October 13, 2012
Ike & The Gipper — A Minor Rant

Among my circle of Facebook friends — many of whom I used to interact with in the real world before the internets relieved me of that burden — there is a tendency to celebrate the common-sense wisdom of one Dwight David Eisenhower. (There is also a seemingly endless fascination with kittens and Star Wars, but that's for another post.) The good general’s quotes are brought up to demonstrate that the Republican Party was not always dominated by con artists, shills, and flat-out lunatics. “Why isn’t the GOP this sensible today?” or something similar is usually the comment that accompanies these citations.

What my friends don’t seem to realize is that The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today (since it would be an oxymoron to call it “The Modern GOP" or even “Today's GOP”) has its roots in a reaction against the very moderation that Eisenhower embodied. The short version is that early in Ike’s first term, a small group of right-wing reactionaries concluded that Eisenhower was a communist dupe (!) because he did not move immediately to uproot every last trace of the New Deal immediately upon taking office. So they decided they would do it themselves. Step One was to take control of one of the two major political parties, and we can all guess which one they picked.

Step Two was to get a candidate of their choosing onto the national ticket. That turned out to be Goldwater in 1964 — which was rather sooner than expected. Goldwater’s campaign is usually depicted as a setback for this peculiar brand of conservatism. But the reality is that winning the election was not the point of his candidacy, although I’m sure the folks who put him there would have viewed it as a nice perk if he had actually won. (All of this is admirably recounted by Rick Perlstein in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which I consider indispensable in understanding how we got into this mess.)

Step Three was to actually take the White House, which as we all know was accomplished by Saint Ronnie of Reagan.

Which brings us to another point my Facebook friends have made fairly regularly: The notion that Ronald Reagan — yes, even Ronald Reagan — would be “too liberal” for The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today. Nor is this point limited to Facebook. It seems to be Conventional Wisdom (which would explain why it’s disseminated on Facebook.) Last week it showed up here:

A lot of people have said that Reagan wouldn’t even recognize the Republican Party of today. Do you think that’s right?

I think that’s right. I don’t think Reagan or myself or any of us could win a primary now with these standards...

The problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the basic reality of what Reagan was — an opportunist. He would have become whatever his handlers told him to become in order to win a primary, and then a general election. I know The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today likes to claim that Reagan was a great leader. And certainly he exhibited many of the outward qualities of leadership. What he never exhibited was any actual leadership. Reagan was a follower, not a leader. It’s as simple as that.

So, let’s review:

1) Eisenhower was not representative of the GOP even when he was its nominal head.

2) Ronald Reagan is not our friend. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

Please make a note of it.

Posted by Kurt Weldon at 10:14 PM
March 12, 2011
Best Housing Blog in the World

Years ago the first assignment I gave to the first class I taught at Harvard (or anywhere else) was for my freshman students to find something new or interesting to them on the campus, inquire into the matter, and then write a paper on it.

Martha Bridegam (who doesn’t remember this, but I do) chose the blue lights she had noticed on the outside of buildings in Harvard Yard. These turned out to indicate emergency lines for students to call security. She could have stopped there, at the explanation university officials had given her, but instead she decided to check the system for herself. No one answered at any stations she tried. She had her paper.

Martha is still checking systems, and still finding out all too often that they don’t work. Today she is a lawyer and writer in San Francisco, advocating for the homeless. Her new blog is called Lodging in Public. Samples follow. Links to each complete post here, here and here:

By the way, does anyone else find this term “behavioral health disorders” a little creepy? In a way it goes beyond saying a person has an attitude problem, or a neurosis, or a personality disorder. It suggests that a person’s decisions in life have been objectively wrong and are to be dealt with as medical illnesses — rather than, for example, politically, or socially, or economically. Only a short step from there to these proposals for forcible medication of homeless people under conservatorships imposed for the purpose. It’s part of what SF State sociology professor Bev Ovrebo was predicting in the early ’90s, that the problem of homelessness would become medicalized…

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I got to know Grimes Poznikov briefly, quite a few years ago, during an activist effort to document police harassment of campers in San Francisco’s southeastern warehouse district. He was as proud and independent as anybody gets. He was famous, in fact, for bringing out the worst in policemen by never knowing when to shut up. Even in that world of territorial personalities, he was an outlier. For a while he was living in a group of camouflaged hutches in a brushy vacant lot in the nearest thing our compact city offers to the back of beyond. On a day that had turned chilly, he gave me an old leather jacket. Gracious, though the jacket was mildewed and I had to throw it away…

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Lately the UK Guardian is having to defend a film it made about the harsh living and working conditions of illicit migrants who grow salad vegetables in Spain for the north of Europe. In doing so, the paper notes that some years ago in Britain, similar abuses were similarly dismissed as the isolated crimes of a few bad apples. “Yet,” it notes, “by the time the Gangmaster Licensing Authority was established in 2005, it was clear that the problems were systemic. Inspections and raids on mainstream factories, packhouses and large farms found extreme conditions even though many had passed their supermarket audits.”

Such a useful term, “gangmaster”, pulled from the uglier older reaches of labor history, to match conditions that recall the bad old days. In the U.S. we apply polite words like “contratista” or “H-2A employer” and indentured or undocumented laborers go on working for low pay and living in barracks or worse…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:26 PM
July 27, 2010
The Unbearable Awesomeness of Wikileaks

Yesterday the world changed and a new epoch was ushered in with Wikileak’s release of the Afghan War Diary, 2004 – 2010. In case you’ve been vacationing off-planet, Afghan War Diary is a compilation of “raw data” derived from 90,000 leaked ground reports from the war in Afghanistan (approximately 15,000 have been held back for possible redaction before their release). The importance of this event is certainly not that the data uncovers shocking new revelations about how abysmally the war in Afghanistan has been conducted — an epic fail of such proportions is hard to cover up completely no matter how obedient the national media are. The true awesomeness of this development is that, in one brilliant and well-coordinated play, the rules of the game have been changed — forever after — and, not only has the playing field been leveled, it’s been moved out of town — no more home-field advantage.

Part of the genius of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange’s release was his gambit to assure that mainstream media would not obstruct or trivialize the importance of the leak — by giving them the scoop. Wikileaks provided the roughly 91,000 reports dated from January 2004 to December 2009 to three media outlets, The New York Times, the Guardian of London and Der Spiegel of Germany, under agreement to publish their individual coverage simultaneously on Sunday…


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The “home team” however seems to be determined to ignore the change in game plan, at least for now. Despite a “heads up” from their loyal friends at The New York Times, the administration’s official flat-footed response was noticeably confused, and confusing. In my opinion, no one did a better job of parsing the White House’ official response than Jay Rosen; here are his reactions posted on NYU’s Pressthink blog:

The initial response from the White House was extremely unimpressive:

This leak will harm national security. (As if those words still had some kind of magical power, after all the abuse they have been party to.)

There’s nothing new here. (Then how could the release harm national security?)

Wikileaks is irresponsible; they didn’t even try to contact us! (Hold on: you’re hunting the guy down and you’re outraged that he didn’t contact you?)

Wikileaks is against the war in Afghanistan; they’re not an objective news source. (So does that mean the documents they published are fake?)

“The period of time covered in these documents… is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.” (Okay, so now we too know the basis for the President’s decision: and that’s a bad thing?)

A great follow-up (that we’ll never see) from the White House would be a comprehensive analysis of how the “revolutionary Obama” strategy addresses shortcomings in the “lackluster Bush” strategy. For example, to the best of my knowledge, American taxpayers are still underwriting billions of dollars to continue the Sisyphean task of training an Afghan National Police Force.

As Tom Engelhardt put it, recently:

The Pentagon . . . hasn’t hesitated to use at least $25-27 billion to “train” and “mentor” the Afghan military and police – and after each round of training failed to produce the expected results, to ask for even more money, and train them again.

Engelhardt then follows up with the questions that lay bare the Coalition’s utter fecklessness in this endeavor:

“And here is the oddest thing of all, though no one even bothers to mention it in this context: the Taliban haven’t had tens of billions of dollars in foreign training funds; they haven’t had years of advice from the best U.S. and NATO advisers that money can buy; they haven’t had private contractors like DynCorp teaching them how to fight and police, and strangely enough, they seem to have no problem fighting. They are not undermanned, infiltrated by followers of Hamid Karzai, or particularly corrupt. They may be illiterate and may not be fluent in English, but they are ready, in up-to platoon-sized units, to attack heavily fortified U.S. military bases, Afghan prisons, a police headquarters, and the like with hardly a foreign mentor in sight.”

“Consider it, then, a modern miracle in reverse that the U.S. has proven incapable of training a competent Afghan force in a country where arms are the norm, fighting has for decades seldom stopped, and the locals are known for their war-fighting traditions.”

And if you think the Afghan Police Academy idea is stupid and wasteful, just go read Tom’s entire article describing the US plan to resurrect the Afghan Air Force (as soon as they can learn English) and procure some reconditioned Russian ‘coptors that the Afghans took a shine to in the last war. The timeline for that project? US Air Force personnel: guestimate 2016 – 2018 depending on how well the Afghans take to English, “the official language of the cockpit.” There are 450 US Air Force personnel tasked with this project @ $1 million/year/flight instructor plus, of course, pay and bennies for the Afghan recruits, and let’s not forget procurement and maintenance of the fleet of Russian helicopters — you do the math . . . .

What has changed, recently, was that the new Afghan “police academy” graduates will eventually be dealing with a possible “conflict of interest” with the freshly minted localized militias (that nobody wants to call militias) that Gen. Petraeus is so proud of successfully lobbying for.

Evidently, Catch-22 is alive and well in today’s army . . .

* * *

The Pentagon, for its part, has harrumphed out a hasty announcement that it is launching a “robust probe” of the Wikileaks matter (to differentiate, I suppose, from the “rather lame probes” that it launches in the event of collateral damage leaks). That development is curious in the face of their much ballyhooed apprehension, months ago, of Bradley Manning, an Army information analyst stationed in Iraq (not Afghanistan), charged with leaking classified information to Wikileaks. The Pentagon is acting suspiciously in this, perhaps they know that there are many leaks in their midst, or, maybe they just already know it’s not Manning but it’s good to have a guy in custody.

And the State Department, on the basis of leaked reports that the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI is aiding and abetting the Taliban insurgents, is threatening to take back the $7 billion aid package that it proudly bestowed on Pakistan a few weeks ago, if the ISI doesn’t cut it out. Of course none of this is “news” and Hillary Clinton knew it when she delivered this money bomb on her latest trip. Ah well, it’s taxpayers’ money, there’s more where that came from . . .

* * *

The real importance of this event is so hard to grasp and appreciate fully that it’s going to take some time to digest. If you look hard enough, though, a number of people have noticed and are scratching the surface in credible ways.

The following are excerpts from the first impressions of respected sources on media and the new news ecosystem; taken together, I believe that their comments comprise a cogent analysis of the unprecedented actions taken by Julian Assange and the possible impact that those actions might have on the future of information distribution, transparency and governmental accountability.

From Jay Rosen of NYU’s PressThink blog:

If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, ‘They didn’t even contact us!

Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.

And I can’t resist including a reader’s comment on Rosen’s article, because it says so much:

we enter an era now where we begin to be conscious of “collective consciousness” and its role as “prime mover” of the “world” and its events …”

analysis of the various parts and components proceeds only fitfully, because we do not yet have a language of whole …

the problem? adjusting to a pre-existing global reality larger than the individual thinking mind can grasp …

consciousness itself, however, has no problem with any of this … it is our limited self-concept that does …

solution? easy. identify with the whole…

inescapable and unavoidable, by the way … not if, but when

Posted by: gregorylent at July 26, 2010 2:56 AM | Permalink

From Alexis Madrigal, senior editor and lead technology writer for TheAtlantic.com:

The rogue, rather mysterious website provided the raw data; the newspapers provided the context, corroboration, analysis, and distribution. ‘Wikileaks was not involved in the news organizations’ research, reporting, analysis and writing,’ Times editors said in an online note. ‘The Times spent about a month mining the data for disclosures and patterns, verifying and cross-checking with other information sources, and preparing the articles that are published today.

The New York Times’ David Carr may have nailed the issue when he tweeted that it was the “asymmetries” that Wikileaks introduces into the equation that have the government spooked. An administration official told Politico, ‘[I]t’s worth noting that Wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes U.S. policy in Afghanistan.’ But the truth is that we don’t really know what Wikileaks is, or what the organization’s ethics are, or why they’ve become such a stunningly good conduit of classified information.

In the new asymmetrical journalism, it’s not clear who is on what side or what the rules of engagement actually are. But the reason Wikileaks may have just changed the media is that we found out that it doesn’t really matter. Their data is good, and that’s what counts.

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Whatever else is true, WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world. Just as was true for the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that’s what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing. WikiLeaks is one of the few entities successfully blowing holes in at least parts of that wall, enabling modest glimpses into what The Washington Post spent last week describing as Top Secret America. The war on WikiLeaks — which was already in full swing, including, strangely, from some who claim a commitment to transparency — will only intensify now. Anyone who believes that the Government abuses its secrecy powers in order to keep the citizenry in the dark and manipulate public opinion — and who, at this point, doesn’t believe that? – should be squarely on the side of the greater transparency which Wikileaks and its sources, sometimes single-handedly, are providing.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40251.html#ixzz0utLuIynG

And finally, for those who claim this is “old news” and “no big deal,” ponder this from Politico:

Whether WikiLeaks uncovered anything new isn’t actually important — it’s on the front page of every newspaper in the country; the media is now focused on Afghanistan, and that makes it a big deal,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on India and Pakistan.

The public is now more skeptical about the administration’s strategy in Afghanistan than they were last week, and that makes it real, said Markey, who was a South Asia analyst during the Bush administration.

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 06:16 PM
February 24, 2009
Secure Palin-free Zones

Always alert for signs of human intelligence in the blogosphere, I was happy to come across Accumulating Peripherals just now (thanks to Neighbor Jim). A small sample:

Sarah Palin notes in a new right-wing propaganda film that the media employed search and destroy tactics against her: “We are going to seek and we are going to destroy this candidacy of Sarah Palin’s because of what it is that she represents.”

Palin is right that the media deployed a search and destroy strategy against her, and that this was every bit as poor a strategy as it was in Vietnam. Like the Viet Cong and the NVA, Palin has simply retreated to her base areas, where the media have been unable to effectively pursue her, and keeps resurfacing at times of her choosing to harass and entrap media forces. The NVA called this strategy “clinging to the belt” of the enemy, engaging them only when one has a temporary advantage, then melting away in the face of counterattacks.

What the media needs to do is shift to a “clear and hold” counterinsurgency strategy, creating secure Palin-free zones where citizens can pursue their interests in peace and safety, and allowing Palin to sit out in her bases — the mountains, the deep jungle, the tunnel complexes — as her strength gradually withers until she is no longer a threat.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:48 AM
January 06, 2009
Fairly Balanced

I can’t prove it, but my impression is that the MSM coverage of the most recent slaughter in Gaza has become unaccustomedly two-sided. Here’s one example out of many.

Why this deviance into balanced coverage I cannot say. Perhaps there is a feeling that the new administration may edge slightly away from our blind obedience to Likud, freeing the MSM to do the same. (I have to admit, though, that evidence of any such policy shift is so far very scanty.)

For redder meat and stronger wine we still have to go to the blogosphere, where Jeff Huber cuts loose on at-Largely. An excerpt:

…Dick Cheney says Israel didn’t seek “U.S. approval” to begin the ground attack into Gaza. Heh. They didn’t seek “U.S. approval” before they attacked Lebanon, either. They sought Dick Cheney’s approval, and he gave it to them. Dick Cheney isn’t the “U.S.” He’s just the vice president, and the president of the Senate. He’s not in the military chain of command at all, and according to him he doesn’t even work in the executive branch of government.

No word yet on whether Israel got Dick’s permission to use cluster munitions on the sand colored people, this time or last time. Israel’s Haaretz says the Israeli Defense Force is aiming the cluster ammunition at “open areas.” I have trouble imagining Hamas placing suitable cluster bomb targets in the open. You might shell an open area to set off mines that could be buried there, but if you use cluster bombs to do that you’ll create another minefield on top of the one you’re trying to clear.

Cluster bombs are made for killing people. Maybe the IDF is shelling open areas with cluster bombs as a humanitarian gesture, something to remind the Palestinians to stay in the closed areas where it’s safer, but I doubt it. Journalist Jamal Dajani of Link TV, posting from the Israel-Gaza border, judges Israel’s self described “surgical strikes” to be “as surgical as shooting chickens in a coop with a shot gun.”

Mr. Bush blames the Gaza debacle on Hamas, saying it has “once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization” with attacks on Israel. Bush didn’t mention that Israel broke the ceasefire in November when it sent ground troops into Gaza. Cheney probably didn’t let anybody tell Bush that part.

Maybe it’s a moot issue; Israel has had Gaza under a blockade since January 2008, six months before the ceasefire went into effect. Since a blockade is an act of war imposed by armed force, one has to marvel at how even the most adroit Rovewellian can say with a straight face that a ceasefire exists within a blockade…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:53 PM
August 25, 2008
There They Go Again

It’s hard to believe they’re still running this scam, but apparently it pays them a decent salary. And it’s about as easy a gig as you could imagine.

It is a fraying, combed-back helmet that barely covers a longtime fact of Washington life: The senator from Delaware has taken steps to pre-empt baldness.

The most common hypothesis is that he received a hair transplant, where follicles from the bushier back of the head are grafted onto fading spots closer to the front of the dome.

Well, it’s a good thing someone’s keeping us up to date on the Hair of the Democrats. I wonder how long it’ll be before someone determines how much Biden has spent on his hair, compares that sum to what McCain spends on his, and turns the comparison into an implication that McCain of the Seven Houses would be a better manager of the economy.

Fortunately, not everyone in the traditional media, which Politico certainly is despite its web-based delivery method, is that vapid. Another article there reminds us of a Biden zinger at the Democratic debate on July 23, 2007.

Via a video clip, a man identifying himself as Jered Townsend from Clio, Mich., said: “To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe.”

Then Townsend picked up what appeared to be a semiautomatic assault rifle.

“This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban,” he said. “Please tell me your views. Thank you.”

After a lengthy explanation of past Democratic difficulties with the gun issue, we get a reprise of Bill Richardson’s pander to the NRA.

Then [Anderson] Cooper turned to Joe Biden. “Senator Biden,” he asked, “are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?”

And Biden gave an answer that was 100 percent Joe Biden.

“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help,” Biden said. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”

Biden went on to say that he was “the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban” and “we should be working with law enforcement, right now, to make sure that we protect people against people who are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun because they’re either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record.”

Then Biden added sardonically: “I hope he doesn’t come looking for me.”

It was, as Roger Simon says, “a tough, honest answer that did not play to the crowd.” If only we could get that kind of honesty on the bankruptcy bill, or Iraq, or NAFTA.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:30 AM
August 22, 2008
LobeLog Keeps the Flame Alive

Commentary in the blogosphere ranges, it seems to me, from informed and deeply thoughtful at one end to mean-spirited, vitriolic, and false at the other, with of course a vast and sometimes indistinct horde in between. At best it’s sublime; at worst it’s the unavoidable sound created by the operations of the machinery of democracy.

Then there’s the special case of the established reporter who also blogs, mixing some opinion with some straight reporting. Again a variety of hybrid cases fill the screen. Josh Marshall was a legitimate reporter before he started Talking Points Memo, but he’s certainly far more influential because of TPM than he ever was, or was likely to be, as a traditional-media columnist.

I was thrilled to find blogs by writers whose work I never miss, like James Fallows at The Atlantic, The New Yorker’s Hendrick Hertzberg and George Packer, and Ken Silverstein and Scott Horton at Harper’s.

Jim Lobe’s LobeLog is among the few blogs to which I subscribe by RSS feed. For one thing, you get the entire post delivered to your mailbox. Since my emailer/news aggregator M2, the best mailer I’ve used by far, is part of my browser (Opera), the RSS feeds show up on the same tab as email.

Also, Lobe doesn’t flood my inbox. I don’t subscribe to TPM, though I read it most every day, because of the volume; Lobe posted about a dozen times in July. His real job, as you probably know, is with IPS, though you’ll see his reporting at many other sites as well. When he blogs, it’s usually because he has special knowledge as a reporter that combines with the general news of the moment to offer some unique or at least specially helpful insight.

Even when he’s just reviewing other peoples’ work, he puts ideas together in interesting ways. His latest post begins:

I’m still on vacation but, like everyone else, have been quite amazed at the ongoing Georgia crisis, particularly the failure so far of the administration and the campaigns of the two presidential candidates to absorb its potential significance and the need for Washington (and the West more generally) to fundamentally reassess its global position and how over-stretched it has become.

At first you think, Duh! Of course the candidates are not going to address the idea that the American Empire is ending, that it’s powerless to affect events in Georgia despite the desperate thirst of the oil giants for the light, sweet nectar coursing through the pipeline in that country.

Then you realize Lobe was leading you rather than telling you.

While the notion that the Georgia crisis takes us back to the end of the Cold War and the “return of history” has become a cliche among most of the commentariat (while some neo-cons predictably compare it to the Sudetenland, Munich and 1938), both columns see the present moment as signaling much deeper historical and even epochal challenges to U.S. and western hegemony in what is now, ever more clearly, a multipolar world that rejects Pax Americana. And, if U.S. leaders, actual and imminent, continue to insist on a hard line toward Russia, that rejection will very likely extend to Europe, as well. Indeed, western (or “old”) Europe, in particular, has some major strategic decisions of its own to make, having seen where its habitual deference to Washington has gotten it.

Prediction: US leaders present and future will continue to insist on a hard line toward Russia as long as they can get away with it. But that won’t be long. Soon the fear that everyone will be laughing at the paper tiger will induce more modest behavior. Unfortunately, the Roman and British examples tend to suggest that the imperial ambition will only die out over generations.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:37 AM
July 07, 2008
Wha Chu Talkin Bout?

Here’s an interesting tool that creates word clouds for websites given their URLs.

Apparently we’re more obsessed with the presumptive Democratic nominee than we admitted to ourselves…

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:41 AM
May 23, 2008
Wernicke’s Aphasia

At last, a name for what ails me:

The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech—no dedicated writing center is hardwired in the brain—may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog…
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:55 PM
April 02, 2008
I Need a Haircut

Our esteemed colleague Neddie thinks that “a visit to a hair salon must be something like a trip to a cathouse.”

Again, the receptionist asked me that rather intensely uncomfortable question: Is there anyone in particular I’d like to “see”?

Now, for me, a haircut from a sexy babe in stylish black clothing is a rather, how do we say, erotic experience. It is, I’ll admit here and now, the closest thing I get in my life to permission to perv out a little bit. From the shampoo, her fingers massaging my scalp with foofy shampoo, to the cut itself, as she leans in very close to get just the right angle and a pert breast brushes my back, her breath and perfume mingling with the fruity hair-care-product smell of the place, as, in the mirror, all the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo: The whole thing serves to put rather unwholesome thoughts into the Jingo cranium.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this dirty little secret.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I recommend this post for some thigh-slappin’.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:38 PM
March 23, 2008
We’re No Longer “It”

Our esteemed colleague Mike from Cannablog (whom I met in meatspace at the last BARBARian gathering) some time ago graced us with an Excellent tag. We’re passing on this compliment to some folks we like; you might too.

Dean LeBaron blogs as an Adventure Capitalist.

News of the Restless brings an emphasis on Latin America.

Dennis Perrin is a serious jokester with an attitude.

The HorseRaceBlog at RealClearPolitics provides actual data for political junkies in addition to opinion and speculation.

The Regressive Antidote brings us rants and musings from political science prof David Michael Green at Hofstra.

The Early Days of a Better Nation is novelist and techno-utopian socialist Ken MacLeod’s political and literary blog.

Why Now? caters to the Iditarod fans among the politically aware, but also includes intelligent political thoughts, snarky graphics, and cat-blogging.

The women and men at DMIblog provide progressive views on “Politics, Policy, and the American Dream”.

Fellow NCF alumnus Laurence Hunt’s eponymous blog specializes in how we might intelligently respond to events, especially economic ones.

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen’s PressThink is full of intelligent critiques of what we used to call the MSM until we decided that we’re just as damn mainstream as anyone. Well, almost. Now we call them the TM, applying the epithet of “Traditional” with a certain degree of sarcasm.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:27 PM
February 02, 2008
That’s Right, We Bad

Tomorrow, Feb. 3, has been declared Global Blogroll Amnesty Day (GBAD) by two of our bestest blogging friends, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Jon Swift. We hereby add our humble voice to the multitude.

The theory behind the event goes like this. Some time ago, Atrios over at Eschaton, for which I think I still have a link sitting around somewhere, decided his blogroll was overblown. Perhaps it was costing him extra money to store so many links, or maybe he ran out of open threads before the blogroll ended. In any case, he decided to prune, and a bunch of people who previously had a little traffic directed to their blogs by being on his roll found themselves off the list. I don’t think anyone’s claiming intent to harm, but harm was felt. Soon after, Kos at Daily followed suit (as is his wont).

This left a decent number of decent folks feeling slighted, and God knows we feel their pain. For instance, Bad Attitudes used to be on the Eschaton blogroll, but last time I checked — I go there at least a couple times a year — we no longer made the cut. Dunno what’s happening at Kos, haven’t been there for as long as I can remember. (I note, however, that our good friends at Cursor have helped us keep up appearances.) I can see why we’re not considered A-list; after all, our colors are not butt-ugly, we use em-dashes and horizontal ellipses, and we don’t follow the DNC marching orders. We’ve discussed the possibility of a worldwide Bad Attitudes conference, but we ran up against what philosophers call The Bill Hicks Conundrum: people who hate people, come together!

The result of all this is that we B-listers gotta hang together, or we shall assuredly hang separately. Our massively esteemed but, sadly, intermittently active colleague Simbaud at King of Zembla used to engage in promotion of newly encountered blogs on a regular basis, and that’s basically the intent of GBAD.

So without further ado, here’s a few blogs I’ve recently come across for the first time. I do not imply by listing them here that they shine less brilliantly, or attract less traffic, than we do. And of course the biggest problem with any such endeavor is that one omits more than one includes, thus leaving more people pissed off than pleased. My only defense is the limitations imposed by the one commodity of which you’ve already got all you’re gonna get, time. If you know of other blogs that should be plumped, list them in comments, or better still at your own blog. The more the merrier!


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I encountered them in this order.

Democracy Lover combines fine writing with left-wing ’tude and good pointers.

We have two parties who, despite some superficial differences (primarily in rhetoric and tactics), support the same corporatist agenda: empire, huge military budgets beyond any possible rational necessity, and placing profits above people. Sure, the Republicans are crass and vile and obvious about their goals and the Democrats are more subtle and covert and try to give the impression they care, but in the end the underlying fundamental values are identical. I will concede that there is a difference on “social issues” — but to the extent it exists, it is driven more by placating the party base than anything else.

The current Congress has made it abundantly clear that the Democratic Party has no intention whatever of opposing even the most outrageous and un-Constitutional excesses of the Bush administration. They call press conferences and make speeches about their commitment to the rule of law and the will of the people, but in the end they always give the Cheney administration what it wants.

Rez Dog at Unsolicited Opinion takes a minimalist approach to blog design, preferring to concentrate on clear prose, deep feeling, and true patriotism.

The moral of this tale: Elections are only one part of the public discourse: community forums, public hearings, referenda, letters to the editor are the ongoing discourse between elections. What’s important to me is holding that discourse and creating a society were all prosper. I learned long ago that victory or defeat in an election is merely an event. What counts is how those events shape our lives and society. I look back at Henry Howell and George McGovern and I see positive results. I look at the current candidates for national office and see a few sparks and wonder if any will actually ignite.

I hope so. My country needs a conflagration of ideas and energy.

Alicia Morgan at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville combines Right Intention with skilled writing and forward thinking. Plus, she wields a mean Photoshop (or perhaps GIMP) at Capitol Punishment.

…the party’s over for me. Now it’s just a matter of doing what it takes to get a Democrat into the White House — more to keep the Repubs from adding any more right-wing fanatics to the Supreme Court than anything else. Emotion about politics is a luxury. When you can be enthusiastic about a candidate, it feels good and energizes you to work for them. Nothing wrong with being jazzed about your guy or gal, if I may be so bold. But it’s not a necessity. And if it weren’t for the justices and other appointments that are made by a President, I might not even care. Let the Repubs lie in the bed they made. Let them take on the disaster that the Boy King has saddled us with.

However, I can’t go there. I have to work for a Democratic candidate. I can’t sit back and leave my daughter with a Supreme Court that will take away her privacy and control of her own body. I can’t sit back and leave my sons with the possibility of being drafted when we run out of volunteer cannon fodder (or my daughter, for that matter.) I have to stand up for Democratic values and hope that our nominee will stand up for them, too. All I can do is pressure them within the party structure to move towards our real American values — liberal values.

Hillary? Barack? Who knows? Who cares? It’s back to business as usual.

Charles H. Butcher III, Chuck for …, is an Oregonian Democrat who’s big on guns and is angry about the right sorts of things.

I have never understood the personal enmity so common now in Congress, politics need not trump character or friendship. Certainly some uncomfortable character traits may accompany certain politics, making comradeship unlikely, but demonization is silly. Neither is it reasonable to take such a partisan stand that the other Party is cut out of debate or totally ignored, there are generally some give points, the Republicans have proven they don’t see that. Some Republicans have demonstrated that their Party trumps the nation and those need to be bulldozed, but it is, at any time, ridiculous to make enemies, you will have some anyhow. Things in Congress won’t have changed 1/20/09, this will have to be dealt with, so I don’t take “Unity” too seriously.

Grandpa Moses at The Freedom From Patriot News Censorship Blog is the newest kid on the block, or at least his blog is. He shares with us a love of great writing, a disgust for censorship, and an understanding of the truth of communication: the medium matters, but the message is the message.

…I am reminded of the words of the immortal Hunter S. Thompson:
“Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”

Indeed. The fear of ideas, particularly those that offer us searing truth, seems to pervade our world. Many of the old fogies who I grew up with can’t seem to understand that digitized print is becoming and will be our books and articles of the future. In fact they have already become so. Try some of the links to various blogs on the sidebar here. You will discover horrendous things about the press and the government that you cannot get from the “established press”. The newspapers may consider themselves sacred because the product they produce can now be held in one’s hand, but the written word is timeless and it will survive, in whatever format the future may present us with. Unfortunately, the censors will always be with us. Those who own certain formats who are trying to hold onto their monopoly over words by censoring ideas will one day find that their product is as useless as a buggy whip.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:50 PM
January 03, 2008
Authoritarian Personalities and Garbage Email

Our friend Neddie over at BNJ put up another fine post last week, “An Atheist at Christmas”. Acknowledging and bewailing the manifold sins and wickednesses of the mass emailing lists of friends, he finds particular excess in a recent one.

In sum, the item forwarded to me was simple intellectual pollution, more goddamned dumbness that cloaks itself as folksy wisdom and makes its forwarder feel virtuous for having passed it on.

Besides the slanders and the untruths, and the profoundly irritating conflation of the concepts of "secular" and "atheist," what was most off-putting about the thing was its general aggrieved tone, as though its author were part of some put-upon minority, an underclass of the righteous who loathe the idea that many people don’t take their religion quite as seriously as the righteous think they ought.

If you’ve been reading John Dean recently, you might have encountered the work of Bob Altemeyer, a research psychologist at the University of Manitoba who studies authoritarian personality types. He’s got decades’ worth of survey information and results; other researchers have both added data and extended the ideas.

Authoritarians include followers as well as the power-hungry. Altemeyer defines authoritarianism as the covariation of three attitudes: conventionality, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression. Conventionality involves conforming to social conventions and believing that others ought to do the same. Authoritarian submission means believing in leaders and authority as the best means of keeping society prosperous. Authoritarian aggression indicates the subset of aggressive tendencies that is disinhibited when it’s perceived to be sanctioned by authority, or would help authority maintain its position.

Altemeyer’s Enemies of Freedom is not as famous as it should be. Admittedly it includes a lot of statistical detail, but the detail builds an argument that covers a lot of ground, makes a lot of sense, and seems to provide useful frameworks for understanding some behavior patterns that often occur among fundamentalists and social conservatives in particular.

Dean’s recent Conservatives Without Conscience brought new attention to Altemeyer’s work, and several surprising facts emerge. He’s managed to get this research done without grants, by using his own money and getting a lot of data from his own students, their parents, and their friends. He has a writing style that has you laughing in the preface, and throughout, despite the density of the numbers. Plus, you quickly begin to trust him, because he tells you so much about his thinking and experimentation: what he surveyed for, how he munged the data, how he interprets the results, where ambiguities continue to exist, and on to the next step.

Thus it’s perhaps not surprising that Enemies of Freedom isn’t so easy to find. In fact there were none at Powell’s or eBay, and I was forced to resort to Amazon. Where I discovered two used copies, one $138, the other $154.

Fortunately, as Professor Altemeyer kindly pointed out in an email, he has an updated version of the content, minus the vast majority of the statistical detail, and thus both shorter and easier to read. I’m half-way through it and I highly recommend it. Oh, and The Authoritarians is free.

Among the most interesting issues Altemeyer examines is the question of why people remain in the relatively closed world that authoritarians must inhabit if they wish to maintain their viewpoint. Many, perhaps most, tend to modify at least some of their views and behavior when they encounter new information. But they generally grow up in a heavily circumscribed world that keeps them safe and gives their lives shape and structure, so they have no reason to leave it, or to disbelieve its tenets.

Of course many people grow up in such situations and rebel, or suffer inner dichotomies, or simply lose the ability to reconcile everything and give up. Those whom Altemeyer’s scale labels High Right-Wing Authoritarians, however, feel comfortable there. (By the way, there could also be left-wing authoritarians, who instead of submitting to established authority would submit to revolutionary authority. But there aren’t nearly as many of them as there are RWAs, nor does Altemeyer’s scale directly look for them.)

After looking at several possible explanations, Altemeyer’s data led him to conclude that two factors dominate in the backgrounds of authoritarians. First, they see the world as a very dangerous place, with possibilities for disaster looming around every corner. Second, they see themselves as upholding the Good and the Right as opposed to all those folks who don’t hue to the same high standards they perceive themselves to follow.

Thus they have reason to be frightened, plus aggressive impulses against those who appear to deserve censure, which are inhibited by their strong need to conform to social convention. They need reinforcement to tell them that they’re still in the group; they get a thrill from thumbing their noses at those they figure will in some sense get Left Behind; and they’re often insufferably hypocritical.

Perhaps the most hopeful thing Altemeyer discovered, though, was how frequently such people modified their views with experience, which turned out to be the strongest factor in determining attitudes, stronger than parents and upbringing or religion. For instance, many students entering college are emerging from their parents’ world for the first time, and bring with them the attitudes that worked in that world, and predicted what would happen. They may have been taught that sex is bad, or that homosexual folks are scuzzy and evil; then they have sex, or they meet someone who’s homosexual, and discover that what they’ve been taught isn’t true.

People do change. As Bishop Tutu says, every situation is capable of transfiguration.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:26 AM
January 01, 2008
A Blast from the Past

Last year — very late last year — Chuck put up a link to Jon Swift’s list of 2007’s best blog postings, as chosen by the bloggers themselves. One of them was mine.

I didn’t remember Jon’s request, or that I had submitted anything to him. And when I read my February posting myself, I couldn’t even remember having written it. This is one of the considerable joys of a fading mind: the world becomes full of wonder and fresh delights. All things are new again.

Actually this guy’s stuff holds up pretty well, it seemed to me once I had rewritten it to disk. In fact it’s more or less what Noam Chomsky finally got around to saying in CT Review just last month. Maybe he stole it, who knows? And so here’s an authorized re-posting, on the theory that maybe it will be new again to you, too:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that has been a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Would such dubious prizes be worth the life of even a single George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither man thought so at the time. But that, of course, was before Richard Nixon gave us the precious gift of a volunteer army.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:10 PM
December 28, 2007
Our Friend Jon

Our friend and colleague Jon Swift deserves the recognition he’s received. His ability to ride a certain socio-political knife edge, without being sliced in two, is both entertaining and remarkable.

He’s put together an outstanding year-end collection of posts from around the blogosphere; check out his list.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:50 PM
May 01, 2007
New Blog in Town

For anyone interested in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, I have started The Monroe Messenger, a blog covering all the news left fallow by the local paper. News tips and other correspondence should go to mcnews (insert your favorite symbol) wordpress.com. Among early offerings is this story (abridged) for all of you planning to have a wart removed:

Winding through the Monroe County courts is a unique case — Maldonado versus Dr. Michael A. Eufemio — in which Carlos Maldonado‘s widow claims Dr. Eufemio mistakenly proceeded with a wart removal procedure using a general anesthetic.

In 45 minutes Maldonado was dead. His widow claims the doctor proceeded with the operation when he had medical evidence that Maldonado was “not a suitable candidate for anesthesia.”

The wart was on his penis.


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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 05:26 PM
March 10, 2007
Musings

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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:41 PM
October 13, 2006
Dean LeBaron Speaks about some “Big Lies”

Dean Lebaron, venture capitalist and sponsor of the esoteric periodical Complexity Digest offers up a series of videos describing the “The Big Lies” of our day. Dean describes the video series:

I’d been thinking how language is being used to reshape perceptions away from reality, even while it is difficult to do in this age of global news, blogs and new cynicism of authority sources. Government became the most visible example, especially the US administration that prides itself as “staying on message” to teach us to think their way, not necessarily the right way. But civil institutions are at least as guilty, although perhaps not as skillful. Finally I thought of what we learned about propaganda from that master of the art, Goebbels.

Which led to a list of words and phrases designed to pull us away from reality toward someone else’s perceptions. The list grew out of control and could have continued. I stopped not because I was running out of examples, I’m sorry to say, but I wanted to think about something else.

Hope you find the list as instructive as I did, and have your mental guard up…

Highly recommended. Real Media compatible player required.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 12:19 AM
August 26, 2006
What Jon Said

Jon Swift deserved the mention he got in Cursor for this one.

Recently there was some controversy when the Bush Administration accidentally left off evolution from a list of subjects eligible for government grants — whoops! But Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush has an even better suggestion: That we just leave off science altogether. The debate between Evolution and Intelligent Design, he says, “got me thinking, and today ii [sic] occured [sic] to me: science is dead. We have reached the end of the Age of Science.” I must say I haven’t been so happy since we reached the End of History. What is especially great about Noonan’s theory that science is dead is that he doesn’t have to conduct any experiments or present any evidence to prove science is dead because science would actually have to be alive to do that.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:10 PM
July 25, 2006
The Dogs of War

Dean LeBaron, international financier and venture capitalist, famously quoted previously on this blog saying: “Let me share with you something a Chinese official told me, semi-seriously, I think, while I was there: ‘By the year 2050, the average Chinese family will have an American houseboy!’” is now blogging over at the Leadership Blog in addition to offering video commentary on his own website . Mr. LeBaron posits in a recent blog post that:

A political scientist, Adam Przeworski of New York University, studied 139 countries over four decades and concluded that a democratic government was almost four times as vulnerable to being overthrown by a dictatorship if its per-capita income was falling than it would be if incomes were rising.

“That relationship [is] strong, unbelievably strong,” Przeworski says. He reasons that as people prosper, they have too much to lose to risk challenging their government, whatever the provocation. They tell themselves, “We have our homes, our cars, and our TVs. There is too much at stake to go into the streets and build barricades.”

Similarly, wealthy people have a vested interest in free trade and world prosperity, and are likely to oppose international conflicts that might disrupt commerce. And sure enough, Gartzke's research for the Fraser Index of Economic Freedom of the World found that nations with a low score for economic freedom are 14 times more likely to engage in conflicts than countries with a high score.

How then does one explain the anomaly in this line of reasoning? Isn’t America the most prosperous nation on Earth? If the reasoning holds, how do we explain the anomaly of George Bush’s Iraq adventure? How also do we explain the anomaly of Japan and Germany in the middle of the twentieth century? Weren’t both of these nations enjoying a larger relative prosperity than many of their neighbors? While I agree with LeBaron that it isn't democracy that brings peace, I have great trouble reconciling that many of the world’s most prosperous nations also often engage in or encourage conflict. Always outside of their borders of course, at least in the beginning. Is it the nature of man that he will inevitably revert back to his inherent animal instincts?

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:39 AM
July 21, 2006
Guest Blogger: Spiiderweb

Like all good surfers, we come across blogs we think more folks should know about, so we’re finally getting around to starting our guest blogger project.

Our first guest blogger is someone well known to Bad Attitudes readers from his comments: Spiiderweb, whose blog has been in our “Current Favorites” list for a while now.

He’ll be hanging out with us for a couple of weeks. Please give him a warm welcome!

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:45 PM
July 11, 2006
The Ever Erudite Joe Bageant

The ever erudite Joe Bageant once again brings us some pearls of wisdom in inimitable style in his latest essay, including oratorical pronunciations from Virgil — no, not that one. Maybe those guys who said “It’s hard out here for a pimp” were on to something big.

…[L]iberal TV watchers see Jon Stewart of The Daily Show as being political or about politics in some way. Of course it is about entertainment. Period. It’s a comedic entertainment, created for profit by a global corporation and designed to fit the tastes and self-images of people who identify themselves as politically progressive. Stewart is a hip identity symbol for white middle class liberals. Which comes down to being, as Virgil terms it, “a smartass.” Yet Stewart is a fundamental political input for millions, even though his show has about as much to do with an informative, actionable reality as Sponge Bob or ABC News (which delivered to my email this morning the following story: Castrated California Child Molester Wants His Freedom.) If you are a Stewart watcher who thinks you do not unquestioningly take him as a primary source of information, remember this: The Daily Show is being piped directly into your brain stem — as any neuropsychologist or cognitive scientist can tell you, you don’t have a choice in the matter.

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[…]

Meanwhile, we drink organic juices in plastic containers, and buy hybrid cars with terribly polluting batteries if we can afford to. We are self-righteously concerned over the current administration’s foibles, conveniently ignoring that such grotesque folly translates into the blood of entire families splashed up the walls of Iraqi homes at the point of the very same American weaponry that helps drive the economy, that puts the cabernet on our tables or the movie tickets in our pockets. They are one and the same, hopelessly interdependent, because the Empire is as holistic as everything else on the planet. But once our folly has been commercially packaged as comedy fare, jokes about such things as the Green Zone make us feel better and Jon Stewart rich. His success is appropriately measured in Emmys, not change. And yes, I watch Jon Stewart. Moreover for the same reasons Virgil says all of us watch television:

“People don’t want to think about complicated stuff. They wanna see big titties and a shoot-out with hoodlums in New York. They wanna see some little guy win a million bucks.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:59 PM
July 08, 2006
Worried?

Latest zinger from our heartily missed colleague and drinking buddy Sammy Sassendyll:

What ho! Just the other day, as we were preparing our annual Midsummer Threat Assessment, we began to wonder just how much we should worry about the alleged jihadis who allegedly schemed to flood lower Manhattan, which is well above sea level, by blowing up commuter tunnels, which are partially below sea level, and brother! — we are here to tell you that, if our implacable foes have indeed figured out how to repeal the laws of physics, we are beaucoup worried.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:28 PM
March 24, 2006
The New Guy on the Blogroll

Spiiderweb has been a godsend to this blog (alright, blast me for my use of the deity if you will, but nevertheless, Spiiderweb has a fascinating blog).

In one of his latest posts he starts out with a picture of Harry S and then morphs over to Molly Ivins [Bill Doolittle, please take note of Molly’s article] and then hits us with the following (below), just after he calls “bullshit” on Molly Ivins. On top of that, he’s a prolific blogger.


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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to defend myself. My spot in this swirl of blogs is to try to post info I think people might miss and try my best to post earlier than others. Most US bloggers are asleep when I’m blogging. I often catch breaking news within seconds.

I also often usually offer my opinions. Those opinions are as well informed as I can make them or just based on experience. Those opinions are mine and can be accepted or rejected by my readers based on thier opinions, experience, trust or beliefs.

Other bloggers are more informed and knowledgable than I in many areas and have sources and experiences I haven’t. I would never challenge Juan Cole, Redd Hedd, Jane Hamsher nor many others. They provide info as good as, if not better, than MSM reporters.

Damn! Shouldn’t have started listing bloggers. There are far too many and omissions signify nothing.

Finally, I’m no celebrity and thus am not in anyone’s spotlight. I’ve been interviewed by radio stations, television stations and newspapers on a few occasions. So each reporter was “covering the five-car pile-up on Route 128” as it were. In every single interview I gave, without exception, the reporter made factual mistakes and erroneously quoted me on something. Usually the errors were significant. So “being there” doesn’t guarantee reliable information or accuracy. I’m just saying.

It’s awfully hard for a “new guy on the block” to get picked up and added to the blogrolls of the more popular blogs, but I urge those who visit here to explore his blog and consider adding him to their blogrolls. He seems to have come out of nowhere and has a lot of good things to say.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:48 AM
February 24, 2006
Those Pesky Cartoon Characters

Mrs. Batard and I have our computers set up next to each other. Although we’re almost literally cheek to cheek, we still send emails back and forth to each other. Such is life in the twenty-first century. No more sitting across from each other at the breakfast table reading the paper and not being able to see each other. That is so twentieth-century now, isn’t it. Except for the fact that she drags me to church too much, I must say that I find myself feeling that I’m the luckiest man in the world to have Mrs. Batard at my side. I heard Mrs. Batard chuckling a few minutes ago and asked her what was going on. She said “Jon Swift is so funny”. Indeed. So here’s a sample of his latest. By all means visit his blog regularly. Furthermore, I really do think that we should add his name to the blogroll, even though he is an avowed conservative. Even some of his commenters take him serious. Seriously. Besides, we need to be fair and balanced here and the conservative Jon Swift would be a nice addition to our blogroll.

Why all the focus now on the menace of cartoons? When the Rev. James Dobson revealed that Spongebob Squarepants is gay, I was certainly troubled by that. While I don’t mind Bugs Bunny having a little fun crossdressing on occasion, an out-and-out gay cartoon character is a bit worrisome and I am glad he let parents know about this. However, I think we are spending entirely too much time worrying about cartoons. In cartoons when people get hit by an anvil or get run over by an Acme delivery truck they often get up again. That doesn’t usually happen in real life. Maybe we should stop worrying so much about cartoon characters and start paying more attention to real people.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 03:06 PM
Magpie on Moyers

Go to Magpie and read the rest of this great post to get the links to read Moyers. I swiped her image too. If it were a real ad, I’d switch to Absolut Vodka (although I hate Vodka — I’m not a martini man), but as it is, Old Crow works for me. Too bad they don't make a bourbon named “Old Magpie”, or “Young Magpie”. Whatever, her blog is worth taking a look at. Good stuff.

Bill Moyers is giving one hell of a speech on his current speaking tour out on the West Coast. If you don’t already understand how corrupt the current US government is now, you’ll get the picture after reading what Moyers has to say.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:36 AM
January 25, 2006
Interviewed

Bloggasm has posted a bunch of interviews with bloggers from more-or-less left-wing sites such as Orcinus, Lenin’s Tomb, Majikthise, and Echidne of the Snakes. Bad Attitudes is also represented (at length, I’m afraid). I found pretty much all the interviews enlightening. A few bloggers answered very briefly and didn’t provide much insight into their viewpoints, and a few have some really weird viewpoints. But it was a fun exercise. Enjoy!

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:00 AM
January 11, 2006
Don’t Miss Herblock

I normally assume everyone’s reading The Sideshow. Avedon Carol is so frequently on the money that she’s one of the few blogs I syndicate. As a result, I don’t link to her as often as she deserves. True, she seems to be kinda fixated on Al Gore, but that’s not a disqualification ;-).

This morning she points to a Digby post concerning an item at Glenn Greenwald’s blog. Digby calls out a comment (not currently visible at Greenwald’s site) that includes links to several relevant Herblock cartoons. They load very quickly; check ’em out.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:09 AM
December 31, 2005
The Wonderful World of the Web

While civil libertarians and others worry incessantly about the implications of government spying, perhaps with good reason, allow me to speak in favor of what the creation of the World Wide Web has begotten. A good many years ago, before there were pictures on the internet, I had the opportunity by virtue of web connections to personally meet and interact with one Noel Stookie, perhaps a radical left winger and a fine man who sought to deliver positive messages to fellow travelers. In times past, this would have only been possible by a rather long drive or perhaps a letter that would have been personally read by J. Edgar himself. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, that you meet the nicest people on the net, provided you don’t go into sex chat rooms or otherwise enter into the darker underworld. Allow me to further enunciate that if we choose to properly do so, we may avail ourselves of the best organizing tool for liberal change ever invented since Mr. Gutenberg invented his printing press. The truth is, we liberals have tools at our disposal to organize to effect mass change for the greater good of mankind not seen in Five Hundred years — but will we allow that opportunity to be wasted?

Thanks to my esteemed colleague Simbaud at King of Zembla for alerting me to the blog of Joe Bageant, a fine gentleman in his own right, and a spokesman for the forgotten masses of American workers toiling and struggling to feed hungry children, provide health care for the sick — themselves and their children — and still retain some semblance of honor and humanity despite the forces of rage bearing down on them at almost every waking moment.

Now, to get to my point. Mr. Bageant has a link to a wonderful blog by one Neddie Jingo, which I recommend highly. A highlight for me was this post entitled Our Harvest Being Gotten In. I urge you to read it. I would also urge our webmaster to add Neddie Jingo to the blogroll. Visit the blog — well worth your time.

Posted by Buck Batard at 06:31 PM
December 27, 2005
From the Beast

Here’s how far behind I am: it took a visit to the indispensable Cryptome to alert me to Windows Live Local. Yes, it comes from the Beast of Seattle, but the pictures are much clearer than Google Earth, in the free version at least.

Live Local has an aerial view that resembles Google Earth’s take. But try out the bird’s-eye view.

It appears that Cryptome has published some bird’s-eye views of the famous undisclosed location.

Note: Google Earth requires a high-speed connection. I didn’t see any warning about that with Live Local, but you’re downloading so much information that I expect a configuration similar to Google Earth is required for Live Local.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:25 AM
So Long, Hi

Of course we’re all in mourning over the passing of Hi magazine, the honorably motivated, but unfortunately infrequently read, glossy designed to bring the truth about our freedoms to the benighted, thus causing them to realize the error of their ways and fall in love with US foreign policy.

But I’d missed the encouraging news seized upon by Abu Aardvark from a recent State Department briefing:

QUESTION: Just one last thing from me. Do you have any figures on the website traffic at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the — what I’ve been told is that there are 3 million hits. Now —

QUESTION: Per day or —

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it’s per day.

QUESTION: Three million hits per day?

MR. MCCORMACK: Per day. Adam?

MR. ERELI: Yep.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep, 3 million per day. Now, here’s one thing — we will endeavor to find out the answer to this question for you, I don’t have it yet — are those unique viewers or are those page views. So at this point, I don’t know the answer to that and we’re going to find out the answer for you…

These guys are so used to lying that they do it reflexively: the first thing that occurs to them, even in a press conference where their words are being recorded, is to lie. Abu Aardvark takes them to task; turns out that 60,000 is closer to the mark than three million. Which, as he says, is still a surprising number. I suspect State Department bots.

So what’s encouraging about all this, you ask? That the State Department press flacks are aware that there’s a difference between page views and unique viewers.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:55 AM
December 18, 2005
Wikipedia vs. Brittanica

Nature magazine reported this week that Wikipedia comes close to the Encyclopedia Britannica in accuracy.

The magazine tested 42 entries from both encyclopedias by sending them to experts in the fields being described. The entries were not marked as to source, but given the variety of authors at Wikipedia, one imagines that the experts had no trouble telling the entries apart.

The somewhat startling conclusion was that, while the Wikipedia articles averaged four innaccuracies per entry, the Britannica articles had on average three inaccuracies. All told, the Wikipedia entries had four serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts; but the Britannica entries also had four serious errors.

The Nature article includes a brief discussion of efforts underway to improve the quality of Wikipedia entries, and to denote stable versions of entries that reach a certain quality level, after which new changes would be allowed but kept separate.

All in all, it seems a pretty resounding vote of confidence for a fascinating project. The article notes that Wikipedia has added 3.7 million articles in 200 languages since it started in 2001, including 1,500 new articles each day of October 2005. Hopefully the Nature article will make more subject-matter experts aware of the existence of Wikipedia, and thus generate more and better entries.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:43 PM
December 07, 2005
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

I’m pretty sure that Livingstone wasn’t searching in Zanzibar for the origins of the Nile, yet that's what wikipedia told me when I was fact-checking some dates. I tried to query: “ED, did AU mean Zambia, maybe?” but in 15 minutes of poking around, I couldn’t figure out how.

I’m apparently not the only startled user. The mistake I tripped over was prankish or careless, but some are malicious:

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, John Seigenthaler Sr. is 78 years old and the former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville. But is that information, or anything else in Mr. Seigenthaler’s biography, true?

The question arises because Mr. Seigenthaler recently read about himself on Wikipedia and was shocked to learn that he “was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby.” “Nothing was ever proven,” the biography added.

Mr. Seigenthaler discovered that the false information had been on the site for several months and that an unknown number of people had read it, and possibly posted it on or linked it to other sites.

Wikipedia is the fastest, easiest place for me to strengthen my confidence or my doubts about some factoid in a manuscript, but I need to keep reminding myself to verify important points via a more authoritative resource, no matter how elusive. What a pity.

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Posted by Joyful Alternative at 06:02 PM
December 04, 2005
The Barbecue and Politics Blog

Since we know there are some Bad Attitudes regulars who like BBQ, sometimes known as barbecue, we’re happy to report that there’s a blog that goes by the name of Barbecue and Politics. Since they’re based in South Carolina, you’ll be pleased to know that they are keeping an eye out on the infamous Christian Exodus group, and in that regard, you’ll be pleased as spiked punch to read about the latest antics of the group, with some salt and vinegar flavoring added.

Christian Exodus, the upstate organization that seeks to establish a government of fundamental Christian values, has cited its first objective — the demolition of the Gaffney “Peachoid.”

“That ain’t no water tower,” said the group’s president, Ted Flinch. “It’s flat-out porno, and it has no place in the Carolina sky. Why do you think my son’s so gay?”

Flinch’s four-month old son had no noticeable reaction to the comment, but Gaffney residents have been quick to defend their peach-shaped water tower, erected in 1981.

“Yeah, it kind of looks like a hiney or whatever,” said Emma Jean Broadus, owner of the Broadus Pharmacy and Gun Shop on Main Street. “But so do real peaches. At least they didn’t put the fuzz on it.”

In a press release issued on late Saturday, Flinch stated that Christian Exodus will boycott public water supplies until the Peachoid is removed or covered.

While the opposition is not expected to result in the Peachoid’s removal, it could present problems for another water tower currently under consideration in the city. A public hearing for the “Shroom-oid” — a backup tower shaped like an thick-stemmed mushroom with a bulbous cap — is scheduled for next month.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:41 AM
December 01, 2005
Welcome Back Joe

Normally we’d reciprocate and call him our esteemed colleague at King of Zembla, but I’ve got to admit that I’m pissed as hell that Simbaud at King of Zembla announced the return of Joe Bageant three days ago on his blog but didn’t alert us here at Bad Attitudes. Hell, Joe is part of the family and we mean it. At any rate, I guess I should kick myself in the ass for not going to Simbaud’s website every day but it feels a hell of a lot better to just get pissed off at Simbaud for not letting us know.

At any rate, fatten the calf, the wayward Brother Joe is back home, this time with a website of his own. I’m alerting the master of ceremonies so we can get Joe added to the blogroll.

Welcome back brother Joe.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:41 PM
October 21, 2005
How I Got Here

I’m a Tom Bethany fan from way back when, before blogs were invented. Tom Bethany is a private investigator in Cambridge, Massachusetts—a very private PI whose lease isn’t in his name and who picks up his messages where he has breakfast. He’s a tough guy who generally comes out on top in hand-to-hand combat through his college wrestling skills, hence the titles of the books about his exploits.

He’s also the kind of guy who falls in love, and stays in love, with a woman married to some else, a woman who’s the beard for a highly placed gay man. Most of all, Tom Bethany is a man of the left, with a keen sense of social justice.

So I checked Jerome Doolittle’s website every so often, in hopes of forthcoming book announcements, and while having those hopes dashed, I read his explanation of the term bad attitudes, his advice from West Cornwall, and his annotated bibliography, where he expresses my opinion of S. I. Hayakawa. When the website became interactive, I interacted, most vociferously in support of Howard Dean and in more measured tones on other topics.

I’m also a big fan of the extremely private K. C. Constantine, but that’s a story for another day.

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Posted by Joyful Alternative at 03:42 PM
October 14, 2005
Blowback

This is a truly weird and sad little story of our time. I knew this poor fellow slightly in the late 1980’s when he worked at The New Republic and was still known as “Rich Blow.”

Rich went on, as I recall, to the now-defunct magazine Regardie’s, and then on to work for JFK Jr. at George. After John-John spiralled in, Rich wrote a high-profile tell-all that some said violated the spirit of a confidentiality agreement that the Bonnie Prince made his George staffers sign.

That’s when things got interesting, because after getting singed by the spotlight, Rich tried to reinvent himself by changing his name to “Richard Bradley.” Maybe he was embarassed by having his name associated with what some perceived as his betrayal and tasteless sell-out of a noble boy king (though maybe not, since as of last week, Rich is still dining out on his brush with greatness); maybe he was just getting back at his dad and mom for picking an embarassing name for him; or, maybe he just decided that 40 years were enough of putting up with people snickering about the fact that if his nickname were Dick instead of Rich, he’d be “Dick Blow.”

(Don’t ask me why Rich didn’t just stop using his first name; presumably, he had a perfectly good middle name he could have started using, and even though Pope Jerome of Bad Attitudes has a strange hang-up about people who “part their names on the left,” i.e., who go by their middle names, I bet that Richard Blow would have been entitled to a papal indulgence.)

Now comes news that Rich has his knickers in a twist because the kids who run a blog (one that is irrelevant and won’t be linked here because it is behind one of the highest pay barriers in Blogistan) like to identify him not just by his new name, but also as “ex-Dick Blow” and the like. Rich desperately pleads with them that “no one ever called me ‘Dick,’ at least not to my face.” Which, I can say because I was there, is true in its entirety. The lesson here, I suppose, is that if you change your name because some people used to call you “Dick Blow” behind your back, don’t be surprised if they stop calling you “Dick Blow” behind your back. And just plain start calling you, “Dick Blow.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:33 AM
October 13, 2005
What A …

great blog.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:05 AM
October 09, 2005
Blowin’ In the Wind

I just ran across this story in the Washington Post about a progressive blog in Colorado that some of our readers might be interested in. Since some of those in one of the political parties in Colorado don’t seem to like the fact that it exists, that seems reason enough to mention it here on Bad Attitudes. The Washington Post story doesn’t provide a link to the blog, but here it is if this interests you. A teaser from the Washington Post story appears below. Perhaps with enough support the people dissing those in the blogging world will wake up and take notice.

ProgressNow said it has encountered some resistance from local Democratic Party officials who fear the effort will siphon people and money from their activities. Patricia Waak, who heads the state party, acknowledged that some see the group as little more than unwanted competition. She said that she wished it would somehow work through the party, but that she nevertheless supported its efforts. “The fact is that they’re going on a premise here that worked for Howard Dean when he was running and was pretty effective for him,” Waak said. “But in the end, it still only picks up a certain group of people. There are still tons of people out there who don’t even have a computer and who could care less what blogs say.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:23 PM
October 06, 2005
New County Heard From

I know, I know, you don’t have enough blogs to follow. There’s only about fifteen million or so, and the blogosphere is only doubling about every five months.

But just an FYI: an already fine blog has improved itself with the addition of a BARBARian colleague under the nom de blog of shystee.

One of his recent posts makes an interesting Thomas Frank-related point as re: Harriet Miers:

…why didn’t Bush go for a twofer and nominate someone who is a staunch loyalist AND a christian conservative culture warrior? The two qualifications are definitely not mutually exclusive. And it’s not like the Democrats could (or would) stop him. …

Consider the endgame. If the Republicans succeed in overturning Roe v. Wade, what will they use to get so called Religious Conservatives whipped up into a frenzy? The Culture War was built methodically over three decades and it has just recently (2001) started paying dividends for the ruling elites. Why fix what ain’t broke?

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:40 AM