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Pajamas Media: The Good One

[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

I was happy to see that the annual Fistful Of Euros Satin Pajamas awards were up–I’m always happy to be introduced to new European blogs I wouldn’t otherwise see. I was then surprised and gratified to see that L, G & M has been nominated for best non-European weblog (although I think it was my French name that put me over the top.) Make sure to check it out.

Things I missed this week

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Apparently, Victor Davis Hanson went cuckoo for cocoa puffs the other day. Why did I not hear about this?


One does not have to embrace Buchananism, to see that a growing challenge in this century will be the smiley international corporation, not in the sense of a handle-bar moustache and black-hat villain stealing third-world resources, but with the face of Birkenstocks, polo shirts, and an I-pod, run by the man who believes in no affiliation other than as an alumnus donor to his business school, has no moral principle, has no knowledge or sense of history, much less the tragedy of history, no real anger, no real enthusiasm other than for a new angle globalized to the nth degree—and who is pledged to nothing other than the notion of profit and the dangers to globalized profit that are posed by those who stand for ideas and values which get in the way of Kumbaya hedge funds and tranbordered consortia.

. . . . Every MBA program should have one, just one introductory class in Western Civ to introduce to these historically illiterate that the basis for their present globalized system was the West, so that they might not so often preen that it was cobbled together from the Middle East, the Orient [sic], Africa, in some sort of alaphabet soup concoction.

Which is to say, I suppose, that Hanson loves globalization so long as it’s not so . . . global. Anyhow, the whole thing reads like the rhetorical love child of Allan Bloom and Alfred Jay Nock, or a deeply conservative and nationalist reading of Adorno. Hanson wouldn’t have a problem with the executive class, it seems, so long as they read some of Virgil’s minor works, viewed Islam as some kind of existential threat, and tithed a little more loyalty to the nation state. Of course the MBA-as-bad-citizen critique doesn’t extend to their eagerness to receive the benefits of the Bush tax cuts, nor does Hanson bother to wonder why these hedge fund hippies choose disproportionately to lard the bank accounts of the Republican Party.

On the Beach

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Reading this reminds me that I’m a bad coastal citizen since I don’t get beaches; I have no desire to go to one at all. I wouldn’t dream of a vacation to the Caribbean, say, when the money could be used to go to a real city. And I still have no desire to ever go to beaches even though a week in the Rhone Valley slightly softened my radical pro-urbanism. (I still don’t understand New Yorkers who use their wealth to acquire a house in the Hamptons, though. I mean, I’m sure that’s nice status and all, but presumably it entails leaving New York for significant periods of time to go to the Hamptons, which seems highly undesirable.)

Sicker and Shorter

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Jonathan Gitlin has a post up on the sad state of healthcare in America. Not only do we predictably fall behind other industrialized countries in every conceivable category, but our lack of preventative healthcare for children, along with inadequate nutrition, has lead to the stunting of our average height. Whereas Americans used to be amongst the tallest people in the world, Europeans are now 2-6 mm taller.

When I taught Third World Politics at UK, I would cover how the lack of nutrition and medicine in childhood would stunt physical development in poor countries. Its strange that because of poverty and our ridiculous healthcare system that Europeans can now look down on us, figuratively and literally.

Not to make light of this shameful situation, but this might also explain why the Europeans are starting to kick our butt in Olympic basketball.

(crossposted at BlueGrassRoots)

The Vote Fraud Fraud: Potemkin Think Tank Edition

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Richard Hasen has a must-read article about the “American Center for Voting Rights,” which was ginned up to varnish bullshit Republican claims of widespread voter fraud and has completely disappeared. It’s a classic 21st century Republican story, featuring incompetence, junk science and abuse of the justice system in the service of vote suppression. Hasen makes another point I think is important, noting the source of registration (as opposed to voter) fraud the fruit of an Americna electoral system that is badly designed from A to Z:

Second, there’s no question that there’s a fair amount of registration fraud in this country, an artifact of the ability in many states to pay bounty hunters by the head for each new registrant. Some unscrupulous people being paid $3 to $5 for each card turned in will falsify registration information, registering pets or dead people or comic-book characters—none of whom will show up to vote on Election Day (with or without an ID). (I, for one, would turn the whole business of voter registration over to the government and couple a universal voter-registration program with a national voter-ID card paid for by the government—but that’s another story.

Many apologists for Republican vote-ID legislation point out that many other liberal democracies have such requirements. Which is true, but it’s all about context. I, like Hasen, would have no problem with a requirement to show state-provided IDs in a system in which the government actively and consistently ensured the enfranchisement of its citizens and facilitated their ability to vote. Have the government (rather than private individuals with the incentive to submit fraudulent names) be responsible for registration, provide funding to ensure that districts have enough voting machines for their population and don’t allow wealthier districts to have more reliable equipment, make Election Day a national holiday, etc. — the kind of actions taken by countries with much higher turnout — you’d get much broader participation and you’d have less possibility for fraud, disasters like 2000. Alas, such a comprise won’t work because these Republicans don’t care about vote fraud — they care about suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. As Hasen notes, the lack of Republican concern with absentee ballots — which are considerably more prone to fraud and abuse, but whose users happen to skew to Republican demographics — gives away the show.

Hilzoy has more.

Where Brain Cells Go To Die

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Shorter Maureen Dowd: Al Gore is fat.

"I crossed the line"

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Bobby Scott rules.

. . . as for the rest of them, jeebus — what a waste.

Condi’s dream and "the second surge"

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

Is Condi’s dream about to become a reality?

The Guardian has a story today with this headline: “Bush may turn to UN in search for Iraq solution.” It is filled with quotes from “a former senior administration official…who is familiar with administration thinking.” A “senior US diplomat” also chips in anonymously as well.

So, what’s the forthcoming plan — apparently to be outlined this September when the UN meets in NY?

· Expanded UN involvement in overseeing Iraq’s full transition to a “normal” democratic state, including an enhanced role for UN humanitarian agencies, the creation of a UN command, and possibly a Muslim-led peacekeeping force

· Increased involvement in Iraq policymaking of UN security council permanent members, Japan and EU countries – in particular, the new conservative government of French president Nicolas Sarkozy

· A bigger support role for regional countries, notably Sunni Arab Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, and international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF

· Renewed efforts to promote Iraqi government self-reliance, including attainment of national reconciliation “benchmarks”

· The accelerated removal of US troops from frontline combat duties as the handover to Iraqi security forces, backed by an increased number of US advisers, proceeds.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf recently “proposed the creation of a UN-flagged peacekeeping force for Iraq to be drawn from Muslim nations.”

Would it be bad form to note that Juan Cole fleshed out something like this in July 2004 — and referred to it as “the Kerry plan.”?

In any case, call me skeptical about Bush’s prospects at the UN. The very same Guardian piece details the simultaneous escalation of the counter-insurgency effort in Iraq. Via some manipulation of troops deployments, the US is planning a “second surge” to increase forces in Iraq from 160,000 to 200,000 by the end of the year.

Europeans and Muslim states are unlikely to be enthused about peacekeeping in the context of escalating war.

And, of course, the entire policy is framed cynically as a method for Republicans to avoid electoral disaster in 2008.

Note: cross-posted at Duck of Minerva.

Hillman Awards

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

I went to the awards ceremony (looking at the list of honorees, even as an indirect winner, my sense of things was pretty much “what the hell am I doing here?”) last night, although since I wasn’t a named winner I wasn’t charged with the task of speaking in between Spike Lee, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte. But Sam (flanked by 4 sharply dressed, corsage-appended colleagues) did a fine job. My feeling of being out of place did not really improve throughout the evening, although I was lucky enough to have chats with the brilliant journalist Rukmini Callimachi and (entirely in French) her Cameroonian boyfriend, as well as with Hendrik Hertzberg and a large number of other fascinating people. It was a surreal experience, but congratulations to Sam, Ann and my fellow bloggers for the honor.

Polls that actually matter

[ 0 ] May 23, 2007 |

As the new Pew poll causes the right wing of the blogosphere to start flinging their poo again, it’s worth recalling that polls reveal all kinds of nutty — and genuinely consequential — beliefs.

It tells us little, obviously, that X percentage of Muslims in America can find “justification” for suicide bombings under unspecified conditions; it tells us quite a bit more, by contrast, that X percentage of Americans support arbitrary executive power, including indefinite detention and torture (about which our president sees fit to brag in public.)

So if we’re discussing the relationship between belief and action, there’s scarier shit than this. As Greenwald notes:

majorities of white Christians want to torture not merely actual terrorists, but they also want to torture “terrorist suspects” as well, i.e., a group that almost certainly includes perfectly innocent people.

And majorities of white Christians — Catholics, evangelicals and protestants — believe in torture not merely in the improbable-in-the-extreme “ticking time bomb” scenario; rather, they believe in torture as a matter of course (i.e., more than “rarely” — either “often or “sometimes”). (By stark and revealing contrast, “secularists” oppose torture in far greater numbers). Think about how depraved that is: what kind of religious individual affirmatively believes that people should be routinely tortured, including people who have never been proven to have done anything wrong?

And — to cite a recent poll that Greenwald doesn’t mention — what kind of soldier would “justify” torture and the mistreatment of civilians? Apparently quite a few. And given that the number of Americans who authorize, oversee, and rationalize the actual torture of actual human beings is greater — by roughly an infinite factor — than the number of Muslim Americans who have organized and carried out suicide attacks anywhere in the world, I’m quite comfortable saving my outrage for another day.

The End of Propaganda? Sadly, no.

[ 0 ] May 22, 2007 |

Count me in as a cynic along with Tom Tomorrow regarding this optimistic statement by E.J. Dionne in his review of Al Gore’s new book out today.

“…the larger change is that the very process Gore describes — of propaganda taken as fact, of slogans taken as arguments, of repetition substituting for logic and, yes, of lies and half-truths taken as truth — is now well-recognized. What worked against Gore during the recount and what worked for the administration in the run-up to the Iraq war doesn’t work anymore. That is an advance for democracy and for reason.”

I’ll have to assume Dionne has never read Media Matters, because this happens every single day. And its not just the typical right-wing hate radio and Fox News doing it.

CNN’s relentlessly dishonest coverage of the “oh-so-controversial” Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Syria looked like the RNC was producing segments of The Situation Room (complete with the “Talking With Terrorists” slogan on the screen). “The Most Trusted Name in News” also gets my “Media Douchebag of the Month” award for letting its fake “independent, straight-shooting, average Joe” spew blatantly misleading propaganda on Gore and global warming in his heavily promoted special earlier this May. CNN should really back off on Gore, because the NY Times obviously has dibs on Gore when it comes to making shit up to smear him (see Daily Howler archives).

Additionally, when a guest/pundit says, “timetable for surrender”, “if we leave they’ll follow us home”, and “the Democrats won’t fund our troops”, how often do you see an anchor/host step in and say, “uh…what do you mean by that, I don’t follow your logic?” (don’t hold your breath….that just wouldn’t be balanced, now would it? Just get them on the record, Timmeh)

I would at least agree with Dionne that things have improved dramatically since the media skull-fucking of Gore in 2000. We now have Media Matters and the rest of the blogosphere to quickly debunk this crap, but that doesn’t always mean that the media will be shamed into altering their coverage, which they still don’t for the most part right now (certainly not Chris Matthews, because its painfully obvious that he has no shame.)

At the very least, Media Matters has finally driven Bill O’Reilly clinically insane. Hopefully the Falafel King will be able to stay out of the loony bin so he can continue to explain to us how Emmanuel Goldstein George Soros is to blame for everything wrong in Oceania America.

(cross posted at BlueGrassRoots)


[ 0 ] May 22, 2007 |

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted 40 years ago today, a few hours before Langston Hughes died from complications following prostate cancer surgery. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian, chose not to pursue a career in the ministry because he loathed television and wanted to create programming that could “be of nurture to those who watch and listen.” Unlike the bloated religious charlatans who would come to dominate American public life over the course of his career, Rogers infused his deep faith into his programming in a way that was subtle, nondenominational and sincerely attuned to the lives of children rather than the abusive political demands of adulthood.

One of Rogers’ more important interventions took place during a period of accelerated tension between the US and the Soviet Union. In a memorable series of episodes that aired in 1983, Rogers explored the perverse logic of the cold war arms race while also prefiguring the foreign policy disasters of a later decade. During that week’s programming, King Friday XIII suspected Cornflake S. Pecially (“Corney”) — a rocking-chair manufacturer in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe — of developing munitions for the Southwood community. In response, Friday orders Corney to supply him with similar parts. “If Southwood has a million [bombs],” Friday blustered, “we will have a million and one.”

As it turned out, Southwood was building a bridge. Things worked out OK in the Neighborhood, though not so much in real life.

At the conclusion of that week, the famous verse from Isaiah appeared on the screen after Fred Rogers wished his audience well:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning forks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.

Fred Rogers was also something of a B-Boy:

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