New National Post Column From Me – ‘Death of Dissent’ a Myth: In which I argue that, contrary to much of what has been said (especially outside the country), American debate in the year since the Sept. 11 massacre has been impressively healthy and vigorous.
09/07/2002 10:42 AM
The Wilsonian Switcheroo: Washington Post columnist (and International Herald Tribune editor) David Ignatius made this sensible (to me) point about foreign-policy politics a week ago:
An intriguing aspect of the Great Mideast Debate is that a role reversal seems to have taken place: The conservatives are sounding like Woodrow Wilson-style liberal internationalists in their passion for extending democracy to the Arabs, whatever the risks, while the liberals have become the voice of cautious, status quo conservatism.
09/07/2002 02:03 AM
Tagline on the Latest Hitchens Rebuttal to His Pal Martin Amis:
This whole exchange between us comes at an unsettling time for me, because I think that a huge section of the "left" has fatally condemned itself by flirting with, or actually succumbing to, a creepy concept of "moral equivalence" between the United States and its (actually our) enemies -- whether Christian Orthodox thugs in the Balkans or Islamic fascists in Afghanistan or national socialists in Mesopotamia. Talk about wincing -- I can scarcely bear to read the drivel and bad faith that is now emitted by some of my former comrades. It’s hardly relevant in the scheme of things, but this little cat-fight over Stalin between British intellectual chums, both here and in Hitchens’ extended Atlantic review, sure has been interesting to read.
09/07/2002 01:55 AM
The Difference Between a White Lawyer Arrested for Selling Coke, and a Black Kid Busted for Dealing Crack: Debra Saunders has the gruesome details of the outrageous disparity with which a single Alabama judge hands down prison sentences.
09/07/2002 01:34 AM
‘Riordan attended a small fund-raiser for Simon Thursday and hinted at entering as a write-in candidate.’: So says Digital City Los Angeles, for whatever that’s worth. Link courtesy of Steve Smith.
09/07/2002 12:58 AM
Hungarian Big Brother: No, Kadar hasn’t come back -- the Magyars have a new version of that Big Brother television show. And, if you know Hungarians, you won’t be surprised to hear that, in the words of Hungo-specialist Rick Bruner,
The show has only been on the air for a few days so far, and already the girls are letting the boys help them shave their privates. The show even has a blog of sorts. Szep Orszag!
09/06/2002 05:39 PM
Monopolist Snobs vs. USA Today, Episode 4,719: Today’s entrant comes from the L.A. Times’ “Regarding Media” columnist Tim Rutten, who commemorates the 20-year anniversary of the journalism establishment’s favorite McWhipping Boy thusly:
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when mainstream journalistic standards were such that people thought the advent of USA Today threatened civilization. Rest assured, this is a real lament about those bygone days, not a set-up for poking the journalism scolds in the eye. Soon, Rutten moves on to the business of telling readers how dumb, out of touch and unattractive they are:
With a daily circulation of 2.3 million, it is now the first successful mass readership daily created since World War II -- a small, fixed point of generic reassurance to America's new class, the laptop-toting business travelers whose working lives are lived everywhere and nowhere, and whose notions of community usually involve e-mail and the corporate intranet. Italics mine. For the moment, we’ll leave aside the L.A. Times’ “notion of community,” beyond noting that its track record in this regard has been a tad controversial over the years.
Still, for many working journalists, there are few things quite so depressing as poking their heads out of a hotel room and finding USA Today hanging on the handle. On the other hand, so many things so much worse have happened to print and broadcast journalism over the intervening years -- think Fox News. Good God. Speaking as just one working journalist, I’m damned happy to find any newspaper on my hotel-room door. In fact, I’m usually tickled pink to be in a hotel room in the first place. When I pick up my USA Today, I know I’m going to get a few useful things: 1) Great box scores and sports stats, 2) Solidly reported, frequently investigative and usually interesting 2,000-word “cover stories” in every section, 3) That terrific “News Across the USA” page (or whatever it’s called), where each state gets a one-paragraph nugget of news, of which 27% turn out to be bizarre and hilarious (we used to read that to each other drunk in Prague, and we’d laugh and laugh). 4) The most user-friendly layout of any major U.S. paper. 5) The occasional crazy Al Neuharth column. 6) On good days, shrewd political coverage from Tom Squiteri.
But the real sin of this graf is its reflective hostility toward the very existence of two journalism companies. USA Today -- and to a far more serious degree, that evil Fox News -- are seen as bad things that have “happened” to quality journalism. Well, one thing that has “happened” because of these companies is that hundreds and hundreds of journalists have jobs, where there once were none. USA Today has demonstrated that, relentless sneering monopolist pessimism notwithstanding, it’s possible to launch a new newspaper & a crazy idea, and have it work. That’s useful for journalism, no? As for Fox, CNN now has a competitor, one which provides a useful window into Red-state opinion and theory (during the 2000 election, when I was poking my swollen head out of hotel room doors for USA Today, I found Fox absolutely invaluable in providing insight into, and high-ranking guests from, the Republican Party). How many times have we seen the Gatekeeper Elite posit that it would be better for a news organization not to exist, than to release its toxic and possibly contagious “values” into an allegedly pristine media atmosphere? Many times, that’s how many! (I have a big file of such examples, but it'll have to wait for another day.)
Disclaimer: Rutten’s story is not nearly as one-sided as the above paragraphs would indicate. It’s full of fairly interesting quotes, several of which praise or at least list some of the paper’s innovations and contributions. Please go read it, especially if you were planning on concluding that the author was an incorrigible so-and-so. Still, it provides more evidence of how far journalists have removed themselves from the media-consuming proles they are supposed to cover, and how totally un-self-conscious they are about it. Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s go to the kicker quote from Ben “Jason Robards” Bradlee:
I guess what I'm trying to say is that they made a paper a lot of dumb people can read.
09/06/2002 11:43 AM
How to Remember?: My good friend Jim Lowney, a war photographer from New Jersey who watched one of the planes fly into the World Trade Center and then spent the next months working his tail off on the story from an office 10 blocks away, sent me this e-mail about trying to figure out how to remember. Since he doesn’t have a blog -- yet! -- I’ll pass it along.
I was just sitting, sipping a beer, listening to the crickets on the back deck of my folks' peaceful home in Toms River, NJ, and I was thinking about September 11th.
Feel free to e-mail young Jim. Me, I’ll be with my Dad, watching the Angels kick hell out of the A’s while I try to loosen his lips about what the Defense Industry is cooking up for the next war. Giuliani’s approach sounds about right to me.
The hard, horrid events of that day last year have been fucking with the mind, heart and soul since I watched the first plane fly over the Westside rooftops before smashing into the north tower of the the World Trade Center.
I don't have a web site or a blog -- hell, my laptop is still fried, waiting repair. So, I need you and the other bloggers to ask a question and post the replies.
What are people going to do this September 11th to remember, recall and honor the day? If any thing at all...? I think it would help the souls in NY, DC and PA.
Former NYC Mayor Rudy said at a governors' conference last week in New Orleans that everyone should respect everyone dealing with the date in their own way. I agree 100% of course, but I still don't know what to do.
I plan to get up at seven o'clock in the morning again and ride the 6 train down to Canal Street and have my own moment of silence...or may be I will get up earlier and watch a bagpipe band march into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge on their way to Ground Zero. Or maybe I will curl up in a little ball and refuse to get out of bed at all. No, I won't stay in bed. The day was never about that. I worked the story for five week straight before really losing it. But you feel that way some times...even now. And, amazingly, I did not lose one person I know in the attack. You cannot but help but feel the personal loss.
There is such a heaviness in the empty blue sky right now. Many can't want for the passing of this September 11th so we can get on with all again.
So, what will you do in L.A.? And Chicago? And all the places in-between, in all the places outside of our New York World?
I know I will gather my friends together that evening of Septmebr 11, 2002 at Toad hall in SoHo and have a drink, toasting the dead. And, after that, I will walk the 30 blocks up 6th Ave and reach 19th St and 7th Ave and have a nightcap at Peter McManus with my friend Angela, the same way I did a year ago. Then we will go home and wake up the next morning as start all over again.
09/06/2002 01:17 AM
Madison Slade Reviews Ann Coulter Over at Blogcritcs: Guess which Cornell-educated blonde ends up being funny? Moxie, that’s who.
09/05/2002 11:38 PM
Making Fun of Foreigners … Because They’re Funny: From Andrew Northrup:
What sort of Britain is this, where you can't make fun of foreigners? I have spent a considerable amount of time on that scepter'd isle, and it took me all of two seconds to realize that xenophobia is the national pastime. I can't help but think that this is a healthy thing. It's like my mother always used to say: 'If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh it?" She never answered this question, of course, because it was a rhetorical question, which is a question you don't expect an answer to because you've passed out stone drunk on the kitchen floor after asking it. (Other rhetorical questions my mother asked me: "What's your damned name?" "What did you do with my St. Ides, you &*%$#?" and "Why did God curse me with this worthless child?" Ah, memories...) But I realized at an early age that the answer was "foreigners." Foreigners are inherently funny. Look:
* Belgians Come on, admit it - they're funny. And yet, with the exception of Canada, all of these countries are full of perfectly decent human beings just like you and me. But they are figures of fun nonetheless, because they do ridiculous things …
09/05/2002 10:50 PM
Interview With Charles Johnson: Sample:
John Hawkins: How did you come up with the name 'Little Green Footballs'?
Charles Johnson: It happened in Tokyo. It involved compressed rubber. Highly compressed rubber. That's all I'm at liberty to reveal at the present time.
09/05/2002 10:05 PM
The Prototypical Malcolm Gladwell Article: This recent number, about people who are great at reading faces, contains every classical Gladwell element -- absurdly tidy lead & closing anecdotes, interesting science about something you'd never thought of before, tight pace.
09/05/2002 09:34 PM
Poll: Davis Over Simon by Only 7 Points; Riordan Would Beat Gray by Fifteen: Richard Bennett has the analysis, which I agree with. The Riordan write-in idea seems to have some legs -- a couple of weeks back, I was talking with a very thoughtful left-leaning Orange County guy who inspects mammoth construction sites for a living, and he brought up the subject with great enthusiasm.
09/05/2002 01:42 PM
Pretty Close to Where I Stand on Iraq: Matthew Yglesias is … in case any of you were wondering about what I think (I find what he thinks to be far more interesting). And some of the news that has broken since he wrote this post -- that the U.S. will be pressuring the U.N. for force-backed weapons inspections, for example -- point toward a possible Yglesisas-best-case-scenario (YBCS). Here’s hoping.
09/05/2002 01:31 PM
My E-mail is Screwed: Don’t know what the trouble is, but you can do me a favor by not sending me any until I wake up and “fix it.”
09/05/2002 04:04 AM
Oakland’s 20th, Viewed by a Fan: Howard Owens has the details. Monday night, we’re going to meet for the first time, to see his A’s lose to my Angels at the Big A. Hey Tony -- you wanna join us?
09/05/2002 12:25 AM
The Hat That Wouldn’t Die: I mentioned somewhere else on this site that I was looking for a new mug shot, and especially a new hat (since the Cuban straw-job you see to the left was destroyed within hours of that five-year-old photo being taken). Anyways, A Beam, as always, is full of good ideas ... especially the prime Zevon material (lend a hand, Linse?).
09/04/2002 10:41 PM
To Forget, or Not to Forget?: Two takes, diametrically opposed, from columnists I respect: James Lileks and Jill Stewart.
09/04/2002 10:04 PM
Eric Neel, on Oakland's 19-Game Winning Streak:
School kids are dyeing their heads green and gold, and there were six babies born in Alameda County last week named Zito. Three kids named Justice. […]
Of course, I want them to lose yesterday, and will be howling insults at the little green men all next week. ... At the end of Neel's column, there’s a call to help decipher some Wilco lyrics from the latest record. Give him a hand, freaks!
If you haven't taken a shower in a few days, don't take one now. If you haven't worn a particular pair of shoes, or eaten at a certain restaurant or pulled into a particular gas station in the last few weeks, stay away. Keep doing things the way you're doing them. Don't jam things up. Any little change, however small, might tip the balance. It's like that butterfly flapping its wings in Madagascar thing. Don't toy with the streak. Maintain your patterns. Do not, under any circumstances, turn over a new leaf.
Eric, bless his generous, generous heart, responded to my whining about the heat earlier this week by committing this act of literally unbelievable kindness. See how happy my wife can get when treated to a proper Hollywood pool? Thanks, Eric!
09/04/2002 06:08 PM
Great Cathy Seipp Profile of Eugene Volokh: I’m guessing you will learn some things about the delightful law professor. I sure did, even though I know him a little.
09/04/2002 02:29 PM
OK, Scroll Down Three Pages, and Look at the Ads to Your Left: See? I’ve got fancy new targeted advertisements, which one of those two people actually paid for! This concept, called BlogAds, is care of Henry Copeland, who explains his new system here. For you bloggers out there, please consider using Henry’s system, because A) it might earn you a spare buck or twelve, B) I imagine this thing will depend on network effects for success, and C) it’ll make Henry happy. For you potential advertisers out there, think about signing up! You can pick & choose among a specific sub-set of participating bloggers (for instance, only selecting the ones in Cleveland, or exclusively targeting liberal gun-nuts planning to vote for Gray Davis). And it’s a mostly pain-free way to keep experimenting with the economics of this publishing format. Fun for the whole family!
09/04/2002 12:17 PM
Speaking of Devilish Tim Cavanaugh: A well-placed source informs me that the monocled one is now Web Editor of Reason Online, offering up familiar-sounding pop/politics Hit&Run-style commentary like this:
If poor white southerners truly comprise the last "ethnic group" that can be disparaged with impunity — and in recent months we've heard the same claim made about Arabs, Italians, Catholics and Muslims, among others — perhaps it's due to a sneaking suspicion that they don't have any excuse for being poor. The same pundits now defending the Clampetts also argue that poor black people — whose neighborhoods are targeted by the War On Drugs and whose most frequent reality TV spots involve being beaten by police — don't have any business complaining about their lot in America. Why should any extra consideration be given to low-born southerners — a group so oppressed that it recently furnished America with a two-term president? Give us a bookmark, freedom-lovers!
09/03/2002 11:43 PM
FBI Recruitment Problems, and the Dot-Com Collapse: Doesn’t anyone else see the connection there? Just tonight, we celebrated the birthday of a guy who A) knows how to build & run crazy computer/Internet databases, B) taught himself Czech good enough to translate, C) can read and speak Spanish, D) has lived in various foreign countries, and E) has been, mostly, an unemployed bum for the last several years (until last week). Oh yeah -- his Dad used to work for the U.S. government in Berlin, translating intercepted Serbo-Croat radio transmissions. Do you think he’s been approached by the FBI? Granted, the drug tests may prove tricky….
09/03/2002 11:25 PM
WeirdFiles Plan Unveiled!: Layne has unveiled his new site, which contains his new self-syndicated column, plus other goodies. If you’d like to see some funny Layne writing about UFOs and other unexplained stuff in your local paper, he’s got instructions for ya.
09/03/2002 06:27 PM
Ex-Im Bank -- The Biggest Corporate Welfare Enabler?: Reader Scott Ross sends along this damning Sunday New York Times story about the Export-Import Bank of the United States. A sampling:
More fundamentally, there are questions about why the bank exists at all. Less than 1 percent of all American exports receive Export-Import financing, which comes in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees or export credit insurance. The bulk of Export-Import's benefits go to a small number of large companies that are sophisticated enough to get financing on their own: Boeing, Halliburton, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Lucent Technologies, ChevronTexaco, Caterpillar and Dell Computer, among others. […]
It goes on, and on, and on. President Bush, who once supported scaling the agency back, is now apparently trying to boost its loan-guarantee limit to $100 billion. Ross asks:
[T]here is a clear reason the bank thrives, no matter who occupies the White House or the top jobs in Congress. While the bank cannot lobby for itself, its beneficiaries can.
"You have an incredibly well-funded lobbying operation led by companies that are not only campaign contributors but also talk about creating jobs," said Thomas A. Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a public interest group. "That's a big rallying cry for members of Congress. They think that jobs will help them get re-elected, and once you say that jobs are at risk in their district, they go running for cover."
These days, blue-chip companies have even formed a trade association, the Coalition for Employment Through Exports, whose sole job is to protect the bank from budget cutters. Members include Washington lobbying powerhouses like the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and companies like United Parcel Service, Verizon Communications, United Technologies, Bechtel, Oracle, Citigroup and Bank of America. […]
For instance, the bank recently started a program to support one of the nation's strongest exporters, the film industry. Among the first four independent films to receive Export-Import loan guarantees is a story of troubled youth called 'The United States of Leland,' produced by and starring Kevin Spacey, the Oscar-winning actor. Other films with Export-Import backing are about a lethal virus, a military project gone awry and a reality show.
Can you find me a talented, responsible journalist to dig up the facts on this crap and get a few other people pissed off? Well, I don’t know about launching huge investigations, but the go-to guy on quasi-governmental lending institutions is Henry Copeland, who has written memorably on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and especially on the weird Hpyhenated-American Enterprise Funds in 1990s Central Europe.
09/03/2002 04:39 PM
Andrew Sullivan and Kurt Andersen Chat About Blogs, on Slate!: If I would have written that headline one year ago, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have been atop a drippingly sarcastic column (I never thought back then that I’d ever have one of these deals). But it’s actually a pretty interesting little conversation. … Especially to Suck-o-philes like me, since Andersen and Sullivan represented, respectively, the patron saint and bete noire of legendary Suck editor Tim Cavanaugh. And guess which industry heavy pays our Tim a compliment!
09/03/2002 03:57 PM
Funniest Line of the Day: The heat may have warped my sense of humor, but this InArguendo bit made me laugh out loud (italics mine):
Last spring, California Republicans had a choice: right-wing, nut-job Bill Simon, or moderate Republican Dick Riordan. The difference betwixt the two? Riordan would have beat Davis like he stole something, while Simon will be lucky to carry Orange County.
09/03/2002 02:53 PM
Good News, Drunks!: According to this informative L.A. Times story, there is a “grape glut” in California, which, coupled with a decline in high-end demand and a spike in cheapie imports, is beginning to push prices down (just this afternoon I found Robert Mondavi Merlot and Chardonnay for $6.99, two dollars lower than I’d ever seen them before). Also, this year is apparently producing a vintage grape crop. This article contains all kinds of chunky info-bits, which I’d list here if it weren’t 102 FLETCHING DEGREES IN THIS APARTMENT, AT 9:15 PM!!
09/01/2002 09:15 PM
106 Degrees: That’s what the thermometer on the wall above my desk said today. At 7 freakin’ p.m.! It’s even hotter in the kitchen, where my poor wife tries to work. I am prepared to commit unspeakable acts in exchange for an air-conditioning unit. And I’m on the verge of committing unspeakable acts to my slumlord, who refuses to replace the pipes that deliver a pathetic trickle of water through our shower-head, forcing us to squat underneath the bathtub faucet like common water-lemurs. As Emmanuelle says, “Crouching tenants, hidden landlord.”
It’s almost enough to make you start complaining about your difficult life. And then you look at a photo essay like this, and you realize that, no, actually, you're the luckiest guy in the world.
09/01/2002 07:37 PM
Hi! What are you doing down here?