Monday, December 13, 2004

Howard Dean: "Meet the Press", December 21, 2004

Transcript available here from

In a paragraph of his own words, this is why Howard Dean should run the Democratic party:
"We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles. The way I think about this is--and it gets into the gay marriage stuff, too. We're not the party of gay marriage. We're the party of equal rights for all Americans. You know, I signed the first civil unions bill in America, and four years later the most conservative president the United States has seen in my lifetime is now embracing what I signed. We've come a long way. We're not the party of abortion. We're the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment. It's just a different way of phrasing it. We have to start framing these issues, not letting them frame the issues."

Other personal highlights:

MR. RUSSERT: You said you're thinking about running for chairman of the Democratic national party. If you did, in fact, run for chairman of the party and win, could you run for president in '08 as well?

DR. DEAN: No, absolutely not. You cannot--the reason I'm interested in running for the DNC chairmanship is because I think we need some fundamental things done differently. I think we are left by Terry McAuliffe with a big surplus, and he's done a great job in terms of leaving this party in good financial condition. Something I've never seen in my lifetime in politics is the DNC with a surplus after a presidential election. So the next chairman doesn't have to dig out from debt.

What we do have to do is look at what the Republicans do well and, frankly, what we did well at Democracy for America. We elected candidates in places like Alabama and Utah and Idaho and Georgia. Democrats can win in those places. First, I think we have to have a 50-state strategy, and secondly, I really believe we have to stand up for being Democrats. We have a message to sell. I frankly think it's a better message than the Republicans; we've just got to figure out how to get it out there. Grassroots, empowering people elsewhere in the country, instead of trying to run things from the top down, I think, is the way to do it. It was successful for us. I think it can be successful for the Democratic National Committee.

MR. RUSSERT: You just spent the weekend in Florida meeting with the state Democratic Party chairs. Are you close to running? Were they encouraging to you?

DR. DEAN: Well, you know, I am going to run if I think that I can win, if I think that they really want me. This is an institution and the people in the institution know that they have to change, but the pain of change is always greater. Until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same, they aren't going to change. And I had a lot of debates with myself about whether to try to change things from the outside or change things from the inside knowing it was going to be a significant institutional resistance if I try to change things from the inside, but I concluded it's faster to change the party from the inside.

We have got to get back in power in this country. We can't afford these two trill--imagine the president talking about spending $2 trillion of additional deficit charged to our children's credit card to take senior benefits away. These people who are running this country are running it in a short-term way, racking up enormous deficits, enormous future national security problems for us. We can't afford the Republicans. We've got to get rid of them as fast as fast as possible because they can't run the country properly. And so I concluded that trying to move the party in a direction where we can start winning elections at the local level first, because that's where it all starts, and then at the national level as fast as we can is the right thing to do.


MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about your potential run for state chair. For Senator Bob Kerrey had this to say. "[Dean's] got tremendous skills, and if he became [DNC] chairman, he'd do a good job. ...But if he runs, he's going to have some 'splaining' to do, as Ricky Ricardo used to say. ... Which Howard Dean are we talking about? ...If we're talking about the Howard Dean who was governor of Vermont, I would say fine. But if it's a presidential candidate Dean, I would say probably no."

DR. DEAN: Well, you know, everybody's going to have their own opinion about whether I should run for the DNC chairmanship or not, but let me just say a little bit about what I think I could bring to the job. First of all, I think it's accepted that our campaign brought hundreds of thousands of new people, not all of them were Democrats, into the fold especially young people to vote for Democrats which--and they voted for John Kerry by a significant margin.

Second of all, we raised more money than any other candidate because we taught people how to run grassroots. Since that time, we've had an organization, Democracy for America, which has raised even more grassroots money and pumped into the local races and we've had some successes in so-called red states.

I understand what it is to empower people who aren't in Washington. I think we can't win anymore unless the message is made in the states and then filters up to Washington rather than made at the DNC and then we tell the state parties what to do because the message--there'll be an overall Democratic message, but the message needs to come from places like Alabama, not just Minnesota, if we're going to win and have a chance in Alabama. So I think I have a lot to offer the DNC and we'll see if they agree with me or not.


MR. RUSSERT: Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democrats, was on the MEET THE PRESS last week, and he said he would be open to Antonin Scalia being appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. There may be some ethical problems, he said. If he could get by those, he was very much impressed by the brilliance of his mind.

DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, I like Harry Reid a lot. He's a straight shooter, and I think he's going to be a good leader. I disagree with him on this one. I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court let alone chief justice because I think he lacks judicial temperament.


DR. DEAN: Because when you--and I have appointed a great many judges as my career as governor--the second thing after a work ethic that you look for when you're appointing a judge or a justice is judicial temperament. That means--in our judicial system, it's very important for the loser and/or the winner in any case to be--to feel like they've been treated fairly and respectfully by the court system. That's what is the glue that binds us together as a society. When you are sarcastic and mean-spirited, as the justice often is from the bench, it leaves the losing--the loser in that case feeling as if they were not respected by the judicial system, and that's why you don't put people with bad temperament on the--on any court, and I certainly don't think they should be on the Supreme Court of the United States.

MR. RUSSERT: When specifically was he mean-spirited or sarcastic?

DR. DEAN: You've seen many, many times. I don't have a specific time, but you could go read almost any oral argument in the last year and find sarcastic, mean-spirited remarks from the justice in those arguments.


MR. RUSSERT: It sounds like you'd really like to be chairman of the party.

DR. DEAN: I would like to be chairman of the party, but you know, it's an odd dance. It's not like going out into the primaries and bringing people in. There's 447 people that get to vote on this, and, you know, I'm not much of an insider, and this is a pretty insider game.

MR. RUSSERT: When do you have to make a final decision?

DR. DEAN: Not for a while. There's a lot of people who are sort of in and out and moving around, and there's a lot of talking behind the scenes, and I'm very much hoping--I'm hoping actually, oddly as it sounds for me, to be a somewhat of a consensus person. I'm hoping that we'll be able to bring all the factions together. It's going to take some time, because I really fried the party while I was out there running for president, I think with some good reason. But I am a Democrat. I think the Democratic Party is a far better vehicle for reforming America than some other vehicle that you'd have to start from scratch or some interest group. And in the long run, if we can make the Democratic Party the party of real reform, then I think we'd really gain something for the country.

MR. RUSSERT: You said if you win chairman of the Democratic Party, you can't run for president in '08. If you do not become chairman of the Democrat Party, might you consider running for president?

DR. DEAN: I'll think about it, because I never turn down any, you know, proposal without thinking about it carefully. So certainly I suppose I'd be in the mix for a while until I figured out what I was going to do. But my first choice is to be the DNC chair if I can be.

Monday, December 06, 2004

[Take Me] Away In A Manger

Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus.

*cough* *cough* *cough*

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Reflections on the Election

This appears on (don't ask) but I figured I'd put it here too, for fun.

Reflections of a Yellow Dog Democrat a Week After the Fall

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004, was a day I spent in a melancholic haze. Many of my friends said they felt numb. Others, like myself, cried on and off. Fortunately, I live in the "liberal enclave" of the West Coast and have company in misery.

We don’t need to try to figure out what happened. We know what happened. We, the "reality-based community," got served by a phony cowboy who will go back to his ranch in Crawford, TX and roll around in oil money like Uncle Scrooge in his vault on Duck Tales. This election was not, however, about John Kerry versus George W. Bush. It was about the reality-based community versus neo-conservative Christian America. And they won by a narrow margin. Karl Rove made the rules, and Kerry’s team chose to play by them, but they played the game badly. It was about "values" or at least perception of values, and "image." Poor Kerry wanted it to be about the issues, but Rove is just too good at the game. People didn’t realize Kerry was a human being until he almost burst into tears during his concession speech.

Once again the Democratic party gave in to potential pressure from the media, in an attempt to avoid the "spoiled loser" moniker, by not fighting to make sure EVERY LAST VOTE was counted before conceding the election. In 2000, they focused on only counties, not an entire miscounted state. This time, they let Ohio go when the math didn’t seem to work out in their favor. In an article for, Greg Palast, contributing writer for Harper’s writes:
The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called "spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of the vote is voided, just thrown away, not recorded. When the bobble-head boobs on the tube tell you Ohio or any state was won by 51 percent to 49 percent, don't you believe it ... it has never happened in the United States, because the total never reaches a neat 100 percent. The television totals simply subtract out the spoiled vote.

Palast believes that were all the votes counted the way they legally ought to be counted in a this country, Kerry would have won Ohio. But to have those votes counted properly would have caused Kerry, Edwards, and the Democratic Party to engage fierce litigation and would have left the nation without a winner for an unpredictable amount of time.

Essentially, the Democratic Party gave up on the hope and the values of democracy to save face. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I can say that I’m sorely disappointed. You cannot concede an election and follow it with a promise that every vote will be counted. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Kerry and Edwards caved to pressure, hoping to return to Senate seats in Washington, and go back to life as usual. They fought the "good" fight and lost.

But the bigger loser in this election is not John Kerry. It is America.

The United States are no more united after four years of George W. Bush than in 2000 and, with a lame duck neoconservative president backed by a Republican congress, it is likely that in 2008 we will be even more deeply divided. The president no longer has to pander to the moderates for votes. He can dive head first into the sea of the neocon agenda. The left and the right will likely be even more hostile toward each other. We see what they do not see; they have blind faith in what we do not have faith in. All of us think that we’re right.

I won’t argue that the "reality-based" community of the left is smarter than the ideologically fueled cowboys of the right because that gets us nowhere. And I, too, as a writer, would like to save face in order to persuade a few people on the other team to see things our way----or at least get them to take off their blinders and think critically about our nation’s plans for itself and the world. Invective will not do that. Unfortunately, neither will reason.

Just as in the "War on Terror," our elusive enemy is not a single person. We are fighting ideology. The numbers don’t lie. The wealthy and uneducated white people of this country supported Bush; the educated, poor, and lower middle class supported Kerry. The civil war brews not only between the classes but also between urban and rural Americas. We want very different things, the left and the right. The right wants to make sure gays can’t marry, put God in schools, protect their wealth, and wage wars without consequence. The left wants to protect the Constitution and give away rich people’s money to help those in this nation who need it. Very, very different things. Yet, liberals are called "un-American." How quickly our own great nation’s history has been forgotten, particularly the founder’s principles, which today would be considered coffee shop liberal idealism by the right. How quickly we forget...

What you won’t see is the left calling the right "un-American." You didn’t see that in the 90’s when the neo-cons, led by Newt Gingrich, impeached Clinton. We didn’t call the impeachers "un-American." Crazy, maybe. Annoying, certainly. But never un-American. And we won’t do it now, because that in itself would be un-American. Our disagreement with their principles does not equate to un-American behavior. Dissent is not un-American. We are a nation founded by men whose principles relied on equal representation regardless of opinion.

What we won’t do is sit idly by and watch the erosion of our civil liberties, and we will not allow cynicism and apathy to erode our own base. We will fight for our rights, for an overhaul of our own party, and we will come back in 2008 reorganized and strong, ready to win the next battle in the ideological war. Because, ladies and gentleman, America as we once loved it is worth fighting for, and no ideology can erase history completely.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Secularism... if if if...

A friend called my attention to a great article in the Christian Science Monitor about the response of French Muslims to the the Iraqi Militants' kidnapping of french journalists, Kidnappings backfire on Iraq militants.

Basically, the gist is this: "A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq threatened to kill two French journalists unless France agrees to scrap a controversial ban on wearing Islamic head scarves in schools."

I'd like to call attention to one particular paragraph:
The ban, which forbids all conspicious religious garb in the name of secularism, was passed earlier this year amid French concerns that Islamic militancy could change the character of the country. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe apart from Turkey.

My dream is that one day, a paragraph like this will be included in an article about the United States. Something, perhaps, like this:
The ban, which forbids all conspicious religious speech and activity in the name of secularism, was passed earlier this year amid American concerns that Evangelical Christian extremism could change the character of the country. The United States has the largest Evangelical Christian population in North America.

Wouldn't that just be a dream???

Monday, August 30, 2004

Long-Awaited update?

I've been using my livejournal for articles and such again lately, which I promised myself I wouldn't do. The articles and such are supposed to go here. But, quite frankly, Blogger annoys me senseless. My livejournal clients make it much easier to update there.

But alas, ladies and gentlemen, soon there will be a WHOLE NEW blog, and a proper writing portfolio to boot. Construction is finally underway. I'm very excited, and I owe Michael a big fat thank you for getting it set up for me, and hosting it on his server.

It's time for the Republican National Convention! I'm so excited. All the great speeches, homage paid to patriotism and Americanism, honesty, integrity... oh wait REPUBLICAN convention. My bad.

Conventions are what I like to call "Political Circle Jerks." The muzakified popular ballads, the balloon chutes, the stupid hats, the bad dancers, and, of course, the parties.

Let's hope that the Republicans don't decide to pull a Florida Recount maneuver and send staffers to pose as "liberal troublemakers" and set things on fire, thereby allowing the Right and the Media to associate firestarters and destructors of property with Liberals. I hope, I hope.

Mother Jones has a great article in today called Immoderate Republicans, about the right wingers who came out among the left wing protestors to show their support (a sort of PROprotest) for President Bush and the crew. This is the kind of person who scares me:
"Four more years! Four more years!" The chant works its way from cluster to cluster, shifting occasionally from English to Spanish. "¡Cuatro años más!" cries 32-year-old Kirsys Vasquez, the production manager for an interior designer and a self-described "Dominican for Bush." A lifelong Democrat, Vasquez voted for Al Gore four years ago -- and now, she says, "I hate myself" for that vote. The political conversion came while she was pregnant.

Urged by some coworkers to consider abortion, Vasquez viewed some graphic pro-life literature, which led her to decide it was immoral to terminate a pregnancy. The rest of her political beliefs followed suit, she says, realigning along the Republican axis -- and after Sept. 11, she became an ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq. "If Al Gore was president, we’d have been bombed every week," she says. "The Democrats -- they’re not right to fight this war."

For fear of sounding like a total asshole, I will refrain from explaining exactly why this scares me other than to say that when people align along a platform because of some Enlightenment regarding one issue, they are being stupid. If Al Gore was president, we might have Osama bin Laden (instead of just assuming that we already have him and that he will be triumphantly produced from the bowels of Guantanamo in October), and we most CERTAINLY would not be engaged in conflict in Iraq. North Korea would not be calling our leader a "tyrant," and maybe, just maybe, the projected federal deficit would be a lot smaller.

But what if... what if... let's not digress into a cavalcade of what ifs...

(On the downside, I wouldn't have nearly as much fun tearing apart speeches and gaffes within them.)

Even if you think it's pointless, I implore you to read first, then vote. It's great to encourage everyone to vote, and I support that --- it's a first step. But in order to stave off apathy, people really need to find a REASON to vote, and that reason needs to be something positive within a candidate's platform. Listening to them on TV, well that's really exciting. Enjoy that image. But reading about them, reading what they've done, what they've said, etc etc.... it makes a huge difference, and makes it all seem less futile.

Of course, I am the kind of person who lives in a world of ideals built upon words. So what do I know anyway?

Monday, July 19, 2004

NYC Transplantation Essay

i am entering this essay contest with the essay below. i posted the last draft, but this is the final final that i just emailed. i totally forgot to put my name & info in the body with the essay, so i assume if they want to contact me they will just email me. i'm too neurotic about these things.

An Open Letter to New York City:

I wanted to tell you that I didn't intend to walk out on you so abruptly. I have always believed that saying goodbye is important. If nothing else, it offers a rudimentary sense of closure. I never said goodbye properly, and I've longingly avoided you ever since. My hurried exit in a rented silver mini-van with a feeble wave to the skyline from Hoboken as we headed toward my parents' house in Pennsylvania with everything from my last New York City apartment was by no means a proper goodbye. I think now is the perfect time to finally say what I should have said when I left over a year ago.

I lived my life on the island of Manhattan for four years. It takes a while to warm up to you, but staying with you despite the awful experiences (they probably wouldn't have happened anywhere else) has made me stronger than I ever imagined I'd be at 22. I arrived armed with a craving for discovery and departed knowing that while I was experiencing life, life had experienced me. I experienced things that taught me more than any education at any university in the world possibly could endeavor to teach. It is horribly unfair that people discount the New York experience for students at the city's universities. Yes, the stacks of books in our libraries buffer us from much of the coldness of reality. College certainly does give us a clear purpose - paths mapped out in curricula that lead to jobs, to Master's Degrees, to the sweet life.

It is hard to understand how you can become a New Yorker while going to college unless you have done it. Becoming a New Yorker has nothing to do with whether you live in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Queens or Bronx or Staten Island. Whether we live in the projects, a penthouse on Central Park West, or in an NYU dorm, the city is still on the other side of our front doors. We can make decisions that are rash and stupid or be cautious and calculating. It is about how we interact with you, the city, that makes us New Yorkers. It's about being ready to play any hand you deal us, good or bad. It's life in a pressure cooker and life lessons come that much faster, and often harder.

Somehow I feel like I gave up, like I tried to escape a closet full of demons instead of opening the door and forcing them to stop interfering with my life. That is a sign of weakness. Perhaps this letter is only my wounded pride speaking, a final bark before it descends into the abyss of un-self, lost. Yet, logically my decision to leave New York City after graduation and move to Washington, DC was sound. Politics is what I love, and DC is a whole city devoted to politics. I wanted to explore somewhere new and different and, most importantly, I needed to start over. I comforted myself with the fact that you would still be there when I was ready to come back, knowing I would be a stronger woman for having taken risks and learned the consequences.

I didn't like it there, though, and I left after only six months. This time I wasn't running away from something, I was running to it. I was lured by new love and the magnificent Bay, forever embracing the incoming Pacific tides, surrounded by a beautiful city and even more beautiful mountains. I know that you are still there, and will be there when I return from San Francisco, a destination I reached under the false pretense of an ephemeral love. San Francisco is spectacular, and I am certain that within a month or two of moving out of Oakland and into the city proper, I'll feel comfortable calling it my home. Yet you will still be waiting.

Every day I walk in the shadows of the sub-par skyscrapers in San Francisco's Financial District on my way to and from work, and every day I think about how your buildings would scoff at them. I am an expatriate New Yorker, and miss you, so I try to think of the New York qualities that made life hell. The apartment on 142nd Street, the L train rides to Canarsie at 3:30am and E train rides from Jamaica at 7am. Visiting my criminal ex-boyfriend at Riker's Island after class for four months on every "last names starting with A-K" visiting day. Riding the subway, buses, and even Metro North into the depths of the outer boroughs to sell party cruise tickets at area hospitals. I summon these awful memories but I still can't hate you. Instead I am left with the dull ache of regret.

I often wonder if I left only because all I could do to extricate myself from damaging personal relationships, including the one with myself, was to escape. I was caught up in a wave of anxiety and doubt that I sometimes still revisit. Was it really time to go? Should I really have left? Was I just running away from something? In many ways, I think no, but in hindsight I probably was just running away. I still believe that to a large extent only my heart wanted me to remain there. I fell in love with the city, I was caught in its bizarre spell, and I was jaded, afraid to move like a shadow among the fantasy world outside of New York. After a year away, I sometimes feel like everywhere else, even San Francisco, is false, as if the people live in denial of the reality of life in other parts of the world.

I miss you. I miss your hum, your glow, and your unrivaled ability to comfort and entertain. It was as if I left a lover on false pretenses, because of an irreconcilable situation. It was like something out of Wharton's The Age of Innocence, my favorite New York story. As the mini-van plunged into New Jersey's industrial wasteland on the Hudson, you may as well have darkened your lights and ruined my view as I, my neck straining, looked out through the back window. You know I hate goodbyes.

It was a wild ride, old friend. I learned more about you by being there than I could from any documentary or book. You are a living, breathing entity, drawing all of us in with your every breath. Every second can be nerve-wracking, or exciting-or both. The term "New Yorker" offers the best example of the cosmopolitan ideal that exists. We truly believe we are citizens of the world, and in many ways we are. Natives are natives and they pride themselves on being such. Everyone else comes to realize dreams, and pride themselves on achievement. What an amazing city.

I'm not sure that I can return to you. I am young and I have a lot to do. I will be fine. Your patience is the only thing in life of which I am certain. But you taught me never to make promises that I can't keep, so I won't promise a triumphant return any time soon. I need to find my dreams, and I'm not going to find them with you, at least not yet. The city is changing and the world moves forward. The New York I experienced was not like the New York of the 80s, the city I return to will not be the city I left. The landscape changes but the heart remains the same. I will change, and I will grow, and maybe I will come back with a companion or maybe I will come back alone. I wish I could see the future and be able to tell you when I'll be ready, but you know I can't do that. You, New
York, unlike any human companion, will wait patiently. Your life carries on, and our paths will meet again when I'm ready. If only my life was like that. If only it was like you, unconcerned with ultimatums, unable to be forced into impractical and unreasonable decisions. New York, if only I were more like you.

By leaving the city, I attempted to end one chapter and start another on a fresh page with some new characters and a much happier plot. Nobody likes a story mired with tragedy and a depressed protagonist. I really believed that changing the setting could be a positive thing for me. I am doing the right thing.

I am sitting on a hill in San Francisco's Alamo Square with the wind whipping at my back, waiting for a prospective roommate to return my call. The sky is unnaturally clear and I am enjoying the view of the city as the tourists, camera bags dangling from their necks, pause in the grass to take pictures of the six famous Victorians near the square. The downtown skyline is framed by their angular rooftops and the sun reflects off of the skyscrapers and the bay behind them. The panoramic view from this hilltop park is breathtaking. Surrounded by all of this, I feel a connection to San Francisco that I have only felt with one place before: you. And I feel that, with this letter, I am finally giving myself the closure I need to enjoy and grow up in the world outside of New York.

We'll catch up some other time, I'm sure. Maybe not for long. Maybe for a chance meeting or a temporary stay. Or maybe you will figure back into the logical realization of a dream. I am no seer of futures, sadly not even of my own. Regardless of what happens, I will continue to see the world through the eyes of a New Yorker. My senses will continue to penetrate through what is false and beyond the scope of the deniers of the reality in my company.

I must admit that I compare the features of other cities to your own very often. I think of your sidewalks packed with hurried people, your avenues stretching endlessly into the horizon, the fluorescent light of the subway cars piercing the blackness of the tunnels, your blocks crowded with skyscrapers, tenements, and high-rise buildings, and I think of my former home.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

October Surprise!


it is not nearly as conspiratorial as the Bush Administration producing bin laden in october, but you still may need a bit of tin foil.

so you know how Tom Ridge just said that THE INFIDELS ARE DEFINITELY PLANNING AN ATTACK BEFORE THE ELECTIONS?!?! there is intelligence but no SPECIFICS. right?

there will be no attack this summer. but in october, they'll announce that they thwarted the most potentially heinous terrorist attack in history, and lay out all the details of said attack -- but really, this "specific intelligence" will all be made up by the Administration, a brilliant work of fiction like something Stephen Glass would produce... hell, maybe they already have Glass and Jayson Blair working behind the scenes...

but anyway people will buy it even though it's all totally bogus and false, and the Admin will return to HERO status like after 9/11 because they saved us all. "WE SAVED YOU FROM THE BAD BAD ARAB MEN" tom ridge and george w. will say. and then the moronic people of this nation will be like "omfg we are in danger we can't lose dubya and this awesome leadership" and, like lambs to the slaughter, will elect dubya in november.

yes. that could be the october surprise.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Harvesting the Church Vote

The Bush campaign people are brilliant. It's terrible how brilliant they are, but they are political GENIUSES. If they can pull this off without incurring tremendous backlash from church/state separation groups and moderate church-goers, this could be huge. The Bush Campaign knows who his potential voters ARE NOT, and so they don't even bother to change their minds.

They have pulled the spirituality card in a huge way. That's not to say religious organizations have no involvement in politics, because of course they do.

My name is in a church directory. If I start getting mail/phone calls from the Bush Administration, I'm going to flip.

Churchgoers Get Direction From Bush Campaign

By Alan Cooperman, from today's Washington Post.

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.

Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush's base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.

"We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status.

"I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status," said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush.

The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 "duties" to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."

By Aug. 15, they are to "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign."

By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to "finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church," "finish distributing Voter Guides in your church" and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs "about all Christian citizens needing to vote."

The document was provided to The Washington Post by a Democrat. A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, Frank Keith, said, "It would be inappropriate for the IRS, based on a limited set of facts and circumstances, to render a judgment about whether the activities in this document would or would not endanger a church's tax-exempt status."

He pointed out, however, that the IRS on June 10 sent a strongly worded letter to both the Republican and Democratic national committees, reminding them that tax-exempt charitable groups "are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

That warning came one week after The Post and other news media reported on a Bush-Cheney campaign e-mail that sought to identify 1,600 "friendly congregations" in Pennsylvania where Bush supporters "might gather on a regular basis."

The IRS letter noted that religious organizations are allowed to sponsor debates, distribute voter guides and conduct voter registration drives. But if those efforts show "a preference for or against a certain candidate or party . . . it becomes a prohibited activity," the letter said.

Milton Cerny, a tax specialist in the Washington office of the law firm Caplin & Drysdale who formerly administered tax-exempt groups for the IRS, said there is nothing in the campaign instructions "that on its face clearly would violate" the law.

"But these activities, if conducted in concert with the church or church leadership, certainly could be construed by the IRS as the church engaging in partisan electioneering," he said. "The devil is in the details."

Rosemary E. Fei, a tax specialist at the San Francisco law firm of Silk, Adler & Colvin, said the campaign checklist "feels dangerous to me" not just because of what is in it, but because of what is not. "There's no mention whatsoever that churches should be careful to remain nonpartisan," she said.

Holt suggested such warnings are unnecessary. "Why would we warn one citizen about the boundaries of their political discussion with another citizen?" he said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Let's Make New Mammals!

Baby Zonkey Born In California

I vote we name it Debra since it's called zonkey.

A friend proposes we call it Ucos - Unholy Creature of Satan.

Usually people cross-breed organisms to make improvements in the original species.
But I'm not really sure what the greater benefit of combining a donkey and a zebra could be.

Apparently I have not been watching enough Animal Planet because this isn't the first time half zebra/half something else have been created. This site lists the official names of zebras crosssed with horses, ponies, and donkeys.

I think we've taken this top of the food chain thing one link too far.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bush says Screw Geneva

I just received this link to Yahoo news from my friend via IM.

Good news: the heat is off from the global community over those pesky torture snapshots. Bush is above any and all formal and informal torture laws. In other words, he's giving the bird to the Geneva Conventions.

You have got to be kidding me.

The only semi-positive thing about this scenario is that Bush has, effectively, taken blame for it by saying, "Yeah you know what? I think it's okay. Nothing to see here folks, move along." If he had been a LEADER, national and international, he would have held the involved parties accountable for the kinds of anti-global community decisions they made.

In any other western nation, this would be enough to guarantee a loss in the Presidential elections. But here, Bush is still popular.

To condemn another country's leader for human rights abuses and then turn around and claim that you have the right to ignore basic human rights is to assure your slot in the Presidential Hall of Shame as the Most Hypocritical President in American History. What kind of "compassionate conservative" would allow this kind of heinous abuse to go on in OUR NAME? None.

Today we have seen the President's true colors. He's nothing of the goofy cartoon character we have made him out to be. No, he is, in fact, a hypocrite and a liar who takes our nation's great name in vain, and with that every name of every soldier who has ever fought and lived through or died in every war carried out in the name of the United States. And he knows exactly what he's doing. He has all along.

As a native citizen of this country, today I am both embarassed and ashamed. And although my apology doesn't mean much in terms of mending foreign relations at a head-of-state level, it's all I can do. I apologize to the entire world on behalf of the hypocritical and outrageous actions carried out in our name by the Bush Administration. Taking the nation's will in vain is the most un-American action imaginable.

To America: who can blame then, in the end, for associating us with the actions of our leaders? The democratic process is both a blessing and a burden -- with it comes responsibilities, like protesting when the popular vote is discounted by the interference of third parties. Vote. Speak up, listen, and think for yourselves. The truth is right in front of our faces, and it's not visible only to those in ivory towers. We must act. We must save OUR INDIVIDUAL global citizenships before we are cast out of the global community for guilt by association.

To the world: I'm sorry.

On Shady Magazines, Part III

The update on Raven: Humor for Men: Craigs List yanked the ad. It wasn't just the goofy reviews alone that did it... it was the weird way in which this was connected to that subscription fulfillment business that bothered me.

However, my curiosity remains, and therefore I think I'm going to have some fun with the "submissions." They want the funny? I will give them the funny, and out-phony them at the same time. I need a good male psuedonym for this, and I'll invite myself to a new and appropriate GMail account. Perhaps I will even MS Paint some "illustrations."

Yes, this is going to be fun.

Monday, June 21, 2004

On Shady Magazines, Part II

An hour and 46 minutes ago, in my last post, I mentioned a Craigs List ad for a magazine recruiting writers and other creative people. I also concluded that the magazine was, basically, fake.

I consulted a friend of mine who is much more entrenched in the publishing industry than I. From our IM conversation (he shall be known as "wiseman" to protect his identity):

wiseman: it's actually a fairly common but shady parctice
me: interesting.
me: what's the purpose of it?
wiseman: there will likely be some "favourable" reviews appearing from it on products near you soon
wiseman: part of a corporate hype machine
wiseman: oh man i work in publishing ... it's rife
wiseman: well when it comes to sales alls fair in love, war and marketing
me: that's nuts.
me: so
me: what of the craigslist post then?
me: i mean, it sounds like something worth notifying craigslist about.
wiseman: oh they want writers
wiseman: they might even do a print run
wiseman: but it's very likely a marketing organ

Upon wiseman's advice, I did a whois query on the domain name. It is owned by a man named Zane Valenti and hosted by by Automated Resources Group, Inc., who handle marketing, PR AND web hosting. Oh, and don't forget SUBSCRIPTION FULFILLMENT. And the only hit google gave me on Mr. Zane Valenti is a reader review someone named Zane Valenti posted about another web hosting company in 2003.

Let the PR propaganda machine churn! I have an idea... I'm going to start a company that offers all of these great things in terms of fulfillment, and I'm going to invent a phony magazine to offer testimonials regarding the efficacy of my company's fulfillment products!

So what to do next... call the hosting company, notify craigslist, or try to contact Mr. Valenti himself through the emails listed for Raven magazine submissions?

On Ireland, Nader, and Shady Magazines

Thanks to a nod from a buddy at, the people are reading. I should make an effort to update this blog more frequently and continue to write about things with a big more social weight than what I had for breakfast (which, for the record, is usually nothing) and the other trivial information I tend to note in my LiveJournal. I will do my best... just keep reading!

In the news today, Ralph Nader has announced his running mate selection for the upcoming presidential election. From the Nader for President 2004 press release:
Peter Camejo (64) is a financier, businessman, political activist, environmentalist, author and one of the founders of the socially responsible investment movement. Camejo is Chair of the Board of Progressive Asset Management of California an investment firm he founded in 1987. Mr. Camejo is a first generation American of Venezuelan decent who was born in New York in 1939. He has fought for social and environmental justice since his teens. He marched in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rallied for migrant farm workers and was active against the war in Vietnam. His most recent run for office was as a Green Party candidate in the gubernatorial recall election in California. His participation in the debates in that election resulted in him speaking to a worldwide audience.

"Camejo shares my concerns for economic and social justice as well as the urgent need to protect our environment. He recognizes the disparity of treatment between the rich and poor in the United States as well as the negative impact of corporate control of our government on our environment, health care, working conditions, democracy and culture. Camejo has also been a long-term opponent of the war and occupation in Iraq and the lock-step pro-Israel policy of the United States when it comes to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue," noted Nader. "His work in advancing socially responsible investment shows his understanding of how we can work within our economic system to advance social justice. Finally, Peter has shown himself to be skilled in political debate and I look forward to seeing him debate Vice President Cheney and Senator’ Kerry’s running mate."

Active in the environmental movement, Mr. Camejo has served as a member of the Board of Directors of EarthShare in the early 1990s – a coalition of over 40 major environmental groups—and on the Council for Responsible Public Investment which he founded. He also helped form the Environmental Justice Fund, to finance and unify environmentalists of color. From 1999 to 2002, served for three years as a county-appointed trustee of the three billion dollar Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association. In the early 1990s, he was appointed by the Lt. Governor of Hawaii to be an advisor to the Hawaii Capital Stewardship Forum. He is the author of "The SRI Advantage- Why Socially Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially" (2001), "Racism Revolution Reaction 1861-1877," (1976) as well as other books.

Allow the conjecture to begin. Did Nader choose a mainstay in the realm of environmental activism in order to draw support from the Green Party? Is this a tactical move, hoping that the Green Party officially call him "their" candidate so that he can more easily get on ballots? Probably.

Additionally, The Boston Globe reports that anti-American sentiment in Ireland has been mounting throughout the course of the last four years which, coincidentally, happens to be the term of the Bush presidency. Go figure. According to former Dublin bureau chief Kevin Cullen, "There were about 10,000 demonstrators when Reagan visited Ireland; Irish police say they are preparing for at least 10 times that number next week." We have a few more months left before the November elections. I'm taking bets now on how many more foreign relationships the Bush Administration can damage before election day.

In completely unrelated news, if you've ever found Maxim too boring, the Onion too "bland," and Playboy too outdated, or if you long for the days of Spy and National Lampoon, or if you wish you could carry the comedy stylings of the likes of MAD TV, Howard Stern, and South Park with you at all times, then apparently Raven: Humor for Men is the magazine for you. I have neither heard of this magazine nor have I seen it on a newsstand anywhere, and the website isn't terribly informative. I discovered this little gem via my newest obsession, Craigs List. The CL post sounded intriguing, so I checked out their website, and found a page containing samples (possibly not safe for work, if your boss likes to peer over your shoulder intensely). But it's shady. There is no information like the name of the publisher or even a general contact number. There are, however, a bunch of quotes from the likes of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. I searched the New Republic site for Mr. Glass's supposed review and, as I suspected, turned up no results, made-up reporting or otherwise. And there is no such person as David Manning listed on the staff page of Ridgefield Press. After doing a little further investigation into Mr. Manning, I found this article on E! Online. According to the 2001 E! article, David Manning is a fake critic previously used by Sony to boost their films with favorable ratings. He is fictional. You can subscribe to Raven magazine online, but the website shows no phone number for subscription/circulation sales. I decided a Google search might tell me more, but all I got were a bunch of links to goth blogs and forums. So I Googled the parent company, Energize Media, Inc. and learned only that "energize media" is an overused marketing phrase. In short, I don't think this magazine really even exists. Are people so pathetic that they'd pull a prank like this just to fish for stories to tack their name on and send to other publications? And, more importantly, are there people out there who have subscribed to this seemingly non-existent magazine? Or is this all part of finding "funny" writers?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Method Man & Redman: the Sitcom

Just when I didn't think television could get any more ridiculous, Fox outdoes every ill-conceived reality show (except for The Swan) with a new sitcom.

Picture the following: two of the toughest and most well-known hip hop stars living in a mansion in New Jersey with a geeky Steve Urkle-like sidekick and, worst of all, a laugh track. That's basically "Method & Red," the new Fox show featuring Method Man and Redman.

These guys are one of those celebrity duos with awesome chemistry. Their 1999 album "Blackout" is in this white girl's opinion one of the best hip hop albums of the last 10 years. And when the two appear in a movie, it's usually good for a mindless laugh or five. So when I heard the sitcom was coming out, I was a little excited. I knew it wouldn't be comedic genius, but I thought it might at least make me giggle.

I am seriously disappointed.

The plot of last night's series premiere went as follows:
Method Man and Redman move into a rich, white neighborhood in suburban New Jersey. They buy their mansion because Method Man has made a promise to his mother. The neighbors, led by an overzealous and nagging realtor, decide to vote the hip hop stars out of the neighborhood. Method Man and Redman attempt to woo the neighbors with fruitcakes. In the end, the neighbors vote to give them the boot until the Norman Bates-esque neighbor stands up in their defense. (While distributing fruitcakes, Redman helped said neighbor lift said neighbor's father out of the bathtub.) The neighbors realize the error of their racist ways and let Method Man, Redman, and Method Man's mother stay in the house.

Obviously, with the FCC on a rampage, scenes featuring the duo smoking blunts won't be welcome. But there has to be a way for this show to not suck so horribly. And there must exist some writer creative enough to steer them from recreating the entire series of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The rich-white-people-fearing-black-people-in-their-hoity-toity-neighborhood thing was worn out by Will Smith, but my objection has nothing to do with rehashing of the stereotype. It's with the addressing a stereotype the exact same way everyone else does. As a huge fan of Lenny Bruce, I believe that the more often we are forced to confront stereotypes and bullshit, the more likely it is that society will be able to move away from such things. However, the show's writing is weak and lacking in wit and the situations are far from original, leaving it devoid of any useful social commentary. It's nothing different, and it's stupid.

My only constructive suggestion, aside from hiring a whole new team of intelligent writers, is to get rid of the laugh track. It's unnatural and distracting, especially when the main characters are these guys. They're above canned laughter, and there's no rule that says a sitcom must be adorned with a laugh track. Take a cue from a successful and funny Fox sitcom, "Arrested Development," and trash the lame laughs.

Barry Garron's Reuter's review offers a more favorable opinion: TV Review: "Method & Red"
The review written by Vince Horiuchi, TV Columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, is much more critical -- of both Fox and this show: TV: Fox's trio of new comedies settle for appealing to simple minds

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Abso-Blooming-lutely Special Centenary

If you've never read James Joyce's Ulysses, you are not alone. Sadly, most people haven't, even though it one of the greatest literary works of the 20th Century. It's so great that I drunkenly spent $17 on a 1961 print of the book last weekend.

It's a novel with episodes based on Homer's Odyssey, only instead of being a journey over years in ancient Greece, it takes place on one day in Dublin: June 16, 1904. It follows Leopold Bloom as he goes through a normal day in Dublin and is rich with puns, allusions, and some of the most revolutionary stream of consciousness writing I've ever seen. Dublin has put together an incredible festival: Celebrations mark Joyce centenary, but there are local celebrations all over the world, including one in San Francisco at O'Reilly's in North Beach. Even Google recognizes the day -- check out the Joyce-inspired logo on

The BBC has a great piece up today, Cheat's Guide to James Joyce's Ulysses. It's funny if you've read the book, and helpful if you haven't.

So have a gorgonzola sandwich and some burgundy, and celebrate the anniversary of a fictional adventure through Joyce's Dublin.

While I'm being literary, I think another BBC article is worth noting: Oprah helps Tolstoy top book list. That's right, since Oprah chose Anna Karenina for her Book Club, suddenly housewives are running out to buy their copies.

I wonder if Tolstoy would have reacted to the addition of his book to Oprah's list the way Jonathan Franzen did when Oprah wanted to include The Corrections on her book club list. He didn't want to be considered "Middle Brow" and threw a fit in the media. Franzen's objections were strange, considering Oprah promotes Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison like it's her job. But I understand why he wouldn't want his book to be included on a reading list whose target is not the literary community, unless the Literati has suddenly become a collective of housewives and talk show lovers.

I'm pretty sure that Tolstoy would not have been happy to see his book sales skyrocket on the NY Times best-seller list at the behest of a TV talk show host. As a friend put it, "he would see it as the betrayal of mother russia and the nobel serfs and crush oprah and her cosy media empire."

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Information Overload and the Coulter Pledge

'Have you no sense of decency, sir?': 50 years ago, Army-McCarthy hearings were TV milestone

Fifty years ago today, before a live national television audience, Attorney Joseph Welch uttered the famous words, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?" As the gallery burst into applause, a clueless Senator Joseph McCarthy looked at his sidekick in Pinko-hunting, the legendary walking paradox Roy Cohn, confused and blissfully unaware that this televised moment was the beginning of the end.
Media scholar Ben Bagdikian covered the hearings as a reporter for The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal-Bulletin.

"McCarthy was an important part of post-World War II history as television became a major instrument of American politics, with all of its sins and advantages," says Bagdikian, now 84.

The hearings, he adds, "were the first demonstration of how melodrama in politics was made for television. The hearings were great drama, and television ate it up."

As the first nationally televised congressional inquiry, it set the stage for TV-political co-productions to come, including the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Thomas-Hill hearings. In each case, the enabling presence of TV cameras did more than cover the event. TV also drove it.

Like Watergate's Sam Ervin or Iran-Contra's Oliver North, the Army-McCarthy hearings boasted a colorful cast of characters, and none more so than McCarthy and Welch. As any viewer could see, they were a study in contrasts: the erudite, patrician Welch vs. McCarthy, a roughneck who gloried in his lack of refinement.

"I felt that if the public could see just how McCarthy operated, they would understand just how ridiculous a figure he really was," the late ABC network President Leonard Goldenson wrote in his 1991 memoir, explaining his decision to air the hearings gavel-to-gavel.

News by radio and newspaper didn't convince the public of McCarthy's ruthlessness, but a live telecast did, at a cost of $600,000 to a struggling network, ABC. The cost was great to the network, but the benefit to the nation was greater. McCarthy stopped in his tracks.

We take it for granted that we can watch live broadcasts of Senate Committee inquiries and Commission hearings live and replayed over and over again on C-Span. We take it so for granted -- if that's even a phrase I can use -- that no one wants to watch C-Span "because it's boring."

Yesterday I found myself home from work, sick, lying on the couch with the remote in my hand. I channel surfed, as I do most sick days, and came to C-Span, where Ashcroft was testifying before a committee. I tried to watch for a few minutes, but I found the man so irritating that I just couldn't stay tuned in. I flipped away. When I got near the news channels, I felt a sudden twinge of panic pass over my body, and I flipped through them quickly, trying not to let the crawl suck me in. And only today, when I read this article about the McCarthy telecast, did I realize why we take our access to government processess for granted: INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

Yes, I've come to the conclusion that too much information can, in fact, be a very bad thing. It's only June and I can't wait for the election to be over, even though I understand that we've only just begun (cue Barbara Streisand).

Without the 24 hour news networks and unfettered access to Internet news sites, perhaps more people would sit down and watch national decision makers defend bad decisions before committees. Perhaps more Americans would have noticed that Rumsfeld was not upset over the abuse, but over the fact that the media released the pictures to the public before he could develop a proper spin strategy or suppress them altogether. There's so much we see, but so much we miss simply because of the amount of information thrown our way. We have to make choices now. We can choose to listen to Rush Limabaugh or we can choose to listen to Al Franken. We can choose to read the Washington Post or we can choose to watch Fox News. In order to truly grasp the big picture, however, we'd have to synthesize every single media outlet, and that's simply impossible. So we choose what we want to hear and tune everyone else out. In the process, we stop viewing the world clearly and start watching helplessly through media filters. And sometimes we can't stand to hear any of it at all, and apathy sets in.

Taking the McCarthy anniversary in a different direction...
Apparently there's a movement, on the right, of people who believe that "McCarthyism" is little more than liberals crying wolf. Ann Coulter included her spin on the liberal conspiracy in a book boldy called Treason. I think that, like Holocaust deniers, it's important to listen to why they believe what they believe, but not really think too hard about it. That's why I plan to read all of Ann Coulter's books. That's right. Every single one. I will become enraged and likely slam the books shut; I will scream and yell at the pages; but I feel that before I talk any more about how insane I think she is, it's important for me to understand her better. I refuse to buy them, for obvious reasons. Thank goodness for libraries. At least if Ashcroft ever decides to check my library records, he'll get an entirely different impression of me than if he actually checked my book collection.

McCarthyism happened. People's careers and lives were smeared by a foolish attempt to pinpoint Communists within America. If people like Ann Coulter would stop stereotyping liberals, we'd all get along so much better.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Decline of the NY Times

Relevant Links:

from the Editors' Note:
Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

See what happens when you don't take the time to RESEARCH your stories and sources, but simply accept word-of-mouth or word-of-administration as the next major scoop?

You serve yourself a piping hot plate of crow.

Since the Jayson Blair scandal broke and Howell Raines departed from the New York Times, the paper's reputation has hung in the balance. If you take the time to read the Raines article, you will see that underperformance in the newsroom was something he aimed to abolish. Unfortunately, his mission was thwarted by one particular journalist whose offenses went beyond innaccuracy and reached new levels of dishonesty through plagiarism. Plagiarism, in the pages of the New York Times.

And now this. The recent admission of lazy journalism does not do much to help the paper's cause. While all major media outlets are guilty of drinking the WMD Kool-Aid, the Times should have known better. A paper that was once considered the greatest America has to offer has been disintegrating because it's stopped reporting the news and started regurgitating information. Creating stories based on information from sources who are clearly less than reliable is not JOURNALISM. It's like writing a story on the pit bulls and talking only to people who hear you're writing this story and want to have their sagas of being been bitten by them put in the paper. It's not JOURNALISM, it's taking only what comes to you.

Journalism would have been looking closely enough at the facts, and at the histories of the people surrounding the facts, to figure out that the scoops were possibly part of an Iranian plot to infiltrate the US media and bolster support for war in Iraq. THAT is journalism.

As an aspiring journalist, or whatever I happen to be on any given day, the fact that anyone in the Times newsroom would reach any level below "brilliant" is obscene to me. While they may not be living out their own ultimate dream, think of all the people who spend their life trying to get a desk at the NY Times. It's like a 9 year old Little League player watching his favorite Major League team sit down on the diamond and let the visiting team run up the scoreboard hit after hit. I once thought the NY Times was as good as newspapers can get, and that to be a reporter for the Times was the greatest honor I could achieve. And only genius writing and reporting could get me there.

Apparently, all it takes is being able to incorporate "information" from "sources" into paragraphs of conjecture.

It's sort of like Rolling Stone, which went from the cutting edge writing and actual reporting of the 70s, to the mediocre writing and dumbed down subject matter of the last 10 years. And that was Jann Wenner's doing, in order to make it more marketable to the younger generations, which, judging by quality, Wenner must have assumed were also dumber.

If the Times wants to keep itself from becoming just another media outlet, as it is quickly devolving into, the Editors and leadership at the paper need to take hold of the reins and remember what the New York Times is supposed to be about: ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

On Secession

From is orchestrating the move of 50,000 or more Christians to one of three States for the express purpose of dissolving that State’s bond with the union. The three States under consideration are Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. The exact destination will be chosen by vote of our membership. Our move will commence when the federal government forces sodomite marriages on our local communities or once we reach the 50,000-member mark, whichever comes first.

Contrarily, from the Free State Project:
The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented people will move to New Hampshire, where they may work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government. The success of the Free State Project would likely entail reductions in burdensome taxation and regulation, reforms in state and local law, an end to federal mandates, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world.

What we have here are two organized groups of people wanting to split the nation up and claim states as their own for completely different reasons. One group, the Christian Exodus folk, for purely religious reasons; the other group, the Free State Project folk, for purely secular reasons. I'm starting to think this is what it may come to -- "ethnic" territories, if you will, based on religious inclination. They could have their Christian state, and we could run around and be as pagan and unholy as we like without infringing on their moral crusade.

If this gains steam, if people start to join the respective movements and they grow to the point where they are impossible to pass off as lunatics, perhaps we really should sit down at the negotiating table and start trading states. I don't see why not. The "Moral Majority" does not seem satisfied with a nation united under a secular Constitution, and the secular portion of the population is getting damn tired of being force-fed someone else's moral edict. You don't want gays to get married? Fine. Have a few states, and live under God's Law, but leave those of us Constitution-lovers out of it.

We are a very young nation, but at the same time no Democracy has been around as long nearly as long as the United States, and so no one knows what the average lifespan is on something like this. Perhaps at some point within my lifetime it will be necessary to make serious changes to the infrastructure. Perhaps we will see the end of the "United" States, whether it be peaceful or violent. Hopefully we will all have the foresight to sit down and figure it out before it turns violent, but I don't have that much faith in the American people.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Evangelical Pulp Fiction

This week's Newsweek cover story, The Pop Prophets is about America's best-selling literary duo: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. They are out-selling all of America's favorite pop novelists, from Stephen King to John Grisham. But their subject matter is neither the legal system nor valiant returns from the dead. They are fervent Evangelical Christians, and their stories revolve around evangelical ideology. From the rapture (not the 80s electroclash band, either), to the judgment, these authors have successfully molded the tenets of evangelical Christianity into a series of pop culture novels.

Once something is made accessible on a pop culture level, it is more likely to catch on and gain widespread popularity. The interesting thing here is where it's catching on. You won't see it tucked under the arm of your average New Yorker on the downtown 6 train. According to Tyndale, the publisher, 71% of readers are from the South and Midwest, and only 6% are from the Northeast. Their "core buyer," Newsweek reports, is a "44-year-old born-again Christian woman, married with kids, living in the South. This isn't the 'Sex and the City' crowd--which helps explain why it took so long to notice that one in eight Americans was reading all these strange books about the end of the world." The people who you would stereotypically expect to love this books are the ones who love these books. However, it is important to note that, "After September 11, 2001, there was such a run on the latest "Left Behind" volume, "Desecration," that it became the best-selling novel of the year. And it's no coincidence that the books are a favorite with American soldiers in Iraq."

I don't mean to be depressing, or conspiratorial, but I believe that there is a definite threat somewhere in this. While the majority of readers come from the particular people noted above, the novels are popular outside of the usual Christian southern demographic. When a nation falls into a time of strife and tragedy, and when no end seems to be in sight, and when there is just no rational explanation for the kind of suffering and war that we have seen over the last few years, it's only natural for the people of that nation to look for a reprieve, answers, or hope of an end. This kind of Revelation-driven Christianity offers just that: a guaranteed reprieve, unequivocal answers, and a definite end. And, as Newsweek reports, times of tragedy equaled a boost in sales for the authorial team. This subscription of the masses to a particular ideology, or even the entertainment of it by the masses, allows the ideology to establish legitimacy.

The people who need to be watching things like the "Jesus Factor" episode of PBS' Frontline are not. They instead devour a series of books disseminating Evangelical Christianity, the Christian equivalent of Fundamental Islam, via the popular novel. And they feed the machine, which has essentially engulfed the far right end of the political spectrum. With a president in office whose religious beliefs are no secret, and who has made it known where he stands on the moral scale, and whose faith may, in fact, offer hope for some (particularly those who believe God has chosen him to be president) that a vote for him is a vote for their faith, it's no wonder why Bush is still popular. I absolutely believe that the popularity of these novels sheds light in the age old question: "Why do people still support Bush?"

Our Founding Fathers were certainly not amoral atheists. Quite the contrary. They were all God-fearing Christians, but they recognized that maintaining a separation between church (religion) and state (government) is fundamental to the survival of their experiment (democracy). While government has always historically legislated morality, right now we are in a time when progress and morality are clashing. For instance, instead of gay marriage being a "Constitutional" issue, which it ought to be, it is a "moral" issue, with a push against it coming from the Christianized far right. If church and state truly were separate, there would be no debate over whether or not homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones. In fact, there would be no such thing as "gay marriage" or "straight marriage" in the eyes of the law. There would be civil unions, and only in the eyes of the couples' chosen deity would there be marriage. That is true, honest separation of church and state. But that's getting a little far from reality, so we have to work with what we can, and "gay marriage" is very clearly the Constitutionally-sound answer. And let's not forget that our President and many of his followers think that gay marriage is not only wrong and must be banned, but that this ought to be done through a Constitutional Amendment. Regardless of how viable it is, a president's contention that Constitutional discrimination is the way to go shows just how incredibly misinterpreted American Ideals have become.

Thus, we come full circle. The mass marketing of ideas through pop culture doesn't debase them anymore, it validates them. A testament to the herd theory? Perhaps. But more than that, it demonstrates how fragile our Constitutional ideals really are in the face of society vulnerable to ideological maniuplation.

At any rate, I'd also like to add that Dennis Hastert's questioning of McCain's service to the nation should clinch a loss for him in his next run for re-election.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Secret Art of Media Manipulation

from National Journal's Hotline, 5/19/04

"Here are the latest presidential ad spending estimates from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group (TNSMI/CMAG), CNN's consultant on ad spending. TNSMI/CMAG estimates ad spending in the nation's top 100 media markets. The actual spending amounts nationwide are likely higher."

"Estimated ad spending, 5/10-5/16"
"Kerry: at least $6.7 million"
"Bush: at least $4.0 million"
"Kerry + Dem Groups: at least $8.3 million"
"Bush + GOP Groups: at least $4.1 million"
"Democratic Groups running ads: AFL-CIO,, New Democratic Network"
"GOP groups running ads: Citizens United, Club for Growth"

"Estimated ad spending, 3/3 - 5/16 (general election-to-date)"
Kerry: at least $33.2 million"
"Bush: at least $60.6 million"
"Kerry + Dem Groups: at least $71.6 million"
"Bush + GOP Groups: at least $60.7 million"
("Morning Grind," CNN, 5/19).

Why did Kerry outspend Bush by at least $2.7 million in one particular week? Isn't the negative PR from the Abu Ghraib scandal doing enough damage on its own? Or is it not doing *enough* damage, and Kerry's camp feels it needs to deliver some kind of extra right hook to get the job done?

Problem is, I think a lot of Americans believe that the abuse is either 1) the result of a few perverted soldiers who have been driven insane while serving their country, or 2) not abuse at all, but effective means of eliciting information from prisoners. The media has not been quick to explore the possibility of the abuse as an order from somewhere either within the Pentagon or very very close to it, which leads a lot of people to look at such a possibility merely as conspiratorial conjecture cranked out of the liberal propaganda machine.

When will the media reinstate the principle of Objectivity?

According to every wind-blowing pundit, on both sides of political center, in the American media, this is to be the dirtiest race in the history of American politics. While that could be hyperbole, it could also be an on-target assessment of the way the campaign strategy has evolved. While during the 70s it was detrimental to one's campaign to stage a fiercely negative attack on one's opponent, today the spinsters have figured out a way to bypass public negativity by going through the backdoor: leaks to the media.

It goes beyond a roomful of interns digging up strange votes and legislative faux pas. These are teams of research experts, adept at tearing through public records to find any piece of information that could be spun as purely negative and leaked to the AP.

This underhanded but brilliant strategy has had two main effects on the media's role in politics. First, and most obviously, it is a way to run a negative campaign without having to endure backlash from the public. Second, and most dangerously, it is haphazard manipulation of the media, and the scariest part is that the media accepts these leaks without checking the facts to ensure that they aren't accepting something angled to mislead. These nuggets of information planted by the campaigns should be researched and could be developed into real news stories. For instance, is Kerry a waffler or is that the image the media has accepted? A careful objective examination of his voting and speech records could clear this up in a short series of articles. But only the left is willing to set the record straight, and because they are biased, their opinion is invalidated by the mainstream. It's a cycle of disbelief and distrust enabled by the easy "yeah we'll take your word for it!" attitude of the mainstream media. Instead of acting as the watchdog of the government, the media is acting as its lapdog.

For more on this opposition research strategy, check out Playing Dirty by Joshua Green from the May issue of The Atlantic

Interestingly, Green's article mentions opposition research employed by the Clark campaign against Howard Dean. The Progressive's editor, Matthew Rothschild, sat down with the defeated frontrunner to talk about what went wrong. Dean doesn't mention the secretive negative strategy at play, but he does discuss with Rothschild the press and its general corporate leash and the effect of public negativity (in the form of TV ads slamming candidates, as in the Dean-Gephardt exchange).

Q: Is going negative a response that doesn't work anymore?
Dean: It always works, but never in a multicandidate race. The ones who aren't going negative get the benefit.

Q: There is some speculation, perhaps idle in the press, that you were self-sabotaging, that you really didn't want to win, and the closer you came to getting the nomination, the more gaffes you committed.
Dean: That was pretty silly. That's one of the problems with the media. There's a lot of opinion pieces under the guise of news, and once one person comes up with it, it gets repeated. Most of that started out in gossip columns in The Washington Post. The idea that someone is going to spend two years and $50 million and doesn't really care is pretty silly.

Q: What do you make of the way the press treated you?
Dean: I think the press in general is a failed institution in this country. For two reasons. This has nothing to do with the race. I'm not sure it would have made any difference. But the biggest problem with the media is first that 90 percent of Americans get their news from eleven corporations so that the loyalty in the editorial staff and higher up is principally to the shareholders rather than to the public. And the second problem is that entertainment has supplanted news value.

Q: A lot of your supporters feel the press had it in for you, or did you in. Do you agree?
Dean: You know, I don't know. I think the older supporters may feel that way. The younger supporters tend to ignore the press. The pitfall of what's happening in the media is if you're under thirty, you get your news from the Internet and The Daily Show, and there's not much discrimination between what they find on the front page of The New York Times and what they find on the Internet. That's not a bad thing, in the sense that people don't get spoon-fed anymore.

Q: The Daily Show may be savvier than some of that other stuff.
Dean: Oh, I don't know, I don't get to watch The Daily Show.

Q: You should. It's funny. Some of us thought the media didn't like you not because you were bristly but because you were too far left. Many in the mainstream media believe the conventional wisdom that the Democrats need a centrist candidate, so the closer you came to getting the nomination, the more panicked they became. Do you think there's any legitimacy in that?
Dean: I don't think there's much legitimacy to that. I'm sure there were personal factors involved, but I'm not one who buys the notion of a media conspiracy. I think there are different views in the media, from Fox News to The New York Times, from The Weekly Standard to The Nation. But I don't think there's an ideological conspiracy in the media to keep certain candidates out. I really don't.

Yes, a large part of me is still brooding over Dean's defeat, although it makes perfect sense. It's just sad that it had to happen. In my fantasy world, Howard Dean would be the ideal people's candidate, not just a hothead who can't hold his temper, and whose opponents go underground into the AP to destroy.

Friday, May 14, 2004

George W. Bush: Compassion

I have had a blog on Live Journal for about 2 years now. I like it, but I wanted to create something that I would have to take a bit more seriously than that. So I thought I'd start one here, in an attempt to keep it focused on fairly serious things, like getting Bush out of office politics, literature, and the like.

An op ed in yesterday's LA Times, NYU's Lawrence Weschler calls attention to a particular section of George Bush's website. It is a warm and fuzzy section, offering a heartwarming message and pictures of the Commander in Chief posing mainly with black people. It's very weird. Why? Because the heartwarming message is one of compassion. In fact, the section of the site is titled Compassion. Of all the hypocritical, self-aggrandizing PR stunts...