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How Now Howell?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.03

I don't care if all of this is true. (via Drudge) Howell Raines is done.

Since the article will be gone by the time you click, here it is.

May 24, 2003 -- THE NEW York Times double-crossed Styles section writer Alex Kuczynski this week by leaking word that the sexy journalist had quietly resigned - without noting her departure was merely temporary.

"Alex told the Times a year ago when she signed her book deal with Doubleday that she would take a six-month book leave," a source explains.

"They were fine at first, but when the time came for Alex to leave, the top brass said, 'times are rough - we want you to informally resign. No one will ever know.' "

Sadly, Times management went back on its word. On Monday, a "staff notes" memo was sent around to employees stating that, "Alex Kuczynski has resigned from the Times."

"Alex was furious," said our mole. "It was very upsetting."

Speculation was raised further when Kuczynski cleaned out her desk Tuesday afternoon, to make way for ex-New York scribe, Vanessa Grigoriadis, who will be joining the Styles section.

"Vanessa will sit at Alex's desk until she comes back - and she is coming back," our source said.

But others still aren't so sure Kuczynski will return. "The memo was the Times' way of pushing Alex out," one insider said. "They were supposed to send her a formal letter offering her job back, and they haven't. They are trying to screw her . . . she left for book leave in April and the memo didn't come out until now."

Kuczynski declined coment. A rep for the Times said at first: "Ms. Kuczynski left the Times in early April to write a book with the understanding that she would return to the Times later this year."

After Kuczynski threatened the Times with a lawsuit if they didn't sound "more enthusiatic" about getting her back, a Times rep added: "We anxiously await her return."

The dark days aren't over at the paper. Four unidentified reporters under investigation for Jayson Blair-like abuses "have banded together and threatened to sue the paper if their names are leaked," another mole added.

The probe has widened to include graft. "They are worried about people breaking the strict code at the paper about accepting gifts," our spy said. "The masses of reporters are getting angrier by the moment because they were held to strict standards while several others obviously were not."


 

horizontal rule

 

My shoulder, available.

Posted by Unf
on 05.23.03

Annika missed the cut. I'm disappointed. It would have been fun to have watched the tournament on TV this weekend. Still, she didn't lose because she's a girl. Er, woman. She lost because she didn't chip or putt well (which is also a shortcoming in my game). She did cry a little at the press conference afterwards, but that's okay.

Annika, I am available to comfort you, should you be too broken up to go back to the LPGA.


 

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What is wrong with this blog?

Posted by Unf
on 05.23.03

Unf: using the power of Google to teach a little Latin to the masses.

Ogged: using the power of Google to attract all sorts of white supremacists and freaky wierdos to this site.

Unf: defending our American way of life.

Ogged: defending himself against charges of stupidity.

Unf: discussing difficult issues of law and economics.

Ogged: well on his way to discussing his favorite brands of beef jerky.

Not sure what the problem is here...


 

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Go Figure

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.03

This is a really good radio station.


 

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Excuse vs. Exculpation

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.03

Ted Hinchman makes an interesting argument about Jayson Blair and excuse vs. exculpation. Ted's conclusion: Blair should "shut the fuck up." I give my take in the comments to his post.


 

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Posting

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.03

Not many posts today? That's because I'm busy defending myself against charges of stupidity.


 

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Trendspotting

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.03

Perhaps all our crops will be patented and even our water will flow from privately owned sources, but we still have this.


 

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Genetically Modified Ownership

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.03

Have I been extremely naive? I've always thought of the genetically modified food issue as one of science and safeguards. But what about patents? What are the implications when corporations patent foods? What kind of control over the food supply do we give to corporations in that case? I really don't know the answers to these questions. I'm sure my dear co-blogger, Unf, that trusty advocate for corporate control of our minds, has some comforting thoughts.

Here's a pretty sane policy being advocated by a Canadian politician. And here (doing Unf's work for him) is a debunking of the claim I've heard that a farmer was fined for unwittingly growing patented genetically modified foods that had contaminated his crops.


 

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Hokey Pokey

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.03

Gary Farber, who runs my favorite blog, and is again blogging in abundance, points us to this version of the "Hokey Pokey:"

WASHINGTON POST STYLE has a contest in which readers submit instructions for doing various things, their choice, as written by famous authors. Jeff Brechlin of Potomac Falls recently won for the following, for wonderfully obvious reasons:

The Hokey Pokey (as written by W. Shakespeare)

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within

Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.

Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:

Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.

Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,

A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.

To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.

Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.

The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt

Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.


 

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American Idol Justice

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.03

Not Ruben or Clay. Frenchie, of course.


 

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Amen to That

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.03

Atrios and Kevin Drum on some points that keep needing to be made.

Atrios

I think it's time for the style departments, or whatever they're called, in the various news outlets to come up with a consistent definition of terrorism. I'm really quite tired of Blitzer and Dobbs wondering out loud if the apparent bomb at Yale is or isn't terrorism. By their rather obvious definition, terrorism is something done by "Muslims" against "Americans."
If someone plants a bomb, it's terrorism.

Kevin

FOREIGN AID REDUX....As I was writing the post just below, I came across this Q&A from the Council on Foreign Relations:
"Do Americans understand how much of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid?
"No. A 2001 poll sponsored by the University of Maryland showed that most Americans think the United States spends about 24 percent of its annual budget on foreign aid—more than 24 times the actual figure.
"Do Americans support increasing foreign aid?
"Yes. According to [a University of Maryland poll], the typical American would like to spend $1 on foreign aid for every $3 spent on defense; the real ratio in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 is $1 on aid for every $19 spent on defense."
24%! The average American thinks we spend a quarter of the federal budget on foreign aid!
The ignorance of Americans about the real world never ceases to amaze me. Ask them what percent of the population is black and they guess it's about a third. Ask them how much they pay in income taxes, and they figure about 50%. Ask them how big the foreign aid budget is and they're off by a factor of 24.
Is it any wonder our political decisions are so screwed up?

 

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Chris Hedges

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.03

Chris Hedges is the journalist who was booed off the stage while giving a commencement address critical of the war. People will make up their own minds regarding what they think about that. But Andrew Sullivan escalates the attack on Hedges by calling him a "political extremist masquerading as a reporter" and attempting to prove it by calling a piece Hedges wrote about the Palestinian situation "factually-challenged anti-Israel propaganda," and linking to a laughable response to Hedges' piece that Sullivan calls a "righteous fisking."

Please note a few facts. Non-reporter Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent. He was non-reporting when he was detained by the Iraqis at the end of the first Gulf War. And it is far from settled that his piece was inaccurate. You can listen to Hedges discussing the piece (20 minutes into broadcast).

MORE: Instapundit links to Hedges' own response to the incident.


 

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Swoosh! There Go Your Rights

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.03

If you pass enough laws anyone will be breaking at least one at any given time. Laws needn't be passed with malicious intent to construct a web of laws that can be used as an abusive instrument of control. Isn't this really a thought crime?


 

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Google Love II

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.03

Unf and I need to get cracking, because our search engine referrals are not nearly as wacky as Eve Tushnet's (scroll to bottom of page). But one does see the occasional gem.

· foucault bart simpson

· bart simpson having sex

· clay aiken naked

· clay aiken wearing leather

· clay aiken jewish

· mister rogers and kkk

and my favorite

· depressing stuff


 

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Google Love

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.03

By some heinous twist of Google's algorithms, a search for "Clay or Ruben" has these comments on Unfogged in the top ten results. Search for "Clay or Ruben," and wind up at "De gustibus non est disputandum." Now that's American.


 

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Jayson Grrrr

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.03

We have a tendency to equate the badness of an action with the badness of the actor. So we think of murderers as the worst of the worst because murder is so shattering. But the people I've known in law enforcement have told me that, as a rule, of the people in prison, murderers are the most normal and easy to interact with (apparently it's the arsonists who have serious issues). That's all by way of saying that given what we know of the matter so far (deception, self-pity, gloating, denial, betrayal, addiction, sycophancy, bullying, greed) Jayson Blair must be one of the worst people ever.


 

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MediaCon (losing letters)

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.03

Unf makes fun of me. In the comments he says

Monopoly is a bad thing, to be sure. But the FCC's rules don't act to prevent monopoly. That's what we have antitrust laws for. The FCC's rules do something more - something whose value has never been very clear to me. My point is this - if Pfizer and Eli Lilly want to merge, we have a set of rules for dealing with whether we allow this to happen, and on what terms. Why should the rules be more stringent when its Viacom and Fox?

Because my needs in relation to PfizerLilly don't change. I need certain drugs, whether PfizerLilly provides them or not and I have some faith that if PfizerLilly stops meeting my needs, the market can produce a competitor that will (personally, I don't have so much faith, but I'll grant it here).

My needs in relation to Viafox are not nearly so determinate. We judge, sub specia perfect democracy, that a certain amount of information and analysis delivered to the populace is a good. But, not only can one make the case that public discourse naturally devolves into speculation and partisanship absent some countervailing force, but media companies are in a unique position to change the very needs to which they cater. And it's quite likely, given the relative costs of speculation and information that what we would today call speculation and partisanship would replace informed discourse without complaint from consumers.

I have to grant that the FCC rules can't guarantee the outcome I want; it's entirely possible that several outlets will compete to produce the most popular rubbish (some would say we've left the realm of prognostication here), but less consolidation means an increased chance that someone will cater to the desire for informed discourse that has yet to be extinguished. I'm all for that.


 

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I am not convinced

Posted by Unf
on 05.19.03

So Ogged argues that we need special rules to prevent media consolidation because...well, I'm not entirely sure why. Evidently we need to stop the trend towards media consolidation, because otherwise no one will be around to argue against media consolidation. The adjective to describe this particular argument is, I think, circular. Its sort of like arguing that we shouldn't invade Iraq, because otherwise we will have invaded Iraq. We need some specification of the bad consequences that would occur if we applied some set of rules to the media marketplace other than normal antitrust rules.

That's the thing about slippery slopes - it's important to say what's at the bottom.


 

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Heavy Coding

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

You may not have realized that the proliferation of spam and viruses has had an unintended consequence: you almost never get crank calls anymore. Ok ok, you may say crank calls have just been institutionalized as "telemarketing," but really, that's not the same as someone calling you at say, midnight, and hanging up and then calling back fifteen minutes later to say, in tentative and accented English, "fuck you." And trying to trace the IP address of a spammer just doesn't compare with the satisfaction of hearing your phone ring at 12:15am and seeing that the guy about to say "fuck you" still hasn't bothered to block the number he's calling from. You can't beat that.


 

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...because they don't have any feelings...

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

Instapundit may be safe. Apparently, putting little animals into blenders isn't just allowed, it's art.


 

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Media Concentration, Contd.

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

Unf has taken me to task for complaining about media concentration. I am unrepentant. You can find lots of relevant information about the proposed changes here. But the strongest argument in favor of regulation is the slippery-slope unique to media concentration: each increase in concentration leads to a decrease in the voices arguing against further concentration. We're not dealing with taxes or terrorism here, so public interest in the issue is already low. Add to that the fact media companies in favor of concentration can skew their coverage in favor of further concentration, and you can pinpoint the weakness of Unf's argument in his Third Axiom, "We generally judge markets to be the best expression of collective consumer preferences." Generally perhaps, but media conglomerates have a unique power to shape consumer preferences and it strikes me as plainly naive to think that they won't use that power to enhance that power.


 

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Can't We All Just Split the Difference?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

Bill Keller defends Bush, I bash Bill Keller. The Economist, god bless it, splits the difference, to good effect.


 

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Becoming Numerical

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

I woke up on Sunday and, wondering how I'd slept, looked at the clock. This seems natural. I do it almost every day. Then I realized that it was a textbook case of technological alienation: it didn't even occur to me to assess how I felt. I just counted. That's bad enough. But then, even after my moment of clarity, I wasn't sure how to assess how I felt. Don't I feel logy after a long night's sleep? Isn't that good? Am I still tired or just dehydrated? Good grief. And I'm supposed to believe "innumeracy" is my problem?


 

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Ari Fleischer Resigns

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.03

And there was much rejoicing. (Though see Matthew Yglesias' point about not being suckered into the distracting game of hating the minions and forgetting the President.) But what I'm really wondering about is this.

He notified Bush of his decision Friday. The president ended the conversation "by kissing me on the head," the spokesman said.

Where the hell am I living? WASP, Texan, Don? God I miss the days of chilly patricians in pink panties.


 

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Media Consolidation

Posted by Unf
on 05.18.03

If there is one thing I don't like about blogs (and actually there are a lot of things, but this is probably number one), it is the constant whining about media bias of one variety or another. A related, though somewhat (but only marginally) less annoying topic, is all the moaning and groaning about media consolidation and the related changes proposed by the FCC due to be enacted (or not) sometime soon. So when I saw that Ogged has jumped on this particular bandwagon, all of my libertarian instincts immediately flared up.

When it comes to competition policy in the United States, I start from the following propositions:

1. We have an extensive set of antitrust laws and regulations, all of which have been honed over time to strike the best possible balance between the ability of firms to acheive efficiencies through consolidation and the need for a competitive marketplace.

2. We have a very well-founded and sensible distrust of industrial policy in this country.

3. We generally judge markets to be the best expression of collective consumer preferences.

4. We do not allow the government, and for very good reasons, to favor one set of viewpoints over any other.

Assuming you don't disagree with any of these propositions (and there is no reason you can't, but then you aren't arguing about media consolidation), then what's the big deal with what the FCC is proposing? Because after all, they aren't planning to totally undo the existing regulations, just lessen them somewhat.

Consider the Chicago area. We have the following sources of news, information and entertainment here: 2 local papers, the NY Times, the WSJ, the FT, six television networks, everything that is available on cable/satellite TV, NPR, however many radio stations, all national magazines and the Internet. There is a certain amount of cross-ownership amongst these sources, to be sure. The Tribune Co. owns both the newspaper that bears its name and WGN-TV, and so forth. Assuming that the new regulations and general antitrust principles would not allow these sources to be reduced to an anti-competitive number (which they wouldn't), I fail to see what there is to be concerned about.

That's not entirely true, because I think I know what people are mad about when they get mad about media consolidation. They're mad that the political views they hold aren't heard as much on our country's various sources of information as they would like. They don't like Fox News because, for all its mumbo-jumbo about being fair and balanced, its just the house organ of the Republican Party. But this is little different from saying that they wish that the political views they hold were more popular than they are. This it seems to me, is a pretty lousy basis for regulating markets.


 

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Speaking of getting old...

Posted by Unf
on 05.18.03

As part of my transition to storing all of my music on my hard drive, I went through my CD collection this weekend to identify some disks that I thought I should rip to my hard drive. All I could thinkas I was doing this was that I have bought an enormous amount of crap over the years. Frente? Candlebox? Letters to Cleo? What the hell was I thinking? I guess all I can say is that there was a certain stretch of time in the mid 90s when I bought whatever was getting the most airplay on the "alternative" radio station most prominent in whatever city I was living in at the time. I can only hope that with greater age has brought greater discretion in lining the pockets of the record companies.

So, long story short, anyone want to buy some used CDs? All offers, including interesting trades, considered.


 

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Yes, I am not cool

Posted by Unf
on 05.18.03

I admit to not being the coolest guy in all of Chicagoland. For example, I buy just about all my clothes at either Brook Brothers or LL Bean. When I want to get a little stylish, I generally go wild and head to Nordstrom. That being said, I am not without a certain hipness (stop laughing, Ogged). I know where Wicker Park is. I have read books by Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace. Heck, I finished all of Infinite Jest, including the footnotes. I go to art shows, where, even if I may not be hip, I am certainly in the presence of hip people. Still, it does appear that I am getting old. I read in today's NYT that trucker caps, once very hip, are now considered thoroughly lame. And the thing is, I never even knew they were cool to begin with. Not that I was ever going to get myself a trucker cap, but still. I guess I can only look forward to the time when trends will pass by me completely unnoticed, either on the way up or on the way out.


 

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The Pathology of Generosity

Posted by Ogged
on 05.18.03

Andrew Sullivan calls Bill Keller "remarkably sane" and links to this Keller piece about George Bush's religiosity. Keller's approach is to acknowledge (some of) the policies and actions of the administration that may seem to be motivated by zealotry and give them a more innocuous spin. This resistance to demonization is generally a good, sane, and generous approach, but by the end of the article, as the instances requiring explanation accumulated, I began to wonder whether Keller wasn't being willfully blind. The closing paragraphs left no doubt.

As for the enduring notion that Mr. Bush takes his instructions from the organized Christian right, it misses a much more interesting story: as an independent political structure, the Christian right is dying.
For one thing, the organizations that hit their stride in the 1980's have waned. The Moral Majority is long gone. The Christian Coalition is withering. Bombastic evangelical power brokers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have aged into irrelevance, and now exist mainly as ludicrous foils. Their attempt to turn the war on terror into a religious war — Mr. Robertson called the prophet Muhammad "a wild-eyed fanatic," and Franklin Graham, the preacher son of Billy Graham and a friend of Mr. Bush's, described Islam as "evil" — afforded Mr. Bush a chance to play ecumenical healer by rebuking them.
At the same time, noted Mr. Green, who has studied the Christian right, many local activists have gravitated into the Republican Party as county chairmen and campaign consultants. Once an independent force hammering at the president and Congress, they are now an institutional part of the party base. They must be kept mollified — but in balance with other parts of the coalition, like business, and within the bounds of what a majority of voters will accept. Karl Rove, the White House political genius, has a master plan for enlarging that ecumenical array of believers — churchgoing Catholics, Mormons and Jews as well as the evangelicals — and welding them permanently into the Republican mainstream.
The interesting story, then, is not that Mr. Bush is a captive of the religious right, but that his people are striving to make the religious right a captive of the Republican Party.

The Christian Right hasn't disappeared because it's been cleverly manipulated, but because the Republican party has changed its positions to reflect those of the Christian Right. What could it mean that the CR is "an institutional part of the party base" except that the party now speaks for them? It's telling that Keller doesn't even try to explain the most egregious example of this administration's Christian Rightist policies, the decision to withhold funding from the United Nations Population Fund. In fact, Keller's article is a perfect example of the phenomenon of "excessive liberality" in the media that I described earlier.


 

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