Saturday, April 02, 2005

Let 'em in, please

Christie Whitman knows her party's been hijacked by radical fundamentalists, but she can't say who they are because she can't bring herself to break from the party. (Steve Gilliard calls her on it.)

This is her dilemma, hers and every other moderate Republican (the few that are left in positions of power or influence) -- if the party's salvagable, they don't want to jump ship, they want to, in some way, save it, but the stranglehold the radical right has on the party is so damn strong that if the moderates say anything too specific, if they actually name names they'll get greased, but good. (DaLay's people have made that entirely clear.)

So, what's a moderate Republican to do?

I wish I had some more soothing advice for them, or a quick fix they could use, but given the realities of the situation, either they shut up and hang on by their fingernails, gritting their teeth until the time when their party is open to more moderate voices (if it ever comes, that is -- the current change could, after all, be a permanent radical transmutation of the character of the party; it's been in process for over 30 years now, after all, and the entire infrastructure of the party is imbued with the new radical philosophy), or else they've got to suck it in and leave the party behind.

Given that, it really would be a good idea if the Democratic party, either private or publicly, explicitly or by implication, would start making some noises about how our big tent welcomes honest, hard-working, ethical and well-meaning politicians of many different views into its fold.

Do you hear me, Governor Dean? Please make an effort to let these people know that we're open to having them join us.

I don't mean we should throw open the doors and let in anyone who's skulking out there in the dark, but surely a case can be made that it's better to have many of them officially with us than it is to have them aligned with the organization that's diametically opposed to us, and if that means forgiving a few of the slings and arrows thrown around in the course of normal political skirmishing -- well, then we need to suck it in and let it go.

I've been on this for a while now -- (this, this and this are from a year ago) -- thinking of the great strategic and tactical value these kinds of defections would have for us, how they could significantly help to tip the balance in our direction, and I've yet to see any indication that it's something the party is taking seriously. Of course, since I'm a rank outsider and a complete neophyte, if these things were going on in some kind of deep background, there's no reason that I would know about it, but you'd think that along with back-channel communications there'd be some public component as well, a piece of ice on the water that would suggest there was an iceberg underneath it.

But, as far as I can tell, nada. My fear is that this is another great opportunity that the party is letting pass by. I wish someone could allay my concern. I'm interested in winning elections, especially for the Presidency, and I want to break the radical right's iron grip on the American government, moderate Republicans leaving their party and becoming Democrats will help accomplish that, at very little cost to us. Why aren't we pursuing that?

Update: More in Gilliard's comments thread.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2005 04:39:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


What a difference

As I watch the death watch over the Pope on CNN, I've noticed the difference in the attitude and behavior of the crowds waiting in the Vatican compared to that of the protestors outside of Terri Schiavo's hospice. They are quiet and somber and upset, but they aren't disbelieving and disputatious of the doctors' diagnosis of the Pope's condition, and they seem to be there to show faith and support for their spiritual leader, not to preen and strut for the cameras and make a farce out of the last moments of a human being who is supposed to be important to them.

The disparity is striking, and, I think, significant.

I've no great love for the policies of John Paul II, who acted as an authoritarian and conservative force in the church, rolling back the tide of reform and ecumenicalism started by the Vatican II Council and championed by Pope John XXIII (the pope who most influenced this ex-Catholic), but he did do a few things that I thought were good (acknowledging the Church's historical role in promoting anti-Semitism, and disclaiming any conflict between the Church's teachings and Darwinian evolution, for instance), so I'm glad that his death isn't being made into the kind of circus that Terri Schiavo's was.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2005 03:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Humanist links added

For those who may be interested, I've added a section to the sidebar with links to sites with information about secular humanism, atheism, skepticism and related subjects.

If anyone knows of any significant links that I've missed, I'd appreciate a note in the comments or via e-mail.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2005 02:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools' Day

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not finding a lot of things humorous these days. Too many real fools in charge of things, too much going on that's not in any way a joke.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2005 03:09:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Does not compute

I have a weak stomach, so I don't read the right-wing sitess and blogs, but I betcha anything the wingers are going to start asking (rhetorically, of course) if liberals who supported the court's decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube are also in favor of pulling out the Pope's feeding tube as well (if they haven't started it already) -- ignoring, as they have throughout, the entire critical question of honoring an individual's choice to die in the manner they deem appropriate.

But no, we'll start seeing b.s. about how the left would let the Pope die, as if these decisions are in any way commensurate.

There are some things that are basic, and the right just doesn't seem to get 'em. It's as if their hard-wiring works in another way entirely.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/31/2005 11:55:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Advice to my readers

There's nothing much happening here at the moment, so you really should head over to Whiskey Bar and read the last half-dozen or so of Billmon's posts there. It took a little while for him to ramp up, but I was pretty certain that once he'd started posting again, sooner or later he'd be back to his old form.

It's nice to be a tiny part of the same blogosphere as this guy.

P.S. And when you finish there, go to Hullabaloo and read Digby -- he's no slouch either.

They are two of the best, hands down -- both recommended without reservations.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/31/2005 03:06:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Breaking up is hard to do

I've been saying (here, for instance) that I don't really see the "fissures" in the Republican coalition over the Schiavo case being sufficient to break it up, and that the long-term damage to the GOP will not be as significant as we would hope:

While the general public will (I'm certain) soon almost entirely forget the entire issue, and will certainly not remember it as negatively as it is polling at the moment ("Wasn't that the thing were the Republicans tried to stop the Democrats from letting that woman die?," I can hear some "undecided" voter saying once the whole issue has been push-polled and pundited to death once again, just in time for the 2006 mid-terms.), the religious right will not forget, and will once again be content to play its assigned role as the shock troops of the GOP GOTV effort.

Today, Billmon agrees with that assessment:

The propaganda machine has plenty of time to repair the damage. Heck, within a few months Fox News will have the true believers convinced that Harry Reid personally pulled out Shiavo's feeding tube while Nancy Pelosi held her down. The ordinary rubes, meanwhile, almost certainly will have forgotten the whole sorry affair. If not, the machine can always manufacture some fresh outrage to wave in their faces (Up next on the No Spin Zone: The liberal attack on the Fourth of July!)

But while this media storm too shall pass, the [religious right] will still be out there, getting angrier by the minute and counting the days until the next election.

We really should have learned from the last couple of elections that:

  • Facts don't necessarily beat lies, if the lies are presented in a way that feeds into and reinforces outstanding prejudices and preconceptions;

  • Having strong positive qualities in a specific area is not necessarily a good defense against being attacked in that area if your opponent is willing to lie repeatedly and without any concession at all to the validity of facts;

  • It may be that one's strongest points are, in actuality, one's weakest spots, if it leads one to expect not to be attacked in that area;

More agile minds than mine will have to figure out what bizarre jujitsu movements are necessary to conduct a political campaign with these thoughts in mind, but, at the very least, it should lead us to understand that the current tension between the Republican party (the governmental wing of the new radical conservative establishment) and its shock troops, the religious right, is not automatically a winning situation for us unless we can manipulate it in some way to our benefit. Without that manipulation, it's unlikely that there's going to be any long-term gain for us: where, exactly, are the fundamentalists going to go? Do we really expect conscience and concern about radicalism to motivate the leaders of the GOP to sever or downgrade their connections with the religous right? Such a move would be tantamount to suicide.

Instead of the coalition cracking up over this, I'd expect to see in the near future the GOP doing more things that the religious right would approve of -- and not meaningless bones thrown to appease them, or even small portions of red meat to keep them at bay. I'd expect some real, substantive placating to go on, and soon -- anything to keep the shock troops in line. The trick on the GOP's part is to make those moves without alienating the rest of the electorate sufficiently to lose their support.

It's dicey, but, as Sam Spade knows, it can be done.

Addenda: Matt Yglesias:

Any political coalition achieving anything resembling majority status in America is going to involve a lot of disagreements. There's nothing unusual about it, or any particular reason to think such coalitions can't be sustained.

I should probably also make explicit what might be inferred from what I wrote above: the "cracks" in the Republican coalition won't lead to its break-up unless we use them to our advantage, but we're in a particularly poor position to do that. Certainly, there's nothing in the Democratic/liberal/progressive coalition to attract the religious right, and that we'd have to attract to us moderate members of the Republican establishment -- which is why I've been harping on Snowe, Chafee, Collins and company. But those folks, although apparently put off by the behavior of the religious right over Schiavo, seem not to be interested in following their consciences and jumping ship.

The open question, of course, is how much the Dems have done to help those moderates make that decision, and incite their disaffection. My feeling: not very much, if at all. Whether that's because no one's thought of it, or because we're still fighting under "gentlemen's rules," I don't know.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2005 08:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Fish in a barrel

Hey, the person who won the "America's Worst Blogger" contest over at Lawyers, Guns and Money thinks that this is a great putdown:

Final note to the Lefties: Sixty million people in this country think more like I do than like you do...

Put aside for a moment the idiocy of believing that everyone who voted for the same candidate you did thinks the same way as you about everything, and let's just roll with this person's premise for a moment.

Well, it certainly is correct that 60 million people voted for Bush -- 62,040,606 according to the latest figures on Dave Leib's site. But, on the other hand, a whole bunch of folks voted for Kerry as well -- 59 million of them, in fact. (59,028,109). And, come to think of it, almost another half a million voted for Nader (463,647), almost as many voted for Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate, (397,231), and a slightly small number voted for other candidates (371,103). Presidential elections in which an incumbent runs are always referendums on the current administration, and that means that 60,260,080 people voted against Bush!

So that means that while 62 million people think more like this blogger (accepting this drastically simplistic premise), it also means that 60 million don't!

Gee, that doesn't sound like such a big difference now, does it?

Of course, given the quality of the postings on the weblog in question, (which, I have to admit, I only glanced through, my threshhold for bullshit and idiocy being extremely low these days) it would, I think, be too much to try to explain the reality that when questioned on specifics of policy issues, American voters align themselves more with liberal or progressive positions than with those of the right-wing. And, as the Schiavo case brought clearly to our attention, when issues come to the forefront due to actual real-world events, and the GOP acts on them in a fashion dictated by their dogma, a majority of the public disagrees with their actions, and (once again) accepts the progressive point of view as being the more correct one.

The dilemma for Democrats is in how to reduce this apparent paradox and get people to vote in accordance with the things they actually believe in, instead of with the pie-in-the-sky offered to them by the GOP. The dilemma of many of those on the right (like the blogger in question) is that they can't seem to comprehend that there is a paradox at all.

[Note: I deliberately haven't named the blogger in question, or provided a link to the weblog, but for those interested it's easy enough to get there through the post on Lawyers, Guns and Money.]

Update (4/3): Chris Bowers has been crunching numbers on the 2004 election, and he's posted some of the results here and here.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2005 01:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

He's on the list

After bubbling under for years, Jesse Jackson finally makes the grade.


Update: Mark Kleiman (via Kevin Drum):

I see Nat Hentoff and Jesse Jackson have joined the feed-Terri forces, which already included Ralph Nader, Randall Terry, Rush Limbaugh, Bo Gritz, Sean Hannity, and James Dobson. Now if we can just get Alexander Cockburn and Al Sharpton to join in, we'll have a left-right coalition embodying the very cream of the nation's loudmouth dimwitted self-promoting busybodies.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2005 11:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Take off the gloves

No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
H.L. Mencken
"Notes on journalism"
Chicago Tribune (9/19/26)

There's a sucker born every minute.
P.T. Barnum

Just before the election, a good e-mail friend of mine (who I finally met in person just recently) was pretty consistently maintaining a pessimistic take on the outcome, based largely on (and I hope I'm not exaggerating her position) the essential stupidity of the American public. At the time, I chastised her for not keeping the faith, and attempted to reassure her and change her mind with a litany of facts and analyses: polls, precedents and my Electoral College tracking survey.

Of course, it turned out that she was more correct about the result of the election than I was (although it was much closer that the media or Bush's propagandists would have us believe), and having lived through that intense disappointment, I'm rather forced now to agree with the proposition that it's very difficult to reach the bulk of the American public through logical and rational discourse, even when you have the distinct advantage of having the facts on your side.

That's why I've been pushing for the concept of casting our Presidential candidate, and that's why the idea of using non-rational means to get our ideas across seems to me to be so very important.

Simply put, we have got to start using all the techniques of persuasion used by Madison Avenue (and adopted in politics by the right-wing) in order to create our own compelling version of reality, before the right does their thing and usurps us.

Our commitment to rationalism and the details of policy is laudable and, in a perfect world would be the best and only way to conduct political campaigns, but it's just not working and we have to... well, not abandon it, exactly, but supplement it heavily with associational, inferential, emotional and evocative material which packs a visceral punch and allows the public to own our reality. And -- most importantly -- we need candidates in 2006 and a Presidential candidate in 2008 who can play into and work off of those associational webs.

It's not just a matter of "re-framing" the issues in ways that are advantageous to us, and disadvantageous to our opponents, we also have to create a portal for the voter to step through that's so compelling and comfortable that they just cannot stop themselves from stepping through -- and once they do, they're hooked, and can be gradually educated using more rational means.

If it sounds like what cults do, then you're getting the idea. Let's borrow some of their techniques as well, since what is the rank and file of the contemporary right-wing other than a cult based on a mass delusion? (It's certainly not based on an objective examination of reality, that's quite obvious.)

As I wrote elsewhere, it doesn't matter one whit if your candidate really is a war hero if he doesn't look and act and feel and project the image and persona of a war hero, so that people will allow themselves to buy into that perception. That's a damned shame, but it's also a fact of modern politics. It's a fact that we all were groping towards last year during the primaries when we talked about a candidate's "electability."

But electability is essentially a negative attribute -- basically being the perception that the candidate doesn't have a lot a "handles" that can be used by the other side to take him down. What we found out with the Swift Boat Liars is that outrageous mendacity and outright lying repeated ad nauseum (and not subject to rigorous examination by a cowed and compliant press) seems to trump factual truth -- so whether your candidate is lacking in negatives doesn't really matter as much, since even positive attributes can be utilized as a crippling vector.

Instead of going with a negative approach, we need to throw in the towel and admit that image is now far and away the most important factor, and cast us a candidate who looks and feels "presidential".

And in selling that candidate, we have to use every technique available to us -- not without scruples, but with our greatest attention given to the use of the kind of non-rational means used by our opponents.

There's certainly an argument that can had about whether using these techniques is a good thing or not, and the only way to settle that is to judge how profound our dilemma is and whether it justifies our using dire methods to get out of it. I happen to think that things are indeed that dire.

The time has passed, I'm afraid, for being polite, for keeping the gloves on, for waging this war in a gentlemanly way. As the Allies discovered in World War II, when you're fighting an enemy that is ruthless and totally dedicated and doesn't play by the rules, you've got no choice but to emulate them, or else resign yourself to losing. We couldn't do that then, and we certainly can't do that now, not when the right wing is dedicated to destroying everything this country stands for.

I look around me now, and my friends do too, and we don't recognize what we've become. It's difficult, and becoming more so, to see the United States of America we knew and loved in the hard, scared, unloving, bitter, pinched country we now live in. That's what's happened to us after only a few decades of right-wing rule, and we really can't afford much more of it if we're going to salvage anything of our American principles and ideals.

The stakes are too high, getting back our country is too important. We need to remove the gloves and fight dirty, if that's what it takes to win. I think it does.

Update: Kevin Drum:

Merely mimicking conservative strategies is a strategy for staying in second place forever. Closer, perhaps, but still in second place. What we need in addition is to stay relentlessly on the lookout for new ways of mobilizing public opinion that no one has thought of before.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2005 10:20:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Common code

The Economist (via Taegan Goddard) introduces a new bit of political jargon:

Over the past few weeks, a new expression has entered the Westminster lexicon: dog-whistle politics. It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed. The intention is to make potential supporters sit up and take notice while avoiding offending those to whom the message will not appeal. [Emphasis added. -- Ed]

Kos makes the obvious association with Bush's regular use of allusions (many based in religious language) to send coded messages to his evangelical base without making his secular supporters unduly uncomfortable -- or even aware that there's a hidden meaning to Bush's words. (For instance, the reference to "Dred Scott" being a stand-in for "Roe v. Wade", or the implication in his second inaugural address that he is fulfilling God's plan for the US and the world.)

What struck me about this was the memory of the warnings coming from the White House back in 2001 -- from Condoleeza Rice and Ari Fleischer -- that the videotapes being issued by Osama bin Laden might contain coded messages to his followers.

"At best, Osama bin Laden's message is propaganda, calling on people to kill Americans," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "At worst, he could be issuing orders to his followers to initiate such attacks."

Rice went so far as to warn the TV networks that they shouldn't broadcast the tapes in unedited form.

These warning made little sense at the time -- the idea that bin Laden's followers would have no way of getting his message (whether overt or covert) except by seeing it on American TV being pretty absurd on the face of it -- but are made more understandable when you consider that sending coded messages is exactly what Bush did in his speeches, and continues to do.

I think that, once again, we have here another example of projection, seeing one's own faults and attributes in other people, especially one's opponents. Once you're sensitized to the right's propensity to project, you begin to see it all over the place. Almost all of the bad things the right claims that liberals do can be seen in their own behavior, yet they seem to be totally unaware of it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2005 08:55:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Blogger problems

Major Blogger problems all day -- we'll see if this gets posted, and if I can do any real posting later tonight.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2005 08:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


On the true path

Hallelujah! The editors of Scientific American have seen the light, and they're giving up their errant pro-evolutionist ways:

In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it. Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.

Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details.

Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scienfically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.

Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can't work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and imperil national security, you won't hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration's antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that's not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either - so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools' Day.

[via The Panda's Thumb and mediaddict]

I'd like to highlight one statement from this, and address it to all bloggers everywhere, in the hope that they may find it useful in returning to the true and righteous path:

If politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction.

This, it seems to me, is the very nub of good journalism, the core principle that many of my fellow bloggers seem not to really grok at a fundamental level. Until they do, and blogs afford the same deference and respect to those in positions of power and influence as do mainstream journalists, bloggers will never be as important in our civic discourse as journalists are.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2005 05:26:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, March 28, 2005

The FBI rankles

From the New York Times

The episode has been retold so many times in the last three and a half years that it has become the stuff of political legend: in the frenzied days after Sept. 11, 2001, when some flights were still grounded, dozens of well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, managed to leave the United States on specially chartered flights.

Now, newly released government records show previously undisclosed flights from Las Vegas and elsewhere and point to a more active role by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in aiding some of the Saudis in their departure.

The F.B.I. gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, and several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, the documents show.

The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, requested the F.B.I. escorts because they said they were concerned for their safety in the wake of the attacks, and the F.B.I. - which was then beginning the biggest criminal investigation in its history - arranged to have agents escort them to their local airports, the documents show.

But F.B.I. officials reacted angrily, both internally and publicly, to the suggestion that any Saudis had received preferential treatment in leaving the country.

"I say baloney to any inference we red-carpeted any of this entourage," an F.B.I. official said in a 2003 internal note. Another F.B.I. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this week regarding the airport escorts that "we'd do that for anybody if they felt they were threatened - we wouldn't characterize that as special treatment."

This is just silly. The special treatment wasn't in the their providing escorts, per se, it was in allowing the Saudis to leave the country in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, and in their being allowed to fly when the rest of the country was in lockdown. And what was the danger to the Saudis? Mobs, hit men? Great, then suggest they rent entire floors of 5-star hotels (they can afford the tab) and let them hire private security to protect them until they can safely leave and air travel is allowed again.

There is no conceivable legitimate excuse for their being allowed to leave under the circumstances.

That the FBI could respond with anger to this, while not denying what they did, is an indication that 9/11 is still an exposed raw nerve with the agency, and that's going to be the case forever until the institution owns up to what it did and takes responsibilty for their part (along with the CIA) for not connecting the dots prior to the attacks. Once they've done that, and made the changes necessary to prevent it happening again (like splitting off their counter-terrorism responsibilty to a new, separate agency which will give it its full attention), perhaps then they won't be so thin-skinned.

[Thanks to Shirley]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/28/2005 01:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Blogging is (mostly) commentary

Dr. Biobrain puts up this response to Digby's post about blogging and journalism (commenting on this article):

The main purpose of the blogs I read is not to supplant the [mainstream media], but to give expression to points of view which are being ignored by the MSM. I'll leave the reporting of facts to them (assuming they'll do it), but their monopoly over public opinion is clearly over. And as far as rumor-mongering goes, the 24-hour news networks have clearly shown no aversion to that. They'd rather be first than accurate.

Right, the overwhelming majority of blog posts (at least the ones that I read) are straight-forward commentary on the news and do not do any original reporting. The problem is that while the mainstream media does report, whole subjects seem to have been declared, officially or unofficially, off-limits for its consideration. Anything which doesn't adhere to an accepted mass consensual story-line is ignored or brushed off as speculation from the tin-hat crowd.

(The major media's bias originates not only blatantly, from the influence of conservative owners and high-profile reporters, but from this exclusion of "fringe" viewpoints which deserve more attention, since many of the allegations made have turned out to be true. Pandering, both to the audience and to the radical conservative establishment, plays a part as well.)

In another comment in the same thread, pragmatic_realist tells why having an independent source for commentary is important:

One of the main factors that allowed the Reformation to take hold was the invention of the printing press which allowed Martin Luther and others to disseminate their ideas and arguments outside the control of the church. Likewise the pamphlets and newspapers of Thomas Paine and others led to widespread support of the american revolution. Other reformers and critics led social movements in Britain by printing their own papers, and the government tried to break them by imposing taxes on printed material and fees on things sent through the mail. Remember the Stamp Act?

Whatever establishment is in control wants to supress information and discussion by controlling the means of dissemination and publishing. Now they argue that in order to be legtimate you need to be able to persuade people with money to print your ideas or put them on the air.

Of course cheap modes of publishing will put forth a lot of bad ideas, falsehoods and crank theories, but anyone with any sense has already figured out that you have to read everything with a critical eye and be prepared to work at verifying the truth and valididity of facts and conclusions.

More: David Neiwert has a good post about "balance" in the media:

Now, there is such a thing as real balance. Real balance is a genuine striving for truth: a willingness to both recognize and honestly explore the multiplicity of viewpoints as well as facts that are part of the naturally complex nature of truth. It is complicated and hard work. Of course, real, hard truth is elusive and rare; but the striving is what brings us closer to it.

However, a genuine balance does not countenance obvious falsehoods where it encounters them. It does not treat misinformation as a legitimate "counter" to reasonably established facts, as though a falsehood were just another opinion. It does not put lies on an even footing with facts.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what we have gotten, in increasing doses, as standard practice from the nation's press for the past decade.

Also, Atrios reminds us of the overwhelming absurdity of some of the claims made, by people the mainstream media took seriously, during the Clinton-era failed right-wing putsch -- I mean, crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree??!!.

What unbiased, objective, reality-based journalist would give the person making that charge even one second of extremely expensive and hard to come by media time?

Update: Blogging may be mostly commentary, but it's not all commentary. This piece about Gannon/Guckert is an excellent example of blogging as open source journalism.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/28/2005 12:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Fill in the blank: Never [ ______ ].

I just saw a TV ad for Beck's beer, which presented a multiple-choice question:

Germans are willing to compromise on...

A. Nothing
B. Nothing
C. All of the above

I've seen other ads in this series and none of them struck me as in any way problematic, so I'm sure there was no intent with this one to say anything untoward, or to make anyone uncomfortable, but the spot has all the earmarks of being made by people who are devoid of any sense of history and have a fairly significant tin ear for what's appropriate and what crosses the line.

They probably don't even have a clue what I'm objecting to.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/27/2005 11:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Red states screwed by GOP, again

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger pointed out that the Republicans who were pushing the bankruptcy bill were not representing the red states very well, since those states have a higher bankruptcy-filing rate per household than blue states do. (I posted about it here, and showed that there was a positive correlation between a states "redness" -- the Bush vote percentage in 2004 -- and its bankruptcy-filing rate.)

Now, DavidNYC has identified another issue on which the red states could use some relief, since more people there are negatively affected by it, but the Republican party, hostage to its "tax-cuts for the well-off" philosophy, doesn't seem at all interested in doing anything about it.

He's got the scoop on the Alternative Minimum Tax here.

When do you think it might be possible that people in the red states will wake up to the fact that the GOP doesn't have their best intersts at heart?

Addenda: David has more in the comments thread to his post.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/27/2005 09:13:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The situational Federalism of the right

Sarah C. von der Lippe, writing on the blog of the American Constitution Society, gets to the nub of why the right's situational Federalism should concern us:

Everytime [right-wing conservatives] call for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court who will overrule or undermine Roe v. Wade, they assert that the matter should be left to the states. They assert that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it won't eliminate abortion in the states in which the duly elected state representatives do not take steps to outlaw the practice. But the Schiavo case reveals the true priorities of the right: they are happy to abandon the principles of federalism if the issue is related to questions of "life." But if they are willing to cast aside federalism in the Schiavo case, won't they be willing to do the same in the context of abortion? And if they are, won't that inevitably lead to attempts to pass federal legislation banning abortion? The actions of conservatives in the context of the Terri Schiavo case should give us pause as Bush nominates new justices to the Supreme Court -- especially, given conservatives' admitted goal of denying women's constitutional right to privacy and reproductive choice.

[Via The Decembrist]

Of course, the other significant case in which the right's supposedly unswerving commitment to Federalism (aka "States' Rights") was set aside was the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which served to elevate Bush to the White House in an extra-constitutional manner.

These are just two data points, but they really should be sufficient to indicate that the right is precisely as results-driven as they are always claiming that "activist liberal judges" are. (Call it an instance of the Freudian concept of "projection" if you wish, in which one's own attributes are projected onto one's adversaries). The right determines, by way of their ideological beliefs, what should occur, and then acts in whatever manner is necessary to bring about that result, regardless of whether it's in line with their expressed dogma about process.

Even as consistent and rigid a figure as Scalia will go against his own (vociferously and repeatedly expressed) principles when the stakes are high enough, as he did in Bush v. Gore:

Bush v. Gore is a clear embarrassment for Scalia. He signed on to a majority opinion that limited itself to the particular circumstances of the 2000 election battle, even though he has regularly argued that the Court should try to establish clear rules with broad applicability. In his [Virginia Military Institute] opinion, he wrote, "The Supreme Court of the United States does not sit to announce 'unique' dispositions. Its principal function is to estalish precedent -- that is, to set forth principles of law that every court in America must follow." Also troubling was his willingness to flout his conservative commitment to respect the integrity of state political processes. Gary Rosen, one of the few conservative critics of Bush v. Gore has written, "If judicial self-restraint means anything, it is that the justices should respect the perogatives of the other branches of state and federal governments, especially with regard to those 'political questions," as they are known in legal circles, that do not clearly fall within the Court's institutional competence and would needlessly involve it in partisan controversy."
Margaret Talbot
"Supreme Confidence: the jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia"
The New Yorker (3/28/2005)
[not available online]

One of the regrets I have about the Schiavo affair, now that it's winding down to its inevitable and sad conclusion, the death of Terri Schiavo, is that the constitutionality of the law passed in the dead of night by DeLay & Company will apparently never be ruled on by the Supreme Court. I certainly understand why Michael Schiavo's lawyers would avoid prolonging the appeals process by bringing it up (which they might have if Judge Wittemore had approved the Schindler's request for a temporary restraing order in their first go in Federal court), but now we'll never know whether the bill was constitutional or not, and under what theory it might be found acceptable by the Court.

Update: From Jack Balkin:

It is not surprising that Congressional Republicans are fair weather federalists when it comes to these issues, and that they want the federal courts to get involved in right to die cases like Schiavo's. Few national politicians are seriously interested in federalism or judicial restraint when this would interfere with something they really care about. The Schiavo controversy demonstrates, I think, that pro-life values are likely to trump federalism values and concerns about an activist judiciary when the chips are down; they will even trump them when politicians think they can gain something from grandstanding, which appears to be what is going on here. Cultural conservatives may talk loudly about decentralization and rail against activist judges, but, like just like most liberals, they believe that activist federal judges who decide things they way they like aren't activist at all. They are judges who uphold important rights.

Finally, the Congressional Republicans' moves also suggest that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the matter would not be left to the states, as so many pro-life politicians have advocated in the past, but would quickly become a fight over federal legislation outlawing abortion nationwide. Don't say I didn't warn you.

And from Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Anybody who thinks that overturning Roe would "return the issue to the states" a)doesn't have a fucking clue, b)is a Republican hack, or c)A little from column A, a little from column B. If you think that a Republican commitment to "federalism" will keep Congress from passing abortion legislation, I have some Randall Terry country albums to sell you. If you hear somebody making this claim, make sure to ignore everything they have to say on the topic (especially since they're probably going to tell you that overturning Roe would be great for reproductive freedom somehow.)

Addenda (5:22pm):

Welcome to those who've arrived here via the link from The Daou Report.

For those wondering why the situational Federalism I observe in the behavior of the right can be considered to be hypocritical, while situational ethics (one of the right's pet peeves about some of those on the left) can't be, it's precisely because the variability of situational ethics is part and parcel of the concept (that the proper ethical response is highly dependent on the specific circumstances) while Federalism is (supposedly) a rock-solid part of American conservative philosophy. It's the expressed absolutism of their philosophy, and their great disdain for situational thinking, that makes their actions hypocritical and subject to contempt.

In point of fact, everyone (including even Justice Scalia and Tom DeLay) behaves differently under differing circumstances, and what's right in one situation is frequently not right under drastically divergent ones. That's, most probably, a natural part of human behavior, and while being "natural" doesn't necessarily make it morally right, the unwillingness of the right to recognize and acknowledge this tendency, and to adjust their dogma for it, is simply another factor in why their ideology is so often out of sync with observed reality, and therefore inappropriate for dealing with it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/27/2005 05:53:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


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