Sunday, November 30, 2008

This Makes Me Retch

Can anyone tell me why Mullen et al shouldn't be summarily fired for allowing himself to be asked his opinion of his new Commander in Chief? What, was the country to have been waiting for the Admiral to approve our choice?

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went unarmed into his first meeting with the new commander in chief -- no aides, no PowerPoint presentation, no briefing books. Summoned nine days ago to President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago transition office, Mullen showed up with just a pad, a pen and a desire to take the measure of his incoming boss.

There was little talk of exiting Iraq or beefing up the U.S. force in Afghanistan; the one-on-one, 45-minute conversation ranged from the personal to the philosophical. Mullen came away with what he wanted: a view of the next president as a non-ideological pragmatist who was willing to both listen and lead. After the meeting, the chairman "felt very good, very positive," according to Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby.


With Friends Like These

This week's installment in the ongoing Why I Loathe the Blogosphere and Despise Progressives series comes to us courtesy of Avedon Carol, who posts this astonishingly silly bit:

Top-down isn't really democracy, but that works fine for Obama, I guess. And his minions agree - it's not the business of the people to make our will known; it's our duty to do what we're told. Chumps.
More... Click through the link and you'll see an even sillier post juxtaposing two excerpts: the first from Obama's press conference the other day, when he said that the vision in the administration would be his; the second from some random commenter somewhere, saying we should trust Obama. Somehow, this adds up to the spectre of an authoritarian President Obama manipulating the mindless hordes, although I think you have to have the über-progressive secret decoder ring to understand the conclusion.

One might reasonably wonder how an unexceptionable statement by Obama that he won't be a figurehead, that his administration will be more than the sum of his appointees, could possibly be spun as negative. (One might also reasonably ask: has the last Republican died in captivity? did the right-wing meme industry suddenly shutter all of its factories? have women and LGBT people and African-Americans and every other group that experiences discrimination magically attained full equality? and is there no more suitable target to attack than the very people on whose success any progress in this country depends? But I digress.) The answer is that it makes sense only from the perspective of reflexive opposition to Obama. There is no carefully considered critique here; only the habit of complaint.

And roughly 98.35% of the post-election kvetching from progressives has been like this. When progressive bloggers attack Obama or congressional Democrats, it isn't because after careful, calm, dispassionate consideration they conclude that there are in fact reaonable grounds for criticism and that airing it will have a net positive practical impact. Progressive bloggers attack Democrats because bloggers are conflict junkies and progressives are desperately in love with failure. Bloggers habitually parlay the most trivial incidents into overblown hysterical outrage; progressives cannot bring themselves to lend their support to anyone who has actually won an election.

The liberal blogosphere was born in opposition to Bush, and is habituated to misrule by corrupt and incompetent right-wing ideologues. The attitudes that were appropriate and necessary under those circumstances are dysfunctional and self-defeating when we have a president who isn't corrupt, isn't incompetent, and is (for any but the narrowest, most dogmatic lefties) on our side. We had some value in opposing Bush; we were more or less useless during the election (Obama won with a network he built himself, not the 'netroots', and some people will never forgive him for it); and now, it seems, a sizable faction (majority? large minority? I don't know) is determined to be worse than useless. I have good reason to be optimistic about Obama's presidency, and no reason at all to be optimistic about the blogosphere--which is determined to doom itself to irrelevance and self-parody.

McCarthy's Children

In today's Los Angeles Times, Neal Gabler makes a convincing argument that the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy:

The creation myth of modern conservatism usually begins with Barry Goldwater...who, even though he lost in one of the biggest landslides in American electoral history, nevertheless wrested the party from its Eastern establishment wing...Richard Nixon co-opted conservatism, talking like a conservative while governing like a moderate...But Ronald Reagan embraced it wholeheartedly, becoming the patron saint of conservatism and making it the dominant ideology in the country. George W. Bush picked up Reagan's fallen standard and "conservatized" government even more thoroughly than Reagan had...That's how the story goes.

But there is another rendition of the story of modern conservatism....a less heroic story, and one that may go a much longer way toward really explaining the Republican Party's past electoral fortunes and its future. In this tale, the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy, and the line...runs from McCarthy to Nixon to Bush and possibly now to Sarah Palin. It centralizes what one might call the McCarthy gene, something deep in the DNA of the Republican Party that determines how Republicans run for office, and because it is genetic, it isn't likely to be expunged any time soon....

When he burst on the national scene in 1950 waving his list of alleged communists who had supposedly infiltrated Harry Truman's State Department, conservatism was as bland, temperate and feckless as its primary congressional proponent, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, known fondly as "Mister Conservative"....

McCarthy was another thing entirely. What he lacked in ideology -- and he was no ideologue at all -- he made up for in aggression. Establishment Republicans...were disdainful of his tactics, but when those same conservatives saw the support he elicited from the grass-roots and the press attention he got, many of them were impressed. Taft...decided to encourage McCarthy, secretly, sealing a Faustian bargain that would change conservatism and the Republican Party. Henceforth, conservatism would be as much about electoral slash-and-burn as it would be about a policy agenda....

As historian Richard Hofstadter described it in his famous essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," McCarthyism is a way to build support by playing on the anxieties of Americans, actively convincing them of danger and conspiracy even where these don't exist.
Gabler is right: the Republican Party is held together not by any real ideological coherence (it is a collection of incompatible constituencies with radically different interests) but by a shared devotion to aggression. Or, as innumerable bloggers have put it, to Pissing Off the Liberals.

In (rightly) putting McCarthy ahead of Goldwater, though, Gabler neglects the malignant role Goldwaterite ideology did play in this story: its inherent unsuitability to governing led directly to the nihilism of modern conservatism.

As I said back in 1994, when you put government in the hands of people who believe it has no useful function, they don't make the state wither away; they simply use it to benefit themselves and their campaign contributors. People who don't think the government's power should be used for the common good will instead seek power for its own sake. People who seek power for its own sake will do so by any means necessary.

As long as there was a tension between electoral strategy and practical behavior--between the desire to win and the desire to govern, between (for example) the Southern Strategy and Nixon's more benign domestic policy, or between Willie Horton and Bush Sr.'s multi-lateral foreign policy--the Republican Party remained tethered, however tenuously, to reality. What removed any ideological counterweight to McCarthyist aggression, what allowed it to go spinning off on its own, was the abject failure of Goldwaterite ideology.

Our House Is a Very Fine House

Watched Bertolucci's Little Buddha with the children last night, finished off with a reading from Tich Nhat Hanh's book on Anger (followed by Georgette Heyer's The Unknown Ajax) and woke up to both children getting into the bed, one after the other, to discuss meditation, anger, and compassion. Kanchi's comments on the movie were priceless--she was very angry that Keanu Reeves, as Siddartha, left his wife and baby and entire kingdom in order to find enlightenment. Once he knew there was suffering in the world she felt he should have stayed behind and tried to make things better right there. She was even more annoyed when, as the movie depicts it, he winked out of existence at the moment of enlightenment but she was mollified when he came back into frame and it became clear that he wasn't just going to take the nirvana and run. Jethi chori took to heart Tich Nhat Hanh's adjuration to examine the roots of anger, embrace it, and try to cool it but discovered for herself that she was so angry with everyone else in her class that this could be a full time job. She's angry with them because they all goof off, and when one of them doesn't goof off she is angry because her self appointed role of good girl is challenged. What to do? Also, about this breathing meditation thing? How does that work? They also both reminded me that the first thing I would have to throw out the window if I ever got serious about Buddhist compassion was my intense love of justice, jokes, and tweaking Republicans. Out of the mouths of babes.


Sunday Sierrablogging

Spotted Fawn Lake
Spotted Fawn Lake, near the northwest boundary of Yosemite National Park.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Damn You Ahab, this is a Sick Fascination

No, I am not making this up. As Sadly, NO! has demonstrated right near the Malkin post on how Americans should shut up already about needing national health care or public education and just move to subsistence level farming using child labor and making our own modess pads and toothpaste are an entire series of begging pleas for donations to NRO itself to support its writers in the style to which their blog posts entitle them. Then comes this cross marketing attempt from K'lo.

Shopping with NRO [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Gift suggestions from Mark Hemingway:

4. I try and avoid metrosexual accoutrements, but my wife has the temerity to insist on me being “presentable.” As winter nears, my lips tend to crack badly — so thank goodness my better half gave me with this John Allans Spearmint Lime Lip Balm. Its not cheap, but it works great and I love the stuff. My skin also dries out a lot this time of year, so I also have my wife to thank for supplying me with Kiehls Facial Fuel, which is invigorating in a manly-enough way that I can forget for a moment that Im, egad, moisturizing.

Is there literary version of "writing while drunk" or "choked on own words while unconcious?" Because I'm thinking that NRO may be ground zero for this phenomenon.


Rhetorical Q&A ODS Q.E.D. PDQ

Q (Andy McCarthy):

Will There Be an Obama Derangement Syndrome?
A (Victor Davis Hanson):
I think we are slowly (and things of course could change) beginning in retrospect to look back at the outline of one of most profound bait-and-switch campaigns in our political history, predicated on the mass appeal of a magnetic leader rather than any principles per se. He out-Clintoned Hillary and followed Bill's 1992 formula: A young Democrat runs on youth, popular appeal and charisma, claims the incumbent Bush caused another Great Depression and blew Iraq, and then went right down the middle with a showy leftist veneer.
Feel free to leave your own examples of ODS in comments.

Update: Title change per comments.

Matt Hits This One Out Of the Park

I usually think of Matt Yglesias as highly overrated but he simply nails this one:

I’m fascinated by how common [Mark Steyn's whiny] depiction of American education is considering that it’s 100 percent false. No doubt there are bad history teachers and bad history classes in the United States, but anyone who’s vaguely in contact with reality can tell you that U.S. history is very much taught as a heroic national narrative. But since contemporary American conservatism is eye-deep in racism, Steyn can’t quite seem to grasp that teaching people about Rosa Parks and so forth is part of the heroic narrative of the victory of American ideals over the worst impulses of human nature. Similarly, the much-bemoaned-by-rightwingers greater attention given in recent decades to the contributions of women and ethnic minority groups is about trying to expand the circle of people who feel invested in the national narrative.


God Forbid

Stephen Calabresi explains it all to you. In a discussion of Mark Halperin's assertion that pro-Obama bias cost McCain his rightful presidency Calabresi keeps his eyes on the prize, or returns to the new GOP vomit like an obedient dog, and begins babbling about the Fairness Doctrine. My favorite line is in italics.

Steven G. Calabresi, Professor of law, Northwestern University:

The important question is what do we do in the future to protect against media bias, and I think the answer is not to get government into the business of regulating and burdening the content of core political speech on talk radio as the grossly misnamed Fairness Doctrine would do. Under that law, every time Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken says something stupid on the air, the radio network that is broadcasting them would have to make equal radio time available for an alternative point of view. Reduce...

The effect of such a rule would be to penalize and burden by law controversial speech, which is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. Senator Charles Schumer says this is OK because after all we regulate pornographic communications on the airwaves. That is true, but it obviously does not follow that we should regulate folks like Limbaugh or Franken who are engaged in core political speech. The internet has opened up vast new resources to those who want to speak and respond to the Limbaugh’s (sic) and Franken’s (sic) of the world. American citizens have taken advantage of those resources and will continue to do so in the future in even greater numbers. Instead of worrying about media bias in the presidential election, which is over and done with, let’s not add to it by censoring talk radio.


Bonus points: can anyone tell me what is the difference between Franken's speech and Limbaugh's speech at this point? What rules apply to politicians and their speech during campaigns that don't apply to Limbaugh's speech?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mad Malx

Michelle Malkin's people don't need no stinking government bailout or stimulus check. Take "self-reliant Americans like Jen," whose husband sustained permanent injuries in a car wreck. Jen resourcefully pulled her family away from the government tit and into...subsistence farming:

We sold our lovely home, bought a rundown, fixer-up place and converted it into a farm that could provide garden vegetables to can and an area to have some animals to provide eggs, chickens, ducks, turkey, geese, sheep and goats....

...I learned how to make my own shampoo, toothpaste, soaps, cloth napkins, dish scrubbies, potholders, skirts (mend all clothes) and most meals from scratch. We heat our home exclusively with wood.... For those worried about holiday spending: I spent only $100 for a family of six last Christmas, and most of that [on] underwear, socks and the meal.

...This accident has been a blessing for my family. The pain that my husband has daily is not the blessing, but that he is alive and able to continue to watch his children grow into adulthood.
So suck it up, America. The Bush administration hasn't ruined you, it has blessed you -- with a potential Third World standard of living. Lucky duckies.

Winter Palette

Early Winter Palette

What I meant to say

Fred at Slactivist makes the argument, in detail, that I tried to make in frothing fury the other night at my dinner with the old journalists. Wish I had been able to google and time travel at the same time I could have had my dinner in peace while letting the internet work for me. Plus, I love the utter convergence of the virtual and the real since Fred (who I don't know) jumps off from Brad DeLong's blog (and I do know Brad IRL). And the point of departure for Fred's essay is my favorite feature at Brad's blog, his version of "wanker of the day" which is "why oh why can't we have a better press corps" also known as "NYT/WaPo Death Spiral." All of these conversions reflect the underlying reality that what is doing in Newspapers, as Fred argues, is an unrealistic assesment of their profit margins, the cutting of professional staff and researchers to feed stockholder appetites for money, and the downward spiral of incompetence and contempt for the readers. Meanwhile, on the blogging side, special focus bloggers like Brad, or (formerly) Nathan Newman or Glenn Greenwald or Juan Cole, have the time, pixels, and confidence in their readers to lengthy disquisitions on difficult topics, to refer the reader back and forth in time to past and future columns, to link widely to subject matter experts, original documents, and or other accounts of complex subjects from other viewpoints. Meanwhile, as Fred demonstrates, the reporter and his or her editor are left with an ethic of "get it into print first and fast" with no real time, inclination, or back up for serious thought and reflection on complex topics. No science editor with science background means no backstop to an AP story that the reporter himself doesn't understand. No long term perspective, like Glenn Greenwald's interest in Civil Rights and Torture or Brad in Economics means no long running features that cover the same ground in more detail every day, or every week. Instead we get, in Atrios' brilliant neologism "journamalism." Nothing new or surprising here except for the refusal of some pretty high up practitioners to admit what is happening. On the other hand, as Ahab points out today, who cares? We've got a lot of great stuff to be reading, even if it doesn't happen to come via "the Dean's" imprimatur.


cross posted at a turkey sodden No More Mr. Nice Blog

East Coast Friday Random Ten

Vic Chesnutt, "Maiden" The Salesman and Bernadette
Badly Drawn Boy, "Take the Glory" One Plus One is One
Kathleen Edwards, "Alicia Ross" Asking for Flowers
Yo La Tengo, "Don’t Have to be So Sad" Hear Music, Vol. 10
Tarnation, "Game of Broken Hearts" Gentle Creatures
East River Pipe, "Times Square Go-Go Boy" Shining Hours in a Can
Jason Collett, "Pink Night" Idols of Exile
Paul Westerberg, "Only Lie Worth Telling" Stereo
Edith Frost, "Thine Eyes" Calling Over Time
Modest Mouse, "Paper Thin Walls" The Moon & Antarctica

Bonus: PJ Harvey, "The Devil" White Chalk

Between this list and pumpkin pie for breakfast, my day's off to a great start. What's Mall Friday sending your way?

Note: Apple's one-day sale today is a good time to buy an iPod. Of course I bought one last week.

Mistakes Were Made, But I regret nothing

I've been cooking Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings, since I was eleven or twelve years old. But the last Turkey I cooked was ten years ago as I was preparing to cook the Turkey and a few sides and take it to my brother-the-vegetarian's house. I went into false labor, threw the turkey and my toddler into my parents' arms, and stayed home weeping, drinking *castor oil* because its not only good for fascists to give to communists, and vice versa, but is such a delightfully natural way of bringing on childbirth. Since then I have had to attend Thanksgiving with Mr. Aimai's family where I was condemned to bringing appetizers that were consumed during a series of embarrassing pre-Turkey games like charades and a Turkey Toss. And to eat a voluminous meal, executed with military precision, of a series of inedible traditional dishes notable primarily for their rubbery, undercooked, or bland qualities. This year, mirabile dictu, I cooked the meal myself, at my house, with my children around me cleaning up as I go, for my side of the family. What a pleasure! Children not underfoot but actually handily writing lists "brusul sproutes, check!" "turkee stofing, check!"(they go to a progressive school, so sue me) and doing the dishes while mommy steps out for a moment to blog. We rolled out three pie crusts to the thumping strains of the various Buffy the Vampire albums and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and cleaned and oiled the countertops at a dancing pace.

However, mistakes were made.

Turkey: brined, buttered, herbed and--undercooked and rubbery. Who ever thought that this cipher of a meat, this black box of cooking, should be the centerpiece of a meal? Next year--squab, either raw or deep fried. I can't take the tension for five hours.

My first ever Pumpkin pie: oh for g-d's sake, read the fucking directions already. A) don't add candied ginger to the bottom of the pie. It tastes like some kind of cough syrup. B) chill it in the refrigerator, ok? Is that so hard to understand? CHILL IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR for at least two hours. Your pretense that it is some nouvelle cuisine mousse is fooling no one.

My first ever Pecan Pie: ditto. Read the directions. Don't add anything. Also, try a different recipe next time. Rose Levy Bernbaum is highly overrrated. Even the Lyles Golden Syrup people (kudos for a great tin design, though!) realized they shouldn't let her anywhere near the pie crust recipe and just asked her for filling instructions. But its too sweet. Plus, no bourbon.

Also, don't ever rush out and buy very very necessary and never before owned refrigerator to oven to table pans. As it turns out they offer you the worst of all possible worlds: the pans take so long to reheat in the oven that the food never gets fully heated while the pans themselves become burning hot and you have to warn children, the elders, and small animals away from the buffet line as you burn your own fingers and shriek imprecations usually reserved for the Bush family and Republican politicians into the uncaring night. Then, when everyone digs in, they discover to your horror and their polite distress that your various vegetarian friendly dishes are largely uncooked.

Also, if you have to choose between incompatible food fetishes take the Inuit, who eats only seal blubber, the Jain who refuses all meat and several varieties of beans and onions, and the Cannibal looking to spit your children and roast them. Whatever you do, don't try to satisfy modern American vegetarians, dieters, and etc... Its too complicated. (just kidding budgie!)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

True Confessions

This paragraph from The Dean makes me thankful for the Internet:

I attempt to follow the discussion in newspapers and on Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour" and other deeply serious television programs about the latest moves by the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury -- and I am stumped.
Today I'll celebrate many things, including all of the voices of our blog and the resources of left blogistan. The shrill. The deeply unserious. The unstumped.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have a Great Thanksgiving

Why did the turkeys cross the road?
Sorry, not you guys--I meant the readers. You guys are pretty much screwed.

(Best 'why did the turkeys cross the road?' joke wins a fabulous prize: double best wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. Work in a Sarah Palin reference and you get...well, actually a little less, because it's almost certain to be a cheap shot. But funny nonetheless!)

Anyway, I'm outtahere for a couple days, back Saturday, so if my esteemed colleagues feel moved to post in my absence it would be a kindness. In the meantime, I hope all of you are well and happy and with loved ones for the holiday. And of course, let's all be enormously thankful for...well, I don't even have to say it, do I?

Update: our President(-elect) knows what Thanksgiving is all about.

Wednesday Wildflowerblogging

Richardson's Geranium (Geranium richardsonii) southeast of Florence Lake, John Muir Wilderness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trivia is here again

Actor math.

Pixels at an Exhibition

So with the election over, Generik, Ahab, and I have finally had the time to start that photo blog we started talking about several months ago. The naming process was long and arduous, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of branding consultants, who led multiple rounds of focus groups, and in the end we got a name that was less lame than the other candidates. But the pictures are going to be cool, so be sure to drop by and check it out.

Come On Ahab! You Missed the Best One

Noted without comment:

Does This Belong on a T-Shirt? [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

From a $50 donor: "NRO: Yelling 'Stop' at History while banging on a cowbell."

K-Lo in Wonderland

She'll always have 24:

"Why don't you go hide in the shelter with the other children" [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Jack Bauer channelled John Bolton when dealing with that odious U.N. peacekeeper last night on 24: Redemption.

More 24 in January. Something to look forward to that month.

And come February, she can start pulling for some real terrorism.

Update: I see Roger Ailes posted on this yesterday, replacing Lopez's headline with a telling quotation of the good and the brave Sir Bolton of the Mustache: "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy."

Gentlemen, you may fire when ready

Synchronicity or the Jungian Archtype or something causes LGM to read the mass market version of what Roy finds whimpering in a corner of the internets. Both express to the full the new ressentiment of our leadership class when its forced to take a back seat to the crips, the blacks, and the wimmins. Both express the identical belief that being taught something is a reproach to one's honor which, apparently, requires a sturdy, yeomanlike independence from all kinds of knowledge (in the comments its made clear that relying on codes and workplace norms leads to all kinds of absurdities like safety officers, fire officers, anti bullying teaching and even "bad touches" education in kindergarten). But the real joy is to be found in the comments where one commenter takes the theme of honor to its logical conclusion and takes the piss with a vengeance. More...

Well, Bill, this was your first experience in front of a Bolshevik commissar, so I will forgive you for the tepid response. The proper response to any form of indoctrination is resistance. You need to understand that "facilitators" expect conformity and cooperation. Throwing a spanner into the works upsets the group dynamic. The next time you see an applecart full of rotten fruit, tip it over. Most people go along to get along. A single leader in opposition inspires others of like mind to mount a counter-offensive. They're just waiting for a leader.

I suppose a few words on tactics are in order. Sedition is generally more effective than confrontation. A carefully delivered barb delivered with sincerity and a polite demeanor can deflate your opponent like a punctured whoopie-cushion. You listen. You wait. You plan. Then you raise your hand and thrust toward the gut of your opponent's argument. Remember to smile (politely) as you kill. Pick up a bottle of good bourbon on the way home. You will learn in time the joy that can be found in sedition.

Here's the best part. Since most people would rather endure stupidity than engage in confrontation, you'll quickly get a reputation as a (sorry for the unfortunate noun) maverick. The only time I was ever called on the carpet was for swinging a cavalry sword during a faculty meeting. Maybe it was a bit over the top, but it most certainly my Little Roundtop.

The bottom line is that now I'm excused from such meetings. I get assigned to parking lot duty or something. Yes, I know, everyone needs a job. The bills must be paid. But it gets better still when you take a stand. You might experience that magical moment when you can say that I will give up everything I have to stand on principle. You will know at that moment the true meaning of liberation. The opposition can have everything I own, but not my compliance. You will suddenly morph into the worst enemy of herd people everywhere; you will stand as the naked warrior with nothing to lose. It'll put a gleam in your eye and a swagger in your step, laddie. And fear into the hearts of your enemies.

So, Bill, spare me the indignation. Next time I want to hear how you counter-attacked and destroyed the meeting. Buck it up a notch. That goes for anyone else reading this comment. I don't give a rat's ass how violated you "feel." For Crissakes, that's what the other side does. I want next time to hear a song of victory. But that's just me. I truly hope it's not just me.

Posted by: ~Paules | November 21, 2008 5:52 PM

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Movie Review: Ushpizin

Ushpizin (2004) 8/10
Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand) are ultra-Orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem. Moshe is so broke that he cannot afford to prepare for the upcoming holiday of Sukkot. Praying for a miracle, he receives unexpected help. He also receives usphizin, holiday guests, which are considered a blessing, but these particular guests are not what anyone expected.

Shuli Rand was a popular Israeli actor who quit to live a religious life. He came back to acting for this movie only, which he also wrote, and the Israeli Film Academy awarded him with Best Actor for this film. As such, it is respectful of religious life, not gawky, but also not idealistic. The Jews of Moshe's neighborhood are deeply religious, but also argumentative and judgmental.

Moshe is a guy with a past, and his past is catching up with him. At one time a violent criminal, he longs for redemption. He and Malli also long for children, and the lack of this blessing is seen by them as a failing of faith. When an escaped con from Moshe's past shows up as a guest, Moshe is confronted by his own weakness, his desire to lie and be rid of these guests, warring within himself (and within his marriage) with his desire for piety and an open, welcoming heart.

The criminal guests are gently comic; they have no understanding of who these religious people are. Which works on several levels, putting the American viewer on equal footing. They continue to shake up the movie, and as much as these guys are jerks, we end up with a certain affection for them. Certainly they bring color to the screen.

Malli is a great character. Rand insisted that his wife be cast in this role, and their natural affection for each other works. She is strong, opinionated, devoted, and funny. I am charmed by seeing a heavier woman in this role, there are two few big women in the movies. It's especially notable because she is childless; the ghetto for heavy women tends to be Earth Mother.

So what are the themes here? Certainly miracles and prayer are important, escaping the past and living a good life. But I think we're also talking about anger. Moshe and Malli get angry at these rude, obnoxious guests. Eliyahu (Shaul Mizrahi—nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film by the Israeli Film Academy) is angry that his old friend has changed. Malli is angry at Moshe, who has deceived her. Their anger is intense, and inevitable, and prevents each of them from doing what they truly wish to do.

I liked the bird's eye view of an enclave we rarely see in films. I liked these people, their passionate commitment to their lives and their deep feeling, I liked the joyfulness of their faith and the richness of their despair, and I loved their ability to laugh at themselves.


The End is Nigh

Up with this I will not put:

ConnectWell helps you uplevel your law practice from good to great.

World's Tiniest Violin Plays, Right Before Worlds Biggest Axe Falls

I don't know about the rest of you but John Aravois's "A Modest Mormon Proposal" almost doesn't go far enough for me. I have about had it with the Mormons and their "what are you all looking at me for?" shtick. Today in the Globe there is a long and sympathetic piece about how the Mormon church stayed out of the equal marriage debate in MA so we owe it to them, apparently, to take a blind eye to their interfering with the California Constitution. You might think that people in MA, gay people generally, and especially gay people and their families in CA were responding directly to an assault on their civil liberties, their lives, homes, families and futures. But you'd be wrong. As far as MA's mormons are concerned, and the Mormon Church world wide, all this hostility to their little cult was always there, just waiting for a silly excuse to rip its mask off. The Mormons were just wandering along, minding their own business when, whammo, the gyas started attacking them and even (gasp!) like this one guy totally burned a copy of the book of Mormon. Does hate get any hatier? My favorite line in the article is the last one:

"This has seemed like a natural step of escalation from the Romney campaign, when I think it became OK to dis Mormons and make pretty blanket statements," said Jennifer Thomas, 40, of Belmont. "You're either a nitwit bigot, or you're for gay marriage - no one has left people of faith an alternative place to stand - and if you reduce people to bigots, you give yourself license to treat them vilely."
How about if you reduce people to homo sub-humans without rights? What does that lead to?

Also, this is good.

End tax exemption for all so called "religious" groups or else start up an ecumenical religious community of gay and straight people, I'll join, and sue for full civil rights under the establishment clause.

Bloggers Made Him Do It

Howard Kurtz dropped this observation yesterday into a puff piece on Dana Perino:

From her vantage point, the rise of the blogging culture has damaged journalism. With mainstream reporters posting blog items throughout the day, "it's snappy, sarcastic. It doesn't necessarily engender trust between the reporter and the press people." And she sees the growth in "analysis" pieces as an excuse for some reporters to vent "what their feelings are about an issue."
Then he tacks this bit all by itself onto the end of the same column:
Obama Adulation Watch

Associated Press: "Many women recoil at the thought of baring their arms in sleeveless dresses or blouses, but not Michelle Obama -- half of the fabulously fit new first couple."

Howard Kurtz is like a snail crawling "along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight... razor... and surviving."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Sierrablogging

Meadow Below Mt Shinn
Meadow below Mt. Shinn Lake, LeConte Divide, John Muir Wilderness.

sara giv tHem turkee bLud

So over at The Corner they made Turpalin:



One turkey-blood-soaked Sarah Palin video
One honest Byron York post calling the scene "unfortunate"
One segment of MSM-MSNBC "nancy boys" coverage
Two batches of "Sarah and the Vegan Weenies" emails (1, 2)
Prime example: "In Alaska, they have critters that consider humans food. Absent high powered rifles, humans are not at the apex of the food chain in Alaska. That will tend to give people a different perspective than the silk pantywaists in the lower 48."
One piquant bouquet garni of adulatory bloodlust
Too many K-Lo wingnoli nuts (1, 2, 3...)
Mix it all up in Mark Steyn’s crackpot of a mind, cook extremely slowly for no more than 10 seconds, and…voila:

My fowl lady [Mark Steyn]

...[T]hat's Sarah Palin's real stroke of genius in these difficult times for the global economy. For, in an age when the government picks which banks to nationalize and which banks to fail, and guarantees mortgages that should never have been issued, and prepares to demand that those taxpayers with responsible and affordable pension plans prop up the lavish and unsustainable pension programs of Detroit, Governor Palin has given us a great teaching moment and a perfect snapshot of what my Brit reader would recognize as pre-Thatcher "industrial policy":

When the government decides it can "pick winners" and spare them from the realities of the market, everyone else gets bled to death.

Thank you, Sarah. It's the first election ad of Campaign '12.

Serve over the derisive laughter of Democrats everywhere.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Newsweek Outsources Its Way to Some Wisdom

On al Quaeda's accusation that Obama is our "house negro" Newsweek makes so much sense they had to buy it from overseas:

...spreading hate is the terrorists' job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes on unchallenged.

Al Qaeda and all its followers badly need to perpetuate Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" paradigm. The West and Islam are deadly enemies, in the radicals' view. The more irreconcilable the former, the happier the latter. In this regard, the agenda of Bush and the neocons was a true blessing for the terrorists. Consider this: after 9/11 and the U.S. strike on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was badly hit and its leaders were piteously hiding in caves. Later, by attacking Iraq for no valid reason–which caused, as a direct or indirect consequence, hundreds of thousands of deaths among innocent civilians–Bush's administration provided Al Qaeda leaders with a new rationale. They reinvigorated, prospered and recruited hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new adeptsfollowers, infused with a strong willingness for jihad. "War on terror"? If they could, they would just keep it on forever....

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Just Linked to Say I Love You

I'm not a Democrat. I am somebody who thinks that if we're going to be saddled with a two-party system it'd be nice if the distinction between them was something more than "one was dropped on its head in 1964 and has the Rage button stuck permanently On, while the other is its secret admirer".

I am a Democrat, a yellow dog democrat. But when Doghouse Riley declaims on the subject, I've got to say he's got a point.


Happiness is a Warm Gun, Part 437

Shorter Ol' Perfesser: "That government is best that kills most."

Update: Pantload weighs in here. Money shot:

But this is a very thorny argument and I've got a very busy morning. So I'll just reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks.

Friday Random Ten

Plugz - El Clavo y la Cruz
Clash - I Fought the Law
Dead Moon - Dead in the Saddle
Sonantes - Miopia
Isaac Hayes - The Look of Love
Roxy Music - Strictly Confidential
Shriekback - Sway
Wire - I Am the Fly
Thin White Rope - Red Sun (acoustic)
Skatalites - Shake a Lady

Bonus track: Young Marble Giants - Credit in the Straight World

CD swap (the covers version) update: the most dilatory participant, who shall go unnamed here (but he knows who he is), finally got his CDs sent, and everyone should have received them by now. Once you've had a chance to listen to everyone's, let me know and I'll post track lists here. In the meantime, below the fold are teasers for the full tracklist...

From Steve:

From Ahab (live version):

From George:

From me:

Some Consolation for Sarah Palin

As bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse:

Yes, I approve this mesage

Americablog is sick of half measures, and apparently so is this kos diarist. This is the most brilliant stroke of all time and I urge everyone to join the church and start praying. That'll larn 'em.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mother denied custody because of Wicca

Every time I hear one of these stories, it's a fresh, new horror.

Did talk of a mother's (alleged) adherence to Wicca cause her to lose custody of her child? That is the allegation of Andrea Hicks, who said that Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow improperly considered her religious views in his ruling.

"In her appeal of Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow's decision, the mother noted Vittitow described Wicca in his opinion letter as 'a religion, movement, cult or whatever it that may be.' The judge also wrote that while the mother testified she was only joking when she told the boy's father that she was involved with Wicca, the 'court believes she is much more involved than she would lead us to believe.'"

Hicks' first appeal was denied, even though the two dissenting judges believed that the ruling 'impermissibly considered' her faith. You can read the opinions of the judges on the appeal court, here (Andrea Hicks v. Joshua A. Cook). Now, somewhat unsurprisingly, a motion to rehear the appeal has been denied with the same justices dissenting.

I would ask anyone reading this to cross-post it. Widespread attention is one of the few things that helps in cases like this.


Why I Wish I Were kathy G.

I knew there was a reason I detested Cass Sunstein but without the internet and other people to do my remembering for me I was left merely frothing, without remembering why. Kathy G. lays it out:

That said, though, I haven't been impressed with what I've read of Sunstein's writings, and while he's often characterized as a liberal, many of the ideas and policies he supports don't seem very liberal to me. For example, although he doesn't believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, he has argued that the case was "wrongly decided," and he's made the dubious argument that the Roe decision ended up being counterproductive because it caused a political backlash. He's written in quite a Heather-ish way about the threat that the internet allegedly poses to democracy -- see this issue of the Boston Review for his argument, and for the responses of a number of scholars who do a fairly thorough job of debunking it.

Then there's Sunstein's most recent book which concerns behavioral economics and which, as Stoller points out, accepts many dubious conservative frames and notions about markets. This is especially troubling news to keep in mind if Sunstein gets on the Supreme Court, given how far right the Court has lurched on economic issues over the last couple of decades, especially recently. Sunstein has also shown extremely poor judgment by supporting John Roberts' nomination to the Court and by saying flattering (but misleading) things about the judicial philosophy of Samuel Alito. And let's not forget Sunstein's warm regard for the work of John Yoo, either.

Read the whole thing.

Don't Give Up That Day Job, Tommy F!

Baby may need a new 40,000 square foot mansion.

h/t Atrios

WIlliam F. Buckley, Dynamo

I can hear him whirring now. Who in his stable of writers said this?

"So where has the GOP embraced to its detriment oogedy-boogedyism?"

Go Read Digby (link fixed)


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Our Top Story Tonight: Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Unindicted


Wow, The Personal Is Still the Political, But Not In a Good Way

Roy points us towards Dr. Helen and makes appropriate fun of her. But the real action is in her comments thread where her crew of angry white males decompensates rapidly in all directions.
The war abroad against anti-American sentiment and far left bullying has come home, yea, even unto our CVS's and our Christmas Glogg. No more milquetoast 70 pound weaklings!

Commenter agrees with Ted Nugent and Dr. Helen, we must go to the mat:

conservatives need to quit allowing the left to use verbally bullying in their attenpts (sic) to control discourse and thus frame the arguements.(sic)Time to get in their faces about their cultural bigotries and control freak attitudes, which are every bit as obnoxious and offensive to individual liberty as any blue nose religious moralizer.

Another Commenter seconds:

Well put. For the third or fourth year in a row, my liberal, control freak sister has come up with some idea of how the family should celebrate Christmas. All the while she professes to not be a Christian. Why doesn't she just say she's not celebrating Christmas and leave the rest of us alone? Can't do it, everything has to be her way.
Comrade! To the Barricades! Our very Christmas Puddings are in jeopardy!

I Like This

What do you all think? I like it because it reminds me of the "gay dollar" campaign to remind people that gay people spend money and if you want their money you should treat them right, and it reminds me of the many Christmases that I've seen non-Christians urged to step in and work overtime, or work other hours, to "allow our Christian co-workers to be home with their families." In fact, I think it should be expanded in just this way. The focus should be on creatively finding ways for all of us to act in solidarity with our gay brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, children and friends.


It Stands Athwart Kathleen Parker, Yelling STFU

The battle has been joined! Conservatism fights for its very soul today over at The Corner, where first Pantload and then Human Stain set the table for K-Lo's final assault on wingnut apostate-come-lately Kathleen Parker:

...I wonder if after some time away from her e-mail and newfound attentions she'd be using some of the same words she's been using lately about many of the buyers of her book.

Maybe she would. She's someone I know and love dearly but I won't ever pretend to know her or anyone's mind. But I do know she is smarter than her column recently has suggested.

And by smarter I am not using conservatism as a litmus test for intelligence, for the record.
For the record, dear K-Lo, I think you'll find that it's a negative indicator.

Note: Deborah Howell is sure to find Parker's feints at conversion doubleplusungood.

Update: Kevin Drum has more on Jonah and the "oogedy-boogedy" GOP.

Wednesday Wildflowerblogging

Kern Canyon Wildflowers 02
Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia eastwoodiae) in lower Kern Canyon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Its All Theoretical Until Someone Gets a Potch in the Eye

This might be my last word on the subject, though others might need to go over it a few times more with a lawn mower and a can of gasoline. Where you stand on Lieberman is determined by where you stand on the question of what was wrong with the country under Bush. If you think that the main problem with the country was that there was too much partisanship on the democratic side, or too much partisanship tout court, then you might feel that "this is the change Obama promised us." If you think that the problem was that a far right, agressive, thoughtless, war mongering, capitalist tool ran the country into the ground on nearly theological principles with the aid of the blue dog dems and Lieberman (you can write your own adjectives to describe them) then you think that rewarding Lieberman with a very high and important position is a mistake of drastic proportions. More... In Jane Hamsher's talk with Governor Dean, g-d bless him and keep him all his days, he reveals that this simply hadn't even occured to him as an issue. Somehow, a framing device and a set of facts that the bloggosphere has seen as central to the discussion utterly dropped off the radar when it came to Senate discussion. For whatever reason. One set of Senators, no doubt, is a set of time serving chicken shits but the rest for all we know may be as clueless as Governor Dean turns out to be about what the job of Homeland Security Chair was supposed to be. I find it hard to believe but there you go. I don't go as far as some in the bloggosphere and consider my work in the past for President Elect Obama, or all the work I intend to keep doing as wasted. Far from it. When its the only game in town you might as well save your pennies and pay to get in like all the other suckers. But lets be clear about this--keeping Joe Lieberman in position, failing to make him pay any kind of price for his obstructionism and disloyalty, either signals one or both of two things: it either signals, and this is a respectable viewpoint, that the Obama people and the Senate are not serious about change on all the issues that Homeland Security Chair handles or it signals that they have failed to grasp what a dangerous foe Lieberman is of progress and change in the direction they are proposing to take the country. As some said in the thread below, mark this day because if Lieberman runs true to form things are going to get very ugly over the next two years. We are all hoping and praying for eight years of an Obama presidency, a strong majority in both houses for those eight years and a peaceful transition to an even stronger democratic presidency and majority aren't we? Well, we could as easily be fighting for our lives in two years and again in four if we aren't careful. And it was all completely unnecessary. The cemeteries are full of indispensible men--but Lieberman isn't even that. He's not a hard worker, not an honest broker, not a good soldier, not a good democrat, not a loyal friend--he's nothing but a tool of AIPAC and conservative war mongering. Hell, he's even lousy on women's issues in a solidly blue state.

Here's where I differ from the people telling us that it really doesn't matter. I think it does. But conversely I also differ from people who argue that removing Lieberman for the pleasure and benefit of those paying attention, the netroots or the activists or whoever, would have been unnecessary or even counterproductive. As far as I can tell if the Senators had chosen to defenestrate Lieberman, even over the pro-forma protests of Obama, that would have been the cheapest and easiest pay off ever in political history. We've had this discussion before about why the right wing religious nuts have been so reliable a focus of republican voter outreach. They are the cheapest of cheap dates. If you want the votes of capitalists you have to let them loot the treasury. Their money to you is always a quid pro quo for more money down the line. That can be expensive. But if you want the votes of religious fanatics you can buy them off with a little anti gay rhetoric, the occasional slap at feminists, and even a proposal, soon forgotten, to restore paper copies of the ten commandments to schools. Its an *incredibly* cost effective strategy. So what was the equivalent for the activated progressive base? We've already inured ourselves to whatever compromises Obama has to make on Gitmo, Iraq, health care etc... We're still so dizzy with surprise and gratitude that a mere few minutes looking at our gorgeous new president, his crowds and family is practically enough to keep us happy. But going forward they are going to want our votes, what are they offering us to make us keep feeling good, like what we did made a difference? That could be expensive but it doesn't have to be. We'd be satisfied with something symbolic. Everyone always is. Frankly offering us Lieberman's symbolic castration would have been just the ticket. And the truth is he would never have been missed, procedurally. While the pay off would have been huge if they had cared what the voters thought. When you look at it like that the decision to keep Lieberman at all, and certainly the decision to do it so publicly and without any kind of symbolic humiliation and assurances of good behavior was really predicated on a decision, and a sound one I'm sure, that the voters are stuck and can't ever strike back or express their anger and disgust. How very Liebermanesque of the Senate. We've got nowhere to go, as progressives, but to further support Obama and what he tries to do that we do support. But we will have to rest content, apparently, with being the crazy rich aunt in the attic, dragged out and dressed and primped for company only when the party needs us and locked up in chains and fed crusts between election cycles.


"heat of the moment" is the new "youthful indiscretion"

Fuck it:

Lieberman says the resolution was an expression of disapproval for some of the things that he said, and "some of the things people said that I said about Obama that simply aren't true." He won't say what those things are, but also excuses himself on the basis of "heat of the campaign moment,"

Jesus, Lieberman has been stabbing us in the back for eight long years--nine if you include his epically disasterous run for the VP slot and his slobbering all over Dick Cheney--that's some "heat of the campaign moment."


Trivia is up

Come & get it.

Ghost Bike

White Bicycle 01
At 15th & Cabrillo, opposite the corner where Jordan McKay was murdered.

An Immodest Proposal

Today we find out, of course, whether Obama and his team are more Macchiavellian or more Moronic. I'd say that they are smarter than I've given them credit if Obama extended the hand of friendship to Lieberman while he ordered the rest of the Democratic Senators to avert his wrath by stabbing Lieberman in the chest, back and sides and voting him out of the DHS Committee Chair. As I said to Mr. Aimai last night I haven't even read Mach. or Sun Tzu, at least not since a more impressionable age, and even I know that the Prince or the Emperor shouldn't have to do his own dirty work but can't leave enemies behind.

But by the time I've done typing this, sometime today, Lieberman will already be accepting the tearful thanks of his colleagues for not having burned a cross on his own lawn and for not actively donning a klan robe and hood while parading up and down the country fomenting race hate. His incredible, generous, restraint at calling for a cease fire *after* Obama was elected will be celebrated in Senate song and story. More... Meanwhile, to the rubes, it will be explained that he "apologized" for traducing the Democratic party and Obama and that he "promises" to full investigate any and all breaches that the party of death and its muslimgayodictator may cause in good order after January 2009.

So, that being said, I have little hope that Obama will start taking my advice. He did darned well without it during the campaign and I'm pretty sure he will do tepidly well without it for the rest of his term. But all modesty aside it would be a masterstroke.

Here's the plan. He goes to Bush and says "I *order* you to pardon all the CIA and army torturers, and I *permit* you to pardon your cronies like Cheney but at the same time, and on the same documents, you *will* pardon all the tortured foreign and domestic prisoners in all the secret prisons all over the world. At the stroke of midnight we will open all the prisons and release *all* the prisoners. That makes those prisoners and their treatment the problem of the host countries. They will be angry with us for putting them in that position, but on the other hand it shifts the focus from our past wrongs to their current ones and makes all the international negotiations public and above board.

On the day after inauguration Obama takes credit for this solomonic solution and says that he can neither rescind the orders of pardon nor does he wish to. Its bygones be byogones day! Now he's issuing an executive order putting the entire executive, military, and civil sides on notice that an illegal order, coming from any superior anywhere in the chain of command, may not be obeyed. No secret orders. No criminal orders. Its a refresher, of sorts.

Its an imperfect solution with many drawbacks but it has its good points, too, which frankly no other one does.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apointment in Samara

Or, in the immortal words of Dune "when g-d hath appointed an end to a creature he directs that creature's footsteps to that place" (or something). My pet christians are at it again. After a blog post about how all suffering is either punishment for sin or g-d's way of showing us love a commenter posts this pathetic "hear hear" :

Thanks for the post. Just today I was asking myself if my hubby and I made a mistake in being open to a large family. We have suffered greatly in recent years, enduring homelessness, lack, and chronic health issues. If we had a smaller family, things would have been easier for us. But who knows? Perhaps in God's wisdom, he determined that we needed a particular type or amount of suffering in order to grow in faith, and if we had a smaller family, he may have used other forms of suffering to refine us. Thanks for the encouragement.

A south-born gal
More and more I agree with Izzy in the post below "I'd rather believe in no g-d than have to impeach this bastard for the crimes he's committed" not the least of which is producing an orthodoxy of such stupifying stupidity. That's it? You are commanded to have more children than you want to have for fear that your all powerful g-d can't figure out a way to make you suffer enough without them? And they call *feminists* and *pro-choicers* anti family?


Indian Indian Summer

28th Floor 081114
I suppose that's the term, anyway; 'Indian Summer' is a September-October reprise of summer, and what we're having now is a November reprise of Indian Summer. (I'm tempted to say that Gore has a term for this, but that would be confusing weather with climate--a favorite pasttime of the wingnuts, and one in which they will indulge the very next time we have snow flurries in September somewhere.) For the last few days we've had midday temperatures in the mid-70s, and not a cloud in sight--in San Francisco. Hotter still inland.

Monday Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008) 6/10
James Bond (Daniel Craig), having shot Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) at the end of Casino Royale, interrogates him and learns of a secret organization known as Quantum. Following sparse leads, Bond finds Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and pursues him to the Bolivian desert. Directed by Marc Forster.

The other day I was interviewed by E! Online and I defended Bond against the notion that he's losing ground to, or imitative of, Jason Bourne. And now I have to say that the first ten or fifteen minutes of Quantum of Solace are indistinguishable from The Bourne Ultimatum.

I don't know, I am inclined to blame Marc Forster. He's an artful director who has never done action before, so naturally he'd imitate an artful action director. But for Bond, it doesn't work. Bond movies have strong narrative flow, and the crazy-quick-cut approach just doesn't do it.

A lot of Quantum of Solace felt like someone else's movie. Someone else's soundtrack. Someone else's title song. Someone else's title design. It made me want to watch a Bond movie.

Not that this wasn't a good movie; it was. It wasn't a great movie, and it was too short, too snappy, and too confusing. But it was good. There were beautiful touches, and Marc Forster's eye for framing a shot was very apparent. This may be the finest composition you'll see in a Bond film. There were lovely visual homages; the Goldfinger one being the most obvious, but The Spy Who Loved Me is there as well, and just prior to the climactic battle, a lovely visual and plot reference to the short story For Your Eyes Only. (You can't miss it.)

So much is going on that it's hard to describe; a villain with a complex plot, a huge, shady organization behind him (but not a part of his plot so much; I suspect a SPECTRE-like organization with many fingers in many pies, a conglomerate), the CIA (and hello, Leiter), Bond's hunt for revenge for Vesper, Camille (Olga Kurlyenko) with her own revenge motives and her own sub-plot, motivation, and secondary characters—I'm getting tired just listing it all. And, while the plot may not be as complex as Octopussy, it may take me longer to figure out, because it all goes by so fast.

So now I've had the night out at the movies I've been anticipating for two years. I'm tired, I'm a little let down. I think most people will love this movie, and I think it's natural for the hardcore fan to be pickier. I feel like I'll like this movie better on DVD, when I can slow down a little, back away a little, and replay lines that go by too fast.

(Quantum of Cross-post)

Going Out of Business

60 Minutes (via Kevin Drum):

Mr. Obama: Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm gonna make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world.
Get your vicarious sadomasochism while it lasts.

One Hundred Years Of I.F. Stone

Well, that was bracing! Yesterday we had a blast honoring my grandfather, I.F. Stone, for his first hundred years and looking forward to the next hundred which he will spend, variously, at Mt. Auburn Cemetery and in cyberspace. There were marvelous speakers, among the best of whom was Jack Beatty, Chris Lydon, and Tony Lewis. Among the most controversial, apparently, was your own Aimai since I had been tasked with speaking of Izzy as a proto-blogger. That set the cat among the pigeons.

I believe firmly that she who blogs first, laughs last so I woke up this morning at four a.m. to get my account into print first. Its rather complicated to explain, of course because of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle surrounding things said at cocktail parties. I hew to a hard, Proustian model of memory "I write, therefore I am" which loosely translates in the real world to "she who gets it down in pixels can lay claim to the experience." So, with a grain of salt, take all my witty rejoinders as actually having been said. I can assure you that no matter what I said, they weren't listening so they weren't heard. And so, to the event: More...

We met yesterday at Mt. Auburn Cemetery to celebrate the life and work of I.F. Stone and it was a beautiful experience and many wonderful things were said about Izzy. He was a true force of nature, and no brief discussion of his works and days could begin to capture his many wonders. But Jack Beatty's talk came close. Jack's book on Curley and the Democratic Machine, The Rascal King, is simply the greatest biography of a man and big city machine politics ever written. He and his wife were old, old, friends of Izzy and Esther and accompanied them to everything from parties to movies. Early in the proceedings he leaped to the podium and his booming, genial voice simply filled the space and cleared out any clutter left by more timid, reverential, hagiographic approaches to Izzy. Look, he said, (more or less and forgive me, Jack, for any misquotes) Izzy was increasingly both blind and deaf. And he was always and eternally himself. He never let the audiences expectations govern his behavior. He spoke at a dinner celebrating Walter Lippman and instead of complimenting the great man launched into a tirade against him, leaving my poor grandmother, who could actually see the faces in the celebrity audience, to face the brunt of the audience's rage and horror as Izzy ceremonially stomped Lippman's legend into the dust. Picture Izzy doing the same thing at a film about the wonders of communism when, as an imagined "man of the left" the audience turns to him for approbation and gets a fifty minute disquisition on the horrors of communism and the glories of the red, white and blue. My favorite of Jack's stories--man, he crammed a lot in--was his technicolor rendering of a Thanksgiving Dinner with Morton Kondracke and Kondracke's family of young children. In high mid-twentieth style the great men assembled for dinner are asked, ceremoniously, to speak on the wonders of g-d and when they came 'round to Izzy he said forthrightly (and oh, how Jewishly) something on the order of "G-d? that *&^%$ criminal? If there is a g-d he's responsible for more war, pestilence, and murder of children than any single human in history. He's got a lot to answer for. I'd rather believe in no g-d than have to impeach the bastard with his crimes." (that's a paraphrase, but thinking back on my own thanksgivings with Izzy probably not by much). Jack left us with the image of the young Kondracke's pleading with their mother and father "but...but...isn't there a g-d?"

Jack's talk was really vaut le voyage. But what of mine? I'm glad you asked. Basically, I seem to have gotten up and from the point of the older journalists there, barked like a puppy or, perhaps more accurately, peed on the carpet. I said what I, and my brother, and probably the entire bloggosphere have long thought. If he'd lived long enough Izzy would certainly have been a blogger. That is because the best of his work, which he famously did alone and without help, wasn't really facilitated in any way by large newspaper bureaus and increasingly, in the modern world, would not require the auspices and the power of a newspaper's backing. That is also because blogs are fundamentally different things than newspapers and though, on reflection, thinking about Izzy's irascibility and pig headedness on all things social perhaps Izzy wouldn't have really been comfortable with the back and forth of blog commentary John (my brother) and I both think that the historical depth, the ability to link, the ability to write as much as you want without increasing cost, and the targeted, partisan nature of blog readership would have made a blog the natural heir to The Weekly.

Frankly, I thought what I had to say was uncontroversial but I had forgotten how much vested interest and angst the self described journalists in the room place on the war between bloggers and journalists. I also hadn't realized, or remembered, what it was like to be parachuted into a room filled with altecockers with turf to defend. I won't name any names but various elder statesmen tried to put me in my place with windy pronouncements on the inability of blogs and bloggers to take the place of journalists. This left my withers unwrung because, of course, I don't think blogs are replacing *journalists*--they seem to be doing a nice job of making themselves extinct--but that blogs are competing with *newspapers* and are, in their own way, a more hospitable place for honest journalistic endeavours than corporate news headquarters.

But we were talking past each other, as that basic mismatch between what I'd said and what they'd heard demonstrates. They don't really read blogs, and they don't appreciate the work that (some) bloggers do and every time I explained to them that global criticisms of blogs were as useful as global criticisms of "the written word" when what you mean is you don't like genre fiction like the romance or you prefer westerns to thrillers they'd simply goggle. I found myself pointing out to one luminary that blogs had a famously non literary style because much of blog commentary and thread growth has to be understood as a kind of online 17th century coffee shop where we are sharing the same texts and leaning over to discuss current events. Saying you are disgusted with the level of literary merit of what is a form of spoken dialogue is utterly beside the point. The conversation is the thing, not the flowery allusions some other writer at some other time would have liked as embellishment. Again, goggling, and then a non sequiteur.

Basically they think blogs and bloggers are "all about opinion and we have too much opinion" so you say "well, what about Josh Marshall at Talking Points and his *&^% Polk? Oh yes, of course *he's good, they say--in fact his award inclines them to think him so much a journalist that he's "like Izzy" even though, much as I love him, JMM is no renaissance man capable of writing a long think piece mixing politics and plato. Or, what about Bilmon? (Chris Lydon (not, repeat, not an altecocker) bless his heart, brought up Bilmon) but the others had never heard of him and what's with the weird name? Or Glenn Greenwald, or Juan Cole? But, they said to me triumphantly, they have "day jobs!"? So, what, they can't be considered journalists? Might we not want to talk about novel ways of distributing research and writing among different kinds of experts so instead of going to a theater or food critic (cough** Frank Bruni** cough) for political commentary we went to an area studies expert for commentary on that area?

Well, anyway, we'll be sorry when we've killed off the newspapers with our cruel inattention. What? How did I kill the Globe? It was destroyed by the new owner's insistence on packing the pages with week old reprints of news from the Washington Post, the AP and the Times. Well, sure, says unnamed altecocker, they made some bad business decisions but that wasn't the Globe's fault, "they" sold the Globe. (I realized then that we were thrashing around in an emotional swamp since apparently there was a Platonic ideal of the "Globe" under discussion. I'd have thought that we were only going to talk about real world entities like the Globe (no air quotes) and its actual owners and their actual decisions but I would have been wrong.)

We got onto what seemed to be of chief concern among the older journalists which was how some of them proposed to save Newspapers by figuring out this darned web advertising thing and learning to charge for content. I pointed out that Times Select had been a hellishly bad trial balloon because what the Times found out was that people didn't want to pay for the content they wanted to provide but that was waved away as not dispositive since my old journalist friend knew for a fact that they'd actually lost tons of money on some other massively stupid financial decisions so the content decision wasn't that big a deal. (!) Yeah. That put me in my place. I made Athenae at First Draft's point that blaming blogs and readers, and even advertisers, for pulling out of papers was putting the cart before the horse. Newspapers choose higher revenues and salaries for non journalists over journalistic excellence as we all knew--like insurance companies that invested in real estate and ended up charging higher premiums to cover losses in those fields. They know all this, by the way, since they were all fresh off congratulating themselves for awarding the IF Stone Award to McClatchy for its coverage of the Iraq War, coverage that famously didn't cost the newspaper company any more than the expensive and hideously bad coverage of the Times (aka Judy "I was proved fucking right" Miller). Nevertheless, they kept offering up these bizarre blogger focussed attacks on blogs and the internet for the downfall of newspapers.

As they wandered in the field discussing ways of forcing google to make a deal to charge for page views of newspaper content (good luck with that!) and insisted to me that no blogs could make enough selling their content to make it worth the bloggers while I brought up Nate Silver ( and DailyKos). Sure, they said, startled that they actually knew somebody's name but unaware that Nate might be classed as a blogger--*he* has a product to sell, his expertise, but....but...he must be some kind of exceptional case. Because they had never thought of him before, and knew him primarily from his TV appearances, they didn't grasp the way Nate's blog and the special election coverage and polling that he had done busted wide open the barriers they thought existed between journalism and blogging. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way of a good group grope on the subject.

I haven't been around that much testosterone poisoning since graduate school. When I tell you that these bright lights--and they were bright lights--proposed Deval Patrick as a good choice for Attorney General--a guy who, with the exception of three years in the Clinton DOJ is mainly memorable for being a corporatist drone for Coca-Cola and for giving good speeches, and turned up their nose at my suggestion of Patrick Fitzgerald you can see what I was working with. Someone who shall remain nameless was doing the beltway freak out that the vagina dentata known as Hillary Clinton had been offered the SOS job--although they admitted that she hadn't been offered it but it was bad of Obama to make it look like she had been--on this they could not agree that Obama might prove to be more machiavellian than moronic. I pointed out that that was the open question, really, whether Obama knew what he was doing on matters of appearance as well as governance but that went over like a lead balloon. They agreed that so far Obama had been more sure footed than not on all matters having to do with the election and managing the transition but he had really, really, really made a huge and unreversible mistake this time with the Hillary Clinton Offer That He Hadn't Made and that They Couldn't Offer Any Proof That She Would Accept. I brought up the parallel case--parallel for what it says about Obama as a poker player capable of a front move and a backhand gesture simultaneously: i.e Lieberman and his chairmanship. To me, and I daresay the bloggosphere, this is a much more important sign, symbol, and reality of Obama's intent to rule the roost. I think I'm safe in saying that the general anti-Lieberman position is this: Obama should keep his hands off any defenestration of Lieberman so he can keep his pacific, let bygones be bygones cred but should firmly grasp the shoulders and crack the sinews of the Senators behind the scenes to make sure Lieberman doesn't keep the Chair of Homeland Security. This is important not only, as Bernie Sanders and others have pointed out, as a gesture of fairness and respect to the people who worked tirelessly to get Obama in over Lieberman's candidate but as a matter of national security since we can't leave Lieberman in charge of such an important position when he is bound, by his very nature, to use it to bring Obama and the Dems down. All of this is quite well known and quite well understood but you will be surprised to learn (not!) that another big swinging dick thought that instead of addressing these issues with me he should explain to me in words of one syllable that the Lieberman decision was utterly distinct from the Clinton as SOS situation because Lieberman's fate had "nothing to do with Obama" and "was up to Harry Reid" because the Senate, apparently, is a different thing than the Executive branch. Who knew? Crazy feeemales with their nutty ideas about governance and leadership and the differential powers accorded SOS and Chair of the Homeland Security Department. Next thing you know they will be asserting that the bloggosphere has fundamentally changed the way ordinary citizens access and understand the political realm.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Sierrablogging

Snow Canyon 06
Snow Canyon in Mokelumne Wilderness.

Sorry for the Radio Silence

We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of my grandfather today and I'm on the hook for a five minute talk on how his work, as a journalist, would have looked and felt if he could have been a blogger. At five minutes my loquacious self must throw out more than I put in and I'm so stressed out that I can' t bring myself to be all Obama about it and simply sit down and write it out fully, pracitice it with an audience, and polish it. I'm going more into Lincoln territory and aiming to just write a few notes and get up there and wing it. Hope that works out for me. Mysteriously sometime internet commenter Hogan and his wife are coming to the celebration--how's that for virtual and real worlds intersecting?


Saturday, November 15, 2008


Shorter Deborah Howell: "Talented people are liberal, so [to "balance" our paper] we'll hire more losers."

Update; [Maybe I went a bit too short.]

Other Update: Howell's assertion that people holding conservative ideas deserve protections like those that have been offered to historically oppressed groups like women and racial minorities is truly stunning. It deserves attention.

Comparative Beggary

It would be easy to dismiss today’s rant (however spot-on it might be) by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as yet another ideological tirade against the U.S. automobile industry. But based on the bad news coming out of shopping-mall owner General Growth Properties [GGP], it is no wonder Friedman is feeling crankier than usual. That’s because the author’s wife, Ann (née Bucksbaum), is an heir to the General Growth fortune. In the past year, the couple—who live in an 11,400-square-foot mansion in Bethesda, Maryland—have watched helplessly as General Growth stock has fallen 99 percent, from a high of $51 to a recent 35 cents a share. The assorted Bucksbaum family trusts, once worth a combined $3.6 billion, are now worth less than $25 million.

h/t eschaton from Vanity Fair

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Does He Sleep at Night?

I've had my doubts about John McCain's character ever since he kissed up to George W. Bush after the nastiness that was the 2000 South Carolina primary. Yeah, politics, strange bedfellows -- I get that. But I could not cozy up to someone who allowed his campaign staff to go after my child. Not. Ever.


Now McCain is campaigning for Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who faces a runoff against challenger Jim Martin. In 2002, Chambliss ran against incumbent Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee Vietnam War veteran, and had the unmitigated gall to question his patriotism. Unfortunately, the smear job worked, and Chambliss won the race. Here's what John McCain said about Chambliss' sleazy tactics at the time:

"I'd never seen anything like that ad," McCain told CNN in 2003. "Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield -- it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible."

Yet McCain was in Georgia yesterday campaigning for Chambliss, a man who avoided military service (those bad knees haven't slowed him down on the golf course, though), against Martin, a fellow Vietnam vet. He's supporting Chambliss, who told his white base, “The other folks are voting,” and also said about black turnout for early voting, “There has always been a rush to the polls by African-Americans early...It has also got our side energized, they see what is happening.”

I'd call that reprehensible.


Georgia's Senate runoff is scheduled for December 2. Click here to contribute to Jim Martin's campaign. If you want to contribute to Chambliss, you're at the wrong blog.