Hogan's Alley

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies and Polls

The newest CBS News/NY Times Poll was released today. As with all polls, its results are reported by its sponsors as the definitive expression of the opinions of the American people as of this moment in time.

In the spirit of informed cynicism, let us go beyond the reassuring summaries provided by the Times and CBS and actually look at the pdf file of the results for all questions asked of the 1,052 people chosen, presumably at random, to represent the American people in toto.

All the way down on page 16 of the survey, at the top of the page, is a question of fact, not opinion, that can easily be tested for the veracity of the response obtained. It is:

Some people are registered to vote and others are not. Are you registered to vote in the precinct or election district where you now live, or aren't you?
Yes No
3/7-11/07 88 12

If 88 percent of these respondents assert that they are registered to vote, just how representative of the total population is this group? According to the Census Bureau, in the 2004 elections, the total number of persons eligible to vote was 215.7 million. Of those, only 142.1 million were registered to vote. That is 65.9%. Well short of the 88% who claim to be registered in the survey.

Are some of the respondents lying? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, yes. But it is a very human and understandable lie. A stranger calls you up and asks if you are, in essence, a good citizen as defined by the teachers and civic leaders of your childhood. The truth of the answer is unknowable to the questioner. Only a compulsively honest person would admit, or perhaps for some, gleefully acknowledge, their refusal to "go along" with the American civic expectation.

This kind of response bias is present in all random polling questions to one degree or another. It can be guaranteed to inflate the positive response to such a question. Here is another example from the current results:

68. How would you rate the financial situation in your household these days? Is it very good, fairly good, fairly bad or very bad?
Very good Fairly good Fairly bad Very bad DK/NA
11/10-16/88 12 69 13 5 2
10/8-10/90 14 70 11 4 1
7/21-25/06 12 64 17 5 1
4/20-24/06 (sic) 14 69 13 4 1

69. Think about your household income, would say that it is more than enough so that you can save and buy some extras, just enough to meet your bills and obligations, or it is not enough to meet your bills and obligations?
Can save and Just enough to pay Not enough to
buy extras bills and obligations pay bills etc. DK/NA
3/31-4/2/96 27 55 16 2
5/31-6/3/96 24 57 19 1
1/14-18/05 33 48 17 2
7/21-25/06 35 52 12 -
9/15-19/06 34 51 15 -
10/5-8/06 36 46 17 1
10/27-31/06 38 44 17 1
2/24-27/07 37 49 13 1
4/20-24/07 41 48 11 1

Although for April, 2007 in the first question a full 83% regard their financial situation as very good or fairly good, a large number in the second question, 48% claim to have just enough income to pay their bills, with no ability to purchase extras. I don't know about you, but for me, just meeting the cost of my bills does not define satisfaction. In such questions, the interpretation of the respondent is all important.

Here is a final example of the effect of the precise wording of any question:

56. In order to cut down on energy consumption and reduce global warming, would you favor or oppose an increased federal tax on gasoline?
Favor Oppose DK/NA
4/20-24/07 38 58 4

57. What if an increased tax on gasoline would reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil, then would you favor or oppose an increased federal tax on gasoline?
Favor Oppose DK/NA
2/22-26/06 55 37 8
4/20-24/07 64 30 6

In these two questions, asked one after the other, the introduction by the questioner of the notion that an increase in taxes on gasoline would reduce dependence on foreign oil makes the number in favor of such taxes jump from 38% to 64%. That is a 68% increase in the positive response.

My general point is the following: Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we seek to govern ourselves based on such a tenuous array of "facts". Pity (or perhaps condemn mercilessly) the poor politician who attempts to tailor his or her policy choices by such ephemeral data. The more I think about it, let's reserve any pity for the constituents of such fools.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Media Matters: The Non-Denial Denial

In the film "All The President's Men", Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein are seen several times describing one or another of the mealy-mouthed evasions by the Nixon Administration as a "non-denial denial".

In recent days, the right's perennial angry old man, Bill O'Reilly, alleged that George Soros, the left wing's perennial rich angry old man, was a principal funder of Media Matters. Media Matters is the left's main organization to sift through the press and media for anything they material that can be useful in the ongoing game of "My side is not being treated fairly in the press".

Media Matters' posting on their website today is extraordinary. They provide extensive video and written coverage of O'Reilly's charges. Presented fully and almost without comment. But their only denial of the charge is in three sentences, two of which are the same sentence.

In the sub-headline of the piece appears the following sentence:

"In fact, Soros has never given money to Media Matters, either directly or through another organization." (bold type from original)

In the body, the following two sentences appear:

"As previously indicated, Soros has never given money to Media Matters, either directly or through another organization. If he wanted to fund Media Matters, he or Open Society Institute (OSI), a grant-making foundation he established in 1993 to conduct his philanthropy, could simply write a check directly to Media Matters, as he and OSI do to numerous entities."

Follow the link under the word "indicated" and you get nothing more than another page with the same simple sentence.

All of which begs the question, why did they not deny they were funded by the organizations that O'Reilly claims are the conduits for Soros' money, The Tides Foundation, Democracy Alliance, Move On and the Center For American Progress. These organizations, O'Reilly charges are funded by Soros. That is also not denied by the posting. The only reasonable assumption is that Media Matters in fact does receive much of its funding from those organizations.

Their only defense is their unsupported assertion that none of Soros' money reaches their coffers. Yeah, and Tony Soprano supports his family on the proceeds of his waste management businesses. Money laundering to maintain "plausible deniability".

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Billy Connolly, Again

Another small gem from an appearance by Billy in Dublin.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

Something abstract
Originally uploaded by horstgeorg.
The photographer's tags for this picture include "cleaners sticks", which doesn't help explain what this abstract image was a part of. Still, the colors and the lines make it very interesting.


Cormac McCarthy, The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction

Speaking of books, it is worth noting that the Pulitzer committee last week announced it awards. For fiction, the best book of the year was Cormac McCarthy's, "The Road". For what it is worth, I agree. It is the finest novel I read last year.

The Times's summary of the novel says it well: "The famously reclusive Mr. McCarthy, 73, won for his devastating chronicle of a father and son walking alone across a post-apocalyptic America, cold, dark and strewn with corpses and ash. In her review in The New York Times,, Janet Maslin wrote, “ ‘The Road’ would be pure misery if not for its stunning, savage beauty.” It is Mr. McCarthy’s 10th novel." It is a dark, but very moving meditation on a possible future we should do everything in our power to avoid and the universal bonds of fathers and sons.

McCarthy's prior novel, "No Country For Old Men", has been made into a film by Joel and Ethan Coen. The story, reminiscent of their first movie, "Blood Simple", is about a chase across the southwest by a older sheriff, a drug mob enforcer, and a psychopathic bounty hunter, looking for a poor shnook who came upon a pile of money and drugs in the desert. The movie is set to open late this year and is one I am very much looking forward to.

(Photo by Derek Shapton)

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Boomsday: First, Let's Kill All The Elders

In today's NY Times Book Review we find a review of Christopher Buckley's new novel, "Boomsday". The review is by Jane and Michael Stern. Mr. Buckley, of course, is also the author of "Thank You For Not Smoking, a masterpiece of cynicism made into a hilarious movie in 2005.

(Christopher Buckley photo from Wikipedia)

Here is the Stern's summary of the plot:

The premise: Social Security is bankrupting the country. The problem: young people are stuck with bills tallied up by self-indulgent retirees playing golf and drinking gin and tonics in gated communities. The solution: financial incentives for boomers who agree to kill themselves at the age of 70 (even more if they do it at 65). To put a nice wrapper on the plan, suicide is to be known as “voluntary transitioning.” This radical idea is floated by a blogger, Cassandra Devine, and it pulses out of the blogosphere to become the leading issue in a presidential campaign. Cassandra, a public-relations prodigy, devises an advertising strategy to stigmatize oldsters, referring to them as “resource hogs” and “wrinklies,” and puts a positive spin on the whole idea with Norman Rockwell images of senior citizens doing themselves in. One shows a couple thumbing their noses at a frustrated Grim Reaper, the caption reading, “We’ll do it on our timetable, thanks — not yours!”

The plot thickens exponentially as battle lines are drawn and redrawn among a cast of cartoon characters that includes a handsome, skirt-chasing Massachusetts politician named Randy Jepperson; a Bible-thumping right-to-lifer from Sperm (the Society for the Protection of Every Ribonucleic Molecule); a Roman Catholic monsignor who lives in the lap of luxury by bilking widows of their fortunes; Russian prostitutes called Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; and Cassandra’s evil father, an Internet billionaire who gives the president of Yale a $15 million bribe so his dopey stepson won’t be expelled. None of the characters are supposed to be lifelike, not even Cassandra, a brainy pinup who is exalted as having “liquid, playful eyes and lips that seemed always poised to bestow a kiss” and “a figure that, when displayed in a bikini or thong at the resort in the Bahamas, would draw sighs from any passing male.”

Sounds like another fun ride to me. Can't wait for the movie version.

The Sterns, however, take another view. They find the entire enterprise entirely too unfunny. After all, according to them, the book fails to mention that some seniors are not well off and pokes fun at southerners. Buckley is also not up to the biting satire of Vonnegut's high irony when he suggested a similar plan in his short story, "Welcome To The Monkey House." I have to suspect, given the small world of the Book Review's writers, that Mr. Buckley's fate was sealed with the Sterns when he was fathered by that scion of all things evil, William F. Buckley. You will not likely find the Sterns cutting him any slack and risking their orthodox standing on the Upper West Side.

Here, for example, the following from the Sterns, "Then again, maybe we missed the obscure irony in lines like “When the going gets tough, the tough get blogging,” or “In cyberspace, everyone can hear you scream.”" Yes, I think they may have. I laughed out loud, especially at the second line. But perhaps one has to have some familiarity with the blogosphere to appreciate these jokes.

One final note, the Times' note about the authors of the review reports that the Sterns' most recent book is a memoir called, "Two for the Road: Our Love Affair With American Food." So it would appear that the Sterns have determined to make their writing career a joint effort. How, one wonders, can any couple declare anything funny or unfunny? A sense of humor seems such a personal, individual thing that having to vote on the prospect seems absurd. Wouldn't, for example, one be tempted to shave one's opinion of a joke in favor of the constantly present larger cause of peace between the partners? Just asking.

P.S. The book makes its first appearance on this week's Times Bestseller List at number 12, dropping to 18 next week. Let's see what effect, if any, the review will have on sales.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

Originally uploaded by Amalava.
Location unknown. But, the photographer's eye is much in evidence as he or she wandered in this unnamed city.


Worst Killing Rampage In US History

Another sick individual with access to deadly weapons wreaks havoc in America. His time the killing was at Virginia Tech. Another sad episode in a long running American tragedy.

Pres. Bush issued a prayerful statement, offering practical support in the aftermath of this event. What was missing from his statement, and what will surely need to be discussed once more facts are known, is the ease of access we have to automatic weapons in our country.

Automatic weapons are, as a matter of fact, only ever used at target ranges and to kill human beings. If you insist on wanting to fire one at a range, rent it from Federally licensed ranges or buy one and be required to store it at the range. When they are out in the street they are surely going to cost lives, whether by accident or intentionally.

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Moktada al-Sadr Joins Calls For Specific Date For US Withdrawal

Pool photo by Ali Abbas from the NY Times

The six Ministers of the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Malaki who are loyal to the radical Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, today resigned from the government. According to Edward Wong in the NY Times:

Legislators working for Mr. Sadr said that Mr. Sadr was withdrawing his ministers from the 38-member cabinet because the Iraqi government had refused to set a timetable for pulling American troops out of the country.

The move is the first time Mr. Sadr has followed through with a threat to cut some of his ties with the government and with Mr. Maliki, a conservative Shiite whose grip on authority largely rests on Mr. Sadr’s political support.

In this respect, it seems that al-Sadr and his people share with most Democrats and many others in America the view that the withdrawal of US troops by a date certain is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

That alone doesn't make the concept wrong. But it surely should lead to some assessment of the reasons that the goals of the Shiite radicals in Iraq and those in America oppose to Bush's policy are congruent. Clearly both parties cannot have the best interests of the United States in mind. Let us not forget that al-Sadr recently ordered his followers to attack and resist American forces.

al-Sadr claims that he has withdrawn his ministers, note the absolute control he exercises over these civilly elected officials, so that al-Malaki can appoint others, more compatible with the makeup of the balance of the cabinet. How magnanimous.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rich Finally Pontificates On l'Affaire Imus

Frank Rich, who was a regular guest on the Imus In The Morning show, has now added to the pile (TimesSelect required) of same old, same old blather, this blog included, on the Imus/Rutgers story.

Rich does the requisite condemnation of what Imus said and adds a mea culpa trying to excuse his regular appearances. He is also quick to point to negative speech by right wing comentators.

Key quote:

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech — mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

Somehow I can't believe that Rich, who is the great melder of politics and showbiz into a grand forum where similes and metaphor take the place of logic, would be anything but joyous if someone on the right was fired for saying something offensive. It feels more like he is concerned, as are others, that one of the big forums for Democrats and liberals has been silenced.

One reference in Rich's column is a mystery to me. He writes the following:

So if we really want to have this national “conversation” about race and culture and all the rest of it that everyone keeps telling us that this incident has prompted, let’s get it on, no holds barred. And the fewer moralizing pundits and politicians, the better. Hillary Clinton, an Imus denouncer who has also called for federal regulation of violent television and video games, counts among her Hollywood fat cats Haim Saban, who made his fortune from “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

Has the Power Rangers cartoon been declared un-PC? I must have missed the papal bull on this topic? As far as the "national conversation" that everyone is calling for, I'm willing to bet cash money that no such discussion will emerge, unless Imus himself becomes the channel for that discourse on some new reincarnation on the public airwaves.

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Flickr Foto Of The Day

This is a picture of my own, taken in Moscow in July, 2004. To the right of the old woman is the wall surrounding the famous St. Basil's Cathedral at the end of Red Square.

President Putin should be reminded that states with failed economies have seldom achieved wide spread income improvement through the use of repressive tactics. Investors from abroad are reluctant to participate in countries where the stability of the government is largely dependent on the strength of its police. Homegrown entrepreneurs will also not allow themselves to grow too successful. Some have been jailed for such sins.


A Reminder Of Putin's Good Old Days

This is a photo I took while passing the infamous former KGB prison, Lubyanka, in Moscow. It is beginning to sound like Putin may be having the cobwebs swept out if his jails run out of space.

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Comrade Putin Tightens The Noose

Photo Credit: Vladimir Suvorov/Izvestia, via Associated Press

Gary Kasparov, the former Russian world chess champion, has been arrested in Moscow. Lest anyone, except our President, believe that Putin's Russia is anything but a repreressive state, Ilya Somin at Volkh Conspiracy lays out the former KGB man's recent steps to all but evicerate any semblance of democracy from the former heart of the Soviet Union.

Key quote:

Back in 2001 - at a time when George W. Bush was still assuring us that Putin was a "good man" because he had "see[n] into his soul," Kasparov sounded an early warning about the ex-KGB President, noting that "Putin's KGB roots have informed a style of governance that is neither reformist nor particularly democratic" and that Russia's government was sliding towards authoritarianism by suppressing opposition media and playing on nationalistic fears. Since then, Putin has suppressed nearly all opposition electronic media, and probably connived in the murder of print journalists who had criticized the regime.

Kasparov's arrest is not only an outrage in its own right, it is significant as an indicator of Putin's willingness to further tighten his authoritarianism. If Putin is able to get away with arresting even a world-famous opposition leader, less exalted opponents of the government can expect even harsher treatment. Hopefully, there will be enough of an international outcry to persuade Putin to desist and force him to tread more cautiously in the future. But it is hard to be optimistic about Russia's immediate political future after the experience of the last several years. As Kasparov put it in 2005, Putin has "abolished the nature of democratic institutions [and] he will go further." The mere fact that the current president of Russia is an authoritarian former high-ranking KGB official is a strong indication that things have gone badly wrong 15 years after the fall of communism. It is as if the Chancellor of West Germany in 1960 had been a former high-ranking Gestapo or SS leader.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Their Blood Is Up

Now that Don Imus has been taken down, the folks over at Media Matters a "progressive" operation designed to harass and document the sins of conservative talk show hosts, have smelled the blood in the water. They have now listed the collected sins of the biggest talk show hosts on the right.

Read the list carefully, it seeks to be impressively long, but it includes charges such as this one against Bill O'Reilly:

On the July 12, 2006, edition of his radio program, during a discussion of the development of ethanol-fueled vehicles in Brazil, O'Reilly stated that "they still have people in Brazil running around with their little darts, hitting you in the head with the poisoned darts, with the loincloths."

Clearly there are such tribes in the Amazon region of Brazil. I see no assertion by O'Reilly that all Brazillians are primitive. It is, however, factually the case that some are.

Their charges against Neil Boortz include the following:

On the August 17, 2004, broadcast of his radio show, Boortz, in response to reports from Florida that looting was occurring in Hurricane Charley's aftermath, said: "If they see someone looting, shoot him. They go up there, they just spray paint an 'L' on him and get about their business, and then after everything is over, they can go collect them all and bury them in a mass grave."

That may be a very harsh prescription, but "looters will be shot" is the classic tough police approach to looting. It is an arguable position, not outside the bounds of proper political argument.

It appears that Media Matters is trying to leverage the Imus affair to bolster their campaign to silence, by hook or crook, the right wing media types. If you can't beat them at their own game, see the failure of Air America, then perhaps you can brow beat their sponsors into submission. This is precisely the kind of campaign that tells us that we should be afraid, be very afraid, of left if we value free speech.

I find O'Reilly and his ilk silly and wrong most of the time. But the only proper response to any political statement, from the left or the right, is to make the soundest possible argument to convince listeners that your opponent is just plain wrong. The left in this case, and often, seems to have abandoned all hope that their point of view will ever persuade a majority of Americans and they therefore opt for silencing the other side through the use of coercion. It looks like nothing so much as a failed political philosophy that has been given over to the lawyers for resolution.

In Fairness To Imus

Andrew Sullivan reminds us that however offensive Don Imus is and has been over the years, he also has done much good for the kids who have attended the Imus Ranch for kids with cancer and blood diseases and the siblings of babies who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In the summer months and in the odd week in spring and fall, Imus was on the air from New Mexico at 3:30 AM local time. Once off the air at 8:00 AM he joined the kids and the staff in the day's activities. Yes he bitched and whined about that and the thin air that made breathing difficult for the old coot, who suffered from COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. An oxygen tank was a regular companion.

According to the article sited above, the Ranch costs $1.8 million to operate each year. The "radiothon" that annually raises a good chunk of that money each year was to be held today and tomorrow. No doubt the results today were below expectation and there will be no fund raising tomorrow. If Imus somehow survives as an on the air personality, via satellite probably, he may maintain a large enough audience to sustain the Ranch. Contributions, plus his own funds may keep the place alive.

On the other hand if those who have hounded him out of the business are successful, the Ranch and its program will perish also. That, of course, is the chance Imus took every morning when he ad libbed his way along the fault line between good and bad taste.

He often said that part of his motivation for doing the Ranch was to bank some good Karma to offset the bad things in his life, of which he was well aware. No one can doubt that for the last seven or eight years some goodness has surely accrued to Don Imus. It seems that we as a nation have required his sacrifice to make us feel better about ourselves and our darker impulses. Perhaps some day young black kids confronted by the outrage of racism and sexism will have achieved the self confidence to tell the offending moron to get bent and refuse to let the racist define them in any way. We clearly are not at that place yet. Let us hope we will not have to await our collective next lives for that outcome.

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It Was Inevitable

Imus is now gone from CBS. Leslie Moonves also said:

In a statement Mr. Moonves said, “Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society – all races, economic groups, men and women alike. In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.”

Let's hope he remembers this when his new record division, which was restarted last year, chooses which artists to record.

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Flickr Foto Of The Day

Originally uploaded by maryaben.
Simple yet beautiful.


Lost - The Days Of Slow Revalation Are Over

Those of us who loathed the slow development, especially in Season Two, of the various plot lines have certainly gotten what we asked for in this episode, "One of Us". No more time fillers about Hurley and his found VW Microbus or sidetracking stories like the paralyzing deaths of Nikki and Paulo and their diamonds, which may or may not be dug up at a later date.

Last night "One of Us" satisfied our need to know what Juliet was up to when she was so suspiciously found handcuffed to Kate "Defiant Ones" style in last week's episode. Last night we learned it was one of Ben's ploys, although we don't yet know his purpose for the ruse. We also learned how Juliet came to the Island after her recruitment by Mittelos via "Herarat Aviation" (Earhart Aviation?) and the famous submarine. How the Others kept Juliet on the Island and allegedly cured her sister's reocurrence of cancer and their ability, at least before Locke's magnetic "incident" destroyed their communication with the mainland, to learn all they needed to know and to dispatch agents anywhere in the world. We also learned that Ben intends to see Juliet in one week's time.

As intriguing as the episode was, the preview for the balance of the season was equally enticing. It promises new characters, new conflicts and new places, as shown in the above still of Juliet entering or leaving a high security safe door. It sounds like they are going to finish with a bang.


In The End, Imus Doesn't Matter

Let us imagine ourselves several weeks or months in the future. Don Imus will be an all but forgotten figure. But the daily degradation of women, especially black women, will still be a daily occurrence over the airwaves. Visualize yourself far enough into the future and it will be time for next year's Grammy Awards. Ho's, bitches and their booties will be the dominant subject matter of rap music, just has they have been for decades now.

The damage done by this constant barrage of media disparagement on young black women in incalculable. Beyond that, the main buyers of rap music are not young black men, who are only 12% of the population, but young white men and boys. Only by selling to them can the hip hop industry achieve its billions of dollars of income. What are these white boys to believe about how to relate to women, especially black women. Ask any black woman and she will be able to recount daily affronts, both large and small.

Many are noticing this reality and hoping to use the Imus matter as a springboard for a broader discussion that will hopefully return civility and politeness as the norm, rather than the exception. One such writer is Jason Whitlock, writing for the Kansas City Star.

Whitlock is, in my view, too hard on Vivian Stringer. As I've written below, I think she deserves much credit. He is, on the other hand, appropriately rough on the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson:

Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

The bigots win again.

While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.

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Who Brought Down Imus?

In newsrooms across the country, when an issue with racial overtones arises, reporters push the speed dial button on their phones that says, "Racism", and the phone rings at Al Sharpton's National Action Network. So of course Rev. Sharpton, with his history of using the media to beat up innocent people with no apology (the Tawana Brawley case) and Rev. Jackson, with his "hymietown" baggage are brought to the fore to define the attack on Imus. Imus himself, media maven that he is, unintentionally raised Sharpton's profile by agreeing to plead for his life at the feet of the great man on his radio show.

The media treat African Americans as if they were the only ethnic group in the world who are allowed to have only one spokesperson at a time. Degradingly, they think of African Americans as a people in lock step who share one and only one political or world view. Who is the spokesman or leader of Jews, Italians, the Irish, or Poles in America. The very notion is ridiculous, yet since the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jackson or Sharpton have tried to become that leader and the media have bought it.

In the current Imus affair, I would like to propose that a large new set of African American leaders came to the fore. The press conference held last week by C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers women was as powerful a statement of outrage and a plea for civility as we are likely to hear. Al Roker and other black staff members at NBC publicly demanded Imus' removal and the NBC News President, Steve Capus has said that their concerns were the determining factor in Imus removal. Roker said:

In the end, this is not about Don Imus or his producer, Bernard McGuirk, who often set the ugly and hateful tone of the "comedy" bits they produced. The ten young women of the Rutgers Women’s basketball team showed how unjust and wrong the humor of the Imus program is. Mr. Imus says he's a good person who said a bad thing. That may be true. Certainly his charity work speaks to that. But just as he wants to be judged on what he does, he must also be judged on what he says and what he has said, both on and off the air. Mr. McGuirk contends he's not a racist, even though he spews racist invective because, in his words, he grew up around black people. Hmmm. So did Strom Thurmond.

There were others, too numerous to name. They have been appearing all over the airwaves in the last few days. Like any group of people, some are more sensible than others. A large number, however, have been eloquent and reasoned in their condemnation of the kind of behavior Imus committed. I choose to believe that it was this chorus of voices that prompted sponsors to abandon Imus and MSNBC and probably CBS to drop him. Let's give credit where credit is due.

These same people have been equally appalled by the nasty and brutish crap that passes for our most popular music and as comedy on TV, cd's and in clubs. More on that later.

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No Tears For Imus

This is Don Imus in his pre-rehab days 25, or more, years ago. I started listening to him at least 30 years ago. "Listening" doesn't really describe the process, for no sane person was ever able to stick with him through the whole of his four hour radio show.

What one listened for were his moments of irreverence and his merciless battery of the various "suits" who believed they controlled his show. It was this bad boy, take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude that gave comfort to the mass of us who were not about to tell our employers to shove anything.

What one quickly learned to dispense with were the endless pre-recorded commercials, the endless perseverations about some point of annoyance for which Imus was taking public revenge and the endless self-promotion. In recent years, since his marriage, the endless prattling on about the Ranch, healthy living (while we watched him deteriorate before our eyes), his wife's accomplishments or sales of Ranch-related products have been moments to be avoided at all cost.

Jumping in and out of the Imus show became much easier since he began to be simulcast on MSNBC. The remote control was a godsend. But there was also much to seek out. Imus' was the only TV show, with the exception of Jim Leher's Newshour, where one could hear at length discussions of current events or the arts where the guest got to say his or her piece and Imus made fun of them, one and all. Yes, there is also Charlie Rose, but wading through his questions often interferes with the flow of the guest.

That is all context for what I believe will be his total departure from non-satellite broadcasting. No one should cry for Imus. He is a rich man and he said a foul, stupid thing about the Rutgers kids. (I know it is pc to call them young women, but for those of us older than dirt they are much closer to children that adults.) They didn't agree to come on his show and be beaten up, as do the masochists in his regular guest rotation. Five of the ten players are freshmen for god's sake.

As I have written about before, I had a particular interest in the Rutgers women's team this year. For the prior two years I traveled to Glens Falls NY for the state basketball championships. For two years I watched Epiphany Prince, the number one or two nationally ranked high school players of her age. At Rutgers she had the great good fortune to have C. Vivian Stringer as her coach. A casualness and lack of effort that had plagued Prince at the end of her high school career were banished under Coach Stringer's tutelage. She, and the rest of the freshmen players, were cajoled, berated, yelled at and loved into an extraordinary performance that led them to the NCAA finals.

So Imus had finally picked on and bullied someone who didn't deserve his ire. And he did so in his own voice and in vile racist and misogynistic terms. But for his whole career, walking the edge of this particular cliff has been Imus' stock in trade. He has cultivated the racism and stupidity of the people he decided to keep around him. In particular, I mean Bernard McGurk, Sid Rosenbaum and Bo Dietl. It was the assigned role of these neanderthals to be the designated speakers of hate or near-hate speech. Through the use of these puppets Imus could say the things his 66 year old adolescent heart wanted to say and still maintain a phony veneer of deniability.

For the latest and fatal episode, Imus has tried to point out that terms like the one he used originated in the world of hip hop. The problem with that claim, true as it is, is that Imus didn't use it to attack anonymous or fictional characters in a "song". He used it to bludgeon ten very particular young ladies who were minding their own business. I bet most of them never even heard of the crotchety old faux cowboy from Central Park West.

So no crying for Don Imus. He will soon retire to his ranch in New Mexico, from where he will probably broadcast via Sirius/XM. But getting him off the air will accomplish nothing except to fill the coffers of the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson. The airwaves will continue to be polluted by literally thousands of cd's each year with messages of thuggery and the degradation of women. More about that later.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

Originally uploaded by Atilla1000.
A nice capture of the rising moon silhouetting a roosting bird using a telephoto lens.


Sadr Unleases His Forces In Baghdad

According to a report from AP, via Captain's Quarters, the Shiite religious leader and commander of the Mahdi Army, Muqtada al-Sadr, has directed his followers to stop cooperating with the US forces, to stop attacking other Iraqis and to focus their attacks on the Americans.

In the short term this will probably mean increasing encounters in Baghdad, at the same time that Gen. Petraeus is continuing to build up his forces to their full complement. The MSM will likely not report al Sadr's directive and simply report on an expectable increase in military confrontations and bombings directed at the Americans and Iraqi troops. The implication will be that the Bush surge is failing. The fact will be that the confrontation the surge was designed to both create and manage will have just begun in earnest.

If Petraeus is right, the end product will be a lessening of the power of the Shiite armies in the capital city. If he is wrong, the outcome could well be the establishment of al Sadr and his Iranian allies as the de facto rulers of Iraq. I hope that no American, no matter how much they oppose the entire Iraq expedition, will hope for the latter outcome, even subconsciously. But, I fear there are too many ready, willing and able to take great glee in any Bush failure.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

Originally uploaded by Jingle526.
All the world in a drop of water.


The Death Of Internet Radio Is Imminent

One of the great features of the internet has been the capacity to listen to an extraordinary array of sources of music, information and talk from around the world via audio streaming.

An arcane entity called the Copyright Royalty Board, a creation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996. That piece of legislation is a wholly bought and paid for creation of the major labels of the record industry, the major movie studios and other related business giants. It is pure K Street product, filtered through the Congress for the sake of appearances.

What the Copyright Royalty Board is proposing to do is significantly raise the royalty rates to be paid to the owners of recordings, the large record companies, presumably with some share of the total going to the actual creators of the music, the artists who wrote and performed it. No one objects to paying the creators for their work, but anyone who has ever paid attention to the music business is familiar with the extraordinary accounting creativity of the music and movie businesses that make it a regular occurence that big selling songs or movies produce pennies or often nothing, to their creators.

The large expansion in these royalties, retroactive to 2006, is a particular hardship on public radio stations and other nonprofit or small independent sources of programming. Most of these will be forced to stop their webcasting.

David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, has a lengthy explanation of the problem. (Thanks for the heads up from Andrew Sullivan.)

If you have ever enjoyed the discovery of musical joy found in a station from abroad or across the country, please consider signing this petition set up by Save the Streams.org in an attempt to influence Congress to intervene.

The internet will be a poorer place if this goes through.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Measuring The Effect Of The Surge

Here's an interesting array of statistics on the number of deaths in Iraq, and Baghdad in particular. The essence is that there seems to be an abatement in the steady rise in civilian deaths that began with the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

Clearly it is too early to know the final outcome and some of this early improvement may come from the standing down of the Shiite militias. They may only be laying low until the Democrats in America are able to effect the removal of US forces. Only time will tell. But in the end it is certain that the responsibility for a long term slow evolution of Iraq into a civil society will be on the backs of the Iraqi politicians and their armed forces.

In any event, nice job of analysis by a blogger known only as Engram at his Back Talk blog.

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