The Sideshow

Archive for December 2002

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Tuesday, 31 December 2002

12:08 GMT: Permalink

There's what we got for Xmas, and there's what we wish we got.

I had a nice birthday. Did you know there's a nice boxed set of the first three Byrds albums on CD (with the usual additional material, of course)? That and the two separate CDs of their fourth and fifth albums makes me feel much better about a certain person having made off with my Byrds LPs lo, those many years ago. (Yes, that's right, I'm really only interested in the Crosby-era Byrds. And the thing about the horse was unforgiveable.) I also got the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, and some amusing books, and the now-traditional Buffy calendar. I've listened to all the Xmas music, now - you know what one was; the others were a Blind Faith re-issue in a little box with a tastefully semi-censored cover and two Bill Hicks CDs (that I haven't had a chance to listen to yet because you have to pay attention to that stuff). And the CD with Fred Neil's first two albums. Haven't had quite as much time for reading over the holidays, more because I was doing stuff with The Sideshow Annex than because the holidays got in the way, but here's a bit of catch-up from TBogg:

The check is in the mail. I'll call you. Yes, I'll respect you in the morning. No, that doesn't make your ass look big. The Bush Administration uses "sound science".

All lies.

Read this.

When psychologist William R. Miller was asked to join a panel that advises the National Institute on Drug Abuse, he thought he had been selected for his expertise in addiction. Then a Bush administration staff member called with some unexpected questions.

Did Miller support abortion rights? What about the death penalty for drug kingpins? And had he voted for President Bush?

Apparently, Miller said, he did not give enough right answers. He had not, for example, voted for Bush. He was never appointed to the panel.

Researchers are complaining with rising alarm that the Bush administration is using political and ideological screening to try to ensure that its scientific consultants recommend no policies that are out of step with the political agenda of the White House.

Administration officials say they are merely doing what their predecessors have always done: using appointment powers to make sure their viewpoints are well-represented on the government's scientific advisory boards, an important if unglamorous part of the policy-making process. There are more than 250 boards devoted to public health and biomedical research alone, composed of experts from outside the government who help guide policy on gene therapy, bioterrorism, acceptable pollutant levels and other complex matters.

But critics say the Bush administration is going further than its predecessors in considering ideology as well as scientific expertise in forming the panels. A committee that merely gives technical advice on research proposals, as opposed to setting policy, has even been subject to screening, something the critics say was unheard of in previous administrations.

"I don't think any administration has penetrated so deeply into the advisory committee structure as this one, and I think it matters," said Donald Kennedy, past president of Stanford University and editor of Science, the premier U.S. scientific journal. "If you start picking people by their ideology instead of their scientific credentials, you are inevitably reducing the quality of the advisory group."

The government has been taken over by theological thugs and American industry whores.

Thanks again, Ralph.

TBogg later notes, "I know everybody didn't get their Christmas wish because I hear this guy didn't resign in shame over having blown the surplus as well as putting us on the cusp of WWIII." Well, yes. *sigh*.

Monday, 30 December 2002

20:41 GMT: Permalink

Charlie says: Finally, a solution to the DMCA and copyright fascism! It turns out there's an exemption to the DMCA for the exercise of religious freedom. So ...

Jimmy Breslin is pissed off again.


01:17 GMT: Permalink
Oh, look, it's my birthday again. Here, have some politics: Who runs the government?

Meanwhile, you Tolkien scholars will find more updates to the 21st Century Tolkien Studies page, with fresh letters from Eric Tam, Randolph Fritz, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and David Bratman.

Sunday, 29 December 2002

17:29 GMT: Permalink

Matt Yglesias has a nice bit of back-and-forth going over right-wing response to Paul Krugman. Krugman referred to the fact that King Richard II promised the peasants relief and then, when they'd all gone home, betrayed them. Donald Luskin retorted:

The peasant rebellion was triggered by the imposition of new higher taxes. That's right, Krugman, taxes. The thing that your "plutocrats" want less of. The thing you want more of. Taxes.
And Glenn Reynolds referred to it, saying, "It's always about taxes." But Bruce Moomaw mailed Matt to point out that the issue was whose taxes:

Needless to say, the peasants were rebelling against higher taxes on themselves, not higher taxes on the rich (which is what Krugman wants). Ever notice how Rightists always refer to "raising our taxes", while carefully failing to specify who "we" are? (I wonder if any of the English nobles referred to the peasants as "lucky duckies"?)
In the comments, Jesse (of Pandagon) says:

This is pretty much emblematic of most righty "fact checks" - off-topic and easily refuted. Substantive critiques are dropped by the wayside as soon as they think they have a factual error - and then the entire argument comes down to debating whether or not it's a factual error rather than whether or not the point is true.
And the point, of course, is that these aren't our taxes the Bush administration wants to reduce, it's their taxes, which is something else altogether. They want to raise our taxes, to pay for all wars and things they want spend our money on - but undergod forbid they should have to spend their own. Those of us who make less than $300,000 a year really shouldn't be asked to foot the bill for games the very wealthy want to play with our money - and our lives.

Let's do this again: The more money we have, the more money is likely to be circulating and therefore the more robust is the economy, as a result of which investors, including those in other nations, have more faith in our economy. It is this that keeps our economy strong. As the rich hoard more and more of the wealth, our economy weakens.

16:40 GMT: Permalink
Things are really rockin' at blah3, and Stranger's got an interesting take on that under-reported poll:

A new CNN-Time poll came out the other day, and in Time's print version, the news wasn't very good for the Thug Cabal. Under the headline 'Bush's Poll Numbers Come Down To Earth,' it showed support for Chimpy nearly down to pre-9/11 numbers, with 55% approving and 37% giving thumbs down:
In addition, it shows that 55% of Americans believe that Chimpy's advisors are running the show (only a third think the Lil' Dictator himself is calling the shots), and that just over half of us don't trust 'Re-Animator' Cheney. Fair enough.

Hard to spin that, right? Well, think again.

If you look at the story about this same poll on CNN's web site, the headline is 'Bush Advisers Get Favorable Marks'! We'll forgive you if you sit down at this point - we understand you might be getting a bit dizzy.

Even more incredibly, both Time and CNN passed on reporting the most important aspect of this poll - that if the Thug Cabal tries to invade Iraq without UN support, then American support of the war plummets from 55% to just 27%. We had to check AP's report on this poll to get that little nugget. This poll does not appear on Time's web site, and is has yet to be mentioned on the air on CNN.

Could it be that both Time and CNN are doing a little selective reporting in order to create the impression that there's more support for the Thug Cabal than really exists? Nah...

Which leads us to the latest animation at Take Back the Media: Lie, Cheat & Steal:

10:06 GMT: Permalink
More News From Middle Earth

Turbulent Velvet has now joined the discussion of Tolkien, fantasy, and politics over at UFO Breakfast. (Hey, TV, it really is Patrick Nielsen Hayden.)

On another note, Stephen Bates looks at that original piece by Eric Tam and doesn't like this bit:

...this stirred up a revulsion within me that I imagine is somewhat akin to what a lot of music lovers felt when they heard that Kenny G had performed the unhallowed blasphemy of recording a synthesized duet with a reanimated Louis Armstrong.
Y'know, I missed that the first time. Stephen didn't:

Eh? say WHAT? As a mostly retired semi-pro classical musician who loves jazz, I know a lot of serious jazz musicians, and they agree on two things: 1) whatever they may think of Kenny G (and opinion varies), they agree that "Classics in the Key of G" is the CD that proves the man can, after all, really play jazz, whatever else he may record and sell for a living, and 2) in jazz, there are no sacred texts; everything is open to additional creative input. For the most part, the musicians I know actually like Kenny's track with the resurrected Satchmo. Speaking only for myself, I imagine it is a track much like what Kenny and Armstrong might have recorded together, had their careers overlapped: I think Kenny G shows exceptional sensitivity to the original in both style and content. There is no violation taking place here, but rather an excellent instance of music-making spanning the generations. I'm sorry, but on this particular point, Tam is full of crap, and Kenny was right to do what he did.
So there.

And as long as we're on this fannish excursion, I note that Alison Scott's Macadamia says that the Map of Middle Plokta (and the rest of the issue) are now online. Naturally, I'm very proud to be the only person who got two landmarks named after them.

Saturday, 28 December 2002

20:14 GMT: Permalink

21st Century Tolkien Studies

Yes, there's more! David Bratman has responded to Patrick in a letter that begins:

Patrick is essentially right, but I think a little more elaboration might better explain Eric Tam's perceptions.
And Patrick responded to that in a letter that starts with:

I always enjoy discussing Tolkien with David Bratman, who is assuredly a world-class expert on the subject.
At which point I conclude that the full exchange deserves it's own page. So, I give you yet another addition to The Sideshow Annex: 21st Century Tolkien Studies.

14:05 GMT: Permalink
Orcs again

Randolph Fritz provides this quote from The Silmarillion to back up Patrick's position below on the redeemability of the orcs:

"...and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindale before the Beginning; so say the wise. And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar." - "Of the Coming of the Elves"
13:13 GMT: Permalink
Bartcop asks if this is what Bush meant when he said, "Help is on the way."

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - They put aside their civilian jobs and marched off to help in the war on terrorism.

And when the North Carolina National Guard's 211th Military Police Company came home after seven months guarding detainees in Afghanistan, they were welcomed with outstretched arms, a parade ...and a $13,000 bill.

Bart also has another one of those quotes up (on the main page) that "President Game Boy" periodically makes:

"No excuses. If the president can make the time to exercise every day, anyone can."
I guess he's already answered for himself Kendall Payne's question:

Think it over once or twice -
What lasts the longest in this life?
Or rock-hard thighs?"
12:52 GMT: Permalink
Lisa English seconds my emotions about corporate media (see? I told you she was a kindred spirit) with enough smarts and vigor to make it worth hearing again.

12:23 GMT: Permalink
Language Lessons

If you liked Latin for breakups (via Epicycle), you'll love "Oh my god! There's an axe in my head." (Thanks to Patrick for the pointer to the latter.)

12:09 GMT: Permalink
History Lesson

Heh. I can hear them saying it....

11:55 GMT: Permalink
I love this.

Friday, 27 December 2002

15:59 GMT: Permalink

I knew that quote about interpreting fantasy would pique Patrick Nielsen Hayden's interest, and sure enough, he sent me a Letter of Comment:

I agree with Eric Tam that it's tricky to draw analogies from fantasy tales to real-world political situations. But stories of any sort have moral weight and resonance to the extent that they manage to connect to our own lives.

Tam writes:

"Let me say it again: fantasy milieu have specific characteristics that make them fantastic. One such particularly important characteristic that often reoccurs is a very clear divide between Good and Evil, whereas morality in the real world is usually Very Difficult and Complicated, at least regarding the Issues that Matter. It is exactly this divide that makes the genre wonderful and diverting."

In other words, what's best about fantasy is that it's simplistic, and it should stay that way. I leave it as an exercise for you to speculate what our friend Terry Carr would have said about that.

Personally, it seems to me that while Tolkien has plenty of flaws, this business of THE LORD OF THE RINGS having a "very clear divide between Good and Evil" is a bum rap. Certainly the novel contains as many characters who mix good and evil, and who struggle with difficult choices, as any number of serious mainstream novels I can think of. Boromir is an obvious case, a man led into evil by his passionate desire to do a particular sort of good. Galadriel is another--she's partly responsible for a _great_ deal of the ill in the world, which is why her temptation scene is so important. Most importantly, if the divide between good and evil in Tolkien were truly as "very clear" as Tam asserts, Frodo and Sam would have killed Gollum the first chance they got, and the book would have ended with the triumph of Sauron.

A small example of the sort of bad reading that turns Tolkien into a D&D scenario is Tam's claim that orcs are "iredeemable." In fact, what we're told about orcs is that they came into existence when Morgoth tormented and twisted elves back at the beginning of the First Age. Now, what we know about evil in Tolkien's cosmology is that it has no power of true creation, only the power to twist and corrupt. So it's hard to believe that Tolkien, a Catholic who quite specifically rejected Manichean notions of Satan having powers coequal with God, would sign off on notion that any living thing is "iredeemable". In fact, Tolkien--both in the appendices and in the mouths of wise characters like Gandalf and Elrond--is wisely taciturn on these kinds off teleological specifics.

The better a story, the more likely it is that people are going to elicit a wide range of readings from it. Glenn Reynolds reads the "King of the Golden Hall" chapter of THE TWO TOWERS as a reminder that sometimes it's necessary to stand and fight. Well, sometimes it is. For me, the moral center of THE LORD OF THE RINGS is Gandalf's advice to Frodo: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." Cue Saturday Night Live routine: "Stop! You're both right!" Eric Tam says this sort of thing demonstrates that "such hermeneutics can cut many ways." I daresay this is true. But it accords oddly with his claim that moral simplemindedness is an essential characteristic of fantasy.

14:02 GMT: Permalink
Is it about liberals being more boring? About the market separating unpopular media from what people really want? Think again.

The Pornography of Power

But, if you are an honest political commentator, telling it like it is, not afraid to attack corporations and other rightwing forces in our society, then you don't last long. Progressive political commentator Jim Hightower, mentioned above, is a prime example. Mr. Hightower had a hugely popular talk-radio show based in Texas and broadcast throughout the country. It was one of the fastest-growing political programs in the United States, poised to get Lush-Rimbaugh-Big. Americans loved h is witty, homespun, Will Rogeresque, common man (and woman) viewpoints.

So what happened to his show? It got axed. Why did it get axed? It was profitable, it was popular, and it was growing. It got axed because Mr. Hightower wasn't a rightwing, pro-corporate mouthpiece like the Wills and Norths and Liddys and Rimbaughs and all the rest. Hightower attacked corporations for their stupidity, greed, and intolerance. He openly discussed America's shameful disparity in wealth (the worst in the world, besides Brazil), he attacked the 2-Party Dictatorship. He told Americans how money has so corrupted our democratic system (one dollar=one vote, a million dollars=a million votes). In short, he was a progressive populist who told it like it was-a MORTAL SIN in U.S. Mass Media. When you tell it like it is, you are erased from media existence. That is the power of our Monopolized Media.

Many years ago, noted scholar and professor of journalism Ben Bagdikian, in his visionary book, The Media Monopoly, warned Americans that the number of corporations that owned the vast majority of our media was terribly small, and getting smaller. But, too many Americans never heard the siren sound. Sadly, the trend that Bagdikian noted, has only accelerated in recent years. Thanks to Mega-Merger-Mania, the number of corporations that control our Media is down to around ten, maybe less.

13:27 GMT: Permalink
Holiday Cheer

Nathan Newman found this wonderful story:

A police officer got a Christmas bonus of $3,000 from homeless people who wanted to thank him for standing up for them.

Officer Eduardo Delacruz was suspended for 30 days without pay last month after he refused a sergeant's order to arrest a homeless man found sleeping in a garage.

In gratitude, organizations for the homeless put together the fund for the 37-year-old officer, his wife and their five children. Homeless people also contributed change scrounged from passers-by, money earned from recycling cans and bottles, even a portion of their welfare checks.

(Of course, you should be checking Nathan out regularly, anyway. Always lots of illumination of the real issues we are facing.)

I'm not gonna quote from this delightful story Mark Evanier has up, but you should take a look.

13:16 GMT: Permalink
Lingerie Barbie! . (Via Max.)

Thursday, 26 December 2002

15:19 GMT: Permalink

Eric Tam takes issue with Glenn:

So if you're still with me after my pop heresy, I want to complain about a little comment that Instapundit slipped in with his Two Towers review:
And yeah, Viggo Mortensen's occasional off-camera antiwar blather notwithstanding, the inevitability of war, and the importance of having the will to resist evil despite the burdens and the horror is a repeated theme, twined in and around the despair and temptation points I mention above. Indeed, one speech in which Aragorn explains to Theoden that this isn't just the usual raiding, but an effort to stamp out his civilization, seems especially on point.
It's hard to describe anything that generates a more visceral irritation than this kind of tendentious politicized interpretation of a text that I know and love. Since the LOTR trilogy was basically my first exposure to fantasy, this stirred up a revulsion within me that I imagine is somewhat akin to what a lot of music lovers felt when they heard that Kenny G had performed the unhallowed blasphemy of recording a synthesized duet with a reanimated Louis Armstrong.

I've previously noted (with respect to Buffy) the fallacious disanalogies that frequently ensnare people when they attempt to marshal fantasy plots to make real-world political points.

Let me say it again: fantasy milieu have specific characteristics that make them fantastic. One such particularly important characteristic that often reoccurs is a very clear divide between Good and Evil, whereas morality in the real world is usually Very Difficult and Complicated, at least regarding the Issues that Matter. It is exactly this divide that makes the genre wonderful and diverting.

A ready example: Sauron and the orcs are a very different kind of evil than Muslim fanatics. For one thing, orcs, like Buffy's vampires, are irredemable creatures without human souls. They are a different, inhuman species. If we were fighting orcs, we wouldn't need to consider the things that any moral human would have to consider if faced with the decision of whether to authorize actions like the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima. Viewing Aragorn's urging of Theoden to go to war as "on point" with regard to our current situation vis-a-vis Iraq is about as nonsensical as viewing the interactions between elves, hobbits, and humans as carrying an applicable message about race relations in the U.S. I mean, I'd acknowledge that one race was superior to the others if it possessed a 1,000-year lifespan and had leaders who wielded the power of the Silmarils.

If, regardless of the disanalogies, we do decide to pursue the risky business of attempting to draw themes from fantasy worlds that can be applicable to ours, I should note that such hermeneutics can cut many ways. It’s just as easy to draw heavily anti-war themes from Tolkien as it is to draw the hawkish themes that Instapundit wants to draw: war is only tolerable if it is absolutely and truly inevitable (i.e. when it is carried by the soulless forces of ultimate, unwordly evil); evil is characterized by imperialistic, expansionist aims and the desire for (or current possession of) overwhelming force. The most dovish symbol is perhaps the central trope of the One Ring, a good example of WMD if there ever was one: it can only be handled safely (and even then only temporarily) by an intensely pacifistic, agrarian, inward-regarding, and unambitious people who have no aspirations whatever for shaping the world in their image or for spreading their culture. The only safe way of dealing with the Ring is not to insure that it is in the hands of trustworthy people with good intentions, but rather to destroy it utterly, for its power inevitably corrupts even the purest of heart.

14:48 GMT: Permalink
Greg Greene found a remarkable quote from Ann Coulter in the NYT: "I don't remember liberals being this indignant about the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

Before he ran off on holiday, Bob Somerby ran a four-part series on just how liberal media coverage has really been, and asks a question that's troubled me since the first time I ever read an article by Michael Kelly: Why on earth does The Washington Post publish that guy?

Liberal Oasis is, as always, excellent. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to round up the Democratic leadership and throw them in an outdoor swimming pool in Vancouver. Bill Frist is at least as bad as Lott and all the Dems can do is praise him? Gah!

Elton Beard finds out more about the lack of a heart in the Republican party. Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, last night blocked a global deal to provide cheap drugs to poor countries, following intense lobbying of the White House by America's pharmaceutical giants.

I'm lame, I know, it's taken me this long to change the link for Mac Thomason's page. Anyway, he grossed me out with this one.

Wednesday, 25 December 2002

23:59 GMT: Permalink

The Sideshow Annex

I've spent the day fiddling around with some pages I've been meaning to put up. I should tell you about The Sideshow Annex anyway since:

  • It's where emergency blogging will take place in the event of something disastrous happening here (it's with another ISP).
  • It's also where the Sideshow Media Page, We Want the Airwaves!, is being built; send appropriate links!
  • It's also where I'll be putting separate articles and any other personal writing.
I've put up an old fanzine article, Clues, because it relates fairly directly to the piece I wrote today. That piece starts like this:

Gifts of the Heart

In the back of my mind I've been writing this article for about 15 years. God, how can it be that long? But today I'm listening to a CD I got for Xmas - all of my Xmas prezzies were either money or CDs - and listening to this particular album has brought all these thoughts close to the surface. In some ways, this is a review of that album.

In 1974 I was sitting in Ron Bounds' living room waiting for something or other having to do with getting ready to hold the World Science Fiction Convention, Discon II, and I picked up a a book of short stories and started reading. I think I borrowed the book from Ron so I could finish it. I knew I recognized the name of the editor and got a good vibe from it, having read one or two others of his collections, but at that stage I hadn't quite gotten who he was. But when I finished reading Fellowship of the Stars, I knew that Terry Carr was one of the good guys, and maybe a particularly special one. It was the first time I'd fallen in love with an editor. More

05:25 GMT: Permalink

Those I know who experienced the dubious benefits of "charity" as children speak of insult and humiliation. Jeanne D'Arc has such a story to tell, about the man who delivered the charity food box:

I thought of the man who sucked the air out of Christmas a few days ago, as I was reading an article about President Bush urging Americans to give more to the needy. I'd second the idea, of course. It certainly wasn't his plea for time and money that bothered me. It was a president being photographed putting canned peaches and spinach in a bag, without thinking about the fact that there are more important and effective things he could do to help the needy. But of course that assumes that the point is to help those in need, and not to provide photo-ops for presidents, and chances for the middle class to feel good about themselves while getting rid of their garbage.
George Bush instead hides from the public he's sworn to serve. Which makes me think of this:

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

Scrooge trembled more and more.

"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Nathan Newman can tell you about how much charity we can find in the GOP heart.

Tuesday, 24 December 2002

05:18 GMT: Permalink

Another great Flash animation by Mark Fiore: Whole Lotta Racism.

TBogg socks it to Dr. Laura. He's also got some good weirdo news about a Human Sacrifice At The Bizarre Bazaar and the No Parking sign of Turin. Another nice Michael Kelly take-down, too.

Jody at Naked Writing knows the score on abstinance-only sex miseducation.

MadKane announces the top humorous law blogs for 2002.

Anger Management Course has a great post on sleazy Republican policies, especially on how school vouchers are just more of the same. (And I hadn't heard the term "CHINO" before, for Christian in Name Only.)

Public Nuisance has a good go at righties whining about how mean the librul media is to Bill Frist.

Salon addresses something that's driving me crazy, too.

Charles Dodgson has some thoughts on l'affaire Lott and wonders whether The Mighty Casio can keep making waves.

Tuesday, 24 December 2002

05:18 GMT: Permalink

Another great Flash animation by Mark Fiore: Whole Lotta Racism.

TBogg socks it to Dr. Laura. He's also got some good weirdo news about a Human Sacrifice At The Bizarre Bazaar and the No Parking sign of Turin. Another nice Michael Kelly take-down, too.

Jody at Naked Writing knows the score on abstinance-only sex miseducation.

MadKane announces the top humorous law blogs for 2002.

Anger Management Course has a great post on sleazy Republican policies, especially on how school vouchers are just more of the same. (And I hadn't heard the term "CHINO" before, for Christian in Name Only.)

Public Nuisance has a good go at righties whining about how mean the librul media is to Bill Frist.

Salon addresses something that's driving me crazy, too.

Charles Dodgson has some thoughts on l'affaire Lott and wonders whether The Mighty Casio can keep making waves.

Monday, 23 December 2002

23:37 GMT: Permalink

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has some free time, it seems, and is doing some serious posting today. Lots of great stuff, but I particularly liked this one:

Liberals enchanted by good ol' straight-shooting John McCain might want to recall that, for the 2000 South Carolina primary, McCain retained the editor of Southern Partisan magazine--the pro-segregation, pro-Confederate publication that Trent Lott and John Ashcroft have taken heat for appearing in--as a campaign consultant for $20,000 a month. Arizona journalist Sam Coppersmith discusses it here.

McCain was certainly cold-cocked by the Bush campaign, but it's obvious that he was as willing as the rest of the GOP to sidle up to the hard-core racists. Keep that in mind the next time you're being charmed by McCain's skillful handling of the national media.

22:58 GMT: Permalink
Soreyes says: This may be the cutest Flash-based Xmas card I've seen this year. He's also found a passel of alternative LOTRs.

15:48 GMT: Permalink
The Daily Brew has a letter telling the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce in the first person. You may remember I posted a song that refers to this incident on Christmas of last year, here.

Just found a new one, The ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose, from which I learn that Zal Yanovski, guitar-player for the Lovin' Spoonful, has died at 58.

15:02 GMT: Permalink
Dig this:

Yo! This site is your ultimate resource for information about Stephen Hawking the gangsta rapper. While there are dozens of other sites on the web devoted to Stephen Hawking's scientific achievements, I am unaware of a single site (aside from this one) devoted to his career as a lyrical terrorist.
On the same page, a pointer to an even more essential resource:

On another note, I've found what may very well be the most useful site on the internet. You're a God fearing Christian right, just hanging out waiting for the Rapture (which is, of course, going to occur any minute now), but suddenly you realize: "when the rapture comes and I'm taken up physically into Heaven, my friends and family are going to wonder what happened to me." If only there was some way you could send them a message; introducing
14:14 GMT: Permalink
Here's a useful item from a month-old post on rec.arts.sf.fandom by Rob Hansen:

Between 1910 and 1970 British Pathe newsreels were shown before the main feature in cinemas over here. Now, at, some 3,500 hours of these have just been made available for free (higher quality versions can be licensed for website use). I used it the other day and the search function took me right to what I was looking for - some old news reports of bell installations featuring the current owner's father that we're thinking of adding to my company's website. Worth a look.

Sunday, 22 December 2002

16:31 GMT: Permalink


Another blah3 flash at Take Back the Media recounts The Year With George W. Bush.

Planet Swank has found an important item in The British Medical Journal - complete with illustrations:

The Xmas edition of the British Medical Journal traditionally carries material in a less serious (*ahem*) vein. This year's edition continues that tradition with the results of an analysis of Playboy centerfolds over that magazine's entire 50-year run. They found that, over the years, models have become less curvaceous, trending toward a slimmer, more "androgynous" body profile.

Saturday, 21 December 2002

17:32 GMT: Permalink

A lovely Solstice weekend to you all, folks, and a little gift I never get tired of: Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol, from an ancient Xmas edition of Ansible.

17:00 GMT: Permalink
By now quite a number of people have posted the painfully ironic Ashcroft speech inveighing against the evil Clinton administration's desire to eavesdrop on all your electronic communications, and standing up proudly against any government (that happens to be the Clinton administration) invading our privacy. Some parts of the speech provide such strong advocacy of civil liberties that even I might have written it. Of course, it was always a joke coming from Ashcroft, who already had a pretty considerable history of trying to overturn your civil liberties, but never mind that. Seeing the Forest rubs it in real good:

Let's look at what was going on. At a time when anyone could listen in on any phone call or e-mail message because no one was using encryption, the Clinton Administration was proposing to implement a universal encryption chip, called the "Clipper Chip," into all phones and computers, so that our phone and computer communications would be secure and no one could listen in except law enforcement - with a warrant. The Republicans intentionally spread the ridiculous lie that this was an attempt to listen in on our communications. Because of the cynical, suspicious anti-government environment that Republican messaging had created this lie caught on.

The basis for the Republicans' smear was that the Administration had a plan to allow law enforcement officials to break the code if they obtained a warrant. (Nothing would stop people from using their own encryption if they wanted to.) Ironically, this was specifically so they could listen in on potential terrorists. This is what the Republicans claimed was Clinton planning to listen in! Now remember, without the chip the government theoretically could listen in on any communications, because no one was using encryption. Clinton's plan to keep people from being able to listen in was described as a plan to listen in, and people bought it.

And because they were able to block this chip, no one is encrypting now. In fact, this is the very reason why the Bush plan is so dangerous! This new Bush plan to monitor all of our internet activities is possible BECAUSE they blocked Clinton's universal encryption chip. It just makes you want to scream.

Knowing that The Bush Administration is now proposing a plan to monitor our internet use, and even to monitor all of our e-mail messages, and this is possible because he was able to block Clinton's plan to get us all using encryption, read the rest of his speech. It's almost comical if only it weren't so terrible.

16:12 GMT: Permalink
Epicycle with a good rant on those evil Recording Industry Swine:

Two fascinating and closely-connected stories today, featuring those stalwart defenders of corporate greed the Recording Industry Association of America. Firstly, it emerges in The Register that the RIAA have been distinctly "economical with the truth" about their recent sales figures - although it may well be true that CD sales have fallen by 10% over the last few years, they have just admitted that their actual production has fallen by 25% - the industry released only around 27,000 titles in 2001, compared to 38,900 in 1999. In other words, despite fewer albums being released, despite the evils of copy-protection, despite the terrible threat of file-sharing, the war against it, and the price increases that it has been used to justify - in spite of all that people are buying more CDs than ever! Obviously, this news casts an even greater shadow over the RIAA's increasingly hysterical demands for aggressive powers against file-sharing networks and mandatory copy-protection for all, but with Intel and Microsoft both firmly behind the idea of digital rights management we may be at the stage where facts don't matter much, any more...

Elsewhere, and acting as a timely reminder of the exact corporate nature of the recording industry, it seems that after the success of the anti-trust suit alleging widespread price-fixing of CDs by the industry giants, we've finally come down to the pay-out. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, every US citizen who bought pre-recorded CDs, tapes or records between 1995 and 2000 will be eligible for a refund to a maximum of $20 each. A little over $67 million has been allocated (along with $75 million's worth of CDs, destined for various public and non-profit groups), but the final amount will depend on the number of claims made - and if the individual payments would be less than $5, the whole amount will go instead to those same non-profit groups.

It's grim stuff - an organisation who's members have admitted to being sleazy and corrupt, both individually and as a corporate mass, is successfully lobbying the government into passing new, invasive, un-constitutional laws merely to allow it to sell less product at greater profit. Damn, but it's the 19th century robber-barons all over again!  <sigh>
15:59 GMT: Permalink

1. Awards again

Mike Finley has set up his own blogging awards, using a quite different formula from the Koufaxes. Good for him. Skippy, our favorite kangaroo, has his own take.

Meanwhile, I was startled to note that when I was talking about really good weblogs by women, I left out one of my favorites, Lisa English's Ruminate This. I suspect this mental block was a result of frustration; I don't know why, but I get more errors when I try to read that page than I get from any other site. It's probably just a local phenomenon, and maybe has something to do with the oddities of my clunky little 'puter and lousy dial-up and all that, but the page isn't there about half the time I look for it. However, it always rewards the effort when I finally do get to it. Hell, I might even have included Ruminate This as an essential blog if I could load it more reliably. I get a strong feeling that Lisa is very much a kindred spirit. For example, check out her response to the recent outrageous round-up of Middle Eastern men:

Do you recognize this country anymore? I sure as hell don't.
We'll say it again: it's a surreal American reality that the petrified are leading the home of the brave. There are ways of combating terrorism without eviscerating the land of the free.
And I love her reaction to the administration's latest floater about how we non-wealthy folks are not paying enough taxes:

You might ask, "What on earth is going on here?" Well, Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice has an answer for you. He says, "The administration has finally admitted that its maniacal zeal to cut taxes for the very wealthy will have to be paid for by much higher taxes on the vast majority of Americans. Now that the cat's out of the bag, it's time for the public to wake up—before it's too late." He's right.

You know, the media finally got it straight when they eventually jumped on the Trent Lott story last week - a story that is as much about the American media's lackluster performance at informing the public interest, as it is one man's loathsome life of bigotry. Isn't it about time this issue - the royal screwing of America's poor and working class - got the media's attention? If the newspapers and talking heads won't bring it up, don't you think that it's about time that We The People, pushed them to it? Maybe we need to devote as much space and outrage to this story as we did to the one about that bigoted Republican politician?

Right on, sister! Oh, and by the way, bear in mind that when we're talking about "the poor and working class" in this instance, we mean people who make less than $100,000 a year. Isn't that you? Well, they want to add another three grand to your tax bill, sucker.

[Yes, I know there is at least one visitor to The Sideshow who actually makes more than that - but I doubt he likes this, either.]

Elsewhere, Matt Yglesias might just win a Swine Award for this - I don't so much care about where my name falls on his blogroll as that I'd rather be listed anywhere as "Sideshow" rather than simply "Carol". And if he can do it for Capazzola (listed as "Rittenhouse"), he can bloody well do it for me. Fink.

Nevertheless, he's got several interesting items up, including this one:

Sarah Wildman says that Jeff Sessions has a worse record on civil rights than Trent Lott's and that he's got a track record of racist remarks as well. In his defense, I should say that when I was a Senate intern I heard that Sessions was working behind the scenes to try and forge a consensus on the Judiciary Committee that something should be done about the crack vs. poweder cocaine sentencing disparity issue.

Unfortunately, the attempt at consensus fell apart when it turned out that what Sessions had in mind was making the cocaine sentences harsher which wasn't exactly what drug law reformers had in mind. At any rate, that was just a second-hand report, and hence quite possibly false (but hey, possibly false stories are what the internet's all about), but it jibes nicely with this story:

Another damaging witness--a black former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama named Thomas Figures--testified that, during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers."
The man may have a problem with blacks, but his hatred for drug users is color-blind.
And sorry, guys, I still say if these Republican honchos walk like racists and talk like racists, it's a bloody good bet that they are racists - and if their constituents continue to vote for them, a lot of them might just be racists, too.

Jesse Taylor has a good rejoinder for GOPpers who whine about how liberals are the real racists.

2. The Referrers

I've always been vaguely amused by the disparity between the stats I get from Extreme (that little purple logo up in the title header), Sitemeter (the striped square down below the blogroll and archive links), and the web stats my ISP gives me for this site. But for the last few days I've been amusing myself by including the referrer list down at the bottom of the pink column, and it's added whole new levels of absurdity. Last night I asked Patrick if he had any idea why it wasn't registering click-through (of which I get a lot) from Electrolite and Making Light, and he said that when he looks at my page they show up at the top of the list. When I look at the page, I see Eschaton at the top, and he doesn't see it at all. He figured it was different browsers, but I'm seeing the same thing in IE/Crazy Browser as I'm seeing in Mozilla. Patrick's diagnosis is that it bites, but I think it's funny. I'll probably leave it there until it ceases to entertain me, but in the meantime, please don't make any silly assumptions about it being accurate.

15:01 GMT: Permalink
From Private Eye, 15-28 November 2002:

Claim Nutters
by our NASA staff Loon O'Tick

A GROWING body of internet-based madmen are now convinced that the moon is nothing more than a giant photo hanging in the sky, put there by the U.S. government to fool the Russians. (Reuters)

Friday, 20 December 2002

16:08 GMT: Permalink

Among other things, Ted Barlow has a fascinating post on transsexuals up. I'm not surprised by what he found out, but some people might be.

I have a lot of good friends who are transsexuals, and I have no objection to people wanting to re-identify in this way, but when it comes to people trying to impose on me the "woman trapped in a man's body" theory I have to put my foot down. I've never seen any evidence that m2f transsexuals have any special knowledge of what it feels like to be a woman in a woman's body, and I'm not prepared to re-define that experience just to comfort people who would rather think they do.

I don't care what kind of clothes you like to wear or who you like to date; if you think women run around all day surrounded by some aura of "feeling like a woman" in our every endeavor, you're a guy. If you think we open the door to the plumber thinking about his maleness rather than thinking about what it's going to cost and whether we're going to get ripped off, you're a guy. A lot of guys have stupid ideas about what it "means" to be female, and the "woman trapped in a woman's body" theory starts right at the foundation of those same stupid ideas. If you're in a man's body and you feel like you'd rather be in a female body, that's your own subjective experience - and you are certainly entitled to feel that way - but it tells you absolutely nothing about what it feels like for me to have been in a female body all of my life. 90% of the things I do don't make me think about being female at all, and the other 10% are a direct result of the effects of being raised in this body and living in it. "I wonder if it's time for my period." "Damn, I forgot my diaphragm, I hope he's got condoms." "I hope this doesn't hurt." "Is it too early for menopause?" "Should I take HRT?" "This damned underwire chafes."

A lot of the time you can think, "I feel like a woman," because some guy is making you so crazy with lust that you feel like you'd let him do anything he wants with you, but there's nothing particularly female about wanting someone to have their wicked way with you. We have a societally-imposed myth about male sexual dominance, but in real life the division is between different individuals (or different days of the week, or how we react to specific individuals based on their behavior), not different sexes. As I've remarked before, life would be a whole lot easier if all women had one sexuality and all men had the corresponding sexuality, but much of our confusion comes from the fact that we often believe that when it isn't true. In reality, a lot of men feel exactly the same way. Being sexually submissive is not more common among women than it is among men. And plenty of women are sexual dominants without ever having a moment's confusion about whether they'd rather be men - they know they're women and they like it like that. Moreover, sexual dominance and social dominance are two different things that don't necessarily track with each other, so someone who "acts manly" or "butch" in their business life or in public generally may be very, very different sexually. You can't say they're different sexes depending on whether they are in or out of bed. And then there are people who "switch"....

The only things we really, really know about the difference between men and women are what our bodies actually do, and those things are mostly about reproduction. A large part of "being a woman" is about being surrounded by people who assume that someday, at least, you will become pregnant, and you will do the sorts of things that mothers do, and that will be the principle focus of your life. Even if you have some genetic inability to conceive, that will be your experience - people don't discuss it with you, they just behave a certain way because they perceive you as female. You are not conscious of all of these things. You don't even know you are adjusting your own behavior on the basis of their expectations. But it happens, because people just get used to the way other people react to them, even though we don't know why people react to us the way they do. So you may think you know what my life is like, but you don't. Please don't tell me you do.

15:30 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden finds even more to dislike about Woodrow Wilson, who brought Jim Crow to Washington with him: Don't forget that Richard Nixon, architect of the modern Republican "Southern strategy," liked to mau-mau easily-confused journalists by describing himself as a "Wilsonian liberal." How right he was.

Elton Beard chimes in on Nora Vincent, but then discovers he's already been scooped. Ah, but he does it so well!

Video clip of Al Gore on The Daily Show.

Thursday, 19 December 2002

03:03 GMT: Permalink

I haven't voted in the Koufax Awards. There are a lot of reasons, but one is that I have too much trouble deciding. (Another is that it's all going by too fast for me.) Over on the blogroll there's lots of good stuff, and most of those listed have a lot to recommend them. Most of them have had days when they were better than anything else going. (And anyway, I just don't have time to go back over everything that's been posted all year and pick the best single post, and stuff like that there.)

You're all the best. Even on your bad days. Even when you've been away for a week or three and I'm bummed out that you haven't posted lately. You all contribute something special, in your way. How can I not vote for you?

I'll go this far: There are a few blogs that I consider so essential that I read them every single day without fail, no matter what. That's saying a lot, by the way, because between my natural slow reading speed, my lousy dial-up connection, and the fact that my right eye is making reading a bit more tiring lately, it's hard to fit much in. There are a number of blogs that I'm very fond of but don't get to more than twice a week, or even once a week, and sometimes maybe not even that often.

Essential Weblogs

  • Every day, I read Electrolite as soon as I've finished checking my mail. I need to know if Patrick has something to say today. Yes, it's true, a lot of that is personal, but one reason Patrick and I are so close is because he sometimes has a real knack for zeroing in on a point and articulating it unusually well. And when you think he's wrong, he's willing to be convinced - politely, of course. There are days of the week when Patrick is the best writer there is, and he's smart. He has a giant stefnal brain that is hungry for information on many subjects and sops it up eagerly - and sees patterns that other people miss. I'll probably check there again before I log off for the night, too.

  • I told Atrios he had to start a weblog because I could see from the way he posted to the Bartcop Forum that he was really, really good at finding the sparky stuff. Eschaton succeeds beyond even my own expectations. I'd feel like I didn't know what was going on if I let the day go by without checking his page at least once - and I might check more than once.

  • Maxspeak gives me the background on policies, and

  • Liberal Oasis gives me the politics. (Yes, there are other good sites that do that, but I feel really comfortable with these guys and I want to see what they have to say first.)

  • Tapped is excellent, I always find something neat and useful there.

Now, you'll notice there are a lot of obvious omissions in this very short list. There are other pages I do read every day but don't really think of as "blogs" in the usual sense (at least three of which are nominees in the Koufax shortlist). There are other pages I would read every day but when it's late and I'm tired and I think about how slowly Altercation loads, I decide it can wait 'til tomorrow night.

And what - no girls? How can I leave out Talk Left when it's so good (yes, it is) and it's talking about such an important subject? (Important to me, too - I'm really into that stuff.) How can I leave out Body and Soul? And undergod knows Teresa is a first-class thinker as well as a top-flight writer. Well, what can I say? I read them on most days, but sometimes they get left out if I'm trying to concentrate on checking on people I read less often. (And Teresa generally posts infrequently, so checking up on her only seven days out of ten, or something like that, usually doesn't mean I'm likely to miss anything for any length of time.)

But see, I vote for you guys every day. I have you on my blogroll, and sometimes I vote for you twice, by linking to you here in the rolling entries as well. These are The Sideshow Awards.

01:27 GMT: Permalink
I learned more from this Charles Dodgson piece about the weird goings-on in Venezuela than I have learned from anything else. It's a bit scary.

Gary Farber seems to be posting again - and speaking of scary (although you probably already thought so), he's found a few not-much discussed paragraphs in that Esquire piece about Karl Rove, about a guy who used to work teamed up with Karl Rove before something changed it all: "What can I say?" Weaver says quietly. "Like me, all the moderate Republicans have been run out of the party by the Right. I'm doing what I've always done politically; these guys just call themselves Democrats now."

From the intelligent right, our favorite extremist, Jim Henley, offers A Brief History of the Future via The Stars My Destination, E is for Effort, and Starship Troopers.

Josh Marshall is just full of great stuff.

Jeanne D'Arc suggests a good poll question: Does America have a moral obligation to help rebuild Afghanistan?

At last! Liberal Oasis finally has permalinks! You should read the whole thing, of course, but at least now I can tell you to read this and this.

00:13 GMT: Permalink
Bruce Baugh has the numbers:

These are not precisely the data I was looking for, but George Ziemann has gone through the RIAA's figures on sales and production. The upshot of it is that profit per release is up. The number of new releases has been cut drastically, by a quarter or so--after the closure of Napster, as Reimann points out. But the remaining releases are each earning a lot more. The overall decline is in the realm of 6% over the last couple of years, which is by no means unusual in the midst of a recession. Ziemann claims, and I think these figures bear him out, that if the number of releases had not been slashed so far, the music industry would be enjoying net growth in revenue.

In short: they are lying lying lying about the impact of piracy. What's hurting the music industry is apparently bad managerial response to the basic fact of recession, cutting production more than was warranted and without doing things like reforming accounting practices, refraining from sales hikes, and not alienating customers with poorly conceived and presented anti-piracy schemes.

You said it, sugar.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

16:39 GMT: Permalink

Uppity Negro says:

And possibly -- I can really only speak for myself, you know -- possibly, other Black people do as well, and this is the reason we avoid the fuckers like the plague. Not because of any great love of the Democrats, but because the Republicans are more openly, blatantly racist.
No kidding. Personally, I find it offensive that the Democrats have been so silent about this - I don't mean this week, I mean generally. Like when they failed to keep Ashcroft out of the AG seat when they knew perfectly well what kind of a creep he was. They're afraid of being accused of "borking" someone, I suppose, but let's not forget that Bork was "borked" for a damn good reason - his hostility to basic civil liberties was no secret, and he deserved what he got. The RNC likes to pretend that it was some sort of "politics of personal destruction", but it wasn't; a man who wants so desperately to explain away the Constitution can not be trusted to uphold and defend it. And that's what's wrong with virtually all of the current Republican leadership.

It's really not acceptable to decide to sacrifice the rights of Americans to political expediency. When the Democratic leadership decides to keep quiet about the reprehensible attitudes (and legislative history, and criminal activities) of Bush's minions because they want to show everyone how willing they are to play nice, they're taking a morally indefensible position. There are some things you just have to stand up against, and out-and-out racism is one of them.

And I'm tired of hearing that these Republicans aren't "really" racist because of the southern strategy, which is "just" a political strategy and nothing to do with where their hearts are. Look, you don't decide on a strategy of deliberately encouraging racism, of exploiting it and even using rhetoric that is intended to stir it up, with all of the horror that that entails, if you actually regard black people as human beings who deserve to be treated with the respect that is due any human being.

But I disagree with Matt Yglesias that the southern strategy is unnecessary for the RNC. He argues that racism alone isn't required for people who agree with other parts of the Republican agenda, but I think he fails to understand how much racism and, say, anti-feminism, or opposition to legal abortion, are part of the constellation for this type of social reactionary. Once you believe that certain groups of people have a "place" in society that exists outside of the context of what they are best at and how much potential they have to contribute to society - and regardless of how awkwardly they fit into that "place" - you are already playing in their ballpark. Racism is as much a part of that social philosophy as anti-abortion/anti-feminism. Essentialist bigotry isn't just about race, but it's also about race.

But even when you get away from the more overt racist, you still run into some of that essentialism, and it would be a mistake to pretend that the more "intellectual" and less visibly racist social reactionary arguments don't also contain that component. There are people who are exceptionalists - that is, they think some blacks are good enough to stand beside them (given enough white blood, or given pure blood, depending on their type of prejudice) - but they still think that most blacks are disproportionately poor or more likely to end up in jail because, basically, most blacks are (genetically) intellectually inferior. They don't get that racism really does play a part in this, that maybe more black people end up in jail because cops are more likely to look for crime among blacks in the first place, or that maybe black people have more trouble getting good jobs and developing businesses because color has something to do with why they don't get called in for interviews or receive bank loans. I've known some pretty smart people - people who weren't anti-feminist or anti-abortion - who have fallen for that one. Don't think for a minute it didn't influence which party they tended to vote for and which programs they supported.

I realize some people are simply too young to realize how vacuous - how totally ahistorical - many of the Republican arguments against liberal social programs really are. They like to blame those liberal programs for what they perceive as increases in crime among blacks, but they're unaware that crime among blacks simply didn't used to count; only crimes against whites were important. Yes, it's really true that in some parts of the country, killing a black person wasn't murder - it was littering.

How willing you are to believe arguments that lead to the conclusion that "we're doing too much for blacks" has a lot to do with how unwilling you are to believe that black people are just as good as white people. The easy acceptance on the right of books like The Bell Curve, and the unwillingness to acknowledge the racist motivations behind such documents, tells you a whole lot about just what field the RNC is playing in. Yes, they need racism to win. If it was just that some of the more libertarian arguments the right makes were what counted, it wouldn't be a southern strategy, and it wouldn't deliver southern states so dependably.

15:22 GMT: Permalink
Yep, it really is better if you read those Krugman articles in their entirety instead of just the excerpts. Here's a little tip from Epicycle:

Elsewhere, here is a rather neat online login generator for the annoyingly-restricted New York Times online news archive. If you haven't signed up already, avoid giving them a huge mass of annoyingly personal details by saving the page locally and connecting as a different anonymous user each time. Hah!
01:32 GMT: Permalink
Interesting Times goes through his own little evolution after the announcement that Gore isn't running, first deciding Gore has missed a message:

For all of Gore's talk about learning the lessons of the 2000 election, I think he still doesn't get it. The word behind the scenes is that he doesn't want to run because he doesn't think he can get the support he will need. He is wrong. It is only amongst the power-brokers in the DNC and DLC that he has problems. But the rank-and-file want DESPERATELY for him to run. It is precisely the bowing and scraping to the powers that be that, I think, doomed his run in 2000.

He's listening to the wrong people once again.

But maybe not. One of the big problems Gore had during the 2000 campaign is that leading Democrats did very little to support him. If those same people have already made it clear they plan to do even less in 2004, he's going to have an even harder time of it. It's hard enough even to run for a local election without the support of the party; running for president on your own just doesn't seem very do-able at all.

He's angry at the usual suspects, too:

Look, Kutner's advice is not bad advice, and in a better world it would be well to listen to it, but it misses one of the key dynamics of the 2000 election: the GOP has an extremely sophisticated smear machine that is hooked into the establishment media (as well as the fifth columnists at FOX) at many levels. There is no Democrat out there, no matter how "comfortable he or she is in their own skin", that will be able to avoid getting the same kind of treatment that Gore got.

This is the mistake that the Democrats have made repeatedly for the last two decades (at least). They continue to think the problem their candidates have has something to do with the nature of the candidates. Whether it is the blandness of a Mondale or a Dukakis, the philandering of a Clinton, or the stiffness of a Gore, Democrats like Kutner have convinced themselves that, if they just find the right candidate, they can avoid these problems. But the problems these candidates had were primarily due to the one trait they have in common: they are Democrats.

Gore made the same mistake in 2000 that Kutner is making now. He thought that, since he wasn't the womanizer that Clinton was, that he could skate on the good record of the Clinton years and get into the White House on a breeze. He never really caught on to the fact that it wasn't his association with Clinton that caused him so much grief. It was solely because he was standing between the Republicans and the throne that they feel they are entitled to.

But he seems to be calming down.
Many political junkies, especially on the left, have already come to terms with the fact that we no longer live in a Democracy. We all know how painful a realization that was. I still feel traumatized by it. But many of the citizenry (and probably more then a few in the establishment press and the leadership of both parties) have not. To vote for Gore, to "re-elect" him, would require admitting that Bush is illegitimate and therefore, our system has failed.

That's a mighty big pill for people to swallow. Perhaps Gore wisely chose not to force it down their throats.

Maybe that's right, I dunno. I'll think about it. Still doesn't answer the question of who can beat Bush, of course. But this does seem to be a blog after my own heart.

12:59 GMT: Permalink
I'm not sure I'd seen Mark Kleiman's weblog before, but I found it via Gailonline, when she quoted this:


Remember how the Bushies denounced any attempt to determine the allocation of the Bush tax cuts among the income percentiles as "class warfare"? Turns out Republicans don't believe in preaching class warfare; they just go ahead and practice it. As in all wars, truth is the first casualty.

The Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisers are hard at work on increasing taxes for the non-rich. First step: redefinition. Let's make the current system look more progressive than it is, so we can then make it less progressive without feeling guilty.

[The convention of ignoring the regressivity of state and local taxes, and treating the federal system as if it existed in a vacuum, is too well established to be worth mentioning, so I won't. But Timothy Noah at Slate does, with links to the numbers.]

Since the payroll tax for Social Security is the federal tax that hits the non-wealthy hardest, the folks at Treasury have now decided that -- could I possibly make this stuff up? -- they're not taxes after all. Why not? Because the people who pay them later collect benefits. (No one who pays income tax, of course, gets any benefit at all out of the programs the income tax supports.)

12:45 GMT: Permalink
Two different people sent me URLs for two different Wired articles today:

Jack Heneghan found this piece about how artists are using different types of copyright to make their music available free for non-commercial use, among other permutations. It also points to Roger McGuinn's website, which points you to free .mp3s he has made available. And just in case you had any illusions:

Roger McGuinn, founder of legendary folk-rock band The Byrds, has made over 25 albums in his recording career. But besides modest advances, he's never made money on record royalties.
And Ulrika O'Brien sent this link for a story about what happened when someone decided to turn the tables on John Poindexter and his personal details ended up all over the net.

12:02 GMT: Permalink
According to Simon Bradshaw at PNN, the London Circle meeting is still up in the air. The Silver Cross is definitely booked for the Christmas Ton, but after that it's still confusion.

Tuesday, 17 December 2002

23:14 GMT: Permalink

From Charles Kuffner:

There's a point at which all "state's rights" arguments break down for me, and that's the point at which the exercise of state's rights leads to a lessening of freedom for some class of Americans who happen to live in the wrong state. If we can't agree that all Americans, in all 50 states, have the same basic right to vote, buy property, hold a job, marry, raise children, and live free then we may as well declare this whole "United States" thing to be a failure. Let all 50 states go their own way and be done with it, for if the federal government cannot guarantee the rights of all its citizens then it truly has no purpose. At least then we won't be subjected to tedious debates about how those overreaching know-it-alls in Washington have cruelly and arbitrarily ended someone's precious way of life just because it clashed with an inconvenient sentence in an old document in a museum somewhere.

There's more, but I've run out of energy to deal with it. Suffice it to say that any attempt to defend Trent Lott's words as an endorsement of "state's rights" is just a defense of the right of some Americans to oppress other Americans over the right of all Americans to live as free men and women. If you truly believe there's a palatable way of phrasing that, then you're as bad as he is.

15:25 GMT: Permalink
Paul Krugman's Gotta Have Faith says:

Last week the Bush administration made an important announcement. I'm not referring to the selection of a new economic team, which will make absolutely no difference to policy. I'm talking about the executive order removing longstanding barriers between church and state.

The announcement didn't attract much attention amid the furor over Trent Lott. Yet it contains the seeds of a similar future uproar. The media were shocked, shocked to discover that prominent Republicans have a soft spot for segregation — something that was obvious long before Mr. Lott inserted his foot in his mouth. One of these years they'll be equally shocked to discover that prominent Republicans have a soft spot for theocracy.

Of course, the administration insists that the new policy isn't intended to allow government-funded proselytizing. And it would surely deny that by explicitly permitting religious discrimination in hiring — organizations that receive federal contracts can "take faith into account in making employment decisions" — it is opening up a new source of patronage for its friends on the Christian right.

Why am I not reassured?

For one thing, we are well advised not to trust anything the administration says about the goals of its domestic policy. John J. DiIulio, who initially headed the Bush administration's faith-based initiative, told a reporter, Ron Suskind, that this White House had no interest in the substance of policy, caring only about political payoffs: "What you've got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm."
George W. Bush is always careful to speak in favor of faith in general, not any faith in particular. Congressional leaders are less careful. Last spring Tom DeLay, soon to be House majority leader, told a church group that: "Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world — only Christianity." He also said he was on a mission from God to promote a "biblical worldview" in American politics.

By the way, one piece of that biblical worldview involves scientific education. After the Columbine school shootings, Mr. DeLay suggested that the tragedy had occurred "because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial mud." Guns don't kill people; Charles Darwin kills people.

Mr. DeLay isn't an obscure crank; he's the most powerful man in Congress. Still, is he an outlier? No. Don Nickles, now challenging the wounded Mr. Lott for Senate leadership, is less given to colorful statements, but is as closely aligned with the religious right as Mr. DeLay.

And the influence of the religious right spreads much further. The Internet commentator Atrios, who played a key role in bringing Mr. Lott's past to light, now urges us to look into the secretive Council for National Policy. This blandly named organization was founded by Tim LaHaye, co-author of the apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels, and is in effect a fundamentalist pressure group. As of 1998 the organization's membership contained many leading Congressional figures in the Republican Party, though none of the party's neoconservative intellectuals.

George W. Bush gave a closed-door speech to the council in 1999, after which the religious right in effect endorsed his candidacy. Accounts vary about what he promised, and the organization has refused to release the tape. But it's notable that he appointed John Ashcroft as attorney general; Mr. Ashcroft gives every appearance of placing his biblical worldview above secular concerns about due process.

Krugman worries that the illumination of Lott's crackpottery is just a one-shot, and the media will just go back to its usual trivia and pretend that he was an aberration. But he's obviously not. The entire Republican leadership is riddled with these people. As I've said before, fruitcakes like Lott, Ashcroft and DeLay did not just get there by accident - they were chosen by George W. Bush and by those in Congress to take these powerful positions. It's not like no one knew what they were like - it was all on the record and has been for years. (Compare that with Cynthia McKinney, who, while not nearly as far out on the fringes as these right-wing weirdos are, was never given a leadership position in the party and was abandoned by them in short order.)

But at least - thanks to Atrios and Josh Marshall - the light has been focused on one of these cranks and may actually weaken him. And for that, I'm glad. Well, I'm just glowing with pride, really, because it might not have happened, and the Council for National Policy would not have been mentioned in The New York Times this way, if I hadn't brow-beat Atrios into doing a blog.

Patrick said to me on A.I.M. recently something to the effect that all this is proof that the forces of good can triumph. And I said that right now, the forces of good seem to be Atrios. "Atrios rocks," said Patrick.

14:10 GMT: Permalink
Well, I clearly missed an important story last week:

Yesterday was – hopefully – a historic day in the effort to start telling the truth about Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The launch of THE COUNTER CLINTON LIBRARY – here on NewsMax and on Sean Hannity's radio program and on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" – is the first step in fighting back against the purveyors of lies and deceptions.

Did I hear someone say something about "moving on"?

13:01 GMT: Permalink
From Bloggy I learn that there are More reasons to love Viggo Mortensen: He appeared on Charlie Rose, ostensibly to promote the new Lord of the Rings movie, while wearing a No More Blood For Oil t-shirt.

Monday, 16 December 2002

16:38 GMT: Permalink

Well, I'm feeling bummed out about Gore's announcement. It's not that I didn't suspect he was leaning away from running, but I was hopeful all the same. In my heart I knew that the Gore we'd been seeing for the last few months was too good to be true - not too good to be real, but too good to ever be allowed to have a shot at the title. I figured he knew that, too.

I wish he'd waited a few more weeks to bow out - I figure as long as he was seen as a contender - the front-runner, in fact - the press was more likely to pay attention to him. Couldn't it have waited 'til after the holidays, at least?

And then I thought, OK, then, now who? And, with all respect to my friends who are hot for Kerry or Dean or whoever, none of them really do it for me. The guy who has been saying what needs to be said is Al Gore, dammit.

So far, the public seems to feel the same way. Gore's numbers in the polls have gone up considerably during his book tour, which should tell you something, just in case you forgot what happened in the '00 campaign: when Gore gets exposure, people like him.

The press has already started it's we-don't-like-Kerry thing, and if you've missed the potential anti-Dem talking points so far, check out the comments in Kos' post on the announcement and at Eschaton. Don't forget that Gore is also the greenest of all the candidates - Nader included - and had the best chance of defusing the Nader vote next time around.

I guess the party leadership made it clear to Gore that they weren't going to get behind him. This doesn't speak well of them, of course, which is worrying enough. The purported hopefuls in Congress - Lieberman, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Daschle - are all men who, mysteriously, have never really spoken up to defend Gore, two years ago or now. Yes, even Lieberman, who was on the same ticket, was not principled enough to say, "I'm not going to just sit there and let them call an honest man a liar." (And no, it doesn't matter if Gore asked him not to - a man of principle stands up.) In fact, this time around those guys pretty much made a point of refusing to acknowledge that he had given them a way out of kissing Bush's hiney. He paved the way for them and they were too craven to take up the challenge. The message there is pretty unmistakable: they weren't going to do anything that had the potential to make him look good; they're out for themselves, even if it means permitting the Bushies and their reprehensible policies to continue to hold sway.

The DLC's own spin machine has been full of reasons why Gore shouldn't run, and every one of them has the cynical sound of meaning, "We want me, not you." I particularly like, "We need a fresh face" - a line that, strangely, I have only heard so far in reference to Gore, and yet not to Lieberman. Of course, there are so many other reasons not to support Lieberman that I suppose the unfreshness of his face is hardly worth remarking on. But why is it only Democrats who ever need "a fresh face"? Anyone remember Nixon?

It's not that I'm not willing to give Kerry or Dean a chance. It's just that I can already see that they have more minuses than Gore and fewer pluses. You can say what you want about needing a nominee who hasn't been tarnished by years of RNC spin, but you're in dreamland if you think the GOP can't make them up about your favorite candidate the same way they did with Gore. Remember, the things they said about Gore were lies. They said a guy who'd been captain of the football team was unable to make friends. They tried to pretend the Internet in no way benefited from Gore's input. They claimed that a man with a 20-year reputation as a straight-arrow was "a serial liar" with dirty hands. And these were things everyone in Washington knew were not true. They had to make it all up, because they had no head-start with Gore, he didn't give them anything to attack. So they had to take every good thing about him and turn it into a minus. He was known for his integrity, so they called him a liar. He inspired the lead character in Love Story, so they pretended that he just made it up and he'd been unpopular since grade school. He spent years working to see the piddly little arpanet turned into something we all had access to, so they made fun of his daring to say so and pretended it wasn't true.

So they can do it to anyone. They're already doing it to Kerry, and you can be sure they will do it with Dean. The spin on both is that they are arrogant and unpopular. Sound familiar? They've only just gotten started, and Dean isn't even particularly high-profile yet.

Oh, and remember one more thing: If your candidate doesn't win by a landslide, we have all the problems we had in 2000. Al Gore won more votes than any Democrat in history. Can yours?

If not, here's your bumper sticker: Draft Gore.

15:40 GMT: Permalink
This cartoon from Amptoons says it all: The Real Apology.

Patrick has a good post up on states' rights and slavery. (He also announces the world premier of his new band, Whisperado.)

Max thinks the White House may be backing down on tax cut advocacy, and cites this lovely quote from what he calls "the Roval Office": "The president does not get pushed around by self-appointed leaders of groups that represent wealthy elites that want their taxes cut and don't have any real constituency outside of New York or Washington," said an official close to the White House. (Also: Max found a delightful illustrated version of our lifetime.)

Sunday, 15 December 2002

12:00 GMT: Permalink

The Daily Howler is looking into the "dirty little secret" of racism in the Republican base. But how, he wonders, can it be a secret? He illustrates with an example from the 2000 campaign. Remember this one?

Naomi Wolf was a mainstream figure. There was nothing odd about her campaign role. There was nothing odd about her salary. (And no—no one ever presented evidence that she told Gore to wear earth tones.) But Wolf's role was reported in Month 8 of the press corps' twenty-month War Against Gore, so they gimmicked up a set of wild claims. To what extent will they lie in your face? Fakers and frauds, they even pretended to be deeply disturbed by Wolf's salary.
The press corps went to town over the "controversial" nature of Gore paying a reported $15,000 monthly to Wolf as a campaign advisor, although she had been doing this professionally for some time and had done so for the previous Democratic nominee as well. However, they had nothing to say about a highly-placed member of a preferred Republican candidate's campaign:

What are the views of these GOP southern base groups? Consider John McCain's favorite race-man from his 2000 primary run. On February 8, 2000, USA Today's Jim Drinkard wrote a brief piece about Richard Quinn, the head of McCain's South Carolina campaign. Quinn was the editor of Southern Partisan, a journal holding racial views which are rarely discussed in the mainstream press. In Slate, Jacob Weisberg described Quinn as "a neo-Confederate revanchist who is one of the leaders of the state's pro-flag faction." According to Weisberg, Southern Partisan was "a magazine that publishes apologias for slavery and sells paraphernalia celebrating the assassination of Abraham Lincoln." Earlier, the New Republic quoted a reviewer who said the journal was "to the right of National Review but to the left of the Klan." In the New York Times, David Firestone reviewed Quinn's mag. "In issue after issue, writers in Southern Partisan vilify Abraham Lincoln and other Union leaders, and venerate the rebel soldiers who fought to secede from the United States," Firestone wrote. "The quarterly regularly takes the position that the Civil War was fought not over slavery, but over the preservation of a Southern way of life that to this day is worth preserving." McCain was paying Quinn $20,000 a month to head his campaign in the state.
Without racism, the GOP could not hold the south, but until this week, that fact remained largely buried where the mainstream media is concerned. Now, why would that be?

Somerby also notes that the Fox News answer to the troubling question of Trent Lott's recent conduct is to make up new lies about Al Gore and his family. I can't boil this down to a couple of quotes, so check it out yourself for another dose of outrage.

11:03 GMT: Permalink
Gore Report

Listen to another interesting Al & Tipper Gore interview, on NPR's The Connection. In this one, Gore advocates full public financing of campaigns.

Transcript for Al Gore's appearance on Hardball (Update: Streaming video - Windowsmedia; RealVideo; QuickTime.)

Transcript of Al Gore's "American Morning with Paula Zahn" interview, in which he doesn't give George Bush high marks for his performance. ("But understand, I'm biased. ... I didn't vote for the guy.")

I make no comment on the claim that these cool pictures are spoilers from tonight's episode of SNL with guest host Al Gore. [Addendum: Yes, I wrote this post last night and then forgot to upload it, and then forgot to fix the wording.]

Friday, 13 December 2002

15:44 GMT: Permalink

Earlier this month The Daily Howler had some fun with Mickey Kaus' fascination with Kerry's hair and "phony furrowed brow" (how does he know?) - straight from Drudge's keyboard to the Washington press corps' mouths, of course. The hair story turned out to be inaccurate to begin with and anyway should have been too trivial to blast all over the media. Even someone at The Washington Times noticed:

When John Kerry put his toe in the presidential waters last weekend, he immediately was hit by riptides. The Washington press corps strongly dislikes him (a point in his favor). After his appearance on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, where he announced his plans to run for president, Washington has been atwitter with criticism.

In keeping with the seriousness of the times, the elite journalists here in the capital of the world went straight to the heart of his shortcomings. The Washington Post complained that "Kerry has a warmth problem. He recites his positions but doesn't tell any folksy stories. . . . " USA Today's lead critique was that "the Washington press corp doesn't much like John Kerry . . . that's important." The much-respected journalist Mickey Kaus, in trying to identify why he was a non-admirer of the senator, focused on Mr. Kerry's countenance: "I think it starts with the phony furrowed brow. Perpetually furrowed and perpetually phony. It's been furrowed for so long I doubt he could unfurrow it." (All of these examples were conveniently reported in Howard Kurtz's media review column in The Post.)

He goes on to have fun with the haircut story, noting that he shares a stylist with Kerry and Hillary Clinton. This is from someone who doesn't seem too enamored with Kerry, either, but at least he talked about Kerry himself rather than what should be an unremarkable haircut:

Well, you can see how seriously Washington takes its responsibility to act as a shrewd explainer of national policy to a waiting American citizenry. I confess, as one plows through the "Meet the Press" transcript, it is hard to find solid, specific policy assertions to comment on. My favorite Kerryism is found in the first few paragraphs when he claims: "I think there's a deep anxiety in the American people about security, and they put it all under the word 'security' — job security, income security, retirement security, health security, education security, physical, personal security and, of course, national security." That's nine times he squeezed the word security into one sentence. You don't suppose his pollsters have told him to use the word security as often as possible?
I don't think it's a fair criticism, though - I independently came up with the same formulation weeks ago, and if I'd been speaking publicly I might easily have phrased it much the same way, without benefit of pollsters and focus groups. It's not as if "job security" and "retirement security" are brand-new phrases, and it's worth pointing out that these are the issues that concern Americans, not just the fear that terrorists will bring another big building down. And it's the administration - particularly Rumsfeld and Bush - who keep using "national security" as a mantra to cover every nasty aspect of their policies. Credit where it's due: At least Kerry doesn't think he can explain away soaking the treasury, eliminating the Bill of Rights, and wrecking the economy by invoking 9/11, like Bush does. (Not to mention Rummy, who thinks he can explain away ignoring Al Qaeda and going after Saddam instead by invoking 9/11.) A year ago that kind of Bushista rhetoric carried some weight because Americans were traumatized, crazy with grief, and people in that state have trouble focusing on much more than the thing that traumatized them.

But crazy with grief is still crazy, and after a year, most people have started to pull themselves together. When members of the administration try to guilt-trip you about not still being in a crisis state after the anniversary has been and gone, they are bad people. The last thing you want to do to someone who has been traumatized is tell them, "You should still be dwelling on it! You should still be unable to think about ordinary things! How dare you start trying to put things in perspective!" But, you know, sane people can't help noticing that, in perspective, it's bloody important to secure your own and your family's economic stability, health care options, and everyday stuff like that.

Of course, it would be reassuring if the administration showed any interest in focusing on Al Qaeda and the causes of 9/11 - and what went wrong on the day, for that matter - rather than their weird obsession with Saddam Hussein. Americans certainly do worry about national security; it would be nice if the Bush administration appeared to do so as well.

13:42 GMT: Permalink
Paul Krugman says the two-faced party is just showing The Other Face:

"Right now we're debating whether the Republican Senate majority leader is a racist who yearns for the days of segregation or just a good ole boy who says a lot of things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for the days of segregation." So writes Joshua Marshall, whose is must reading for the politically curious, and who, more than anyone else, is responsible for making Trent Lott's offensive remarks the issue they deserve to be.

But this discussion shouldn't really be about Mr. Lott. It should be about how a man who sounds like Mr. Lott came to be leader of the Senate.

Let's be clear that last week's remarks were in no way out of character. On the contrary, they were entirely consistent with Mr. Lott's statements on many other occasions.

The great majority of Americans don't share Mr. Lott's views. For example, he opposed declaring Martin Luther King day a holiday, telling Southern Partisan magazine that "we have not done it for a lot of other people that were more deserving." Most Americans, I think, believe that King was pretty deserving.

So why is Mr. Lott in a position of such power?

The Republican Party's longstanding "Southern strategy" — which rests on appealing to the minority of voters who do share Mr. Lott's views — is no secret. But because the majority doesn't share those views, the party must present two faces to the nation. And therein lies the clue to Mr. Lott's role.

To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.

Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message — nudge nudge, wink wink — that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.

And if they do replace Lott, it probably won't be with someone who is the very essence of tolerance. There are plenty more where that came from.

12:52 GMT: Permalink
Blogging around

Ted Barlow has another long, informative post on medicine in America, and Devra says she can confirm from her family experience that it's getting to be a lot harder to function as a doctor in our country. (And, by the way, she's taking nominations for Blog of the Week.)

Dwight Meredith has some outstanding posts up, like this one about the value of keeping your word and the fact that the Republican leadership is a bunch of oath-breakers. He also links to Eriposte's chart of where the lies come from. And he's instituting The Koufax Awards for blogging on the left.

T. C. MITS: Here's a little game I'm going to be playing for a while. It's called "What if Jesus ran for President as a Democrat?"

Patrick links to this cool flash animation - "Technical Difficulties".

Thursday, 12 December 2002

14:54 GMT: Permalink

Headblast on reading the Sunday New York Times in "Airport Media Mind Blitz":

But after a while the spin becomes absolutely unbearable. Little irritations mount and after a while it is too much. It's all the things they hide and pointedly omit and how much trouble they go to avoid embarrassing the powerful. It's the way they tiptoe around everything that might make Bush and cronies look bad, and that is getting harder and harder to do. There is more and more that must be hidden.

So the Times becomes more and more of an excursion into a fantasyland. It takes some effort to read through the spin. One becomes accustomed to making the effort, but it does become tiresome after plowing through the pile of sections that constitute the Sunday Times.

Some examples: Today's edition has an article called "Does Democracy Help Pakistan?" The sore thumb in that headline is the underlying assumption that anything resembling democracy exists in that country. Remember the coup that took place during our 2000 election campaign. And when they asked Bush about what he thought of it he was ready, for a change, and said he thought it would help stability in the region. Of course we didn't know as much as we do now about his own plans for the region. The Times article refers to Musharraf as a "semi-authoritarian president." What is "semi" about it? He's a general who took over the country in a military coup. Near the end of the article it actually touches on the subject of the coup, but does so in a passive voice, saying Musharraf is "the beneficiary of a coup himself." As if -- oh, just coincidentally he happened to have this country fall under his power, as if the coup happened all by itself.

Of course the Times doesn't want to portray Musharraf in an unfavorable light because Bush has chosen Pakistan as an ally -- as exempt from his Axis of Evil -- in spite of the coup, in spite of the fact that Pakistan certainly harbors terrorists, in spite of the fact that it really does have weapons of mass destruction. And it also doesn't want to say too much about coups because that may remind us of how our own "president" rose to power.

Much more, go read it.

14:23 GMT: Permalink
Test your Bias (via Amygdala).

Transcript of Lott on Larry King at Josh Marshall's site.

Gregory Harris found an interview with Elija Wood, who plays Frodo in Lord of the Rings.

I rather like Gailonline, another blog that's turned up recently in my referrers.

Progressive Gold is trying to keep track of "the best of the left" in Blogtopia.

Dan Kennedy makes some excellent points about talk radio.

14:12 GMT: Permalink
Crackpots revisited

Armed Liberal responds - sorta - to my post below. Except, damn, that post wasn't really about AL at all, it was a response to the suggestion that Ann Coulter is not a crackpot. I only included AL's original post, and my response to it, to create context - what I wrote in AL's comments was all I really had to say about his post.

Let me see if I can make this simple:

1. Ann Coulter is a crackpot. Spike Lee saying dumb things doesn't change that; Coulter is still a crackpot.

2. Our crackpots are just entertainers; the right's crackpots get elected to the Senate and even the Senate leadership.

However, if you really want to go back to that original Armed Liberal post again: Hey, it's not liberals who think the best way to go after Usama bin Laden is to attack someone bin Laden hates. Liberals want to go after Al Qaeda because that's who attacked us. (And, by the way, it sure wasn't me who entertained Saudi Arabian leaders at my ranch in Texas.)

13:55 GMT: Permalink
Illiberal Media

Ted Barlow has an interesting piece on A few things that I learned working in market research, a question about why Pat Buchanan is allowed on television, and says that Al Gore, media critic, is right (I liked the pet names for Robert Novak, too.)

Well, it's not a radical things to say - hell, now even E.J. Dionne has admitted there's no liberal media anymore.

It's always so weird reading the comments on these things, with all the "conservatives" leaping out of the woodwork to insist that the media is liberally-biased. What do they mean? Where are they finding all this liberalism in the media? Do they turn on their radios and hear three hours a day of commentators who advocate lifting the cap off of the maximum salary that is subject to Social Security taxes? Does the TV news seem to be advocating a state-paid national health care plan available for free to all? Do they insist on using the proper term for late-term abortion (that was it), rather than "partial-birth abortion", even?

No, of course not. Even Newt Gingrich expressed thoughts to the effect of "I can't believe they bought it!" when he started pushing the "liberal media" meme and the media itself seemed to eat it up. His own words, if I recall, were, "Everyone knows there's no liberal media!"

When asked to explain what they mean, "conservatives" say that, hey, 80% of media bosses voted Democratic. Leaving aside that the figures they cite are decades-old (and highly suspect to begin with), does voting Democratic mean voting for a liberal? No, of course not. The Democrats haven't had a real liberal nominee for a long time now. They were in love with Carter, the first presidential nominee to say he was a born-again Christian - but then trashed him in office, falling in love with Reagan instead. Reporters who pursued the Iran-Contra story or the October surprise ended up losing their jobs. Then the media were in love with Clinton, who campaigned by making a point of executing mental defectives and criticizing some black woman who most people had never heard of - but turned on him when the right-wing press started making up stories about him that the "liberal" New York Times didn't even think worth verifying before printing. Reporters who kept those stories alive did not lose their jobs (and one received a Pulitzer Prize). They hated Gore for being associated with Clinton - and let's not forget that Tim Russert and other so-called "liberal" media names were out-and-out Bush supporters who were literally getting their talking points directly from the RNC (Russert actually phoned them to get that stuff).

So what is the "liberal" content that the media contains that conservatives think shouldn't be there? What is the "liberal" bias that so outrages conservatives? Is it the belief that we shouldn't return to lynching blacks? Is it the belief that someone has to pay taxes and it's better if those people are the ones who actually made some money? Is it the belief that women should be able to choose their careers on the basis of their own needs and abilities? Is it the belief that education is a good investment in which the state has an interest and therefore should promote?

Damn right it is.

But those are no longer "liberal" beliefs - they are mainstream. And so are a lot of beliefs that are too "far left" for the press to even bother to cover. Most Americans who know about the cap on Social Security taxes support removing it - but a lot of people don't know about it, because the media likes to refrain from mentioning it. Most polls show that a majority of Americans are not hostile to universal health coverage - but the media spends little time on addressing how we get there from here, or even mentioning how favorable the landscape is for doing so, given that it has so much support. Most Americans say they would favor real life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty - but the media prefers to act as if that isn't even possible.

If there really was a liberal media, you'd hear a lot more about these things. But the media is actually well behind the curve, as is the Democratic Party. And, again, take a look at who is in the current administration, who is in the leadership of the Republican Party: Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, and a bunch of criminals. These people aren't "conservatives", they are raving radical far-right fruitcakes, and the media rarely says so. If you find their presence at the helm of the country anything other than an outrage, you are not conservative, you're a far-right loony. And the media is acting like it's, well, perfectly fine. Perfectly fine not to count ballots in an election. Perfectly fine to destroy programs that the public supports. Perfectly fine to try to wreck public education. Perfectly fine to try to free the wealthy of their obligation to help support our economy while placing the greatest burdens on those who can least afford them. Perfectly fine to evade the draft for a war you support and then call people who served in uniform traitors. What kind of people are these?

Whatever they are, they certainly aren't more liberal than the mainstream, and neither is anyone who doesn't find it offensive that they are in control of the public discourse.

13:17 GMT: Permalink
Last week we ran into Charlie and Feoreg at the London sf meeting and quickly realized that we'd probably have more fun somewhere else. Feoreg was hungry so we looked for food. This was more difficult than expected because Feoreg eats vegan and the rest of us were looking for meat. Eventually my legs gave out and we settled for the nearest Thai that didn't appear to violate vegan concepts of "vegetarian". But as usual, once the conversation got going things were okay, and Charlie regaled us with his latest fascination. Alas, when they got home, they found sad news and, in addition, a fire had gutted part of Edinburgh's beautiful Old Town.

13:04 GMT: Permalink
Just noticed a site that appears to be called CoherenceTheoryOfTruth ("Political Disgruntlement and Technology from Utah") by someone called John Adams who is talking a lot about one of my favorite hobbyhorses - the media. And here he goes for one of my favorite subthreads as an anti-censorship activist, which is that you can't rely on technology alone to protect your free speech or privacy. I've always said it's naive of the techboys to think the 'net made civil liberties arguments obsolete; no, they are the same old arguments we've always had, only now the government and the corporations can do so much more to infringe your rights.

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

23:45 GMT: Permalink

More crackpots

Today's big news is, of course, Michelangelo Signorile illustrating the difference between the Extremely Biased New York Times, whose editor holds the bizarrely out-of-the-mainstream view that discrimination against women is bad, and the Fair & Balanced Washington Times, whose editors hold views that are more acceptable to America:

So, let's take a look at the views and not-so-hidden agenda of one of the actual editors of the paper, specifically, assistant national editor Robert Stacy McCain, who has a habit of posting commentary on message boards and elsewhere around the Internet:

"[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us."

Yes, you read that right: a "natural revulsion" and "THIS IS NOT RACISM."

There's plenty more where that came from, and if that article isn't enough for you, check out Atrios for the last week or two, 'cause he's been all over this stuff.

23:01 GMT: Permalink
Ted Barlow is back - and probably isn't the king of Spain!

13:22 GMT: Permalink
"Lucky Duckies" is another Paul Krugman article that lots of people have already blogged, but then I remembered that I have readers who won't have seen this stuff, so I thought it important to let everyone know that conservatives want to raise taxes:

Carping critics of the conservative movement have been known to say that its economic program consists of little more than tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts. I may even have said that myself. If so, I apologize. Emboldened by the midterm election, key conservative ideologues have now declared their support for tax increases — but only for people with low incomes.

The public debut of this idea came, as such things often do, on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. The page's editors, it seems, are upset that some low-income people pay little or nothing in income taxes. Not, mind you, because of the lost revenue, but because these "lucky duckies" — The Journal's term, not mine — might not be feeling a proper hatred for the government.

The Journal considers a hypothetical ducky who earns only $12,000 a year — some guys have all the luck! — and therefore, according to the editorial, "pays a little less than 4% of income in taxes." Not surprisingly, that statement is a deliberate misrepresentation; the calculation refers only to income taxes. If you include payroll and sales taxes, a worker earning $12,000 probably pays well over 20 percent of income in taxes. But who's counting?

What's interesting, however, is what The Journal finds wrong with this picture: The worker's taxes aren't "enough to get his or her blood boiling with rage."

In case you're wondering what this is about, it's an internal squabble of the right. The Journal is terrified that future tax cuts might include token concessions to ordinary families; it wants to ensure that everything goes to corporations and the wealthy. But the political theory revealed by the editorial — policy should be nasty to people with low incomes, lest they have any good feelings about government — may explain a lot of what has been happening lately.

Krugman adds a few details (like relieving 900,000 children of health insurance), but the long and the short of it is that we are supposed to hate government, rather than conservatives, for doing these things. So remember that: When conservatives do evil things, be sure to hate them for it.

What do we learn from this catalog of cruelties? We learn that "compassionate conservatism" and "leave no child behind" were empty slogans — but while this may have come as a surprise to the faith-based John J. DiIulio, some of us thought it was obvious all along. More important, we learn how relentless and extremist today's conservative movement really is.
12:51 GMT: Permalink
Teresa finds a humdinger. Some people can really be creative at finding reasons to hate liberals.

Oliver Willis on porn - an actual essay for a change, about the wider accessibility and acceptability of pornography, and why it's not a bad thing. Right on, O-Dub!

Monday, 09 December 2002

14:25 GMT: Permalink

Yuval Rubinstein at Groupthink Central notices that conservatives have a strange tendency to bemoan the absence of liberal values when they are talking about someplace else. After quoting a well-known Republican as an example, he says:

Wait a minute--is this the Newt Gingrich, the hard right's king of kings? It certainly is, and Gingrich is not alone in his sentiments. Indeed, if you skim through the right-wing press, you'll routinely come across articles from otherwise staunch conservatives bemoaning the repression of free speech and pluralism, the oppressive theocracy, and the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world. Of course, these unassailable freedom fighters are utterly oblivious to this glaring irony, as they churn out incessant rants against "radical feminists," "secular moral relatavism," and the like. Yup, there's nothing unseemly about railing against Wahhabism's retrograde, oppressive dictates while cozying up to the Christian Coalition, no sir.

However, the Right's forceful advocacy of liberalism abroad, while ceaselessly denigrating it at home, is nothing new. A while back, I read The New Conservatives: A Critique From the Left, by Lewis Coser and Irving Howe. Published in 1974 (and out-of-print, unfortunately), the authors pointed out the absurdity of conservatives who decried the lack of free speech, civil rights, and tolerance in Communist countries, while obstinately opposing the expansion of these same guarantees at home. Not surprisingly, this hypocritical posturing has survived the end of the Cold War, as the last fifteen months have shown. Oh well, I'll continue to get a kick out of right-wing pundits who decry the deplorable treatment of women throughout the Islamic world, while actively working to deprive American women of control over their own bodies. Won't you?

But as we may recall from last June, an awful lot of people close to the administration (and in it) are actually a lot more comfortable consorting with Wahabists and making common cause with them than they are with ordinary Americans who don't happen to share the same preference for sexism and repression. It's not hard to get the impression that it isn't so much hypocrisy we have here as plain, old-fashioned lying - exploiting mainstream America's revulsion for Wahabist values in the service of promoting equivalent values at home.

13:55 GMT: Permalink
I was hoping to find a full transcript of Spectator editor Boris Johnson, MP doing his one-off stint as host of Have I Got News for You, but this is nearly as good in some places (and a bit better in others). Alas, we don't get the complete wording of Boris' rant about how the Tories are hard done by the evil BBC.

13:21 GMT: Permalink
At Instapundit, some folks think Trent Lott is bad, but some poor souls think he, y'know, didn't really mean it.

13:12 GMT: Permalink

The DiIulio affair has led Charles Dodgson to ponder the mysterious case of Christie Whitman. Why hasn't she resigned? Dodgson is having a hard time finding a good reason, but he thinks he might have found a bad one.

Meanwhile, Brad DeLong, who knows about these things, offers some fascinating analysis of Larry Lindsey's tenure and departure from the administration:

Lindsey's disillusionment must have been rapid. He must have expected the presidential inauguration to have been followed by something very much like what happened in January 1989 or January 1993: the spin-doctors would be handsomely thanked, and told that the President would see them in twenty months when it was time for the midterm campaign. The people who knew about government would take over, and would craft a program that satisfied as many campaign promises as possible while still being best for the country. But that didn't happen. It must have been a nightmare.
But the spin-doctors do know the Washington press corps well. Half of the Washington press corps is sufficiently partisan that they will buy the administration line, and the other half of the Washington press corps is too lazy and too cowardly to challenge what the White House spin-doctors say. So the media consensus will be that Larry Lindsey did a bad job in the George W. Bush White House, and was deservedly fired, and George W. Bush showed that he has too soft a heart in keeping him on for so long. Far better had Larry bitten the bullet, and resigned earlier on principle--over the steel tariff, or over the host of other substantive issues where the good guys lost inside the White House, for the people who understand economics are definitely not in control.

Sunday, 08 December 2002

21:41 GMT: Permalink

There's a lot of great stuff at Ethel the Blog, like this:

Daniel Ellsberg has published some more Nixon tapes transcripts on his web site. Here's a conversation from July 5, 1971 among Nixon, Haldeman and Ziegler that shows their deep and abiding respect for Jews. This, of course, doesn't make them anti-semitic since they don't criticize any official Israeli policies.

Nixon: Jewish families are close, but there's this strange malignancy that seems to creep among them - radicalism. I can imagine how the fact that Ellsberg is in this must really tear a fella like Henry to pieces - or Garment. Just like the Rosenbergs and all that. It just has to kill them. I feel horrible about it.

Ziegler: Could make up an English name.

Haldeman: . . . Rosenstein could change his name. . . .

[general laughter]

Ziegler: It is right. It's always an Ellsberg.

Nixon: Every one's a Jew. Ellsberg's a Jew. Halperin's a Jew.

Haldeman: Gelb's a Jew.

Nixon: But there are [unclear] - Hiss was not a Jew. Very interesting thing. So few of those who engage in espionage - are Negroes. . . . In fact, very few of them become Communists. If they do, they like, they get into Angela Davis - they're more the capitalist type. And they throw bombs and this and that. But the Negroes. - have you ever noticed? . . . . Any Negro spies?

Haldeman: Not intellectual enough, not smart enough. . . not smart enough to be spies.

Nixon: The Jews - the Jews are, are born spies. You notice how many of them are just in up to their necks?

Haldeman: A basic deviousness.

Don't miss this one, either, which quotes John Chuckman on the revenge of the living dead.

21:06 GMT: Permalink
Snow in Central Park (I especially like the picture. I love snow pictures.)

The Agonist finds a website, and notes that "War has a human cost--and I am not just talking about soldiers."

Anita says, "Sure, everyone knows about the Astronomy Picture of the Day." Well, actually, I didn't. But then she says: "But what about the Fungus of the Month?" Whoa!

Patrick points to an interview with our pal Whit Diffie.

20:20 GMT: Permalink
My girl Nadine says people are getting the message:

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union has long sided with those claiming they were wronged, even if it meant a distinctly minority stand.

But since 9-11 and the government's expansive campaign of monitoring and detention to combat terrorism, people are turning to the 82-year-old organization to help safeguard their liberties. Among them are some conservatives who made the phrase "card-carrying member of the ACLU" a political insult, but who now are signing up.

"Larger numbers of American people have realized that the ACLU is fundamentally a patriotic organization." executive director Anthony Romero said. It now includes 330,000 dues-paying members, 50,000 of whom joined after the attacks.

The group has been in the thick of challenges to the government's broadening powers.
"This focus on civil liberties post-9-11 has been a wonderful opportunity to reach out to constituencies who would never have thought of the ACLU as their home," said Nadine Strossen, the ACLU's president.
Strossen says nothing has fundamentally changed; defending Nazis' right to march then is the same as defending the right to roam the Internet now.

"One person's stigma is another's badge of honor," she said. "Putting your money where your mouth is means defending those whose views are counter to yours."

15:30 GMT: Permalink

A few weeks back I was over at Armed Liberal, where I read the following in a Veteran's Day post:

I love this country, my country, my people. And those who attack her…from guerilla cells, boardrooms, or their comfy chairs in expensive restaurants…better watch out.

I don't get a clear sense that my fellow liberals feel the same way. And if so, why should 'the folks' follow them? Why are we worthy of the support of a nation that we don't support?

So let me suggest an axiom for the New Model Democrats:

America is a great goddamn country, and we're both going to defend it from those who attack it and fight to make it better.

And I made this comment:

The thing is, I think America is the best country in the world, I love my country fiercely, my favorite things are in America, I love the Constitution. I have been all over America and I never run out of things to say about how beautiful and fine all of it is. And I hate seeing it get messed up. As far as I can tell, that's the way every Democrat I know feels, too.

Republicans spent a lot of time attacking California and New York last year, and I don't spend a lot of time attacking, say, Kansas or Tennessee. (I had a wonderful time in Tennessee.) So I'm not sure it's Democrats who ought to be hung with the "hate America" label.

(And, last time I looked, crackpots like Ann Coulter are still Republicans, btw.)

Most of the other people who commented gave AL a hearty round of applause and agreed that liberals just don't love their country enough. One guy got there late and saw my post, and mailed me his comment Friday:

I recently posted this comment to Armed Liberal in response to your labeling of Ann Coulter as a crackpot.

For Avedon: Please read my rant at And they say Republicans are mean-spirited and tell me again that Ann Coulter is a crackpot. And please read the full article linked "The Party of Porn."

The article reports a lame response in Salon to a Coulter article, and a few noxious statements by Alec Baldwin, Spike Lee, and Bill Maher, and a more dubious remark by someone called Lonnae O'Neal Parker who I've never heard of and can't be bothered to google.

I couldn't find the part where he showed that Coulter was not a crackpot. The only one of these people who can come close to being called a "pundit" in any sense is, of course, Bill Maher, who used to like to have Ann Coulter on his show a lot because he thought she was "brave" and apparently witty. Whatever else you can say about Maher, he is not someone liberals love, and we all know that his show only lasted as long as it did because he tended to attack liberals and Democrats more often than he did those on the right. He eventually lost sponsorship of his show, and then the show itself, because he mouthed what had, prior to 9/11, been a standard right-wing line about Bill Clinton's cowardice in sending missiles to attack people in other lands from the safety of the White House. Unfortunately, he said it after 9/11 when it had suddenly become politically incorrect to say without specifying that you were talking about Bill Clinton, which was the real mistake Maher made.

I know of no liberals who regard Maher as "one of us". He's supposed to be some sort of comedian but I've only ever seen the week of shows he did when he was in Britain and he seemed a bit at sea, possibly because he was in the company of local guests who didn't spend all their time being lame and repeating the conventional Beltway wisdom. The guests (including a fashion model) were smart and funny and all seemed of a higher caliber than Maher. Here's the quote that offended Tom Scott, my correspondent, which by the way is a bit old:

"Now earlier today, a rental truck carried a half a million ballots from Palm Beach to the Florida Supreme Court there in Tallahassee. CNN had live helicopter coverage from the truck making its way up the Florida highway, and for a few brief moments, America held the hope that O.J. Simpson had murdered Katherine Harris."
This is more of a joke about the famous slo-mo car chase than anything else, but considering the nightmare that Harris had subjected America to at the time, the real outrage is that the woman isn't in jail right now. Having committed significant crimes, she then ran for Congress and was elected by Republicans.

Baldwin is an actor with a habit of forgetting that he looks good by letting other people write the words he's going to say. He's no Gregory Peck, either. There have been too many occasions when he should have kept his mouth shut and didn't - and everyone knows it. His only virtue, as far as liberals are concerned, is that he is enough of a celebrity to get on TV occasionally and at least someone is voicing dissent from the media's overwhelming pretense that everybody in the country thinks the Republicans are beyond reproach. If Ann Coulter is allowed to go on TV and write columns in which she makes all those hateful, inebriated remarks about how it's a shame McVeigh didn't blow up The New York Times, there might as well be Baldwin once in a while, I suppose. All the same, I think we'd rather have a matinee idol who had better control of his emotions and thinking processes.

Baldwin, fortunately, does not have his own coast-to-coast radio show, and neither, thank goodness, does Spike Lee. Meanwhile, draft-avoider Rush Limbaugh calls Vietnam-era vet Daschle "Hanoi Tom" in the nation's largest radio market...and do I have to mention Gordon "head-shot" Liddy, a convicted criminal who, throughout the Clinton administration, advocated killing representatives of American law-enforcement, but now insists it's fine and dandy to take away Americans' civil liberties?

I find it disgusting that conservatives can pretend that any of these people represent me. I didn't vote for them and I don't know anyone who did. But it wasn't liberals who elected Trent Lott to federal office. That's Trent Lott, who this week said:

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.
Strom Thurmond ran on the Segregationist ticket, you may remember. Right-wingers are always trying to pretend that racism doesn't motivate their party, that all the crackpots are on the left, but nothing Cynthia McKinney ever said comes even close to being as crackpot, as indefensible, as immoral as Lott's statement above. Cynthia McKinney became the number one attack target for a few weeks because she hinted too strongly that the Bush Family Empire was profiteering too eagerly from 9/11 (they are) and that there should be an investigation of the attacks (there should - but not one headed by Henry Kissinger). But, as Atrios (among others) notes, the illiberal media thought it unimportant to question Lott's visible regret of civil liberties for blacks when a really BIG story like John Kerry's haircut was on the table.

Here's some irony for you: Strom Thurmond is now so old and doddering that he probably doesn't know what he's voting for half the time, but before he reached this state he had already pretty much back-tracked on some of his most racist views. He went from this:

I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.
to this:

But Thurmond also changed with the times, in 1977 enrolling his six-year-old daughter in an integrated public school and becoming one of the first Southern lawmakers to hire black staffers and support blacks for federal judgeships.
Thurmond had, of course, opposed the Voting Rights Act, so he held hearings on the subject - and changed his mind. That's pretty radical for the man who ran for president vowing to preserve segregation forever. And yeah, maybe Clarence Thomas is far right, but Thurmond's support for Thomas can't simply be chalked off to "We don't care how big you get as long as you don't get to close," in view of the fact that Thomas had also gotten as close as you can get, having married a white woman.

If Thurmond were as hale and hearty - and alert - today as he was when he came to support the Voting Rights Act, would even he agree with Trent Lott? I don't know, but I do know that while Thurmond is leaving Congress, Trent Lott is still there, and for some reason conservatives are too busy attacking the likes of Bill Maher to mind.

14:41 GMT: Permalink
Matt Yglesias agrees with CalPundit that quotes in a Robert Fisk article don't sound right:

Whom we were supposed to catch? Al Qa'ida are very smart? Methods that the Americans cannot adapt to? That sounds a lot more like a British newspaper columnist than an American intelligence officer to me. Perhaps he just Anglicized the quotes for the column, in the way that if he'd spoken to a French intelligence officer he would have translated whatever the guy said. Still, every publication that I've ever read only alters regional spellings in direct quotations, not whole grammatical structures, and it's very hard to justify changing "methods that we cannot adapt to" into the third-person "methods that the Americans cannot adapt to."
But that's just what British journalists do. As I mention in Matt's comments, I get that treatment all the time. Look at this Observer article and find the phrase Avedon would never say.

TIME 14:09: Permalink
Take the Mad Kane communication test.

Saturday, 07 December 2002

18:45 GMT: Permalink

Regular guys

Whenever George Bush has been asked about his thoughts on 9/11, he's said things about how he thought, boy, that was some lousy pilot, or how he was securing the safety of "the president", or, later, that he thought about what it meant that "America is under attack."

I don't know about you, but my first thoughts when I understood that Manhattan was being attacked were something like "PatrickTeresaMosheMichaelSethVickiVJAvramChrisetc.!" - in other words, the people who matter to me who I knew lived, worked, or hung out in the area and might very possibly have been in direct jeopardy. Then I saw pictures of the Pentagon and thought about all the people I knew who had worked there over the years. Then there was the rumor of a bomb at the State Department, and I worried about Jim Young, sf writer and career diplomat whose safety I had incessantly worried about while he was in Lagos before he finally was rewarded with a nice, safe position in Washington. And my family, who live and work in the area, my sister-in-law at Interior, my brother who could be anywhere in Metro DC, and so on. I checked rec.arts.sf.fandom continually to watch reports that this person or that one had checked in to assure everyone that they were okay. I tried repeatedly to get a call through to Maryland until finally, at 3:00 AM, I was able to reach my brother.

And surely, anyone who knew people in New York and DC did the same. Any normal person. But I never heard Bush say anything about that, and I think in the back of my mind it's always bugged me, that some human touch was missing. I never quite put my finger on it until I was listening to this interview with Al and Tipper Gore and heard Al talk about the first things he did and thought when he heard about the strike on America - and what was it? It was phone calls home to make sure everyone was okay. Like a real person.

There's a lot else in that interview that's well worth hearing, about the direction he thinks the country should take and including his discussion of the family. Gore is a regular guy - he dropped everything, including a run for the presidency, when his son was hospitalized after an accident. (Unlike some people, he didn't go off and play golf instead.) It's the kind of thing that regular guys, with real family values, actually do.

My brother has a bumper-sticker on his truck that says, "Hate is not a family value." My brother regards his family as his first priority. Of course, he's a Democrat.

(And here is another interview with Al & Tipper if you want more Gore.)

17:33 GMT: Permalink
I am not really evil. What about you?

Thursday, 05 December 2002

15:53 GMT: Permalink

Spinning Gore

In case you were wondering just how demented the anti-Gore spin can get, here's a gem Bob Somerby found a couple weeks ago:

MORTON KONDRACKE: In the aftermath of the election, he is, you know, he is making himself—making people pay attention to him. I watched him on Letterman and I watched the Barbara Walters interview and I've read these various interviews of his, and he was hilarious on Letterman. You know, and then you get these sort of angry strident comments about Bush—we want to dominate the world? And all I can conclude is that Al—the new iteration—the new, new, new, new Al Gore is kind of bipolar. He's sort of laughing on the one hand and a lefty on the other. And you don't know which one you're going to get which time.
Just try to believe that you read that! Sometimes Gore jokes, and sometimes he doesn't. To Kondracke, that make him "bipolar."
Personally, I liked the formulation "laughing on the one hand and a lefty on the other." Is that supposed to mean that lefties don't laugh? Gore is supposed to be "stiff", so if he isn't stiff, he must be departing from his real personality. Or something. These guys have drawn up a map of Al Gore that looks nothing like Al Gore, but when the map doesn't match the territory they figure it's the territory that's wrong.

Of course, there is something new going on with Al Gore, which is that he no longer tries to hide his playful side. What a lot of people don't know about him is that back before he got into politics he used to do a bit of stand-up comedy. He's actually not bad at it, as his truly wonderful performance on Letterman demonstrated. He's a multifaceted guy, he's not just some one-trick pony. But during his political career, he's always tried to comport himself with the dignity he thought political office should have in public. He did tell the obligatory warm-up jokes, but he always considered it inappropriate to yuk it up during occasions of state. That didn't work in 2000, when he was painted as "too stiff" compared with a guy who gave people noogies. (And let's be honest about this: George Bush does not behave like a "regular guy", he behaves like someone for whom the technical term back when we were in highschool and college was "asshole". Not the class clown, who was at least sharp and funny. Not the "regular" guys, who were usually safe to hang out with. Not the captain of the football team, who was - well, he was Al Gore, actually. George Bush is the guy who everyone hoped wouldn't show up at the party.)

The myth of Gore's stiffness was so overwhelming that people mistakenly attribute Gore's playful activities to the supposedly press-charming George Bush. Bush, we all remember, was the guy the press seemed to like because he was fun to hang out with. But Al Gore famously asked reporters not to mention it when he was fooling around on the plane, because it wasn't, y'know, presidential behavior. George Bush, a man who you're always afraid is going to come up and snap your bra (or wipe his glasses on your skirt), was running around claiming he was going to "restore honor and dignity to the White House" - and Al Gore was running around showing people what honor and dignity actually looked like.

There were plenty of members of the press corps who were familiar with the real Al Gore - the guy who tells jokes, the guy who had a long-standing reputation for integrity - but they didn't stand up to set the record straight against the RNC spin during the 2000 campaign.

The "new" Al Gore is the guy who has learned the lessons of that campaign: That he cannot rely on the press to do anything but lie about him, and that therefore his only hope is to make sure the American public sees as much of him as possible, as he really is. The only way to do this is to appear as frequently as possible on the air, where people can see and hear him as he is rather than how he will be spun later by others.

Not that this will stop the idiots from believing that Gore is a pathological liar, or bipolar, or whatever today's spin is, anymore than it has stopped them from believing that Clinton is a serial rapist or that "travelgate" was an evil plot by Hillary Clinton to fire perfectly good employees for devious purposes. Hell, half of these people still believe that Hillary murdered Vince Foster because he was her lover, while simultaneously believing that Hillary is a lesbian.

But whatever Al is planning to do, he needs to bring it to the people, and that's what he's doing, and it's obviously scaring the hell out of the right wingers, who are spinning like crazy. But maybe - just maybe - it won't work a second time when the voters can see what Gore is actually like with their own eyes.

I still put "new" in quotes up there, though, because in fact there is nothing new about the fact that Al Gore can learn. Gore reads a book and learns something from it. Gore gets a letter from a constituent and learns something from it. Gore discovers the arpanet and learns something from it. Gore is trashed by the press and learns something from it. Gore has been absorbing new information all along and acting accordingly. I prefer this to the alternative.

11:33 GMT: Permalink
Bill Clinton speaks:

Much of the party's weakness now, he said, can be blamed on Democrats' failure to stand up for each other when they are attacked by other politicians and "extreme right-wing elements in the media."
Man, I sure heard that. They can't even be bothered to speak up when their own president, or presidential candidate, or Senate leader, is being slandered. What a bunch of worms. Here's Michelangelo Signorile:

As you read this, the conservative punditocracy is likely in overdrive, ridiculing Al Gore for telling it straight about the media in an interview in The New York Observer last week. "The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party," Gore said. "Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh–there's a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media."

It is conservative pundits' stock-in-trade to nip such criticism in the bud, pronto–lest the debate shift to them, rather than staying focused on their powerful creation and whipping post, "the liberal media." They and their apologists throw out words like "delusional" and "desperate," maintaining a stranglehold on the discussion until they bludgeon the critic back into silent submission. Oftentimes liberals stand by during one of these clubbings, like scared chickens watching one of their own being dragged off to the slaughterhouse (and, cannibalistically, some join in, hoping to score some points with the slaughterers). Witness how quickly and effortlessly poor, wimpy Tom Daschle was plucked and thrown onto the barbecue after daring to criticize Rush Limbaugh two weeks ago.

True to form, Limbaugh was hooting and howling last week, professing shock that anyone could believe Gore's claims that the conservative media has such power–yes, the same Rush Limbaugh who spouts Republican Party mantras on nearly 600 radio stations, was a commentator on NBC news on election night and was canonized recently by The Washington Post's influential Howard Kurtz as a mainstream pundit, though Limbaugh still has the same far-right positions and tactics he's always had. Actually, Kurtz's recent defense of Limbaugh (claiming that Limbaugh is "policy-oriented") is a primary example of what Gore is talking about in his Observer interview. The conservative media's pundits, positions, nonstories and half-truths are often legitimized without critique by producers, editors and reporters in the rest of the media. Why? A lot of these people are conservatives themselves and are quietly pushing an agenda, despite the pap about everyone in the media being a "librul." Others are hungry for ratings and circulation, and seem to believe that being "competitive" means sucking up. Still others appear to easily and pathetically succumb to the right's charges that they're suppressing stories because of their alleged liberal bias.

No kidding. Imagine living in a media milieu so far out in right field that draft-evader Rush Limbaugh feels free on national radio to call Vietnam-era veteran Tom Daschle "Hanoi Tom" without being afraid that it just might be going too far. Imagine someone like this even having a nationally broadcast radio show. God knows he should have been fired for it ten minutes after saying it, but I haven't seen that headline yet. Let me know if you hear any members of Congress suggesting that it was out of order.

11:00 GMT: Permalink
Oh, man, Liberal Oasis is so good!

The Dems that are casting about for the un-Gore insist that the party needs a fresh face and that Gore is simply too battle-scarred. But the way John Kerry has been treated in the short time following the soft-launch of his campaign sends a message to all Dems -- there will be no fresh faces.

Not as long as the right-wing attack machine and the Beltway punditocracy are working in sync.

Hell, by the time we get to Iowa, each Dem may be so bloodied, Gore may end up as the freshest guy left standing.

Go over there and read his dissection of how Kerry is being smeared already.

10:40 GMT: Permalink
From Thom Hartmann at Common Dreams, Talking Back To Talk Radio - It's Time To Take Back Our Airwaves

Turning the dial again, we found a convicted felon ranting about the importance of government having ever-more powers to monitor, investigate, and prosecute American citizens without having to worry about constitutional human rights protections. Apparently the combining of nationwide German police agencies (following the terrorist attack of February 1933 when the Parliament building was set afire) into one giant anti-terrorism agency, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and its SchutzStaffel, was a lesson of history this guy had completely forgotten. Neither, apparently, do most Americans recall that the single most powerful device used to bring about the SS and its political master was radio. Is history repeating itself?
10:16 GMT: Permalink
From Matt Yglesias:

Good point from new-to-me blogger Reublen Vesseau

Why does Bob Shrum continue to say, again and again, "half of the Bush tax cut goes to the top 1%" when it is a hideously ineffective slogan? Isn't it much more persuasive to say "half of the Bush tax cut goes to people making more than 300 grand a year"? David Brooks pointed out somewhere the most interesting poll result of the 2000 election, that 20% of Americans believed they were in the top 1%, and another 20% believed they would be eventually be there someday. "The top 1%" is a phrase that should be banned from the Democratic lexicon, yet people who should know better keep on repeating it like trained seals.
If you're trying to say that a policy will benefit very few people, you'd be well-advised to avoid describing it in such a way that 40% of people think they'll be benefitting from it. I'm also not sure that the pure disproportionate impact argument makes any real sense. After all, if you offer me $10 and some other guy $1,000 and your opponent is offering both of us nothing, I'm going to vote for you even though your opponent's plan is "fairer." Democrats need to make the case that our way you get more value than you will Bush's way, not just that Bush's way you get less than you might. Part of what feeds into all of this, I think, is that people don't understand that a large portion of the taxes they pay on their income aren't income taxes at all, but rather payroll taxes. Until someone sat down and explained it to me real slow I was pretty damn sure that the income tax was the only tax on, you know, income in this country, so you can see how someone would get confused. So people vote for the Republicans to cut their taxes, and then their taxes don't go down by very much (because the GOP cut the income tax, not the payroll tax that, for so many folks, takes away more money) which fuels cynicism about government and an appetite for more tax cuts. Very counterproductive.
09:50 GMT: Permalink
Yellow Doggerel Democrat

Wednesday, 04 December 2002

16:06 GMT: Permalink

You may have noticed that I'm citing The Washington Post less often, lately. Okay, you haven't, but I've noticed it, and it's partly because it's becoming harder and harder to open their pages. On a dial-up connection (and with a not-particularly fast processor), getting a pop-up with every single page really just slows things down way too much, and the ones at the Post seem to be designed to prevent seeing the article you're looking for. It doesn't appear to matter which browser I'm using or whether or not I've enabled a pop-up filter; opening a WP page brings everything to a standstill for minutes at a time. Still, I'd probably have kept up my old schedule of checking out the Post before looking at anything else, except that content has become increasingly disappointing. Anyway, I'm sure someone in the blogosphere will let me know if anyone at the Post forgets to shill for BushRove and actually produces some news or intelligent policy analysis for a change.

I'm not saying I won't be checking out the WP at all, but it's not at the top of my list anymore and lately I've been known to go for nearly a week without looking past the front page, and some days not even that much. It's just too depressing to see what utter rubbish it's become. True, the nastiness was becoming obvious years ago, when I began to see that almost all their political coverage was about political maneuvering rather than actual issues - and worse, relied with amazing frequency on unnamed sources rather than authoritative voices. And, of course, it wasn't just the Post doing it - I think it was Time that I first noticed seemed to refer incessantly to President Clinton's focus on his "legacy" without ever providing a single source quote from the President himself. Do you remember that? It got to where every damn publication seemed to have something saying, in effect, that anything Clinton was doing was about producing "his legacy" - and at no time, in any publication, did I ever see one citation of Clinton saying anything that indicated an interest in such a project.

The point is, it just feels like such a waste of time to try to read stories by journalists who are really just reporting on what's going on inside their own heads. Fair enough for me to do it on my own weblog, but no one's paying me for this. But in The Newspapers of Record? It's like a horrible joke, except that it's not funny.

Anyway, if I want to know what's really going on in politics, I have far better sources available to me. The Note is much sharper about what's really going on inside political circles, Liberal Oasis is a whole lot more insightful at evaluating the effect of the political maneuvering on outcomes, etc. And Tapped is brilliant at telling me what's going on. Here they announce three new pieces that cover the biggest items of the week (cover-up-king Henry Kissinger, "Hanoi Tom" Daschle, and what the firefighter's strike over here tells you about what kind of a man Tony Blair really is), and the previous entry sums up the whole DiIulio story. Can't remember which of those I was reading when it occurred to me that it's not over the top for us patriots to call the Bushistas what they really are: traitors. No, really:

THE "MAYBERRY MACHIAVELLIS." Let us now turn to the matter of one John J. DiIulio, former director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, whom top-notch journalist Ron Suskind interviewed for an article in this month's Esquire. This little episode provides readers of Tapped with a window into two phenomena. One, as Joe Conason points out, is the sheer ruthlessness -- and occasional stupidity -- of the Karl Rove spin machine. The other is that this administration is perhaps the most purely political in recent memory, far exceeding the Clinton administration. That is, decisions are made almost entirely on the basis of good politics (i.e. getting re-elected) and rarely on the basis of good policy.
DiIulio is ticked off because he realized that his sole purpose in the White House was to give the appearance of the "compassionate" part of Bush's conservatism. DiIulio actually cares about helping the poor, so it looked good. But then he found out it was all just being used as a pork barrel to funnel money to Bush's political supporters, and none of it really meant to help the poor. And that's how it was working, too.

(I saw a word somewhere yesterday that I think is a good one. DiIulio appears to be a Christian, but the people we have to look out for are Christianists. There are a lot of them in Bush's government and political base, and they are dangerous people.)

Not that Bush doesn't have any policies, though - clearly, the tax cut is policy, it's just that with him politics and policy are pretty much the same thing: He is not acting on behalf of the country, he's acting on behalf of people like himself, who happen to be very rich and therefore give him campaign money (not to mention all that free advertising he gets from the "news" media). He has always made it perfectly clear that he thinks tax cuts for the very wealthy are more important than, say, national security or even the economic health of the nation as a whole.

As far as I can tell, then, the Bush administration has revealed not one single policy that is aimed at safeguarding our nation, either economically or militarily. In fact, they appear to be in the business of soaking us while leaving us vulnerable to all of the things we fear most - indeed, actually making us more vulnerable than we were before.

They're traitors, and they are thieves. They don't believe that the people who have gained most from America owe it anything. They regard public office not as public service but as just the best damn way to get their fingers into the largest cookie jar in the world. They are truly contemptuous of the people who put their lives on the line for us - firefighters, soldiers, etc. - and don't even think they deserve a decent pay raise for it, let alone reasonable job protections. They hate Americans and all that is best about America. And they are playing with our lives.

We need to get these rip-off artists out of the White House and replace them with people who will actually do some work for us. For us - you know, for America. If you think otherwise, your brain is numb. They are manifestly not on your side.

01:29 GMT: Permalink
Jaron Lanier, grumpy about a lack of a new musical style for the current generation of young people, asks Where did the music go?

Smythe's World on the illiberal media.

People often ask me naive questions about Britain. Some of them think they can move here to get away from the GWB problem. (Boy, have I got news for them - there's no place that far away.) But if you really wanna know, here's a little hint from Mr. Happy.

I hadn't been to Uniblogger lately, but jeez, knockers!. (I like her outfit.)

00:04 GMT: Permalink
From a comment by Greg at Eschaton:

In '88 Poppy held up a bumper sticker at a rally that declared:

I don't believe the liberal media

It got a lot of traction in the so called liberal media. In Detroit, my home at the time, it was ironically common to see these stickers right next to the UAW sticker on the Chevys, Fords and Chryslers.

Perhaps it is time to call a spade a spade and start a campaign that openly and loudly shows our disaffection for the corporate media. Bumperstickers, t-shirts, letters to the editors, and maybe mailing a few of them to the few Democrats and pundits who "get it". Hopefully we could cause the mainstream press to do the same type of "whipped" self-examination that the neo-cons have forced on them for the last 15 years.


Tuesday, 03 December 2002

16:09 GMT: Permalink

Around the web

Eric Alterman in The Nation on Straw Liberals and False Prophets.

Congratulations, Vicki!

Charlie says "This is just so wrong ..."

Richard Milhous W. Bush by Nat Parry at Consortium News.

Crossfire transcript featuring a response to Gore's charges against the media.

Conason on Rush

Mark Crispin Miller interviewed in The Toronto Star, says Bush isn't a moron - he's something worse.

00:23 GMT: Permalink
Told ya

From Atrios:

Josh Marshall says:

The Washington press corps doesn't much like John Kerry. And, as we learned with Al Gore, that's important.
Actually, it isn't important. The Washington press corps won't like any Democratic candidate. What is important is that said candidate realizes that fact sooner and not later and stops trying to please them.

I'll admit that for a few very brief moments in '92 the press had a bit of a "Clinton Buzz" but that too was overwhelmed by their willingness to report any horseshit dished up to them about him. Dem candidates will always get a bum rap from the Alpha Girls. We can discuss why, but frankly it doesn't really matter unless we can figure out how to change it. Fact is, the Spite Girls will knock whoever the Dem candidate is. That's the hand we've been dealt and it's time to figure out how to deal with it.

(I am so proud. Not only does Atrios agree with me, but he's actually using an original Avedon-coined appellation for the nasty little scribblers.)

As usual, there are comments to the post that prove the point, asking how anyone can say this stuff when the press is so obviously liberally-biased, for example citing the way they were so kind to Gore and so cruel to Bush during the election campaign. Naturally, they cite all those stories the press never covered about Clinton - the ones that, in fact, there was never any evidence to support (and ignore the fact that the press did cover a lot of stories that also had no evidence to support them, like Whitewater). (Fools! The reason you think there is anything to these silly stories is because the press is biased against liberals, and they didn't cover that stuff because it would have exposed those stories as lies.) People in need of a quick refresher course might like to read Eric Boehlert's Rolling Stone piece from a year ago, The Press vs. Al Gore:

Did bad press cost Al Gore the election last year? It's naive to think Gore's chronically caustic coverage didn't cause him to lose votes during a historically close election. Looking back, Gore's handlers accept responsibility for mistakes they made during the campaign.

When will journalists do the same?

Of course, this article doesn't deal with the way the press behaved on the night of the election itself and the days that followed, in which they actually accepted the fantasy that there was something wrong with wanting to count the ballots, but that's a whole 'nother article. Hell, that's a whole 'nother website.

Also, look here and here.

We do have to deal with it. (Hey, I know a guy who says he can set up a nationwide radio network - via CB! - for only $5m. Maybe we should pass the hat.)

00:01 GMT: Permalink
PNN reports that the London meeting will remain at the Silver Cross this month, but that the Barley Mow won the vote for the new venue.

Monday, 02 December 2002

17:43 GMT: Permalink

Jesse has a question: I ask you, conservatives - if rescinding a future tax cut is a "tax increase", then why is rescinding a future wage increase not a "wage cut"?

I talk a lot about the damage done to our discourse by the lazy and increasingly right-wing media, but I have been remiss in not reminding people that the place to go for some serious de-spinning is Bob Somerby's Daily Howler. If you're not reading it, you're missing a lot.

17:02 GMT: Permalink
From Matt Yglesias:

Fred Barnes says the Democrats need to go to Bush's right on combatting Islamic extremism (well, he says "in the war on terror," but I hate that phrase and will not use it), and he's exactly right. The only thing is, I don't think we should say we're going to his "right." We should say we're going to his left. Combatting religious fundamentalism, promoting democracy, and committing America's wealth and power to the betterment of the world are liberal goals in perfectly good standing, and it's time to start re-adopting them. The recent flap over Saudi Arabia and the now-brewing one over Henry Kissinger are excellent examples — there's one political party in this country badly in hock to the Islamism-loving oil industry, and it's not the Democrats. It's time for us to start acting like it.
16:50 GMT: Permalink
Steven Den Beste has responded to my response, saying I've got him all wrong below. In e-mail, he wrote:
It would seem that many people have misinterpreted what I wrote, or relied on what others have said when they misinterpreted what I wrote.

I did get involved in a discussion thread on Hesiod's site where I attempted to clarify what I meant, and I suspect that you'll find that it is not remotely what you think.

But I responded to what Steven originally posted, not to anything else. Perhaps I should have quoted it before:

Translated into modern terms and choosing an example, it would go like this: if you hate the Nazis, you should not link to their web site. If you find others who do link to the Nazis, you can send them mail and try to convince them that the Nazis are despicable and that the link should be removed on that basis. But when you go beyond that, and try to use means not related to the issues (e.g. threatening a boycott of the person's business) then you've crossed the line. You've ceased to try to deal with the issues, and moved into attempts to suppress information to prevent others from even being exposed to the issues. That's where disapproval ends and censorship begins.

Mill differentiates between not helping others find opinions of which you disapprove (which he thinks is acceptable) and actively working to prevent them from accessing those opinions (which he condemns).

RR is completely justified in not linking to LGF. RR is completely justified in attempting to convince others that LGF is not worth linking to. But with this step, RR is moving beyond that to attempt to use a level of direct coercion which I don't consider acceptable.

It is, in a sense, fortunate that RR's gesture is empty and meaningless (just as most of the gestures from the left these days I see seem to be) because if it were actually effective it would be a serious threat to freedom of expression. Whether you think that this particular case is justified, even if you think that there is no important moral difference between LGF and the Nazis (which I don't accept; I don't consider them even remotely similar) the problem is that once this idea became established as having been successful one time, it would inevitably be applied again to progressively less defensible cases. If we use coercion to enforce a ban on links to Holocaust deniers today, and to LGF tomorrow, then do we do the same to Democrats the day after? What you end up with is the Internet descending into ideological gang warfare, with thought-police roaming around looking for people who demonstrate thought-crime by linking to bad guys (with "bad" defined by the thought police, and different groups of them having different opinions) and using threats to force removal of those links. [Emphasis added.]

It seems to me that it is Steven and no one else who raised the issue of censorship, and that the implication is that by saying he doesn't want to link to people who link to LGF, Jim is heading in that direction. He explicitly opposes anything that smacks of a boycott, implying that this is "coercion" and therefore qualifies.

A point: The left has tended to be more overtly "activist" historically because, lacking the same levels of political and economic power that the economic right has by nature, boycott has been one of the few economic tools that can have any impact. Individuals on the left control far smaller amounts of money in general than do those on the right, but can potentially make up for it in numbers if, and only if, they act collectively. It is a relatively weak tool compared with, say, the influence of Jack Welch and Andrew Lack to get their employees to slant political news coverage to libel Al Gore while keeping criticisms of George W. Bush to a minimum, or to directly instruct Tim Russert to call the election for Bush even though the data strongly indicated that Gore had won. But it is hardly inconsistent with the conservative or libertarian belief that you should "vote with your feet" or let the market do the talking to say, in effect, "Yeah, let's do that!" (But, of course, the right does it, too - usually the moral right rather than the economic right, but the fact that they make common cause with each other makes that ultimately more worrying.)

Steven goes on:

The real reason that freedom of expression is important to a free society is that it's the flip side of freedom of access to expression. The real reason for the First Amendment is not ultimately to protect our freedom to speak. It's real purpose is to protect the broadest possible freedom to listen.
The freedom to listen. Yeah, we want some of that. Most Americans have the freedom to listen to Rush Limbaugh for hours every day, to read newspaper articles in the "liberal" Washington Post that express outrage at the very thought that Al Gore should do or not do whatever he's doing or not doing (even if it isn't true in the first place, which is frequently the case), to share right-wing horror that Paul Wellstone's admirers offered a tribute to his life and work in which they encouraged others to carry on his fight, to watch Fox's rabidly anti-Democratic and anti-liberal coverage, and so on, and so on. Hey, just turn on your TV, and even if you don't get cable you can see news coverage that is only a thinly-disguised reiteration of the same right-wing talking points regurgitated for the masses. (It's not the market that's doing this, by the way; as always, your freedom of the press depends largely on whether you own the press, and then you get to decide what gets said. Listeners may get to decide whether they listen to your shows or read your paper, but they don't get to decide whether Hannity and Russert tell the truth. We can turn the TV off, yes, but we don't get to turn to a different station where what we want to hear is being broadcast.) It requires considerably more effort to develop the freedom to listen to liberal voices. You can flip on your TV to watch right-wing news (broadcast, not just cable), but you pretty much have to resort to the Internet to try to get just a very few shows to listen to. You can listen to Rush Limbaugh in your car in almost any market, but damn few people are getting Mike Malloy that way.

When I first started weblogging, the vast majority of political weblogs were clearly to the right of me in both politics and specific focus; even many liberals were in such a state of traumatic shock after 9/11 that they seemed entirely unwilling to listen to anyone who counselled caution in allowing the Bush administration to accumulate more and more power. Attacks on liberals were pretty overwhelming, in fact - people who warned that merely dropping bombs on Afghanistan would be insufficient (and that the Bush administration could not be trusted to follow-through there) were not just dismissed but used as evidence that liberals were traitors, wimps, appeasers, and morally bankrupt. The liberal webloggers who were granted a measure of credibility by right-wing bloggers seem to have done so largely by leaping on the bandwagon of attacking other folks on the left - folks who, by the way, had far less power than not only their right-wing counterparts but much more dangerous people in mainstream media and in government itself who have no left-wing counterparts.

I started this weblog in some part to provide another alternative to that environment. Since that time, a lot more liberal and lefty bloggers have been added to the mix, and some of the liberals of longer standing have come out of their post-traumatic stupor and shifted back to recognizing just how wholly Bush has betrayed our country. (I can tell: My hit counter was going up and up and up every day, week, month, and then there was this explosion of lefty bloggers and it dropped again.) There's a lot to read, now, and it's harder to keep up.

So I'm happy not to waste my time clicking on links on Rittenhouse Review's blogroll to see stuff I already know is out there and don't want to see even more of. I'm happy to have Jim tell me he's made it a policy to have nothing to do with that sort of blog, and will use the tiny amount of influence he has to encourage other people to follow his lead. He's not preventing me from seeing Little Green Footballs. He's not even preventing me from linking to it if I so choose. He just doesn't want to associate with that sort of blog, and he's wary of people who do. So am I, really.

Forgive me, Steven, I haven't been able to keep up lately and perhaps I've missed your essays on the need to return to the days of the Fairness Doctrine, the need to prevent - or, rather, overturn - the media concentration that has left real information relevant to true mainstream priorities virtually absent from our airwaves and little more than a trickle in our daily newspapers. I'm afraid I didn't catch your posts cheering for Al Gore when he spoke (twice, in the last few months) about the dangers the current media climate presents to our freedoms as a society. So this is the first time I've noticed you making specific comments about the need to defend our freedom to listen. And I can't help feeling that going after Rittenhouse Review shows something of a lack of perspective.

Sunday, 01 December 2002

11:49 GMT: Permalink

Do I have to say "That's Rich"?

A number of sources have mentioned the recent Frank Rich article Do We Have to Call You Al? from a week ago, but I hadn't had time to give it more than a brief scan with all the other things pilling up in the same period. Now that I've read it, I'm trying to figure out why it's Al Gore's fault that the whole of the Democratic leadership has been so utterly pathetic about dealing with Iraq. And I'm irritated that Rich spent the entire first half of the article making snarky comments about Al Gore when its only real substance was in addressing serious questions about the impending war. Both the press and those currently serving in elective office are far better placed to examine and promote a more thoughtful discourse on national security and related issues - and it is, by the way, what they are paid for - but for some reason we're supposed to accept the dictum that it's really Al Gore's job. Worse, and despite the fact Al Gore is doing it better than almost everyone, he's now being attacked for not being an adequate substitute for the Congress and press corps who have so wholly abdicated their own responsibility in the matter.

I usually like Frank Rich, but if he's opting to get on the bandwagon with the likes of Cici Connolly, Maureen Dowd, and the other Spite Girls, then he's in no position to complain that anyone else is being insufficiently serious. And I take no one seriously who can say things like this:

People don't change. Mr. Gore doesn't let the chips fall where they may; you can still spot him counting each one before doling them out. And of course he is still running for president. Polls of Democratic voters and politicians alike show that he remains the first choice of a plurality of them, and besides, what else does the guy, a political lifer, have to do with himself?
"People don't change"? Did a grown man actually write those words? Everyone I know has changed! We all change, sometimes in dramatic ways. And going through major, traumatic events often changes us in radical ways. (And no one just blurts out every single thing that passes through their mind, unless they are suffering from pretty serious problems, Frank - let's not pretend it's just political hedging if a man fails to answer every off-the-cuff question with an impromptu position paper, eh?)

But Gore, of course, is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. If he changes in any way - hell, if he changes his suit - it's the old "reinvention" canard:

Republicans profess to be delighted at this prospect while non-Gore Democrats are despondent. They are united in their recognition that he is the least spontaneous presidential contender since Richard Nixon, who similarly kept rolling out "new" incarnations of his public persona after each defeat.
Gee, Frank, don't you remember that there's a difference? It was Nixon who kept rolling out those "New Nixons", not the press. But it's the press that keeps claiming Gore is "reinventing himself". Al Gore is apparently the only man in history who has ever read a book and learned something new, the only person who has ever so much as tried a new haircut, so obviously he is a raving psychopath. Y'know, it's funny, I frequently hear criticism of people who haven't changed their style since the '70s, who are still dressing the same way they were 15 years ago, as if that's a bad thing - but if Al Gore tries wearing a different thing once because some woman suggested it would look good on him, he's pathological.

Now we see a man who has been through what must have been a uniquely traumatic experience, something that could not possibly not have changed him, and we don't want to acknowledge that it's had an impact on him, despite all evidence that it clearly has? What the hell are you thinking, Frank?

And if you have something to say about Iraq, why don't you just bloody say it? Why does this have to be about Al Gore? You could have used this same column to jump off of the good things that Gore has been saying and go on further, but you wasted half the damn thing repeating tired old saws. Is Iraq not a sufficiently important subject to devote a whole column to? Is it more crucial to make sure we hammer Gore to unrecognizability yet again? You should be ashamed.

10:30 GMT: Permalink
Blast from the past

Some time in the last day or so I clicked somewhere and opened this document, and then went on to read something else while I was waiting for it to load. Then I read something else, clicked on some other things, and eventually went to bed. Now that I've looked at it I've forgotten where I got it, but seeing that it was an old Conason article from two years ago that I'm reasonably sure I read at the time doesn't mean I'm not interested all over again. This is probably the most concise summing up of the actual Whitewater investigation; if you're not absolutely clear on the details, go read it just to make sure you've got it right - and bookmark it for the next time someone tries to tell you all about the vast criminal doings of "Slick Willie".

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, December 2002

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