hard heads soft hearts
Friday, January 10, 2003
this letter from Al Gore to his supporters hasn't gotten much attention:
words of wisdom from the K-man:
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Kevin Drum and others have been pondering what effective Democratic marketing slogans would look like. Here's one suggestion: "jobs gap". That is, a healthy American economy creates two million jobs a year. Our economy stopped creating jobs in 2000, and in the last two years has actually shed around 2 million jobs. Therefore the term Democrats should be using is "There is a jobs gap of 6 million workers". That is, there are at least 6 million people who should be working, if we can get our economic act together, who aren't. Just like Kennedy attacked Nixon for the (nonexistent) "missile gap", Democrats should be proposing solutions to close the "jobs gap", and challenging the President to do the same.
common sense from an unemployed American:
Andrew Sullivan has gone out very far on a limb with his "Bush Good, Clinton Bad" two-step over North Korea. Saying that this crisis is completely caused by Clintonian fecklessness and appeasement, and the Bushies had and have no choice but to do what they're doing. How is that going to square with the latest news that the intelligence on the Uranium enrichment program was discovered in 2000, the Clintonites briefed the Bushies on this uranium program in early 2001, and the Bushies apparently sat on the information for 18 months before publicizing the program in October 2002, setting in train the chain of events whereby, if nothing changes, North Korea is going to begin cranking out nuclear bombs with metronomic regularity?
I don't know how any honest person who has paid attention to what has gone on in North Korea can hold the views Andrew Sullivan holds. The only hope for him, then is to largely ignore the North Korea situation, and so avoid the logical inconsistencies between his preferred version of history and the actual version of events. Which is what seems to be happening.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
various people are discussing diets, and O-dub in particular is endorsing the Atkins diet. Robert Park, a University of Maryland Physicist who wrote a very good book called "Voodoo Science: the road from foolishness to fraud, once had a funny post about diets in his weekly column "What's New", written for the American Physical Society:
initially posted in Max Sawicky's comments section, discussing the betrayal of Komrade Kaus. Matt Yglesias said Kaus supports Universal Health Care, voted for Gore, etc. but Atrios said the Mickster never writes about those subjects, and if you spend all your time attacking liberals, and coming up with tendentious, sophistic arguments why, despite all surface appearances, liberals are wrong and conservatives are right, then at some point you have to turn in your "I'm a Liberal!" card:
Saturday, January 04, 2003
conservatives always bemoan the legalistic adversarial culture. But don't they realize that culture is at least partly due to a bare bones safety net?
Jonah Goldberg writes about The Lord Of The Rings in his column today. He addresses two questions: 1) Is the Lord Of the Rings racist? 2) Is it pro-war propaganda? Goldberg's answers are hell no, and hell no. For racism, his argument is basically that though the Orcs were dark-skinned, they aren't meant to be considered human. They are obviously, ineradicably, sub-human creatures. For the charge of war-mongering, he says Tolkien made the Orc's subhuman, and the ensuing war indisputably just, to sharpen the point of how people can rationalize not doing the right thing.
What Goldberg demonstrates is how even an intelligent and insightful person can go wrong, wasting hundreds of words in irrelevancies, if they choose to ignore inconvenient evidence. If you you wanted to show LOTR was racist, you wouldn't pick the orcs as evidence, you would pick the "Cruel Men of Harad-Rim", or the Southrons with their Oliphaunts, all of whom Tolkien chooses to portray as fighting for Sauron. If not racist, LOTR is at the very least highly ethnocentric.
Which I think, gets to the point. The correct response to charges of racism is not to foolishly deny that racism exists, but to simply say "Yes, the LOTR is mildly racist. But so what? It's also a great work of art which has the power to inspire and entertain people of all races." In assessing the racism of LOTR, it's important to know what Tolkien was trying to do: He was trying, in part, to create a mythology for the English people, something comparable to the rich Scandanavian mythologies which Tolkien admired. And, as Joseph Campbell has noted, all mythologies are ethnocentric: the names for the in-group will be synonomous with "human", while the out-groups will have names like "funny face" or "broken ears". The fact that LOTR exalts the English and demeans other peoples is hardly surprising: it was written by an Englishman, and meant primarily for other Englishpeople. The correct advice to people who are offended by the racism in LOTR is to put aside what you dislike, and appreciate what's worth appreciating. And if you just can't ignore the racism, then write your own damn story.
Of course, this advice has broader applicability: For example, a conservative Christian can disapprove of the bohemian morality in the musical Rent, and still recognize that it is an inspiring, moving work of true artistic merit.
As for the charge of war-mongering, this is easily disproved by something Tolkien wrote in 1965, in the forward of the American edition of LOTR, when he was asserting that the LOTR was *not* meant as an allegory of World War II:
This is a rather shocking statement of ambivalence, or if you like, "moral relativism". The line about "both sides holding hobbits in hatred and contempt" should put paid, I think, to both admirers and detractors who think of Tolkien as an ardent Cold Warrior, and who think of LOTR as clearly intended to exhort the Free Men of the West to face their Evil Empires with confidence and moral clarity.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
I wrote this in the comments section of jeff jarvis's weblog, and then realized it was too darn long for a comment:
I think cable TV, and to a lesser extent, radio, are dead-ends for liberals. The problem is that the customers for those businesses aren't viewers, they're advertisers. To give a small example, Andrew Tobias (www.andrewtobias.com), a smart and sensible liberal, has written one of the best (and funniest) personal finance books ever, "The Only Investment Guide you'll ever need". Assuming he has basic TV skills, he could, I'm sure, create a great and wildly successful show on investing and personal finance. The problem is that most of the advertisors on such shows are big brokerage firms, and big companies in general, and that the good, sound, advice and information Tobias gives will often, though certainly not always, run counter to their financial interests.
Joe Conason once wrote that he had been intervied for a slot on Fox News, but later got word that he had been black-listed by someone high up in the organization. And it is not an accident, I think, that smart, effective liberals like Josh Marshall and Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait aren't on TV more. Producers like predictable people, who will say predictable things. Someone like Krugman or Marshall or Chait, who know more about policy and will not be manipulated into saying things the producers and hosts want to hear, are deeply disturbing to them. Even C-Span, follows this pattern. Brian Lamb is a moderate Republican with a libertarian bent, and you'll notice that the left of center people on C-Span are usually bland, non- confrontational establishment people, like Frank Rich, or far to the left, like Cornel West.
Non-establishment liberals, like Josh Marshall, are rare, and people who really like to mix it up with conservatives and are effective at doing it, like Krugman and Chait, are non-existent.
At this point I run the risk of being paranoid, and perhaps that's true. But it's not only me. The current Washinton Monthly has an article by a business journalist asserting that advertiser pressure is a key reason that business journalism stinks.
Also, let me just say that I think the solution is the internet, and specifically a liberal organization that produces trustworthy, reliable Consumer Reports-like information on non-ideological subjects, and uses the credibility derived from that to build a respected news and political organization, with perhaps a mild liberal bias.