Saturday, June 14, 2003

How can they sleep at night?
Like many amateur media watchers I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about the nature of truth. I remember being about four years old and insisting to my parents that my father's skin couldn't possibly be called black because anyone could see that it was actually reddish-brown; and later noting that water wasn't really blue and the sun actually seemed more white than yellow. But accepted truth is more compelling than found truth and it's easy to get tired of insisting on your own reality and accepting the more popular version. I think this is why, even despite the lies and deceptions, people expect to have truths told to them rather than seeking out there own answers.

This is why the "Well, the President says..." are the four most infuriating words in the English language today. We know that people lie and yet almost always expect to be told the truth. While it's comforting that finally people are beginning to take notice, it's hard not to want to shake people for being so gullible.

Broder has recently discovered how easy this actually his.

What has been said:

In his two most recent State of the Union addresses and in dozens of speeches around the country, this president has urged Americans to devote time and energy to community projects. And he has pledged his best efforts to expand government programs of national service.

What the reality is:

At his road stops, Bush likes to introduce AmeriCorps workers, while telling audiences that "we'll increase AmeriCorps by 50 percent." That goal was also set forth in the president's budget for fiscal 2004, which administration documents said would take AmeriCorps up from 50,000 to 75,000 people.
But despite the rhetoric, skeptics noted that Bush actually reduced his request for AmeriCorps grants from $364 million for fiscal 2003 to $324 million for fiscal 2004. When asked how they expected to expand the program by 50 percent at lower cost, AmeriCorps officials said they have "achieved a lot of efficiencies" and have found that many of the local groups that get AmeriCorps workers are willing to subsidize their living expenses, reducing the cost to the government.

Welcome to our world Mr. Broder. It sucks! It's a place where we can every good reason, and every piece of evidence, and still be stopped by those four words: "Well, the President says..."

UPDATE: Josh Marshall, blogging from the West Coast, has more on truth telling, the media, and the Bush Administration.

I got to hand it to Atrios. He's on vacation but he's still going strong, and he's got a cracker-jack team filling in the gaps for him. Check out this post on the real Monkeypox.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Gregory Peck,1916-2003

I don't think many of us realize how big a risk Gregory Peck took in making movies like To Kill A Mockingbird and Gentleman's Agreement, or what it means today to have those movies in cinematic history.

Here's some stuff I didn't know.

A Roosevelt New Dealer, Peck campaigned for Harry Truman in 1948 "at a time when nobody thought he had a chance to win." He continued championing liberal causes, producing an anti-Vietnam War film in 1972, "The Trial of the Cantonsville Nine" and helping the campaign against the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987.

Rumors arose periodically that Peck planned to run for office. They started when Ronald Reagan defeated Edmund G. "Pat" Brown for governor of California in 1966. Brown cracked: "If they're going to run actors for governor, maybe the Democrats should have run Greg Peck."

Oh if only! But I don't want to dwell on that. I think that when Peck played Atticus Finch, it wasn't so much that he was so good, and dedicated, and brave but that he made us care about what he cared about. I'm still digesting the news so my thoughts feel thin and unfinished but I did want to mention this before it got swallowed up by all the other news out there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

And now, back to your regularly scheduled migraine.

...there is an assumption that all the resistance is based on loyalty to Saddam. Some, clearly, may be coming from the Baathist remnants, but you'd have to be well, insane, to think that's the sole source of opposition. US troops are widely mistrusted. It's not that every Iraqi hates us like Afghans hated the Russians, or that everyone is opposed to US help. The problem is that we're walking all over their national pride with our occupation and no matter how war weary they are, and 23 years of war is a nightmare for any country, there will always be enough people willing to kill Americans if they feel there is no choice.


The pro-war people never really bothered to understand the anti-war argument, lost in their fantasies of Churchill and Munich, 1938. A less apt analogy could not have been drawn. What many anti-war people argued was not that the US would lose the Main Force war against Iraqi units, but would find the second war, the guerrilla war, impossible to win. That Iraq would seem to provide a victory, but that Iraqi history indicated that an armed opposition was likely to explode at some point. The reason you didn't want to tip over Saddam, is that you didn't want to see what he was sitting on.

Well, now we do, and we're bungling it. What reason have we given an Iraqi to be loyal to us? At the end of the day, why should Iraqis endorse any of our plans for their country? The Iraqi people may well decide that the best role for the US is in leaving their country. That hasn't happened yet. But, at the end of the day, are we going to provide a reason for Iraqi cooperation without a tank on every corner to ensure it?

Throw your own Jem And the Holograms Party!

1. You know you have good video rental place if they stock at least two "Jem And the Holograms" tapes. Rent both of them.

2.Make pink jello shots to drink every time Kimberly says, "Out-ra-geous!"

3. Count both Shana and Aja's lines. Dicuss racial tokenism in children's TV. Admit that they at least got their own storylines at one point. Move on because you can't think about politics all the time. This supposed to be fun, dammit!

4. Listen to the Holograms Songs at least twice and discuss possible success they would have had as singles during the 80's. Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?

5. Admit that The Misfits were actually cooler.

6. Once again wonder what the fuss over Rio was about.

7. Jericca or Jem? Discuss virgin-whore subtext. Move on because your are too drunk to think.

8. Talk about the message of conscientious celebrities and female empowerment that underlies general cheesiness.

9. Die laughing. Seriously, what were they thinking?

10. Lament over current generation of children's programming. Power Puff Girls? Please. Discuss what a possible revival would look like. Decide it wouldn't work because The Holograms would end up something like a band of Britanny's and The Misfits would still be cooler.

(With thanks to Sanjay and Ceds)
Republican logic at work. "Nobody likes Hillary, never mind that she won the New York Senate seat and her book sold 200,00 copies in one day." Right up there with,"“George W. Bush won the 2000 election."

Personal anecdote: My aunt met Hillary about six years ago and had a very nice discussion with her about how it feels to have your only daughter go to college very far away. No real point there except that I don't see how that person can be seen as cold and inaccessible.

Take note of this last paragraph.

Although sales of Mrs. Clinton's memoir have exceeded expectations, they have not approached the initial sales of the last Harry Potter novel by J. K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." That book, published in 2000, sold three million copies in the United States and Canada in its first two days on sale, according to its publisher, Scholastic.

Now how fair is it to compare a political memoir to the children’s book juggernaut that is Harry Potter? Still, that's pretty good company.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Kudos to The Daily Show, and shame on the rest of mainstream media for allowing a fake comedy news show to out-report you.

Monday, June 09, 2003

So now it's time to put our money where our mouths are. Kos has gone the distance and created a conduit from grassroots organizations to the DNC. However you feel about the DNC, the obstacle they face in trying to match GOP fundraising is daunting. Moreover, if they see us as people who are serious about making changes and if they see our money, we might have more of a say. So donate please!

Sunday, June 08, 2003

I managed to catch the first part of Sid Blumenthal's talk yesterday before leaving for another appointment. Not much to report. If you read the Salon series, you get the gist of the tone. It amazes me that this was the man demonized by the press. I wish I had been paying more attention at the time of the impeachment so I could really get a sense of what the myth was and what the reality is. As it was, I was ducking my head hoping it would all go away and covering my ears every time someone mentioned the Starr Report.

What I did get a sense of was the sheer disbelief felt by the Clinton administration that this was happening and the total sense of unpreparedness. Also a very dark feeling of vindication. Too little too late. Guess I have to read the book now, which will cut into my fiction reading time. Sigh.

Sean Wilentz has a good piece over at Salon about why the impeachment still matters and why historians get no respect.
I'm feeling popular this week!