their only way of avoiding massive terrorist attacks.

Of course, Ashcroft is there because this administration wants him to be there; if they didn't, he'd be gone. People talk about Ashcroft, but there's a lot more to it than that.

What's that sound?

15:05 BST: Permalink
I find it fascinating that this appeared on the front page of USA Today yesterday:

Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost

OXFORD, England — On a packed train out of London recently to this historic college town, a young American woman struck up a conversation with her seatmate, a nattily dressed older British man. They chatted amiably about Oxford until she worked up the courage to ask what was weighing on her mind:

"Why," she blurted out, "does everybody hate us?"

The man paused — but didn't disagree — before proceeding to enumerate the reasons, from U.S. foreign policies to the seeping influence of American popular culture.

In the shock wave that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans found themselves asking why so many people in Muslim countries hate the United States. But the anti-American sentiment has turned into a contagion that is spreading across the globe and infecting even the United States' most important allies.

In virulent prose, newspapers criticize the United States. Politicians ferociously attack its foreign policies, especially the Bush administration's plans to attack Iraq. And regular citizens launch into tirades with American friends and visitors.

Here in Britain, the United States' staunchest friend, snide remarks and downright animosity greet many Americans these days. It's not just religious radicals and terrorists who resent the United States anymore.

"Now, it's everyone," says Allyson Stewart-Allen, a consultant from California who has lived in London 15 years and heads International Marketing Partners, which advises European companies on how to do business with Americans. The sea change in attitude toward the United States, she says, has "profoundly" altered her advice to clients:

She now must counsel them to resist "taking digs" at her countrymen.

What happened, many Americans are wondering, to that wave of sympathy and stockpile of global goodwill they encountered after Sept. 11?

"It was squandered," says Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the House of Lords.

"America dissipated the goodwill out of its arrogance and incompetence. A lot of people who would never ever have considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United States," he says.

I want to say for the record that I have not personally experienced any abuse over this - people are scathing about Bush, but most folks know he wasn't elected and they don't necessarily assume that you support him just because you're American. But I haven't met a single person who actually approves of George W. Bush and his policies. And, understand, I'm one of the loudest and rudest Americans on the planet, but people aren't leaping up to hate me for being an American. But, politically, do they trust us as a nation - do they trust our leadership? Absolutely not - and there's no reason why they should.

Another thing: I know that anti-semitism is out there and it's real, although by and large it seems to be manifesting here in largely political rather than personal ways. But: I've actually experienced less threatening behavior from overt anti-semites than I did when I first moved here, during the Reagan administration. (The fact that I'm not Jewish makes no difference to those people; I look Jewish to them, and I've never had any illusions that not actually being Jewish would protect me from being a target if they got violent. It's certainly never stopped them from being nasty and intimidating and calling me names - or flashing the swastikas tattooed on their knuckles at me.) And, despite living in a neighorhood that is heavily populated by Muslims, I have felt not the slightest hostility aimed at me as either an American or a "Jew".

But as an American, I'm also experiencing less hostility right now than I did during the Reagan years. Everyone knew that Reagan was elected, and we were constantly told how massively popular he was, how well he'd done in the '84 election; people had the impression that everyone in America had voted for him. I experienced astonishing rudeness from people - I constantly found myself giving spot lectures on how someone could have "a landslide" without having been supported by a majority of Americans or even voters. I had to point out over and over to them that Maggie Thatcher had also had a landslide, had massive support in Parliament, was floating on much of the same sort of rhetoric, and had received only 40% of the vote. Did they really think America was that different? (Some of them thought it was: we didn't have Rupert Murdoch. But I had to remind them that we didn't have The Guardian, either.)

Republicans love the rhetoric about how Reagan meant America was "standing tall" in the world again, but of course this was not true; America was looking like a country that had elected a man with visible Alzheimer's as its leader because we were too stupid to know better and too arrogant to care. Reagan's image was used in advertising as an easily identifiable icon of stupidity; his face was emblazoned across double-decker buses in ads that informed us that even he could use whatever the product was, it was so simple to use. For the first time in history, polls across Europe showed that it was not the USSR but America that people most feared would ignite a nuclear conflagration.

On this side of the water, you can be sure that the man who restored honor and dignity to the White House, the man who regained for America the international respect it had once had, was William Jefferson Clinton. The American people had come to their senses, it seemed, and elected a man who was smart and industrious, who cared about his constituents and the world, who paid attention, and who was genuinely helpful in calming troubled international waters. Although the American press embarrassed us with their inappropraite questions, Bill Clinton did not. America really was standing tall.

And then the 2000 Selection happened. That fact was perhaps even more shattering than the attack on the World Trade Towers, for while that attack came from without, the damage of the Selection was internally caused, the junta that staged a coup on the American government actually succeeded in taking power, the election result was publicly falsified, the people were betrayed, and with them the reputation of America as a nation constituted by and for the people. Free and fair elections, the hallmark of a free society, had left America's shores, and in their place an arrogant fool who went out of his way to publicly humiliate leaders of friendly nations, to alienate allies, even to exacerbate world tensions.

And now, we know, he ignored every omen of danger to America, ignored the urgent counsel of those from all over the political spectrum and around the world, every ally, every expert, of an imminent attack by Al Qaeda. His only true "victories" were achieved by following a script written by the Clinton administration, and now he's even wrecking that. And wants to go on to do the same in Iraq, perhaps finally igniting that great conflagration the terrifying American religious right wants so badly.

I try to explain to people that America has been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since 9/11, but that doesn't explain what happened before. I talk about the press, about the damage from media concentration, but it all sounds very dry as an explanation of what's going on right now. They know that what we should be doing is kicking the whole administration out and putting the elected President in his rightful office, then setting about to put things right again. But we're not.

Well, thanks, Ceci, thanks, Dana, thanks, Tim, and most of all, thanks, Ralph.

04:38 BST: Permalink
Tapped has a useful entry on the Justice League:

We have some thoughts on Jeffrey Rosen's interesting article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. In trying to explain the stalemate over judicial appointees, Rosen adopts a classic pox-on-both-your-houses stance: Each side has upped the ante of circuit court nominations, urging sympathetic senators to "treat each nominee to the federal appellate courts as a Supreme Court justice in minitature." But "by exagerating the stakes in the lower-court nomination battles, interest groups on both sides may be encouraging the appointment of judges who will fulfill their worst fears."

It's a compelling thesis. But Rosen ignores what Tapped feels are a few crucial items. The truth is that the two sides are not equal. Between 1976 and 2000, the GOP has had one two-term president, one one-term president, and a concerted plan to pack the courts with youngish, extremely conservative judges. Between 1976 and 2000, the Democrats had one one-term president, one two-term president, and no such plan. Among liberal court activists, Bill Clinton was infamous for refusing to devote political capital to appointing liberal judges. Whereas Ronald Reagan's administration embarked on a pre-planned court-packing scheme, Clinton for the most part sought consensus picks, especially after the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1995. (One study, by Robert Carp of the University of Houston, Ronald Stidham of Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and Donald Songer of the University of South Carolina, found that by 1996 Clinton's appointees were no more liberal than Richard Nixon's.) He even confirmed a number of conservatives as parts of various deals with Orrin Hatch.

The result? Seven out of 13 circuit courts in the land have a majority of Republican appointees. More importantly, thanks to GOP efforts to "hold" vacancies for Bush, if every individual nominated by the White House as of last spring were confirmed today, they'd have a majority on ten out of thirteen of the circuit courts. And by comparison to Clinton, very few of Bush's choices are consensus picks. They are mainly very conservative, anti-abortion or pro-states-rights judges -- Bush's payback to the religious right.

Our point? Thanks to the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas episodes, the Democrats are thought to play better hardball. But it's just not true. Assuming a fairly even rate of vacancy over time, that means the Republicans have been playing this game longer and harder than the Democrats. It was only after a big push by People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, and other groups in 2001 that the Democrats in the Senate decided to start playing the Republican game.

01:12 BST: Permalink
Cool news from Greg Greene:

Sound Salvation
How can a station take Clear Channel? By learning a market, loving a city, and treating fans like people, not ratings points. Sounds easy enough -- so maybe there's hope for the mainstream music business after all.

Wednesday, 14 August 2002

19:20 BST: Permalink

Richard Blow discusses A Traitor To Their Class:

Whenever the media is united in disapproval of something, you can be sure that its consensus reveals more about the press than the subject of its disapproval. Just look at how America's punditocracy has reacted to Al Gore's call for a politics based on "the people versus the powerful."

Gore kicked off the brouhaha by writing an August 4th New York Times op-ed. "How do we make sure that political power is used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few?" Gore asked. "…This struggle between the people and the powerful was at the heart of every major issue of the 2000 campaign and is still the central dynamic of politics in 2002."

The reviews of Gore's populist manifesto came fast and furious.

The usual gang of idiots came out to condemn Gore, and you'd have thought he was talking about flying saucers the way they went on. Well, gosh, how dare he hint that it's inappropriate to leave the country in the hands of a bunch of rich creeps who are just out for themselves.

A close reading of Gore's op-ed makes the pundits' venom hard to understand. Gore calls for a broad prescription drug plan, a patient's bill of rights, and an eco-friendly environmental policy. He opposes the Bush plan for partial privatization of Social Security, and calls on the administration to release the names of lobbyists who met with Dick Cheney to discuss energy policy and documents regarding Bush's oil company stock sale.

This is hardly rabble-rousing. In fact, it's standard Democratic policy. The difference is that Gore frames the debate in a language that makes the pundit class queasy. He talks about issues that rarely get a candid airing in American politics: class, greed, the power of special interests.

But it's not new. Teddy Roosevelt, after all, talked about "malefactors of great wealth". Well, now they're in charge, so we better talk about it.

Now, it's true that Gore is an awkward populist. It's hard not to wince when he writes that "there has always been a debate over the destiny of this nation between those who believed that they were entitled to govern because of their station in life and those who believed that the people were sovereign." Until his defeat in 2000, Gore always appeared to be the one believing that he was the one entitled to govern.
Well, he worked pretty hard for it - did his homework, studied issues, wrote bills, all the stuff that shows you're ready and willing to actually do the job, not just occupy the office. He certainly never gave the impression he thought he was entitled because he was rich - in fact, he wasn't rich growing up. The famous "tony hotel" we've heard so much about was, in those days, a lot more down-market than it is today, and his family (of four) was packed into a two-room suite. Yes, there was also the family farm back home, but his father made him work on it.

But Gore does address his privileged upbringing by pointing out that FDR attacked moneyed interests "even though it earned him the hatred of his patrician social peers as a 'traitor to his class.'"

The same dynamic is occurring with Gore, the former journalist, who is now being attacked as a traitor by the pundit class. Because when Gore speaks of "the people versus the powerful," it's not only corporate fatcats he's referring to, but also media bigwigs.

14:50 BST: Permalink
Two from [fnord] Yahoo from the last few days:

Ashcroft Asked to Target Online Song Swappers:

In a July 25 letter released late Thursday, some 19 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle asked Ashcroft to prosecute "peer-to-peer" networks like Kazaa and Morpheus and the users who swap digital songs, video clips and other files without permission from artists or their record labels.
Want Hubby to Do the Dishes? Live Together First:

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Couples who live together before tying the knot are more likely than those who don't to share the burden of routine household tasks traditionally assigned to wives, US researchers report.
And while we're on that subject, here's good news from Sally Lehrman at Alternet:

"Slutty" behavior is good for the species. That is the conclusion of a new wave of research on the evolutionary drives behind sexuality and parenting.

Women everywhere have been selflessly engaging in trysts outside of matrimony. And they have been doing it for a good long time and for excellent reasons. Anthropologists say female promiscuity binds communities closer together and improves the gene pool.

14:12 BST: Permalink
Eventually, everyone in Blogland gets around to commenting on it, so I might as well come right out and bravely agree with the consensus, which is that anonymous bloggers are as reliable or believable as what they write, same as anyone else. Charles Dodgson sums up:

More on pseudonymity: Steven den Beste is suspicious of people who post under pseudonyms, such as Demosthenes or Publius. He particularly suspects that pseudonymous pundits may be too cowardly to take an unpopular stand, and take the rap for it, and may even be advocating views and policies which they don't wholly believe in themselves. As seems to have been true in the latter case, once the mask slipped off --- the primary Publius had deep reservations about what he was pseudonymously advocating (at one point saying "no man's ideas were more remote from the plan than [mine] were known to be"), but as Publius, he spoke for it nonetheless.

Den Beste also doesn't believe that a pseudonymous voice shouting into the wind is likely to have any meaningful influence on public debate.

To me, anyone whose existence I wasn't aware of before they started a blog might as well be a pseudonym. Is "Jeff Cooper" his real name? Do I really know who Reynolds or Den Beste are? Well, yes, I know who they are from their blogs - they are the guys who do those blogs, and they write the way they write and say the things they say. It's exactly the same for Atrios or Demosthenes or whoever writes MWO, as far as I'm concerned.

I've thought about being anonymous myself, for the sake of my employment prospects, but that bird has long ago flown, and, most importantly, I have an ego the size of a house and couldn't bear the thought that if I said anything cool it wouldn't be attributed to me. Been there, done that, hated it.

Working anonymously is a sacrifice, and one that I'm not prepared to make.

02:19 BST: Permalink
Wendy McElroy talks about the case where a woman faced an injunction against an abortion and about the odious Florida law requiring women to tell the world about a pregnancy before putting a child up for adoption:

Afterward, I didn't feel much like writing. I think I have downplayed in my mind -- not intentionally! -- any damage that father's rights might inflict on the equal, reasonable rights of women. But the support of prominent father's rights adovcate Dianna Thompson for an injunction against a pregnant woman who was planning to abort a trimester pregnancy -- an injunction brought at the behest of the ex-boyfriend/biological "father" -- and a recent Florida law has left me stunned with doubt. The law requires mothers who don't know who fathered their children to detail their sexual past in newspaper notices before they can put the children up for adoption. The law seeks to protect father's rights but it goes too far. It goes beyond the reasonable demand for notification into placing a public "Scarlet A" on women, who are much more likely to opt for abortion as a result. Father's rights shouldn't mean women's oppression.


People have asked where I stand on the subject of father's rights. Here is as clear a statement as I know how to make. Before birth and in the absence of a contract/agreement covering pregnancy, the woman has the legal right to renounce her parental status through abortion. The man has no legal right to prevent her from exercising control over her own body. But he has an equal right to renounce parental status by advocating for abortion, thus releasing himself from parental responsibilities should she decide to continue the pregnancy. If he wishes to maintain parental status, he also assumes parental responsibilities -- BUT ONLY if and to the extent that his parental rights are recognized. For example, joint custody and visitation. I oppose welfare for single mothers because it is just another way to make men (and women) pay for the choices of the single mom.

This reminds me of Choice for Men (C4M), an idea that's been kicking around on Usenet for a while:

"In a case where an unmarried couple conceive an unwanted pregnancy, a woman who does not unilaterally elect abortion must offer the father one week to decide if he wants rights and responsibilities toward the future child. If he rejects that, he is not obligated to pay child support, and he has no rights or responsibilities whatsoever in the life of the child. If he chooses to act as father to the child, he will then have some rights and take on the financial obligations of fatherhood."
It seems fair enough to me. A woman can still choose an abortion without having to ask anyone else, but if she wants the biological father to take paternal responsibility for a child, she has to get his agreement first, and he gets parental rights as well. Neither one can impose parenthood on the other, and if the woman decides to carry to term, she can do so in full knowledge of whether or not she can expect to draw on the father's resources. If he doesn't agree, she can still terminate the pregnancy. But if she does carry to term, she can't just tell the father two years later that she changed her mind about doing it alone and stick him with the responsibility, nor can she renege on an agreement to share parenting.

Of course, C4M requires that women have an unhindered right to abortion; without that, all bets are off.

01:23 BST: Permalink
A Level Gaze compares the Chicago Seven with the Republican Riot, and delivers a verdict:

This is not ok. When a candidate for public office sponsors the coercion of a public entity for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election, it is not ok. When those involved rub our noses in it, throwing a big party featuring Wayne Newton, and don't even have the decency to hide the fact that the principals called to thank the participants, it's not ok.
01:16 BST: Permalink
Feoreg finds more nuts, and some irritation with the BBC:

102 public figures have sent a letter to the BBC protesting at the ban on atheist contributors to Radio 4's Thought for the Day. The letter, signed by writers, MPs, peers, academics and scientists was sent by the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society and the Rationalist Press Association.
By resolutely retaining the ban, the BBC is discriminating against the non-religious, and thus giving the impression of promoting religion as the one source of ethics. We call on the Governors to end this ban.
The slot is currently being revamped but producers have already decided not to allow atheists to participate. Anger as BBC keeps the faith on Thought for the Day - Ananova, August 13th 2002.
01:04 BST: Permalink
I'll add my voice to those who don't like the style in which his piece is written, but if Brad DeLong can be trusted - and I think he can - Barbara Ehrenreich has lost the plot:

So from her point of view, the right thing to do is not to care about electing representatives who will vote for expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and increases in the minimum wage, but to focus attention of "alternative services": "...squats, cooperatives of various kinds, community currency projects... [a cultural core] offering information, contacts, referrals and a place for people to gather."

And from her point of view a Democratic victory in the 2000 election would have been something to fear, because of its "almost certainly debilitating effect on progressives and their organizations" (see "Vote for Nader," _The Nation_ (August 21/28, 2000)). Never mind that a Democratic Labor Secretary would place a higher priority on enforcing labor laws in a worker-friendly manner, never mind that under a Democratic president the NLRB is more union-friendly, never mind that a Democratic congress would pass and a Democratic president sign minimum wage increases that did not come with enough riders to make their overall benefit questionable, and never mind that under Democratic congresses and presidents the tax code becomes more progressive. None of these are on Ehrenreich's radar screen.

Damn, and I've always liked her, too.

00:45 BST: Permalink
Ted Barlow has the dope on the latest lie about Gore:

By the way, if this guy received an unambiguous denial from Springsteen's camp on Friday, why did he wait until Monday to publish it?
And Ted is really pleased that Instapundit linked it. And, for the record, I've had comp tickets to a Springsteen concert, and I did not get them via an elective official.

Tuesday, 13 August 2002

06:35 BST: Permalink

It looks like the shadowy Gnome Liberation Front is at it again.

05:48 BST: Permalink
Richard Dawkins sez:

It would be a tragedy if Tony Blair, a good man who has so much to offer this country, were to be brought down through playing poodle to this unelected and deeply stupid little oil spiv.
05:33 BST: Permalink
A neat little animation on Salon explains Why we should invade Iraq. (Via Chris Nelson.)

05:25 BST: Permalink
I've been wondering, myself, lately, and here's an article: "Drink at least eight glasses of water a day" - Really? Is there scientific evidence for "8 x 8"?. Well, I probably drink around that much anyway, but I'm glad somebody answered the question. (Via Radio Free Blogistan.)

05:15 BST: Permalink
Pandagon has an interesting rumination on who the "real" Americans are:

For years, I've wondered about this nebulous patch of the country we call "the heartland". According to 1990 Census figures, the 27 largest urbanized areas were comprised of 84.7 million American citizens, out of a total of 249,022,783 Americans. That boils down to roughly 34% of Americans living in 27 cities and their surrounding urbanized areas.

Yet, we have this romantic notion that the vast and sparsely populated swaths outside of cities are made up of "Real Americans", that urbanites have the membership cards and know the handshake, but their hearts aren't in it. Somehow, the fact that one lives in a split-level rather than an apartment, that one goes to work in tract office space rather than a skyscraper, makes one a "Real American". The millions who work and have families and go to church are decadent because of their location, the enormous diversity of large cities is not a part of the American dream because it's surrounded by brick and mortar rather than automated sprinklers and dusty minivans.

04:30 BST: Permalink
Via Mr Happy (read his entire entry, too), some vile examples of child abuse from The Guardian:

Professor Richard Barker, the chairman of the review panel, whose members Justice Eady found guilty of malice, told the libel court that if a child denied she had been abused, he assumed she meant the opposite. This inverted logic, the judge said, was part of a pattern. If a child said she had been raped or penetrated with a knife, yet displayed no physical sign of abnormality, then, in the view of Reed and Lillie's accusers, 'the absence of physical findings does not mean that abuse has not taken place'. If a child said she had not been abused, that was 'terrorisation by the supposed abuser'.
The answer became apparent before the criminal trial in 1994, when Lillie and his lawyers watched a series of videotapes of interviews by police and social workers with a number of Shieldfield children. In his judgment nine years later, Justice Eady endorsed the analysis of these tapes by Professor Maggie Bruck, an expert on children's testimony. She concluded that the interviews were some of the worst and most dangerous she had ever seen. 'Extremely young and bewildered children were brought in and interrogated (sometimes for over an hour) by one, two and even three interviewers. These interviewers used the full array of suggestive techniques to elicit allegations of abuse. When the children denied they had been abused, they were bombarded with more suggestions, they were scolded, threatened and bribed. When some children whimpered, moaned or begged the interviewers to end the questioning, the interviewers continued.'

Monday, 12 August 2002

18:57 BST: Permalink

I just noticed Avram quoting this in a Usenet post:

And that's the difference in this election. They're for the powerful. We're for the people.

I know one thing about the job of the president: It is the only job in the Constitution that is charged with the responsibility of fighting for all the people, not just the people of one state or one district, not just the wealthy or the powerful, all the people; especially those who need a voice, those who need a champion, those who need to be lifted up, so they are never left behind.

From Al Gore's acceptance speech at the 2000 Democratic Convention.
18:08 BST: Permalink
The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby continues to go after "the borking of Al Gore". Friday he took on the tony hotel story, among other things. He asks:

WHAT ARE THE RULES? Are journalists supposed to report real facts? Or are they supposed to dream up Pleasing Group Stories, then invent bogus "facts" to support their sweet tales? Clearly, the press corps took the latter route all through Campaign 2000. Sadly, the rancid "press corps" with which we’re now stuck is happiest working from scripts.
As the transcript cited below shows, it's worse than that: They first construct their scripts from the pettiest of impulses. Dana Milbank is, surprisingly, the worst offender. This is his first statement:

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Al Gore has a big problem. The problem is one day he's going to say something that he believes to his corps and it's going to be completely honest and we're going to say, oh, that big phony, he just thought that up last night. And Joe Lieberman has the opposite situation. He could be full of baloney, but everybody's going to take him to be sort of the honest guy, saying it as it is. So when the two of them fight together, you just know what side the press is going to be on.
That's an interesting statement from a leading member of the press corps working at the newspaper of the nation's capitol. Al Gore, with a 20-year record as one of the most honest people in Washington, is someone they simply presume to be lying. Perhaps even more bizarrely, they think Lieberman the honest man, despite his opportunism and his unpleasant history. Here he is again:

MILBANK: You know what it is, Howie, I -- and I think that Gore is sanctimonious and that's sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along and it was because he gives a sense that he's better than us - he's better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he's better than us as reporters.

Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he's better than us -- he's probably right, but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.

These statements are simply incomprehensible. In spite of the slanted press coverage, it's pretty obvious that it's Bush, not Gore, who is contemptuous of everyone, including the press. Al Gore doesn't sneer at reporters for doing their job or for happening to know some French. I have yet to hear of a single episode of Gore or any member of his staff abusing a reporter for asking a question, for demonstrating knowledgeability, or for failing to play ball. Yet Bush does this almost routinely; his staff threatens reporters who ask undesired questions - often questions they are obliged to ask - and Bush himself publicly insulted a reporter who addressed Jacques Chirac in French, then insisted that American reporters should only ask him questions. When has any president done this?

And Lieberman's not sanctimonious? Really?

Perhaps most worrying is Milbank's statement that, "Bush probably is sure that he's better than us -- he's probably right." Really? Better in what sense? In the sense that he has more money? That he was a better cheerleader in college? How is Bush better than they are? He is manifestly a man who could not get a job if he were an ordinary person. He might be a janitor, or more likely a dope-dealer, but he has no qualifications for any job he's ever held, let alone the presidency of the United States. As a person, he is ignorant, lazy, irresponsible, petty and mean. I shudder at the thought of anyone who can actually look up to that man.

But let's get down to the cheese: Milbank says they threw the presidency to a lying oaf because they didn't like Gore, who they believed thought himself better than them. They shrugged off the importance of the job, allowed a dangerously wrong administration to take over the country - illegally, in the end - because Al Gore didn't genuflect to them enough. So they were petty and didn't do their job. Their job, we may recall, is to give a fair and accurate reporting of facts. Who gave a fair and accurate reporting of facts in the 2000 campaign? Well, weirdly, it was Al Gore - who Bush, and then the press corps, called a liar when he did so. Let's look at that sentence about Gore again:

And he has been disliked all along and it was because he gives a sense that he's better than us - he's better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he's better than us as reporters.
Better than them as reporters. Well, as a reporter, he is better than them, isn't he? And is it that Gore thinks so, or is it that they do? Do they resent Al Gore because they suspect he could - and would - do their job better than they do? That, in fact, he is all around better than them? I think that might be it.

01:20 BST: Permalink
Scroll to the middle third of this Reliable Sources transcript and read Dana Milbank, Josh Marshall, and Byron York explaining why the press decided to let the "Gore the liar" story overtake the truth so that a bumbling, arrogant, incompetent, callous frat-boy could be in the running to be the Leader of the Free World - because Al Gore failed to suck up to them.

00:30 BST: Permalink
Mark Evanier thinks airport security is a joke:

I am of the opinion that "increased security measures" at airports are a sham; that, in an effort to look like something's changed, they're doing a lot of things that grossly inconvenience law-abiding folks...but not a damned thing that will prevent a terrorist from boarding with weaponry.

BBC News is reporting that security screeners at LAX recently disarmed a G.I. Joe doll, confiscating a two-inch plastic rifle as a possible weapon. I am not making this up. Click on the link if you don't believe me.

This outdoes an incident earlier this year at an airport in Abu Dhabi. There, as the BBC News then reported, officials disarmed the guy who plays the cowboy in the Village People for possession of his stage prop pistol. They actually threw him in jail...which is perhaps where he and his co-stars belong, though not for that.

Elsewhere, Mark has a fine rant about smoking in public places.

Sunday, 11 August 2002

23:15 BST: Permalink

I got a Cuddly Cthulu for Xmas, and now Atrios alerts me to the fact that it has it's own little story.

13:15 BST: Permalink
Jim Henley looks at Dick Armey and finds a little ray of sunshine:

Unqualified Offerings can't get around it: Armey is not only speaking his mind lately, he's willingly crossing the President to do so. (Liberals must like that too, right?)
Well, we do, but we would have liked it a lot more if he had discovered sanity a lot earlier, and on a lot more subjects. Having a well-known, high-profile crackpot suddenly saying the sensible things the rest of our leaders should be saying isn't really quite as good as having, um, the rest of our leaders saying them. On the other hand, thank god somebody is.

12:40 BST: Permalink
This is all the newspaper said:

Police found Charles Booker, 19, in the 4100 block of Seventh Street NE, less than a block from Catholic University. Booker, who lived in the 5000 block of 11th Street NW, had been shot in the head. He was pronounced dead at D.C. General Hospital shortly after arrival, police said.
But Colbert King offers a different perspective:

The call came at 12:17 a.m.

Charlene Booker knows because she checked the log on her caller ID when she returned home more than four hours later. But it never occurred to her at the time to look at the clock. When the phone rang, she just lifted the receiver and there was the voice of Ezekiel, or "Zikki," as she called her 18-year-old son. He was crying. But through the sobs, Charlene Booker heard the words that seem to get spoken in one form or another nearly every other day in the nation's capital: "Mommie, somebody shot Charlie and he's dead."

11:50 BST: Permalink

"I don't know who among us would take a lie-detector test,'' said Sen. Shelby. "First of all, they're not even admissible in court, and second of all, the leadership [of both parties] have told us not to do that." This from the man who recently created a massive program to polygraph some 15,000 scientists at Department of Energy laboratories and to remove their security clearances if they declined. In 2000, when he was then chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, Shelby was outraged over possible loss of nuclear weapons data from Los Alamos National Labs to China. Determined to find "the spy" (no spy has ever been found), Shelby dramatically expanded the use of polygraphs at the National Laboratories (Sandia, Los Alamos and Livermore ) by crafting amendments to the defense authorization bill. At the last minute, in conference, he inserted language that prevented the secretary of energy from waiving the polygraph under any circumstances. This action by Shelby was taken in the face of a slew of scientific evidence showing that polygraphs are useless or worse in ferreting out spies. Indeed, as senior management and technical staff at each of the labs informed Congress, an unfocused, widespread use of polygraphs would actually undermine national security by demoralizing staff and forcing some scientists to quit doing unique work in protest, or because of "false positives," which are ubiquitous in the world of polygraphing. This is precisely what has occurred.
Shelby and others on the Hill are now asserting separation of powers as their rationale for refusing the polygraph; after all, they claim, it's unconstitutional to have an executive branch agency polygraphing legislative branch officials. That won't wash. It's not who's doing the polygraph that bothers self-serving officials but rather their having to be subjected to a degrading, largely useless test that, on occasion, randomly turns up "positive."
11:36 BST: Permalink
Here's The Washington Post being utterly ahistorical in an editorial about how well Patrick Leahy is handling his job as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee

More disturbing, the pernicious practice of letting nominees hang indefinitely is not improving. Eleven of Mr. Bush's circuit court nominees have waited more than a year for a hearing; none of the past three presidents saw any circuit court nominees suffer this indignity during his first two years in office. In fact, the White House points out that through the entirety of President Clinton's time in office, a total of 12 circuit court nominees were denied the courtesy of a hearing for more than a year -- only one more than Mr. Leahy has let dangle in just the first half of Mr. Bush's first term. This figure is a little tricky, because some Clinton nominees got hearings and then sat around endlessly afterward. Still, the picture it paints is not a pretty one. And while Senate Republicans are being enormously hypocritical in howling about obstructionism -- having refined the art themselves -- it would constitute an unfortunate escalation if this trend went uncorrected. Mr. Leahy still has time to fix the problem. All it would take is fidelity to his own insistence, back when Republicans were stalling President Clinton's judges, that all nominees get hearings and votes within reasonable periods of time.
But that was before Republicans successfully prevented a centrist President from appointing judges who, as far as most people were concerned, were not particularly controversial - they were just "too liberal" for religious whackos and unreconstructed segregationists like Ashcroft and Helms. Now they want to pack those vacancies with people who represent a bizarre minority who are less interested in upholding the Constitution than in imposing their own warped views on the country. They should not be permitted to do so, and Leahy is right to try to stop them.

11:11 BST: Permalink
It used to be that even the wealthiest citizens often believed they had responsibility to something other than getting richer. Robert J. Samuelson says, Mister, We Could Use a Man Like J. P. Morgan Again:

One improbable irony of this summer's financial turmoil has been the quiet rehabilitation of J. P. Morgan -- the most powerful private banker in the nation's history and, for many years, a poster boy for the dangers of concentrated wealth. But now Morgan is emerging as an emblem of something that seems too scarce in corporate America: character.

In his day, Morgan (1837-1913) was admired and reviled for his immense influence. In the 1880s and 1890s, he reorganized many railroads to restore their profitability by curbing competition. (Railroads so rearranged were said to be "Morganized.") Later, Morgan consolidated the steel industry by merging Andrew Carnegie's operations with competitors and creating U.S. Steel. In 1895, when the government's gold reserves were falling rapidly, Morgan replenished them with a $65 million loan. In 1907 he stemmed a banking and stock-market panic by marshaling loans from strong to weak banks.

At various times this man played roles now assumed by the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury and government agencies yet to be created -- because no one would empower them to reshape entire industries. But he had a saving grace, notes Jean Strouse (on whose splendid biography, "Morgan: American Financier," this column relies heavily). He exercised his power with a sense of "moral responsibility," as she wrote recently in the New York Times.

Morgan was a conduit for capital. He connected wealthy investors, American and foreign, with railroads and industrial enterprises that needed money for expansion. But once transactions were complete, Morgan did not withdraw. He saw himself as the guardian of investors' wealth. If the enterprise went bad, Morgan intervened. He installed new managers, revamped industries, had his partners sit on corporate boards. The point was to ensure that his investors got repaid. Morgan felt bound by moral obligation.

Here is the contrast with the present. In the late 1990s Wall Street's investment banks sold hundreds of billions of stocks and bonds that later became worthless, notably in dot-com and telecom companies. The same investment houses blessed dozens of mergers whose stock prices subsequently collapsed. Unlike Morgan, who regarded his investors' money as his own, Wall Street's present overlords see investors' money as a commodity to be pursued and processed -- but not necessarily protected. The bankers take their fees. Big institutional investors (mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies) are presumed to be sufficiently sophisticated to protect themselves.

Morgan always denied that his most critical decisions were based mainly on financial calculus. In one congressional hearing, the committee's counsel asked, "Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?"

"No sir," Morgan replied. "The first thing is character."

"Before money or property?" the skeptical counsel asked.

"Before money or property or anything else," Morgan said. "Money cannot buy it."

Saturday, 10 August 2002

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Matthew Yglesias is looking good these days as "the liberal Instapundit" - his new format is much more readable and loaded with links. Here's one I found on his page about the President-Elect by someone who is somewhat schizophrenic but still too bloated with DLC spin to get the point:

We Love You, You're Perfect, Goodbye

Before it's too late, somebody Democrats listen to (which probably means somebody who can produce an obscene amount of money, if not the editorial writers of this paper) should take Al Gore aside and tell him: Stop. Don't run. You had your chance, you blew it, now get out of the way. An awful lot of influential Democrats are already saying this, but they seem to be saying it mostly to each other. Meanwhile Mr. Gore is half-heartedly engaged in the campaign foreplay of op-ed-writing, fence-mending, fund-hunting and weight loss. Will nobody step in front of this misbegotten bandwagon?

Hold on a second. That's awfully presumptuous. Mr. Gore was vice president during eight years of national prosperity. He was partner in an administration that moved the Democrats to the tenable center, advanced free trade, defanged the socially divisive issue of welfare, left us budget surpluses without the need for a lot of funny bookkeeping, and — after some early dithering — settled on a policy of responsible engagement in the world that ought to have been a source of national pride. (The Clinton peace plan is still the obvious template for an eventual settlement in the Middle East.) On some issues, Mr. Gore was the better half of the team. He was less squeamish about foreign intervention, including the honorable campaign against Slobodan Milosevic. He was a visionary on the environment. His alarums about global warming have now been confirmed by President Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency — and, oh yes, by the melting of Alaska.

And so on.

Bottom line, folks: If the press decides to permit a Democrat to win, Al Gore can do it just fine. If not, it doesn't matter who the Democrats nominate.

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Elton Beard has found what may be a frightening insight into George W. Bush's strange preoccupation with Saddam Hussein:

George W. Bush's Iraq obsession is not easy to explain, but outside of the few who believe that it's driven by rational geopolitical considerations, his desire to kill Saddam Hussein (transparently encoded in the phrase "regime change") is assumed by most observers to be motivated by a desire to finish the job that then-President Bush started in 1990. This theory, however, does not quite square with the fact that President Bush had made a considered decision to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power at the time - his war aims had been achieved, and further destabilization of the region made no more sense in 1991 than it does now. So why is his son so preoccupied with Mr. Hussein?

One possible answer was suggested during NPR's Fresh Air program of this Wednesday, when Barbara Bogave interviewed Washington Post military correspondent Thomas Ricks.

Barbara Bogave: So, have your military sources expressed puzzlement over why the Administration is so intent on a military confrontation in Iraq?

Thomas Ricks: Yes, deep puzzlement. Something was said to me recently I've never heard before. A general who is involved in the Afghanistan war said to me, "You know Tom, all I can figure out is that something personal, something psychological [unclear] the president. That somehow he wants to get even with Saddam Hussein for trying to kill his father." Which the U.S. government believes happened shortly after Bush stepped down as president, with an assassination attempt on the first President Bush's visit to Kuwait.

In other words, at least one active-duty general suspects that the ex-president's son may simply be on a mission to avenge an offense to his family. If this view is widespread in the U.S. military then that could go a long way towards explaining the apparent reluctance of the warriors to engage in Bush's war. The implication of this being a familial vendetta, after all, is that Bush is willing to utilize the mighty U.S. military machine as weapon of personal destruction, aimed at exactly one man. Real soldiers might object to being used in this way.
Elton also provides a link to the RealAudio recording of the source.

Below that post is one noting a bizarre quote by Bush on another subject:

The most recent statistics available tell a terrible story. More than 58,000 children are abducted by non-family members annually.
As Elton notes, this is not true, but now that we've wandered into my area of expertise, I suppose I should just be grateful that this isn't quite as bad as Densen-Gerber's figure back in the '70s, which were the basis of the child porn laws passed in both the US and the UK. Densen-Gerber, you may recall, claimed that this mass kidnapping of 300,000 children a year (which, strangely, no one had noticed), occurred entirely for the purposes of creating child porn. Legislators in a state of hysteria promptly passed laws without first checking out the real statistics, which showed that after accounting for runaways, "throwaways", and other non-kidnappings, turned up the somewhat less unlikely figure for real kidnappings of about 123 for the year.

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Avram Grumer takes issue with a post by Megan McArdle in which she argues with a review of Robert Dahl's book, How Democratic Is the American Constitution?. The review, by Hendrik Hertzberg, argues that "The Senate is essentially a graveyard." He lists 14 examples of bills that were "favored by the sitting President, an apparent majority of the people, and, in most cases, the House of Representatives to boot" that were nevertheless blocked by the Senate. McArdle responds that, in fact, those programs weren't popular, and therefore, "In other words, the problem with those goddamn undemocratic senators is that they refuse to pass bills that the majority of the public is against." Avram is unhappy with her argument, for good reason:

Didja catch it? Hertzberg lists 14 items that (he says) the Senate has blocked but that the public and/or the House and/or the then-current President favored. McArdle says that "almost all of the ideas on it were [...] wildly unpopular", and then lists six, less than half. And let's take a closer look at some of those.

Hertzberg says the Senate killed bills "to ban violence against strikers by private police forces". McArdle thinks to refute this by saying that strikes are "popular with no one except the strikers", as if that were the same as saying that most people want private cops to use violence against the strikers. Does being unpopular mean that the majority authorizes the use of force against one? (And isn't one of the fundamental tenets of libertarianism the belief that initiating force is never justified, even if demanded by a majority vote?)

And that last item, "we all know how well nationalized health care polls." We do? Does that remove the obligation of actually saying it? Can I just say We all know that a majority supports federal involvement in expanding health care and leave it at that, without providing evidence to back up my assertion? Cool, makes my job a lot easier.

But no, that would be wrong. Goolging around for data, I see that NPR ran a story a couple of months ago about a Kaiser study that polled Americans about health care. (The actual data are in a fucking PDF file.) When asked about "A national health plan, financed by taxpayers, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan", 40% approved, 55% disapproved, and 5% didn't know.

Does 55% disapproval sound like "wildly unpopular" to you? And past surveys have found the disapproval rating as low as 47%. And that's after the health insurance industry spent a buttload on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt commercials — a Harris poll taken in 1991 found that 68% supported the idea of "system of national health insurance in which the government pays most of the cost of health care for everyone out of taxes, and the government sets all fees charged by doctors and hospitals", and only 29% opposed.

Two down, four out of fourteen left. Someone else can handle those.

12:39 BST: Permalink
The Democratic Party didn't pay for this one. (Active X)

12:00 BST: Permalink
Molly Ivins (via Bartcop):

I have a correspondent named Irwin Wingo in Weatherford, Texas. Irwin and some of the leading men of the town are in the habit of meeting about 10 every morning at the Chat'n'Chew Cafe to drink coffee and discuss the state of the world. One of their number is a dittohead, a Limbaugh listener. He came in one day, plopped himself down, and said, "I think Rush is right: Racism in this country is dead. I don't know what the niggers will find to gripe about now."
The reason I take Rush Limbaugh seriously is not because he's offensive or right-wing, but because he is one of the few people addressing a large group of disaffected people in this country. And despite his frequent denials, Limbaugh does indeed have a somewhat cultlike effect on his dittoheads. They can listen to him for three and a half hours a day, five days a week, on radio and television. I can assure you that David Koresh did not harangue the Branch Davidians so long nor so often. But that is precisely what most cult leaders do--talk to their followers hour after hour after hour.

Friday, 09 August 2002

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As you might recall, I think the issues of media concentration and industry efforts to collapse and control every kind of music and news communications are the most vital issues around. I get into a lather at least once a day over the way broadcasters have come to think the airwaves are theirs by divine right, and how the recording industry is trying to destroy the 'net as a source parallel to broadcast radio, and so on. Well, I'm happy to say that Doc Searls has been all over this subject lately, and even though I think he wanders down the occasional ideological blind alley, in the main he is right on the money about the way our free public speech has been and is continuing to be stolen out from under us. There's loads of this on his own site along with some cross-fertilization with Electrolite. Go read it. This is important.

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I was going to try to dig up a link to this story online after seeing it in Metro, but Greg Greene has saved me the trouble:

The Gospel According to Ned
From BBC News: How Ned Flanders Became a Role Model. The Simpsons character, says a correspondent, has become "an unlikely icon for churchgoers":
There really is something about Ned, says organiser Steve Goddard. "Ned is an innocent abroad in a world of cynicism and compromise. We love him because we know what it's like to be classed as a nerd - and to come out smiling at the end of it.

"We do know what it's like to be ridiculed and abused by the ignorant Homers of this world. We know what it's like to try to live simply, faithfully, boringly - and not necessarily see the reward for it."

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Max loves Cynthia McKinney:

You don't have to agree with everything she says to sign this petition in support of Cynthia McKinney; you merely have to be Jewish and American. After all, you could end up voting for Bush in '04, even though he's intellectually irresponsible and lazy, and a lyin' weasel to boot. By any objective standard, in fact, Cynthia is more qualified to be President. Hell, I am more qualified to be President (but first I have to fulfill my commitment to the workers and peasants of the District of Columbia).

I had thought of doing something like this but felt a bit fearful, to be honest. Leave it to others to make the crucial first step. If Sean Hannity can host a show on a major television network where he gushes over Ann Coulter, a certifiable vicious raving lunatic, why can't I support someone who is getting flack for a single thoughtless comment? Don't like it? Irresponsible? Undignified? Hey, watch this drive!

Thursday, 08 August 2002

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Krugman recognizes Winston Smith.

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From Ananova, Pakistani leader says bin Laden did not plan terror attacks:

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf says he does not believe Osama bin Laden planned the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

But General Pervez Musharraf - a strategic ally in America's war against terrorism - says he does think bin Laden was involved in the attacks in some way.

He did not say who he thinks was behind the attacks.

"I don't think it is possible that Osama sitting up there in the mountains could do it," he told The New Yorker magazine.

"He was perhaps the sponsor, the financier, the motivating force. But those who executed it were much more modern. They knew the US, they knew aviation. I don't think he has the intelligence or the minute planning. The planner was someone else."

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There's another new blogger in town, says Atrios, and they don't hide their feelings in monchieland - responding, I guess, to those who call Democrats "Demoncrats" or "DemocRATS" whenever they write about us, he writes like this:

Sheesh! Are we gonna have to listen to them whining that anything bad that happens over the next two and a half years is President Clinton's fault?

It must be something in the ReTHUGlican gene pool -- I remember Ronnie Reagan blaming everything bad that happened on President Carter as late as 1987.

Here at the restrained and refined Sideshow, we don't use that kind of language, however justified it may be - and justified it certainly is, as anyone who remembers the "bourgeois riot" knows. For those needing a refresher, the very fine Robert Parry lays it all out:

On Nov. 22, 2000, after learning that the Miami canvassing board was starting an examination of 10,750 disputed ballots that had previously not been counted, Rep. John Sweeney, a New York Republican, called on Republican troops to "shut it down," according to Down and Dirty. Brendan Quinn, executive director of the New York GOP, told about two dozen Republican operatives to storm the room on the 19th floor where the canvassing board was meeting, Tapper reported.

"Emotional and angry, they immediately make their way outside the larger room in which the tabulating room is contained," Tapper wrote. "The mass of 'angry voters' on the 19th floor swells to maybe 80 people," including many of the Republican activists from outside Florida.

News cameras captured the chaotic scene outside the canvassing board's offices. The protesters shouted slogans and banged on the doors and walls. The unruly protest prevented official observers and members of the press from reaching the room. Miami-Dade county spokesman Mayco Villafana was pushed and shoved. Security officials feared the confrontation was spinning out of control.

The canvassing board suddenly reversed its decision and canceled the recount. "Until the demonstration stops, nobody can do anything," said David Leahy, Miami's supervisor of elections, although the canvassing board members would later insist that they were not intimidated into stopping the recount.

Monchie also supplies a link to the story of the famous Al Gore speech that was turned into the "Love Canal" lie, on the very fine This American Life site. (Scroll down to Episode 151.) Anyone unfamiliar with TAL should spend some time there - there are a wide variety of good radio shows archived there. (This particular item also includes a RealVideo clip of Gore's speech.)

15:00 BST: Permalink
It's been a busy week. (And I'm pleased to say that the new guy at my dentist's office was so completely painless that I didn't even realize he was giving me a shot until it was almost over.)

Last night I went to the book launch for Dennis McNally's "authorized" biography of the Grateful Dead, which is enormous and sounds great, though I probably won't read it. He spilled a few interesting stories about seeing Al Gore at Dead concerts and getting a phone call asking for Patrick Leahy (who wears tie-dye to Dead Concerts) and calling him backstage so he could talk to the President. My favorite bit was the one where Leahy takes Garcia to the Senate diningroom, which causes enough of a stir to interest Strom Thurmond, who comes up and introduces himself. Yes, that's right, Strom has shaken hands with Jerry Garcia.

I'm still suffering from information overload, but let's see what we can do. Patrick is back on the job and looking at the very interesting "humiliating Iraq" question. He quotes lots of smart people, but I think Josh Marshall is particularly concise:

Is it possible that regime change by force is the right thing to do, but that this administration is inclined to do it in such a reckless, ill-conceived and possibly disastrous manner that, under these circumstances, it is better not to do it at all? ...This is a question I've recently been asking myself. And I don't find it easy to answer.
It's not that long ago that Marshall seemed eager to jump on Iraq, so this is important. And it pretty well sums up how I feel about many of the issues we've been facing: It's not whether we should do them, but whether this administration should be doing them. It's generally the case that the more important something is, the more poorly the Bush administration performs. We know what bumblers they are; do we really want them handling something that requires any kind of care and intelligence? I don't think so. Even "their" great triumph in Afghanistan turns out to be based on plans drawn-up by the Clinton administration as a response to the attack on the USS Cole - which, had it been undertaken on Clinton's timetable, might very well have prevented the fall of the Towers. (Okay, does anyone really still believe that Gore would have ignored this plan to the degree that Bush did?) And now they seem to be screwing that up, too.

Personally, I'm not convinced that an invasion of Iraq is appropriate, anyway, but I could still be persuaded if someone with brains were making the case and if I thought someone with brains would be in charge. Call me judgmental, but I just don't think giving people stupid nick-names will be sufficient diplomacy, and I can't help the feeling that bluster and ignorance are contraindicated for getting this thing done right.

Also in Nielsen Hayden Land, Teresa finds an appalling site that recommends being cagy about how you brutalize your children. I can't do Teresa's take-down justice but read it yourself and see how the smart believers in "spare the rod and spoil the child" evade responsibility.

Nathan Newman finds more bad guys:

  • HP uses copyright law to suppress research exposing flaws in its software's computer security. This is the chilling endproduct of the law, where users cannot even tell one another about defects in a company's product.
  • One problem in software is that developers are largely not held legally liable for the damages suffered by users of defective products. This legal problem is being made worse by passage by state governments of the model Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) which further erodes consumer rights. See the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility fact sheet.
  • As the joke goes when computers are praised for their rapid innovation compared to cars, for example, the head of General Motors just says "Yeah, but would you really want to drive a car that crashes twice a day." Another version.
  • On a more serious level, the City of Los Angeles is trying to use trademark law to force cop shows set in the city to pay the city license fees. The show The Shield, based on LA's Ramparts police brutality and corruption scandal, largely removed all references to the city by name to avoid the hassle. Some day, any protester will have to pay a license fee to the corporate or government official they want to criticize.
  • A Bartcop reader writes in with a point:

    No one ever talks about the first World Trade Center bombing that occurred on February 26, 1993, five WEEKS after Bill Clinton assumed the presidency?

    Did we ever hear Clinton or any of his operative try to pin the blame on the Bush Administration? They had, after all, been in control of the CIA and FBI for twelve consecutive years. By the way, all the principals of the first World Trade Center plot are behind bars. Without a "war", I might add.

    Bartcop himself notes that Waco also happened shortly after Clinton assumed office - planned on Bush's watch - but Clinton never blamed that on Bush, either, though the right-wingers blamed it all on Clinton and Reno. In fact, the right-wingers conflated Waco and Ruby Ridge as both being Clinton-Reno evils, although Ruby Ridge occurred before Clinton took office. Similarly, when Reagan-Bush-era malfeasance (such as the secrets given to China) emerged during the Clinton administration, the right pinned it on Clinton. President Bill could rightly have pointed to his predecessor for all of these things, but he didn't. Again, who is the "party of responsibility"?

    Joe Conason is unkind to Torricelli but notes that there are worse people in Congress:

    Compared with Mr. D’Amato’s behavior at the time of his embarrassing ethics episode, Mr. Torricelli is a portrait of contrition. Back then, the New York Senator flashed a thumbs-up in reaction to his escape from real punishment. He staunchly resisted every suggestion that he release his own testimony before the committee. Weeks later, he mailed a newsletter to three million constituents - at taxpayer expense - proclaiming that "the Senate Ethics Committee has found that I did nothing wrong."

    That was untrue, of course, since the committee in fact found that he had "conducted the business of his office in an improper and inappropriate manner" to benefit his lobbyist brother, Armand D’Amato. Among the problems facing the Senate investigators was that nearly half of the witnesses called to testify about their dealings with Mr. D’Amato claimed their Fifth Amendment privilege instead.

    I'll never forget the sight of D'Amato getting all holier-than-thou at Al Gore over supposedly violating a law that Gore had not violated, but D'Amato had. Yuck.

    Wednesday, 07 August 2002

    02:00 BST: Permalink

    Breathless in Blogland

    I'm having a problem: There is so much good stuff out there that I can't seem to pick a few choice items to blog. MWO, for example, is back from vacation with absolutely tons of chunky links and commentary (and a new format that changes the page every day, making it a bit easier to at least single out daily sections, which are apparently now being archived). Michael Tomasky's Dems' Fightin' Words is rated "must-read" and precedes commentary on the anti-Krugman phenomenon:

    The Krugman/Harken story is fascinating. It goes to show what happens when even one lone non-winger makes it onto the pages of a major "mainstream" publication and is able to tell the truth about an administration the rest of the media work feverishly to prop up and appease.

    Mr. Krugman had been identified as "ground zero for conservative commentators" by Lucianne Goldberg. There are daily, relentless attacks against him by Andrew Sullivan and others who cannot tolerate even one voice of dissent. The right is in a state of Krugman-induced panic, faced with the prospect of a journalist working at a major newspaper who not only knows how corrupt Bush, Inc. is - but knows how to convey it to the public and with no compunction toward apology or whitewash.

    Their reaction is understandable. Bush and his supporters and media lapdogs have always realized that if even a single ray of truth is able to break through their fortress of lies, it wouldn't be long before the mythology of Good and Decent Bush, Simple Man of Honor, Dignity and Character would be shattered beyond repair.

    Atrios, as usual, is all over a bunch of subjects and loaded with interesting links. He follows the trail on the not-so-nice idea that what we need to do is "humiliate Islam" (and notes that others, such as Ethel the Blog, have also weighed in), and he's found a whole site about Ann Coulter's lies called Slannder! that actually slogs through the famous footnotes.

    Demosthenese takes up the issues of Gore's popularity, Kaus' coinage of the term "paleoliberalism", Horowitz saying, "the West Bank must be occupied by military force, disarmed and denazified", and a book discussion. Further down the page, he also takes more than one look at Den Beste.

    Counterspin is similarly loaded with neat stuff. So there's no help for it, I'll just go for the trivial: Boob Licking Scam Busted (don't miss the photo).

    Speaking of trivia, Andrew Ian Dodge has this:

    Well it seems that Ann Wittecombe MP and Eminem are very close. Udders seems to be his female guru these days; he writes her every day. Udders is the mother figure he never knew: Wittecombe in a light we have never seen her. This all according to a reliable BBC source. I am not making this shit up! I have better use for my time, just ask!

    Tuesday, 06 August 2002

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    Bob Somerby says:

    This week, we're going to help you understand how egregious the borking of Gore really was. And we're going to help you recall the names of the pundits who watched while this fraud occurred—the major pundits, of great renown, who chose to stand by and say nothing.
    He has started off with Ceci Connolly, who I think of as one of The Spite Girls. But I still think using the term "borking" is more than a little ironic. There's really no parallel between the campaign of lies about Gore and the campaign of truth about Bork. Bork was despised for his anti-civil libertarian views, and deserved what he got.

    22:50 BST: Permalink
    Online IQ Test (via Sarge.) Yeah, yeah, "They say I got brains, but they ain't doin' me no good...."

    04:15 BST: Permalink
    Josh Marshall has a nice picture of President Gore with this article:

    Isn't it obvious why Al Gore blew off the DLC cattle-call in New York last week? I suspect it has nothing to do with Nader or cross feelings about Al From. Gore's the eight hundred pound gorilla of the Democratic field. The most important question about the 2004 primary race is whether or not he runs. Gore was able to dominate the event simply by blowing it off.

    Going to the event only would have pulled him down to the level of the other half dozen chirping monkeys who did tricks for the attention of the New Dem faithful. That would have generated news stories about how the one-time heir-apparent had to duke it out with the likes of John Edwards for another go at the presidency.

    Going to the event would have diminished him. Simple as that.

    And he's cooking on Iraq and discussing that Time article. Don't miss it.

    03:00 BST: Permalink
    Elton Beard comes up with a plan:

    If you want regime change, send in the proven team. These elegantly clad operatives were critical and effective warriors in the November 2000 hijacking of an American presidency. They can do it to Iraq too, and they're still on the payroll. Just change the team's name from The Bush Recount Committee to The Republican Guard and send them in, and Neil Bush will be Iraq's President for Life in no time.

    And if they can't do it alone, dispatch Senator Joe Lieberman to advise Saddam Hussein on winning elections.

    Elsewhere, Elton finds a bit of corruption, as well. Armed Liberal has the same story, but look at this one too while you're there.

    00:19 BST: Permalink
    Lenny Bailes tells me that at the NYT, they're talking about Slaying Terrorism:

    IT has been foretold that into each generation a Slayer is born, and since 1997, that Slayer has been Buffy. What she slays are vampires — usually on Tuesday evenings as part of U.P.N.'s primetime lineup.

    What "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and her gang don't do is create plans, learn from mistakes or pause to think about what they're up against. And in these regards, they are a lot like us — or so says Anthony H. Cordesman, the holder of the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a longtime ABC News military analyst.

    In a paper titled "Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm," Mr. Cordesman suggests that the challenges (and shortcomings) facing the United States in the war on terrorism are not unlike those facing Buffy and company. After all, they too live under a constant threat, or at least over one: Buffy's town, the story goes, is built atop an evil portal that "every slag wants to unlock" so as to "unleash hell on Earth." The paper has been sitting quietly at the center's Web site for months , but as the United States continues to battle its own slags, perhaps it would help to become familiar with the source of Mr. Cordesman's observations. Following are some selected bits of theory from "The Buffy Paradigm," paired with plot excerpts from Volumes 1 and 2 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher's Guide" (Pocket Books, 1998 and 2000).

    Buffy Paradigm: "[An] aspect of the Buffy Paradigm is a lack of any systematic net assessment of the overall nature of the threat. This has been equally true of the U.S. government, and its lack of any clear net assessment of the probable trends in the offensive and defensive capabilities of biotechnology."

    On the Show: "In the episode 'Welcome to the Hellmouth,' we meet Buffy, who believes she can ignore the dangers that lurk around her. She hopes that a recent move to the town of Sunnydale and a change of school will allow her to put her slaying days behind her."

    Monday, 05 August 2002

    18:44 BST: Permalink

    The Blogiverse got a little carried away over the weekend, including Jim Henley:

    Legacy-Media Follows the Money - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picks up the McKinney donors story and adds some hard information. This is what legacy media does best - call people, ask questions, confirm quotes, write stuff down. What they do less well is credit new-media when new-media breaks stories. In this case, the entire article goes by without any mention that Scott Koenig of Indepundit found the donor anomaly in the first place.
    Well, in this case, "legacy media" was just making a molehill into a mountain, but Jim is certainly right that an advantage they have over bloggers generally is that they do real reporting (when they feel like it, anyway - a lot less of that going around these days) - the phone-calling and fact-checking thing. Most bloggers are just quoting secondary sources like newspapers, or even tertiary sources like other bloggers. While a few of us can actually claim primary source credentials in our areas of expertise (I've actually done original research of my own on classifying the content of magazine pornography, for example), we're usually just looking at stuff other people wrote about something other people said or did, most often from sources elsewhere in the mainstream media. Somebody has to spend real money to make those mainstream sources available to the rest of us.

    I worry about this when I look at the way netizens balk at the idea of paying a subscription to a news source, but I can't fault people for feeling that way - for one thing, we're used to it, and for another Old Media has really been falling down on the job lately. We can't all be in the room when news is taking place, and someone has to actually be at, say, those White House briefings and press conferences, and it isn't going to be me. But then when I look at the articles those paid media folk produce, I wonder if they are earning the money when it looks like they've virtually reproduced press releases and made up interpretations of what they've heard. I can always go over to and find out what was said, so what do I need someone else to tell me, for? Send me the latest RNC talking-points alert and I can tell you what the political analysis will say, too. There's no question that some of the things on the web are actually more reliable than what we see on TV or read in the papers. We can just invite school tour groups to the press events and have them ask the questions that will appear later on the WH website.

    To provide good news coverage, you need a real news budget, you need to be able to make expensive phone calls, travel to talk to people, spend many hours digging up and reading documents - you can't get much of a real story out of one line taken out of context, which is what the McKinney story really is. Chad Orzel put it into perspective:

    Let's leave aside all of the justifying arguments, and elided details, and rational explanations, because, at the core of it, none of that matters. Stripped down to its thoroughly vile essence, what do we have here? A list of Arab-sounding names on a fundraising report.
    Well, yes, that's exactly right. But he got a bit carried away himself, after that. Which brings us back to the update from Jim Henley:

    After further consideration, Chad Orzel decides that Unqualified Offerings is "Way Better Than Pond Scum," in a piece with that title. This would make an excellent alternative tag line to "War, Peace, Freedom, Fish, More," UO believes. UO can't agree that McKinney "speak[s] her mind in public without adequately thinking things through." But that's as may be.
    15:30 BST: Permalink
    Mickey Kaus disagrees that the sudden spurt of "populism" by Democrats is a result of the Enron & etc. scandals:

    Does this make any sense? For one thing, Bill Clinton's own vice president, Al Gore, couldn't hold the centrist line in the 2000 presidential campaign, years before the Enron collapse. Even in 2001, also before the corporate scandals, blind anti-Bush anger over Florida was pushing Democrats into immoderate positions. Are Democrats adding Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" provisions to the H______d Security Act because of Enron, or because unions want them? Are liberals currently chipping away at welfare reform --the latest Senate Finance bill is a disaster -- because of Enron, or because (contra Balz) they never, really, embraced the DLC/centrist pro-reform position, in part because of ideological hostility embodied in a whole institutional framework of anti-poverty foundations and lobbying groups? I understand that there is nothing more important than Enron and the declining stock market, at least this week. But scandals are fleeting; the infrastructure of unions and foundations is semi-permanent. When it comes to explaining the persistence of paleoliberalism, it's the constituencies, stupid! Plus pent-up anger over Florida.
    To some people, everything is about partisanship and surface politics, never about the issues themselves. Florida didn't have to happen for Democrats to want to go back to having those laws that used to partly keep this kind of stuff from happening - and, when it happened anyway, let us throw the malefactors in jail. Enron didn't have to happen for Democrats to think it was insane to privatize Social Security (because it is). And it doesn't take any of that stuff to make Democrats wonder how welfare moms can take care of their children and work 40 hours a week at the same time. Mickey's right about one thing - Democrats really never did, by and large, embrace the DLC position. Some of us are Democrats because we think you can be pro-business without being pro-corporate. Some of us are Democrats because we've already seen what programs work and what programs don't. Some of us are Democrats because we care about outcomes of the programs rather than just the outcomes of the elections.

    (On the same page, you can also find some really lame responses to Alterman, DeLong, and Diane E.)

    13:00 BST: Permalink

    1. I guess, from some of the e-mail I've been seeing, I should skip the snarky remarks and just try to be clear: If you are using Outlook Express or some other mail reader that automatically decodes, runs, and even sends attachments, you would be very wise to turn the defaults off, since most viruses are actually designed to exploit that weakness, and there's a lot of that going around. Also, practice safe techs by never sending an unrequested attachment, and never opening an unrequested attachment. If you want to send someone a Word doc, or .mp3, or .jpg or whatever, ask first, and also make sure you include some identifying plain-text when you do send it. Be a good neighbor.

    2. I've been playing with another browser. It's called Crazy Browser and it's small - a quick download - and opens fast. So far I like it; if anyone else has experience with it, by all means tell me if you found any problems with it.

    3. Epicycle sez:

    The remarkable Dan of Dan's Data has written an extremely useful guide to the "memory effect" in rechargeable batteries. Is there anything technical that man doesn't know about?
    12:45 BST: Permalink
    There's a rumor going around that unlike Scandal and Bias, William McGowan's Coloring the News is actually an intelligent, well-researched book that proves liberal bias and backs up its assertions. Pretty unlikely, eh? And judging from what Bob Somerby is finding in it, it sounds like it's just more of the same.

    Sunday, 04 August 2002

    16:25 BST: Permalink

    Lots of cool space pictures (via Linda Blanchard).

    Saturday, 03 August 2002

    18:09 BST: Permalink

    Jeff Cooper comes back at the DLC's perniciousness, and I agree with almost every word, but I think he undercuts his point in this paragraph:

    Indeed, the person best positioned to articulate a coherent Democratic position at this point is Al Gore, whose populist rhetoric in the 2000 campaign failed to carry the day in good economic times but would resonate more powerfully in our present circumstances. This week Gore rather pointedly avoided the DLC's gathering in Manhattan, and he is not tied directly to the questionable Democratic positions in Congress. This too, though, works to the Democrats' disadvantage. Despite his popular-vote victory, Gore emerged from the 2000 campaign a badly damaged figure, his credibility in tatters after relentless (and frequently untruthful) Republican attacks, his demeanor off-putting to many voters. Republicans champ at the bit at the thought of opposing Gore a second time. In the meantime, the Democrats' weakness in Congress allows the president to co-opt the more popular elements of the Democratic platform with his own window-dressing versions of those elements (no permalinks; scroll to the July 29 entry).
    I was following the coverage of the campaign pretty closely by the time of the Democratic Convention and noticed the sharp turning points; I remember. No amount of spin can make me forget it; I watched the debates live on the 'net (including post-game commentary), and then read the complete transcripts afterwards, as well as the newspaper coverage. I kept track of the polls. I've followed a lot more presidential elections than most people (I worked on the Kennedy and Johnson campaigns when I was still a kid), and I have always known before November who was going to win the election. You can feel it. This was no different.

    Remember that as of the night of the first presidential debate, Gore was leading comfortably in the polls and was headed for a landslide. I think it is more than clear that that landslide would have materialized but for the rabid campaign of attacks on Gore's debate performance that the press carried out on behalf of the RNC in the following weeks. All four relevant polls, and the focus group surveys on the night, showed Gore winning handily in the first debate, but within a few days what commentators had described as his "healthy tan" had been spun into "orange make-up", his exasperation with Bush's obvious dissembling and ignorance (even of his own policies!) spun into Evil Sighing, good points about things like education had been reinvented as Gore "lies", and real lies by Bush were completely ignored. Stories were appearing in newspapers and being repeated on news shows in which Gore's "pathological lying" was treated as a proven fact - all of it created from lies and misstatements by the RNC and the press itself.

    By the second debate, Gore was obviously shaken by all of this - what can you say when everything that comes out of your mouth is interpreted as a lie or cynical or both?

    The Bush "message" was that everything Americans wanted - education, prescription drug benefits, Social Security, paying down the debt, balancing the budget, etc. - would be preserved by both candidates. Bush openly lied in the debates about his polices and his numbers in order to sound as much like Gore as possible, claiming that under no circumstances would his tax cut (and revival of Star Wars/SDI) threaten any of those programs. In many respects, you could say that Bush managed in the end to stay even in the polls largely by pretending to be a slightly more personable and honest carrier of Gore's message.

    Polls of undecided/swing voters after the election consistently showed that the single greatest reason given for voting for Bush was a belief that Gore was not honest. Many people clearly believed that there was no substantive difference between Gore and Bush on policies - it was just a matter of degree - but that the real distinction was one of character, an area where the RNC spin had "proven" that Gore fell short.

    Gore's message was winning for Gore, but it was co-opted by Bush.

    And anyway, Gore won. There is no question that he would have won by considerably more had it not been for the overt, successful campaigns in some states (like Tennessee) to reduce the number of likely Democratic voters who were permitted to cast ballots. In Florida, in particular, it is amazing just how much malfeasance was necessary in order to make the numbers appear to come out close to even - and, despite this, the ultimate tally shows that Gore did indeed win in Florida.

    The belief that Gore's message "failed" in 2000 is more DLC/RNC spin. Voters who actually watched the first debate by and large thought Gore had done much, much better than Bush. Poll numbers demonstrate that when Gore was shown speaking in public - at the Democratic Convention and in the first debate - voters did indeed warm to him. People who saw him on the stump warmed to him. The idea that he was unlikable was carried in the press, but was not a reflection of real events.

    Are the Republicans really champing at the bit to oppose Gore a second time? I don't think so. The very fact that they keep trying to revive old, disproven lies about Gore tells me that they know he is the man who can beat them. Little or no invective is being wasted on other possible contenders with the exceptions of Daschle and Leahy, who are being attacked for what they are doing right now to oppose Bush's agenda rather than as personalities. If they saw Edwards and Kerry and the like as a threat, we'd be hearing many nasty things about them already. The real RNC talking points are being aimed at Gore because they know Gore is the biggest threat to them in 2004. And this time, the Democrats might have learned their lesson, which will make things even harder for Bush; unlike the Republicans, the Democrats didn't pay a cadre of ardent activists to do "oppo research" in 2000, so we've had to do it in our free time without resources and it's taken us longer, but we have a good head start now and if the party actually pays attention they shouldn't get caught napping this time.

    15:40 BST: Permalink
    From Joe Conason's weblog:
    You've got mail - from the SEC As the handpicked co-chair of the president's Commission on Social Security, Richard Parsons, the AOL Time Warner chief executive, pushed privatization. With his own company suddenly under investigation by the SEC for the "unconventional" bookkeeping used to boost its ad revenues, that burning urge to put retiree benefits in play on Wall Street should cool down for a while. (Since the commission began to perfect its plans last summer, AOL Time Warner's shares have fallen about 75 percent, an unfortunate coincidence.) According to Ari Fleischer, the president thinks privatizing Social Security is still a swell idea anyway. Undoubtedly it is -- if you happen to be a corporate director who knows when to sell, with an anonymous buyer conveniently showing up to purchase your shares. That kind of bold, entrepreneurial risk-taking isn't for everyone, though.
    01:25 BST: Permalink
    I just got around to looking at the March issue of Scientific American and found this Rodger Doyle article about teaching evolution in the US:

    Since 1920 creationists have been successful in persuading legislatures in five Southern states to pass laws favorable to their views, but the courts consistently struck them down, saying that they violated the establishment clause of the Constitution. In the 1990s creationists began focusing instead on changing state educational standards. The most famous attempt to do so in recent years--the decision of the Kansas Board of Education to eliminate evolution from the state's science standards--was not a success: the decision was reversed in 2001 when antievolution board members were defeated for reelection.

    Still, creationists have been victorious in many other states, a trend catalogued by Lawrence S. Lerner of California State University at Long Beach. His evaluation, summarized and updated in the map below, is valuable in part because it points up the widespread sway of creationists in Northern states, such as Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, that have a liberal or moderate tradition. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that certain Southern states--North and South Carolina--have more rigorous educational standards than some Northern states, such as New York and Massachusetts.

    Friday, 02 August 2002

    03:31 BST: Permalink

    Katherine Harris Steps Down

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Katherine Harris resigned Thursday as Florida secretary of state and made the move retroactive to July 15, saying she had misunderstood the rules about when she had to quit to run for Congress.
    You know, this woman seems to be really good at not knowing any of the requirements for her position - or why they exist.

    Harris, a Republican who as the state's chief election official was thrust into the international spotlight during the 2000 White House recount, said she had intended to quit later this month to focus on the congressional race.

    But the state's resign-to-run law required her to file a letter on the day she qualified to run for Congress stating her intent to resign. Otherwise, the law says, the candidate must resign immediately.

    "I made a mistake in not filing the letter," Harris said.

    Harris said she thought the law did not apply to her office.

    'Cause, like, it never occurred to her that there might be a tiny little conflict of interest there.

    A spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush said he accepted the resignation, but that Harris would be retained as acting secretary until a sucessor is named.

    Right. So "resign" is just a meaningless, ceremonial word, like "under God", yeah?

    (Patrick tipped me off to this story, and has also posted it separately.)

    Thursday, 01 August 2002

    15:10 BST: Permalink

    Sports News

    A few days ago I'd never heard of Keith Olbermann, and now he seems to be everywhere with great stuff. Here he is in Salon, again taking responsibility for his own part in the Great Media Train-Wreck of '98, and making a few comparisons:

    The old ballplayer with the brush mustache let his poker face slip for a moment and smiled at the image. "Me. On the Mets' bench."

    He had just experienced as odd a two-hour span as any athlete ever has. After an absence of nearly 16 years, he had returned to Shea Stadium, the scene of one of the most notorious moments in baseball history, one that he starred in. And not a soul -- not a player, not a reporter, not a fan -- had given him a hard time about it. Here he was, transported back to the scene of a disaster of his making, in an America in which we can't tell who's yelling louder about how much to blame everybody else is, Ann Coulter or Pete Rose. Yet all but a handful of the 47,000 people at Shea Stadium never even let on that they knew he was there.

    On some cosmic level, perhaps, he had earned the benign neglect of history. For one thing, he'd acknowledged his mistake, from the beginning. "You saw it," he'd said at the time. "Not good." Now, with the exact measure of understatement he'd used that grim October night long ago, he described his return to Shea. "It was nice," he said simply, and that was all he needed to say.

    Perhaps that stoic willingness to shoulder responsibility is why, on a cool Friday night in July, as he sat in the stands at Shea Stadium in New York, the most intrusive anybody got with him was to wander over and ask, "You're Bill Buckner, aren't you?"

    Buckner was so blasé about it that he claimed he wasn't certain if it was the first time he'd been back. It was at Shea Stadium, of course, that in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson of the Mets skittered between his legs and past first base and into baseball history, concluding as nightmarish an inning as could be recalled by even the fans of that Freddy Krueger of franchises, the Boston Red Sox. Buckner could have made excuses -- he shouldn't even have been out there hobbling around the infield on his bad ankles, the inning should have been long over, they should've already been celebrating the championship -- but it was still Buckner's error, and he lived up to it.

    If Bill Buckner has a poker face, Pete Rose's is a perpetual Munchian scream of woeful denial, and Ann Coulter's is that of a swaggering pirate, complete with eyepatch. I confess I had never thought of Buckner and Rose as subjects for contrast, let alone Buckner, Rose and Coulter. But as I watched Buckner laugh with old baseball pals, as I remembered the younger Buckner whose Boston teammates used to tell me projected a kind of infectious calm, I got to thinking about how the three of them join together to vividly paint the opposite ends of some deep American spectrum about assuming responsibility.
    But I tend to think Rose is a lot closer to understanding what he did, and why people hold it against him, than is Ann Coulter. Since Sept. 11 she has been a veritable out-of-control firehose of venom, whipping around crazily, streaming invective wherever she happens to point. I wouldn't be so disturbed if I sensed there was a glimmer of irony in this new book of hers, some quick wink of Buckner-like acknowledgment that "Slander" might be read not as a title, but as a description of the contents.

    Alas, no. It will never occur to Coulter that in the vast crowd of us who appeared on television news in 1998, and focused entirely on the itinerary of President Clinton's genitalia, she was up near the front. It's a big crowd, and some of us tried to disperse it. But we're all there -- I'm including myself -- and as we head to purgatory for our sins, if not hell, we should all solemnly acknowledge that in fact there most obviously was something else to which we should have been paying attention, and didn't.
    Last fall when Coulter reacted to the death of her friend Barbara Olson on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon with pronouncements that might have made the Crusaders blanch, I defended her. I lost friends on two planes, and two more at Cantor Fitzgerald, and I argued that on top of her personal grief, she was operating from some extremely human wish to undo the horror. Perhaps, I said, deep inside her there was some vague connection of the dots between her share of the responsibility for the transformation of "News" into "Nothing But Clinton," and our unpreparedness for the attack. Perhaps she was getting ready to reckon with her own small but significant role in distracting the country from what should have mattered in 1998. No one rallied to my line of thinking. "Slander" certainly chased away anybody who was considering doing so.

    He gives others the benefit of the doubt, he takes responsibility, he admits he's been wrong - more than once, here. This guy is a mensch.

    13:00 BST: Permalink
    A 12-Step Program for Media Democracy

    by Jeffrey Chester & Gary O. Larson

    These days, it's the media conglomerates who are drunk with power--demanding a larger share of the nation's airwaves and threatening to turn the World Wide Web into an electronic theme park--and we're the ones with a twelve-step program. But at least with this particular regimen you won't bore your friends with tales of self-discipline and sobriety. For this is a twelve-step plan on behalf of a more democratic media system, a collective effort to ensure that alternative, independent voices will still be heard over the growing din of conglomerate media culture.

    12:50 BST: Permalink
    Slate has a report on how Daschle, Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman performed at the DLC conference. It's not a pretty sight.

    Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, August 2002

    July 2002
    June 2002
    May 2002
    April 2002
    March 2002
    February 2002
    January 2002
    December 2001
    November 2001
    Is the media in denial?
    Back to front page

    And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.