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Sunday, April 11, 2004

History lessons 

Sully has this to say about Condi's testimony:

What is there to say? We have a frigging war on and the major networks all run this? I have nothing to add. Except to say: we have a war on. We used to win them before we engaged in elaborate blame-games as to who was asleep at the wheel when they broke out.

Ok, first of all, what should the major networks have been running? Would Sully really have preferred it if they'd been running continuous coverage of the current bloody battles? In fact, I can virtually guarantee that Sullivan would have been crowing about liberal bias if the networks hadn't run Condi's testimony, after all the coverage they gave to Clarke. Of course they should run it.
Secondly, Sully needs a history lesson. While it is true that Roosevelt largely (though not entirely) escaped criticism for failing to prevent Pearl Harbor (until after the war, anyway), the same cannot be said of Wilson in World War I, McKinley in the Spanish-American War ("Remember the Maine!"), and Lincoln in the Civil War. Wilson and Lincoln were attacked for taking the U.S. into an unncessary war; McKinley was attacked for failing to get into a war soon enough.
And finally, for the last time (regrettably, probably not), this does not have to be a blame game. The issue here shouldn't be whether we should "blame" Bush, or Clinton, or Clarke, or whomever, for the attacks. The issue should be: how did they happen, and how can we use our understanding of how they happened to prevent them from happening in the future? Or should we just sit here and wait for another attack?
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Monday, March 29, 2004

SF Chronicle defended 

Ok, so taking on Atrios isn't exactly a sure ticket to bloggy fame and fortune, but I have to disagree with him (and many others with whom I usually agree) on the SF Chronicle's decision to bar a gay couple from covering the gay marriage issue.
Now, first off, I have to agree with Atrios when he says:

I would be sympathetic to those who thought it was right for Phil Bronstein of the SF Chronicle to forbid two journalists who had a same-sex marriage from covering that story if they ever thought it important to apply those standards across the board.

Clearly, any standard has to be applied uniformly. I don't know enough about the Chronicle to know whether they've been inconsistent on this. It certainly wouldn't surprise me. And if they have been inconsistent, then they need to figure out a policy and stick to it across the board.
But that said, I agree with the Chronicle's policy. My standard, not just on this issue but more generally, would be that anyone who is involved in a story, directly or indirectly, should not be able to cover it. Now that obviously leaves some wiggle room--what exactly does "indirectly involved" mean?--but that's unavoidable. So some examples: should a gay couple be able to cover gay marriage? Yes. The gay community has a range of opinions on this issue, and just being gay shouldn't be a disqualifier for anything--that would be like saying blacks shouldn't be able to cover the minority community.
Another test (raised by David Shaw in this LA Times article): should a journalist who's had an abortion be allowed to cover the abortion issue? Harder, but again, I would say yes, as long as she didn't have her abortion that is directly related to the story at hand (e.g. a reporter who walks past a protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic one day to get an abortion shouldn't cover the same protest the next day).
Test number three: should a reporter who's a practicing Catholic be allowed to cover the church abuse scandal? Again, yes, as long as s/he wasn't personally abused, and doesn't go to the church in question.
Last one: should a reporter who gave money to the Bush campaign be allowed to cover Bush? This time, no. Such a reporter would have inserted him/herself into the story s/he was covering. That's over the line.

Ok, so now back to the Chronicle. I have no problem with a gay journalist covering gay marriage. I don't even have a problem with a married gay journalist covering gay marriage. But I do have a problem with a journalist who had just been married under controversial circumstances in San Francisco to cover those same contoversial circumstances (which is what happened here).
Look, the San Fransisco marriages were many things (wonderful and exciting come to mind), but one of those things was a protest. The city, along with those who got married, engaged in a noble act of civil disobedience, violating state law to force the issue. Good for them.
But one of the principals of objective journalism is that people who participate in protests don't cover those protests, which is essentially what the Chronicle would have been allowing here. As Dan kennedy has said (and go read it, because he's far more eloquent than I), if the couple in question had waited, flown to Massachusetts in May and gotten married there, none of this would have been an issue. But they chose to get married in San Francisco, with all the controversy that came with it.
The Chronicle's decision was the right one. I hope they, and every other newspaper, will be just as hard on conservatives with similar conflicts.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004

What if hell froze over? 

I haven't posted much on the Red Sox recently (honestly, until recently it was just too painful), but, well, it's less than two weeks until opening day.
That, and I can't help but respond to Bill Littlefield's article in today's Boston Globe Magazine. His thesis? Sox fans wouldn't know what to do with themselves if the Sox ever actually won the World Series. He writes:

But the point is that the list of teams that have won the World Series within anybody's memory is long, and the list of teams that have failed to win the World Series because of circumstances so bizarre that nobody could have invented them is very, very short.
Boston fans are not rooting for a team that's cursed. They are rooting for a team that's blessed, if they'd only see it — a team better than any other at generating the sort of tales the ancients used to tell one another around flickering fires — not easy tales of annual triumph but long, episodic, sustaining stories of struggle, promise and promise subverted, frailty, cowardice, terrible surprise, failure, and loss; in short, tales of each of us and of all of us.

Actually, I have some sympathy for this position. I was in New York when the Yankees won the series in 2000, and it was incredibly depressing. Not because the Yankees won (well, not only because the Yankees won), but because of the fans' reaction. It was something like, "Woohoo! Yay! Ok, back to the library" (I was in college at the time). Compare this to Boston, where we flip over cars and run wild through the streets when we win a Playoff game.
So yeah, maybe we are better for all those losses. Maybe they've made us tougher, more interesting. At the very least, they've given us some great stories.
But then I remember last October, and the feeling I got when Grady Little walked back to the dugout when you knew, just knew that Pedro had had it. And how I felt when he proved that, indeed, he'd had it, and how I felt when Aaron Boone walked up to the plate, with Wakefield on the mound, and somehow something just didn't feel right, and, more than any of that, the feeling the next morning when I woke up and it was over and we had lost.
You know what, Bill? I've felt losing. I'll take my chances with winning.
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Get over it 

Atrios posts the following transcript from Brit Hume regarding the president's "joke":

My own view of this is, the president's there poking fun at himself over what goes down, I think, as one of his failures. And I thought it was a good-natured performance, and it made him look good only in the sense that it showed he could poke fun at himself. But he certainly doesn't disguise the record on weapons of mass destruction.
And you have to feel like saying to people, "Just get over it."

Look, I didn't get that excited over Bush's joke when it first came out. Obviously it was in poor taste, remakably poor taste, but, well, these sorts of things often are. I'm not saying that excuses it, but I thought Kerry was better off steering clear because it's too easy to paint him as a humorless cry-baby. And frankly, if Brit Hume wants to run his mouth off about Kerry, fine. That's how this game is played.
But going after the families of soldiers killed in Iraq? Telling them to "just get over it"? That's sickening.
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Clarke 

Just a quick question for any Bushies out there: what more does Richard Clarke have to do to prove he's operating in good faith?
First, far from "blaming everybody in the administration but himself" as some have claimed, he tells the 9/11 commission and the victims' families, in public, on television, that "I failed you."
Then, when the Republicans say they want to compare his classified testimony to his public statements, he calls for his testimony to be made public.
But of course, this is just a bitter ex-official who wants to sell more books, right?

UPDATE: Add to the above that, guess what, Bush really did tell Clarke to look at Iraq after 9/11. Not that I ever doubted it, but even the White House is admitting it now.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Propaganda 

I'm really not sure why this hasn't gotten more attention.
The Bush Administration--specifically the Department of Health and Human Services--produced what are essentially ads for the new Medicare law, and then sent them to television stations as news spots. They have actors hired to be "reporters" and everything. How this doesn't fall under campaign finance laws, or anti-propaganda laws, or something I don't know.
CJR is one of the few blogs (they probably wouldn't like me calling them that) that I've seen to write about this.
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Arrogance 

The New Yorker recently ran an article (no link--it was a couple issues ago) about how New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is highly unpopular even though he's doing a good job. I've disagreed with a fair number of Bloomberg's policies, but having lived in New York under both Bloomberg and Giuliani (in his pre-sainthood days), I find it hard to bear a grudge against mayor Mike (plus, he's a Red Sox fan).
But it's things like this that make it hard to feel bad for the guy. Without getting into the nitty-gritty: Bloomberg's been trying to push through an education reform. It looked like his policy was going to lost a key vote in the Educational Advisory Board, so Bloomberg fired two members of the board on the day of the vote and put in people who would support him. His comment on it?

"Mayoral control means mayoral control, thank you very much," Mr. Bloomberg said. "They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in."

Trouble is, that's not how it's meant to work at all. There's a difference between having a board appointed by the mayor and having a department that's directly under the mayor's control. This is meant to be a case of the former. Yes, the mayor appoints the members and can fire them, and so, yes, we would expect those members to share Bloomberg's philosophy. But the reason there's a board there at all is so that there's somebody else looking at Bloomberg's policies and signing off on them. That's obviously not what's happening here.
The New Yorker article basically argued that Bloomberg was a good mayor but a lousy politician. It's things like this, though, that remind us why mayors are meant to be politicians. If you can't even convince members of a board you appointed that you're right, maybe it's time to reconsider your policy. Or in Bloomberg's case, maybe not.
(Plenty of parallels to the White House here, but you can draw those yourself)
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Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain 

Every conservative out there is crowing about how the socialists' victory in yesterday's Spanish elections represents a "win for bin Laden."
Can we please end this absurdity right now? Let's assume for a second that Aznar lost, and the socialists won, exclusively because of Aznar's support for the Iraq war, and not because he tried to portray last week's terrorist attacks as the work of ETA because that explanation suited his political purposes. Even working on that assumption, Spanish voters weren't casting their ballots yesterday for bin Laden, and they weren't voting against Aznar because they thought he'd been too hard on the terrorists. They were voting against Aznar because, in their minds, his Iraq policy had distracted the country from the fight against terrorism--in other words, his policies failed.
Now, you can disagree with those who voted for the socialists. You can think the Iraq war really was a part of the fight against terror, or was irrelevant to it but didn't hinder it, or whatever you want to believe. But that doesn't change the fact that those who voted for the socialists were voting that way because they wanted a different focus to the war on terror, not because they opposed the war in principal.

(Edited to correct the name of the winning party)
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Sunday, March 07, 2004

Kerry the liberal 

Via CalPundit, the Chicago Tribune ran an opinion piece Sunday about how liberal John Kerry really is (and also how conservative Bush is). The answer: not very liberal at all.
I'll let you read the article for the methodology, but this just confirms what anyone who's been watching Kerry for more than the past year already knows: he's a centrist. Yes, he's left of center on a few issues, but he's no lefty, even by national standards.
But beyond that, I really doubt the liberal tag is going to help Bush much. For one thing, the whole "Massachusetts liberal" label is so 1988. And anyone who listens to Kerry is going to realize pretty quickly it just doesn't fit him. He's not Mike Dukakis. Bush/Rove/etc seem to have decided the same thing. They're going after him for being a flip-flopper, which I think is much more likely to be successful, though there are still plenty of ways Kerry can rebut.
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Micro-Aggression? 

I'm late on this, but Andrew Sullivan posted recently on the concept of "micro-aggression," which is apparently sweeping across college campuses. It must have done so pretty recently, since I graduated in May and had never heard the term before, but that's besides the point.
Anyway, micro-aggression is apparently minor-un-PC-ism, which over time seriously offends people. He says he was accused of committing such an offense when he referred to "Islamo-fascism," which, as he notes, is a term distinct from "Islamic." Anyway, it's basically another attack on the PC police, a position with which I have some sympathy (though I don't think it's as big a deal as the right makes it out to be).
But Sullivan's post includes this line:
"Nevertheless, I had committed a micro-aggression. If I were on a campus today, I might be subject to discipline."
My question to Sullivan is: on what campus? What college in this country actually punishes someone for that kind of non- or even borderline hate speech? Note that this is different from the speech code issue (though I oppose then, it is a much more complex issue). I am looking for a college where "micro-aggression" is banned.
I have e-mailed Sullivan to ask him for an example. I'll let you know if I get an answer.
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Chavez to Bush: Don't invade Venezuela 

Ok, so I'm not suggesting that we're planning to invade Venezuela, but isn't it just a tad bit concerning that countries now have to warn us explicitly not to?
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Monday, March 01, 2004

Sachs on Haiti 

Columbia University economist (and Bono buddy) Jeffrey Sachs has an interesting take on the Haiti situation:

Mr Aristide won the presidential election later that year, in a contest the US media now reports was "boycotted by the opposition" and hence, not legitimate. This is a cruel joke to those who know Haiti, where Mr Aristide was swept in with an overwhelming mandate and the opposition, such as it was, ducked the elections. Duvalier thugs hardly constituted a winning ticket and as such, did not even try. (more...)

I really don't know even close to enough about Haiti to say whether this is right, but I have a lot of respect for Sachs, so I certainly can't dismiss what he has to say.
One thing that is clear is that the American media don't have any idea what's going on in Haiti, so they're just parroting what the Bush administration has to say. That's never a ticket to good coverage.
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The Times on the Times 

I tend to sit out the Times-bashing sessions over at Atrios and elsewhere, not because I don't think the Times can be criticized, but because I think, by and large, its coverage is fair, and its reputation as the country's top newspaper is deserved.
Sometimes, though, the Times makes it difficult to be a supporter. Like when they put trash like this on their website. They had one of their political reporters, Katherine Seelye, do a running commentary on the Times-sponsored debate yesterday. A couple excerpts:

2.29 | 11:49 AM
On the matter of gay marriage, Kerry muddies the question of what is wrong with it. He refused to answer the question of who it hurts and what was wrong with it. This is a problem for Kerry because it underscores the underlying concern that he can be on all sides of an issue.

2.29 | 11:55 AM
Kerry stumbled over the question of whether God is on America's side. But Edwards hit it out of the park with his anecdote about Abraham Lincoln saying America is on God's side. He is the more nimble debater and conversationalist.

Ok, first of all, anyone with a modicum of intelligence realizes that the "Is God on America's side?" question was the single dumbest debate question ever. Kerry "stumbled" over the question, it seems to me, because he was reeling from how idiotic it was.
But that aside, what is the Times doing having one of its supposedly objective reporters give openly opinionated commentary on a debate? How am I or anyone else going to take this woman's work seriously after reading her comments?

So that's pretty bad, but then I read the Times' actual story on the debate. Now, anyone who watched the debate knows that the biggest story coming out of the debate, bigger than gay marriage, bigger than trade, was how terrible the panel was. The worst offender? The Times' own Elisabeth Bumiller, who kept interrupting the candidates with her increasingly combative followups. The candidates all ended up going after her, and to a lesser extent the other panelists, as much as they went after each other.
But you wouldn't know that from reading the Times' account of things. Only at the very end of the story does the Times acknowledge that "At times, the candidates seemed to spar with the debate questioners as much as they did with each other," and even then the only example they give is of Sharpton accusing the moderators of not asking him enough questions.
Yeesh.
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