Friday, April 30, 2004

Ann Coulter, Nuttier than Three Squirrels!!!

Yeah, I already used this title once, back in the day, but I like it so I'm using it again.

Anyway, we haven't checked in with Ms. Coulter in a while, so let's see what's she's discussing this week.

". . . oddly, rather than bragging about the charges, the airlines heatedly denied discriminating against Middle Eastern passengers. What a wasted marketing opportunity! Imagine the great slogans the airlines could use:

"Now Frisking All Arabs - Twice!"

"More Civil-Rights Lawsuits Brought by Arabs Than Any Other Airline!"

"The Friendly Skies - Unless You're an Arab"

"You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin - Not So Fast, Mohammed!"

Worst of all, the Department of Transportation ordered the settlement money to be spent on civil-rights programs to train airline staff to stop looking for terrorists, a practice known as digging your own grave and paying for the shovel.

Of course, if you follow this "logic," wouldn't it make more sense to just ban Arabs frtravelinging (it's unclear whether Ms. Coulter is using the word Arab to mean Muslim, or people of Arabic ethnicity (if the later, I guess she'd be fine with Saddam Hussein flying, since he is of Persian descent)).

Anyway it's nice to know that things don't change all that much in Coulterland.

Mercenary contractors

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the ABC Story about Iraqi Detainees being tortured. Well the Guardian U.K. has reported a new wrinkle.

"Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.

The scandal has also brought to light the growing and largely unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of detainees.

According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon.

What the hell is going on over there in Iraq? The United States Army hiring mercenaries to interrogate prisoners? Has the world gone mad?

Got the story from This Modern World. We'll see how this shakes out.

Round the Horn

Here we go on another exciting session of Round the Horn, where I point you to other articles you might like.

Echidne of the Snakes has a typically insightful article on Misogyny in our . . ., well I was going to say society but it's a bit more than that.

Moving from Misogyny in theory (sort of)(and I have to tell you those two "y"s are giving me fits) to Misogyny in practice, Trish Wilson has a piece on President Bush's minimizing and recasting of woman's issues. A good overview.

Collective Sigh has a story on those civilian contractors in Iraq. Apparently they aren't going to be allowed to carry guns any more.

Iddybud posts her reasons for declaring her support for John Kerry in his bid for the presidency.

MercuryX23's Fantabulous Blog has a reaction to reports on President Bush's appearence before the 9/11 commission.

The Yellow Doggeral Democrat has a great recitation on that immortal question, "how liberal is liberal enough?" Something that is well worth reading. Also worth checking out is the Fulcrum's response to it, in which he declares himself a liberal.

For those interested, I am also a liberal.

Rook's Rant reviews the current landscape in the Republican Party, and does find some hope for them, particularly Kerry plays his cards right (you know puts that 10 of diamonds over the jack of spades).

Speedkill has an examination of Kerry's position on Iraq and how it differs from President Bushs (insofar as it does).

There you go--enjoy.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

A Note of Optimism

I think Tom Tomorrow is one of our greatest political cartoonists. His weblog is quite good. But he is not what one would call a cheerful upbeat voice, usually. He's funny, just not very cheeful.

Today, however, he did a post that cheered me up enormously, on the doldrums we seem to be experiencing at this point in the campaign. The truth is the election is still in the early stages; other than picking a vice presidential nominee we don't have too much going on. Anyway go read the post--it's good.

For those of you who would like to know more about this John Kerry person, maybe you'd like to visit his website.

How come we never hear about Insourcing?

There's a brain teaser.

Anyway just read a good article by Robert Kuttner on ways that we could improve conditions for American workers.

"The majority of jobs in the economy today are in the service sector, and many of these need to be close to the customer. A job in a hotel, a nursing home, a restaurant, a university, or a public school cannot easily be outsourced overseas.

So the first remedy is to make these good jobs. We can do this with higher minimum wages, local living wage ordinances, by enforcing the right of workers to join unions, and structuring these jobs to encourage and reward higher skills and career paths.

Enforcement of the Wagner Act, which allows American workers a free choice to vote in a union, has become a joke. Employers find it cheaper to fire pro-union workers, hire fancy law firms to conduct union-busting campaigns, and pay the very infrequent fine.

One happy exception speaks volumes -- the successful struggle by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees to turn Las Vegas into a union town. Today, the most humble workers in Vegas's hotels -- those who clean the rooms -- are paid middle-class salaries with health benefits and have career opportunities. They are becoming homeowners and starting to live the American dream. The higher labor costs are a drop in the casino bucket.

After all, no inherent economic logic required semi-skilled factory workers to earn middle-class wages. What made the difference was strong unions and federal enforcement of the right to organize. Blue-collar service jobs could pay decently, too.

Makes a lot of sense to me; we have to decide what our priorities. Is it really our number one priority that American Business Owners make as much money as possible, regardless of all other concerns? Or maybe could the need for profit be balanced with the need for stable American families who's fathers make enough money to support the family without having to have two or three jobs.

This Article has no Title

Well I went over to Townhall first off. I read Larry Elder's column where he takes Kerry to task for praising hip-hop and rap. Apparently a few bad apples do spoil the bunch, at least in Elder's mind. N.W.A., Sister Souljah, and Ice Cube pretty much negate all the rest of rap and hip-hop, and Kerry's a jerk for suggesting there might be something there.

I read Emmett Tyrrell's article on how John Francois Kerry (never can get enough of that French Bashing can you, right wingers?) is living in a fantasy world. Tyrrell also, inexplicably, suggests that the fact that this might be 1992 all over again would upset Democrats. I mean, if I remember correctly, President Clinton won in 1992. Wouldn't that be a good thing, from our point of view, if Senator Kerry were to win this year?

Well obviously after reading those tedious articles, I wanted refreshment. So I turned to John Kerrys' website. It's just a breath of fresh air. I turned to this speech, given on March 13, 2004 in Quincy, Illinois.

"But today, campaigns too often generate more heat than light – firing up partisans while leaving increasing numbers out in the cold. Candidates find it easier to exchange insults than to face issues. Commentators and pollsters tell us who’s up and who’s down. On television, talking heads talk and yell past one another. Six-second sound-bites on the evening news and thirty-second attack ads all day long dominate the airwaves.

Everyone in politics shares the blame. But I have come here today, because I believe this campaign should be different. President Bush and I can do better – and America deserves better. And so here, in Quincy, where long ago we saw the best of American politics, I am asking George Bush to agree to a series of monthly debates, stating this spring. This should be a campaign worthy of the great issues before us, a campaign that truly can give the election of America’s president back to America’s people.

Inspiring. I hope President Bush takes up the Gauntlet and really lets us see what he and Senator Kerry are made of.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I love Snopes

Snopes provides a great service to the world; debunking mythology and reporting that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. I particularly loved their debunking of the Clinton Death Count. But that's not what's on the agenda today. Today I am pointing you to a de-bunking of a letter about Kerry's service to his country during Vietnam.

Go check it out; too long to comment on, and I don't want to deprive you of the chance to read the whole thing.

Great Cartoon

At Working for Change Today. I like the coloring, and of course the message.

Tricky Road

For those of you interested in reviewing Kerry's record in the military, here is one account, admittedly from his own website.

I do want to admit that the Republicans are entering this particular field with a couple of strikes against them. First of all, their guys chose not to serve (and there is Vice President Cheney's famous line that he had "other priorities" during this period.) So they can't really compete directly. Once you, the voter, start comparing their experiences during Vietnam, even discounting any medals Kerry received, Kerry wins without breaking a sweat.

Their only hope is to set Kerry up to defeat himself. It would help if Kerry spent a lot of time saying, "Well as a Silver Star and Purple Heart medal receiver I'm the greatest." But he hasn't. Make me a Commentator's crack research staff is in the middle of reviewing Kerry's speeches and we'll present our findings later in the week, but preliminary research indicates that while he refers to his military service fairly often, he doesn't refer to his medals all that much (and usually in the context of discussing his post war activities with VVAW).

Instead they have to pretend that he's relying on his medals to get into office and then try to knock down those medals. It's not the best strategy, as it relies too much on you, the voter, listening only to them and taking no time to listen to Kerry or to rationally consider what they are arguing. But it's the best strategy they have, unfortunately.

Two Accounts

"The superficial details of "Medalgate" are fairly easy to explain for anybody not determined to make Kerry sound consistent. From 1971 until about a decade later, Kerry wanted people to think he threw his medals away in protest of Vietnam.

In a 1971 interview, Kerry insisted that he "gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine" of his medals. Around 1984, when Kerry ran for the Senate, the times changed and he wanted people to believe he kept the medals and "only" threw away the ribbons. Why? Because his union supporters in particular and voters in general were no longer enamored with the excesses of the anti-war movement.
Jonah Goldberg, "Contradictions at the core of Kerry campaign."

"Over the years some have asked why Kerry chose to dispose of his ribbons, not his medals. Critics saw him as trying to have it both ways. It gave credence, they believed, to what A.J. Liebling of the New Yorker once claimed of Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt: He was a "dilettante soldier but a first-class politician." Further confusing the issue was the fact that Kerry did lob the medals of two no-show veterans toward the Marshall statue at their request. "The point of the exercise was to symbolically give something up," Kerry recalled in his defense. "I chose my ribbons, which is what many of the veterans did." The medals he tossed had been given to him by two angry veterans who wouldn't make it to Washington; he was merely serving as their surrogate. Before Kerry discarded his ribbons, he declared: "I'm not doing this for any violent reason, but for peace and justice, and to try to make this country wake up once and for all."

. . . Recent critics of Kerry assert that his Dewey County III ceremony is a metaphor for a lifetime of political flip-flopping. For Kerry, giving up his ribbons -- the objects he had with him in Washington that week -- made perfect sense. To his way of thinking, he was symbolically returning his medals to the U.S. government by tossing his ribbons. Even Sen. Stuart Symington, D-Mo., when preparing to cross-examine Kerry at the Fulbright committee meeting, asked him what the "medals" on his chest represented. They weren't medals, they were ribbons; it was -- and is -- a common mistake. From Kerry's vantage point, there is nothing contradictory about his statement to "Viewpoints" that he had given back "six, seven, eight, nine medals." To have said that he had given back ribbons but that his medals were at home would have simply confused the TV audience.

Still, the persistent resurrection of this issue means Kerry should have been more exact in his language back in 1971. Clarity is usually a virtue in politics. But we should also remember that he earned those medals/ribbons. The shrapnel in his thigh should remind us of that sacrifice. It is a tangible souvenir from Vietnam that is still with him every day.
Douglas Brinkley, "Why Kerry Threw his Ribbons."

I would encourage you all to read Brinkley's article, as, in my mind, it cuts through a lot of the right wing crap surrounding this issue.

As for Blankley's article, he goes on to suggest that Kerry's willingness to serve in the Vietnam war shows a lack of judgment.

"Kerry made his political career by saying that Vietnam was a moral and national security disaster. He claims that going to fight for "a mistake" (Kerry's words) was his defining moment. Well, if Vietnam was a mistake, how does it demonstrate Kerry's good judgment?"

Here, of course, Blankley shows himself to be a moron. Allow me to point out the salient hole in this argument. John F. Kerry wasn't in the White House or the Cabinet. He didn't make the decisions that led us into Vietnam.

Instead Kerry decided to answer the call to serve issued by the United States. Do you really want to argue that the decision to serve one's country is wrong, Mr. Blankley? A mistake? I'm not a military man myself, but my general understanding of the life is that you are generally supposed to do what you are told. And that's what Kerry did, with distinction.

No, any honest observer may conclude that the Vietnam war may have been a mistake, but it wasn't Senator Kerry's mistake.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Your Weekly Rush

Like everybody else in the conservative media, Rush isn't a big fan of John Kerry. But he does pick a somewhat unusual thing to hammer Kerry about.

"I hate to be redundant. I keep saying, greatness does not need to be explained. Greatness does not need to be defined and John Kerry continues to have to explain himself and to define himself because who he is doesn't stand out, and who he is doesn't strike anybody as great."

What's funny about this is that every single hour of every single show, Rush starts out by reminding his audience how great his show is. He reminds his views how many listeners he has. He claims that his show is show preparation for the rest of the media. He claims that his views are correct and make more sense than anybody else's, because they are rooted in a daily, relentless, search for the truth. He claims that his talent is on loan from God. So Rush what does it say about you that you need to promote yourself so forcefully?

But of course that's not the point; he's not the president. This is just another in the ongoing attempts by the right wing press to convince Senator Kerry to kneecap himself. Senator Kerry's honorable military service stands in sharp contrast to President Bush's conduct (even if you totally disbelieve the AWOL story); of course Rush wants Senator Kerry to shut up about it. Ever since there was a possibility that Kerry might become the democratic nominee they've been trying to neutralize any political benefit he might receive from his Vietnam service.

Of course you can't talk about Senator Kerry without some gratuitous France bashing, can you? Check out this question, that Rush asks in all seriousness.

"I know the Saudis don't have all of our interests at heart, to say the least, but they do have some of our interests at heart. Let me ask you. In terms of American allies and the role a foreign country can have for the goodness of our future, who do you choose, Jacques Chirac or Prince Bandar? It's not a tough choice here, folks. It's not a tough choice."

You know, in this instance I'll agree with Rush. It's not a tough choice. As far as I know French citizens have never caused the deaths of 3,000 Americans. Best they have done is acted in their national self interest and acted snooty to Americans.

The Continuing Attacks on Kerry's Military Record

Joe Conoson has some good comments on the issue today.

"For George W. Bush's surrogates to question John Kerry's war record, as they have continued to do in recent days, requires a special Republican brand of super-high-octane gall. Why would the president want to draw additional attention to the most unflattering contrast between him and the Democratic challenger? Why would his flacks reopen the painful issues of that era by questioning Kerry's undoubted heroism? If anyone ever earned the right to talk about what he had seen in Vietnam and why no more Americans should kill or die there, it was the young, highly decorated Navy lieutenant who had volunteered for duty.

Perhaps Bush and his strategists believe that offense is the only way to play defense on his spotty National Guard record. Perhaps they think that with enough money and enough noise, they can erase Kerry's medals and heroism. (After all, according to a recent Harris poll, millions of Americans evidently believe that U.S. troops actually found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so it is reasonable to think they would believe almost anything.) And perhaps they expect the mainstream media to assist in defacing Kerry's character -- just as important media organizations smeared Al Gore four years ago with Republican spin points.

There are a couple of points I'd like to underline. First, does anybody doubt that the desicion to go after Kerry's Military Record was, if not made by President Bush, at least approved by him? I think President Bush finds it to easy to distance himself from his surrogates.

Secondly, it shows how much President Bush and his followers really respect military service; it naturally comes second to loyalty to conservatism. So any soldier who chooses to criticize President Bush or support liberal causes, don't expect your uniform to protect you in the slightest from the smears of conservatives. Just so you know.

Monday, April 26, 2004

A Suggestion

Interesting commentary by Sean Gonsalvas on debt slavery.

"That's all well and good, I suppose, but if they truly believed in the concept of "No Child Left Behind," wouldn't they be fighting to make basic accounting and financial management a core curriculum class?

I'm finally reading the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," and it points out that rich people teach their kids things about money that poor and middle-class parents don't; namely, how to make money work for you and not the other way around.

Now, if any of us truly believe no child should be "left behind," as No. 43 likes to say, then we've got to see to it that working class students are financially literate. Of course, that would mean cutting into the profit margin of credit card companies and God forbid loan sharks would have to come up with a new scheme for hoodwinking the masses.

As big a fan of western civilization classes as I am, the subject of how not to be subjecated by the man might be important too.

Round the Horn

Steve Gilliard has a post about the current mantra of finishing the job in Iraq. I don't necessarily agree with his take on the issue, but it is well written and reasoned.

Echidne of the Snakes has another one of those heart-warming stories about capitalistic inventiveness.

Musings Musing has a great, well, musing on being a Christian Liberal. Anybody who thought "Isn't that an oxymoron?" please go put your nose in a corner for a half hour.

New World Blogger also has some thoughts on the subject, relating to how deeply we really construct our beliefs or philosophies.

Archy has further comments on the subject of religion and politics, and also provides a handy guide to understanding why this is an issue all of a sudden.

Respectful of Otters got the rare privilege of visiting an alternate reality where Josiah Bartlet (of The West Wing) is president. Sounds pretty cool.

Edwardpig has another interesting tidbit about our most heroic of presidents and his appearence before the 9/11 commission.

The Invisible Library has a great story about that monsterous terrorist, Morrissey. It's horrific, the things he can do. I remember how depressed I was listening to "Heaven Know's I'm Miserable Now" (I remember how much I identified with the line "I was Looking for a job and I found a job, and Heaven's know's I'm miserable now.") Isn't depression another way of being terrorized?

And that's it for this session; tune in later when we'll be playing the greatest hits of 1973.

Political Correctness - My Thoughts

1. It seems to me that the issue of Political Correctness was vastly overstated, if not outright created, by conservatives. They took a few incidents, such as the questionable one involving Professor Stephan Thernstrom, and extrapolated from them a crowbar to try to pry liberals out of the college.

2. Paradoxically, the suggestion that their might be a liberal bias (or any other kind of bias) in teachers will have a chilling effect on student's willingness to discuss issues, whether or not such bias actually exists. The grading process is far from transparent to the student, despite the teachers best intentions. It is assumed by students that college professors have a certain amount of lee way in giving grades. It is further assumed that College Professors will use that perogative to benefit those students they like, and will use it to the detriment of those students they don't like (In one way this is largely true. Students who show a genuine interest in the course material are both more likely to enjoy a favorable relationship with the professor and are more likely to do well in the class). So if we have created on campus an atmosphere in which it is assumed that all professors are liberal until proven not, and if we further assume an ongoing movement to punish conservatives in the name of "political correctness," well many conservative students are naturally going to hedge their bets by keeping their mouths shut.

3. Conservative organizations, such as Young Republicans Clubs, are growing on our college campuses, both in numbers and in influence.

4. Most commentators who attack political correctness are infuriated at the existence of liberal organizations or feminist movements being on campus, while having no problem with conservative or corporate entities molding our young minds.

5. The subject of speech codes or a harassment policy is a landmine, but here's a pair of branches I'm willing to go out on. Freedom of Speech and discussion improve a college; students should be able to explore what they will. Anarchy, however, is not freedom.

6. The Canon is not going to crumble if some students and professors choose to study subjects outside of the canon.

7. Making students take multicultural classes may or may not be a good idea. Offering such classes, however, is 100% a good idea.

8. When someone complains about political correctness, ask the following questions. a. What actual consequences do you think you will suffer if you express your view point? b. Why would your viewpoint cause such problems?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A Public Service Announcment

I'm really sorry about this, but that braintrust promoting those new "Swoops" candys has chosen to liscence the song "Whoop there it is" for their commercials (although, in braintrust-like fashion, they have changed it to "Swoop there it is"). I'm sure like me you have sworn off any product that advertisizes using that song; so I guess this means no more swoops. For a little while. Until I forget they used it.

New Quote

And an updated Quotes Page.

More to come on political correctness, a big sum up post and all. Also the weekly 'round the horn' exercise, though that may end up my first post of tomorrow

Friday, April 23, 2004

More on the Canon or Cirriculum

This is again from "Soldiers of Misfortune," referenced in my last post.

"Predictably, both D'Souza and Kimball cast the debate over the canon in typical Manichean fashion--as the West vs. the Rest, as a choice between "culture and barbarism," as a titanic struggle between forms of civilized "high" culture (read: White, Western) and the "primitive," contaminating forces of "other" low-brow cultures (read: non-White, non-Western) thereby reinscribing the rigid binomial opposition of "ours" and "theirs" characteristic of neocolonial discourses ( Said, 1978:227-228). From the standpoint of conservative authors, any interrogation of the canon becomes commensurate to threatening the foundation of Western civilization and is branded as an exercise in ideological brainwashing. Thus Kimball suggests that:

In this war against Western culture, one chief object of attack within the academy is the traditional canon and the pedagogical values it embodies . . . Instead of reading the great works of the past, students watch movies, pronounce on the depredations of patriarchal society, or peruse second or third-rate works . . . after four years they will find that they are ignorant of the tradition and that their college education was largely a form of ideological indoctrination. ( Kimball, 1990:xii-xvii)

The trepidation and sanctimonious indignation that typifies this perspective rests on a defensiveness in which all "others" are seen as enemies intent on ravaging "our" civilization and way of life. In this account, the hard-fought changes which multiculturalists have wrought come to epitomize the debasement of all "authentic" Western culture. The "we" and "our" constructed in conservative narratives is highly exclusive. We, as Whites of European descent are civilized; intellectually and morally superior; and represent the highest standards of cultural achievement. The "multicultural" presence is thus constructed as a problem or threat against which "a homogeneous, white, national 'we' could be unified" ( Gilroy, 1991:48).

An extremely straightforward examination of this movement; perhaps a bit too straightforward. Anyway i'm on the road as mentioned yesterday; so this will be it for a while; I might be back this afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

More thoughts on Political Correctness

This is a pretty fair summary of what Political Correctness is all about, from "Soldiers of Misfortune: The New Right's Culture War and the Politics of Political Correctness" by Joe L. Kincheloe, Valerie L. Scatamburlo, Shirley R. Steinberg (Peter Lang, 1998).

"The phrase [politically correct], however, has since been seized by the New Right and has assumed an entourage of defining characteristics. Enforcers of today's status quo now use the term to describe any position that challenges the virtuosity of capitalism, the nobility of right-wing cultural values, or the notion that oppressive relations of racism and sexism are still pervasive in America. The right-wing appropriation of the term has enabled P.C. to become a catchall phrase for a variety of conservative targets, embracing every imaginable cause even remotely associated with the Left. Indeed, P.C. permeates our cultural sphere like no other soundbite in recent history."

I over looked this text initially, but might have to do some more reviewing of it. So don't be surprised if you see more from this text.

Incidently I largely agree with what is above. But you know that.

Comments from some willing to accept the lable "Politically Correct"

My titles are too long. Anyway this is an article from Ms. Rebecca T. Alpert, entitled "Coming out of the closet as politically correct" originally published in Tikkun, Vol 11., March April 1996 (and found by me at Questia.

I spend a fair amount of time and effort trying my best to be politically correct. I have never, for example, during a polite conversation, asked a heterosexual to explain to me about her activities in the bedroom, although they might seem exotic to me. And it's been years since I've told a joke that begins, "a priest, a rabbi, and a minister ...."

I have come under a fair amount of criticism for this behavior, and become the butt of many jokes in society these days. But I can't for the life of me figure out why, since I believe that what some deride as "political correctness" is really only a caricatured description of what I always defined as common decency; a variation on the Levitical precept that what is hateful to you, you should not do to others.

But these days, common decency seems to be out of style, replaced by the passionate desire to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, no matter what the consequences to the listener. . . .

From my perspective, this kind of "let it all hang out and damn the consequences" type of honesty is not a good thing. First, inflicting pain is wrong. We Jews do not value suffering. When someone tells me that what I've said about them is hurtful, my impulse is to stop saying it. Nor do I really want to know all the lurid and evil thoughts that lurk in the minds of those who don't respect me.

Second, there is no great value to saying everything you think. Free speech is a complex ideal. It should be thoughtful and bold, not hateful and undisciplined. . . .

Smart words.

On the road this afternoon--so this will be it till this evening, maybe. Enjoy.

History of Political Correctness

Part one is here. Part two is here.

Here is the third and final part of our comparative history of Political Correctness. First up is John K. Wilson.

"During the 1980s, conservatives began to take over this leftist phrase and exploit it for political gain, expanding its meaning to include anyone who expressed radical sentiments. Conservative writer Robert Kelner first heard of "political correctness" in the fall of 1985 as "a bit of college slang bandied about by young conservatives." And the conservatives not only appropriated politically correct for their own attacks on the radical Left, they also transformed it into a new phrase-- political correctness.

The liberals' original "I'm not politically correct" was an ironic defense against those who took extremism to new extremes, who demanded absolute consistency to radical principles. The conservatives warped this meaning to convey the image of a vast conspiracy controlling American colleges and universities. Politically correct referred to the views of a few extreme individuals; political correctness described a broad movement that had corrupted the entire system of higher education. By this transformation the conservatives accused universities of falling under the influence of extremist elements. F or conservatives, "I'm not politically correct" became a badge of honor, a defense against a feared attack-- even though no one had been seriously accused of being politically incorrect.

Agustin Blazquez (with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton) takes the reader on an exploration of how Political Correctness has appeared in Cuba (as well as revealing that Fidel Castro is a pretty bad guy), which seems to me only tangentially related to how the phrase appears on American Campuses.

"With profound dismay, I have seen how the scourge of Political Correctness has taken hold in the U.S. It is very well entrenched in our educational system, at scientific, religious and community levels, the media, the workplace and even our government.

It is changing the American society from within, and the citizens of this nation are increasingly censoring themselves and losing their freedom of speech out of fear of Political Correctness repression.

It is the nature of Western Civilization to be civilized - respectful of others and concerned with correcting injustices. We don't need Political Correctness to make us think we are not civilized on our own and must have our thoughts and words restricted.

Hmmmm. So we get from the Frankfort Socialists moving to California in the 1940s and somehow they are able to create Political Correctness (in order to destroy Western Civilization) on every campus in America, but unfortunately Mr. Blazquez is unable to explain exactly how. I also like the idea that it is the nature of Western Civilization to be "Civilized." I'm not sure what this means, but I'm sure there are many who might disagree.

At any rate, I should come as little surprise that I find Wilson's account to be a little bit more persuasive.

If anybody would like to point me to a more scholarly treatment of the history and origin of Political Correctness from conservative point of view, please do so.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

More on the curriculum

I was reading another section of Ms. Rosa Ehrenreich's essay referenced below, when I came across this revealing tidbit.

"Conservatives like D'Souza and Kimball charge that traditional Western culture courses barely exist anymore at schools like Harvard, because of some mysterious combination of student pressure and the multiculturalist, post-structuralist tendencies of radical professors. Writing in the Atlantic Monthly last year, Caleb Nelson, a former editor of the conservative Harvard Salient, complained that in the 1989-90 Harvard course catalogue:

No core Literature and Arts course lists any of the great nineteenth-century British novelists among the authors studied, nor does any list such writers as Virgil, Milton, and Dostoevsky. In the core's history areas even students who . . . took every single course would not focus on any Western history before the Middle Ages, nor would they study the history of the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the American Civil War, or a host of other topics that one might expect a core to cover.

Nelson's major complaint is that Harvard is not properly educating all of its students. I agree with him here; in Caleb Nelson, Harvard has let us all down by producing a student so poorly educated that he's unable even to read the course catalogue.

I have the 1989-90 catalogue in front of me as I write, and a quick sampling of some of the entries gives us, from the Literature and Arts and the Historical Study sections of the core curriculum, the following courses: Chaucer, Shakespeare, The Bible and Its Interpreters, Classical Greek Literature and 5th-Century Athens, The Rome of Augustus, The British Empire, The Crusades, The Protestant Reformation. Perhaps Chaucer and Shakespeare are somehow, to Caleb Nelson, not "such writers" as Milton and Dostoevsky and the Protestant Reformation is a historically trivial topic.

Nelson also worries that students will have "no broad look on ... philosophy"- by which he really means Western philosophy. Yet in the Moral Reasoning section of the core, seven of the ten courses listed have at least four of the following authors on their primary reading lists: Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche, Marx, and Weber. There is one course devoted to a non-Western philosopher. Confucius. The remaining two Moral Reasoning courses focus, respectively, on the writings of "Aristotle . . . [and] Maimonides," and of "Jesus as presented in the Gospels."

Interesting stuff. So Caleb Nelson (who is presumably no relation to the Caleb who posts here on a occasion) claimed that Harvard no longer taught students the Basics of Western Civilization; it turns out they do.

I wish I had Mr. Nelson's article in front of me, because I'll bet you, dollars to donuts, that he complains about the lousy courses that have taken its place. That's how this argument always goes; first some wild eyed speculation that decent classes aren't available and then an aggressive attack on those courses that are being offered. The point being that today's college professors are interested solely in political indoctrination or gross banalities.

So while a class on Milton is acceptable, a class on Gender Issues in Milton's Writing is suspect. A class on Kant is fine, a class on how Kant's theories are still reflected in the television sitcom Sienfield is a waste of time.

You know, it sounds to me like it's not just Politically Correct Thugs who want to slow down freedom of thought.

Are Colleges Dominated by the Left Wing?

Unsurprisingly John K. Wilson, who wrote "The Myth of Political Correctness," argues that the so called liberal dominance has been over stated.

"Although the radicalism of professors is often painted in alarming terms, a 1984 survey found that only 5.8 percent of faculty were self-described leftists, and only 33.8 percent called themselves liberals. Compared with 1969 numbers, the proportion of self-described liberals had dropped 6.8 percentage points. The greatest increases from 1969 to 1984 were among self-described moderate conservatives (29.6 percent) and strong conservatives (4.2 percent). Even those who called themselves leftist or liberal showed a considerable moderation of attitudes from 1969 to 1984; among leftists, the proportion who opposed relaxing standards in appointing minorities jumped from 39.4 percent in 1969 to 71.7 percent in 1984.

The attacks on PC obscure these facts by focusing on elite universities and colleges (where the proportion of liberals is somewhat higher) and by examining selected departments (such as sociology, political science, English, and history) where liberals and leftists tend to be in the majority. Critics ignore the "political bias" of business professors, even though business schools have more majors than all the humanities combined. Fewer than 1 percent of business school faculty are self-described leftists, and fewer than 16 percent call themselves liberal.

This isn't as much of a home run as it sounds like initially. The kicker is the phrase "self-described." Conservatives would just argue that of course they don't think they are all that liberal; which just proves how out of touch they are with the "real" America.

Still his comments on the selective nature of most conservatives "hunt" for political correctness are well taken.

History of Political Correctness Part 2

Part one is here.

The first selection continues John K. Wilson's account of the appearance of Political Correctness, from "The Myth of Political Correctness."

"Although no one is sure when or where politically correct was revived, nearly everyone agrees that it was used sarcastically among leftists to criticize themselves for taking radical doctrines to absurd extremes. Roger Geiger notes that political correctness was "a sarcastic reference to adherence to the party line by American communists in the 1930s." Herbert Kohl "first heard the phrase 'politically correct' in the late 1940s in reference to political debates between socialists and members of the United States Communist Party," where "politically correct" was "being used disparagingly to refer to someone whose loyalty to the CP line overrode compassion and led to bad politics." Ruth Perry traces PC to the late 1960s and the Black Power movement, perhaps inspired by Mao Tse-tung's frequent reference to "correct" ideas. "Politically correct" was used not by extremists on the left to describe their enemies but by more moderate liberals who objected to the intolerance of some leftists. Perry says that "the phrase politically correct has always been double-edged" and "has long been our own term of self-criticism."

The second selection is from Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton, continuing their history of the term.

"Inspired by the brand new communist technique, Mao, in the 1930s, wrote an article on the "correct" handling of contradictions among the people. "Sensitive training"- sound familiar? - and speech codes were born.

In 1935, after Hitler came to power, the Frankfurt School moved to New York City, where they continued their work by translating Marxism from economic to cultural terms using Sigmund Freud's psychological conditioning mechanisms to get Americans to buy into Political Correctness. In 1941, they moved to California to spread their wings.

These two accounts aren't, strictly speaking, parallel; the second account is still in the 1940's and the first is all the way up to the 70s. And, in other ways, they are not parallel. The Newsmax account focuses strictly, so far, on how the phrase existed in Marxist circles; as of yet he hasn't explained how it moved from a group of German Marxists, filtered through Chairman Mao, and sank into widespread use by the 1980s. Presumably we'll get to that next time. No fair clicking on the link and figuring out how this story ends.

Brain Burning Campus Politically Correct Stories

Again, thanks to Campus Report Online, we are reporting on horrific cases of Political Correctness gone astray. In line of the horrific nature of this particular case we are willing to offer a free coffin to any reader who dies of fright while reading this story. Please apply in person at our offices and we will provide said carpet. And don't try dying of something else; we'll know.

This sordid little story takes us to Bucknell University, where they are debating a revision to their harassment code. Apparently the poor students at Bucknell University are subjected to a code that prevents them from speaking. Said code prevents the students from the following activities.

"ethnic or racial name-calling;

disparaging or condescending remarks about a person's nationality, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation;

verbal abuse, including anti-gay jokes and disparaging remarks about one's race or language;

ethnic insults or threats;

offensive racial graffiti;

bias-related physical aggression or contact of a threatening type, including punches, unnecessary brushes, or bumps;

bias-related theft or property damage.

Those poor Bucknell Students; controlled so rigidly.

Anyway the Bucknell University Conservative Club (BUCC) recently held a forum to discuss this code. Among the issues discussed were the following horrific incidents, as reported by Campus Watch Online.

"one recent Bucknell graduate accused the administration of applying a double standard in its enforcement of the rules. He said that when the Bucknell University Conservative Club (BUCC) issued an editorial critical of the school's speech policy, administrators immediately e-mailed the entire campus with a scolding response; but when the words "Die BUCC" were found chalked on a campus sidewalk, the administration was silent.

"Apples and oranges," replied Charles Pollock, Bucknell's vice president for student affairs, saying that the campus-wide e-mail was not punishment but "counterspeech" to the BUCC editorial.

One suspects that Mr. Pollock is regretting having used the phrase Apples and Oranges. So those poor Campus Conservatives had to face not only public disagreement with their opinions, they also had to face mean spirited graffiti. But did campus security look into the matter of the chalked horror? I am unsure, but it seems likely.

Mr. Pollock brought out an interesting point during the meeting, according to the campus paper, the Bucknellian, which was that if a student harasses a second student, aren't that second student's rights violated?

What's also interesting is that the campus conservatives don't seem able to trot out a lot of people who have been wrongfully prosecuted by the code. I mean if this code is so terrible and hurts students so much, you'd think they'd be able to bring forward a few victims of the code. Students who were expressing reasonable point of views, but who then were slammed into for being condescending or something, hauled before the campus courts, and then exiled from Bucknell (frankly such a story would really help out this article as well). But It doesn't seem to have been a subject in the meeting. Pity.

Of course the counter argument is that lots of people would like to say condescending things, but are prevented from doing so through fear of the harassment policy.

Should people be allowed to say what ever they want without consequences? As we will see later, when it comes to liberals saying what they want, these paragons of liberty are pretty much silent.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Political Correctness and the curriculum

This is from an essay by Thomas Short, entitled, "Diversity" and "Breaking the Disciplines":Two New Assaults on the Curriculum" published in academic Questions I (Summer 1988).

"In the sixties increased enrollment of black students combined with the influence of radical ideas led to the creation of a self-ghettoizing cadre demanding curricular changes in the name of racial justice. Black studies seemed a small exception to the principle that the curriculum should not be determined by political objectives; but before we knew it, feminism was also establishing its claim as a part of the curriculum, and then to all of it. Both proceed on the basis of an enormously damaging lie, namely, that the traditional curriculum "excludes" blacks and women. The legitimate attempt to correct omissions and bias was radicalized into the dogmatic assertion that every part of the curriculum not explicitly devoted to correcting social injustice implicitly defends a racist and sexist status quo. As a result, a new educational principle has become established: in place of the old idea that academic freedom is based on disciplinary competence and entails a responsibility to exclude extraneous political matters from the classroom, we are now told that all education is political and that one can do no better than propound a liberating ideology in each and every course."

The problem with this argument is the simple factual error in the middle of it, namely, that the statement that the traditional curriculum excluded blacks and woman (and, while we're on the subject, pretty much all other minorities) is a lie.

One could argue that race, ethnicity, and gender, should not figure into the study of science or math or engineering (although paying attention to the contributions of non-white males along with white males makes sense). In the social sciences and history and literature, however, the traditional canon or curriculum systematically excluded non-white male points of view, with a few exceptions.

Mr. Short also takes the time to criticize minority studies programs.

"Two reasons are also given for minority studies. One is that they are needed for minority students, and the other is that they are needed for "majority" students. Both arguments proceed from the same underlying assumption, that the traditional liberal arts curriculum represents the culture of "majority," a culture that is an alternative to the ethnic cultures of the black Americans, Chicanos, etc."

Actually I can think of a third reason for minority studies. The study of minority cultures has rewards that extend beyond any supposed social benefit such studies might provide, in much the same way that advanced physics research provides rewards beyond simple technological process. In both cases they are the essential attempt to understand the world with which we are surrounded.

But Mr. Short's arguments seem more geared towards arguing for the existence of required (usually Freshmen) courses in cultural or minority studies, rather than arguing for or against the existence of minority studies programs. Which is not the same thing, and is more debatable. But that debate also moves us into the whole realm of what do we want to require our college students to know. Consider this question, asked by all sorts of students, white or black. "Why do I have to waste my time studying this stupid history (or calculus, or Shakespeare or chemistry)?" Tough question to answer, and not one to get into at the end of this little article, so I leave it to you the reader.

A Note

A lot of really long articles this week; and this may not be the subject you find the most interesting. But I want to put this all together; because it's a subject that interests me. So hang in there.

Professor Stephan Thernstrom Revisited; a study in Political Correctness

Professor Thernstrom was one of the early focal points for the political correctness debate. Let's look at his case from a couple of different angles. The first comes from John Taylor, and appeared in New York Magazine.

"The man is a racist!"
"A racist!"

Such denunciations, hissed in tones of self-righteousness and contempt, vicious and vengeful, furious, smoking with hatred?—such denunciations haunted Stephan Thernstrom for weeks. Whenever he walked through the campus that spring, down Harvard's brick paths, under the arched gates, past the fluttering elms, he found it hard not to imagine the pointing fingers, the whispers. Racist. There goes the racist. It was hellish, this persecution. Thernstrom couldn't sleep. His nerves were frayed, his temper raw. He was making his family miserable. And the worst thing was that he didn't know who was calling him a racist, or why.

Thernstrom, fifty-six, a professor at Harvard University for twenty- five years, is considered one of the preeminent scholars of the history of race relations in America. He has tenure. He has won prizes and published numerous articles and four books and edited the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. For several years, Thernstrom and another professor, Bernard Bailyn, taught an undergraduate lecture course on the history of race relations in the United States called "Peopling of America." Bailyn covered the colonial era. Thernstrom took the class up to the present.

Both professors are regarded as very much in the academic mainstream, their views grounded in extensive research on their subject, and both have solid liberal democratic credentials. But all of a sudden, in the fall of 1987, articles began to appear in the Harvard Crimson accusing Thernstrom and Bailyn of "racial insensitivity" in "Peopling of America." The sources for the articles were anonymous, the charges vague, but they continued to be repeated, these ringing indictments.

Finally, through the intervention of another professor, two students from the lecture course came forward and identified themselves as the sources for the articles. When asked to explain their grievances, they presented the professors with a six-page letter. Bailyn's crime had been to read from the diary of a southern planter without giving equal time to the recollections of a slave. This, to the students, amounted to a covert defense of slavery. Bailyn, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes, had pointed out during the lecture that no journals, diaries, or letters written by slaves had ever been found. He had explained to the class that all they could do was read the planter's diary and use it to speculate about the experience of slaves. But that failed to satisfy the complaining students. Since it was impossible to give equal representation to the slaves, Bailyn ought to have dispensed with the planter's diary altogether. . . .

Even worse, they continued, Thernstrom had assigned a book to the class that mentioned that some people regarded affirmative action as preferential treatment. That was a racist opinion. But most egregiously, Thernstrom had endorsed, in class, Patrick Moynihan's emphasis on the breakup of the black family as a cause of persistent black poverty. That was a racist idea. . . .

The semester was pretty much over by then. But during the spring, when Thernstrom sat down to plan the course for the following year, he had to think about how he would combat charges of racism should they crop up again. And they assuredly would. All it took was one militant student, one word like Oriental taken out of context, one objection that a professor's account of slavery was insufficiently critical or that, in discussing black poverty, he had raised the "racist" issue of welfare dependency. And a charge of racism, however unsubstantiated, leaves a lasting impression. "It's like being called a Commie in the fifties," Thernstrom says. "Whatever explanation you offer, once accused, you're always suspect."

He decided that to protect himself in case he was misquoted or had comments taken out of context, he would need to tape all his lectures. Then he decided he would have to tape his talks with students in his office. He would, in fact, have to tape everything he said on the subject of race. It would require a tape-recording system worthy of the Nixon White House. Microphones everywhere, the reels turning constantly. That was plainly ridiculous. Thernstrom instead decided it would be easier just to drop the course altogether. "Peopling of America" is no longer offered at Harvard.

To contrast that point of view, here's an section from an article by Rosa Ehrenreich, which originally appeared in Harpers Magazine, December 1991. Ms. Ehrenreich was a student at Harvard during the controversy.

"The operative word here is "imagine." Taylor seriously distorted what actually happened. In February of 1988, several black female students told classmates that they had been disturbed by some "racially insensitive" comments made by Professor Thernstrom. Thernstrom, they said, had spoken approvingly of Jim Crow laws, and had said that black men, harboring feelings of inadequacy, beat their female partners. The students, fearing for their grades should they anger Professor Thernstrom by confronting him with their criticisms?—this is not an unusual way for college students to think things through, as anyone who's been an undergraduate well knows?—never discussed the matter with him. They told friends, who told friends, and the Crimson soon picked up word of the incident and ran an article.

Professor Thernstrom, understandably disturbed to learn of the matter in the Crimson, wrote a letter protesting that no students had ever approached him directly with such criticisms. He also complained that the students' vague criticisms about "racial insensitivity" had "launched a witch- hunt" that would have "chilling effect upon freedom of expression." Suddenly, Professor Thernstrom was to be understood as a victim, falsely smeared with the charge of racism. But no one had ever accused him of any such thing. "I do not charge that [Thernstrom] is a racist," Wendi Grantham, one of the students who criticized Thernstrom, wrote in the Crimson in response to his letter. Grantham believed the professor gave "an incomplete and over-simplistic presentation of the information.... I am simply asking questions about his presentation of the material...." As for the professor's comment that the criticisms were like a "witch-hunt," Grantham protested that Thernstrom had "turned the whole situation full circle, proclaimed himself victim, and resorted to childish name-calling and irrational comparisons ... 'witch-hunt'[is] more than a little extreme...." But vehement, even hysterical language is more and more used to demonize students who question and comment. Terms like "authoritarian" and "Hitler youth" have been hurled at students who, like Grantham, dare to express any sort of criticism of the classroom status quo.

John K. Wilson, mentioned above also deals with this particular case.

"But except for a vague statement condemning "prejudice, harassment and discrimination" (issued weeks before the controversy began) and praise for the "judicious and fair" students who had "avoided public comment," Harvard officials never took the side of the students, and a month later the dean of the faculty announced that no disciplinary action would be taken against Thernstrom. While Thernstrom may have objected to the administration's neutrality, even Eugene Genovese-- a critic of political correctness-admitted that "the Harvard administration more or less upheld Thernstrom's academic freedom.""

I'm sorry I can't link to these articles--I am getting them from Questia, which is an online library.

This is a tricky one; because nothing actually happened to Mr. Thernstrom. I mean if he had been disciplined, that would be one thing, there'd be a record of it. But instead what we have are supposed attacks on his good name. One account paints those attacks vitrioliclic; the second paints a much more indirect picture.

So there's two stories, and you can take your pick as to which one you believe.

1. Vicious PC students spread rumors about a blameless professor in an effort to get him terminated and to ruin his good name. The professor chose not to offer the class again.

2. Students questioned publically some statements made by their professor, which criticisms found their way into the media to the embarassement of all involved. The professor, unused to facing criticism, decided not to teach the class ever again.

History of Political Correctness Part 1

This section of our review of Political Correctness will present two views of the origin of the word, and then discuss which is more plausible. The first comes from "The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education" written by John K. Wilson, Published by Duke University Press.

"The words first appeared two centuries ago in the 1793 Supreme Court case Chisholm v. Georgia, which upheld the right of a citizen to sue another state. Justice James Wilson wrote an opinion in which he objected to the wording of a common toast: " 'The United States' instead of the 'People of the United States' is the toast given. This is not politically correct." Wilson's use of the term was quite literal. He felt that the people, not the states, held the true authority of the United States, and therefore a toast to the states violated the "correct" political theory. Supporters of states' rights did not concur, and the Eleventh Amendment was passed to overturn the Chisholm decision. And the phrase politically correct quickly faded from memory."

Let's compare that to Agustin Blazquez's (with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton) article on the origin of Political Correctness, entitled "Political Correctness: The Scourge of Our Times."

"Does anyone know the origins of Political Correctness? Who originally developed it and what was its purpose?
I looked it up. It was developed at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, which was founded in 1923 and came to be known as the "Frankfurt School." It was a group of thinkers who pulled together to find a solution to the biggest problem facing the implementers of communism in Russia.

The problem? Why wasn't communism spreading?

Their answer? Because Western Civilization was in its way.

What was the problem with Western Civilization? Its belief in the individual, that an individual could develop valid ideas. At the root of communism was the theory that all valid ideas come from the effect of the social group of the masses. The individual is nothing.

And they believed that the only way for communism to advance was to help (or force, if necessary) Western Civilization to destroy itself. How to do that? Undermine its foundations by chipping away at the rights of those annoying individuals.

One way to do that? Change their speech and thought patterns by spreading the idea that vocalizing your beliefs is disrespectful to others and must be avoided to make up for past inequities and injustices.

And call it something that sounds positive: "Political Correctness.

Remember, by the way that this is only part one. More parts to come that will illuminate further these records. However, a few initial comments. Mr. Wilson does focus on an American origin to the word; while Mr. Blazquez is tracking the origin of the idea (or what he thinks the idea behind the phrase "Political Correctness" is).

More to come.

Bone-Chilling Politically Correct Stories

As real as last week, and yet so horrific, your hair might turn white. We here at "Make me a Commentator!!!" urge those with weak stomachs or hearts to avoid reading the following terrible tale.

There have been recent protests about the California Governors plans to raise campus tuitions. Apparently the protesters have not been all that numerous; but they have existed. Brace yourself, it gets worse.

According to academic Watchdog Website, Campus Report Online, some professors may have provided information on these protests. Check out this account, oh brave reader, and feel your blood run cold.

"During a recent class, our source at SFCC [San Francisco City College ]writes, our instructor went around the room handing out copies of a letter from the dean of the Castro Valencia campus.

?“When asked, he said he had been told to distribute them. This letter asked students to help fund a partisan effort to lobby against budget reforms currently being proposed by the governor of California.

We are finding that the use of students as political operatives, which many parents and their college-age children find inappropriate, is a standard practice throughout the California state university system. Our source at California State University at Sacramento informs us that her professors told undergraduates that they should attend the aforementioned grassroots demonstration.

Scary isn't it? This instructor had "been told" to pass out these letters. By whom? Was it someone else in the department? Or the president of the college? Or the ghost of Comrade Lenin? It's left unclear, and we are free to let our minds wander over who it could be. It is a blessing that this "source" didn't take the time to find out exactly who told this instructor to pass out these letters; I'm sure the truth would have been too much for even such brave readers as you.

Also note the apparent lack of coercion. I say apparent, because it is clear that in a story as hideous as this, there was massive coercion. Perhaps the teacher threatened to lower grades if the students didn't attend. Perhaps he threatened to open the Gate to the Plane of Boiling Oil and flay the skins from their bodies. The story provides no details as to what type of coercion might have occurred. The uninitiated might assume that this indicates that there was no coercion exercised; but you and I know the horrors of campus life. Of course there was coercion even if it was never spoken or expressed in anyway.

Also note the use of students as political operatives. Fortunately, college students are unable to think for themselves and so are enticed into participating into such demonstrations. If they were able to think for themselves, of course they would be in favor of raising tuition. Instead we have liberal zombie students shuffling their way from class to cafeteria to playstation to bed.

Anyway tune in next time for another bone-chilling politically correct story.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Politically Correct Week

If you choose to punch in the words "political correctness" into Google, you get back 344,000 sites (Politically Correct pulls in 736,000. Politically incorrect pulls in 377,000). That's a whole heap of sites. But what is "political correctness?"

Top of the list and second to the top of the list is an article by Phillip Atkinson on how Political Correctness has ravaged Australia. Let's see what he has to say.

"Political Correctness (PC) is the communal tyranny that erupted in the 1980s. It was a spontaneous declaration that particular ideas, expressions and behaviour, which were then legal, should be forbidden by law, and people who transgressed should be punished. It started with a few voices but grew in popularity until it became unwritten and written law within the community. With those who were publicly declared as being not politically correct becoming the object of persecution by the mob, if not prosecution by the state."

Oh my that doesn't sound very good, does it? But let's look at the ahistorical nature of this statement. It was a "spontaneous declaration." Where did this declaration happen? It is unclear. When did it happen? The author is a bit more forthcoming on this issue. Apparently it appeared in the 1980s. Why did it happen? On this the author is initially silent; although the use of the word "spontaneous" suggests that it did not spring from any antecedents, but just appeared.

Mr. Atkinson does eventually suggest a source for this political correctness; the selfish baby boomers who hated and resented their parents.

"The declared rational of this tyranny is to prevent people being offended; to compel everyone to avoid using words or behaviour that may upset homosexuals, women, none-whites, the crippled, the mentally impaired, the fat or the ugly. This reveals not only its absurdity but its inspiration. The set of values that are detested are those held by the previous generation (those who fought the Second World War ), which is why the terms niggers, coons, dagos, wogs, poofs, spastics and sheilas, have become heresy, for, in an act of infantile rebellion, their subject have become revered by the new generation. Political Correctness is merely the resentment of spoilt children directed against their parent's values."

So according to this particular author, it is infantile to find the term nigger or coon offensive. I need hardly point out that people of color aren't even on stage for this discussion; it is, in Atkinson's mind, strictly a debate between two white generations, and, apparently, their opinions are the only one's that matter.

But perhaps I am being politically correct.

Among the other top ten sites at Google on Political Correctness are a speech by Charleton Heston, a story about the use of "People who are Blind" rather than "Blind People," quotes from Camille Pagalia (some of which are quite good), and a history of the term at the ultra republican Newsmax, claiming it came to us from Frankfort socialists by way of Chairman Mao (which, frankly, is quite a little voyage for an English language term to make).

There is one slightly more scholarly treatment of the term at Wikpedia, but it gives short shrift to the theory that the term originated more as a perjorative against over-righteous liberals. "Many leftists allege that the term "political correctness" started as a label jokingly used to describe one's over-commitment to various political causes. In the view of one conservative commentator, Bill Lind, however, the intellectual roots and attitudes associated with PC are many decades old and rooted in radical leftist movements. Also, in a linguistics mailing list, there was discussion of the term used--sometimes quite straight-facedly--in the early and middle 1970s."

We will be revisiting this theory of the origin of the term as we progress. This might make for a dull scholarly week, but I need a break from the same old thing, and I think it might be interesting to take a subject like this and really explore it.

Just so you know where I stand, I think that the use of the term "political correctness" has done far more to silence and shut down the expression of liberal ideas than it has to silence conservative ideas. Obviously I haven't proved that yet, but I intend to.

So sit back and enjoy. Or actually you'd probably be better off going and watching some TV, since I might not post again until tomorrow or later on tonight.

A Musical Question

Laura Miller, at Salon, has written an article on a subject near and dear to my heart. Fascism. Of all the -isms, fascism is the one that's the most elderberry. The whole article is interesting for what it reveals about fascism, as well as the misuse and overuse of the term. She concludes by looking at our own President Bush.

"Closer to home, using Paxton's definition, is George W. Bush a fascist? Nah. America in the early 2000s doesn't resemble Germany in the 1930s much at all, really. But that doesn't mean this administration's encroachments on civil liberties, cheap appeals to patriotism in launching an ill-conceived and ineptly executed war in Iraq, or efforts to conduct government business in excessive secrecy aren't extremely disturbing. The comparisons of Bush to Hitler don't shed much light on his policies, but they do show just how much fury he's provoked. Usually, when Americans call a politician they don't like a "fascist" it's not because we know he's got an extra-governmental squad of jackbooted thugs ready to sic on his enemies. It's because it's the worst thing we can think of to call anyone. But you can be a bad leader who does bad things without deserving comparisons to the Nazis and ominous references to the "thin end of the wedge." We've all heard the poem by the German who didn't speak out when they came to get this group and that, but let's face it, it's just not effective political vigilance to cry "Hitler" at every provocation. Because most of the time it's not Hitler, and should the day finally come when it is, we want to make sure people are still listening."

She's not wrong.

Great Question

This was about half way through the interview between Presidential Candidate John Kerry and Tim Russert. I didn't actually watch the interview, so it's possible this didn't play as bad as it reads.

"MR. RUSSERT: Senator, again, in the interest of candor and clarity, you have promised to create 10 million jobs...


MR. RUSSERT: ...and cut the deficit in half in your first four years.

SEN. KERRY: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: If you don't achieve those goals, would you pledge that you would not seek re-election?

Hmmmmm. I don't know exactly what the point of that question is; does Russert really think that Kerry should commit to not run for reelection based on that set up? For one thing, the House at least will probably remain in Republican Hands, and they not be interested in passing Kerry's budgets or jobs creation bills. For another, world events might intervene in between now and then. At any rate, let's hear Mr. Kerry's answer.

"Well, it would depend on the circumstances. If I don't because there's a war or
something terrible happens, of course I'm not going to make that pledge. But if I walked away from my promise, which I won't do, I wouldn't deserve to be re-elected. Look, I know I can create 10 million new jobs for this country. Bill Clinton, when he ran in 1992, pledged to create eight million. Guess what, Tim? He created 11 million. We're now a bigger economy with more people. There's no reason we can't create 10 million jobs. But you can't do it with George Bush's failed policy.

I will make this country and our economy stronger by restoring fiscal responsibility. And what I've promised to do--and I have a plan. George Bush has no plan except tax cuts that take place seven years from now for the wealthiest Americans. My plan is to give 98 percent of all Americans a tax cut now. I will give 99 percent of all American businesses a tax cut now. And I pay for it. And I show precisely how I pay for it. And I'm going to reinstate the pay-as-you-go principle that we lived by in the 1990s so that, if we're going to have a program, we're going to have to show Americans how we pay for it.

Although the MSNBC Story about the interview does reveal the positive news that Kerry does have a plan for Iraq (which you all should know, frankly), the interview itself seemed to consist of Russert reading off Republican attacks on Senator Kerry and asking him to respond. It seemed a lot less softball than the infamous Presidential appearance on Meet the Press a couple of weeks back.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

New Quotes

Yep--but these are actually old quotes that have already been used. Still, you'll hardly be able to tell the difference. Plus, a new quotes page.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

A little quiz

Two stories have recently arisen about Senator Kerry, a little compare and contrast might be in order. Read the following stories and consider the following question; how do the following stories reflect on the party of the principle?

In the first story, as previously reported, Senator Kerry, who is also the Democratic candidate for President, while skiing was knocked down inadvertantly by his secret service agent. To quote conservative columnist Tony Blankly on the subject, "But what may become the enduring exemplar of the Kerry style was his spontaneous expletive on the ski slopes when his Secret Service guard bumped into him by accident (while guarding him): "I don't fall down. The S.O.B. knocked me over." To instinctively say that about the man who is sworn to put himself between Kerry and a bullet, paints a lasting and contemptible character portrait."

In the second story, Republican Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, now retired, reported that Senator Kerry did not deserve the first Purple Heart he recieved. The presumably liberal Douglas Brinkley (who is writing for had the following comments on this incident. "Does anybody dispute that Kerry's wound was created by enemy action? As the stipulation also makes clear, Kerry would have been awarded a Purple Heart even if he never bled, if, for example, he had suffered a concussion from a grenade. So to set the record straight: Kerry deserved his first Purple Heart -- period. To say otherwise is to distort the reality of the medal.

Unfortunately, the Boston Globe and New York Post stories omit fully reporting the bylaws. They present Hibbard at face value, downplaying the fact that he is a Republican criticizing a fellow veteran hoping to cause him public embarrassment.

Actually they are both representative of their parties. The first demonstrates that Democrats are elitist snobs who don't appreciate what they have been given and cuss a lot. The second demonstrates that Republicans are brave people willing to speak truth to power 35 years after the event happened, at a time when it will cause the most political damage.

Some of you might think that I am showing Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, now retired, a lack of respect. The man is a veteran after all. To that I would respond, well, Senator Kerry's a veteran too, and that doesn't seem to be slowing Republicans down anyway.

Rush Limbaugh Speaks: I'm coming unglued

From the Rush Limbaugh Show.

"This is just a quick little seven-second segment, short clip of the latest Osama bin Laden tape message.

TRANSLATOR: This is a war that is benefiting major companies with billions of dollars, such as Halliburton and Co.

RUSH: Gee, folks, we have bin Laden now ripping Halliburton. There's one party in this country that mentions Halliburton all the time. Now, as I say, it's easy to say, "Oh, my gosh. Look at what's happening." But it sounds to me, it sounds to me like bin Laden is trying to strengthen and bolster the Democrats' confidence in making this allegation. He's trying -- and in the process -- he is aligning himself with world socialists who hate capitalism and hate big capitalist countries like Halliburton.

A Few Points and a tirade.

1. So what do you think it says that Rush identifies Halliburton as a "big capitalist country?" Any of you ever read William Gibson's Neuromancer? Or even better his "New Rose Hotel?" In them he creates a future world in which corporations have far more power than governments. Perhaps Rush has seen the future.

Some of you might be saying, "Hey Bryant, don't you know that corporations are far more efficient than governments? Frankly they just work better. Plus, you have a little bit of your breakfast on your left . . . no a little bit in towards the mouth . . . there it is."

To which I say, thank you, but also I have to point out that you are comparing an organization dedicated strictly to creating profit to one created, nominally at least, to serve its citizens. You also have to ignore the history of the corporation, which is at least as shameful as the history of the government (assuming we are comparing the US government to US corporations. Anyway something to think about.

2. The Democratic Party is a capitalist party. Any of you who think any differently are wrong. I was initially going to cast aspersions at your mental capabilities, but have decided that given the Conservative Movements insistence that the Democrats are socialists it's understandable if some of you get confused.

But for those of you who don't know--the Democratic Party is staunchly pro-capitalism. If you want to vote for socialism you need to look at, say, the Socialist Party USA, the Socialist Labor Party of America, the Communist Party USA, or, to a lesser extent, the Green Party.

We're sure that, having cleared this up, Conservatives will cease calling the Democratic Party socialist.

3. "But it sounds to me, it sounds to me like bin Laden is trying to strengthen and bolster the Democrats' confidence in making this allegation." There are two ways to look at this argument, I suppose. One is that he is suggesting that the Democratic Party is taking its cues from al-Queda. If I believed that the Democratic Party was taking advice from bin Laden, I would resign. Fortunately, here on planet Earth, I know that they aren't.

The other is the idea that if a despicable evil monstrous human being like Osama bin Laden says something, whatever it is must be evil and wrong. Pretty much sight unseen. OBL doesn't like Halliburton, therefore Halliburton must be great (despite, of course, the evidence of our eyes). This is a bit childish and myopic. It must occur to every thoughtful person that one can find a despicable person to support every position.

4. Finally, this is more of a reminder. President Bush and his White House (particularly Vice President Cheney) have identified themselves with Rush Limbaugh. If you want to know how the President and his counselors feel about the issues of the day turn on Rush Limbaugh.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Kathleen Parker Vs. Rolling Stone

Actually commented on this article a couple of weeks ago by Kathleen Parker on the infamous skiing incident. In my previous report of her article I quoted this heart-warming section.

"Then you catch Kerry, who shouldn't need to prove his manhood - he served in Vietnam, you know - engaging in preppy sports that require resorts and expensive equipment: skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing. Not exactly the populist sports of choice.

Can't the man shoot hoops? Or toss a football while, say, not skiing in Aspen? Catch much?

Well Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, reports that apparently he can toss a football.

"Kerry does the sports-on-the-tarmac thing a lot. It looks great on television, but in person the effect is surreal. The entire press crew will be standing at the ass end of the plane, when suddenly Kerry's gleaming, toothy figure appears out of nowhere and starts performing a photogenic ballet. The cameramen drop everything and run full-speed to encircle him. If he has to run to one side to catch the ball, the entire closed loop of journalists travels with him. From a distance this looks almost biological, like viral cells attacking a drifting mitochondrion.

I had nothing else to do -- what is there to do in that situation? -- so I decided to get in on it. I signaled to Kerry and ran a pattern across the concrete. The candidate turned and gracefully hit me right on the hands. The cameras followed, then moved on as I threw the ball to a staffer.

Back on the plane, I wrote in my notebook: "Throws tight spiral.

Anyway the rest of Taibbi's article is interesting as well, as it covers how the press coverage of a candidate works to distance him from the public or the public from him, depending on how you look at it.

I'm Trying to Think, but Nothing's Happen

In other words, you're on your own for a little bit. But if you have any suggestions, by all means pass them on in the comments section.

Around the Horn with the Press Conference of the Century

Edward Pig has an excellent overview of the Press Conference of the Century.

Rubber Hose also watched the Press Conference of the Century and provides a more personal take on it.

Bark Bark Woof Woof reviews an article discussion what the Press Conference of the Century says about President Bush's mental state.

Dohiyi Mir discusses one of President Bush's stranger statements at the Press Conference of the Century.

And Then . . . comments on President Bush's repeated mention of the 50 Tons of Mustard Gas found in the Press Conference of the Century.

It's Craptastic reminds us all of President Bush's apparent inability to answer a simple question.

Corrente read the same Saletan Article I did (see below) and had a somewhat negative take on it.

And there were some other great posts this week that inexplicably did not mention the Press Conference of the Century. But I urge you to read them anyway.

Pen Elayne on the Web has a great essay on what a liberal vision should be. She makes a lot of great points.

Chris "Lefty" Brown considers the proposition that a vote for Kerry is a vote against Bush.

BlogAmy has a plea for the ol' March of Dimes although she also covers her personal misgivings about their use of animal research.

Musing's Musings reviews his thoughts on the Israel Palestinian Peace process and makes some cogent analysis. What I find a little tragic is that he has to state repeatedly that he is a friend to Israel and recognizes Israel's right to exist. But on the other hand, I understand why he does it; in many circles there is apparently no difference between criticizing Ariel Sharon and calling for the Jews to be driven into the sea.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A New York Time Editorial on the Press Conference of the Century

You may be wondering why I keep referring to the Press Conference that occured on Tuesday as the "Press Conference of the Century." Well, I don't know either. Just seems to be one of those things. Anyway came across a New York Times editorial that slams into President Bush on his performance at the Press Conference of the Century.

"Americans knew George W. Bush was an incurious man when they elected him, but the hearings of the 9/11 investigating commission, which turned yesterday from the F.B.I.'s fecklessness to the C.I.A.'s blurred vision, have brought that fact home in a startling way. The president is trying hard to present himself as a hands-on manager who talked terrorism incessantly with the director of central intelligence, George Tenet. ("I wanted Tenet in the Oval Office all the time.") But Mr. Tenet had to concede yesterday that he was not in Crawford, Tex., for the Aug. 6, 2001, briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Mr. Tenet told the panel he didn't meet with Bush all that month, but the C.I.A. later said there had been two meetings. No one has been able to say whether Mr. Bush followed up in any way after he asked his intelligence agencies whether there was a domestic threat from Al Qaeda, and got a loud "yes" in response.

As the president rightly said on Tuesday night, the only people responsible for the slaughter in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, were Osama bin Laden and the other terrorists. But to watch these hearings is to endure a terrifying review of the chances missed and balls dropped in the last two administrations.

Something to consider. I have my own thoughts as well, and will cover this again later.

And yet another opinion on the Press Conference of the Century

Robert Novak, of Valerie Plame fame, thinks that President Bush did ok with his Press Conference.

"The result was an unprecedented hybrid: the president delivering a 17-minute speech to the nation over the heads of reporters, who anxiously waited their turn. Bush was ready to parry Democratic claims that Iraq was becoming another Vietnam, contending that the "false" analogy "sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy." Facing the anticipated onslaught of press demands that he apologize or admit error, the president wisely avoided an answer that would have been repeated endlessly on television.

Inexplicably, however, Bush seemed adrift when asked whether he had ever made a mistake other than trading Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs when he owned the Texas Rangers. He apparently did not anticipate being asked why he and Vice President Dick Cheney insisted on testifying together to the independent commission, and simply refused to give a responsive answer even when the question was repeated. That is why the president avoids press conferences.

I guess it depends on what the goals of the press conference were. If it was to shore up the base, than probably it worked well enough. If it was to convince those who didn't already agree with the President, than it probably wasn't that successful.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

More on the Press Conference of the Century

Maybe you are tired of my commentary on the Press Conference. It's hard to imagine, but it might be possible. Here's some other commentary on it.

"My heart sank when the President said, "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with [an] answer, but it hadn't yet." Has ever a President uttered more demoralizing words in the course of seeking to reassure Americans and the world? ("I am not a crook," maybe.) I wish the President to stand by our troops now in peril on foreign shores. I wish the President to protect us from terrorist attacks at home. I wish the President to preside wisely over a vigorous and free economy and society. I wish the President were able to stand up to the pressures of those jobs. But the President cannot even come up with an answer to a question he said, mere seconds before, he has "oftentimes [thought] about" over the last couple of years: "You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?" The President replied, "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." And then he then explained about the pressure of press conferences.

Honestly, I was truly astonished to feel so saddened at that moment. I hadn't supposed any appreciable confidence in the President's ability remained in me. But it turns out I am enough of a Pollyanna to have held out some secret hope, at least till then.
" - Eric Rauchway for Altercation.

"I've just watched the press conference later on C-SPAN. Not only was the transcript encouraging. I found the president clear, forceful, impassioned, determined, real. This was not an average performance. I found it Bush at his best. He needs to do it more." - Andrew Sullivan

"To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. "A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon," he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true. - William Saletan

"Set aside the source for a moment: every word of this [President Bush's assessment of the war on terror] is profoundly true, the importance is the song, not the singer. I honestly don't care all that much about the singer and have many differences with him in other areas. But somehow, someway, this particular man grasped on 9/11 that all of the incidents listed above ARE connected, cannot be addressed piecemeal, cannot be addressed in a defensive mode - as every Western leader and every American president, Republican and Democrat alike, had previously done - and that decisive, resolute, offensive action was the only possible way to win this war, a war we did not seek, and in fact assiduously sought to avoid prior to 9/11.

The question of the moment is, is Iraq a genuine part of this war? It sure as hell is now. As Bush very keenly stated, the key to this war is to stay on the offense, to keep taking the battle to the enemy.
" - Eric Olsen

That's enough to get you started.

Further selections from President Bush's press conference

"And the other thing I look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it's -- it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing. And we've been on war ever since."

"Well, I think, as I mentioned, it's -- the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war."

"And my answer to that question is, is that, again I repeat what I said earlier -- prior to 9/11 the country really wasn't on a war footing."

I'm not exactly sure what President means by us being on a War Footing. Other than the obvious; we declared war on and defeated both Afghanistan and Iraq (although the new government of Afghanistan has little power outside of the capital and there is a very active Iraqi Insurgency). But the homefront isn't really on a War Footing is it?

The only sacrifice the President (well, to be fair, more his advisors and supporters in the right wing media than himself) have asked, is for liberals to sacrifice their voice. Maybe I just don't understand the term "War Footing."

Wait a minute, maybe I was wrong.

I'm afraid I might have been wrong in my assessment of Mr. Bush and his inability to admit to a mistake.

"Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?

THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

. . . I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

He should have just said "This Press conference, maybe." That would have gotton a big laugh. Oh well, I'm glad the President is confident that he is capable of making mistakes, even if he can't think of any examples.