December 31, 2002

We landed at our first port today, Puerto Vallarta. My family and I visited a small village about thirty miles north, Sayulita, and perchance visited one of the best restaurants I have ever had the privilege of eating at, Don Pedro's. If for no other reason than to eat there, this cruise has been worth it. Also, ESPN International does get occasional American football games. There's a chance it will be broadcasting the Rose Bowl sometime on Friday.

Til we meet in 2003--Happy New Year !!!

December 29, 2002

Hah !! I can blog at sea. Unfortunately, internet access costs $.50 a minute, so all I will be doing is "warm weather out here", or "boy, the Buckeyes sure did suck last night." The "sports bar" advertised in the brochure only gets ESPN International, which would be fine if I were a Formula One fan.

December 28, 2002

So, let's get some housekeeping done before I go away on my cruise. Iraq, with its laughably incompetent military, and its current lack of nuclear capability, is a threat worth going to war over, while North Korea, which held us to a draw the last time we fought them, and which is neighbored with a real democracy, is going to get appeased. All one needs to know about W's priorities can be summed up by this report on Bush's reaction, in which "a senior State Department official hinted that James Kelley, assistant secretary of state for East Asian Affairs, will probably soon go to Seoul." The Middle East gets the Marines, the Korean Peninsula gets some low-level bureaucrat. Unless Mr. Kelley possesses the powers of Magneto, I don't see the PRK quaking in its boots over that move.

Which only goes to show, if you want to be a dictator, rule a country without oil. Well, I need to pack, so unless the Star Princess has very inexpensive internet access, I probably won't be posting too much over the next week (or at least, I will be on my college football blog). Obviously, if Al Qaeda attacks the ship, or if some other unthinkable event occurs, like unemployment benefits suddenly running out during the holidays for 1 million Americans, then all bets are off. But if not, see ya in twenty-ought three.

December 26, 2002

Happy Boxing Day. Every so often I have a dream that I'm back at Reed College, where I spent my freshman year (I almost never have dreams about Berkeley, where I actually graduated). I'm always returning to school so that I can get another degree, but invariably, two things will happen: I will forget my locker combination, and I will overlook my class schedule, so that by the time I realize there was a class I never attended, I will have an hour to study for the final exam.

Well, I don't suppose this has anything to do with that, but C-SPAN plans on broadcasting a college course on the Clinton Administration at the U. of Arkansas next year. Friend and foe alike will offer guest lectures.

December 25, 2002

"Chuckles" Kelly strikes again !! Merry Christmas !!!
"White" Christmas, indeed !! Getting into the holiday spirit, the Lakers giftwrapped a victory for their hated Sactown rivals with a poor second half performance. Shaq celebrated his last night as a free man by scoring only two baskets in the final half, both in the last half minute. Bah Humbug.
For fans of pro wrestling, this is news akin to being told there is no Santa Claus.
So far, a decent X-mas. I got a subscription from my secret Santa (my brother-in-law) to The New Yorker, and one of my clients purchased some Cajun cooking supplies and a cookbook. The weather outside is typical Chamber of Commerce beautiful, with not a cloud in sight and the temperature hovering around 60o.

Here's hoping each of you have a special day, regardless of where your spiritual beliefs tend.

December 24, 2002

Strange Fruit: Perhaps not the most appropriate thing to post on Christmas Eve, but this list presents an anecdotal history of lynching in the United States. This evil practice was the most effective method of enforcing Jim Crow; it put blacks (and other minorities) on notice that if they stepped out of line, they could not expect to receive even the most rudimentary justice. Lynch victims were what another blogger euphemistically refers to as a "synecdoch", a symbol used to stoke white fears of the savage Negro.

Sadly, we've never had anything like the "Truth Commission" in South Africa for civil rights. Dixiecrats could simply change parties, slightly moderate their rhetoric, and be reborn as Republicans. Any politician who tolerated lynching, or who fought efforts to ban the practice, should be marked by history as a traitor to American values, rather than having a Senate Office Building named after him. Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were better Americans than Richard Russell or James Eastland.

December 23, 2002

Truly a sad day. I saw the Clash twice in my youth, once at the Hollywood Paladium as the main act (the English Beat opened for them), and once as the lead-in for the Who at the LA Coliseum. Strummer was one of the most important figures in early-80's music, and the Clash, even more than the Sex Pistols or the Ramones, made punk rock matter in this country. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the fact that you can still play one of his albums, and hear music that is as fresh as the day it was released.

December 21, 2002

Of course, racist appeals have long been a part of our political discourse. When I was at Berkeley, the introductory U.S. history course was taught by Leon Litwack, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the black experience during Reconstruction, Been in the Storm so Long, and is still, in my opinion, one of the most eloquent public speakers I have had the privilege to hear. The theme of Prof. Litwack's course was that of racial suppression: he was a social historian, so his examples typically focused on how racism impacted ordinary people. It was a most humbling experience for someone who loved (and still loves) his country, because he didn't sugarcoat matters by painting American history as an upward movement towards "progress". Each of his lectures was a gem of storytelling. I took his class my sophomore year, and became a history major about halfway through; he offered the same course when I was a senior, and I audited almost every lecture, just to listen to him teach.

Anyway, one of his villains was Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson has become, over the years, something close to a saint, due in large part to his unsuccessful advocacy of the League of Nations, a cause for which he would die. This article focuses instead on Wilson's principle domestic legacy, one that progressives would just as soon forget: his unabashed bigotry [link via Matthew Yglesias]. It is fair to say that Wilson was the most racist of all post-Civil War Presidents: worse than Andrew Johnson, worse than Nixon, worse even than Reagan. Wilson pretty much ended the last legacies of Reconstruction, purging African-Americans from holding government offices in the South, and imposed Jim Crow in the nation's capital, an odious practice that lasted well into the century. Most famously, he praised the film Birth of a Nation, in words that have lasted to this day whenever the D.W. Griffith movie is discussed, as "history written in lightning". His deeds matched his words: although as President he was one of the first to actively promote Catholic and Jewish officeholders (including nominating Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court), he was also a child of the Confederacy, who never outgrew the notion of white supremacy, and fought throughout his Presidency to support that end.

And he was a Democrat. In 1948, Wilson's death was as recent to Americans as the deaths of Hubert Humphrey and Harvey Milk are to us. Among progressives, Wilson was still a revered figure, and for Democrats, he was often paired with the recently deceased FDR as the greatest of all Presidents. When Strom Thurmond ran for President that year, he campaigned on a platform that was well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party of the 1910's and 1920's, and spoke words that could have (and did) come easily from the mouth of Woodrow Wilson. None of this, of course, can excuse the Dixiecrats' campaign that year, much less Trent Lott or John Ashcroft's nostalgia for the Old South. But it should force progressives to feel some measure of humility, especially when considering whether we have unexamined assumptions that may one day be found wanting.
This morning's Frank Rich column beautifully summarizes l'affaire Lott, and why it symbolizes our current political climate. For some reason, I think he might be a rather interesting blogger, if he took it up.

December 20, 2002

Next Saturday I will be embarking on the third Smythe's World Cruise, a seven day trip down the Mexican Riviera on the Star Princess. Still have a spot left !!!
Trent Lott steps down !! Advantage Blogosphere !!!

UPDATE: Bill Frist is the likely replacement. TPM focuses on how he has played the race card in past elections.

UPDATE, PART DEUX: Counterspin has an encylcopedic takedown of Dr. Frist and his coziness with the pharmaceutical industry. Get a load of that rider he snuck into the Homeland Security bill at the last second, geared to benefitting Eli Lilly in their brave efforts to defeat terrorism through the use of mercury.
Right now, only the September 2002 archive is working for this site. It appears to be a problem with the server, so some of you may like to try again later.

Finally. The first season of Alias is being released next September on DVD. I never saw the first five episodes, so there's much to the back story that I would be interested to see. For example, why is the CIA allowed to investigate a domestic entity(SD-6) that may be involved in organized crime? Wasn't that proscribed by the Church Committee? Why won't investigators use the media (or at least a reporter more reputable than Will Tippin) to bring down the Alliance, through a process of well-placed leaks, rather than two overmatched double agents? If a newspaper won't publish the story, a blogger certainly will. And considering how Sloane was so paranoid that he had Sydney's fiance murdered because he knew of the existence of SD-6, doesn't he wonder about the number of conversations she has that are bug-proof, especially in his office with her dad? Also, aren't any of the characters
(besides Jack) going to wonder about what happened to Haledki? Anna Espinoza? McKenas Cole? Oh well, the show hasn't disappointed me yet....

December 19, 2002

After tonight's atrocious performance in New Jersey, there will be some who suggest that the Lakers better start looking at the merits of getting a good lottery pick. It may take some doing to get LeBron James, but (the thinking goes) the Lakers are so far away from being a championship team that it is best that the rebuilding begin post haste. The geniuses who buy into that theory forget that Jerry West is no longer the G.M. To date, Mitch Kupchak has yet to make a move that works, and the team now surrounding Kobe and Shaq consists, in large part, of players signed or drafted by him.

This team is the defending NBA champion, have all their players healthy, and yet are perhaps the worst Lakers team since the days of Elmore Smith. To believe that things are going to get better requires one to have faith that Derek Fisher is going to suddenly find his range, that Samaki Walker is going to start playing like he cares, that Rick Fox is going to give four quarters of solid effort every night. And that Robert Horry is going to turn 25 again. And that Phil Jackson is going to lose the deer-in-the-headlights look every time his team falls behind by ten points in the first half. Yeah, I don't see that happening, either.
According to Neal Pollack, our country could save a lot of money on missile defense by just entering the NBA lottery. Great, the U.S. can battle the Lakers for that.
I can understand how someone might cringe when he realizes that posterity will hold him at least partially responsible for inflicting "In My Life" or "Revolution No. 9" on the world, which is why I don't hold Paul McCartney's attempt to switch the songwriting credit on some Beatles' songs from "Lennon-McCartney" to "McCartney-Lennon" against him. More to the point, is there any reason to pretend that they existed as a songwriting team in any real sense after, lets say, 1965? The whole fiction seems to have been designed to satisfy their greed more than anything else.

Lennon's combination of flaccid experimentation in psychedelia with treacly anthems has dated rather badly over the years; outside of "Revolution", "TBOJ&Y", "Come Together", "Rain" and "Cold Turkey", his post-1965 material is more a testament to how easy it can be to glide along for years on a reputation. He's kind of like the Arnold Palmer of rock. Arnie quit winning tournaments after the age of 40, and wasn't close to Gary Player or Lee Trevino, much less Jack Nicklaus, after about 1969. But he was great once, and moreover, had tons of charisma; even though his accomplishments really don't measure up, he still gets paired with the Golden Bear as a "rival", and was as much a symbol of his generation as John Lennon.

Over the passage of time, McCartney's songs have held up better; most of the ways the Beatles influence music today were Paul's ideas, not John's. Maybe McCartney just handled his drug use better. But Lennon died young, and he will always be remembered for what he supposedly stood for, while McCartney has spent the past twenty years producing crap as bad as anything Lennon put out in Walls and Bridges or Double Fantasy. So he complains now, and looks petty, even though if truth-in-advertising had anything to do with the music industry, one or the other (but not both) would receive sole credit for most Beatles songs.
Well, it seems Bubba was right yesterday. Another GOP senator has an interesting Conrad Burns.
TBogg presents (via a selection of the least-beloved holiday stories. My favorite involves the Ewoks.

December 17, 2002

This is the legal equivalent of a war between Iraq and North Korea; one is tempted to hope for a prolonged, expensive battle in which both Condit and Dunne are bankrupted, the end result being Condit awarded one dollar in damages.
If it's the holiday season, it must be time for The Onion's annual Least Essential Albums for 2002. I might like to get the Roy Jones Jr. CD, though.
One of the hooks the "liberal media" has used to cover l'affaire Lott has been to claim that the story was pushed by conservatives and ignored by liberals. I certainly do not wish to disparage the voices of the right that have spoken out against Lott on this issue, especially Andrew Sullivan, a writer who is more often than not the focus of unremitting scorn from myself and other progressive bloggers, and whose outrage about this story has been relentless from the beginning. More relevantly, he (and to a lesser extent, Instapundit) has used the occasion to examine the dark side of conservatism, where many have used the rhetoric of small government and support for tradition as a cover for old-fashioned bigotry. Good for him; I hope that when a similar test of political character is put before me, I can pass it with as much integrity (though I doubt it).

Too bad the conventional wisdom is full of s---. Sullivan aside, most of the writing on this topic has been driven by liberal outrage. The noble Atrios was the fustest with the mostest on this issue; if you want to link to the 1948 Dixiecrat platform, or find another instance when Lott praised his Confederate forbears(such as the General referenced, above), or acted as an apologist for slavery, that's where you go, several times a day (weekends included). Almost all of the bloggers linked on this page have weighed in with their own two cents on the issue. Now that Lott is twisting slowly, slowly in the wind, they have gone on to other political targets, such as the virulent homophobia of Lott's likely replacement, Don Nickles, or the similar political associations of John Ashcroft.

On the other hand, for every conservative pundit who is calling for Lott's head, there is another who thinks the whole thing is being blown out of proportion (ie., Rush). Moreover, much of the conservative opposition to Trent Lott seems driven by personal factors, as if his mistake was one of letting the cat out of the bag, thereby embarassing the Party, not a test of political character. Well, where were they before, when Trent Lott was making numerous speeches before a white supremacist group, or extolling Strom Thurmond's '48 campaign on other occasions, or compiling one of the most regressive records on civil rights in Congress. Why didn't they express their outrage then? Lets face it: if Lott had made those same remarks two weeks ago, but did not have the previous baggage, this story would have blown over almost immediately. This is an issue now not because Trent Lott made some loose remarks paying tribute to a 100-year old man, but because of a lifetime of racist insensitivity, lived out in broad daylight. Any conservative now demanding his resignation must answer why it took so long to speak out.

December 16, 2002

With The Two Towers scheduled to debut in less than two days, here's a truly revisionist view: what if Lord Sauron was the good guy?
A worthwhile challenge for the U.N., certain to be endorsed by all who have been forced to watch Notting Hill on a trans-Pacific airplane flight.
It goes without saying, but Gore's withdrawal from the 2004 race means that a number of politicians who might have been scared off by his candidacy, or who may have held back in deference to him (besides Joe Lieberman), will now get into the race. At least, I hope that someone else is thinking about jumping in; no matter how bad the economy is, I just don't see Richard Gephardt or Tom Daschle running a competitive race against W. My hunch is that Gray Davis will reconsider his decision last week not to run, and that he will be joined by at least one other sitting governor and one ex-Cabinet member from the Clinton Administration. Of course, it also clears the deck for a Hillary Clinton campaign.

December 15, 2002

A bad political year gets worse, for the Democrats. While Al Gore had high negatives, he was still the people's choice in the last election, and he would have breezed to the nomination had he decided to run. And as the nominee, he would have been assured of a lot of votes from people who may approve of the Bush presidency, but who respect the fact that Gore won the last election but did not decide to mount a coup, figuratively or otherwise. I may decide to support Kerry, simply because all the wrong people hate him so much. If Lieberman is the nominee, I vote for Nader.
Kobe Almighty, that was a funny sketch last night on SNL, with Al Gore playing "Trent Lott". When the first GOP senator to call for him to step down is the one most likely to assume his role, I think it's safe to say his days are numbered. [link via Counterspin]

December 14, 2002

Matt Welch, who is on most days the greatest SoCal blogger (or at least on those days when Kevin Drum is not), writes an excellent article on the assortment of war criminals and liars who are finding employment in the Bush Administration, and where does he have to go to get it published...Canada !!!
For those of you baffled by recent events, Tom Tomorrow explains it all.

December 13, 2002

Sorry for the lighter than normal blogging this week, but I actually have been hard at work (you know, making a living, etc.). Sorry, but I do need to pay for my bar tabs, and this site just doesn't do it. I'll try to make it up to you next week.
Not an impressive start to the final half of the Bush presidency...his war on terrorism is floundering, his party's leader in Congress is revealed as an unreconstructed segregationist, both of his candidates lose winnable races in Louisiana over the weekend, and now his pick to "lead" the investigation into 9/11 steps down. Lord, I hope he picks Elliot Abrams to replace Kissinger...or better yet, nominates James Traficant to the Supreme Court.

December 12, 2002

Two things that I never thought I would say:

1. George Bush's speech today denouncing Trent Lott was welcome and courageous, and showed more sack than Tom Daschle has over this controversy; and

2. Andrew Sullivan's blog has been better on this issue than the New York Times (Krugman excepted).

Good Kobe, I hope Lott steps down soon, and puts an end to this nightmare. I really don't want to have to write the above more than once.

December 11, 2002

Although much has been said about the initial silence of the "liberal" news media over the Lott Affair, almost unmentioned has been the craven defense of the bigot by three who should know better: John McCain, JC Watts, and, especially, Tom Daschle. I don't know or care whether the GOP decides to maintain as its public face in the Senate an unreconstructed segregationist, since, no matter how well that party does in the old Confederacy, it won't be able to get enough support from the rest of the country to repeal anti-lynching laws or allow states to forbid inter-racial marriages. I do have problems with my party being led by castrati.
It now appears that Trent Lott's praise of the '48 Thurmond for President campaign was a common theme in his speechs going back to 1980. The criticism Lott has received from conservative quarters is somewhat laughable. After all, it is hardly reassuring to hear people say that they have no proposals to remedy past or present racial discrimination, oppose racism only when it it "targeted" at white law school applicants, do not believe that DC residents should be represented in Congress, and support efforts to suppress African-American votes in Florida, Missouri, and Louisiana through trickery and chicanery, but that they draw the line when it comes to lynching. Donnez moi un break !!!

December 10, 2002

Another blow struck in the war on "Islamofascism": Disney snubs Princess Jasmine !!!

December 09, 2002

The 2003 summer tour for the "Beatles of sports", Man. United, has been set for next July. In what has to be a monumental blow to the MSL, each of the games involve the Red Devils playing non-American teams, ensuring that fans will see third-rate performances by bench-warmers and the like. Not the sort of thing likely to grow the sport in America, or to develop a fan-base for the storied team outside of British expatriates, which is what the tour (and the marketing alliance with the New York Yankees) was originally supposed to do.
The NY Times reports ominously that of the seven major airlines that have emerged out of BK protection since 1978, only two (Continental Air and America West) survive today. Not so lucky: Braniff, Eastern Air, Pan American, World Airways and T.W.A. Together with U.S. Air, which filed last year, United is the fifth airline to file after giving millions to have an arena or stadium named after it.
Finally, a vigorous defense of Trent Lott's speech last week....
Interesting local breakdown of the Landrieu upset over the weekend. As I speculated earlier, her victory occurred because of a larger than expected turnout amongst African American voters, many of whom voted in the last hour of the election.

December 08, 2002

As much as I admire the NY Times, the paper was wrong when it appeared to censor two of its sports columnists from taking a position contrary to its editorial section on the Masters Controversy. Incidentally, neither of the columns even directly mentions the Times' editorial position. Of the two columns, the banal effort by Dave Anderson probably should have been omitted simply on quality grounds, but the paper should have been proud to publish this excellent piece by Harvey Araton.

December 07, 2002

It's not everyday that an incumbent US Senator retaining her seat would be considered an upset, but Mary Landrieu's narrow victory this evening could certainly be classified as one. Even more surprising was the Democrat's victory in the contested House race tonight, in a district that had been held by a Republican. Although neither winner could be classified as a progressive, it does indicate that Louisiana might be one of the few "red" states in play for the Democratic nominee in 2004, as well as make Ms. Landrieu one of the favorites to be picked by the nominee as Veep. Higher than expected black turnout (due perhaps to the publicity given to the odious Trent Lott's wistful recollection of the Dixiecrat Party) proved the difference. It was kinda fun watching FoxNews spin the election, the outcome of which was as much a shock to their pundits as it was to me.
Unfreaking believable...thirty points down in the second half, twenty-seven in arrears going into the fourth quarter, and the Lakers, off to their worst start in ages, playing a team with only one loss, came back and won!! The win may have less of an effect on the Lakers than the loss will have on the Mavericks, who have to view LA as possessing an aura of invincibility after last night, particularly at Staples. Dirk Nowitsky, who was nearly perfect through three quarters, disappeared in the fourth, and the rest of his team collapsed. Kobe Akbar !!!

December 06, 2002

Just a thought: since Trent Lott has pretty much shown that he is unfit to be a major political figure in the 21st Century, and since the Democrats are otherwise going to be in the minority in the Senate, why not make a deal with someone (Lincoln Chafee? John McCain?) in the other party to be Senate Majority Leader? Such a move would be the logical first step for someone like McCain to make a break with a party that doesn't seem to want him around....
Two points about the 100th birthday of Strom Thurmond:

1. He ran for President on an avowedly racist platform, and, while on the campaign hustings that year, once proclaimed "I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches"; and
2. He is older now than the Kennedy brothers, Richard Nixon, LBJ, MLK, Joe Louis, John Wayne, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Red Grange, Jimmy Stewart, and Jean Harlow would be, if each of them were alive today.
Miracle of miracles: a pundit actually tackles the substance of the Daschle/Gore critique of the media, rather than making personal attacks.

December 05, 2002

One of the more enlightening aspects of the current controversy at the Augusta National Klavern is how little most of the members of the pundit class know about sports. For those of you who might be new to this dispute, please understand that the Masters is not simply a golf tournament; to many golf fans, it's the only tournament that matters. It holds the same position that Wimbledon has in tennis, as the de facto worlds championship in the sport.

It is also played on a course with a rather interesting history. The course was "designed" by Bobby Jones, a great amateur player in the early 20th century, back when that still meant something, and he and his business partner shepherded the tournament into prominence by emphasizing its exclusivity. For years, African Americans were not allowed to play in the tournament, and anyone whose face was not a lighter shade of pale (ie. Lee Trevino) was made to feel unwelcome. It has only been in the last two decades that the club has admitted non-whites as members. Thus, Tiger Woods, cablinasian golfer supreme, has attained mythic status by not only winning, but dominating the Masters.

The importance of the Masters seems to have been lost on many of the idiot commentators of the right, who seem to be blissfully unaware that there are still institutions in our society that discriminate against people. Admittedly, we're not talking about John Kerry's tonsorial budget, but it is one of the highest rated events in TV sports, the most important competition in one of the fastest growing sports on the planet. Rather than debating whether sex discrimination by private clubs should be tolerated, or whether feminist groups should be focusing on something more important, we get treated to silly discussions about whether it is appropriate for feminist leaders to write satirical articles about sterilization. Or whether the NY Times is devoting too much column space to the issue.

Case in point: the spiking of two columns in the NY Times sports section. As this writer correctly points out, the sports section of the Gray Lady does not have the prestige that the rest of the paper now has (although his version of great sportswriting is apparently Mike Lupica and Rick Reilly; if there's one thing the Times doesn't need, it's another overpaid hack deliberately misquoting Barry Bonds), and the refusal to publish two columns disagreeing with the paper's editorial position only emphasizes the fact that the paper does not view sports journalism as an important responsibility. However, I suspect that this policy is not unusual in the newspaper business, and the reason the NY Times sports section is not well thought of is the fact that it still employs stiffs like Dave Anderson (one of the columnists who got dissed by his editors, and famous among my fellow Laker fans for writing that Magic Johnson got what he deserved when he tested HIV+) and Robert Lipsyte, not that it's censoring their work.

Perhaps a better question for those people who wonder why so much controversy has been generated over the Masters is, when do you believe that sex discrimination is ever appropriate? Do you have a justification for allowing private clubs to exclude women, or Jews, or African Americans? I'm not interested in whether they have a legal right to do so; can you make a moral argument in favor of such a policy? Deal with those questions, not whether you think the NY Times is too interested in this topic.

December 03, 2002

Live, Love, Eat, Split !!
I do not want to spend much time defending John Kerry right now, since it's only been a month since his sniveling vote in favor of the Iraqi War Resolution, but the concerted attacks (see below) on his character the past few days require some response. As Al Gore pointed out last week, there is now a "fifth column" of reporters, pundits and journals of opinion, that are more interested in publishing the particular ideological line favored by the Bush Administration than in getting the truth out to the public. No one seriously doubts that this phenomenon exists, and that it will be a factor in American politics for a long time to come.

For example, anyone with a serious bullshit detector avoids the Sunday morning pundit gabfests like they were the Norwalk Virus. Invariably, there will be a two-to-one or three-to-one ideological split in favor of the right wing position among the panelists, and the liberal is usually the least articulate or charismatic member of the panel. That ratio, known as the "Kondracke Rule", is often preserved by having at least one pundit who writes or edits the New Republic(a political journal that had left-of-center leanings several decades ago, but which now tends to peddle a chickenhawkish foreign policy and an anti-black rollback of civil rights laws), and who therefore can be positioned as a "liberal" in the interests of fairness, even though his views are often indistinguishable from the panelist from the Washington Times. A more interesting and balanced political debate can be found on the NFL Today, or in the weekly scraps between Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on TNT, than on Meet the Press or This Week.

Well, wing nuts predominated on talk radio long before Rush Limbaugh discovered anal warts could get him out of doing tours in Vietnam, and the "Kondracke Rule" is perhaps more a reflection of the establishment biases of the media's corporate sponsors than anything else. What Al Gore was referring to specifically was the manner in which clearly propagandistic (and usually false) stories now being devised in conservative organs, like the Washington Times, the Regnery Press, and Fox News, wind up being covered by conventional newspapers and broadcast networks, giving a mainstream gloss to right wing spin points.

The scandals that came to be known as "Whitewater" illustrate this phenomenon beautifully: allegations made by assorted wackos and white supremacists in Arkansas were hyped on hate radio, conservative media organs such as the now-defunct American Spectator, and on Drudge, and more mainstream outlets began to investigate. Those newspapers created the climate for the appointment of an independent counsel, who could then leak stories of his investigation to favored journalists; long before Monica Lewinsky came to symbolize fellatio, Susan Schmidt (aka "Steno Sue") of the Washington Post was the pin-up girl for sycophancy at the feet of power.

More recently, the Post's media "critic", Howard Kurtz, has become a brave "foot soldier" in this fifth column, uncritically recycling GOP spin in every column. When the GOP needed to win the Senate seat in Minnesota, he wrote a column denigrating the Paul Wellstone Memorial Service. His last few columns have attacked Tom Daschle for his warnings about the influence of hate radio (the words "anthrax letter" were strangely omitted from Kurtz' column), Al Gore for the "fifth column" interview, and, of course (surprise, surprise !!), today's hitpiece on John Kerry. And as you might expect. George W. does not need a Monica when he can get a Howie for free.

Try as I might, I can't help thinking that this trend has more to do with journalistic lethargy than any pre-existing proclivity for hard-right dogma. If the people who surround you all day have the same political and cultural values, it is not hard to start viewing outside opinions as extreme, or out of the mainstream. Familiar faces are more likely to get a pass; the fact that Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are both considered to be something of a joke by their fellow bloggers will not stop either of them from being cited as mainstream opinions, as Mr. Kurtz does today, since they have a reputation within the Beltway that pre-dates their websites. In that situation, it's no surprise that much of the mainstream media has become little more than a house organ for the GOP.

UPDATE: For a more recent commentary on the media's shilling for right-wing politicians, check this out, re: Bush's "service" in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Is there anything more embarassing than a pundit who tries to justify his dislike for a politician by saying it's because he looks funny? Well, yes, it's when a pundit gets pissed off at the same politician for spending too much on a haircut....

December 02, 2002

Interesting hatchet piece on the NY Times' ascendency as the most important newspaper in America, complete with "blind" quotes from "staffers" at the newspaper, which are probably fabricated, denouncing the trend. The bone of contention this male writer has with the paper has been its focus on Augusta National; apparently, since other journalistic outlets and pundits are down with the idea that one of the most prestigious sporting events in America takes place at an institution only slightly more progressive than a Klan rally, the fact that the Gray Lady pretends that sex discrimination is "important" reflects editor Howell Raines "lefty" worldview (yes, the writer actually uses that term). The Times also gets taken to task for pretending that there is actually a debate, in DC and elsewhere, over the Administration's policy toward Iraq, and parrots the GOP spin point (since discredited) that Henry Kissinger was not a skeptic.

Gee, you don't suppose Al Gore was right last week when he observed that there was a rightist "Fifth Column" within the free press, do you?

December 01, 2002

Leave it to Maureen Dowd to reveal the absurdity of Henry Kissinger being appointed to head the 9/11 Commission. His selection speaks volumes about the cynicism of this Administration and of the phony religiosity of W.

November 29, 2002

Why do people pretend that the Washington Times and FoxNews practice "journalism"? The notion that they are in any way equivalent to the Washington Post and CNN, both of which have a conservative lean but at least strive, on paper, to some objectivity and balance, is loopy. The day that the head of ABC News gives secret political advice to Al Gore will be the day I can hear the term "liberal media", and not laugh (btw, if you want to read a particularly bizarre defense of the "liberal mendacity=bad; conservative lying=good, check this out).
I've always been someone for whom the day after Thanksgiving was always a happier time than the holiday itself. I got the day off when I was at school, and most of the jobs I've ever held the day has either been free or a paid "holiday", when I was expected in at work but not expected to do anything other than keep my chair warm til lunchtime, when I would take off. Needless to say, it's a much better sports day; while the Friday after always has a great slate of college rivalries and showdowns, Thanksgiving is famous for having probably the weakest selection of games of all the holidays: mediocre NFL, no good college games, no hoops or hockey worth mentioning. MLK Day is much, much better.

The appeal of the evening's feast has always escaped me as well. To put it bluntly, roast turkey sucks. I am always left wondering why my mom would always enthusiastically save portions of the turkey for leftovers; why would I want to eat something that was dry as toast when it was originally served. Was keeping it in the fridge for a few days going to loosen up the meat? Safe to say, it's the only time of year I consider putting candied yams or cranberries on my dinner plate, and I have never been a big fan of mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving, bah humbug !!

So a couple of years ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Rather than suffer my parents' (or one of my assorted aunts') cooking in silence, I would contribute in a more positive manner to the holiday. I invented (I think) my own Thanksgiving masterpiece, Turkey Jambalaya. It took a couple of hours to prepare, but at least I knew there would be something in the feast that I knew I would eat with a certain enthusiasm, it was a way I contribute to the family, rather than being a mere parasite during the holiday, and it killed time I would have spent sitting like a blob on the sofa watching an execrable Detriot Lions game.

It's not a hard recipe. Take some sliced turkey chunks, and submerge them in cayenne pepper. Use fresh, uncooked shrimp (one of the things that takes awhile with the preparation is deveining the creatures) and either andouille or turkey sausage. I also like to add lobster pieces; they go well with the rice. The rice and spices take a little longer to prepare; the proper way to make jambalaya can be found in the appropriate cookbooks, but Zatarain's mix is a speedy if bland substitute. Add the turkey and sausage after the rice has boiled, and add the shrimp and lobster towards the end. Stir frequently, and liberally add cayenne pepper. Bay leaves are a nice touch at the end. A minute before you turn off the heat, add salt and just a little gumbo file. Let it sit for a half hour.

Always make enough for two portions: yours, and the rest of your family (just kidding). And I tell you, there is nothing like having your host (my cousin's hubby) ask you specifically to leave the leftovers with him. When someone you hardly know praises your dish, you finally get to a chance to see why it was your mom used to slave away in the kitchen on Thanksgiving: not for signs of appreciation or thanks from others, but from a sense that you contributed something to the happiness of others.

November 28, 2002

The I.O.C. is prepared to vote tomorrow on whether to eliminate three sports, baseball, softball, and the modern pentathlon, following the 2004 Olympics. Those sports would be replaced by rugby and golf(?), although the conventional wisdom is that they won't act at this time, and they will get a reprieve. Softball is only included now as a female counterpart for baseball; outside of North America and Australia, the sport doesn't exist. When baseball was added for the 1992 Olympics, the hope was that one day major leaguers would take part, and the Olympics would represent a "World Cup" for the sport. Clearly, that hasn't happened, and the hope of many baseball fans to one day see a gold medal game with Pedro Martinez squaring off against Randy Johnson will not come to fruition any time soon.

The third sport they want to dump, the modern pentathlon, was designed originally for soldiers, who make up a disproportionate number of the participants. It's an interesting hybrid of cross-country running, fencing, shooting, swimming and the steeplechase, but it is nearly impossible to televise, and regardless of what happens tomorrow, it is inevitable that it will eventually be cut. It's too bad; there should be a place in the Olympics for events that may be boring for spectators and invisible to NBC, but still require unique athletic skills; ironically, its most famous participant in the Olympics was George Patton, who finished fifth in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics after he performed poorly in the shooting phase of the competition (no wonder he couldn't hit the Luftwaffe at the beginning of Patton).
One thing not to be thankful for...Arik Sharon is now considered a "moderate". I guess when your opponent is, for all intents and purposes, a fascist, it's not hard to look like you're middle-of-the-road.
As I prepare to start my world-famous "Turkey Jambalaya", I would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I will share my dark thoughts on the holiday later....

November 27, 2002

Because I care about my readers, and I consider this site to be a pleasure, not a chore, I will continue blogging through the Thanksgiving weekend. Others may abandon you for their families and their turkey and their lame-ass football games involving Dallas and Detroit, but I will never leave you....
Absolutely brilliant put-down of George Will in TPM. I am always going to have this picture of Mr. Will in the back of my mind giving "backrubs to power", kind of like Sydney Bristow in last week's Alias episode.
Political Correctness Run Amok: It's not like what this person said was false, but someone's sensitivities might be hurt, so she had to go.

November 26, 2002

Yesterday's interminable brief on the topic of permalinks was originally intended to comment on this other Jim Capozzola post. Since he subsequently published something even more interesting, I put it aside, but now that most of the bloggers have opined on that issue, I would think that a better solution than simply de-perming a blog that links to LittleGreenFootballs or any other hatesite, would be to find out why people link there in the first place. Appropriate reasons for currently linking to LGF include: 1) I link to every political blog on the web that I know of, regardless of politics; 2) Charles Johnson saved my life, and permalinking LGF is the least I can do; 3) I linked there awhile back, before the Remulaks took over the site, but I will soon de-perm, as soon as someone teaches me how to use the delete key; or 4) I fervently desire to see the extermination of every Arab on the face of the planet. Any other reason puts you beyond the pale of rational political debate.
There is still one Senate race to be determined: the runoff in Louisiana between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, and Republican Suzanne Terrell. As I have said before, this is a race that liberals should feel no stake in whatsoever. Landrieu voted for the Bush tax cut, the authorization to invade Iraq, and the Homeland Security Bill, she has indicated that she will not filibuster right wing judicial nominees, she doesn't appear to have too many African-American friends in her home state, and, in any event, it doesn't really make a damn bit of difference if the Democrats have 48 or 49 Senators, if one of our Senators won't come through at crunch time. This isn't Al Gore being knifed in the back by Ralph Nader, mind you. The defeat of the Zell Miller philosophy within the party has to be one of the few bright spots for Democrats in the last election, and I can't help but be amused at the irony of all those Democrats who kissed W's rear end on the tax cut and Iraq discovering, to their horror, that he couldn't care less.

November 25, 2002

This next post will probably be of interest only for the blogging-obsessives out there, people who spend way, way too much time, at work and at home, crafting their own posts and scrounging for hits, hopping from blog to blog in search of that moment's zeitgeist; nevertheless, I'm going to write this for those of you who either visit this site regularly, but no other blogs, or those who have visited here by accident, in a forlorn attempt to pursue a Google search for "Nude Hayden Christenson" references.

As many of you notice, off to the side is a list of other web sites, predominantly bloggers, that I have sorted according to a very loose categorization (Politics/Humor/Misc). Those are called permalinks, and they serve a number of functions here. I visit each site at least once a week, and in effect, those sites get free advertising here. I do not endorse everything that gets posted on those other websites, but my criteria tends to be that if I consistently like what I read, and I agree with the blogger's politics, that site gets permalinked.

If I don't agree with the politics, but I find the blogger to be interesting, informative, and respectful of the opinions of other people, well, the same thing goes; they get included. I am still naive enough to believe that the most important political activity a free people get to participate in is the dialogue, where men and women of good will can debate issues and share insights developed from different experiences, without name-calling and slurs. Right now, just a little bit more than half the people in this country disagree with most of my views; two years ago, a little bit more than half the people in this country seemed to share my opinions, for all the good that did. Of course, such a belief has not dissuaded me from occasionally shouting when I should be arguing, but hopefully I limit my choice of targets in that regard to public figures who have access to much wider media than I have, and who can defend themselves.

Another reason for setting up permalinks is convenience. Just by visiting my own site, I have ready access to a few dozen favorite links, even when I'm away from my home computer. Moreover, a few months ago, I installed a code (called "Sitemeter") on my computer that allows me to track how many visitors I get each day, and how they were referred here. Wherein I discovered that many visitors were bloggers who had discovered my website from their own version of Sitemeter, or another related program, when I (or someone else) had visited. Instant Karma !! Permalinking another blogger's website was a darned effective way of advertising this site without having to spend a dime. I could also see whether other bloggers were permalinking my site; my philosophy in that regard is to link to anyone who links to my site first, just out of common courtesy.

So what's the point, you ask? Late last week, there was a blogging conference at Yale Law School, featuring many of the rather minor celebrities of this field, including Joshua Marshall, Mickey Kaus, and Glenn Reynolds (ie. Instapundit). From what I can gather, it was a largely uneventful seminar, but I was struck by a comment that Mr. Kaus made, to the effect "that among bloggers there is a 'Darwinian self-interest in being nice to each other and maintaining a civil discourse.' He may disagree with Andrew Sullivan but he doesn't really want to piss him off; it's about links; it's about traffic; it's about -- gasp -- community." (Sullivan, for those of you who don't know, is a former New Republic editor who has a popular, but increasingly erratic, far right blog) [Link via Eschaton]

While I have no doubt that such an attitude is all-too-common, being terrified myself that if I ever publish my true opinions of Bruce Springsteen, I will lose my hallowed position on Altercation's list of permalinks, I have to ask what the hell difference it makes how much traffic I get. Is there anybody out there who thinks he or she can make money off their blog if they get more links. Who cares if you have fifty hits a day or fifty thousand? Isn't your obligation to tell the truth still the same? In any event, what are you selling to your visitors, if not your own individuality? There might come a day when someone is able to do a blog for profit, or even make a living at it, but we haven't reached that point yet, so there isn't really a point to selling out.

So having said that, why do I even care if anyone links to this site? And I do care. I visit Sitemeter every couple of hours, just to monitor who's visited. I try to time my posts for the fifty-second mark each minute, so I am more likely to be listed on the role of recently updated sites, a dependable source for unique visitors. It does matter to me.

Well, as it turns out, it's all about high school. The same social hierarchies that existed in high school remain with us to this day, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, as James Capozzola brilliantly points out here. One of the ways these social cliques revisit themselves on us years later is our need to be popular, and the consequent need to make others less popular, lest we lose popularity ourselves. One can see signs of this behavior in the way Al Gore is covered by the media; the former Veep is an intelligent, handsome, and decent politician, who committed the unforgivable sin of having been born into some degree of privilege and being a person of substance. Having attended an all-male prep school, I knew guys like that, people who were rich, well-connected and intelligent, possessing an ease with the opposite sex that I never had, and who were nice guys to boot. I hated people like that, since it forced me to squarely confront my own mediocrity: I realized that no matter how hard I might work, I was always going to be a step behind those people, and that they actually might deserve their success.

Hence, we get to read article after article about how Al Gore "claimed" to have discovered the Internet or the Love Canal, or how he's constantly reinventing himself, all of which is bullshit. Pundits have the same view of Gore that Nixon had of the Kennedys, that it was so unfair that the Kennedys were born into privilege, and were so beloved for their public service, while he had to fight and scrape for everything he got. Doesn't Al Gore realize how intelligent they are, how worthy they are to be popular; unlike that rich idiot, George W., who gives them nicknames and goofs off on the campaign plane, Gore speaks in complete sentences, and treats the public like adults, truly insulting behavior for a well-born politician. And so, pundits quickly realize that the best way to get ahead is not to challenge the conventional wisdom, and to not do anything that would jeopardize their popularity.

To look at one example, take the case of Christopher Hitchens, aka Mr. Samgrass, self-proclaimed English "contrarian". For years, he was a respected if controversial columnist for The Nation magazine, and penned occasional screeds for leftish papers in the U.K. No cow was too sacred, and he wrote scathing pieces about Kissinger, Mother Teresa, the Royal Family, and just about every political figure in the US and Europe. As he got older, he began writing bi-monthly pieces for Vanity Fair, the unofficial journal of nouveau riche America, and became a fixture on the Washington social scene. Once he became more of an establishment figure, his obsessions changed, and his targets became easier. During the Clinton years, he became a one-man conduit for wacko Arkansas conspiracy theories, and has the distinction of being among the few people who still believe Dolly Kyle Browning, Juanita Broderick, and Kathleen Willey. He made the execution of a mentally disabled murderer in Arkansas in 1992 a cause celebre, but has never offered even a word of condolence to that person's victims(who were killed before the convict lost his mind). He testified against one of his best friends at the Clinton impeachment trial, because of a minor difference in recollection about whether the President had referred to Ms. Lewinsky as a "stalker"(as it turns out, accurately, albeit unfairly) . He later spoke at a rally hosted by a white supremacist website,, and became chummy with an historian who denied the Holocaust. Today, he is as sycophantic to George Bush as he was to Kenneth Starr, and in the immortal words of I.F. Stone, will never need to worry about dining alone.

And, so it goes among bloggers. Mr. Kaus' point is that it is human nature to sell out your opinions, even on a form of communication which stresses individuality, and doesn't pay any money. The fact that he may not generate income from his site (which is a part of Slate, a much larger website) has little bearing on whether he is willing to publicly disagree with one of Andrew Sullivan's rants accusing liberals of being treasonous, or (more famously in Kaus' case), refusing to criticize or de-link Ann Coulter from his website after she published a book with fabricated footnotes, and jokingly supported the bombing of the NY Times. If you want the acceptance of your peers, you keep any non-conforming opinions to yourself, and spout the conventional wisdom. I hope that I will have the strength of character to quit publishing this site rather than follow that path, but I doubt it. Please keep me honest.
Today is the 21st birthday of the Bush Twins. Happy Birthday, Barbara and Jenna !!!

November 22, 2002

I'm surprised this sort of thing hasn't happened before. This morning, a Bankruptcy Trustee got indicted as part of an investigation into the bribery of city officials in Carson, California. The Trustee, Robert Pryce, was one who I had appeared before at creditor meetings about a half dozen times, and he always struck me as being a decent, conscientious chap, one who ran his hearings expeditiously. So far, the prosecution hasn't leaked any evidence that he did anything to harm any of the estates he administered, or did anything other than line the pockets of himself and his cronies, so even if he turns out to have been a crook, I will withhold judgment on him as a person for the time being.

One of the things he is accused of doing is diverting estate business to a real estate broker, in exchange for the broker hiring his daughter in a no-work position. That quid pro quo struck me as interesting, since one of the few bright ideas I had back when I worked for my late father, who was also a Chapter 7 Trustee, was for him to do something like that for me, sort of a wink-wink arrangement with a large bk firm downtown or Century City, in which they would get more business, and I would get an associate position. My dad, being the only person in the room that moment with integrity, politely informed me that such an arrangement would get him booted from the panel, and that if I wanted a high-paying job so badly, why didn't I study harder at law school, etc. I guess, from an ethical, legal, and technical standpoint, he was right, even if it took years of therapy for me to deal with that fact.
For every Mike Piazza or Barry Bonds, Michael Douglas or Gwyneth Paltrow, the Kennedys or Nelson Rockefeller, there are dozens of George and Jeb Bushes, idiot children of the wealthy who attain their positions through nepotism and cronyism, not through merit. This excellent piece by the Leader of the Opposition (Krugman for President in '04 !!) devastatingly reveals the Bush White House as a sanctuary of white affirmative action. (Link via TBogg). Not even mentioned in the column was the travesty of the US Senate approving the nomination last year of Strom Thurmond Jr. as U.S. Attorney in South Carolina; he must be an exceptionally gifted son to attain a post like that in his late 20's, after an unexceptional legal career to date.

BTW, why is it somehow a character flaw for Barbra Streisand (or any other celebrity, for that matter) to occasionally be outspoken about political issues: she may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but she's not as much of a moron as Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz, and she's infinitely more qualified for public service than the children of Antonin Scalia or William Rehnquist.

November 21, 2002

Good piece in TAPPED today about the breathtaking dishonesty of Beltway "journalist" and Bush shill Howard Kurtz. Anybody who seriously believes that Rush Limbaugh is not a hatemonger probably believes that Julius Streicher was only an opinionated journalist with some "politically incorrect" views.
True story about this year's Sexiest Man Alive, involving a Project GreenLight bash at Joxer Daly's. After he and his companion picked the future director of "Stolen Summer" (thanks for sharing!), they went on the Tonight Show, and afterward wanted to see the East Coast feed. So they threw a big party down at Joxer's, which has a remarkeably sophisticated satellite system, and brought literally a busload of their pals and cronies down to Culver City to liven up a dreary weekday at the pub. His companion was down-to-earth and friendly, chatting up the regulars at the establishment and cementing his rep as the nicest man in the biz. Mr. J-Lo, on the other hand, was a genuine a-hole. Because the bar had an unexpectedly large crowd, one of the part-time bartenders was brought in to tend, and decided to share anecdotes about his other career, as a public school teacher, with the "actor". That didn't please the Great Man, who yelled that he just wanted a vodka tonic. The bar owner, sensing a possible disaster on his hands, decided to take the drink order instead, and asked him what sort of vodka he preferred. Mr. Affleck, showing the class and lese majesty he is famous for in the Industry, politely explained, "I don't give a fuck--just give me my goddam drink !!" He then threw a 20 at the owner's face, and walked away. Nice guy.
I think you can write off the Lakers' chances this season. I know Shaq is set to return Friday, but a 3-9 record without him is not consistent with what you would expect of a championship-caliber team. Tonight's loss, to San Antonio, was typical of this season; it is becoming increasingly clear that in winning their third consecutive title last season, L.A. had to make a deal with the Devil, and he's now come to collect. All those aging role players (Horry, Fox, Shaw, etc.) who needed to be replaced before the team could rebuild, were instead invited back, for sentimental reasons. The young players who were expected to emerge this season out of the shadow of Kobe and Shaq (George and Fisher, to be precise) have tanked. The last two drafts produced nada, which was to be expected considering their draft position, but the team also did nothing to improve themselves through free agency, and the trades Mitch Kupcak attempted haven't panned out (although at least he didn't trade away their future to acquire the Human Defeat Machine, Andre Miller, like their crosstown neighbors did). Sad to say, Shaq's return will not help as much as the fans might hope; I think it will be a struggle just to qualify for the playoffs.

November 20, 2002

Sorry for discovering this little gem about two weeks late, but here's an interesting profile of one Marshall Mathers for you to chew twenty years, he'll either be dead or a sitcom star.
Blogger T.Bogg has started a contest to name the upcoming memoirs of Justice Clarence Thomas, to be published sometime next year. My fave: Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Holmes, and Me.

November 19, 2002

Is there some earthly reason we're supposed to care who wins the Senate election in Louisiana next month? I shouldn't have to remind people that this isn't a team sport, where it matters if you have one more point than the other team, or in this case, one more Senator. Principles are supposed to count, too, but unfortunately, the junior senator from Louisiana thought it more important to win reelection than to keep mercury out of children's vaccines. BTW, what the hell was Ted Kennedy thinking when he missed this vote to attend...a fashion show in Paris ??

UPDATE: As it turns out, to get this measure passed required a deal with three moderate GOP Senators, Chafee of Rhode Island and Collins and Snowe of Maine, who forced Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert to agree to remove some of the more egregious pork from the bill, including the provision concerning the pharmaceutical waiver, at the beginning of the next Congress. Wouldn't it be nice if one or two members of the contrarian wing of the Democratic party had some backbone as well?

November 18, 2002

The NY Times should know better than to expect Tiger Woods to develop a social conscience over the membership policy at Augusta. Woods' modus operandi during his career has been to skirt controversy, like his friend and mentor, Michael Jordan; if he were any more of an Uncle Tom, President Bush would nominate him to the Supreme Court. Those who expect a celebrity to stick his neck out when it's his paycheck that is being threatened are too hopelessly out of it to matter.

In any event, I just don't see why Augusta National's policy should be such a cause celebre at this time. Exactly why we should eliminate barriers for women or African-Americans to join a club in which they can then turn around and discriminate against others on the basis of class is not clear to me. In a way, it would be similar to the state of Mississippi having a law in 1850 prohibiting Jews or Catholics from owning slaves. I know that its wrong for private clubs to discriminate against women, and I can see the argument that it puts those who don't have access to membership at a disadvantage when it comes to business opportunities. But it is the fact that such opportunities only exist for country club members, no matter what racial, sexual or ethnic group they belong to, that is the real outrage. So let us criticize the bigots from Deliverance Country and their hoary golf tournament, but let us place this issue well down on our list of priorities.
But of course, not everything can be filibustered. Efforts to make the tax giveaway permanent, and other matters that involve expenditures, can't be filibustered, and according to this article, even something like the move to allow Arctic drilling may be defined as such. In that case, all proponents would need is a simple majority to allow drilling, which they probably have (link via TAPPED).

November 17, 2002

Bankruptcy Bill Dies in Senate: What is it that Nelson says on the Simpsons: Hah hah !!! While it is hilarious that this odious piece of legislation failed this time due to language pertaining to the dischargeability of abortion clinic protesting, I doubt that we'll always be this lucky. There is a case to be made that this is a bad bill, period, one that punishes consumers, including those who protest outside abortion clinics. It was a case that the late Senator Wellstone made, sometimes by himself, and Senate Democrats, now that they are in the minority and have no obligation or duty to be cooperative, can pay no better tribute to him than by continuing his battle against the credit card companies.

And in the end, there is always the filibuster.

November 16, 2002

It's too bad that the Justice Department's new-found interest in enforcing the Sherman Act is only limited to alt-weekly newspapers, but this comes a few weeks too late to save NewTimes, an oft-interesting fishwrap that was in direct competition with the Weekly, but was shut down when their respective publishers made a pact not to compete in the LA and Cleveland markets.
The War on Terra (cont.): While W. plots a war against an imaginary foe (albeit one who did try to kill his dad), our real enemies meet somewhere in South America, as Adam Felber reports.

November 15, 2002

Principal Rooney Gets Busted !! I suppose there's good reason to be sceptical of these allegations, in light of the exaggerated charges the same DA's office leveled against Wynona Ryder and Paula Poundstone, as well as the fact that the search where all this evidence was supposedly found took place exactly a year ago; not exactly fresh evidence to base a charge. Still, I'll never view Ferris Bueller's Day Off the same way again.
Well, thank kobe Congress is back in session. Today, it passed a law outlawing the "unauthorized placing of pornographic materials in packaged food items". Whether this will also encompass such items as edible lingerie remains to be seen. Coming as it does on the heels of the recent defeat of the "Bankruptcy Reform Act", on account that it risks burdening anti-abortion wackos with a lifetime of debt should they get get sued for violating someone's civil rights (as opposed to imposing a lifetime of debt on anti-abortion wackos who incur high medical costs just after they lose their jobs), and the noble effort to use the Homeland Security Bill to sneak through a liability waiver for pharmeceutical companies, it is evident that the next two years are going to be a blast.

November 13, 2002

From the creator of Condredge's Acolyte's, America's Greatest Collaborative College Football weblog, comes a to-be-determined blog devoted to college hoops. Details later, but any and all who are interested should contact me ASAP.
The funny thing about political primaries is you sometimes see signs of moderation in even the most extreme politicians. Now that he has to battle with someone even more reactionary than he, Sharon is now sounding almost statesmanlike when it comes to Palestinian statehood, saying things that would have been almost unthinkable for a Likudnik fifteen to twenty years ago.
It's now official: the Lakers suck !! Without Shaq, L.A. is as imposing as Tom Daschle.

November 12, 2002

Mr. Samgrass has now joined the Sonny Liston Brigade, making the same disingenuous argument about "chickenhawks" that every other warblogger has proferred in the last month. Note to Snitch: 1984 is supposed to be a dystopian tale....
And of course, the Onion has its take on last Tuesday's election...btw, on an unrelated point, whatever happened to Don Meredith?
Bay Area residents should be alerted to the fact that the greatest character actress you've never heard of, Phoebe Nicholls, makes a rare TV appearance Friday on your PBS station at 10:00 p.m. The woman behind the world's most perfect English accent plays a greedy sister who goes out of her mind in "May and June". For everyone else, you'll just have to rent Persuasion for a glimpse of the only thespian besides John Malkovich (and maybe Crispin Glover as well) who can singlehandedly change the complexion of a film by just appearing in a few scenes.

UPDATE [11/16/2007]: "May and June" has recently been released on DVD, as part of a package of British TV films based on the short stories of Ruth Rendell. Although the set is worth buying just for "May and June," you can, thanks to the technological breakthrough that is Netflix, simply rent the appropriate disc (ie., Disc 3) and watch it at your leisure. Think of it as a combination of All About Eve and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, if those films had been written and directed by Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock.

It's very difficult to figure out after seeing "May and June" why Phoebe Nicholls never made it to the next level, why her name hasn't become as ubiquitous in reference to "great acting" as Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep. She shows here that she can carry a film by herself, and her performance is a master class of acting, turning what could have been a campy rehash of sibling rivalry cliches into something mythic. Nevertheless, her roles thereafter have all been of the supporting nature, and have pretty much been confined to British TV. She deserves better luck.
In "May & June", Nicholls portrays a woman who has always played second fiddle to her prettier, younger sister, but who collapses emotionally when she loses her fiance to her sibling. Twenty years later, having never married or achieved much in her life other than surviving, she attends the funeral of her ex-fiance, and meets her sister, now unbelievably wealthy but alone, and she is invited to move in with her as an act of reconciliation.

But it's clear that she has never gotten over the loss of her true love or the betrayal years before, which she has chosen to blame entirely on her sister. When she finds out that her sister's marriage had, in fact, been rocky, and that she had taken a lover during the final days of her husband's life, she follows a course of action that ultimately leads to a devastating finale.

Without spoiling the ending, which you probably won't see coming, let's just say that it wouldn't work unless you completely empathized with the character played by Ms. Nicholls. Her final descent into madness is especially poignant, because we know that the character had been a decent, generous person at one point (she met her fiance, a solicitor, while she was working for a children's foster home), and that her capacity to love, and even forgive, her sister, existed. But her soul is already well on the way to being poisoned by jealousy, greed and remorse. The decision she makes is understandable, if no less appalling, and her "triumph" is an empty one.

In the hands of a lesser actress, we would have only seen the madness behind the eyes, rather than have that quality only hinted at. Even our greatest actresses (ie., Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Glenn Close in Fatal Atraction, Faye Dunnaway in anything since Network) have succumbed to the temptation of camping it up when portraying mentally-troubled women. Such films can be fun to watch, but the viewer will not be impacted in the slightest when the credits roll.

To pull it off correctly requires a tremendous emotional sensitivity, a self-awareness that is quite rare, and often very difficult to manage, as the biography of Billie Holiday might attest. In fact, one of Ms. Nicholls' co-stars from an earlier movie once compared her to a "soul singer," a person of "great warmth" but for whom it was painful to work at her livelihood. A woman like that will probably never become a "star," since to have such qualities necessarily means not having the narcissism and egocentricism that are required to willingly allow one to settle for less, if it means getting a well-paying role in a Hollywood star-vehicle. But having that sort of sensitivity has meant she's been one hell of an actress over the years, and I'm one fan who has never been disappointed.
I didn't have an opinion one way or the other when the battle for House Demo Leader was between Nancy Pelosi and Martin Frost, b/c I don't think it's all that necessary to have a person in that position with the right ideology; as long as Frost can crack some heads and take the fight to George Bush, Tom DeLay, et al., he would be just as good as anyone else. Harold Ford Jr. is altogether different. I think there is a real question as to whether or not he has a pair. Twice he has backed away from running for Senate seats in Tennessee, including this last election, when he would have been a frontrunner for an open seat. Any doubts I may have had as to his lack of fortitude were resolved when I saw him get his ass kicked by Mr. Samgrass several months ago on Hard Ball. Future of the Party? Hah !! He's our version of Dan Quayle.
Dept. of Corrections: Last week I noted that if everyone who had voted for Dan Lundgren in 1998 had voted for Bill Simon this time around, Simon would have been elected governor. As it turns out, that was based on a count which didn't include some absentee and provisional ballots, so according to the revised total, Davis is now ahead of the '98 Lundgren vote by some 50,000 ballots, or just over 7/10ths of a percentage point.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday evening, '02 Davis now leads '98 Lundgren by over 170,000 votes, which is just over two percent. It just goes to show that sometimes it pays to await all the evidence before pronouncing a verdict. Still, the implication is basically the same; this election could have easily been much closer had Simon run anything resembling a competent campaign.

November 11, 2002

Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration is the most dishonest to hold power since 1974? This article presents an unbiased yet devastating case on that point. Again, it's the difference between lying about sex and lying about policy. Lies about sex, whether under oath or not, only hurt the family of the liar, but they sell newspapers; lies about policy corrupt the body politic, and make democratic choice impossible. If there is one enduring legacy of the conservative resurgence that began in this country following the 1968 election, it has been the not-so-subtle manner in which the Right has used falsehoods and mendacity to sell their agenda, smear their opponents, and taint the language: from the bombing of Cambodia to Watergate to the fraudulent investigation of Whitewater to the coming invasion of Iraq, conservatives have chosen the path of lies as the first option, even in cases, such as with Iraq, where an honest case for their position can be made. Nor is this a problem simply with politicians: it comes up every time a right wing pundit pretends that all supporters of affirmative action are the "real racists", or that those who disagree with the domestic policy of the Likud Party are "anti-semitic", or that people critical of the hypocrisy of gay bigots in the blogosphere are "homophobic".

But of course, Clinton lied about blow jobs, and he lied about, eh, mmm, errrr, blow jobs, and I'm sure he lied about something else as well, although history does not note what else he lied about. And some obscure academic got into trouble for fabricating some evidence about gun ownership in the early 19th century. In the meantime, Fraulein Goebbels has a bestseller in which there are lies on almost every single page (but they are "footnoted" lies!!), and Rush Limbaugh has one of the top radio shows pushing a political agenda of hate and bigotry somewhere to the right of Father Coughlin, and the President has a new line almost every day about why we should go to war with Iraq.

But I will never lie to you, my sweet....

November 10, 2002

Provocative piece by Matt Welch about a possible Gray Davis presidential run. Why couldn't Nader have been the spoiler in that election? I need a drink....

November 09, 2002

One good thing about Republican control, of course, is the fact that there will be more bankruptcies in the future, which is always a good thing when you are a bankruptcy attorney. The Bankruptcy Reform Act presently before Congress (also known by my compatriots in the field as the "Full Employment Act for BK Attorneys Act") will now almost certainly pass.
I wonder if any blogger on the left who wasn't critical about the lack of substance of Democratic Party candidates before Tuesday can be taken seriously on their criticisms afterward. I seem to recall a lot of cheerleading in the weeks leading up to the election, a lot of talk about how our "GOTV" effort would lead us through, etc. It's disingenuous to start blaming Terry McAuliffe now when he had so many enablers last week. We certainly can't blame Ralph Nader for this one.

November 08, 2002

Having lived in the "Valley" my entire life (so far), it was with a sense of melancholy that I noted the defeat of the secession effort at the polls this past Tuesday. I voted in favor of it, mainly because I knew it had no chance of passing, and I feel it might one day be beneficial to pursue this course. They allowed you to vote for Mayor and Councilman for the mythical city, as well as its hypothetical name. Since my tax attorney was running for council, I voted for her, and she actually "won". I wrote in my own name for mayor, and now must wait for the tabulation of absentee and provisional ballots before I know how well I did; if I beat out "Tupac Shakur", I will consider that a moral victory. Of the five potential names for the city that never was, I picked Mission Valley, which of course finished dead last, well behind the winner, San Fernando Valley, and even the fourth pick, Camelot.

Notes for next time: Although secession narrowly passed within the Valley (it lost b/c it got wiped out in the rest of LA), it really only did well west of the 405 Freeway, which splits right down the middle of the Valley. Woodland Hills, the affluent area where I used to live, and where I was still registered to vote, voted for it overwhelmingly. Secession did miserably not only in the less affluent East Valley, which has become heavily Latino, and which backed away from the movement once it became clear that it would do nothing to create an autonomous school district, but also in the area between Valley Vista and Mulholland, which is one of the most affluent areas of the city. As this article points out, the reason for the opposition here was quite different: residents tended to feel more tightly connected to the rest of Los Angeles than their brethren in the West Valley did.

South of Valley Vista, one was more likely to see one of those ubiquitous lawn signs opposing secession, with its WE LOVE L.A. in purple and gold, quite a nice touch in a community where the Lakers are one of the few common touchstones. When secession seemed a possibility, those opposing originally sought to run a negative campaign, with stupid arguments that secession was little more than a racist plot to deprive South Central LA of property tax funding from the suburbanites, as if Sam Yorty was plotting the whole thing from beyond the grave. In time, once it became evident that no significant Democrat was going to support the movement, and its passage became less likely, the anti-secessionists were able to pursue a more positive campaign, focusing on the benefits of keeping the city together, united. Subconsciously reminding voters that LA wasn't simply a monolithic entity downtown that eats our taxes and shorts us on services, but a community that many of us still view with some degree of affection, with its beaches, its culture, its art and museums, its symphony, and yes, its Lakers.

The backers of secession weren't able to craft a positive message that really resonated with voters, not bothering to convince people south of the Santa Monica mountains that an amicable split might be beneficial to all, and in the end showing only that there was substantial sentiment west of Reseda Blvd. to break away. Secession supporters are now promising that it was unfair for the rest of the city to vote, ignoring the fact that east of the 405, the movement was just as unpopular, and that in a democracy, people have a right to vote on an issue that's going to effect them for years to come. If this ever comes up again, we are going to have to do a much better job convincing ourselves that we can create something as good and as unifying as the Lakers.
The Alabama governor's race may well make Florida 2000 seem like a D.A.R. social, for those who feel nostalgic.
Tom Daschle has apparently found a job more suited for his talents....

November 07, 2002

As expected, the Appeasement Wing of the Democratic Party weighs in, insisting that keeping to the middle of the road is the way to win elections, in spite of what happened Tuesday. The example that is always used is Bill Clinton, who triangulated his way to two terms, as opposed to George McGovern, who was destroyed thirty years ago. That, of course, misses the point: moderate Presidential candidates who know how to pick their fights is a good tactic for any political party, since in order to win, you have to pick up disparate states, like California and New Hampshire, Texas and Ohio. But this wasn't a Presidential election; it was a congressional election, where the potential base of voters for each candidate was much narrower, and where voter turnout is much more contingent on getting the base out. The Democratic Party did spectacularly well in state and congressional races during the last period of Republican dominance (with the exception of 1980), by running candidates who appealed to the base. What may work at the national level isn't going to help locally, and vice versa.

But with all the recriminations, I think it all comes down to one key fact: we ran by trying to hide our beliefs, and lost. It always sucks to lose, but it's better to lose fighting.
For poli-sci students with an interest in California politics, or for amateur campaign consultants: this is a county-by-county map of the vote percentage in the race for State Controller, which is essentially tied. Use it as a template for estimating future races, or whatever....

November 06, 2002

Amazing, isn't it, that in California, a dispirited, unenorgized Democratic Party, with little in the way of a GOTV effort, an unpopular incumbent at the head of the ticket, and low turnout, still had the greatest night in its history. Take a look at the comparison here between the 1998 and 2002 votes: if all of Lundgren's voters had cast their ballots for Simon, he would have been elected Governor.

Well, it didn't matter to me: I voted for the Green candidate in that race, and I would not have lost a minute more sleep had Simon won by a single vote. The drawback of living in a one-party state....
The Red Sox have hired stat-man Bill James to be an advisor to club management (link via WarLiberal), which will be to baseball fans what Pauline Kael's hiring by Paramount in the late-70's was for cinema buffs. To those of you who have never heard of him, he popularized a form of numbers-crunching about twenty years ago called "sabermetrics", which looks at baseball from an objective standpoint, rather than the subjective drivel that usually comes from sportswriters. He was also a great writer, who used to have an iconoclastic edge that shone in his Baseball Abstracts of the 1980's. He lost most of his edge when he decided to capitalize on the "Fantasy Baseball" fad in the '90's, and he tends to flip-flop on his opinions nowadays: he must have changed his mind in print about a half dozen times on whether Don Drysdale belongs in the Hall of Fame. But no baseball fan who even has pretensions to being a freethinker can be without his Historical Baseball Abstract, or his book on the Hall of Fame.
The double whammy of Shaheen and Bowles losing having occurred early in the evening, I was in less of a celebratory mood when I got home from the job. As such, I have an undrunk case of PBR at the homestead, which I am sure the "contrarian" now known as the "Mr. Samgrass of the Left" would happily down in my stead.
Of greater significance than whether the GOP is now in full control of the federal government is that the centrist, appeasement wing of the Democratic party, the so-called "New Democrats" or "neoliberals", is dead. Their candidates all lost. Their non-confrontational philosophy was tried, and found wanting. Among liberals, only Mondale lost, and that was entirely due to the unusual set of circumstances by which he entered the race; if Wellstone had lived, he would have won.

And that's characteristic of his type; fighters either win, or give the other guy a bloody nose. There's no point mincing words: even if the Democrats had retained control of the Senate, it is highly improbable that they would have used their power to any effect. During the 18 months following the Jeffords split, can one name a single area where they took the battle to the GOP? With a tax cut in place that will act like a lymphoma on the economy for the next decade, was there ever a serious effort made to challenge it, much less repeal it? Did anyone, besides the late Paul Wellstone, take up the fight against US imperialism in the Middle East? At the end of the campaign, the only reason given to vote Democratic was "prescription drugs" and the threat of a federal judiciary made up of neo-klan whackos from the Federalist Society, ex-prosecutors with fantasies about executing minors and the retarded, and Uncle Toms of whatever color. As scary as that might sound, it's not enough to motivate your base to get out and vote, or to lure swing voters in sufficient numbers.

But then again, it's only a two seat loss in the Senate, five in the House. We still have large enough numbers to commit some mischief. Go get em....
Maybe California should secede. An excellent analysis of yesterday's elections can be found here, although it still doesn't deal with the reality of this election, which was pretty much fought in states won in the last election by George Bush. For all the jeremiads we will be hearing about what the loss of the Senate means, we should remember that from a similar position, the Republicans were able to defeat President Clinton's health care plan and tie up most of his economic plan in the first two years of that Administration. Think filibuster. A single motivated Senator can tie up the government for days at a time. If the Prez tries to nominate right wing nuts to the federal courts, demagogue. Show no mercy. And quit worrying about whether Zell Miller is going to switch parties; for all intents and purposes, he already has.

November 05, 2002

The votes haven't all been counted, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that tonight is not our night. The Democrats will lose at least two Senate incumbents, maybe three, plus the Mondale race isn't looking too good, while the GOP has captured all of its open seats, and will probably hang on in Colorado as well. When we wake up tomorrow morning, the Republicans may have a 52-46-1 edge in the Senate, and Trent Lott may not give a rat's ass what Lincoln Chafee does (the other seat, in Louisiana, will be determined by a run-off in December). It's possible that the losses the Democrats will suffer in the House will be even greater; the one bright spot, albeit a very faint one, is that the party managed to do well in governor's races (hey, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and maybe Alabama--just great, the new base for our party). It appears the "GOTV" effort was a joke, and African-Americans decided to sit this election out.

The Great Party Purge of 2002 begins tomorrow. Goodbye Daschle. So long Gephardt. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, McAuliffe.