November 19, 2005

It was bad enough they called Jack Murtha a coward, but now they have to dowdify him. The usually-sensible John Cole, in trying to justify that debacle yesterday in the House, writes:

Murtha stated he wants immediate withdrawal of the troops. His bill asked for deployment to be ‘hereby terminated.’ The GOP bill removes all the bullshit, and states that a vote of ‘aye’ means that you favbor exactly what Murtha said yesterday and proposed in his bill.


So shut up, quit your damned whining, reach down between your legs and grab a pair of grapes, and vote on the resolution. It is as simple as it gets. Do you favor immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq? Yes or no.

Even an unnuanced simpleton like me can figure this one out.

Okay, I'll bite: since when is it up to the GOP to "remove all the bullshit" from the resolutions of Congressmen from the other party? It would be unacceptable if their editing didn't change the meaning of the proposal, but in this instance, they clearly did. Murtha's resolution called for the immediate commencement of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, an event that would clearly take place over a period of time, and according to the resolution, only "at the earliest practicable date". The GOP resolution purports to simply order the troops home, yesterday.

Language is important, a fact reinforced by the circumstances by which the Bush Administration conned into this quagmire in the first place. Justifying the revision of a sitting Representative's resolution in an effort to embarass the other side is not only demogogic, it's wrong. One can just as easily argue that the President is correct when he says, “we don’t do torture”. Clearly, all the President, the Attorney General, the Defense Secretary and the rest of his thugs have done is taken the Geneva Conventions, as well as basic standards of human decency, and “removed all the bullshit” about the appropriate way to treat enemy combatants, etc. It's the same damn thing, and the lucky fact that Jean Schmidt dropped a turd in the punch bowl during yesterday's debate only shows that the Supreme Deity has a wicked sense of humor when it comes to striking back at those who have lost the Mandate of Heaven.

November 18, 2005

Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus have a new videoblog, which posts three-days-a-week conversations on assorted issue of topical importance. It's pretty addictive, even if you are not in agreeance with the two..
A good, cogent piece on why political bloggers can never expect to get rich off their little hobby, by DtheP. I wish nothing but success for OSM (heck, they've included me on their blogroll, which is quite a bit better than most of my so-called allies in the blogosphere), but I think it would be better for all concerned if the initial focus was on building a good website than on strategizing how they can market their project to high-end advertisers.

BTW, is there any explanation why they decided to kick off their project with a party in New York City rather than L.A.? Symbolically, it makes no sense. NYC may be the MSM Capitol of the World, but in terms of the blogosphere it is definitely an underachieving backwater. Not only do the two principal bloggers behind OSM live in the City of Angels, but the entire Southern California region is inarguably the deepest, broadest area for the format in the world (to wit, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here; and that's not counting other bloggers [ie., here and here] who started in SoCal before moving on to bigger and better things.).

Each of the sites I've listed are among the most influential and/or popular blogs today, encompassing the whole range of political and cultural debate, and all are based or originated in the area between the Mexican border and the Kern River. There is no other area on this planet that even comes close. To put it another way, if you're going to open a play with the intent of making a fortune, you open it on Broadway or the West End, or failing that, off-Broadway or at the Fringe. You don't open it in Los Angeles unless you have a lot of kinks you need to work out first. Los Angeles has a good local theatrical scene, and has opened some fine plays, but you need to go elsewhere if you want the right people to take notice. Symbolically, starting OSM in the Big Apple really sends the wrong message.

November 17, 2005

Mike Pendo, who had spent the past decade as an HIV researcher in San Francisco, died this week of a heart attack at his home. He had been my friend since the two of us attended CAL in the early-80's, although, ironically, he spent the first year of my knowing him trying to kill me (literally) for having autographed/defaced one of his posters. Mike was the next-door neighbor of my best friend from high school in the Spens-Black dorm, and it was together with him and his roommate that we watched re-runs of Brideshead Revisited and became Phoebe Nicholls fanatics. He, the aforementioned roommate, and several other people from that dorm bought a three-story house in the Castro District in the early-90's, back when that was still possible off the combined income of schoolteachers and law clerks, and he lived there for most of that decade. I didn't get to see him much when I visited the house in recent years, but every so often he would drop by, and he would always ask me whatever happened to the PhoeNix. He was a sweet, funny guy, and he was just 41.
The Cronkite Moment: The Bushies don't know it yet, but today is going to go down as the Day the War Ended. After today, there is not even the pretense that the Iraqi Adventure can be considered to have bipartisan support. John Murtha, who in his thirty years on the Hill has one of the most hawkish records in Congress, made an eloquent case on national television to bring the boys home. The Pennsylvania Congressman, who as this critical blog notes, is not a Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to calling the neocons on the carpet for their bungling ineptitude (two years ago he was demanding that a number of Administration officials resign for their botched handling and preparations for this war, obviously well before the President's approval numbers reached Nixonian levels), has now taken a position that would have been considered radical just a few months ago. Murtha, Hagel, Kerry; all Vietnam War vets, all men who didn't have other priorities when they were of age and their country sought their participation in a previously misguided adventure, now demanding, in one form or another, that the governing class set aside their collective egos and put an end to this folly at once.

November 16, 2005

Open Source Media, the long-anticipated website rising from the ashes of Pajamas Media, is up and running. It's list of contributors range from conservative to Jesus-can-you-keep-your-voice-down-there-are-children-present Wingnuts, but I also see that several of my co-conspirators in the Grand Cause to overthrow the guv'ment, including David Corn and Marc Cooper are among them as well. Perhaps even more significant in terms of blogcred, Max Sawicki (ie., MaxSpeak) is also among the heathens; Sawicki is probably to the left of Cooper and Corn, and an excellent debater.

I noted a few weeks ago a brief debate between Mr. Corn and James Wolcott about whether left-of-center types should be associating in blog ventures with miscreants like Charles Johnson and Roger Simon. Corn correctly noted that Mr. Wolcott's hands were not clean in such matters; it ill-behooves anyone to play the guilt-by-association card when you make your money writing for a magazine whose two recent covergals include America's Richest Porn Star and England's Most Gorgeous Crankskank. Nevertheless, Vanity Fair offers something for every discriminating taste, and if you don't like hard-hitting celebrity journalism (who knew you could be such a devoted mother and be snorting lines of primo at four in the morning) or Mr. Samgrass' bi-monthly apologias for Ahmad Chalabi and Paul Wolfowitz, there's always something else to read, including Mr. Wolcott's fine media column. And I'm willing to give OSM a shot as well.

UPDATE: Seems like the new venture is not entirely "open source", however.
OMIGOD !!! The LA Times cans Robert Scheer, but retains the beautiful mind that crafted this gem:

His name is Ned Colletti, and he's an old-time baseball guy, from his affection for snakeskin boots to his love of snake-free clubhouses.

He will be named as the new Dodger general manager in a morning news conference which, to be true to Colletti, should take place behind a batting cage.

That's where the guy has lived for the last two decades, first in Chicago, then in San Francisco, often in first place.

Since Colletti became the Giants' assistant general manager in 1997, the team has compiled the third best record in baseball with Barry Bonds and a bunch of character guys.

Colletti, 50, loves the character guys.

He helped build a 2002 World Series team with a lineup that featured Benito Santiago batting fifth, David Bell playing third and Shawon Dunston doing whatever.

Months after the last Dodger regime traded Paul Lo Duca, Colletti worked out a Giant contract for Mike Matheny.

While the last Dodger regime didn't see the value in Adrian Beltre, Colletti was signing Omar Vizquel.

While the Giants struggled with injuries, their first losing season with Colletti, they were still in the race in the final week, and Matheny and Vizquel won Gold Gloves.

That each "paragraph" above consists of exactly one short sentence isn't caused by any problems I'm having with Blogger; it's a Bill Plaschke affectation, enabling him to extend his prose into a full column on those frequent occasions when he doesn't have anything substantive to add to the conversation. It's the sportwriting equivalent of "Heh. Indeed."

But c'mon, "character guys" (attention, Mr. Plaschke: Mike Lupica wants his cliche back) ? A G.M. with an affection for "snakeskin boots" and "snake-free clubhouses"? A columnist optimistic about the future of the home team because the new G.M. viewed the aging Omar Vizquel and Mike Matheny (who?) as pennant insurance, or that his definition of the "character guys" who supposedly surrounded Barry Bonds en route to their occasional playoff chokes includes Jeff Kent? Who believes that DePodesta was to blame for Adrian Beltre signing with more money with Seattle?

I cannot understand why newspaper empires are content to allow sports sections to have lower standards than the rest of the paper. Newspapers everywhere are losing the eyes of readers to the internet, but the sports section may well be the last bulwark, the one reason why people will drop a quarter to buy it off the rack. So why does the local paper peddle crap like that?
What he said:
As the Iraqi government assumes more responsibility for governing Iraq, so too must Iraq’s forces continue to take on more responsibility to defend their country. The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, underscored this point on October 25 when he told Gwen Ifill on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that he believes that the United States is, “on the right track to start significant reductions [of U.S. military forces] in the coming year.” I believe the United States should begin drawing down forces in Iraq next year. U.S. military power is not a surrogate force upon which Iraq can indefinitely depend. The current Iraqi government’s announcement on November 2 to accept the return of junior officers of the former Iraqi army – reversing U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer’s decision to disband Hussein’s armed forces – was a critically important development. Political confidence and military capability will reinforce and strengthen Iraq’s ability to govern and defend itself and sustain that confidence. We should not obstruct this development. The United States must encourage and expect demonstrations of new Iraqi independence and decision-making.


The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies. Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.
(emphasis added)
--Sen. Chuck Hagel [R-NE]

November 15, 2005

I admit to being confused by the Bushies' latest tactic, which is to justify the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that many "on the other side" believed the same thing. Yeah, I think we already knew that a lot of Democrats were just as cravenly idiotic on the subject as the President, and it helps to remember that in the run-up to all wars, including the aforementioned adventure, hawkishness has historically been a safe fall-back. In the almost 230 years of our national existence, no politician running for high office in America has ever lost his seat because he was too hawkish.

But it ignores the more fundamental problem: Bush is the President of the United States. He can't use, as justification for his policies, the fact that other people were also conned. He's not only supposed to be a leader; he occupies a unique position, a perch from which the nation expects to follow his lead. Americans typically don't like to assume that their President might be telling the truth, depending on his whims. On an issue like whether to send our young off to battle, we need to have that confidence, especially coming from a President who avoided military service in his youth, and who has kept his daughters out of harm's way in theirs'.

Thus, it leaves a rather stale taste in our mouths when the President tries to argue that he didn't really lie in this instance, since the other side believed the same things. He was the one getting intelligence briefings telling him that Saddam's WMD capacity was vastly overstated, that stories of Iraq's role in 9/11 and its efforts to purchase yellowcake from Niger were false, that the cost, in both blood and money, in rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq was going to grow at a geometrical scale. The kindest interpretation of that is to say that Bush ignored the intelligence he didn't want to hear; the less kind interpretation is that he out-and-out lied. In either case, he and his advisors, almost all of whom to a man had avoided serving in Vietnam even though they also supported that adventure, treated the spectre of war too casually, and that shame cannot be palmed off on the Democrats.

November 14, 2005

This is apropos of nothing, of course, but there has been at least one drop-dead gorgeous debtor at every Chapter 7 meeting of creditors I've attended in the San Fernando Valley division of the bankruptcy court since the beginning of October. Cultural interpretation: as it did with so many others, the spectre of the new law caused many a potential starlet and model to seek a fresh start after their initial attempts to earn a SAG card fell short; the Valley is where many an aspiring movie star lives until they can hit it big, as well as being the Capital of the Adult Film Industry; waitressing and bartending, while nice character-building life experiences until the Big Break happens, don't do much to help pay off student loans and credit card bills in the interim.

I guess the most interesting aspect of this is that so many of these new debtors are quite young. Since they're not from around here, they haven't begun to make serious incomes, they're living in one of the priciest neighborhoods on the planet, and, without the option of living with their parents when times are tough, they are giving up the struggle to pay their debts with less of a fight.
The Two-and-a-Half Percent Solution:
Which is why I suppose Reiner's guy in Iowa --Howard Dean-- fell flat on his face despite the fact that Reiner did the primary eve bus thing with Dean, and why Bush won overwhelmingly in 2004, and why the elections in January and October and those forthcoming in December saw enormous turnout.(emphasis added)
--Hugh Hewitt, GWB's Walter Duranty

November 13, 2005

Instapundit links approvingly to this Scotty McLellan press release, where the White House flack attacks the only surviving Kennedy brother:
It is regrettable that Senator Kennedy has chosen Veteran's Day to continue leveling baseless and false attacks that send the wrong signal to our troops and our enemy during a time of war. It is also regrettable that Senator Kennedy has found more time to say negative things about President Bush then he ever did about Saddam Hussein. (emphasis mine)
Perhaps it's me, but isn't it the duty of every American statesman, especially the leader of the opposition, to be more critical of our own leader than some random foreign dictator. I bet George Bush has found more time during his political career to say negative things about the opposition in his own country than he has about Saddam Hussein; he certainly has said nastier things about the other side more frequently than he has about the man actually responsible for September 11, Osama bin Laden.

Nor is this some unique aspect of our current partisan age. Clement Atlee probably mentioned Winston Churchill more often (and not always in a nice way) than he did Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini combined after WWII. It is an historical fact that Republicans during WWII spoke more critically of FDR than they did of any Axis leader. Certainly, there was more criticism of Bill Clinton from the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay than there was of Slobadan Milosevic, or even of Saddam Hussein. And although I may not agree with the factual basis of their criticism, any sincere partisan would have been right to do so; indeed, it was the patriotic obligation of Clement Atlee, Bob Taft, Newt Gingrich and Ted Kennedy to do so, and not to preface their opposition by saying that some deposed ex-dictator was worse.

It seems there is the whiff of the authoritarian underlying the White House's (and Prof. Reynolds') worldview....
The dirty little secret of American liberal politics is that we are much more tolerant of losing elections than conservatives are. Some of the reasons, of course, are obvious; for example, our historic agenda is already in place, so we can afford to spend some years in the wilderness while the GOP chips away at the margin. But it's also been true historically. Liberal epochs in American history are few and far between, confined to the Age of Jackson (1829-37), Lincoln and Reconstruction (1861-76), the Progressive Era (1901-18) and the New Deal/Fair Deal/Great Society period (1931-66). The original Constitution, which was drafted in large measure to protect the power and interests of slaveholders, is a conservative, anti-democratic document, and American politics has pretty much reflected that.

If you're a liberal in the U.S., or for that matter, any western democracy, you therefore accept, and respect, the fact that you are going to play on the losing team in most elections. It is in anticipation of those few occasions when we win nationally that makes progressive politics so much fun, because we realize that when it's our turn, we will change things more dramatically in the short time given us, and in a more permanent manner, than our adversaries could ever dream of doing. When one realizes that the most conservative Presidency since Coolidge must now settle for confirming Supreme Court justices who will not overturn Roe v. Wade, regardless of how they feel about that decision, as its only significant domestic accomplishment, is a testament to the power of an ideology that is usually on the losing end of elections.

Not surprisingly, there are people, including one of my dinner companions last night, who state that they are "tired of playing for the loser." This usually manifests itself in strident attacks on the Democratic Party, how the party is too liberal (or not liberal enough) which I believe misses the point entirely. What we believe in, as liberals, can never be defined by the fortunes of a political party, and should not be altered one iota by its electoral prospects. The Democratic Party is a useful vehicle, indeed, the only real vehicle at the moment, for electing like-minded politicians within our Constitutional system. But its fortunes are not tied to our own, we have no right to expect any ideological conformity from the it, and any problems it has at the moment should not be our paramount concern. If a better vehicle comes along, we should buy it instead.

For it has not always been true that the interest of liberals was served by the Democratic Party; in its first hundred years of existence, the Democrats were the party of slavery and limited, straitjacketed government at the federal level. Ironically, the period of the greatest prolonged dominance in the history of the Democratic Party came between 1800 and 1860, when the party's core tenet was the expansion of slavery. It didn't really become the nations's liberal party until Bryan and the Populists emerged at the end of the Nineteenth Century (or rather, until the party coopted the Populists, who were threatening its political base) , while the Republicans continued their shift to being the party of Main Street and Big Business.

What this means is that we have more important things to worry about than whether the party is winning elections: namely, whether we are winning elections (or, if not winning elections, whether we are having enough influence to make those who are winning elections take notice and respect our numbers). Let's face it, other than a few of the bozos and hacks who pal around with the "Reverend" Al Sharpton, is there any liberal in New York City who is brokenhearted over the landslide win by Mayor Bloomberg, a Republican, over Mr. Ferrer last Tuesday? Probably not. By the same token, when Joementum wins reelection next year, as a Democrat, for his Senate seat, will any liberals rejoice? Only if it gets us to 51.

But whether the party wins or loses in 2006 or 2008 has nothing to do with what I believe, or the values I profess. I'm not going to compromise or trim my sails just to make things easier for a Democratic politico in Oklahoma or South Carolina. They're on their own. Nor do I expect them to become Southern California liberals. American political parties are not designed to impose ideological conformity, and thank god for that. The Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, is what it is, an institutional structure designed to build coalitions and win elections. It has not had a great deal of success at that lately in flyover country, but there you have it. Tomorrow is a new day.