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:: Friday, May 21, 2004 ::

Jon Stewart: Media Critic

Alterman's latest Nation column ends with this little tag:
And how pathetic is it that the only cable network really grappling with the media's failure is Comedy Central? Let's give the last word to the Daily Show's incomparable Stephen Colbert: 'The journalists I know love America, but now all anybody wants to talk about is the bad journalists--the journalists that hurt America.... Who didn't uncover the flaws in our prewar intelligence? Who gave a free pass on the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection? Who dropped Afghanistan from the headlines at the first whiff of this Iraqi snipe hunt? The United States press corps, that's who.'
From what I've seen of Stewart -- especially when he's interviewed -- this is something he's been angry about for a long time. Take this bit from his Howard Kurtz interview:
STEWART: Shouldn't CNN have to pay a penalty for putting them on the air? You're Paulie Walnuts. You're vouching. You brought a guy in, and you put him on the air and you vouched. You said, "No, Tony, this guy, he's good people, he's credible." So whatever they say, I mean, they're called profilers.

If you watched the coverage, you would have thought that that's what the police do, is they literally have two guys sort of almost like psychics sitting around going, "What do you think he is?" "I don't know, maybe he's white, maybe he's black. Maybe he's with al Qaeda, maybe he's Son of Sam."

They're actually following real leads. I don't understand the idea of -- you know I heard a guy talking -- actually on your show -- saying, "Well, the public really wanted information. They had a real thirst for information. So because we didn't really have that much information, we had to just speculate."

KURTZ: We made it up. STEWART: Right. Which seems insane. That's like saying, "You know, the kids were real thirsty, and we didn't have any water, so we just gave them beer, because we figured that would work."
[...]
KURTZ: So you don't, you're not confusing yourself with a quote, "real journalist"?

STEWART: No. You guys are...

KURTZ: You're just making fun...

STEWART: You guys are confusing yourselves with real journalists.

KURTZ: Oh boy, you're loaded (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today.

STEWART: Instead of putting on shows like "CROSSFIRE" and "Gotcha" and "I'm Going To Kick Your Ass With Tucker Carlson" and "Let's Beat Up The Short Guy." That was just one that I...
(A lot of quoting, I know.) Jon Stewart has always been a media critic, and a damn good one. Even better, the man is funny. And satirists can often point out the painful truths no "real journalist" could ever bring himself to utter.

Alterman, Bush critic that he is, didn't respond with "You've got to be fucking kidding me" when it was revealed that Rice's "Nothing actionable PDB" was entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US". He thought it. So did most of the journalists in the world. But Stewart said it.

What did Stewart say about the media? "You ever see 8-year-olds play soccer? It's just this weird clump of legs, and then all of a sudden the ball will fly out and with no strategy or game, they just go 'Ball!' That's what the media is."
:: Morat 10:24 AM :: ::

Homosexual Republican Group Barred From NC GOP Convention

Now, I've met some truly dense people, but I don't think I've ever seen this level of denial (well, short of the current White House):
The North Carolina Republican Party is refusing to let the Log Cabin Republicans set up a booth at this weekend's state convention -- a move that has prompted complaints from the homosexual group that says it stands for 'fairness, inclusion, and tolerance in the GOP.'

'Log Cabin Republicans believe that at a time when our country is at war, we ought to be bringing Republicans together, not dividing them, and certainly not excluding them from their own state convention,' said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Patrick Guerriero in a statement on the group's website.
What on earth is with the Log Cabin Republicans? Can't they take a hint? The GOP doesn't want you. They don't like you. Hell, a good chunk of them believe you should be jailed.

Is that clear enough for you? Why do you keep supporting them? What on earth is so attractive about the GOP that you're willing to ignore the fact that it's run by homophobes?

It's like black Christians wanting to join the damn KKK, because they both share the same religion.

Update: I note that Steve Gilliard had the same thoughts.
:: Morat 8:04 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, May 20, 2004 ::

It's always about the money...

I really should hold the First Law of Politics in mind: It's always about money. I can't fault Ginger's reasoning. Stripping the UU of their tax-exempt status would bring in extra tax money, at a time when Texas sorely needs it.
This is about the money. This is a test case to see if the state can start stripping "fringe" churches of their tax exemption because they're not really churches and the faiths they practice aren't really religions. If Strayhorn can do that, she's raised a bunch of money without goring the ox of her voting constituency -- what, the UUs were going to vote for her? -- and looks good at Rick Perry's expense. That's why she's willing to waste state money in the hopes that the precedent set against Sharp will be overturned; if she wins, it will look great in a campaign commercial in 2006.
It's no secret that Strayhorn wants Perry's job. And the First Rule of Texas Politics is "Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes, Ever".

Right now, to deal with escalating property taxes (yes, they're a local issue, but because of some fun details in how Texas funds schools, everyone is blaming the state government) the Governor is proposing bringing in video slots and expanding the types of businesses that pay sales and franchise taxes.

But that's not, in Texas politics, a "tax hike". That's expanding the tax rolls.

Strayhorn, if she wishes to be Governor in 2006, will face the same problem Perry faces now. Since churches are tax-exempt, narrowing the definition of "religion" would sharply increase the tax roles -- without any of that pesky legislation.

She'll fail, of course, and she couldn't have chosen a worse test case. The Unitarians? Now, maybe the Scientologists....(link via Off the Kuff)
:: Morat 12:49 PM :: ::

Stupid Blogspot

I can't wait to move to a new host,as Blogspot has been acting funky lately. Has anyone else noticed been getting the "Blog doesn't exist" response for common blogspot blogs? (Like Eschaton, for instance). Attempting to reload the page brings it right up, but at least two or three times a day I'll head to a Blogspot blog and get that annoying message.
:: Morat 10:42 AM :: ::

A Corrupted Culture

It looks like the Washington Post isn't going to buy the few bad apples theory:
How could this massive breakdown of order and discipline have occurred? The Bush administration still tries to blame a few low-ranking reservists who served at Abu Ghraib. But a more convincing answer can be found in a memo submitted to President Bush by White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales in January 2002. In the memo, which was first disclosed by Newsweek magazine, Mr. Gonzales explained why he believed Mr. Bush should ignore State Department objections to his decision to exclude Afghanistan detainees from the Geneva Conventions. The presidential counsel derided the conventions as 'quaint' and 'obsolete' and claimed that setting them aside would, among other things, make it harder for prosecutors to charge Americans under U.S. law for alleged crimes against prisoners -- something he presented as a 'positive.' Such contempt for the rule of law pervaded his argument -- and was endorsed by Mr. Bush.
The Post's editorial page has been an interesting read over the past year. They've been incredibly hawkish about Iraq -- often to the point of contradicting their own reports on conditions there -- so to see them refuse to accept the White House response is a pretty big sign.

It's not "Oh god, they've lost Toby Keith" territory, but it's a big step in that direction.
:: Morat 10:28 AM :: ::

Nostalgia

You know, there are times when I really hate people who long -- secretly or openly -- for the good ol' days. Whether it's a looking pack on some idealized 1950s, or for the days when all the trolls weren't clambering over Usenet, or even back when we were a "Christian nation", it's all built on a single flawed assumption: That the past is what you remember it as being.

It wasn't, or at least, it rarely was. Longing for a simpler time? The time wasn't simpler, you were. You were younger, your problems easier. Things were better? Not really. You just remember them that way. People tend to remember the good things over the bad.

There were always trolls, the 1950s sucked (especially if you were black or female) and we were never a Christian nation...although people made a good stab at it. And God help you if you weren't a WASP back then.

We romanticize the past, we elevate it in our memories. But you should never make the mistake of assuming that romantic past was real. Work for a better future here and now, yes. But beware of nostalgia, because it's rare that the present can match the hazy memories of "the good ol' days".
:: Morat 9:33 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, May 19, 2004 ::

Texas proud...

Boy, I'm certainly a proud Texan today:
Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Texas Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization - at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: The organization 'does not have one system of belief.'

Never before - not in this state nor any other - has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group's religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn's ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison, Texas, congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller's office.
Good job there, Carole. That was a brilliant and completely indefensible decision that will only cost the State a few million in legal fees (she feels obligated to take this puppy to the Supreme Court).

This isn't quite as depressing as Perry's decision to execute Patterson, despite both his obvious mental illness and the Texas parole board's recommendation for a stay (something that happens about as often as pigs fly).

Still, it's hard to be a proud Texan today. We executed a man so mentally ill that even the parole board (Official Motto: You're never too crazy or retarded to kill) though it was a bad idea, and we decided that the church of at least three former Presidents (including two founding fathers) wasn't a "real religion".

Way to go, Texas.
:: Morat 7:41 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 ::

Jeff Jacoby: The end of the gay-marriage debate?

I've been using the word "stupid" a lot, so let me find a different term for this column. Pointless? Inane? Bereft of actual reasons? None of them really capture the essence of this piece. So leaving that aside -- I am no poet, after all -- let's just take the bit that really caught my eye:
This is the week that same-sex marriage comes to Massachusetts, and thus to the United States. The fundamental building block of civilization is about to undergo a radical change -- a change not only unsupported by a clear consensus, but opposed by a majority of American adults. How did this happen? How did we reach the point of jettisoning the most basic presumption of our most basic social institution? The joining of gay and lesbian couples in marriage may turn out to be the most consequential development of our lifetimes. How did we get here?
"Jettisoning the most basic presumption of our most basic social institution"?

Let's see. I'm still married to a member of the opposite sex. I'm pretty sure that, even in Massachusetts, you can still easily marry members of the opposite sex.

So what's Jeff so upset about? What, exactly, got jettisoned? That's pretty simple: Massachusetts, in effect, tossed the "Whites Only" sign, and Jeff is a bit upset. He doesn't like those freaks and subhumans riding his bus, drinking from his water fountain or being anywhere near him. He doesn't like anything that implies they're the same as he is.

Kind of sad, eh?
:: Morat 12:40 PM :: ::

Texas lawmakers give up on special session

Well, that's a nice and well deserved kick in the teeth for Perry:
The Texas Legislature signaled the full-scale failure of the special session on school finance today by taking final adjournment with two days remaining in the 30-day session.
Jeez, I wonder how he's going to field this one? I somehow doubt he's going to call another two sessions (like last time, over the critical "Redistricting"), nor is he going to use State DPS to try to force politicians to vote for his plan, and he can't really blame the Democrats since they were actually there for this one -- and the Republicans hated his solution even more.

Too bad this wasn't addressed last year, but people were too busy trying to gerrymander Texas to bother with education our youth. Thankfully, the right man is going to take all the blame.

Heck, Perry's the stubborn type. Perhaps he'll call another session. I doubt he'll have any more success. (Link via Off the Kuff)
:: Morat 12:15 PM :: ::

Texas Tuesdays

The new Texas Tuesdays blog has kicked off. Every week -- can you guess which day? -- they'll be profiling a Texas congressional or legislative candidate. They'll have guest posts, a short interview, and a fundraising goal for each candidate.

This week they're covering incumbent Nick Lampson (he got redistricted from the 9th to the 2nd district in during the Great Texas Redistricting Fiasco of 2003) whose up against a Ted Poe. So head on over, or chip in a little to help Nick out.

Lampson's had a habit of getting reelected in a Republican heavy district, and doing so without becoming a Zell Miller in the process. So while he's got an uphill road, he can't be counted out. He's a good guy, so go check him out.
:: Morat 12:08 PM :: ::

I love the smell of a draft in the morning

Yep. We're certainly winning in Iraq. TAPPED reports:
A friend of mine who is currently an inactive Army reservist forwarded me some memos he received regarding future mobilizations -- memos that indicate that we are not far from some kind of conscription in the next few years. According to my friend, recruiters are telling inactive reservists that they're going to be called up one way or another eventually, so they might as well sign up now and get into non-Iraq-deploying units while they still can. There's also a 'warning order' -- i.e., a heads-up -- from the Army's personnel command that talks about the involuntary transfer of inactive reservists to the active reserves, and thus into units that are on deck for the next few Iraq rotations.
I was wondering what they were going to do. It's been known since late last year that we couldn't maintain the October-level troop deployments past spring without hitting the bottom of the barrel.

It's now May, and the 135,000 we've got in Iraq isn't nearly enough, and now we're having to grab the inactive reserves. Puts a whole new spin on Rummy's "If the Generals want troops, we'll get them.".

From where, exactly? If we're activating these guys, you've hit the bottom of the barrel. Where are you going to turn next?
:: Morat 12:01 PM :: ::

New Book

I switched my "Current Reading". I'm still only part-way through Legends II, but as I've misplaced the book, I figured it was only fair to move to what I'm reading now. Since Legends is a short-story collection, it's no big loss. I'll find the thing when I reorder my bookshelves. I've stumbled across a new author by the name of Garth Nix. A friend of mine (the lovely Owlet) loaned me his "Abhorsen" novels, the first of which is entitled Sabriel. It's very interesting fantasy, set mostly in the Old Kingdom, but partially in the "modern world" (which resembles about 1950s England). The main character is, of course, Sabriel, the Abhorsen-in-Waiting (the Abhorsen proper being the only "good" necromancers, devoted to dealing with the Dead -- and other necromancers) and details her introduction to both the Old Kingdom and the duties and responsibilities of being the Abhorsen.

The magic system is a bit confusing, at least as far as Charter magic goes. Necromancy, as Sabriel's -- and her father's -- stock in trade is well documented. The other two books in the trilogy go into far more detail concerning Charter magic, as well as the underpinnings of the Old Kingdom (and the Wall, which separates the modern world from the Old Kingdom).

They're quite good, and while they're technically not "current reading" (I finished them awhile back), they're the most recent "new reading" I've done. I've been a bit busy, so I've been reading books I can pick up and put down easily, and not books I'll stay up until 4:00AM to finish.

You can see a selection of the books I've read over the last year or so here, and of course I have my -- badly outdated -- list of other recommendations here.
:: Morat 11:38 AM :: ::

Hitchens is an idiot -- Part II

I won't go into his tortured attack on Hersh's reporting (Short version: You whine that Bush didn't move fast enough, now you whine that he moves too fast!. Hypocrites!"), but will comment on the little tag he placed on the end:
So a Sarin-infected device is exploded in Iraq, and across the border in Jordan the authorities say that nerve and gas weapons have been discovered for use against them by the followers of Zarqawi, who was in Baghdad well before the invasion. Where, one idly inquires, did these toys come from? No, it couldn't be.
Apparently, Hitches is too busy -- doing God knows what -- to even read the rest of Slate. If he had, he'd note that Zarqawi was happily producing ricin and cyanide for a good year or more....in the middle of Kurdish controlled Iraq, under our no-fly zone. Hitchens would also have learned that the White House refused to authorize attacks there -- fearing it would undercut their rationale for invading Iraq. By the time Bush got around to it, Zarqawi was gone. And if Zarqawi could make ricin, he can make sarin. It's not that difficult to make.

I don't even know why they bother to print Hitchens. I understand the nature of a contrarian, and how useful they can be, but you'd think they'd pick one who could make a rational argument, and not incoherent ramblings bereft of any connection with reality.

:: Morat 10:42 AM :: ::

:: Monday, May 17, 2004 ::

Blog Survey

BlogAds, which I use (my low traffic means I get few ads), is running a survey. It's designed to provide information to advertisers, so please go take it. And the answer to number 22 is "Skeptical Notion" because I rock.
:: Morat 1:24 PM :: ::

Roadside bomb containing ingredients of sarin nerve agent explodes in Iraq

In other news, the of a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq completely vindicates the warfloggers:
A roadside bomb containing deadly sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. It was apparently a leftover from the Saddam era arsenal, but it was uncertain if more such weapons were in the hands of insurgents.

Two members of a military bomb squad were treated for ''minor exposure,'' but no serious injuries were reported.

The chemicals were inside an artillery shell dating to the Saddam Hussein era that had been rigged as a bomb in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq.
According to Fox News, the discovery of the weapon triggered the commitment of 100,000 foreign troops to aid in peacekeeping, led to much throwing of flowers and cheering of US soldiers, and generally made Iraq a happy, nice place. Kerry supposedly conceded the election to Bush, and the Republicans clinched the 2004 Congressional elections.

Upon discovery that the shell dated back to the Iran/Iraq war and that those rigging it did not appear to know it was a chemical round, life returned to normal (IE, the assassination of the Iraqi Governing Council President and further attacks on US troops).
:: Morat 12:37 PM :: ::

Free to marry

It's about time:
Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to permit gays and lesbians to wed just after midnight today, when Cambridge City Hall welcomed more than 250 same-sex couples who hugged, cried, cheered, and applied for the marriage licenses many thought they would never see in their lifetimes.
I have a few questions for those rabidly opposing this: Don't you feel just a little bit stupid right now?

Look! Gays got married. And you know what? Your marriage is unchanged. The country is unchanged. Society failed to come to a halt. If anything, the happiness level of America took a nice jump. Gays got married, and your life is exactly the same. So what the hell was your problem? (Link via Daily Kos)

For the rest of us, it's a simply wonderful day.
:: Morat 12:02 PM :: ::

Finally..

Sitemeter is back up. They lost a drive -- the one with my account, of course -- and I just had to finish resetting my counter. Luckily, I have two counters, so I know how many visits I've had...including the week or so Sitemeter was down.
:: Morat 11:19 AM :: ::

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