January 09, 2004

Idiot Son Update: Sending a message to sports leagues and athletes the world over (are you listening, Bud Selig?), the governing authority for Italy's Serie A has suspended Saadi Ghadafi for three months for failing a drug test. Perhaps chastened by the fall of Saddam, Ghadafi admitted taking the banned substance norandrosterone, but claimed it was for treatment of a "back injury", no doubt incurred while sitting on the bench for every single game this season.

January 08, 2004

Our Shameless Governor: Less than 24 hours after claiming that the budget shortfall in Sacramento was a spending problem, not a taxing problem, and after having vowed not to raise taxes, Gov. Ziffel has proposed to boost public college fees for students up to 40% for the fall, and at the same time limit eligibility for student loans. Substantively, there is no difference between those "fees" and the car license "tax" he campaigned so actively against last fall; both effect only the users of the service involved, not the entire population. Well, there is one difference: the car "tax" disproportionately impacts drivers of more expensive cars (ie., the rich), while the people most likely to be hurt by the college fee increase are the poor and middle class.

January 07, 2004

As a life-long Dodger fan, I don't really have a dog in the fight over whether Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame; now that he's admitted to having bet on his own team, the entire issue of whether the Dowd Report was fair to him is moot. It is interesting that the nation's sportswriters, so many of whom were insisting that all Charlie Hustle needed to do was admit he gambled on the sport, have now turned against him after he did precisely that. In any event, Eric Alterman has the best take: "If only Pete Rose had claimed he bet on baseball games and then lied about it because he suspected other teams of harboring ties to Al Qaida and building weapons of mass destruction, then the Washington Post editors would have called him a patriot and supported him down the line, even without that lame apology."

January 06, 2004

The Idiotarian's Manifesto: One of the depressing things about the blogosphere is that you can receive just about any insult and not take it personally. In the real world, being called a "racist", an "anti-Semite", a "fifth columnist", an "objective pro-fascist", or a liar would be considered fighting words; there are even some terms that have no meaning outside the internet, like "idiotarian", "the Pissy Brigade", "media whore" and "fisking", that at one time were meant to be devastating takedowns of your adversary, but are now worn like battlefield scars, with a certain amount of pride and machismo. If you run a blog, and/or if you actively troll in another blogger's comments section, such slurs become par for the course.

Blogs seem to have a special connection to a very angry sort of person, not necessarily an extremist, but someone who has a certain comfort level at disparaging others from the safety of a computer monitor. Bouncing from site to site, it amazes me what sort of rhetoric passes for political insight (and by no means am I excusing myself). People who disagree with you aren't simply mistaken, they are selfish, despicable people who hate America. Be nasty enough, throw in enough shabby and low accusations against the other side, and your unique visitors will multiply geometrically this month !! Never mind that you convince no one of the righteousness of your cause.

The heated rhetoric is in direct contrast to what I know about other bloggers on a personal level. I have probably met, at least on a social level, close to fifty people who have their own blogs, and to date the only person who rubbed me the wrong way was a blogger whose politics I share and whose writing I admire. At some point, I begin to feel like a hypocrite; how many of the people I've called "dixiecrats", "disingenuous", or an "Uncle Tom Democrat" on this site am I going to meet that turn out to be really sweet, decent people? Isn't there someone out there that I can attack who also happens to be a complete a**hole?

Keeping in mind the fervent hope that Lenny Bruce once had, that if the word "n*****" became such a ubiquitous part of our daily conversation that it would cease to have any impact as a derogatory term, I think something is being lost. Some words shouldn't lose their impact. I've been called "anti-Semitic" or a "racist" a couple of times in my life, but before I started this site, I always took it as the type of slam that required some soul-searching on my part (I'm the type of person who subconsciously believes that any time I'm attacked, it must be justified, no matter how baseless). Now, it just means that I oppose Sharon, or that I disagree with Paul Wolfowitz. When I wear my civilian clothes, and especially in the context of my job as an attorney, being called a "liar" is tantamount to being challenged to a dual; it is really the only time I get angry. In the blogosphere, it's just shorthand for saying that I'm factually mistaken about a point.

Unfortunately, this has become a standard part of the political rhetoric in this country. Blogs are just another form of talk radio, for those who are shy and insecure. So I propose the following: never use a word to describe someone (or someone's opinion) that you could not easily repeat to his face. If you disagree with someone else's analysis of an issue, assume it's because he doesn't understand the issue with the same clarity you do, and respond accordingly, rather than assume he's deliberately presenting false arguments. And try to remember that what you read on this blog and elsewhere is just a microscopic part of the whole person who is authoring it. The internet is no substitute for therapy.
One of my booze buddies makes sure I always get the latest column from reactionary pundit Dennis Prager, but this one takes the cake. Humor is like nitroglycerin; it should be handled with care, and never by complete idiots. Also, it should at least be funny. Prager's schtick, of course, is to pen columns that accuse liberals, atheists and A-Rabs of being in league with Satan, sort of a poor man's Charles Krauthammer. During the 2000 Presidential campaign, he was among the pundits who argued that Joseph Lieberman wasn't a real Jew because he supported abortion rights for women questioned the sincerity of Al Gore's religious views, among other things.

In 2004, the candidate who has become the target of religious bigots is Howard Dean, who has come under attack for having married a Jewish woman, thereby permitting her to raise his children in that faith. Some have even gone so far as to question the sincerity of his religious beliefs, a dark moment in recent American politics that brings to mind the attacks against Al Smith and JFK over Roman Catholicism. The scary thing is, the sort of hatred that Howard Dean has engendered from the wingnut right is exactly the thing that has pulled him within the margin of error against George Bush.

UPDATE: I corrected the error about Prager and Lieberman, above, thanks to the resolute fact-checking of Booze Buddy (he also wanted me to announce that he, and he alone, predicted USC's national title before the season). And I'm the one who's always talking about the need for due dilligence amongst bloggers. Physician, heal thyself !!