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»  September 29, 2004

Books  

Law & Order Fans: Ripped From "The Family": From Kitty Kelley's The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, comes this tale of of long ago, when George Bush attended Andover prep school. Apart from the outsized proportion of female murderers on Law & Order — something I've found incredibly odd for years — here's another reason not to watch any of the 20-odd or whatever Law & Order franchises.

Fistfights were kept to a minimum, despite the high level of teenage testosterone. "It must have been all of those hard-time athletics, plus we were convinced they put saltpeter in our food," said Torbert Macdonald [son of a Massachussets congressman who was a good friend of President Kennedy]. "I only remember one incident of violence and that was when we got the news of President Kennedy's assassination. I was devastated because I knew what it would do to my father. Everyone was stunned. The only guy who was insensitive and started taunting me was Dick Wolf. He never got his degree from Andover, but he managed to become a success as the executive producer of Law and Order on NBC-TV. He was a real shithead — nasty and mean — and I remember smashing my arm into his big fat gut when he started in about Kennedy minutes after the assassination."

 


»  September 28, 2004

Politics  

Media Cannibalization: What's most astounding about the feeding-frenzy behavior of the media over what's become known as "Rathergate" is the realization that none of the reporters, commentators, or anchors so eager to pick at the flesh of Ol' Dan seems to think it could ever happen to them.

Rather's been on the right's hitlist for years, but he's managed to cling to the anchor chair nonetheless. If he gets forced out of that position over the fiasco surrounding the memos about George W. Bush's Air National Guard service, it's only going hasten the end by a couple of years at most. The people in the media calling for his head, though, some of them have careers that could be much more adversely impacted.

If the right thinks they can bring someone with Rather's reputation down with a campaign of letter-writing, calls, and gas-bagging on talk shows — whether they actually do so or if they merely give CBS an excuse to pry Rather's grip off the anchor desk — they're hardly likely to stop with Rather and CBS. CBS has already proven itself susceptible to attacks of this type, by moving the Reagan biopic to Showtime last year and pre-emptively postponing the story they bumped from 60 Minutes II for the Air National Guard story — about how forged documents and other suspect intelligence were used to justify the war in Iraq — until after the election.

ABC, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC don't give equal treatment to opposing sides of issues now — that's why they're not under the gun the way CBS is. They rarely invite invite people with truly liberal (as opposed to not-conservative) viewpoints on, much less someone wacky who was as far to the left as Ann Coulter is wacky and to the right. (I can't think of anyone for that role, nor do I want to.)

But once CBS is sanitized (it won't end with Rather), you can bet the same firehose of pressure is going to be applied somewhere else. Rather's not exactly a flaming liberal, but the right sees him as one. They see anyone who criticizes them as a liberal/traitor/commie/terrorist. Columnists like Maureen Dowd who view themselves as protected and above the fray, able to make snarky comment on Democrats and Republicans alike, are going to find themselves in a whole new world, one where any criticism of the right leads to their own downfall.

Am I saying that journalists should have circled the wagons to defend Dan and the Memos That Time Forgot? No. But the gleeful rush to judgment over the memos obscured a legitimate story about Bush's Guard service that wasn't exclusive to CBS and exposed how little faith the media has in its own credibility, which is something the media's enemies will exploit for years to come, no matter who wins the next presidential election.

 

Politics  

Who Among Us Doesn't Love John Kerry?: The October 4 issue of TIME magazine has an article by Karen Tumulty and John F. Dickerson titled "Inside the Debate Strategies." The print version's accompanying graphic has some text that doesn't appear online. Each of the candidates' images has three "Things to Remember..." taped to the podium.

Kerry's list includes:

2) Don't use "who among us" and "NASCAR" in the same sentence
Referring to a supposed quote along the lines of "Who among us doesn't love NASCAR?"

That twitched my mind all the way back to last week, when Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler tore into the provenance of this particular attribution and traced it back to Maureen Dowd. In a letter to AmCop, the Times' public editor, Arthur Bovino, reportedly wrote that Dowd "got the quote from someone who had been at a Kerry rally and confirmed it with a reporter who had been there," but Somerby found no other mention of this remark previous to Dowd's. According to Somerby, Kerry did attend a NASCAR event in February and utter the words: "I happen to like NASCAR." The Howler commentary compares the spread of this quote to the way Al Gore supposedly made a comment about inspiring Erich Segal's Love Story.

For extra frisson, one of the two reporters Gore made his actual, offhand comment to about how Segal had used Tipper and himself as models for the Love Story characters and who said she was "appalled to see the way it was played in the media," was Karen Tumulty of TIME, whose current story now has a reference to an unsourced, possibly false quote from a Democratic presidential candidate attached to it.

I've sent a letter to TIME asking them to either print a correction or provide a direct attribution, I encourage you to do the same.

 


»  September 24, 2004

Politics  

Instapundit: Conservatives Are Too Stupid to Work in Bookstores: Glenn Reynolds heard that "bookstore employees tend to 'hide' politically incorrect books" and with no proof aside from an anonymous message board post (quick, call Dan Rather!) extends that slur to all bookstore employees. My response to him:

I'm about as left as they come, and I worked in bookstores and distributors throughout the Reagan and GHW Bush eras, which were highly polarized times. Your view on bookstore employees -- in general -- is baseless. What people who run bookstores believe in more than almost anything else is the freedom of speech, something that those of you on the right don't seem to understand.

If leftist book goons were actually hiding books by right-wing authors, how did Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Scarborough, Coulter, Savage and their ilk sell so damn many books throughout the last decade? It's not like the New York Times has been keeping them off of the bestseller lists.

You accuse "Borders employees" of bragging about hiding Unfit for Command. Do you mean all Borders employees? Or just one person who posted an anonymous note? Are you implying that conservatives are too stupid to work in bookstores and that they might not do the same thing?

 

Politics  

Rumsfeld: Iraq Just As Safe As U.S., Europe: Rummy unscripted. Talking about how you can have elections without complete peace, compares security in Iraq favorably with the United States. No problem, elections can go on.

From today's DoD media availability (which I tracked down after hearing this comment on an Air America's news broadcast):

We had something like 200 or 300 or 400 people killed in many of the major cities of America last year. Is it perfectly peaceful? No. What's the difference? We just didn't see each homicide in every major city in the United States on television every night. It happens here in this city, in every major city in the world. Across Europe, across the Middle East, people are being killed. People do bad things to each other. The idea that we'd have to stay there till that place was peaceful -- as I think you said, or something like that -- and everyone goes happily on their way, or whatever you said. We'll check the transcript.
Indeed.

[UPDATE] Cool, a link from Atrios!

 


»  September 23, 2004

Politics  

Beheading Generations: From CNN.com:

Ty Hensley says his family's pain will last for generations.
Ty is the brother of Jack Hensley, one of the American contractors beheaded in Iraq this week. And he's perfectly right, his brother's death will almost certainly be remembered by members of the Hensley family for a long time to come.

What boggles my mind is that people in general -- I'm not talking about the Hensleys here -- can't seem to make the connection between their own experience of grief and that of the relatives of the thousands of civilians in Iraq who have been killed since America invaded. For all the talk of how "tribalism" affects Iraq's political and social situation, the US isn't all that far removed from that same tribalism. Considering that tribal ties are largely extended family relationships, that's not entirely a bad thing, but it is a bad thing when the tribal thirst for revenge gets in the way of rational thought.

Those people whose tribal sympathies for the Hensleys' loss will then advocate for further punitive action against Iraqis -- regardless of civilian casualties, as happened in Fallujah earlier this year -- forget that the memory of those deaths will be causing pain that will last for generations, as well.

 


»  September 19, 2004

Books  

A Roll of the Dice: I haven't finished it yet, but Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic by Brad King and John Borland is, for me at least, both a look back at my own past and a glimpse into what might have been, given a lot of luck and determination.

The book puts the culture of electronic gamers into perspective, drawing its origins out of the Dungeons & Dragons backgrounds of people like Ultima creator Richard Garriott and the developers of Doom and Quake.

Every time I read something about this particular subject, I'm reminded of just how many contacts I had with a number of the truly mythic personalities of the field, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when — if I'd had more confidence — I might have been able to get into the ground level of the electronic gaming field. Ah well.

I'll have to see how the story turns out.

 

What the...?  

Packing Kitty for the Beach:

 


»  September 15, 2004

Politics  

It Costs How Much?: As someone who's been interested in typography for twenty years and computers for nearly thirty, the debate over whether the memos CBS used as a part of their story last week on the failure of George Bush to fulfill his Air National Guard duties has been incredibly frustrating. I've worked scanners; the one thing to remember about scans of anything is that no two scans are ever identical. Nor are documents that are scanned ever aligned perfectly; the orthogonal pixel grid tends to break up the letterforms of smaller characters. People who claim that they can get a "perfect" match between an electronically-produced image and one that has been scanned from a printout are just flat-out lying.

But one of the more ludicrous arguments I've been hearing is that there's no possible way that the Texas ANG office could possibly have had something like the IBM Selectric Composer model that might easily have produced the documents in question. On "The Al Franken Show" today, a caller brought up that line of "reasoning," saying that the machine would have cost $25,000 or more in today's dollars, as if that definitively proved there was no way you'd find one in Texas.

Personally, I don't know why the TANG office would have had a Composer, it's sort of overkill for an office environment, but realistically, why wouldn't an organization that was flying a number of military jets worth many millions of dollars and all of the attendent support equipment have had a piece of expensive office equipment?

 


»  September 8, 2004

Politics  

David Brooks: Death Cultist: In his essay "Cult of Death," New York Times columnist David Brooks decries "the massacre of innocents" and expresses his concern for "thousands of people destroyed while going about the daily activities of life." The cult, he says, "attaches itself to a political cause but parasitically strangles it."

Brooks is talking about people killed by terrorists in "New York, Madrid, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Baghdad and Bali." He left out Washington, D.C., as so many people do. Those numbers do, indeed, add up to thousands of deaths.

Brooks neglects to mention, however, the other cult of death. Brooks accuses others of ignoring the human toll of terrorism, but he himself suffers from some sort of "mental diversion" about the fact that the death toll for Iraqi civilians since the war began — estimated at well over 10,000 — eclipses the number of people worldwide killed by terrorists in the past three years.

It's a difficult fact to face, but it's something that supporters of the current tactics in Iraq that include firing high-volume munitions into populated cities like Fallujah and Najaf should admit to themselves, before their own cause is parasitically strangled.

 


»  September 4, 2004

Politics  

Zell Miller Gets All Compassionate Conservative In Your Face: From the CBS website, the caption reads:

"Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia gives the keynote address at the Republican National Convention Wednesday in New York. (Photo: AP)"

Jawohl! I can't find a similar angle for a separated-at-birth matchup of you-know-who, and the Photoshopping of this particular photo I will leave to others.

Y'know, Zell made a big deal of his being a Marine Wednesday night. Does anyone know if he actually ever saw combat anywhere? His web site bio (in the process of shilling mercilessly for his books) mentions that he joined the Marines in August of 1953, after dropping out of Emory and ending up in the drunk tank. It says he spent three years in the service, at NTS and Camp Lejeune. The Korean War armistice was signed the month before he joined up, there's no mention of an overseas posting in his bio. Curious, no?