December 31, 2003

English journalism isn't simply tabloids and the fabricated stories that run in the Daily Telegraph. It's also hilariously highbrow sportswriting, as this take on the BCS controversy shows. The piece manages to discuss college football in a manner that no fan of the sport ever would (including a reference to a split national title in 1990 between Colorado and "The Georgia Institute of Technology"), while being completely oblivious to what pisses fans off about the BCS (the fact that computers are incapable of picking the correct teams for the national championship).

Speaking of which, I will be at the Rose Bowl tomorrow, so if anyone wishes to hook up, tailgate, etc., let me know sometime before 7:00 a.m. on the morrow. My source in local government tells me that the President is going to make his first campaign appearance of the year at the Game, so if you have any words of wisdom, I'll be glad to pass them on.

UPDATE: The official story is still that the President will be with family and friends tomorrow at his "ranch". More stuff on the games over at my college football blog, Condredge's Acolytes.

December 30, 2003

I haven't decided whom to support yet in 2004, but Howard Dean sure pisses off the right people, don't he? Dean is the principal example that truth-tellers tend to be a very unpopular sort, at least at first. He's not even close to being as liberal as McGovern was in 1972 (he's not even close to Gore in 2000), he's much closer to the center on most issues than the incumbent President, but he has incurred a level of irrational hatred not seen in American politics since, well, Bill Clinton. The statements that have gotten him into trouble recently (that even Osama is entitled to the presumption of innocence, that the capture of Hussein hasn't made America more safe from terrorism, etc.) are attacked not because they are false (I mean, we're still in an Orange terror alert, and now we're supposed to be paranoid of men with almanacs) but because, regrettably, they are true.

It would feel great to capture OBL alive, then whack him; after all, he has admitted to planning 9/11. But Dean, ironically for someone who is the first major Presidential frontrunner since Reagan to be neither an attorney nor a businessman, knows that false confessions are a dime a dozen in our legal system, and that a fair trial is the only way to establish an accurate historical record of the most grievous injury suffered by our nation in decades. And even supporters of the Iraqi adventure now concede that it had only an incidental relationship to the "war" on terrorism; the justifications we now hear have to do with what a bad actor Saddam Hussein was, which wasn't the argument we were using when trying to bully our allies into this war.

Increasingly, political correctness (or to use the term popular with chickenbloggers, "anti-idiotarianism") has become a weapon used by the right to marginalize dissenting voices. As it did when that same weapon was utilized against conservative student groups and newspapers, though, it has not silenced those voices but given them strength, a feeling that blunt, unpopular truths carry enormous power.

As I said, I don't know if I will vote for Dean in the California primary, which is only about ten weeks away. The anger he has used so effectively to rally the ideologues behind his banner will not help him in the general election (just as it didn't help Barry Goldwater in 1964), but it may well be what the Party needs in the long run. Since 1980, the Democrats have acted in much the same way the Los Angeles Dodgers have the last 25 years, not taking risks and attempting to muzzle anything that sounds remotely unpopular. As with the Dodgers, their occasional successes on the field obscure the fact that the world has changed; the Republicans control politics at every level, from the government to the judiciary to the media, and the old way of doing things doesn't work. In that sense, Tom DeLay is the Billy Beane of politics, someone who has an edge on the rest of us because he knows a new way of doing things that works, and who also knows that the other side hasn't caught on yet.

Clinton, G-- bless him, used a very effective strategy in uniting the base while picking off centrist, and even some right-leaning, voters, but it all but killed the Democrats down-ticket. Dean is popular with Democrats precisely because he understands that attempting to compromise with a foe that wants to fight an all-out war isn't moderation, it's appeasement. Win or lose come November, 2004, he may be the person to start the rebuilding process that has been delayed for too long.
For those of who enjoy the hathos of Andrew Sullivan's vanity site (does the Harvard Crimson follow an affirmative action program to employ idiots?), please take note that he is on "vacation" this week, and his blogging is being done instead by Daniel Drezner, a conservative who actually thinks before he posts.

December 29, 2003

Those of you who own the paperback version of Fast Food Nation might like to re-read the portion starting at page 271, before you become complacent about government "safeguards" concerning Mad Cow Disease.
The circumstances behind the execution-style slaying of former big league outfielder Ivan Calderon get stranger and stranger.

December 26, 2003

The Supreme Court's decision earlier this month to uphold the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law was one of the few bright spots for progressive politics this year, and as such drew a very hostile reaction from the Right. The gist of the decision was that it halted in its tracks the opinion that the expenditure of money was in and of itself protected "speech" under the First Amendment. The majority opinion was attacked by one pundit as being comparable to Plessy v. Ferguson in its violation of the "clear meaning" of the Constitution, an odious comparison when you realize that the Plessy decision legalized apartheid in much of the country, and ensured that the most-despised and least-powerful segments of our society stayed that way, whereas the Court's decision three weeks ago infringes on the "rights" of the most affluent and powerful groups in America.

That the expenditure of money is even thought to be protected under the First Amendment in the first place shows how ideas that would have been considered extreme thirty years ago now have acquired a mainstream legitimacy, thanks to the conservative dominance of the media. Casual readers of the Bill of Rights might find some difficulty with the notion that campaign contributions are part of what is considered "free speech". The First Amendment does not mention the spending of money, or even the words "money" or "spend"; it mainly deals with restrictions on the power of Congress to infringe on speech, religion, and the press. Laws against bribery were on the books at the time the Constitution was drafted, and do not appear to have been questioned or challenged by the Framers.

Back when I was in law school (1985-8), the high court's 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo was considered to be a turning point in the history of the judicial branch, away from the liberalism of the Warren Court and towards a jurisprudence that was friendlier to the wealthy and powerful. In that case, the court struck down provisions of the post-Watergate campaign reform act that restricted expenditures by political candidates themselves, while upholding contribution limits by third parties. In the intervening years, those same third parties were able to create entities that were, at least on paper, independent of actual campaigns, but could spend unlimited amounts to ensure the election of a candidate. The McCain-Feingold Act was drafted to specifically address this loophole, while people like George Will and Senator Mitch McConnell believe the Court didn't go far enough in Buckley.

The difference between campaign "contributions" and bribery is a subtle one. If I were to announce that I had given George Bush's reelection campaign a million dollars in exchange for his veto of any bankruptcy law that I happen to oppose, I would be prosecuted (at least in California; I doubt John Ashcroft would bother). Yet there is no question that my offer to the President has specific free speech implications, in much the same way that the manufacture of child pornography has; if we use the standard of George Will, I'm using wealth to openly propound an opinion on an issue of public policy, an activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.

In reality, though, what the Right views as "free speech" is really a claim to an entitlement, a property right, to control government. It is a cornerstone of conservative thought that government should not interfere with the individual's (or corporation's) right to do what it pleases with its property. Modern liberalism, on the other hand, believes that there is a governmental responsibility to draw some boundaries as to what people can do with their property. Restrictions (or even outright bans) on campaign spending should be no more considered a violation of free speech than the employment of children in factories at sub-minimum wages.

December 25, 2003


For those few who visit, I haven't been taking the holiday season off, I just haven't felt the need to post much the last couple of weeks. Quite often, bloggers will feel frustrated that they don't have something new to add to their site, something to maintain a healthy level of unique visitors. People who somehow think they're going to make a living out of this will often announce ahead of time that "blogging will be light" while they are on vacation, or during the holidays, or whenever. Since this site is my plaything, not my resume or headshot, it is liberating to know that I can pretty much speak out whenever I'm inspired, with no feeling of guilt when I go days on end without posting.

Like most of you, I'm just kicking back with my family today, preparing for the afternoon festivities and erecting the Festivus Pole (I know it's two days late, but it's hard for people to get vacation time off for that holiday). Then later, we all get together, have the traditional Airing of Grievances, and play "How to Host a Murder" to get into the holiday spirit.

Saw Return of the King last night, and admittedly, I thought the fourth ending was the best. Snark aside, Peter Jackson has set the bar so high on what I can expect when I pay 10 bucks to see a movie that any other film is almost certain to be a disappointment. Unlike 90% of what Hollywood releases into the nation's multiplexes, this was an experience that could not be captured on DVD.

December 22, 2003

Any discussion of the so-called liberal media should be prefaced by the admission that it's way more profitable to be a conservative. Last month, it was the revelation that the website Tech Central Station was funded by right wing lobbyists for the purpose of propagating favorable coverage of their issues over the internet. Now, in the wake of the collapse of the Conrad Black publishing empire (Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Sun) comes the not-so-surprising revelation that many of the more "distinguished" pundits on the right were generously supported by his lordship, including George Will, Richard Perle, and William F. Buckley. As George Will said, when trying to justify why he didn't tell his readers about the truckload of money he got from the subject of one of his more positive columns, "My business is my business. Got it?"

UPDATE: Krugman adds his take. OUCH !!!

December 20, 2003

I think the significance of this has nothing to do with Khadafi being threatened by an assertive U.S. presence in the Mid-East as it does his willingness to make it seem like it did. The things he has promised to do are no different than what Saddam was ostensibly promising, and even if he fully "disarms", he will still have WMD "capability", or whatever his shills now call the rationale Bush is using to justify our adventure in Baghdad. The Libyan strongman has been trying to make peace with the west since 1990; his limited cooperation with the international court trying the Lockerbie killers and the intelligence provided on Al Qaeda after September 11 all pre-date the attack on Iraq. If Khadafi a) normalizes relations with Israel; b) personally apologizes for the murders he has backed in the past (the '72 Munich terrorists were financed and given asylum by the Colonel); c) pursues real democratic reforms, and d) informs the Libyan football federation that they no longer have to play his idiot son (see July 26 post), then I'll know something has changed.

December 17, 2003

One of the stories that obsessed the blogosphere for about five minutes but failed to generate any sort of traction in the real world was Cruz Bustamante's (remember him?) involvement with a group called "MeChA" back in the day. It turned out to be a non-issue because a) Bustamante ran such an inept campaign that he quit being relevant, and Ahnolt Ziffel's supporters probably didn't want to make the election about which candidate had stronger ties to fascist groups; b) the argument was promoted initially by white supremacist websites, who proferred a bogus translation of one of the slogans for the group, and made a number of other statements that simply didn't add up; and c) the people for whom the issue was relevant weren't going to vote for a Latino Democrat anyway. It's one of the problems with opposing affirmative action: if you feel that colleges admit too many black and Latino students in the first place, you probably aren't going to have much credibility telling said students what groups they get to join in college.

Anyways, since there probably will be a "next time" with this issue, Crooked Timber has an interview with a couple of actual, real-life members of MeChA that's worth reading.
Madonna endorses Wesley Clark: Some stories just speak for themselves. Next up, the all-important Gwynnie endorsement....

December 15, 2003

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it's name is "The Corvids"...terrific concert at the Brown Derby in Los Feliz Friday night, marred only by an audio system that should be immediately scrapped; the ambience of the L.A. landmark was right out of The Last Waltz. Playing a style of music that combines Merle Haggard with the Velvet Underground, this is a group that really should be heard by a larger audience. Their CD comes out later in the month, a perfect holiday present you might think about giving yourself. Blessedly, you can listen to the music without seeing Howard Owens exhibit his interpretive dancing skills, honed no doubt at thousands of Dead shows.

As the self-proclaimed "Alterman of the Corvids", I ended up being invited to the after-party, where I got to hang out and gather material for the book I'm writing on the band. Beer, wine and scotch were plentiful, Matt Welch jammed until the wee hours with a singer who was a dead-ringer for Ray Davies, circa 1971, and a pretty middle-aged redhead, in the throes of an Ecstasy n' bourbon rampage, pointed at a moth and began screaming, "it's a bat, it's a bat !!", not desisting until we warned her that we would otherwise send a representative of the CTA to drive her home. Or so I was told; I passed out briefly fell into a somnolescent state of unconsciousness around 3 a.m., thereby marring an evening on which I had been on my best behavior, so I can't confirm Tony Pierce's story.
I feel pissy, oh so pissy...The capture of Saddam yesterday seems to have brought out the more Stalinist tendencies in the right half of the blogosphere. OK, let's go over this (see the posts for June 6 and March 19) one more time: Saddam was a bad man, and he deserves the righteous justice of his people, and it was wrong for George Bush, Tony Blair, et al., to lie about why we needed to attack a country that was not a threat to us. The Baathists practiced genocide, there are mass graves everywhere in Iraq were the innocent are buried, and the French, Germans, and Russians were in the right in refusing to back our oil grab in the United Nations. The immediate blip upward in Bush's approval ratings will dissipate the next time an American soldier is murdered, especially since the insurgents are going to include a fair number of Shiites now that Saddam is no longer a threat. I know what I have written above might be considered thought-crimes, but it's all true. So f*** yourself if you don't like my lack of blind enthusiasm for our maximum leader.

December 14, 2003

The fact that we captured Saddam alive is a testament to the professionalism of our military. While it won't bring hostilities to an end, it has enormous symbolic value; the fact that he can be put on trial will do much to provide a basis for legitimacy to whatever government takes power in Baghdad, much the same way the first Nuremberg trials paved the way for a fresh start to the post-war German Republic.

December 11, 2003

There's no business, like show business...something to think about the next time you hear of a charity event in Hollywood, from the Los Angeles Times:
Almost any night of the week around Los Angeles, one charity or another holds a glitzy fundraising benefit, backed by a Hollywood star.

But many celebrities appear at these events not solely out of the goodness of their hearts. They come to line their pockets.

Actor David Schwimmer, who has made many millions of dollars starring in NBC's "Friends," received a pair of Rolex watches worth $26,413 in advance of a 1997 charity gala that had among its intended beneficiaries the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Singer Engelbert Humperdinck, as partial payment for a 1998 benefit appearance at the Friars Club, received two Cartier watches priced at $8,500 each.

Piano legend Ray Charles picked up $75,000 for a four-song appearance at a 2002 SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly) gala in Santa Monica, which was to benefit developmentally disabled children.

All three events were among more than a dozen organized in recent years by Aaron Tonken, a Los Angeles event promoter, who in November was charged by federal authorities with two counts of fraud related to charitable fundraising. Tonken's lawyer, Alan Rubin, said his client was expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Sources have said Tonken was negotiating a plea agreement.

Meanwhile, federal authorities and their counterparts in state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office are trying to figure out what happened to as much as $7 million in funds that were raised in connection with Tonken-organized events but never made it to designated charities. According to those familiar with the inquiry — and more than 2,000 pages of financial records and other documents obtained by The Times — it appears that little of the money was kept by Tonken himself.

Rather, it was spent on — and sometimes demanded by — those who needed it the least: the rich and famous, and their hangers-on.


Another time, Tonken took to the air to make a special "rib run" to Canada for Roseanne Barr. The cost: more than $60,000.

It was May 2002, and the comedienne was hankering for fare from the Tunnel Bar-B-Que in Windsor, Canada. Tonken had just convinced Barr to be the emcee of the upcoming SHARE gala while helping to launch her private foundation. He also was setting up shop in a new role as her manager.

Eager to remain in the prickly star's good graces, Tonken whisked Barr and two of her associates onto a hastily chartered private jet for the 2,000-mile jaunt from Van Nuys to Canada. The flight cost $48,351, records show: $4,750 an hour for the plane, $1,350 for three flight attendants and a $1,009 in-flight catering tab that included $356 in Beluga caviar served with four mother-of-pearl spoons at $28 each. On top of that came limousines, an $11,500 shopping spree at a local mall and, of course, the barbecued ribs.

Barr's attorney declined to comment.
Tonken pled guilty yesterday to wire and mail fraud, and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators searching for where over $7 million dollars earmarked for charities went. David Schwimmer is denying that he ever received two Rolexes (Rolexi?) from Mr. Tonken.

December 10, 2003

The eloquent words of Nobel laureate Shirid Ebadi, today in Oslo:
In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext. ... Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.
Your assignment for today: compare and contrast the words of this courageous woman with those who view the "war on terrorism" as a cheap excuse to kill the A-rabs.

December 09, 2003

The perils of globalization hit home....
In what I assume is a joke, blogger Jeff Jarvis writes:
On the Internet, this Internet, we're not "loosely tethered, careless and free" -- in fact, we're making stronger relationships than many of us have in the world sometimes known as the real one. And we watch what we say because somebody's fact-checking our ass. And we take on the responsibilities that come with all that.
This guy needs to get out more. As a wise man noted last October 28, if someone believes that Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan spend a second perforning due dilligence on any of the garbage they link to, they pretty much deserve the ridicule they get behind their back.

December 08, 2003

I do get ornery "drinkin' buddy" of mine, who's somewhere to the right of Dennis Prager, writes:
So I'm sitting at the bar at what used to be known as "The Happiest Little Place On Earth" early yesterday evening when I turn around and spot the venerable Paul Tagliabue standing right behind me. Having grown up in Southern California and having never been bitten by the celebrity bug, I naturally felt no compulsion to acknowledge his prescience. After all this is the man that presides over the great-quarterbackless, "Playmakers"-trashing, McNabb-overrating, can't-untuck-your-jerseying, where-have-you-gone-Roger Staubaching N.F.L. What to do? Should I act like one of those autograph-seeking a******s commonly seen on "Celebrities Uncensored" or ignore the man altogether? I know it's the football press and present members that vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but I've got to figure he has some influence as to who gets in and Cliff Harris has been consistently ignored over the years. He must have the power to release full-game broadcasts of old N.F.L. games to the terribly disappointing "ESPN Classic". He can, I'm thinking, loosen the reins on a policy that fines a player if his socks aren't pulled all the way up. He is one of the people who desperately wants an N.F.L. team here in L.A. which would ruin my ability to view double headers on Sundays and perhaps force my beloved U.S.C. Trojans to play a full season at Dodger Stadium. Isn't that where Mike Marshall played and didn't he used to date one of the Go Go's? As I'm sitting at the bar all of this hits me and I realize how much this man has and can affect my sorry little life. So I did what most people would do in my situation. I said "Hey, Paul Tagliabue, how you doing?" shook his hand, turned around and continued to consume my Early Times and Seven-Up. Also, I took a really good dump this morning.
Mr. Cairns, I would expect nothing less from you.

December 07, 2003

Regarding the BCS mess, there is a story my late father used to tell me about Jesse Unruh, the California State Assembly leader during the Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan administrations, and the person who basically ran the state from 1958 to the day he died, in 1987. Unruh had some of his cronies over for a party to watch the 1964 Notre Dame-USC game. The Fighting Irish were undefeated in Ara Parseghian's first season as coach, ranked first in all the polls, and were generally thought to be the best football team in America, especially with Bart Starr injured in Green Bay. SC had finished tied for the conference title with Oregon State, but were clearly the class of the West Coast, and were expected to be selected for the Rose Bowl (the Trojans and Beavers hadn't played that season). Notre Dame was led by that season's Heisman Trophy winner, John Huarte, while the Trojans were carried by junior sensation Mike Garrett.

Notre Dame gets off to a 17-0 halftime lead at the Colliseum, dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage. If Notre Dame won, they would be crowned national champion, as the Irish did not play bowl games back then. However, in the second half, USC scores 20 unanswered points, the final coming on a touchdown pass from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman with a 1:33 remaining, to upset the Irish. Along with many of his political associates, including my dad, Unruh had attended USC, and after beating the number one team in the country, he assumed that SC would be awarded the conference berth in the Rose Bowl.

It was not to be. When the announcement came that Oregon State had been selected to face Michigan on January 1, an explosion could be heard at the party, where there had apparently been a lot of drinking. Unruh, at the full height of his power after LBJ's landslide victory in the state, as well as after the humiliating defeat of his arch-enemy Pat Brown's hand-picked Senatorial candidate, Pierre Salinger, proclaimed that he would personally bring down the Pac-8 conference and the NCAA, and SC would secede from the rest of the college football after this outrage. Unfortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and it would be left to another generation to bring down that ridiculously self-important organization.

December 05, 2003

A federal court has just blocked the attempt by the major film studios to impose a "screener" ban on anti-trust grounds. In this case, the recipients of the DVD's and videotapes would have been film critics, whose votes in year-end awards ceremonies often presage Oscar nominations. The rationale behind the ban was to prevent film piracy, the thinking being that these DVD's go from the recipient to some video chop-shop in Taiwan, and then to the black market, or the internet.

I happen to oppose the ban for purely selfish reasons; my sister is an art director, and as a member of that guild gets screeners of certain films in the hope that when the Art Directors have their annual awards, her vote will cue Oscar voters in the right direction. When Jack Valenti initiated the ban, it impacted not just members of the Academy and film critics, but members of the various guilds as well, the overwhelming majority of which are not members of the Academy. Since she tends to hold the Oscars in contempt, and believes, with good reason, that the quality of movies has irreparably sunk since the 1940's, she has never tried to vote in those elections, and therefore does not view her screeners. However, she knows that I have no such scruples, so for the past few years she has brought down the latest batch of DVD's in time for Christmas. Today's ruling means I will have a more informed vote when I take part in the annual Sherry Bebitch-Jeffe Oscar-night pool.

My own interests aside, I can see why the studios might want to maintain such a ban for reasons having nothing to do with preserving their intellectual property rights. I've written before about how I loathe going to movies; what it comes down to is they are simply not a cost-efficient way for me to be entertained. For me to go to a movie, I either have to be on a date, or the movie itself has to be an event, something which I could not duplicate on my home computer or on TV (there is also a third scenario, but that has to do with having had too much to drink at the 3rd Street Promenade). In most instances, though, I have options that I didn't have twenty years ago, when TV shows like The Shield, The Sopranos, Alias, Prime Suspect et al. weren't routine, when digital or high-definition sets were merely a pipe dream, back before TiVo switched the power-relationship from the network to the viewer.

So for me, the only good reason to go to a movie is for me to see something that I can't get at home. After all, why go out to dinner when the home cooking is delicious. Since the traditional advantages film had over television are almost all gone, from superior acting to more challenging plots, I need the few things movies still have going for them, such as the wider screen, the more spectacular picture, and the communal experience of watching a self-contained work of art with a large group of people, to make me spend $20 on a ticket, parking and popcorn. So I will be in the second row up front when Return of the King is released, but I will wait until The Cooler comes out in DVD before I see that flick. Or at least til my sister gets a screener.

Understandably, an attitude like mine should concern the media conglomerates that run the studios, since I'm clearly not the only person who shares it. If film critics, if the industry pros who belong to the Academy don't feel the urgent need to see every great film when it gets released, or feel that their interest in films is enhanced by watching a screener from the comfort of their own home, how can they draw the masses to see a movie that's going to be available at Blockbuster in four months. More importantly, how do these studios justify the costs of producing a film to their shareholders, when the same benefits could accrue from shooting it for television, without the attendant risks that are involved in producing a film.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon, who is an honest-to-goodness member of the Academy, discusses the ruling on his blog. Do AMPAS members have any say in the BCS standings as well?
Self-proclaimed "Shrink to the Pundits" Charles Krauthammer doesn't like criticism of George Bush, so he attacks Howard Dean as psychotic. Get it--if you believe that people disagree with you because they are unhinged, and not because they simply share different values, or have an honest disagreement, you can treat them as if they were sub-human. Bob Somerby knows his track record, so he puts him in his place, catching the neo-con's version of Walter Duranty in a bit of dowdification to boot.

December 04, 2003

And, of course, the second oldest belongs to Robert Evans.
I have yet to receive confirmation, but this may well be the first time "St. Augustine" and "Paris Hilton" have ever been referenced in the same sentence.
Curt Schilling goes with the bear, in the eternal shark v. bear fight debate (natch).
Absolutely wicked parody of Mickey Kaus...although we disagree on much, I actually enjoy Kausfiles; it's one of the few places on the internet that I visit at least twice a day (he's not on my blogroll b/c he links to hatesites). I'm sure his schtick as a "liberal-who-bashes-other-liberals" is well-intentioned, but in order for it to be effective as criticism, he actually has to have credibility as a liberal. Every now and then, he has to fight for our side. In other words, there has to be a feeling that if we liberals don't change, we run the risk of alienating potential allies; instead, his rather predictable attacks on targets such as Hillary, John Kerry, Paul Krugman, et al., have less impact than they should, since those are precisely the sort of targets that should piss off someone on the other side. If we've already lost you, there's not much point trying to woo you back. Life's too short to be stalking one's ex'es.

December 03, 2003

Two different takes on the Skank Queen, from Tacitus and Tony Pierce ...btw, as much as I like his blog, ODub is all wet on this issue. Her sister is the cute one; Paris Hilton is as "gorgeous" as Jacko is handsome, which I believe is part of the joke. Every generation needs its LaToya.

Proof that white affirmative action exists, at the University of Tennessee Law School. Justifying treason because the victim got her picture taken for Vanity Fair is a new low, even for this guy....
I have begun to realize that supporters of the Bush Administration's policy on Iraq are a lot like the people who continue to believe in the innocence of OJ Simpson. They hang on to arguments such as "mass graves", WMD "programs", and "proven links" between Al Qaeda and Saddam the same way OJ-philes will argue that because there were racist cops in the LAPD, their hero was framed. After awhile, I just quit paying attention to them; it didn't seem to serve any purpose re-fighting old battles. [link via Hit&Run]

December 01, 2003

The attempt to re-redistrict Congressional seats in Colorado just got slapped down by that state's Supreme Court. A similar effort is being challenged in Texas, although the chances of success for the Democrats are less likely in a state where the judiciary is barely removed from that of a Third World country.

November 28, 2003

It's about time she got some props!! From the London Guardian review: :
Let's just get it over with, shall we? Prime Suspect: The Last Witness was the very rarest sort of television, the kind that makes a critic feel justified in spending the bulk of her working life welded to an armchair, toting a remote control.

Week after week there is still far more good stuff on television than you might imagine but, obviously, there is a great deal less that is truly great - just as well, really, because spouting a geyser of hot praise does not become a critic. I can, for example, rustle you up at least four virtually unqualified 'brilliant's in relation to Prime Suspect (for the acting, directing, writing, photography) but where's the fun in that? Like the family silver, the usual adjectival suspects tarnish very quickly, even if you only need to get them out once or twice a year.


And perhaps finest of all was Phoebe Nichols
[sic] as a chillingly callous and superior spook. She had a very classy speech (in which she told Tennison to back off from her investigation of a suspected Bosnian war criminal because he was under the protection of the British Government) the delivery of which made her subsequent comeuppance even more emotionally satisying.
What would have really made my day is if the reviewer had managed to get her last name right; that's Nicholls, with two l's. In any event, it airs in this country next April.

November 27, 2003

How I really feel about Thanksgiving, from last year. BTW, it's a blast going back over what I wrote a year ago; some of those posts really rocked, if I might give myself a compliment.

The real story, of course, is that Bush had to fly in secretly, under cover of darkness. Woodrow Wilson did not need to sneak into France in 1919 to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles. Harry Truman did not fly to Potsdam, Germany in 1945 with the lights of his plane turned off. LBJ made a state visit to South Vietnam in 1967, at a time when no one in his administration was proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished" in that war. It was a nice gesture, but the President should never be giving the appearance of running scared.

November 26, 2003

It's a Wonderful Life: His NBA career may be over, but at least Alonzo Mourning can derive comfort from the fact that he touched a lot of people. A day after he announced his retirement due to a malfunctioning kidney, over thirty people have already offered to donate theirs to the former Georgetown and Miami Heat great. HAPPY THANKSGIVING !!

November 25, 2003

This is one example where the headline ("AARP Support for Medicare Bill Came as Group Grew 'Younger'") has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. Although one might think from the headline that the Times is delving into some demographic shift within the geezer lobby to explain its shock decision last week to endorse the Medicare bill, the story itself is a rather entertaining look at how the AARP is basically an insurance business, with its huckster president (and former ad exec), William Novelli, constantly on the make. Novelli, it seems, has quite a history of selling out ordinary people; Novelli's infamous "Harry and Louise" ads quite successfully attacked the Clinton healthcare plan less than a decade ago, and his work on behalf of an entity called "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids" may have consisted of little more than aggressively sucking up to cigarette companies.
Columnist Richard Cohen now feels justifiably betrayed by the pre-war mendacity of the Bush Administration:
If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said, then it is the first refuge of politicians. That at least is the case with the Republican National Committee -- and by implication the White House -- which has started running a television commercial defending George Bush's handling of the Iraq war, saying the president's various Democratic opponents are attacking him 'for attacking the terrorists.' Not really. It's for doing such a bad job of it.
More to the point, none of the reasons the administration gave for attacking Iraq -- and none of the reasons cited in the congressional resolution authorizing the war -- have proved to be true. As of yet, the United States has found no connection between Hussein and al Qaeda and no evidence that Iraq had an extensive WMD program, particularly one that was about to go nuclear.
Mistakes can be rectified, although the consequences of this one are hard to exaggerate. But an abuse of constitutional power is a different matter, and it is this we must all begin considering. It is possible -- actually, more than possible -- that a clique of defense intellectuals either snookered the president into going to war or did so with his full cooperation. If this was done, then it represents a grave and reprehensible breach of faith with the American people. We cannot now pull out of Iraq. But we can and we must determine how we got there.

And about the only way to find out what really happened is through the political process. This is especially the case because the Senate has gone from being the world's greatest deliberative body to the world's greatest rubber stamp. Naturally and predictably, the White House would like to avoid any accounting whatever and is likely to respond to criticism with demagogic appeals to patriotism. I hope it doesn't work. I love my country and I love the truth and I always thought the best thing about being an American is that you don't have to choose.
[emphasis mine]
It's too bad impeachment only covers marital infidelity by the President, or it might come in handy right about now.
By the time I get to Phoenix, I'll be hammered....

November 22, 2003

Rugby W.C. Final: For those of you who didn't make your way to a Santa Monica pub at one in the morning, England pulled off its biggest sports win in almost 40 years, beating the host country Australia, 20-17, in overtime. The reaction overseas was predictable, according to Reuters:
"Hundreds of pubs and bars in Britain opened early for the kick off at 9 a.m., many serving breakfast beforehand to bleary fans as they trooped in wearing their replica white England shirts. As the match went into extra time, the beer flowed and the volume of noise increased, culminating in an eruption of joy as (Jonny) Wilkinson kicked the winning drop goal for a 20-17 victory. The Sun newspaper estimated that fans across the nation would down 50 million pints of beer, with the British Beer and Pub Association predicting that an English victory would add an extra 15 million pounds to pub takings."
That's one pint of beer for every man, woman and child in England, for those keeping track.

November 21, 2003

Off-Wing Opinion finally has the courage to say what everyone has been afraid to say for far too long: the Victoria's Secret models are just plain butt-ugly. While you debate that, I'm off to work on my other site...GO CAL !!!
Nothing exemplifies the Ugly American stereotype more than the collective whining that arises out of certain corners everytime someone says something negative about the good ole US of A. To wit, a leading chickenblogger goes after an Iraqi critic of Bush's Cut-And-Run policy, one who was actually in Baghdad when the bombs were falling. Just a reminder, Mr. Lileks, you are not awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely sitting at your workstation and griping about what ungrateful bastards those A-Rabs are, for not celebrating Bush as the Second Coming of Mohammed. And I don't think Salam Pax is going to feel obligated to clean your pool or shovel snow off your driveway just because he's from a Third World country and you happen to share a state where three people have died in combat since March.

November 20, 2003

Global Village: For those of you bored by the 24-7 coverage of the events in Santa Barbara, here's the same story, as reported by Al-Jazeera.

November 19, 2003

If you spend half your life on the internet, as I do, you have probably come across an article or column published in Tech Central Station. As it turns out, according to the Washington Monthly, far from being a web-journal of disinterested political commentary, it is, in fact, little more than an internet version of "astroturfing", a technique popularized by conservative lobbyists to generate the appearance of grassroots support for an issue:
On closer inspection, Tech Central Station looks less like a think-tank-cum-magazine than a kind of lobbying practice. Which makes sense: Four of the five co-owners of TCS are also the co-owners of the DCI Group, the Washington public affairs firm founded by Republican operative Thomas J. Synhorst. TCS's fifth owner is Charles Francis, who is also a senior lobbyist at DCI and is listed on TCS's phone directory. And as it happens, three of TCS's sponsors--AT&T, General Motors, and PhRMA--have also retained DCI for their lobbying needs.


TCS, for its part, includes a disclaimer on its site noting that "the opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of the writers and not necessarily those of any corporation or other organization." But it is startling how often the opinions of TCS's writers and sponsors converge.

Last July, for instance, PhRMA retained DCI to lobby against House legislation that would permit the reimportation of FDA-approved drugs from Canada and elsewhere. The same month, TCS put out a press release announcing that it planned to cover an upcoming bus trip taken by Canadian patients to "access prescription drugs and medical treatment" in the U.S. (The trip was sponsored in part by the Canadian subsidiaries of many of the same pharmaceutical companies that belong to PhRMA.) A few days after the press release was issued, TCS columnist Duane Freese published an article touting the bus trip and attacking the legislation; other contributors also wrote columns for the site attacking reimportation.

The articles on Tech Central Station address a broad range of issues, some of concern to its sponsors, many not. And most of the site's authors are no doubt merely voicing opinions they have already reached. But time and time again, TCS's coverage of particular issues has had the appearance of a well-aimed P.R. blitz. After Exxon-Mobil became a sponsor, for instance, the site published a flurry of content attacking both the Kyoto accord to limit greenhouse gasses and the science of global warming--which happen to be among Exxon-Mobil's chief policy concerns in Washington. [link via TalkingPoints Memo]
Combined with the GOP's success at building a political machine amongst business lobbyists of K Street, the use of a front magazine to influence opinion throughout the internet, as well as the wholesale purchase and sponsorship of ideologically-correct bloggers, is a chilling indicator of how far the Right is willing to go to shape the acceptable range of debate in this country. Anyone interested in how the Medicare and energy bills will fare in the court of elite opinion can read the tea leaves first at Tech Central Station.

November 18, 2003

And I thought NaziPundit was bad...the website for GOPUSA published this warm tribute to George Soros, all but accusing him of drinking the blood of Christian babies.
Kid rocks !! You realize that when Adu becomes a free agent, he'll only be 21.

November 17, 2003

I've been meaning to write about this ridiculous article for a week now, about Clippers "fans" in Los Angeles. In fact, there are almost none; there are people who can't afford Lakers tickets, so they settle for the Clippers. Since they made the move up from San Diego, the Clips have done almost nothing to establish a fan base, an identity distinct from the Lakers, in the same manner in which the Mets developed a following in New York City distinct from the Yankees. That since 1962 the Mets have been slightly more popular in its home city than its more successful neighbors is testament to the fact that fans don't necessarily need a winner to maintain a rooting interest; the inexplicable failure of the "other basketball team" in Los Angeles to promote itself amongst the public as the "anti-Lakers" has made the franchise a joke, unloved in its hometown.

The writer sees himself as part of an emerging demographic in Los Angeles, of young professionals and artists who have adopted the Clippers as their team:
Much of the Clippers' newfound support came from hipsters in the gentrified neighborhoods east of Highland Avenue. These writers, graphic designers, and animators exist in the same professional universe as those inhabiting the lower bowl of Staples during a Lakers game, but they harbor a disdain for their neighbors that can be expressed only though metaphor. And in terms of sports fandom, the Clippers are that metaphor. The Clips are mod indie fare to the Lakers' big-budget studio snore.
The trend of which he speaks does not exist. There are no "hipsters" from "gentrified neighborhoods" who give Sterling's team their ultimate allegiance. For as long as they've been out here, this team has had the same type of followers: people who are basketball fanatics, and who will watch anything; people who can't get tickets for the Lakers; and, more typically, fans of the visiting team.

He makes other absurd statements as well, claiming that the Lakers are the team for native-born Angelenos, while the Clips get the emigres from back East. In fact, of all the teams in Los Angeles, the one team most likely to be adopted by people from out-of-town are the Lakers, a fact proven by the relatively high percentages of people in the Sports Illustrated polls of other states who root for the Lakers as their first or second team. It's the Dodgers and Angels who are afflicted by Fifth Columns of Cubs and Yankees fans for home games, not the Lakers.

In fact, I can safely say I know exactly one person like the description in the article, a Clipper fan and Laker hater. His name is Tom, and he moved out here from Buffalo (the original home of the franchise) the year the Clippers uprooted from San Diego. I know a lot of people whose lives revolve around Laker games, who knew enough to do their celebrating when they finished off Sacramento in 2002, rather than waiting for the Finals, who attach Laker pennants to the car antenna. And I know basketball fans out here who hate the Lakers, whether it's because they grew up following the Celtics or Sixers, or because they hate all the teams in LA, or because they just don't like Kobe. But I know only one person whose absolutely favorite pro basketball team in the whole world is the LA Clippers, who will watch their games even if something else is on, and that's only because his rooting interest predates their move to Los Angeles. And that, I believe, is the ultimate legacy of Donald Sterling.
One of the best things to happen to me because of blogging was discovering the work of people like Matt Welch, whose jaundiced take on the Ahnolt Ziffel debut this afternoon is a welcome palliative to the drivel the mainstream media (and politicos) have offered today.

Speaking of Welch, he posted something last week about an Andrew Sullivan comment, one of Sully's classic neo-nixonian asides about how "some liberals" were unaffected by 9/11, and so are unable to truly comprehend the growth and moral stature of our Great Leader. Welch took exception with that, and I agree. But as with any traumatic event, our reaction depends on how immediate the event was to us. A person who barely survived the attack is affected differently from someone who lost a friend or family member; a New Yorker who breathed in the noxious fumes from the collapsed Towers was affected differently than someone like myself, who could only vicariously experience the horror.

But if there was one common denominator we all shared, it was how the immediacy of an apocalyptic terrorist attack was brought home to us. That a couple dozen people, armed only with boxcutters, could cause that much damage to two American symbols, and whose murder toll was stemmed from a geometric increase only by our "good fortune" that the attacks occurred early in the morning, and one of the planes crashed short of its target, was frightening; the next attack could be far worse, and the possibility that a nuclear Armageddon would be in our future, so soon after the end of the Cold War was to make that nightmare of the 80's a more remote possibility, was a staggering thought. No one who got any sleep the night of September 12 will ever forget that feeling.

In terms of the political stances we take, however, I doubt the events of two years ago changed a great deal. Instead, what we have is an opportunism of motive involving that event, in which we continue to justify our previous positions based on our collective national reaction to that tragedy. Those who viewed John Ashcroft as a threat to civil liberties saw the Patriot Act as one such step along the path to ending due process, while those who support placing Palestinians into bandustans used the "war" on terrorism as a justification for their views. The ways in which 9/11 changed everyone, such as our tolerance for increased searches at airports, or our increased focus on Islam, are shunted aside for the time being, while everyone resumes the debates we were having ten, eleven, twelve years ago, about the proper uses of U.S. power, about support (or opposition) for Settlements on the West Bank, about the role of government in our daily lives.

Needless to say, Iraq is viewed by both supporters and detractors of the President through a prism unaffected by 9/11; with little concrete evidence of any connection between the perpetrators and Saddam Hussein, we play a little game, with hawks calling for war based on the perceived nuclear threat of Hussein, and doves questioning whether any action was called for due to the non-existence of WMD's, but everyone knowing that Hussein's ouster would have been on the table even if the terrorists had gotten lost on the way to the airports, and/or if Al Gore had received a fair count in Florida. Andrew Sullivan, no doubt, would still see a Fifth Column lurking under every tree in Cambridge, while I would still be making snide partisan remarks about the President's shortcomings. The President gets no credit from me for disingenuously making the case for war, for going in with little in the way of international support, and for not preparing for the aftermath, but no one voting in 2000 should have been surprised he would take us to war with Iraq on even the slightest pretext, nor can anyone reasonably claim that President Clinton (or President Gore) would have steered us in a different direction.

November 14, 2003

Part of the fall-out from the THG drug lab scandal has been renewed emphasis on major league baseball's steroid policy, which underwent a change yesterday when more than 5% of the players tested positive. According to the last collective bargaining agreement, baseball may now levy a variety of punishments against players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, similar to the treatment-oriented sanctions it imposes on recreational drug use. As with Sammy Sosa and the corked bat, the thinking behind such a policy is that putting public shame on the cheater will be a far better deterrent than suspension; if, as rumored, one of the cheaters turns out to be Barry Bonds, it will have a devastating impact on his reputation as an all-time great.

That may not be enough for some hysterics in the international sports mafia. Dick Pound, a Canadian lawyer who is a self-proclaimed scold over the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, is outraged that baseball will not be banning for life steroid-users, and another "expert" in the field called yesterday's announcement "probably the blackest day in the history of sports". Well, that's a tough call: baseball adopting a two-strikes policy before suspension, or the '72 Munich Massacre.

November 13, 2003

The now-legendary cartoon by Tom Tomorrow has taken on a life of its own. Feeling defensive, many of "Desert Freedom's" cheerleaders in the blogosphere have attempted to justify their seeming lack of commitment to the Cause by making a number of flaky assertions about what it means to be a "chickenblogger":
1. The Anti-Veteran Argument One of the earlier attacks, made by LT Smash, a reservist who spent time in Iraq, was that TT is defaming those bloggers who support The Cause and who have also served in the military. This was clearly mistaken, since the whole point of the cartoon was to ridicule those whose idea of sacrifice was to go an hour without CheezyPoofs while they sat at their terminal. LT Smash ended up in an e-mail war with TT, and, much like our country's ill-conceived war in Southeast Asia forty years ago, was unable to extricate himself without terrible damage.

2. The Liberals are the real Fascists Argument As with those who claim that civil rights advocates are the real racists, since they focus their attention disproportionately on race, there is the claim that the "chickenblogger" meme is an attempt to silence non-veterans from speaking out on political issues, and is itself fascist. Since this chestnut gets trotted out by people who are usually big fans of the Patriot Act (I and II), I happen to like its sheer brazenness. Again, the whole point of the cartoon was to tweak the noses of warbloggers, not to censor their opinions. If shame and embarassment haven't silenced them by now, a cartoon won't either.

3. The Mercenary Argument Some armchair warriors assert that the military isn't for everyone; those who lead cheers on the sidelines serve just as important a role as those who face bullets. This is perhaps the strongest evidence of how anti-veteran the Right has become in this country, besides their support for a President who wants to stick soldiers with a bill for their own medical care. At one point in our history, serving in a state militia or in the military was an almost universal experience for young men; the question wasn't whether the military was for everyone, since the country didn't want a military consisting only of people who "felt comfortable" being warriors. Uncle Sam wanted civilians, people from all walks of life; it was through the forced integration of the WWII battlefield that real integration occured in our society. When there was too great a discrepancy between those who "belonged" in the military, and those who didn't (ie., the draft riots during the Civil War), the country suffered. The all-volunteer military, by and large, has been a good thing, but not in the way it created separate classes of citizens, those who fight and die for their country, and those who rally support for them on the sidelines.

4. The ChickenDove Argument Well, what about other issues? Would any supporter of peace who didn't act as a human shield in Baghdad be a "chickendove" (yeah, that phrase has been trotted out)? Do supporters of choice have to perform abortions as well? Are opponents of the Brady Bill obligated to shoot children? Thankfully, there are very few issues where simply having an opinion on a subject isn't enough. War (and peace), civil rights, the DH Rule, some environmental issues...everything else, like whether the estate tax cut should be permanent, or whether the American Rule should be revoked in civil litigation, or whether non-citizens should have drivers licenses, can be politely argued on weblogs, without any need to justify any action on your part further than clicking the "Post&Publish" key. As unfair as it sounds, doves deserve to get treated easier than hawks; Bill Clinton opposed the Vietnam War, and never changed his view, so the fact that he did whatever he could to avoid the draft isn't hypocritical. People who support war, on the other hand, better have a good excuse as to why they aren't serving (or didn't serve) their country on the frontlines, either in a civilian or military capacity, if they desire others to go in their place.

And finally...5. The Modified Liston Argument This argument, named after the late heavyweight champ, famous for having opted out of a trip to Birmingham to help MLK, et al., with the reason, "cause I don't have a dog-proof ass", is given to all who believe that their writing is just as important to The Cause as taking up arms. To those who say, I'm a writer, not a fighter, why should I have to do more?, the appropriate retort is: Well, I dunno, why should anyone have to die for your words. TT points out that among things chickenbloggers have supported since Bush's war began has been the Flypaper Strategy, in which our men and women serve as bait for the world's terrorists, in an attempt to draw them into more favorable terrain (remember what another chickenhawk said: "Bring 'em on"?) Words are not simply units of language that get farted out into the blogosphere; they have consequence, and anyone who uses them should be prepared to act on them as well.
And if you have an anal cyst, or flat feet, or some other ailment that keeps you out of the military, or if you are just too damned old, perhaps you should consider a civilian task; there are plenty of those opening up now in Iraq, where non-military people are needed to assist in the transition to democracy. But don't pretend that you believe this is the most important battle facing our society unless you are prepared to fight it yourself. Words without action is like sex without a partner.

November 11, 2003

The soft bigotry of low expectations: After eight years of a presidency where the economy created 240,000 jobs per month, right wingers now celebrate a mere quarter where employment grew less than half that amount as "a big job turnaround".

November 10, 2003

We didn't qualify for the 2004 Olympics, but the U.S. stands a better than even chance of winning a possible baseball World Cup, tentatively scheduled for March 2005. Leaders of both the Players' Union and Major League Baseball are negotiating for just such an event as we speak.
What's a Little Green Eyed Monster? A George Chuvalo? Are you a Stepford Democrat, or a mere Zellout? Find out, in the Wingnut Debate Dictionary (ed.-my contribution is under the N's).
A year ago last October, I invented what I thought was a more appropriate term for people who speak eloquently about fighting wars against militant Islam, or whatever, but who somehow avoided serving in our military: the Sonny Liston Brigade. I felt that the term "chickenhawks", with its unsubtle relationship to pedophilia, was too disparaging; I did not think it was hypocritical that someone back in the day would have opposed the war in Vietnam, did whatever he could to avoid being drafted, but now believes that the aftermath of 9/11 requires a more aggressive foreign policy. Liston's famous quote about why he wasn't marching in Birmingham summed up what I thought was the principal motivating factor behind a select group of hawks, who supported the Vietnam War in college but were unwilling to put their lives on the line.

Well, that meme went nowhere, "chickenhawk" remains the preferred term of derogation, and most of their time is now spent debating whether the President ever used the term "imminent" to describe the alleged threat to America by Saddam. Tom Tomorrow has a cartoon out describing that fascinating internet creation, the chickenblogger, who talks a good argument about the clash of civilizations but whose sincerity must be questioned due to the fact that they are here, manning their computers, rather than there, opening schools and bringing electricity to the frontlines in the "war on terra".

UPDATE: For further evidence that conservative bloggers are humorless twits, check out this post and this post, and the accompanying discussion. Any time a cartoonist can generate this much discussion, he should be handed a Pulitzer.

November 07, 2003

It's not exactly revenge for the World Cup, but Mexico knocked the U.S. baseball team out of the next Summer Olympics, 2-1. Perhaps it would be a good idea to send the big leaguers, next time....
Think the economy here is sluggish (and yes, today's tepid employment numbers are a pretty solid indication that we're not turning any corners on the road to recovery yet)? Take a look at Great Britain, where personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high, and the political pressure is on the government to make BK filings even easier.
Sid Blumenthal has a provocative take on the Dean-Confederate Flag and Reagan miniseries flaps, and their connection to the GOP's "Southern Strategy" of placating white racists.
It's really hard not to love California's chief law enforcement officer, Bill Lockyer. He has caused quite a stir the last few months, both with his attacks on Gray Davis (esp. his warning to the governor not to use "puke politics" in the recall campaign) and his ingenious ability to take whatever position on Ahnolt Ziffel that would best position him with voters. Before the vote, when Davis appeared to be gaining, he affirmed Davis' charge that Ahnolt should be investigated over the groping allegations for potential criminal liability. Last month, he announced in Berkeley that he had pulled the switch for the governor-elect in the replacement election, and that, after everything was said and done, he felt that Ahnolt didn't know he was engaging in "frat boy" behavior on movie sets. His sycophancy delighted hacks like Jill Stewart, who gullibly proclaimed that his new-found "bipartisanship" might lead to a new era of pro-business rationality in Sacramento.

Well, now he's really gone and done it. Hours before the future California strongman leader was to announce that he would authorize an "inquiry" into the groping allegations against him, the State Attorney General demanded that any such inquiry be independent (as Hacker would say to Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister, not an official inquiry, a real inquiry), stating that the charges were a continuing "black mark" against the governor-elect. And, oh yes, he now wishes to belatedly nethercutt his earlier remarks: "frat boy behavior" wasn't meant to excuse A.S.' antics, since it all depended on the perspective (from "rowdy drunkenness to date rape" was how the A.G. put it). And he told all this to Ahnolt when they discussed the matter earlier in the week.

This has pissed off the Wilson cronies surrounding Mr. Ziffel no end, since they were under the impression that conversations between Mr. Lockyer and their sock-puppet were somehow protected by the "attorney-client privilege". Unless Mr. Lockyer is representing clients on the side, the claim is absurd, especially considering that a) A.S. is not governor yet; and b) the A.G.'s "client" is the people of California. But it is entertaining to see Ahnold being suckered by one of the most oleaginous public figures in the state, before he's even been sworn into office.

November 06, 2003

George Bush finally gets his own Monica Lewinsky.

November 05, 2003

San Francisco just moved a step closer to becoming the largest city ever to elect a Green mayor....
Henceforth, any time a public figure tosses in an insincere, phony line at the end of a speech that is used to obfuscate the meaning of everything that he has just stated (ie., "...but it would be wrong, that's for sure," or "...not that there's anything wrong with it,"), it will be known as a Nethercutt.
Saadi Gaddafi, the soccer-playing son of the Libyan strongman and the subject of this July 26 piece, has tested positive for the banned substance Nandrolone. He faces suspension from the Italian Serie A team Perugia, which signed him in the off-season but has yet to play him in a game.

November 04, 2003

Those of you who own DirecTV will get to see the long-hyped NFL Network's debut this evening. This event will not spur me to buying a dish for my home, however. The planned schedule includes no live football games, no rebroadcast of classic games, and little in the way of go-to programming for viewers unsure of what they want to watch. What you will get is hour after hour of NFL Films, post-game news conferences and interviews, and football news 24-7; no doubt we will see made-for-TV movies, along the lines of "Shack: The James Harris Story".

I understand there is a market for this sort of thing, but one of the reasons I no longer watch ESPN Classic is the repetitive programming: SportsCentury documentaries on Ken Dorsey and the bi-weekly rebroadcast of the '81 Clemson-South Carolina classic really test my obsession with sports, when what I really want to see are games. It is hard to believe that ESPN, which is run by the same outfit as ABC, can't get the rights to classic Monday Night Football games (Howard, Frank and Dandy Don, of course). The Golf Channel gives the viewer live coverage of European events, and all the NationWide Tour; football fans are going to be stuck with A Portrait in Pride: the 1990 Cincinnati Bengals and other chestnuts from the vault of NFL Films.
This is probably the death knell for serious network dramas on television. Granted, I usually tend to avoid getting my history from television mini-series, but this is a sure a sign as any that over-the-air television isn't going to risk putting something on that might offend the political sensitivities of a powerful minority. I mean, heaven forbid Reagan should be portrayed as unfeeling about the victims of his policies !!! The next time some bigot whines about political correctness, we should just point to how the GOP mau-maued CBS into yanking the Reagan miniseries, and ensured that the only way people can watch anything with bite on TV is to pay for it.

November 03, 2003

My breakdown of the weekend's games, the BCS rankings, and the selection of the new "Song Girl of the Week" can be found at sister-site Condredge's Acolytes.

November 02, 2003

Went and saw Shattered Glass this afternoon, and my gal did not disappoint. Probably the greatest movie ever about the internal workings of The New Republic; Hayden Christensen, as the needy, insecure fraud Stephen Glass, Hank Azaria ("Apu", et al., from The Simpsons), as the late Michael Kelly, Peter Sarsgaard (John Malkovich's son in The Man in the Iron Mask) as the editor who finally brought Glass down, and, of course, Ms. Lynskey playing a co-worker, all stand out.

After that, I ventured to Los Feliz to listen to a panel on L.A. history, featuring Kevin Roderick (of LA Observed), D.J. Waldie, and Mike Eberts. Each of the panelists had written books about the neighborhoods they had grown up in, and provided fascinating tips on researching and developing leads into the study of local history. More importantly, they approach their subjects without resorting to cliches and stereotypes; there is much more to Los Angeles (meaning the region, not the city) than Hollywood, and although Chinatown is a great movie, it's worthless history.

One thing Mr. Eberts mentioned that gave me some ideas for further research is about one of the greatest creations ever developed on the West Coast: the Pacific Coast League from 1903 to 1957. As the son of a Hollywood Stars fan, and the grandson of an LA Angels booster, I heard stories for years about Jigger Statz, Lefty O'Doul, Bobby Bragan, Steve Bilko and Carlos Bernier, great local ballplayers who only enjoyed marginal success in the Bigs, as well as afternoons spent at Gilmore Field (located next door to Farmers Market) and Wrigley Field, which lasted long enough for the big league Angels to play its expansion season there.

Through most of its history, the PCL enjoyed a great deal of independence from the major leagues; it developed (and held on to) its own stars, and maintained rivalries and pennant races of its own for fans to cherish. In the late-40's, the then-owner of the Stars, Bob Cobb (of Cobb salad fame) attempted to interest big league owners by seeking to bring the PCL en masse as a third "major league". Had it succeeded, west coast baseball might have been spared years of attendance worries in Seattle, San Diego and the Bay Area, since the PCL had longstanding outfits in each of those cities, and fans elsewhere would have avoided seeing teams hopscotch from city to city. In one of the most short-sighted decisions in history, major league owners turned him down.

Sadly, in 1957, the League was irrevocably altered by the decision of Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham to move their teams to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Overnight, the three wealthiest teams in the league, the Angels, Stars and San Francisco Seals, moved to smaller locations, and as with the Negro Leagues after Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers, its fans focused their attention away from their own local product and towards the Major Leagues. Today, the PCL has only a couple of teams on the Pacific Coast, and is just another minor league.

As it turns out, there is a dearth of information on the internet about the history, the lore and the trivia about the PCL. This site provides a general overview of the glory years of the league, while my late father would be charmed by the anecdotes this space has about his beloved Stars. For example, before the Hollywood Stars, there was another team that shared the area with the Angels, the Tigers, which alternated their seasons between Venice and Vernon (a small town north of L.A.), and which was owned for a time by Fatty Arbuckle.

To get a real taste of what the Angels-Stars rivalry was like, check out this story, about the Great War of 1953, an on-field melee so brutal the L.A.P.D. had to come on the field and separate the players.

As the situation in Iraq spins madly out of control, it is helpful to understand how so many "good Americans", at least temporarily, let the events of 9/11 suspend all reason and logic. Maureen Dowd sees it as an inevitable susceptibility people have towards believing the brazen lie, quoting one writer as observing that people tend to get duped by con men because they refuse to live in a world of cynicism. As a result, "[t]hose who go for the big con, who audaciously paint false pictures, think everyone else is stupid. They want to promote themselves based on the gullibility of others. For [Janet]Cooke, [Stephen]Glass and [Jayson]Blair, their editors were the marks. But at least that unholy trio only soiled newsprint. For the Bush crowd, the American people were the marks."

In this article, published in the always-terrific Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the writer examines President Bush's use of language in creating an atmosphere of fear and authoritarianism:
Poll after poll demonstrates that Bush's political agenda is out of step with most Americans' core beliefs. Yet the public, their electoral resistance broken down by empty language and persuaded by personalization, is susceptible to Bush's most frequently used linguistic technique: negative framework. A negative framework is a pessimistic image of the world. Bush creates and maintains negative frameworks in his listeners' minds with a number of linguistic techniques borrowed from advertising and hypnosis to instill the image of a dark and evil world around us.

Catastrophic words and phrases are repeatedly drilled into the listener's head until the opposition feels such a high level of anxiety that it appears pointless to do anything other than cower.

Psychologist Martin Seligman, in his extensive studies of "learned helplessness," showed that people's motivation to respond to outside threats and problems is undermined by a belief that they have no control over their environment. Learned helplessness is exacerbated by beliefs that problems caused by negative events are permanent; and when the underlying causes are perceived to apply to many other events, the condition becomes pervasive and paralyzing.

Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his Sept. 20, 2001, speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. ... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight. ... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat." (Subsequent terror alerts by the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)

Contrast this rhetoric with Franklin Roosevelt's speech delivered the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He said: "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. ... There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounding determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God." Roosevelt focuses on an optimistic future rather than an ongoing threat to Americans' personal survival.
The writer sees the best anecdote to this politics of pessimism and fear as a return to the optimistic rhetoric about the future perfected by FDR and Ronald Reagan. [link via Pandagon]

November 01, 2003

It's not every weekend that a Melanie Lynskey movie gets released, and there are some insane match-ups today in college football, so I probably won't be back 'til Monday. Go Blue !!!

October 31, 2003

My lil' nephew wishes you all a Happy Halloween !!

Dixiecrat Watch: Former Lester Maddox aide (and gay rights opponent) Zell Miller has endorsed George Bush in the 2004 election.

Awhile back I removed all the pseudonymous sites from my blogroll, out of fear that I might have legal exposure if one of those sites made a defamatory statement or criminal threat against a third party. As it turns out, that fear was unfounded, although I kept the general policy of not linking to anonymous sites. I made an exception for Eschaton, the wildly popular website of the blogger known as "Atrios". I figured that since I went to his site several times a day anyways, and people whose judgment I trusted, such as James Capozzola, vouched for him, I might as well.

In any event, the issue in the blogosphere the last couple of days (mentioned here on Wednesday) is the threatening letter sent from an attorney for another blogger, Donald Luskin, accusing "Atrios" (whose real name is "Donovan McNabb") of libeling him by calling him a "stalker" of esteemed columnist Paul Krugman, and of tolerating the presence of third-party commenters, who supposedly said even crueler things. Obviously, a successful lawsuit would irreparably damage the internet, and the fact that Luskin has jokingly admitted to being a stalker of Prof. Krugman in the past makes this an example of everything people hate about the legal system. For those of you who are interested, though, TalkLeft has a legal analysis of blogger liability for third-party comments with which I concur.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the post-Vail era in Laker history has been the "revelation" that Kobe Bryant is not a popular person within the Laker organization. For a number of writers, the fact that he remains a beloved figure with fans is difficult to fathom; after all, if Shaq doesn't like him, and reporters think he's an a-hole, and he's currently facing rape charges to boot, then how dare the fans give him a standing-o at Staples. This article is typical of the emerging meme, that for fans to disbelieve the rape charges against Kobe is itself an outrage, even though, as this writer puts it, no one has seen the evidence yet.

In fact, the reason why the fans are waiving "Free Kobe" signs is the same reason political activists thirty years ago were demanding freedom for Hurricane Carter: they believe that the charges are bogus, and that the notion that Kobe Bryant may spend the rest of his life in prison for the actions of that night is itself an outrage. To put it another, they think (with good reason after the preliminary hearing) that the accuser is lying, that real rape victims don't party up a storm and boast about their assailant's "size" several days after the attack, as this woman supposedly did, or, when she was examined only hours after the attack, wear a pair of undergarments stained with another man's semon. Rape is not a victimless crime, not when the accused may go to prison for a long, long time, so where is the injured party here? The fact that Kobe can afford Atticus Finch to represent him does not make him any more guilty, nor does it make his fans sexist pigs for supporting him.

And, in any event, since when does Shaq have any credibility as a team leader? The Lakers' drive for a fourth straight title was thwarted last year when Shaq chose not to get surgery until the last second, and played most of the season out-of-shape. Until Kobe became "the Man", the go-to guy on the floor, O'Neill had won a total of zero rings, and having the Mailman and Payton on the floor with The Big Diesel this season will not mean a thing come the last week of May against the Spurs (and considering how the Lakers obtained The Three Tenors who starred opening night, it would be hypocritical for fans to disparage Kobe's wish to test the free agency waters at the end of the season).

Fact of the matter is, the fans like Kobe because they see in his drive to excel, his passion for the spotlight, something they hadn't seen since Magic Johnson. I fell in love with the guy in Game 5 against Utah in 1997, when he threw up two airballs in overtime with the game on the line. This was someone who wanted the ball, who knew he was a star, even if his talent wasn't at that level yet, and the unbelievable yarbles of a rookie off the bench insisting that he was The Man won me over, even if it ended the Lakers' playoff run early that year. I suspect that a lot of other Laker fans share that feeling, and that is why the sports media is barking up the wrong tree on this one.

October 29, 2003

Another thin-skinned wingnut is heading to the courts. It's amazing that for all the whining conservatives do about "frivolous lawsuits" and trial lawyers, they're the first ones to threaten litigation when their feelings are hurt.
Death Is Just a Statistic Dept.: This is a truly despicable quote, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful.

October 28, 2003

"Professor" Camille Paglia, on blogging:
Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.
I'm so glad we got that cleared up. You should also read her tribute to Rush Limbaugh; it's easily the funniest thing I've read this year !!
I doubt this bill will ever get out of committee, or be signed by Herr Ziffel if if comes to that, but a pair of influential legislators in California have finally put the NCAA's feet to the fire by introducing a bill that would forbid colleges in the Golden State from obeying regulations mandating amateurism for student-athletes. It's always amazed me the amount of newsprint that gets wasted on investigating whether some booster gives a campus superstar a loaner to drive around town, and perhaps some spending money for dates and such, as if it were a sin to receive something that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow if the beneficiary weren't a college athlete. Colleges rake in hundreds of [CONTINUED]

Mickey Kaus has an already much-commented-on piece defending blogs as a method of communication, or journalism, or whatever the hell it is. Most of his argument is devoted to justifying the one thing that all blogs have in common: that the editor and the author are the same person. A "blog" with a third-party editor, such as the SacBee columnist Daniel Weintraub, is entirely different fauna, like comparing a man with a mannequin, or a Sierra Nevada P.A. to a Samuel Adams.

If I have an argument with Kaus, it is over a specific weakness that blogs have which he seems to gloss over (in comparing this type of journalism to Matt Drudge, for instance), something that might be alleviated with an editor, but is really more a reflection of the blogger himself. That is, the lack of due diligence paid to making sure you get the post right. Sometimes, it's just a matter of using spellcheck a little more faithfully. But more often, it is the nasty habit a lot of bloggers have of publishing something because it sounds like a good story, rather than checking to ensure its accuracy. Spreading discredited stories undermines our craft, and it happens all too frequently with blogging.

For example, last month several right-wing bloggers picked up and ran with the story that actor Ed Asner had made some glowing remarks about Joseph Stalin, to the effect that he was "misunderstood" and that he would love to portray him in a movie. The story came from a conservative radio host who was recounting a conversation he had with the man some time ago. As it turns out, the Limbaugh-wannabee had gotten it wrong, and to his credit, retracted his accusation; an audio recording of the conversation revealed that Asner had merely noted the lack of movies and TV portraying Stalin, and had stated that he would like to take a crack at the role.

Those in the blogosphere who had so uncritically linked to a story smearing one of our most distinguished actors reacted with outrage towards their source's retraction, when a sense of humility would have more appropriate. Did any of these people think to contact their source for this story, to see how legitimate it was (the way a real journalist-blogger e-mailed me to find out how much of my October 6 posting on Gray Davis was truthful)? Did they exhibit any skepticism about what was clearly hearsay evidence? Obviously not. Asner's alleged quote fit within the prism of their ideological worldview, one that views any leftist thought as per se treasonous, and they fisked away. Those who bothered to make a correction blamed their source, rather than questioned their own methods.

This isn't the only example that comes to mind; some of you might recall the bogus definition of the MeChA slogan that made it's way from racist websites to bloggers to Fox News. Nor is this limited to the right; if Michael Moore were to claim that President Bush relieved himself on a homeless person while on the way to this morning's press conference, you can be rest assured that MWO would link to that account before the afternoon, just as it tried to spread a rumor about the homosexuality of one of Bush's judicial nominees last spring. Since not all of us can hire factcheckers to work on our vanity sites, it is incumbent on bloggers to act ethically when posting, and that means treating all outside information with skepticism.