Radio Show

My radio show, the Flipper Kidz Fun Show, will be hitting the sweet waves of the internet at 10 Eastern Standard Time.

Feel free to listen

Lot's O Junk I like....especially The Mattoid.

- Glitter


I meant to post this yesterday, but never got around to it.

The New York Times featured a kick ass editorial yesterday about "Spies, Lies and Wiretaps". The editrorial is written in a rather "drop the bullshit" manner that goes one by one through the Bush administration's defenses of its recently disclosed warrantless eavesdropping program and swats them down in clear language. The reader is even helped by bolded titles for each attempted defense and misdirection.

A brief example:

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

The whole thing is worth a read, and it's pretty obvious that the "paper of record" considers this to be a pretty big deal for the nation. From my experience, editorials are usually rather short, often no more than one internet page, but this editorial was not only given two internet pages, but also a large, prominent and boxed location in the print edition of the Times' sunday opinions page.

And they're right. This is a big fucking deal.

- Glitter

Matthews and "Scalito"

Just thought I'd throw my hat into the Chris Matthews bashing that is so in vogue at the moment.

Most news junkies will likely remember how Matthews accused Dems of "going after Alito's Italian ancestory" soon after his nomination was announced. Well, an article in the New York Times today shines a little bit of light on where that meme may have come from:

The team worked through a newly formed group, the Judicial Confirmation Network, to coordinate grass-roots pressure on Democratic senators from conservative states. And they stayed in constant contact with scores of conservative groups around the country to brief them about potential nominees and to make sure they all stuck to the same message. They fine-tuned their strategy for Judge Alito when he was nominated in October by recruiting Italian-American groups to protest the use of the nickname "Scalito," which would have linked him to the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

It's amazing how Matthews ended up spewing Republican talking points so easily. It really makes one wonder.

- Glitter


And I finally bring Pro Wrestling to the blog...

Interesting post on a blog run by Scott Keith, the online writer who did a good deal to shape my understanding of one of my high school obsessions, the WWF(now WWE) and the pro-wrestling business.

The basic storyline is that during the Gulf War, Sgt. Slaughter:

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betrayed his army roots and his country, and aligned himself with General Adnan, who was the heel embodiment of the Iraqi army and Saddam Hussein:

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In doing so, he underhandedly won the WW(F)E world title from the Ultimate Warrior :

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at the Royal Rumble. This set the table for a showdown between All American Male Hulk Hogan:

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At biggest show in pro wrestling, Wrestlemania:

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So, basically at the time, the WWF put the politics of the Gulf War in to the simplified morality tale of pro wrestling, good versus evil, face versus heel. Sgt. Slaughter was a literal trader who denounced America and took up the Iraqi flag. If Ann Coulter had been around back then, she would have called him a liberal. There were some very heavy undertones to the storyline, which has come to be seen by some as a black eye on the company's history and reputation, eventhough the WWF promoted it as one of the highest selling pay-per-views at the time.

The tone of the angle was one of an "aggressive" streak of patriotism that one would expect to find in a Casey Nethercott, not a highly successful entertainment show aimed at kids and teenagers. Though of course, there have been arguemtns that the overall message of the WWE is a conservative one. I haven't really watched much since 2001, but the bits and pieces that I have seen seems to indicate that the WWE does still create a moral world that is largely based on many conservative archetypes and norms.

From what I've vaguely gathered, the WWE has run storylines based around terrorism that bring up a lot of questions about racial representation in the media.It's hard to tell whether this is an expression of what the writers actuall think about minority characters and the politics of global conflict or if it is just an indictation of what the witers think will sell to the public and their fanbase. Either way, it's hard to deny that the lessons of the spectacle that is pro wrestling can wade into some pretty iffy territory, especially when considering the potential power it has to normalize notions. After all, it is it's own mythology.

Saturday Morning News Round Up

* Seems that draft legislation, known by critics as Patriot Act II, included legislative changes that would have expanded the President's power for domestic spying. Most interesting graf to me in the Post article is:

One provision would have made it clear that the president could order wiretapping without court supervision for 15 days after Congress approved the use of military force, as it did against al Qaeda. Current law allows such spying for 15 days without a judge's approval only when Congress issues a declaration of war.

Justice officials have argued more recently that the two types of declarations are legally equivalent.

I am no lawyer nor even a law student, but my layman's understand of things tells me that in the law specific phrases and concepts have specific meanings and can't always be interchanged. Though that doesn't mean the administration can't assert that things mean whatever they want it to mean, or atleast whatever they think the public might politically accept.

* At least some US soldiers are kidnapping the wives of men believed to be insurgents in an effort to leverage their husbands to turn themselves in. It's hard to tell from the article whether this practice is an example of isolated incidents on the ground or indicative of a more generally accepted method. Either way, I'm pretty sure it violates the words of the Geneva Conventions.

* NASA is trying to quiet one of its top scientists as he is speaking out against greenhouse emissions and their role in climate change. NASA's office of public affairs wants to "review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists." This is interesting too:

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet." The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

What a coincidence, this happened soon after he directly criticized the administration. Hmmmm. That's strange.

* A conference is being held this week in Virgina about if there is a set of ethics for the espionage community, and if there is, what should it be. Sound like it would be damn interesting to attend, a real cross-section of moral philosophy and the nuts and bolts of geo-political trench warfare.

* The release of a video tape of two kidnapped Germans in Iraq is a sad reminder of not only how chaotic things seem to be over there, but also how helpless I feel in the face of it over here.

* This is everywhere over the liberal blogosphere, but I'll post it too. The Bush Administration has backed an Iran introduced motion to deny two gay rights groups a voice in the UN.

* It does seem that the Left blogosphere is not going to allow the Right Wing Noise Machine to be the only team in town working the media refs. Part of me recoils at playing with the fire of right wing tactics, part of me punches that other part of me and screams "it's about time we had our own watchers watching the watchers." I'm remind of something Todd Gitlin said in a recent Nation article about Campus Progress:

I asked the former president of Students for a Democratic Society, Todd Gitlin, now a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, for his thoughts about the trends on the new student left. "I think there's a desire for results, a hard-bitten realism," says Gitlin. "The primary goal is not some sort of symbolic display, or some sort of posture or attitude, but results. If that's what it means, then I applaud the turn to practicality. Today the far right is in charge, and I don't think you can create the possibility of broad-based radicalism until you defeat the far right. Put the center in power and then you have the possibility--or the luxury--of radicalism."

Seems to be the trend for Progessives at the moment. First we need to push back, then once we've gained our ground, we can advocate for the policies we think are better. Of course this involves many factors, including the battles over narratives in the news cycle and the battle for voters in elections. (sorry for the overuse of the war analogy, I know it's a sign of weak word choice.)

* Here's an article in The Post about some of the tensions between activist liberal blogs and more traditional Democratic insiders. My first impression is that the article creates the impression of the blogosphere as a monolithic entity, when really it is all kinds of people approaching things from all kinds of angles. I don't deny that there is coordination between some blogs on some issues, but I'd classify that as a case by case basis. In the instance of complaining about the choice of Tim Kaine to voice the Democrats pushback of the State of the Union, I definitely didn't see that as a unified criticism in the blogs, though there certainly was plenty of outcry. Also, the author of the article, Jim VandeHei, groups Code Pink in with the blogs because they use their website as part of their activism, but from what I can tell, they don't actually have a blog, and unlike most blogs, they are an organization brought together specifically for activism, while blogs are more like a citizen's group gathered at a local bar to discuss politics (see Drinking Liberally). A website is not the same as a blog, or at least, a blog is a specific kind of website. Most press discussions about blogs that I have read have not given the sense of blogs that I get from reading them. Perhaps the best discussion of the political potential for progressive blogs that I have read is this essay by Peter Daou, Kerry's point man on blog outreach and the creator of the Daou Report.

* And finally, in other news, Skye Friday triumphantly returns!

- Glitter


hmmm, what interesting timing Mr. President

Josh Marshall points to a potentially worrisome development in the Justice Department's Abramoff investigation.

Apparently, the prosecuter heading the investigation will step down because President Bush has just nominated him for a federal judgeship.

It seems to me that it is logical that the timing of this appointment raises questions about the motivations behind it. You know, are they taking a prosecutor who has proved effective in actually pursuing corruption cases (often against Republicans) at the height a scandal that reaches into the White House, though no one knows how far, and it certainly reaches directly into the Republican party's political machinery.

Of course, Scott McClellan is worried that there might be politics involved in this:

The White House, which announced Mr. Bush's selection of Mr. Hillman for the court in a routine e-mail message on Wednesday that included 15 other nominations to judgeships and federal jobs, dismissed the calls for a special prosecutor.

"It's nothing but pure politics," said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. "The Justice Department is holding Mr. Abramoff to account, and the career Justice prosecutors are continuing to fully investigate the matter."

A special prosecutor would not be especially welcome at the White House. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case, is more than two years into an investigation that has resulted in the indictment of a top vice-presidential aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., and has left Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, under investigation.

Mr. Hillman's departure from the Justice Department creates a vacancy at the top of the Abramoff inquiry only three weeks after Mr. Abramoff, once one of the city's most powerful Republican lobbyists and a major fund-raiser for Mr. Bush, announced his guilty plea and agreed to testify against others, possibly including members of Congress.

A former senior White House budget official, David H. Safavian, has been indicted in the case on charges of lying about his contacts with Mr. Abramoff, a former lobbying partner. The Justice Department's plea agreement with Mr. Abramoff makes clear that prosecutors are investigating several members of Congress and other public officials who are suspected of having accepted gifts from the lobbyist in exchange for official acts.

Colleagues at the Justice Department say Mr. Hillman has been involved in day-to-day management of the Abramoff investigation since it began almost two year ago. The inquiry, which initially focused on accusations that Mr. Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, is being described within the department as the most important federal corruption investigation in a generation.

Mr. Hillman's nomination for a judgeship was among the factors cited Thursday by four Democratic lawmakers, two senators and two representatives, in calling on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to name a special prosecutor to oversee the corruption investigation.

The timing of Mr. Hillman's nomination "jaundices this whole process," Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in an interview. "They have to appoint a special counsel. I think there will be broad support for one."

Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, called the timing "startling" and said, "You have one of the chief prosecutors removed from a case that has tentacles throughout the Republican leadership of Congress, throughout the various agencies and into the White House."

It fries my grits when the administration (or any politician for that matter) does something blatantly political and then dismisses all criticism as politically motivated. Up is down.

I'd pay attention to Talking Points Memo for the latest developments on this since you know Josh and his team of Muckrakers will be all over it.

- Glitter

Designing Park #2

Dean Lynch has a new post over at her new blog, Designing Park, and it's basically a link to an Atlantic Monthly article on Higher Education by James Fallows and V.V. Ganeshanathan. Interstingly enough, she doesn't link to an archive of the article at the Atlantic's website, but rather a PDF of it hosted on this website.

I still have no idea who this blog is meant for, as she hasn't advertised it over on her other blog, All Things Park, which is known to be her forum to announce, discuss, and advertise, well, all things related to Park. Perhaps this blog isn't meant to be too public yet. I really don't know, so until then, I link, you decide.

- Glitter


Paul Hackett, Pro-Gay and Proud of it.

For a couple months now I've been answering the "what are your plans after college" question with a vague idea about working on a 2006 congressional campaign for a returning Iraq War vet running as a Democrat, or a Fighting Dem, as they have become known as.

The problem for me has been figuring whose campaign I want to jump on. Figuring that out involves questions of location, strategy, principle, and well, personality. While I'm still not even close to making a decision, Paul Hackett's campaign sent out an email today that definitely shifted me a bit towards him.

Here's what he said that made me feel that he might be a politician I could work for in good conscience (granted I don't know all his positions yet):

Last week the Columbus Dispatch published a column about my candidacy that said, in part, the following:

"Asked to define being pro-gay rights, Hackett said anybody who tries to deny homosexuals the same rights, including marriage, as every other citizen is un-American. Are you saying, he was asked, that the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted in November 2004 to constitutionally deny same-sex marriages are un-American?

"If what they believe is that we're going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that's un-American. They've got to accept that. It's absolutely un-American."
Columbus Dispatch (01/15/06)

It wasn't long until the Republican attack machine came after me demanding an apology. They called what I said "hate speech." The Republican Party was up to its old tricks again, using fear to silence opposition. They expected me to back down like too many Democrats have in the past.

My response?

I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it. Equal justice under the law for all regardless of who they are and how they were born is fundamental to our American spirit and our American freedoms. Any person or group that argues that the law should not apply equally to all Americans is, frankly, un-American.

I realize that compromises have to pragmatically be made in politics, especially when running in tough races, but support of gay marriage and equal rights for sexual minorities is one place where I feel like I can't bend too much on principle. Truthfully, I'd have an easier time supporting a pro-life candidate than I would one who is against equality for gays and lesbians, though ideally I want support a candidate who is both pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. Although I disagree with pro-life policies, I can empathetically understand why someone would advocate against abortion if they think a fetus really is equal to an out of womb human. I can't empathetically relate to someone who is anti-gay.

Oh, and in the vein of support for pro-life Democrats, I was formally considering jumping on to Bob Casey's campaign for Senate in PA because I would really love to see Rick Santorum out of office, but his declaration that he would support Alito killed that idea for good.

So, yeah. In terms of currying my grunt work support: Hackett - 1, Casey - 0

- Glitter

Silver Jews! Silver Jews! Silver Jews!

Seems to be that David Berman's gonna be doing a little speaking soon. The University of Pittsburgh has put out a press release announcing that the Man himself will be holding a reading on Weds, February 8th. How long is the drive from Ithaca to Pittsburgh?

With that in mind, Berman told Pitchfork that he charges $1000 for a reading. Anyone know how much discretionary funds the IC Writing and English department have on hand for speakers? Just a thought.

In more Silver Jews news, Pollstar has posted an article that contains a new interview with Berman.

Oh, and something I found while Google searching for SJ news. Paste Magazine has an interesting article up about the taping of a new music show on Turner South called Music Road, hosted by acoustic-pop troubadour Edwin McCain. Basically the concept is that McCain goes around the country to renowned music venues and hosts a taping of the local scene's best acts. The Athens, Ga show featured Vic Chestnutt, Elf Power, Drive-By Truckers, Phosphorescent, Don Chambers and GOAT, Liz Durrett, and members of Hope For A Golden Summer.

While I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but wonder whether a show like this could realistically be held in Ithaca. Logistically I’d say no, simply because we do not have any venues that cater to local music that have any kind of prestige outside of Ithaca. I suppose something could be held at the State Theater, but that’s not exactly a venue that showcases the local music scene, let alone traveling musicians who aren’t already big names. I suppose the argument could be made that there is enough of a local music scene here to warrant a spotlight, particularly if Donna The Buffalo, John Brown’s Body, and perhaps Johnny Dowd topped a bill of other local acts.

I don’t know though, I know there is a local Ithaca music scene, but I can’t say I’ve ever really been too taken by it. I will freely admit that I haven’t been the most pro-active in engaging with the local music scene in Ithaca, but at the same time, of the above listed acts, only Johnny Dowd has piqued my interest to any real extent. This might just be a case of not giving something a fair listen, though my gut tells me that's not the case and the Ithaca music scene just ain't for me.

Of course, I would never claim to be the prototypical music fan.

- Glitter

A Question of Framing and Narratives

Today's New York Times article titled, "Photos With Disgraced Lobbyist Are 'Not Relevant,' Bush Says, is a good example of the issues Peter Daou brought up in his most recent essay.

The Times article is an understandable reporting of the President's news conference this morning, and it is newsworthy whenever a top administration official actually answers questions, especially since this particular President has been more loathe than most in holding Q and A's with the press. While the Times' reporter, David Stout, gives most of the words in the article to the President and his message, he does try to include criticisms and diverging viewpoints. This is to be expected and understood, though it does seem to be an exercise in trying to give the appearence of balanced journalism rather than an attempt to square what is truth with what is spin.

For example, I point to this paragraph in reference to the NSA's eavesdropping program:

As for the National Security Agency's surveillance program, which many Democrats have said was of dubious constitutionality and legality at best, Mr. Bush said it had been vetted by lawyers and was essential. "And so as I stand here right now," he said, "I can tell the American people the program's legal, it's designed to protect civil liberties, and it's necessary."

The problem with the reporting here is that it gives the impression that worry and outrage over the NSA program is only a partisan matter, which it is not. Many conservatives, including movement lynchpins Grover Norquist, David Keene, and former Congressman Bob Barr, are outraged over the revelation's of the program's questionable use of warrantless searches. Furthermore, non-partisan government reports by the Congressional Research Service have also found that the reports to Congress on the program and the administration's legal rationale for it do not hold up to legal scrutiny.

Clearly, it is not just Democrats who are criticizing the administration on this, but the impression that it is gives the President and his supporters the easy dodge of "oh, this is just politics."

Not to sound shrill and cliched, but seeking impeachment over a blowjob is just politics. Seeking answers as to whether the President and his administration disregarded the constitutionally guaranteed rights of this nation's citizens is a matter national importance.

- Glitter

Sidenote: Hopefully later tonight, I will write my first of many weekly posts responding to and commenting on The Ithacan and Intercom.


Drag City has News!...and other music-related tidbits

A little stream of information has poured out today from that Great Lake of an indie record label that is Drag City

Loose Fur, of the Misters Tweedy, O'Rourke, and Kotche, has a new album coming out soon called Born Again In The USA.

Silver Jews tour has nearly all sold out, though Drag City does vaguely imply that there may still be tickets available for the second night in New York City.

Azita, who plays on the most recent Silver Jews album, Tanglewood Numbers, also has a new album coming out. Her Life On The Fly was a pretty sweet album.

For more Drag City news, check their website.


In other music news, Bobby Bare, Jr. has not only a new Live album available, Nick Nacks & Paddy Whacks, but he's also going on a short February tour.

Here are the dates:

feb 20- BOSTON, MA - T.T. BEARS
feb 24- TBA
feb 25- ATLANTA ,GA


And finally, Pitchfork reports that Art Brut will be touring North America in the spring.

Here are those dates:

01-24 Cologne, Germany - Stollwerck
01-26 Milan, Italy - Rainbow
01-27 Florence, Italy - Sonar
01-28 Bologna, Italy - Covo
01-29 Rome, Italy - Zoobar
01-30 Roncade, Italy - New Age Club
02-01 Bordeaux, France - Angouleme
02-02 Nantes, France - Olympic
02-03 Evereux, France - L'Abordage
02-04 Rennes, France - L'Ubu
02-06 Paris, France - La Maroquinerie
02-07 Dijon, France - Le Grand Mix
02-08 Lille, France - La Laterie
03-15 Austin, TX - The Parish (SXSW)
03-16 Austin, TX - TBA (SXSW)
03-17 Austin, TX - Emo's Annex (SXSW)
03-19 Los Angeles, CA - Troubadour
03-20 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
03-21 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
03-23 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
03-24 Vancouver, British Columbia - Richard's on Richards
03-25 Seattle, WA - Neumos
03-28 Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
03-30 Chicago, IL - Metro
03-31 Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
04-01 Toronto, Ontario - Horseshoe Tavern
04-02 Montreal, Quebec - La Sala Rossa
04-03 Cambridge, MA - Middle East Downstairs
04-04 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
04-05 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
04-07 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church
04-08 Haverford, PA - Haverford College
04-09 Washington, DC - Black Cat
04-10 Baltimore, MD - Ottobar
04-11 Brooklyn, NY - TBA

- Glitter

Dean Lynch's newest blog

It's a goal of mine to get this blog a bit more Ithaca-centered, hence the Ithaca-related websites topping the links on the right. So in that spirit, I present the following:

Many people probably know that Dianne Lynch, Dean extrodinaire of the Park School at IC, keeps a blog, All Things Park, where she can post updates and announcements about all sorts of projects and developments in the Park School. She's even mentioned Buzzsaw there before.

What I did not know, and I assume many others do not know, is that she has also started another blog, Designing Park. Its premiere, and thus far only, post was written on Sunday, Jan 22nd, where Dean Lynch posted links to a PDF of a presentation she made as well as a set of slides about enrollments, provided to her by Larry Metzger, vp of enrollment planning.

I've heard rumors and rumblings of a movement to restructure the curriculum at Park, and I'd say that this new blog indicates that the discussion is just beginning, and hopefully it will be an interactive one for the entire academic community (students, faculty, and administrators) who have a vested interest in the decisions that are made around the "design" of our college's educational direction.

As was brought up by Students for Park, which was spearheaded by Buzzsaw's own Jeremy Levine and Kate Sheppard, I hope that the voice of students is not lost in this conversation.

As for now, I'm going to add her new blog to our list of links.

- Glitter

Various Links to the Web

* The New York Times has an article up about a preliminary government report about the $25 billion dollar reconstruction effort in Iraq. Basically says that this project has not been run well. Read it for yourself.

* When I first started reading blogs in the summer of 2003 as an intern at the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, a contributor to Eric Alterman's Altercation blog stood out to me as a truly unique and powerful voice. Charles Pierce seemed like a modern day Hunter S. Thompson, but one who hadn't lost his relevancy to contemporary times and the annals of old age hippiedom. Pierce was a particularly comforting voice to rally my spirit during the build up to and fall out from the 2004 election. But then he disappeared from the pages of Altercation, only to be seen by me through the occassional odd link on random blogs. Here's the Esquire piece mentioned in the Marquette article. You can find Pierce's election day piece and his goodbye from Altercationhere. And no, I don't like him just because he lives in Newton, though it is strange to like someone who lives there and isn't family.

* Is it just me or does Josh Marshall do the best job in Blogland of turning his readership into accomplice journalists? Alas, I can't apply for an internship as I live in Upstate (or central as some folks prefer) rather than Metropolitan New York. But he has others working with him. And they produce the Daily Muck.

* Kevin Drum has a good post about how minor technical changes in law that occur without much oversight can prove mighty lucrative for special interests. He particularly points to an article in the Washington Post about an under the cover of night GOP change that netted the insurance industry $22 billion in savings over the next decade.

* "Hundreds of CIA-chartered flights have passed through numerous European countries. It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware." Council of Europe report points towards widespread complicity in U.S."outsourcing" of torture abroad. According to the article, secret detention centers would violate European human rights treaties.

* I haven't been too taken thus far with the new main page bloggers over at Daily Kos, but this post by georgia10 does a great job of tying together a lot of the recent developments surrounding the NSA's warrantless surveillance program that have come out of the administration's PR campaign in defense of that program.

* Rick Santorum's call to the Yellow Elephants: "What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?" Here's the video. It's hard to tell the exact context from this clip, but it definitely does seem like he is suggesting that supporting Rick Santorum shows an analogous level of sacrifice and patriotism to volunteering to potentially die in armed conflict in the name of the United States. (via Crooks and Liars

* Bush doesn't look too comfortable being asked to comment on Brokeback Mountain

* As I've been learning in the past few weeks, it's always nice to find out what Digby's got on his mind. His page is worth a bookmark.

- Glitter


Innarnet stuff

Josh Marshal points to an interesting article/column in the Post about the future of internet communications, particulary the potential removal of a concept of neutrality amongst telephone and broadband providers. Potentially this could resuly in particular internet providers favoring particular websites.

Definitely worth a read and keeping an eye on.

- BH Glitter


Brokeback, The Washington Post, Comics, and Comments

This cartoon, Prickly City, by Scott Santis; which according to John Aravosis over at AMERICAblog appeared in the comics section of the Washington Post recently, seems to have threaded a discussion about the first amendment as it applies to citizens and as it applies to the media.

Aravosis connects this printing of a curmudgeonly homophobic cartoon to the Post's recent decision to disable comments on it's reader response blog, which he thinks is questionable on 1st amendment grounds, and is actually reaction to criticism Post Ombudswoman Deborah Howell has been recieving in the comments section by from left of the aisle bloggers and readers.

While I agree with Aravosis on his two main assertions:

1) that the cartoon is problematic and likely a homophobic response to Brokeback Mountain's depiction of homosexuality through archetypes of conservative conceptions of masculinity, cowboys.

2) It is disturbing that the Washington Post's ombudswoman is refusing to adequately answer citizen's concerns about the newspaper's desire and/or ability to address apparent and alleged misleading reports by closing down one of the main highways of discourse between public and the person who is supposed to be the public's representative at the paper. This move seems to contractict and negate much of the intended purpose of an ombudsman/woman, a job that the first president of the Orginization of News Ombudsmen, Alfred Jacoby describes as being initiated to:

to set up a department or an editor who would act for the public, investigating errors, solving problems in the interface between press and public (though in those pre-computer days, neither would have used the term), and generally doing the job that needed done at a crucial time in press-public relations.

However, I'm not sure that I agree with Aravosis that the printing of Prickly City cartoon is an example of hypocrysy, in direct contradiction to The Post's decision to ix-nay the comments on the blog.

I suppose my objection mainly comes with Aravosis' closing statement, which posits the co-existance of a homophobic cartoon and a reactionary encroachment on free speech as an either/or dichotomy between whether "the Washington Post is really for freedom of speech, or just run by a bunch of conservative bigots."

While the cartoon does seem to imply an acceptance of conservative bigotry, and though the removal of a the comments section does imply the Post's less than stellar support of the 1st amendment when that amendment is being used as a critical tool against itself, they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. One can be a homophobic bigot and a strong supporter of free speech at the same time, though that of course does not mean that all conservative bigots are in favor of free speech. If Stantis' cartoon had said that the film shouldn't be shown at all, instead of just childishly mocking the film from an archaic conception of masculinity, then that certainly would have been an example of conservative bigotry assaulting the 1st amendment.

Though Aravosis never explicitly states that the Post should not be able to or allowed to run bigoted comics, it seems that the underlying tone of his blog post is implying that a cartoon with such an editorial opinion should not be able to run in a paper. A position which does have threatening overtones for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is perfectly possible that I am reading into Aravosis' words when there is nothing to be found under the surface, but it is not too hard for me to concieve of that type of stance following from the premises Aravosis is setting out. But again, I do not doubt my ability to misinterpret someone else's words.

I guess my my most basic gut reaction to the 1st amendment and hate speech is best depicted by the cliched quote often attributed to Voltaire, though it may not have actually been written by him:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

At the same time, I do find the sentiments expressed in Stantis' cartoon to be problematic, in a manner that is actually exemplfied by the tragic effect society's violent homophobia has on the lives of the two main characters of Brokeback Mountain. Homosexuality has a long history of forced silence as an oppresive tool wielded in defense of archaic and rigid conceptions of masculinity, such as the age old conceit that "real men" don't cry. I suppose this is one of those areas where I still feel a lot of internal tension in reconciling my beliefs and principles as I am still in the process of developing them. Hate speech is a problem, but I'm not sure yet how that problem can be addressed in a way that balances with 1st amendment concerns. Perhaps I just don't know how to strike the proper balance. At the very least, I do believe that 1st amendment concerns need to be heavily weighed when approaching problem solving around hate speech.

As a side note, though I don't doubt that the comic was found in the post, I haven't been able to find it directly on the Post's website. There is a link to Stantis'website archive of Prickly City comics in a section of the site titled "Other Comics", it explicitly states: "The following links will take you off our site. washingtonpost.com assumes no responsibility for the contents.

Whether the Post should be linking to that should be linking to such a comic is up for discussion. Too bad it can be discussed through the comments section of the Post's blog.


On an almost, but not completely unrelated note. Stantis' use of John Wayne as the archetype of old time masculinity reminded me of this essay by Hunter S. Thompson.

- Glitter


Just some fun...more real posts coming soon...again

William Shatner showing his inner Elton John.

Stewie Griffin showing his inner William Shatner showing his inner Elton John

Both these nicely pointed out by Andrew Sullivan, whom I think the Ithaca College Republicans should consider bringing to campus as their conservative speaker. Much better him than another partisan hack or childish contrarian.

- Glitter


I Can't believe I want to express this...

Right now...right here...

Frank Zappa...with Robert Novak...and the contemporary politics of his time. Yes, musicians and artists can be engaged in civic involvement:

Oh, and the access to this service is provided by:

Crooks And Liars, which gives us Frank Zappa discussing the 1st Amendment with Robert Novak on "Crossfire."

- Glitter


Indicative, Disheartening Headline

This headline cuts right to the heart of the very real class warfare that exists today:

"I.R.S Move Said to Hurt the Poor"

For some reason these grafs stand out to me:

About three-quarters of those affected were employed parents who applied for the earned-income tax credit, under which all income and Social Security taxes can be returned and, in some cases, a payment made.

The credit is a kind of negative income tax, first advocated by Milton Friedman, the Nobel-winning economist, and championed by President Ronald Reagan as the government's best program to encourage the poor to improve their circumstances through work.

Perhaps it is due to the way it highlights how this presidency and much of the Republican leadership has abandoned many of the principles they have espoused of the years when they were arguing that they were the party of principle. Perhaps it is because it exposes the hypocrisy of right-wing complaints about how talking about class and wealth discrepancies is "engaging in class warfare." I don't know. It's possible that this is an example of good intentions leading to negative unintended consequences, but I'm doubtful this is a result of purely innocent conditions.

Kevin Drum has some interesting commentary on it over at the Washington Monthly

- Glitter


Not to continue only talking about this...

...But I would be interested to hear Credibility's take on thisthis post by Mark Schmitt over at TPM Cafe.

I think the question he raises is, if those ensnared in this scandal are trying to frame it as simply a problem of lobbying, then what are they trying to move the discussion away from?

- Glitter


My Life As A Media Apologist

While I agree with Credibility's overall point that:

What really needs to occur at some sort of meaningful level--in the media and among American citizens--is a discussion of democracy today, of the public interest and of how, why and where the big bucks are spent in Washington.

But I feel like she isn't backing up her point, citing no specific examples, that:

very clearly, media attention in the case has been focused on him as an exception to the rules, rather than the example on which to base some sort of wider analysis of lobbying in America today.

I don't doubt that there have been many news stories that missed the larger connections of what Abramoff represents; However, once the news cycle moved from the scandal breaking to lawmakers and the public's reactions, the tone of the coverage has picked up on the "this is a lobbying problem in general" meme. The Abramoff scandal is certainly still unfolding, with new dimensions being added nearly every day.

For instance, in the NY Times today, Todd S. Purham writes:

But the problem is broader than Mr. Abramoff, Mr. DeLay or even the inherent potential for abuse in one-party rule of all three branches of government. It also has to do with the astounding growth of the lobbying industry, a growth that has tracked the growth of the federal government itself. The rise of government regulation - first in the New Deal and then in the 1960's and 70's - spawned a parallel rise in the private sector's efforts to master the new system. Between the early 1970's and the mid-1980's, the number of trade associations doubled; in the first half of the 1980's alone, the number of registered lobbyists quadrupled, according to The Washington Monthly.

Many bloggers have been focusing on the problems of lobbying too, including here,here, here and here

It's even been discussed on TV! By Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews nonetheless! Here.

I couldn't agree more that we, meaning citizens in general, need to really think about and discuss what we mean when we say democracy, especially in the context of ours being a country that goes to war under the banner of exporting democracy. If we lose sight of democracy at home, we can't really steward it abroad.

Sidenote: Discussion of Democracy could definitely come up regarding Bush, The NSA, and warrantless domestic wiretaps, especially given the Administration's arguments about executive power


Wining, Dining and Knee-jerking

I think Brother Glitter misunderstood the point of my most recent posting. The posting was in no way meant to understate the role of Abramoff's Republican sympathies, but rather to point out the fact that, very clearly, media attention in the case has been focused on him as an exception to the rules, rather than the example on which to base some sort of wider analysis of lobbying in America today. For many in the mediocre-at-best press--which is what most Americans read, watch or hear--it has been much simpler to just dwell on Abramoff, which is the problem I see.

In the news that most folks get, there is only Abramoff coverage and nothing more. But the Abramoff case can and should cause concern down on K Street.
It [the Abramoff plea] has people shaking in their boots a little," said Celia Viggo Wexler, the vice president for advocacy at Common Cause. "What he did goes beyond the pale, and not what a typical lobbyist would do. But there are plenty of lobbyists wining and dining out there.

Let it not go unsaid that though the Abramoff scandel is overwhelmingly tied to Republicans, it does not leave unscathed people like Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats should be tough in the pursuit of justice in this case, but at the same time, should be careful not to cast any blame that cannot be in turn cast back at them.
The lobbyist and Indian tribes contributed $2.9 million to Republicans and $1.5 million to Democrats in the past five years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

What I'm arguing here, Glitter and the world at large, is that though we should be particularly attentive to the Republican underpinnings of said scandel, this is simply not enough. What really needs to occur at some sort of meaningful level--in the media and among American citizens--is a discussion of democracy today, of the public interest and of how, why and where the big bucks are spent in Washington. To paint the picture two dimensionally is, well, sorta flat.



Ahh, but this is where we disagree

I would like to respectfully disagree with Madam Credibility on a point or two about Abramoff and lobbying.

While in many ways she is correct in pointing out that the Abramoff scandal is indicative of many of the problems of the nexus of lobbyists and politicians, I would argue that there are ideological underpinings to this scandal as well.

To put it plainly, this scandal is more representative of the ways lobbying has developed since the Republicans took control of the House than it is of all lobbying in general. I don't mean to say that Credibility is wrong in pointing out that lobbying practices across the board have inherent problems, as they surely do, I mean it to say that this particular case flows back to a uniquely Republican vision of lobbying, namely, the K Street Project.

As Nick Confessore puts it in his great primer on the project:

In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

As Kevin Drum points out, Thomas B. Edsall has further information on the Project in a Washington Post article.

Reporters Janet Hook and Mary Curtius make this connection in their LA Times article about the Abramoff scandals:

The corruption investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff shows the significant political risk that Republican leaders took when they adopted what had once seemed a brilliant strategy for dominating Washington: turning the K Street lobbying corridor into a cog of the GOP political machine.

Abramoff thrived in the political climate fostered by GOP leaders, including Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who have methodically tried to tighten the links between the party in Congress and business lobbyists, through what has become known as the "K Street Project."

GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front, and his tentacles of influence reached deep into the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush administration.

Also, Abramoff is and has been for a long time, a loyal Republican. As Paul Waldman of Media Matters points out in an article on Tom Paine:

Abramoff wasn't some kind of loose cannon; he was nurtured in the heart of the Republican establishment. A veteran of the College Republicans, friends (or co-conspirators, depending on the outcome of the investigation) with the likes of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay, Abramoff stands not as an aberration within Republican Washington, but its very embodiment.

Also, Abramoff's personal campaign contributions have all been to Republicans. Though it is true that some of his client's money has been funnelled to Democrats as well.

So, while I agree that the current Scandal Du Jour in Washington is reflective of problems with lobbying in general, I think it points with greater strength to the corrupt infrastructure that the GOP has set up in Washington. No doubt that reform efforts should focus on lobbying in general, but it is also important to note that the Abramoff scandal is a Republican scandal. Even if a few Dems get some of the taint of it, it's the Republicans who are stewing in it.

- Glitter


Abramoff Plane Comes in for a Landing

Abramoff back in the news and an interesting history of the man in a recent Mother Jones. The article touches on (for good reason) not only the big pockets he was stuffing, but the wider implications of the relationship between lobbyists and politicians in this country. It is an issue that crosses partisan and ideological bounds, and many lobbyists themselves are willing to step over those bounds in the interest of, well, interests. Says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:
"I don't think Abramoff ever stood for anything. I think Abramoff just stands for greed. I think Abramoff is a terrible human being and should get anything coming his way."

What's missing from the dialogue in network news and most major publications, however, is any sort of context to the Abramoff case. He, of course, is not alone, and this is far from an isolated case involving a few isolated politicians. Though the news paints him as an exceptionally conspicuous player, he's just one who got caught. Far more troubling should be the countless other violations of lobbying laws that occur down on K Street, or perhaps even the millions of dollars spent legally by lobbying firms every day.

A comprehensive examination of lobbying in the US today can be found on at the Lobby Watch database.