The Sideshow

Archive for January 2003

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Friday, 31 January 2003

13:59 GMT: Permalink

Various people have been giving their thoughts on how Salon can survive, and Atrios adds a good point:

I'm always a bit amused by conservatives who take great glee in the always impending demise of Salon, and mock each new round of funding as throwing good money after bad. It isn't as if any conservative magazine survives without the generosity of donors - The National Review , The Weekly Standard , The Washington Times , along with the various conservative webzines all have generous benefactors. I can't find the figures right now, but if I'm remembering correctly Salon has more annual subscribers than does the Weekly Standard, (and both numbers are exceeded by subscriptions to the Nation). So, judging by that, Salon is surprisingly successful. It's possible they can't survive without donations - either by their readers or by "investors" who aren't expecting to make their money back. But, nor can most political magazines. Given that, it seems obvious that Salon should cater to what the world already thinks is its base - particularly now that their new revenue model lets everyone click-through a few ads to read the content. If that's still in place when my subscription runs out I probably won't renew. Or, if I do I'll consider it a donation - if they're worth donating to.

13:17 GMT: Permalink
Seeing the Forest makes a sighting:

CNN: Kennedy to seek new measure on war with Iraq.

Senator Kennedy is asking for a new vote.
"Much has changed in the many months since Congress has debated war with Iraq," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement released after President Bush's State of the Union address, in which Bush tried to rally the American people to the need to disarm Iraq.

"U.N. inspectors are on the ground and making progress, and their work should continue," Kennedy said. "Osama bin Laden and the Korean nuclear crisis continue to pose far greater threats [than Iraq]."
It looks like the Dems are growing spines.
Well, it looks to me like Kennedy is showing his, but Kerry, Edwards and Hillary Clinton are all moving away from him on the Group D bench. Man, just once I would like to not have to hold my nose when I vote in a presidential election. Dean looks better every day. (But still not as good as Gore.)

13:01 GMT: Permalink
This has been floating around the blogosphere all week, but for those who missed it, Helen Thomas recently said a few words about a subject she knows well:

Keep in mind that Thomas came up in the bad old days. Unlike Thursday night, when four of five honorees were women, she spent decades proving herself to the male hierarchy.

As late as 1972 she was the only woman on the Nixon China trip. Still, she survives in a Washington press corps that she says has gone soft, accepting presidential spin without question.

There was a lot of that in her speech, this talk of devaluation in the character of leadership. Not surprisingly for an admitted liberal, she held her greatest praise for John Kennedy, the only president in her estimation who made Americans look to their higher angels.

Then came Johnson's Great Society and Vietnam. Nixon, she said, was a man who would — when presented two roads — "always choose the wrong one." He was followed by "healing" Ford, well-meaning Carter, Reagan's revolution, Bush Sr.'s self-destruction and Clinton's damaging of the presidential myth.

She seemed to have sympathy and affection for everyone but George W. Bush, a man who she said is rising on a wave of 9-11 fear — fear of looking unpatriotic, fear of asking questions, just fear. "We have," she said, "lost our way."

Thomas believes we have chosen to promote democracy with bombs instead of largess while Congress "defaults," Democrats cower and a president controls all three branches of government in the name of corporations and the religious right.

As she signed my program, I joked, "You sound worried."

"This is the worst president ever," she said. "He is the worst president in all of American history."

The woman who has known eight of them wasn't joking.

(I would have said, "We've never had a president who had as many faults and as few virtues as George W. Bush." Helen Thomas may have to call him a "president", but I don't, and I refuse to get over it until the Republican Party base gets over the Civil War.)

[Update: Patrick says James Buchanan is still ahead of GWB, at least until the new Civil War starts.]

12:42 GMT: Permalink
Christopher Hitchens and Mark Danner debated invading Iraq.

Thursday, 30 January 2003

13:53 GMT: Permalink

A couple of gorgeous photos at Anger Management Course. I love stuff like that.

13:15 GMT: Permalink
Here's a pretty scary item at Talk Left looking at this editorial:

Salvador Magluta, considered one of Miami's most notorious narcotics dealers, was prosecuted in federal court for having witnesses murdered and for laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. A federal judge then punished Magluta with a 205-year sentence. Magluta, 48, will live in prison till the day he dies.

But Magluta was never convicted of the homicides for which he was sentenced. A jury of his peers found Magluta not guilty of the murders, and guilty only of the nonviolent money-laundering charges -- crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. The jury's verdict notwithstanding, the judge decided that Magluta was responsible for the homicides and sentenced him accordingly.

In a watershed 1997 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges, in imposing sentence, may ignore jury verdicts of acquittal and determine whether defendants have done wrong. The Herald applauded the punishment, and the new U.S. attorney claimed that such a sentence sends a message about justice. It does indeed: The message is that prosecutors can lose and still win, that a jury no longer stands between an accused American and a life sentence.....

12:54 GMT: Permalink
Nick Kessler is trying to figure out what caused The New Republic to make statements like this:

"The real problem with Pickering isn't that he's a racist. (The strong support for him among black Mississippians offers pretty compelling evidence that he's not.)"
Nick points out that they are dismissing the public statements from just about every organized black group in the state to create this spin. Moreover, they present no evidence of this "strong support" Pickering is supposed to have from black people - nor have I seen anything more than a mere claim to support it elsewhere. The Mississippi folks who seem to be making this claim appear to be...well, white Republican Party activists. Hm, I wonder what causes this.

12:12 GMT: Permalink
MMMM, Valentine's Day will be here soon. (Don't I just wish!)

Wednesday, 29 January 2003

23:39 GMT: Permalink

State of the Union

I'm sure you can guess what my reaction was to this load of spin and misdirection, so let's move on....

The BBC, at least, was pretty clear that Saddam and Osama are not friends, and they weren't fooled by yet another rehash of trite phrases and claims that range from unproven to manifestly laughable. Maureen Dowd doesn't even seem to think this is a matter for jokes. Josh Marshall was in a trusting mood and started with these words:

A few comments on the speech. Up until the Iraq stuff, it seemed well-delivered but lackluster. It was actually weaker than I'd expected. Not bad, just uninspired.

The Iraq stuff was different. And in the early portions, I thought it was quite good. (The line contrasting 'process' and 'result' was powerful, even if I thought the point he was trying to make was a partly flawed one.) The president made an excellent point: the UN is on record cataloguing great quantities of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq's possession. What happened to it all? The Iraqis say they don't have it. And they've provided no evidence that they destroyed it. Where is it?

Someone tell Josh that most of them have a fairly short shelf-life. From what I understand, they really shouldn't still be of much use by now. But in any case, his verdict was that basically, Bush hadn't delivered the goods:

But what we're looking for isn't a pretext for war, but a rationale for going to war now. On that count I don't think things look much different than they did few hours ago.
David Ehrenstein goes through the entire speech and responds. A good point:

[Bush] Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.

[David E] As have we.

Well, c'mon, you must know it's a joke every time the administration and its supporters whine that Saddam has been violating UN rules, right? Like he's not a piker at this compared to the US?

Tapped offers a highlight in their summing up: In the lies and spin department, Tapped notes Bush's meaningless statistic that "92 million Americans will keep -- this year -- an average of almost 1,100 dollars more of their own money." Nancy Pelosi was right to guffaw, live on TV, when Bush mentioned this.

Liberal Oasis dissects the lies in the domestic side of the speech., and asks, If you can't trust the President to tell the truth in the State of the Union Address, when can you trust him?. Well, first you have to have a real President.

The Daily Kos says the Gallup figures for the speech indicate a positive reception, but then a reader catches a little problem with that:

Gallup is diddling us again. Their poll last night (printed in this morning's USA Today) was, as you say, only of speech watchers, and in the fine print they offer a partisan breakdown -- 40% GOP, 31% IND, only 28% DEM. No wonder the numbers skew better for Bush. And to compare the results this group gave out for Iraq to the 47-47 division in yesterday's real poll, suggesting an overnight groundswell of new approval, is dishonest in the extreme. George Gallup must be turning in his grave.
The Agora thinks the speech was mostly a washout on the economy, and Seeing the Forest makes this diagnosis:

I really think that Bush is surrounded by people who are afraid to contradict him or bring him bad news. I think he isn't aware of events outside of the good news that is brought to him. "Yes sir, you are the chosen one, sir. GOD has chosen you, sir."

No one even told him that the aluminum tubes story turned out to be phony. No one even dares tell him it's pronounced "nuclear."

Atrios doesn't give him the benefit of the doubt, though:

I turned it to Happy Gilmore awhile ago - it was a bit more intelligent. But, apparently the "aluminum tubes" were mentioned in the SOTU speech. Complete ethical bankruptcy while pushing for an invasion.
Neal Pollack isn't in at the moment, but his guest writer was so impressed that he has written erotic poetry in honor of the occasion - which I'm not gonna quote, but here's the intro:

Hello Americans and other people not from America, I'm Christopher Monks and I'm with you once again while Neal is away. I'm still coming down from last night's brilliant display of Patriotism and topnotch teleprompter reading. President Bush outlined his vision for America last night, and I was incredibly revved up afterwards. I never get tired of hearing how much better we are than everybody. Why that was what was so great about high school, when the cool, but mean kids let me hang out with them every so often in the cafeteria. We'd sit around in our Member's Only jackets and multiple layers of Oxford shirts, making fun of all the ugly and retarded kids. Oh, the power I felt! Yes, some of the glory wore off after I finished helping them with their homework and they stuffed me in a gym locker, but it was simply a show of their tough love for me. And from the eighteenth time on I stopped crying, thus earning their respect. But enough about my sordid past, I want to display my admiration for our President's leadership in the best way I know how to: through my gift for writing erotic poetry. Here then is some fresh, sexy, and scintillating erotic poetry ("poésie érotique," if you will) inspired by President Bush's State of the Union Speech.
Okay, I can't resist. Just two lines:

God Bless America
Let's go have some hot sex

14:56 GMT: Permalink
Hesiod is running a little game:

GLENN REYNOLDS SUCK UP WATCH: I'm starting a new recurring feature here at Counterspin Central. The title is, well, self-explanatory. Each week I'll post the most egregious Instapundit suck up post by a blogger.

But, in order to do this, I need your assistance. Please submit nominations for the "honor" via e-mail, and I'll select the candidate on the following Sunday.

On a perverse whim, I briefly considered trying to write a post that really sucked up to Glenn, but after a quick scan of Instapundit I couldn't find any hooks to work from. Oh, well, I guess I won't be able to be the Glenn Reynolds Suck Up of the Week.

Perhaps more usefully, Hesiod has checked out the proposed RNC spin on the Democratic candidates and done a quick summing up. Two examples:

1. Howard Dean.

Highlight: If he's the nominee expect to hear the phrase "civil unions" or "gay marriage" until you want to smear your self with Andrew Sullivan's testoster-grease, and jump off a giant inflatable beer can.

2. John Edwards.

Highlight: If Senator Edwards makes the cut, expect his name to change [in the "liberal media"] from "John" Edwards to "Former Personal Injury Attorney" John Edwards. Although, I think "trial lawyer" sounds a tad bit less sympathetic than "personal injury attorney." But maybe the GOP had Frank Luntz do some polling for them?

Also expect to hear about how often he voted with Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. [about 90% of the time] as if that meant anything without seeing the actual substance of the things they voted on. They all voted in favor of Bush's use of force resolution on Iraq, so does that count?

No, actually, Ted Kennedy did not vote for Bush's use of force resolution. Kennedy has actually been good on these issues (Hillary hasn't).

I have to agree that they nailed Lieberman, though.

14:03 GMT: Permalink
Cursor says: Appearing at the National Press Club, Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Nancy Pelosi accuse President Bush of creating a "credibility gap," by promising things that he has no intention of delivering.

Courting Disaster is a blog new to me and full of chewy goodness. (Via TBogg.)

13:15 GMT: Permalink
Cindy Adams at Page Six says:

GORE is not out of politics. Trust mother, kiddies. Folks who are close to him who are close to me who is close to you say his opting out of the next presidential campaign does not - n-o-tttt - mean he'd refuse the nomination. About to sweat for it, he wouldn't. But accept a draft, he would. Just letting you know what I know as I know it, y'know.

Tuesday, 28 January 2003

12:55 GMT: Permalink

The Daily Howler wonders how Sean Hannity and others can claim that the rich pay a so much higher percentage of their income in taxes than the poor when the truth appears to be somewhat different:

Top fifth of earners: 19 percent
Next fifth of earners: 17 percent
Middle fifth of earners: 16 percent
Next fifth of earners: 14 percent
Bottom fifth of earners: 18 percent
As Tim Noah has already noted, our current tax system is already mighty close to being a flat tax, despite what you may have heard. The progressivity of the income tax helps to balance out the far higher percentage bite that other taxes (such as payroll tax) take out of working peoples' pockets, but note that the working poor actually end up paying a higher percentage out than almost anyone.

12:12 GMT: Permalink
Epicycle has been following the recent calls in the UK to ban replica guns (January 8th & 9th entries), in the wake of a murder case which, of course, does not have anything to do with replica guns but with real guns that are already illegal. He also discusses the "landmark" deal between the RIAA and some tech companies to switch tactics on file-sharing (15 January entry).

04:10 GMT: Permalink
A glimpse into the future: Watch the invasion of Iraq! Flash presentation; via Through the Looking Glass. (BTW, "spunk" doesn't mean the same thing in the UK as it does in the US, if anyone missed that - and Tony Blair, I'm certain, would not be saying it in public.)

Ted Barlow is looking at the wealth of minorities, and why blacks have less of it than whites even at the same income levels.

From Avram Grumer's journal, "Ted [Turner] has long been working against worldwide clitorectomies; Ted is a man who puts his money where his mouth is! — Jane Fonda (according to Liz Smith, via Gawker)

Orcinus on how The Washington Times (among others) may have helped cause 9/11. And lots of other good posts. Like this one, in which he says: Oh, in case anyone had forgotten amid all this Newspeak: Democratic liberalism -- especially questioning, probing and ultimately pragmatic liberalism -- is a quintessentially American product. Fascism -- particularly the kind that brooks no questioning -- is not.

02:15 GMT: Permalink
From Off the Kuff:

Rob reports on this article about abstinence-only education as it's practiced in Lubbock, Texas (which as Rob also notes has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Texas). Abstinence-only is how Team Bush wants sex ed taught around the country, with an emphasis on the dangers of sex and contraception.

I'm curious about something. If sex is as dangerous as they make it out to be, then surely everyone in the Bush White House would have practiced celibacy before marriage. I mean, I'm certain they would never tell Americans not to do something which they themselves have done. Still, perhaps a few reporters should start to ask about it just so we can be sure:

"Ari, you were married last year. Were you and your wife virgins at the time of your marriage?"

"Ari, I understand that Condi Rice has never been married. Is it fair to say that she's a virgin?"

"Ari, I know that President Bush considers sex before marriage to be risky and unhealthy behavior. Would Jenna and Barbara say that their parents have taught them to remain chaste before marriage, and would they say they have listened to their parents?"

I feel confident that President Bush, his staff, and his family have been leading us by example on this important issue. Don't you?

01:33 GMT: Permalink
From Jessa Crispin at Bookslut:

L. A. Weekly has an interview with David Rees, the mind behind Get Your War On.
And there's also a pointer there to an interview with Kurt Vonnegut.

"Poul Anderson's classic fantasy, The Broken Sword, knocks The Fellowship of the Ring into a cocked hat, says Michael Moorcock," in Saturday's Guardian.

Monday, 27 January 2003

14:39 GMT: Permalink

Emma outlines four warning signs of propaganda.

Don't forget to check out Nathan Newman to get the picture on, well, almost everything.

Sunday, 26 January 2003

22:46 GMT: Permalink

Eric Alterman offers a warning about an impending event:

These are dangerous times. George W. Bush is set to make another State of the Union address.

The last one was a doozy. Few speeches in political history have caused so much damage based on so little forethought by so many wise guys.

22:22 GMT: Permalink
Media Reform Information Center tells you a lot, with a comprehensive list of resources, on media concentration and reform. (Thanks to Howard Rheingold for that one.)

And here's something I didn't know, from Drudge last year:

Back when the stock was riding high and the smell of merger was sweet as NASDAQ, Federal Communications Commission member Michael Powell found no conflict in voting on the largest media marriage in history, between AOL and TIMEWARNER -- even though his father, Colin, sat on the board of the online leader!

Michael insisted that the FCC needed to tread carefully before disqualifying any commissioner's participation in a vote just because of some "fuzzy" connection.

Fuzzy: Despite his father's options on about $13.3 million worth of AOL shares and his management role at AOL, Michael, 38, did not recuse himself from participating in the FCC's decision on the merger -- voting in the affirmative.

(Pointer courtesy of Paul Younghouse.)

22:06 GMT: Permalink
Anne is Peevish, and passionate with it. I like it.

I'm amused by the fact that Thought Crimes has given the former Governor of Texas the title "Prejudice Bush".

21:29 GMT: Permalink
From Lisa English at Ruminate This:

America, right now, on this evening, just days or weeks before unnecessary war, is being covered as if this were Any Other Time. Any Other Story.

It's Not.

Things are wrong....really wrong in our nation, and I've a sense that the media is almost're almost to the point where you're set to question as loud as we are questioning. I implore you to go there...

We've got ourselves trouble...right here. Right here in River City. Big Trouble...with a capital T, and that stands for Truth and we need you...American journalism, now, more than ever.

We need you to get us the hell out of this mess.

Saturday, 25 January 2003

16:19 GMT: Permalink

Skimble has an unpleasant story about a woman who was led away in handcuffs when she tried to pick up her regular prescription for the meds she takes for her brain cancer. No one considered it worthwhile to check her records or call her doctor first.

Skimble also names First Draft by Tim Porter as Underappreciated Blog of the Day. With a subtitle like "Ink-Stained Kvetches About Newspapering, Readership & Relevance", it is naturally of interest in these parts.

15:01 GMT: Permalink
Liberal Oasis has the run-down on how Edwards and Dean performed before NARAL (and has a few words about Al Sharpton as well). It's also time to check out the series of posts Get Donkey has been doing on Howard Dean - Part III and Part II were just recently posted, but Part I is from a few months ago.

And on that subject, I've added another poll to the Presidential Poll page, so vote again!

14:14 GMT: Permalink
Gee, do you think I should be worried?

Atrios has quoted a segment of CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown, saying, "So this is where we are." It starts like this:

BROWN: All right. Back to Iraq and a couple stories that brought a chill today. The State Department warned all Americans living abroad to be prepared to be evacuated. A senior official not denying that the possibility of war triggered this most unusual worldwide advisory.
You know, this is getting personal.

13:36 GMT: Permalink
Hear Susan McDougal interviewed by Diane Rehmn about how Ken Starr tried to use McDougal to manufacture evidence against Bill Clinton.

13:02 GMT: Permalink
Sound familiar?

Okay, guess who the press said this about:

He is dogged to an unusual degree by two questions: Who is he, and why? Indeed, his friends have spent more than a little time lately talking about [him] as "a changed man"—the implication being that he's not the undisciplined opportunist that so many critics believe him to be… I'm suspicious. He's nearly [x] years old, and at that age, at any adult age, you are who you are, no?
They're just re-writing the script for Kerry, of course. This is quoted from The Daily Howler, where Bob Somerby answers that last question:

Actually, it all depends on whose story you're telling. For example, according to Standard Press Corps Accounts, George W. Bush became a New Man at age 40, then did so again at age 55 (after 9/11). In fact, if the press is on your side, you can stop being "who you are" as many times as the corps likes.
Just like if George Bush changes his clothes, he's some kind of a hero, but if Gore does it, it's a pathology. Somerby finds more idiotic attacks on perfectly normal behavior by Kerry in the same article (like, how strange that a man talks about his career in a restaurant - when he's talking to a reporter). But, most importantly, he finds what may be the thing that's really sticking in the reporter's craw, and it also has a familiar feel - of their favorite target, Bill Clinton.

Friday, 24 January 2003

15:13 GMT: Permalink

Just for grins, I've posted a Presidential Poll at The Sideshow Annex. Vote!

(And speaking of that little thing, Liberal Oasis has the latest run-down on some public performances by Democratic presidential hopefuls.)

14:10 GMT: Permalink
Just a little reminder that Moose & Squirrel's Information One-stop really does have links to all sorts of online resources, and that he posts the weekly columns by Gene Lyons for those of you who don't live in Arkansas. Gene is in a pretty bad mood lately about all those polls (like this one). (Joe Conason obviously has a bad taste in his mouth as well. They're not the only ones....)

Thursday, 23 January 2003

16:05 GMT: Permalink

The article Voter News Service: What Went Wrong? still raises more questions for me than it answers. I tend to assume that even where malfeasance in local election returns seems frequent, we're still looking at individual phenomena rather than a deliberate, widespread pattern. Even after the 2000 election, that's still my prejudice. But I keep looking at all these articles about VNS and I can't help noticing that every example I recall seeing of a significant disparity between the exit poll data and the actual returns had the Democrat winning in the exit poll and the Republican winning - often by a substantial margin - in the final ballot tally. Other weird data (like several winning candidates in different voting localities of varied populations all getting exactly the same number of votes) also seem to favor the Republicans.

There are, of course, numerous reasons to be suspicious in such cases. In 2000, one Florida county reporting a lead of several thousand votes for Gore in the ballot tally suddenly lost all of those votes. We were told it was a computer glitch, but it seemed a very odd glitch to me and it's never been explained why the first rather than the second figure was the one "known" to be wrong. Given the dramatic difference it made and the fact that the occurrence was so unusual, I would have expected closer examination of the subject. Since we now know that a considerable amount of illegal activity was going on in order to force a Bush win in Florida (among other places), it would seem to me that we should all be even more vigilant about keeping an eye on things. Yet little effort seems to have gone into investigating the rather significant number of oddities that occurred in 2002. (Atrios made several posts documenting these problems at the time.)

And then there's:

This second debacle meant the end of VNS, as the news organizations said they would look at new ways of tabulating national and state results. Insiders close to VNS say the media organizations will likely rely more on their own individual exit polling and that of the Associated Press exit polling data in future elections. Battelle Memorial Institute, the Columbus, Ohio-based technology firm charged with overhauling the VNS system, was terminated.

"There's no way the networks are going to do anything that's connected to Battelle going forward," says one network analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity. "That ship has sailed."

Battelle Memorial Institute representatives declined to comment. Even before it got the boot, the organization appeared to distance itself from VNS. Its corporate Web site made no mention of its work or association with VNS.

This is almost funny; I think Battelle had other reasons for not mentioning its ties to VNS on its site - such as protecting VNS from association with a group that was suspected of being highly partisan.

After the 2000 fiasco, though, "VNS decided it was time to make a real effort to fix the system."

The first step was to change the VNS board of directors. Before the 2000 meltdown, the board was composed of representatives from the election units of each network. After the 2000 fiasco, a vice president from each network was on the board.

You know, this seems to me a strange idea of what constitutes an improvement. There's certainly no reason to think a company VP would be more able and knowledgeable than someone who actually worked in the department that was specifically responsible for dealing with such data; quite the reverse, in fact. One might almost get the impression that a decision had been made to make sure the results were politically comfortable to networks rather than accurate.

In the main, though, we have the very real problem of ballot machines programmed by people with strong ties to the Republican Party, being overseen by organizations and media that are also, at the very least, more sympathetic to the Republican Party than to the public at large - and no reliable watchdogs. In many cases, we are looking at machines that can not be checked. We're getting increasingly anomalous results and we have no way to figure out why these anomalies are occurring. We know that cheating at significant levels is going on, and we seem to be ignoring it. If this goes on, it would not be surprising at all for Republicans to get landslide final tallies when the real voting was exactly the opposite of the official results. And no way to prove it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2003

23:34 GMT: Permalink

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) speaks:

"Surely, we can have effective relationships with other nations without adopting a chip-on-the-shoulder foreign policy, a my-way-or-the-highway policy that makes all our goals in the world more difficult to achieve," Kennedy said a speech delivered to the National Press Club.
"I continue to be convinced that this is the wrong war at the wrong time," Kennedy, the Senate's leading liberal said. "The threat from Iraq is not imminent and it will distract America from the two more immediate threats to our security: the clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis with North Korea."
Kennedy said Bush had issued an "eloquent denunciation" of segregation last month when he criticized racially charged comments by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi. But Kennedy said the president's action did not match his words, faulting his choice of judicial nominees and his opposition to an admissions policy, targeting minorities, at the University of Michigan.

"An administration that takes such a course, whether out of conviction or political calculation is no friend of minorities and no force for civil rights," Kennedy said.
Kennedy asserted the president's proposed package of tax breaks would benefit disproportionately the wealthiest taxpayers.

"We cannot say it is wartime for the rest of America, but still peacetime for the rich," Kennedy said, referencing Bush's calls in the past for Americans to make some sacrifice in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

13:38 GMT: Permalink
Get the vote

From Tapped:

WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT. Blogger Jeff Hauser (link here) writes in to note that the discrepancy between the political power of the Plains, Mountain and prairie states and their actual populations is much worse than our purely hypothetical figure suggested. The Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming make up 10 percent of the Senate and less than 2 percent of the population. As The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out in this stimulating review of Robert Dahl's How Democratic is the American Constitution?, the Senate basically guarantees a kind of political affirmative action for conservatives (albeit an indubitably constitutional kind):

Here's a little thought experiment, inspired by Dahl's reflections. Imagine, if you can, that African-Americans were represented "fairly" in the Senate. They would then have twelve senators instead of, at present, zero, since black folk make up twelve per cent of the population. Now imagine that the descendants of slaves were afforded the compensatory treatment to which the Constitution entitles the residents of small states. Suppose, in other words, that African-Americans had as many senators to represent them as the Constitution allots to the twelve per cent of Americans who live in the least populous states. There would be forty-four black senators.
Fascinating stuff, isn't it?
Well, it made Nick Kessler think:

Since my last post about Wyoming, the state's been mentioned by TAPPED and others discussing Michael Lind's Atlantic Monthly article on how vast, depopulated regions affect politics. TAPPED made some good points about the article here and here. Something else that comes to mind about Wyoming and its 493,782 residents is that they get two Senators and a Representative, while the 572,059 residents of Washington, DC get none of these.

Why aren't Democrats fighting harder for DC representation? This cause is good policy and good politics. It wouldn't only please the Democratic base, but would also appeal to independents as a matter of fairness and justice. Let the Republicans insist that DC residents (60% of whom are African-American) don't deserve votes in Congress but that the smaller population of Wyoming (92.1% white, 0.8% African-American) does; let them swear up and down that it has nothing to do with race. And see if anyone believes that the city wouldn't have representation in Congress by now if it were mostly populated by white conservatives.

12:27 GMT: Permalink
One reason I'm not terribly impressed by all the stories about how sordid the porn industry is has to do with the fact that I know how the rest of the entertainment industry works - particularly the music business, which often makes the porn industry look downright graceful. I've said a few things here before about how they treat their artists, but do check out Ted Barlow on how "Payola never really went away, it just got outsourced."

12:12 GMT: Permalink
It's been a while since I considered anything he wrote worth quoting as more than laughable, but every once in a while, it must be admitted, William Safire will speak truth about something most in mainstream media just don't seem able to face. This time, On Media Giantism:

You won't find a movie nominated for an Oscar with the heroine — fighting to expose the dominance of media conglomerates in the distribution of entertainment — crushed by the giant corporation that controls film financing, distribution and media criticism.

You won't find television magazine programs fearlessly exposing the broadcast lobby's pressure on Congress and the courts to allow station owners to gobble up more stations and cross-own local newspapers, thereby to determine what information residents of a local market receive.

Nor will you find many newspaper chains assigning reporters to reveal the effect of media giantism on local coverage or cover the way publishers induce coverage-hungry politicians to loosen antitrust restraints.

Should we totally deregulate the public airwaves and permit the dwindling of major media down to a precious few? Should we reduce choices available to cantankerous individualists who do not want their information and entertainment limited by increasingly massive mass media?
Does this make me (gasp!) pro-regulation? Michael Powell, appointed by Bush to be F.C.C. chairman, likes to say "the market is my religion." My conservative economic religion is founded on the rock of competition, which — since Teddy Roosevelt's day — has protected small business and consumers against predatory pricing leading to market monopolization.

One of the Democrats on the F.C.C., Michael Copps, is concerned that "we're relying on institutions to cover this debate which have interests in the outcome of the debate." That inherent conflict of interest is why I have long been banging my spoon against the highchair.

Republicans in the House, intimidated by the powerful broadcast lobby, don't admit that some regulation can be pro-business; neither does the D.C. Court of Appeals, which wants further "granulating of evidence" that endless merging harms competition. In the Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, grasps this. Perhaps Commerce Chairman John McCain will see T.R.'s trust-busting light and start heavy granulating in hearings — before merger mania afflicts TV and film the way it is debilitating local radio.

11:39 GMT: Permalink
Busy Busy Busy is, as usual, wonderful. Did you know that Newt Gingrich has re-emerged to tell us Why they really hate us? Elton says: It's not because they despise freedom, after all. And it's not because of all the treaties we've rejected or withdrawn from; in fact it has nothing to do with our foreign policy at all. No, teenagers worldwide hate us because of our loose women.

And check out Off the Kuff on how the death penalty does not bring "closure" for the survivors of murder victims - and can actually make things worse.

11:02 GMT: Permalink
I can't help the feeling that all those lightbulb jokes have inspired Paul Krugman:

A liberal and a conservative were sitting in a bar. Then Bill Gates walked in. "Hey, we're rich!" shouted the conservative. "The average person in this bar is now worth more than a billion!" "That's silly," replied the liberal. "Bill Gates raises the average, but that doesn't make you or me any richer." "Hah!" said the conservative, "I see you're still practicing the discredited politics of class warfare."

Am I caricaturing the debate? Alas, not at all. Whenever anyone points out the systematic tilt of the Bush administration toward the rich, the administration and its defenders immediately raise the cry of "class warfare." Yet when you look at the arguments the administration actually makes on behalf of its policy, they are as silly as that of the conservative in the bar. The difference is that the administration knows exactly what it's doing.

For example: On Saturday, in his weekly radio address, George W. Bush declared that "the tax relief I propose will give 23 million small-business owners an average tax cut of $2,042 this year." That remark is intended to give the impression that the typical small-business owner will get $2,000. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, most small businesses will get a tax break of less than $500; about 5 million of those 23 million small businesses will get no break at all. The average is more than $2,000 only because a small number of very wealthy businessmen will get huge tax cuts.

[Update: And now I see that Ted has quoted the joke, too. Figures.]

Tuesday, 21 January 2003

19:46 GMT: Permalink

From Elayne Riggs:

Preserving True Legacy

A number of bloggers (like Ampersand and August Pollack and Eve Tushnet and Dwight Meredith) have been talking about how certain conservative elements have coopted the famous line from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, as some sort of "proof" that if he were alive today he'd be against affirmative action - conveniently ignoring the operative phrase "one day," which great level-playing-field day is, unfortunately, still a ways in the future. But Tom Tomorrow (link also at sidebar) points out another sin of omission, courtesy of an old article on FAIR's website in which Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon note, "The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years -- his last years -- are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole... By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his 'Beyond Vietnam' speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States 'the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today'... Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV." The thing that struck me is that neither this article (which admittedly was from 1995) nor Tom's blog mentioned where you can read and hear some of these speeches, so I did a brief websearch. I love how the Internet is in many ways doing the opposite of what it may have been intended for - with just a little effort on the part of your average browser, it's very good at retrieving bits of history that might otherwise be ignored or forgotten. Here are some good audio excerpts courtesy of the National Radio Project, and here is some more info about King's anti-war activism from the MLK Jr. Papers Project. Here's the entire "Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech, and here's the "Beyond Vietnam" one. Now more than ever, I think it's imperative that we remember and honor MLK Jr.'s anti-war stance as well as his anti-racism one. (Obligatory Canadian Comics Content just for Snagglepuss sngrfxz: Ho Che Anderson's first two volumes of King are available from Fantagraphics, which says here that he's currently working on Volume 3, of which they have a couple pages sneak-peek, and hopes to release it this year.)

By the way, I was interested in the notes in Elayne's source code, too. It's always helpful to click on View|Source if you're looking for tips on HTML, but this is even more so.

18:48 GMT: Permalink
Irritating Events: Read the rest of this story from Peter David that contains this paragraph:

At which point Shana nearly reached over the counter and beat the woman senseless, except she realized that apparently no one she'd encountered at George Bush airport had a lick of sense anyway. The woman then took the bag and threw it onto the carousel as if she were tremendously put upon and being made to do something far beneath her, rather than her job.
PAD also reports that Todd McFarlane is still dissing Neil Gaiman.

18:30 GMT: Permalink
Gary Farber is just plain not listening:

PETE TOWNSEND: Count me in as another who has always respected and enjoyed the hell out of this man's music, and who he generally has seemed to be.

Count me also as someone who is extremely dubious about accusations of involvement with child pornography until they are soundly proven.

Count me also as someone who believes there has been for some years a classic hysterical witchhunt going on in the Anglosphere on the topic, with absurd assertions such as that "children must always be believed" being made.

So count me as someone believing in Pete Townsend's innocence unless or until he is proven guilty, and finally count me, radically, as someone who finds the laws against possession of child pornography, as opposed to laws against abuse of children, also dubious, whatever I may think of such material, or the people who produce it (and, for what it's worth, looking at it, and engaging in the act of producing it, are Not Actually The Same Thing).

Again, bear in mind that Townshend has openly admitted that he went to paid sites and looked at child porn. No one is contesting this. He looked. He did it. He has, under British law, possessed and made indecent images of children and incited the distribution of such images. It is irrelevant whether he understood that he was "making" an image under British law, or whether he had any intent to distribute or incite the distribution of such images. By his own admission, his actions fit the interpretation of these crimes as stated under the law. His intentions and reasons do not matter.

No, that doesn't mean that his situation is hopeless. He can hope that the Crown Prosecution Service will decide not to prosecute him - or if the CPS does decide to prosecute him, and if Townshend decides to contest the charges in court and is able to get a jury trial, he can hope for jury nullification. But that's the only way he gets out of it - he's already admitted to the crime in rather considerable detail, and the law itself allows no defense based on his reasons for having done it. So it makes no sense when Gary goes on to say:

But The Smoking Gun, the invaluable Court TV site, has a document they suggest supports Townsend's account that he was engaging in research on the topic related to his own past. Here's the nut quote:

Townshend's paper, which he once posted on his official web site, also notes that the "pathway to 'free' paedophilic imagery is--as it were--laid out like a free line of cocaine at a decadent cocktail party: only the strong willed or terminally uncurious can resist."
I hope Townsend is indeed proven, rightfully, to have only engaged in research...
Of course, we'd have to be able to read his mind to prove that, but it doesn't matter - "research" is not a defense under the law.

But the point of my post is that while the Townsend document might be evidence towards support for Townsend's story, to me, it points, slightly, in the opposite direction.

No matter where I stand on free speech and free thought, as opposed to supporting the illegalization of actual child abuse, Townsend's quote reads very oddly to me. Because I don't know about you, but the fact that I can likely find lots of child porn easy as I get spam has never in the slightest tempted me to go look for it, or even look at it when offers arrive -- as they do on a daily basis -- in my inbox.

It takes no "strong will" or "terminal incuriosity" at all. It would take the opposite -- overcoming an overwhelming case of the creeps -- for me to go looking at pictures of young kids engaged in sex.

Well, I don't want to see the material itself, but that's certainly not the only reason I don't click on spam links (for child porn or anything else). I never decode any attachments that I haven't asked for beforehand, and I treat any advertised "child porn" as either an out-and-out hoax or entrapment. But then, I know about the law, I know the history of mass-mailed "child porn" spam, and I don't trust any mail sent via Outlook Express.

Most people (especially if they use Outlook Express) are not as clued-up as I am, and anyone who gets their information about "child porn" from the British news media is probably utterly confused about both the content and the state of the law. (I'm still occasionally stopped in the street and asked to sign petitions asking for child porn to be banned. Since "indecent" images of people under the age of 16 - including many things that most people don't think of as "child porn" - have been entirely illegal since 1976, that should tell you something about how well people understand the situation. There are always plenty of signatures already on these petitions when I see them.) I regularly find myself having to explain these things to journalists who cover this subject as a profession.

But, as I've said before, that doesn't mean I have no curiosity about what's out there, and I'm astonished at Gary's suggestion that wanting to inform yourself is not a temptation. This subject is no different from any other: no matter what you hear about it, you don't know that it isn't all lies until you look for yourself. Gary might assume that the subject matter would revolt him, but since he's never looked, how does he know?

I have seen some of the material that the police have said was "child porn" and seized, or threatened to seize, or that others have expressed outrage over, but only because it was obvious to any sane person that it wasn't disgusting, revolting, and appealing only to prurient interest. Sometimes these pictures are actually carried in the press - when they express their own outrage that such images are being seized or labelled as "child porn" by people who seem to make a lifestyle of attacking all nudity. In other words, most of the child porn I've seen is not disgusting or revolting at all. Quite a few of the pictures turn out to be cute, or charming, or even quite beautiful. (Well, many are disgustingly saccharine, but that's something else.)

So I can't even predict that if I looked at all the advertised "child porn" on the 'net I'd actually see anything that disgusted me. How can I know? I've never seen it!

But when I've asked people from other countries to verify charges about certain newsgroups carrying "thousands of images of children being raped," what they usually tell me is that after nine hours of trawling through those newsgroups, nearly all of what they saw fit into the cute, arty, or saccharine categories, and maybe only one or two pictures actually fit the description of what most people think of as "child porn".

The horrific stuff that the police claim is to be found in those "private paedophile rings" may or may not really be there, but no one can try to find out. Given the extraordinary powers that the police have managed to acquire under the blanket of this issue, that, in itself, should be shocking.

Geez, Gary, doesn't that make you curious? I mean, if nothing else, who's watching the watchmen?

16:50 GMT: Permalink
Recommended Reading

Lisa English at Ruminate This on THE BIG-BOXING OF AMERICAN MEDIA - or... Why is Time-Warner showering politicos with all-expense paid European vacations? Tell me something...what would be your reaction to learning that some special interest group was sending their favorite and most accommodating Congressmen, Senators and their families on all-expense paid trips around the world?

Malpractice tort reform made absolutely clear at Liberal Oasis.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden does some research on those people who collect animals until their homes are overrun.

Joshua Green on Reagan's Liberal Legacy in The Washington Monthly.

16:23 GMT: Permalink
Greg Palast interviewed by Hustler:

HUSTLER: Your book also mentions Bush and intelligence failures prior to September 11, right?

PALAST: CIA and FBI agents told BBC Television, for which I was reporting, that they were ordered not to investigate Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks such as al Qaeda. The FBI agents "accidentally" left a file about the Bin Laden family on the desk of one of my researchers. They called up and said, "Oops, we left our file on your desk by accident. You haven't read it, have you? Well, we'll be back to pick it up in 30 minutes-unless you need 45." The FBI agents handed us material dated September 13, 2001, two days after the attack. It was on that date that the FBI was finally released to go after two members of the Bin Laden family, who they had already identified as being involved with a suspected terrorist organization. But by September 11th, they were flown birds.

HUSTLER: What happened to other members of the Bin Laden family living in the U.S. after 9/11?

PALAST: Just after the no-fly restriction was lifted, a private Saudi Arabian jet airlifted the Bin Laden family members out of the country before the FBI could talk to them. Everyone thinks there's just one black sheep in that family, but the FBI agents were telling us at BBC they think there's a couple of gray sheep, and they had some questions for the family members. There were a lot of people dead under the rubble at that moment when those people left.

HUSTLER: What had American policy been regarding the Bin Laden family prior to the Bush Administration?

PALAST: Bill Clinton had already put a go-slow on investigations of Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks. Clinton had always taken the position that we can't annoy our dear friends, the Saudis, even if our dear friends happen to be funding terrorists like the al Qaeda network; however, he never actually stood in the way of investigating them, whereas George W., according to FBI and intelligence agents, said, "You can't go there. You may not look. You may not investigate the American Bin Ladens."

HUSTLER: So the FBI and CIA agents were pissed at George W.?

PALAST: They are furious. He blindsided our intelligence agencies. How could a trillion-dollar intelligence operation like the CIA not foresee the most deadly attack on America since Pearl Harbor? The answer is not because Bush knew about September 11 in advance. Rather, they were told not to look because of connections that are political, personal and financial between the Bushes and the Saudis. When these agencies were told not to look, there was a lot not to look at. There was a 1996 meeting between the al Qaeda financial arm, Saudi billionaires and key international arms dealers. There was a discussion about which Saudis would pay how much to al Qaeda. Now if I can find out about it, and the French intelligence had a mole in the meeting, you can bet that our trillion-dollar CIA could find out about it; so why wasn't there follow-up? Why wasn't there action? How about a note to the Saudis saying, "Do us a favor: Stop giving money to people who are killing us."

07:14 GMT: Permalink
Electrolite alerts me to The Bitter Irony of the Week in this article by Bob Herbert saying that the Senate has declared 2003 the Year of the Blues. In its honor, you can listen to Paradynamic Roadhouse on the 'net, just like Patrick is doing.

Meanwhile, I quote this para:

In his book "Deep Blues," Robert Palmer described a visit he made in 1979 to the Mississippi Delta home of Joe Rice Dockery, who had inherited from his father the remnants of a plantation on which an astonishing number of great blues musicians had lived and played.
I quote it only because it mentions Robert Palmer. Warren A. Gardner came over and woke me up one morning in 1969 at my place on East 3rd Street and told me I had to come and hear his band. He dragged me to Hoboken to watch them practice and, boy, I'm sure glad he did. They were called The Insect Trust ('cause Warren used to hang out with Burroughs), and I still listen to their records. And I still love the wistful woodwind sound Bob Palmer laid down on "The Eyes of a New York Woman" (lyrics from Pynchon's V).

Warren talked me into coming down to Memphis to work on the blues festival with them, and I stayed with Bob & Mary Palmer, and Mary's brother Bill, in the house they rented while they were down there putting it all together. It's still the best music festival experience I ever had.

After I went back to Washington, I ran into Bob once on M street, but that was the last time I ever talked to any of them. In fact, I don't think I even ran into anyone else who'd heard of any of them, until I saw the special on Deep Blues on television here, a few years back. (I've seen more people I know from back home on TV since I moved here than I'd ever seen when I still lived there.) Once I was on the Internet, I tried to look for friends I'd lost track of, and couldn't find any of them (not even Phil Wolcott, and the only person I know who might know where to find him is Nils Lofgren, and I can't ask him, either). The one exception was Bob Palmer; I found his obituary.

So I don't like to try to find old friends on the 'net anymore. But I'd still like to find Warren. And Phil.

And it's good to see Bob's work remembered.

06:10 GMT: Permalink
I wish Jesus really was George Bush's favorite philosopher. If you share that view, you might want to check out Real Live Preacher.

Digby shows us a fine example of what a real President should sound like on Martin Luther King Day.

Many fine things at Mark Kleiman's page and I can't pick just one.

Joe Vecchio asks a good question about news coverage of the demonstrations this weekend: Why are there no aerial views of the crowds to give a better idea as to their size? Yeah, remember those?

Emma matches a Founding Father's words up against Scalia's claims of what the Founding Fathers intended.

Planet Swank found an Internet Connection Speedometer.

05:20 GMT: Permalink
I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. Okay, they weren't your very closest friend, but they were part of your life and when they're gone you just can't let the occasion pass without saying a few words in remembrance of what they meant to you. Skippy tells me things I didn't know about Richard Crenna, and James Capozzola remembers Richard Silbert.

Monday, 20 January 2003

18:25 GMT: Permalink

Says Pontificator:

By filibustering all right wing ideologues, the Democrats hit the trifecta:

1. They stop right wing judges

2. They lay a trap for Republicans – forcing them to defend the religious right; and

3. They make Bush look weak, since he won't be able to get done what he wants to get done.

Once again, say it with me:

All right wing ideologues nominated by Bush to the Federal Bench must be filibustered in the Senate.

17:58 GMT: Permalink
New Scientist has a cover story with some very sad news:

The world's favourite fruit could disappear forever in 10 years' time. Is there anything we can do to prevent this slip-up, asks Fred Pearce
(Features are subscription only, but you can get the story at Yahoo.)

And speaking of cover stories, someone really should tell TIME that Bush is not America, and Europeans know this.

15:32 GMT: Permalink
Check out Don't link to us! (via Random & Irrelevant).

Smythe's World has an additional snippet on Townshend (but perhaps might like to read my most recent post on the subject).

Mark Evanier has a story in which Penn & Teller horrified the masses.

E-mail from Kevin Hayden says: "Your readers might enjoy sampling some of Hicks' Relentless."

Sunday, 19 January 2003

23:58 GMT: Permalink

From Columbia Journalism review, CABLE WARS:

Robert Lichter, president of the Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs and a paid consultant to Fox, says: "I've never been able to figure out how competition makes cars better and television news worse." He means that the struggle to grab viewers is currently dragging the whole cable news environment down. "In other industries, competition creates new and different products. In television, it makes all the products look the same. That's weird."
So three networks are fighting for audience, one is trailing considerably, another has highest credibility but a third has the highest ratings. (Reassuringly, however, Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw still have a bigger piece of the pie. For now.) I bet CNN could be doing a lot better if they let Atrios run things, myself.

23:33 GMT: Permalink
Deborah Orr makes a game try at a relatively sane view of the story on Pete Townshend in The Independent, but...

All these men are among the 7,272 or so whose credit card details were handed to the British police in the wake of the US paedophile sting codenamed Operation Avalanche a year ago. Each and every one, by virtue of the fact that they appeared on the list at all, was a suspect. Investigation of the list has resulted, so far, in 1,300 arrests, with priority given to those who had committed sex offences before, and those who work with children.
So the first arrest we hear about is Pete Townshend? Gee, do you think the cops were thinking of publicity rather than the public safety when they decided to release his name?

At the time of writing though, only one had been subjected to trial by media. Poor old Pete Townshend is busy spilling his guts to the press, desperate to explain that, while his dark places are crepuscular enough to warrant researching a paedophile website, they are not so black that he feels anything but revulsion at what he sees.

His defence is compelling. He says that he looked at child pornography on the internet as part of his work on his autobiography, in which he writes about the child abuse he underwent himself when he was five or six. He cites the rock opera Tommy as containing material which draws on that buried experience, and also much charitable work in which he tries to combat child abuse. His account is entirely credible.

Curious. Most of the child abuse in Tommy is psychological ("You didn't hear it, you didn't see it..."), with the exception of the physically abusive encounter with Cousin Kevin. There's no question that Kevin hurts Tommy, but the song everyone is pointing to on this issue, "Fiddle About", was written by Entwhistle, not Townshend, and whether Tommy is really experiencing "abuse" is less than clear. While it's true that "wicked" Uncle Ernie gropes Tommy, it's interesting that Tommy doesn't seem to hold it against him after his miracle cure when he lets Uncle Ernie help run part of his enterprise at Tommy's Holiday Camp. Moreover, I seem to recall reading an interview in which Townshend said something to the effect that the deaf, dumb and blind kid's experience wouldn't have been of "abuse". (Not that I'm questioning Townshend's motivations, but it seemed to me at the time that he had a point, and all this now seems to me a lot of disappointing back-tracking.)

His actions, nonetheless, are condemned by all of the expert agencies working in this field. Or as Mark Stephens, vice-chairman of the Internet Watch Foundation, puts it: 'It is wrong-headed, misguided and illegal to look at or download or even to pay to download paedophiliac material, and if you do so you are likely to go to prison." Which is good advice for any person curious enough to imagine for any reason that they may be justified in trying to find and look at this sort of material themselves.
Mark is a good guy and often a fine defender of free speech (plus, I owe him for a pretty big favor he did me), so this is another disappointment. It is certainly very illegal to be anywhere near sexual images of children, but the legal position is about the only thing that's true in that paragraph. (Mind you, it's equally possible that Mark has been misquoted out of all recognizability, as I know from personal experience.)

First of all, there are many legitimate reasons to review child pornography, or to want to see for yourself how much is out there, on the net or in circulation by any means. The police are constantly claiming that there are extraordinary amounts of child porn available, and any honest reporter who wishes to comment on the subject, from any side, would reasonably want to see the evidence for themselves.

I'm forced to rely on sources from other countries to tell me how much actual child porn is really on the 'net, because there is no legal way for me to do primary research. So I can never give first-person accounts on a matter I'm a relative expert on; I can only report what others have said. I'm certain that the police have made highly misleading statements on the subject; I just can't prove it. Many activists and journalists simply take the cops' word for it and state it as fact. I can't, because a lot of it makes no sense. (A few years ago the cops were claiming that there were warehouses full of child porn up and down the country, but that they had no powers to investigate. Leaving aside the fact that there really wasn't any reason to believe such warehouses existed in the first place, there is no question that if the police had any evidence that they exist, they have had all the power they need to investigate since 1976 when the original child porn laws were passed.)

But even if you're not a researcher, it's perfectly reasonable to want to know what people are talking about when a subject is constantly being dragged into the public discourse; in fact, I'd say it would be odd to have no curiosity about it. (I have to admit that, despite the fact that this falls within my area of expertise, I don't really have any desire to see this stuff - but then, I didn't have much desire to see the material I looked at when I did my statistical analysis of adult magazine porn, either. The material didn't move me, I'm afraid; I just regarded looking at it as something I had to do if I was going to be able to write on the subject with any confidence. Still, I did want to know how much truth there was to what people kept saying about pornography.) It doesn't surprise me at all that many people hear this subject constantly raised and want to see what the hell everyone is on about. Surely, this curiosity would be amplified if one was feeling a strong identification with other sexually abused children. (But even without that, don't most people stare at car wrecks, even if they don't have any desire to cause car wrecks?)

So, no, I don't think looking at these images on the 'net is entirely unjustifiable, or that it's inexplicable in the absence of a sexual desire to look at them. I think Townshend's reasoning is perfectly normal, including the fact that he stupidly assumed that because his motivations were "honorable" he was not doing the same thing that all those other poor souls who've been busted for it were also doing. That's just how people are. Everyone feels free to condemn everyone else for doing what they think other people are doing, and they never think that maybe they aren't so different from everyone else.

There's a better article on the subject in the same paper, by Johann Hari. I have numerous quibbles with it, but it bravely acknowledges that most reportage about child-molesting has been too superficial and misleading, and quite rightly suggests that the current fashion for hate speech against "paedophiles" is doing more harm than good.

And there's a fairly sane article in The Telegraph, as well, noting that an awful lot of police manpower is being squandered to little useful effect.

22:21 GMT: Permalink
Dewayne-Net Radio Weblog reports:

News.Com: RIAA: ISPs should pay for music swapping. Rosen suggested one possible scenario for recouping lost sales from online piracy would be to impose a type of fee on ISPs that could be passed on to their customers who frequent these file-swapping services. The other important item in this story is the statistic that peer-to-peer activity on ISP networks today accounts for 30 to 60 percent of all traffic.
Well, we've heard it all before, haven't we? The poor old music industry is suffering because the Internet has provided all that FREE PROMOTION to artists, so they have to make up some story about how, gosh, all that downloading is costing "artists" a bundle and we have to charge someone for it.

Don't fall for this rubbish. They used the same lie to get a tax added to audiotapes, claiming that artists were losing royalties - but the artists don't see a penny of that money, and they won't see this money, either. (Note that people who buy audiotapes must pay this tax whether they ever record other people's music or not. The same will be true of all Internet users who will have to pay this overhead even if they never get music via the 'net.) The only good news about this particular angle is that ISPs who have hitherto remained apolitical on the issue might finally figure out that they have something tangible at stake here and take the side of their customers.

Spell this out to your legislators: The way artists and music companies sell recordings is by promotion in the form of FREE listening for the public; the more people hear the music, the more likely they are to buy it. Web radio and file-sharing increase the level of promotion, thus increasing demand for both commercial recordings and live performance. The record companies take virtually all of the proceeds from sales of recordings, and the artists really, really need live performance in order to survive. Artists are not hurt by file-sharing.

The entire line of argument about "pirating" by file-sharing is just a rip-off of the public by the recording industry, as well as an attempt by them to prevent artists from being able to benefit from alternative promotion that the industry can't steal more money off of them for. The recording industry wants control of artists, and promotion is one of the ways they get it. The slimey deals going on between the corporations and the big radio networks are the real scandal, and the way recording companies abuse their artists is the real theft; don't let them get away with it.

13:18 GMT: Permalink
Now here is a story I'd like to know a lot more about:

As of 3:55 PM, Monday afternoon, the We The People Internet broadcast provider was forced by his provider, Time Warner, to cease providing transmission of the WTP-TV broadcast stream and the FTP download of the archived LIBERTY HOUR file.

Here's what we can release at this moment.

On Friday afternoon, while still under the impression that Time Warner had permanently fixed whatever "technical problem" caused them to knock our live broadcast off the "air," we posted the links enabling people to watch and/or download the event.

On Saturday, two computers at the White House were used to watch the entire event and eight computers at the IRS were used to watch and download the file.

By Sunday evening, 10,031 people had watched the event and another 5300 people downloaded the file to their PCs.

Beginning on Sunday and continuing on Monday, we received numerous messages from people about a "sluggishness" problem they were experiencing -- it was taking up to 15 hours for the FTP download of the file when it should only have taken 15 minutes. Something or somebody had so severely throttled our provider's "big-pipe" transmission bandwidth that downloading was slowed to a "crawl."

Not only was WTP being affected but also our provider was being affected. His business was being affected by the inordinate amount of time required to transmit data.

Urgent calls by our provider to his provider, Time Warner, for an explanation of the reason for the loss in transmission capability resulted, finally, in Time Warner's suggestion: "Turn them off." By "them," Time Warner was referring to WTP.

With his arm being twisted, and in the interest of protecting his business, our provider was forced by his provider to cut us off from his server.

Reluctantly, he did so at 3:55 P.M. Monday afternoon.

As soon as he did so, his full "big-pipe" bandwidth capability became available to him and all the problems he had been experiencing since last Tuesday night cleared up.

OK, I'm not geeky enough to figure out whether there's a purely technical explanation for all this, but even if there is, it should remind people that it's just plain stupid to think the Internet has made all the communication and free speech arguments moot. I've been telling people for years that nothing has changed in terms of your right to communicate and your freedom to do so; there is always a way to stop you unless you are willing to sneak around the system, and there have always been ways to sneak around. But the largest voice still goes to those who have the money and power to dominate the public discourse - the owners of big newspapers, big broadcast networks, and now big cable/satellite owners.

Techie geeks used to tell me the Internet solved these problems, that you could now say anything you want and not have to worry because you had encryption and anonymizers and what-have-you. Well, they were wrong. I'm pleased to see I'm hearing this rubbish from the libertarian geeks a lot less often than I used to, but now it's the excuse Big Media uses for suspending the old public interest rules - while at the same time trying to foreclose on free access on the 'net itself. You've got to keep an eye on these people, folks, and don't let them buy the 'net out from under us like they have everything else.

12:29 GMT: Permalink
Skimble receives a rather worrying visit from someone who claims to be doing a public health survey.

Mark Fiore gets right to the point in this cartoon about Executions.

I listened to the Relentless CD and it made me laugh out loud a lot.

11:53 GMT: Permalink
Note to Hugo: You could try composing first in a straightforward text editor, such as Notepad, so you can see those spaces (but always putting spaces after periods should be a reflex). I use TextPad, which I like because it shows the HTML in different colors from the plain text. I'm told there are better ones, but I'm pretty happy with TP, which is free and simple and lets me make little macros for those strings I use all the time (and doesn't force those dumb "Smart Quotes" on me). [Update: Ooops, sorry - it's shareware, but that's okay, I approve of shareware, too.] As for mail & news readers, I don't even understand why anyone would use either Outlook Express or a browser to collect mail when you could at the very least get Free Agent (and Agent itself is worth paying for).

11:12 GMT: Permalink

Why Did Al Sharpton Endorse Senator Al D'amato (R-NY) in 1986?

When Tim Russert asked Rev. Al Sharpton why he endorsed right-wing Senator Al D'Amato (R-NY) for re-election in 1986, Sharpton replied: "We did not feel that he was going to be a conservative Republican." Joe Conason writes, "Everyone in New York knew that Al D'Amato was 'going to be a conservative Republican,' because six years earlier he had defeated Jacob Javits, the liberal Republican incumbent, in a bitter primary that featured his right-wing credentials and financing from ultraconservative national organizations. Everyone in New York knew that Green was the progressive candidate (including all the African-American politicians of any stature). Actually, D'Amato purchased the endorsement of Sharpton's 'ministerial group' with a federal grant. Sharpton's covert relationship with the Republican Party didn't end back then. On election eve in 1994, he lent his considerable presence to a George Pataki rally at a Harlem church."

Saturday, 18 January 2003

17:37 GMT: Permalink

Calpundit explains why Condi Rice should support Michigan's affirmative action program. In fact, he explains it so cleanly that even the White House should be able to understand it. Of course, there's a pretty good chance that they do understand it and are just a bunch of race-carding swine.

Meanwhile, Atrios says that Bush lied about Condi's role in the decision to oppose AA.

15:54 GMT: Permalink
The Daily Brew says:

To make a long story short, Bush is terrorizing millions of Americans, and is set to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, because Karl Rove thinks this will get him re-elected. First, the Bush administration is using bogus terrorist alerts to, well, terrorize the country.

Second, the Bush administration going to attack Iraq for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction even though UN weapons inspectors haven't found diddly.

Where is the honor? Where is the dignity? To any rational observer, Bush is a sociopath in command of the world's mightiest military. Yet Time magazine is gushing his praises on its current cover. Here at the Brew, we are beyond irony. We have entered the realm of pure disgust.

15:35 GMT: Permalink
Great take-down of Safire's stupid article about Turkey, from Charles Dodgson.

Skippy notes that "the president welcomes the fact that we are a democracy and that people in the united states, unlike iraq, are free" to protest, [white house press secretary ari fleisher] said. - and then lists a bunch of people who have been arrested for peacefully making use of their 1st Amendment rights. Skippy also has a new acronym I like: S.T.R.I.F.E for Bush's plan to Stimulate The Rich Idle Folks' Economy. (He also renames the estate tax the "entitlement tax".)

15:13 GMT: Permalink
From Seeing the Forest:

He's saying here that we'll eventually pay a great price for Bush's deficits.

I want to point out that the costs of tax cuts for the wealthy arrive sooner than that. We currently pay over $300 billion per year for interest costs because of Reagan's budget deficits. That amounts to a $300 billion tax increase, paying for Reagan's tax cuts for the wealthy. The kicker is, by and large, the wealthy receive that interest.

So what we saw in the early 80's wasn't just a tax cut for the wealthy, it was also the creation of a huge government spending program, almost the largest item in the U.S. budget, almost entirely to the wealthy. This is also what the Bush tax cuts mean for our future. A huge spending increase - increased future debt interest payments from us to the wealthy.

The current tax cuts are coming out of our Social Security money! We pay into Social Security, it runs a surplus, but that surplus is going out to the tax cuts for the rich. So not only will we have to pay interest to the wealthy, we will have to pay that interest instead of retirement payments to ourselves.

Friday, 17 January 2003

16:04 GMT: Permalink

The big news of the week has been the response to the Knight-Ridder Poll asking this question:

As far as you know, how many of the September 11th terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens: most of them, some of them, just one, or none?"
Most of them 21%
Most of them.. 21
Some of them ..23
Just one........6
Don't know.....33

Many remarks have been made about how stupid people are, or at least how poorly the news media conveys important data to the public (and I won't argue with that second point at all), but I do find it downright scary that people can get angry enough to support war without having cared enough to notice the national origins of the hijackers. Surely it's not a secret that most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, rather than Iraq? Yet more people thought "most of them" were from Iraq than actually got the right answer to this question.

Obviously, a lot of that is thanks to the White House having worked so hard to misinform the public and tie 9/11 to Iraq, but if the Clinton administration had tried to pass off such lies as fact, you know the press would have been all over it, and they certainly would have called him a liar outright. (Hell, even the fact that Gore was telling the truth didn't protect him from being called a liar.) But Bush and his pals just skate through with stuff like this because the press just doesn't seem to care. Folks, we're talking about killing people, for dog's sake - doesn't this stuff count on your "moral clarity" scale?

Still, bottom line: Ordinary people should bother to notice. Yes, the press at this point should be spelling out that none of the hijackers were Iraqi, but a year ago their actual nationalities were all over the media and now only 17% remember that?

It's no surprise that the farther from the truth respondents were, the more likely they were to support Bush. But that doesn't tell you whether you have to be stupid to support Bush or whether it's just the same stupid people who always seem to support "the president" no matter who it is. In this media milieu it's never easy to know what's really going on, but in matters of life and death it would be nice to know that people at least care enough to try, and you really don't have to try very hard to know how many Iraqis were among the hijackers. (Well, at least the official story, anyway.)

15:29 GMT: Permalink
Eric Alterman asks: "And how come nobody told me Tom Waits had a letter to The Nation?" (Read the other letters on the page, too.) Hey, nobody told me, either, and I didn't even know about the original article by John Densmore he was commenting on. It's nice to know that there's still someone who thinks that integrity and the music are more important than having more money than they need. It makes a nice contrast in a world run by people who have more money than any 40 people need but still live to pinch every penny and still make more, even if they have to destroy thousands or even millions of lives to do it.

PS. I will never, never forgive Michael Jackson.

03:04 GMT: Permalink
I see people are doing it again, so let me re-quote Jim Henley from last autumn:

Also, a refresher for the native-born: The President is not "our Commander-in-Chief." He is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. (You can look it up.) He is also Commander-in-Chief of "the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." If this happens, it will be in the papers. If you ain't in the uniformed services or the active duty militia, you ain't got a commander-in-chief. It's a republican thing, with a small 'r.'

The very best kind.

02:00 GMT: Permalink
Another weblog I hadn't noticed before, Peace Tree Farm, sees A clear and present danger:

An Associated Press story in Tuesday's paper brings us still another chapter in the continuing attack on American values by the Attorney General. Here's the relevant quote in Curt Anderson's report:

"Out of fear, ignorance and occasional bigotry, faith-based groups have been prohibited from competing for federal funding on a level playing field with secular groups," Ashcroft said in a text of his speech released at the Justice Department.

"Fear, ignorance and occasional bigotry" is apparently Mr. Ashcroft's code phrase for the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States...

01:00 GMT: Permalink
Blimey, Maureen Dowd has actually written a straightforward piece about Bush.

Thursday, 16 January 2003

15:17 GMT: Permalink

Notes from a class war

Bob Somerby thinks our media might not be interested in the people who really keep things running. He quotes Tony Snow, among others:

SNOW: Our tax code right now is insanely imbalanced. Half the public pays nearly 100 percent of the income taxes, which mocks the idea that citizenship demands that each person pull his or her weight. Two generations ago, as Paul [Gigot] pointed out moments ago, Americans celebrated success and urged kids to do well and accumulate wealth. We're now on the verge of a society that cleaves into two classes: those who pay taxes and those who get tax money from Uncle Sam.
It's actually pretty scary that we now have people in mainstream media who talk like that. As Somerby notes, some of the people who "don't pull their weight" in this formulation are those who work hard, may even hold down two jobs, so that other people can receive goods and even luxury services at cut-rate prices. Somerby writes:

We thought Tony's rhetoric was very tough, coming from a nice man. But in the current climate, that's sadly unsurprising. On Saturday, we had listened to talk host Bruce Elliott on WBAL as we drove from Baltimore to Richmond, and Bruce's rhetoric was even tougher (we happen to know and like Bruce, too). Indeed, we pulled to the shoulder and wrote some things down; according to Bruce, "the bottom fifty percent"—who pay 3.9% of income taxes, he said—are "the non-productive, non-working in our society." During this same segment of his show, Elliott, without any question or comment, fielded absurd anecdotal accounts of alleged bizarre tax outrages. On talk radio, you get to say any fool thing you want—a long as you support Lower Taxes.

Are the bottom fifty percent of earners "non-productive and non-working?" That would be a tough case to make. We stayed in a Richmond hotel that night; its chambermaids pay no income tax, but they seemed to be working quite diligently. Non-productive? The fact that they work for such low wages helps make the rooms affordable for the higher-income types who use them. (Dare we say that their low-paid labor is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich?) But decent people are saying rough things as a hard-right mentality sweeps through our culture. Bruce and Tony made some tough-talking claims. But those are hard to square with the facts about people's real lives.

Once upon a time, this language was generally only used against "welfare cheats" in public. Then it moved up to being used against the once-noble "truly needy" and began to cover all people on welfare, regardless of how they got there - indeed, virtually anyone who depends on a government check (even a soldier's pension) has been a target. But it is now "legitimate" for our media to treat people who work hard for their (private sector!) wages as freeloaders who apparently contribute nothing with their labor, sucking our economy dry while returning nothing in exchange for the money.

Even if we ignore the fundamental lie behind the suggestion that low-income workers don't pay taxes, this is an immoral way to talk about the people who take the jobs that most of us don't want, at wages those of us who are lucky enough to choose wouldn't work for.

13:04 GMT: Permalink
Electrolite says:

Try to imagine the media shitstorm if a Clinton cabinet officer had remarked, as Bush administration defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld just did, that Vietnam-era draftees offered "no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services."
I agree, and have recently argued, that for most modern purposes volunteer armies are liable to be more effective than conscripts. But for a Secretary of Defense to fliply dismiss the value of 1,800,000 Americans' service is stunningly crass. I know teenagers with more thoughtfulness and discretion than Rumsfeld displays. And less vanity.
Some people argue that "in context" Rumsfeld's remarks aren't so bad, and that he's essentially right about how little the draft contributed to the Vietnam war. And while I am certainly opposed to the draft, it should be pointed out that framing the question this way is not entirely honest. Compare the situation in World War II - where units trained and served together throughout the war - with the policy of shipping guys in and out - singly - for their "War Year" in 'Nam. You don't have to be a genius to figure out why such a policy might lead to inefficiency.

If Rumsfeld were saying that US policy in Southeast Asia undermined the effectiveness of draftees, he might have had a point, but that's not what he was saying. In fact, everything that comes out of him indicates that he was not complaining that soldiers were treated like disposable toys, but rather that he sees them that way himself.

12:00 GMT: Permalink
Even in the '60s when schools were trying to make long hair and flowered shirts illegal, they never passed a federal law against rock festivals full of tripping, dope-smoking hippies. Things are different, now. In Britain, legislation making it illegal to hold a dance party of more than ten people was passed as an "anti-rave" measure in the early '90s. In the US, the war on youth culture is well underway, as Talk Left reminds us:

"The RAVE Act unfairly punishes businessmen and women for the crimes of their customers. The federal government can't even keep drugs out of its own schools and prisons, yet it seeks to punish business owners for failing to keep people from carrying drugs onto their property. It is a danger to innocent businessmen and women, especially restaurant and nightclub owners, concert promoters, landlords, and real estate managers. Section 4 of the bill goes so far as to allow the federal government to charge property owners civilly, thus allowing prosecutors to fine property owners $250,000 (and put them out of business) without having to meet the higher standard of proof in criminal cases that is needed to protect innocent people."
For the point-by-point analysis, go here.

This law could subject you to 20 years in prison. Help stop it now!

Jeralyn also quotes a wonderful rant from John Le Carre on how the US has gone mad:

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.
But definitely check her out on The Innocence Protection Act, one law that really should pass. And, naturally, I agree with Jeralyn completely that the cops should not be policing fantasy on the Internet.

11:13 GMT: Permalink
From The Washington Post, A Tale of Two Governors:

ILLINOIS GOV. GEORGE RYAN leaves office tomorrow, but to the last he is promoting what has become, for a Midwestern Republican governor, a most unlikely signature issue: reform of the death penalty. Mr. Ryan has undertaken an exhaustive review of the state's capital convictions, and he now describes the state's system as "terribly broken." On Friday he pardoned four death row inmates who had been tortured into confessing -- "four more men," he called them, "who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die by the state for crimes the courts should have seen they did not commit." Yesterday he announced that he is taking an even more fateful step: commuting all 156 remaining death sentences, because, as he put it, "our capital system is haunted by the demon of error -- error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die." Mr. Ryan's tenure in office has not been a happy one; he leaves office under the ethical cloud of a continuing federal corruption probe. But his willingness to confront the magnitude of the failure of his state's criminal justice system commands respect. On this issue, he leaves Illinois a better place -- and a model for the nation as to how a state can begin facing the problem of the death penalty.

That model, alas, seems to hold little interest for Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. It's early, but Mr. Ehrlich thus far has demonstrated a breathtaking lack of concern for the evident problems with capital punishment in Maryland. Even before the release of a University of Maryland study of geographical and racial disparities in capital punishment's application, he pledged to lift the current moratorium on executions no matter what the study showed. After the study was released last week, demonstrating that race and geography play huge roles in determining who gets sentenced to die, Mr. Ehrlich said he was reviewing its methodology, and he reiterated that he means to consider death sentences case by case.

Such a cavalier attitude is inappropriate for a man who will wield power over life and death. If the new governor continues to ignore the study results, he will be saying that it doesn't trouble him that Maryland prosecutors effectively value white lives more highly than black lives. Pretending this unfairness doesn't exist won't make it disappear. Mr. Ehrlich may be too busy just now planning his inauguration, but he should take time out to learn from the outgoing governor a few states west.

So, he's apparently more willing to "review" the methodology of the study than he is to consider the possibility that its findings have merit - which is odd, since there's every reason to think the study is correct. It's not that I reject the idea of holding research to a high standard - I'm very much in favor of it - but this isn't about that, is it? This is about placing the power to kill above every other consideration. When people's lives hang in the balance, making sure we get it right should be the priority. Everything else is secondary; when in doubt, don't kill.

10:52 GMT: Permalink
Spinsanity's efforts to pretend that there is no difference between what is said by the Bad Guys and what is said by their opponents have reached another low in this piece on the debate over Pickering's nomination. Mere statements of fact have become "demagoguing" in Nyan's lexicon; pointing out Pickering's history as a perjurer and racist is somehow not legitimate criticism. Nyhan seems to think that the well-documented charges against Pickering (see Atrios all over the place for this) have some sort of equivalence with RNC spin-points. They don't. The RNC spin-points are lies and distortions; the charges against Pickering are not.

From the NYT, Scalia Attacks Church-State Court Rulings - and, as usual, is utterly offensive.

The Planned Parenthood Rally for Choice - watch the amusing little movie, but instead of signing the petition, write to your representatives and tell them you expect them to do everything in their power to preserve your rights. All of them.

Steve Winwood rocks my soul.

Wednesday, 15 January 2003

14:16 GMT: Permalink

There are many good reasons to oppose a Lieberman nomination, summed up nicely at

13:22 GMT: Permalink
Lisa English at Ruminate This has found a nifty site with lots of tips for HTML design. I was pleased to find this color chart page that includes the names and numbers for colors in the same place.

Tuesday, 14 January 2003

23:49 GMT: Permalink

The other day I noticed right-wing blogger John Cole quoting a Drudge "quote" of Sean Penn, as follows:




But, as Liberal Oasis points out, this doesn't resemble what's in the transcript. Hmmm.

23:22 GMT: Permalink
Talk Left and Nathan Newman are having a little disagreement about Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

23:00 GMT: Permalink
A new musician's site added to the free music list at right, Sara Messenger, a really good piano player with a fine voice. As far as I can tell, most of the .mp3s on her site are complete, although some are just clips. I don't approve of partial tracks, but seeing as how Jackson Browne seems to like her so much, and Laura Nyro was a big fan, I'm making an exception. Oh, and that other reason....)

19:11 GMT: Permalink
The cover photo on yesterday's Media Guardian is a still of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All The President's Men with the headline, "So what went wrong?" But C. S. Cleebers said it better in 2000, as I noted last October. The Guardian makes the mistake of attributing the problem to 9/11 and the Bush White House, but no, it goes back a lot longer than that.

18:46 GMT: Permalink
John Dean thinks Dick Cheney is the guy behind White House secrecy, and that he's at war with Congress. In The Nixon Shadow that Hovers Over the Bush White House, he traces Cheney's mania back to the Nixon administration, and points out that it is all utterly unconstitutional.

18:31 GMT: Permalink
Both Elisabeth Anne Riba and Gary Farber wrote to object to the term "Judeo-Christian" quoted earlier in a post about abortion. Elisabeth writes:

I object to the use of the term Judeo-Christian. Judaism is very different from Christianity; in fact, traditional Judaism put's the mother's life and health ahead of the fetus, and thus supports abortion in many cases where Christianity opposes it.

The abortion opponents want to create a Christian society, and the only thing Judeo about it is a desire to disguise themselves as somehow more inclusive.

Long ago, I wrote a rant about the history of the term Judeo-Christianity, and how it's often used like the universal "he", often falling apart when things get specific.

Well, yes, but of course it's a mistake to write of "Christianity" as a monolith that opposes abortion, too. Even in the Catholic church, anti-abortion ideology is a kind of post-canonical add-on. Many Christian groups never adopted it at all. One of the lies of the "moral" right is that "Christians" are opposed to elective abortion. Some are, some aren't.

05:32 GMT: Permalink
I haven't been saying anything about the Pete Townshend bust since it seemed like everyone else was doing it, but then I realized people don't actually know what they are hearing because of some weirdnesses in UK law. Like this:

The guitarist had been detained on suspicion of possessing and making indecent images of children and of incitement to distribute such images.
This doesn't mean that Townshend had anything to do with originating child porn, although that's what that particular part of the law was originally designed to cover. This is a new interpretation created to cover the Internet - it says that by the act of downloading an image, you are creating it anew, and therefore are "making" the image. So a clause that was meant to cover the actual abuse of children for the purpose of making child pornography is now being used against people merely for having looked at such an image via the 'net.

It appears that Townshend does not contest that he downloaded "child porn". That means he has no defense; it doesn't matter whether he is telling the truth about why he was looking at it. (You may remember this story I posted last March; Dr. Thompson has still not been able to get his computer back.) We still don't know just exactly what Townshend was supposed to have looked at, but it's a good bet they can ruin his life over this, and a conviction means going on the sex offenders register forever.

Since the Home Office has just announced that they will no longer bother investigating "minor" crimes like burglary and assault because they "don't have enough manpower", I'd like to hear the explanation the Bill has for sending 16 cops to bust a guitar player.

Just a reminder: Is one child protected by this? No, absolutely not.

04:51 GMT: Permalink
Ted Barlow has a routine going:

Q: How many Andrew Sullivans does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Bush again gets it exactly right. While the leftists continue to marginalize themselves by mewling and snorting at the lack of light, the rest of America will be enjoying the darkness that Bush has shrewdly provided. Once again, his instincts and deep bond with the American people carry the day.

KRUGMAN AWARD NOMINEE: "I think I liked it better when the lightbulb worked." Jimmy Thompson, 4th grade, quoted in (where else?) the New York Times.

Q: How does the Administration plan to deal with the broken lightbulb?

A: Helen, the American people understand that the lightbulb situation has arisen due to the policies of the previous administration, and they appreciate that there has been an effort to deal with it. The President hopes that the Democrats will abandon their obstructionist tactics against tax relief, national security, and judges who will enforce the law. In this time of darkness, we need to come together and support the policies that President Bush was elected to enact.

Q: But how would any of those policies address the problem of the broken lightbulb?

A: I think I’ve already answered that question. Yes, Howard.

Q: Ari, does President Bush believe that the previous administration’s non-eternal lightbulb policies represent a threat to national security? (etc.)

Monday, 13 January 2003

15:44 GMT: Permalink

More interesting stuff at Interesting Times, including this:

Been thinking about Blair in response to a comment John Isbell posted in response to this post from me.

What's interesting is that Blair seems to be supported in his actions by none other then Bill Clinton!

Now, Clinton doesn't actually supports what Bush is doing. But Clinton realizes that Bush is a dangerous man who would be even more dangerous if he were entirely cut off from any western support. Thus he has asked his good friend Tony Blair to stay close to Bush in the hope that he will be able to moderate Bush's more war-like tendencies.

Would Bush have gone to the UN if Blair had not been keeping in close conversation with him?

Witness the recent reports that Blair is asking Bush to hold off on Iraq until the fall.

If this is the case then Blair is playing an important sacrificial role in international diplomacy: he is allowing his reputation to be hurt by his association with an idiot because to do otherwise might put the whole world in even more danger then it currently is.

On which John Isbell comments:

I recently saw the argument made in the British press (The Guardian or The Independent) that Blair had brought Bush to the UN and might get him to postpone invasion - understandably I haven't seen that argued in the Times or the Post. I think it's very helpful for liberal Americans trying to understand what Blair might be thinking, so thanks for posting it.

Ironically, it's almost exactly what you do with the leader of a rogue state, if you're a responsible world leader: hold your nose and find a way to keep them from completely losing it. Powell might have moments like this too.

And it looks like it might be working, there's increasing noise supporting British talk of waiting until Autumn, some from the White House.

Now, that's food for thought. Could Tony really be saving the world from WWIII?

Chris also says that Gephardt and Clay are asking Bush to renominate Ronnie White to the federal bench, to smooth over the Republican Party's little problem with race. You remember Ronnie White? He's the black judge who then-Senator John "Mr. Integrity" Ashcroft slandered when he was nominated the first time.

15:05 GMT: Permalink
Nicholas Kristof has discovered The Secret War on Condoms:

Over the last few years conservative groups in President Bush's support base have declared war on condoms, in a campaign that is downright weird — but that, if successful, could lead to millions of deaths from AIDS around the world.

I first noticed this campaign last year, when I began to get e-mails from evangelical Christians insisting that condoms have pores about 10 microns in diameter, while the AIDS virus measures only about 0.1 micron. This is junk science (electron microscopes haven't found these pores), but the disinformation campaign turns out to be a far-reaching effort to discredit condoms, squelch any mention of them in schools and discourage their use abroad.

"The only absolutely guaranteed, permanent contraception is castration," one Catholic site suggests helpfully. Hmmmm. You first.

Then there are the radio spots in Texas: "Condoms will not protect people from many sexually transmitted diseases."

A report by Human Rights Watch quotes a Texas school official as saying: "We don't discuss condom use, except to say that condoms don't work."

I'm all for abstinence education, and there is some evidence that promoting abstinence helps delay and reduce sexual contacts both in the U.S. and abroad. But young people have been busily fornicating ever since sex was invented, in 1963 (as the poet Philip Larkin calculated), and disparaging condoms is far more likely to discourage their use than to discourage sex. The upshot will be more gonorrhea and AIDS among young Americans — and, abroad, many more people dying young.

All true. I noticed the false claims about condoms 20 years ago, but it does seem to have gained steam lately. I've even seen weird stickers in the Underground claiming that condoms don't work. Well, they work pretty well, if you use them correctly. (Oh, and they prevent pregnancies - and therefore abortions - too.)

One thing Kristof (and Larkin) got wrong, though: As you know, Burbee invented sex in 1926. (Thanks for drawing my attention to this article, Ulrika.)

14:38 GMT: Permalink
Letter to The Washington Post in Saturday's "Free for All":

Sex vs. Subversion

Henry Hyde still does not get it ["Abrams's Contras vs. Clinton's Contretemps," Free for All, Jan. 4].

Subverting the will of Congress, selling arms to avowed enemies, supporting revolutions against elected governments and conducting all these activities using the executive branch to provide a veil of secrecy are not the same thing as denying an affair, even under oath. This highlights the problem with the Manichean worldview he and so many of his colleagues on the right hold. They fail to recognize that not all wrongs are created equal.

This "black or white" thinking allows them to equate sexual dalliances -- which, ironically, Hyde knows about from personal experience -- with the subversive, anti-democratic, illegal and abusive actions of Iran-contra. [Brandon Bittner]

Sunday, 12 January 2003

23:59 GMT: Permalink

I didn't have a real Internet connection at the time, and unfortunately I didn't save the article, either. Can't even remember anymore what paper I saw it in, or what year it was. Probably around 1990-91. Not even sure which country it referred to - something like Denmark or somewhere, I always get those things confused if I don't note them down at the time. (You can see why I thought blogging was a great idea.) Anyway, I read this article which talked about how this one country was not having the problems other European countries were having with job cuts, economic downfalls, etc. Things were, basically, fine. And somewhere about halfway through the (longish) article, it was remarked in passing that this was all very weird since this country had not followed the "money-saving" pattern other European countries had of cutting their social welfare infrastructure down.

Now, it all seemed perfectly obvious to me - you cut social programs, it has a tendency to hurt the general welfare. (That's why those kind of programs were invented in the first place, remember?) It's exactly the sort of thing that defenders of social programs always warn against. So every country but one in Europe had decided to go lean and mean, and they'd all suffered, and no one seemed to notice. There should have been at least dozens of articles in the press about how, "Hey, here's this one country that isn't having the problems we're having! What are they doing right?" But there weren't. There was just this one, and though it did happen to mention this one thing they were doing differently from everyone else, it wasn't seen as significant - rather, it was treated as a reason they shouldn't be doing as well as everyone else. That's one mighty big blind spot.

The ideology that says a nation does better if it treats its poorest citizens most contemptuously is curious. A lot of people think the US is proof of this theory, because it has a less adequate welfare structure than does northern Europe, and yet it seems to be a wealthier and more successful nation than any in Europe - but you have to ignore a lot of other factors to make sense of that equation. Unfortunately, a lot of people are entirely comfortable ignoring those factors.

America, which started out with massive advantages over pretty much everyone, starting with the fact that it was built on a huge landmass of virtually unexploited resources across a highly-varied territory of agricultural and geological treasures, really couldn't be excused for doing any worse than it has. Yes, our system of government has in many respects helped, but it's not as if we started off having to re-make an already settled and plundered land full of over-populated cities overnight. We can only pat ourselves on the back so much.

Meanwhile, there are many countries in the rest of the world that do little or nothing for their poor and they are not successful countries by our measures. Some of those countries even make a big deal of (private, individual) charity and what they get for it is streets full of beggars, including children who have deliberately been maimed by their parents in order to make them look more pathetic and worthy of alms. Some of those countries also have the closest thing to free-market economies that a libertarian (or Libertarian) could claim to hope for, and the result is that a wealthy few preside over a gutted landscape of agonizing poverty and slavery.

It is repellent to watch preening businessmen try to duplicate this nightmare in the United States. Ah, but "lean and mean" measures that gratify the wealthy at the expense of the not-so-wealthy are good for the economy, aren't they? Let's see....

Canada thrives, U.S. falters

The Canadian economy again ran circles around its U.S. counterpart in December, pumping out twice as many jobs as expected while employment south of the border remained on life support.

As with almost every month last year, the December numbers painted a picture two economies undergoing dramatically different recoveries.

Figures released Friday show a whopping 58,000 jobs were created in Canada in December, continuing this country's employment winning streak and exceeding economists' expected gain twofold. In 2002, Canada enjoyed its highest annual employment growth rate in 15 years.

In the United States — where the economy has yet to mount a convincing recovery — job losses for the month totalled 101,000. Consensus forecasts had called for a modest increase of about 20,000 jobs as economists held out hope of signs of a firmer recovery.

For the year, U.S. payroll employment fell by 181,000 positions, following a loss of 1.4 million jobs in 2001.

Hard-heartedness is not a policy that has ever been known to work, in this or in the criminal justice system. Yet here is avowed liberal Matt Yglesias saying:

We seem to have given up on rehabilitation some time ago, and with some pretty good reasons [...]
He doesn't say what those reasons are, and I'm sure if he were to do the necessary research to try to back it up, he'd find there aren't any. As I've said before, rehabilitation works. People get rehabilitated all the time. Brutalizing people isn't a very good way to rehabilitate them - it's very often how they got violent in the first place, and you're not going to fix the problem by delivering more of the same. But look what happened in Finland when they changed their ways:

"If I have to be a prisoner," he said, "I'm happy I'm one in Finland because I trust the Finnish system."

So, evidently, do law-abiding Finns, even though their system is Europe's most lenient and would probably be the object of soft-on-criminals derision in many societies outside of the Nordic countries.

In polls measuring what national institutions they admire the most, Finns put their criminal-coddling police in the No. 1 position.

The force is the smallest in per capita terms in Europe, but it has a corruption-free reputation and it solves 90 percent of its serious crimes.

"I know this system sounds like a curiosity," said Markku Salminen, a former beat patrolman and homicide detective who is now the director general of the prison service in charge of punishments. "But if you visit our prisons and walk our streets, you will see that this very mild version of law enforcement works. I don't blame other countries for having harsher systems because they have different histories and politics, but this model works for us."

Finland, a relatively classless culture with a Scandinavian belief in the benevolence of the state and a trust in its civic institutions, is something of a laboratory for gentle justice. The kinds of economic and social disparities that can produce violence don't exist in Finland's welfare state society, street crime is low, and law enforcement officials can count on support from an uncynical public.
Thirty years ago, Finland had a rigid model, inherited from neighboring Russia, and one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe. But then academics provoked a thoroughgoing rethinking of penal policy, with their argument that it ought to reflect the region's liberal theories of social organization.

A system that returns people to society as members of that society is one that discourages recidivism. The meaner we get, the more crime we have to cope with. That's not a good thing. But in the US, you can really make it as a politician by encouraging the conditions that encourage crime, and then campaigning as someone who is tough on crime.

So you can be mean and harsh and promote a mean, nasty, violent society, or you can be something better. I want us to be something better.

23:00 GMT: Permalink
The Poor Man has provided a guide to the Democratic and Republican tickets for the 2004 elections (oh, yeah, and Ralph Nader) that were fun to read, but do check out the comments on the Electrolite entry where Patrick linked to it.

Gore Slams U.S. Aim to Seek "Military Dominance" of Rivals, according to Islam Online.

Gary Farber has been posting up a storm this weekend at Amygdala.

From Skimble I learn that the Poet Laureate has written a poem questioning the need for war with Iraq.

Versen gets straight to the point about Korea - but Hugo, please, put spaces after those periods! (Also, that's "Former Governor Bush", not "our president".)

Joe Conason tells you what you need to know about Charles Pickering: One thing in Pickering's long career is quite clear: He left the Democratic Party to join the Republicans in 1964 in protest against the Democrats' support for civil rights. There's plenty of evidence that he hasn't changed, too.

David Neiwert has started a blog, Orcinus, and it looks pretty good so far. Well, actually, he picked a template I don't like, but the words are good. And speaking of words, don't miss the post on Newspeak, and the one on the anti-democratic nature of our accusers.

11:34 GMT: Permalink
From Alison Scott at Macadamia:

But as far as I know, nobody's tried giving away the entire text of a brand new, professionally published novel, at publication, to see what would happen. Cory Doctorow's new novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, has just come out from Tor, and Cory's released the text under a Creative Commons License. Kudos of course to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Cory's editor, and Tor Books. No doubt lots of authors would like to do this; normally the publisher is doubtful. (I bet the publisher's doubtful this time, too, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.) Cory says "first-time novelists have a tough row to hoe. Our publishers don't have a lot of promotional budget to throw at unknown factors like us. Mostly, we rise and fall based on word-of-mouth".

Link everywhere. Tell everyone.

11:01 GMT: Permalink
What is past is prologue

If any of the current political scams sound familiar, that could be because we've been there before. If you've forgotten, or aren't old enough to remember (or have been so immersed in RNC spin that you never noticed in the first place), this article from the December 1981 Atlantic might help:

While David Stockman would speak passionately against the government in Washington and its self-aggrandizing habits, there was this small irony about his siblings and himself: most of them worked for government in one way or another -- protected from the dynamic risk-taking of the private economy. Stockman himself had never had any employer other than the federal government, but the adventure in his career lay in challenging it. Or, more precisely, in challenging the "permanent government" that modern liberalism had spawned.

By that phrase, Stockman and other conservatives meant not only the layers and layers of federal bureaucrats and liberal politicians who sustained open-ended growth of the central government but also the less visible infrastructure of private interests that fed off of it and prospered -- the law firms and lobbyists and trade associations in rows of shining office buildings along K Street in Washington; the consulting firms and contractors; the constituencies of special interests, from schoolteachers to construction workers to failing businesses and multinational giants, all of whom came to Washington for money and for legal protection against the perils of free competition.

While ideology would guide Stockman in his new job, he would be confronted with a large and tangible political problem: how to resolve the three-sided dilemma created by Ronald Reagan's contradictory campaign promises. In private, Stockman agreed that his former congressional mentor, John Anderson, running as an independent candidate for President in 1980, had asked the right question: How is it possible to raise defense spending, cut income taxes, and balace the budget, all at the same time? Anderson had taunted Reagan with that question, again and again, and most conventional political thinkers, from orthodox Republican to Keynesian liberal, agreed with Anderson that it could not be done.

And it couldn't.

And here's a later paragraph that reminds me of the moment I truly realized how little David Stockman understood about the programs he was cutting:

"I put together a list of twenty social programs that have to be zeroed out completely, like Job Corps, Head Start, women and children's feeding programs, on and on. And another twenty-five that have to be cut by 50 percent: general revenue sharing, CETA manpower training, etcetera, etcetera. And then huge bites that would have to be taken out of Social Security. I mean really fierce, blood-and-guts stuff -- widows' benefits and orphans' benefits, things like that. And still it didn't add up to $40 billion. So that sort of created a new awareness of the defense budget ...
Did we all write letters? I sure did. These are all programs that save us money rather than costing us, the most notable of them being WIC - the Women, Infant and Children feeding program. WIC invested about $100 for an average savings of $45,000 per case. That $100 arrived in the form of food to an at-risk pregnant woman, and fed her during pregnancy, with the result that she was unlikely to deliver a dangerously low-birth-weight baby. That meant that the costly associated health-risks were reduced to manageability. When you knew how high those costs could run - as much as $900,000 in a child's first 28 days of life - you not only didn't balk at spending the money, you felt like you were getting something for free. An enormous burden was lifted by that paltry $100 per mother, and not just in terms of that average $45K. Those numbers reflect only the costs in infancy; the calculation for lifetimes of coping with spinabifida and other serious health impairments go well beyond that. The heartache of babies born with most of their brain tissue missing we cannot, of course, calculate at all. The babies who are simply born dead without incurring extra medical costs we don't even bother with - it's not money, it "doesn't matter".

Stockman, in the end, felt betrayed when all his cost-saving plans went south as Reagan preserved lots of pork and sank outrageous sums into his ludicrous Star Wars program. But he should have seen the problem much earlier, when he found himself looking to eliminate relatively small programs like WIC in order to compensate. There was a fantasy floating around at the time that problems could be solved by getting rid of "fraud and waste", but Stockman wouldn't have been thinking about ditching useful programs if he'd been able to find enough fraud and waste to make up the difference. Reagan made an ungodly mess of the budget, leaving a nice big opening for a (relatively) credible third-party run by Ross Perot, who zeroed-in on the damage and made people pay attention. Clinton, at least, knew what Perot's support meant, and seemed to take it as part of his real mandate; a significant part of his presidency was aimed at trying to fix the damage the Reagan budgets had created. And, to his credit, he did a pretty decent job of it.

George W. Bush undid that repair job immediately and has been trying to out-do Reagan's disastrous accomplishments ever since. Bob Herbert says that even Republican voters are starting to notice that Bush's policies are hurting his own constituents, and the remaining thoughtful Republicans are increasingly drifting over to the Democratic Party in response, like this Buzzflash correspondent:

Linda Ann Wheeler Hilton writes, "I used to be a Republican, but not this kind of Republican. I believed in working for one's pay, in obeying the law, in not taking unnecessary hand-outs. Those were, to me, the cornerstones of the 'conservative' Republican agenda. But these are no longer the planks in the GOP platform. Workers are disdained, taxed until they can't cough up another dime, laid off and then kicked when they're down. The only people who 'earn' a living wage are the corporate crooks who pillage left and right and then pillage even after the corporations are bankrupt. There are far too few arrests for corporate malfeasance, or even just simple out and out greed, and even when there are indictments, there is no punishment... It's not lazy welfare cheats who are suckling fat at the government teat: it's people like Gary Winnick... who collected millions of tax dollars in farm subsidies, or Dennis Kozlowski who tapped his frozen Tyco assets to pay the crew of his racing yacht." is headlining lots of stories that underline this fact right now - like this one from The New Republic pointing out that, among other lies, the most distinguished is that Bush's current "stimulus plan" has anything to do with stimulus. In another, they say, Purpose of Bush Tax Plan is to Screw Wage Earners:

The rightwing American Enterprise Institute and liberal Economic Policy Institute agree: Bush's new tax plan is not a "tax cut", but a radical shift in the philosophy of taxation. The purpose is to relieve corporations and rich people of the taxes on their dividends. The cost of that shift is a heavier burden for wage earners. Analysts also agree that the plan will do nothing to create jobs or improve the economy. It's just another Reverse Robin Hood from the Bush gang.
And that's just the economy stuff; has a whole load of headlines up at the moment that you might want to check out for a rough evaluation of this "presidency". Hell, even The Washington Post is saying that Bush is a Divider, Not a Uniter. (It's about time they noticed.) And of course, E.J. Dionne, one of the dwindling number of people at the Post who can't be written off as an RNC shill, is justifiably outraged at the increasingly overt levels of partisanship coming from Republican judges. (Now is a good time to remind your legislators that, in the event of Rehnquist's retirement, the remaining members of the Supreme Court Five don't deserve promotion, they deserve impeachment.) Oh, and, by the way, Tony Blair's support for Bush might not last much longer, what with the party now openly threatening rebellion if his indefensible willingness to go along with insupportable war-mongering keeps up.

So, Bush may be running out of friends, at least outside of the corporate boardrooms. It remains to be seen whether this will translate into the brakes finally being applied to our rogue government.

Saturday, 11 January 2003

16:13 GMT: Permalink

From William Rivers Pitt:

When religious institutions fail to provide moral leadership, when governmental institutions become dangerous to the nation they are tasked to serve, when politicians do not work for the people, or when they tremble at the possibility that standing alone in righteousness might cost them votes, when journalism becomes one long commercial, when votes are brokered against the party affiliation of a majority of powerful judges, it becomes necessary for the singular multitude that is the American people to stand and be counted.

A powerful constitutional framer, James Madison, believed that the ruling minority needed to be protected from the majority. He envisioned a government of elites made up of "enlightened statesmen" and "benevolent philosophers" who would ensure that the principles that founded the nation would not be compromised. Not long after espousing such beliefs, Madison became filled with foreboding. His fears have become our reality, for there are no enlightened statesmen or benevolent philosophers guiding this ship of state. In their absence, we the people must rise to the challenge that has been put before us.

We are out of time.

15:22 GMT: Permalink
A Skeptical Blog reposts a history lesson on what the Republicans claim is The Myth of the Separation between Church and State!

14:40 GMT: Permalink
From Phil Leggiere at Noosphere Blues:

Given the spellbinding lack of critical analysis on TV and in most mainstream print, the role of the Internet has over the past few years has become crucial to independent commentary and information gathering. Yet for all its mythic uncontrollability it's also, as Kurt Nimmo shows here, increasingly vulnerable to political and social control. Indeed insuring its survival as a free forum promises to quickly become one of the most important political battles of 2003 and 2004.

14:02 GMT: Permalink
So, if I fly back to Maryland to visit my family, am I gonna discover when I try to come back to London that I'm on the "no-fly" list? You never know, what with me having a dangerous weblog and all. I mean, look at this poor guy:

Writing about his no-fly nightmare in the Fairfield County Weekly, art dealer Doug Stuber, who had run Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential campaign in North Carolina in 2000, was pulled out of a boarding line and grounded. He was about to make an important trip to Prague to gather artists for Henry James Art in Raleigh, N.C., when he was told (with ticket in hand) that he was not allowed to fly out that day.
At one point during his interrogation, Stuber asked if they really believed the Greens were equal to al Qaeda. Then they showed him a Justice Department document that actually shows the Greens as likely terrorists -- just as likely as al Qaeda members. Stuber was released just before 1 PM, so he still had time to catch the later flight.

The agents walked Stuber to the Delta counter and asked that he be given tickets for the flight so that he could make his connections. The airline official promptly printed tickets, which relieved Stuber, who assumed that the Secret Service hadn't stopped him from flying. Wrong! By the time Stuber was about to board, officer Stanley once again ushered him out the door and told him: "Just go to Greensboro, where they don't know you, and be totally quiet about politics, and you can make it to Europe that way."

In Greensboro, after Stuber showed his passport he was told that he could not fly overseas or domestically. Undeterred, he next traveled an hour-and-a-half to Charlotte. Of course, at Charlotte the same thing happened: "Get this terrorist out of here" was the mode the cops were in. Then Stuber drove three hours to his home after 43 hours of trying to catch a flight.

Stuber concluded that the Greens, whose values include nonviolence, social justice, etc., are now labeled terrorists by the Ashcroft-led Justice Department.

13:44 GMT: Permalink
Talk Left wants to spread the word:

On Jan. 7, 2003, Rep. John Conyers and 20 co-sponsors introduced the Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act in the House of Representatives. This "Fix '96" legislation amends the Immigration and Nationality Act with respect to due process in immigration proceedings, including due process in expedited removal proceedings, judicial review in immigration proceedings, and detention proceedings and detention alternatives. The bill is a repeat of H.R. 3894, which Rep. Conyers introduced last year.

We'd like to see it passed this year, so we are spreading the word. We'll have more details soon. Thanks to Kyle O'Dowd, Legislative director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) for passing this info on to us.

02:43 GMT: Permalink
Sometimes we bit our tongues, and sometimes we couldn't bear to. Sometimes we took enormous flack from people who we knew were exploiting our grief and horror rather than sharing it. No one was allowed to speak for us.

Bless you, Joan Didion:

Seven days after September 11, 2001, I left New York to do two weeks of book promotion, under other circumstances a predictable kind of trip. You fly into one city or another, you do half an hour on local NPR, you do a few minutes on drive-time radio, you do an "event," a talk or a reading or an onstage discussion. You sign books, you take questions from the audience. You go back to the hotel, order a club sandwich from room service, and leave a 5 AM call with the desk, so that in the morning you can go back to the airport and fly to the next city. During the week between September 11 and the Wednesday morning when I went to Kennedy to get on the plane, none of these commonplace aspects of publishing a book seemed promising or even appropriate things to be doing. But—like most of us who were in New York that week—I was in a kind of protective coma, sleepwalking through a schedule made when planning had still seemed possible. In fact I was protecting myself so successfully that I had no idea how raw we all were until that first night, in San Francisco, when I was handed a book onstage and asked to read a few marked lines from an essay about New York I had written in 1967.

Later I remembered thinking: 1967, no problem, no land mines there.

I put on my glasses. I began to read.

"New York was no mere city," the marked lines began. "It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself."

I hit the word "perishable" and I could not say it.

I found myself onstage at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco unable to finish reading the passage, unable to speak at all for what must have been thirty seconds. All I can say about the rest of that evening, and about the two weeks that followed, is that they turned out to be nothing I had expected, nothing I had ever before experienced, an extraordinarily open kind of traveling dialogue, an encounter with an America apparently immune to conventional wisdom. The book I was making the trip to talk about was Political Fictions, a series of pieces I had written for The New York Review about the American political process from the 1988 through the 2000 presidential elections. These people to whom I was listening—in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Portland and Seattle—were making connections I had not yet in my numbed condition thought to make: connections between that political process and what had happened on September 11, connections between our political life and the shape our reaction would take and was in fact already taking.

These people recognized that even then, within days after the planes hit, there was a good deal of opportunistic ground being seized under cover of the clearly urgent need for increased security. These people recognized even then, with flames still visible in lower Manhattan, that the words "bipartisanship" and "national unity" had come to mean acquiescence to the administration's preexisting agenda— for example the imperative for further tax cuts, the necessity for Arctic drilling, the systematic elimination of regulatory and union protections, even the funding for the missile shield —as if we had somehow missed noticing the recent demonstration of how limited, given a few box cutters and the willingness to die, superior technology can be.

These people understood that when Judy Woodruff, on the evening the President first addressed the nation, started talking on CNN about what "a couple of Democratic consultants" had told her about how the President would be needing to position himself, Washington was still doing business as usual. They understood that when the political analyst William Schneider spoke the same night about how the President had "found his vision thing," about how "this won't be the Bush economy any more, it'll be the Osama bin Laden economy," Washington was still talking about the protection and perpetuation of its own interests.

These people got it.

They didn't like it.

They stood up in public and they talked about it.

Only when I got back to New York did I find that people, if they got it, had stopped talking about it. I came in from Kennedy to find American flags flying all over the Upper East Side, at least as far north as 96th Street, flags that had not been there in the first week after the fact. I say "at least as far north as 96th Street" because a few days later, driving down from Washington Heights past the big projects that would provide at least some of the manpower for the "war on terror" that the President had declared—as if terror were a state and not a technique— I saw very few flags: at most, between 168th Street and 96th Street, perhaps a half-dozen. There were that many flags on my building alone. Three at each of the two entrances. I did not interpret this as an absence of feeling for the country above 96th Street. I interpreted it as an absence of trust in the efficacy of rhetorical gestures.

God, I want to quote the whole thing. Go read it, it's too good to miss.

Friday, 10 January 2003

05:37 GMT: Permalink


I'm irritated with the way that referrer listing script keeps distorting my formatting, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it, so I've moved it to the bottom of the page. (And, I should have mentioned before that, as Patrick noted, I figured out why he was seeing a different referrer list than I was - because he was using the other URL for this site. See, my provider offers me two formats that both go to the same page, with "idps" and "free-online" being interchangeable. I like the "idps" one better because it's easier to type, but before I was sure that'd work, I gave Patrick the longer one.)

Meanwhile, I've hesitated to add Alison Scott's Macadamia to the blogroll because it's so apolitical (a requirement of her job, alas), but then I thought, hell, she's a pretty good friend, not to mention being one of the better writers (and fanzines editors) in British fandom, so why not? You can hardly accuse her of being dull. And then I noticed on Patrick's redesigned blogroll that Mitch Wagner has a blog called Monkey In My Pants, which I liked and anyway how could I not have a name like that on my sidebar?

05:06 GMT: Permalink
Eric Alterman has some good questions:

Let me get this straight:

Rudy Giuliani is a hero for turning down $10 million of this guy's dough because the donor doesn't like America's Israel policy, but nobody bats an eye when he gives the money to fund a George Herbert Walker Bush Scholarship Fund at Phillips Academy, Andover. A Bush spokesperson says the former president, like his son an Andover graduate, "felt it had been given in good faith." Anybody still have Ken Starr's phone number?

Did anyone apologize to Cynthia McKinney, first?

04:53 GMT: Permalink
Charles Dodgson has an idle thought:

Am I the only person who suspects that the Republican failure to extend unemployment benefits last month was a deliberate ploy to let them bundle the extension in with Dubya's tax package, to try to make it look a little more balanced?
No, you're not the only person who suspects that, Charles.

04:19 GMT: Permalink
William Burton is back, with analysis of how Trent Lott was really brought low by the Tubesteak Messiah's mighty organ. Also, in the comments, nofundy reminds us: The ONLY reason Friskie ran for public office was in response to President Clinton's universal health care plan. That would have bankrupted good ole' HCA and daddy wouldn't have been happy. Why else go to school for 12 extra years and drop it all to run for Senate?

Hey, did you catch Dwight Meredith's post about the freedom riders?

Also, Is Mild-Mannered Joe Lieberman Actually Evil Senator Palpatine?

Thursday, 09 January 2003

14:34 GMT: Permalink

White stuff!

To my utter amazement, it snowed in London yesterday and stuck. I love snow when I don't have to worry about getting to work in it. In fact, it made going out and getting a blood test at the local clinic actual fun. It made getting up two days and a row and looking out the window to see all that beautiful white stuff a real pleasure. This has happened, what, maybe twice before in the 17 or so years I've lived here?

But there's a downside, of course. For one thing, the weather affects my dial-up somehow, and it made it impossible to get a decent connection yesterday, so I couldn't upload stuff. (In case anyone was wondering, the timestamps for these entries are generally unrelated to the actual time of posting. I normally upload more than one item at a time, and only the top one is timestamped to something like the time I posted it - I type them all in by hand, so there's no automatic congruence. Yesterday's top post denotes the first time I tried to upload - but in fact I couldn't FTP it until about 3:00 this morning.)

The other downside of the snow is that today I do have to get into town and I'm sure the pavements will be icy unless the weather turns Londony again. But, oh, looking out at my back garden it just looks so pretty! Too bad it won't be covering up all that ugly construction work in central London....

14:06 GMT: Permalink

You too can be a conservative pundit. First, memorize these two-word phrases. Then interject them in discussions as needed:

  1. Liberal bias
  2. Political correctness
  3. Class warfare
  4. Moral equivalence
With sagacious use of these four fuzzy phrases, you can stop discussion dead in its tracks, just like the professionals do it. Of course, the phrase of the hour is "class warfare." Can anyone say what the fuzzy phrase means? In American politics, everyone agrees with the notion of progressive taxation; everyone—Rep and Dem alike—agrees that, as a matter of fairness, the rich should be taxed at higher rates than the poor (see below). But when Dems examine the Bush tax plans, they are now attacked—it's Hard Pundit Law—for performing an act of "class warfare." No one knows what the fuzzy phrase means. It's just a great way to change a rough subject.

13:50: GMT: Permalink
The wonderful Ted Barlow is impressed with the impressive Scoobie Davis, and adds an observation of his own:

(Speaking of howler monkeys, what the hell happened to Slate's Kausfiles Fray? I don't read it much, but I thought that it was semi-moderated. I hope not. Just two examples:

Gong, in a post called "How a liberal lie works. Read for answer", says "Last night on one of those stupid liberal shows on NBC I saw two liberal girls who were so damned stupid they were eating horse rectums. One liberal broad ate nearly 12 inches of horse rectum and the other liberal broad ate 13 full inches of horse rectum. (there's more, but it's all about horse rectum eating)

Spanky2 replies, "Maybe they were welfare handout libs who needed a free meal! They'll eat horse shit if they have to."

Based on these quotes from actual message board participants, I am terrified of the threat of Kaus-wing violence.)
If you haven't read Barlow in the last few days, do it now, he has many good things up. (Missed ya, Ted.)

13:41 GMT: Permalink
The New Republic is talking about fat:

As we have seen, most of the people the government and the health establishment claim are too fat--those categorized as "overweight" or "mildly obese"--do not in fact suffer from worse health than supposedly "ideal-weight" individuals. It is true that some groups of fat people--generally those with BMI figures well above 30--are less healthy than average, although not nearly to the extent the anti-fat warriors would have you believe. (Large-scale mortality studies indicate that women who are 50 or even 75 pounds "overweight" will on average still have longer life expectancies than those who are 10 to 15 pounds "underweight," a.k.a. fashionably thin.) Yet there is considerable evidence that even substantially obese people are not less healthy because they're fat. Rather, other factors are causing them to be both fat and unhealthy. Chief among these factors are sedentary lifestyle and diet-driven weight fluctuation.

The most comprehensive work regarding the dangers of sedentary lifestyle has been done at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. The institute's director of research, Steven Blair, is probably the world's leading expert on the relationship between activity levels and overall health. For the past 20 years, the Cooper Institute has maintained a database that has tracked the health, weight, and basic fitness levels of tens of thousands of individuals. What Blair and his colleagues have discovered turns the conventional wisdom about the relationship between fat and fitness on its head. Quite simply, when researchers factor in the activity levels of the people being studied, body mass appears to have no relevance to health whatsoever--even among people who are substantially "obese." It turns out that "obese" people who engage in moderate levels of physical activity have radically lower rates of premature death than sedentary people who maintain supposedly "ideal-weight" levels.

(Via Jim Henley.)

13:15 GMT: Permalink
Charlie has a pointer to an article about Vernor Vinge in The Observer.

Flash animation: a brief guide to corporate scandals (via Bartcop).

Wednesday, 08 January 2003

19:30 GMT: Permalink

E. J. Dionne asks Who's Playing 'Class Warfare'?

The president is proposing an economic "stimulus" plan that will certainly stimulate the very wealthiest Americans.

Its centerpiece will be an end to taxes on dividends, which will cost the government about $300 billion over the next decade. It happens, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, that roughly half that money would go to people earning more than $350,000 a year, to the top 1 percent of Americans. The 80 percent of households earning less than $73,000 a year will get less than 10 percent of this stimulant.

With so many Americans losing their jobs and their health insurance, with senior citizens getting clobbered by prescription drug costs, with money short for educating kids, you'd think we could find better ways of stimulating the economy.

But everything I just said is politically incorrect because it involves a kind of warfare of which the president most definitely disapproves.

"I understand the politics of economic stimulus, that some would like to turn this into class warfare," Bush said last week as he was giving reporters a tour of that very nice ranch he owns in Crawford, Tex. "That's not how I think."

Now, if I were in the president's position -- or in the position of the wealthy contributors who lavishly financed the campaigns of his political friends last year -- I wouldn't want anyone to talk about class either. God forbid we look at the details of exactly who benefits most from this administration's policies.

But it would be easier to respect this attack on class warfare if the president and his allies disavowed such belligerency themselves. Alas, they don't. They just play a different kind of class politics by demonizing those elites who are not on their approved list of corporate chiefs, oil millionaires, heirs to large fortunes and the like.

It is a puzzle, isn't it? Bush and Cheney are filthy rich, but the Republicans think that saying Kerry & Edwards are rich is a great put-down of them. They used the same one on Gore, too. Of course, Gore wasn't born rich, and Edwards appears to have made his own money (as a - gasp! - trial lawyer), so it's interesting that they seem to be trying to pretend that they are somehow at least as much the products of over-indulgent privilege as Bush is.

Years ago, Harold Lasswell, the great political scientist, suggested that one of the fundamental political questions is "Who gets what, when and how." It's a question we're not supposed to ask anymore.

19:06 GMT: Permalink
A couple of good ones at the Summary Opinions blog (which is different from their front page). There's a lame bit of wit from Ollie North, and then there's this item I missed last month:

I have nothing against Jacoby's summary of the Justice Department's annual survey of death penalty statistics. I do have a problem with this:
Year after year, the number of inmates put to death by the state - usually painlessly and after years of due process - adds up to a minuscule fraction of the number of Americans purposely shot, beaten, strangled, knifed, poisoned, burned, drowned, hanged, and tortured to death by murderers. And yet which set of deaths elicits more public outrage, more media attention, more demands for reform, more cries to protect the innocent? Which occasions more debates, more candlelight vigils, more international protest?

If those who pour so much passion, effort, and money into wiping out the death penalty would pour them instead into wiping out homicide, who knows how many thousands of innocent lives they might save? But for reasons I have never been able to fathom, they would rather save the lives of the guilty.

This broad slander of the anti-death penalty movement is vile. For the record, I think the innocent people killed in homicides does receive more attention from all Americans and rightly so. What is he thinking?
Oh, I'd go much farther than that. I'd say that death penalty advocates are too lazy to pay much attention to the real price that criminal violence does to society - and how to stop it. Killing people after the fact is a pathetic substitute for preventing people from becoming killers in the first place. All those executions aren't making America into a less violent place. There are things a society does to increase the likelihood that people will kill, and America does plenty of them. When you choose to kill people, you send a message. When the state chooses to kill, it sends that message loud and clear. Once you start rationalizing the killing of other human beings in cold blood, you've given killers all the justification they need.

(You might also want to check out this astonishing item on Frank Luntz.)

04:18 GMT: Permalink
Emma has a fine rant on abortion:

In the face of this kind of social engineering, it's difficult to believe that abortion opponents are only acting out of a religious belief in the immorality of abortion. Rather, they seem to be acting out of a desire to create a society in their own image: Judeo-Christian, authoritarian, repressive. They wish to turn America back from a multicultural, multireligious society to a never-never time of working daddies, stay at home mommies, and obedient children. And they will use any tool at hand.

04:12 GMT: Permalink
The Bush Depression

I guess I didn't have to write that rant about the Bush tax plan after all - Skippy did a fine job and a round-up of all the people who talked about it first before I noticed.

And Max has the details on how the Republicans are spinning it all.

04:05 GMT: Permalink
Digby is having fun with Howie Kurts, so Demosthenese chimes in:

Ah, once again Howie starts dodging his media beat and starts playing the Bush spin doctor. Not only does it attack Edwards for not having the same experience that Dubya doesn't have, but in trying to weasel out of that obvious problem Howie forgets one of the fundamental talking points of the right: that a president can learn foreign policy on his feet when need be. If Bush did it, Edwards can do it: despite the party's inability to demonstrate a coherent alternative view of foreign policy, there are lots of people within the Democratic party that can serve as mandarins for Edwards until he gets up to speed. The guy's bright; it won't take long.
Of course, there's no evidence that Bush did do it. To recap: Bush started causing international incidents during the first presidential debate, got into office and immediately started alienating our allies and stirring it up with our enemies as well, and he has continued doing it ever since.

Frankly, it's hard to imagine that any Democrat (except maybe Lieberman) could do a worse job.

03:50 GMT: Permalink
Gregory Harris found some good news:

A Norwegian court has rebuffed the piracy case brought against Jon Johansen, the author of the DeCSS program by the MPAA, clearing the young man of all charges.

The studios argued unauthorised copying was copyright theft and undermined a market for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North America alone.

But Johansen argued his code was necessary to watch movies he already owned, on his Linux-based computer, for which DVD software had not yet been written.

He said since he owned the DVDs, he should be able to view them as he liked, preferably on his own computer. The court, citing consumer laws which protect consumers' fair use of their own property, agreed.

The court ruled there was "no evidence" that Johansen or others used the decryption code called DeCSS for illegal purposes. Nor was there any evidence that Johansen intended to contribute to illegal copying.

Tuesday, 07 January 2003

19:55 GMT: Permalink

If you haven't read this post from Testify yet, do it now.

When the final week came before my shipping out to Ft. Benning my family and I had similar goodbyes as this young man and his mom in the picture. It wasn't easy for any of us and I can still remember the ache vividly. These things are of no consequence to the men in Washington, who are themselves sowing fields of selfish pride. They believe that starting a war with Saddam will bring them glory and riches. It will but at what cost? The same men that sent me to fight against Saddam are now back in power for another go at him. The same men who avoided military service or worse where A.W.O.L. during their service. The same men that helped Saddam become a much more deadly tyrant than he would have without their intervention.

Good luck and god-speed young soldiers. I hope when you get home that you ask questions of your leaders as to why you had to go and fight this tyrant and why your benefits and salary got cut before you went.

14:49 GMT: Permalink
Plantation America

I could comment at length, daily, on the Republican "tax cuts", but it all sends me into such a rage that I usually try to restrain myself. If you think there's a liberal media, you have to ask yourself why they aren't ranting continually about the mendacity, irresponsibility, and thievery of the entire Republican tax program. Seeing the Forest shows how simple it would be for a genuinely fair and balanced - nevermind liberal - press to explain the matter:

Here's what WILL be taxed:
-Money made from working at a job in an office or at a factory or as a janitor, etc.
-Money made from savings interest.
-Money made if you are a plumber, etc. (even though you are paid by people who already paid taxes on their income, so it will be "taxed twice," which is the justification for no dividend taxation. But that sort of nonsense justification only applies to money made by the really, really rich. Wink, wink, nod, nod.)
-Money you receive as unemployment benefits.
-A big chunk of your income from your job will go into Social Security - but only the first 85,000 is taxed - if you make more than that the tax stops. This is the largest tax most Americans pay. This money is currently going back out to the rich as tax cuts, because the deficit resulting from these tax cuts is also using up the Social Security surplus.

In other words - the money that YOU make.

Here's money that WILL NOT be taxed:
-Money made from inheriting huge fortunes.
-Money made from selling stocks. (Taxed at a much lower rate.) (This benefits primarily the top few % of wealthy.)
-Money made from receiving dividends. (This benefits primarily the top few % of wealthy.)
-Money made from selling a company. (Taxed at a much lower rate.) (Needless to day - this benefits primarily the top few % of wealthy.)
-Money made from stock options received for being an executive at the company that laid you off. (This benefits the top few % of wealthy.)
-Money made by corporations that move intellectual property offshore, then license it back to their U.S. branch. Example, a patent on a drug is "owned" by the Bermuda branch and licensed to the U.S. pharmaceutical company for the entire amount of their U.S. profits, so they pay no U.S. taxes on those profits.
-Money made by corporations who have moved their mailing address offshore. (But these corporations WILL be allowed to continue to receive lucrative government contracts.)
-Money and services received by executives as "expenses."
-Income after the first $85,000 is not taxed for Social Security.

In other words - the money that THE REALLY RICH make.

It's really hard for me to believe that anyone is stupid enough to buy the whole "taxed twice" argument that somehow only seems to be applied to money in the hands of the extraordinarily rich. If you work at Wal-Mart, the money that goes into your paycheck was taxed at the till, then is taxed again as your income (payroll taxes, income tax, state and local taxes, etc.), and again when you spend it. Any transfer of money in or out of your hands gets taxed at least once at any point of exchange. In theory, the recipient is the one who is paying the taxes in most cases, although it's you, not the recipient, who pays the sales tax at the counter. Can the Republicans who spew this line really be so oblivious that they do not know this already?

I've worked long weeks at crummy, soul-destroying jobs where I wasn't paid enough to begin with and then had to watch a significant bite of it disappear into taxes when I already wasn't making enough for one person to live on. So why, exactly, should my heart bleed for some rich guy who whines about having to pay taxes? If ordinary working people can see the value of putting something back into society to keep it running, why can't the rich? It's not as if they don't get more out of it.

If the Republicans really believed that taxes are bad, or that income shouldn't be "taxed twice", or any of that other crap, they'd be trying to reduce the tax burden on all of us, not just the very wealthy. What they're really trying to do is make sure that we give them our money. They want to make ordinary working people into the only taxpayers, and then make sure that money does not benefit us, but is funnelled into their hands in the form of "government" programs that allow them to give our money to themselves and their friends.

So, really, how dumb do you have to be? What kind of a moron actually believes this whole "taxed twice" scam? Who is really falling for it? Do members of the media actually think this bit of rhetoric makes sense? Does the Republican leadership? I doubt it. What about the people who vote for these weasels? Are they really that stupid? Maybe. I suppose these must be the people Media Whores Online is referring to when they discuss Moron-Americans. Those would be the people who can listen to this crap and not realize that the salaries they work so hard for are also "taxed twice" - and support George Wargasm Bush's drive to take cash out of your pocket so that he can undermine your economic security and make the world more terrifying by starting wars all over the place.

14:02 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

It's hard to avoid the suspicion that a significant number of America's worst social problems would be alleviated by summoning the insurance industry's top managers to an economic summit, and then setting packs of wild dogs on them.

13:51 GMT: Permalink
Doug Pibel at Online Journal addressed an interesting question to David Corn last month: Mr. Corn, how about investigating, instead of denial and name-calling? Just give me a story that makes a little more sense.

Susan sees through the spin, here and a lot of other places.

The Better Rhetor is pushing a letter-writing campaign to politicians and the press to Dump Ashcroft. Great idea! (But you might want to look at this piece I wrote a few years ago on writing to your reps about 'net censorship [and really ought to update] for a few pointers.)

13:20 GMT: Permalink
Liquid List finds a great Scott Renshaw column:

Why is far-right conservatism un-Christian? Because it has nothing to do with using the life and teachings of Jesus Christ—distinct from the teachings about Jesus Christ—as a guidepost for right living. Jesus would sneer at leaders who profess their faith as some sort of political merit badge, or at the idea of prayer in public schools—he wanted us to go into our closets to talk to God. Jesus would disdain Biblical literalism in favor of fundamental human compassion—he violated the religious dictates of his time to heal on the Sabbath, and to associate with those thought unclean and sinful. And sure, even the devil can quote Scripture for his purposes. That's why Jesus made love the first and most important commandment, and why the quiz for admission to Heaven outlined in Matthew 25 asks not about how well you know Leviticus, but about whether you fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited those in prison. Jesus was a liberal.

Why is far-right conservatism un-American? Because no matter how many times the Founding Fathers used the words "God" or "Creator" in this nation's founding documents, they believed they were founding a secular nation based on liberal principles. George Washington wrote, "As Mankind become more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government." The 1795 treaty with Tripoli opened with the words, "As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion …" Our guiding principles were drawn from Judeo-Christian ideals by men who believed in God, true, but they were placed in a context of providing citizens with the most civil freedom. The Founding Fathers were liberals.

13:06 GMT: Permalink
From Body and Soul

"The more you examine the religion [Islam], the more militaristic it seems. After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior, not a peace advocate like Jesus." -- Kenneth Adelmen

I've read dozens of variations on that statement, and every time the logic, or lack of it, drives me mad. Never mind mentioning that Christianity has its own militaristic streak, does it make any sense whatsoever to argue that Islam is violent because Mohammed was a warrior, and Christianity is peaceful because Jesus was a peace advocate, and therefore, as followers of Jesus we must attack?

"Christianity is building benches and cabinets because Jesus was a carpenter." So maybe we have to send the Peace Corps instead of soldiers.

Monday, 06 January 2003

15:37 GMT: Permalink

Good one from Joe Bob Briggs:

All of this ties in, of course, with our president's Don-Quixote-like fixation on teen morals, in the form of doling out funds to groups that preach abstinence. In order to get those funds, you have to teach that "sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects" and "a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity."

The "expected standard"? There's an "expected standard" for sex? Expected by, of course, THE STATE! There may be a more Soviet sentence written by an American bureaucrat, but I've never seen it.

And furthermore, if you endorse condom use, you get ZIP federal money. It should be called the Restrain-Yourself-Or-Die-Trying theory of teen sex.

If I had a 16-year-old son who claimed he didn't want sex, I'd probably take him to the Johns Hopkins Gender Clinic to get checked out. But just in case there are a few moms and dads who are genuinely clueless out there, let me point something out about teenagers:

They'll usually say what you want them to say. When two of them both want sex -- even if they've taken the pledge - they've eventually going to do something very intimate together, whether you call it sex or not.

Please, people, let's just get a condom into the general vicinity of that moment in time.

I'm surprised I have to explain these things.

15:02 GMT: Permalink
Hey, Mark McEahern is blogging again. Happy new year!

The Alternet's Top Ten Conspiracy Theories of 2002

Lisa English has another media-related post up, with extra-added linkage. Don't forget to check out Reclaim the Media.

Dancers (from Max).

14:24 GMT: Permalink
The Guardian on the new Archbishop of Canterbury:

His recent Dimbleby lecture has ensured that the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, enters this Christian season festooned with adjectives of all kinds, from visionary to muddled and wrong-headed.

Among those who subscribe to the less admiring assessments is his fellow Anglican, Ruth Lea, head of policy for the Institute of Directors, who told the Times that the lecture had confirmed her fears about him. "I had the feeling he is going to turn out to be a highly controversial person," she said. "Does this man want to be a politician or a theologian? I get the impression he wants to be a politician, and a lot of his politics will be anathema to many people in the Church of England. I see a lot of this as a political tract of a leftwing cleric, which I don't think shows an in-depth analysis."

Dr Williams's condition may well be incurable. The trouble appears to be that he has spent so much of his life with his nose buried in subversive literature. Among his favourite reading, it is said, are books which assert the following deeply undesirable principles: that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven; and that money is the root of all evil. There is even a much-lauded central character who overturns the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, not a practice to earn approval in Pall Mall. Such teachings consistently fail to underline the essential truth - that what some petty, envious people take to be greed is really incentivisation. Though you will not find this point made in St Matthew, directors who take vast sums for their services do so out of selflessness: the greater efforts to which these incentives will stir them will benefit the whole community. What a shame that people like Ruth weren't around to proclaim such essential truths in the 1st century. A dose of her hard-headed, in-depth analysis might have changed the Christian religion for ever.

14:00 GMT: Permalink
The Liquid List has a link to Russell Mokhiber's Ari & I; I really liked this one:

Mokhiber: Ari, last week I asked -- why is the President appointing convicted criminals like Elliott Abrams to policy positions at the White House? You said that you disputed the premise of the question. What part of the question do you dispute?

Ari Fleischer: Did you call him a war criminal?

Mokhiber: No, I didn't. I called him a convicted criminal.

Fleischer: That's right, you called Henry Kissinger, the Nobel Prize winner, a war criminal. You didn't call him (Abrams) a war criminal?

Mokhiber: I did not. I said, why is the President appointing convicted criminals like Elliott Abrams to policy positions at the White House?

Sunday, 05 January 2003

21:55 GMT: Permalink

Calpundit is not looking back fondly to the nice, safe, past, when we only had to worry about sweeties like Joe Stalin:

This nostalgia for the good 'ol days of nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union is charming in its own way, I suppose, and is surely proof that we really did win the Cold War. But we've also lost our collective memory about it and this occasionally makes me miss graying pundits like David Broder, who were actually alive back then and know what it was like.

So, a quick history lesson: back in the 50s and 60s, when all this stuff was actually happening, nobody thought the Soviet Union was just a big, furry — and rational — teddy bear. Krushchev was the guy who banged his shoe on the lectern at the UN while promising to bury us, and risked global annihilation by sending nuclear missiles to Cuba. The Soviets invaded Hungary, they invaded Czechoslovakia, and they had two million troops massed behind the Iron Curtain. Schoolkids were taught to duck and cover because an ICBM from Kamchatka might be headed our way any minute. Sputnik was a terrifying example of Soviet superiority in science, raising the spectre of Russian space platforms stocked with nuclear missiles staring implacably down on us 24 hours a day. Lyndon Johnson ran television ads suggesting that nuclear war was right around the corner if you voted for Barry Goldwater. People were scared.

For some reason, every generation loses the ability to appreciate the emotional impact of events from the previous generation. They become merely words in history books, and the players seem somehow like misguided little children making silly mistakes that, really, are sort of obvious in hindsight, aren't they?

Don't fall for it. North Korea and Iraq are not the first dangerous countries we have encountered, 2003 is not the first year we have had to worry about nuclear weapons in dangerous hands, and Kim Jong-il and Saddam Hussein are not the first thuggish dictators we have had to face.

20:19 GMT: Permalink
Bob Somerby has a post up in which he suggests that maybe the Raelians have the explanation for our pundit corps. Oh, and a take-down of one of my favorite professional liars, Alan Simpson.

Have you seen The Watch? Check it out. Also, she recommends this post by Ampersand about an angry dentist, and so do I.

A look back at 2003.

16:45 GMT: Permalink
Gift Horse

Well, what a nice surprise - there I was checking my referrer logs, and I noticed a couple from Media Whores Online. The long-awaited return of The Horse is a relief anyway, but seeing The Sideshow added to their newly-redesigned blogroll is an honor. Welcome back, MWO, and thanks!

16:16 GMT: Permalink
A new Sideshow Award to Electrolite for Best Blogroll re-design. I like those categories - wish I'd thought of it.

Feoreg writes to say that Pagan Prattle now has a new address.

Saturday, 04 January 2003

19:54 GMT: Permalink

Nick Kessler on environmentalist enlightenment in Wyoming:

This was an issue in the 2002 Wyoming governor's race, as Daily Kos noticed back in October. The Democratic candidate, Dave Freudenthal, talked about this issue and told ranchers that "More protections need to be extended to surface landowners." The ranchers listened, having been reminded by the gas drillers that the environment is not some liberal invention. And people who pay attention to issues, who base their decisions on candidates' actual policy proposals, soon become Democratic voters. The people of Wyoming (the place that gave us Dick Cheney and the yahoos who lynched Matthew Shepard for being gay, where George W. Bush got a massive 69% of the vote in 2000) looked past the Republican war drums for a moment and made Freudenthal their governor.

19:37 GMT: Permalink
Tapped notes that Lying in Ponds has announced their winner for the most Partisan Punditry of the year. Of course, their winner for most partisan opinion-page pundit is Paul Krugman. Which is strange, given this:

From the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, Collin Levey and Claudia Rosett earned their high rankings by following a very simple formula -- all Democrats are bad. While Ms. Levey avoided making a single positive Democratic reference in her 26 columns, Ms. Rosett did manage to praise Franklin Roosevelt -- perhaps the statute of limitations was somehow involved.
LIP claims that Krugman deserves the award because of "the remarkable consistency" of his criticisms of the Bush administration throughout the year. Yet we are told that, while Krugman is aiming his criticisms at the administration that is in power, Levey and Rosett were also consistent in criticizing the Democrats, even though they are not the party in power. It seems to me that partisanship would be the only explanation for the position LIP says Levey and Rosett seem to take, while Krugman might simply be reserving his examinations for those who actually control policy. As I've said before, Krugman has not historically been particularly kind to Democrats when they have been in power, and being hostile to Bush policies doesn't make you a Democratic partisan, either. But if the two writers at OpinionJournal really do seem to be working on a formula that "all Democrats are bad", it seems hard to find even the flimsiest rationalization for pretending that it's policies, not partisanship, that motivates them.

18:52 GMT: Permalink
The Liberal Media Thing

The other day the blogosphere was rippled over this NYT article about how prominent Democrats had noticed the need to beef up liberal representation in the media. I was somewhat surprised to see a number of liberal commentators complain only that John Podesta had dissed liberal websites. Then I was surprised at people worrying about who we could get to do the job, or talking about how liberals don't go for that red-meat-radio stuff and that's why we don't already have people like that. I had the feeling that people just hadn't been listening.

Thankfully, Skippy responded in depth with a long list of liberal media personalities who had been quite successful in their markets but were pulled anyway for reasons obviously not owing to their popularity with the public. (Go read that post now if you haven't already.) And Digby - whose new blog is proving to be very good indeed - has added to the list. Go read that one, too.

Both of them recommend Liquid List, by the way, and so do I.

18:03 GMT: Permalink
Lawrence Kestenbaum has retired from elective office, learned about robot spam for your referrer logs, and received an entertaining cease and desist threat.

Andrea Harris has her own round-up of Tolkien-related posts.

14:54 GMT: Permalink
Hell freezes over

Yes, I'm actually recommending an article by the one and only Phyllis Schlafly, who says, Copyright extremists shouldn't control information. She's got a nice catalog of nasties, and she says:

The purpose of copyright law is to provide incentives and protection to authors to create and publish original works, not give corporations the power to control the flow of information. We should not permit copyright extremists to exploit current laws for that goal, and we should reject their demands that Congress give them even broader power to control and license information."
And she's right. (Thanks to Jack Heneghan for the heads-up.)

14:30 GMT: Permalink
Robbed by a Fountain Pen is new to me, and has some great posts up about many things, such as the one on how even the postmark on George Bush's Xmas cards is phony, what a digital crowbar really is, and a bunch of other stuff.

Under a Blackened Sky picks Edwards as the 2004 Democratic candidate, and explains why.

FBI Eyes on your mouse (via Crazy Soph).

14:04 GMT: Permalink
There's miles of great stuff at Interesting Times, such as his item musing on what Randi Rhodes says about the media, but here's an earlier entry:

I was thinking about the way the establishment media reports on the state of the union and how that reflects on the management of the Bush administration and I have a simple question: why do reporters expend time and effort trying to find excuses for not blaming Bush for what is going on?

I am not saying they should blame him (I do, but I don't expect my opinion to matter to them). I am only asking why they go out of their way to find other explanations for what is going on. Why don't they just report what is happening and then let the Bushies figure out how they are not responsible. And, when they do, report it as their claims for why they are not responsible. Don't report them as if, because some government agency said it, it therefore proves that Bush isn't at fault.

It's amazing to me the lengths some in the establishment media will go to provide butt-cover for the Shrub. It's almost like, since they gave the guy such good treatment during the campaign and the post-election fiasco that they have to make him sound better then he might be just so they won't be blamed for letting him in past the gates.

Of course, there's the simple fact that even reporting what the White House does is regarded as hostile coverage by them. Just put this administration's activities into straight-forward, uncreative headlines, and place them prominently, and the public will figure out what they are up to - and be repelled. That would undercut the staged political stuff Bush does that is meant to create his image as some sort of a "compassionate" moderate. So it would be "liberal" and "biased" to report it. What Team Bush wants us to see is his photo-ops in schools where he babbles about the importance of education, or his phony speeches about national security and anti-terrorism. That stuff is treated as what they are "really" doing, and the real stuff is treated as mere political blather. By reversing the view of what is just campaign speechifying and what is real administration policy, a reporter can please the White House and avoid being labelled "a major league asshole".

Everything you needed to know about Bush was visible in the first presidential debate, when he refused to acknowledge his own policies and implied that Gore was lying simply for repeating what was visible on Bush's own website ("fuzzy math"), and when he actually stated that Gore had raised more funds for that campaign than Bush had. The press covered for Bush because that's what they know he expects from them, and journalists who don't do it stand a good chance of having their careers ended. Until the owners of Big Media decide that saving our country is more important than sucking up to George Bush, you don't really need to ask why journalists are working so hard to make Bush look good.

13:28 GMT: Permalink
Gail Davis is justly and beautifully pissed off:

In fact Bush wants to reroute all money to those who make over $300,000 or $400,000 a year. Those who make less will, in Bush's plan, pay for the war with Iraq, the war on terrorism (assuming there still is such an effort), the war on the citizens of this country, corporate welfare, etc. Of course, once the rich are not only excused from supporting their country but also feed off it through corporate welfare, there will be nothing left for those who have contributed to Social Security and Medicare all these years. Bush has already started stealing our future.
Bush is betraying our country and no one is screaming. We all sit here and some of us see it coming and do nothing and some of us deny it is happening and will be shocked when they finally admit Bush's subterfuge. And some will be very, very rich and apparently agree with Bush's rush to destroy our constitution, our economy and what was one of the best countries in the world.

The experiment is almost over.

Friday, 03 January 2003

15:16 GMT: Permalink


Draft Gore Campaign is Launched writes, "We are grassroots Democrats from coast to coast who believe that Al Gore is the only Democrat who can represent us in what may be one of the most crucial elections in American history, as well as the only one who can unite the country behind him and lead us to victory. He is the voice of patriotic dissent in America -- a voice for the people, not the powerful. We are asking him to reconsider his recent decision and run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004... If you agree that America needs Al Gore now more than ever, join us. Browse through this site, find out why we think a draft can work, and learn about what you can do to help."

14:18 GMT: Permalink
Bertramonline has a substantial post up on blogging, politics, and the "dominance" of the left over the poor, helpless, underdog right. He's also found an interesting essay by Brian Eno about what America was and what it's turning into.

Bellona Times explores BDSM a little bit.

Outside Counsel has a post up for 2 January 2003 that's an amusing fluffy dog story.

From Mother Jones a view of war on Iraq from Afghani Americans. (Via The Hamster.)

Well, at least I'm not the only one who thinks Charles Rangel has lost the plot.

Paul Krugman with a helluva good question.

I can't pick the best rant at Pandagon.

From YAWL: Americans for Insurance Reform has issued a study showing that jury awards in malpractice cases are increasing at the same rate as other medical costs, but malpractice insurance rates correlate with the bond market. Also, when Nevada gave them the limits on malpractice awards that they wanted, two major insurance companies announced that they would not be lowering their rates..

Atrios on the Republicans' trashing Paul Wellstone's tribute service: I say, as I have always said, anyone who pissed on a man's grave and trashed his family and closest friends in the middle of their grieving is beneath contempt. Disgusting, hideous, insults to human decency.

Crikey! Ginger is back!

I don't care how much running and working out Bush does, this guy still looks healthier.

Thursday, 02 January 2003

16:48 GMT: Permalink

Porn Again

Ampersand has answered my response to the earlier post on pornography. Quoting my thought that, "I'm not sure it's honest to say that porn 'defines sexuality as possessed by women to be consumed by men.' I'd say that the culture I was raised in certainly did that, but I think it's going too far to say that any individual item of pornography does it," Ampersand says:

I didn't mean to say that any individual item of porn did that; I said that porn in general - and pop culture in general, for that matter - presents a view of sex in which "sex" is something possessed by women, who must be persuaded to give sex to men. Women display, men leer; women entice, men pursue. Pop culture - including most porn - sets up a rich vs. poor dynamic, except the limited resource is sexuality instead of money. (This, to me, is the reason that porn about hating women - "see this stupid bitch get stuffed," as a spam email I received charmingly put it - has such a big market. Some of the people who are taught to think themselves "poor" are bitter and angry that the alleged "rich" don't share the goods more freely.)
I specified an "individual item of porn" precisely because I don't think you can make this charge about porn in general. Ampersand admits later that it is, as I said, the whole culture that does this. But the content of porn is much more varied than what is to be found in mainstream culture. When people talk about the feminine display element of pornography, they're really talking about softcore magazines, which are something altogether different from hardcore pornography.

Cheesecake certainly is women put on display for men, but that doesn't define "pornography"; what it defines is a specific type of pornography that exists principally for men at least in part because it is almost impossible to create anything of the same type for women that would have such broad appeal to us - not because we don't like to look and fantasize, but because our individual tastes don't overlap as broadly as the tastes of men do; we are more looksist and less likely to vary our tastes. Moreover, softcore is, by definition, lacking the one element that indisputably signifies arousal: penile erection. You can't really tell from looking at a photograph of a woman whether she is genuinely aroused, so you can simply imagine it; nudity itself (or suggestively sexy lingerie) is what signifies sexuality in cheesecake, but that just won't do if you're trying to depict sexual receptivity in men. (Actually, the experience of young women is that men are universally horny and willing, dressed or naked, so you really must do more if you're going to ratchet up the heat levels.)

We see more softcore because it is more "acceptable"; hardcore is more likely to be suppressed, less likely to be seen in the public space. It is astonishing how often the extreme claims made about the violence in pornography refer not to hardcore or fetish material but simply to Playboy. Reading the transcripts of the Minneapolis hearings on porn for the Dworkin-MacKinnon model ordinance is shocking in this respect: people actually state that they learned that the relationship between men and women is one of violence from reading Playboy. Now, anyone who has ever had a good look at Playboy knows that this cannot possibly be true. So how can anyone say such a thing and be taken seriously? Why didn't the entire city of Minneapolis burst into laughter at such statements? Well, obviously, it has nothing to do with what's actually in pornography, but rather what is in the culture at large and how we stigmatize sex. What's really going on here is that a critique of pornography is being substituted for a critique of a particularly ugly aspect of sexism that has some acceptance in parts of our culture - but Playboy isn't one of those parts.

So you might think that the real violence must be in the hardcore skinflicks (and many people mistakenly confuse "hardcore" with violence or extreme fetishism), but again, you'd be making a mistake. Most hardcore is just people having sex, and the women generally look every bit as interested as the men - so much so that the men often don't have time to do much looking and desiring. Female sexual aggression is far more common in hardcore movies than it is in mainstream media. So, for that matter, is the sort of woman who doesn't fit conventional standards of glamor and beauty. Although there are of course many images of glamorized women in hardcore, there are also images of women who very clearly do no more than is necessary to be passable on the street; some are overweight, some have never used a razor or depilatory, some are pretty damn butch for heterosexual women, and many are over 30. It is hardly clear from porn that women are meant to be merely objects of desire for men.

Earlier I used a submissive/masochistic scenario as an example of a potentially offensive fantasy that might not, on examination, have the content that people presume for it. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part, because I might just as easily have said the same thing using a dominance/sadistic scenario as an example. But Ampersand says:

In the example Avedon suggests, the person is not fantasizing about hurting anyone else; nor are they fantasizing about anything that would happen in the real world, except in a fantasy-play setting. If I had fantasies like Avedon described, I might be a bit disturbed, but I'd also be amused.
But it works both ways. If you have a fantasy of "using" your girlfriend as a helpless sex toy and taking a strap to her when she disobeys, you still can't be sure that this fantasy represents any genuine contempt of women. After years of listening to people describe fantasies that have sometimes shocked me, I have to admit that it's all much more complicated than it sounds on the surface; it ain't necessarily what it looks like.

As I've said before, there's no evidence that dominance/sadistic fantasies are any more common to men than to women, or that fantasies of submission/masochism are any more common to women than to men. That fact alone makes it awfully difficult to presume that BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadomasochism) is just the sharp end of patriarchy. And a close look at the kind of activity involved in those fantasies is bound to make one wonder just who is exploiting or abusing whom. In some of the most intense slave/master fantasies, the role of the master looks suspiciously like that of a mother rather than just some callous guy abusing some poor chick. There are several adages floating around the BDSM community to the effect that the person who really controls a scene is the "bottom", not the "top". It doesn't take much thinking to realize that in a heavy bondage scene, it's the person who does all that tying up and beating who also has to do all the thinking and planning and work; meanwhile, the bottom or submissive just gets to lie back and be the center of attention.

But as long as these fantasies involve adults, they can be play-acted safely if the appropriate partner can be found. Ampersand's next question involves fantasies that don't really fit into that category:

On the other hand, what do you say to a 30-year-old man who has constant fantasies about grabbing the neighbor's 14-year-old girl, dragging her to his basement, and forcing sex on her? What if a teenager on his way to college fantasizes getting a woman so drunk at a frat party that she can't resist? Maybe the fantasies are harmless - and certainly I'm not calling for any big-brotherish program of arresting people for their thoughts. But neither am I willing to suspend judgment altogether, which I think is where Avedon's argument leads. Some fantasies some guys have (and some porn caters to) sure look like deep-seated hatred of woman; and if someone told me he's been having recurring fantasies of that nature, my response would be "get thee to a psychiatrist!"
That first example is on the surface perhaps the most difficult, because the fantasy is both illegal and aimed at a specific person. But you don't have to be kinky - or male - to know about the frustrations of wanting someone who is unavailable to you, and how overpowering that unavailability can make that desire. In this particular case, the law alone makes this an especially dangerous fantasy for the person who has it - doubly so if there is any indication (or perceived indication) from the intended "victim" of any kind of reciprocal desire. (Make no mistake: it is not at all unheard of for 14-year-old girls to make such desire explicit.) And this sort of fantasy (even if it doesn't involve minors) frequently involves the presumption that the "victim" will be swept off of her feet by her captor's passion - that is, that she will like it. So this isn't necessarily an abuse fantasy - it may be a fantasy of liberating someone from sexual repression. You just don't know.

The second example is more problematic in another sense, because there really is a sort of frat party culture that does seem to take for granted the idea that getting women drunk is the way to get sex from them.

But none of that is really about porn, either. It's just this sort of thing that makes me say that what we need is better sex education, and that it needs to include an honest approach to fantasy. Again, the fantasies themselves are not the problem; what we think we should or can do about them is where things get tricky, and in our culture, we mostly leave people trying to sort those things out for themselves without any useful guides. Worse, if you take your cues from mass culture, from the wisdom of your elders and most literature, you're likely to get an even more sexist and misleading picture of women, of men, and of sex than you'd ever get from a steady diet of hardcore pornography.

So, basically, I regard the critique of pornography as an agent of sexism in our culture to be, at its very best, a red-herring, a distraction from a real examination of the sources of sexism and violence in our world. But more often it is much worse than that, actually helping to stigmatize sexual agency and to encourage memes that corrupt our understanding of sexuality.

I started off, long ago, with the question of sex crime, and discovered an interesting thing: When you look into the backgrounds of violent sex criminals, what you find with depressing regularity is a background of (religiously-based) sexual repression in which pornography was especially the object of opprobrium. There is something very clear to boys and adolescent men who are taught that pornography is evil: that sexual arousal, and whatever stimulates that desire, is the source of that evil. So women are evil because we create sexual desire in men. You can see where that kind of thinking is bound to lead. Are we sure we want to saddle porn with the blame for these attitudes?

13:22 GMT: Permalink
There's a downright fascinating and scary series of comments up at BusyBusyBusy that you really oughta check out. It starts with Elton's post about oil politics and the war on Iraq, but here's something I missed, from the comments:

This war with Iraq has a lot more going for it besides stealing another [country's] oil fields. Saddam probably didn't know it but when he switched his oil trading over to Euros he sealed his fate.
Uh oh.

12:02 GMT: Permalink
Consortium News has a new article up called Price of the 'Liberal Media' Myth:

The core of the conservative "liberal media" case is that surveys have shown that a majority of journalists vote Democratic in presidential elections. Therefore, conservatives argue that a pro-Democratic bias permeates the American news media. Conservatives then bolster this claim of liberal bias with anecdotes, such as the alleged inflections of Dan Rather's voice on the CBS Evening News or the supposed overuse of the word "ultra-conservative" in news columns.

But other surveys on the views of individual journalists suggest a more complicated picture. Journalists generally regard themselves as centrists with more liberal views on social issues and more conservative ones on economic issues, when compared with the broader American public. For example, journalists might be more likely to favor abortion rights, while less likely to worry about cuts in Social Security and Medicare than other Americans. [See "The Myth of the Liberal Media," Extra!, July/August 1998.]

But the larger fallacy of the "liberal media" argument is the idea that reporters and mid-level editors set the editorial agenda at their news organizations. In reality, most journalists have about as much say over what is presented by newspapers and TV news programs as factory workers and foremen have over what a factory manufactures.

That is not to say factory workers have no input in their company's product: they can make suggestions and ensure the product is professionally built. But top executives have a much bigger say in what gets produced and how. The news business is essentially the same.

News organizations are hierarchical institutions often run by strong-willed men who insist that their editorial vision be dominant within their news companies. Some concessions are made to the broader professional standards of journalism, such as the principles of objectivity and fairness.

But media owners historically have enforced their political views and other preferences by installing senior editors whose careers depend on delivering a news product that fits with the owner's prejudices. Mid-level editors and reporters who stray too far from the prescribed path can expect to be demoted or fired. Editorial employees intuitively understand the career risks of going beyond the boundaries.

That's followed up with a link to an old article from 1998, In Search of the Liberal Media:

The traditional thinking was that the "liberal media" lurked somewhere in the editorial offices of the Washington Post and other major publications. The liberal agenda was pushed, too, by the subtle inflections of TV anchormen and the clever placement of stories by TV producers, the theory went.

My problem with the theory, however, was that in my years at the Associated Press, Newsweek and PBS's Frontline, I sat in many of those offices, I met a number of senior editors and producers, and I have never known a single one to consciously promote liberalism. Indeed, whatever their private opinions, they seemed far more inclined to bend over backward to appease conservatives.

I came to realize that there was a practical reason for this behavior. Mainstream journalists lived with a constant career dread of being labeled "liberal." To be so branded opened a journalist to relentless attack by well-funded right-wing media "watchdog" groups and other conservative operatives. It guaranteed that a reporter's career would be at least damaged, maybe ended.

So, contrary to the theory of a liberal media agenda, I found the opposite. Since the principal career danger came from offending the right – and there was almost no danger from upsetting the left – Washington journalists positioned themselves and shaped their work from a rational perspective of self-preservation, sometimes consciously, sometimes instinctively.

Come to think of it, all four of the top stories on their front page at the moment are related stories.

And Digby's first substantive post also covers a related area. But that seems to be going around today.

01:10 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden directs your attention to an excellent point:

Lawrence Lessig has been arguing for years against the shrinking of the public domain, and as the chief advocate in Eldred vs. Ashcroft, now pending before the Supreme Court, he may actually manage to do more than merely rhetorical good. (A decision is expected in July.)

Here on his weblog, Lessig unearths a great illustration of how the entertainment industry's legal overreach has impoverished the rest of us. The whole post deserves to be read and disseminated:

So I've been telling this story about the birth of Mickey Mouse for some time now. See, e.g., my OSCON speech. The story goes like this: Walt Disney was a great creator in the tradition of great creativity: his creativity was to rip, mix, and burn popular culture. Even Mickey Mouse, who was born as Steamboat Willie (released in 1928), was a rip, mix, and burn take-off on Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill (released in 1928).

But I hadn't realized just how true that was until I opened my very cool set of Disney "Treasures"--a special DVD release of the early black and white Mickey Mouse films that Disney is now selling (comes in a cool tin case, with a serial number pressed into the tin). The DVD is a great collection of the early cartoons, with some "bonus" features including the script for Steamboat Willie. Here's a screen shot of the first page of the script. Notice the direction from Walt: "Orchestra starts playing opening verses of 'Steamboat Bill.'" Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.'s latest films with an opening that copies the music, and see how far your Walt Empire gets.

00:25 GMT: Permalink
Send a thought to someone.... perhaps at

Atrios says that Digby now has started a blog. And it looks like Bill Gibson is about to, as well.

00:14 GMT: Permalink
I'm trying to understand: Has Dana Milbank started to see through the fog, or does he just think this is a bit of light, inconsequential humor?

Wednesday, 01 January 2003

Happy New Year!

And from our man Huey, too.

05:25 GMT: Permalink

Alas, Pornography

The trouble with Ampersand's Alas, a Blog (so frequently referred to as "Amptoons") is that it's too good. There are so many thoughtful pieces there that spark more thoughts that I tell myself that if I'm going to refer to it, I really must do more than just offer a title or quote a paragraph. Which means that I often hold off on commenting until too much time has passed. However, there's a post up about pornography and feminism, and you know what that means; it would just be wrong for me to leave it alone. So here's Ampersand:

I don't personally know of any porn that I've seen that I'd call completely unproblematic, from a feminist point of view; but it's not like I'm an expert. A (feminist, female, bi) ex of mine had a pile of On Our Backs and similar "by women for women" porn mags near her bed; I flipped through them for about 30 seconds and found them inoffensive, but I wasn't interested enough to critically examine them. She found them positive, and I didn't see any reason not to take her word for it.

I have seen porn that is only offensive the way most pop-culture is offensive (e.g., narrow definitions of beauty, defines sexuality as possessed by women to be consumed by men). I've also seen porn that is far worse than that.

I'm not sure it's honest to say that porn "defines sexuality as possessed by women to be consumed by men." I'd say that the culture I was raised in certainly did that, but I think it's going too far to say that any individual item of pornography does it. A men's magazine is going to be attempting to appeal to men, so it stands to reason that the camera's subjects will be the ones who are believed to possess allure for men; a magazine aimed at heterosexual women would, of necessity, focus on a different subject. Some porn flicks use plots that of course depend on the assumption that men will be happy to let a woman pay for goods or services with sex, but the women in those movies seem to be getting as much out of the sex as the men are, so it's unclear in the end whether this is just a one-way street. Still other films show women on the prowl and men their hapless playthings.

To a great extent, I think what a particular piece of porn is (positive or offensive) depends a lot of context - the context of society, as many folks here have argued, but also the context of what the person is thinking and imagining while looking at porn.
Well, yes, sort of, but I'm uncomfortable with the dichotomy presented by the phrase "positive or offensive". A lot of sexual fantasy relies on tropes that offend us (sometimes they turn us on because they offend or frighten us), but that doesn't mean that exploring the fantasy can't also be positive. Sometimes the good things we're getting from such explorations may elude our own intellectual analysis; we want this stuff and we don't know why.

If someone masturbates to a drawing of a nude man - assuming the photo has no content that forces the imagination in any particular direction (e.g., no explicit images of suffering, no props or poses clearly indicated either power or submission, etc) - then what the porn user imagines makes a big difference to the experience. It is possible for two people to look at the same drawing of a nude and have two entirely different fantasies, one of which is totally offensive from a feminist point of view, one of which is not.
Offensive, perhaps, but only in a context that doesn't distinguish between fantasy and reality. Interpreting the fantasy itself is more problematic than Ampersand suggests, here. I don't know what it actually means if you fantasize being dragged in chains to a dungeon where you are used as a helpless sex toy. I can make some guesses, but even that fantasy could have very different meaning for two different people, even if they are of the same sex.

In the context of patriarchy, of course, it becomes more than likely that the fantasies we experience are going to be tinged with themes of male supremacy. But that's not an absolute; patriarchy is everywhere, but it doesn't entirely negate our own agency. Even within a male-dominated society, it's possible to have fantasies that aren't entirely corrupted by patriarchy.
Is there a blurring here between male sexual dominance and "patriarchy" or "male supremacy"? One of the questions I've been looking at is where fantasies of dominance and submission start in our lives. This aspect of sexuality comes from very early in our lives, and it's not clear to me that this type of fantasy necessarily evolves out of our stereotypes of heterosexual interaction. One sexual niche that has been only superficially explored is that of men whose most powerful fantasy is of being a baby or child. (Some women have this type of fantasy, too.) It's important to recognize that many users of pornography are not fantasizing interacting with the camera's object, but of being the camera's object. So, too, it's important to recognize the distinction between the use of symbols of femininity and what it is the viewer is actually seeking from them.

In 1990, a Home Office-commissioned study of pornography by Guy Cumberbatch and Dennis Howitt concluded with the observation that no one had actually done any research on how men look at pornography, so we really aren't in any position to make any recommendations about porn on the basis of completely unsupported assumptions about what men are seeing when they look at porn. (However, I understand David Loftus has finally found a publisher for his book exploring exactly that question, and that it should be out soon.)

Almost all analysis of porn from a negative perspective is based on such unstudied notions of male sexuality and male use of pornography. In the meantime, simple observation doesn't actually support the idea that male desire of women and sexuality is in any real way constructed by pornography; in fact, it seems to be much the other way around: that our sexuality is formed very early, is modified by our social experience, and then we look for those things that turn us on when we look for pornography.

What turns you on isn't a matter of political belief, it's just there. No one decides to have certain sexual kinks - they just have them. And when we want to enjoy a sexual fantasy, there's really no point in trying to get a buzz off of porn that happens to look socially unproblematic if it isn't what gets you hot. There's no liberation in trying to pretend your kinks aren't yours.

04:08 GMT: Permalink
I hope you haven't been missing Skippy with his "john ashcroft neo-confederate link of the day" section, not to mention other neat stuff. He's also been keeping an eye on the progress of that invisible CNN/Time poll.

The Satanic Hamster Dance

03:55 GMT: Permalink
Tony Blair Explained

Via Ethel the Blog:

The BBC tells how the world shadow government known as the Carlyle Group is now buying England (by the pound, of course).

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has sold a third of its defence research business, Qinetiq, to the US private equity group Carlyle. The public-private partnership (PPP) follows the government's decision in March to seek a strategic partner for Qinetiq.

The deal will see Carlyle, whose European chairman is the former prime minister John Major, take on some management control at Qinetiq.

03:30 GMT: Permalink
Told ya.

Yes, you too can benefit from the Texas Education Miracle, according to this article in the NYT:

Rigorous testing that decides whether students graduate, teachers win bonuses and schools are shuttered, an approach already in place in more than half the nation, does little to improve achievement and may actually worsen academic performance and dropout rates, according to the largest study ever on the issue.

With calls for accountability in public education mounting, such make-or-break exams have become cornerstones in at least 28 states in the drive to improve public schools. The idea is that by tying test scores to great consequences, the learning process will be taken that much more seriously and tangible progress will be all the more likely.

The approach is also central to some of President Bush's sweeping education overhaul, lending even greater momentum to the movement known as "high stakes" testing.

But the study, performed by researchers at Arizona State University and financed by teachers' unions that have expressed skepticism about such tests, found that while students show consistent improvement on these state exams, the opposite is typically true of their performance on other, independent measures of academic achievement.

For example, after adopting such exams, twice as many states slipped against the national average on the SAT and the ACT as gained on it. The same held true for elementary-school math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam overseen by the United States Department of Education.

03:06 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden has been doing a lot of great posting lately at Electrolite. I particularly enjoyed this one:

White House Cuts Estimate of Cost of War With Iraq. Oh, well, that's different, then. Who could question a White House estimate?

In next week's headlines: "WHITE HOUSE REVISES ESTIMATE OF SPEED OF LIGHT. Asked about outgoing chief economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey's figure of 186,282 miles per second, OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. said 'That wasn't an estimate. It was more of a historical benchmark. Our new figure of 55mph is nothing more than prudent contingency planning.' Mr. Daniels then red-shifted backwards across the room, pursued by monkeys emerging from beneath his chair."

Well, hey, we can expect this stuff from the Get Oil Party and their fuzzy math.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, January 2003

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

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