Monday, January 31, 2005

Just Taking in the Scenery (And the Suicides)

Apparently you don't need to be political to make waves as a documentary film-maker...

The Merry Punditocracy

Apparently the notorious (and virtual namesakes) Pundits were responsible for this are headed before the dreaded Excomm to defend themselves.

Honoring Our Patriots...


Bush's Love of Books

Did anyone notice that Bush, in discussing his love of history, cited "Ron Chernoff's book" [sic] on Alexander Hamilton in this interview with Brian Lamb? (The transcript has been mysteriously altered to delete this blunder.)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Gonzales's Glass of Torture, On the Rocks

More reasons to send Alberto Gonzales back to Texas.

Elian Vs. Predator

Courtesy of Mr. Sun.

Saturday, January 29, 2005



Friday, January 28, 2005

Good Enough, Already?

Is there enough in this Paul Goldberger NY Times obit about Johnson's sexuality to obviate this line of criticism? (One wonders how Johnson squared his homosexuality, which he always said he was aware of from adolescence, with the fascist politics he adopted in the 1930s? Cf. this previous post on this subject.)

Gotti Lorenzo Arrest Just Ho-Hum

Recording industry insider Chuck Creakmer on the desensitization of the hip-hop community to shocking excesses and criminality at minute 3:00. Scary. Some background here.

Radicals Are From Mars, Moderates Are From New Jersey

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention And All That...

Beer, the ultimate safety device.

Ooooo Sayyyy Can You Criticize?

Peggy Noonan responds to criticism of her criticism of President Bush's second inaugural anthem (stagey, overblown, repetitious -- yep, it was an anthem).

How Philistines Ruined One of Johnson's Greatest Creations


Johnson & Nietzsche

An interesting essay on Philip Johnson's bizarre flirtation with fascism in the 1930s.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

God Help Us

If this isn't evidence that the White House spin machine is on crack, I don't what is...

"State Stupidity of the Highest Order"

Israel secretly decides to confiscate East Jerusalem property of West Bank residents. Speaks volumes, but to be fair, it's unlikely this will stand up in the courts.

Bush Administration Rule of Thumb:

Fuck up, and get promoted. You'd think that "I engineered the Armstrong Williams contract" might look bad on your resume, but not when your battin' for the Bushie squad!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Nader's Bon Mot

Ralph Nader on the President's inaugural speech: "There has never been a President so hypocritically imprisoned in his own rhetoric." My sentiments exactly.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The L-Word

I was shocked to see the L-word in BOTH the headline AND first sentence of this story. Further evidence that "liberal" has the distorted meaning of "pro-EU" in Europe -- and further evidence that journalists must avoid such words altogether, lest they confuse the hell out of foreigners.

Democracy's Last Straw in Russia

Holy fucking shit.

More San Francisco Treachery

Fuck the Blue Angels, and long live the Snowbirds!, says a letter-writer in the San Francisco Examiner:

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.

May Fulton
The City

Good News For Liberal Hawks

Michael Ignatieff looks to be recipient of "Lesser Evil" award -- er, I mean, recipient of award for "Lesser Evil."

Daddy Truck and Baby Truck

Exhibit A against Larry Summers, thus embroiled, seems to be his politically incorrect "truck story." From today's WaPo (Michael Dobbs gets the weirdest assortment of assignments...):

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."

Avoid the Inauguration, Avoid the Truth

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...


Exit Polling Investigation: Problem Was Inexperienced Field Staff


Detuning Robert Johnson By a Tone And a Half, and Other Heresies


Iraq Worries Drag Down President's Stats

Could this have anything to do with this? But IT'S NOT JUST THE WAR that's making Bush's "mandate" talk look like rubbish. According to USA Today:

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.

Terrorists Beware: Remember to Bring Bottled Water


Prime Minster's Questions Staged (Who Knew?) -- Reality TV To The Rescue!

Tony Blair was very eloquent today, on a very difficult subject. Nothing new there. But how could such a smart man be suborned into doing this? ("Tony and June?" Good Lord. Couldn't they have come up with something with "Factor" in the title?)

And I Thought He Was Going To Say "Oil"...

From the AP:

Bush summed up his inaugural message with one word: "Freedom."

Digital Food Fight

Sometimes the blogosphere can be really petty.

Back On The Bottle

Late-breaking Sontag eulogies, via Beatrice. ("I know, I said no more, but these are special.")

Spray-On Solar-Power Cells?


Knowledge Saves, Folks


Psycho-Pathology of Everyday Life

Is coffee addiction really an addiction?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sacramento Watch

Does Arnold Schwarzenegger -- the chiseled Caesar of our times -- have a conflict of interest on the steroid issue as Governor of California, on the one hand, and editor/publisher of several major bodybuilding magazines, on the other? And is this (below) what you might call a flip-flop?

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.)

Spellings Bee

Frank Lautenberg has given up trying to block Education Secretary nominee Margaret Spellings, but not before "Spellings committed to 'reviewing the recommendations of the GAO report'" about Armstrong-gate. Chalk one up for the Democrats.

Beardslee's Real Motives

Michael Savage, who made his entire show today a paean to capital punishment, had this to say of executed Northern California killer Donald Beardslee: "Beardslee killed because of liberalism." (Or maybe he did it because he had bad veins?) And this: "If a brain impairment turned him violent, that's all the more reason to kill him." Yikes.

Updike's Career Vs. McMurtry's Career

SF Chronicle book critic David Kipen sides with Updike's, but in about 14 rounds.

News From North Korea

Digital video arrives, and so do cell phones. The casino seems to be going bye-bye, however.

Beardslee Dies, Arnold Takes Hit

It looks like the turnout for the Beardslee execution protest was about average, according to the Marin Independent Journal. (The execution seems to have produced tremors in Austria, however.)

Dude, Where's My Civility?

Glenn Reynolds is promoting this vitriolic trash. (If you don't know what I mean, just look at the blogroll.) It seems to me these folks hate Boxer ("Buffoon Babs") as much as anybody -- Michael Moore included -- ever hated Bush... Fortunately for them, the pain is (at least for the moment) over...

Patio Men (Who Love The Opera?)

David Brooks-style suburbo-boosterism from Brooks's Left Coastal alter-alter-ego, Joel Kotkin.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Kerry For Defense Secretary?

There's a petition to replace Donald Rumsfeld circulating around the Internet. No surprises there, except that it's on John Kerry's website.

That's A Big Freakin' Plane...

Apparently Heathrow is building a whole new terminal just to accommodate it...

Why The Long Face, Charles? You Got Off Easy...

The blogosphere seems to agree that Spc. Graner got the kid glove treatment, but why? The Wall Street Journal opines that:

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.

This Time, Gonzales Tries Torturing NRA


"Axis of Evil" Becomes "Outposts of Tyranny"


Buckley Fesses Up

This sounds a lot like criticism of the National Review's current editorial board to me...

Binging and Purging

I saw George McGovern earlier tonight -- at the Book Passage in Marin County -- and there was this collective sense that his life and work have never been more topical. Sign of the times, I guess. Here, Robert Borosage wonders if the left will purge itself as it did after McGovern got thrashed in 1972:

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 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?

CBS, Bloodied But Unbowed

What is the meaning of "erroneous?"

Shall We Hold Government To a Higher Standard?

John Nichols:

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

(Or, the President is a post?) Anyway, this doesn't sound like "detail-oriented" to me...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Prince Nazi

Jay Leno on Prince Harry: "He said he wasn't reponsible. He was just taking orders." And thank God for this. Stop the madness!

Multiple Sightings

The phrase "on the side of the angels," as in "such-and-such is on the side of the angels" (meaning, so far as I can tell, 'I agree'), seems to be achieving some sort of critical mass in the blogosphere. Kevin Drum uses it here to refer to Andrew Sullivan, and Sullivan uses it here to refer to Glenn Reynolds. Full circle, eh? Well, that's not all: it's also the name of Maya Gallus's film about Mormon kidnappee Elizabeth Smart.

HOV Hogs

The anti-hybrid backlash gets under way.

Marry One, Marry All

You could say that this kind of moral energy is why I enjoy living in New Haven. If conservatives are serious about this, they should encourage churches to stop recognizing (boycott) marriage until the government stops recognizing it.

Knocking Down the Bookshelves

Good golly, these NY Times Books forums are becoming a snarky partisan disaster.

Euro Space Probe Lands On Saturn Moon...

... and it's already doing some photo-blogging.

UPDATE: First color pictures of Titan's surface here.

Leinart Makes Up Mind

Well, there goes the 49ers's chances for next year. (John York: "Doh!")


James Taranto on John Kerry's trip to France: "Can you imagine the president of the United States meeting with Jacques Chirac?" Yes, actually... I mean, the idea is, er, unspeakable.

Who's Waffling Now?

The New Republic's editors do some pretty serious waffling on Iraqi elections. (Any article that begins "In a perfect world..." is probably going to be a serious waffle job.)

Conservative Collegians, Stand and Shine!

Look at me, Mom -- I'm in a movie called "Brainwashing 101"! And what is this about Harvard gun clubs?

Pro-Franco and Proud Of It

How many of these guys are there left? Enough to prevent the Generalissimo's papers from circulating.

Dude, Where's My Social Security?

Paul Krugman wants you to see this.

To Quote An Old Bud Light Commercial: "Yes, I Am!"

James Taranto:

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?)

Are We Losing The War On Terror?

This report would seem to suggest so.

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.


Dear Aaron,
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:
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:
Thank you,
John Kerry
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.

"When You Go To Work, Stop at the Store, Fly in a Plane, or Surf The Web, You Are Being Watched"


My Thoughts On Gary Webb

From a letter to a friend on the far left:

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

Andrew Sullivan seconds Peter Beinart's seconding of Gov. Schwarzenegger's (not yet fully articulated) plan to establish a nonpartisan re-districting process. Beinart seems to suggest this idea is new and is evidence of Schwarzenegger's maverick or "post-ideological" political philosopy. Neither is the case. In fact, Schwarzenegger has been talking about this since he entered office, and it has been discussed by California Republicans (with impeccable partisan credentials) for years. Florida Democrats have for years considered placing a similiar initiative before Florida voters, and are looking at 2006 as a target date for actually doing so.

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...

This NPR story suggests that US and Iraqi officials are taking steps to reduce people's mobility within Iraq as part of a security crackdown leading up to the elections. That's going to make it awfully difficult to complete the process of registering voters, and virtually impossible for candidates to campaign face-to-face, ensuring that the issues will be contested in thirty-second radio and TV ads.

Messy But Historic

Richard Armitage on Iraqi elections: "It'll be messy... it probably won't be pretty, but it'll certainly be historic." (Possible scandal: Armitage casually blows off phone call from Colin Powell while talking with NPR's Steven Inskeep.)

Quote of the Day Dequoted

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day comes from this Yale Daily News column by Daniel Koffler. It's a nice rejoinder to a truly idiotic column in the Yale Daily News by one Christopher Ashley which wasn't sufficiently answered at the time it was published last December, but (if one reads Koffler's entire column) it is also an embarrassing misreading of Ashley. Ashley is NOT representative of the "left-liberal" perspective, as Koffler suggests -- rather Ashley is a fundamentalist or borderline fundamentalist Christian (who resents Theo Van Gogh for his militant secularism, NOT for being anti-Muslim), as anybody who knows or has read him would know. To think that Ashely is anything BUT that is testimony to what a preposterous liberal straw-man the right -- with considerable assistance from Peter Beinart et al. -- has fashioned out of thin air. (OK, not quite thin air -- maybe hot air.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Williams: "There Are Others"

David Corn:

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.


More Sad Than Ironic

A Yale professor learns to take some of his own medicine. Perhaps there's a lesson here about vetting star professors before dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into their pockets, giving them their own institute, and promising them tenure.

Widow's Mandate (The Sequel)

Forget "Happy holidays"-gate. THIS is an example of political correctness gone awry.

Hey Marty, YOU Go Defend the Settlers

Marty Peretz is reserving judgment (who would have thought...?) about whether the Palestinians have really turned over a new leaf. And if the Palestinian election was in fact successful, it is simply "a tribute to Israel."

"Armstrong-Gate" or "Williams-Gate"?

Good question. Let's get one of those wet-and-wild "independent commissions" to sort it out! But SERIOUSLY, some grassroots types are petitioning to get Congress and the FCC to investigate Armstrong-gate. This sounded like a windmill-tilt until I saw this. Of course, I'd take anything that would help these people see that IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON TO ANOTHER TOPIC ALREADY.

"Last year should have been a triumph for CBS News"

Of all the lugubrious kibitzing I've seen about Dan Rather, only David Folkenflik has really captured the flitting faerie of truth; not just that where there's smoke, there's fire, but that where there's smoke, there are mirrors; not just the sense of tragedy but the sense of lost opportunity in the arc of CBS from the heights of public-interest journalism to the depths of humiliation in the span of a few months. "Last year should have been a triumph for CBS News." Yes, it should -- if it weren't for Memogate CBS would have enjoyed a banner year -- and so would Rather. Sure, that's a big IF, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that:

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

Does hiring a "fun czar" reek of embarrassing Ivy-League stultefication, or is it just me? Freakin' Cantab wanks...

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

New Mascot: Siegfrid & Roy?

Monte Poole of the Oakland Tribune is saying the A's could be in Las Vegas by 2008.

I Know What You Did Last Spring

That is, SCREAM. (Both fine movies, I might add.) Dean is officially throwing his hat in the ring for DNC Chair, and he's getting some unlikely support from Pennsylvania's John Murtha, says Bob Tyrrell.

Why Undocumented Immigrants Love Graphic Art

Here's the HTML version of the controversial comic book the Mexican government is distributing to illegal immigrants.

Norquist's Priorities

Yet another sighting of big national players entering the fray of California politics... All politics is local? No, (at least in California) all politics is national.

Too Much Information, Thanks

Michael Musto reports on Michael Moore's prostate. (His PSI is a healthy 0.4.)

Long Hair 'Steals the Brain's Energy'

Who knew the anti-Sixties right shared so much ideologically with North Korea?

Going To Execution School in Texas

Apparently, Connecticut is still trying to figure out who you actually do this whole execution thing. (Background here.) Money quote: "The Hartford Courant sent a reporter down to Huntsville, Texas, to accompany the Connecticut official who wanted firsthand knowledge of how actually to implement the law on the books." Yikes.

The Point Is Process, Not Results

Apparently these people missed the point.

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

If You Fabricate It, They Will Come

Harold Meyerson on the Bush presidency:

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?

I'm usually distrustful of "studies" like this (preferring instead the wisdom of crowds), but they provide a useful point of departure for debate. That "the report puts a large portion of the blame for the growing U.S. trade deficit with China on that country's 'refusal to revalue its exchange rate'" is an unsurprising conclusion for the Economic Policy Institute for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an extremely anti-China group that probably should never have seen the light of day (through appointment by Congress, no less). But what about the questions the report raises about free trade? And what does it suggest we do to reverse the trade imbalance -- sell them some ANWR oil, perhaps?

Do the Chinese have a study showing how many jobs they've gained from the US? I'd like to see that.

Jerry Springer The Opera Hits the Airwaves

Not in America, of course. (We only watch sensible and modest programs like Desperate Housewives.) 45,000 complaints for every 1.8 million viewers sounds like the right ratio to me. How soon we forget that art is SUPPOSED to provoke controversy.

Big Brother Gets Into Gear for 21st Century

If only this were combined with redistricting, it would be a great idea.

Health Care Inflation Slows

This should be cause for celebration, but I just can't that excited about a negative second derivative.

Supreme Court Story of the Day


Why Network News Doesn't Get It

People want information FAST, not just delivered by an over-paid anchor with hair like an Augusta National fairway.

Fed Up With Prices At Starbucks?

Try snorting some coke!

Feingold in 2008?

Hat tip to James Taranto. (This Taranto find was also too good to pass up -- I'm such a sucker for dying preacher jokes.)

Khodorkosky Reflects On Whether Wealth Brings Happiness...


Dude, Where's My Left-Wing Billionaire?

In San Francisco, apparently.

Questions Raised About Coach Carter

Paul Rusesabagina may be a real hero, but I'm not so sure about Coach Carter.

The Fat Lady Has Sung

Well, my phone has finally switched from saying "AT&T" to "Cingular," almost a year after the merger. When it first showed up on the screen, for a moment I thought I was looking at someone else's phone.

Liberty University Inaugurates Tsunami Relief Mission

I guess it's better than nothing (which is what Falwell was doing until a week ago). From

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.

Surfer Story of the Day

A very inspiring one, at that.

Have An Election, Not a Cow

Helena Cobban thinks Ayatollah Sistani may be trying to communicate with the Sunni leadership through the media. But why can't they communicate directly? He can, "but to reach a broad array of Sunnis, inside and outside the country, using al-Hayat would be a sensible choice." Sensible because even Sunni expatriates appear ready to rock the vote.

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.

Quote of the Day


How NOT To "Work To Expand The Dream of College"

In the wake of Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposal, some people, including the SacBee's Peter Schrag, are complaining that Schwarzenegger apparently considers teachers a "special interest." Others are complaining that Schwarzenegger lied when he told California's education community he would "favor schools" and "work to expand the dream of college." Reality check here and here. S is even violating the deal he struck with the CTA last year to get his first budget passed. (Proposition 98 is for all intents and purposes dead, which S has wanted all along. What ever happened to listening to the voice of the people?) Still others are complaining that the Governator contradictorily says "we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem," then "we just don't have enough money to fund all the programs we want." All valid complaints.

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

Nothing says "I fucked up ROYALLY with that Kerik nomination" like nominating a guy who's already been confirmed by the Senate three times (a point Bush himself made less than one minute into his press conference). Can't find much about Homeland Security Secretary nominee Michael Chertoff yet, but Michelle Malkin seems to like him, which can't be good. (As far as this post goes, it would make perfect sense if liberals WEREN'T influential in a government that, however slyly, condoned torture. If Malkin wants to credit right-wing legal thinkers with the "accomplishments" of this Administration, more power to her.) He did get a good grilling in 2001 from the Senate Judiciary Committee (by Pat Leahy, especially, but also the embattled Arlen Specter, who will no doubt hold his tongue this time) for his support of military tribunals as Assistant Attorney General. Was Chertoff an architect of the tribunals' two-thirds rule and modified rules of evidence, or just an apologist for them?

We Shall Overcome...

... we sha-all oooo-verrrr-coooome tooooooo-day-ay-ayyyy-ay-ay.

Nixon At The Movies

What a great idea for a book. (This is actually a fertile field -- who can forget Hanns Zischler's masterpiece of tendentious inference, Kafka Goes to the Movies?)

No More Music

Ever seen someone playing a harp on a picket line?

Brit Who Rewrote Chaucer for 21st Century On NPR

"If Chaucer were alive today, he'd be writing soap operas." Well, that's one theory.

You'll have to listen to the interview yourself.

People Are Soft-Hearted, Weak-Willed, And God Is Dead

What is so great about the New York Film Critics Circle awards (there's a mouthful)? Nothing, except a little thing called second- and third-place. PEOPLE ARE SOFT-HEARTED. THEY LIKE CONSOLATION PRIZES. The Oscars are just too damn cutthroat.

Taking After Armstrong Williams, and Lou Dobbs

Courtesy of Glenn Reynolds, here's a story about a CBS Marketwatch columnist using his newsletter to promote stocks he owned. But hold your horses. First of all, the guy wasn't pushing his stocks using Marketwatch air-time (it was only in his private newsletter). Second, this kind of practice clearly isn't just a CBS thing (you could say this guy was just taking after Armstrong Williams), and third, some of the alternatives (saying one thing on the air and another in a private newsletter) is morally funky, too. Like where does CNN's Lou Dobbs REALLY stand on outsourcing?

Versus Versus

Iraq vs. El Salvador (this analogy has been buzzing around the blog-ether -- see here and here) and (a convincing case for) Iraq vs. Cuba. Spanish-flag toilet paper to wipe your ass with? That's good, damn good...

Disaster Relief

Jon Stewart on Ashlee Simpson at the Orange Bowl: "I think that whatever money I made off the game should be donated to some sort of relief fund."

Now, Don't Be Too Judgmental

The headline of a review of an Indian restaurant on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, spotted in the restaurant's window earlier tonight: "Kheer today, Naan tomorrow." Sounds like James Joyce is doing some copy editing.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Illegal Immigration to Spain Diminishes

Well, who would want to go to a country that is (remember 3/11?) now in the terrorists' crosshares? Immigrants aren't stupid! One wonders how much of an effect the terrorist attack actually had. But one also wonders how the new Socialist government has managed to achieve a diminution in illegal immigration -- after all, the Socialists were supposed to be soft on dangerous would-be terrorists posing as immigrants, weren't they?

General Theory of Media Relativity

Glenn Reynolds links to this Just One Minute post about what social security reform means FOR YOU. Actually it's not about that at all. It's about what social security reform means to people WHO HATE THE NEW YORK TIMES. The sleight-of-hand about the leaked Wehner memo is amusing -- what the Administration "privately" admits is NOT what it admits, period. Never doubt the importance of an adverb!

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.

"Peace is Possible Only If Palestinians Are Free"

Nice alliteration by Natan Sharansky today at OpinionJournal.

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.

The Things We Do Because We Care...

James Wolcott says he abuses Andrew Sullivan "only because I care." Amen.

Wolcott has taken to calling Peggy Noonan a "space ranger," and President Bush "Captain Video," but only because he cares.

Taking Issue With Non-Partisanship

Glenn Reynolds:

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

Kevin Drum has an updated list of favorite blogs. Additions here.

Smart Vermin

Get these guys translating for us in Iraq. On a related note, was this America's first plague?

CBS Reports On Itself...

... not entire successfully, but it's understandable.

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...

Idiot (Savant) Meets (Motley) Fool

The most most annoying author of the year goes on America's most annoying radio show.

If Only...

It's funny in this NPR interview when Steve Inskeep asks Jared Diamond if he's suggesting it's life-threatening to be a Christian. (Was it their Christianity that caused the Viking colonists in Greenland to die out?)

Whither Mubarak?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been making some interesting statements lately. See here and here (both are conciliatory statements, but the first seems to indicate complacency, the second uneasiness.) Maybe it has something to do with brushes with mortality...

Getting There

Wow, soon Syria might have as harsh a compulsive military service policy as the US.

"Out of Danger"?!

Ouch. (Well, at least he can now take Viagra off his list of monthly expenses.)

The Widow's Mandate

Really, who's going to vote against Doris Matsui?

Hardee's "Monster Thickburger"

This burger is like the Bill O'Reilly of fast food -- not so much an affront to political correctness as a slave to political incorrectness.

Quacking All the Way to the Bank

How big a problem is quackery and snake-oil peddling in the Third World? Amartya Sen says it's big.

Balkin Guests*

Marty Lederman is guest-blogging chez Jack Balkin, and he has a lot to say about all things torturous.

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

This Hitchens column, which has all the stylistic markings of a blog post (it's only a matter of time before he joins the fraternity), links to his Said eulogy from September 2003, which includes this discourse on Mustafa Barghouti (who is, as I suspected, a spiritual Canadian, or perhaps, a spiritual Ukrainian reformist) and the Palestinian National Initiative (a Said-Barghouti lovechild), which despite Barghouti's second-place finish in the Palestinian national elections may now (finally) be ready-to-wear:

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

Hat tip to Village Voice. Where do they find this stuff?

Crashing Through The Gates

Notes On Sontag

More than you ever wanted to know about Sontag's sexuality. (While long and somewhat ungenerous, this piece might just change your thinking about sexual double standards.) Still waiting for word on Sontag "gentleman's agreement" from Larry Kramer (apparently he's too busy gushing about C.A. Tripp's new book on Lincoln).

Watershed Moment in Africa's Struggle Against AIDS?

Nelson Mandela's son has died of AIDS, and Mandela is speaking out above the disease. Over to you, Thabo Mbeki.

God Is Dead

Michael Newdow has been in overdrive the last couple weeks (see here and here). This is the classic multi-pronged assault: confuse and weaken right-wing talk radio hosts through multi-directional enervation. Having lost the 2004 election for Democrats, he is already hard at work on drowning them in 2008.

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?

Governor Pataki's exit sign?

Hitting The Nail on the Head

Conservative talk-radio pundit Jeff Katz on the Boxer Rebellion: "She did it at the behest of Michael Moore." Exactly.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Scratch A Republican AG Nominee And Get a... Berkeley Law Professor?

Here's the real villain of the torture memos. And he teaches at...Berkeley!?!?!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Post, Bloggers, Post!

Ron Radosh says he'll donate $1 for tsunami relief for every blogger who posts this picture of Scarlet Johanssen.

Relief Workers Enter Nicobar and Andaman

The crisis re: relief workers being denied access to the Nicobar and Andaman islands seems to have been resolved -- but probably nowhere near in time.

Troops Eating Scraps In Iraq

More incontrovertible evidence of our troops in Iraq not having the supplies they need...

MoveOn Asks Members to Dispute Ohio Vote

In the last couple hours, has sent out an email asking its members to contact Sen. Barbara Boxer about joining with John Conyers to dispute the electoral votes from Ohio in tomorrow's Congressional joint session to certify November's presidential vote. With MoveOn's network at 3 million or so, that alone could produce 100,000 emails. Rhode Island's Chafee may also be considering a challenge. Keith Olbermann, you've done yeoman's work, but this is your moment to really SHINE!

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.

Winning and Losing at the Same Time

This William Stuntz column is boring and WAY too long, but the point he makes about abortion (Roe v. Wade was a disaster for pro-choice forces) is a plausible one that Alan Dershowitz has been making for years. Of course, Stuntz's conclusion is wrong: there will never be an alliance between campus intellectuals and the Christian right any more than there will be an alliance between Bush and Chirac. The correct conclusion is simply that activists for gay rights, as they reassess strategies after the election, should not proceed down the judicial path before proceeding down the political one. Even when you get what you want from the courts, it just makes you complacent and your enemies mad as hell.

Matsui's Deadly Secret

The memorial ceremony today for Rep. Bob Matsui was very moving, and I'm sure he was a great guy. But not telling your constituents that you have an incurable blood disorder before letting them elect you 13 times doesn't exactly meet my definition of a responsible public servant. (It goes without saying that we would not tolerate this of a President.)

Words of Wisdom

Kim Jong Il's New Year's message. Though apparently he didn't send Noel notes to any of these family members.

Roemer's Skeletons

Josh Marshall doesn't get why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are supporting Tim Roemer for DNC Chair. Agreed.

Zarqawi Still On the Loose

I guess these reports that Zarqawi had been captured were premature.

But What If You Can Only Take One?

Do you take the food, weapons, or the portraits?

Btw, it looks there won't be a Presidential visit to North Korea anytime soon.

He Didn't Want Just Any Pound of Flesh

Was "The Merchant of Venice" gay?

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

Some different takes on the State Department's new report on anti-Semitism. C-Span is broadcasting (right now) the Foggy Bottom press conference about it. AP story here, and Jewish Telegraphic Agency story here (with a much less sensational headline that actually praises the recent actions of European governments). Helsinki Commission leaders react to the report here. No word from Alan Dershowitz, yet.

How about college campuses? Larry Summers, who always looks like he's running for something (DNC Chair?), seems to think he knows the answer.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Arnold's "Hydrogen Hummer" is finally ready to go. Sounds off the hook, right? Just don't ask how much it cost. "Schwarzenegger said that the purpose of the prototype is to 'demonstrate the economic and technical viability of hydrogen.'" Then how come Hummer's parent, GM, wouldn't divulge how much they spent to develop the prototype?

Wall Street's White Elephant

Economist William Wolman says social security privatization might actually be a white elephant for Wall Street.

There Is A God

Sometimes when a really crude new reality show flops, you just find yourself saying, 'Maybe there is a God.' (Duh, there has to be a God -- I've seen His reality show.)

Unidentified Hopping Object

Kangaroos in Iowa? What is this world coming to? (Or is it some kind of promotion?)

Hot Condoms To Look For in the Upcoming Year

Consumer Reports is out with its 2005 condom review. Everyone should have this read before National Condom Day (also, conveniently, Valentine's Day).

55-19, And It Wasn't Even That Close

I've always hated that phrase. Anyway, here's the NY Times post-mortem on the national championship game. Is USC the team of the decade? And here William Rhoden can't resist administering a Christmas bombing (one last shot, that is, until next year) of the BCS system.

The Philosopher's Stone

I had a girlfriend named Brita once, but she couldn't do this (no, sicko, it's not what you think). And after your alchemy experiment, you'll want to look at this for a nightcap. Hat tip to Craig Newmark.

The Amish, Exposed!

Who knew they took after Bill O'Reilly?

God, Explain Yourself

More on God and the tsunami, courtesy of A&L Daily. Go here, here, and here. Or see my previous post here.

UPDATE: Most interesting, indeed: Dan Henninger speculates that good print journalism, not TV, performs the function that God once did -- to remind us not to ask for whom the bell tolls.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Travels With Howard

The DNC Chairmanship plot thickens, even as the field narrows. Interestingly, two of the remaining candidates, Martin Frost and Donnie Fowler, both wrote articles in the 12/27 issue of the New Republic. One can only hope the DNC job doesn't require too much composition. As for Howard Dean, he's still lying low, for the moment in Utah. Who knew his cousin was the mayor of Salt Lake County, and why didn't he leverage this red-state connection in the election?

The Journalist and the Con-Man

Journalist Seth Mnookin appeared on Charlie Rose tonight to talk about his new book on the Blair/Raines/Boyd scandal at the New York Times. Reviewing this Cox News profile of Mnookin from December, it's amazing how much his career parallels Blair's, until about three years ago, when the two men's trajectories diverge like colliding electrons (kind of like the DeNiro/Pacino cop/robber dynamic in Michael Mann's 'Heat'). Mnookin doesn't quite seem to have the balls to give Raines, Boyd, Blair et al. the comeuppance they deserve, but fortunately events have done so for him.
Wouldn't it have been great if Gay Talese had reviewed Mnookin's book for the Times Book Review (instead of Timothy Noah, in a rather workmanlike way, here) -- or (since it's mostly sycophancy anyway, as was Talese's "Kingdom and the Power") just written the whole book himself?

Turkey On the Make

Dennis Miller (who, as the very drole Christopher Hitchens observed tonight as a guest on Miller's CNBC show, is looking a lot like Saddam Hussein these days, or maybe vice versa) on the rejiggering of the Turkish lira: "instead of exchanging all your old currency you can avoid the confusion and just pay with hashish." Lovely. The new lira actually seems to be doing quite well, though Turkey doesn't want to rest on its laurels of financial solvency. Prime Minister Erdogan thinks he can bolster his country's EU credentials by assuming a leadership role in the Middle East, which even includes warming relations with Israel.

Falwell + Tsunami

I didn't get any hits on Yahoo! News when I searched for "Falwell + tsunami." Apparently Jerry has kept his mouth shut for once. (On a related note, this article from The Advocate suggests the vibrant gay community in Phuket is already rebuilding -- gays are nothing if not resilient.) Nonetheless there was this Voltairean exposition in the Guardian, and from the other end of the political spectrum, this from the Dallas Morning News. Relevant passage:

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!

2008 Beckons...

Here's the Newsweek post-mortem interview with Kerry. Money quote: "He never quite came out and said it, but Kerry sounded very much like a man who was running for president again." Apparently, so is John Edwards (more power to him, said James Carville on Crossfire earlier today, and I agree). Plus ca change...

Filibustering Bush's Social Security Reform All the Way to 2008

It looks like the Democrats have found their issue.

Will They Demand a Recount?

USC is dismantling Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. (Actually, with its turnovers Oklahoma is dismantling itself.) With the damage standing at 38-10 at halftime, it looks like Auburn's hopes of being named national champion are pretty much dashed. Don't forget to keep an eye out for wardrobe malfunctions during the halftime show.

Sontag, Controversial Even in Death

The LA Times fesses up about the media's "code of silence" re: Sontag's sexuality with this Patrick Moore commentary (and see Beatrice's reply here):

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?

In the UK, at least. Of course, if you ask Dan Drezner or Bruce Bartlett, the biggest aid effort ever is just, er, America's continuing defense of capitalism around the world. Thank you, America, for being so high-minded.

Mr. Liberal S. Man

I'm not a big fan of the idea of "media reform" (i.e. I'm not a fan of OTHER people's idea of media reform) but after reading about this experience of free-speech scholar Geoffrey Stone, guest-blogging over at (Larry's back, btw), I might have to reconsider...

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.

Gonzales Nomination: Mercury Rising

From the AP (whole article linked at bottom):

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

Lots of fireworks yesterday at the Daily Kos. Kos let loose with this sweeping denunciation of CONspiracy THEOrists (read the whole thing, and be sure to sift through a few of the 801 comments, most of them complaisant), a category which now includes Reverend Jesse, to which Armando replied, referring to this report.
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...

What We Ask of Believers

What do you believe but cannot prove? These answers provided to The Edge aren't particularly imaginative, though I did appreciate psychologist David Myers's humility (I believe it's humility but can't prove it):

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

A poem by Wendell Berry (he's a liberal red-stater --Berry in '08?), published in The Southern Review, Spring 2001:

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.

Shedding Some Light on Teen Driving

On NPR's Talk of the Nation, there's a WaPo reporter talking about teen driving safety. Apparently study after study shows that drivers' ed classes -- whether voluntary or mandatory -- don't work. Why? Because the classes just teach to the drivers' test. Doesn't that sound like a familiar problem?

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?

I'm still trying to figure out how people can sell books on Amazon marketplace for $.01. Are they making money off the $2 shipping credit? If so, it can't be much more than $1, which wouldn't seem to be worth the time/labor costs, unless the buyer is placing a bulk order. Alternatively, could these 'sellers' be trying to drive down the price of other sellers' goods, in order to buy them out and then raise prices?

Who should I ask about this? Dan Drezner?

Tsunami Used to Promote Sex Trade?

This is just about the most disgusting thing I've ever heard. Ugh. (Hat tip to Daily Kos.)

UPDATE: Indonesia is now placing restrictions on children leaving the country in order to sabotage sex traffickers.

Mobilizing the Campuses

All the shrill rancor of Presidential election shifts to the college campuses, as David Horowitz-types strive to keep the culture wars alive. In fact, the campus may be the last place where they can cry wolf with any legitimacy. It doesn't bother me too much, really, and I think it's probably enlightening for international students.

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

I saw the Ray Charles biopic "Ray" the other day, and in the movie there's a moment where he teaches his future wife to hear a hummingbird through the window of a crowded room. It gives you a certain confidence as a sighted person to witness the feats of the unsighted. We have so much more POTENTIAL -- and most of it goes unused.

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

I saw the Met's new Duccio acquisition the other day, and I have to say, I don't quite get Duccio (if Michael Kimmelman can say "I have never entirely got Raphael," -- NYT, "The Raphael of Sweet Piety and Decorum, Nov. 12, 2004 -- I can say I don't get Duccio.) And I object to having to wait in line to see a painting. (It's so small and so glossy/glary that you have to view it up close and head-on, meaning QUEUE UP, PAL!) Let's be frank. If it weren't an eight-figure new acquisition, you wouldn't even stop to look at it.

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."

The Nuclear Senate Goes Nucular

Senate historian Richard Baker notes in this C-Span interview that for the first time in history a majority (52) of US Senators are former members of the House, and links this to their inadequate sense of reverence for Senate rules and tradition (cf. the nuclear option). One can quibble that the nuclear option was actually adopted for a couple hours in the Democrat-controlled Senate of the 1970s, and then almost immediately repealed. But Baker is right that there is a disturbing trend towards assimilation of the two houses.

Time to Start Cracking the Whip

Well, my grandparents still haven't updated their blog. I think they're still a bit confused on the whole concept -- perhaps they're hung up on the fact that "the computer" doesn't do the blogging for you?

We... Are... the... Champions

According to ABC News, bloggers are the people of the year. Fine, so long as I don't have to wear a tie to the awards gala.
Dan Drezner linked to this academic paper about why left-handedness might be favored in violent primitive societies. I posted this comment:

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.