Saturday, January 12, 2002

SHAMED DOGAN NOT ONLY HAS the best blog name of all, he's also got a fascinating link about Bush's interaction with Dean Kamen's now-infamous Segway. I can't say I agree with his analysis, but it's worth thinking about.
PARTISANSHIP IS BACK -- BIG TIME as the usually dull Bill Keller slams retiring Senate Republicans Thurmond, Gramm, and Helms. I don't have any sympathy for these guys either and I'm glad to see them taken down a notch, but there doesn't seem to be any peg for the story whatsoever. Keller also trots out the "Taliban wing" of the Republican party line that had been gaining popularity in liberal circles before the 11th. The opportunist in me is glad to see it back.

A representative sample paragraph:

Senators Helms, Gramm and Thurmond have in common the fact that they harnessed their collective century of seniority to the Taliban wing of the American right. Point to an act of cultural division, bullying unilateralism or anti-government populism committed in the Senate during their decades there and you will usually find these three men among the sponsors. But there are others in the Senate who have voted for egregious causes, right and left, and still others who have never stood for much of anything. What sets these three apart is that each has made his own special contribution to the cynicism of our public life.

I strongly considered sending this in to Andrew Sullivan as a Begala Award Nominee, but at the end of the day, I just agree with Keller too much to do it.

I'M DEFINITELY IMPRESSED BY this Matt Welch article about the importance of recognizing the sins of foreign policy past.
I JUST LINKED TO HIM SO I feel lame doing it again, but Talking Points has two more great posts on the Enron situation. Specifically, he notes that the sheer magnitude of the giving, getting, and conflicts of interest that will come to light in the course of an investigation will be something of a "meta-scandal" whether or not any actual wrongdoing is exposed. The gigantic potential for wrongdoing that seems implicit in this sort of cozyness between pols and businessmen is shocking enough.
THE ACTA LIST AS BLACKLIST idea found here is my pet peeve. Read it and hate this guy. See my "The New McCarthyism" for an even more virulent strain.

Friday, January 11, 2002

JOSH MARSHALL MAKES AN EXCELLENT point about the upcoming Enron investigations. Namely: There's not nearly enough Senators or Congressmen who haven't been on the Enron dole at some point to form a whole clean committee. You can see Enron's donations for the 1999-2000 election cycle alone here -- it's incredible. Maybe this will get people motivated about campaign finance reform. Then again you would've thought pardongate would've.
NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY APPRECIATE the full scope of Cornel West's inanity unless they visit The moronic text is hilarious, but you really need to download one of the songs to appreciate exactly what we're dealing with here.
I DON'T LIKE TO PLUG the Crimson, but today's offering from Ross Douthat is really an excellent commentary on the Summers-West imbroglio.
I DON'T THINK I'VE EVER seen anyone note how great Salon's Survivor 3 recaps are. I don't watch the show, but I always read the recaps. Very funny.
DAVID PLOTZ GETS THE psychology of plagiarism just right in this Assessment, at least if my own experience with Harvard plagiarist Irina Serbanescu is any guide. It may be different for people who plagiarize their schoolwork, but those who do it in public -- in books or articles -- are sick and weird, not just lazy.
I DISAGREE WITH THE GENERAL tenor of the complaints about "liberal media bias" but Andrew Sullivan found a pretty damn good example of said bias here:
Aaron Brown: "Some conservatives jumped on [Taliban fighter John] Walker, saying he is a product of cultural liberalism – the California kind – helping to turn an impressionable kid against his own country. Joining us from Salinas, California, one of those conservatives, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution. Mr. Steele wrote a provocative article the other day in The Wall Street Journal – a column in the Journal. And here in New York, a columnist who thinks Mr. Steele is making an awfully broad generalization: Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. It’s nice to have both of you here.
Mr. Steele."
Shelby Steele: "First of all, let me interrupt you just a minute. Is Richard Cohen a liberal?"
Brown: "Yeah, Richard Cohen’s a liberal. I think he would say that, wouldn’t he?"
Richard Cohen: "On this issue."
Brown: "Okay. Everyone is now branded, I guess."
Steele: "Great. If I’m going to be, everybody’s going to be."

Sullivan, incidentally, conceded that his attack on Slate Tim Noah is going to need a little more data before it'll really stick. We'll see.

PEOPLE HAVE PUT TOGETHER a lot of cogent defenses of the now infamous "super-smart and, oh yeah, just a little bit sex" CNN/Paula Zahn ad. This bizarre rant on OpinionJournal is not among them. Trust me -- there's nothing sexy about Margaret Thatcher.
PAUL KRUGMAN'S LATEST NYTimes probably won't surprise anyone by dissing Dubya's tax cut. There is, however, a bit of interesting factual information, namely:
Now it's true that state governments raised taxes in the early 1990's — but as new work by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, they didn't cut the same taxes they had previously raised. Increases in regressive taxes — that is, taxes like the sales tax, which bear most heavily on lower- and moderate-income families — by and large were never reversed. Instead, states cut taxes that bear most heavily on upper-income families. The end result was a redistribution of the tax burden away from the haves toward the have-nots. A family earning, say, $30,000 per year pays considerably more in state taxes than a family with the same constant-dollar income did in 1990, while a family earning $600,000 per year pays considerably less.

This trend concerns me more than the vagueries of the federal budget or even the ups and downs of the income tax. There's something seriously wrong with a country that taxes the poor to balance the budget in bad times and then cuts taxes for the wealthy when things are going well.

ROD DREHER HAS a nice piece slamming Cornel West for his shaky commitment to education. I must say that though I agree with the substance of all this West bashing, I'm concerned about where it's going. The point, I think, is for the right wing to try and discredit all black intellectuals or everyone who points out that racism is a significant problem in American society. It's worth saying loud and clear that the Harvard Afro-American Studies department (and doubtless other departments around the nation) contains many fine scholars (K. Anthony Appiah and William Julius Wilson come to mind) and that while West is bad, he's no worse than all the other charlatans traipsing around America's humanities departments -- he's just blacker and more famous.
Let's see if this works.
I DUNNO ABOUT YOU, but this Enron situation sounds to me like it calls for a long, open-ended investigation costing the American taxpayer millions of dollars over its extended life-span, ceaselessly veering off-topic until some wrongdoing can be found.

The important thing to remember, though, is that the independent counsel law was a bad idea when it was written, bad when it was used against Clinton, and would be bad to use against Bush. I have a sense that someone is going to start suggesting that that's what we need rather than partisan Congressional committees. They're wrong, though.
MICHAEL KINSLEY'S new media bias piece strikes me as basically on-target in the typical blah Kinsley kind of way. What I'm more interested in, though, is the conservative bias of television commentary. How frequently have you seen a news anchor interviewing some other journalists for a little opinion and insight. Invariably (if the subject is political) they'll bring a conservative commentator (say, Tucker Carlson) to give a right-wing view. And who do they find to give the liberal p.o.v.? Typically a "straight" journalist for an apolitical publication (say, Margaret Carlson).

Even if we accept that mainstream journalists like Margaret are liberals, as journalists who wish to appear non-biased (which would be pointless in a Weekly Standard columnist) they have significant constraints placed on them. Consider also the difference in worldview between a person who happens to hold a certain political position and a person who is a professional advocate for that position. No matter how liberal Margaret Carlson may be, she has no reason to spout the Democratic party line when (as the lines of political parties often are) it's a disingenuous one. Tucker, however, is part of the line-spouting process.

That creates a real and disturbing bias.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Allright...everyone's talking about this blogger technology -- let's see if it works.