Thursday, January 31, 2008

Guess Who Else is Socrates?

Jonah? Meet Warren! Apparently he agrees with you about the whole "Liberal fascist" thing! Certainly he agrees with the form of reasoning that got you there. Check it out:
Dear Liberal Party:

The party that constitutionalized human rights 1982, and passed the Human Rights Act in permitting one of its Members of Parliament to dismantle the latter. (Or saying nothing, as he attempts to do so all on his own.)

Check out M-446, dear Liberal Party, which was slipped on the Notice Paper yesterday.

What say you, Messrs. Dion, Ignatieff, Rae et al.? Do you agree with this stunt? Not surprisngly, the Nazis do. (Strong Warning: racist and anti-Semitic content therein.)
Yep. That's right!

Keith Martin wants to make a motion.

The Nazis would also like to make a motion.

Therefore, Warren Kinsella is Socrates.

(And he's also Jonah Goldburg too, I guess. Poor bastard.)

Bob Cesca Wants You to Make Up Your Mind!

He sez that it's time for progressive bloggers to choose a candidate.

So, er, ok. Maybe that's a good idea. Where's the meeting? I may have a bit of trouble attending. Will there be some kind of IRC chat? Possibly a mailing list? I'm not on Markos' supar-secrit mailing list, so they'll have to use a different one.

Unless he means that we should all choose DIFFERENT candidates. Which is ok, I suppose, but I don't see how it's superior to the current situation. I mean, all that'll happen is that nominally neutral analyses will become factional rhetoric...

...oh, wait...

Even if we were to strike the war from the syllabus, we'd still be left with a choice between a once-in-a-generation, transformational candidate who's running parallel to our collective desire to remake the party, and, on the other side, a candidate who represents a species of Democrat that we've traditionally rejected. If the blogs choose to step out of the way on this one, they're forfeiting an historic role in the most historic presidential election of our time while the antiquated, embarrassing politics of DLC triangulation sneaks on by without a fight.

So yeah okay, there should be a parenthetical in my headline that reads, "(Preferrably Senator Obama.)"
...yep. Thought so. It's kind of hilarious that the a piece decrying neutrality exposes, vividly, why people have made the decision in the first place. Because if you want to discuss the race, instead of advocate in the race, you risk your credibility by acting like an obvious shill.

Personal Accounts of the Kenyan Violence

I recieved a few comments about my quick blurb on Kenya. One (David from Raleigh) reminded me that the dominant Kikuyu tribe is hardly a majority; more like a quarter. Fair enough.

Another, though, was a personal account of one reader's experiences in Kenya. He didn't give me an email address or a website, but I hope he won't have a problem with reproduction of this or any other story he wishes to share.

So, here's David Waweru:

I was to Kenya twice last year. The first visit was in June - I hadn't been there for a while and was returning with the intention of registering as a voter. One of the first things I noticed, returning to the country of my birth was that the country was more polarised along ethnic lines than ever before.

It must be said that both sides were going at it, the one side blaming the other for the hogging of public wealth and resources, and the other alleging subversion, sloth and a hate campaign inspired by the other. Since I've had some experience of (and written against) anti-black racism, I had absolutely no desire to even remotely cooperate with either side. I decided not to vote, and so didn't register.

I returned in December, as a sort of one-man observation team. I'm familiar with the conduct of the campaign in parts of the Rift Valley (both North and South). It was clear that preparations for serious violence were in place: the hate speech now flowed freely (especially, and surprisingly, in the South Rift); it was clear that substantial numbers of children were no longer at school (especially in the North Rift); and people were beginning to get serious and detailed warnings - a friend of mine in an interethnic marriage moved his immediate family out and warned some of the others (he's now in very serious trouble for not warning all of them). I'm in an interethnic relationship; friends of mine arranged for me to talk to a woman who was also in one. She was extremely perceptive about the nature and likely sources of the violence; talking to her convinced me that there was going to be serious fighting, even in Nairobi, whatever the outcome of the election. Quite simply, neither side would accept defeat. For these reasons, I, like perhaps many other Kenyans, expected the post-violence.

What has surprised me has been the intensity of the violence, the clear evidence of long planning, and the fact that nominally progressive people have been willing to excuse it. Especially in parts of Kisumu, parts of Kibera, and in the North Rift, the intensity of the violence is unprecedented in our history. It is now clear that quite a lot of the violence was planned in advance and that some ethnic groups were selected at the planning stage (see below). Before the election, I was alarmed by the rhetoric of the politicians, and even more so by that of the activists. I too received the vile texts. But I was very sympathetic with the ODM's case for redistribution, and discounted at least some of the anti-GEMA rhetoric as the price of getting progressive politics a niche, however small in Kenya.

I was stupid. But I'm surprised that progressive or leftish people, who - now that the deliberately ethnic nature of much of the violence is clear - should know better, are quite willing to continue to excuse, ignore, minimise, or downplay just what is going on; that this is not at all about the liberation of the poor or an effort at bridging the wealth.
I don't have much to add to this, except to state that progressive and leftish people tend to "ignore and minimize" Africa a bit too much to begin with. In some cases, I personally believe this is fueled by confusion and frustration; progressives want to help, but outside of the NGO system are unsure of what solutions would be most appropriate. They resort to socioeconomic and class analysis because that's what's familiar, and it often does underpin ethnic strife, but things can get a bit rougher than that. When they do--when things move outside the economically-driven analyses of many progressives and (neo)liberals--they can have trouble accepting it.

(Conservatives, of course, simply don't care. Except for that nasty subset that think that Africa's troubles are fodder for their own racism, but other than that they simply don't care.)

So, no, I don't think it's malice.

Anyway, thanks for the account, David.

Oh, Good, This is Helpful

Why yes, sentencing journalists to death for "blasphemy" IS what we're fighting for in Afghanistan.


Oh, and he didn't get a lawyer. So that's two basic democratic rights out the door.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards Didn't Throw to Anybody

Huh. Well, at least he hasn't thrown to anybody yet.

A Suggestion for Canadian Progressives...

Ezra Levant is a toad of a man, and not much of a writer. I've seen better conservative blogs from the 2002 "I think Instapundit is a god among men" crew, and they were worthless to a man.

Yet here's the thing... Ezra has comments. By and large, there's precious little in said comments except attaboys from Conservatives.

Isn't turnabout fair play? Perhaps he should be feeling the heat a bit himself?

Just a thought.

Edit: Case in point. Check this entry out. He's got a lovely phrase here about how the people that Kinsella wrote about in his book Web of Hate were "powerless kooks and eccentrics who don't actually pose a threat to anyone." Now, anybody who had read David Neiwert's entries about Liberal Fascism wouldn't DARE make this claim. Somebody would have no doubt pointed out the McVeigh connection, and the history of racist organizations' violence.

(Yes, freedom of speech does end at the point of personal violence. I wouldn't have such a bone to pick with Warren, BCL et al if they weren't clearly advocating the censorship of clearly political expression that falls far beyond that, to the point of even getting skittish about something as harmless and intrinsic to democracy as pseudonymity.)

(And no, I don't consider BDSM "violence" in that fashion, even if prudish li'l Warren does.)

Even if I disagreed with them, it's obviously a point where they can hit him, and hit him HARD. They could demonstrate that he doesn't care about the victims of racist violence, or the history of racist violence. Hell, you could discredit his knowledge of history itself; at one point, the Nazis that inspire these guys were themselves marginal.

Yet there's nothing but those attaboys. Now, I know for a fact that there are more Canadian progressives than there are conservatives. Voting patterns make that perfectly clear. And I also know for a fact that Canadians are online in large numbers. Statistics make THAT perfectly clear.

So where the hell are the Canadian progressives, exactly? And if comments are such a wearisome, dangerous weapon in the eyes of people like Warren, why aren't they taking advantage of the opportunity to use it themselves? Yes, he does moderate his site, and that does raise a lot of questions... so why not goad him, get him to "moderate" you, and thus prove that he's as averse to criticism as he pretends you are?

Ethnic Cleansing in Kenya

Well, this seems familiar.

And, by all accounts, it at least was orchestrated, political violence; though the devolution into raw tribalism that always seems to accompany these things is, apparently, in full force. It would appear the Kikuyu tribe, which according to the Times "have long been dominant in their country's politics and economy [and] resented for it" are largely the target. Hundreds are dead, hundreds of thousands are displaced after President Kibaki, a Kikuyu, claimed re-election despite widespread claims of vote-rigging.

So now the government finds itself in a hard place. Anger over the election isn't going to go away, and attempts to suppress this proto-genocide will likely inflame anger. Leaving it alone won't necessarily help either: look at what indifference caused in Rwanda. In fact, considering Rwanda, it's probably better that they DO step in. I worry, though, that it will turn this ethnic cleansing into a civil war.

(Edit: I claimed that the Kikuyu tribe was a majority. A reader said they were not. Correction made.)

And Then There were Two. And Three.

Edwards is out. Giuliani too. Not big surprises. Edwards was up against the force of history with the other Democratic candidates; I think he was a fine candidate and would have made a great president, but he's still a white southern male, and there's been rather a lot of those running the country as of late. There will be a lot of babble about how this somehow proves that "Class war" doesn't have traction; the fact remains that to the extent there can be a class war, there IS one. It's just that the wealthiest started it, and are winning it. He didn't lose because of his message.

As for Giuliani, he simply didn't have what it took to be President, and especially didn't have what it took to be a Republican president. He wasn't enough of a winger to attract winger support, and didn't have McCain's (faded) cachet among independents so they weren't an option either. Moderate, committed Republicans don't exist anymore.

So what does this mean? Welp, it means that while the Republican race may go down to the convention, it's kind of unlikely that the Democratic one will. It also means that Hillary is in a far stronger position, which I'm no fan of considering the disgraceful display I saw in Florida last night. Edwards split the white anti-Obama vote with her, and that won't be the case now. Of course, Edwards ALSO split the anti-Clinton vote, but it's hard to tell which is likely to have more traction at this point, even if he does endorse Obama as expected.

What'll be fun to watch is whether Obama will take the endorsement as an invitation to start mopping up the progressive support that both he and Hillary have been ignoring. Will he continue to try to run to Hillary's right, or will he realize that there's a lot of progressive anti-Hillary voters out there, and give them serious consideration? That might be what decides this thing.


I'd expect this from Whatzisname. He has no love for freedom of speech. But it was very sad to see this sort of thing someone like BigCityLib, an otherwise good blogger making a good point about how a lot of times those idiot conservatives who delight in exercising their free speech against, say, Muslims tend to be none to fond of freedom of speech for those Muslims themselves.

So what did he say? Well, this:
But, someone might argue, you are attacking the man for his hypocrisy rather than his arguments for soundness. Perhaps, but it is part of MY argument that, since when you scratch a free-speech absolutist like Ezra you invariably find a secret censor, there is simply no point in pretending that free speech absolutism is a viable position. Once you realize that, it becomes possible to move on to a real debate about where the limits of speech should be located.
Helpful hint for readers at home: when you hear somebody use the word "invariably" in this sort of context, he (or she) is almost invariably pulling this wholly out of their asses. Just as, sadly, BCL is here.

Yes, Virginia, there are freedom of speech believers out there. Hell, this is the INTERNET, you can barely move for 'em. Sure, I could see Kinsella say this. Warren is still so dreadfully uncomfortable with the idea of people without a National Post bully pulpit and deep pockets being able to speak their minds, that I can easily understand how he can't come to terms with the fact that freedom of speech advocates who mean what they say could even exist.

BCL, though?

THAT is disappointing.

(Edit: Perhaps what's truly disappointing is that the arguments in favor of this sort of thing are always so weak. The best Warren can come up with is "I dislike pornography", and the best out of BCL and his commentators is "ALL FREEDOM OF SPEECH ADVOCATES ARE NAZIS".


Are they?

Good GOD, no wonder those tendentious little Tories are slapping you around.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Watching Hillary take credit for a rigged contest is nauseating.

An Observation on the Anonymous vs. CoS thing...

Again, not part of anonymous. Not a giant fan of the Church of Scientology, but not a member of anonymous.

That said...

Anybody else notice that something like this...

...when posted by the CoS is way creepier? Anonymous is just a bunch of internet people. The CoS is, er, not. Whether or not "fair game" is still doctrine, hearing a filtered speech program say "we are the Church of Scientology. EXPECT US" sounds extraordinarily ominous.

Speaking of Things Found on Calgrit

Somebody needs to bring Pres. Obama a gator in 2009.

H/T is obvious from the title.

Sometimes, I Can Sympathize...

There are days when I can understand why Whatzisname thinks that comments are the devil. This is probably one of them.

Take a look at This bit on CalgaryGrit, for example. CalGrit has reposted a funny bit between Canadian talk show host George Stephanopoulos and Canadian Liberal party leader Stephane Dion:

Good, right? Cute little jab, shows that the party leaders are game for a laugh, makes fun of the guy's nerdy image. The sort of thing that you rarely see in the U.S., because the Congress and the Presidents are too caught up in their own "gravitas". American political sketch comedy is practically nonexistent outside of the Daily Show/Colbert Report axis anyway, but Canadians have always been particularly good at this.

(Kind of like how the most savage political cartoons always came out of Russia. Anyway.)

Yet what is the response from the commentariat? Endless, tiresome repetitions of "ooh, he's doomed in the next election!" "When are the Liberals going to realize they're scum!" "humorless? LEFTISTS are humorless!"

(This by someone who claims to be a liberal, and not a conservative empathy troll. Riiight.)

You can imagine what the responses on the SUBSTANTIAL pieces are.

The sad thing is that comments are still necessary for building up a community. You can't get around that, and attempts to try end in failure. But it seems like there is a concerted effort to crowd out progressive comments through endless repetition of conservative talking points. That wouldn't work on progressive America-focused blogs... you'd get quickly shouted down, even by the midlevel guys. Hell, I've had it happen right here. And conservative Canadian blogs don't have this problem, because (of course) the trolls are principally conservative. But because the liberal Canadian blogs started late and are still pretty much just a network of blogger blogs with blogger commenting, with the "bigger" ones being often comment-free (like Whatzisname) there's nowhere for a community to grow and prosper.

Now, I doubt Whatzisname cares. He's already got a community of journalists and politicos to sustain him. Blogging is meaningless to him except as a way of make himself look better and keeping the proles in line. But in order to form the online community that serves as a counter to that--that keeps the interests of those outside Washington (or, presumably, Ottawa) paramount and doesn't buy into Village spin--you need a network of progressive bloggers and regular commentators.

Don't let the "Tories" drown the baby in the bathtub, guys.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hey, Don't Look at Me!

I've got nothing to do with anonymous. I'm all about the pseudonymity. Notice the "pseudo" there. Big difference.

I gotta say, though, that if I were going to do a videoblog, I'd probably do it like them. Those anonymous vs. scientology videos are just, well, neat.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Whisky. Tango. FOXTROT.

Bill Clinton seriously said this? He seriously said "well, Jesse Jackson won South Carolina. Twice"? Yeah, it was in the context of "Jesse ran a good campaign blahblahblah", but how can I think anything but that what Bill actually said was "darkie won this state before, darkie wins this state now. Big deal."

As annoying as the Cult of Obama can be, watching the Clinton train jump the tracks is worse.

Hefty Beatdown

So, yeah, Obama crushed Clinton in South Carolina last night. Not that we weren't expecting that. Accounts I've read suggest that he's now pulling in a ridiculous amount of money, too, as the grassroots supporters start thinking "we can win this thing!" and the more corporate types want to be seen as an early ally of an eventual president.

(Assuming that Clinton doesn't successfully annex Michigan and Florida because she wasn't honorable enough to take her name off the ballot and now wants to take advantage of it. Disgraceful).

Exit polls over at Kos suggest that Obama took pretty much every age/race demographic, except for your whiter seniors. Not tremendously surprising. What WAS surprising was that Bill was almost a bit of a negative, suggesting that his playing of the race card blew back onto his wife. Like I said, not a good night for the Clintons.

Kind of disappointing results for Edwards, though. I'm pretty sure he was expecting second, at least. Now I'm wondering if he'll bail out. He might not, hoping that he'll get a plumb job in an Obama administration by continuing to split the white southern vote off of Clinton, but the money has to be drying up somewhat at this point. We'll see.

Friday, January 25, 2008

One Thing About the Wire

All I'll say about this nonsense (admittedly not evenly distributed) is this:

If you think Chris and Snoop are flat, one-dimensional characters, you seriously don't get it. Sorry, but you don't. One of the best and subtlest aspects of the fourth season was the relationship between Chris and Michael, and one of the more interesting aspects of this season is Marlo's almost complete dependence on Chris' (impressive) skills. One of the themes of the Wire is the wasted talent of people "in the game", and I can't think of someone who better fits that than Chris, damaged or no.

Well, and one other thing: I'm going to be very, very skeptical about the ability of journalists to fairly criticize an (admittedly savage) assault on the decline of the American newspaper. Even progressive ones, if they're so (oddly) myopic as to think that the Internet is an acceptable replacement for real foreign bureaus. What replaces foreign bureaus isn't Internet sources from other countries, it's a combination of reliance on wire services and simply ignoring foreign news entirely.

Is that good for America? Definitely not. So why argue otherwise, Matt?

Anyway, it's obviously too soon to tell. At this point in the second season, everybody I know was thinking "why do I care about any of these mopes?" and at this point in the third, Hamsterdam didn't exist yet. Give the "novel on television" time.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Really, really great talk in one of the latest TED videos by Gerver Tully, where he discusses something that most people would interpret as horrifying:

Letting your child do dangerous things.

Things like playing with fire. Playing with knives. Throwing spears. Taking apart things that expressly say "do not take apart". Even breaking the law!

The thing is, he gives damned good reasons for doing so: that kids often learn better from exposure to this sort of thing, and that we often ridiculously over exaggerate the danger kids face from their environments.

Anyway, here's the talk:

One thing that he said that I completely agree with? Opening up those "black boxes" that surround us. Especially computers. Way too many people are way too intimidated by the things, and even I'm guilty of that at times, but once you crack it open and (with a little help) realize that this does that and this other thing its connected to does that other thing, it ceases being a mystery and becomes, well, just a tool. More complex than your tableware, but still just a tool.

The point he makes about "knowability"--the knowledge that you can personally understand something--is an excellent one, and the best way to gain knowability is to, well, look at all the gimcracks in the things you use every day by taking them apart and trying to figure out how they work. That's what they do at his "tinkerer's school", and it sounds really, really interesting.


David Neiwert just committed a savage, savage textual beating of the Pillsbury Pantsload, and I'll be damned if I let him get away with it.

I mean, just go and look. LOOK at the mangled wreckage of Goldburg's book. LOOK at the pieces strewn hither and yon by Neiwert's merciless bloggy assault. LOOK at the messy giblets that are all that remains of the book's thesis after Neiwert got through with it. That's not fair! That's not peaceable! That's not right!

(Well, ok, it's all right. It is, in fact, sadistically correct. That is NO excuse!)

Go look, if you dare. Though you may want to keep the kids away. The malevolent, nay, diabolical citation alone is likely to give them nightmares for a week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

THE Question in Canada...

What the hell did Stephen Harper do to piss off Chantal Hebert so badly?

One of the reasons I'm interested in Canadian politics is the weird media situation. It's a far more conservative media than what you see in the United States in many ways, and far more concentrated too, with a few big companies owning a ridiculous percentage of local markets and the national market as a whole. Stephen Harper has been a big beneficiary of this; while the CBC is terrified of looking "partisan", most of the rest of the Canadian media, particularly its flagship newspapers like the Globe and Mail and National Post, have been quite content to be as pro-Conservative as the man could ask for.

(One of the reasons why Whatzisname has never struck me as particularly liberal is that he writes for a newspaper that's about as progressive as Strom Thurmand.)

One of the key exceptions to the dominance of conservative points of view on the national scene has been the Toronto Star, nicknamed the "Red Star" by its detractors for its progressivism. Thing is, even THESE guys have been pretty beneficial to Harper. While they attack him, many of their star columnists, particularly national columnist Chantal Hebert, have been attacking Liberal leader Stephane Dion over and over and over and over again for what amounts to absolutely piddling errors, especially when compared to the man he's trying to replace. Hebert has been particularly savage of Dion, and particularly forgiving towards Harper. I'd grown used to it. It was predictable, and I could just filter out the pro-Harper, anti-Dion leanings to figure out what she was actually about.

Yeah, those days are over. For all that she still takes minor shots at Dion, she's been absolutely savaging Harper since the new year. She's castigated him for his party's treatment of Linda Keen (the civil servant fired for not allowing a nuclear reactor to go on-line without its safeties up and running), on their dismissive attitude towards Dion's foreign policy criticism, and on his treatment of key provinces, while at the same time calling her former punching bag, Dion, "the federal leader to watch in the first quarter of 2008."

Honestly, I know it's unlikely to the impossibility that the woman reads this blog, but Chantal, on the off chance, what the HELL happened?

Bye Fred!

Thompson's Out.

And not a moment too soon. The man was becoming an embarrassment to everybody, Republican or otherwise.

The question is who benefits. Sure, it's probably not Giuliani, considering Thompson was supposed to be the anti-Rudy in the first place. But who? Will it be Huckabee soaking up social conservatives? McCain? Romney? DoctorRonPaulEmDee?

Not sure.


Doctor Dawg, a Canadian blogger I should probably pay more attention to, has written a much, much better piece on freedom of speech issues than I've seen out of Whatzisname. He discusses the real issue of incitement to violence through racist hate speech, but also looks at the other side:

In this connection, what I find troubling is the inconsistency of the more ideologically hidebound Levant supporters. The state crushing dissent is how the matter is being portrayed. An innocent citizen having to shell out for a lawyer and give up his time to defend himself. An outrage! Yet, when it comes to the formal court system, all of those repressive mechanisms are firmly in place. If you are sued, you will need to shell out even more for a lawyer, pay a small fortune in legal fees, and be prepared to lose a lot of time in court proceedings. If the plaintiff happens to be wealthy, and/or a lawyer, and you are not, you're basically screwed. Most ordinary folks at the wrong end of a lawsuit swallow their pride and look for a quick way out of the mess.

In North America, activists have been shut down again and again by so-called SLAPP suits, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Individuals who say things that the powerful and rich disapprove of can find themselves literally sued into silence. Conrad Black was infamous for using the courts in this fashion. Warren Kinsella, whose lawyerly expertise and well-known aggressiveness makes him a pretty scary antagonist to just plain folks, has thrown a lot of legal paper around as well, or threatened to. And then we have--goodness me--none other than Ezra Levant himself.

The patron saint of free speech is busy suing a tiny community paper and a former employee of his for $100,000 at present because he didn't like what they had to say about his reign at the Western Standard. The column can be read by following the link here, and the letter may easily be found by Googling "Dust My Broom" and "Merle Terlesky." (I hate having to dick around like this, but I don't want to be sued myself.)
Leave aside the stuff about Ezra Levant and the other tiresome little toads who are desperate to be Republicans but are too frightened of leaving their little sinecures in Alberta to GTFO already. It's not important.

Things like SLAPP suits and Libel chill are. This is why I think (the ironically self-described "punk") Kinsella is not only being idiotic about this issue, but disingenuously so. Freedom of speech doesn't exist solely to protect idiot conservatives saying things that Warren would rather not hear, it exists to protect activists and whistleblowers, people who would be sued into bankruptcy by well-funded corps because what they're saying is inconvenient to people with more money than they have.

Kinsella (like a lot of other SLAPP-happy throwbacks) is a lawyer; he doesn't need to pay for the services of one for something like a lawsuit, and is successful enough that he can afford to pay for one regardless. That's probably why he advocates it so thoroughly; he's self-centered enough to think that something that works for him can be applied to everybody else, and has boring enough opinions (and a big enough bully pulpit) that he doesn't need to be concerned about this sort of thing.

Some penniless student who is highlighting the kind of crap that Nike or Adidas or Wal-Mart is pulling in the third world, though? Who's passing out leaflets she printed from her own computer, because she doesn't have the connections to have the National Post print out his opinions, like Kinsella does? Who is right, but finds out that it doesn't matter, because more often than not truth isn't a defense and she can't afford to mount the defense in the first place, because she isn't media-sexy enough to get someone to do it for her pro bono?

Er, yeah, she's screwed now, isn't she?

Dawg called Kinsella "scary". And, yes, perhaps Whatzisname is, a bit. He's not scary because of anything he's written, though. A book that meanders between attacking Paul Martin for being connected to the Tobacco industry and claiming that the real problem with Adscam was that someone had the temerity to call an investigation isn't "scary". Nor are rantings in the National Post about how your hip hoppin' music and your iphones and your violent nasty vidier games is corruptin' the kids of today.

No, he's scary because he thinks this is a good thing. Because he apparently supports SLAPP suits, and suppression of activism, and stopping GBLT materials at the border, and tossing lawsuits hither and yon at people who dare to say unfriendly things about other people who (just maybe!) deserve it. Because he wants to take away the freedom of speech for people who haven't passed the Bar Exam and have lots of connections and bully pulpits. Because he's so terrified of the hoi palloi actually talking back to him when he won't even enable comments on his website.

And because people actually think that this fearful little man who starts in terror at the sight of a pseudonym is actually an example to liberals and progressives.

For any Canadian progressive/slash/liberal that actually reads this site, all I'll say is that for all their faults, at least Duncan and Kos have given people the opportunity to respond to them. If you want to build a progressive online community, that's the example to follow. Following "whatzisname" only empowers the very forces that you're trying to check.

And props to Dawg, whom I know Whatzisname links to, for pointing out why freedom of speech really matters.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I was a bit loud with Matthew Yglesias, but sometimes it's warranted. And claiming that the reason why Clinton was unsuccessful had nothing to do with his singular inability to deal with Republican messaging?

And that Obama's willingness to say whatever would come out of a Republican's mouth in order to look less partisan?

Er, yeah, that warrants it.

Honestly, I don't get it. Leaving aside UHC, his policies aren't tremendously illiberal. Why should the rhetoric be any different? It's not like he's not going to be a DemocRAT to Republicans in the general, and McCain is going to scoop up the independents in the primaries. He's going to lose to Clinton because he's somehow managed to make her look more progressive-slash-liberal than he is. That's ridiculously bizarre.

Jonah Goldberg's Pantswetting Fear

If you look on Jonah's website, a tour-de-force of hilarious denial and circlejerking by conservatives desperate for some good news these days, one thing comes to mind: no comments.

And I can see why.

See, if you look at the typical entry on said site, you'll notice that Jonah is careful, ever so careful, to pick and choose only the most positive reactions to his books. Negative ones are either dismissed or caricatured. It kind of makes sense, because the book is--by all credible accounts--so ridiculously terrible that it almost beggars imagination. If he had to deal with an honest response, publicly, it'd be disastrous.

So he makes sure that such a venue Does. Not. Exist. on his site. Yes, it makes him look bad, just like it makes Sully look bad, makes Instapundit look bad, makes the NRO crew look bad, and makes Warren Kinsella look like a quivering, fearful jelly of a man, for all his posturing about pseudonymity.

But, honestly?

If you can imagine how horrifyingly destructive the alternative would be like, you can almost sympathize with the guy.

(As always, feel free to leave comments. Even you, Jonah, if you're not too busy being Socrates.)

Jonah Goldberg is Still Socrates

A direct quote from The Worst Scholarship In The World, as used in Acephalous:

Animal rights advocates correctly ntoe that animal rights activism was a major concern in pre-Nazi Germany and that the animal rights movement shouldn't be associated with Nazism. But as with environmentalism, this is less of a defense than it sounds. It is fine to say that many of Nazism's concerns were held by people who were not Nazis. But the fact that these conventionally leftist views were held by Nazis suggests that Nazism isn't as alien to mainstream progressive thought as some would have us believe.
Animal rights advocates care about animal rights.

Nazis cared about animal rights.

Ipso Facto, All Nazis are Socrates!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"No, YOU Are!"

I'm having trouble finding any content on Whatzisname's site lately that isn't one, long, lovingly crafted ad hominem argument. Makes sense, considering that he spends most of his time trading on his notoriety and pseudonymity drives him (excuse my language) absolutely bugshit insane, but it's getting a bit silly.

(Why do you think I call him "whatzisname"? He LIVES to have his name repeated. He probably Googles himself on an hourly basis.)

Take this whole brouhaha. Some reactionary idiot is yammering on about how Muslims are dogs or some such thing, and what's the response? Not to shoot him down on his merit-free claims, but to just repeat "tell me your name. Tell me your name".

What the hell does that matter? If it's stupid, it's stupid. If it's smart, it's smart. It doesn't matter who wrote it at all, except if they're claiming some kind of expertise.

But then again, considering the fact that he's a "proud censor", and unironically writes things like this:

It's how I arrived at my position on censorship, in the mid-1980s. Like many aspiring writers, you see, I was all for unfettered expression. No limits - civil, criminal, you name it. Let it all hang out.

That's what I believed. Then, one day in law school, one of my profs - feminist legal scholar Kathleen Mahoney - said to me this: "Okay, Warren: have you seen the violent pornography I oppose? Have you actually seen it? Don't you think you should?"

I confessed that, well, I hadn't. So Kathleen said that I should do that first, before I started spouting off.

So I did. The pornography was readily available, at seedy shops down on the Eighth Avenue Mall. I looked at the stuff found on the racks (stuff that now seems very tame, in the Internet age). It made me want to vomit. In the fullness of time, I became an unashamed advocate of limits on expression.
Well. I can see why he focuses so much on names: the pseudonym is ever the foe of the censor's pen.

Read that. Bask in its awesome silliness. Revel in someone actually arguing that "because I find something disturbing, it should be banned." I find Ayn Rand deeply disturbing and horribly injurious to the psyche, but I'm not going to be building a big bonfire out of her books. I'm not a big fan of furries, either, but I'm not going to be tossing them in jail just because they have pictures of a guy in a leather-clad Babs Bunny suit flogging the holy hell out of some girl dressed up like Richie Rich.

Is whatzisname, censorship-happy goon that he is, really so ridiculously naive as to think that his "ick" reaction would be the end of it? Or is this self-described "punk" so relentlessly boring in his interests that nothing he knows or cares about could possibly be censored? Or perhaps he's so self-centered that he can't consider that someone else just might be the victim? This despite the rather nasty history Canada has of censoring any and all GBLT material as "obscene"?

(Has he never even heard of Voltaire? Or the fact that VOLTAIRE WAS A PEN-NAME?)

But, of course, like most censors, what he really is is what he calls everyone else: a coward. He doesn't fear being revealed, of course. He lives for The Name. No, he fears something far, far worse.

To paraphrase Gore, Warren Kinsella fears an inconvenient truth.

(As a coda. Warren clearly fears comments by right-wing crazies. Well, David Neiwert writes on fascism. He's written excellent books on it, in fact. For that, David Neiwert is targeted by any number of neo-fascist assholes and fascist apologists.

David Neiwert has a website.

That website has comments.

No, Warren, you have no excuse.)

Edit: I have no truck with the throngs of idiots whining about "Dhimmitude" or some such thing. Most Canadian conservative sites I've seen are odious, when they aren't just tiresome. They still won't go away with a swipe of the censor's pen, though. Warren should know that by now.

Further Edit: Wait, could it be that he also hates pseudonyms because he thinks they're all the same guy?

There's no more than a few dozen of them across the Great White North...Drawing from a Rolodex of pseudonyms, they type out post after post...
Holy crap. I bet this guy would have also thought Digby, Atrios, Hesiod and myself were the same guy back in 2002. Hilarious!

No, buddy, there are probably more than a dozen or so mouthbreathing conservatives out there. As nice as it would be to think otherwise.


Good bit from Digby on Obama's weird fixation on Reagan that's popped up of late. Clearly it's because he wants to do what Reagan did in attracting people across party lines, but it's resurrecting a lot of old, nonsensical myths that play right into Republican hands.

Of course, he's been doing a lot of that lately, hasn't he? Social Security, Medicare, UHC, all that "one America" stuff... it sounds good, but it ignores the fact that parties aren't going away.

And to draw the distinction between what Obama's actually doing and what his followers are claiming other people are saying he's doing, here's Digby's update:

I hate doing this on the wrong post, but it's necessary. To those Obama supporters who insist on making the strawman argument that I'm saying Obama will govern like Reagan, I suggest you read the post again.

I'm saying that he advanced the Reagan Myth, which was based upon conservative propaganda devised for the specific purpose of keeping the conservative movement viable even when it is out of power and restricting any possibility of advancing progressive programs. That's the whole point of the Reagan myth. I tried to point out that Democrats have been doing this, to their own disadvantage, for years now. Accepting the view that Reagan responded to the view that liberal excess and big government were ruining the country is a grave misreading. Reagan, and the conservative movement that nurtured him, created that view and its hellspawn have advanced it ever since.
Not much to add to that, honestly. It's a question of message, and what that says about both you and the country. Liberalism in American has already taken enough abuse without Obama piling on as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Quick Summary of "Liberal Fascism"

Socrates was a human being.

I'm a human being.

Thus, I am Socrates.

(Yeah. All this time I was actually the OTHER Greek guy.)

Another Bit 'o Friendly Advice

People who put the words free speech in scare quotes? Don't listen to them. They've already made it perfectly clear that the right is forgone.

All You Need to Know About "Liberal Fascism"

I referenced Jonah GOldberg's "opus" in the last post. Now, there are a bunch of critical reviews out there of "Liberal Fascism". Matthew has a good one. I highly suggest you read it. It points out that Jonah is paying WAY too much attention to the modern use of the word "progressive" to try to tie it to the old philosophy (when it's really just a way of not calling yourself "liberal"), not making a coherent argument, totally ignoring any and scholarship on historical fascism.

Matthew could have also pointed out that Jonah uses that "classical liberal" line of bull that ignores the evolution of the concept of rights that occured in the 19th and 20th centuries and the cross-pollination between social democracy and liberal democracy. That's a big line with Libertarians, and it ignores a shitload of liberal thought, and it's pointless. But leave that aside.

What you really need to know about the book is that it exists for one reason and one reason only: projection-as-cover-fire. It is a classic Rovian technique to insulate yourself against criticism by accusing a potential accuser by saying they are guilty of your crime. It works pretty well: when they say "hey, I didn't do it, YOU did it!" other, sympathetic people can just turn it into a he-said, she-said. That's how and why they Swift-Boated Kerry. Bush was a draft-dodging coward, so they called Kerry one first.

"Liberal Fascism" is the same damned thing. There have always been some fascist tendencies in the United States. There has, in fact, been rather highly placed conservative fascists that were considering a nice little coup against FDR back when he was building social security. And, if you think of fascism using another name "corporatism", you've got a whole mess of issues and trends there. Like Matt says, that doesn't mean conservatives are fascists. It does mean some self-described "conservatives" might be fascists, though. They're a little vulnerable on that score, especially with their recent record.

They know it too.

So what do they do?

They call LIBERALS fascists. They get some wingnut welfare asshole like Goldberg to (tediously, agonizingly) attempt to make liberals sound like fascists. Makes sense: that's what they're there for, because nobody with a Ph.D and a reputation would sully either with this sort of crap.

That muddies the waters nicely. Now they can be as fascist as they want, with the secure knowledge that whenever anybody calls them on it, they can just say "nuh-uh! YOU'RE the fascist, buddy!" The public will get confused and decide not to care. That's perfect: they want the public not to care.

So, yeah, don't bother reading "Liberal Fascism: Overly Long Subtitle". Nobody else is, either. It's just going to get namedropped whenever the "f" word gets brought out--maybe citing a few talking points based on Jonah's pathetically inadequate grasp on the English language--and then put back on the shelf.

Don't waste your time. Except to maybe remember the "organic" thing, because if you DO need to shoot down his credibility, that's as good a choice as any.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"How is Organic Food Fascist?"

Hot DAMN do I want to see the full interview between Jon Stewart and The Pillsbury Pantsload. Even without the spectacle of Goldberg completely mixing up two different uses of the word organic, it really gave the impression that Jon has never, ever had less respect for a guest or his work.

Even that guy that thought that Iraq still had WMDs comes off better.

Another Video

This one is on the freakishly Bladerunnerish world we live in, where photo resizing can now dynamically add and remove elements with little-to-no indication that anything's been stretched or cropped:

For the most part it's just sort of interesting, but check out the dynamic removal of people at about 3:30. Yes, this sort of thing has been available to photoshoppers with a bit of time for a while now, but dynamic removal?

All I'm saying is that you probably should take photos with the exact same grain of salt that you should be taking text with. Even photos without obvious signs of manipulation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sit Quietly! (And Share!)

I can't be bothered to educate you people today, so instead we'll watch a nice British educational programme.

There, now wasn't that enlightening?

Your homework assignment is to describe in detail all the reasons that resolving the Obama/Clinton dispute is ridiculously unlikely, focusing on the ways in which this primary's likelihood of selecting a President exceeds the calculation capacity of the entire country of Belgium.

Show your work.


Warren, come see me after class. You should know full well that if you don't show all the responses to the question of "should you have comments, like every other legitimate progressive blogger in the world", we have no way of knowing whether you're cherrypicking your responses, like some other naughty boy I won't name.

You also know very well that being able to prove such things is exactly why nice, responsible students like Matthew, Paul, Duncan and Markos.

Yes, I know you're afraid of naughty children messing up your nice little space, but there are creative ways of doing it. Dr. Cory wrote a really nice piece about it, and he has an absolutely wonderful space that everybody enjoys playing in. Teresa's got a few nice things to say about making a great space that people can play in too!

(Look up "disemvowelling" too, for extra credit.)

I know you're scared of sharing, Warren. You aren't used to sharing, and you're worried. I can understand that someone who spends so much time with such a nasty, mean-spirited crowd can be a little scared. But you have to learn to share, or else none of the grownups are going to take you seriously!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Plea

I know you hate spam. I do too. But for the love of [deity], would you please make those stupid spam protection dealies even vaguely readable? Some are fine, but others are impossible to discern without a magnifying glass.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Memo to Kos:

If the nominee is decided by superdelegates, the Dems are screwed.

Just sayin'.

This Reminds Me of Something...

How is it that Matthew Yglesias' site on The has comments, and Andrew Sullivan's doesn't? Ok, ok, the guy ditched neoconservatism, but how about ditching neoconservatives' hatred for bottom-up discourse while you're at it?

I mean, maybe it's just me, but a blog without comments, moderated or no, just strikes as, well, dull. No wonder whatzisname doesn't think that blogs have any impact on the discourse... he's never really engaged in one!

Oracular Whatzisname?

I don't check ol' Warren K's blog as much as I used to, but I decided to stop by on a whim, and lit upon a very nice bit of prediction retconning:

Number six was right. Bloggers are soon to be declared the Pet Rock of the digital age by the mainstream media. While I think such a declaration is premature, there is no question that bloggers are breaking far fewer stories, and having markedly less impact on the public affairs agenda. Bold blogger prediction for 2008: a few of them, somewhere, are going to defy me and break a big story, and shame the MSM. And me.
You may wonder "what's number six, exactly?" So did I. It's from an old piece from last year predicting the future:

6. Bloggers will continue to believe they are supplanting the mainstream media, when - in fact - the data will show that the growth and influence of blogs is waning.
Now, he may have a point about Canadian blogs. There is no DailyKos in Canada, no Eschaton, nor even an Instapundit, not really. The vibrant communities aren't there, especially among progressives, who seem bound and determined to have Liberal vs. NDP sniping wars.

(Egged on, partially, by whatzisname himself, who seems to have severe trouble with the concept of hypotheticals)

No, it isn't as vibrant, though anybody who thinks that Michael Geist isn't required reading--and influential as hell--is absolutely delusional. His blog is, bar none, the best resource on copyright reform going, and he's the beating heart of the fight to keep the Canadian equivalent of fair use alive, and to defend it across North America.

(It is, thus, not terribly surprising that a google search for the word "Geist" on the site of the media columnist for the National Post turns up absolutely nothing. Nor does the Professor have a place on said media columnist's blogroll.)

But I don't think that's what he was talking about. I think he was talking about blogs in toto. And, as usual, he just doesn't get it. Bloggers aren't journalists. Not really. Bloggers rarely conduct interviews, and never really "broke" stories in the first place. What most bloggers are are commentators. We don't compete with the New York Times or the Washington Post's front page. We compete with its Op-Ed page. We compete with all those paid drones spinning away on CNN, given the opportunity to state their opinion just because they happened to be on a producer's rolodex. And, yes, we compete with Warren himself, because at the end of the day, you could probably slot in any number of bloggers' content in Warren's column on the National Post's website and nobody would even know the difference. Bloggers are pundits, Mr. K. We just happen to be volunteers.

The major American opinion journals understand this, which is why people like Matthew Yglesias and my (after a fashion) Blogson* Ezra Klein are doing what they do. That Warren doesn't understand this should be baffling.

Pity that it isn't.

Oh, and as for the "impact on the public agenda?" Prof. Geist killed your buddy Stevie's copyright bill. Funny that a media columnist would miss that, huh?

*(Supposedly I was the one who got the ball rolling on Ezra's career. Always been proud of that. He's a damned good writer.)

(Oh, and Ezra, if you're reading this, somebody spammed that page in Chinese.)

Edit: Ah, almost forgot. You probably shouldn't say blogs are irrelevant in a world where Paul Krugman's blog exists. Sorry, but any given post on the good Professor's blog is better than anything Whatzisname has ever committed to paper or screen.

(His book's better, too.)

He Was Running for Vice President Anyway

And in that respect, at least, Bill Richardson did what he needed to do.

Staying in the race would probably just annoy the very people that he's trying to attract. That's probably Clinton at this point; Obama/Richardson would be an interesting ticket, but I suspect a black/latino combination would be really vulnerable to "the Bradley effect".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We Have Ourselves a Horse Race

I wasn't expecting Clinton's win in NH. I really don't think she was either, but here we are. Apparently it's because women came out and youth didn't, which was pretty critical: youth trend towards Obama, women trend towards Clinton. Single women REALLY go for Clinton, and while they don't usually vote any more than youth, they certainly did yesterday.

(There's also this thing, though I'm not quite sure what to think of it.)

Here's George talking about it. More as I think of it.

Edit: Ok, I thought of it.

First, the tear thing. Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if it motivated turnout, at least a bit. It humanized Clinton, and Edwards' foolish jab probably motivated some women to turn out. The mailer saying that Obama was weak on women's rights probably didn't help, and neither did the college kids still on winter break.

It also could be something kos brought up: that while Clinton herself isn't that bad of a candidate or campaigner, the people around here are useless to a man (or woman). They're the "strategists" that constitute everything bad about the modern Democratic party, and don't deserve to get anywhere near the White House.

And it could be people responding to President Clinton's blistering "it's a fairy tale" attack on the Obama campaign on Monday. If the allegations are true, Obama's people have been engaged in some very shady dealings. No big surprise, but certainly disappointing.

It could also be the simple fact that independents can only vote once, and were probably drawn in by McCain.

Where does this leave the Dem race? Well, oddly enough, it means that South Carolina may be the key. Obama's people have to be really, really happy that Colbert didn't get into the race, because he could have seriously thrown them off. As it is, I suppose the key question is whether this win will energize their fundraising and let them be competitive before Super Tuesday. Your guess is as good as mine.

It also means that BOTH parties might well be going all the way down to the convention. It's bizarre to even think it, but with the Republicans' weak field and the divisions between independent and Dem-identified primary voters, the United States really might not coalesce around individual candidates. That'll have huge effects going into the election, because neither side will have been able to spend those big primary bucks on attacking the other side. And the bloggers will remain divided, with the only consensus being one thing:

that those weaksauce "everybody's a winner because the horserace proves that Dems are keen!" posts on kos are really, really lame.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bill Kristol...

Big Wanker, or the BIGGEST Wanker?

(We Report, You Deride.)

Obama's Media Positions

Pro-net neutrality? Pro-strong FCC? Anti-scaremongering on "TV violence"? Public ownership of the spectrum? PRIVACY protection?

Ok, I'm willing to forgive rather a lot of GOP-esque rhetoric if Obama really is as strong on media as Matt Stoller claims here.

Heck, it might even bring Krugman around, considering he thinks that the United States' technology advantage is well and truly over, thanks to the ridiculous state of Internet connectivity in the United States.

Edit: Matt kind of poo-pooed the whole TV violence thing, which I heartily support, but Obama's take on it actually makes sense, focusing on robust content tagging and close supervision of what kind of commercials go on children's programming. I'd say the latter is far more important than whether or not l'il Jimmy accidentally sees daddy play GTA4. Children's advertising is designed to influence them. If you're worried about negative influences, worry about that.

(Yes, this is a dated piece, but it's linked from this one on Clinton and the media's hostility to her. Thing is, I don't think the media is actually that hostile towards the woman. It's just that they've been sucked into the Obama vortex like everybody else.)

Not Cool, Edwards

Yes, I know you're running the woman, but this "weak, crying woman" stuff is just inane. It's a hairsbreadth away from "get back to the kitchen, woman, and make me some pie".

He probably wasn't thinking at the time, it's been stressful for everybody, but it's still unacceptable.

L'il Bit More on the Wire

Some guy over on Matt's site asks why The Wire doesn't get better ratings if it's so damned good.

Here's why: it's ridiculously uncompromising. The street argot is very real and somewhat difficult to follow at times, the plot is something you really need to watch from the first episode, the cast is huge, bad or damaged characters aren't always (or even often) redeemed in a TV-friendly fashion, there's no happy endings, and the whole thing is intended to track the slow decline of American institutions. So it's a little bleak.

It doesn't help that it's a novel that happens to be on television, rather than a TV show. There are few single-episode plots. Most arcs cover several episodes, many cover entire seasons, and the important ones cover the entire show. You probably won't get The Wire if you only watch one episode. David Simon knows this very, very well. He just doesn't care.

It's also very, very black. Considering the dearth of good roles for black men (it's even worse for black women), it's richly ironic that the best television show ever made has a majority black cast. Not just the dealers, but most of the cops and many of the politicians. Heck, a lot of them are locals! The cast is one of the main reasons why the show is so good, with standout performances on all sides, but David Simon believes quite strongly that it's going to be a bit alienating to white audiences, and I don't think he's wrong on that. Black drug dealers are the "Other" to many Americans. They sure as hell don't want to sympathize with them!

Compare that to, say, The Sopranos, which is a far safer and more accessible show, and you can see why The Wire doesn't get Sopranos numbers. That said, though, I'm certain that The Wire is going to have an incredibly long tail. It's a show tailor-made for DVD or digital downloads, so much so that watching it on DVD is almost a different experience thanks to the "television novel" aspect coming into full effect. I think that's one of the reasons it was so vigorously pirated last year; the leaked episodes let you watch the whole thing in order in several sittings instead of having to wait a week, and I can attest (having the entire thing to date on DVD) that that is the only way to watch the show.

Hell, it might have a long tail just because it's heralding the death of the "TV show".

One Down, Nine to Go

So. The Wire. Finally saw the first episode of the final season on Sunday. It was in top form, exactly as depressing as I could have (expected? hoped?) it would be. Things are bad, and getting worse.

Well, plotwise, anyway: the writing and performances are in top form.

Two things stuck out in my mind:

First, I wasn't expecting that "federal war with local consequences" thing I mentioned to kinda-sorta show up in The Wire itself. The nakedly political nature of the Republican US Attorney's actions on the show kind of put the mayor's own ambition into context. It really does feel like the mayor is trying to make Baltimore work, but higher levels of government simply don't care about cities like Baltimore except as vehicles for making them look "tough on drugs" and "tough on crime". You can kind of feel for the guy and understand how he'd be chomping at the bit to take one of those higher positions.

Second, Clark Johnson is going to help David Simon lose a lot of friends. Clark's performance on The Wire was like a welcome return for me--Johnson "Meldrick Lewis" remains one of my favorite Homicide characters, is a fan favorite in general-- and I don't think it's an accident that he the Simon's choice for the protagonist of the Wire's examination of journalism. The avuncular Johnson is a spoonful of sugar to help some bitter, bitter medicine go down.

And hoo-boy is it bitter. I'm not going to get into the details, but The Wire's Baltimore Sun is sinking fast, and sinking hard, becoming exactly the kind of newspaper that is too fluffy and untrustworthy to take seriously. It still goes after politicians, who are easy targets, but the bosses go out of their way not to offend the moneyed folks with real power. Johnson doesn't like that. But Johnson can't do anything about it.

Lot of that going around. And it isn't getting better.

Matthew worries that The Wire won't be able to wrap everything up in 12 episodes. I can't disagree, so for God's sake, Nobody tell him that there's only ten episodes this season. He might have a breakdown or something.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Something to Wonder About...

At the end of the day, with Iowa now over, and everybody saying "does Huckabee have a chance"...

...a question remains unasked. So I'll ask it:

Is this the final, AWESOME power of the Colbert Bump?

The man was on the Report three times, and went from a footnote to winning Iowa. Ron Paul was only on once, and isn't polling very well, but he is running a campaign richer than Croesus. Romney never goes on the Report, and he loses despite millions of dollars spent in Iowa.

Mr. Edwards? Mr. Obama? I think you have phone calls to make.


Yep, Huckabee and Obama won their respective caucuses in Iowa tonight. Dodd and Biden both dropped out, as far as I know they haven't thrown to anyone yet. Not sure if they're even going to.

What does it mean? Policy-wise, not sure if it means anything. I'm still not convinced that policy has a damned thing to do with the popularity of either man. If "centrism" were the core of Obama's appeal, he never could have beaten the centrist Clinton machine. Huckabee's policies aren't exactly enthralling either.

One interesting thing for me is that Edwards beat Clinton too. Edwards has been discounted in the race, I think unfairly; while he doesn't have the momentum Obama does, this was definitely a big win for John's crew tonight. Big loss for Clinton, either; I think she was expecting to lose to Obama, but not Edwards.

As for the Republicans, the conventional wisdom is that this is a big boost for McCain. I don't buy it. McCain is still the tired, compromised candidate that he was a month ago, and even if the media is anointing him to try to head off Huckabee--whom they almost certainly loathe as much as the mainstream Republicans do--he's far from transcending his weaknesses. Lieberman may have endorsed him, but he's still the guy that was outfundraised by Ron Paul.

No, I think the man that won tonight was the man who won tonight: Mike Huckabee. He not only pulled off something I'd have considered unthinkable six months ago, but did it by exploiting earned media and smart campaigning in ways I'd never have expected. Yes, a LOT of it had to do with him not-so-subtly reminding people that he's the sole Evangelical candidate, but I wouldn't have expected anything else. He's one to watch.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hey! No Fair!

I forgot to mention that the Yglesias piece stems from a piece by Mark Bowden on David Simon and The Wire called The Angriest Man In Television, where (essentially) Bowden protests that Simon is being too mean to nice newspapermen who were just doing the job they had to do.

Which, essentially, is "hey, no fair! You're not allowed to go after US!" except four pages long, in the Atlantic, and fueled by the fact that one of the people Simon is angry at is, er, Mark Bowden himself.

(Simon didn't like an early draft of the article, and how Bowden seemed to have been setting Simon up for a hitpiece by playing at being friendly when he had an ax to grind about how Simon dislikes old friends of his. Which is kind of a fair cop. I'd love to read that early draft.)

Anyway, it's not like I wasn't expecting this. I had been as soon as I heard that this fifth season was about the media. Who the hell wouldn't expect apologias and attacks from media hacks?

Just makes me want to watch it all the more.

Matthew Yglesias and David Simon argue about The Wire


Matt's referencing this article by Reihan Salam, which is essentially the same kind of "but it's so bleak! Why can't it be hopeful!" nonsense that Simon's work has always been plagued by.

Yglesias agrees, saying:

I think that's right. What's more, based on what I've heard David Simon say about politics, while he and I are clearly "on the same side" in some sense, I don't really agree with him about very much in detail. Fundamentally, I think his vision of the bleak urban dystopia and its roots is counterproductive to advancing the values we hold dear...Simon believes that we are doomed, and political progress requires us to believe that we are not. But aesthetically it's an extremely powerful conceit. And at the end of the day, it's a television show not a treatise on urban policy. If some viewers are taking it too literally as a statement of truth, that's on them much more than it is on Simon.
First, Yglesias is wildly off-base in that latter statement. What makes The Wire powerful is that it's as close as you can get to non-fiction without getting sued. Pretty much every major character is a pretty thin fictionalization of a real human being, the show has more advisors than you can count, and the creators draw heavily on their own real-world experience. The whole reason The Wire is so powerful (yet oddly difficult to watch at times) is precisely because it is more than just "a television show", and I'd recommend it over any number of dry, numbers-filled pieces of urban policy analysis for those who want to understand what's going on out there.

Oh, and Simon HAS written what amounts to a policy treatise on Baltimore. It was called "The Corner". The Wire is actually less bleak than that book. People were complaining about THAT, too.

Second, "unproductive" doesn't mean "wrong". It's bleak because the situation can get bleak. More importantly, though, it's bleak because people delude themselves about how things actually are. The most important thing about Simon's work is to break down these delusions: about drug policy, about politics, about policing, about the working class, about the urban black experience, and about places like Baltimore that are given a kind of "benign" neglect by Hollywood and Washington.

Besides, the elephant in the room has been, and will always be, the question of decrim or legalization in the face of The War on Drugs. While he was very, very honest about the issues involved when he created "Hamsterdam", keep in mind that most of those problems were because Bunny Colvin was simply too low-level to be able to do anything substantial. The war on drugs is a FEDERAL war, but it has LOCAL consequences; and inevitably those consequences have little-to-no impact on those who call the loudest for the war.

Oh, and Matt? Don't link to somebody who uses the phrase "Or it could lend itself to paroxysms of white guilt". That particular phrase is, incredibly, omnioffensive: it manages to insult whites, blacks, and pretty much everything else. His babbling about "self-help" when talking about the plight of the dockworkers in Season 2 isn't exactly attractive, either.

He's not as big an idiot as Jim Rockford, the commentator who said that "black people in the inner city WANT THUGS", but he's either profoundly misinformed or in deep, deep denial.


What can I say about this? Except that it's horrifying that Rwandan-style violence appears to be evergreen?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Years! Except the Trial Lawyers!

First, happy new years. Here's to a better 2008 than 2007.

Second, I richly anticipate the reaction in the comments threads on Daily Kos at the news that now Obama's taking shots at trial lawyers, in an attempt to cut off Edwards.

Methinks Obama doesn't understand something here. He belongs to a political party. Now I know, it may be hard to accept, he and his handlers may wish to go back to a gentler time when partisanship was seen as antithetical to the values of the new Republic, but those days are long gone. He is, for better or worse, a Democrat. And as a Democrat, taking shots at groups that are the favored punching bags of Republicans doesn't help. They are associated with Democrats. He is a Democrat. Thus, attacking them will, indirectly, hurt Obama.

And since Republicans are masters at indirect attacks, they will definitely use this to hurt Obama.

Oddly enough, I don't think Obama's inexperience is hurting his policymaking. I am wondering, however, whether or not his inexperience is hurting his politics. This was just dumb.