Idiotarians and Fellow Travellers
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Saturday, August 31, 2002
Sharpton gets grilled on character: Al Sharpton, the caught-on-tape drug dealer who wants to run for president on the Democratic ticket, got grilled on Meet the Press, and PunditWatch has the gory details (and a few comments as well). I was just finally glad to see the press make Sharpton answer for himself. A Sharpton run for the presidency will only help the Democrats. It will marginalize ant-Semitic, pro-reparation crowd. Moderates will distinguish themselves by disavowing Sharpton. Who ever wins the Democratic primary will do so only after standing up to Sharpton, which makes it hard for Bush and his surrogates to paint who ever it as having catered to the far-left element.
More MTV nonsense: All I need to know about the Video Music Awards can be found at Sarah B.'s Que Sera Sera,
Powers takes an unkind cut at The Nation: Back when I was a liberal -- unlike most journalist, I admitted it to myself -- I used to read The Nation. It was a kind of obligation. I needed to be told what the correct positions were supposed to be. I often found myself having instinctively libertarian reactions to the news of the day, and I needed The Nation or tell me what the stance of a good progressive should be. But the government kept taking huge chunks of my paycheck, and because I wasn't a breeder or a honey farmer, I got no love from Uncle Sam in the form of tax breaks or subsidies. I simply paid. The resentment built up and I became a libertarian, and later still an anti-idiotarian. I stopped wasting money on that dreary little manifesto. That The Nation is bereft of relevance goes without saying. But, John Powers at the L.A. Weekly makes what is the most damning statement that can be made about a publication: It's dull.
Even as the Canadian magazine Adbusters attacks corporate culture by taking marketing techniques and cleverly standing them on their heads, The Nation specializes in anti-corporate anhedonia. From its drab covers to its pages choking with print (it makes The New Yorker look like In Style), the whole thing feels deliberately unsexy. Jokes are usually limited to Calvin Trillin's doggerel, headlines are warnings, not enticements -- the current issue boasts such tantalizing gems as "Stirrings in Kabul" and "Fight-Back in Bolivia" -- and too much of the writing is muffled by low-word-rate padding and fear of offending the magazine's many constituencies. Reading the average Nation editorial is like trying to gobble a box of dry muesli.Well of course it boring. Making the magazine entertaining would mean the editors and writers care about filthy money, and capitalism is the source of all evil. This is a core belief of all liberals. Of course, the poor and downtrodden -- the people liberals are supposed to care about more than the rest of us -- are hardly anti-capitalists. All they want is a chance to get in on the green.
" ... like trying to gobble a box of dry muesli." Ouch. That hadda hurt.
Ted Rall has a point: There are too many of us (like Ann Coulter) whose first instinct is to resort to racial profiling. Yes, yes, I know most of our enemies are Arabs. But most Arabs are not our enemies. We're nation of laws that does not assign guilt according to nationality. We did it and regretted it when we locked up people of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry during World War II. Whatever ills such actions prevented, they did not make up for the damage it did to our moral standing. We can fight the War on Terrorism without sacrificing our basic liberties.
(Yeah, I know this will cost me links on some conservative blog sites)
It's official: I'm a 'media bias resource." Don't ask me, ask Cut on the Bias, which puts Bill's Content in that category of links. Thanks.
Volokh Conspiracy is a good read: My beef against USENET (well one of them) is that it is less and less a forum for discussion and spreading information among people with similar interests and more and more an arena where people shot slogans and dogma at each other (this excludes alt.fan.heinlein, of course) A visitor to a newsgroup has no way of knowing if the post on which he or she clicks is thought-out commentary or a rant about black helicopters, cross posted to every newsgroup that contains the word "journalism." That is why I love the blogosphere. The ease at which one can create a blog in effect gives any person connected tot he Internet the power of the press. Cranks can post all the want to, but lucid thinkers will stand out and get more repeat hits. That's why I'm going to keep coming back to Eugene Volokh's The Volokh Conspiracy. Consider this recent commentary about a recent New York Times column by Thomas Friedman about the University of North Carolina requiring incoming students to read portions of the Koran. Many bloggers would post a link to the original article and either praise Friedman for equating UNC's critics with book burners, or they would or they would post a link and criticize Friedman for equating Christianity with Islam. Instead, Volokh discusses Friedman's article point by point, pointing out where Volokh thinks Friedman and others overstate their cases in this manner. Volokh concludes:
The sad thing is that the rest of the article actually makes some good points about the value of exposing American college students to a religion and culture that -- in both its more benign and more malign forms -- is tremendously important in the world today. Good substantive arguments, which are only deligitimized by the overheated and irrational introduction.Who would have thought the Internet could be used for rational discussion?
I've been misquoted: This piece of information came from Thymewise.net, and she got it from Neil Gaiman's Journal. He writes:
But even that's not as good as the misquote from me in the Book Festival newspaper where I apparently say that "if you don't read Harry Potter books you'll wind up in the attic sacrificing kittens to Satan at midnight". Which is odd, as I thought I'd said, in response to a question about fantasy and reality, "It's not as if kids read Harry Potter books then wind up in an attic sacrificing kittens to Satan at midnight" which is not the same thing at all, really.No one who has ever been quoted at length says it was done completely, 100-percent accurately. I've writen stories with quotes that are verbatim from tape recordings, and still have people complain about accuracy. I've been misquoted myself. But this one was really misleading.
Civic journalism overrated: Mike Miner, in a recent interview in his Chicago Reader column, Hot Type, makes a point about civic journalism. He interviews Jay Brasler, the teacher who launched the journalism program at the University of Chicago Lab School. Miner writes:
A newspaper is a messy thing. The more compulsively an editor tries to clean up that mess the more he scrubs away any whiff of its readers' world. But a few years ago journalism began dancing with a theory that understands the connection between papers and their communities just well enough to distort it. Unbidden, Brasler brought up this theory.It's a thought-provoking article, especially for any teacher or administrator dealing with student journalism.
Safire smacks Bloomberg news: William Safire doesn't need me to sing his praises. But the New York Times curmudgeon slaps Bloomberg News Service silly for giving in to Singapore's dictator, who was unhappy with the Bloomberg columnist's coverage of nepotism. Safire's criticism is not only on point, the biting tone and sarcasm is nothing less than masterpiece performed by a virtuoso. I want to write like Safire when I grow up.
TANSTAAFL to you, too! Is there the slightest possibility that Heinlein Society member like myself would not link to Paul Wright's site TANSTAAFL? Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein didn't invent the phrase "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch," but his novel, "The Moon is a Harsh MIstress" sure popularized it. Good site too.
Ignorant people don't know they are ignorant: A recent study revealed that people vastly overrate their own competence. One problem, researches said, if that they have no real concept of what above average means. I blame the public schools. After all, the vast majority of students get grades that show them to be "above average," a satistical impossibility.
One more suck up to Media Minded: OK, I had 86 hits on the day M.M. linked to me. It was the most ever and I am grateful. Besides anyone who keeps National Review hidden in his desk can't be all bad (although the mag I hide is Reason). So sue me if you don't click this permalink to his article on the way newsrooms used to be.
If you are really old, like me, you can remember the pre-Quark XPress days when newspapers used hot wax to paste strips of copy --generated by offset printing, of course -- onto dummy sheets. There was a distinct odor of hot wax wafting through the air. Heaven ....
I found the link on the Alice in TV Land site, which has this interesting drinking game for T.V. news junkies.
Hrmph! Some yenta. So, I was over at Media Minded and I spied a link to the interestingly titled site: Media Yenta. So I clicked. What a disappointment. I had imagined it would be run by a zaftig Hebrew chick who worked in the news business.
Instead, in the upper left hand corner, was a picture of this dude. It I had been reading a magazine, I would have tossed it across the room. But, being the open-minded guy that I am, I read. I found some entertaining columns on the movies, including a funny contribution from the Media Yenta's Brother about ideas for Harvard University-based movies. Nice, site.
Workers of the World Unite! (but in Kentucky, not Peoria): At the bottom of its August 30 editorial page, the Peoria Journal Star gives a "thumb's down" to the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Ky., for limiting working to four restroom breaks during an 8 ½-hour shift. Unfortunately, the PJS did not chose to post this small article on its otherwise excellent Website. The oversight means the distillery's union workforce has no way of knowing that the PJS is down with their struggle. I am sure Peoria-area union workers were surprised, though. They have no love for the newspaper.
The Journal Star's editorial slant generally straddles the middle, which is surprising considering is owned by the famously conservative California-based Copley chain. It endorsed Libertarian Ed Clark for president in 1980, but only as a protest. The paper's editorials tend toward liberal on social issues, but they tend toward the "can't we all just get along" approach to local labor issues. Speaking as a card-carrying member of the Peoria media, there is huge pressure to avoid offending either Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. or the still-strong United Auto Workers, who lost a 17-month-long strike against Big Yellow in 1995. Even the local public radio station canned a pro-labor journalist's radio weekly radio commentary during the strike, even though the program never touched on labor issues.
But don't worry. We are all very sympathetic to the plight of the working man. As long as he lives in Kentucky.
By the way: There are places in Peoria that have even worse policies on potty breaks.
So many informative links: courtesy of Rodger Schultz at Curmudgeonly & Skeptical, such as:
Are Greens responsible for starvation in Africa? A Bush administration official says they are.
Is a former U.S. Attorney an Iraq sympathizer? Apparently so.
More Dogma from North Georgia: It is a well established fact that Ricky West, who runs the runs the Count de Monay Shot site, spend way to much time deconstructing James Carville and other liberals who co-host Crossfire on CNN. I mean, what liberal bias is there to expose. This show is marketed as a confrontation between liberals and conservatives. In a lot of ways, it is the precursor to all the shouting heads shows that pass for political news coverage on television these days. But I digress. West made this pithy observation (its at the bottom) about a comment made by a guest:
RON BOLANDI, SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT, TEWKSBURY, N.J.:I think one of the things is we have to look at the timing of homework. Are we giving too much homework? There -- There's no excuse for giving homework, three, four hours a night for students, especially in the lower elementary schools, even at the high school level. There's a lot more things to life more important than homework. And if we can't teach those seven hours a day and have students prepared for the next day, then we're doing something radically wrong in education.Right on. By the way, Ricky is moving the site to a new location and is calling it North Georgia Dogma. The move corresponds with Ricky's laudable decision to exit anonymous blogger mode.
We prefer the term 'sanity-challenged': Word comes from Canada's National Post newspaper that an expert recommends employers conduct routine testing to weed out psychopaths from the workplace. Corporate executives, according to Dr. Robert Hare, a world-renowned expert on psychopaths, should be screened just as are police and teachers.
The trouble, Hare told 150 members of the Canadian Police Association, is that psychopathic behavior is so darn useful:
But the arrogant, manipulative behavior of psychopaths often makes them prime candidates for promotion within large corporations built on ruthless competition. As well, psychopaths have been known to excel as politicians and lawyers, Dr. Hare said, drawing loud laughter from the crowd.Would not the Americans with Disabilities Act prevent such blatant discrimination against the mentally ill? After all, if psychopathic traits are not an impediment to politicians and lawyers, how could any corporation justify firing someone simply because they fanaticize about impressing Jody Foster? Couldn't some reasonable accommodation be made, like padded cubicle walls or an extra chair at one's workspace for imaginary friends.
You would have to be nuts to do this job, anyway: Speaking from personal experience, there are many, many newsies who would benefit from some sort of mental health screening. I've worked for at least one functioning alcoholic editor and several who were raving paranoids. And as I am sure Media Minded would agree, the best copy editors are a touch anal-retentive. And, the list of big-name editors with Napoleon complexes would number in the dozens (perhaps with Al Neuharth and Abe Rosenthal topping the list). And, considering the low pay, long hours and the general lack of respect that comes with being a reporter, it might be a good idea to screen journalism school applicants for signs of masochism.
Well knock me over with a feather: Liza Minnelli and hubby David Gest are having marital problems, according to Roger Friedman at FOXNews.
As you know and everyone knows, Minnelli made producer David Gest her fourth husband back in March. Minnelli is about a dozen years older than Gest, knew him a short time and had to fend off questions about her new husband's sexuality, eyebrows and predilection for old Hollywood stars. Ruth Warrick, the octogenarian star of All My Children (currently enjoying quite a wild renaissance, by the way), then announced that Gest had proposed to her not too long ago.Well, in all fairness, a case can be made to question the sexuality of any male gossip reporter, and that's the awful truth.
Friday, August 30, 2002
You've gotta be kidding: U.S. News and World Report reports that CNN offered to let the White House view its tapes of al Qaeda gassing little puppies to death ... provided CNN would be allowed to videotape G.W.'s live reaction. I don't know how accurate this report is. There's no comment from CNN that would confirm or deny. It seems horribly crass. It's possible USN&WR's source wasn't privy to the actual offer and got details wrong.
Update: Maybe they WERE kidding. As I examine the web page carefully, the cover story for this week's issue is "The Art of the Hoax." Hey, if I fell for it, so did Romenesko's Medianews.org.
Bad news for my Cubbies: They will, apparently, be forced to play all remaining games of the 2002 season.
Update: Crowds "jubilent" outside Wrigley Field as strike averted. Why?
Business as usual in Illinois: The Chicago Tribune reported on the obvious today. But it was the sort of obvious that bears repeating:
SPRINGFIELD -- An aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan has acknowledged that House Democrats have deliberately steered an outsize share of taxpayer money to pet projects of lawmakers facing tough re-election battles, said researchers at Northwestern University.Illinois is the most corrupt state in the union. The legislative leaders in both houses in both parties are corrupt, but after November, every legislator from every district is going to march into Springfield and, like the good little soldiers they are, vote to retain their party bosses. And, the voters back home will complain and express amazement at how these guys maintain power. Yet, they continue to re-elect the people who maintain the corruption.
Out of the mouths of cranks ... He may be a crank, he may not. But if Daniel Brandt is right, there may be reason to fear Google.com's influence on the Web. Here is the nut graph from an article in Salon:
What is the truth according to Brandt? Google's PageRank algorithm, the celebrated system by which Google orders search results, is not, as Google says, "uniquely democratic" -- it's "uniquely tyrannical." PageRank is the "opposite of affirmative action," he has written, meaning that the system discriminates against new Web sites and favors established sites. More than that, says Brandt, Google is a careless custodian of private information. When you search for something at Google, it saves your search terms and associates them with a cookie that is set to live on your machine for 36 years. Brandt fears that law enforcement officials could muscle Google into divulging all the terms you've ever searched for. Those terms could be "a window into your state of mind," and are therefore a clear violation of your privacy, he says.Google is a sacred cow to be sure. But sacred cows make the best hamburger. In Google's defense, my sites don't get a huge number of hits. But as the hits have piled up, so do my page rankings. Go to google.com, type in "libertarian" and "Heinlein" and I am at the top of the list, baby. Besides, a visit to Brandt's site, google-watch.org, reveals that he revels in setting himself up as a little guy pitted against an evil "Big Brother." Thanks to Blogdex for the link.
And Britain qualifies as a democracy how? I have always been fascinated by press laws in the mother country. Exactly how are they supposed to make educated decisions about their government when something like this could happen? Granted, a book by Princess Diana's bodyguard is not likely to contain information that will determine the future of GB. But if fluff like this can be censored, so can important stuff. It is a given in the United States that the government the never have the power to suppress publication. Books about all sorts of things have been banned in Britain. I recall a case where a book linking thalidomide to birth defects was suppressed (if anyoen can find a link, send it my way). Bad for business, don't you know. Thanks to Blogdex for the link.
MSNBC pulls no punches: "Skakel sentenced to 20 years to life: Killer sobs as he begs for leniency." These were the words MSNBC.com used to link to its story about how Michael Skakel cried and begged for mercy before a judge sentenced him to 20 years for murdering a 15-year old girl. I'm not going to comment on whether or not I think Skakel did it or not. I wasn't there and I wasn't on the jury. But I do not like the practice of using "killer" as a noun. "Convicted killer" or "convicted murder" is accurate. "Killer" strikes me as judgmental and intentionally inflammatory. Here in Illinois, we have learned the hard way that not everyone convicted of a capital crime is actually guilty. Perhaps NBC is trying to prove it isn't sucking up to the Kennedys. Perhaps there wasn't room for "convicted" before the word "killer." Who knows. It wouldn't be the first time accuracy and clarity were sacrificed because the headline didn't fit.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Shameless plug of a plug: Media-Minded recently made me blush:
BILL IS DUE: I'd like to welcome a new blog with an awesome name. It's Bill's Content (get it?), and it's the product of Bill Dennis, a veteran journalist. Check it out.Hey! Whaddaya mean VETERAN?
UPDATE: Thanks once again for the link, Media Minded. I usually rack up less than 20 hits a day. I had 87 hits on Aug. 29, the day you posted my link. I only wish I had the time today to write and post more original content. I'm having a major deadline crunch, but I am sure you know what that is like.
Isaac Asimov & Osama bin Laden - Partners in Crime: According to an article in the British newspaper Guardian, Asimov's Foundation Trilogy of science fiction novels provided the blueprint for al Qaeda's plans to destroy Western civilization.
In October last year, an item appeared on an authoritative Russian studies website that soon had the science-fiction community buzzing with speculative excitement. It asserted that Isaac Asimov's 1951 classic Foundation was translated into Arabic under the title "al-Qaida". And it seemed to have the evidence to back up its claims.The article mentions similarities between Asimov's fiction and bin Laden's tactics:
Seldon is a scientist and prophet who predicts the Empire's fall. He sets up his Foundation in a remote corner of the galaxy, hoping to build a new civilisation from the ruins of the old. The Empire attacks the Foundation with all its military arsenal and tries to crush it. Seldon uses a religion (based on scientific illusionism) to further his aims. These are tracked by the novel and its sequels across a vast tract of time. For the most part, his predictions come true.
Thanks to Geek Press for the original link. Fortunately for my future enjoyment of Asimov (I re-read the Trilogy once every five years or so) the theory is totally bogus, mainly because the translation of "al qaeda" into "Foundation" really doesn't work.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
In praise of Lance Bass: His music sucks, in my opinion, but I applaud the whole idea of being able to buy a ticket into space. Do you know why some people do not like the idea of space tourism? Space bureaucrats at NASA believe space belongs to them. They get to choose who gets to go. What is more democratic -- having government bureaucrats deciding who deserves to go, or letting anyone go who can afford the ticket? We will never, ever, be able to establish permanent human life on other worlds until we get over this destructive idea that space must be protected from crass commercialization, and it is some sort of nature preserve that must be protected from all but the most carefully regulated human encroachment. Give me Robert A. Heinlein's vision of a capitalistic Moon and Mars any day.
Is comedian Jackie Mason a bigot? Good question.
Jackie Mason, accused of dumping his lead-in act at a Chicago comedy club because the performer is of Palestinian descent, denied today he had anything to do with the move.Here is a good rule of thumb for living in the United States: Leave the conflicts back in the old country. Here in the states, we try to live together. We don't have to like each other, but we have to get along. Jews have every right to be upset with the Arabs who live in Palestine. But in the United States, we do not tolerate discrimination. It happens, and when it is brought out in the light of day, it doesn't look very pretty.< br>If Mason is telling the truth, then perhaps he needs to get a new manager, because this one made him look really bad. If Mason is lying -- and he did tell his manager to dump Hanania, then Mason has a problem.
The name sort of says it all: Slander: American Right Lies About Liberal Lies About the American Right takes Ann Coulter to task, point by point, about misrepresentations in her book. Someone explain to me how it helps conservatives to spread provably incorrect information about their ideological opposites. It doesn't. Ann isn't really trying to effect social change. She is trying to sell her books and her columns.
Losing one's head over fishing: A fisherman reels in a human head. Strangely enough, he didn't report it right away.
"We didn't want to come in right away, so we just put it in a bag in a bucket. It'd been out there awhile. What's a couple of hours?" he said.First things first.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Switching roles There was a very interesting article in Monday's Chicago Tribune (free registration required) about the differences between Illinois' two U.S. Senators, Dick Durbin, left, and Peter Fitzgerald, right.
WASHINGTON -- When Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook sought help with a change in federal maritime law to get a leg up on a partly foreign-owned competitor, Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois took a pass.Durbin is a pro-labor liberal. Fitzgerald is a conservative. Yet Durbin has become the "go-to" guy for Illinois businesses wanting favors. Fitzgerald tends to say no to such requests. Shouldn't Durbin, as a pro-union, fellow, be telling corporate fat-cats to take a hike? Shouldn't Fitzgerald be the one greasing the wheels for corporate fat-cats?
This is my bias showing, but what is a liberal but a person who supports government interference into matters best-settled by the private sector? Neither does helping businesses put Durbin at odds with his friends in organized labor. They think highly of Durbin for making jobs secure. Fitzgerald's opposition to sweet-heart deals for private businesses does not make him anti business. It just makes him a minority along Republicans who say they are free-market capitalists, but vote for corporate welfare. Printer-friendly version available here.
The Power of the Press ... Belongs to he who owns one. I have been thinking about that truism since I heard that Henry Slane, former majority owner and publisher of the Peoria Journal Star, died last week of long-standing health problems. Slane would have hated the headline in the Journal Star that described him as a "pioneer." He inherited the gig. One of his ancestors started the old Peoria Herald and because of mergers over the years, it became the Peoria Journal-Transcript and later the Peoria Journal Star. What Henry was, was an old-fashioned media baron. He ran the paper like a fiefdom. Not that he was corrupt. Far from it. When his own son got nipped with a drunk driving arrest, it made the paper. When the Journal Star ran a bunch of stories about how expensive homes were under assessed, Slane made sure his own assessment and property tax bill was included. When Slane was frustrated about the progress of finding an Peorian who was being held captive in South America, Slane wrote a front page editorial demanding the U.S. government drop napalm. Slane saw the PJS as a tool. He didn't use to promote his own interests, but he sure used it to demand action. Local ownership gives newspapers a flavor that corporate papers will not. Can you imagine a cookie-cutter paper from Knight-Ridder, Gannett or American Publishing going off on a crusade like that?
This group has been what has been sucking up my time recently, preventing me from posting as often as I like. Robert A. Heinlein is the dean of science fiction writers. He wrote "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Starship Troopers" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," which earned him a reputation for being a freelove guru, a fascist and a libertarian, relatively. The Society is dedicated to honoring Heinlein and promiting his idea of "paying it forward." We sponsor blood drives, including one at this weekend's SanJoseCon.
Monday, August 26, 2002
How to get more hits to your site: First, read other blogs. Second, steal their work (but post a link). This sometimes gets a reciprocal link. Be sure to have a way for other folks to comment. That was you can congratulate each other on your wit, like Rodger and Marta do all the time over at Curmudeonly & Skeptical. (Those two ought to get a room). Also, be sure to post every day. Post more than once, so people will come back.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Lileks rips Coulter: Have I mentioned recently that The Bleat is what I want my Bill's Content to be when I grow up? James Lileks tears into Ann Coulter for her comment to the New York Sun that she wished Timothy McVeigh had blown up the New York Times.
"I think most anti-idiotarians have written her off - if they didn't dislike her for other reasons already - and have no desire to be associated with her. They smell a publicity seeker, a tone-deaf anvil-whacker: Yeah, Anne, Whatever. Well, let me be on record that this is an appalling and inexcusable remark, and it turns my stomach. Of course she was being outrageous to make a point, but it was a stupid point, stupidly made, and it has the effect of making those indifferent to her presence in the ranks wish she would dry up and blow away. McVeigh blew up a fucking daycare center, Anne; that ought to be your main regret, not that he failed to drive a shard of glass through Maureen Dowd's eyesocket.