Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

Jon Stewart
November 28, 1962
Does anyone know...does the Christian persecution complex have an expiration date?'ve all been in charge pretty much since...uh...what was that guys name...Constantine. He converted in, what was it, 312 A.D. I'm just saying, enjoy your success.

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, The Washington Post

Seinfeld Redux

From Dan Rubin's Bling, A Cold One, comes this gem of a video clip from National Lampoon (remember them?) on Kramer, a/k/a Michael Richards. As he says:

Michael Richards' stand-up meltdown was horrible to watch. But mash it with a few must-see TV moments, as some clever fellows did, and you have Seinfeld: "The Lost Episode."
I haven't discussed the Richards' outburst, in part because the rest of the world did, so I had nothing to add. It was extremely ugly and sad, on many levels, at the same time. What else was there to say?

But I just couldn't resist this. Don't miss it. It's hysterical!

Watch Seinfeld Redux: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer -- in yet another to-do about nothing. For Seinfeld fans, it's the perfect denouement to the whole episode.

(Note: the video plays immediately and does not have a pause or stop function.)

Cheney in Charge

There have been occasional rumors floating around that Dick Cheney will be the next Bush Administration official out the door, see Think Progress, but as much as I would like to see that happen, I'm not sure I buy that theory.

I think Cheney has been (and will continue) doing his thing -- in secrecy -- pursuing his goals in this Administration without any question or accountability. Speculation that Cheney has lost his power and authority and is planning to resign furthers that ability by keeping the focus off what Cheney is actually up to.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe has just written a piece, Hail to the chief, subtitled "Dick Cheney's mission to expand -- or 'restore' --the powers of the presidency," which puts the focus back where it belongs -- on what we can probably expect from Dick Cheney as the Democrats assume power in Congress. As Savage describes:

The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress.

Cheney bypassed acts of Congress as defense secretary in the first Bush administration. And his office has been the driving force behind the current administration's hoarding of secrets, its efforts to impose greater political control over career officials, and its defiance of a law requiring the government to obtain warrants when wiretapping Americans. Cheney's staff has also been behind President Bush's record number of signing statements asserting his right to disregard laws.

A close look at key moments in Cheney's career -- from his political apprenticeship in the Nixon and Ford administrations to his decade in Congress and his tenure as secretary of defense under the first President Bush -- suggests that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor, predicted that Cheney's long career of consistently pushing against restrictions on presidential power is likely to culminate in a series of uncompromising battles with Congress.

"Cheney has made this a matter of principle," Shane said. "For that reason, you are likely to hear the words 'executive privilege' over and over again during the next two years."

Cheney . . . has repeatedly said his agenda includes restoring the presidency to its fullest powers by rolling back "unwise" limits imposed by Congress after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

* * * *

Cheney's ideal of presidential power is the level of power the office briefly achieved in the late 1960s, the era of what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "imperial presidency."

Charlie Savage is also the author of the excellent series of articles in The Boston Globe on presidential "signing statements," and Cheney's role in that Administration power grab, see All Power to the President.

Robert Kuttner also wrote an article a few months ago in the Globe, The Cheney presidency, echoing these sentiments:

When historians look back on the multiple assaults on our constitutional system of government in this era, Cheney's unprecedented role will come in for overdue notice. Cheney's shotgun mishap, when he accidentally sprayed his host with birdshot, has gotten more media attention than has his control of the government.

* * * *

Cheney is in a class by himself. The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney . . . . Cheney's power is matched only by his penchant for secrecy.

Why does this matter? Because if the man actually running the government is out of the spotlight, the administration and its policies are far less accountable.

See also, Cheney the Chosen. I think what I said in that post still holds true:

Of course, many have misjudged Cheney, including the American people, who cannot believe that those entrusted to lead our country would rule as imperialists. The concept is so anathema to our country's principles that people cannot accept that that is what is occurring. Disbelief and denial is aided by the masterful manipulations and propaganda promulgated by the Administration. Again, the public cannot countenance the fact that our leaders would so deceive the public. Cheney epitomizes the query: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

And out of sight, out of mind also helps.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles. The Washington Post

A Rose by Any Other Name

The Daily Show on the 'Civil War' in Iraq.

Stewart: Certainly from an Iraqi perspective, what this is called makes no difference.

Oliver: Oh, really? If you have lost a loved one in this conflict, and statistically if you're an Iraqi you have, wouldn't you rather know it wasn't in a Civil War but rather a territorial arglebargle of regional qualms?

Stewart: 3,000 Iraqis died just this month. To argue over what to call it seems like semantic quibbling.

Oliver: Semantic quibbling? Oh, well, I wouldn't call it that.

Stewart: What would you call it?

Oliver: A minor linguistic flareup between two parties of different terminological points of view.

Stewart: It's really the same thing.

Oliver: It's "same-ey." For now let's agree to disagree on how we state our agreements. Agreed?
Dan Froomkin of White House Briefing also discussed the Civil War, It's a Civil War, Stupid:
After nearly four years of letting the Bush Administration set the terms of the national debate over Iraq, some major news organizations are finally calling the conflict there what it is: a civil war. The White House is howling in protest.
Right. The situation hasn't changed, just the terminology.

In March, I saw the first signs that the conflict in Iraq was being acknowledged as being a Civil War, in Are We There Yet?. At that time, I said:
I realize that the Bush Administration has long pretended that the fighting factions were foreign insurgents, not local factions, but at what point does the press give up that fiction and acknowledge the true state of affairs? Sounds like we may be there. It was a long ride.
It was certainly a long ride. That was 8 months ago.

UPDATE: The Borowitz Report releases its latest report, US Committed to Finding New Synonyms for Civil War -- Launches Operation Noble Euphemism:
President George W. Bush said today that he would not allow a civil war in Iraq to erupt on his watch, and said that in order to prevent that from happening the United States would aggressively search for new synonyms for the phrase "civil war."

In order to seek out the most sanitized alternatives to that phrase, the president announced that he was launching an ambitious new mission called Operation Noble Euphemism.

Showing his trademark steely resolve, Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House that the US was prepared to hunt down every last thesaurus on Earth and would not quit until the job was done.

As if to demonstrate the high priority he was placing on finding new synonyms, Mr. Bush said that the government would spend $12 billion, most of which had been previously earmarked to find Osama bin Laden.

But critics of Operation Noble Euphemism were skeptical of its outcome, particularly after the White House unsuccessfully launched a slogan contest last month to replace the phrase "stay the course."

That contest, which was announced with much fanfare, was abandoned after a leak revealed that the top contender was "slog through the mire."
(Video via Onegoodmove and update thanks to Martha)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Good Grief

Charles Schulz
Born: November 26, 1922

Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, "Why me?", then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up."

* * * *

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

(Poster via Tom Everhart)

You Offend Me

Thanksgiving. It's a time to give thanks, visit with family and friends and eat tremendous quantities of food.

Thanksgiving also ushers in the Christmas season, starting with Santa making his first appearance and Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. As Thanksgiving week-end comes to an end, today is the biggest travel day of year.

One means of travel, flying, has become the dregs of transportation. As I said in Fear of Flying, I used to love flying, but it has become the worst way to travel, in my opinion. There are all sorts of reasons -- such as late flights, long delays, lost luggage, cramped quarters and no food (as opposed to the old crummy food), which have all combined to make a travel by plane an unwelcome part of any trip.

However, security measures are the true bane of air travel. As I noted in George & Stephan Sitting on a Plane, the airlines have permitted bigotry and intolerance to determine whether someone is flyworthy. Not only do you have to pass through onerous checkpoints and stay off the "no fly" list (without knowing the criteria for exclusion or inclusion), but now you have to pass the Mob Rule and Flight Attendant tests.

There have been numerous examples of people being removed from planes while Flying While Arab, see e.g., Prayer Free Zone. That includes religious outbursts -- otherwise known as praying on a plane. Gay lovers are another no-no on planes, as the George & Stephan post shows. In that post, I also inquired:

What does this have to do with terrorism? Who is the arbiter of appropriate airplane behavior? The pilot? The flight attendant? Or is it the Mob Rule Rules?

And where will it end?

The answer apparently is that there is no end to the type of behavior that can subject you to banishment from the skies. Liza Featherstone, who writes The Nation's blog, The Notion, tells about a mother and child who were removed from a plane because of a breastfeeding incident, in For Hungry Baby, Unfriendly Skies:

According to news reports, Emily Gillette, a 27-year-old New Mexico woman, says that when she attempted to nurse her baby on a Delta Airlines flight, the uptight stewardess gave her a blanket, asking her to cover up. When Gillette refused, the flight attendant threw mother and baby off the plane! Silly Emily--doesn't she know those things are for selling beer and cars? Any other public use is obviously obscene.
The Burlington Free Press carried a report in Woman alleges she was kicked off Burlington flight for breast-feeding, detailing what occurred:
The flight had been delayed by three hours, and it was about 10 p.m. when it appeared that it was nearing takeoff time.

Gillette said she was seated in the second-to-last row, next to the window, when she began to breast-feed her daughter. . . . She said she was being discreet -- her husband was seated between her and the aisle -- and no part of her breast was showing.

Gillette said that's when a flight attendant approached her, trying to hand her a blanket and directing her to cover up. Gillette said she told the attendant she was exercising her legal right to breast-feed, declining the blanket. That's when Gillette alleges the attendant told her, "You are offending me," and told her to cover up her daughter's head with the blanket.

"I declined," Gillette said in her complaint.

Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached the Gillettes and said that the flight attendant was having the family removed from the flight.

Gillette said she didn't raise her voice -- not wanting to make a scene in the current jumpy air travel atmosphere -- and complied with the ticket agent, crying as she exited the plane.

What security violation was this? Breastfeeding in public may be legal, but the same rules don't seem to apply in airspace. Rather, airlines will condone much in the name of security. Pilots, attendants and other passengers all get to decide who flies (or doesn't). And of course, as with Gillette, the targeted passenger is usually fearful about objecting, since the penalty may even be worse than merely being deplaned. There may be a "So sorry, our mistake," by the airline after the fact, but there does not appear to be any standards in place to stop this egregious treatment in the first place.

Liza Featherstone sums it up in her post, Flying While Arab:
Praying, and feeding children, would rank pretty high on most people's list of inoffensive and even wholesome activities. There are plenty of larger issues embedded in these two outrageous stories -- about racism and religious intolerance in the war on terror, misogyny and puritanism, disregard for basic individual freedoms -- but I'd like to also point out that flying is an increasingly miserable experience for everyone. A plane is essentially a Greyhound bus in the sky these days. The workers are short-staffed and stressed-out, laboring for stingier pay and benefits; thus, not surprisingly, they seem to have completely lost patience with the passengers. I think we're seeing more and more examples of capricious and just plain rude treatment; you're just particularly vulnerable to it if you're praying in Arabic, taking off your shirt or doing anything the slightest bit unusual. Making matters worse, most companies, desperate to milk some profits out of us, overbook flights and cram seats closer and closer together. You have to bring your own food, and are too-rarely offered coffee, or even water. Only the fatcats in first class look comfortable. All the security regulations -- which, by the way, seem stupidly based on a few high-profile incidents (because of the Shoe Bomber, we all have to take off our shoes, and because of the London liquid bomb scare, no sunblock for the kids) -- add to the sour mood.
On that note, enjoy your trip home.

See UPDATE on praying protest at Prayer Free Zone.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Life is Worth Losing

It's Saturday night, time for some comedy.

Here's a video of George Carlin, one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever, who has released his latest HBO special.

If you are a fan of George Carlin like we are, please donate to his cause here:

All I Want for Christmas is . . .

Joy to the World.


And no guns hanging from the tree.

I wrote about the glittering gun ornament that Philly-based Urban Outfitters is selling this holiday season, in Trim a Tree. The Quaker Agitator also voiced his disgust with the display in Silver bells, silver guns.

The perfect comment about this was from blogger De la Where, You may be Ghetto if....

Maybe FOX will advertise this as the ornament of choice for the War on Christmas.
As a follow up to its initial piece on the pistol, the Inquirer reports on Store targeted over gun ornament, saying:
A leading local antiviolence group yesterday called for a boycott of Urban Outfitters because it is continuing to sell a $6 "glitter gun" Christmas tree ornament.

"Here's a store making money off the misery of the city," said Mark Harrell, director of Men United for a Better Philadelphia, noting that the number of killings in Philadelphia - most by handguns - is approaching 400 for this year.

* * * *

Bilal Qayyum, cofounder of Men United, said he spoke with the manager of the store this week to say how "totally inappropriate" he found the ornament to be, and asked to speak with the store's corporate leaders.

Qayyum said he never heard back from the Philadelphia-based retailer, which has stores across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Urban Outfitters also has local stores at 36th and Sansom Streets, Suburban Square, and the King of Prussia mall. The company's stock is traded on the NASDAQ market under the symbol URBN.

The voice mail of the company's spokeswoman said she would not be back in the office until Monday. A person answering the phone at the Walnut Street store confirmed that the ornaments were still being sold. He declined to comment further.

The company's Web site sells a number of items featuring guns, including an Uzi necklace. It also sells a watch, notebook and wallet featuring an Andy Warhol print of handguns.

As the Quaker Agitator says in his blog, Deck the halls with lines of picket signs...:
And good luck to you, Mr. Harrell. You're doing the Lord's work, and you deserve our support and our prayers. And for all you holiday shoppers out there, if you have one of these places in your neighborhood, do us all a favor this holiday season: shop elsewhere.
Guns & money. It's all about guns & money. I just hope enough people say so long as you go with the guns, you're not getting any of my money.

UPDATE: Not only has it been taken off the tree, but the gun ornament is not on the shelves or the website of Urban Outfitters. Although they haven't officially acknowledged it, the protests by Men United and others appears to have been successful. See Ornament is a sellout.

Some feel that these tacky tactics merely generate free publicity for the company, see Jill Porter's Daily News column, Community howls in outrage, just as Urban Outfitters hoped,and Philadelphia Will Do, Urban's 2006 Publicity Tour Heats Up.

Maybe so, but that's no reason to keep silent in the face of such outrageous offensiveness. It may convince enough people to exercise the power of the wallet but taking their money elsewhere. It's the one thing I'm sure that Dick Haynes understands.

Cartoon of the Day

* David Horsey, Seattle Post Intelligencer

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Divider

George W. Bush has often proclaimed himself to be The Decider (and has just as often been derided for it). When he first rode into the White House he also proclaimed himself to be "A Uniter, Not a Divider." Over the years, there were many more supercilious phrases, such as "Mission Accomplished" and "Bring 'em on." Looking back, we (or at least most of us) now know that none of the silly expressions that Bush used were true.

In the new, new world order (otherwise known as the post-election period), we are now in the age of a fledgling two party system again. In light of this situation, Bush's latest is meme is "why can't we all just get along." As with his previous pithy phrases, he doesn't really mean what he says.

In the beginning of August, I wrote about the derogatory tendency of the Publican Party to refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party, see The Quiz, citing a New Yorker article on the topic, THE “IC” FACTOR.

In discussing the issue of Bush's claim that he wants to change the tone in Washington, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post resurrects the IC issue in One Syllable of Civility, saying:

If he wanted to, President Bush could change the tone in Washington with a single syllable: He could just say "ic." That is, he could stop referring to the opposition as the "Democrat Party" and call the other side, as it prefers, the Democratic Party.

* * * *
But even as he promised to work to change the tone in Washington after the elections, the president couldn't manage to change his language. In his day-after-the-elections news conference, Bush employed this needling locution five times. . . .

The president isn't alone in his adjectival aversion to "Democratic" when it comes to the party. The provenance of the sneering label "Democrat Party" stretches back to the Harding administration. William Safire traced an early usage to Harold Stassen, who was managing Wendell Willkie's 1940 campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt. A party run by political bosses, Stassen told Safire for a 1984 column, "should not be called a 'Democratic Party.' It should be called the 'Democrat party.' "

Democrat Party was used, pardon the phrase, liberally by Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. According to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, " Democrat as an adjective is still sometimes used by some twentieth-century Republicans as a campaign tool but was used with particular virulence" by McCarthy, "who sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic." The word also achieved a prominent run with Bob Dole's especially ugly reference to "Democrat wars" during the 1976 vice presidential debate.

But Democrat-as-epithet has seen its fullest flowering -- on talk radio, among congressional leaders and, more than with any of his predecessors, from the president himself -- during the recent Republican heyday. As Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out in the New Yorker in August, the conservative Web site takes pains to scrub Associated Press copy "to de-'ic' references" to the party.

* * * *

In the few weeks since the election, the president has followed up his syrupy rhetoric of cooperation with a series of face slaps: pushing the doomed nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, resubmitting the equally doomed nominations of a quartet of offensive judicial selections and naming a physician to head the federal family planning program who works for clinics that refuse to offer birth control.

So it's probably naive to give any credence to the presidential happy talk and blue ties. But if, just maybe, the president wants to do more than pay lip service to the notion of a new tone in Washington, he could start by just paying lip service.

Well, there is one consistency in Bush that has not altered a bit over time -- he lies and as things change, he lies some more.

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Lester, Rome News-Tribune

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Turkey Song

UPDATE: Sad to say, YouTube (who no longer has a sense of humor) has removed the clip for this skit, but here's the transcript of the SNL WEEKEND UPDATE and an audio of the song Basted In Blood here.

And now for a lighter Thanksgiving treat, Sarah McLachlan and Cinder Calhoun on SNL's Weekend Update riff on Thanksgiving in words and song - Basted in Blood. Perhaps you should wait until after dinner to watch it (only kidding).

For more Thanksgiving videos, see A Warm & Lovely Thanksgiving to the Likes o’ You from American Street. They cover the whole meal in style.

And, for the political version of Turkey Day -- Pennsylvania style -- don't miss: This Years Turkeys. John Morgan at Pennsylvania Progressive gives the "How best to celebrate Thanksgiving than a list of Pennsylvania's biggest turkeys for 2006?" And who do you think is #1??

Cartoon of the Day

* Milt Priggee

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Gus Van Sant directs literary giant William S. Burroughs in his wonderfully sardonic tribute to Thanksgiving from 1986.

Words available here: A Thanksgiving Prayer.

Trim a Tree

Tis the season. I have so far avoided them, but I know that a few radio stations have started playing Christmas music already. And a few nights ago, as I left the office, I saw my first Christmas light show.

Now, I must admit that I am not very religious, but the Christmas season is still my favorite time of year. I also love Christmas music (I probably have at least 2 dozen CDs -- with a range of holiday music from traditional to holy to soulful). But it's just way too soon for the holiday to start. I don't want to be sick of it by the time Christmas gets here.

Let's spend a little time being Thankful for Thanksgiving first.

However, this little holiday trinket puts a whole different perspective on tree trimmings. The adornment for the Christmas tree featured in today's Philadelphia Inquirer is described as a humorous addition to any tree. In the aptly captioned article, Gun ornament draws fire, the paper notes that Urban Outfitters is selling a plastic gun Christmas tree ornament this year for $6.

Bah-humbug, I say to that!

The Inquirer piece provides the flavor:

Nothing says Christmas quite like a glittery black handgun hanging from the tree.

* * * *
"Bust a cap in your tree with this superglittery ornament in the shape of a handgun, complete with a satin ribbon for hanging," the online description of the revolver says. It is meant, the retailer says, as an "ironic twist" on the holidays.
What godless cretin could possibly be responsible for something that is totally antithetical to the spirit of the season? None other than the owner of Urban Outfitters, conservative Republican, Santorum-friendly Richard Hayne. I don't know the man, but it wouldn't surprise me if he also fancies himself as a good Christian. Did he think that the Gifts of the Maji from the three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the baby Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh -- and guns?

Hayne is the former husband of Judy Wicks, owner of White Dog Cafe and a liberal activist. I recently wrote about her in Good Eats & Good Deeds. Unlike Wicks, however, "Hayne himself is an ardent Republican." As Philadelphia Weekly wrote about Hayne in a June 2003 article, Clothes Make the Man:

The irony of Richard Hayne--the undisputed king of under-30 retail cool--is that there's nothing remotely hip about him. Nothing at all. With his loosely knotted yellow silk power tie and boardroom-blue dress shirt, he looks like a typical $1,000-a-plate Republican fundraiser attendee. An eyeglass case bulges nerdily in his breast pocket, his teeth are slightly crooked and a few thin strands of hair arc over a small constellation of moles mapping the northward advance of his forehead.

He is even-toned, courteous and articulate. Although he rarely makes direct eye contact when talking, Hayne projects a Dick Cheney-esque aura of no-nonsense gray flannel gravitas.

Oh, it makes perfect sense. Cheney & Hayne: Guns and Dicks -- what is it with these guys?

It was a happy day when I was able to convince my daughter not to shop at Urban Outfitters. And I have never so much as stepped inside an Anthropologie store.

If you'd like to express your revulsion for this despicable display, you can write to:

Richard Hayne, President
Urban Outfitters
5000 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19112

(Thanks to Martha for the tip about the article)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gone, but Not Forgotten

As with many of my generation, I can still remember hearing the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated on this day in 1963. I attended a Lithuanian Catholic grade school, run by the IHM Sisters. I can recall the nuns telling us about Kennedy's assassination, leading us in prayer and then dismissing the class. As Will Bunch at Attytood observes, Forget an anniversary? Why the JFK assassination still matters, it's also amazing that we've reached the point where the date is not noted.

This piece from the Washington Post, The Day a Generation's Spirit Died, is an excellent summary of the Kennedy legacy:

It was not the product of party or ideology; rather the reverse. For all his amused affection for his brawling fellow Democrats, Kennedy was a skeptical partisan at best. "Sometimes," he said more than once, "party loyalty demands too much." He was even more skeptical of ideology. Liberals, he said, "tend to underestimate the importance of winning"; conservatives too often "close their eyes to society's needs." Predictably, he was viewed with suspicion by both the left and the right. Liberals eschewed him for Adlai Stevenson at the 1960 Democratic National Convention; conservatives stampeded to Lyndon Johnson at the convention and to Richard Nixon in the general election. But Kennedy did something no politician had done at least since Theodore Roosevelt. He electrified much of a generation, many of whom had previously neither known nor cared about politics and government.

His famous call to "ask not what your country can do for you" is now so well known it's a cliche. Who remembers today how radical a departure that was from the lunch pail political rhetoric of the 1940s and '50s? Who had ever run for office before by asking us to give rather than take?

Politics in the 1950s — at least in image — was the province of greasy, balding fat men with wet cigars and wide ties. They were the ward heelers and aldermen and lodge brothers of a Ralph Kramden America, leavened out with the occasional plutocrat or statesman. They brokered candidates in smoke-filled rooms and wore funny hats in chaotic conventions where they thronged as much to get away from their wives as to choose our leaders. Younger political hopefuls had to butter them up or buy them out and wait their turn to run. Elections were "delivered" by "passing the word." Predictability was political gold. New ideas and faces were suspect, and politics usually catered not to the best in us but to the worst.

Onto that scene sailed John F. Kennedy with a gospel of sacrifice and vigor. The youngest president ever elected to the White House took us in a whole new direction. He invited artists and musicians and Nobel laureates to the White House because he said he wanted to celebrate the best in our culture. He played touch football and unleashed a fad for 50-mile hikes, because, he said, we had physical challenges to meet as well as mental ones.

He'd been a cipher as a congressman and only mildly attentive as a senator, but he grew with his responsibilities. He called for a New Frontier that would test us with something like the challenges our grandparents had met. He was hip and funny and smart as hell. He took the world situation seriously, but unlike most of the old pols posturing around him, he didn't seem to take himself seriously at all. He was almost flip about the pain of his lifelong back problems — made worse by war wounds — and the tragedies in his life. "Life isn't fair," he told us "but government should be."
Oh, for another such as him. As the song says, Where are They Gone?

(Via Defining Moments at Firedoglake)

Cartoon of the Day

* Steve Kelly, The Times-Picayune

No Bottom

Another topic that I occasionally address is journalism and its role in U.S. society as the Fourth Estate, see.e.g. J'Accuse and Put Down the Steno Pad.

This video clip from Real Time has a very interesting discussion of the role of the media. "Greed Knows No Bottom," says activist/musician Tom Morello on Real Time with Bill Maher, regarding corporate ownership of the media. Morello and Maher are part of a discussion with Richard Dreyfuss (and correspondent Dana Priest) on journalism and the fourth estate.

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Prayer Free Zone

For a country that supposedly exalts religion, we are very intolerant when the religion being practiced is anything but Christian. And when that religion is Muslim, we know no bounds.

I have posted a number of incidents related to problems that have arisen when flying while Arab, see here and here, incuding the Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada plane in Montreal for praying in-flight (Jews, Arabs -- they look & sound alike, you know) and the six Arab men who were not allowed to fly board a plane -- because they looked Arab.

In what is becoming depressingly familiar, the latest incident is from the San Franciscan Gate, 6 Imams Removed From Twin Cities Flight. The article covers the latest in airline terrorism -- airlines terrorizing passengers, that is. As the AP article reports:

Six Muslim clerics removed from a US Airways flight said Tuesday they were victims of discrimination and called for a boycott of the airline.

The imams were removed from the flight to Phoenix on Monday night after three of them said their normal evening prayers in the terminal in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before boarding, said Omar Shahin, president of the North American Imams Federation. They were among the 150 imams who attended a federation meeting in Minneapolis.

"The police came and take us off the plane in front of all the passengers in a very humiliated way," said Shahin. "I never felt bad in my life like yesterday. It was the worst moment in my life when I see six imams, six leaders in this community, humiliated."

They said they were questioned by police and the FBI, detained in a holding cell with loud music and occasionally surrounded by police dogs.

* * * *

An airport police report said the flight's captain had already decided he wanted the men off the plane after the passenger passed a flight attendant a note pointing out "Arabic men."

* * * *

On Tuesday, US Airways refused to honor the group's tickets or allow them to buy new ones, saying their payment for Monday's flight had been refunded.

* * * *

US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader, who came to the airport to see the scholars, said she didn't have much information about what happened in Minneapolis and wasn't prepared to apologize.

As I noted before in Are Armbands Next -- It's the Muslim version of "Driving While Black" -- "Flying While Arab."

UPDATE: The Washington Post, Imams Stage Airport 'Pray-In' As Protest, reports:
Imams, ministers and a rabbi staged a "pray-in" demonstration Monday at Reagan Washington National Airport and asked an apology from US Airways for barring six Muslims from a Minneapolis to Phoenix flight last week.

The religious leaders called for an end to racial profiling, saying it was unacceptable in America.

* * * *

US Airways Group Inc. spokeswoman Andrea Rader said prayer was never the issue. She said the passenger overheard anti-U.S. statements and the men got up and moved around the airplane.

"We're sorry the imams had a difficult time, but we do think the crews have to make these calls and we think they made the right one," she said.

At least we now know who makes the No Fly decisions . Notice that US Air did not apologize for the behavior of the crew -- the crew gets to decide who stays and goes and the airline agrees.

And I respond to the religious leaders objecting to the racial profiling: Welcome to America.

There's a Place for You

IRAQ STUDY GROUP’S MAGIC ‘BULLET’: SEND LA COPS TO BAGHDAD, according to Don Davis of the Satirical Political Report:

Although its formal proposals are not due out until the end of the year, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has learned that the key recommendation of the Iraq Study Group will be to send a battalion of LA cops to Baghdad.

While this was not part of the Baker Commission’s initial plan, recent events — including LA officers repeatedly punching a suspected gang member in the face, and UCLA cops tasering a student in the campus library — have convinced the bipartisan Commission that this just may be the last, best hope.

The proposal, being marketed as “Stay the Coarse,” or “Tased Re-Destroyment,” was briefly summarized by Commission Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton: “no disrespect to the Marines, but if you’re ever going to get control of the insane asylum known as Baghdad, you have to send in your own crazy motherfuckers.”

The perfect solution.

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Shock Me

The LA Times has an article on the officer involved in the UCLA taser case, Officer in Taser case identified, subtitled, "Terrence Duren, a 2001 UCLA officer of the year, has been the subject of two other use-of-force complaints." The LA Times reports:

The UCLA police officer videotaped last week using a Taser gun on a student also shot a homeless man at a campus study hall room three years ago and was earlier recommended for dismissal in connection with an alleged assault on fraternity row, authorities said.

* * * *
In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity. Kente S. Scott alleged that Duren confronted him while he was walking on the street outside the Theta Xi fraternity house.

* * * *
In October 2003, Duren shot and wounded a homeless man he encountered in Kerckhoff Hall. Duren chased the man into a bathroom, where they struggled and he fired two shots.
Like the touch of a taser, that news about the officer comes as a shock. My original post on Mostafa Tabatabainejad, the UCLA student who was stunned several times with a Taser after he refused to show his student ID is at No ID, Taser Me.

(Via Suburban Guerrilla)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Ann Telnaes

Gross Mistake

No sale, originally uploaded by libbyrosof.

The Gross Mistake by Thomas Jefferson over the sale of The Gross Clinic continues. See The Clinic Sale is Gross, for background on the controversy.

A protest rally was held by a group of artists on Sunday. See The first Eakins rally--more to come by Artblog and the Washington Post, Artists Protest Over Planned Eakins Sale.

The Inquirer reports that Mayor Street has nominated the masterpiece to be designated as a "historic object" under the city's historic preservation ordinance, Street: Designate painting 'historic', which would prevent the painting from being altered or moved without the express approval of the Philadelphia Historical Commission. And a coalition of city officials institutions and civic leaders have formed a Masterpiece Fund to Keep Eakins in Philadelphia.

Writing about the controversy over the sale by TJU, Inga Saffron, the architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, observes in The Gross Hospital, that this "wasn't the first time the institution had held its hometown for ransom. Jefferson has been expertly extracting favors from the city for years." Saffron pens a scathing catalogue of Jefferson's status as a "territorially ambitious and imperious institution" -- just what you'd expect from a non-profit health care organization -- such as the mega-garage and prison-like student center fortress that are "part of a shamefully sketchy master plan that is intended to guide the hospital's development."

TJU initially responded to the deluge of derogatory dissent over the sale by trying to justify its actions and placate students, faculty and alumni, see Sans Eakins Gallery, but Jefferson has now switched to offense mode. The Inquirer College faults city action on painting:
Thomas Jefferson University said yesterday that efforts by the city to stall removal of Thomas Eakins' masterpiece The Gross Clinic, which the university has agreed to sell, are an inappropriate, misguided attempt to "restrict the University's control over its own property."

In a blunt, unsigned statement, the university said city actions would result in "limiting the pool of potential buyers the university may address and mandating an artificially low sale price."
Definitely a Gross Mistake.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bad Boys

A Countdown episode by Keith Olbermann covers the story of Mostafa Tabatabainejad, the UCLA student who was tasered by campus police after he failed to produce his student ID. See No ID, Taser Me.

The student may have been out of line in refusing to show his ID and/or dilly-dallying when ordered to leave the building by campus security, but the conduct of the police in handling this situation was beyond abhorrent -- it was criminal.

See also, this video Bad Cops, to the tune of Bad Boys, by A Revolution of One.

Cartoon of the Day

* Steve Kelley, The Times-Picayune

It's All Your Fault

It's can't be fun being George Bush these days. He's definitely been consigned to lame duckism status. He has to deal with a Democratic Congress. Everywhere he turns, there is yet another disaster to deal with.

Thank god he doesn't read the paper or his normal bad day would be worse after reading that even his friends have turned against him. In Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush, the Washington Post notes:

A certain weary crankiness sets in with any administration after six years. By this point in Bill Clinton's tenure, bitter Democrats were competing to denounce his behavior with an intern even as they were trying to fight off his impeachment. Ronald Reagan was deep in the throes of the Iran-contra scandal. But Bush's strained relations with erstwhile friends and allies take on an extra edge of bitterness amid the dashed hopes of the Iraq venture.

"There are a lot of lives that are lost," Adelman said in an interview last week. "A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful."

The sense of Bush abandonment accelerated during the final weeks of the campaign with the publication of a former aide's book accusing the White House of moral hypocrisy and with Vanity Fair quoting Adelman, Richard N. Perle and other neoconservatives assailing White House leadership of the war.

Since the Nov. 7 elections, Republicans have pinned their woes on the president.

* * * *

The arc of Bush's second term has shown that the most powerful criticism originates from the inside. The pragmatist crowd around Colin L. Powell began speaking out nearly two years ago after he was eased out as secretary of state. Powell lieutenants such as Haass, Richard L. Armitage, Carl W. Ford Jr. and Lawrence B. Wilkerson took public the policy debates they lost on the inside. Many who worked in Iraq returned deeply upset and wrote books such as "Squandered Victory" (Larry Diamond) and "Losing Iraq" (David L. Phillips). Military and CIA officials unloaded after leaving government, culminating in the "generals' revolt" last spring when retired flag officers called for Rumsfeld's dismissal.

On the domestic side, Bush allies in Congress, interest groups and the conservative media broke their solidarity with the White House out of irritation over a number of issues, including federal spending, illegal immigration, the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the Dubai Ports World deal.

Most striking lately, though, has been the criticism from neoconservatives who provided the intellectual framework for Bush's presidency. . . . Others close to the White House said the neoconservatives are dealing with their own sense of guilt over how events have turned out and are eager to blame Bush to avoid their own culpability.
Not that I feel sorry for him, since he allowed this to happen through a combination of his own hubris, ego, and insecurities. In other words, he began to believe his own bullshit. Big mistake and now he and the rest of us are paying for his mistakes. And unfortunately, we will be paying for a long time -- long after he is gone.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

Remembering Ohio

As I was posting about the UCLA student's run-in with the police, No ID, Taser Me, I started humming this song from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Ohio."

Blogcritics says of the song:

May 4, 1970, an anti-war student demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio left four students dead, one paralyzed, and eight others wounded.

The demonstration ended when the National Guard fired into the crowd of students. The shootings ended the lives of four students: Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer.

Shortly thereafter, Neil Young wrote what would become an anthem of a generation — the song "Ohio" in memory of the "Four dead in Ohio".
It's never too far away.

No ID, Taser Me

The video first told the story. YouTube made sure everyone quickly saw and heard the story. Then the story was blogged about by the Guardian's Comment is free, Candid cameras (among others):

Could YouTube, the internet, online video and all that malarkey actually make a difference? That is the question police and public must be asking themselves . . . .YouTube is up and running faster than a cop with a primed Taser, and it makes embarrassing viewing for Los Angeles law enforcement in all its guises.
What's the story? As the LAist reports (and has the video):
On Tuesday night around 11pm, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was stunned several times with a Taser after he wasn't able to produce his anti-Taser device (his Bruin card) and did not leave the CLICC Lab in Powell Library in a timely manner, the Daily Bruin reports.
Comment is Free describes the incident and its impact:
The latest case involves a young man, a university library and a Taser. Posted on YouTube on Wednesday, the video was shot on a mobile phone. It opens with a shaky moving shot of a computer keyboard and voice in the background shouting "Don't touch me".

Shot at 11.30pm at University of California Los Angeles's Powell Library, the camera wobbles and jinks around as the shouting continues. Bemused students look up from their keyboards as the tumult grows. But this is no everyday incident of restless academia.

Thirty seconds into the clip, the man screams. Another voice tells him to "Get up" as his screams continue.

The camera weaves its way to the action, catching a gaggle of onlookers gathered around the library entrance.

"Here's your Patriot Act. Here's your fucking abuse of power," says the man as the other voice - presumably a University of California Police Department officer - continues to tell him to get up.
"Stop fighting us," says the officer.

"I'm not fighting you," says the man. "I said I was leaving. I got Tasered for no reason. I was leaving this god-forsaken place."

An onlooker asks the officer for his badge number, but receives no response.

Several officers now stand around the man. "Stand up or you'll get Tasered again," they tell him. They haul him to his feet and administer another charge. The man again screams.

And so it goes on. The officers repeatedly Tasering the man, the soundtrack dominated by his screams and the persistent mechanical voice of the police telling him to stand up even as they administer more charges.

As the growing crowd of onlookers gets closer, the officers warn them to stay away or risk being Tasered themselves.

Subsequent enquiries reveal that a community service officer approached the man in the library asking for his student identification. He refused to show it. When the officer returned with campus police the man, according to witnesses, was leaving the library. An officer allegedly grabbed his arm at which point he began saying "Don't touch me."

The man, who was identified as a 23-year-old Iranian-American student named Mostafa Tabatabainejad, was arrested and cited for resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer.

If it weren't for the video this might be another humdrum case of a rowdy student. But the video and the way it is distributed make it far more disturbing. Although the picture is incomplete, it is hard to characterise the officers' actions as reasonable. But much more interesting is that we get to see the video.
I watched the video, which was extremely disturbing. The LA Times, which also reported the story, notes:
"It was beyond grotesque," said UCLA graduate David Remesnitsky of Los Angeles, who witnessed the incident. "By the end they took him over the stairs, lifted him up and Tasered him on his rear end. It seemed like it was inappropriately placed. The Tasering was so unnecessary and they just kept doing it."

Campus police confirmed that Tabatabainejad was stunned "multiple" times.

By then, Remesnitsky said, a crowd of 50 or 60 had gathered and were shouting at the officers to stop and demanding their names and badge numbers.

Remesnitsky said officers told him to leave or he would be Tasered.
I first saw the video on YouTube before I read the news reports and wondered who the young man was (that is, whether he was black, brown or Middle Eastern). In a follow up article, UCLA student stunned by Taser plans suit, the LA Times reports that the student is planning a lawsuit over the incident:
Attorney Stephen Yagman said he plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the UCLA police of "brutal excessive force," as well as false arrest. The lawyer also provided the first public account of the Tuesday night incident at UCLA's Powell Library from the student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior.

He said that Tabatabainejad, when asked for his ID after 11 p.m. Tuesday, declined because he thought he was being singled out because of his Middle Eastern appearance. Yagman said Tabatabainejad is of Iranian descent but is a U.S.-born resident of Los Angeles.
The articles do not mention whether any other students were approached in the library and asked to show ID or whether Tabatabainejad was the only one singled out. Of course, in any event, the manner in which the incident was handled was abhorrent and unwarranted.

The only good news related to this story is that UCLA students protested by staging a major demonstration on campus. According to LAist:
Students descended . . . in droves . . . chanting against excessive force, and the need to police the police. Protest leaders demanded that an independent investigation take place instead of one by the campus authorities, and also that the officers in question be suspended during the investigation.
UPDATE: If this post offends you, please consider signing this petition: Petition to Ban the Use of Taser Guns by UCPD.

UPDATE #2: See also, Americablog's query on who should be subjected to the Taser, Would UCLA have tasered Rosa Parks?

It's a Keeper

One of the LWL* departed from our office several months ago, see Sayonara Sanaya, and is now working for a non-profit organization, Friends of the High Line -- which is dedicated to the preservation and reuse of the High Line - a 1.5 mile, elevated railway that runs along the West Side of Manhattan.

When I first heard about her new job & this Project, I thought, huh? This video explains the concept behind the Friends of the High Line and the conversion of the railway to a public park. As Edward Norton, on of the Members of the FHL explained, the new use for the rail "was a strange and rare fusion of urban preservation and historical preservation and environmental preservation," as a way to create green space in New York.

The Project is featured in the video and an article in the first issue of Good Magazine, Public Domain: The Next Generation of American Public Spaces. The article describes FHL:

The High Line was originally an elevated railroad built in 1929 to lift the industrial infrastructure of New York's waterfront above street level and to separate networks of trains from networks of pedestrians. But in 1980 the trains stopped and the High Line was locked.

* * * *
A few months ago, construction began on the new park version of the High Line, and it seems as though some of that wild urban atmosphere may endure. Following the slogan “Keep it,” the design will build off of the existing train structure, weaving in strands of wilderness and wood decking. Though the park is long and narrow, strategic variation of vegetation will allow you to get lost in it. And the project incorporates new technologies and materials, including the use of a recently invented transparent concrete, as well as lamps designed to reduce light pollution in the night sky. Sustainable features include new plantings of native species and tanks to store water runoff for irrigation.
So OK, I'm convinced. FHL sounds great (and GOOD looks good too). I can't wait until the park is done to explore it. Our former LWL may have made a good move career wise & it may be a great Project to work on -- but I'll bet our lunches are better.

* Ladies Who Lunch (also the name for my office)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Gary Markstein

Sans Eakins Gallery

The sale of The Gross Clinic by Thomas Jefferson University was shocking when first announced last week. See my earlier post on the issue, The Clinic Sale is Gross. However, the reverberations are revealing in that the Administration and Board were apparently also surprised at the degree of hostility that surrounded that announcement. Ah, that bubble. I guess that it's not limited to Bush-world. The Administration and Trustees at Thomas Jefferson University are experiencing the pop, pop sounds of a bursting bubble, as the reality of the outrage over the sale of The Gross Clinic intrudes on their insulated world.

The reaction within the Philadelphia area and the art community at large has been overwhelmingly negative. The Inquirer reports that Jefferson alums rip sale of Eakins:

At a packed meeting Wednesday night, alumni of Thomas Jefferson University expressed their dismay at the school's decision to sell Thomas Eakins' incomparable painting, The Gross Clinic, and at the secrecy with which the sale was conducted, participants said.

"There was a question about the way this was handled - that's a major, major issue," Lorraine King, president of the alumni association, said in an interview yesterday. "It was such a significant asset and decision that we felt it should have been openly discussed with more than a few isolated members" of the board of trustees.

Damage control by Jefferson is in full force. See this op-ed piece, Symbol and conduit of Jeff's mission, by Chairman of the Board Brian Harrison, trying to justify the decision to sell it's masterpiece. Sure, as though you can justify selling a piece of Philadelphia's history to "Art-Mart" (that is, the museum owned by Alice Walton -- Mrs. Wal-Mart). Further, as blogger Free Frank Warner concisely put it, in ‘The Gross Clinic’ betrayal: Shame on the Thomas Jefferson University trustees:
He failed.

Harrison said that because the 1875-76 painting of Dr. Samuel D. Gross at leg surgery is such an important “symbol,” the board of trustees decided to sell it off for $68 million.

Alumni donated the painting to the university in 1878, expecting it would stay permanently at the Philadelphia institution. Now it’s sold.

* * * *
Shame on the Thomas Jefferson University board of trustees. If they can’t buy back the painting with their own money by Dec. 26, they should be remembered forever for their betrayal. . ..They weren’t creative enough to raise money the old-fashioned way. They took the most anti-creative route. They sold the soul of the institution.

* * * *
The university’s Eakins Gallery will be left with an empty wall. Eakins without Eakins.

But the trustees already have given us a surgical vision to replace Eakins’. It’s the image of a university removing its own heart.
Yes, Harrison and Jefferson have missed the point. Steven Conn, the author of "Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living with the Presence of the Past," also wrote an op-ed in the Inquirer,It's part of Phila.'s heritage, which does an excellent job of expressing what's at stake:
Thomas Jefferson University wants to raise money. Lots of it. To fund an ambitious expansion of its facilities. It looked around and realized it had a valuable asset that it could sell on the open market. So it has chosen to do so.

That seems straightforward enough. Except we're not talking about an ordinary asset but about Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic, which is arguably the greatest 19th-century American painting.

Jefferson doesn't want the painting anymore, and that's fair enough. The university has never been a good or responsible steward of its Eakins masterpiece. It doesn't know how to take care of it, nor does it really care to exhibit it. A very good case can be made that the painting belongs in an institution prepared to do it justice.

Works of art that carry this level of significance, however, cannot simply be treated as yet one more transferrable financial instrument. Whether Jefferson wants to acknowledge it or not - and statements from the university suggest it is clueless about this - the owner of this painting also owns a considerable public trust and obligation. By putting this painting on the market, Jefferson has violated that public trust and failed in its public obligation.

* * * *
Jefferson's defense of its decision simply rings disingenuous. It wants credit for being civic-minded because it has given the city 45 days to match the offer from Alice Walton (Mrs. Wal-Mart). Of course, that begs the question: If Jefferson cared about its civic obligation, why didn't it approach city institutions and philanthropists in the first place? Why was this sprung without warning? A 45-day ticking clock doesn't acknowledge the daunting reality of trying to raise $68 million when the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library, the Barnes and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts are busy raising money for other projects.

Jefferson's abrogation of its public trust ought to raise serious questions about the campus expansion it claims this $68 million will help fund. Simply put, can an institution prepared to sell such a valuable piece of the city's cultural patrimony be trusted to expand in ways that won't be equally ruinous for the city, and for its neighborhood?

* * * *
Apparently, those who run Jefferson see Dr. Gross purely as a cash cow while everyone else sees a treasure that belongs in Philadelphia. What remains to be seen is whether outrage can be translated into enough money to keep him here. If Dr. Gross leaves town, Jefferson will be $68 million richer, but the city will be impoverished in ways that defy counting.
Likewise, in ...the Visigoths on the Schuylkill Expressway...and other urban myths..., Wilmington blogger Hugh J. McNichol refers to what I call that bubble, saying:
The proposed sale and relocation of the "Gross Clinic" is symptomatic of corporate lack of community integration and cooperation.

Jefferson University, while housed in Philadelphia does not seem to be part of Philadelphia and its cultural past and present.

This pillaging of artistic treasures indicates the true insensitivity that is directed towards preserving local history.

It is happening all over the country, shopping malls are springing up around historic battlefields, condo developments are tucked into architecturally significant buildings (eg. Naval Retirement Home at Gray's Ferry) and even our sacred spaces are being sold off as excess baggage.
WHYY has a page devoted to The Gross Clinic on its website, including audio of the Radio Times report on the sale with Inquirer writer Stephan Salisbury, Julie Berkowitz, former art historian at Thomas Jefferson University, Gary Carpenter, a Jefferson graduate and pediatrician, and Donn Zaretsky, a lawyer specializing in fine art. See also, The Sixth Square, a new WHYY Arts & Culture blog devoted to the sale.

Welcome to Phillyville, who has adopted this as a cause celebre, also has some ideas to protest the sale by Jefferson.

The Secret Weapons

Clearly, it's a Stephen Colbert world - or nation, at least. As he told Stewart during their election coverage, "I am America Deep inside, I'm a melting pot of all the things that make America great."
This quote from an LA Times piece, Biggest election season winner? Stephen Colbert -- Every incumbent candidate the faux-newsman interviewed in his notorious "Better Know a District" segment was reelected -- sums up the media's take on the influence of Colbert/Stewart. As the Scarborough video and Times article notes:
In the wake of the Democratic congressional juggernaut, the biggest winner this election season has risen from the parted waters - and it's not Nancy Pelosi. It's Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

* * * *
Shrugging aside oft-repeated notions that the midterm elections were a referendum on the war in Iraq, Colbert said on "The Daily Show and the Colbert Report Present the Midterm Midtacular," his up-to-the-minute election coverage with Jon Stewart, that "these elections are a referendum on something more important - me." Who can argue?
See also, No Fact Zone, Who’s Honoring Stephen Colbert Now (or at least trying)? Marketwatch!.

But it's not just Colbert who comes out ahead in this post-election review of winners and losers (besides the candidates, that is). We can't forget about the impact of that other contingent that made a difference in this election -- bloggers.

A few of my favorite Philly bloggers are the subject of a post-election piece in the Philadelphia Weekly magazine, ’Net Gains. Featured were Duncan Black of Eschaton, Susan Madrak, who blogs at Suburban Guerrilla, and Will Bunch of Attytood.

Dan McQuaide (who also has a blog, Philadelphia Will Do), writes about the impact of liberal bloggers on the mid-term election, noting for example that Democrat Patrick Murphy's win over incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in PA's (mostly Republican) 8th Congressional District seat was due, in part, to the efforts of the "netroots." In crediting the efforts of bloggers as contributing to the outcome of the race, the article states:

Will Bunch . . . says one of the major effects liberal bloggers had on the election was driving media coverage, or delving into aspects of campaigns normally not covered as much.

“The blogs played a role in amplifying a lot of developments that would’ve gotten news coverage, but took on a much bigger life of their own,” Bunch says. “Certainly the investigation of Curt Weldon’s daughter was dissected and picked through even more, due to blogs.”

While the debate continues over just how much of an influence blogs had on the midterm elections, liberal bloggers are already looking toward the future. As a long-term goal Madrak says she wants to get more diverse and working-class voices into the grassroots and netroots movements. In the short term it’s less than a year until the 2007 mayoral election, which is now wide open as a field of a half-dozen or so Democrats jockey for position.

Those candidates would be wise to pay attention to last Tuesday, lest they fail to fully capitalize on the burgeoning netroots movement. If they’re unsure, they can just ask Mike Fitzpatrick what it can do.

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert & Liberal bloggers -- a winning combination!

(Video via Crooks & Liars)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bad Hair Day

It was a dark & stormy night . . . .

(Via Philadelphia Will Do, from a photo by Brad Maule)

Do You Have Your Hall Pass?

The Identity Project asks the question “Mother, may I?” in a piece on newly proposed travel regulations:

Should you have to ask for permission from the government before you are allowed to get on a plane or cruise ship?

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed that airlines and cruise ships be required to get individual permission (”clearance”) from the DHS for each individual passenger on all flights to, from, or via the U.S. Unless the answer is “Yes” — if the answer is “no” or “maybe”, or if the DHS doesn’t answer at all — the airline wouldn’t be allowed to give you a boarding pass, or let you or your luggage on the plane or ship.

The Identity Project, along with the World Privacy Forum and John Gilmore, has filed comments with the DHS objecting to this proposal as a violation of international human rights, First Amendment rights, and privacy and government accountability laws.
OpEdNews also reports on the proposed regs, in Homeland Security Tightens Grip on International Travel, noting:
A radical change in international travel rules has been lost in these tumultuous last few months that have seen the demise of habeas corpus, the legalization of torture and the expansion of the President's martial law powers.
This is the No Fly List -- with a twist. As OpEdNews explains:
Current practices already represent a severe restriction on the right to travel. The "no-fly list" dates back to 1990, but Patriot Act I created a new agency, the Transportation Security Administration, that was charged with creating and maintaining a list of people who were not allowed to board airplanes. The list was reported to have contained around 1,000 names by the end of 2001 . . . In December, 2005, a Swedish airline leaked that the list had grown from 1,000 to over 80,000.

The new procedure will completely eliminate the opportunity for the public to find out how many people are on the list. No airline or cruise company will ever receive a "no-fly" or "selectee" list. Instead of providing a passenger manifest after departure as now required by the Customs and Border Patrol, airlines, cruise lines and other public carriers will have to provide a provisional pasenger list prior to departure. This list will be checked against a Homeland Security list of citizens approved for international travel, and the carrier will be ordered not to board those who are not approved.

* * **
Who will be on the list? That's a secret. What criteria will determine who is on and who is off the list? That's a secret. How many people will be approved and how many will not? That's a secret. If you're not on the approved list, how can you petition the government to change your status? You can't.
Blogger Orcinus summarizes the meaning of the proposed reg in Over the Line:
In short: Starting on January 15, you can't get on a plane or a cruise ship that might touch US airspace or waters without specific prior approval from DHS. And if they get away with this one, it will open the door for requiring everyone (including yours truly on her weekly mail runs) to get DHS' official blessing before they try to cross the border into or out of the U.S. The decisions, as always, will be made by anonymous bureaucrats who account to no one. There will, as always, be no avenue of appeal.
See Also, Permission to travel, Edward Hasbrouck's Practical Nomad.

As I've said before, see Super Fly, I hate to fly!!