Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Decide Yourself If Radio's Gonna Stay 

Air America Radio will supposedly be starting soon.

Good luck finding the streaming link on their newly de-contented website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Just Read Krugman Today, For Godssake 

Original, Too Hot For the Op-Ed Page Ending of today's David Brooks cheefully pointless Column about college:
But good fuckin' luck paying for it, kids.

And don't expect any jobs when you get out.

Shame. I rather liked that bit.

Actually included:
Even if the admissions criteria are dubious, isn't it still really important to get into a top school? I wonder. I spend a lot of time meeting with students on college campuses. If you put me in a room with 15 students from any of the top 100 schools in this country and asked me at the end of an hour whether these were Harvard kids or Penn State kids, I would not be able to tell you.

Well, David, the Havard kids would be the ones easily joining the insular world of D.C. Insiders, passing into that great circle jerk that is New York/Washington Journalism and gaining status and power based on who they know and how much cash they have handy.

The Penn State ones would be quite good at basketball.

To conclude in a Brooksian fashion, That is the difference between Blue America and Red America. In the end, it's mostly White America.

Monday, March 29, 2004

No Longer Picky, America Hopes For Peace Or Honor 

Some headline-writer has a sense of humor.

Choose Or Lose: Politics As Meaningless Binary Oppositions 

John Kerry, MTV, and New York Times Have Competition to See Who Can Be More Condescending

I'd say, out of the gate, the Times is way ahead.

Adam Moss Better Fire Vanessa Grigoriadis 

Wrong wrong wrong.

Please don't engage in mindless pop psychology about Teen Suicide epidemics, New York Magazine. If you're going to reference Heathers, it'd be nice if the writer had actually seen the movie. Maybe he could have drawn the conclusion that such analysis is useless, misinformed, and based completely around anecdotal evidence and broad generalizations.

Honestly -- do you think Diana Chien killed herself because "It may also look like the deceased has gotten some sort of reward -- attention, pity, maybe higher social status than when he was alive"? Do you honestly believe there wasn't a rash of suicides after Kurt Cobain because Courtney Love called him an asshole???

This article begins on my floor in my dorm room, probably because Steve's friends and family have been more media-friendly than the relatives of all the others. The problem is, of course, that Steve's death doesn't fit into this handy psychological framework of "suicide clusters" at all -- the guy was high on hallucinogenic mushrooms when he fell (or jumped, whatever you want to call it -- all I'm saying is, he was not in his right mind).

Why don't we blame this all on Spalding Grey? Courtney Love didn't call him an asshole, maybe he gave everyone subconscious psychological permission to kill themselves. Let's ask an epidemiologist at Columbia.

Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

I'm beginning to agree with Gawker on this one. At least it helps make the assholes in the NYU administration look bad.

There is a kid who lives in a tent outside a dorm at Vassar. School regulations stipulate that you may only live in a tent on campus if you are protesting something. So he put up a sign reading "Tuition's too high." In much the same way, random causes are being attached to acts that all have their own, unknowable internal logic.

Which isn't to say that giving all us hard-working debt-accumulating students an extra few thousand bucks to throw around wouldn't save some lives.

You listening, Sexton?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Memo To House Republicans 


The Humor Divide 

Atrios continues to dig up dirt on The Institue For the Journalistic Advancement of the End Times, with special guest non-funny Roy Rivenburg, the only man with the guts and the determination to out Holocaust-survivors as frauds -- frankly, I'm beginning to doubt Michel Thomas ever served in the Texas Air National Guard at all.

Meanwhile, at Pandagon we get a seemingly unrelated exploration of non-funny James Lileks' war fetish.

What do these two have in common? They are "humor" columnists who happen to be crazy ultra-conservatives. Also, coincidentally, neither of them are very funny.

As a Minneapolitan, I had to put up with Lileks for far too long -- I don't think I've ever met a single person who actually reads him, except by accident. His column is a blatant rip-off of a long-running feature at the rival St. Paul Pioneer Press known as Bulletin Board, a kind of Metropolitan Diary with a dash of Prairie Home Companion to make it annoying and folksy. But Lileks' column takes away the Keillor-crap and adds in a whole lotta Lileks, whose attempts at Humor remind one of a Spambot attempting to emulate James Thurber (post-blindness), with the "conversational" style of a guy who didn't get called back to the auditions for Diner (probably beat out by Steve Gutenberg).

And Rivenburg, well, let's draw a little diagram:
Rivenburg ----frequent defender of---- Gov. Schwartzetc. -----frequent guest of----- unfunny hack Jay Leno.

Why aren't conservatives funny? Because all of their ideological leaders are pompous blowhards with bad haircuts? Because they're stupid?

Well, both of those things are true to an extent, but not all conservatives are stupid -- some of them are merely greedy or heartless. And those are not funny qualities. Humor is subversive and absurd. Conservatives are extremely versive and surd. It's that simple.

Not that all leftists are funny -- Marx, for example, was not very funny. Though his Louis Napolean crack ("first as tragedy, then as farce") was clever. But those who defend the status quo and believe in universal norms of Good and Evil and Right and Wrong are less funny than those who think that the people in charge are fools and bastards.

And, as I may have mentioned, they have very bad haircuts.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Sociology Is More Fun When You Make It Up 

David Brooks is a hack. No one should have ever taken him seriously to begin with. Even before I read this article, it was pretty clear to me that his journalistic style usually involved making crap up and baseless generalizations.

Which he continues to do this week in the Times. I've got no real problem with him appearing there, because as a representative of the Conservative movement, he makes them all look lazy and stupid (though it would be nice if the Times had more than one real, feisty liberal op-ed columnist). But really, today's Dick Clarke column is absolutely horrible. I'd really like to write the man a letter, even though it wouldn't really make any sort of difference.

He attacks Dick Clarke's decorum and tone, without ever refuting a single thing Clarke says. There is not one factual rebuttal of any of the claims Clarke has made. It paints Clarke as a tool of the Democrats, completely partisan, without pointing out that Clarke is a Republican who began his job under the first Bush administration.

This conservative argument is pretty desperate, as it relies on the idea that Clarke has some sort of stake in seeing Bush defeated. Clarke will not receive any personal gain from a Kerry presidency -- the man is on record saying he will not seek another job in government again. The only thing he has to gain from a regime change is a presidential administration that actually cares about fighting terrorism.

Here's a good example:
All of Bush's errors, on the other hand, are magnified. Shrill passages about Bush's stupidity are inserted into Clarke's tendentious prose. In 2002, Clarke said there was "no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration." But now Clinton is portrayed as the Winston Churchill of the antiterror brigades, and Bush is Neville Chamberlain.

What Brooks fails to mention is that the Richard Clarke is actually completey correct in saying that. What he means is that the Bush administration did not use the plan for fighting terrorism that Clinton's guys had developed. The plan was not passed on to them, because they did not take it. Also, at the time he said that, Clarke was a paid employee of the Bush administration, which has a track-record of demanding its employees stretch the facts for their own political gain. But it's fun to quote something out of context and then use hyperbole (as well as an interesting view of history in which the appeaser comes after the hero) to make a true statement seem ridiculous.

So you can attack Clarke for his "shrill partisanship," but it'd be nice if you pointed out that Clarke is not a partisan. He's a career bureaucrat who is a Republican and has nothing to do with the Democratic party and nothing to gain from their victory.

Please, Mr. Brooks, if you're going to refute the objectivity of Richard Clarke, or claim he's exaggerating his case, prove it with examples of him doing those things! Don't just make stuff up!

But this is, of course, the only way conservatives have of defending themselves at the moment. Because they cannot deny the factual accuracy of Clarke's claims, they attack his character and attribute to him bizarre motivations.

Yes, the Bush administration has had a lot of trouble with all those Partisan Democratic turncoats, haven't they. It's funny how many of them they employed. Rand Beers, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke... it's a wonder that their background checks didn't reveal that all of them were secretly working for John Kerry, biding their time until they could stab Bush in the back.

They Gave Us M. Hulot, Fer Chrissakes! 

Oh boy. This ought to bring about another round of those horrible French jokes.

Honestly, French jokes don't really do it for me. I mean, I'm speaking as a guy who thinks Pepe LePew is absolutely brilliant, who agrees with Bob le flambeur that the French never learned how to make rock & roll, and who did think the phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was funny the first time I heard it.

But honestly, guys -- let's be real here. The French have been our best buddies since day one of the Republic. Our best writers and actors have traditionally moved there to get away from us. In the 20th Century, they've appreciated our junky pop culture more than we ever have (often, they are over-zealous in their appreciation, but I've always thought that was kinda cute). And yes, we saved their ass from the Nazis, but the Resistance was totally kick-ass.

You know what? I'm glad Jacques Verges is defending Saddam. He ought to help demonstrate that all of Saddam's War Crimes happened under the watchful eye of the US, and with grandfatherly help from Reagan and Bush Sr. If this tribunal is public and objective (which I can't imagine it will be), we'll be implicated in every nasty thing the guy did. So unless your French jokes are about Johnny Hallyday, I don't want to hear 'em.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Maybe This Whole "Firing" Thing Will Catch On 

Visitors to Trump Tower can always "see" him. This month, he had a 25-foot-by-13-foot banner with a picture of himself installed across the front of the building. He said the sign, on which the words "You're Fired" appear in bold white letters, was his version of a thank-you letter, "a love note to New York."

Thanks, Donald. That's really a very sweet gesture.

[Smoke On the Water Pun Here] 

This is completely insane. Californians are lunatics. Remind me to never go there.

They are successfully banning smoking everywhere outside of the home.

Much as Canada and the UK occasionally talk of "decriminalizing" marijuana, California is criminalizing tobacco.

This Lapham essay is a must-read, though it is only tangentially about smoking bans. It explains the faulty rationale behind them and the type of people they appeal to -- a nation of Barbara Bushes, not wanting to sully their "beautiful minds" with news of dead soldiers or their Beautiful Lungs with the tiniest residue of the filthy habits of vulgar people.

Well, I am a filthy, vulgar person, Santa Monica, so go ahead and ban my vices. I have no intention of visiting, which is probably in both of our best interests.

Honestly, I can't say I'm surprised by this sort of news -- it is, after all, Santa Monica -- but tying to wrap my own drug-addled mind around the justifications for it would probably destroy me. The law has no reasonable justification -- it is not a Public Health issue, it has nothing to do with pollution, the fire-safety argument is a joke... if it's about littering, they could simply enforce the littering laws as stringently as I'm sure they'll enforce this Prohibition.

But, as I said, it makes no difference to me. California and I have an understanding. We both choose to ignore each other's existence.

Self-Lacerating Self-Promotion 

I'm under attack.

And it's hard to defend against robots.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A Remarkably Earnest Post 

So -- some funny and pointless Times article that I was reading because it had a funny picture:

led me to a website for senior citizens. On the front page, there was a request that members of the SeniorNet community pick the next book for the discussion club. One of the choices was Waiting for Godot, which I found incredibly funny and indescribably sad. I clicked the link, which led to a list of current and future book-discussions, including one by Studs Terkel about activism. I was intrigued by what our nation's old people, usually portrayed on tv as more or less only wanting "that racket" turned off, thought about the work of lovable ol' leftist Studs. The discussion had nothing to do with the book -- it was simply a discussion of activism, how it manifests itself on the left and right, and what it meant to these people. Then, out of nowhere, I saw this post by "Justin":
In the winter of 1946 I worked as a timekeeper in the GM Assembly plant in Linden NJ. The UAW called a strike that year. It was launched during my shift- the 3 to 11 shift. The strikers locked themselves inside the plant and shut down production. They failed to account for the presence of managerial personnel, including time keepers, locked in with them. The strikers had captured the cafeteria and it's staff as well but food was available for only a few days. If the strike were not over in a few days we would all go hungry. Three days passed and the strike continued. One night goons broke all the windows in the plant causing the inside temperature to drop substantially. It was very cold that winter. On the fourth day the strikers traded managerial people for food trucks. But they were short changed on the food. I was released and in the parking lot found my car with a dead battery.When the strike ended I failed to return to work. Reading about Reuther and the River Rouge plants brings all that back in my mind like it was yesterday.

My god -- that's worthy of being in the Terkel book. It's simple, matter-of-fact, but it describes a commitment to progressive values and the living-standard and the rights of workers that is simply not described, discussed, or recognized today.

Anyway, it turns out that even people 4-5 times my age are worth listening to.
(that was irony, for anyone reading over 50)
(that faux-condescension was an ironic device too, I promise)

This Site Has a Ban On Cute Pledge-Related Malapropisms 

Times headline:
Atheist Presents Case for Taking God From Pledge

Now honestly. What the hell kinda headline is that? The article itself is not only extremely fair, but in fact very complimentary of Dr. Newdow, the godless heathen. It describes his rhetorical ability and the soundness of his argument, though he comes off a bit like a slick, fast-talkin' lawyer.

Most Evangelical Atheists I've met annoy me greatly -- we get it, there's no god, and you're so proud for being smart enough to have figured that out -- so I'm sure that if I met Dr. Atheist in person I'd want to slap with an Asimov paperback across the back of his super-intelligent head, but he is absolutely in the right in this case. That doesn't matter, of course, as he will lose 7-1 (your guess is as good as mine as to who the dissenter will be, but there will be one). The public opinion battle is already lost, and this man has probably done quite a bit to set back the cause of public acceptance of atheists (they're sort of the elephant in the room -- most intelligent, educated Americans don't actively worship anything, and though many of them will profess to belief in a "higher power," they are often just dodging the question. Something like 90% of scientists are atheists/agnostics. But still -- non-believers have the stigma of Stalinists. Look at that headline again -- Dr. Newdow is simply "Atheist." Like "Terrorist Asks to Be Freed From Prison" or "Socialist Wants to Raise Taxes"). Of course -- I'd like to see a woman President before I begin to bitch too loudly about Atheists being excluded from public office, but both are example of shutting out the smartest and most rational Americans.

Safire is hedging his bets, but is better than usual. No Nixon, even.

On wider grounds of the traditional recognition of the deity in American political life, Olson could point to the words "In God We Trust," put on our coins in Lincoln's time. Or the fervent reference to "the Creator" as the source of our rights that Jefferson put in our Declaration of Independence. Or the words opening this morning's session: "God save the United States and this honorable court."

Yes -- but a roomful of school-children is not being compelled to say those thing out loud in unison. And Jefferson is completely out of the question here -- the man edited and released his own version of the New Testament in which he systematically excised God and miracles and kept the wisdom and morals. These arguments are specious, and Safire doesn't actually agree with them, as he lets us know later. But honestly, Bill, there's no need to repeat them.

Here's the important bit, towards the end:
The only thing this time-wasting pest Newdow has going for him is that he's right. Those of us who believe in God don't need to inject our faith into a patriotic affirmation and coerce all schoolchildren into going along. The key word in the pledge is the last one.

So what Safire has done, inexplicably, is written a column in which he argues a point he does not agree with in every paragraph except one. In this paragraph, he and I are basically in complete agreement, except I don't believe for a moment that he's a God-fearing man. But the column is more infuriating because of this paragraph. Why can't Safire argue a point that goes against current "conservative" ideology without first listing every single one of their talking points as if he agrees? He even says Newdow doesn't have any claim to "standing" in graph 4, and then says that doesn't actually matter in graph 13 (the very last one).

Even his final recommendation is a cop-out. Tell the teachers to tell the children that they don't have to say "Under God" if they don't want to. Oh. Brilliant. Thanks, Bill.

[UPDATE... This is great reading for Aerian History nerds and fans of the Supreme Court. The way they go after him demonstrates that my 7-1 prediction will be so right it hurts, but look how the Atheist has them on the defensive the whole damn time. They're trying to argue loopholes with him -- things like "can't you let this slip by" and "it's not like there are that many atheists" -- and he keep hammering fundamental tenets of American constitutional law. Good stuff.]

[and, fer chrissakes, if you didn't see it, read this. It's not a smoking gun, but it's at least a warm one. If you don't have time for the whole thing, I recommend Tenet and Clarke. And try to find some way of listening to Richard Armitage's testimony. He sounds like George C. Scott playing Peter Falk.]

America Is In Danger of Someday Not Being At War 

By the way -- via Atrios, per usual -- this is pretty great satire.

I thought it was over-the-top at first, but the Statement of Principles won me over and the columns made me fall in love.

Guy who did this -- I salute you.

God Approves New Stadium 

Heaven On Earth expected to be visited upon Manhattan by the Jets when their stadium opens. And they don't need no fancy computer graphics, neither:

By the way, it's a horrible, stupid idea. $600 of public money for a stadium. In a city that can't afford to regularly collect recycling. In a city where "affordable housing" means sleeping on the L train.

I'm not reflexively against public money for stadiums -- though I think it's not really necessary, I understand it. But not in Manhattan and not right now. The city's fucking broke, there are no apartments for anyone who isn't the child of a rich industrialist or Ethan Hawke, and Stadiums are big, ugly, hideous traffic-causing things that should be put out in places like New Jersey and the Bronx, where there is more room for them. Please.

Sometimes, I understand the impetus behind things like this. It's something I wouldn't mind at least attempting some time when the NYU administration walks by... or just as often, a pack (gaggle? murder?) of NYU Students (how about, continuing today's joke theme, a Buck and Gag of NYU Students).

Especially when I read crap like this in the Times. Self-serving "how the suicides affected me, as a creative writing student, who was very emotionally affected also by 9/11" bullshit.

I knew the second guy personally. I taught him how the play the ukulele the night before he fell. I worked the library at the time of both deaths. I'm studying writing at NYU, too. And I would never in a million years exploit that just to be published by the Times, which doesn't traditionally print personal musings by grad students. But because this one is tenuously connected to a few tragedies and can string them together with bullshit like "As the questions around each death swirl faster and closer, I feel that we at N.Y.U. are examining the texture of our daily lives in search of answers."

Shorter Humera Afridi: 9/11 made me feel bad because I am very empathetic. People dying at a place I sometimes go to made me feel bad too, when I heard about it third-hand long after the fact because I am very empathetic. Rhetorical question/meaningless cliche.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Understand Your Man 

They're winning. They're sabotaging the social safety net and trying to make it look natural, so they can dismantle it on account of it "not working." And if they ever came out and said their goals, if they said they wanted to reverse the New Deal and the Great Society and the government doesn't owe you a damn thing, if they listed all the programs they believe with religious fervor should be gutted, they'd be gone in minutes and no one would miss them.

In the old days, the "character" of a politician didn't matter a whit compared to the party, because a guy voted based on which party represented his interests. It didn't matter if the Democrat was a corrupt tool of Tammany Hall, there was simply no reason to put a Republican in power if their party didn't care about your kind. If it's 1864, and you're a Northern Negroe, you're not going to vote for McClellan even if you think Lincoln's beard is untrustworthy or you think Andrew Johnson's too puffy.
(just a reminder -- it's still Civil War Joke Day)
Of course, what that kind of situation requires is an understanding of each political party's ideology, which is impossible in a media world where buzzwords and pretty phrases pass for statements of political intent and long-term goals. Honestly -- do you think today's political "debates" compare at all to the (wildly popular and constantly reprinted) Lincoln/Douglas debates in terms of complexity of argument? There were ad hominim attacks and character assasination back then, too, and it got even nastier in many cases, but people actually understood what the parties stood for ideologically.

Of course, they still do. Republicans believe in American Values, getting Tough On Crime, and Fighting Terror. Democrats seem to believe in Higher Taxes (which go towards... what, exactly?) and Hating God.

Once again, too much Neil Postman.

West Virginia: Thin-Skinned 

it's another Government-sanctioned Good News Day over at the Times, with the respective wars on Drugs and Terror going really, very well, thank you.

And, look -- we've even time for a very "punny" headline!
T-Shirt Slight Has West Virginia in Arms
Good one, William G. Connolly!

According to the article, which I skimmed, thank you, West Virginians are upset over an OliverCromwell & Fitch t-shirt that reads "West Virginians Do It To Preserve the Union"

I kid, of course. It's actually some sort of incest joke. "It's Hot, Brother Versus Brother Action in West Virginia" (yes, it's Civil War joke day here at Buck Hill)

To make everyone happy, they ought to combine it with that other contentious T-shirt of this last season.

Yes, clearly,
West Virginia Is For Old People

Do You Understand Why We Blew You Up? Do You Promise Not to Do It Again? 

I think Atrios has the tone of this transcript all wrong. Clearly, Kyra was asking the little boy with no arms or family if he understood "why this war took place" and the "meaning" of Operation Iraqi Freedom for her own edification. She was caught unprepared, and had forgotten what the rationale for the war was. She was hoping Ali Hamza could cover for her.

You see, it's all a quite understanandable...

oh, fuck it. It's not even funny. You cannot make this funny, because it is already satire. History as already repeated itself as farce, and is now going round one more as Doonesbury.

To answer Kyra and Ali -- we blew you up, kid, because of Jack fucking Kelley and his little imaginary "Pakistani youth" who
unfurls a photo of the Sears Tower and sneers, like a villain in a Chuck Norris movie, "This one is mine."

That's why, Ali. Because it was the right thing to do.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Who Knows On Kilimanjaro 

More missed pun chances in this headline -- off the top of my head, may I recommend
Coming to Blows On Kilimanjaro
(kind of a weak one, but gimme a full-time job at the paper of record and I'll come up with literary puns that would make you weep, Mr. Sulzburgermeister)

Now -- generally, I pretend I know a lot about whatever I'm linking to, and often I even pretend I have some sort of magic solution or some view that is so amazingly clear that it's absurd that no one in power shares it; but I don't know a damned thing about climate change. I fairly sure it's happening, and I've read plenty about who/what may have caused it, but I refuse to come to any conclusions, except to say that we're all doomed and the end will probably come sooner than we think, so why not smoke?

But here's what I pick up in every article on the subject: the people who argue climate-control is man-made are generally not people with some sort of economic interest in being proved right.

On the other hand:
"Snow Fooling!: Mount Kilimanjaro's glacier retreat is not related to global warming," read a newsletter distributed on March 9 by the Greening Earth Society, a private group financed by industries dealing in fossil fuels, the dominant source of the heat-trapping gases.

So -- your Greenpeace types may be "wacko" or "alarmist," yes, but the fate of the largest industry on the planet does not rest in their ability to force scientific data into a predetermined conclusion... so I'm leaning towards the hippies on this one.

Climate Change: Settled.

Now that that's out of the way, I cannot recommend Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind highly enough. You really do have to see it. Sorry.

And ignore the reviews -- they're nitpicky. It's the sweetest and saddest movie I've seen all year.

Jesus Gonna Be Here 

There are so many missed opportunities for puns in this headline. Shame on you, Associated Press. Though the lede is entertaining, in its own not-quite-thought-through way:
"Audiences feasted on zombies as the fright flick "Dawn of the Dead" ruled the box office, debuting with $27.3 million and bumping "The Passion of the Christ" from the top spot."

Frankly, the theological implications of this are staggering. That is to say, welcome to the 21st Century, where Jokes Write Themselves!

I'm thinking the folks who saw "The Passion" last week must be going to "Dawn of the Dead" this week, thinking it's one of those Left Behind movies.

Or, if a movie in which one man rises from the dead is holy, why... God must be creaming himself at this new one!

This hasn't been a mix-up this embarassing since legions of nerds accidentally went to see the new Lars van Trier film, thinking it was Kevin Smith.

(Alternative joke: ...since legions of nerds accidentally went to see the new Kevin Smith movie, thinking it would be watchable)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Man Who Did Too Little 

Atrios and Josh Marshall are really hammering the Operation: Ignore line today, which I think is the most damning thing that can be thrown at the administration, so good on them.

I didn't go to the protest in Manhattan yesterday, as I was catching up on some much-needed sleep. Even if I wasn't an insomniac with a bad cold I'm not sure I would've gone -- the War protests have been uniformly depressing since last year. Something about the movement is stuck in, if not the '60s, at least the Clinton years. The chants (they still chant!) are ridiculous (it's hard to keep a straight face while chanting "The people, united, will never be defeated" when you realize that the sitting president, illegally elected, is lauching a war as you speak, and that the people could be as united as they want, but the bombs are still falling), the organizers and speakers use overblown rhetoric and tend to speak to the choir rather than make logical arguments, and everyone is so damn humorless (not counting their sad stabs at parody or street-theater, usually involving puppets. Honestly, the only genuinely funny protest I've seen is the Billionaires for Bush, who yelled to a crowd at a recent Karl Rove appearance, "Buy your own President!").

And this is why they get only negative attention from the press and general populace. This is why Americans, despite a near-universal belief in many of the tenants of progressive politics, hate lib'ruhls so much.

If these guys ditched their "Bush Knew" signs for "Bush Didn't Care Enough to Do Anything About It" ones, it might be more effective. If they learned how to effectively manipulate the media, if they connected with the working-class and blue collar, if they learned how to frame their arguments in sound-byte form... well, then I guess they'd become moveon.org.

Though it'd be nice to see this headline on every paper in the country. Or at least every Murdoch paper.

I Wanted to Get a Writ Of Habeas Corpus, But I Should Have Gotten Rid of You Instead 

I don't have the time or the inclination to explain precisely what is wrong with this front page Times article about Guantamamo Bay, suffice it to say that it clearly ledes with a re-written Pentagon press release and doesn't get into that messy "objectivity" stuff until paragraph 7 (I don't have a hard copy of the paper, so I can't tell you where the jump is, but I'd guess around graph 5 based purely on the tone of the opening and the headline, which is all pretty rah-rah). This is sloppy journalism. The simple fact of the matter is that these people are being held there in violation of any number of international laws, treaties, and our own constitution. Any article written about Gitmo needs to clearly state, as early as possible, that these people are being held indefinitely, without due process, without charges, without habeas corpus, without lawyers, and in conditions we're not allowed to know anything about. That is an objective fact that everyone in the country should know before they learn about all the fantastic intelligence we're getting from these guys.

And while we're on the subject, even a little bit of actual investigation into the claims made by the military here would have been nice. If this intelligence is so fucking great, why did Madrid happen? Without any of the "chatter" from all the fucking terrorist cells we should have infiltrated by now?

"Military and intelligence officials also said those detainees who were cooperative had provided information about Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts, had spoken about the training of suicide bombers, and had described Al Qaeda's use of charities to raise money for its aims."

It's taken two years of pseudo-torture to learn this? Even the nutso-conservatives know all about how they raise money, boys -- Grover Norquist.

Friday, March 19, 2004

If I'd Been Better Educated, This Post Would Have Been More Concise 

"We can't say why, but what we do know is that the selection of Snapple reeks of favoritism!"
-New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

I'd like to see that stamped on every single bottle of New York City's Official Beverage.

"Official Beverage" my ass. We can all think of a few beverages a little closer to the hearts of most New Yorkers.

What this all comes down to is education, of course. And eductation is in a real horrible mess right now. New York has some of the worst schools in the nation, which shouldn't even be a possibility in a city as fucking rich as this one. If you guarantee education of equal quality to every child in the nation, how do you justify the state New York schools are in?

The arch-leftist in me would say that the people with the means and the power don't ever intend to improve the public schools, because there will always be a need for a servant class. But, while it probably is true of people like Rod Paige that they wouldn't mind seeing the entire institution of public education gutted, people like Bloomberg are well-meaning but completely misinformed and dense and stubborn in their ideas of what the "problems" with the educational system are. I'm not saying we simply need to throw money at it, becauase the issue isn't necessarily the amount of money, so much as where and how it's distributed. We need to hire qualified teachers with actual degrees in the subjects they teach, pay them a hell of a lot more, cut the power and the salaries of the "administrators" and assorted useless bureaucrats, and, when it gets to be high school, ditch the middle-class ideal of identical Liberal Arts and Sciences education for everyone. Why not Trade Schools, anyone? If the kid isn't planning on going to college, or has no use for college, let him learn how to be a mechanic and teach him Mark Twain on the side. Make sure he can read, convince him of the importance of reading the paper every day, and then teach him how to support himself in a world where the comfortable middle-class is vaporizing.

This will never, ever fly, of course. Because what I'm advocating is giving teachers all the power and less "accountability" for the kids' educations. Which would be feasible if they were well-trained, well-educated, and got paid as much as Professors or other members of what the Russians used to call the Nomenklatura (government-appointed members of the professional class who, because of their tenure and high standing in the party, were considered to have the real power in Soviet Russia for many years, occasional purges notwithstanding. But my teacher-example is a sort of benevolent nomenklatura). You get what you pay for, of course, as all proponants of the free-market constantly tell us. Which is why I'm always a little peeved that those types never want to pay for anyone else to go to school.

The funding battle in education boils down to the fact that people don't want their taxes going to fund schools that they, personally, don't use. This is a sort of archetypal libertarian argument, too -- taxation=theft and all that bullshit. If there's a demand for schools, the market will provide schools. Bullshit and they know it. There's no profit in schooling if you have a duty to provide it for everyone. So the market has no place there.

Why do people hate the idea of their money helping some kid they don't know get a diploma? Can it be something as anti-American as classism? Or, perhaps it's that all-American tradition of passive-aggressive racism.

This Post Ends With a Very Good Joke 

Posting has been slow lately, because it's Spring Break and I've been cruising the country-side on the Girls Gone Wild "Party Bus."

Also, I've had a cold.

Let's do a quick news recap:

"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap," Justice Scalia wrote, "the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined."

New York Times Copy Editor Resists Urge to Use "Sorry, Charlie" Reference In Headline

(check out that byline, by the by)

So... that's about it. Tuna and Ducks.

Oh, and something about a hotel. And someone shot the president..

...of Taiwan! Thus concludes my very good (and topical) joke.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Think How Well I'd Be Doing If I'd Dropped Out of Middle School! 

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Neil Postman Always Rings Twice 

Salon has this crazy idea that, in order to make sense of world events, one has to have some sort of historical context.

This is always the most irritating part of reading the "International" news in any major American paper -- in all the NY Times coverage of the Spanish elections, or the situation in Haiti, or any number of complex situations that happen across large bodies of water, they never provide any sort of explanation for who the major players are or what they want or what they've done in the past. Even the "news analysis" articles or the Week In Review round-ups fail to give even the most basic information as to, say, why the Haitian people think the elections weren't legitimate or why Spain's Popular Party blamed the ETA, or even what the ETA is or who Basques are or why they blow things up. So thank you, Salon.

Also, Tom Tomorrow has an extremely interesting (and seemingly legitimate) letter from a real, live Spaniard.

Of course, in the world of television news, the idea that events have context, or that things can be put into a historical perspective, or that you have to understand (a) to understand (b), is foreign to just about everyone.

Sorry... I've been reading too much Neil Postman.
The relationship between information and the mechanisms for its control is fairly simple to describe: Technology increases the available supply of information. As the supply is increased, control mechanisms are strained. Additional control mechanisms are needed to cope with new information. When additional control mechanisms are themselves technical, they in turn further increase the supply of information. When the supply of information is no longer controllable, a general breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose occurs. Without defenses, people have no way of finding meaning in their experiences, lose their capacity to remember, and have difficulty imagining reasonable futures.
-Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

You Know I'm Crazy About Friction 

Couple new additions to my sidebar.

"and then..." (at one38.org) is a very well-designed and sophisticated-looking blog that was nice enough to add me to the blogroll and say some complimentary things. Proprietor seems to be one of them intellectual artist/writer types, who have the time and ability to post insightful commentary in an interesting form, as opposed to cheap cynicism against a black background.

And (via Atrios as usual), the right honorable Rep. Waxman has made a handy, searchable database of the various lies (or, as he charitably refers to them, "misleading statements") made by the sitting administration in the lead-up to the War Against the Mustachioed Super-Villain. Check out the "Iraq on the Record Report" (pdf) for some totally awesome graphs, including a chart of lies per month, and a breakdown of the lies by category.

Impress your friends!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Shots In the Dark 

Maxwell Smart to Head bin Laden Search
"Missed Him By That Much, Agent Reports

Smart is being brought in, of course, to replace Inspector Clouseau. Who, reportedly, was this close to capturing Osama just last week, but was sidetracked by a wacky ATV-chase through the desert, culminating in a spectacular prat fall into the Amu Darya river. At his debriefing, he was relieved of his command by Chief Inspector Dreyfus for his inability to pronounce "Tora Bora."

Though, frankly, Blake Edwards and Mel Brooks combined could not create a character as tragically bumbling and vainglorious as our own president:
"God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear."

Oh, it's a very powerful message:

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Can Blue Men Sing the Whites? 

NY Times headline sums it up pretty well, I think:
A Nation Is Scarred by 200 Years of Bad Government

...oh, sorry. That's Haiti they're talking about.

Well, speaking of bad government, Josh "Ivy" Marshall and A. "Pseudonymous" Trios both think Kerry should get off this economy thing and attack Bush on Defense, where he's also quite weak. Thing is, Bush is weak on every damn thing you can name, besides keeping the faggots down.

And while Bush is quite unforgivably incompetent on all matters of national defense, the modern Democratic Attack Method for all matters of defense is to Out-Hawk the Hawks, which would, in this case, screw Kerry over with all the ol'-fashioned Democrats. You know, the ones who vote.

But, if Kerry attacks Bush on defense from the Left, he'll be excoriated by the press. Being conscientious with military force is considered "soft."

So -- it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Might as well remember that people vote with their pocketbooks. If someone can't afford the rent, they're not going to be as interested in your missile defense system as in your plan for getting them a damn job and some social support until the job is available.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Sucker Surety Index 

I think consumer confidence numbers are about as meaningless as Nielsen ratings. Honestly, 250 households are asked meaningless, open-ended questions, and we take that as representative of... what, exactly? It's a causality loop -- the media put forth a narrative about this big, vague concept known as "the economy," tell everyone that it's strong or weak based on subjective "evidence," and then quiz an incredibly small number of "representative households" to create more statistical evidence to support whatever predetermined conclusion they wish to present to the people who they then ask about the strength of the economy and so on until the dollar collapses, we default on all our loans, and America is evicted and forced to move to Canada and smoke pot and listen to the Barenaked Ladies all day while going to the doctor whenever we want. Eventually, America will only be populated by Canadian emigrant nerd-rock bands, sketch-comedians, and news-anchors.

So... I guess it's not all that bad. Except for the Barenaked Ladies part.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Webmaster Giveth, and the Webmaster Taketh Away 

We killed it.

My last entries to the Bush poster-generator (not all saved, alas, but there will be other easily-abused poster-creating bots):
"Frontier Justice From a Wealthy Scion"
"A Connecticut Yankee In Sam Houston's Hat"
"The Last and Greatest Betrayal!"
"Take a Gramme of Soma and Relax!"
"Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom"
"Let Harmless Malapropisms Disguise Contempt!"
"Reichstag! I Mean, 911!"


Left of the Dial 

Paul Westerberg day on WFUV out of Fordham U.

The Jesuits love Minneapolis post-punk. Look for Chan Poling day over at Georgetown next month.

Actually, don't do that. Just listen to WFUV and stop making fun of them.

Leave My Monkey Alone 

Fucking fascists.

I was riding the A train home the other night from Central Park with an angry man who was delivering a very dramatic monologue about how the cops always hassle him. I sympathized, for although the cops seldom hassle me, I am often angry regardless. It would be impossible to do any justice to the tone, the timing, and the delivery of Angry Guy in writing alone, so I'll pretend it wouldn't be:

'Fuckin' cops man... cops. Always hasslin' people. Fuckin' cops -- they got cops in the schools now, hasslin' little kids. Fuck that, man. They got the police -- now they got the Animal Police, got the fuckin' Animal Police for the animals up in the Bronx. [It was not clear whether he meant that there is a department that polices animals, or that there is a group of police who are animals -ed.] They need it up there, man. They're fuckin' crazy in the Bronx. But in Brooklyn, we're civilized. Man, the Bronx -- they be crazy up there, I'm telling you! Even Reagan said so! Man, Reagan went to the Bronx, he looked around, and he said, "What the fuck is this?!" And they still fuckin' voted for him!'

Amen. Fuck yeah.

Better Than That Penguin/Yeti Game 

This is far more fun than should be legal. It's also a neat game: try to see what gets past the filters!

This may be severely altered by morning -- the privilege is being abused.


Monday, March 08, 2004

Peace, Land, and Bread 

Tomorrow is the 87th Anniversary of Russia's February Revolution, which would soon bring about the end of the monarchy, and eventually led to the October Revolution (which wasn't a Revolution itself so much as the conclusion of this one, much as the February Revolution didn't technically happen in February).

The causes were many and varied, as causes generally are, but the inciting event was simply the annual International Women's Day demonstratin coinciding with bread shortages.

The New York Times gives us a reproduction of their front-page story reporting on the chaos in Petrograd, which is from a London wire service, and is quite entertaining in its blindness to history in the making:

A number of causes, working together, brought the crisis momentarily to a head, although I do not personally believe there can be serious trouble while the Duma is sitting.
(boy, they didn't know how to write a lede back then, did they... Ten Days That Shook the World it ain't.)

Fragile Hands 

In Paris, people are fighting against advertising in the Metro. I'm not sure if that means Paris leftists are stuck in their almost-glorious past or that American ones have become so numbed to the inescapable consumerist establishment that they are effectively useless as agents of revolutionary change.

In other words, does the fact that I don't notice subway ads anymore (except when there is amusingly vulgar graffitti) and feel no particular distaste for them mean that I am more realistic than my Parisian comrades, or that I am simply resigned?

It's simultaneously comforting and depressing to see that veterans of May '68 are still causing trouble and writing on things -- I don't mean that I wish they'd all become investment bankers or New York Times columnists, but part of me wishes they'd all disappeared along with their revolutionary ferver so they wouldn't have to continue to live with the results of their awesome, spectacular failure.

A Grin Without A Cat is, I think, the definitive film on May '68 and its relationship to the world political situation, as well as a sober examination of its defeat. For a philosophical and cultural context, as well as some wildly appreciative and over-excited rock journalism, read Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces.

The one time I went to Paris, I spent a lot more time in bookstores than is probably useful for someone who speaks no French. All of them had the same basic collection of works from the Canon, all under one of a couple easily recognizable publishing imprints (sort of the French "Penguin Classics"). At every single bookstore, along with Balzac and Rimbaud and Zola, was always Marcus' Lipstick Traces. Really, as a history of rock 'n' roll and radical politics, it is a book tailor-made for a French audience. And it even has slapstick, courtesy of the Dadaists -- the Jacques Tatis of the aesthetic/philosophical tradition.

Other than the fact that they appreciate the best and worst of our culture with more passion than we ever will, here is the difference between France and the US of A:
But in a small victory for the campaigners, the RATP on Monday and for the next 10 days was to free up space on 47 billboards in 24 stations for people to write what they like.

In New York, to curtail politically-motivated desecrating of subway ads, they probably would have banned pens.

John Kerry: Taller Than the Guy Who Was Bigger Than Jesus 

As Drudge continues fishing for relevance with dynamite (you'd think a guy who models himself after Walter Winchell wouldn't be so prissy, but then you'd also think said guy would be able to get his dateline right), Kerry finishes his run in the coveted Max von Sydow role in the Broadway revival of The Seventh Seal and focuses on his campaign, which will feature a little more swearing than is generally associated with Presidential Politics (discounting Nixon and Geraldine Ferraro, who cursed like a sailor).

Asked why Angel was cancelled, Kerry answered,
"The American people deserve an answer now," Kerry said. "The immediate instinct of the Republicans and this administration was to shut it down."

I kid, I kid. It was actually a question about Freaks and Geeks.

If you're sick of the state of contemporary discourse, The Moonie Times has somehow found a way to make it crazier! This editorial seems to think Kerry ought to have more flags in his office, because the one on his lapel isn't big enough.

Extra disdain is reserved for this picture:

Not for its content, but for its composition, which is deciedly amateur. Even discounting the focus issues, there's the distracting light source in the upper-right corner, and that weird guy with the unfortunate facial hair growing out of Kerry's left shoulder.

No one seems to be too worked up about this photo, oddly:

He Probably Liked "Merchant of Venice" Best 

Shorter William Safire:
"I cannot make it through a column without obliquely referencing Nixon. Also, what Culture Wars?"

Oh, Intercourse the Penguin. 

The Issues

On Unemployment:
President George W. Bush's policies have resulted in the loss of almost 2.3 million jobs since he took office. Gay Penguin would not have implemented these policies.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

I'm Screwed 

"The education-and-training solution, while it sounds good, is simply too facile," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. He noted that the number of Americans with college degrees who are unemployed for more than six months has quadrupled in three years.

Good thing we have such and extensive and reliable social safety net to fall back on here in... oh. Shit.

On the plus side, maybe once everyone in my generation graduates from a college they couldn't afford and finds that there are no jobs for anyone, they will write very movingly about their alienation?

School For Home-Schooled To Help Conservatives Define "Contradiction In Terms" 

College for the Home-Schooled Is Shaping Leaders for the Right

[The Christian home-schooling movement] began in the early 1980's as a few thousand evangelical Christians began teaching their children at home in disgust at what they considered the increasingly secular, relativistic and irreligious culture ascendant around them — exemplified by the ban on prayer, the teaching of evolution and the promotion of contraception in the public schools.

It began as a retreat from reality, and it ends in the offices of the most powerful men in the world. Terrifying.

Sidenote: Please, please, please New York Times -- don't refer to it as "the ban on prayer" in schools. We First Admendment types are not the Secular Taliban. It was not a ban by any defintion -- anyone can pray in a public school anytime they want. The "ban" was on organized prayer led by a staff member or representative of the school. Because that would be, you know, the government endorsing one religion over another. And that's a thing that most real Christians have always been against.

Anyway, didn't Jesus say something about prayer being personal or not having to show off how you love him the most or something? I wouldn't know, I'm just a moral relativist.

Here are pictures of White People enjoying morally universalist fun:

They Should Have Waited For The Market to Save Them 

More and more Afghan women are setting themselves on fire, desperate to escape harsh family lives and tribal traditions.


In the next episode, Ms. Nile Jones's 1978 Cadillac Sedan de Ville gets a hot-pink-pearl paint job, a suede headliner and a motorized shoe rack that extends into the trunk.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Shadow Puppet Government 

Everyone loves this whole "shadow cabinet" thing for ol' John Kerry.

Personally, I think it's logistically impossible, possibly not legal, and sorta pointless, except as a political junkie's wet dream (full disclosure -- I don't think real junkies have wet dreams). Honestly, will Ohio get all that excited at the prospect of National Security Advisor Rand Beers!!! (punctuation notwithstanding, of course)?

Hell, why not just have these people, I dunno, campaign for Kerry instead of joining some sort of secret club?

Wait, I get it now -- this is a great way of proving that I know a lot about how presidential campaigns should be run, and also the names of at least 9 important Democrats!

Lemme try:

President: John "Not Bob Kerrey" Kerry
Vice-President: Bob "I Also Served In Vietnam, But We Should Probably Not Bring That Up" Kerrey
Secretary of State: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Secretary of Defense: Hakeem Olajuwon
Secretary of Homeland Security: Viacheslav Ivanovich Molotov
National Security Advisor: Grand Moff Tarkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Tom Hanks
Attorney General: Amy Brenneman
Secretary of Labor: Brooce Springsteen
Secretary of the Interior: Ingmar Bergman
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Thom Felicia and Jai Rodriguez

Admittedly, two members of the cabinet are dead, but of those two, one is a fictional character, so he lives on in our hearts.

I think it's a great team, and I think I've single-handedly won the election for Jack Kerry and his Merry Band, as they should take to calling themselves.

Can't you imagine Ingmar Bergman debating Gale Norton? Because I'm trying not to as hard as I possibly can, but still the image is almost burned into my retinas!

And America would love to see two of its favorite inoffensive, desexualized queers take on HUD Secretary... uh... do we have a HUD Secretary? Anyone know? Was he purged?

And They Fucking Killed Topsy the Elephant, Too 

Let the dismantling commence.

The beast is beginning to get a bit peckish.

Boy, "small government" sure sounds nice, don't it? In a bumper-sticker sort of way? Yes, let's get government out of our lives! Something we all can agree on!


The rights of corporations should not be equal to the rights of individuals. Especially when the rights of the corporation in question violate the rights of individuals to not live on the banks of a river "embedded" with PCBs.

And this Social Security Crisis -- whoo boy, we'd better get right on that. Because if we don't debilitate and destabilize the only essential service in the country not free-falling towards bankruptcy, well, it might be a little short on funds in 2077. So -- we could either ask rich people very politely to pay, proportionately, the same amount in payroll taxes as their employees, or... uh... dismantle it. Completely. Because that other option is unworkable. You know, where rich people have to help support the well-being of the nation? Because taxation is theft.

In fact, business leaders are so progressive in their philosophical beliefs, it sometimes borders on radical! Why, GE is secretly run by militant Marxists who are determined to equally distribute all goods that they produce a surplus of. Hence, the free and equal redistribution of Polychlorinated Biphenyls among all the citizens of New York.

Thanks, GE. You bring good things to life.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

UPN's The Life Of Quiet Desperation 

UPN Show Is Called Insensitive to Amish

We couldn't do the `Beverly Hillbillies,' " Leslie Moonves, the CBS chairman, who also oversees UPN, told television critics and reporters in January. But the Amish, he joked, "don't have quite as good a lobbying effort."

Mr. Moonves may have been mistaken. Within the last few weeks a campaign to stop the show has been started by lawmakers, rural groups, Pennsylvania Dutch tourism officials and representatives of the Amish.
UPN, in a statement in response to criticisms of the show, denied that the series sought to demean the Amish and said it would depict them with the "utmost respect and decency."
Fifty-one lawmakers, including Pennsylvania's two United States senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, both Republicans, have sent a protest letter to Mr. Moonves and Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating officer of Viacom.

"We know of no other reality series that singles out the beliefs and practices of a specific group of people as a subject for humor," the letter said.
"I think it will be somewhat interesting, but, yeah, this will not be denigrating in any way," Mr. Moonves said. He added that the idea behind the reality show was "fish out of water," similar to Fox's "Simple Life," in which two rich and pampered young women, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, worked on a farm. "This is in a certain way a reverse version of that," Mr. Moonves said.

Oh, there was nooo denigration in The Simple Life. Everyone was treated with the utmost respect and decency.

As for Specter and Santorum, clearly they watch much less tv than even the Amish do. "We know of no other reality series that singles out the beliefs and practices of a specific group of people as a subject for humor"? "Singling out the beliefs and practices of a specific group as a subject for ridicule" is UPN's mission statement!

Shouldn't Dynamic Duo Specter and Santorum be too busy fighting crime and defending the sanctity of marriage against all those college-rockers in the Portland area to worry about this?

And does UPN honestly think the Amish are as interesting at two slutty girls with more money and less intelligence than anyone in the audience?

Repeat after me: piety does not make good television.

Which Day Was It When Everything Was Fine Again? 

Sure, almost 200 people died on Tuesday in attacks, but we still prevented a theoretically infinite number of other attacks from happening in the same time period.

Uh... just take our word for it.
"I believe the plan was for even greater carnage," General Abizaid said. "Joint actions between Americans and Iraqis prevented that from happening."

Ombudsmanship Happens 

Atrios has a lenthy exchange between activist Larry Kramer and New York Times editor Bill Keller up right now that highlights the major problems with bias (both real and perceived) in major news outlets, attempts to correct said bias, and the position of the ombusman as middle-man between reader and medium.

Kramer begins with a well-reasoned argument that the recent firing of a stringer with an activist past was politically motivated, or at least hard to explain considering the many real conflicts of interest found among Times writers of higher status. Keller responds with a justification that, while not entirely satisfying, at least makes sense: there are many, many stringers, and making sure everything they contribute to is free of bias would be a collosal undertaking, so it's easier just to fire the ones with an easily-documented history of public advocacy for a political cause. With the high-profile writers, of which there are many fewer, their articles will get more prominent placement and can thus be afforded the luxury of more careful examination before publication. Keller doesn't mention it, but there is probably the idea floating about that people who write about, say, the CDC, and have personal experience with the workings of the CDC, might be able to add more in-depth analysis than an outsider.

This isn't a very good policy, but it's consistent and falls well within the standards of ethics most major news outlets run with.

Kramer responds with a nonsequiter. Instead of arguing the merits of the policy itself, he holds up an example of it and calls it a conflict of interest. The Chief Medical Correspondant worked for the CDC. The Times, according to Kramer, has been soft on criticizing the CDC.

Now, Kramer doesn't actually give them an example of their inconsistency -- this is an example of bias at the Times in a sense, but one that is written into the operating rules of the paper itself. If that is their policy, there is no reason to violate it because someone doesn't like it, unless they present actual proof that the policy is damaging, which Kramer doesn't.

The problem is, Kramer's original bias-complaint has been invalidated. The firing of the stringer doesn't seem to be politically motivated, as the Times doesn't seem (these days) to have an anti-ACT UP agenda. It was an example of problematic-but-justifiable ethics policy, a policy which gets to the heart of the real biases at the Times.

It is a bias towards institutions, corporations, and the upper-middle-class and rich. This is because it is a paper marketed to those people, written by those people, edited by those people, for those people.

The Times is still my paper of choice, on the internet especially, because it is the creator of Common Knowledge and the Accepted Truth of issues. It's important to know what the Official Story is before you go off and criticize or find a contrary position. If you read it with a critical eye, it is a fine news source. And if you filter it with news and analysis from sources with a specific, stated agenda (blogs, political magazines, columnists, etc.) one can stay pretty well informed as to what's going on in the world.
Now -- what I've just done there is the sort of a "public editor" at a major newspaper should do. I'm not saying I did it very well, but I did it with more objectivity and less arrogance than the Times' own hack, Daniel Okrent, who has really, really got to go. The man is never helpful, because he focuses (very purposefully) on the unimportant things. The minor nitpicks are his speciality, because, as an insider and a reporter, he doesn't understand that The Times has an institutional bias, and that that is different from stone-cold objectivity.

Gawker points us towards this quote from NPR's ombudsman, which illustrates precisely why "public editors" are unhelpful to the actual public: "The credibility of the complaint is inversely proportional to the volume of e-mail that is generated on that subject."

In other words, when Atrios sends 200 readers to a Times article with a misrepresentation of a political issue, it won't get a personal response from Okrent's assistant. When one extremely high-profile political activist writes an angry email to the publisher, he gets a personal response from the Editor-in-Chief.

(the real conflict here is over the definition of "objectivity." Perhaps the country would be better off with the British system of wearing a specific political ideology on the sleeve. It makes things more interesting, and news "objectivity" is a relatively recent invention anyway. Of course, it would prove incredibly divisive, but if everyone wrote from a specifically political point of view, it might put an end to all these "Liberal Media" "Conservative Media" mud baths. It's all Corporate Media, and Corporate Media has an agenda far beyond simple Left and Right.)

Muttering Small Talk At the Wall 

Continuing our obsession with Great Divisive Walls, we find that horribly misguided Security Fence Fashion Shoot happened despite our best attempts to defuse the situation with precision-guided smarm.
And boy, oh boy -- that's a big ol' wall they got there:

According to the article, no one on the Palestinian side understood the fashionistas' noble, liberal intentions. They had this weird idea about their being exploited or the image of the wall being cynically manipulated to sell clothes or some such nonesense. Why, no well-meaning liberal artist would ever take advantage of the suffering of another group in the name of shock value. No, sir.

Also, we learn the models are morons:
"My political culture is very limited," said Nouni Cisse, 23, speaking English with a strong French accent. "I had few information when I left France. I knew there was a political problem between Israelis and Palestinians, but why and what, I didn't learn yet."

She said she had just learned about the Israeli barrier on Tuesday. "They showed me a newspaper, but I can't read it because it is in Israelian," she said.

Asked what she thought of the barrier, she said, "It looks like a jail." Asked what she thought of the clothes, she said, "I think there are some good ideas."
Another model, Meital Weinberg, 24, said she lived "in my bubble in Tel Aviv" and had not given the barrier much thought. "Seeing it for the first time, it's a little silly," she said.
... "I don't know much about politics and negotiations," she said. "But the human part of it, that I do understand, is really sad."

Yes. The human part is really, really sad. I'm with Meital all the way there.
The meat of the article is that the Israelis didn't understand the Palestinians, and vice versa. This is why the article must have been a fuckin' wet dream for the International section editor, because it's a gift-wrapped metaphor for geo-politics, with no real analysis necessary. Just a gift from one group of people completely ignorant of the meaning of their actions or the actions of their government to another.
Their lacquered faces composed in haughty neutrality, three models struck poses at the foot of the 25-foot-high concrete wall, beneath white graffiti in swirling Arabic. They seemed unaware that the words meant "I Am a Big Donkey."
The two women tried and failed to find a common language, then communicated through a journalist who spoke Arabic and English.
"Is it good?" demanded Umm Muhammad, waving at the wall.
"I think it's very bad," replied Ms. Goldfiner. "That's why I came to do this."
Umm Muhammad did not grasp any link between high fashion and the high barrier, which the Israeli government and most Israelis say is needed to stop suicide bombers. Her voice rising in anger, she spoke about being cut off from three married daughters on the other side. She spoke about not much liking the models' clothes. She spoke about wanting not a fashion shoot but to help to tear the wall down.

"In the early 1870s, the intelligentsia's idealization of the peasantry and frustration with its own situation and the prospects for political reform led to the spontaneous mass movement which best explemplifies Populist aspirations--the 'going to the people' of 1873-4. Thousands of students and members of the intelligentsia left the cities to go to the villages, sometimes envisaging themselves as enlighteners of the peasantry, sometimes more humbly seeking to acquire the simple wisdom of the people, and sometimes with the hope of conducting revolutionary organization and propaganda. The movement had no central direction and no clearly defined political intent as far as most of the participants were concerned: its spirit was less that of a political campaign than a religious pilgrimage. But the distinction was hard for either the peasantry or the Tsarist police to grasp. The authorities were greatly alarmed, and made mass arrests. The peasants were suspicious, regarding their uninvited guests as offspring of the nobility and probably class enemies, and often handing them over to the police. This debacle produced deep disappointment among the Populists. They did not waver in their determination to serve the people, but some concluded that it was their tragic fate to serve them as outcasts, revolutionary desperadoes whose heroic actions would be appreciated only after their deaths."
-Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Rusian Revolution

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Pound the Prairie Pavement, Losin' Proposition  

I'm proud to say I helped Dennis Kucinich to his amazing 4th-place finish in New York. I'm one of the select 35,700 who supports the man who represents precisely why progressive politics are no longer taken seriously in this country.

But, hey -- I don't mean to sound too snarky about the one guy in the race who doesn't decide positions based on political expediency. To paraphrase Randy Newman, he may be a flake, but he's our flake.

But I'm bored of the presidential race already, now that it's dominated the newsmedia for more than one month. As of today, I'm devoting myself to my new campaign to Save the SuperSizes!

Yes, McDonald's is phasing out their popular kilolitre size-upgrade option, but not because of the popularity of health food, the obesity epidemic, or that documentary about the guy who eats McDonalds every day and nearly kills himself. No, they're doing it for the sake of simplicity.
"This core menu, which has been under development since 2002, simplifies our menu and restaurant operations and provides a balance of choices for our customers," he said. "A component of this overall simplification, menu and balanced lifestyle strategy is the ongoing phase-out of the Supersize fry and the Supersize drink options."

Really, this is a minimalist artistic performance by a multi-national corporation. They are reducing the menu, and the entire McDonald's experience, to its essence, stripping away everything extraneous, examining what remains, and trying to define what McDonald's really means. I wish them luck.

(Here's a hint: It's that chemical flavor they use to simulate the animal fat they claim they no longer fry the fries in)

Here's something to ponder too, before you get too upset: "Supersize fries are a 7-ounce carton. McDonald's will still sell 'large' fries, the 6-ounce size, Riker said."

So -- when you demanded to be Supersized, you were getting only one extra, paltry ounce.

Pathetic. I've lost interest in this campaign now as well.

Ooooh! Seattle has a new mechanized public toilet! I wonder what that lovable Frasier Crane would have to say about such a thing? Something witty, no doubt!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Too Bored to Thrash 

As of late, I've been spending all my money on cartoons, so I haven't contributed to any candidate or cause (though I did attend this totally kick-ass Tibet benefit concert with David Byrne and Yo La Tengo, so my conscience is clear), but Atrios is probably right in asking everyone to throw a few Peace Pipe Nickels John Kerry's way.

But hey, the guy's loaded, so you don't need to feel too obligated.

Also, New York, this is a horrible idea. Middle Schoolers need to be isolated.

And this needs to be brought up by Mr. Kerry again and again until they cave.

And this:
[W]ater is the elixir of life, and scientists reported almost certain evidence today that the tiny crater that the Mars rover Opportunity has been scooting around for the last month was once soaked in it.
is a horrible, horrible lede.

God's Consolation Prize! 

Alarmist prude Marty Beckerman is the next in line for the title of annoying spokesperson/whistleblower of my goddam generation. Here's the money quote:
I got fired from the paper a couple of times, once for asking a 13-year-old cheerleader what it felt like to be a urine stain on the toilet seat of America. I was 17 or 18 then and I was reading more extreme authors, like Hunter Thompson and Craig Kilborn on "The Daily Show."

Morons who write sensationalist books about what crazy things the kids are up to these days full of crackpot unsubstantiated theories and moral posturing have always been with us and always will, but this is interesting because with the current batch of Wild Ones, the media can't get the story. They can't attach a narrative to us, because I don't think we have a damn thing in common. There are no movements, no causes, no relevant manifestos, no politics, nothing. So we get assholes like this:
And what is your next project, exactly?

It's called "Jew-boy Goes to Hell: Young America in World War III," in which I visit Baghdad and Tehran and Kabul and Jerusalem and the West Bank. The publisher hasn't signed on the dotted line yet. It's a really expensive project. But it's about how the war on terror will affect Generation Y, because we care more about bongs and PlayStation than the future of planet earth.
who get book deals from MTV for synthesizing Bret Ellis and Tom Wolfe in an accessible, original thought-free little package with An Important Sociological Statement bow on top.

I'm the voice of a generation too, but I can't remember which one. Maybe a blank check from Viacom would refresh my memory...

Mr. Reed, Tear Down That Wall 

Today's the anniversary of the last great failure of American Democracy.

I refer, of course, to the birth of this man, 62 years ago:

As he once said:
Oh, Sally Mae, Sally Mae
Sally Mae, Sally Mae, ooohhh
No, Sally Mae, Sally Mae
Sally Mae, ooohhh, Sally Mae

He truly is the poet of the streets.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Cheap Holiday In Other Peoples' Misery 

Well, I'm screwed.

I kid, I kid. I am no longer an angry man.
It also found that men who are generally hostile and contemptuous of other people are 30 percent more likely to develop the irregular heart rhythm than men with less hostility.

See, now that seems like editorializing. They could measure the level of contempt displayed by patients in the study? This does explain Dick Cheney, I guess.

Thankfully, the fashion industry is always there to soothe and stimulate. What are the beautiful women of Israel up to these days?
A statement from the fashion house, Comme-il-faut, said the one-day shoot Wednesday would take place at a section of the barrier on the edge of Jerusalem "for the purpose of creating a dialogue around boundaries."
Wait a second -- they're trying to get me to think about issues and... and have dialogues and all that lefty bullshit. Fuck! Now I'm angry again!

If I wanted dialogues about politically controversial walls with great metaphorical possibilities, I'd listen to "Holidays In the Sun."

Wait, sorry-- that was supposed to read: "If I wanted to drown out my neighbor's stereo because I'm fucking sick of Kid A, I'd listen etc. etc."

Sorry. Carry on.


Everything Is Fine 

"These days in Baghdad, the crack of gunfire is actually the sound of things getting back to normal."

People are getting married, husbands are forbidding their wives to work, oil production is back up to pre-war levels thanks to a retired Houston oil-man's dedication to bettering the lives of the Iraqi people, and the Times coverage of the whole situation in Iraq is relentlessly cheerful today. Yes, things couldn't be better. Why, 21 Sunni clerics even signed a fatwa condemning guerrilla warfare, that's great that even the... oh, er...
But the document, drafted earlier this week, calls on Iraqis to stop killing Iraqis only. It makes no mention of stopping the killing of American soldiers.
"You want me to write a fatwa for the Americans?" snapped Fadil al-Kubaisy, imam of Al Dawla al Kabeer mosque. "I'll write one that tells them to get out of the country."

Well, that's certainly not the attitude to have, Mr. al-Kubaisy. You'll never make it into the U.S.-appointed governing council if you're going to be so snippy.

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