Friday, November 30, 2007

Media-Reform: Campaign Coverage Survey

In September, Harvard University interviewed 1,207 people, nationwide, as part of a survey to discover general attitudes toward leadership issues and the 2008 Presidential elections. Of the most interesting results were a revealing set of attitudes toward the national press. From E&P:

• 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.

• 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.

• 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.

• 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidates’ specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.

• 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.
For me, the most important data found here would be the 92% recognizing the importance of discussing policy, followed by the 61% who believe the media does not provide them with that information.

It raises the question of where people turn for information. If over 90% realize the importance of policy versus "fluff" pieces about lapel pins and waitress tipping, or, to be fair, a person's choice of faith (I hate when I have to stick up for Mitt, so for the record, he's still a liar), yet a majority also feel they are not getting this information from the national press, where do they turn? Reasonably, they would turn to local news and radio, but more interestingly, they would turn to the internet. Blogs, candidate websites, online forums, etc.

It is easy to misconstrue television ratings and newspaper subscriptions as relevant data on what venues we get our information, but speaking for myself, I realized long ago my print newspaper subscriptions were habit more than preference, and I cut them off. As more people trend away from these outlets (let's face it, the media is not going to change until we stop watching), following the call of more substantial information, a divide is growing between those who get their information from cable news and the selective nature of wire-service dependent print media, and generally this seems to be splitting along respective party lines. Progressives typically have a better grasp on online resources and internet presence than conservatives.

There is nothing revolutionary about such a gap (it is a historically circular trend), but it is worth noting that some may hang on to traditional sources much longer than they should, and become out of touch with relevant information. As we consider the future of the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party, it would benefit us to remain aware of the importance of reaching out to voters through these relatively new forms of disseminating information and party messaging. It is more than an effective campaign tool for Democrats in 2008, it is an opening for media-reformists and political activists to circumvent the corrupt, corporate driven media by simply speaking to the desire of concerned voters to better understand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

BYU Democrats?

Bob, at The World According to Me, got an email from BYU Democrats, advertising volunteer opportunities for Mitt Romney. (Read the full email here)

To clear up any remaining confusion for those at BYU, my calls to various political insiders have confirmed that Mitt Romney is, indeed, a Republican candidate.

According to the BYU Democrats "Party Builder" page, they are "active and making a difference." Making a difference for who?

Contact the BYU "Democrats" here.

Fried Bacon, Jr.

Perry Bacon, Jr. is the byline on today's front page Washington Post article on the "Obama is a Muslim" smear campaign creeping through America's inboxes. Although Obama had previously addressed the issue, Bacon and The WaPo felt this warranted a front page article that did more to again obscure the facts than it did shed light on what is obviously a feeble minded attempt to Swift-Boat the candidate? From the story:

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.
Starts out ok, huh? Nothing to horrible there. Except for one minor, itty-bitty detail Bacon never finds page space to directly reference; every one of the "rumors" have been confirmed as "lies" by both the Obama campaign, and previous journalists. More:
Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories suggesting that he was a Muslim, and in Iowa, the campaign keeps a letter at its offices, signed by five members of the local clergy, vouching for the candidate's Christian faith. Aware that his religious belief remains an issue, Obama has denied a separate charge: that he does not hold his hand to his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. This rumor stemmed from a photo that was taken while the national anthem was being played.
Ah, back to that again. I thought we'd cleared that up as well. Oh wait, we did. So what is the point of all of this? That's the trouble. There seems to be none. No confirmation or dispelling of rumor, just a National Enquirer-esque repetition of the rumors themselves. On the front page.

Under critical blow-back, Bacon has issued a statement defending the article. But with further trespass against factual reporting, his statement itself is more clear than the front page article itself.

TPM reports:
WaPo reporter Lois Romano addressed the controversy over the story. She observed that Obama has denied being a Muslim, adding that "airing some of this and giving him a chance to deny its accuracy could be viewed as setting the record straight."

Right, but the problem here is that WaPo, and not just Obama, should have "denied the accuracy" of the Obama-is-a-Muslim nonsense. The Obama Muslim smear is based on lies, not "rumors." Bacon in his statement above calls the Obama Muslim smears "falsehoods." But they aren't identified as such in the piece.
Without delving into the depravity of paranoia that would disqualify a Muslim in the first place, it is at least worth asking what the point of this article was. In it's vague rhetoric of "rumors" and implications, it does nothing to illuminated the previously verified fallacies of the smear campaign.

This now passes for journalism? This is being a "watchdog of democracy?" Would it kill today's media to ask themselves "how will what I am writing better inform the public?" In not doing so, they leave it up to us to ask how we will be better informed by reading what passes for content in many of today's newspapers, and support only those who offer us more.

Calling Cards for Veterans

They will have you believe that supporting the troops entails making sure the President has enough money to continue the (permanent?) occupation of a country that did not attack us. Working Assets has a better idea:

It's really a sad state of affairs when the Bush administration won't even grant our nation's hospitalized veterans a few dollars in long-distance fees so they can call their loved ones back home over the holidays. So again this year, CREDO Action from Working Assets and Veterans For Peace are teaming up to bring the gift of long-distance calling cards to veterans at VA hospitals all over the country.

Last year, thanks to overwhelming generosity from folks just like you, we were able to raise over $90,000. This was enough to ship more than 24,000 cards loaded with 3,180,000 minutes to VA hospitals all over the United States. This year, we hope to repeat the feat. Your tax-deductible $10.50 donation will provide 120-minute phone cards to three veterans, and a $35 donation will get two-hour cards to ten veterans.

Please click here to contribute and help send phone cards to hospitalized veterans this year.

Fruitcakes, Weirdos, and Educated Voters

There is a very thoughtful article on Salon's website today that surprised me with it's effect. The author is no fan of Ron Paul, yet in dissecting the "distortions and smears" Paul has experienced at the hands of our mainstream media and both Republican and Democratic operatives, Greenwald touches on a very important dynamic of our current national dialog:

This whole concept of singling out and labeling as "weirdos" and "fruitcakes" political figures because they espouse views that are held only by a small number of people is nothing more than an attempt to discredit someone without having to do the work to engage their arguments. It's actually a tactic right out of the seventh grade cafeteria. It's just a slothful mechanism for enforcing norms.

Under the right circumstances, enforcement of norms might have some utility. Where things are going relatively well, and the country has a healthy political dialogue, perhaps there isn't much of a need to expand the scope of ideas that we consider "normal." Having all the people whose views fit comfortably in the mainstream stigmatize as "fruitcakes" all those whose views are outside of the mainstream might, under those happy circumstances, bear little cost.

But our country isn't doing all that well right now. Our political dialogue isn't really vibrant or healthy. It seems rather self-evident that it is preferable to enlarge the scope of ideas that we consider and to expand the debates that we engage.
We are all guilty of this at some time. And perhaps it is too often justified as human nature, or even a political natural selection of a sort. (Hell, I can't even say "Dennis Kucinich" anymore without cracking wise about alien abduction.) Regardless, Greenwald's point is worth personal consideration.

Whether you agree or disagree with a candidate, political distortions and easily marginalizing them as a "weirdo" is reaching an effect (perhaps even truly reflective of the reality) without doing the work, which does nothing to promote rational discourse and the exchange of ideas.

In my opinion, there are many reasons to disregard a candidate like Paul, but if I have nothing to ad to that point than "he's looney," am I, in a broader scope, fighting against or perpetuating our currently vapid national dialog?

Flipper TV

A great idea from the DNC (h/t MyDD):

For months now, Democratic Party staffers have been tracking the Republican presidential front runners as they travel across the country, compiling a video library of candid moments as they campaign. With FlipperTV, Americans can now watch and download this video, and use the footage as they wish, putting raw material into the hands of the American people to hold these candidates accountable for their comments and actions.
If you have a strong stomach (I only made it through two, and I'm as jaded as they come), plenty of free time, and a watchful eye, the 2008 election could be in the palm of your hand.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Social Security Obsession

Krugman argues that Social Security is in better shape than the rest of the government.

Social Security fades to insignificance in any realistic discussion of entitlements problems. Medicare’s unfunded liabilities, as estimated in the trustees’ reports, are seven times those of Social Security. The unfunded liabilities of Medicare Part D alone are twice those of Social Security.

If you’re seriously worried about America’s long-run fiscal prospects, then, you should talk a lot about the general fund deficit and the problem of rising health care costs, and hardly at all about Social Security.
He's right.

Fox News War On Christmas Carol

(via Newshounds)

Hatch (with a straight face): Romney Hard to Smear

Today's Trib:

Sen. Orrin Hatch told a group of Utah Valley State College students that Romney offers the GOP's best hope of winning the White House because he is a financial genius who could cure Social Security's and Medicaid's ills.
He said Romney also is the one candidate the Clintons likely fear because he is hard to smear.
Heh. Heh-heh. Surely the Senator jests?

Romney may attract enough support to give the Dem's a good run for their money, but parlaying his weaknesses into a negative campaign ad or two will not be difficult.

While I'm hoping for a more intelligent debate than we experienced in 2004, as an experiment, lets try Google; "Romney" "Honesty":
Romney's Honesty Problem

Romney's Intellectual Dishonesty Problem

Romney: Liar of the Month


The Mitt-Flop

Romney's Iraq Falsehood


Mitt Romney Lies Again

Mitt Romney Lies like a Bad Rug

Mitt Romney's Flip-Flop: Like Fater, Like Son

Romney Launches Campaign Against Honesty
Where the hell ya been, Orrin?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dubya Vee Dubya

Bush, on the record:

9/13/2001: The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.
3/13/2002: I don't know where Bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority.

8/30/2004: I don't think you can win [the war on terror].
8/31/2004: Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror].

10/3/2000: The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.
3/6/2003: We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people.

5/29/2003: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.
2/7/2004: ...we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we'll find out.

Bush has flip-flopped on everything from the importance of "real science" in his administration to campaign finance reform. In 1978 he touted the right of a woman to choose, but in 2000 campaigned as pro-life. His campaign promises to the military and veterans remain unrealized, and his promise to not gut the social security trust is beyond a joke. He has steered this country into a "war on terror" that quickly evolved into a premeditated occupation of a country that had not attacked us.

Chris Bowers recently wrote of the importance of trust in candidate support:

I've helped out quite a few candidates who I don't really trust that much, because I can see that candidate's election as helping achieve my desired political ends in some way. Basically, if they are going to use my support for their ends, I can support them as long as their election can be used to achieve mine. However, for Presidential candidates in primaries, I need a lot more than that. As something of a public figure in progressive politics, I simply am not going to fight hard for a candidate in a primary election, I mean really try to make a positive difference on that candidate's behalf, unless I feel as though I can really trust that person on a deep level. I am not going to publicly lay myself out for someone if I believe that person will, once in office, do things I find abhorrent in a crisis, or a difficult political situation (such as mounting public pressure to invade Iraq, pass a bad trade agreement, attack immigrants, attacks the GLBT community, engage in a major corporate giveaway, etc).
As did Fox News, regarding the Hilary's "tip-gate" scandal:
The Daily Kos noted on Friday: "A silly issue? Sure. But a mistake . . . ." The Australian Broadcasting Corporation referred to the whole thing as "trivialities."

But it is not a silly or trivial issue. The perceived cover-ups surely gave the story much more coverage and made what might have just been a simple oversight look much worse, and the issue is a lot deeper than just Clinton using the waitress as a campaign prop.

What if, for the sake of argument, Hillary Clinton decided not to pay the tip? Why would this be so upsetting? Because tipping has to do with trust.
Trust is indeed a major force in candidate backing, especially when that candidate has inspired you to support them with not only your vote, but your time and energy. But trust also has long term effects on a party as a whole, some of which we are beginning to see. Seriously, Fox would have us decide the future of our country on a restaurant tip gaffe?

Democrats speak of protecting American soldiers from unnecessary engagement, defending our civil-liberties, and regaining our position as a world leader. In doing so, they have gained the ear of the nation once again. The GOP priorities are so out of whack, they can't decide whether to back the Mitt-Flop or Mr. 9-11, and their noise-machine (FOX) wants us to focus on restaurant tipping. While Democrats debate issues, the Republicans are one-upping each other on torture techniques and bat-shit crazy endorsements.

The 2008 election is going to be about more than Democrat or Republican. It is our chance to reclaim our country from these political indecencies, this media representation, and this President's failures. We'll choose well this time, no doubt, but the lessons of the last 8 years deserve the pages of a thousand history books.


(sources: debates.org and americanprogressaction.org)

40 Year Tradition

Political Wire:

"Disillusioned with President Bush's handling of the war, the economy and immigration, nearly half of likely voters in Indiana appear poised to buck 40 years of tradition and vote for a Democratic presidential ticket -- if it includes Sen. Evan Bayh," according to a new Indianapolis Star-WTHR poll.

The poll "revealed a growing sense of pessimism, with nearly three-quarters saying the nation is headed in the wrong direction and 28 percent approving of George W. Bush's performance as president."
Ahem. Utah?

Glenn Beck Writes Books

Picking through Beck's An Inconvenient Book today. The man is an idiot.

But just to clear something up, can I get a hands up from anyone who supports responsibly addressing America's carbon emissions only as an engine to push their secret subversive socialist agenda?

Hmm. No hands.

Definitely an Idiot.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Monkey Cage

Political science blogs are hard to find. You know, the one's with geeky numbers and statistical "big-words" known for putting even the most hardened junkie to sleep. Economists and foreign policy analysts abound, but it is often a challenge to find a trained professional editorializing on polarization numbers or delving into true statistical evidence.

The Strategist is always good. As is Henry Farrell's Political Science Weblog (although no award given there for creative title). But today I added a third to my feeds. Welcome to The Monkey Cage. (h/t Ezra Klein)

Don’t read anything too self-important in the word “informed.” All we mean by that is that we will draw upon extant research, as well as our own data analyses, to speak to contemporary politics. Here, we are inspired in part by Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin’s work at Pollster.com. The main difference is that whereas Pollster.com serves mainly to collect and aggregate polls of Americans and to comment on issues within the domain of polling, we intend a broader scope, including topics unrelated to polling or elections or American politics. We will also try to be more directly engaged in testing and perhaps contesting propositions from journalists or commentators, much as Morris Fiorina has done in his book-length take-down of the red-blue state notion and the “culture war.” Ultimately, we want contemporary discourse about politics centered as much as possible on the best kinds of evidence.
These blogs can be dry, and devoid of the zing of an angry, succinct, and timely national blog, but they are an endless well of information and ideas.

11 Iranians

A new report provides yet another thorn in the side of the "Bomb Iran" minions:

The U.S. military's claim comes as new statistics show that the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq are not coming from Iran but Arab allies of the United States. The New York Times reports Saudi Arabia and Libya were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year. While American officials have accused Iran of aiding anti-U.S. militants, only 11 Iranians are in U.S. detention in Iraq.
Emphasis Mine.

I'm sure we can expect a change in rhetoric from the White House on who are new enemies are. Probably a bad idea to hold one's breath though.

Chris Dodd Submits Question for GOP YouTube Debate

Chris Dodd has submitted a question for the upcoming GOP YouTube Debate (Nov 28th). I'm skeptical of Dodd for many reasons, but he is definitely capturing my attention more often with his recent leadership on the FISA bill, and moves like this:

I Don't Care Who Mitt Romney Prays To

It is frustrating to see so many investigations of Mitt Romney's aptitude for the job turning into discussions of his faith, and Mormonism in general. I'm much less concerned who he prays to than I am over his bad policy, lack of integrity, and inability to be honest under pressure. And that his dishonesty is somehow acceptable to the GOP, is that not a more pertinent topic for the media than which church he visits?

But is it entirely "the press" making such an issue of Romney's faith? Slate:

Mitt Romney appears to think that, in respect of the bizarre beliefs of his church, he has come up with a twofer response. Not only can he decline to answer questions about these beliefs, he can also reap additional benefit from complaining that people keep asking him about them. In a video response of revolting sanctimony and self-pity last week, he responded to some allegedly anti-Mormon "push poll" calls in Iowa and New Hampshire by saying that it was "un-American" to bring up his "faith," especially "at a time when we are preparing for Thanksgiving," whatever that had to do with it. Additional interest is lent to this evasive tactic by the very well-argued case, made by Mark Hemingway in National Review Online, that it was actually the Romney campaign that had initiated the anti-Mormon push-poll calls in the first place! What's that? A threefer? Let me count the ways: You encourage the raising of an awkward question in such a way as to make it seem illegitimate. You then strike a hurt attitude and say that you are being persecuted for your faith.
Romney has many faults, choice of faith isn't one of them. That goes for any candidate. It simply isn't relevant when we should be debating issues. But Romney is using his religion as a tool in his campaign, hoping to distract from his spineless political shiftiness.

If I were LDS, I would be ashamed to let Romney represent my faith in such a way. If I were a Republican, I would be ashamed to let Romney on my ticket. And though it's questionable which, business or politics, is more lenient on the ethically impaired, if I were Romney, I'd stick to business.

SUMP Discussion: When Will They Apologize to Clarence Thomas

I believe the greatest challenge to Utah's political progress is the lack of honest discourse and the debate of ideas. Occasionally it does happen, though, and once again I feel obligated to encourage and support such exchanges.

SUMP: When Will They Apologize to Clarence Thomas
This is the second time I have linked to a comment discussion at Frank Staheli's SUMP blog. I don't agree much with Frank's politics, but he often manages to generate some very engaging and relevant discussion in the comments.

Check it out.

Buy a HUMMER!

When I saw this commercial during Meet The Press, my first thought was Holy Shit! My second thought; I hope C & L picks this up. They did.

If you want to survive the apocalypse, buy a HUMMER!

Saudi Arabia's Justice

CAP:

"Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry said a girl who it sentenced to jail time and flogging after being gang raped by seven men was an adulteress who invited the attack because at the time she was partially dressed in a parked car with her lover." The Bush administration has refused to condemn the Saudi court's ruling.
Do we stand for anything, anymore?

Chris Cannon, Common Sense, History, and the Constitution

Chris Cannon still has a blog:

The text, history, and common sense forces us to conclude that the framers of the Constitution intended for the means of defending individual rights and liberties (i.e. firearms) to be held by the individual and NOT by the government alone. It is an anathema to believe that the founding fathers, ever suspicious of the federal government, would have vested the right to bear arms ONLY in state sanctioned militias.

Let’s hope the court comes down on the side of common sense, history, and the Constitution.
Common sense, history, and the Constitution.

Hey, Chris, while we're on the subject of those three things, just an fyi: the government is spying on it's own citizens without a warrant or proof of probable cause, habeas corpus is collecting dust in a broom closet at the White House, and our President is supporting "state of emergency" declarations from military dictators posing as democratic leaders.

Far be it for me to tell you, a statesmen as you are, your business, but it often seems you're oblivious to these facts, and I'm sure a person of your stature would rather clarify this than look like a blathering fool, full of rhetoric, but devoid of principle.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rupert Murdoch: Nobody Listens to Me

From Editors and Publishers, on Murdoch's political control of UK Newspapers:

Fox News is considered as more partisan than U.K. news broadcasters, but Murdoch said the U.K.'s impartiality rules would not prevent Sky News from becoming more like Fox. The only reason that hasn't already happened, he said, is that "nobody at Sky listens to me." [...] "Young people are not turning to physical papers for their news. This is particularly true in the U.S. but applies in the U.K., too," the minutes said. " Murdoch has tried various ways to reverse this trend but with little success. His job, therefore, is to get the young to visit the Web sites of his papers."
Hey kids, let's not.

Live Blogging Montpelier Idaho (Part II)

A man just rode a horse down the sidewalk outside of my undisclosed blogging location.

Also, the restaurant at the end of the street had a smoking section. An actual, real-life smoking section. Can't remember when I last saw that, and no Starbuck's in sight.

I could live here. At least until I missed the Starbuck's (admit it, no one can resist the Carmel Macchiato forever).

Interesting Montpelier trivia: 96.7% of the population is white, and more than 25% are under the age of fifteen.

Luckily, no corn.

Fighting Back

FDL's Jane Hamsher reacts (with vigor) to Joe Klein's latest fallacy-plagued FISA bill "analysis", offering good advice for Democrats:

Considering that one of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls is eventually going to emerge from the pack and have to start fending off the Republicans instead of each other, it seems like now might be a good time for them all to start fighting back about how easily Republican propaganda makes its way into the headlines — much to their detriment. They are the ones who are ultimately going to have to push back against the “Democrats Soft On Terror” meme, and really, there are more practical ways than voting for a bellicose amendment put forward by Joe Lieberman with the transparent agenda of launching a war against Iran.

We don’t have a “left wing attack machine,” we’ve got a few bloggers, a couple of radio personalities, a handful of authors and journalists and some candidates who have the spotlight at the moment.
While I cringe at the thought of reducing ourselves (and our national debates) to their level permanently, I agree with Hamsher. We cannot raise the discourse bar until we shut them up at their own game. I'm not suggesting a lefty Swift-boat campaign, only that we raise our voices a couple of clicks.

In theory, this should be easy, as fact and reality seem to have a liberal bias these days. That the challenge remains is proof only of the invasive, corrupt, and vapid narrative of our current media, willing to swallow anything the loudest person in the room wants to feed them.

Endarkenment

The declining ability of people to think critically and logically.

Morons cannot maintain a sophisticated, technological civilization. And slowly, and ever so surely, that's what we're becoming.

And it's not just the lack of critical thought. It's the lack of being able to think morally or philosophically.
Marshall and KVNU: For The People and the Tribune have more on this.

Live Blogging Montpelier Idaho

I realized we had slipped into a funk here at The SideTrack. Maybe it's the distraction of the holidays, or maybe it is the numbing reaction to being constantly reviled by much of what goes on in politics these days.

Either way, once sure way to recharge my cynical activist/complainer batteries is a change of venue. Get out and see they world, ya know? So I called a friend, and by sheer chance and a poor sense of direction, we've landed in Montpelier, Idaho, north of Bear Lake.

Montpelier is a quaint town. People seem to live and work here. Most seem happy (except the waiter at this coffee shop, who hates his job), and DSL seems prevalent. They have a Jubilee and the regular collection of Maverick, Chevron, and Phillips stations. The main two lane thorough-fare, which cuts through "downtown" and splits either northeast to Jackson Hole, or straight north deeper into Larry Craig country, is traveled by car and tractor alike, without incident.

As a random sample of political climate, I earlier asked a friendly looking guy at a pizza joint next door if he was a political conservative or liberal. He said "I voted for Ralph Nader."

Anyway, I'll let you know if anything else happens. It's a slow day on the Intertubes, but here are some links:

Register for NetRoots Nation early, and save on the registration fee.

Paul Rosenberg continues his academic dissection of Bipartisan Ideology

The Newspaper is Dead:
William Dean Singleton is at the helm of Utah’s #1 paper. Dean’s mission, for decades, has been to dismantle newspapers and turn them into “he said / she said / according to GOP source / according to the press release / according to the AP wire” thrifty nickel rags. He’s succeeded.

Despite the best efforts of talented reporters at both papers, editorial numbness, or senior management mind control, has turned the once mighty Newspaper, the last bastion of truth and public watchdog, into a bigger joke than TV or Radio news. You heard me, Dan, I said bigger joke.
Where Did Mark Towner Go and Why Is He Still Emailing Me?

And last, but not least: BYU Kills a White Rhino

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bloggers vs. Journalists, Revisited

I keep a feed folder, aptly titled "Stuff to Remember." Unfortunately, I still forget to write about most of it. Which means once every three or four months I have to clean it out, as most items of interest have lost their freshness. Some items are still timely, though, like this one from PressThink on the Bloggers Vs. Journalism conference (circa 2005).

I have been an observer and critic of the American press for 19 years. In that stretch there has never been a time so unsettled. More is up for grabs than has ever been up for grabs since I started my watch. And so it is fortunate that we meet next week on blogging, journalists and the social dynamics of user trust. For this is an exciting time in journalism. Part of the reason is the extension of “the press” to the people we have traditionally called the public.
The author of this essay prematurely proclaims an end to the debate, but several points made are just as timely today, as we struggle with traditional journalism and established media pitted against citizens empowered with their own voices and resources.

And this comment from the very intelligent Micah Sifry is as poignant as ever:
Mainstream journalism is dying in part because it has insisted on an impossible thing: objectivity. In the process, it killed the human voice (and all too often has replaced it with the paid voice, the corporate shill, the ideological hack.) Now, real human voices are back via blogging and other online communications platforms, and we are gravitating toward that ‘strange attractor’ (as the Cluetrain put it) of real human conversations over the web.
UPDATE: A local example of the immediacy and thoroughness of online journalism.

Bury Them Under a Mountain of Bad Votes

FDL, keeping things in perspective:

The reason that the American public is disgusted with congressional Democrats isn’t that they see them failing to stop Dubya’s rampage against the Constitution and human decency, it’s that they don’t see them even trying. It’s very simple: The Democrats should very loudly go after the war and all the rest with everything they’ve got, and force the Republicans to bury themselves under mountains of bad votes. Yes, the Republicans may defeat everything the Democrats throw at them, but come election time they’ll have to explain why they voted to prolong the war, and to give unprecedented power to the worst president in history. Any Bush Dogs want to stab the leadership in the back, tell them they’re on their own in the primaries.

Yeah, I’m sure there will be a lot of hurt feelings and resentment, but I really don’t care. People are dying for nothing, our Constitution is getting shredded, our economy is tanking and our global reputation is in the toilet. A few ruffled feathers in Congress and disapproving clucks from Broderella are a small price to pay to get our country back.
The constant flow of input and issues can sometimes distract us from the immediate battles. Principles are swept under the carpet of campaign fluff and a superficial media afraid to ask real questions. Ideology and rhetoric fill our teevee's and radios like white noise, meant to lull us back into a false sense of security, and daily distraction.

As my fourth grade English teacher with the googly eye used to say: Stay focused.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Conservapedia, Is It All About The Gay?

Until I ran across this Crooks and Liars post, I didn't know Conservapedia existed. According to their about page, the site is to help combat the left wing biased of Google and Wikipedia

Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears?[1] Conservapedia began in November 2006, as the class project for a World History class, meeting in New Jersey, of 58 advanced homeschooled and college-bound students.

Conservapedia has since increased in size exponentially, with individuals contributing all over the world. Conservapedia already exceeds the number of entries in the Oxford Dictionary of World History, and is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind.
And the most viewed pages?
Most viewed pages

1. Main Page‎ [1,934,443]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,624,790]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [518,084]
4. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [434,456]
5. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [422,179]
6. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [401,712]
7. Homosexual Couples‎ [374,058]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [332,101]
9. Homosexuality and Anal Cancer‎ [294,418]
10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [293,755]
Now this makes me wonder a couple of things, first, what were the founders advanced home schooled about? and second, these all can't be Larry Craig can they?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Busharraf

Bush went on record yesterday with the statement that, in his eyes, Musharraf "has not crossed a line" with his state of emergency declaration. And since this is a holiday built around the premise of being thankful, we should all be thankful it hasn't happened here. Yet. FDL:

Quote of the day:
“We used to love America…. But why isn’t the U.S. standing up for Pakistan when we need it most? Is America even listening to us? We are calling them Busharraf now. They are the same man.”
They’ve got a point. If America’s democratic institutions were as fragile as Pakistan’s, does anyone really think Dubya wouldn’t find a trumped-up reason to declare a “state of emergency” so he could suspend the Constitution and stay in power? Hell, I’m not entirely convinced he won’t do it anyway. All that separates the dictator and the wannabe is opportunity.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be Thankful for Sarcasm

Jon Swift:

President Bush is certainly entitled to ask for a big thank you for keeping this country safe from terrorist despite the efforts of Democrats, who will have only themselves to blame if there is another terrorist attack. And the American people certainly owe him some gratitude for what he's done for the economy, which has begun to falter not so coincidentally only since the election of a Democrat majority in Congress. Thanks to his policies a number of Americans got a chance to see what it would be like to live in homes they could not afford, memories they will always cherish long after the banks foreclose on them. And if it wasn't for President Bush, there might be no New Orleans at all. Thanks to his efforts, New Orleans has the first white majority city council in 22 years, which as James Joyner at Outside the Beltway points out, is a "good thing" because it means the city has shifted "away from race-based voting." This would not have been possible without President Bush's leadership. I hope that on this Thankstaking holiday, the President takes some credit for all that he has done for this country.
Or if sarcasm doesn't do it, be thankful for Shatner.

Hope ya'll have a good Thanksgiving,

Love and Kisses,
The Staff (Just Me, Today)
The SideTrack Headquarters of World Dominion through Comedy

UPDATE:
This is hilarious

TechPresident: Rating the Candidates

TechPresident.com rates the Democratic candidates on issues such as Net Neutrality, affordable high-speed, and what they are calling a "Connected Democracy." Worth the read.

Back in May, we issued a challenge: “Who will be America’s First TechPresident?” We set out six specific policy goals to judge the candidates by:

1. Declare the internet a public good in the same way we think of water, electricity, highways or public education.

2. Commit to providing affordable high-speed wireless Internet access nationwide.

3. Declare a “Net Neutrality” standard forbidding Internet service providers from discriminating among content based on origin, application or type.

4. Instead of “No Child Left Behind,” our goal should be “Every Child Connected.”

5. Commit to building a Connected Democracy where it becomes commonplace for local as well as national government proceedings to be heard by anyone any time and over time.

6. Create a National Tech Corps, because as our country becomes more reliant on 21st century communications to maintain and build our economy we need to protect our communications infrastructure.

We’ve spent some time looking through the candidates’ policy statements on technology, the media, education, transparency and infrastructure, and here’s what we’ve found...
And don't miss the next episode (same bat channel, same bat time) when they rate the Repubs.

Media Accountability

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald wrote about NBC's "go-to news anchor" Brian Williams, his Rush Limbaugh love, and his recent statements that "marriage is under attack." And today, Williams responded:

None of this is to say that Williams is concealing some sort of right-wing ideology. But would it ever be possible to compile enough evidence to force an abandonment of that most sacred, petulant and patently false Article of Faith among our right-wing warriors and their media allies -- namely, that our establishment press is a "liberal media" that is hostile to conservatives?

UPDATE II: Brian Williams responds and explains himself. Whatever one's view of his response, it is a positive development that a network news anchor, within less than 24 hours, feels compelled to explain something he said on his news broadcast.
The response is significant, not because Brian Williams has any journalistic authority to be reckoned with, and not because it further combats the right's cries of 'liberal media.' It is significant because one blogger, with one story, generated a response from a high profile media figure, who responded to explain his words and defend his reporting. It is significant as evidence that, though few in our media will again be the "watchdogs of democracy" they once were, we bloggers (at least) will be here, holding them accountable for their words.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Band of Bloggers

A graphic, and important evolution in what it means to be a country at war. I've yet to see anything as revealing and honest in our domestic media coverage.

Explore the impact of blogging as a new medium for immediate and raw information. In the midst of modern day combat examine the unfiltered and raw evolution of military blogs and bloggers. Listen as soldiers who during their recent Iraq deployments reflect on the important connection they had with their blogging and how the band of military bloggers has revolutionized the way we understand combat. Experience firsthand, unfiltered accounts of the pain, the hardship, and even the simple beauty found in Iraq; stories that often go unseen in the media's coverage of the war.
For anyone who missed the amazing premiere, find encore presentations here.

Comcast Working with BitTorrent

Like me, reading the same post title at OpenLeft, you may have expected encouraging news that Comcast was willing to relax their (illegal?) throttling practices on paying customers. Not as such:

Aside from being politically powerful, cable companies are assholes. When not blocking peer to peer services (and being sued for it), Comcast is working with BitTorrent to promote a tv network it owns.

The subtext here is that Comcast has a really crappy network because it refused to invest in infrastructure, mostly because cable companies are really greedy and can't do anything properly except steal from shareholders and annoy customers.
Comcast cites "network management" and bandwidth concerns as justification for blocking the applications of paying customers, yet plans to use the same "bandwidth hogging" technology to turn a profit?

Ah, integrity.

Republicans' Democratic Crush

Often, for fun, I loiter in conservative media hubs, watching the post and article titles, keeping an eye on America's mentally disadvantaged, if you will. Just as often, this provides me with more laughter than anger. I highly recommend it as a cheap thrill to pass the time. There is nothing more entertaining than a Townhall's Dennis Prager (author of the Biblically selective "Jesus Was No Leftist" piece - and I do mean piece) imparting his "wisdom" on the faithful.

Lately though, I've been noticing an interesting trend in Bat-Shit Republican rhetoric. Still present are the calls for more war, and still absent are representations of any demographic outside of the wealthy white male. But take a look at a small snippet from the top political news headlines at Townhall.com:

America, Here Are Your Democratic Presidential Candidates

Clinton Ad Takes on Republican Attacks

Obama: I Tried Drugs As a Teen

Obama Unvailes $18 Billion Education Plan

Thompson Says Democrats Just Turn Left

Clinton Says Economy Needs Experience

Edwards Hits Anew at Clinton on Iran

Richardson: Peacemakers, Not Cowboys

FEC Fines Group Allied With Democrats

Obama: Foreign Family Experience Helps

Clinto Raps Teacher Merit Pay

Hillary Clinton Ark. Papers Unreleased

Edwards Criticizes Clinton Over Iraq
Keep in mind that these are the headlines on the political news page of one of the most conservative online media groups around. Notice the unhealthy obsession with the Democrats, and non-existent content regarding the Republicans? In fact, you have to scroll halfway down the page to find a stand alone mention of a Republican campaign, and this is it:
AP-Yahoo Poll: Obama, Giuliani Likable
Conservatives have become so disillusioned with their own party and candidates that they no longer partake in the examination of issues or content. Instead, they have become All Swift-Boat, all the time. Their greatest hopes in 2008 are that the Democrats will make a mistake, or cave under the harsh attacks from the right sure to become more frequent after the primaries. They are living in the past with their Reagan-worship, and their future consists of a hope that some bizarre gaffe will take the Democratic nominee out and open up the field for Romney or Giuliani.

It's unfortunate for them we can't just call the game now, and save them the embarrassment that 2008 will bring.

Monday, November 19, 2007

CQ Election Map


For those who wake up and think "you know, I don't spend enough time thinking, writing, and thinking some more about politics," I bring you the political geek equivalent of heroin; the CQ Election Map.

It even projects future races by district and candidate.

Now go be somebody.

Why Americans Hate the Media

Nicholas Beaudrot (via Ezra):

There's a saying that good journalism reduces uncertainty. Somehow that mantra has meant that political reporting should focus on "who's going to win", even though the answer changes every month or so. But there are other forms of uncertainty in politics. Most of the public knows little to nothing about how the candidates' administrations might affect their daily lives, which is the primary frame of most questions people ask during town hall style debates (which are more subtantive than the questions journalists ask!). So if the primary frame for political journalism were "if candidate X wins, how would it affect the country?" rather than "how does event X affect candidate Y's chances of winning?" we would all be better off, and I would stop feeling the need to link to Why Americans Hate The Media every damn week.
Beaudrot's multi-post flare up was a result of last Sunday's Meet the Press. On the topic of Rudy's Kerik Problem, Russert and the panel discussed how Rudy's response to accusations of corruption would effect his campaign, not whether what Rudy said was true (it wasn't).

It's nice to see nothing has changed since 2004.

About the Size of a Sheep or Pony

I've never understood exactly what part of the Bible tells people they cannot be Christian and rational at the same time.

Regardless, the photo tour of the Creation Museum is the most fun I've had in a long time. My personal favorite:

And yes, exhibit #5 showcases early man feeding a carrot to a squirrel at the feet of two Utah Raptors.

It's scientifarific.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Empowering Terrorists

Greenwald, on Rudy and the Federalists:

After proclaiming that "America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world," Giuliani vowed:
It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. It's this country that's going to save civilization from Islamic terrorism.
So Islamic Terrorism is no longer merely "a threat to our freedoms." It isn't even just an existential threat to our country any more. It's been upgraded rather severely in Giuliani's mind: it's now a threat to civilization itself. And Rudy Giuliani is running for President because he is "going to save civilization" -- his words -- from the Terrorists.
Isn't there at least the slightest, itty-bittiest chance that this kind of talk is really short-sighted and stupid? Isn't accrediting Osama as a threat to "civilization" on par with Communism and the Nazis giving him exactly what he wanted? Fame. Power. And a reason for those already on the fringe to flock to terrorist organizations like flies on shit?

Just sayin.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Price of a Vote

NYU journalism students recently discovered that every vote has a price. Via E&P, results of a campus poll:

Twenty percent said they’d exchange their vote for an iPod touch. But 66 percent said they’d forfeit their vote for a free [tuition] ride to NYU. And half said they’d give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.

But, they also overwhelmingly lauded the importance of voting. Ninety percent of the students who said they’d give up their vote for the money also said they consider voting “very important” or “somewhat important”; only 10 percent said it was “not important.”
There is a lot about these poll results that scream stupid, but c'mon, $1 million? In a day and age where $1 million is equal to the $100 bill of the 70's, these students would exchange their vote for only $1 million?

I don't know if this speaks to a lack of respect for democracy, or a lack of relational understanding in the exchange of money for goods and services. If I couldn't vote against these guys, I would want more than $1 million tucked away in offshore accounts and foreign currencies, that's for sure.

Wanna Be A Judge?

Evidently, all you have to do is donate to a Bush campaign.(ht Think Progress)

President Bush chose to fill two high-level positions yesterday with federal judges who had given him campaign contributions while under consideration for their judgeships.

Bush nominated Judge Gene Pratter, of Pennsylvania, to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a level just below the U.S. Supreme Court. Pratter, who was featured in the CIR report, “Money Trails to the Federal Bench,” gave $2,000 to Bush in 2003, after interviewing with the White House for her judgeship.

Bush also picked Judge Mark Filip, of Illinois, to be deputy attorney general, the No. 2 spot in the Justice Department. Filip gave Bush $2,000 in 2003, after the president nominated him for his judgeship, as earlier reported by CIR.

There are no laws against political contributions by a judicial candidate, but some ethics experts and federal judges say that it is inappropriate.
Apparently cronyism knows no bounds.

Al Gore to Visit White House

Man, talk about a socially awkward:

The White House today announced that President Bush will host former Vice President Al Gore in the Oval Office on Nov. 26. Should be an interesting reunion of a couple of buddies from the 2000 presidential campaign and its historic aftermath.

It won’t be a one-on-one. Gore got the invitation because Bush is hosting this year’s U.S. winners of Nobel Prizes. Gore got the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. Several other 2007 Nobel winners also will be on hand.
So... sorry about that whole election thing. Did you try the crab cakes?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eating Your Own

"I like Reagan's rule applied to his party: speak no ill of Republicans. I don't like it when our party, that agrees on 95 percent of the issues, so exacerbate the nuances of differences."

-- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
No Comment.

Et Tu, Smithsonian?

Washington Post, today (via Democracy Now):

...accusations of climate change censorship are now reaching the halls of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The Washington Post reports museum directors took steps to downplay global warming at an Arctic exhibit to avoid a political fallout. Museum director Cristian Samper imposed last-minute changes to the exhibit’s script that raised ‘scientific uncertainty’ about climate change. The move came after Samper held up the project for six months, ordered reviews from other government agencies and moved a climate change discussion in the exhibit to less prominence.
Samper also urged Air & Space curators toss a sheet over the Apollo moon landing exhibits, citing "reasonable doubt."

DFA Wireless: Wire-tap Free Service

I get adverts from the Working Assets folk often, but this one demands sharing.

When the Bush administration asked telecom companies to help spy on you illegally,

AT&T said, "Sure thing!"

Verizon said, "No problem, W."

BellSouth rolled over too, saying, "Anything for you, Sir."

But not all telecom companies thought the Bush Administration should have unfettered access to the phone records of US citizens. Working Assets did not help the Bush Administration spy on you. This is why we are proud to partner with them to bring you DFA Wireless.

Join DFA Wireless today and get a new cellphone service that will stand up to Bush. Plus, 10% of your charges go to support DFA directly.
If I wasn't under contract still, I might consider it, just to reward their creativity.

(More On) Rebranding The Democratic Progressives

Yesterday at JMBell.org, the topic of "progressive rebranding" was discussed (with video!), and I wanted to continue the dialog a bit, as I believe it is the most important challenge Utah progressives face.

Paul Rosenberg of OpenLeft (probably the most consistently linked blogpost here at SideTrack HQ) has written extensively about the "realignment of the Democratic Party" through the progressive movement, and the importance of constructing a "liberal identity." He writes:

...we can conclude that it is simply futile to try to convince conservatives--at least movement conservatives--of anything. Rational argumentation will get us nowhere. But this does not mean we cannot reach moderates, nor even self-identified conservatives who haven't become habitual kool-aid drinkers. What's more, even movement conservatives can be reached another way--not by convincing, but by persuading.

What this means, in essence, is that while we have to fight back against conservative attacks, and we have to stand up for what we believe, we can only hope to hold our own at best by meeting movement conservatives on their own terms. We cannot afford to do less, and leave their attacks unanswered, but answering their attacks blow-for-flow is merely a defensive necessity for us. It is not our principal task. We have to create--and make visible a more appealing alternative. Our principal task is our principle task--elaborating what we stand for, and showing how it leads to a better life and a better world.
Steve Olsen has also written often about Utah voting patterns (i.e. "Republican Ticket All The Way! YeeHaw!) being contrary to actual Utah values.

Considering these two aspects of politics, and local attitudes toward Liberal and Conservative 'identities,' it is arguably possible that Utah has been overtaken by more effective marketing by Republicans, not an issue based consensus of belief leading to Republican alignment. Or more briefly, the Republicans were better salesmen.

There will never be a perfect time to begin correcting this massive misconception, and waiting until there are "more of us" will be just that: waiting. It may be time to raise the bar, politically speaking, and campaign to re-brand the "liberal identity" in this state, rather than simply campaigning to challenge them on their own turf. One more blurb from Rosenberg:
From within the framework of conservative thought, it is simply impossible for liberals to be right. If they are right about X, it can only be because even liberals must admit that conservatives are right about X. There is no possibility that liberals can be right about X because of their own system of ideas, because conservative thinking categorically excludes this possibility.
And something from The Art of War:
Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.

Violence Down in Basra after Troop Withdrawal

Surprisingly, this is getting little attention from the pro-Iraq War bloggers usually so fond of telling us how well things are going o'er there:

Attacks have plunged by 90% in southern Iraq since Britain withdrew its troops from the main city of Basra, their commander has said. [...] "We thought, 'If 90% of the violence is directed at us, what would happen if we stepped back?'," Gen Binns said.

About 500 British troops moved out of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in the heart of Basra in early September, joining some 4,500 at a garrison at an airport on the city's edge.

Since then there has been a "remarkable and dramatic drop in attacks," Gen Binns said in an interview in Baghdad on Thursday.
What an ingenious idea. Who would've thought...

FoXXX News


Hot on the heels of Pat Boone's ultra-creepy "Get The Porn Of My TeeVee" ads splattered on every wing-nut website out there, some bad news for the "Won't You Please Think of the Children" hand-wringing crowd:

Earlier today (November 15, 2007), Brave News Films (BNF) debuted FoxNewsPorn.com. Video displayed there is entirely, entirely, footage from the Fox News Channel. Just hours ago, Digg banned that domain for carrying "adult content." Additionally, YouTube flagged FoxNewsPorn.com as 18+. It essentially checks your I.D. before you can watch it. [...] So, Fox's "news" content is too hot for Digg? YouTube considers it 18+? Join the protest here, here, and here.

The time has come for Fox to run a continuous disclaimer along the bottom of its screen that warns that its content is adult-only!
I'm not easily offended, so there wasn't much there that raised my knickers. However, it is important to hold people to their own self-proclaimed principles. I'm sure we can expect Boone and Townhall to be comdemning FoXXX News soon. Or not.

Republican on Republican Action

Far be it for me to stick up for the Mitt-Flopper, but watching the snake eating itself is humorous, and often intriguing.

In an apparent push poll, a research firm has called Iowa Republicans this week praising John McCain and critcizing Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. [...] Then there were "lots of negatives on Romney," said the recepient of the call in an e-mail, including mentions of his "flip-flops," hiring illegal immigrants as landscapers and extensive discussion of Mormonism.

"Statements were on baptizing the dead, the Book of Mormon being on the level of the Bible, and one about equating it to a cult," said the Iowan, deeming them "common criticisms of Mormonism."
It speaks to their lack of observational deduction that being a Mormon is the best attack they can drum up for such an obviously slimy candidate.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reality TeeVee

I'm not what you would call a huge teevee bug. I'm picky about what I put in my head or let take up my time. I can watch CSPAN for hours, but I was once forced to watch and entire episode of American Idol, and that's an hour that still haunts me to this day.

Tonight, though, as I sit down for my aforementioned "2 Hours of Funny," the importance and relevance of the writer's strike is driven home, as I realize that the few shows I do enjoy are officially out of episodes to air after this evening.

It's easy to mock and disregard, after all they're just "Hollywood," right? But imagine how much worse cable teevee could get when we have corporate execs entirely responsible for nightly content. If that happens, what will pass for quality content will rival Fox News for taste and intelligence.

It's frightening, and better said by the Militant Progressive:

...TV is about to become a vast wasteland of crap. I know that the programs I watch are quickly running out of scripts and that soon I will be stuck with nothing but reality TV of the worst kind. Every turd of a reality TV show that has been deep sixed for being horrible will be resurrected and placed on TV because TV Corporations and their Executives hate the talented.

These writers have families. They have homes. They need Health Insurance.
These people deserve what support we can give them. Mostly because we deserve 30 Rock, The Office, Heroes, not more reality teevee and tired episodes of 24.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Potty-Mouthed Liberals

Townhall.com's Dennis Prager on "civility" (h/t FDL):

As I wrote in my June 5, 2007, column, “‘Buck Fush’ and the Left,” “Higher civilization has always regarded the use of expletives in public (outside of, let us say, theatrical performances) as a form of assault on civilization . . . .”

That is why the amount of public cursing on the left and the way curse words are accepted as part of public and formal discourse may be as significant to understanding the left as anything the left says. It is the left’s way of showing rejection of the values of the middle class and of America’s Judeo-Christian civilization.
As a product of the Judeo-Christian middle class, I'd like to offer Dennis a very uncivil fuck you, doofus.

A quick glance at Prager's editorial history belies his having a finger on the pulse of the middle class and their values.
Tuesday Nov 6, 2007
Dear Senator Dodd: Education Is Not the Answer to Every Problem
Tuesday Oct 30, 2007
The Left and the Term "Islamo-Fascism"

Tuesday Oct 23, 2007
Internet Anonymity Is as Destructive as Internet Porn
Tuesday Oct 16, 2007
Ann Coulter Wants Jews to Become Christian -- So What?
Tuesday Oct 9, 2007
Colorado State University Shames Itself
Tuesday Oct 2, 2007
Columbia's Bollinger Meant Well; Liberals Often Do
Tuesday Sept 25, 2007
Does the Left Value Truth?
And my personal favorite is the one where Prager reinterprets everything you may know of the New Testament in order to paint Jesus as a neo-con:
The Left attacks the religious Right for threatening to replace our democracy with a theocracy that will impose fundamentalist Christianity on the nation. Yet the people who loathe conservatives for using Scripture have no difficulty with those who cite Jesus' words when arguing their positions -- even when citing them incorrectly.

Jesus was no leftist. He was, among other things, a religious Jew who knew and believed his Hebrew Bible, which contains verses such as this one from Psalms: "Those of you who love God must hate evil." That, not offering another city for terrorists to bomb, is likely what Jesus believed.
Again, Mr. Prager, take your "civility" and shove it up your ass.

But have a nice day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dirty-Hippie Coffee Shop Wisdom

Studs Terkel Interview

I've read everything I can get my hands on by radio broadcaster and orator Studs Terkel. He, in my opinion, is one of the greatest living historians; a chronicler of our times, as we (and he) experience them first hand. His books and recordings tell stories through the words and essays of real Americans speaking from real experience, and nothing out there gets more real.

So of course I was excited when I heard Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was going to interview him. During the interview, Terkel cut to the heart of the FISA debate and our floundering political discourse:

Thomas Paine, the most eloquent visionary of the American Revolution, speaks of this country in which a commoner can look at a king and say “Bugger off!” And I was telling them [in a recent op-ed] to bugger off. I’ve known this before, because my phone was tapped in the days when the keyword was “Commie.”

“Commie” today, the word is “liberal.” Our language is being perverted, as well as our thoughts. “Say, I’m not a liberal,” says John Kerry, who was on -- he was a guest on our program with [inaudible] officers against the Vietnam War. He was wonderful! He has denied he’s a liberal. A liberal means what? The right to speak your opinion and to defend even those who disagree with you. We’ve made that -- what’s the next word? -- “terrorist.” We misuse the word, going to the center. What does moving to the center mean? It means moving to the right. You never hear anybody moving to the left called going to the center. You see, that’s how we’ve gone...
Get the transcript (or podcast) of the entire interview here. Terkel's published works are available here. Read his NYT op-ed here.

Highly recommended for a true snapshot of modern America.

EPA Keeping Close Watch on Cache Valley Air Quality

Citing cumulative data, the EPA has issued a warning to Cache Valley officials that if air quality problems continue, a declaration of "non-attainment" may be issued which would force initiatives to deal with the problem. Deseret News:

Although the levels of particulate pollution in Cache Valley aren't high enough to harm healthy people, they can cause problems for the young, the elderly and those with respiratory problems like asthma, Koford said. Recent studies indicate particulate pollution can even damage the cardiovascular system, he said.

With Cache County's population of about 100,000 expected to double by 2040, air pollution is a big concern. On Jan. 15, 2004, Cache Valley had the dirtiest air in the nation, and schoolchildren were kept indoors during lunch and recesses more than a dozen days that winter.
In the same year, the Bear River Health Department created a task force to get ahead of air quality issues, taking steps to discourage unnecessary driving.

Makes one wonder why valley officials are often so eager to disregard the increasingly popular public transit system. Or it should.

It's Official, Godfrey Wins

The counting's done.

NYT Columnists Throw Down

It's the newsprint equivalent of "don't start none, won't be none." Still, it's very relevant as we inch closer to the 2008 campaigns.

It started with a column by Krugman parsing Reagan's race-baiting campaign techniques, which prompted retaliation from David Brooks, hitting Krugman for "slurring" the Reagan legacy by pointing out what Brooks claims amount to well intended misunderstandings. Krugman responds, Brooks responds, etc. E&P:

Krugman, no fool, knew Brooks was referring to him and hit back with a post on his www.nytimes.com Web page: “So there’s a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that 'I believe in states’ rights,' he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.

“Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.” He then recalled other Reagan “race-baiting” whoppers and added: “Similarly, when Reagan declared in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been ‘humiliating to the South,’ he didn’t mean to signal sympathy with segregationists. It was all an innocent mistake.
I have $20 on Krugman.

Moderate Centrists Meet Midway on Middle Ground of Mediocrity

Talk of "centrist" and "moderate" raise my hackles.

Perhaps it's just living in Utah, where "moderate" is another word for "Democrat laying low," or perhaps it is because there is really no such thing as centrist political ideology. Better said by Greenwald:

The very idea that Giuliani is a "moderate" or a "centrist" is completely absurd. Regarding the issues over which the next President will have the greatest influence -- foreign policy and presidential powers -- Giuliani is as far to what is now considered the "Right" as it gets. His views on foreign policy are far more radical and bellicose even than Dick Cheney's, and his view of presidential powers makes George Bush look like Thomas Jefferson.

This whole "moderate" myth is grounded exclusively in Giuliani's non-doctrinaire views of social issues. But that's pure fallacy. Political ideology doesn't function like mathematics, where two numbers situated on opposite extreme poles can be averaged together to produce a nice, comfortable number in the middle.
You either have the support of a majority, or you are in the minority. Centrist ideology has nothing to do with political reality, effective policy, or winning elections. It is simply a concept created and maintained by pundits and the media to tell us progressive Democrats are the "fringe" while unpopular right-wing bat-shit-crazy Republicans represent American values.

Monday, November 12, 2007

(How To) Make a Republican Smile

Political Wire has the results of a new Zogby poll on entertainment choices and political persuasion. Some of the findings:

* Liberals were much more likely than conservatives to listen to commentary and entertainment with which they disagreed philosophically.
* Fox News wins the prize for the most politically divisive TV channel (70% of conservatives watch it daily and only 3% of liberals).
* Over 82% of conservatives say they never watch MTV.
* Cerebral material like documentaries and arts and educational programming all appeal more to liberals... Conservative viewers are more likely to watch action-adventure, sports, and business programming.
* Conservatives are the least likely group to listen to jazz and reggae... Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely than other respondents to enjoy almost every music genre.
The reason I chose to point this out is it reminded me of a question I had last Thursday night, during NBC's 2-hour block of liberal hilarity: What the hell do conservatives watch that makes them laugh?

It's obvious more of the popular comedic teevee and radio programming, movies, stand-up comedy, and tongue-in-cheek political commentaries available today have a progressive slant. So, my conservative friends, what do you guys do for fun? Neil Cavuto ain't exactly a barrel of monkeys, so what makes you laugh? My curiosity here is genuine!

UPDATE: (Disclosure) Any comments asserting the comedic value of Rush Limbaugh will mean null in this poll... he doesn't mean to be funny.

PTSD

Veteran's Day announcement from John Edwards, rolling out a $400 million proposal to give more options to veterans seeking counseling outside of the Veterans Health Administration for post traumatic stress disorder.

Under Edwards' plan, veterans could seek counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder outside the Veterans Health Administration system; the number of counselors would increase; and family members would be employed to identify cases of PTSD. [...] Edwards said that despite his opposition to how the war has been waged, the enlisted men and women deserve the nation's support when they complete their service. "Warriors should never be ashamed to deal with the personal consequences of war."
The plan would be funded by "closing tax loopholes and more efficient tax collection."

For more information on the need to better support our veterans, check out JM Bell's multi-part series, "Veteran's Day Fact Roundup."

Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution

Recommended reading:

In Unruly Americans And The Origins Of The Constitution, one more revisionist take on America's founding, Holton holds that the primary purpose of adopting a Constitution was "to make America more attractive to investment." To do that, the agriculturally wealthy founders had to take power away from the states and, impliedly, from the people.

When the average American citizen discovered what mischief was afoot, Holton says, many rebelled, forming the core energy of such movements as Massachusetts's Shays Rebellion. Soon, the founders realized that if they didn't accede to ordinary citizens' demands for safeguards of personal freedoms, they didn't stand a chance of having the Constitution ratified at the state level. And so, among other things, they concocted the Bill of Rights.

In this age of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, Holton's thesis is a forceful corrective that demonstrates that in the American experience, the average citizen has had power to force reform if only s/he chooses to use it.

Utah Legislature Floor Debates Podcast?

Still just a rumor, but it is the 4th item on the agenda for tomorrow's 8 a.m. Legislative Information Technology Steering Committee meeting.

Great Americans

Newshounds:

Once again, bullyboy Sean Hannity and his like-minded cronies, Mark Levin and their programming director, Phil Boyce, proved that their belligerent personas cover up lily livers. Not only did each one chicken out of military service, they are, apparently, too cowardly even to discuss it. According to DailyKos blogger, davefromqueens, Boyce called the police and tried to get him arrested for having the temerity to challenge Levin and Hannity on their service "records" at a public book signing -- even though Dave never offended the store management. Let's not let those three dodge democracy! Email Hannity at hannity@foxnews.com, Levin at marklevin.show@citcomm.com and Boyce at customerservice@abc.com and let them know that real "Great Americans" don't try to stifle dissent.
Let us know if you get a reply. The one I've received from Hannity's peeps was priceless.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

National Security Priorities

Hmmmm.

Here's an obvious talking point for the Dems that I'm sure they won't exploit.

Back in August, the administration suggested that if Congress didn't pass the "terrorist surveillance" eavesdropping bill before going into recess, the country would actually be in danger of attack. Now, though, Bush says he'll veto the renewal bill if it lacks retroactive telco immunity. So Bush is now holding the country's security hostage to get telco immunity?! Why is telco immunity more important than listening to terrorists?

Or, put more bluntly, what's he trying to hide?
That would be quite the mystery, no? If we didn't already have the answer, that is.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Anatomy of a Smear Campaign

The recent obsession with where Barack Obama puts his hands has the conservative mouth pieces all aflutter with shock and consternation, reminding us that questions of patriotism must only be addressed via symbolic gesture, not a track record of decisions that have made our country stronger.

I had planned to ignore this latest, until I read this, and realized this is a perfect learning experience for activists. It shows, step by step, how the right-wing creates, propagates, and executes an email smear campaign.

It's been getting around, so much so that a woman at a Obama event in Iowa recently said she was "sick" of getting it. The accompany text varies, but one version I received read as follows:
I had heard about this, but a picture is definitely worth 1000 words!

God save us!!!

Senator Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin stand during the national anthem. Barack Hussein Obama's photo (that's his real name)......REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE PLEDGE.....how could he possibly be our next Commander-in-Chief???? He doesn't even pledge allegiance to our country.

Today, the Obama campaign explained that the photo was taken not during the pledge of allegiance but during the star spangled banner. Said Obama, "I was taught by my grandfather that you put your hand over your heart during the pledge, but during the Star Spangled Banner, you sing!"
Things like this aren't worth combating to any extent beyond educating everyone you know, so that they aren't fooled. When someone sends you something like this, simply correct them with a few links to the real story.

Eventually, their natural desire to not be such a gullible ass will prevail.

Conscious of the Progressive Identity

Two recent items from the Clinton campaign have been nagging at me. The first I'm sure everyone has seen by now.

An aide for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a Grinnell College student a question to ask the Democratic presidential candidate during a forum this week in central Iowa.

That the question had been planted by the campaign was not mentioned at the event.

"This is not standard policy and will not be repeated again," the campaign said in a statement issued Friday night. Clinton herself did not know when she called on the student that the question had been suggested by one of her staff, the campaign said.
And I just ran across this.
[Waitress] Anita Esterday waited on the New York senator and her entourage at a Maid-Rite restaurant in Toledo, Iowa. Esterday posed for photos with Clinton and shared her plight as a single mother forced to work two jobs just to make ends meet.

Clinton later incorporated Esterday's story into her campaign stump speech. Pictures of their meeting appeared in newspapers and on TV newscasts.

In the NPR interview, Esterday said that while she had enjoyed meeting Clinton, she hadn't gotten much out of her 15-minutes of fame.
Hilary gets a pass on both of these from most, as she didn't know about the planted question, and she is mired in a very aggressive primary campaign season, but not from me.

Hillary may not be guilty of planting a question herself, but somewhere an aide didn't get the message that "we don't do this!" Hillary may not be guilty of blowing off an opportunity to connect with a working woman for any reason but a busy campaign schedule, but why use that moment as a campaign spot? It's understandable that a candidate would be occasionally pressed for time or attention, but when it happens it shouldn't be touted proudly as a ploy for votes. The excuses given may be not only true, but also understandable. What really nags at me though is a lack of awareness in the campaigns of the nominee hopefuls that we are Democrats, and there are certain things that do not (or should not) happen in a progressive campaign.

Never, even by mistake, should we mimic Republican campaign procedures. Little things like these, though admittedly minor in damage potential, ad up over the course of a campaign. Even without scandal, such lack of consciousness of progressive identity in our front runner campaigns does nothing to engage voters already looking for any reason to write you off as "just another politician." And if all they have to choose from is the status quo, why not vote for the Republican who promises he'll lower your taxes?

Worse, things like this would be so easy to avoid.

Consequences of Extended Tours

This is terrible.

According to Pentagon figures, 29 soldiers lost their lives in August for non-hostile reasons, and another 23 died of non-combat causes in September. Compare that with the average for the first seven months of this year: fewer than nine per month. The spike has coincided with extended 15-month deployments, one senior military official said.

The military officially counts about 20% of the nearly 3900 U.S. fatalities in Iraq as "noncombat." It has officially confirmed 128 suicides in Iraq since 2003, with many others under investigation (and still more taking place on the return home).

Lt. Gen. Ham said morale remains high, but added, "I think there is a general consensus ... that for the Army, 15 months is a long hard tour. It's hard on the soldiers."
As a matter of perspective and comparison, it would be interesting to see the same data from other prolonged military engagements, if anyone has such information.

Delay: Nobody in the US Goes Without Health Care

Tom Delay, dipshit extraordinaire.

Speaking in the UK yesterday, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) predicted that if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, he or she would seek to install universal health care, similar to the system in Britain. This possibility “received thunderous applause.” DeLay claimed that, under the U.S. system, “no American is denied health care”:
By the way, there’s no one denied health care in America. There are 47 million people who don’t have health insurance, but no American is denied health care in America.
The audience, understandably, greeted DeLay’s preposterous claims with “derisive laughter,” according to the AP.
Don't tell Tom about this.