Friday, April 25, 2003
A little while ago Lilly was telling me that she and a friend wanted to write a Sex in the City-style column for The Daily Texan. (That's the student newspaper for the University of Texas, on the rare occasion that someone not living in Austin is reading.) Though it sounds fun and would have been widely read, the powers that be at the Deadly Toxin wouldn't have it.
Mattie says that this summer he wants to get picked up as a columnist. Judging from the current columns that Mattie occasionally alerts me to, the paper would surely benefit from his writing.
My question - is the Texan that great? I could use some insight from the journalism students out there (Lilly, Lauren, guests?). In my opinion it's a good-looking paper, and it's funded--but the campus news was never exciting enough to read, all the world stories were from AP, and the opinion pages were awful. The 'toons were good--I'm thinking of one in particular, what was it, 1980Robot or something inventive and clever like that?
Just so this isn't totally a throw-away post for any non-UT readers, I'll give you an example of some better student journalism. Via Matthew Yglesias and his school's paper, the Harvard gossip column and an editorial/investigation on cross-dressing. Neither is especially interesting or well-written, but both are innovative from in comparison to the UT rag.
posted by kriston at 5:42 PM........
Friday Five at 4:00 - No rules, just right.
5 I'm reading Paul Krugman's Peddling Prosperity and a collection of writings/lectures by Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian. I'll probably cash them both this weekend so if you have any recommendations, please buy them for me.
4 I hear that Claritin is the way to go in the fight against spring allergies, but spring beers are less expensive and more fun. I suggest New Belgium's Mars Ale, taken 3-6 times in the evening, preferably on the porch. St. Arnold's Lawnmower Ale will suffice if it's available yet.
3 The Notwist "Golden Halo" - I heard this one song by them at a party and then again at a coffee shop, and later when it was played on the radio I found out who they were, but I was humming the song from the first time I heard it. I don't know what "Notwist" means but this album is mellow, consistent, and entirely good. If you took some group of dudes like Beck or Mike Kinsella or Bright Eyes and put them through a summer music camp hosted by Radiohead, notwist would be the word for the results.
2 A Mighty Wind - At least, I assume. It's not been released yet here in Austin, and for the life of me I can't find out when it will be. (I suck at the internet.)
1 An exciting first round of NBA Finals. Even a couple of games in the East have been watchable.
posted by kriston at 3:45 PM........
Tacitus is a great weblog, the first one I was introduced to, and despite that he's a well-thought conservative (and wrong) I read it for while before he crashed. Once I add him I think that I'll have two or three conservative links, so I'm doing my part for diversity of input. Lip service, all of it, but it's something.
posted by kriston at 11:53 AM........
Ikram says that Fareed Zakaria was on the Daily Show last night. Can I catch it again today? The Daily Show has done something pretty amazing, actually - it started as basically SNL's Weekend Update meets late night talk show, and has evolved to a point that they are almost entirely politically oriented. Who else could rock that and stay legitimate? Certainly not Letterman or SNL. I would have Jon Stewart's baby, so long as he was gentle.
posted by kriston at 11:34 AM........
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Someone had the good idea to put Matthew Yglesias through Snoop's shizzolater:
"I've recently finished Volokh conspirator Jacob Levy's book, The Multiculturalism of Fear 'n, unsurprisingly, that shiznit's gravy."
"It be like yesterday that I wuz giving Dick Gephardt a second look after initially dismissing tha dude's ass on da grounds that tha dude's, well, Dick Gephardt n' shit."
"So there yo' ass has that shiznit: Trial lawyers -- go support someone else n' shit."
posted by kriston at 4:47 PM........
Grand Ol' Homophobia III
The Poorman wins with his offering, Rick Santorum Is So Gay. Though watching Andrew Sullivan squirm is high entertainment.
posted by kriston at 12:52 PM........
As a devout RC Cola drinker, I have to say that I don't feel threatened at all by Mecca-Cola. I hope they knock out Coke if for the sole reason that it will leave more room on the shelves for sweet, wonderful RC. Probably not their primary goal. The Mecca-Cola message is, basically, anti-Americanism, anti-commercialism, anti-globalization, and, well, hypocrisy:
At first glance, the 1.5-litre Mecca-Cola bottles look just like Coca-Cola. But closer study shows a green mosque, Arabic writing on one side and the sales pitch in French and Arabic: "No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment".
But for anti-Coke to cover all the bases, Mecca-Cola will have to learn to be more inclusive:
Elyse is one of the first to taste the new beverage at a tiny shop in the city centre. Unfortunately... she is Catholic, and a little reticent about whole-heartedly backing the political viewpoints behind Mecca-Cola's existence. "Why not Roma-Cola?" she said, sounding a little miffed.
Tough crowd. A little diversity might go far: Tory-Cola and Vodka-Cola have clear anti-American demographic potential, and for the French, just plain Anti-Cola would explode. Regardless, Mecca-Cola's on to something. American exports may be vulnerable to homegrown products that compete at the ideological level. There's room for expansion, too: Turkish coffee is already the best, so Islama-Java could potentially find a foothold even in the American market. Britney Burqa, however, may not go over as well.
posted by kriston at 12:18 PM........
Some weird painting to go with your Gucci
The art industry has turned its lusty gaze toward Australian aboriginal art. Sotheby's might as well be the Mayflower--nothing ruins an indigenous artform like the viral attention of Western art speculation. Aboriginal art--spiritual, abstract expressionist, and worthy of the academic attention--has been worthless for decades, but is now selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The perfect accoutrement for the jetset, but not for the artists:
The one group of Australian citizens rarely seen in galleries and salesrooms selling this exciting and expensive art are Aborigines themselves, who are too poor to buy the products of their own culture.
I don't see anything miraculous about it. Unfortunately, the desire for primitive art derives less from a feeling of solidarity with the painters' culture than from a dissatisfaction with popular Western art. Video installations don't make for commodity.
Academic interest in aboriginal art has been around for a long time, and that attention is positive: works and artists are recorded, archived, and better understood. But when the art speculators arrive, the effects are ruinous, not just exploitative. Even the most benign Western intentions interrupt the generational transmission of artistic tradition:
This is a painting based on traditional themes, but Aboriginal art is also changing. Young Aboriginal artists are making photographs, installations and conceptual art and are depicting modern urban life as well as the Dream Time.
But the homogenizing influence isn't new, I suppose. The best that can be hoped in this case is that all the hooplah will lend validity (or at least PR) to the political cause of the aborigines.
posted by kriston at 11:01 AM........
The journalism department of The University of Illinois at Urbana has claimed they've solved the identity of Deep Throat. They've certainly got a lot of information on the site... still, I'll file this with the times the classics department made their definitive ruling on Homer's authenticity and the philosophy department completely ruled out the historical Socrates. Looks like it was a fun class, though.
posted by kriston at 9:20 AM........
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
My homepage is still the factory preset Apple/Netscape site. Its headlines are useless. I wasn't surprised to see these news items of the day: "You Got The Date - Now Be Unforgettable," "10 Habits Guaranteed to Blow Your Budget," and "Are You Color-Blind? Take the Test and See!" I was more surprised at this one: "US Comes Up Empty In Iraq Weapons Search." Now, as far as I can tell, this homepage takes its cues from FOX News if from anywhere; I assume then that this news may even be proliferating there. I'll have to ask the folks--like some other people out there, I always poll the conservative pulse by asking my parents for their opinion. How is this news falling, or how will it fall, along partisan lines?
My prediction is that if Dems seize upon this, they'll be met with the same guff they got when they asked why, exactly, we were going to war. (For the few Dems that did ask.) Specifically, I think the administration will try to make this a classified negative proof: 'You can't prove that they never had weapons; we can prove that they did, and that was reason enough to go in; the fact that they destroyed the weapons is irrelevant. Oh, and we still can't show you the proof from earlier.'
The two early conclusions I'll draw is that either Bush acted on some very shaky, premature information from US intelligence, or that Bush was coating the truth to make the war go down a little easier. Neither is comfortable.
posted by kriston at 8:34 PM........
SueAndNotU reported a few days ago on the schism between the State and Defense departments. This competition has escalated with the war, but after rethinking that article, I think its description of the divide is entirely overblown. Maybe even to the point of being bad journalism--because almost every detail in it concerns Newt Gingrich, his statements, and his self-appointed status as leader of the jihad against Colin Powell.
I'd tell you why I think so, but because Kevin Drum's analysis is always better than mine, I'll lead you to him. I agree with him: if Newt Gingrich is suddenly a neocon, it's all the worse for Republicans, and all the better for Dems. The Contract With America is over, Rush "The Mouth of Sauron" Limbaugh has lost his influence, and Newt Gingrich is just a big, fat idiot.
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall) makes a great point about Gingrich's verbal gymnastics, as he nails the State Department for "botched diplomacy," but absolves the Bush administration:
[T]he problem [for Gingrich] isn't with the Bush administration or its policies. It's all due to the meddling of the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The reason the Europeans and the Turks and everyone else turned against us isn't because of Bush administration policy. It's because the State Department and the particularly the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs refused to implement Bush administration policy.
How does even Newt Gingrich find a straight path through such logical inconsistencies? As Whitman might have said, Newt contains multitudes. Marshall says that all of them are angry:
Ever since that whole elective office gig didn't pan out, Gingrich has been casting around for a new angle. And this would seem to be it. Gingrich's rhetorical palette remains about the same as ever: red, yellow, orange and hot orange.
posted by kriston at 5:12 PM........
The Sky Is Falling
I'm telling you, the news can't get any worse. What I have described before as a lack of diplomatic finesse is turning out to be an absence of a plan:
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.
The question of "Might this have been prevented?" should rather be "Might this have been considered?" The Bush administration's lack of a plan, or disinformation policy intended to obfuscate the details of that plan, is now reaching a critical nexus. An Islamist government in Iraq will be worse in several regards than the Pan-Arabist Ba'athist party, and it must be avoided at all costs. The administrations seems to pin their contigency plans to foolish, mitigating hopes:
While Shiites are the majority in Iran and Iraq, the Shiites in Iraq are Arab, not Persian, giving U.S. officials hope that a strong sense of Iraqi nationalism and a tradition of resisting the concept of a single supreme Shiite ruler will keep Persian fundamentalism in check. "There is a big difference, a tremendous difference, between Persian and Arab Shiites," a U.S. official said.
Right--yet, not as big as the difference between, say, Islamist Osama and secular Saddam, and that ideological gap did not prevent al Qaeda from pledging its support to Hussein. Beyond that--is the administration really resting their case on the hope that Iraqi Shiite fundamentalists will applaud us/tacitly approve of us/let us stay at all, when all the other fundamentalists are trying to kill us?
This really is as bad as it gets. WMDs are still not recovered (assuming they exist), and the undesirables assuming authority surely can't be expected to help our search or necessarily approve of our reconstruction plans. I hope I'm proved wrong, but for that to happen it will take a serious contigency plan being implemented--and all the administration is saying is, "We really didn't plan for this." That inspires shock and awe.
posted by kriston at 12:25 PM........
Grand Ol' Homophobia II
Via Matthew Yglesias, an update on the Santorum mess. It seems that lots of folks have been taking his comments and suggesting that he was actually opposing sanctified homosexuality on constitutional grounds, or arguing the slippery slope. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition makes this same argument: recognizing gay marriages or the adoption of children by gay couples would inalterably change the family, so much so that it could hardly be considered a legal unit, and much less a moral agent. Even a commentor in these pages suggested, why not polygamy? The slippery slope argument is pretty prevalent, but I imagine that especially in the law, the definitions for polygamy, incest, bestiality, and homosexuality are all sufficiently different that one will not necessarily lead to the other even on paper. Though I disagree about the slope, the argument at the least has an ethics to it.
But, nope, not an issue, not for Rick Santorum. Turns out, he just really hates homosexuality. In an AP interview made before his widely publicized comments, he dispelled any notion that he might be making a legal/ethical stand.
posted by kriston at 9:41 AM........
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
The Real Grammar Police
I saw this on PG's weblog a few days ago, and it's not the first I've heard about federal efforts to curb the "rhetoric" of science:
The scientists, who spoke on condition they not be identified, say they have been advised they can avoid unfavorable attention by keeping certain "key words" out of their applications for grants from the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those words include "sex workers," "men who sleep with men," "anal sex" and "needle exchange," the scientists said. [emphasis added]
I can't garner from the article if the National Institutes of Health would prefer "harlots," "queers," "abominable acts," and "rock and roll," or if their intent is to identify and phase out AIDS research altogether. In October 2002, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention pulled information about condoms from the government website, though some condom data was replaced on January 23, 2003, a date better known for my birth.
posted by kriston at 3:00 PM........
Delma Banks, Jr's stay of execution, granted in early March by the Supreme Court, has lead to a decision to hear the case:
The legal issues in his appeal include claims of prosecutorial misconduct and defense incompetence, both of which the court agreed to review. But the justices denied review on a separate claim of discrimination in the selection of the all-white jury that convicted him and sentenced him to death. Mr. Banks is black; the victim, Richard Whitehead, was white.
Too bad, because it was the latter factor that led William Sessions, former FBI director, federal prosecutor, and district judge in Texas, to write an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Banks. A review of the racial and economic demographics of jury selection in Texas would be a first step toward reducing Texas executions by an order of magnitude.
And an article about a LA man on death row who may be exonerated by DNA evidence.
posted by kriston at 2:13 PM........
Kevin Drum's got the scoop on Dick Gephardt's universal healthcare proposal, to be revealed on Wednesday. Now we're talking. This is a better direction than the bickering about who did and did not support the war. Rush is already calling it fascist, so it must be big.
posted by kriston at 1:12 PM........
Dean vs Santorum
DEAN'S STATEMENT ON SEN. SANTORUM'S OFFENSIVE REMARKS
In an interview published yesterday with the Associated Press, Rick Santorum, the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate, compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. I am outraged by Senator Santorum’s remarks.
That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments—comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends and their families—is not only outrageous, but deeply offensive.
The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Sen. Santorum’s remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Lott’s offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.
It is a policy that must end, and it is a policy that will end with a Dean Presidency. This Saturday, April 26th, marks the third anniversary of the signing of the Civil Unions bill in Vermont. I signed that bill because I believe no human being should be treated with less dignity than others simply because that person belongs to a different category or group. I also believe that, as Americans, it is our duty to speak up when others are treated wrongly—especially when others are treated wrongly by a member of the Senate leadership.
I urge all Americans, and members of both parties, to join me in condemning Sen. Santorum’s remarks. They are unacceptable, and silence is an unacceptable response. By standing up against such divisive rhetoric—whether one is gay, lesbian, or straight—we can begin to achieve the American ideal of equal rights for all people.
posted by kriston at 12:48 PM........
Grand Ol' Homophobia
So prevalent in the Republican party, and with such vitriole, they ought to find a different word for it. I suppose plain old fear will do to describe comments by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA):
"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything...."
He's talking about the case currently being heard by the US Supreme Court, Lawrence and Garner vs. Texas, which may have reaching effects on homosexuals' second-class citizen status (as well as lots of other general intersections involving rights to privacy.) You can be sure that Santorum won't be having any of it - his slippery slope sees legal homosexuality leading to the dissolution of the family. Once again, this isn't the whacko with the Bible on the corner--he's third in the GOP leadership, and would probably replaces Bill Frist (R-TE) for Senate Majority Leader if he steps down (as promised) in 2006.
A while back Kevin Drum opined that Democrats should make homosexuality a huge issue in 2004: force the Republicans into a corner on the topic, then let them open their mouths and win the election for you. It doesn't seem like a real strategic handhold until you hear something like this. Within the Republican party is an entrenched, activist, homophobic bloc, and when they get to talking it's scary.
Well, if you haven't lost your lunch yet:
He and his wife, Karen, have seven children - including, as Santorum puts it, "the one in Heaven." Their fourth baby, Gabriel Michael, died in 1996, two hours after an emergency delivery in Karen Santorum's 20th week of pregnancy. The couple took Gabriel's body home to let their three other young children see and hold the baby before burying him, according to Karen Santorum's book of the ordeal, "Letters to Gabriel."
Read that again - the baby was five months old, meaning it was a stewed tomato. Sick.
posted by kriston at 12:32 PM........
Krugman's one step closer to the edge, and he's about to break!
As far as the states' crumbling budgets go, I'd like to know where and in what ways a suffering state like Maryland or NY (or all of them) is actually beholden to the federal treasury. Maryland is putting slot machines in every grocery store or something like that, so the states have some control over their own destiny. Would it be so unreasonable for a politician to suggest raising taxes to make up for the shortfall? I assume that, in cases such as the federal government's mandatory prescriptions for Homeland Security, the states are holding back on raising taxes to cover all the bills--so that they can play the martyr for as long as possible.
I don't know that this is wise. Widespread closures of fire stations and schools as a form of state-level protest is unacceptable. At the end of the day, refusing to act because Bush is a terrible economic director makes states equally responsible for their tragedies. Not to say that what most Americans need are more taxes, but where are the estate taxes? Inheritance taxes? They've been imposed before, but now the fed is unwilling. Where are the states at?
I sympathize with the states, who don't want to tax when the economy is sliding and jobs are disappearing. Right - but when schools and fire stations disappear, someone must step up...
posted by kriston at 11:05 AM........
Monday, April 21, 2003
SueAndNotU has some notes on Fareed Zakaria's argument for infrastructure first, democracy later. In a related note, Matthew Yglesias believes that Chalabi has no in-country support, because he has no real connection to Iraqi dissidence. True enough. But his absence is also a positive characteristic, because he has no real connection to the Ba'athist regime. Probably most Iraqi dissidents emerging as public figures either remained silent during Saddam's rule (and thus aren't much more connected, known) or compromised to a degree--so in that respect the playing field is still level enough.
I admit, if he's perceived as a US toadies, Chalabi won't be received any better than Pontius Pilate would be. Maybe a solution would be to go about developing the Iraqi government locally first--or selectively supporting local movements, like in the case of Zubaidi. Establishing concrete channels of order would lower the chances that a local warlord or a zealot would quickly seize power, with "federal" leadership in the short-term coming from Gardner and co. In hindsight, this might have been a better approach in Afghanistan, where President Karzai is currently having his legs knocked out from under him. I'm betting that South America has models for success and failure in this regard, but I don't have the authority to draw the analogies.
There are other candidates besides Chalabi--another good reason for prudence. The local movements, though, aren't promising, and the longer a cleric with a militia goes about claiming that he's the sheriff, the harder it will be to convince him otherwise later.
posted by kriston at 3:54 PM........
I wouldn't be surprised if you hear a lot of good things about Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, who has proclaimed himself the new mayor of Baghdad. I can't see that this isn't a good turn of events in the eyes of the administration: though he has zero Iraqi mandate, he's a senior member of the London-based Iraqi National Congress, which has had the administration's ear all along. I doubt that Zubaidi's move surprised anyone in Washington, and I'd bet that support for Zubaidi has been more than "tacit."
There is reason to doubt the Iraqi National Congress. Its president, Ahmed Chalabi--the much-touted neocon favorite for leadership of the new Iraq--was 13 the last time he was living in Iraq. Most INC members share this characteristic: Chalabi, no doubt, is more in tune with Western political needs than with Iraqi political reality. But the state of Iraq is not one such that setting up elections (after the current crises are curbed) should be expected to produce effective leadership. Radical gun-toting Shi'ite clerics are unacceptable: trading in a Pan-Arabist dictatorship for an Islamist theocracy would be worse than if the US simply established a proconsulate rule.
Cries of cronyism will be a harsh indictment, but the power vacuum is currently attracting the worst elements still left in Iraq, many of whom have long been dormantly awaiting this opportunity. Better is the immediate "imperial" establishment of a government framework, with the installation of INC leaders and other acceptables, than a democratic vote today that will produce anything but democracy.
posted by kriston at 12:18 PM........
posted by kriston at 10:34 AM........
Via PG, a 'conversation' between Al Franken and Norm Coleman re Coleman's comments that he is a "99% improvement" over Minnesota's late yellow-dog Democrat extraordinaire, Paul Wellstone. Funny stuff.
I have always thought that Al Franken has one of the best jobs in the world. "Stuart Saves His Family" notwithstanding, he's had a damned good run at it, too. But about a year ago I lost a little of my admiration: during one of his book PR pushes, I saw him on about three talk shows. On the first one (with Conan), he was riotous. On the next one (the Daily Show) he was... giving the same interview. And then again - the same exact interview - on the View. Line for line. I could recite it. I don't blame the man for his preplanned spontaneity, but I came to realize - he's no Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart is genuinely amused by his guests and most of the time it doesn't look like he has a clue where an interview is going. The Daily Show is a national treasure.
posted by kriston at 10:14 AM........
I got online the other night with the intention of writing something about Al Franken, which I have yet to do, when I noticed that there were bazillions of comments on the stupid post I put below. As excited as I was to see comments from your national heroes and mine Millard Fillmore and Martin van Buren, in truth all of the comments were from two goons attempting to slashdot me. (Kevin explained this to me: "slashdot" is internet for overloading with the server, something, generally fucking with me.) Though I'm proud to have caught the attention of Beavis and Butthead, cut it out. Your IP addresses are blocked and you have failed to do whatever you intended. Failed.
I see the last few posts were kind of softball, so I'm bringing the substance this week. The kiddie gloves are off, motherfuckers.
posted by kriston at 9:36 AM........