Friday, August 08, 2003
I Don't Think So, TimMore Al... Al Gore, that is. Tapped (a blog ran by The American Prospect) links to a full transcript, and the full speech he delivered yesterday is intentse. Tapped also has kind words for Al, calling him "[n]uanced, sensitive, articulate and sharp as a tack" and wondering "why couldn't he have been like this when he was running for President?" My argument is that he was absolutely all those things (fine, minus some troublesome public speaking blotches) during the campaing, but no one saw that. The real trouble arose after he began a sustained effort to respond to the media criticism, i.e. change his personality, which then became the only point on which Gore received coverage. The media criticism began before his campaign did, back when he was doing his best to emerge from the Shadow of Clinton. Meanwhile, George W. Bush escaped the presidential contest with less investigation than he received during the primary against John McCain.
Gore was always prepared to be an outstanding political voice. But he was never ready for the glare of the camera.
And any hint of his wife's and his sexuality should never have seen the light of the day. That was the day the music died.
posted by kriston at 12:14 PM........
The New William Jennings BryanCourtesy of Matthew Yglesias, a Slate article—including a chart—on the various comparisons Howard Dean has met in the media. I'm starting to believe that McGovern is Dean's middle name; I didn't realize that 114 articles compare Howard Dean with Bill Bradley, 23 with Josiah Bartlet, one with William Jennings Bryan and one with, well, Howard Dean. I wonder if even Dean sometimes wonders why he's picking up this media attention. Much as I like Dean, I truly believe that the media begets the media.
I'm saving my vote until the new Polk emerges. I want the Boy They Call the Stump, damnit.
posted by kriston at 8:09 AM........
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Gore's Not Moving OnAn email that a lot of you probably got from the MoveOn PAC concerning a speech Al Gore gave at NYU. From the highlight reel:
"I mentioned the feeling many have that something basic has gone wrong. Whatever it is, I think it has a lot to do with the way we seek the truth and try in good faith to use facts as the basis for debatesI think it's mighty important for Gore to make these kinds of pronouncements, because he's the most visible and well-known of Democrats. Such speeches will add steam to whichever Democratic front-runner he later endorses. All this depends on the media, of course; one would hope Gore would be given more national attention than Ah-nold, but the layout of the NYT online (as of 5:30p) shows otherwise. ("Total Recall" is given the big photo space; Gore's a pretty small blurb.) Another quote from their coverage, though:
'The president's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change, and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals,' Mr. Gore said.None of these comments are hardcore revelations (particularly to blog readers), but they may resonate with Americans who are still on the fence about Bush's honesty. Gore chose his timing wisely—he's been silent since December—with enough time lapsed since the war that he won't be seen as lashing out in partisan anger or worse, pouting.
I'll give another Hell Yes to Al Gore, just because I don't get to very often. I'd trade a dozen Wesley Clarks for another Gore election bid—minus Donna Brazil.
Tell me again that there would've been no difference between Gore and Bush as presidents, ye unrepentant Naderists!
posted by kriston at 5:10 PM........
Skeptical Eye for the Abused Guys?The American Prospect wonders if Queer Eye for the Straight Guy qualifies as a bonafide minstrel show or not. My answer: No. It plays up a few stereotypes: the scathing wit, the fashion, the high tastes--but those elements are very difficult to avoid in a show about taking a guy from dud to chic in 30 minutes. If anything, the show's premise is tilted toward stereotype: sophisticate gay guys repairing da-dum-dee-dum straight guys. Obviously, lots of gay guys are unsalvageable slobs, and for the straight guys, let's not forget about David Beckham or Orlando Bloom or other "metrosexuals" that give us a good name. Regardless, I don't think this show is something we need to go to committee over.
The article also discusses Boy Meets Boy, which I haven't seen and doesn't interest me, but read right ahead if you're interested. And, if you are looking for a modern-day minstrel show, turn on Will & Grace. Now there's your travesty.
One absolute tar-baby-like queen of a character, one "gay" guy who seems more attracted to the leading lady than to men, and a half-hour of humor centered exclusively on gay humor. And it wins awards.
posted by kriston at 1:22 PM........
Losing Our ReligionFrom Mattie and my alma mater's paper comes a column on gay marriage. Mattie tackles gay marriage from a slightly different angle, by confronting both the secular and the spiritual concerns. Around the blogosphere the typical argument has been about the State adopting language and beliefs so obviously rooted in the Church. What I think he's getting at is that what's publicly acknolwedged as the Church is 1 only one perception of American Christianity, and 2 a pretty large and diverse group of people; and the debate about homosexual religious status is lively, as the Episcopelians just proved.
When Johah Goldberg points out that "deeply held views" are the "required views" of a denomination, he's asserting a purist opinion on a matter of dogma. Abstinence is also a "deeply held view" for every Christian domination but is clearly not a "required view." I don't know any Catholics, excepting my friends' parents in some cases, who hold that abortion should be outlawed or that gays must be prevented from marrying. So far as I can tell, this is dogma being advocated on behalf of its constituents but not necessarily by its constituents. That some policy advocacy relationship exists between the Vatican and DC is absurd. As far as religious Americans are concerned, I think most of them properly view the government's recognition of marriage (gay or straight) or Bill Pryor's nomination (what Goldberg's describing) as matters of policy, not matters of faith. Not a religious man myself I can't say that with great assertion, but, you know, render unto Caesar what is Caesar's....
Link to Goldberg courtesy of Southern Appeal.
Weren't all these people who are screaming and hyperventilating now, screaming and hyperventilating for entirely different reasons around 30 years ago, in the era of Free Love?
posted by kriston at 9:55 AM........
No Love for the En DashThe NYT finally noticed CMS: 15th Ed. What incredible fun it sounds like they had revising, too:
Not surprisingly, given the passionate nature of editors, there were disagreements along the way. A big one, Ms. Samen said, was about hyphens and dashes. There are three kinds. The biggest are "em" dashes and are used to set off explanatory phrases like, "My friends — that is, my former friends — ganged up on me." The middle-size or "en" dashes are traditionally used to connect a range of things, like "the July-August issue of a magazine." The smallest, the hyphens, are used in compound words like "a tie-in for a television show."The "managing editor" of G.p doesn't need the en dash either, for what it's worth. We use no dashes whatsoever--only doubled hypens--because HTML still eludes me.
It sounds like the new CMS stretches the strike zone on a few other points as well. Sissies!
While we don't accept PayPal donations, we definitely accept style manuals....
posted by kriston at 9:14 AM........
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Anti-Catholic ReductionA column from Josh Marshall emphasizes to me how blurry the Republican strategy is concerning Bill Pryor's nomination. Democratic opposition to Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor's nomination to the appelate court, primarily (but not wholly) charged by Pryor's pro-life position, is being described as anti-Catholic. The effort to denounce the Democratic senators' efforts as a "religious test" is led by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). Marshall gives a couple of points as to how ridiculous this effort is, but I think, if it's even necessary to go to the effort to disprove this stupid reasoning, you only need one question.
How can one belief reduce to an entire set of beliefs? Or, more significantly, how does opposition to one belief imply opposition to an entire set of beliefs? To pick one of a harvest of available analogies, does being Jewish make you necessarily anti-Christian? Or does owning a hamburger joint make you anti-Hindu? Or... or... shit, everyone ought to just submit her own example. It's too easy. Santorum et al.: Crappy logicians, at their finest!
Funny how it's so much easier to come up with bad logic than with good.
posted by kriston at 1:05 PM........
HyperlectureA nice lecture on hyperpowerdom, perfect for your lunch break, by Josef Joffe (link via Matthew Yglesias). He accurately describes the problem in balancing imperial America's "soft" power:
Counter-aggregations do not deal very well with the postmodern nature of power. Let's make no mistake about it. 'Hard' power--men and missiles, guns and ships--still counts. It remains the ultimate, because existential, currency of power. But on the day-to-day transaction level, 'soft power' is the more interesting coinage. It is 'less coercive and less tangible'. It grows out of the attraction of one's ideas.' It has to do with 'agenda setting', with 'ideology' and 'institutions', and with holding out big prizes for cooperation, such as the vastness and sophistication of one's market.Sayyid Qutb wrote literature of regret along these lines, and if you believe Paul Berman's work, these ideas later translated into al-Qaeda. Box-cutters and jet planes are a certain sort of soft response in their own right.
I took classes from a popular professor at UT whom I sorely disliked, and he used to spout at great lengths about the near end of the American empire. That non-televised-revolution train of thought is so terribly unproductive, for all kinds of reasons I won't expound. Like it or not, counterculture dovetails with the cultural component of the American empire. (To take a really obvious, shallow example, Rage Against the Machine making loads of money from popular radio, MTV, and Hot Topic t-shirt sales; Jeff Koons being more highbrow.) I think Joffe indirectly addresses an idea that I think is becoming more important: The cultural vectors by which America is able to express and extend its hegemony are not just exampled by Nike, Coke, and McDonald's, but also by America's best countercultural exports as well. Think of Japan and its captivated purveyors of experimental punk rock--now tied into its culture; think of Germany, where the myth of the Wild West and Native American lifestyles hold more water than they do here; think of Russian contemporary artists, who, when finally given the lenity to produce art legally, turned immediately away from immediate identity questions facing them toward the space/identity questions in vogue in American galleries.
Point being, what these developments and assimilations do is prevent new generations from turning their backs on America. The disenchanted dream about these scenarios, of course: the world boycotting McDonald's, Coke, Nike, and Will & Grace, and big fat America would learn its lesson. And many of these people, at least at home, are cool and listen to independent music and watch independent film, and what happens as this set grows? Interpol goes on a world tour, and the International Noise Conspiracy goes on a world tour, and Arnofsky's Pi can be picked up on DVD at Best Buy. --I'm quickly losing my train of thought, but I'm essentially wondering if by indulging in the sacred we're not somehow facilitating the profane? Is there some agency that connects them, and does that matter?
I'm also wondering if, now that I've blogged away my lunch, I'm going to have any opportunity to grab something to eat.
posted by kriston at 12:06 PM........
Indulging the Democrats?Well, are we? Or is the media, rather? Something about a few things Josh Micah Marshall (TPM) was saying has me wondering if the Dean buzz is only humming along because he's the only Democrat with any inertia at all, rather than because it's genuinely merit-worthy. Think of the pie graph: Compared to W, the Dean slice of the media attention/public recognition/campaign fund pie is really a tiny sliver. Maybe I'm feeling down about the whole thing, but if it weren't for the fact that this is a two-party nation and the Democrat Party is one of them, would these primary candidates be to George W. Bush what Carol Moseley-Braun is to the Democratic primary?
It's too early, not to mention unfair, to pit primary candidates in a general election. The two require different strategies and surely the winning Dem will recognize that going in. Two more notions: First, the Democratic grasp on the national scene can't get any worse, considering the loss of both the legislative and executive branch and more states following that trend as time goes by. The Dems may need to consider the Hail-Mary. On the other hand, it's not quite 4th and 20 or anything--the Dems (or Gore, if you think that something about Gore attracted anyone but Democrats) make up a full half of the nation's popular voting crowd.
Second, Howard Dean may not be that 80-yard pass. If Dean wants to win, he needs to take control of this media train he's lucky to ride right now and direct it with some serious policy ideas--waffling on some important national issues is not going to help him. And he should start now, even in the primary. But at the end of the day I think Wesley Clark could appear to be enough of an idea man and bear enough gravitas to be a serious contender for Bush, not just for Democrats in the primary.
Clark will need pocket protection, though--how can he raise the money?
posted by kriston at 10:09 AM........
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Never Mind Larry King, It's Jon StewartMatthew Yglesias had some things to say about Dean's appearance on Larry King Live last night, which was tough, but did anyone catch The Daily Show this evening? Jon Stewart was brutal! Took Mean Dean to task over his flimsy responses to King's questions about medicinal marijuana, gay marriage, and his awkward smile. ("Smells Like Dean Spirit" was the segment.)
Okay, so Dean doesn't want to play his hand on either gay marriage or pot/med. Those are issues on which he stands to lose margins of voters if he puts both feet in one camp--so he's hoping to straddle the line. The problem is that he sounds absolutely politician-y, which is something he seems to want to avoid. The other problem is that he's not correctly assessing the strategic gains to be had on at least one issue: Were he to come out (quietly, passively) in favor of gay marriage, Republicans would do all the talking Dean needs. There are vociferous GOP members who will not tolerate the idea of gay marriage or a popular gay-marriage candidate, and those guys will speak to the issue better than Dean could. Gay marriage is a winning hand for progressive Democrats.
As for his smile, it's kind of Gruden-esque, isn't it?
Chucky didn't do too badly for himself in his campaign....
posted by kriston at 11:00 PM........
Ethical ImpasseTough question: Do I buy a Redskins ticket so I can see the Bucs play? I'd be betraying every instinct Texas ever instilled in my being, but I'd be watching my favorite team destroy the team I despise most (just slightly more than Green Bay). What to do?
I know at least two people who just renounced me as a friend for even suggesting that I'd buy a Redskins ticket. Sorry, guys.
posted by kriston at 5:05 PM........
Austin, TX, come on and raise upI got an email from the MoveOn PAC today about an anti-redistricting rally. Here's the bizzy:
TEXAS ANTI-REDISTRICTING "UNITY IS OUR STRENGTH" RALLYI'm too far away from Austin for even the number (sigh). But you guys there or close by should drop in. And for good measure, call every news station in the city and make sure that they do as well.
And while we're on TX redix, State Attorney General Greg Abbott said today that the state can spend the $370 million earmarked for all kinds of good without the involvement of the 11 Democrat out-of-towners. Gov. Rick Perry's shame card no longer valid, the Dems and Repubs are back at stalemate. And apparently the Senate Dems don't need to be home for the legislature to go about its business--not that I expect this fact to dawn on DeLay and others who accuse the Dems of shirking their responsibilities.
But about that stalemate--Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, hints that a compromise could be reached if Gov. Perry calls for a third session on redix. What she's describing though, is a map that would accomplish no GOP goals--so, I imagine, the stalemate will go on.
If everything can go so smoothly with half the Senate gone, why would they ever show up?
posted by kriston at 4:15 PM........
Monday, August 04, 2003
Big DeanVia my Dean for America emails, I see that Dean currently graces the covers of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report. I do believe that makes for a complete trifecta of publications that actually reach yer average not-too-partisan voter. Though this buzz is surfacing too early for real gains, the attention is exactly what Dean needs. I sometimes forget there are lots of voters, I mean lots of voters, who couldn't name a Democrat running for the primary. Who'd maybe recognize Joe Lieberman, if even him. Hell, I sometimes forget that some people don't read political weblogs all day. The Dean campaign needs to have his name on the tip of the American tongue, especially if it stays this spicy.
I'm wondering now about Clark joining the race as a presidential nominee. Assuming Clark is as left as the conventional wisdom says, might these two drag each other across the mat? Could it be the same fear that Kerry has about Biden running? I don't really know; I'm just throwing this out there. I pair Dean and Clark together, as different as they obviously are, because I think both stand to lead the primaries: the ever-electable Clark because he can steal Republican ground on national security even if he does hold to the left socially, and solid Dean, because I think he can galvanize Democrats in a way the others can't.
And yes, I stand by that part I wrote about Dean being spicy on your tongue. Carumba!
posted by kriston at 8:07 PM........
Kobe vs Eagle vs StatisticsAll day long the boob tube's been reporting that Kobe quoted MLK, and that he may be suggesting that there was a racially motivated aspect to his prosecution (or at least that his defense may take that angle). Eagle County, Colorado, whose sheriffs brought charges against Kobe Bryant, became infamous in the early 90s for a terrible rash of racial profiling . (Scroll down to Whitfield v. Board of County Commissioners of Eagle County, Colorado for a brief summary.)
I haven't seen this stuff in print yet, but MSNBC's been hammering it non-stop, making it a significant point to mention that Eagle County's black population sits at less than one percent. This is true. However, with a touch of research I found that, significantly, the county's total minority population (including Hispanics) comes to nearly 35%. Hispanic is more broadly defined than African-American, but I still think it'd be a shame to follow MSNBC's route and paint the county as a white boy mountain enclave.
Another point: A deputy sheriff who was on the force back in the early 90s during that seriously mistaken period of policing is involved in the Bryant investigation; what's been underreported is that that officer was on vacation during the alleged incident and has only recently become member to the investigation. Pointing again to the annoying tendency of the media, given a celebrity-sized criminal prosecution, to pour blood in the water so that they can smell it.
(Sorry for the lack of links; this stuff came to me as a result of watching too much TV today. And my gracious, bandwidth-challenged host still relies on a--how do you say? ah, right--modem, so fetching them'd be a hassle.
I don't intend to follow the biggest case since OJ, even if my TV insists on it. I'm refraining from any prejudgment, and will only say that one way or another, I hate the Lakers.
posted by kriston at 7:47 PM........
Education, NYC StyleYou folks that keep abreast of educational models will find this article interesting. The NYC educational system is being reinstalled this fall, and critics and proponents alike are admitting that the new system tends toward the progressive:
In January, Mayor Bloomberg's schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, announced that starting this fall all but the most successful schools in the city would adopt a uniform curriculum. The new math program, Everyday Mathematics, would emphasize understanding concepts rather than mastery of basic operations, and a ''balanced literacy'' approach to reading and writing would focus more on children working among themselves than on direct instruction.Most fascinating is the debate over educational pedagogy, whether about the appropriateness of an heuristic approach (e.g. teacher- vs. student-centric), or whether or not kids living in underfunded/underresourced (poor, minority) districts can advance in a math program that skirts on processes in favor of concepts.
I think the key talking points in the reshaping of education are race, money, and teachers--maybe they always have been. I came away from this article thinking that I applaud the installation of a progressive system (in no less unwieldy a city than New York), but agree with many of the teachers' criticisms: The teachers aren't trained and maybe aren't capable of advancing these approaches, of acting as "learning coaches."
But those young firebrands who can feasibly incorporate new pedagogy into their weekly teaching plans don't stick around long enough to make a dent in the practice. How do we get the good, young teachers to stay? It isn't through Teach for America. I think that doubling teachers' starting salary, and giving the appropriate administration the ability to fire and replace poorly performing teachers quickly would be a start.
In other education news, the US Department of Education building is the ugliest piece of federal architecture in the nation.
posted by kriston at 12:33 PM........