Saturday, February 22, 2003

Interesting discussion vis-a-vis The Bell Curve over at Atrios. I personally don't like participating in discussions like this, because I think part of the problem with the "Liberal versus Conservative" phenomenon is that when they inject subjects like the intellectual superiority of one race over the other into public conversation, they really aren't interested in winning the argument. They just want to make it part of the debate. When we retaliate we play into their hands. That was the horrifying genius of the book.

From What Liberal Media?

The book entered the public discourse, as one writer commented, "like a noseful of cocaine." It spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list...Magazines published special issues: talk shows offered up two-part editions, and four seperate collections of essays were published , devoted entirely to arguments about the book. As Chester Finn asked in January 1995, "Is there anyone left with access to a microphobne, television camera, or printing presswho has not unburdened himself of an opinion of The Bell Curve?"

It never mattered that the book's findings were later totally discredited. The damage had been done. I'm not sure how we can avoid getting sucked into the arguments but I am sure that the louder the invective the more they win.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

FYI, I'm halfway through Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media? So far so good. I wasn't going to buy it since I didn't imagine that there was anything new he could really tell me. But it's a great read; informative and conversational like a really good lecture by a really laid-back professor.
This is one of those potentially devastating should-be-a-front page stories disguised as an op-ed piece. It’s never failed to amaze me that, election after election, the military overwhelming supports the Republicans when they continue to screw them like this.

Presidents eager for budget savings have frequently proposed cuts in Impact Aid. Congress has almost always resisted. What makes Mr. Bush's proposal so potentially devastating is that it comes when he is marshaling the nation for war, when the federal government is running up record budget deficits, when most states are struggling with huge budget deficits of their own, when school districts across the country are already suffering financially, and when both houses of Congress are controlled by the president's party.

Who could imagine that in a wartime atmosphere we would consider leaving the children of the military behind?

Honestly? A lot of us. Impact Aid is one of those pesky military programs that doesn’t line the pockets of defense contractors.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Don't panic.

St. Paul (Hewson, that is)

Say what you will about celebrities getting involved with politics, and world issues. Bono has devoted most of his career to human rights and social justice.

Bono and the band have often used their fame to draw attention to humanitarian causes around the world. In the band's early days, Bono spoke during concerts against the violence in Northern Ireland. He visited Ethiopia during the famine crisis in the 1980s. U2 drew attention to the atrocities in the Balkans by broadcasting interviews from Sarajevo during the ZooTV concert tour. More recently, Bono has been active in the Jubilee 2000 movement, which hopes to erase the debt of third-world countries.

U2 fans have known this for years. In fact there’s almost a sense that being a real U2 fan goes hand-and-hand with being a compassionate world citizen. How many celebrities have really put themselves—not to mention their money—out there for something as immense as Third World Debt or the AIDS epidemic? When Bono does a reality TV show it’s not “Cribs”. It’s visiting Africa.

Appears that he’s not the favorite.

Lundestad said fears of war in Iraq had apparently not distracted from peace efforts elsewhere in the world. "The range of nominees is very wide," he said.

Stein Toennesson, the director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, will be favourites if they help avert war in Iraq.

"If they succeed in getting Iraq to disarm sufficiently to prevent the United States and Britain from going to war, then they deserve it," he told Reuters.

Not bloody likely.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Piety Hypocrisy Watch

During a visit to Chicago last week, Bishop Frank Griswold, spiritual leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States, was supposed to be talking
about the future of his faith tradition in an increasingly secular world.
But his mind was elsewhere.

"We are in a state of corporate desolation," Griswold told the Sun-Times in
an interview Friday at an Oak Brook hotel where he was attending an
Episcopal conference called "Will Our Faith Have Children?"

"The only sense of community we have now is shared fear or anxiety,"
Griswold said. "Instead of this experience of 9/11 making us, as it were, in
a new way citizens of the world community bound together in a common sense
of vulnerability, our reaction has been one of bald assertion of our
strength and our power. But I think underneath all of that, people still, no
matter how firmly the president of the United States speaks, are living with
a level of anxiety, a sense of insecurity, which is, of course, bolstered
now by the economic situation we're living with, the specter of war, and no
sense of what the consequences of a military invasion of Iraq might be.
The World’s Largest Focus Group

It’s a common mistake among arrogant power-mad world leaders to “mis-underestimate” the influence of public opinion on the course of history. Only Bush could shrug off the crowds of this past weekend, and compare them to “ a focus group.” Only Bush could say that he “respectfully disagrees” with the anti-war stance of so many abroad and at home, as though his opinion was merely an opinion, and not actually bound up in policy.

The “focus group” remark is even more laughable when one considers last week’s orange alert duct tape fiasco. Poor Bush. No wonder he distrusts focus groups.

Still, all kidding aside, it is indeed alarming that Bush has no concept of what it takes for people get mad, get organized, and get out there. This isn’t exactly news. The man was probably the only president in history whose inauguration attracted more protestors than attendees. My guess is that Bush’s thought process has always involved a good deal of denial. This is why, in spite of blogging myself hoarse against the war, I’m more or less sure that nothing short of divine intervention will change his mind.

Ari’s words on the subject of the protests are even more baffling.

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer began his daily briefing by reading newspaper clips about demonstrations against the staging of missiles in Germany in the early 1980s, and said, " "This is not the first time there have been mass protests and in a previous instance America stood on principle ... and as a result the Berlin Wall came down.”

Say what? The Berlin Wall came down because we deployed missiles? Are we sure about that? I always thought that the Berlin Wall fell because the governments collapsed and the people rose up in protest. Am I wrong? Was not the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe a triumph of the will of the people over military threat? Isn’t that why we protest now?
WARNING: Scary use of Photoshop. Sensitive readers be advised

Monday, February 17, 2003

The Left gets its act together.

The plan faces several business and content challenges, from finding a network of radio stations to buy the program to overcoming the poor track record of liberal radio shows. But it is the most ambitious undertaking yet to come from liberal Democrats who believe they are overshadowed in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities.

The concern has been around for years: Hillary Rodham Clinton first mentioned a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" in 1998. But the sentiment has taken on new urgency with the rise to the top of the cable news ratings of the Fox News Channel, considered by many to have a conservative slant, and the Republicans' gaining control of the Senate in November. Such events have spurred many wealthy Democrats to explore investments in possible, liberal-skewing media ventures. New campaign finance rules that restrict giving opportunities also gave them further incentive.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

No postings on yesterday's protests. I think the numbers speak for themselves. At this point I think that nothing short of a mea culpa on the part of the chickenhawks will stop this war. I do think though that Bush should pay heed to the numbers that took to the streets yesterday. Things were pretty civilized yesterday, mostly because the crowds were more middle of the road than fringe. But when those casualty numbers start coming back, it's going to get a whole lot uglier.

Don't say you didn't see this one coming.

By restricting the use of federal AIDS-fighting money by organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas, President Bush is trying to balance his firm anti-abortion policies with his new commitment to battle the AIDS epidemic.

Under the policy, such organizations' family planning operations would be prohibited from involvement in anti-AIDS work.

The plan drew praise Saturday from anti-abortion forces, but groups that advocate abortion rights and provide health services in poor countries were angry. ``They're placing a gag rule on health organizations,'' said Kirsten Sherk, spokeswoman for international programs at Planned Parenthood.