Monday, January 31, 2005
Bush's Love of Books
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Friday, January 28, 2005
Good Enough, Already?
Gotti Lorenzo Arrest Just Ho-Hum
Radicals Are From Mars, Moderates Are From New Jersey
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Friday, January 21, 2005
Nader's Bon Mot
Thursday, January 20, 2005
More San Francisco Treachery
OH, BOY, I'LL have to dust off my earplugs -- I see that the Blue Angels are roaring back to San Francisco this fall ["Blue Angels are back," Jan. 11]. Last year was so nice with the Canadian Snowbirds doing their lovely, graceful and quiet maneuvers without the earsplitting overhead noise. And the anxiety level I usually feel was much lower, as I'm sure it was for many others.
I vote that we bring back the Snowbirds and send the Blue Angels back to Hawaii, where there's lots of water to muffle the insufferable racket.
Daddy Truck and Baby Truck
Some women who attended the meeting said they felt that Summers was implicitly endorsing the notion that there are genetic differences that inhibit girls from excelling in math and science. They cited a story Summers told about giving his daughter two trucks as an effort at gender-neutral parenting. The girl soon began referring to one of the trucks as "daddy truck" and the other as "baby truck."
The point of the truck anecdote, said Hopkins, a Harvard graduate, seemed to be that girls have a genetic predisposition against math and engineering. "That's the kind of insidious, destructive, un-thought-through attitude that causes a lot of harm," she said. "It's one thing for an ordinary person to shoot his mouth off like that, but quite another for a top educational leader."
From the AP:
Ignoring the pomp and ceremony surrounding the inauguration is one way to avoid facing the hard truth. Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee, says he will be at home watching the movie "Titanic."
"To get me in the mood for the second Bush administration," McAuliffe says.
Those left-wing immoralists, always turning to Hollywood...
Iraq Worries Drag Down President's Stats
He'll be pursuing an agenda that differs from the challenges most Americans identify as top priorities. Their most urgent concerns: education and health care costs.
The findings of a series of USA TODAY polls in December and January raise questions about the president's claim of a mandate for his second-term agenda. His plan to add individual investment accounts to Social Security is supported by 48% and opposed by 48%, for instance. By 52%-47%, Americans call his decision to invade Iraq a mistake.
Prime Minster's Questions Staged (Who Knew?) -- Reality TV To The Rescue!
Bush summed up his inaugural message with one word: "Freedom."
Digital Food Fight
Back On The Bottle
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Arnold, 1974: "I take steroids because they help me an extra 5 percent. Women take the (contraception) pill. They are somewhat similar. I do it under a doctor's supervision." (Interview with Barbara Walters.)
Arnold, 1998: "As someone who is in a position to influence young people, I want to make my position very clear. I am absolutely against the use of these dangerous and illegal substances."
("New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding," by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins, 1998.)
Arnold, 2005: "I've been for testing ever since the idea came about. We've had testing at the Arnold Classic (bodybuilding competition) ... following exactly the same guidelines as the Olympic committee does. ... I'm very adamant about it. Because my feeling is, if you take all the drugs away, we will still have the same winners. It won't change." (Interview with San Francisco Chronicle.)
Beardslee's Real Motives
News From North Korea
Beardslee Dies, Arnold Takes Hit
Dude, Where's My Civility?
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Why The Long Face, Charles? You Got Off Easy...
We doubt Specialist Graner's peers would have packed him off to prison for so long had he produced any evidence at all that his actions had something to do with interrogation practices approved by his superiors.
Andrew Sullivan has the exact opposite take -- that Graner's light sentence might have something to do with getting Graner to shut up about his superiors, who nobody expects to be prosecuted. The Punditocracy reports, you decide.
Buckley Fesses Up
Binging and Purging
After a year in which progressives drove the debate, roused and registered the voters, raised the dough and knocked on the doors, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party is trying to reassert control. Its assault on MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign--the center of new energy in the party--is reminiscent of 1973, when corporate lobbyist Bob Strauss became head of the party and tossed out the McGovern mailing list, insuring that the party would remain dependent on big-donor funding.
According to Borosage, there's a "never again" attitude among the left. Thus the triumph of the Boxer rebellion:
When Senator Barbara Boxer stood up, the public learned more about the shabby state of our democracy and the need for drastic electoral reform. The lesson is clear: When progressives move, Democrats will follow. "Don't expect this place to lead," says Representative George Miller. "Organize and force us to catch up."
"The public learned more about the shabby state of our democracy and the need for drastic electoral reform." I'm not so sure. It's not just that the effort to squelch the President's 'social security reform' (an effort distinct in that it includes both liberals AND the left) is probably going a lot better, but also this: is Borosage aware that other people (Al From, for instance) might see the Boxer Rebellion a little differently -- not as a reason to wake up to the cries on the left but as yet another reason to purge them?
Shall We Hold Government To a Higher Standard?
First off, let's be clear about the fact that there was never any credible evidence to suggest that Iraq had a serious WMD program -- let alone the "stockpiles" of already-produced weaponry that the president and his aides suggested.
The Post and the President
Friday, January 14, 2005
Marry One, Marry All
UPDATE: First color pictures of Titan's surface here.
Pro-Franco and Proud Of It
A hilarious take on the subject of media bias comes from Hugh Downs, formerly of ABC's "20/20," in an exchange on the CBS scandal with host Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's "Scarborough Country":
Scarborough: Is there a liberal bias in the media or is the bias towards getting the story first and getting the highest ratings, therefore, making the most money?
Downs: Well, I think the latter, by far. And, of course, when the word liberal came to be a pejorative word, you began to wonder, you have to say that the press doesn't want to be thought of as merely liberal. But people tend to be more liberated in their thought when they are closer to events and know a little more about what the background of what's happening. So, I suppose, in that respect, there is a liberal, if you want to call it a bias. The press is a little more in touch with what's happening.
So you see, it's not that journalists are biased, it's just that they know more than everyone else and thus are "more liberated in their thought"! Don't you feel silly for thinking they were arrogant elitists?
Downs's comment was silly, but journalists ARE (indisputably) better-educated than the average citizen, and political reporters (arguably) tend to know the issues better than the average person. That's all Downs is saying. (Does Taranto really disagree?)
Better-educated people may be "arrogant elitists," but they're also, er, better educated. It's a tradeoff any rational person would take accept. (Does Taranto really disagree?) I've never understood why the right is so proud that their constituency is poorly educated and doesn't know the issues.
And yes, James, any way you want to cut it, better-educated people are more "liberated" in their thinking, just as people who don't think evolution should be taught in schools are not "liberated" in their thinking. (Does Taranto really disagree?) Downs is not a raging liberal. He is using the term as a matter of description, not values. He is merely explaining why better-educated people do not take public policy advice from Jerry Falwell.
It's a poor word choice for sure, but can't we all agree that knowledge, not ignorance (or revelation), makes you free? (Or does Taranto really disagree?)
Kerry Misses the Point, Too
This is the appeasement letter John Kerry sent out last week to his supporters after not participating in the formal protest of the Ohio electors, because "our legal teams on the ground" (a nice Kerryism) didn't think the outcome was changeable. So apparently the Republicans were right that Barbara Boxer is a wench for blatantly trying to overturn the election. It never ceases to amaze me how much Democrats parrot Republican talking points without realizing it.
No American citizen should wake up the morning after the election and worry their vote wasn't counted. No citizen should be denied at the polls if they are eligible to vote. And, as the greatest, wealthiest nation on earth, our citizens should never be forced to vote on old, unaccountable and non transparent voting machines from companies controlled by partisan activists.
Tomorrow, members of Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2004 presidential election. I will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors.
Despite widespread reports of irregularities, questionable practices by some election officials and instances of lawful voters being denied the right to vote, our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.
But, that does not mean we should abandon our commitment to addressing those problems that happened in Ohio. We must act today to make sure they never happen again.
I urge you to join me in using this occasion to highlight our demand that Congress commit itself this year to reforming the electoral system. A Presidential election is a national federal election but we have different standards in different states for casting and counting votes. We need a national federal standard to solve the problems that occurred in the 2004 election. I will propose legislation to help achieve this.
Florida 2000 was a wake up call. But the Republicans who control Congress ignored it. Will they now ignore what happened in 2004?
There are nearly 3,000,000 of you receiving this email. We accomplished so much together during the campaign. Now let's use our power to make sure that at least one good thing comes from the voting rights problems of the 2004 election. If we want to force real action on election reform, we've got to demand that congressional leaders hold full hearings. Make sure they hear from you and help hold them accountable.
Speaker Dennis Hastert: 1-202-225-0600Leader Bill Frist: 1-202-224-3135
And please report that you've made your call right here:http://www.johnkerry.com/signup/electoral_reform.php
I want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted. We must make sure there are no questions or doubts in future elections. It's critical to our democracy that we investigate and act to prevent voting irregularities and voter intimidation across the country. We can't stand still as Congressional leaders seek to sweep well-founded voter concerns under the rug.
Please join with me in calling Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist and telling them that you want action on election reform now.
A recent report from Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) reveals very troubling questions that have not yet been answered by Ohio election officials. I commend the Democratic National Committee for its announcement this week that the DNC will be investing resources and reaching out to non-partisan academics in a long term study of Ohio voting irregularities. I am only sorry that we haven't seen the same from Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell and GOP officials.
Congress must play a positive, proactive role on this issue. That's why I will soon introduce legislation to reform our election system, ensuring transparency and accountability in our voting system and that all Americans have an opportunity to vote and have their vote counted.
Please remember to let us know that you made your call when you're done. We're hoping to ensure House and Senate leaders' offices hear our demand for action on election reform in meaningful way. Please take a moment to let us know you have made your call here: http://www.johnkerry.com/signup/electoral_reform.php
P.S. Thanks to all those who participated in our USO "phone home" campaign last week. The totals are coming in from the USO, and they are thrilled with your generosity and support for our brave men and women in uniform. We will send you totals as we get them.
My Thoughts On Gary Webb
I am following up on our previous Gary Webb discussion, because while 'the rise and fall of Webb' may offer a good example of the mainstream media’s failures (though not necessarily because they are puppets of corporations, but because they have certain journalistic best practices that the left wishes could be waived for any story involving the CIA), it is also an example of leftist straw-man politics and that when there happens to be criticism of a story like Webb’s it’s not NECESSARILY a heinous coordinated campaign to suppress The Truth. In short, I merely reiterate what I have said before in our discussions, with some more concrete evidence.
If you recall, I never denied the “essential truth” of Webb’s story – but I insisted that the left should not deny there were some major problems with the story that might possibly have contributed to the reaction to it. This might seem ‘too nuanced’ or something to you, but unfortunately for the left, it is a perfectly reasonable distinction that journalism has to preserve, and does so for both Gary Webb and for people on the right -- who might, for instance, want to find evidence for Kofi Annan’s culpability in the Oil For Food scandal where there is none. Or consider that the CBS Bush National Guard story was probably 'essentially true' -- this does not somehow mean that Dan Rather is excused of using bogus evidence for it.
Even the left has had to admit there were problems with Webb's story, and I’m unsure why you are unwilling to admit this and concede that it could possibly have something to do with why somebody in the mainstream media might say that “there are problems with Webb’s story.” It seems to me there’s some connection between the problems in his story and people SAYING that there were problems with the story. [See the last paragraph for what the mainstream media actually said, which is basically that.] You need to realize that when FAIR's Jeff Cohen writes “Webb’s series could be faulted for some overstatement in presenting its powerful new evidence,” this is actually code for “there were some serious issues regarding journalistic best practices.” In his 1998 review of “Dark Alliance” David Corn does something similar, dissecting some of the problems with the story, without denying its “essential truth” or whatever. Is Corn a stooge, too? No, but he understands something about journalistic practice that Webb didn’t, or forgot in the heat of the moment.
Also, as I said before, Webb could not take 20,000 words to meanderingly explore, if not to prove, some shadowy linkage between some low-level drug dealers and the CIA. Since he could not find much of a DIRECT connection between Langley and the California drug ring (which was part of the reason the rest of the media couldn’t really do much with the story, though of course they never really tried), he had to try to prove something else that was BIG. So he went after Ricky Ross, claiming he was a major dealer (which he was most emphatically not, at least not by 1996, which is what the LA Times and every other investigation found – Jeff Cohen’s obituary and Alexander Cockburn’s book "Whiteout" gloss over this), and that therefore the CIA bore significant responsibility for the crack epidemic. David Corn goes through the major holes in this thesis. Webb’s information about “millions” in drug profits and “drug rings” might have been true but were not supported by his evidence. Blandon-Meneses did not raise millions and Blandon could not be linked to Langley, etc., etc.
All this just might be why some people in the mainstream media took issue with the graphic on the Mercury News website that superimposed a crackpipe on the CIA seal, or with the front-page headlines “Shadowy Origins of Crack Epidemic” or “America’s Crack Plague Has Roots in Nicaragua’s War,” which could only be supported by a very loose definition of “origins” and “roots.” When the editor of the Mercury News later apologized, he was not merely doing the corporations’ bidding and renouncing everything Gary Webb had written, but rather confessing to this sort of exaggeration. The editor admitted the articles were “poorly written and edited” which is journalistic code for “some of the documentation is bad,” which is indisputably true, and which was partly the reason Webb felt compelled to flesh out his argument in “Dark Alliance.”
What did the CIA end up ‘admitting?' Corn says that the CIA Inspector General may not have admitted to what you seem to think it admitted to – they did not, per Corn, “admit any complicity in the crack explosion.” Of course, Corn finds this suspect, but that doesn’t have anything to do with flaws or lack thereof in Webb’s stories.
Finally, let me address some of the left’s shibboleths about what the mainstream media did in reaction to Webb. The NY Times wrote some articles calling the evidence “thin,” and the articles “flawed” and “misleadingly packaged” (as one editorial put it) but not “baseless” or "fabricated," and the editorial page defended Webb’s “investigative journalism.” Tim Golden of the Times wrote 2500 words on reactions in South Central to the story, far more than the Times spent on any "debunking" of Webb. And whatever you want to say about the NY Times coverage, they certainly didn’t ignore the story. They reviewed Webb’s book in 1998 (along with Cockburn’s “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and The Press”). Meanwhile, David Corn of all people reviewed “Dark Alliance” for the Washington Post in 1998, an assignment he got (I suspect) partly because the WashPo editors felt slightly bad about their coverage of the original Mercury News series. None of that seems like a cover-up to me. The idea that the mainstream media simply smeared Webb and covered up the story is not really supportable.
There are a lot of good lessons here for both the left and the establishment. As for Webb's death, it's a tragedy, period. He was a better investigator than he was a journalist, but he always meant well, and he did yeoman's work in telling an important and overlooked story.
Even Nonpartisanship Is Partisan These Days
Schwarzenegger is not "post-ideological." In California's case, nonpartisanship is of course quite partisan, because a nonpartisan re-districting process clearly benefits Republicans, who represent a minority in both houses of the state legislature. Despite substantial Democratic majorities, the re-districting process in California is no worse than in any other state. Before raising millions from special interests to support a ballot initiative billed as a slap at special interests, Schwarzenegger might try expending some of his political capital on the phone with Tom Delay, who has made partisan re-districting not only an art form but also a hard science. A maverick? Hardly. Schwarzenegger is supporting the not-so-novel idea of nonpartisan re-districting commissions not as a political party-pooper but as a loyal Republican.
One Man's Democracy, Another Man's...
Quote of the Day Dequoted
Thursday, January 13, 2005
And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. "This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said.
Does Williams really know something about other rightwing pundits? Or was he only trying to minimize his own screw-up with a momentary embrace of a trumped-up everybody-does-it defense? I could not tell. But if the IG at the Department of Education or any other official questions Williams, I suggest he or she ask what Williams meant by this comment. And if Williams is really sorry for this act of "bad judgment" and for besmirching the profession of rightwing punditry, shouldn't he do what he can to guarantee that those who watch pundits on the cable news networks and read political columnists receive conservative views that are independent and untainted by payoffs from the Bush administration or other political outfits?
Armstrong, please, help us all protect the independence of the conservative commentariat. If you are not alone, tell us who else has yielded to bad judgment.
Hey Marty, YOU Go Defend the Settlers
"Armstrong-Gate" or "Williams-Gate"?
"Last year should have been a triumph for CBS News"
CBS News had at least two impressive investigative journalism scoops in 2004, which were largely forgotten in the wake of National Guard 'Memogate' mess:
CBS '60 Minutes' Report: 'Abuse Of Iraqi POWs By GIs Probed'
CBS 'Evening News': 'FBI Probes Pentagon Spy Case'
What page of the Washington Post have these stories migrated to? When will we applaud good journalism commensurately with our censure of bad journalism? What are we not smelling through the stench of Dan Rather's carcass?
Harvard's Newest Employee
Peggy Noonan: Bloggers Are A Thousand Points of Light
Could this be a blog manifesto for the 21st century? I don't know, but what I do know is that she sure as hell knows how to meander -- what begins as an attack on Dan Rather (woe is him) morphs into an oblique attack on Howard Fineman, a discussion of the origins of the MSM, with a little sidebar on Teddy White and the movie "Broadcast News," and ends as a primer on the mythology of Fox News as the Second Coming of the Messiah (the First Coming being the Washington Times)... and, uh, I'm losing you, babe. And how's this for self-promotion?
"Some think bloggers and internet writers of all sorts are like the 19th century pamphleteers who made American politics livelier and more vigorous by lambasting the other team in full-throated broadsides. Actually, I've said that."
Right. Dean Esmay is somewhat less critical.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I Know What You Did Last Spring
Why Undocumented Immigrants Love Graphic Art
Going To Execution School in Texas
The Point Is Process, Not Results
Can Movies Change the World?
It seems obvious to me that movies don't change the world. You might say this thoughtful review from the Harvard Crimson accepts that descriptively but not normatively, asking: if a movie was ever to change the world, it would have been Schindler's List, right?
Will Hotel Rwanda redirect America’s attention to the humanitarian crises of our day? [Real-life "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul] Rusesabagina thinks so. “Whenever people are informed, that has an impact,” he says. [Director Terry] George adds that he “felt good about the notion that we would at least stimulate people to get involved and mobilize.”
Unfortunately, history tells a different tale. Schindler’s List hit theaters in March 1994—just as State Department officials were honing their foot-dragging techniques so that America could shirk its duty to intervene in Rwanda.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
When historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.
Read the whole thing.
How Many Jobs Has the US Lost to China in Last Two Decades?
Do the Chinese have a study showing how many jobs they've gained from the US? I'd like to see that.
Health Care Inflation Slows
Questions Raised About Coach Carter
The Fat Lady Has Sung
Liberty University Inaugurates Tsunami Relief Mission
Dr. Jerry Spencer, LU Director of International Crusades, is preparing a Liberty University team for imminent travel to India, Sri Lanka and other regions decimated by the recent tsunami catastrophe. Dr. Eddie Pate, Missions Professor at Liberty Baptist Seminary, will also provide leadership on this mercy mission. Distribution of food and medical supplies along with the dissemination of thousands of Gospel tracts in the language of the people will keep the LU team very busy.
Gospel tracts? Grrrreeeaaaaat.
Have An Election, Not a Cow
Sistani is applying pressure on all fronts. (What does this mean? The guy must believe that US troops are leaving REALLY soon, and there's a huge risk in not holding elections RIGHT NOW.) Reading this post, we learn that some of Sistani's underlings are saying that non-voters will go to hell. (!) Sadly, Sistani himself is a bit less fun, though he can certainly talk the democracy talk: "The representation of our Sunni brethren in the coming government must be effective, regardless of the results of the elections." (Exactly -- process over results. Just don't try to make the same point if you're Barbara Boxer.) But can Sistani -- WILL Sistani -- walk the walk?)
Plus a refurbished blog by an Iraqi expatriate, in English for the first time.
How NOT To "Work To Expand The Dream of College"
And there's something terribly unseemly about taking even the most minimal tax increase off the table. Sometimes it seems the sun will never come out again in California.
Sizing Up Chertoff
Nixon At The Movies
Brit Who Rewrote Chaucer for 21st Century On NPR
You'll have to listen to the interview yourself.
Taking After Armstrong Williams, and Lou Dobbs
Now, Don't Be Too Judgmental
Monday, January 10, 2005
General Theory of Media Relativity
And it's funny how the complaint that "The Times editors continue to follow the Social Security debate; unfortunately, they fail to follow their own newspaper's reporting" so closely resembles the one that Eric Alterman makes over and over again (in "The Sound and The Fury" and elsewhere) about the Wall Street Journal. Please, everyone -- we MUST be nonpartisan out here in the blogosphere.
This could become a 'bon mot': "Oslo failed because it was based on the premise that a strong dictator would make a strong peace." Except that it sounds a bit more like Ron (Dermer) than Natan.
Wolcott has taken to calling Peggy Noonan a "space ranger," and President Bush "Captain Video," but only because he cares.
STRANGELY, neither Kos, Atrios, nor Josh Marshall has anything to say about RatherGate so far, though Armstrong Williams gets rather more attention. Here at InstaPundit, on the other hand, both subjects are discussed. I'm just, you know, sayin'. . . .
Whaddaya know, the blogosphere is... partisan! Of course, the meaning of such a statement is counterintuitive. For a blogger, even a heavily limelit one like Reynolds, to pretend that the blogosphere is not partisan is either completely idiotic or smacks of the grossest hypocrisy. Reynolds could only say such a thing, even in jest, because he believes on some level that he is somehow less partisan than his liberal counterparts -- "sure, YOU'RE partisan, but I'm not." In short, pretending to not be partisan is plain stupid or just outrageously... partisan. If worth their salt, liberal bloggers will remember this foolish remark and savage Reynolds the next time Tom Delay picks up another get-out-of-jail free card from the Republican congress or Jerry Falwell attributes a flood in Silicon Valley to the use of silicon breast implants, and Reynolds obliviously frets about Prince Charles's disdain for nanotech. As Theodore Roethke said, "May my silences become more accurate."
Of course, this is aside from the fact that the Armstrong Williams story is FAR more damaging to the media's credibility than Rathergate, a point that media critic Alex Jones made earlier today on MSNBC's Countdown. An analogy: in sports, it's not momentous if a team tries too hard to win and ends up losing (Rather/Mapes), but it is momentous if the team doesn't try hard enough and ends up losing (Williams) -- this is called shaving points and calls into question the basic foundational principle of the game, that all sides are trying their hardest to win -- or, in this case, to make their OPINION win. If Dan Rather is the overzealous Pete Rose who bum-rushed the catcher in a meaningless play in a meaningless All-Star game, Armstrong Williams is the much more sinister Pete Rose who gambled on his own team's games.
And let's keep some perspective here, folks. Network news is on its way out, so Rathergate is a small fish in the big pond of history -- but we'll ALWAYS have pundits, and they'll ALWAYS need credibility, and when pundits start taking money from the government and not telling people, that will ALWAYS be a scandale majeure.
Marching to Different Drum
CBS Reports On Itself...
Bob Schieffer leads with the memogate investigation on the CBS evening news broadcast (on at this moment on the West coast). Rather is nowhere to be found -- and is reported to have "no comment." Interviews with Dick Thornburgh, Leslie Moonves, and Andy Rooney (yes, Andy Rooney) -- plus Scott McClellan at a White House press conference, and Howard Kurtz from a cable news broadcast earlier in the day. CBSer Jim Axelrod did an OK job reporting the facts, but it must have been hopelessly awkward for Axelrod and everyone he talked to at CBS. (And not just because internal investigations are always messy, though that's a big reason. I don't care how much of a professional you are -- it's awkward knowing your every syllable will be analyzed to death, reincarnation, and more death by the right-wing blogosphere.)
How about an ombudsman? I think Dan Okrent's contract expires this spring...
"Out of Danger"?!
Eugene Volokh has the link, but none of the big liberal bloggers, as this commenter at Political Animal points out.
*A learned reference to Robert D. Kaplan's Hobbesian 1994 travelogue, "Balkan Ghosts."
Hitchens Tells All
There is at present a coalition, named the Palestinian National Initiative, which never gets reported about. It is an alliance of secular and democratic forces among the Palestinians that rejects both clerical fundamentalism and the venality of the Palestinian "Authority." It was partly launched by Edward Said, and its main spokesman is Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a distinguished physician and very brave individual, to whom Edward introduced me last year. In our final conversation a few weeks ago, Edward challenged me angrily about my failure to write enough on this neglected group, which certainly enjoys a good deal of popular support and which deserves a great deal more international attention. Perhaps then I can do a last service, and also dip a flag in salute to a fine man, if I invite you to direct your browsers toward the sites for Barghouthi and the PNI.
Perhaps Said misread the level of popular support the PNI enjoyed -- or perhaps he, too, would have taken his place behind Abbas in the name of unity. But Barghouti made a good showing and his legacy (along with Said's) survives. Also, Hitchens on Sontag's sexuality -- it's all about "don't ask, don't tell":
An assortment of gay spokesmen have taken exception to those of us who wrote about the late Susan Sontag and who laid insufficient stress upon her sex life. I affirm my own guilt, here, and for the following reasons. I saw her in all kinds of mixed company but was never admitted into any confidence. Nor was I ever able to make, even had I wanted to do so, an informed speculation. Susan's attitude, expressed with great dignity and bearing, was that she did not mind what conclusion was drawn, but she did not feel that it was anybody's business but her own. Her selection of friends was highly various and eclectic, and she was early and brave in helping those who suffered from AIDS, but this was also a logical and moral extension of her earlier commitment to cancer victims. If it's of any interest, my most vivid memory of her discoursing on physical beauty and sexual charisma was in respect of a man. There might be a case for some kind of "disclosure" in the instance of a public figure who was "in denial," but it would be absurd and contemptible to place Susan Sontag in that category. She didn't ask. She didn't tell, and some of those who wanted to make a noise when she had only just died might profit from studying her good taste and reserve.
Friday, January 07, 2005
"Open Water" Directors Survive Tsunami
Crashing Through The Gates
Notes On Sontag
God Is Dead
UPDATE: Jeff Katz on Newdow: "The only appropriate punishment for this guy is setting him up with Amber Frey in the Elephant Room." Other thoughts: Newdow gets his court order banning "God" from the inaugural convocation, the chaplain violates it, then Bush immediately pardons him. (Speaking of Amber Frey, CBS has signed on to make her book into a movie. Kudos to her ghostwriter. One question: does she have the hots for Sean Hannity -- or why else isn't she talking to Greta Van Susteren instead?)
What's Your Sign, George?
Hitting The Nail on the Head
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
MoveOn Asks Members to Dispute Ohio Vote
UPDATE: Oh no! Olbermann's "sick" tonight! It's a conspiracy! (Datelining his blog dispatches "Sick Bed, New York," Olbermann soldiers on with his reporting):
Congressional sources tell this reporter that the house half of the written objection — which has the declared support of more than a dozen Representatives — is expected to be signed by Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio. Republican leadership expects the Senate signatory to be Barbara Boxer of California, but this has not yet been formalized. The Majority is also worried about the possible absence of many of its members in both houses, and the prospect that a quorum might not be achieved, leading the process into uncharted, albeit not very threatening, constitutional grounds. There is a mathematical, if not practical, chance that the ratification of the Electoral College vote could be delayed past tomorrow.
As it is, a written challenge would require the joint session to suspend for several hours, during which the Senate and the House would meet separately and debate the merits of the objection.
The ad hoc group formed by Representative John Conyers of Michigan has also today published its staff report, concluding that before, during, and after the election in Ohio, many state laws may have been broken, in every area ranging from the allocation of voting machines, election day "anomalies," and the recount. It recommended a formal Congressional inquiry, and additional legislation to reform voting laws.
Words of Wisdom
But What If You Can Only Take One?
UPDATE: I kinda blew this one, because of course it's Bassanio and Antonio who (according to Joseph Fiennes) "speak sensually" to each other (and kiss, at least in the current film version), not the eponymous merchant.
Anti-Semitism Rising: No Shit
How about college campuses? Larry Summers, who always looks like he's running for something (DNC Chair?), seems to think he knows the answer.
There Is A God
Unidentified Hopping Object
Hot Condoms To Look For in the Upcoming Year
55-19, And It Wasn't Even That Close
The Philosopher's Stone
God, Explain Yourself
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Travels With Howard
The Journalist and the Con-Man
Turkey On the Make
Falwell + Tsunami
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Rev. Jerry Falwell suggested that God was sending a message about American immorality by allowing the attack. Some Hindu leaders are searching for similar meanings in the tsunami tragedy, said Chandrashekar Narayanan, a priest at the Dallas Hindu Temple.
"There is a lot of sin that is going on," said Mr. Narayanan, who was born in Tamil Naya, the Indian state hardest hit by the killer waves.
But while Mr. Falwell focused on current events as an explanation for his God's wrath, Hindus consider a much longer time frame. Maybe modern leaders are sinning. But maybe hundreds or even thousands of years of bad karma finally added up to a catastrophic tragedy.
Btw, Yahoo! News has added content from The Nation and The Weekly Standard to its Op/Ed section. See here.
UPDATE: Al Franken says neither Falwell nor Pat Robertson has anything about tsunami relief on his website. James Dobson has a link, but guess what? It "urges you" to pray for victims. There's even a link to a site listing "specific prayer requests." Thanks, Jesus freaks!
Sontag, Controversial Even in Death
Continued silence about lesbians in American culture amounts to bias. Gay men seem to have settled into the role of finger-snapping designer/decorator/entertainers in the mass media. Meanwhile, most lesbians who achieve widespread fame — Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge and Rosie O'Donnell — have to remain in the closet until they have gained enough power to weather the coming-out storm. This model victimizes those who are out and proud from the very beginning.
The obituaries, remembrances and appreciations in New York and Los Angeles do anything but honor Sontag. They form a record that is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, knowingly false. But don't look for corrections, clarifications or apologies.
The New York writer and activist Sarah Schulman has been, ironically, described as "the lesbian Susan Sontag." Schulman told me recently that Sontag "never applied her massive intellectual gifts toward understanding her own condition as a lesbian, because to do so publicly would have subjected her to marginalization and dismissal."
Susan Sontag was a brilliant, provocative writer who had vital, loving relationships with some of the most fascinating and creative women of her day. I believe that her intellectual accomplishments are even more compelling when one understands how her sexuality informed them.
Sontag was often quoted as saying, "Be serious, be passionate, wake up!" Let's hope that America's leading newspapers follow her advice.
Biggest Aid Effort Ever?
Mr. Liberal S. Man
This is an article Stone wrote for the Chicago Tribune expressing his view that dissent can be patriotic. And here is Bill O'Reilly's predictably laughable distortion of it. "The Factor took issue with Stone. 'If someone is rooting for the terrorists to kill or maim Americans so America will leave, they are despicable and do not deserve to live in this country.'" That's taking issue with Stone? I think that's taking issue with Mr. Liberal S. Man. (S. stands for Straw.) More on Liberal S. Man and his many relatives here.
More than 225 clergy calling themselves Church Folks for a Better America signed a letter to Gonzales calling on him to "denounce the use of torture under any circumstances."
Sounds fair. After all, the Administration has already backed away from the infamous OLC torture memo of spring 2003, with this new memo. So why shouldn't Gonzales?
The campaign against Gonzales is in a stage that Michael Pertschuk and Wendy Schaetzel -- authors of "The People Rising," an account of the struggle to defeat the Bork Supreme Court nomination -- call "Framing the Debate," which is all a matter of seizing on one or two issues and defining "the mainstream" based solely on those issues, making it easy to portray your target as being (to quote Pres. Bush) on one of the outer banks.
The similarities will abound between Block Bork and Block Gonzales. One thing that happened seventeen years ago that we shouldn't expect to see today is mixed messages from the White House (e.g. an anonymous White House aide told Herman Schwartz that Bork was a "right-wing zealot.") But neither will we see colleagues gushing about Gonzales's immense professional qualifications (he doesn't have much in that department), as they did about Bork.
Kos Comes Down on Con-Theos
UPDATE: Sharon, who runs my local chapter of Democracy for America, and recently sent out a request for people to contact Barbara Boxer re: challenging the Ohio vote, emails thus: "Wow!The Barbara Boxer story is #1 on dailykos... Hopefully that will drive lots of calls! Pass the word— flood her lines!" The Con-Theos forge ahead, undaunted...
As a Christian monotheist, I start with two unproven axioms:
1. There is a God.
2. It's not me (and it's also not you).
Together, these axioms imply my surest conviction: that some of my beliefs (and yours) contain error. We are, from dust to dust, finite and fallible. We have dignity but not deity.
And that is why I further believe that we should
a) hold all our unproven beliefs with a certain tentativeness (except for this one!),
b) assess others' ideas with open-minded skepticism, and
c) freely pursue truth aided by observation and experiment.
That's really all us blue-staters ask of you (Jerry F., Pat R., James D., Bill O.). Hold all unproven beliefs with a certain tentativeness -- except this one.
New Year's Resolution: Read More Wendell Berry
Jayber Crow's Silly Song About Jesus
What make of car will Jesus drive
When He comes back again?
What new model will He contrive
To save the world from sin?
Soon may He come again to earth
To set us free at last,
For Satan's car has no reverse
And he is driving fast.
Has daylight been a heavy load
And life a dirty deal?
The Kingdom Car is on the road;
The Savior's at the wheel.
No. Wait. I take that music back.
Forgive my silly song.
We will foresee Him as we are,
And every time be wrong.
More data: SUVs are not safe, and because they tend to roll over in cases when the driver loses control, they are ESPECIALLY not safe for teens, who are more prone than other drivers (except seniors) to lose control of the vehicle.
Later in the show they'll have some experts talking about Egypt's secretive nuclear fission program. (Teens should not have access to nuclear weapons either, especially while driving.)
What's Going On Here?
Who should I ask about this? Dan Drezner?
Tsunami Used to Promote Sex Trade?
I think the lefties will probably win, but this sort of moral slip-up by self-appointed PC police doesn't help. And this is the major pitfall for the right -- getting Jesuser than thou, even when thou art a dyed-in-the-wool Republican.
A Walk in the Park
Today I took a walk in the park and tried to I.D. all the tree species -- a major challenge in wintertime when there are no leaves to compare, only bark, roots, and branch structure. It takes a little time, but those with patience really DO learn the subtle indicators that distinguish a barren Norway maple from a barren mountain ash.
Could a blind man identify trees? Sure. By feeling the bark, feeling the shape of the leaves, maybe by associating certain chirps with certain trees, or by licking the sap? Recognition is imitation, and imitation is imagination, and who has more imagination than the disabled? How strange to call imagination a disability.
Of all the biographical genres, the biopic is the closest to fiction, so it's not really appropriate to criticize them in terms of "accuracy" as one would a biography of Helen Keller. Nonetheless I thought I would try to find something about blind people's reaction to the film. Then I realized blind people probably didn't see the movie. (Do blind people ever go to the movies? I'm ashamed to say I don't know.)
Monday, January 03, 2005
Art World Revivalism
But some acquisitions really ripple. Just check out the gift shop. The new Duccio has given the Met the opportunity to unload some of their dusty inventory of books on Sienese art. Which could set in motion a whole series of rekindlings and re-evaluations (Friends of the Met group tour, anyone?) and before long there'll be a new Frank Gehry-designed "Guggenheim Siena."
We... Are... the... Champions
Hmmm... more French anthropology using Yanomami case studies. Didn't the Chagnon scandal teach them anything? After reading Patrick Tierney's "Darkness in El Dorado," I'm inclined towards serious suspicion of the data on this supposedly warmongering people. Yanomami society has been so screwed up by meddlesome anthropologists of the 'Gallic school' that the group has been declared off-limits by a lot of American anthropologists.
A sinister thought, yes, and one that will surely give some wrong impressions, but that needed to be said.