I just got an email from someone asking permission to use one of my Flickr photos in a book. Why, I have no idea, but there's no downside, right? He's not offering money, which is fine, but I want to make sure that I can keep the rights to the photo. How does this stuff work, anyway?
So, if you could ask Secretary of Defense-Designate Gates one question (or a dozen) at his confirmation hearing, what would it be?
(This may not be an entirely impractical question. Pseudonymity forbids explanation.)
It's been conventional wisdom for years now that the American electorate supports left-wing policies in many areas -- a healthy social safety net, universal health care, whatever -- and yet for some reason they keep on electing conservatives. This week, on the other hand, they swept Democrats into control of both houses of Congress, and I've been batting around the idea that we should treat this as a mandate to go ahead and pursue all of the policies that elite political opinion seems to regard as left-wing extremism, but are actually really pretty popular: things like single-payer health care for all. And the reaction from my interlocutors has been to advocate caution: "This election was a repudiation of Republicans, not an endorsement of liberal policies; we have to be cautious and build credibility before we can try for left-wing policy goals; if we move too fast, we'll lose our fragile grip on the centrist electorate." (My apologies to the actual people I was talking to -- hi, FL and SCMT! -- who I have here converted into a convenient strawman.)
That sounds reasonable, in that anything said by generally sensible people who I agree with quite closely on the ultimate political goals is going to sound reasonable, but on the other hand a lot of the liberal wish list is genuinely popular stuff. People like the environment. People like a reliable social safety net. People are fond of public education. If we could get universal health care through Congress (yeah, veto power. In '09, then) the Democrats would be beloved for a generation. But there's a lot of that sort of caution out there, and it's hard to picture where it all comes from.
Unless, of course, you have John Emerson in our comments to explain it all to you:
I've felt for a long time that the DLC people actually fully believe their policy proposals (hawkishness, neglect of populist issues, free trade, corporate-friendliness) but use "the voters won't accept anything too liberal" as a way to bully the majority of the Democratic party with fake political realism.
The poisonous thing here is that the worse Democrats do in elections, the more the DLC can use this argument in inra-party debates and the more secure their control of the party is. I don't think that it's an accident that Democratic campaign have been weak for at least 8 years. It works for them.
Sounds paranoid, and I'm sure that very few of them clearly conceptualize it that way, but at someplace like the TNR (people not running for office and not working for the Democratic Party) you will often enough hear people saying almost that. "I'd rather lose than do the wrong thing for the coutnry". To them it's win-win: they keep their cushy jobs, and they get their Republican-lite policy proposals enacted. The only cost to them is that they often see high-octane Republican policy rammed through, but to them that's not as bad as seeing the liberals have any success.
And I really think this does explain it. We're living in a world where the conventional wisdom is created by people who simply don't agree with me about liberal policy goals; while they may be Democrats, they're as far to the right as you can be and stay Democrats. Given that disagreement, I don't see any reason to accept their judgment as to what's electorally possible. The American people elected a bunch of liberals to Congress on Tuesday. The polls show that liberal policies are popular. I don't see any reason for exaggerated caution to hold us back.
Update: Eric Rauchway points out a post of his at Open University along these same lines, which I'd actually bookmarked when I started thinking about this post, and then forgot. He does some actual data analysis of Democratic majorities in Congress in the era since the beginning of the New Deal, and suggests that we may still be in a period of New Deal liberal dominance of the electorate, with the last twelve years as a reaction against Democratic politicians, rather than liberal ideas.
I often think there is a predefined, constant level of goodness and badness in my life. Kind of like yin and yang or something. I can even get superstitious about it. Like Tuesday, I got lost on my way to the meetup and ended up wandering around Midtown in the rain for 20 minutes. Surely that was a sign that the universe was going to correct itself by the Democrats winning the election!
As ridiculous as this idea is, I guess it's a good thing in that it does make me see failures and obstacles as just temporary setbacks filling up a karmic piggy bank for something better that is down the road. On the flip side, though, it does make me a little paranoid when I'm in a period of extended happiness with a lot of things going well for me because I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.
The Palestinians behave like lemmings which is one reason why their cause, such [as] at is, without ethical meaning and without solidarity among themselves, is a losing one.
What is that supposed to mean? I'm willing to listen to complaints about their tactics, or even to historical justifications for the general shape of the situation, but to say that someone's cause isn't just wrong, but meaningless, treads very close to saying that they shouldn't exist at all. Am I misreading?
In any case, Y's commenter pooh writes,
Peretz is perhaps the most virulent racist in mainstream American intellectual life at present.
That seems right to me. There's plenty of Muslim hating among wingnuts, but the only person I can think of who's mainstream and as racist is Pat Buchanan, but he's at least occasionally funny. It also seems to me that Peretz's racism should be more loudly proclaimed and denounced. I tend to think of him as a kook with a rich wife, but in fact he's a kook with a rich wife and a pretty big megaphone and prominence in our political life. I understand that defending the humanity of muslims isn't exactly Job 1 in America at the moment, but this kind of talk shouldn't go unremarked.
I was just driving through my quiet residential neighborhood, and in middle of a fairly long stop sign-less block, an old lady with a cane hobbled off the curb, clearly intending to cross. I saw her and considered stopping to let her go, but I was also close enough that I thought it would be one of those ostentatious displays of politeness that actually makes things harder for everyone: I wait for her to slowly make her way and she feels self-conscious and slow and old. So I didn't stop, and as I drove past I deliberately made eye contact with her to signal that I'd seen her and wasn't just blindly tearing through the neighborhood. Then I looked in the rear view mirror and she had her cane in the air, shaking it at me.
Watching Kevin Federline get dumped via text message, I found this Cover Song Showcase Showdown on Love will tear us apart. The Tuvan throat singing version is surprisingly ineffective, but really all of them are worth a listen: every good version of this song is the same, but every bad version is bad in a different way.
UPDATE: a load of other links to covers from My Old Kentucky Blog.
Seriously, LB and I could record a hip-hop record that would be better than Federline's. Plus he's asking for custody. What a train wreck.
Teo has a good post on what's wrong with NCLB. It's almost entirely a testing bill, and one that's set up so that it's essentially impossible for any school not to be eventually marked as a failure and penalized in ways that will make it even harder for them to teach children, which I assume is the point -- if all public schools are failures, then it's a lot easier to stop spending money on them.
There's a basic silliness underlying the law: the idea is that schools will be encouraged to do a better job of educating students by fear of the consequences if they don't continually improve. The problem with that is that organizations don't respond to incentives, people do -- you can't make a school do something by threatening it with consequences, because a school isn't the sort of thing that can fear something bad happening to it, or respond to that fear. Measuring performance (by some non-insane metric, that wouldn't define schools as failures for not improving performance among every category of students until every student in American can perform at grade level) isn't a terrible idea, but when a school is not serving its students well, punishing the school isn't going to fix anything. The school doesn't have the capacity to care what happens to it.
Can we get this on Pelosi's agenda? A comprehensive fix for NCLB, cutting down the amount of testing to something sane, so that teachers aren't spending an inordinate amount of instructional time on test prep, and turning the consequences for schools whose students do badly into something sensible, like a program for moving better teachers into such schools?
What I find amazing is that people have convinced Joe Public to support things like abolishing the inheritance tax and lowering top marginal tax rates under the delusion that he might become wealthy enough to have it affect him someday thanks to The American Dream but nobody has convinced him that he should support public financing of elections because he or someone he knows might want to pull a Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and run for office someday. I would totally dream of running for office if the money thing was off the table. And if I didn't have all kinds of damning things that could be used against me on the internets.
Dave Johnson, of Seeing The Forest, reports a conference call he and several other bloggers had with Speaker-presumptive Pelosi. I'm in love:
Here are some things can be and will be changed right now, as a matter of the rules the House sets for itself:
Earmarks - Any earmarks must be presented in public before the committee, be publicly justified and approved by the committee. NO tax earmarks at all. This ends the system of purchasing earmarks.
Lobbying crackdown - NO gifts, meals, trips, etc. from lobbyists, period. Plus other reforms.
Open government - the leadership will not restrict amendments to bills. This means that Republicans will be able to offer amendments to bills before the House - something they prevented Democrats from doing. This lets policy be set by the strength of ideas rather than corrupt deals and hidden agendas.
Some needed changes require legislation, which will be introduces ASAP, including:
- Public financing of elections to remove the entire campaign contribution corruption system.
- Requiring non-partisan redistricting of every state, decided by a non-partisan commission, which will occur only after each 10-year census. Political considerations will be removed from the drawing of district boundaries.
- Oil subsidies ended and the money used to fund alternative energy.
I don't know how much of this is actually accomplishable, but man, do I like the way she thinks.
(This would also be a good thread to talk about what we think the Democratic Party stands for, and what issues it should be pushing. FL, want to tell me everything I'm wrong about?)
I know this has been beat into the ground on previous occasions, but seriously: how is it that everything remotely to do with sex that the religious right touches turns so completely creepy? Is it really possible that nobody in that video clip is remotely aware of the overwhelming incest vibe just oozing all over the place?
We'd like your help load testing the new server again. Could y'all please throw some fast and furious comments on this thread for us? Most helpful would be if you would put the approximate refresh time for your previous comment in the next one and, of course, report any errors. And remember: this will all be wiped out soon so please don't say anything you'd want preserved for posterity.
UPDATE: Thanks everyone! We're done.
I'd like to share some of my wisdom with you.
--Being in a happy relationship
--Hinting at a happy relationship
--Details from which one may infer a happy relationship
--Gloating about a happy relationship
--Trying too hard not to gloat about a happy relationship
All make for crap blogging. A momentary triumph is fine, but only as an intensifying prelude to further misery. Choose carefully, bloggers.
Knowledgeable people of the internet, why is so much of my spam Japanese? A sample:
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Rush Limbaugh says,
I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high!
I look forward to reading about Rush's lack of intellectual vanity.*
*Cheap shot? Yes!
I refuse to come out of my funk until habeas is reinstated and torture is explicitly (and actually) disavowed. Even then, I'm going to sulk for a few years. But there's blogging to be done, so...
For as long as there have been liberal blogs, there's been a dastardly Republican majority in both houses of Congress. The blogs are voices of anger, opposition, and witness. So now what? Those things aren't the things we need anymore. I can't be the only person who looked at Eschaton this morning, saw that the Wanker of the Day was Rahm Emanuel, and burst out laughing. But I won't be laughing for long if the blogs don't adapt, and we have the activist blogs turning their anger toward moderates, and the wonky blogs having good faith discussions about precisely how to calibrate the COLA.
Of course there's a place for those things, and people should say what they want, and of course there's still a Republican president who needs to be opposed, but what I'd really like to hear are the liberal voices (they must be out there) who can articulate the unifying themes of the left as compellingly as the current popular blogs articulated our anger and documented the atrocities. Not only that, but the larger blogs now have real social force. They can raise significant amounts of money and mobilize significant numbers of people. A little coordination and planning could go a long way.
Today's letters to the editor, from a major Midwestern newspaper:
I do believe the United States has made a huge mistake in Iraq.
I would have done things World War II style. When the uprising in Fallujah occurred, I would have leveled the city. Every living being in that rat hole would have been extinguished. I would have marched through that country like a biblical creeping death, waving the stars and stripes. I would have zero mercy or tolerance for the enemy. I would fight like I mean it, and fight to win. This war would be over and gasoline would be 29 cents a gallon.
I wonder if I am the only correspondent who loves the magnificent names of the United States in America. On every envelope I send, I write out the full name, and what wonderful names they are! Louisiana, Maryland, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio!
I understand the speedy shortcuts needed in this fast-paced, highly technical world of today, and I realize the U.S. Postal Service recognizes this, too, so I just want to give a little honor to our forefathers who came up with the individual names of the United States of America. We are beautiful people and we are beautifully named!
I was leaving a doctor's office early one recent morning on Woodley Road. The light had turned green and the car in front of me did not move, so I beeped my horn, thinking the person did not see the light turn. After turning onto Sylvania I passed the car because I was running late for work.
When I reached the light at Sylvania and Talmadge the parent behind me sent their child out of the car to approach mine and give me the finger with both hands. He was very young, maybe 7 or 8.
This appears to me as child endangerment. I could have been a person with a gun, or maybe aggressive enough to get out of the car and hurt either parent or child. We live in dangerous times.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which will "prohibit the state from granting preferential treatment based on skin color or gender in 3 specific areas: public contracting, public employment, and public education," passed by a comfortable and poll-defying margin. While I'm no true believer when it comes to affirmative action, I think it's hideous to dismantle it--in the name of civil rights, no less-- without doing significant work to alleviate the inequality of opportunity that race and gender consideration at least attempts to address. That this should happen in Michigan, home of, I begrudgingly admit, one of the finest public universities in the country, and the starting point for the Supreme Court's Grutter and Gratz decisions, adds to the frustration.
Back in August. It'd be weird to send flowers to his office with a card saying "Congratulations on your new Chairmanship", I suppose.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: w00t!!!1!111!!! Now, before we return to unrestrained gloating, let us consider the wisdom of bob "seriously, don't fuck with him, he's bob mcmanus, man" mcmanus:
Nobody promised a rose garden. One doesn't get smoothies, He Who Shapes is shaped, and is tempted to romantic fantasy, and reaches to the red light. Y'all get a sword, not a shield, and that is all the difference. The sword asks for blood, and you tire, and SEK and Burke ask for bricklayers, but all you got is a sword. So you beat it to plowshares, but sealevel rising, so best is to just run your obscure allusions and mixed metphors aground, like a drunken boat selling arms in Africa.
Now is the time of the assasins. Asassins.
Too fucking true. Now I demand a meetup report. AWB is hungover, which seems promising. Make with the details or "I'll kill yuo"!
*It's actually the middle of the night here; but it's morning in America.
Go ahead. It's satisfying.
As the new minority whip of the Dhimmicratic Supergays, I plan on marrying Rick Santorum's dog.
An impeachment a week!
Overheard at a law-student gathering as Emmanuel introduced Pelosi: "San Francisco values!" followed by "I'm gonna marry a dog!".
I'm not ashamed of being a Britney partisan. She might be musically limited and a bit dim, but she makes her money the old fashioned way, by selling us crap we don't need. K-Fed, on the other hand, seems to have a talent only for finding and impregnating women with poor judgment. (I feel about Federline's offspring the way Mark Steyn feels about Muslims.) Here's hoping that her prenup is solid and that he disappears without a trace.
(Sotto voce: call me!)
Watching CNN, which is just announcing some exit poll results.
Which issues were "extremely important" to your vote:
(They don't have the graphic up, but apparently over 50% answered "yes" to both whether the Dems or Republicans could handle terrorism.)
Also, 62% said that national, not local, issues were more important in determining their vote.
Good signs for the Dems, but you know those exit polls...
Update: The first Senate exit poll results:
...on the ratio of tomorrow's news coverage devoted to the election results and aftermath vs. the coverage of Britney Spears dumping Kevin Federline which, obviously, CHANGES LIFE ON EARTH AS WE KNOW IT.
I hate the media.
The GOP's talking points on the unreliability of exit polls. They're just saying, I'm sure.
Tomorrow night. When? Where? Who?
UPDATE: O'Reilly's Townhouse at 21 W. 35th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues starting around 6:30. Closest subways are the 34th Street B/D/F/Q/W/V/N/R station, the 33rd Street 6 station, and the 1/2/3 lines at Penn Station.
So far we've heard from a friend of Joe D's:
Good news - I just got a report from my friend who's canvassing in Virginia. Urban minority neighborhoods have at least an hour-and-a-half wait at their polling places! Lots of people are leaving. And some similar polling places in Maryland haven't even opened yet, because of "technical problems"!
and from Brock Landers:
is this the thread in which to report being victimized by Republican efforts at voter suppression and disenfranchisement? I went to vote this morning, and for the second straight election cycle my registration had been lost or invalidated or something, even though I've registered and recieved notice in the mail as to my polling station, etc. So it was a provisional ballot for me, which they let me know they'll be "counting" on Nov. 17. November-fucking-17! I ought to have just thrown the thing in the garbage. Very irritating. In '04 I wrote it off as pure fluke (though of course I still bitched and moaned), but now that it's happened twice I don't even know what to think.
This really scares me. Fraud is hard, and if you get caught, there are penalties. Just making sure that the system is messed up enough to make it hard to vote in the areas you don't want to hear from? Easy, and very hard to distinguish malice from incompetence.
The thing which burns me is that there is no natural reason for polling places in poor urban areas to be less well run than those in richer areas. They aren't funded by contributions from the local residents. If urban polling places are systematically more likely to be malfunctioning than richer areas, it really does look like malice.
(Here's a site collecting and reporting voting incidents today. I've had some trouble making it work, but it might work better for you.)
Update: Here's a good one from Ezra. Calls are going out to Democratic voters in Virginia telling them that they are registered elsewhere, and will be criminally charged if they show up to vote. If responsibility for that one can be pinned down, someone has to go to jail for it. Further Update: Please, someone who knows from Virginia election law, tell me I'm wrong and threatening someone to dissuade them from casting a vote isn't really just a misdemeanor?
Having breakfast with Buck and the kids after the family voting excursion this morning, I noticed that the guy at the next table had a very complicated little symbol on the alligator-spot of his polo shirt. On closer examination, it was a little gold dollar sign with the uprights also serving as a kinda-Greek-column thingie, in a circle, with 'A=A' underneath. I like loonies with the consideration to wear identifying signs so you know they're weird.
1. Fox anchor can't stop saying "cock." Strange, but true. (Requires sound.) Hilariously, her colleague, rather than opting for the smooth transition, rubs her face in it for a while.
2. A page dedicated entirely to hot female athletes. Sweet.
They've just re-discovered a bunch of Dorothea Lange photographs of the Japanese internment. Charming stuff.
I have a co-worker whose parents were in the camps. He doesn't like to talk about it; he's also a Republican. I guess this is the greatest country in the world.
Some election news that doesn't leave me fuming, for once:
With average turnout in non-presidential election years hovering around 40%, we can't help but have a little ire for those in Maryland and Virginia who could weigh in on Tuesday, but decide not to.
That's why WTOP's report that immigrant cab drivers are offering free rides to the polls in Montgomery and Prince George's counties is a cheerful reminder that some people still cherish voting rights. Over 200 cabbies from the African and Latino immigrant communities will pick up those who can't afford to get to their polling places between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. tomorrow.
The programs, co-ordinated by CASA de Maryland and the African Resource Center, say not only will new voters benefit but also immigrant drivers who haven't yet obtained their citizenship. If they can't vote, at least they can help others who can. Interested riders should contact these organizations in advance.
Many new Americans hold voting with a reverence long since lost to others. Some participants in the program have fled countries where a free and fair election is elusive. An Ethiopian immigrant told WTOP about his decision to give free rides. "Nobody is forcing me to. That's why I'm so excited."
Of course I want the Democrats to win tomorrow, but my confidence that Republicans would be doing just fine as long as the narrative was that we were still "winning" in Iraq, even if we'd killed a million Iraqis, while torturing some of them and repealing habeas at home, doesn't inspire much love for democracy, or America.
In fact, so sick that I can't even convince myself to write about it, so I'll just link in Hilzoy's post. The NRCC is, in a number of close races across the country, making robocalls to Democratic voters. The calls open by asking if you want to hear about the Democratic candidate, and then progress to abusing them. The fun bit, though, is that if you hang up after hearing the candidate's name, the call is made over and over again -- late at night, and early in the morning -- leaving the voter thinking that they're being harassed by the Democratic campaign.
This tactic is disgusting, and fraudulent, and deeply, deeply, dishonest. And it's not coming from one campaign that went overboard: it's a national tactic, planned and paid for by an official arm of the national Republican party. There are all sorts of individuals who vote Republican who I have plenty of time for and no grudge against, but the Republican Party, as an organization, is thoroughly repugnant these days.
(The excellent reporting on this has been coming from TPM.)
New Yorkers who like to skate should know that there's a free rink in Bryant Park all winter, and it's great. Skating is free if you have your own skates, and it's only ten bucks to rent. For some reason, people don't seem to know it's there, and so by New York standards, at least, it isn't mobbed. (Singles, particularly -- what could be a better cheap weeknight date? It's open 8am to 10pm seven days a week, and till midnight on Friday and Saturday.)
Sally and Newt are enjoying it a great deal -- Sally has appointed herself junior staff, and scoots around acquiring other little girls around her age who are having trouble skating, and assisting them around the rink. Newt is more in the still-getting-hauled-around-like-a-sack-of-potatoes stage, but will presumably figure out how to keep himself up sometime soon.
Perez Hilton reports that Petra Nemcova is dating Russell Simmons.
1. Jackmormon says,
Since I don't have an ipod, and I don't really care what songs show up on people's randomized or most-played lists, I suggest that people instead play "what unnerving sites is Google currently advertising on your gmail account?"
There are ads in my gmail? Hey, would you look at that. Never noticed them before.
2. Sue recommends a kitschtastic collaboration between a Russian girl band and a Swedish-Iranian pop star. It wasn't until someone at Yglesias's, I think, mentioned ogling the women that it even occurred to me that someone might do that. Dolled-up glam seductresses are, apparently, quite literally just props in my mental universe.
Anywho, in a break with tradition, I make no normative claims for my noticing patterns; just noticing the differences.
Sunday at 7:00. The address is:
French Quarter Market Place
7985 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA
There will, apparently, be an "Unfogged" sign, to prevent any BrockLandersing. And the crew just might be sitting outside.
Now that I've seen the movie, I think Labs and Ron Rosenbaum have it right.
I'd like to offer a different if somewhat personal perspective: the Two Borat Theory.
Call me a Borat snob. I was a huge fan of the brilliantly oblivious, appealingly clueless Kazakh "newsman" character when he appeared on segments of Sacha Baron Cohen's Da Ali G Show on HBO. So, there's that Borat; let's call him Borat One.
But then there's the heavy-handed, frat-boy, butt-head Borat, the dumbed-down buffoon Borat of Borat the movie. The Jackass Borat. Let's call him Borat Two. Yes, I laughed, you'll laugh, it's stupid-funny.
The movie is basically a series of brief gags. They're very funny gags (and, praise the lord, they don't go on too long, which is the great and common sin of gags everywhere), but I think what fans of the HBO show were expecting were moments of performance art that tell us something about ourselves, or about America--or at least make us think a bit about those things.
The genius of the "Jew down the well" scene is that it makes us wonder what we would do in that situation, and whether we, and the people in the scene, are more anti-semitic, or tolerant of hate, than we'd like to believe. There's also a second-order reflection about how we, who are not cowboy bar patrons, react to the people in the bar, and whether we're quick to think the worst of them, when we might well act similarly in analogous situations. Good stuff, and plenty funny too.
But when a bunch of frat guys act like boors and say stupid things, that doesn't really resonate, because we know there are boorish frat guys, and we don't wonder if we'd act that way in the same situation. The same goes for most of the scenes in the movie: they're very funny, but that's all they are.