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April 25, 2003
Ain't we special?

Reason for War?

To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war — a global show of American power and democracy.
We killed over a thousand people and contributed to the looting of a country's heritage as a showcase for the glories of democracy?
Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate — and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.
Yeah, because killing a lot of Iraqis and taking over Iraq while threatening Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are going to make us really popular in the Middle East.

Impeach all of them. Today.

Better yet, everyone bookmark the article and write to your local newspapers and television stations and demand that they carry the story.

Also?

I'm glad Carty stepped down as the CEO of American Airlines but I notice that the story doesn't mention the Golden Handshake that he was undoubtedly given. I want to know how much it was.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)
Rolling Back the 20th Century

Rolling Back the 20th Century

I'm going to babble, but you'd really be better off just reading the article and forming your own opinions. Really. I'd have to study to achieve the level of "uninformed" on the subject.

Over at The Nation, Greider argues that this Bush is the third wave of a concerted effort to roll back liberal progress in government. (He's right, of course. No one's arguing their agenda. We're all just arguing whether or not we agree with it.)

Greider points out that, "Reagan unfurled many bold ideological banners for right-wing reform and established the political viability of enacting regressive tax cuts, but he accomplished very little reordering of government, much less shrinking of it."

He goes on to discuss that the, " second wave was Newt Gingrich, whose capture of the House majority in 1994 gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in two generations. Despite some landmark victories like welfare reform, Gingrich flamed out quickly, a zealous revolutionary ineffective as legislative leader."

So, up until this Administration, the reformist zeal was ineffectual. It's my personal opinion that this is because the extremist Right is loud and obnoxious, but there aren't really that many of them.

(I also think that the remaining liberals on the Left were reassured by the Right's failures during these interims and they didn't step back and view the long picture, but bashing the leadership of the Left isn't what we're here for today. At least, not yet. There's no telling where I might wind up.)

Anyhow.

Greider argues that this Bush is the first leader of the movement with a real potential to do long-term damage.

Bush's governing strength is anchored in the long, hard-driving movement of the right that now owns all three branches of the federal government. Its unified ranks allow him to govern aggressively, despite slender GOP majorities in the House and Senate and the public's general indifference to the right's domestic program.
Fortunately for all of us, the Right's ranks aren't that unified and a lot of the "public" has moved from indifference toward into active hostility against the Right's programs. Exposures like the American Airlines' pension and bonus trickery are inflaming people who might previously have doubted that corruption was as wide-spread as it is. That's a glimmer of hope for the Left.

Anyhow. You know those guys? The Right, the extreme Right, and those Neo-Conservatives? The important thing to remember is that everyone is the hero of their own story.

Got that? It's a critical point to remember. Everyone. Is. The. Hero. Of .Their. Own. Story.

These broad objectives may sound reactionary and destructive (in historical terms they are), but hard-right conservatives see themselves as liberating reformers, not destroyers, who are rescuing old American virtues of self-reliance and individual autonomy from the clutches of collective action and "statist" left-wingers.
When we attack the Right for being bigoted, narrow-minded, fiscally irresponsible, and socially repressive, we don't make a dent in their fixity of purpose, okay?
They don't see themselves as bad guys. They see the Left as naïve and irresponsible and as bringing anarchy upon society.

digression

(I don't think they'd see themselves as being against equality either. Not exactly. I think it's that they don't see any inequality in keeping the people who are too far from "the mainstream" neatly out of sight, the way "those people" used to be kept, with "those people" being the poor, homosexual, minority, immigrant, and other groups.

It's the whole "melting pot" thing because it implies blending in, which is what the old guard of the Right wants everyone to do. They don't make any allowances for the part of the concept where "blending" means that the original ingredients are changed, of course.)

(I should never have tried a cooking analogy. My cooking expertise stops with a simple vegetable-beef soup and a tattered recipe for enchiladas.)

(Do you know that you can't find Mexican food in Nashville, Tennessee? They just don't have any.)

/digression

I think I wrote about this before, probably when I was discussing What Liberal Media? There's a perception discussed in the book that the "vast center" of citizens prefer the status quo, distrust rapid change, and think too much debate about government actions is harmful to the country. That's only party true.

It's only true if you define the status quo as the impossibly bland and peaceful Middle-America of the 50's, as portrayed on television. Real life wasn't like Leave It To Beaver, okay? It just wasn't. (And I speak as someone who might as well have lived in Mayberry, okay?)

There was rapid change in the 50's, and people found it exciting. Ditto for the 20's, and even the turn of the century. People used to welcome change, to be enthusiastic about it.

But that, of course, was when it was coupled with a growing economy.

People only don't like change when it's change for the worse. They only long for a long-lost status quo as an escapist dream when the problems of today become too overwhelming for them. And only when they feel essentially powerless to fix their own problems.

Fortunately for the extreme Right, the dot-com bust followed by Bush's fiscal policies and now his war have produced the kind of lousy economy that gives their reactionary agenda a lot of traction.

(It would have a lot less if columns like this one appeared on the front page of the NYTimes or the Washington Post or the Denver News or the Chicago Tribune, or the LATimes.)

Future revenue would be harvested from a single-rate flat tax on wages or, better still, a stiff sales tax on consumption. Either way, labor gets taxed, but not capital.
This is a critical point to remember when Republicans stand up and make mealy-mouthed speeches about "no child left behind" and the opportunities they want to provide for the poor.

Replacing the tax revenue lost the current system with a sales tax or additional taxes on wages probably will help our poverty problem because all of the poor people will die when they can't afford food and their local "faith-based" charity won't feed them unless they convert, get baptized, turn in five other sinners, or whatever extremist measures some half-wit will surely try to implement.

Withdraw the federal government from a direct role in housing, healthcare, assistance to the poor and many other long-established social priorities, first by dispersing program management to local and state governments or private operators, then by steadily paring down the federal government's financial commitment. If states choose to kill an aid program rather than pay for it themselves, that confirms that the program will not be missed. Any slack can be taken up by the private sector, philanthropy and especially religious institutions that teach social values grounded in faith.
For the record, Bush's attempt to transfer aid to religious groups in Texas was a disaster.
Although the core of Bush's "faith-based initiative" stalled in Congress, he is advancing it through new administrative rules. The voucher strategy faces many political hurdles, but the Supreme Court is out ahead, clearing away the constitutional objections.
That's one in the eye for those of you who expect a largely conservative Supreme Court whose family members and friends are employees of the Bush Administration, to stand firm on separation of Church and State. and for those of you who thought that when Congress voted something down, it was a dead issue. "Administrative rules" are being used to pass initiatives that even Republicans found distasteful. this is also another reason to keep blocking Bush's judiciary nominees. The people he'd like to have in the Federal Courts are even more conservative than what we've now got on the Bench.
Looking back over this list, one sees many of the old peevish conservative resentments--Social Security, the income tax, regulation of business, labor unions, big government centralized in Washington--that represent the great battles that conservatives lost during early decades of the twentieth century. That is why the McKinley era represents a lost Eden the right has set out to restore.
In the end, we have to wonder why these people, longing for what they see as the glory days of the past, never bothered to read the last chapter of the era.
But the truth is that McKinley's conservatism broke down not because of socialists but because a deeply troubled nation was awash in social and economic conflicts, inequities generated by industrialization and the awesome power consolidating in the behemoth industrial corporations (struggles not resolved until economic crisis spawned the New Deal).
Since today's extreme Right are accusing "socialists" of having destroyed their Golden Era, one presumes they're quite capable of announcing that all of those little disruptions would have disappeared on their own, if not for the interference of Teddy Roosevelt and his successors.

Anyhow, these are only highlights from the first couple of pages of the article.

You should read it all to get a feel for how impossibly short-sighted some of these goals are.

"Leave me alone" is an appealing slogan, but the right regularly violates its own guiding principle. The antiabortion folks intend to use government power to force their own moral values on the private lives of others. Free-market right-wingers fall silent when Bush and Congress intrude to bail out airlines, insurance companies, banks--whatever sector finds itself in desperate need. The hard-right conservatives are downright enthusiastic when the Supreme Court and Bush's Justice Department hack away at our civil liberties. The "school choice" movement seeks not smaller government but a vast expansion of taxpayer obligations.
Does this sound like a smaller government to anyone?

(Additionally, why are big corporations, the biggest recipients of Big Government assistance. backing these people? Does Microsoft or Pfizer have any idea what a world of hurt they're going to be in when there's no money and no manpower for national enforcement of copyright and patent regulations? They're already the Favorite Federal Children already, with huge rewards for moving jobs out of the USofA and government funding of their research and various other goodies, so it's just greed that makes the pharmaceutical industry lust after a "federal subsidy for prescription drug purchases by the elderly, but without any limits on the prices.")

It's hard to believe that the extremist Right has spent a couple of decades trying to set up this agenda, but the history of publications, speeches, and announcements of intent by politicians and right-wing think tanks are hard to ignore. I find it odd that they couldn't come up with a better plan than this one.

Maybe what the right is really seeking is not so much to be left alone by government but to use government to reorganize society in its own right-wing image.
I don't doubt this for a moment, but I find my mind boggling at the idea that huge corporations and well-funded think tanks and influential politicians have spent this much time and energy trying to turn back the clock to " protect themselves from messy diversity," okay?

I doubt that General Motors or Exxon or DaimlerChrysler really cares who someone is boinking. I mean, I just really doubt that a corporation cares about sex.

I also doubt that a Ford Fiesta cares if the person tightening the bolts speaks English as a native language or not. I don't think a pieces of software code cares if it's typed by a Christian, a Jew, or a Buddhist. I don't suppose an oilfield cares if it's mapped by a gay or a lesbian.

So, while I don't doubt that there are a lot of the religious Right in this movement, I think in the end they're going to find that the satisfaction of keeping gay men away from each other's behinds is overshadowed by the destructive force they've helped to loose upon themselves.

You have to travel pretty far to the right, and pretty far up the corporate ladder, to find people opposed to stricter environmental controls, but that's what many of these corporations are opposed to. The vast majority of citizens are very worried about clean air and clean water and they want regulations forcing corporations to clean up their messes.

You have to check the corners to find which people are still insisting, in the wake of recent scandals, that corporations don't need government oversight or regulating, and those people you do find are mostly executives in corporations. The rest of us haven't yet forgotten the disappearance of our financial security in the dissolution of Enron. Most of us have memories capable of remembering three days ago, when American Airlines hit the front pages with yet another story of corporate-sponsored greed.

You have to really look to find people who, if they believed the Social Security program was going to survive the government looting, don't find the idea of that retirement fund pretty comforting. Especially as corporations continue to back off from any responsibility for the futures of their long-term workers. These people don't really care that Wall Street is salivating at the idea of whole new, mandated "personal retirement" market they can charge money to invent and manage.

I'm here to say that someone making $25,000 a year doesn't have much retirement money to manage, and if 10% of that disappears in "fees" every year, then they're even more likely to be living on one meal of macaroni and cheese a day, aren't they?

What the heck happens to this nifty plan of financing the government through wages when wages are so low that you just can't generate much revenue from them?

What the heck happens to the clever plot of financing the government through a national sales tax when people are so poor they're not buying anything? (And what happens to the corporations who backed these cool revenue programs when the non-purchasing habits of their consumers drives them into bankruptcy?)

Okay, I'm no expert. I admitted that in the beginning, so don't shout at me, but I'm saying that I see holes in the Republican Utopia that you could fly the Concord through if it hadn't been grounded as a result of deregulation and other "let's eliminate some pesky corporate regulations" government brainstorms.

I just don't know. In the end, Greider has some good suggestions for the Left, so maybe Democratic candidates should be encouraged to read this article, too?

I never have any slam-bang conclusions, do I?

Let me say this time that the obvious flaws in this agenda of the Right's will cause it to fail miserably, but I fear living this country during the time when they're trying to implement it.

I don't want to live here while twenty years of progress in social justice is rolled back. I don't want to live in a society even more controlled by big corporations. I don't want to live in this country when assault rifles become a criminal's weapon of choice and there are no police to protect us because budget-busting tax cuts mean we can't afford to pay policemen.

More than those, I completely don't want to live in the society these people are going to create, and go through a lengthy depression and then 20 years worth of laborious rebuilding as we try to regain all we lost.

"No Child Left Behind" is a good slogan. More than that, it's a brilliant idea. So, I say, let's leave Bush and his entire party behind at the next election. The next two elections, in fact.

That will give those Republicans of sense and intelligence (and there are some) time to clean out the infestation and pull themselves together. Time to remember what they used to stand for. No, forget that. How about time to figure out something new to stand for? Some of their old platform planks are still serviceable, but they need to be refinished for the 21st century. Others are moth-holed and worm-eaten and need to be thrown away.

The Democrats can make a good example by using the next six months to pull themselves together, decide who in the heck they are these days, pick their issues, and line up behind someone willing to fight for those issues.

(I know, okay? I gave the Republicans eight years, and I'm giving the Democrats six months. They need more time. They're conservative, remember?)

(A little light relief might be good after all of that.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)
Oh, pits.

I was afraid someone would say this, after Santorum started lumping all of the kinds of sex he doesn’t like together in one speech.

On the other hand, Matthew Rothschild thinks we should let the Republicans get on with their agenda because he thinks a party that comes out as being firmly against oral sex is bound make itself unpopular.

Hee. Hee.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)
Blogstuff

I haven't been mentioning it much lately, but I still think everyone should vote for Capozzola in '04. Everyone who can do so legally, I mean. The rest of us will have to find some other way to show him our support.

Via Hesiod, I found this story about how the U.K., after watching the syncophantic way the USofA media covered Bush's war, doesn't want our media in control of their news.

Go to Alterman's page, And scroll down to the Correspondent’s Corner to read about the press finally getting a little tetchy with Ari.


Other Bits 'n Pieces

Proving that "inclusion" and "diversity" are just buzzwords written into Republican party talking points and that no one actually looked them up in a dictionary, the White House expresses confidence in their currently most prominent gay-basher and says he's their kind of inclusive guy and he's doing a darned fine job.

This is probably true. After all, Old White Guys isn't an ethnic group.

Hee! Hee! It's not a cheap shot if it's truthful, is it?

Posted by AnneZook at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)
We Won! We Won!

Bush says Hussein is probably dead. He also says those Weapons of Much Destruction are probably gone and further suggests they might have been destroyed during the war.

I mention these two items not because they're true or because there's any proof to back up or refute these assertions or because anyone believes what the man says, but because I'm mentally chronicling the rewriting of history to make this war a triumphant success for the Administration's supposed goals. You just wait. In a year or two, they'll be making testosterone-laced speeches about how they went in and 'got' Hussein and eliminated those evil WMD, and the press will report the speeches as fact.

They lied before, they're lying now, and they're going to lie again in the future. That's something you can take to the bank.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)
Things I miss(ed)

Right now, I'm missing Blogger, which is being a pig today. Earlier I was reading the headlines and missing some other things.

ABC's The Note. I'm glad it's back from its wartime hiatus.

Sometimes I miss my sense of humor.

Nowadays, things just get so insane it's hard to laugh at them.

Like Bush, unable to ramrod a $726 billion dollar tax cut through and pushing for a $550 billion dollar tax cut instead. And he's scoffing at lawmakers who prefer ''a little bitty tax-relief package" of only $350 measly billion dollars.

This is your president, people, a man who refers to $350 billion dollars as a "little bitty" sum of money.

''Now, you hear talk about deficits,'' Bush said. ''And I'm concerned about deficits. I'm sure you are, as well. But this nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war.''
Excuse me? Are we now pretending, in defiance of published evidence to the contrary, that no deficit existed or was going to be created even without your war?

You may soon see assault rifles on your street corner. Won't that be nice? Haven't we all missed those nightly news reports of this or that assault rifle being used in a crime over the last ten years?

While I don't miss pictures of the civilian dead on television every night, I miss having a leadership that thought the numbers of civilian casualties were important. History shows us that these numbers are important.

I miss being part of the United Nations, but maybe under this particular Administration, it's good that we're semi-estranged. Because while we're sitting in the corner and sulking, they're getting on with the business of securing human rights for oppressed people. (Frustratingly, there's no news about this yet on the U.N. site.)

I miss my naïve perception that the world was a place of law and order, but that's been AWOL for over 20 years, so it might just be nostalgia. I doubt if we'll engage in a war to protect the women being oppressed in this country. I don't remember hearing much about Burma's oil reserves and they're not strategically placed where we'd like to have some permanent military bases.

I miss living in a society where the majority people routinely debated important ideas with an eye to keeping us honest and on the right track, but maybe that's just because I'm not 20 and in college any more.

And I'm not talking about the religious right trying to legislate what we can do in bed with another consenting adult.

(Guys. Seriously. Get laid, okay? Have a little wild and crazy sex and get over this obsession with whether or not other people are having more fun doing it than you are.)

(If you don't like anal sex, don't have anal sex. If you don't like the idea of anal sex, don't think about it.)

(Although I do think about the fixation the religious right has about anal sex, don't you? They're positively obsessed with the subject.)

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Intelligent, informed citizens who paid attention.

In two famous books, "The Affluent Society" (1958) and "The New Industrial State" (1967), John Kenneth Galbraith argued that in modern economies, producers are mostly satisfying demands that they themselves have created. The same is true of modern government.
For what it's worth, I read both of these, albeit decades after they were first published. Galbraith was right then and he's probably ten times as right now.

The LATimes scoops in Galbraith, takes a side-swipe at Bush's war, and moves on to what's really important in L.A. Traffic problems.

It's interesting how they try to make "congestion charges" for crowded cities part of a larger, philosophical/ethical/sociological picture. (Interesting, but stupid. The congestion on big city streets is as much a result of poorly designed and inconvenient public transportation facilities as anything else. Instead of hacking everyone for a fee every time they drive in a "toll" district, the city should take a look at what they've got and design a sensible mass transport system.)

Reading

Read Dan Savage on G.O.P. Hypocrisy.

Sometimes you run across an article or a column that's just interesting to read.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)
April 24, 2003
Look at Me! I'm Blogging!

Doc Nebula, who has no permalinks, so you'll have to find the ATTENTION DEFICIT SYNDROME entry for yourself, is complaining about the lack of feedback to his brand-new blog.

Once you get down around paragraph 15, it's a discussion of how much attention people want as opposed to how much they get and he's interesting on the subject.

His post started a train of thought in my head, but I'm not directly responding to what he had to say, okay? I'm not. His entry just reminded me some thoughts I had on the whole "popularity" and "feedback" and "traffic" thing.

This is a constant mystery to me.

I mean, here I am, I've been blogging for months and months, I get a vanishingly small number of comments and about the same number of e-mails, and yet it never occurred to me that I should be annoyed by that, okay? I didn't even know it was a popularity contest until I ran across a few oblique references by bloggers to how much traffic they got and overheard a conversation or two about "high points" of blogging being those days when your hit count spikes around some one entry or a fight in your comments section.

I didn't really expect anyone to care about my amateur opinions on anything and the fact that a few people do seem to be interested in enough to stop by and read from time to time is flattering. It's not that I'm indifferent to having an audience, it's just that I don't expect one. A reader is a gift.

(I beat this horse to death in another forum for years, but I'm taking it on again here.) A. Reader. Is. A. Gift.

The fact that you have an opinion and a keyboard doesn't entitle you to readers. A. Reader. Is. A. Gift.

Those moments when our personal concerns, rants, thoughts, and ideas evoke a response from someone are serendipity. With over a million blogs up and running out there, anyone is lucky to get more than two readers a week, okay? There are a lot of opinions being floated and there are only so many readers and only so many hours in a day. Any blog that any group of people, no matter how small, makes a point of reading regularly, is a screaming success.

More broadly, I guess this part is sort of in response to Doc Nebula's post, because my point is that he's quite right. For most of us, a "good" or "bad" day is defined by our interactions with other people. By getting not only attention, but the right attention from the right people. On-line or in person.

Whether it's amateur poetry, political blogs, on-line personal journals, fiction, patterns for crocheting, stories of our childhoods, or whatever it is, people put this stuff out there and then they sit back and sulk because the world didn't stop revolving in amazement and appreciation.

What I think of as people demanding to be "paid" is Doc Nebula's "give me attention!" His is just a nicer, and more rational, interpretation.*

People want attention, everyone wants to be the center of attention regularly and people who don't get this in their "real" lives are struggling to get it on-line.

At this point, I'd like to thank Doc Nebula for helping me, finally, answer a question that's stumped me for years, that being the preponderance of, "Hey, lookit me and tell me I'm wonderful or I'm leaving mad!" posts, entries, and websites that infest the internet.

(* From this I deduce that I'm one of those people who gets enough attention, which is one of those it's good for me but it sucks to be you things.)

P.S. In retrospect, I doubt this is an appropriate entry for a current events/political forum but whatever. It's my blog and you already bumped my hit count for today by '1' so even if you didn't bother to read the whole entry, I won!

You should have gone to read something that would make you think instead of hanging out here, so it serves you right.

P.P.S. This entry has been severely edited because I realized the original entry was rude.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)
Other News

In Florida, they're censoring vampires.

Hey! Hey! The "politics of personal destruction" that Bush was so morally offended by during his campaign has turned up again. This time it's a weapon in the Administration's arsenal that they're turning against campaign opponents.

Remember that fuss when it was revealed that the FBI had seized and held correspondence between a couple of reporters?

The package was sent to the FBI in Washington after an FBI agent reviewed the document and said it contained some information that should not be made public.

In January, the AP was tipped that the package had been intercepted.

The lab report, which had been discussed in open court in two legal cases, dealt with materials seized from an apartment in the Philippines rented by convicted terrorist Ramzi Yousef.

It's not quite a dead issue.

Other People's Thoughts

Read this about blogging being a culture and not a community. I agree. (And, in response to Aaron Brown's question, we edit each other, okay? Speaking as someone who has had a couple of glaring mistakes corrected quite quickly, I can assure the world that a lot of us are getting edited.) I wasn't actually aware that some people thought of it as a genre and I would have strongly disagreed with that perception. And, after over 20 years in fandom, I can assure the world that a broad and vague appearance of similarity of interest does not a community make. (Via Ampersand)

Eszter has an interesting discussion of what types of surveys people ought to be doing to really define the differences between men and women. (Via Ampersand)

Read Kevin Drum. I was thinking it, but he said it and, as always, he said it well.

Via Hesiod, I found a story of Big Brother the government "mysteriously" having gotten the names of a couple of peace activists added to the Officially Not Allowed To Ride On An Airline list.

What are you doing here? You should be over at The Poor Man, reading Andrew Northrup on how Rick Santorum Is So Gay.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)
Right and Left

I found Arianna Huffington's column interesting.

The OpinionJournal offers the suggestion that since we managed to de-nazify some Nazis, we can de-Ba'athify some Ba'athists and then they'll be fit for power. (Proof that being a member of a repressive, totalitarian regime means never having to say you're unemployed.) How does one fit these types for power, you ask? It's simple. You make them fill out a questionnaire.

The OpinionJournal also thinks that the history of the Middle East shouldn't be in Middle Eastern hands anyway and demands to know why all of those valuable antiquities weren't sold to the West, so they'd be in the hands of the right kind of people.

The OpinionJournal also thinks it's about time Bush made war on the Senate, including punishing members for being too independent-minded and not blindly voting his party line.

The OpinionJournal frequently strikes me as a publication run by near-sighted iguanas living in dark cellars, but it might not be polite for me to say so, so I won't.

The NYTimes, in contrast, hasn't forgotten that over 600 prisoners are still in limbo from the last time we got our war on and it wants to know what's happening with them.

The NYTimes, is where Jason Mazzone is pointing out that the Feds forming a "Homeland Security" department and then telling the states they have to protect themselves against terrorism is unconstitutional.

Business may try to undo new SEC law

I think that headline says it all. Apparently Congress doesn't "do" or "undo" legislation any more. Business does.

But then, we all knew that, right?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)
Various thoughts

I'm sorry, but I can't read this in any way that doesn't sound like, "we don't care how many people we killed and we don't want the people who do care to know."

Should professional journalists be prohibited from keeping blogs? Sounds like an infringement of their freedom of speech, to me. That's like telling a software coder that she can't write any code on her own time. Or telling an auto mechanic he can't work on a car unless he's at the company garage. I wrote the EditorandPublisher and told them so.

I agree that, most of the time, malice or criminal intent should be present before you can charge someone with a crime, but there are some actions that are criminal via a breach of public trust. And sometimes the "intent" has to be inferred from the person's actions.

The Koebel brothers were accused of falsifying data that allowed E.coli to take hold in the Walkerton water system. They admitted at a since-concluded public inquiry that they had faked water-test results and falsified daily logs. They also admitted to drinking on the job and covering up initial signs of trouble.
They committed a crime, in my eyes.

Some people are just scary I'm glad they don’t' have Colorado on the list.

No eating, no drinking, while you read this piece of propaganda that claims that Bush is striving to make the Republican party more open and "diverse" but is being hampered by some naughty, homophobic, right-wing, religious types.

I neither know nor care about Bush's personal view of homosexuals, as long as he doesn’t introduce repressive legislation, but the concept of this righter-than-right-wing President being a poster-boy for diversity and openness, and of his secrecy-shrouded Administration being a lesson in "openness" made me spit coffee all over my desk.

(I also had to snicker over the reference to the party's " wartime unity.")

Also, just for the record, I'm really tired of hearing the Right's antiquated bigotry, okay? Can we get this people out of office?

France is standing up for itself. Yeah, France! I hadn't planned to respond to this political situation by buying either more or fewer imported French products, but I've been seeing right-wingers announcing their intent to abstain from Camembert and Beaujolais with amusement and curiosity. Maybe I should be voting with my checkbook. French cheese is good stuff and if my ordering it from France tells this Administration that I think they're wrong, well, that's a good thing, right? One thing Corporate Republicans can't stand is voters sending their money to someone else.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)
April 23, 2003
What is it good for?

Well, if you're talking about Thalomide, it might be good for cancer patients.

And protease inhibitors might be good for hepatitis C sufferers. (It is estimated that 3.9 million (1.8%) of Americans have been infected with HCV, of whom 2.7 million are chronically infected. As of December, 2001, 816,149 people in the USofA were known to be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. Hepatitis C is a much bigger health problem, not to belittle the problem of HIV/AIDS sufferers.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)
Matters Of More Moment

AlterNet gives us another dire warning about the future of the news as media giants continue to gobble up local news outlets.

The White House has it's new war on and, as anyone who read about the Newt's last speech knows, this time they're targeting regime change in the State Department.

And, speaking of the Administration, they continue to be allowed to convince the public that all of our U.N. problems are caused by France. (At this point, it's hard to find any articles mentioning the other U.N. Security Council members who also opposed the war on Iraq). Anyhow. We're working on our revenge plan now.

Keep right on mulling it over, as long as it doesn't get in the way of an early and loud demand that the USofA go clean up its uranium trash.

I've always put Amoco oil in my car because it's good gas and the car runs well on it, but I'll have to stop now. Except that there don't seem to be any oil companies I can give my gas money to with a clear conscience.

Things are really lousy in Afghanistan.

We're having trouble getting food, water, and medial aid into Iraq, but we had no trouble getting the oil fields back into production, did we?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)
Correspondence

Okay, for what it's worth, here's the gist of my correspondence with Mickelson.

I wrote what tried to be a fairly calm but very pointed e-mail.

Essentially I told him I was outraged that he was orchestrating a hate campaign against children and I told him I thought he should be ashamed for providing "entertainment" by acting like a bigot and using his public forum to pass off his own backwoods prejudices as fact. I told him that I knew it was easier to take cheap potshots at a group who couldn't defend itself, that it was easier than learning real issues and formulating real responses, and I accused him of "knee-jerk bigotry." I also told him that I thought Clear Channel should get him and his problems off the air.

He responded with a link to his "response" of Basu's column and told me he'd expect a more balanced review of the matter, unless "of course, you are a member of the mind-numbed, vase, left-wing conspiracy."

I responded (how tedious it is to recap conversations this way) with an objection to his language and informed him that his own rhetoric would sound a lot more intelligent and be a lot more persuasive if he avoided childish name-calling. I also said I'd be happy to hear his side of the story and would read the link he provided.

He responded, in fact, with an apology and explained that most of the e-mails he'd received had seemed to be from "Tourettes sufferers" and that he was responding in kind to them.

(I don't doubt that his accusation is true and I'm really rather annoyed by the revelation. I can assure you all that an e-mail or letter that avoids four-letter words and at least pretends to be a response to the issues instead of a mindless spewing of reactionary bile is going to carry a lot more weight than a hate note.)

I'm just saying.

To return to our story, I checked out his "response" again, wrote a 3,000 word objection, realized he wouldn't read it, cut it down to the bones, confining myself, once again, to objecting to inflammatory and pointless name-calling, objecting to his conspiracy-theory references to some mythical "gay agenda," objecting to his reference to Kinsey as "junk science", and pointing out that the "traditional morality" he was supposedly defending is a fluid and frequently unattrative object that has, in fact, been used to oppress a lot of people. I also demanded to know some facts surrounding the actual event.

His response was, again, polite, considering that the topic of our conversation centered around me considering him an offensive bigot. He provided an additional link (Dr. Judith Reisman*) to support his contention about Kinsey, pointed out what while his "response" was short on facts and discussion of the actual issues, so had Basu's column been, and sidestepped the question of "traditional morality" with a reference to god (I'm not interested in debating religion with him).

(* Whose undergraduate and doctorate degrees, I should point out, were both in Communications and not, as you might expect, sociology, psychology, or psychiatry.)

Anyhow.

It was at that point that I realized that, even though it's quite possible to see Reisman's opinions just from the names of her books and articles, I'd have to actually read them (ick!) and then go find, read, and reference opposing viewpoints, in order to continue the conversation intelligently.

I also realized that I'd inadvertently allowed Mickelson to change the topic of conversation from hate-mongering against children to his view of homosexuality, and I couldn't be less interested in his personal beliefs. (There are no Thought Police and I think that's just fine. We can't legislate correct thought, only correct behavior.)

In fact, once I had time to follow all of the links in the response Mickelson wrote to Basu's article, I realized that even though he was responding to me politely, there was little or no possibility he and I would find common ground for conversation.

There was nothing even remotely inflammatory in the student club flyer that started the whole farce. (I find the reference to the school-supported religious club pretty much as offensive as Mickelson found the Gay and Lesbian club.)

He also cited the Family Research Council, an anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-any religion but Christianity group that's also pretty much anti-everything liberal, to support his opinions.

Anyhow. I figured out from that and from his other response* to Basu's column, the one in which he advises gays and lesbians to go back in the closet if they don't want to be harassed, that there was no possibility of actually learning anything about his views beyond what he'd already told me, that he thought he was on god's side of morality.

(* He makes a couple of odd references to Kinsey defining people by their sexual preferences rather than their genders that make no sense to me, but are probably from something Reisman wrote. In some odd way, he also seems to be saying that if these kids didn't decide about their sexuality until they were older, maybe they wouldn't decide to be gay. It's all very surreal.)

Anyhow. I'm way off-topic, aren't I?

Posted by AnneZook at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)
April 22, 2003
Outcome

In any case, Jan Mickelson responded to my e-mails courteously. (I think if I'd known that his radio station also featured "Dr." Laura and Rush Limbaugh, I wouldn't have bothered to write to him in the first place, but he was, as I say, very courteous.)

In the end, I changed my mind about trying to start any real conversation with him, though. I don't have the stomach to really familiarize myself with his sources to the extent that I'd need to in order to really talk to him.

I'm sure you were deathlessly interested in this, weren't you?

Posted by AnneZook at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)
I'm going to regret this

I know I am. I'm attempting to engage in a rational discussion with the talk radio guy, Mickelson, who tried to whip up a frenzy of outrage against gay and lesbian students who formed a private club and support group.

I always regret trying to talk to extremists in a rational manner, but I can't resist making the attempt every so often, just to find out whether or not they have any sensible ground for their opinions.

In the meantime, I'd copied the GM of ClearChannel communications on my original e-mail to Mickelson and got this response:

From "McCrea, Joel" Date Mon, 21 Apr 2003 2:47 PM
To "Anne"
Subject RE: Organizing hate campaigns


TO: Responsible Citizens
RE: HATE RADIO, Jan Mikelson, & Worsening Conditions in DM Schools

If you have not yet, please read Rekha Basu's column in the Easter Sunday REGISTER.
Jan Mikelson is inciting to violence that portion of our stupid & semi-insane population which expresses its own fears, angers, and anxieties by targeting others, especially minorities. Mikelson has become MR. HATE RADIO and his latest target is Roosevelt High School. Now Roosevelt administrators must deal full time with misinformed and hysterical callers and were forced to take students off phone duties because of the viciousness of many calls.

Mikelson's comments are unconscionable even to staunch defenders of the First Amendment. Some believe that his comments may, in themselves constitute hate crimes. WHO-RADIO rakes in advertising dollars for his show, and it may save time to approach those advertisers during the Jan Mikelson time slot. Boycotting those benefiting from viciousness is effective.

CSOC held a forum on Hate Crimes and Bullying several years ago, prior to passage by the City Council of the ordinance adding sexual orientation to the protected list. Jan Mikelson is now breaking the local law, and it is time for all intelligent, humane citizens to become active in combating the cancer he is creating in our community.

HATE RADIO is big business in America! Anger is endemic, and the more powerless and disregarded people feel, the more the sub-groups spewing hatred feed on such broadcasts. Hatred not only against national public figures, but against harmless individuals -whether speaking out for peace or wishing to assemble to affirm their own diversity or wishing to buy patches of land for a summer camp, etc. is disgusting and harmful. However, these malcontents and misdirected bullies are also victims in a society where attention and nourishment to those in need dwindles and disappears as money is shifted to satisfy corporate greed, where contempt for law, as well as the poor, is flaunted by local and national leaders.

Jan Mikelson regularly expresses contempt for the Des Moines schools and now targets Roosevelt, one of our best. He out-bullies the bullies by hammering out lies and gross exaggerations, thus giving others the license for more violence. Verbal abuse is violence! Bullying, physical as well as verbal, is a major problem for students in Des Moines as well as nationwide. Here, principals and teachers do not know how to deal with it, and the Central Administration denies the existence of a problem.* It is up to a group of intelligent citizens to address the problems, starting with Mr. Mikelson.

Such a combination of negative forces must engage all who care about the quality of the community we live in. If you agree and have the courage, let us know you are there.

Suggestions to date:
* Monitoring the show, recording it, and calling for a list of advertisers. (WHO-RADIO has refused information in the past; therefore, monitoring and making up a list is probably necessary. If he knows he is being monitored Mikelson will tone it down -
EUR Secure audio-tapes of the show (WHO-RADIO generally refuses such requests) -and file a lawsuit against the station -
EUR Petitioning the City Council to make a statement condemning Mikelson.

PLEASE RESPOND WITH YOUR IDEAS IF YOU CARE ABOUT STOPPING HATE CRIMES IN DM.


*Addressing the School Board has not brought recognition of now action to the problem. The DMPS does not own copies of the most recommended and popular video tapes on the subject.

Joel Mc Crea
Market Manager
Clear Channel Radio/Des Moines-Ames
1801 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309-3362
(515) 242-3607
fax: (515) 242-3798
joelmccrea@clearchannel.com

Okay, so..what? Was my e-mail intercepted and is this someone spamming a response supposedly from McCrea? Or is McCrea himself advocating removing Mickelson from the air? And is he the "Market Manager" or the "General Manager"?

I'm confused.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)
More Shame

There wasn't enough public outcry when this story first broke, or maybe the gov'mint wasn't listening to us (mostly they aren't), but people like she's describing should never have been welcome at any government function. I don't deny government officials their right to have and express their religion, but I object to that freedom being used to preach bigotry and hatred against the religions of others at official government functions.

Read Krugman.

Also, Richard Cohen, who's feeling cranky about the media.

Do you know, there are some people who actually doubt the Bush family - Moonie connection?

In and out. The Ba'ath Party must be as confused as the rest of us who thought they were bad guys. I guess they're relieved to find out that they were, instead, suffering victims who deserve jobs. (This Administration is a disgrace, okay? Just a disgrace.)

Iraqi soldiers are receiving a different reception. No hero's welcome for the ones still alive, no acknowledgement of the ones who died. (Personally, I'm a little worried by a government that thinks not counting the bodies makes them go away.)

And if there's a good reason for regime change, mistreating children and imprisoning them might come pretty high on my list of good reasons. All the more cause, I should say, why we should scrutinize and criticize other regimes that also imprison children, wouldn't you think?

Even if I were a conservative, I think I'd vote against Bush for this cheap publicity gimmick.

Also? These tax cuts? A bad idea unless you're one of the rich folks slated to be gifted. And tax cuts aren't all this Administration is trying to do to us.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, for instance, recently announced plans to allow public funds to be used to help build churches, as long as part of the building is used to provide social services.
Read it and weep, people. It was your Constitution, too.

And, speaking of scary, read this one from Emma and worry. (permalinks not working, it's the "Via Thousand Yard Glare, a story on the Family" entry.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)
Have They No Shame?

Guess not. Looks like, bad economy or no bad economy, CEOs made sure they got theirs last year. (American Airlines is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corporate executives putting the screws to employees while treating themselves to champagne and caviar.)

Their performance stank last year, yet most CEOs got paid more than ever. Here's how they're getting away with it.
An article from Fortune magazine and well worth reading.

Shame, shame. Looks like the godly have spoken, and they've convicted a minister for performing same-sex weddings. He was convicted by "elders" of his church but so far they haven't taken any other action. (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!) He hasn't been defrocked or whatever they do to non-priestly ministers who stray from the Path Of Righteousness as laid down by the Church elders. (Not to be confused with the POR as laid down by their god, which could be found in any better-translated version of the bible than most of them are using.)

Apparently the right of the Iraqi people to choose their own government stops at the point where they might choose a form of government not palatable to this Administration. If there were any danger of them forming a theocracy based on Christianity, something tells me we wouldn't be hearing these objections. (Just remember, I wasn't the bigot who said that a religious government wasn't capable of treating non-believers fairly. No, that was your Compassionate Conservative Administration talking.)

Where are the weapons? People keep asking. I hope they ask, and ask, and ask, until the Administration is forced to deal with the matter directly.

There are, of course, Weapons of Mass Destruction. Lots of them. We have the world's largest stockpile. North Korea is busily making their own inventory. Israel is apparently sitting on a huge number of illegal weapons. Naughty, naughty.

Blix: 'US undermined inspectors'

American officials tried to discredit the work of inspectors in Iraq to further their own case for war, the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has charged.
Well, duh.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)
April 21, 2003
Lie, Damned Lies, and Talk Radio

It's just my opinion, of course, but I think that when someone descends to mindless and childish insults, they're proving that they don't have a logical or coherent argument to back up their opinions.

Read this.

Read this.

And then read this. (LINK CORRECTED)

Can you hear how ignorant the guy sounds each time he lowers the level of debate by straining after insult upon insult to heap upon the reporter's head? It's not that he might not be making a decent point or two, it's just that the way he's talking disguises any, you know, actual intelligence he might possess. *

Anyhow. I'm linking to this for two reasons.

#1 – Write or send e-mails demanding that ClearChannel prohibit its employees from inciting hate crimes against children.

#2 – Let's all join the nascent movement for the Left to be the first to drop the search for ever-more absurd insults and euphemisms for our opponents and save our energy for refuting their half-baked agenda and liberty-busting legislation.

#3 – Write or send an e-mail to this guy, while you're at it, and tell him you don't appreciate him using a public forum to promote his own regressive, hate-mongering agenda. Also while you're at it, tell the guy to fact-check before he starts spewing next time. If he's going to be a knee-jerk bigot ranting against anything he doesn't understand or any preferences he doesn't share, the least he can do is to be an accurate one.

(* Admittedly, Hesiod does a bit of name-calling as well. In a case like this, it's almost impossible to resist. Re-reading this, I'm not sure I have resisted, but since the words, "backward, red-necked moron" didn't appear in the post, I'm thinking I gave it a decent try.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)
Bah

It's not a post-war letdown. In spite of the war-related issues that appear here, I never watch war news coverage on television, so I'm not one of the war-junkies hitting a trough because I can't get a fix.

(Well, I don't need to stay glued to the television set, do I? By the time I get home in the evenings I've read ten times as much "news" as I'm likely to get from the television networks. I tune in just often enough to get a "feel" for what they're still covering and for those uncertain, let me say that the 'news' is more interested in Hussein's son's sex hideaway than anything else at the moment.)

I'm feeling discouraged.

Kevin Drum (whose CalPundit has a new home and a new look) identifies part of the reason. I started blogging, not just as a place to air my endless fund of opinions, but in the hopes of, you know, reading and discussing alternate viewpoints.

The war destroyed most of the last of my hopes for that, since it polarized us all so dramatically. There are few of the sites by conservative (Right-wing? What's the best way to refer to them?) bloggers that I try to comment in any more. Seems that the, "Amerika, Love It Or Leave It" crowd has taken over, especially in the comments sections.

Idiots abound in all fields of human endeavor, of course. Those who can't do, turn to graffiti, which is what the comments section on a lot of blogs seems to be.

In any case, there aren't that many of the right-wing sites I'm able to read any more. The post-war nyah-nyah tone of some of them is just too kindergarten to be interesting and others are getting too insular to be worth the time. (Let me just say that I'm not willing to spend my time reading sites whose only "news" coverage is the activity on other sites. We aren't the news.)

I don't have any dramatic conclusions. I'm just saying.

I'm discouraged about the state of politics in this country and so far, no one really seems to be listening. Certainly I don't have any sense that the Democratic candidates understand what it is that I'm after. If they did, they'd try to convince me of their fitness for the Presidency by doing their jobs, instead of campaigning relentlessly. Missing important votes doesn't impress me.

Maybe if this government wanted to convince me they really had the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart, they wouldn't be planning to pipe Iraq's oil to Israel?

It would also create an end less and easily accessible source of cheap Iraqi oil for the US guaranteed by reliable allies other than Saudi Arabia - a keystone of US foreign policy for decades and especially since 11 September 2001.
Tell me again this war wasn't about oil.

On the other hand, Josh Marshall has a depressing entry about how a significant number of Administration officials seem to think that the regime is all changed now and it's time to leave, because after all, it worked in Afghanistan, didn't it? Shoot-and-run.

I can't decide which is worse. If we stay for five years and force the Iraqis to supply endless amounts of cheap oil to their historical enemy, or if we just leave them to their fate, the way we largely have in Afghanistan.

Like I said.

Bah.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)
Bad News

Not for the first time, someone is citing that 1945 quote about the heinous nature of starting an aggressive war.

"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
I've seen this one about fifteen times over the last couple of weeks, but it's worth seeing again.
Those now exulting America's conquest of Iraq should ponder Judge Jackson's majestic words. Particularly now that the U.S.-British justifications for invading Iraq are being revealed as distortions.
And then they give us another list of Bush-Blair claims about Iraq that have proven to be false. (Do you find yourself wondering if the public really cares right now, now that the war was won so quickly, USofA casualties were so low, and the civilian aftermath is already dropping out of the news cycle?)

Reports from the Middle East seem to vary between, "what is the USofA going to about [our problems] and "Thanks, but go home now. (Also, buried inside that first column, you'll find another Iraqi putting forth the view that Baghdad toppled far too easily.)

If we put permanent bases in Iraq, we're going to need a more welcoming population than exists now. Certainly for people who, quite recently, were lauding the benefits of democracy and power to the Iraqi people, they're losing no time insuring that a permanent USofA military presence is going to be a feature of the new country.

Of course, if we're planning to say for five years before we even allow elections, it's a while before we have to worry about a hostile population, isn't it?

In the NextWar Derby, it's hard to know who to vote for, you know? Syria looks good. They're close, there's been groundwork laid in the same swiss cheese way it was laid for Iraq, but there's that secret memo about 'regime-change' in North Korea, too.

Good news

For the Christian religious types, it begins to look as though Jesus, as a historical figure, might have really existed. For some reason, maybe because there's little "meat" to the story, UPI seemed as interested in covering the media coverage of the artifact as the artifact itself.

For the Civil Liberties types, local governmental opposition to the Patriot Act is worthy of coverage. Especially when a small city passes a law, making the Patriot Act unlawful.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)
April 20, 2003
What Liberal Media (Alterman) (3)

What Liberal Media?

Less of a review than a few thoughts that stayed with me after I finished the book. Mostly things in the nature of quibbles and argument, because I always have arguments. (Sorry, no time for editing today. I hope it's coherent.)

Leaning right

Like...on pages 24-25, Alterman suggests that the turn from serious television news coverage to the tabloid carryings-on of pop stars and other entertainment is to prevent "liberals" from adding bias to actual news coverage. This is a manifestly absurd perspective since his own premise is that any such bias is mythical because the media companies are in conservative hands. (It also ignores the very real problem of the change he himself mentioned of "news" programs moving from serious coverage of national and world events to potential profit centers driven by ratings and advertiser agendas.)

I'm just saying. It seemed like an odd charge to make, suggesting as it did that "liberal journalists" could only be prevented from slanting the news by the absence of news to slant.

I would say, rather, that the absence of any serious news coverage equally eliminates the ability of anyone, liberal or conservative, to inject much more bias than the opportunity of picking and choosing between which "news events" to cover.

In a couple of places, Alterman discusses the rightward shift of politics over the last 25 years or so, which I bring up only because it made me wonder if the rightward move by the "left" was self-motivated or a reaction to a slow move on the part of conservatives toward the fringes of the right.

Alterman seems to speculate that it's the latter - that huge increases in funding conservative think tanks began to move conservatives ever-more rightward, although he never addresses the matter direction.

I'd like to also suggest that the achievement* of many notable liberal goals (racial and gender-based equality, attention to the environment, etc.) left liberals, so some degree, without a platform to stand on.

(* "Achievement" as in "mainstreaming concern over these issues and legislating significant attempts to eradicate the problems" and not, "it's 100 percent done, so we can all go home now" since a glance at the pages of most national papers shows that the job is not, in fact, done.)

He also covers, albeit briefly, the conservative pundits' reaction to Hillary Clinton. (I might also say their near-demonizaton of her.) The thought that occurred to me at that point was that if the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews are so afraid of her - she must really have something.

Citizens and debate

Moving on.

"Television is a medium that is not merely indifferent to ideas but actively hostile to them."
In terms of the nightly news broadcasts that's very true. No one could give decent coverage of an even marginally complex idea in 23 minutes that have to be shared between sports, weather, and a recap of everything significant that's taken place in the country that day. (I don't say, "the world" because broadcast news programs largely ignore events outside our shores.)

Speaking of the pundits, Alterman also quotes R. W. Apple, Jr. (NYTimes) saying that Americans "crave unity above everything." The problems with genuine "full-throated debate" are its "costs: to national unity, to confidence I the electoral process and to respect for leaders in general."

If this is, as Alterman says, "a deeply held belief of the ideological center" then the center has moved far more to the right than I was aware.

In short, I question, I even challenge that perception.

There are those who object to debate but it's my perception that these are a minority. I believe that, in a system where the voices of the people were actually to be heard, most journalists and almost all politicians would be amazed by how passionately most people want to talk, to debate, and to be part of the process. Even the people in favor of the current Administration have opinions and they want to share them. In fact, I've only seen a few far-right wing nuts objecting to debate at all. It's certainly not something you'd hear from a liberal or even someone truly centrist, considering how far from centrist most governments are.

Again and again I've seen posts or e-mails prefaced, "I'm not really political" or had conversations that started "I'm pretty middle of the road most of the time" and these beginnings are always followed by, "but." These people are "ideological center" but they have opinions and they want to share them. They want to debate.

The vast center that is unwilling to rock the boat is a myth, an illusion created by the complete disgust of most Americans with 99 percent of the current crop of politicians.

The voters care, they just figured out that politicians weren't listening. And, as long as the economy went reasonably well, they were inclined to just ignore the government. (The spectacular growth of the underground or "black market" economy over the last twenty years or so isn't a coincidence. Unhappy with the way 'government' was running things, people started living outside the system.)

How about "social" bias?

Alterman devotes a chapter to that. Is there social bias in the news? That is to say, is news coverage biased toward traditional "liberalism" on social issues? He says 'yes' and I'm inclined to agree. (Of course, I'm also unable to see anything wrong with this. "Social liberty" is a lot of what this country was based on, isn't it? ) At least, I agree that news coverage seems to be biased toward those issues that used to be liberal.

Where I disagree is with his (and, apparently media's in general) acceptance that redressing racial and gender-based inequalities in news coverage meant opening the door to unashamedly biased and even inflammatory coverage. I do understand how it's possible for the pendulum to swing too far - for voices previously ignored to be given too much latitude, but understanding doesn't mean I approve.

I take issue, for instance, with some of the examples (see p. 111) of "paternalism" of the media in its attempt to broaden news coverage to include pieces by and about minority citizens.

"...examples of African-American reports receiving a degree of indulgence from the paper's editors that would be unthinkable for a white reporter. Describing his own work in terms that would clearly be tagged as racist if spoken by a white person, African-American report Kevin Merida explains, "the black experience is part of who I am" and so he tried "to incorporate that in my coverage.")
It was up to the editors and publishers to keep racism and inaccuracy out of the news coverage of even the first African-American (or Asian, or female) reporters in the same way it was up to them to keep white reporters honest and unbiased.

I think it's possible to "incorporate" one's own experience without including blatant racism and certainly it was up to Merida's bosses to teach him how, if he didn't know.

Alterman does condemn press coverage that doesn't adhere to what we think of as "journalistic standards" and certainly I agree with him, but implicit in his text I find an expectation that an African-American/Asian/female/Latino/disabled reporter should report without in any way exposing the experience of their own lives.

This is manifestly absurd. It's also impossible. I doubt I could write with clarity and true understanding of the plight of a poor African-American male living in a ghetto. Few people could. Journalism does boast some exceptional writers but few journalists are that gifted. A journalist should bring their experiences to what they cover. But they should do it openly and honestly, scrutinizing their own work to make certain they're using their experiences to add understanding to their reports, not to add distortion or dishonesty.

It's right to expect honestly and fact-checking from all news media sources but part of what a reporter, or a publication, brings to a story is their "angle" (a very different matter than "spin," let me add) and pretending otherwise is simply naïve.

More than that, if all reporting was gender-neutral and color-blind, there would be little or no point in having "diversified" the pool of reporters and media executives in the first place, aside from the demands of "equal opportunity" (not an unworthy goal).

It's not, you understand, that we media "consumers" demand a complete absence of bias or transparency of reporting. Most of us are smart enough to have noticed that the news is reported by fallible human beings, after all. We demand truth and honesty, whatever the bias.

The element of "spin" that I (indeed, many of us) spend so much time denigrating has become devastating not because it represents a certain bias to coverage but because it has come to be an acceptable synonym for "lie."

Well, having said all of that, and gone on onto a tangent attacking something Alterman never claimed, I'll go further and point out that Alterman is quite correct in pointing out the media's failures of honesty and accuracy, even as he is quite right to scold both the Left and the Right for their failures in this area.

There will be a pause while we all contemplate the fact, proven here once again, that only the Left is honest enough to hold both it's own and it's opponent's failures up for public scrutiny.

In the end, Alterman suffers from the same blindness that most true liberals suffer from. True liberals do believe in "justice for all" and in their attempts to give everyone a free and equal hearing, miss the opportunity to take the bludgeon of bias to their foes.

Can liberals match the Right in bombast, and ratings, without adopting the scorched-earth rhetorical tactics that conservatives use against us?

I doubt it. While liberals continue to try to be fair and impartial, they'll still be perceived as weak by those who don't understand them. And while liberals continue to attack liberals for failures of, well, "liberality," they only achieve the end of adding to the weight of negative public coverage of those labeled, "Liberal."

Sheesh. I have a lot more to say (well, when didn't I?) but I think that's enough for now.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)
Brief Announcement

Brief Announcement

John Duffy, over at the Better Rhetor is back and blogging again!

Posted by AnneZook at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)