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Archive for June, 2005

The Patriot Act

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

As far as I’m concerned, the best thing about the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity is that we get to consider once again what a crook Richard Milhous Nixon was. Let’s take a moment to think about that.

*

Interesting as this all is, and believe me, as someone whose idea of freshman year fun was hosting “Laser Nixon” shows in my dorm room with the Watergate tapes, a couple of laser pointers, and a three foot Graffix bong, I’ve been in poli sci geek heaven these last couple days, everything I’m learning about the circumstances surrounding Felt’s decision to help Woodstein serves primarily to underline the fact that Nixon was brought down by his own paranoia. In the case of Felt, it was Nixon’s need to exert control over the FBI, which created resentment among bureau careerists. Indeed, given that the break-in that started it all was also the result of his obsessive need to know and to control, you could say that Tricky Dick’s own paranoia maneuvered him into a sort of pincer.

It’s a little depressing when I consider how unlikely it is for something like this to happen again. Not the crime, the investigation. Even if a major metropolitan newspaper were inclined to give a couple of young reporters the freedom and resources to follow a story that seemed to go nowhere for weeks, one that none of the other major papers were picking up, and even if there were a Deep Throat perfectly positioned to leave breadcrumbs for those reporters, once the story did break they would have the Conservative Noise Machine to contend with. The facts of the case would be determinedly ignored in favor of an entirely manfactured partisan reality. Obviously this is not theoretical, it is happening before our eyes. Abu Ghraib? They’re outraged about the outrage! WMD? They found programs, go suck an egg! Niger uranium? Joseph Wilson is a jerk! Bush’s National Guard record? Dan Rather is a jerk! I mean, the biggest scandal to follow Watergate was IranContra, and most of those crooks are now either working at Fox News or back in government, which is in itself a heinous scandal that no one seems to care much about.

So was Felt’s act that of a patriot, or of a resentful careerist? Maybe a little of both, and I have no problem with that. I do have a probelm with his authorizing wiretaps against anti-war protesters, but that’s the thing about us liberals, we can handle complexity. Whatever his motivations and subsequent crimes, Felt’s tombstone will have an enviable epitaph: He screwed Nixon.

Six of one, half-dozen of the other

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

It’s one thing when you hear it from commenters at the Corner, but when it reaches out to actual published columnists, you just have to wonder how it is that the Right ends up criticizing liberals for “moral relativism”:

`Deep Throat,’ Tripp both have stuff of heroes
by John Kass

With so much attention rightfully being paid to the unmasking of W. Mark Felt as “Deep Throat,” the source of Watergate fame, it was time for a cultural experiment.

So I typed “W. Mark Felt” into the news bar in Google and pressed the “enter” key.

Up came stories about Felt, the former senior FBI official who leaked information to the Washington Post, and articles from that symbiotic relationship that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

But cultural experiments must be fair. Otherwise, angry Nixonians could accuse me of liberal elitism, or is that elite mainstream mediaism?

To add balance, I typed in “Linda Tripp” next to Felt’s name and pressed the enter key. Guess what happened? Not much.

No news articles put them in context Wednesday morning, as media spasms roiled over America, birthing thousands of legitimate stories about Felt’s heroism and Nixon’s crimes.

So Felt is the hero. And last I heard, Tripp was being ridiculed about her physical appearance, portrayed by the obese John Goodman on “Saturday Night Live.”

“You should have predicted that,” said Chicago attorney David Schippers, a Democrat who knows something about presidential abuse of power and impeachment.

“Felt is treated as a hero, and you know something? He was heroic,” Schippers said. “He stood up to power. And Linda Tripp was heroic too. But they destroyed her.”

Felt is the former senior FBI official whose information brought down Nixon, a Republican, and forced Nixon to resign.

Tripp is the Pentagon employee who secretly taped conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who also abused power but did not resign.

Both presidents abused their power, lied and connived, and used the hammer of government to smash opponents. One had an unpopular war and inflation. The other was in office when people had fat wallets, as Americans were encouraged to not let foreign policy bother them too much.

While hushed reverential tones around Felt are obvious, Tripp has been ignored. When mentioned, she’s ridiculed. Why?

“Because Felt put down a Republican president. And Linda Tripp nailed a Democratic president,” Schippers said.

Yes, that’s must be the reason. One rigged a presidential election; the other cheated on his wife. Same difference.

For the record, I do agree that Tripp should not have ben ridiculed for her appearance, any more than Katherine Harris should have been. The rest, however, is fair game.

Bobo the Bozo

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

First, let me thank Rob, Dave, and Scott for asking me to guest blog and throw out a howdy to my fellow guest bloggers, Matt and Iocaste.

David Brooks is just a goddamn bozo. In today’s editorial, he argues that the standard of living in Europe is on the decline and is now equivalent to Arkansas. Yes, that’s right. Living in Vienna or Paris is now equivalent to residing in a trailer park in Conway or Jonesboro. Does he actually believe this shit? How is this standard of living measured by the way? Oh wait, he doesn’t say.

It is conceivably possible that the average European has as much disposable income as the average Arkansas resident (Arkansaian, Arkansawyer?). But does whoever has made this comparison consider all of those liberal ideas that Brooks derides for the European decline: “generous welfare measures, ample labor protections, highly progressive tax rates, single-payer health care systems, zoning restrictions to limit big retailers, and cradle-to-grave middle-class subsidies supporting everything from child care to pension security.”

So this is just like Arkansas, except with nearly free medical care, strong unions, high wages, progressive tax rates that allow for ample social services, urban planning, subsidized child care, decent unemployment insurance, and an old-age pension that will allow me to live in dignity in my last years. Yeah, that pretty much sums up Arkansas.

Did you hear that this is the first in a series of David Brooks columns where he compares Europe to Arkansas? The next one is about how all the classical conservatories have given up teaching Beethoven and Brahms and are now teaching fiddling and Jimmy Driftwood songs. After all, it fits their economic status much better.

"Drown Them In A Pool of Evil"

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

Eugene Mirman has fun with the Faith, Family and Freedom Campaign. Click to find out about MCI’s Montreal-based child pornography ring, and about the Campaign’s efforts to stop sandwiches from marrying bears.

The Last Word

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

Somerby:

For the record, this has been one of the nastiest episodes in recent Times history, and that takes in a lot ground. Let’s review the paper’s grand foppistry. First, editors allowed Okrent to print a sweeping attack in his final column—a nasty, sweeping attack against Krugman for which Okrent provided no evidence. Then, when Krugman wrote the Times to complain, the paper buried their columnist’s letter beneath a stack of a dozen others, all of which informed Times readers that Okrent is the world’s leading genius. Have you ever seen a letters column gimmicked in so clownish a way? Finally, Okrent’s specific complaints appeared—and they turned out to be the work of a cosmic dilettante. But then, much of Okrent’s political analysis was like this, starting with his hopelessly ill-reasoned “liberal newspaper” column—the column which other Manhattan high-rollers now praise as his most brilliant work. Okrent’s cheap-shot attack was deeply unprincipled. The New York Times should hang its head for allowing such a thing to occur. (Final note: The attack occurred in the Sunday newspaper. The resulting debate occurs on-line, where a smidgeon of readers will see it.)

Heh. Indeed. Ouch!

However, I can’t really abide criticisms of Okrent’s invention of fantasy baseball. Why, think of all the geeks who would have a marginally better chance of breeding without him! Really, the American gene pool owes him a debt of gratitude almost as much as Gary Gygax himself. (Now, admittedly, even in the ultra keeper league I belonged to in Montreal, several of the players claimed to be married. But I think we all know the explanation: they were Potemkin facades erected so they could keep their jobs at the cracker factory.)

NRO

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

As I’ve always said, there are many conservative blogs out there, and The Corner is certainly one of them. This is prefect except for the lack of a parody of J-Pod’s definitively kooky film criticism…

Guest Bloggers

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

All,

The regular LGM team will be in Las Vegas for the next several days attending to, er, professional responsibilities. We have asked Matt Duss of What is the War, Erik Loomis of Alterdestiny, and Iocaste of Fantasy Life to fill in for us. Thus, general blog quality should increase noticeably until Monday, when you will experience a return to normal levels of wankery.

The Most Dangerous Books. . .

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

Several dissertations could be written on this alone. Via Brad Delong.

HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help us compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each panelist nominated a number of titles and then voted on a ballot including all books nominated. A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of our panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, etc. Appropriately, The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, earned the highest aggregate score and the No. 1 listing.

And the list:

1. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
2. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report, Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education, John Dewey
6. Das Kapital, Kral Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil, Friederich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
11. The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich
12. What is to be Done, V.I. Lenin
13. Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno
14. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
15. Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B.F. Skinner
16. Reflections on Violence, Georges Sorel
17. The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croly
18. Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
19. Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault
20. Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, Sidney and Beatrice Webb
21. Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead
22. Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader
23. Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
24. Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci
25. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
26. Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
27. Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud
28. The Greening of America, Charles Reich
29. The Limits to Growth, Club of Rome
30. Descent of Man, Charles Darwin

Oh, where to start. . .

It’s interesting to see that John Dewey is more dangerous than V.I. Lenin. Also interesting is the critique of Dewey (he suggested that endowing children with hard knowledge was secondary to developing their democratic character) in light of the inclusion of Darwin. I guess hard facts are only important when used in the service of ideology, which makes the inclusion of several others quite odd. And why Ralph Nader; it’s not as if the conservative philosophical position is deeply tied to the safety features of the Chevrolet Corvair. Or maybe it is, if you’re a 21st century wingnut. I find the inclusion of Mill odd as well, in light of the conservative co-optation of so much liberal rhetoric and in consideration of Mill’s apology for the Western imperial project. I guess that espousing freedom of thought is anti-conservative. . .

Good commentary on the list from Michael at Here’s What’s Left.

Unintelligent Design

[ 0 ] June 1, 2005 |

Matt has a damn fine post on the relationship between intelligent design and that other pseudo-scientific theory, supply side economics:

There’s a strong comparison to be made here between Intelligent Design and supply-side economics. Like ID, supply-side is a theory which is notable for the almost-complete lack of support which it has garnered in academia over the years (though, to be fair, supply-siders actually do offer an actual theory, albeit one for which the conditions can always be to declared to have been “imperfect,” or its application “flawed,” and thus avoid facing the reality that their theory is, as economists say, really fucking stupid). As with ID, however, this is entirely beside the point. Supply-side was always first and foremost a cover for a particular cultural and political ideology, one which favors the rich at the expense of the poor, which views business and the making of money as the highest possible human endeavor, and which is inherently suspicious of any attempt to regulate enterprise. In this respect, I’d say supply-side has unfortunately been quite successful. Similarly, ID is a way of using pseudo-science to elevate what is essentially a creationist view to coequal status with the theory of evolution, that is, with actual science, and to have it presented as such to high school students and in the media.

Read the whole thing.

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