January 27, 2006

So there will be a filibuster against the Alito nomination after all. Although it doesn't look like the Democrats have the votes to sustain the gesture, it will be useful, if only to expose the losers in our own party whose "opposition" is a tad insincere. Being a part of a permanent minority can be liberating, and knowing who can be counted on to stand and fight is a good thing, if only to know where our limited resources should be spent in contesting (and defending) Senate seats.

January 26, 2006

Long Blonde Line Redux: The infamous photo of the SC song girl, which showed her leaping in the air after an apparent Texas touchdown after a goal line stand, is starting to look more and more like a fraud. Biggest problem: neither Longhorn touchdown on that side of the field caused a goal line scrum, as was depicted in the picture. The fallback position may be that it was on the two-point conversion that followed the winning TD, but that only serves to make the poor girl seem less stupid (after all, she's supposed to be getting the fans back in the game, not mourning a loss that hadn't yet happened). [link via LA Observed, which has been on top of the controversy from the start]

January 25, 2006

Tough Love: It's a testament to the barren irrelevance of the pre-Welch LA Times Op-Ed section*, and Joel Stein's place therein, that it took me two days to find out that this column had even been published, even though I perused the section on the day in question. But now that he's been the target of attacks from the whole gamut of blogospheric punditry, from Malkin to Atrios, it behooves me to argue that Stein's logic is inescapable. Those young men (and women) who volunteer to serve in the U.S. armed forces either have a pretty good idea of what they're getting themselves into, or are willfully blind about the consequences. As Stein wrote:
But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.


The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.
Our volunteer military is not supposed to be an army of mercenaries. They're supposed to be defending the ideals and principles of America, not just the ideological objectives of a cabal of political hacks. Holding people accountable for their actions may be politically incorrect, but it still needs to be done. Stein's demand that we act as if our soldiers have some degree of self-agency is a useful reminder to those who contemplate enlisting in the Armed Forces during the remaining years of the Bush Administration, that they will be sent to fight on missions, like "Operation Iraqi Freedom", that are wholly unconnected to the defense and service of their country. In the long run, his column will save lives.

*Notwithstanding the Times' outstanding Sunday Current section.
If true, this is absolutely lame (and all the more reason why the blogosphere's unwillingness to unceasingly engage in the debate over the Alito nomination, in favor of more trivial concerns last week, was so critical). I don't have much of a megaphone, but I wish I had done more. What he says.
Come to think of it, Lynn Swann is starting to look better and better....
Someone named Peter Daou presents a Grand Unified Theory of Everything, on the topic of why Democrats lose elections. Of the three hypotheses that get trotted out as to why we lose elections (the other two being that conservatism has historically been the fallback ideology that prevails in American elections, or that some dark conspiracy operates to thwart the true will of the electorate), the one trumpeted by Daou, that it’s due to massive brainwashing of the public by the MSM, is the one that I find most frustrating.

Daou writes:
The same holds true for the Swift-boat sliming of Kerry: much has been made of the Kerry campaign's response or lack thereof, but there's another angle less discussed: the story was a cable staple for days and weeks, unchecked. Had the cable nets and other media outlets covered that story with more balance, more dignity, more judiciousness, more responsibility, it would have been a sideshow. And this has nothing to do with deflecting blame - the Kerry campaign should have known that their enemy wasn't a vindictive crackpot like John O'Neill, but the many 'journalists' and media outlets who rammed the story down our collective gullets.
To suggest, as Daou does, that the allegations made by the “Swift Boat Vets” were “unchecked” by the media, including cable news outlets like CNN (the “news network” run by Rupert Murdoch clearly doesn’t operate under the same standards of purported impartiality as its competitors; its useless to whine that its not being fair to liberals, since that its entire reason for existence), is ludicrous. In fact, the media (incl. that noted totem of the loony left, Chris Matthews) went after the story more vigorously and with greater determination than John Kerry did (see here, here, here, here, and here); in fact, it did so more devastatingly than the lefty blogosphere. If you don't like the fact that when the ads first were aired, CNN could do little more than report the controversy, rather than dig up government records discrediting the claims, repeal the First Amendment.

I know Kerry’s defeat is still a bitter pill to swallow, and that his tepid, lackluster response to the sleazebags who alleged that he was a traitor who faked his military heroism still rankles, but the media’s response to the Rove-generated attack ads was almost universally negative. It may have taken a week or two, but the media did its job. The ads ended up hurting Kerry because he refused to fight back during a crucial period, making him look weak even to voters who were skeptical of the SBV claims, while providing ammunition to those who didn’t like him in the first place.

Furthermore, to imply that those allegations were trumpeted in the same obsessive fashion as the Holloway disappearance or the Lewinsky investigation is disingenuous, to say the least (if you don’t believe me, just compare the number of Nightline episodes involving Monica, or the number of Larry King shows about Ms. Holloway, with the number of times either show focused on the SBV’s during the summer of 2004). In August, 2004, the media, presented with a particularly nasty set of ads, as well as a “victim” who seemed reticent about defending himself, gave the story appropriate play, When, after a few reporters performed the hard, arduous work of examining events that occurred some thirty years earlier, it came down heavily against the SBV’s, to devasting effect against those who had so loudly trumpeted their claims.

Media bashing (or, to use the more dignified term, “media criticism”) is cathartic, easy, and provides ambitious bloggers with a convenient scapegoat to kick. But working the ref is no substitute for having a gameplan for winning. Revisionist history is best performed when the principal actors have been dead for a few decades; it ill-behooves us to perform it immediately afterwards, when the record is much easier to check.
Arsenal 2, Wigan 1 [2-2]: Fever Pitch, my ass...The Latics are through to their first-ever Cup Final (albeit the less-prestigious Carling Cup), after upsetting the Gunners on the "away goals" rule. Wigan, which had won the first game in the home-and-home series, 1-0, came back two weeks later to hold mighty Arsenal to a similar result on their home pitch, saving a penalty kick in the process, then fell behind in extra time, only to score in the last minute to secure the "win". They will play either Man United or Blackburn next month in the Final.

January 24, 2006

It is no surprise to those of us who have followed his career from the outset that John Doolittle (R-CA) has been one of the Congressmen most caught up in the Abramoff imbroglio. To those of you who are just discovering what a frightening little man he is, here's a taste from the early days, when he was just a State Senator.

To summarize, back in 1984, his state senate district having been reapportioned into the ether by the legendary Phillip Burton, Doolittle moved into the district of a moderate Republican incumbent, Ron Johnson. Johnson, sensing the rightward shift of his party, decided to run as an independent, while the Democrats, significantly outnumbered in the district, put up (if that's the right word; the state party was unofficially backing Johnson, and the nominee barely campaigned) a sacrificial lamb.

Trailing in the last weeks of the campaign, Doolittle hit upon a cagey proposition. As the California Fair Political Practices Committee later put it:
Shortly before the election, Doolittle campaign consultant John Feliz coordinated the production of a mass mailer sent on behalf of Doolittle's Democratic opponent, Jack Hornsby. The consulting services of Feliz and a Doolittle fundraiser, Jim Grubbs, along with 60,000 mailing labels, were contributed by the Friends of John Doolittle Committee to the Friends of Jack Hornsby Committee. The mailer was sent to Democratic households as a tactic to bring Democratic candidate Hornsby into the three-way race with Doolittle and former state Senator Ray Johnson, thus pulling votes away from Johnson to Hornsby for the benefit of Doolittle.
Doolittle ended up winning the election by an eyelash, paid a token fine for his lack of ethics, and has slimed his way to bigger and better things ever since. As with the early career of Richard Nixon, whose campaigns against Jerry Voorhis and Helen Douglas portended even more egregious acts later in life, Doolittle's lack of anything that even remotely resembled an ethical core was evident from the start.

January 23, 2006

Another perspective on the first six seed to reach the Super Bowl:

Local Boy Makes Good: Congrats, Mr. Welch, on a long-overdue position with the Local Paper of Record !!!
Wouldn't it be nice if lefty bloggers cared as much about the possible confirmation in the next week or two of Samuel Alito, as they do about their hurt feelings generated by a newspaper ombudsman's error? That the question even needs to be asked shows how unready we are to wield power in any positive way.

It's a test of priorities, of what is important and what is trivial, and we're failing it badly. "Working the ref" is something a coach does when his team has the talent to play competitively, and a little bit of verbal bullying on the margins might make a difference. Liberals aren't at that stage yet, even if we can successfully mau-mau the Washington Post into seeing things our way on the tangential issue of Jack Abramoff, his lobbying, and the highly disingenuous qualifier about whether he personally gave money to Democrats (bloggers' spin), merely directed tribes to toss them a dime (Post's spin), or convinced them to give less money to Democrats, without cutting them out (the truth).

What's really important is the corrupting influence of money in political campaigns, something that has been known to afflict a Democrat or two. Bullying newspapers into pretending that Abramoff's style of crookedness is some kind of uniquely conservative ailment, encoded in the genetic structure of Republicans, kills any effort to address that problem. To that end, real liberals back public financing of campaigns, a policy that the bloggers obsessed with Deborah Howell don't seem to care about.

Partisan media criticism is not an inevitable direction for blogs to take; witness the success of substantive bloggers like Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum, or the community building/organizing at Daily Kos. The fact that writing hate mail to newspapers seems to be the popular fad among liberal bloggers nowadays is a cancerous trend, which we must overcome to be worthy of power, in 2006 and thereafter.
LXXXI: There's something about 81 points in a game that concentrates the mind. Like Wilt in the early-60's, Kobe has to play the role of a one-man team, and last night, his heroics were forced in large part by the fact that the Lakers had to overcome an 18-point second half deficit against one of the worst teams in basketball. If he stays healthy and keeps clear of the roadskanks, breaking Chamberlain's single-game scoring record is within the realm of possibility, something I never thought I'd be contemplating.