Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

Bush Lied & People Died

I wasn't able to watch the entire show the other evening, so I just finished Bill Moyers' illuminating documentary on the role of the press in the lead up to the Iraq War, Buying the War. I've included his interview on Real Time with Bill Maher. In his PBS program, Moyers explores:

How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? "What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored," says Moyers. "How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?"

Moyers story echoes my own experience. I was just an avid reader of the news and I was able to figure out that the Bush Administration was lying to us in the run up to the War, ably assisted by the media. But it wasn't easy. At the risk of repeating myself, I noted before:

My own interest in blogs, international and alternative media sources (such as the Guardian Unlimited, AlterNet and truthout), can be traced to the run up to the war in Iraq. Traditional media, be it newspaper or TV, did not report on (or question) the many areas in the Administration's push for war that were clearly bunk. It was astonishing to me at the time to see what wasn't reported at all in the press or what was slanted in favor of the Administration's position. It wouldn't surprise me if some Press Releases issued by the White House were printed in their entirety, without any independent investigation. Reporting the propaganda promulgated by the Administration was the order of the day for the press. Wrapped in a flag, of course, as was everything in that period of enforced patriotism.

The Philly papers were owned by Knight/Ridder at the time, so I also was privy to the reporting of Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel which was carried in the Inquirer. I used to wonder why Knight/Ridder wasn't part of the Stepford Press on the Iraq War -- I figured that Tony Ridder must have had some falling out with the Bushies and this was his ultimate revenge.

As Glenn Greenwald at Salon said, "Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion." Greenwald has an excellent precis of the show:

One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest.

Just consider that, as Moyers notes, there has been no examination by any television news network of the role played by the American media in enabling the Bush administration and its warmonger propagandists to disseminate pure falsehoods to the American public.
Even though I was familiar with the events covered, as I watched this story unfold, all I could think of was that what happened should be a crime, if it isn't. The Bush Administration (and the press?) should be held responsible for their actions. The refrain -- Bush lied & people died -- is more than that. It's true. As Greenwald said:
The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest.
See also, Shaun Mullen, The Big War Story the Media Is Ignoring.

A Chicken in Every Pot and a Gun in Every Home

What's the deal? At a pro-gun rally in PA state capital building in Harrisburg last week, gun-rights proponents unfurled a banner saying that State Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) should be hanged for introducing legislation that would require people to register their guns and pay a $10 fee to the state police. See Gun-rights banner at Capitol draws outcry over its language.

WTF? Why should Cruz be hung from a tree for promoting gun control? Why shouldn't he be shot? What's the matter with these gun rights people? That's just carrying racism too far.

Oh well, at least some of these gun nuts know their place. Another state representative, Jewel Williams, received a threatening email from a man Williams identified as a resident of Allentown, who said Williams should be shot while in the Capitol. In a follow up piece, the Inquirer reports,
Gun-control lawmaker threatened:

For protection, State Rep. Jewell Williams packs a .38-caliber revolver in his North Philadelphia district and while traveling to Harrisburg.

But a threatening e-mail he received yesterday has him considering a further precaution: dusting off an old bulletproof vest stored for the last seven years in his closet.

* * * *

"Now that I hear this attitude of people recommending lynching, I'll probably be wearing my gun more and possibly wearing my bulletproof vest, because we now think we're being threatened," Williams, a former police officer, said yesterday at a news conference calling for tighter gun laws.

Williams, a Democrat, was among members of the Legislative Black Caucus who on Tuesday called on the state police to investigate the banner, believing it amounted to a terroristic threat against Cruz, the General Assembly's only Latino member.

Only in Pennsylvania would a gun control advocate also be a gun owner. There's only so far you can go with this gun control stuff.

In another gun story:

David Huckabee, a son of former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, was arrested on Thursday after trying to board an airliner with a loaded pistol, police said.

Huckabee, 26, was jailed after an X-ray of his carry-on bag revealed the weapon, identified in a police report as a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol containing eight live rounds of ammunition.

Presidential hopeful's son arrested in Ark. with gun.

Well, isn't this a travesty? Maybe the NRA should start protesting these unconstitutional laws banning guns on planes. After all, I'm sure that the inviolate 2nd Amendment right to bear arms applies to airspace in the friendly skies.

After all, it is the only Amendment that is absolute and not subject to any limitation or infringement. Don't want to get started on that slippery slope. Next thing you know, we might have civilized gun laws.


Saturday, April 28, 2007


After our pre-concert Moroccan Dinner last night, we went to see Jon Stewart at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. Not being a native Philadelphian, I had never been there before. My partner, who grew up in nearby Havertown, spent a lot of time there in her younger days. As we were sitting down, she noted that the floor was sticky & said that the place probably hadn't been cleaned since the last time she was there.

Jon Stewart opened with some talk about Philly (and Upper Darby, where the concert was). One of his first comments was that the Tower looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since he attended an Alarm concert there back in 1984. He then talked about Imus, race, religion, politics (natch) and he talked about life -- dogs, kids and life in general.

I laughed till I cried, as did the rest of the audience. Jon Stewart was relaxed and friendly and funny and the crowd obviously loved him.

At the end of the show, he took questions from the audience, and in closing, he advised us not to let Bush et. al. make us despair too much, since “this too will pass... all the stuff that makes us angry or sad will pass."

See also, City Grrrl and Jon Stewart Makes A ‘Stand’ At The Tower.

And don't miss his Bill Moyers Journal interview.

UPDATE: Along with noting that there were a lot of oldies in the audience (moi included), Ryan Cormier of Delaware News Journal included a sampling of Jon Jokes in, Your Moment of Zen. Here are a few of my favorites:

Jon Stewart on...

Upper Darby

"It's great to be back in Upper Darby. If this is Upper Darby, I would really hate to see Lower Darby."

Upper Darby's 69th Street pedestrian bridge

"I'm not an urban planner, but if I was trying to revitalize downtown Upper Darby, I don't know if I would go with the giant 69. I find that when you're trying to lure business back, it's best not to go with an oral sex joke on your walking bridge."

Million Man March

"It was a great show of solidarity. If black people truly understood the power that they have through the deep fear lurking in our hearts, that would have been a very different march with one small adjustment. It would still be the Million Man March, but they wouldn't have announced they were doing it. If a million black people just showed up one day. Can you imagine being at an outdoor cafe that day. 'This Arugula salad is so good...[turns head]...What's happening!?!'"

Jews and blacks

"Both groups have been persecuted for thousands of years, but we just express our sufferings differently. Blacks have the blues. Jews complain, we just never thought to put it to music. We whine, but we just have no sense of rhythm. My grandmother wrote a blues song called, 'Gee, It's Drafty Here.' Perhaps you've heard the B-side: 'Now It's Too Hot.'"

Gay marriage

"I could understand gay marriage being a big issue if, say, the government was trying to make it mandatory. I can't quite wrap my head around why it's such an effective issue and why to many people care. And I know there's the religious argument that it's an abomination. But have you read the Bible? Everything is an abomination. If you read Leviticus, shellfish is an abomination. An abomination. Where's that sign at the protest? 'God hates fags...and scallops!"

And finally, Stwewart took some questions at the end of the night and someone up front noticed that Stewart did not have a ring on his finger.

Q: "Where's your wedding ring?
A: "My wedding ring? How do you know I'm not wearing it?"

Cartoon of the Day

* Bill Day, The Commercial Appeal

Pigs Can't Read

Due to production difficulties, your Inquirer or Daily News may not have been delivered today. If so, your paper will be delivered with tomorrow’s paper. We apologize for the inconvenience.

The above statement was posted on the Inquirer's website this afternoon. Must have been those flying pigs getting in the way of the printing presses.

As Phawker explained, in Q: When Will The Inquirer Pull Out Of Its Circulation Decline? A: When Pigs Fly Over 400 North Broad, there were pigs on Broad Street last Friday:
No you are not high — well, maybe you are but that doesn’t explain why pigs were flying over the Inquirer last night. You see, Inky Big Mahoff Brian P. Tierney commissioned the airborne pork ‘toon as part of a full frontal nyah-nyah-nyah over the paper’s recently posted circulation gain. The haters are still standing on tiptoe trying to get a peek at the End of Journalism As We Know It, but the Inky’s daily circulation was up 0.6 percent, or about 2,136 copies, over the last year.
Obviously the increase in circulation was good (even if surprising) news for the Inquirer. Mr. PR, Brian Tierney, did what he knows best. He did an all-out press, flaunting the news, a la the pigs flying over the building. Following the flying pigs on Broad, were 2 days of Pig Ads in the Inquirer over the week-end, see Philadelphia Will Do. In the end, this must have caused a hangover, since production problems caused the slight circulation drop noted above -- no papers delivered to ??? many subscribers on Monday. And Tierney, having been raised Catholic, should know about the sin of pride. Gets you every time. Irony, thy name is Brian. What goes up may come down. And down it did.

I have been complaining about the Inky for some time now, see, e.g., Inquire No More. Despite claims to the contrary, after the purchase of the Inky and Daily News by the Brian Tierney group, there has been a continued cutback in staff, along with a new conservative voice on the opinion page. Other changes have recently been introduced as well.

For example, Citizen Bank is now "sponsoring" a business column in the paper. As noted by Phawker, Tossing Bricks In A Glass House, this move necessitated an email from an Inky News Editor, who explained that the new Citizen Bank sponsored business column is getting some bad press. The upshot of the email was: Despite how it looks, it's really not that bad. Of course, this missive wasn't addressed to the readers, but the staff. Not good.

The reaction of the press has also been less than enamoured by the idea. See, Houston Chronicle Philadelphia Inquirer has left a key component out of its equation and The Nation, This Space for Sale. As the Nation said:
The venerable old paper is about to start running a new column called PhillyInc., which will be sponsored by Citizens Bank. Got that? An editorial column sponsored by a bank and festooned with the bank's logo and ads. William K. Marimow, the Inquirer's editor, admits that, "instinctively, as a reporter, I would have recoiled at the idea." But he has "come to terms with it," the New York Times reports, and promises that the editorial staff will maintain "complete, independent control" of the column's content.
Even before this, the Inquirer made news after its decision to start placing Page One Ads, see Philly Papers to Sell Page One Ads. Then there was the new news digest on the back page of the Sports Section, see The Reader's News Digest, which is not to be confused with the blurbs of the News in the front section.

Let me summarize. The paper has become Ad Heaven. Squeezed between the ads are a number of AP articles (including blurbs), with a few NY Times and Washington Post pieces. There are still a few articles penned by people identified as "Inquirer reporters" on the front page and in the Local/Regional News sections of the paper. More ads, less news. I also believe that the grade of paper being used has deteriorated, since there is sometimes a yellow cast to the paper -- that the-cat-got-it-first look -- if we don't bring it inside quick enough.

I wouldn't mind the preponderance of ads if the quality of the news accompanying the ads hadn't declined. I understand that the paper needs to increase revenue to survive. However, I don't want to read AP articles when I'm reading the paper. I see those on every on-line site that carries news. What makes me stay with the Inky, rather than just the NYTimes, is the local/regional/state reporting, along with another view of national news. But the latter is completely missing and the former is shrinking.

And yet, despite all this, we're told that circulation has increased? I'd love to get a good look at those numbers to see the true story. Statistics lie as much as Republicans (and Brian Tierney is definitely Republican).

(Photo via Phawker and see video at When Pigs Fly)

You should never try and teach a pig to read for two reasons. First, it's impossible; and secondly, it annoys the hell out of the pig.
~~ Will Rogers

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Bill Schorr, United Media Cartoons

More Jonspeak

Not to rub it in, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, in He's Coming, Jon Stewart is coming to Philly, at the Tower Theater tonight and, of course, I'm going.

As a preview, there have been a few local interviews with the Daily Show host.

In the Inquirer, Dan DeLuca writes about his interview with Jon Stewart, What's a funnyman to say of grim news?, and there's also an Audio of the actual interview.

Last week, I posted an interview from 'XPN, with Michaela Majoun, In His Words, which is well worth listening to.

The Real Fool

"Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney. Do you know what would happen if Cheney was impeached? George Bush would become acting president."

--Jay Leno

This one's for my fellow fools, see Basta: Impeach.

We called it.


It's All Bullshit

Download contents of your mind, even when there aren't any.
The job? Blogger.

The upside:
This is one of the bullshit jobs you can do immediately, with no training and no prior experience. You can also become very famous, since the established media, increasingly devoid of excitement and ideas of its own, has taken to siphoning off daily blogging activity as a much better and more interesting alternative to actual news.
The downside:
You need a full, daily dose of imagination, guile, bile, and people pouring nonsense into your head that you can repeat.
From: 50 Bulls**t Jobs at Bing

I think I'll keep my day job -- which has to be top on the list of all time bullshit jobs.

Tell other people's stories, even when there's nothing worth saying.

The upside:

You get to speak on behalf of your clients, who have screwed up so much that they can't speak for themselves, since if they say anything else, they can only make things worse. No matter how outrageous your statements are in defending your clients, you aren't really speaking for yourself, so it doesn't count. Unlike most people, who like to opine on the law, you actually know what it is.

The downside:

No matter how good a job you do for your client, in the end, everyone hates you (including your client who, even if he's won, doesn't want to pay your outrageous fees).

The job? Lawyer.

(Via reyonthehill)

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Real Fake News

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Robert Love provides an excellent discussion of the history of fake news, in Before Jon Stewart. He first observes its recent phenomenon:

For the rest of us, we’re knee deep in the fake stuff and sinking fast. It comes at us from every quarter of the media—old and new—not just as satire but disguised as the real thing, secretly paid for by folks who want to remain in the shadows. And though much of it is clever, it’s not all funny.

Fake news arrives on doorsteps around the world every day, paid for by You, Time magazine Person of the Year, a.k.a. Joe and Jane Citizen, in one way or another. Take for instance, the U.S. government’s 2005 initiative to plant “positive news” in Iraqi newspapers, part of a $300 million U.S. effort to sway public opinion about the war. And remember Armstrong Williams, the conservative columnist who was hired on the down low to act as a $240,000 sock puppet for the president’s No Child Left Behind program? Williams’s readers had no idea he was a paid propagandist until the Justice Department started looking into allegations of fraud in his billing practices.

Fake news has had its lush innings. The Bush administration has worked hand-in-glove with big business to make sure of it. Together, they’ve credentialed fringe scientists and fake experts and sent them in to muddy scientific debates on global warming, stem cell research, evolution, and other matters. And as if that weren’t enough, the Department of Health and Human Services got caught producing a series of deceptive video news releases— VNRs in p.r.-industry parlance—touting the administration’s Medicare plan. The segments, paid political announcements really, ended with a fake journalist signing off like a real one—“In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting,” and they ran on local news shows all over the country without disclosure. All of this fakery taken together, it may be fair to say that the nation’s capital has been giving Comedy Central a run for its money as the real home of fake news.

As he compares our situation today to that our journalistic predecessors, and his entire piece should be read, he queries:

But here’s a question: Can we continue to trust ourselves? Are we prepared for the global, 24-7 fake news cage match that will dominate journalism in the twenty-first century? Let’s call it Factual Fantasy: Attack of the Ax-Grinding Insiders. The boundaries have vanished, the gloves are off, our opponents are legion and fueled with espresso. Both CNN and The New York Times were used by the U.S. military as unwitting co-conspirators in spreading false information, a tactic known as psychological operations, part of an effort to convince Americans the invasion of Iraq was a necessary piece of the war on terror.

But let’s not leave out the technology. Leaks may be the time-tested tactic for manipulating the press, but the new digital toolbox has given third-party players—government, industry, politicians, you name ’em—sleeker weapons and greater power to turn the authority of the press to their own ends: to disseminate propaganda, disinformation, advertising, politically strategic misinformation—to in effect use the media to distort reality. Besides a vast and sophisticated degree of diligence, the rising generation of journalists would be wise to observe two rules for working in this new environment: Beware of profiteers and hyper-patriots, and check out a little history—lest it repeat itself.

And for those of you who can't get to see Jon Stewart live tonight, you can catch him on Bill Moyers Journal. Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart about how faking the news can reveal more of the truth than all of the Sunday-morning talk shows put together.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good Night & Good Luck

Born this day in 1908

From the PBS American Masters Series:
"This . . . is London." With those trademark words, crackling over the airwaves from a city in the midst of blitzkrieg, Edward R. Murrow began a journalistic career that has had no equal. From the opening days of World War II through his death in 1965, Murrow had an unparalleled influence on broadcast journalism. His voice was universally recognized, and a generation of radio and television newsmen emulated his style. Murrow's pioneering television documentaries have more than once been credited with changing history, and to this day his name is synonymous with courage and perseverance in the search for truth.
A true journalist, Murrow came from a family of Quaker abolitionists from North Carolina. See also, "Radio Days - Edward R. Murrow" and Edward R. Murrow.

A good portrayal of Murrow is the 2005 film, Good Night, and Good Luck.

~ ~ ~ ~
A reporter is always concerned with tomorrow. There's nothing tangible of yesterday. All I can say I've done is agitate the air ten or fifteen minutes and then boom - it's gone.
~ Edward R. Murrow

Cartoon of the Day

* Mark Streeter, SavannahNow

Cheney Be Gone

It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.
From the LA Times, George McGovern, Cheney is wrong about me, wrong about war, responding to a recent speech by Cheney:
VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today's Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment.

* * * *

On one point I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War. But that is all to the good.

The war in Iraq has greatly increased the terrorist danger. There was little or no terrorism, insurgency or civil war in Iraq before Bush and Cheney took us into war there five years ago. Now Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism, a bloody insurgency against our troops and a civil war.

Beyond the deaths of more than 3,100 young Americans and an estimated 600,000 Iraqis, we have spent nearly $500 billion on the war, which has dragged on longer than World War II.

The Democrats are right. Let's bring our troops home from this hopeless war.
Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House, reflecting on the death of journalist and author David Halbertsam, in his post David Halbertsam: Best & The Brightest, included the following:
Herewith an excerpt from an interview with Halberstam about Vietnam and Iraq:

"I think Vietnam and Iraq are different and yet there are a lot of parallels. There’s enough there to make you very uncomfortable if the way you see these things is shaped by our experience in Vietnam, as it is for me and so many of the senior military people . . . .

"I remember during Vietnam there was a generation of correspondents, some of the older ones, who were very tough on us younger correspondents because they had been in Korea or World War II and those wars had worked and there was a legitimacy to what we did then. And some of them were very quick to put down the younger reporters who were saying, 'This doesn’t work.' I had vowed never to be one of those who says, 'Guys, you just don’t know . . . I was in Vietnam and I know things you don’t know.' You know, pulling seniority and perhaps living in the past. So I was somewhat reluctant to talk too much about Iraq. But gradually, as we got nearer to it, I began to speak out.

"There were four or five points I was trying to make before the invasion. One was that we were going to punch our fist into the largest hornet’s nest in the world and end up doing the recruiting for Al Qaeda. I said that I thought that we would do the race to Baghdad very well—that the sheer military part would go well because our military is just very good, marvelous people, and our technology is awesome. But then the battle would change; we would be involved in urban guerilla warfare, and things would turn against us.

"I said that I thought the movie that they were all watching in the White House and the Pentagon was Patton, and the movie they should have been watching was The Battle of Algiers [the 1966 quasi-documentary film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France in the late 1950s].

"There is a moment in a war—as there was in Vietnam and as there will be in this war—where your military superiority is undermined or neutralized by your political limitations. And I thought the biggest miscalculation of all was a great underestimation of the colonial factor, just as there had been in Vietnam. In Vietnam the U.S. absolutely had refused to factor in the effect of the French Indochina War. And I felt the specter of colonialism would be a problem again in a more complicated way with Islam.

"The greatest miscalculation was not about the weapons of mass destruction, but the idea that we would be greeted as liberators. When the Bush people kept talking about that, alluding to what happened in France and Germany after World War II, well, anybody who had been in Vietnam would have been wary of it. There was just no way we were going to be greeted as liberators in this part of the world. The Iraqis might want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but they would not want us to do it for them."

Dick Polman also noted the passing of Halberstam, and referenced his best known book, The Best and The Brightest. Polman noted that its "insights into the perils of White House hubris" are just as relevant today. In his American Debate blog, Polman quoted from the conclusion of Halberstam's 1972 book:
Lyndon Johnson had lost it all, and so had the rest of them; they had, for all their brilliance and hubris and sense of themselves, been unwilling to look to and learn from the past….He and the men around him wanted to be defined as being strong and tough; but strength and toughness and courage were exterior qualities which would be demonstrated by going to a clean and hopefully antiseptic war with a small nation, rather than the interior and more lonely kind of strength and courage of telling the truth to America (about an unwinnable war) and perhaps incurring a great deal of domestic political risk…

Nor had they, leaders of a democracy, bothered to involve the people of their country in the course they had chosen; they knew the right path and they knew how much could be revealed, step by step along the way. They had manipulated the public, the Congress, and the press from the start, told half truths, about why we were going in, how deeply we were going in, how much we were spending, and how long we were in for. When their predictions turned out to be hopefully inaccurate, and when the public and the Congress, annoyed at being manipulated, soured on the war, then the architects had been aggrieved. They had turned on those very symbols of the democratic society they had once manipulated, criticizing them for their lack of fiber, stamina, and lack of belief….What was singularly missing…was an iota of public admission that they had miscalculated. The faults, it seemed, were not theirs, the fault was with this country which was not worth of them. So they lost it all.
Finally, Dennis Kucinich introduced Articles of Impeachment yesterday against Dick Cheney. The Washington Post, in At Last, Kucinich Begins His Quest for Impeachment, reported:
Kucinich introduced a House resolution "impeaching Richard B. Cheney, vice president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors" -- mainly for allegedly dragging America into war with Iraq "under false pretenses."

Why is Kucinich solely blaming Cheney and not both the vice president and the commander in chief? Because "if we started with Bush" and he actually got impeached, "Mr. Cheney would then become president," Kucinich replied.

When questioned by reporters about the support in Congress for his action, Kucinich responded:

"I do not stand alone. I have multitudes of people [supporting] me," he said.

Kucinich introduced three articles of impeachment against Cheney: The first accusing the vice president of deceiving the country by "fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify" an invasion of Iraq; the second accusing him of "purposefully" manipulating intelligence to Congress and the American public about a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda "despite all evidence to the contrary;" and the third for "threaten[ing] aggression against the Republic of Iran absent any real threat to the United States."

The past portends the present.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On Your Own

Are anti-abortion activists who are celebrating the recent victory in the Supreme Court regarding late term abortions also troubled by the rise in infant mortality in the South? In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South.

Is there something amiss with the fact that Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who has pushed a series of anti-choice laws in order to make his state “the safest place in America for an unborn child,” yet is the state with the highest infant mortality rate in the country? Feministe. See also, TAPPED.

How does that pro-life philosophy comport with cuts in welfare and health care for the poor? Will pro-lifers rally until changes are implemented to increase aid for the poor? I don't think so.

While on the subject, I would also like to see a study comparing those opposed to abortion and those opposed to gun control. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a high correlation. I also wouldn't be surprised if those same people identified themselves as part of the Religious Right.

What is the underlying basis for the religious tenet to protect life and how is it defined?

Once you're born, you're on your own.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Have Mercy (on the Earth)

And so, to conclude Earth Day, is Marvin Gaye's Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)

(Really, just an excuse to play Marvin, one of my favorite singers)

(Thanks to Kiko's House)

Bye, Bye BJ's

Well, I've added another store to my "No Shop" List. It seems the list just keeps getting longer.

Some Members of the Do Not Honor Role:

Walmart, because of its labor practices and the fact that it has squeezed out so many small businesses wherever it goes;

Circuit City, because it laid off good workers with experience just to save a few bucks (rather than giving the CEO an unpaid day off, which would probably equal the wages of the fired employees);

Urban Outfitters, because the owner, Dick Haynes, is the retail version of Don Imus; and

Ikea, who's owner, Kamprad, was a member of the Hitler Youth (and who claims a memory lapse about it).

Latest entrant is BJs, one of the warehouse giants.

I trekked out there today to stock up on pet food and paper products, among other items. I hadn't been there for a while, so my basket runneth over. Got in the checkout line, dutifully put all my junk on the counter & handed my membership card to the cashier. He told me that my card was rejected, so I needed to go to Customer Service. He then informed me that I also needed put all my stuff back in my cart. I told him that the card had most likely expired, but he said that he couldn't renew it. I had to go to customer service.

I reloaded all my junk into the cart & went to customer service. Stood in line again. Finally, I was told that my card expired (surprise, surprise). However, I could not renew because I didn't open the account. The business account, which has my name on it, couldn't be renewed by me of the same name, because my secretary originally opened it several years ago. Customer Service (a misnomer if I ever heard one) couldn't help me. I said they could do one thing -- put all the stuff in my cart away, since I was outta there.

Went to Costco instead (without caskets) and ran into another problem with my card. However, unlike BJs, Costco checked me out first, then said to stop by Customer Service on my way out to pick up a new card, which they had ready for me.

Cartoon of the Day

* Etta Hulme, Fort Worth Star Telegram
Posted by Picasa

Let Me Tell You About the Birds & the Bees

Although we are celebrating Earth Day today, every day needs to be Earth Day, as Bill Maher says. Via the The Huffington Post, Maher's New Rule:

Here's a quote from Albert Einstein: "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Well, guess what? The bees are disappearing. In massive numbers. All around the world. And if you think I'm being alarmist and that, "Oh, they'll figure out some way to pollinate the plants..." No, they've tried. For a lot of what we eat, only bees work. And they're not working. They're gone. It's called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, and all that's left are a few queens and some immature workers -- like when a party winds down at Elton John's house. Also, if your stinger stays up more than 48 hours, call your doctor.

But I think we're the ones suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. Because although nobody really knows for sure what's killing the bees, it's not al-Qaeda, and it's not God doing some of his Old Testament shtick, and it's not Winnie the Pooh. It's us. It could be from pesticides, or genetically modified food, or global warming, or the high-fructose corn syrup we started to feed them. Recently it was discovered that bees won't fly near cell phones -- the electromagnetic signals they emit might screw up the bees navigation system, knocking them out of the sky. So thanks guy in line at Starbucks, you just killed us. It's nature's way of saying, "Can you hear me now?"
We are definitely in the throes of Colony Collapse Disorder -- and my vote is the the Republican Right is killing us, by denying the problem exists.

(Video via The Largest Minority)

Little Humor

The White House Correspondents Dinner decided to use a new approach this year: an impersonator/comic that everyone thought had died to make jokes that did.

Rich Little, with shockingly dyed hair, said at the outset that he is “not political” but rather a “nightclub performer who does a lot of dumb, stupid jokes,” then proved that.
First report, from Editor & Publisher, Bush Doesn't Joke at WHCA Dinner Due to Virginia Tech Killings -- But Rich Little Says 'Nuts'

Last year's host, Stephen Colbert may not have wowed the White House or its Press Corps, The Colbert Lampoon , but he was a hit with the rest of us. When the WHCA decided to go with Rich Little for this year's dinner, the general reaction was shock -- shock that he was still alive, see, e.g., That's Rich and The Impersonators. Well, we may have spoke to soon. As E& P reports:
He started with a couple of Canada (his native country) jokes and a weak Sen. John McCain, which bombed, as did an impression of.Arnold Schwarzenegger, causing him to look at the crowd askance. “You thought Colbert was bad,” he finally joked.

With that he pulled out one of his classics, Johnny Carson, with a joke about lawyers being “assholes,” which drew a laugh from the president, despite the off-color language.

Then he did Andy Rooney asking: “If you overdosed on Viagra how would you get the coffin closed?”

Little followed by doing six presidents, including a man he “loved,” Ronald Reagan. He put in false teeth to play Jimmy Carter saying that when he was a peanut farmer “I had the biggest nuts in the county.”

As the presidents got more recent, the impressions got weaker: George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and then possibly the worst impression of all, the current president. But he closed with the one he is most famous for, Richard Nixon, saying, “Let’s bring him out of the mothballs one more time.”
Speaking of mothballs, Rich obviously knows about which he speaks.

UPDATE: Added the clip of Rich Little. You can find the whole show at FishbowlDC -- if you dare!

Also, For Letterman's Top 10 Bush gaffs, see Eschaton.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Limbo's been in Limbo

I was a bit surprised when I read this article today about the banishment of Limbo, Catholic Church buries limbo after centuries, which reports:
The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.

* * * *

The thumbs-down verdict on limbo had been expected for years and the document, called "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised," was seen as most likely to be final since limbo was never formally part of Church doctrine.

Pope Benedict authorized the publication of the document.

According to the CNS report, the 41-page document says the theologians advising the Pope concluded that since God is merciful he "wants all human beings to be saved."

It says grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for children, CNS, which is owned by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, quoted the document as saying.

Limbo, which comes from the Latin word meaning "border" or "edge," was considered by medieval theologians to be a state or place reserved for the unbaptised dead, including good people who lived before the coming of Christ.

The big surprise for me is that Limbo's been in Limbo this long. I thought that the decision to end Limbo was made last year. In fact, I wrote about the end of Limbo in January of 2006, see Limbo, in which I reminisced about my experience with "Limbo" and the Church's teachings. As I explained, I attribute my break with the Church to its teachings on the concept of limbo. The idea that an innocent infant who happened to die could be consigned to eternal nothingness was so abhorrent to me, that I didn't want to be part of a Church that had that as part of its core beliefs.

And so, here's an oldie, but goodie from the Daily Show, in

in his Divine Comedy, Dante placed virtuous pagans and great classical philosophers, including Plato and Socrates, in limbo. What will become of them?

(Video via onegoodmove)

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Cartoon of the Day

* Fitzsimmons


Speaking of Gonzales, Jon Stewart reports on the Gonzales Senate hearings.

Jon's take, as usual, is brilliant. My favorite reference is to Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heros and his famous bellow: "I know nothing! I see nothing! NOTHING!"

Gonzales' performance gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "I don't recall."

The Devotee

While the focus is on Alberto Gonzales, closer to home is the story of Mary Beth Buchanan, US Attorney for the Western District of PA. According to Talking Points Memo, she is on a list of US Attorneys that Rep. Conyers (D-MI) wants to talk to:

The Justice Department consulted with U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in Pittsburgh when it was drawing up a list of prosecutors to be fired, a former top aide to the attorney general told investigators, and now a House committee wants to interview her.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Senate investigators Sunday that Buchanan was one of the senior officials he consulted about which U.S. attorneys should be asked to resign. . . . At the time she was consulted, Buchanan was also serving as director of an office that provides administrative support to U.S. attorneys -- a job she had from June 2004 until June 2005.
See, Ex-AG Aide Says Buchanan Consulted On Firings.

So who is Mary Beth Buchanan? As the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports, No trouble for Buchanan to stay in line:
While the firing of eight U.S. attorneys across the country has focused attention on those who didn't get with the administration's program, Ms. Buchanan has proved herself to be a perfect fit.

* * * *

When first taking office, she quickly attached herself to Mr. Ashcroft and his policies -- even helping to promote the controversial USA Patriot Act in newspapers and community forums.

She earned national headlines for her prosecution of Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, as part of Operation Pipe Dreams, in which federal prosecutors targeted head shops.

* * * *

Those drug paraphernalia cases -- like the sale of obscenity online -- could have been tried anywhere in the country because the Internet was used. But they landed in Ms. Buchanan's office.

* * * *

Paul Brysh, a career federal prosecutor who retired from Ms. Buchanan's staff in 2004, said there was some criticism of Ms. Buchanan's decision to try both the Chong and obscenity cases, noting that they may not be the best use of scarce federal prosecutorial resources.

"The Department of Justice sets priorities and goals," Mr. Brysh said. "Certainly, in the case of Mary Beth, the department wanted to emphasize obscenity prosecutions, and she followed the policy."

A shining example of the "loyal Bushie," Buchanan knew exactly how to please her bosses. See also, The Face of a "Loyal Bushie". As the Post Gazette noted:

Aside from those high-profile cases, Ms. Buchanan has put a special emphasis on public corruption during her tenure.

In the last two years, her office has successfully prosecuted four ranking members of the Allegheny County sheriff's office, including the former sheriff.

* * * *

All of the public officials she has targeted have been Democrats, in part, of course, because most officeholders in Allegheny County are Democrats.

But allegations of wrongdoing have also come up against some Republicans here over the years. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was heavily criticized for saying that his family lived in Penn Hills -- requiring the school district there to pay the cost for his children to attend a cyber school -- while they were really in Virginia.

* * * *

A recently released study by two retired communication professors found that under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice has investigated elected Democratic officeholders and office seekers locally seven times more than their Republican counterparts.

The authors looked at 375 federal criminal cases across the country that targeted public officials from 2001 to 2006.

They found that of those, 298 defendants were Democrats; 67 were Republicans and 10 were independents.

That number comes despite a statistic that shows that Democratic officeholders outnumber Republicans nationally by only 50 percent to 41 percent, said one of the authors, Donald C. Shields, a professor emeritus of communication at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

"Pittsburgh's a big town, but you have a hundred little towns," Mr. Shields said. "It shouldn't be hard [to find a Republican] if they're investigating fairly. They didn't just swear to uphold the law where Democrats hold office."

The maxim "the perception become the reality" is the biggest problem for Buchanan. Respect for the law is inextricably tied to the view that the law is being fairly applied. Of course this is true in all cases, but it is especially so with criminal prosecutions, since individual's liberty (and perhaps even life) is at stake.

Former US Attorney Thomas Farrell wrote an impassioned op-ed, Our U.S. attorney should resign -- Mary Beth Buchanan has pursued the partisan priorities of the Bush administration -- describing this loss of trust:

The Bush administration's efforts to use an obscure provision of the Patriot Act to replace U.S. attorneys it deemed too vigorous in investigating Republican officials, too slow in indicting Democratic public officials or too reluctant to investigate "voter fraud" -- a euphemism for attempting to suppress the minority vote -- caused me to re-think my opinion of the fairness of Western Pennsylvania's U.S. attorney, Mary Beth Buchanan. I began to wonder why all of the recent public-corruption investigations in our region have been of Democrats.

The Bush administration has politicized the Department of Justice, just as it has every federal agency. The solicitor general used to be known as "the 10th justice" for his presumed fairness and independence in presenting arguments to the Supreme Court; the current solicitor general is just a mouthpiece for the administration's far-right ideology. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his subordinates have disgraced their offices with the positions they've taken to justify torture and the administration's evasion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's restrictions, loose as they are, on wiretaps.

Ms. Buchanan has been a devotee of the administration's policies. She has aided the effort to inflate the law-enforcement successes in the war on terror by misclassifying routine immigration and false-document cases as "anti-terrorism cases." For a time, the Western Pennsylvania District topped the nation in the number of "anti-terrorism" prosecutions, largely because dozens of Iraqi immigrant truck-drivers were prosecuted for paying off a motor-vehicles official to obtain commercial-drivers licenses. All of them did it to get work; none had terroristic intentions; all received sentences of probation.

* * * *

I've tried to defend Ms. Buchanan's choice of targets, but no more. Democrats do occupy most public offices in Allegheny County, but are the Republican officials in the 24 other counties of the Western Pennsylvania District all squeaky clean? Why apparently no investigation into Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's use of government office staff to support his campaign -- which is not unlike what happened in the Allegheny County sheriff's office? Ms. Buchanan also left to local authorities the prosecution of Republican state Rep. Jeff Habay after similar accusations arose.

And what of ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Ms. Buchanan's political sponsor? He misrepresented his family's residency in order to obtain state-funded cyber schooling for his children. Yet there appears to have been no investigation. I fear the worst.

Ms. Buchanan has been unique among her predecessors in the extent to which she has looked to Washington for direction and political advancement. I no longer have faith that she can remain independent of the administration's partisanship. Her continued leadership casts a cloud over the public corruption investigations and prosecutions now pending in her office.

This is the worst fallout from Attorneygate, in my opinion. With any political investigation or prosecution, there is always the concern that the case is politically motivated. The conduct of Gonzales -- and Buchanan -- have raised that specter to a reality, in at least some cases. Unfortunately, all cases against political are now open to question.

Here in Philly, the recent indictment of Vince Fumo, see Payback's Bitch, is now open to question by a claim that it was just a politicized federal investigation, Will a national scandal hit Philly, and help Vince Fumo? and will be used as a defense against the charges. See, The Liberal Doomsayer.

UPDATE (4/23): More on Mary Beth Buchanan. Apparently, she put her "home boy" in as US Attorney in Alaska, U.S. scandal threatens Alaska’s prosecutor, without even consulting the state's two Republican senators (including Senator Ted "NO" Stevens).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* R. J. Matson

Lawyers are Not Funny

In my recent post on the Imus (remember him?) controversy, Everybody Hates Frank Rich, I expressed my concern that it is often difficult to arbitrate what is acceptable and what is inappropriate language.

And so it begins. The NYTimes, in Lawyer Attacked for Book His Panel Deems Offensive, describes an example:

Raoul Felder, a celebrity divorce lawyer who is chairman of a state commission that oversees judges, has been given a unanimous vote of no confidence by the other nine members of the commission for helping to write a book they said is racially and ethnically inflammatory.

In a statement issued Friday, the commission members said the book, which Mr. Felder and the comedian Jackie Mason wrote, “repeatedly invokes racial, ethnic and religious invective.”

Denying that their action had anything to do with the Imus furor (I guess being disingenuous isn't outside the realm of reasonable conduct), the Commission has condemned the book as offensive. Felder has disputed the characterization of the book and is standing firm, saying:

“Hey, guys, lighten up. This is a book I wrote with Jackie Mason, a comedian, and the cover of the book is a cartoon,” he said.

He added: “In Germany they burned the books they didn’t like, and then they burnt the people after the books. I don’t get it. A book is so threatening? I’m not going softly into the night.”

What's so bad about the book?

Mr. Felder and Mr. Mason, longtime friends, appear as cartoon superheroes on the cover of the book, which is titled “Schmucks! Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and Dangerous, and Good Guys Gone Bad.”

They take shots at a number of public figures and ethnic groups. Barbra Streisand is dubbed “Mentl” and the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is “Botox-addicted.” Chapters in the book take on Tom Cruise and France and have titles like “Al Sharpton, Praise the Lard.”

The authors write that Mr. Sharpton, who has been one of Mr. Imus’s leading critics, could be the first president impeached before being elected.

They add, “Who thought it was a good idea to make Jesse Jackson the arbiter of racial healing? That makes as much sense as Ted Kennedy being a lifeguard at a girls’ school.”

Oy vey, you've got to be kidding! Now I may prefer the humor of a Jon Stewart to a Jackie Mason, but to suggest that his humor is hateful or bigoted is to say that we must eliminate comedy as an accepted form of art. And please, please, please, let's not do that!!

See also, Spitzer Asks Judicial Ethics Chairman to Resign and More Trouble for Felder. Somehow I don't see Felder conceding on this matter -- and I sure hope he doesn't.

A final note: The book, SCHMUCKS!, by Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder, is #18 on the NYTimes Nonfiction Best Seller List. I may have to buy it myself in a show of solidarity.

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Just Like Lincoln

One of the LLWL* is reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lincoln, 'Team of Rivals' and we got into a discussion of Lincoln and Bush, the similarities and differences in their rule. They were similar in that both were inexperienced and unpopular during their presidencies. The differences = everything else.

From there, the conversation turned to the recent Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN. Stewart addressed the fact that Bush put someone like Bolton, who has vehemently disparaged the UN, as the Ambassador and observed that in times that are divided, like now, it might behoove the President to try to consider other viewpoints. Jon Stewart then brought up Lincoln and noted that Lincoln tried to accommodate differing views by appointing his main rivals to his cabinet. Bolton retorted that Stewart was historically wrong on Lincoln, and noted that the President is only responsible to the people who voted for him.

Here's the Bolton interview:

The next night, Jon Stewart mentioned the claim by Bolton -- that he was wrong about Lincoln -- and proceeded to call Doris Goodwin, who said that Bolton had the wrong Lincoln.

Here's that clip:

And finally, the original Doris Kearns Goodwin interview with Jon Stewart is here: Doris Kearns Goodwin.

* LLWL = Lady Lawyers who Lunch (my officemates)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

There Will Never be Another Darrow

Clarence Darrow
Born this day in 1857
- - - -
Probably the most celebrated American lawyer of the 20th century, Clarence Darrow worked as defense counsel in many widely publicized trials. He was notable as a defender of the underdog and civil rights. He was an distinguished speaker on agnosticism, liberalism, freethought and humanism.

The two most famous trials in which he participated took place in the 1920s. The first of these trials was the notorious Leopold-Loeb murder case of 1924. He saved Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb from execution--but not from prison--for the murder of 14-year-old Robert Franks. In July 1925 Darrow defended high school teacher John T. Scopes, who was charged with violating Tennessee law by teaching evolution. The prosecuting attorney in this famous "monkey trial" was William Jennings Bryan. Bryan died a few days after the trial.
For more on Darrow, see Eastland Memorial Society, Who is Clarence Darrow? and Clarence Darrow.

~ ~ ~ ~

Do you, good people, believe that Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden and that they were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge? I do. The church has always been afraid of that tree. It still is afraid of knowledge. Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. So does whiskey. I believe in the brain of man. I'm not worried about my soul.

Clarence Darrow

More News, Less News

Despite the proliferation of outlets to disseminate the news -- such as radio (including satellite radio), TV (including the all news cable outlets), newspapers and journals, the internet (including blogs) -- this does not seem to have translated into a corresponding increased coverage of a broader range of news and information. If anything, we are getting less news than those olden days when all we had were the daily newspapers and the major news networks.

In the past two months, we have gone from the saga of Anna Nicole What's-her-name, to the depravity of Don Imus and now to the rampage at Virginia Tech.

Clearly the last incident was horrendous and newsworthy, but I must say that shortly after I heard about the horrible murders, one of the first thoughts that popped into my head was that the press had found a replacement for the Imus story. See also, Balloon Juice.

Definitely all news, all the time. Only problem is that it's the same news. I thought that we were living in a multi-tasking society; yet the news media seems only to be able to cover one story at a time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Department of Just-Christians

Bill Maher's closing New Rules addresses the Justice Department's "conversion" into a home for Just-Us Christians. A definite don't miss.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe -- who just won the Pulitzer Prize for his excellent series of articles on presidential "signing statements,"see Cheney in Charge, also wrote on this issue, in Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school, noting:

The title of the course was Constitutional Law, but the subject was sin. Before any casebooks were opened, a student led his classmates in a 10-minute devotional talk, completed with "amens," about the need to preserve their Christian values.

"Sin is so appealing because it's easy and because it's fun," the law student warned.

Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," has worked hard in its two-decade history to upgrade its reputation, fighting past years when a majority of its graduates couldn't pass the bar exam and leading up to recent victories over Ivy League teams in national law student competitions.

But even in its darker days, Regent has had no better friend than the Bush administration. Graduates of the law school have been among the most influential of the more than 150 Regent University alumni hired to federal government positions since President Bush took office in 2001, according to a university website.

I can remember when getting a job with the DOJ was considered a plum job, and they only considered the top law school graduates. In fact, you had to excellent credentials, as well as solid experience, before you could even hope to get a job in the US Attorney's Office. As the Boston Globe article said:

"It used to be that high-level DOJ jobs were generally reserved for the best of the legal profession," wrote a contributor to The New Republic website . ". . . That a recent graduate of one of the very worst (and sketchiest) law schools with virtually no relevant experience could ascend to this position is a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong at the DOJ."

To think that main criteria these days is membership in God's Own Party is a very sad statement on "Justice." I'd say it's a sin.

(Via ThrowawayyourTV Blog)

See also Paul Krugman, For God’s Sake, who examines the infiltration of government by the Christian right as part of its efforts to eliminate the separation of Church and state. Krugman also remarks on the "sheer extremism of these people," observing:

You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins.

Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Mr. Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Mr. Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Mr. Robertson.

(Krugman's column also available at Rozius Unbound)

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Monday, April 16, 2007

April Showers

What is that beyond yon window I see?

Not exactly the kind of showers I was expecting.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Everybody Hates Frank Rich

Frank Rich's NY Times column today, Everybody Hates Don Imus, was one of his more controversial pieces, engendering quite a bit of comment in the blog world. See e.g., Welcome to Pottersville, JP On Frank Rich On Imus On Rutgers, who noted that "Rich’s op-ed piece in today’s NY Times, 'Everybody Hates Don Imus' has been getting almost universal condemnation on both sides of the blogosphere since it came out last night."

Rich, like Bill Maher, has "defended" Imus and queried where the line should be. I have tried to avoid this vile fracas (much like I do shows like his), since I can't possibly have anything to add that hasn't already been said.

I must admit, however, that I'm somewhat conflicted over the whole affair, since there are many other examples of vicious, hate filled words uttered on the radio and TV waves by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Glen Beck and others. It's my view that they are despicable and so are not allowed to sully my airspace. That's my choice. If enough people exercised the power of the off button, that would better rid us of this manner of crass host.

Having said that, I also feel that the decision to pick one comment over another (and there are many -- too many) and then to say this crosses the line is somewhat like a crap shoot. Is there (should there be) a difference if it's said as part of a comedy routine vs. regular discourse? Comedy is the ability to find humor by focusing on our foibles, even in an outrageous way, a la Lenny Bruce.

I've often observed that the one way to know that we've truly overcome our prejudices is when we reach the point that we are able to make jokes about other ethnic and racial groups, without offense. Unfortunately, I don't know that we'll ever see that day.

In the meantime, I give you Bill Maher, on Imus, who tries.

~ ~ ~
All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I'd be standing on the breadline right in back of J. Edgar Hoover.
-- Lenny Bruce