Saturday, May 21, 2005

Luck or Work?

What determines destiny? Is it Luck? Is it Hard Work? A combination of the two? This is the question Matt Miller takes in his column today, over at the New York Times.
Obviously this is a false choice; every life is a blend of both. We're born with certain endowments, and make the most of them (or don't) based on personal traits. But if you had to say which one matters most in shaping where people end up, how many of you would join me in answering "luck"?

In a poll I commissioned a few years ago, people who call themselves liberals or Democrats overwhelmingly said luck; most conservatives or Republicans said individual effort.

But if you're hoping to shake up today's gridlocked politics, what's interesting is that independent voters - now the nation's biggest bloc - viewed luck the way Democrats do.
It's an interesting argument. I've noted the core of it myself. Conservatives demean any talk of luck or class playing a role in success as class warfare or not trusting that the poor can make it on their own. Anyway well worth check out.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Quote from President Bush

I know that some of you think that I'm a little hard on President Bush when he misspeaks. So today I'd just like to compliment him on a recent statement which is both honest and succint.
And that's why I'm talking about Social Security. And the debate has only just begun. (Applause.) But I believe the side of reform is going to prevail, because the American people now are beginning to realize we have a serious problem when it comes to Social Security. And that problem begins with people like me.
What a forthright statement. Originally from GreatScat!

Round the Horn - A Double Shot of My Baby's Love

Since I was in St. Louis Last week, I didn't do a "Round the Horn" segment. So let's do a double segment today.

Natalie Davis' All Facts and Opinions has done a recent redesign, and it looks quite good.

And Then . . . talks about going on a political hiatus and the state of the political nation.

bloggg has some news on how kids with disabilities might get a better break in Pennsylvania.

Bark Bark Woof Woof writes about the theory that Democrats should let the Republicans trigger the nuclear option (and then live with the consequences).

Corrente has an overview on how triggering the Nuclear option would work.

Echidne of the Snakes has some comments on the language of war and politics. She's right.

Edwardpig says goodbye to the blog-o-cube (blog-o-sphere is so 2004!). He was a great writer, and I hope that he will find his way back sometime soon.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has a post that involves the strange intersection of Grand Ayatollah Uzma Sistani and Twisted Sister.

Iddybud has some thoughts on some unfortunate attacks that Republicans are making on those who oppose their power grab.

LEFT is RIGHT has some thoughts on Senator Lautenburg's invocation of Star Wars on the floor of the Senate.

Pen-Elayne on the Web has the story on Northridges election of Ralph Wiggum to be their new mayor. Sort of.

Musing's Musings is riled up at the right. Not without reason, either.

Respectful of Otters has some very solid words on the Reverend Chan Chandler and his attempt to kick out all the democrats.

rubber hose comments on the disconnect between the news we care about and the news that we don't.

Scrutiny Hooligans has comments on that big phony Zell Miller and his latest book (which features an introduction by Sean Hannity).

Speedkill is, apparently, not a big fan of the Huffington Post so far.

The Invisible Library has some thoughts on Wikepedia, Encarta, Slate, and the Microsoft Corporation.

So there you go. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars; the Politicos Strike Back

The New York Times has a story on how Star Wars is playing in the rarefied world of politicos. For one thing PABAAH (Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti American Hollywood) (which I can't link to cause the guy there is a jerkwad) has added George Lucas to the boycott list. Which means all you loyal conservatives better not go see it. But then check out this commentary from the New York Times, which, I am assured is super liberal.
All of which calls into question Mr. Lucas's decision to have the premiere of the "Star Wars" finale at the Cannes Film Festival. France is sometimes called the biggest blue state of all, after all. And just what was Mr. Lucas - who could not be reached for comment Wednesday - thinking when he told a Cannes audience that he had not realized in plotting the film years ago that fact might so closely track his fiction?

Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Mr. Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."

Apparently in all seriousness, though, he went on to say that he had first devised the "Star Wars" story during the Vietnam War. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told an appreciative audience.
Feel the liberal love there? I mean look at that nutty George Lucas drawing parallels between his film and current political situation. And here the New York Times failed to call him on it. I mean they used mild derogatory language ("What was Mr. Lucas . . . thinking" and "Apparently in all seriousness") but this calls for far more than that. Frankly an honest person writing this article would have called for Mr. Lucas to be placed under psychiatric care without delay.

$8.8 Billion Dollars

I think the jig is up. I've been keeping mum about this for a while but Al Franken's post yesterday at the Huffington Report is shining a light on a situation that this bloggist is involved in.

The American Occupation authority that governed Iraq may have lost $8.8 billion in Iraqi money, according to the New York Times. Well the truth is, I got it.

Most of it anyway. I got $8,795,264,669.50. I don't know what happened to the other $4,735,330.50. Probably Halliburton. Or George Clooney.

Anyway I've tried to keep it quiet, while I wandered the world as a combination of that Kung Fu guy and Mr. Magoo. I even commissioned the a LMD (Life Model Decoy) to replace me so my friends wouldn't get suspicious.

I feel so much better now that I've admitted it. Plus coincidentally enough I'm on an island (a gentleman never names names) that does not happen to have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Anyway, this has been a really trying time for me, so I think I'm going to go take a soak in the hot tub (filled with Evian, by the way).

The Nuclear Option and You

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
There's a good article over at working for change at the symbolism of the nuclear option. For those unfamiliar with how this phrase entered the public vocabulary, Trent Lott coined it at the beginning of this debate. Since then the Republicans have realized that the term might carry negative connotations, and have switched to using the term "Constitutional option." Several stupid reporters have mistakenly assumed that "Nuclear option" was the Democrat counter to the Republicans "Constitutional option" proving that reporters have, above all, a laziness bias.

At any rate, the article is actually a pair of articles. A short introduction by Tom Engelhardt and a longer article by Ira Chernus, tracing the term Nuclear Option and connecting it back to the cold war and the red scare. In his introduction Engelhardt comments on the possible outcomes of this nuclear option.
For the nuclear option and its attendant imagery is, as Ira Chernus explains below, a more than apt metaphor for the moment -- not least because of the nature of the Senate grab for power by so-called conservatives. (By the way, isn't there some sort of expiration date on the use of the term "conservative," especially when what's being considered is radical indeed -- getting rid of a traditional political instrument whose history extends back to the early 1800s?) The wiping out of the filibuster could, in fact, represent the sort of great leap downhill (no slippery slide here) in the direction of a one-party state that many fear. After all, the accruing of unprecedented power to a majority party in the Senate will in reasonably short order lead to unprecedented control over the nation's judiciary. Just remind me, what's actually left after that?
The article by Chernus goes into the connections between the Nuclear scares of the 1950s and the current Nuclear scare. It's quite interesting, and a little scary in it's own way.
On America's political right wing, politics and life itself are acts of war. It's go-for-the-jugular, take-no-prisoners, winner-take-all. Nuclear weapons have always been a consummate symbol of the conservatives' insistence on absolute victory and absolute control.
Anyway we'll have to see how this filibuster situation plays out, but the underlying tension won't disappear either way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Sen. Kay Baily Hutchinson (R) just finished speaking. Apparently this Priscilla Owens is really a lovely person. Her father died on the way back to Korea, which is sad. She helps blind people by giving them dogs, which is good. Democrats do not want to get to know the real Priscilla Owens, which is bad. Let's look and see how this nice, lovely person, upholds consumer protections (from Independent Judiciary).
Read v. Scott Fetzer Co.37 The Kirby Company, a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, required that its distributors sell its product door-to-door, in person, in order to distinguish Kirby from other brands. However, Kirby did not require its distributors to conduct background checks on their door-to-door salespeople, and a Kirby distributor hired Mickey Carter without checking his background. Carter had a history of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace and had been fired from his previous job after he was arrested on a charge of indecency with a child. After Carter raped Dena Kristi Read in her home on a purported visit to sell her a vacuum cleaner, Read and her family sued Kirby for negligence. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the award of $160,000 dollars by a vote of 6-3. Justice Owen joined both dissents, arguing that Kirby should not be held accountable.
Hmmmmm. That doesn't sound very lovely. But maybe I just need to get to know her better.

Today is the Day

Apparently today is the day that they are going to decide on the Judges issue. Senator Frist is talking right now on C-SPAN 2 on how these judges deserve "a vote." By which they mean they deserve confirmation. I wonder if the Democrats will be allowed to speak at all. I mean the moment a Democrat speaks a filibuster starts, if I understand correctly.

I Can't Hear with this Partisan Ideology in my Ears

Jay Bryant writes a clever article today on Priscilla Owens, one of the justices whose assent to the Federal Appeals court was blocked by those nasty Democrats. But first of all he links Bill Clinton, Minnesota Viking Onterro Smith, and Michael Jackson, in a two minute hate performance, presumably designed to distract his readers so they fall for his slight of hand later in the article.

And here is the slight of hand.
This brings me to another obvious lie, one currently being retailed by Senators of the Democratic persuasion, their 527 Committee propagandists and various and sundry media toadies.

Simply stated it is this: because Alberto Gonzalez once said that Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was a "judicial activist," she should be disqualified from consideration for promotion to the appellate court.

At least one of the 527's - People for the American Way - is currently running commercials in which Gonzalez's statement is the one and only reason given to support the filibuster against Owen's nomination.
First of all, Mr. Bryant seems unclear on what a lie is. Mr. Gonzelas really did indicate that Priscilla Owen was a judicial activist, and we really do oppose her ascension to the high court. How are either of those two statements lies?

Secondly, they are talking about commercials. You don't have a lot of time in a commercial. A few minutes and your done, right? So you pick the strongest part of your case. But then Mr. Bryant pretends that this really is our entire argument against Ms. Owens.
. . . the charge of "judicial activism" - especially when it emanates from the left side of the Senate chamber - is so inconsequential as to be unworthy of mention.

If that's the worst thing they've got against Owen, they've got (to quote Archibald MacLeish) "nothing, nothing, nothing at all."
But there's much more you see. The truth is that Ms. Owens has consistently put the desires and greed of corporations over the rights of citizens, consumers, or workers. And she has done it outside the law in a number of situations. People for the American Way, the creater of the commercial mentioned above, has a review of many cases she's heard. Independent Judiciary also presents a strong case against Owen.

So pretending that our only argument against Priscilla Owen is a remark by Alberto Gonzelas seems like, well, a lie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Let's All Go to the Movies

I went to the movies this afternoon, and I have some thoughts.

1. Let's have a five year moritoriam on movie previews in which a row of females act like 1960's girl groups. For one thing, we are nearing the point when more people remember stupid movies in which rows of girls hold out their hands to some song, then they remember the actual original performances themselves. So knock it off. At least for a little while.

2. The Interpreter is not, in fact, a movie about interpetation. Wouldn't that have been cool? "Wait a moment, you didn't conjugate this verb properly. If you don't correct it in the next three minutes, Italy will go to war with Algeria! Move move move!" Or maybe more of a humorous movie. "Billy Jo, did you really just translate "I demand freedom for my oppressed people" into "Oh no! My heacache medicine just wore off?"

But Interpetation plays only a tangential role in The nterpreter. Mostly it's a taught thriller with a lot of emotions in it too.

3. The movie takes place in the fictional country of Matobo, which I presume was done out of courtesy to real African nations that might have similar problems of noble leaders turned to monsters or genocide. But what I want to know is why the same courtesy isn't made for American locations. Take "Escape from New York" which portrays a city torn apart by gang warfare. It's basically a burnt out shell of a city, where human rats tear each other apart in search of scraps of civilization. But the movie ignores New York's vibrant night life, it's proud theater district or it's amazing culinary scene. Is that really fair? Wouldn't it be more fair if the movie were called "Escape from North Yorkshire" or something like that?

Just some thoughts.

St. Louis Memories - 1

This is the first in a series of notes on the sessions I attended at the National Conference for Media Reform. Kind of dry stylistically. I slipped into my minute voice. Enjoy.

What Have We Won? A History of Media Activist Victories.

Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), began the discussion, talking about the success FAIR has had over the years. He put forward the suggestion that media reform movements can help reporters develop the courage to change their lazy ways.

Dee Dee Halleck, of Deep Dish Television, then spoke, giving an extensive overview of the history of the media reform movement. She covered the struggles to make Public Broadcasting really public. She also talked about struggles over how the big media portrays minorities. She also discussed struggles around getting fair coverage of international issues, particularly free trade.

Mark Lloyd, from the Center for American Progress and former member of the Clinton White House, began his comments expressing happiness that there were so many young people around. Things are changing very fast, so it is difficult to know what is going to happen exactly. Democracy requires communication. Fixing all of our other problems requires us to be able to talk to each other, frankly and openly.

This is a dark time. The Administration opposes all media reform, and they oppose it actively. The FCC is in opposition to the media. We don?t have the Senate; we don?t have the House of Representatives. And we are as distracted and divided as we have ever been. But dark times can lead to vast reforms. We do have a few things in our favor. We have the right to make our arguments before the FCC. We have standing before the courts to bring our case forward.

He then commented on the Evidence of things not seen. In particular he spoke of the 1996 telecommunications act, providing a defense to it, or at least some mitigating factors. He noted that the act requires telecommunications firms to serve schools and rural communities. It also required the telecommunication companies to remove barriers to women and minorities.

Andrew Schwartzman, of the Media Access Project, commented that this was an old fogies panel. He discussed how the system is supposed to work, and, in particular, how Courts are supposed to decide cases. They need to base their decisions on the record but also on the potential harm caused by the decision.

Then followed a question and answer section. Several asked about a good book overview of the history of the Communications history. One book suggested was Changing Channels: The Civil Rights Case That Transformed Television. The work of Robert W. McChesney was recommended as well. The core issues of the Media Reform Movement are justice and non-discrimination and translating those values into technological and salient terms.

They were asked what they would like to see in 50 years. An independent network that provided an outlet for independent filmmakers would be nice. They would like to see genuine public television, and stronger limits on how many media outlets any one company can own.

There was a question what the Center for American Progress does. They are not affiliated with the Democratic Party, but are interested in a broad portfolio of liberal issues.

There was a discussion of the obstacle that the current media setup is to Democracy. Activists and left wing voices are minimized in the media, and so real progress on some of these issues is impossible. The Blogs and the Internet and independent papers aren?'t enough. We need to get our voices into the mainstream media.

It ended with a brief discussion of hope. The people running these issues aren'?t geniuses. Look at the AT&T break up. They aren?'t all powerful, and they can be beaten.

Judge Week

Apparently Senator Bill Frist is determined to bring judges to the floor this week. Senate Democrats are expected to filibuster, and Frist is expected to inoke the nuclear/constitutional/crybaby option in order to stop them. So Conservatives columnists are taking one last whack at the argument that President Bush should get everything he wants.

David Limbaugh has the story (ripped off from Bob Novak) on "a California political consulting firm [that] requested the financial records of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones and 29 other "appellate judges in all but one of the country's judicial circuits, including nine widely mentioned Supreme Court possibilities." According to Novak, such a mass request for disclosure by federal judges is unprecedented." Yeah requesting financial records. That's pretty sinister.

But wait, there's more. Apparently Harry Reid (who once again proves that Democrats can put up anybody for high office and Republicans will despise him) is connected to this agency. And Limbaugh thinks they might do more than look at financial records. What an invasion of privacy. They might be spying on them 24/7. They might have placed secret bugs inside of each judge to record every word they say. They might be using specialists from Professor Xaviers School for Gifted Children to ferret out their very thoughts, pulling out every dark emotion or thought. Think about that? I mean, Limbaugh presents no proof that any more than records fishing is going on, but think of the possibilities.

Anyway look for a lot of talk on judges this week.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Return of News

I used to have a site over there for links. Then I broke it down into links and blogs. Then, at some point, I deleted the links, leaving just the blogs. Then I added the popular culture links. Now I am reading the news links. I suspect my links will blossom over the next couple of weeks as I was introduced to or reminded of so many cool things while at the conference.

And there are two of those things just now. and the NewStandard. Both are news complilers, pulling together disparate stories and putting together in a way that lets you make sense. Both also seem to pull from the world press as well as American, which is generally a positive thing. Anyway two sites to put on your radar screen, in my humble opinion.

The Spirit of St. Louis

For those interested here are some pictures from my recent trip.

This guy was playing a very pretty harp in the halls of the hotel.

This is a picture of the hotel. Sort of a phallic shot, but that's the buildings fault, not mine.

Remember I told I told you I wrote one of my posts from a hotel stairwell? Here's a shot (watercolored up).

And finally, to prove that I actually was in St. Louis, for those doubting thomases out there.

Be back later with some work from the conference.


This may not be a word, but if it isn't, it is now going to become one. Ahistorical refers to a viewpoint or an opinion that does not match up with history. For example, if I said "The Civil War had nothing at all to do with Slavery," that would be an ahistorical viewpoint. History shows that slavery did have a lot to do with the Civil War.

Anyway Ms. Diane West makes an ahistorical argument in her latest article. Specifically she talks about how the warriors of World War II were brave and heroic honorable, qualities valued at that time. But our current culture mocks those values.
Then there was Lt. Col. Duncan Campbell, 91, who was awarded two Military Crosses in 1940 in the East Africa Campaign. Walking ahead of the two infantry companies he was leading on a strong Italian position, the Telegraph reported, "he ensured that his C.O. did not lose sight of him in the rough terrain by singing the theme song from the film 'Sanders of the River' at the top of his voice amid the crack of rifle bullets and the noise of shell explosions." (I gather "Sanders of the River" is a cinematic ode to Empire along the lines of the 1939 version of "The Four Feathers.") It's almost difficult to read about such dazzling bravery without also imagining a Monty Python-esque parody popping up like a jack-in-the-box to deconstruct it between the lines. But such was life before the "Desperate Housewife" and the "South Park" conservative, a time when the cultural mainstream -- the all-enveloping mass media -- treated duty and honor like dependable anchors rather than balls-and-chains.
Actually, Ms. West there have always been artists and individuals skeptical of the use of duty and honor. Going back to World War 1, for example, you have the poetry of Wilfred Owen. How does Ms. West read these lines? "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
" One might also consider the writings of Mark Twain for someone who had much to say on the concepts of honor and duty and their misuse.

I can't read anybodies minds, but I suspect for many of these authors, Honor and Duty aren't the problem. The problem is arrogant and greedy men who would use those noble traits to serve their own base ambitions.

Oh, the film "Sanders of the River" stared Paul Robeson, who was an actor, a singer (Old Man River was his signature tune), and an activist, who famously praised the Soviet Union and was a well known socialist. And had a harder time finding work after world war 2. Funny how life works sometimes.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Meet Me in St. Louis - New Quote, New Format

As I do every week, I have a new format and a new quotes page.

I am now back at home. Last night was the big keynote event, involving Al Franken, Patti Smith, Davey D, and others. Davey D in particular I found very persuasive. And Patti Smith performed 5 songs and they were very good.

Today while I was catching my airplane, I saw Patti Smith in the airport. I immediately accosted her to talk about my favorite song of hers (her version of Hey Joe). I could tell how interested she was in my ideas by the way her eyes kept darting back and forth. Apparently she didn't like my scent, so she used a spray to make me smell like Huevos Mexicaines.

I'm just kidding of course. Patti Smith has a right to a private life, so I just noted her presence, smiled, and didn't disturb her. Instead I snuck up and went through her bags. Cause that's the thoughtful kind of guy I am.