Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Well, thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, same-sex marriage moves from simmer to full boil. It nothing else, the spectacle of Bush attempting to appease the Religious Right by head-faking toward a constitutional amendment while managing to never really go that way and alienate the majority of Americans will be equalled only by the spectacle of the Democratic nominee (whichever one is deemed "electable" this week) trying to appease the left wing core activists in the party by supporting "something" for same-sex couples but not having the guts, or risking the same votes Bush risks, by actually being in favor of calling it "marriage." In but a few years we've gone from what "is" is to what "marriage" is. Progress? Eh.
In the WSJ this morning, Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, has an op-ed that exemplifies one of the main problems with the conservative position on this issue: its historical ignorance. He writes:
Contrary to the court's opinion, marriage is not "an evolving paradigm." It is deeply rooted in the history, culture and tradition of civil society. It predates our Constitution and our nation by millennia. The institution of marriage was not created by government and it should not be redefined by government.
Yes indeed, it does predate "us." But in that long and lovely history, marriage has taken many forms, and the participants in marriage have had a dizzying array of rights, options, and roles. And cross-culturally, we are all, I think, aware of the range of arrangements that constitute marriage. So, Mr. Governor, marriage IS an evolving paradigm. If it hadn't evolved, we'd still be back at women as chattel and same-color only, just to mention two contemporary examples.
And yes, it wasn't created by government, but the question at hand is who is redefining it? Heterosexuals have, over even just the last 100 years, significantly redefined marriage and governments have normally, though not always, followed in their wake by changing the law to reflect de facto practice. The reality of the early 21st century is that same-sex couples are, in many case, de facto married. Granting those relationships legal protection is not redefining marriage - that's already happening. It's simply codifying practice and recognizing the ongoing evolution of the institution. Much as marriage evolved to recognize women's full equality and our lack of concern over the skin color of the partners, it is now evolving to include same-sex couples. That's not government redefinition, that's social evolution.
Marriage is a fundamental and universal social institution. It encompasses many obligations and benefits affecting husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter. It is the foundation of a harmonious family life. It is the basic building block of society: The development, productivity and happiness of new generations are bound inextricably to the family unit. As a result, marriage bears a real relation to the well-being, health and enduring strength of society.
All fair enough. In fact, it would be wonderful if heterosexual marriages actually did all that! But the question is what all of this has to do with excluding gays and lesbians. If it's so damn important, why don't we want more people involved in it? (And watch out when "new generations" gets invoked - that's heading for trouble.)
Because of marriage's pivotal role, nations and states have chosen to provide unique benefits and incentives to those who choose to be married. These benefits are not given to single citizens, groups of friends, or couples of the same sex. That benefits are given to married couples and not to singles or gay couples has nothing to do with discrimination; it has everything to do with building a stable new generation and nation.
Oooooooooh, "stability" is it? You mean there's something "unstable" about same-sex couples? (Not to mention all the "stable" heterosexual couples that are keeping marriage and families so healthy.) So it's not about discrimination, yet allowing same-sex couples into the institution will destablize it. Unfortunately, the governnor chose not to expand on this point, but I'd love to hear what he thinks is so unstable about same-sex relationships, or how they will destabilize society writ large.
And look what's back! Our old friend "new generation." Once again, marriage rights are linked to procreation to justify the exclusion of gays and lesbians. Tell me Governor, if it's all about building a "stable new generation," will you ask the people of Massachusetts to support a law banning marriage by infertile couples, and requiring all married couples to have children? If not, what damage is done to a "stable new generation" by allowing same-sex couples the same freedom to share their lives together that is enjoyed by heterosexual couples who either can't have, or don't want, children?
As I noted in an earlier post, there are plausible arguments against full legal recognition of same-sex marriage, but those arguments, at least from a broadly liberal perspective, are going to have to show some demonstrable harm to third parties from it, and further demonstrate, in my view, that such harms aren't already at play with current practice. If same-sex marriage poses a threat to "stable new generations," then why aren't we outlawing other practices that do, e.g. divorce, childlessness, and putting kids in day care, if the conservatives are to be believed? The inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, of most of the conservative arguments against same-sex marriage is so transparent that it's no wonder they face the accusation of discrimination, and feel compelled to be defensive about it. Most conservatives are smart people. Given that, how else to explain the obvious weakness of their arguments other than it being a case of a tortured intellectual opposition to something they just find "icky"?
When I read these conservative anti-same-sex marriage screeds, my belief that Margaret Atwood's wonderful book The Handmaid's Tale is a bit overwrought as a cautionary tale just gets eroded away a little bit more.
Published on Thursday, February 5, 2004 by TomDispatch.com
A Modest Proposal by Chalmers Johnson
So the Bush administration -- under considerable pressure from people outraged that we invaded Iraq not only without U.N. approval but on false intelligence that Saddam Hussein had"weapons of mass destruction" -- has now decided to investigate itself. For this important task it is proposing a panel of former CIA officials (Robert Gates, Richard Kerr), former Congressional members with"intelligence expertise" (Warren Rudman, Gary Hart), and David Kay, the weapons inspector whose recent report and change of heart have so discomfited the administration. Unsurprisingly, if this administration has its way, the investigation will not make public its results until well after the November election.
The whole exercise smacks of" cover-up" and is about as trustworthy as asking Enron executives to investigate themselves. A group of men, deeply protective of their former colleagues, friends, and Washington connections, will doubtless tell us in due course that U.S. intelligence on Iraq was"thin" (at the time of the war it had been two years since there had been a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq). The now-famous misinformation about"yellow cake" being purchased from Niger will be blamed on England's MI6, the equivalent of our CIA. The real reasons why former ambassador Joseph Wilson's first-hand report on Niger yellow cake was ignored and Wilson's CIA wife subsequently outed will be conveniently forgotten. The real story of how and why the Bush administration went to war in Iraq will be lost in a miasma of words - and undoubtedly an endless commission report with endless appendices, some of which will surely be declared top secret and shielded from public view -- and no one in particular will be blamed (much as Robert McNamara now blames"the fog of war" and not himself for the failures of American policy in Vietnam).
Let me propose that if the Bush administration really wants to find out what went wrong with our pre-war intelligence on Iraq, it should appoint a commission consisting of first-class investigative reporters, including first and foremost the New Yorker magazine's Seymour Hersh and the Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows. These two journalists have, in fact, already told us in damning detail what really went on inside the Bush administration. In several of his New Yorker articles, but particularly"The Stovepipe" (published in the October 27, 2003 issue), Hersh describes the process whereby a pro-war cabal within the administration -- Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others -- set out to cherry-pick the intelligence tidbits that supported their preconceived plans for war in Iraq.
In an equally well-documented Atlantic article in the January/February 2004 issue of that magazine, James Fallows explores why so much went so badly wrong after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Why the looting? Why the continuing guerrilla attacks? Why the failure to bring the mass of the population over to our side, even after the capture of Saddam Hussein? Fallows's answer is that most of what went wrong had long been predicted by non-governmental organizations that tried to work with the Pentagon but whose advice was studiously ignored.
Perhaps the most amazing discovery Fallows made with regard to intelligence concerns Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who taught for years at the National War College and who compiled a"net assessment" of how Iraq would look after a successful U.S. attack. Not only did Gardiner's predictions regarding the infrastructure prove devastatingly accurate, but his report was compiled entirely on the basis of information freely available on the Internet. No need at all for $30-plus billion worth of intelligence agencies. Of course, Gardiner's warnings went unheeded in large part because the administration was already bent on war and uninterested in anyone else's thoughts, let alone intelligence on the coming"post-war" era in Iraq.
In its desire to evade responsibility for its lying and reckless decisions, the administration is now trying, on the one hand, to place all blame on the Central Intelligence Agency while, on the other hand, protecting the CIA from the full brunt of such blame by carefully choosing an"old-boy" commission to absolve it. If we really want to know who skewed, manufactured, or otherwise diddled the data about Iraq (and who is doubtlessly still doing so), then we need some good reporters who can develop their own"deep throat" sources of information. Although journalists are not infallible, the best of them are incorruptible to the extent of being willing to be jailed in order to protect their sources. It is hard to imagine the administration's commission getting that sort of data from bureaucrats who want to keep their jobs and protect their families from retaliation. Since the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court have become so dangerously collusive and disregarding of the American public's interests, let's see what the"4th estate" can do to save us.
Chalmers Johnson is most recently the author of 'The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic' as well as'Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire'.
And so does its legal system:
It took almost three days, but the first lawsuit has been filed in connection with Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident during the Super Bowl halftime show.Pathetic. And if this lawsuit isn't thrown out quickly, that's even more pathetic.
TV watcher Terri Carlin wants to make a federal case out of Ms. Jackson's bare breast.
Ms. Carlin filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday against Ms. Jackson, singer Justin Timberlake, broadcasters MTV and CBS and their parent company, Viacom.
Ms. Carlin alleges that she and others who watched the halftime show during Sunday's Super Bowl were injured by the performers' lewd actions when Mr. Timberlake ripped off part of Ms. Jackson's costume, exposing her breast.
"Ms. [Carlin] and millions of others saw the acts and were caused to suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury," the lawsuit says.
But Ms. Carlin, who works in a bank, doesn't specify the type of injury allegedly suffered. The lawsuit seeks billions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.
And to use the phrase that seems to be called for at least once a day at this point: Ms. Carlin, grow up.
ON THE OTHER HAND: This could be a legitimate lawsuit:
The fetish shop that sold Janet Jackson her Super Bowl outfit are furious over her boob flashing stunt.My brain circuits are overloading with the possibilities for jokes...
DeMask, of Manhattan, New York, say it made it look as if her £140 bustier was flimsy, reports the New York Post. ...
The stunt, during a half-time duet, has caused a storm in the US but DeMask are more concerned with their reputation.
Manager Sam Hill said:"There's no way it would have ripped that way. We're known for putting together solid, long-lasting pieces."
She wants Jackson to own up to altering the top for the stunt which was originally billed as an accident.
"They took off the studs that kept the cup in place and replaced them with snaps so the top could just come off," she said.
"It would have looked like Justin was assaulting her if he'd tried to rip it off before it was modified. It's really easy to modify rubber. It's not rocket science."
I need to lie down for a while. Excuse me.
I realize that for many prowar types -- those people who think, for example, that"the Senate's decision to turn Iraqi aid into loans is an asinine -- and near-treasonously stupid and destructive -- idea" (discussed in this post) -- this is probably wonderful news:
The United States will fly four Iraqi wrestlers to Colorado and fund their training ahead of their possible participation at the Athens Games this summer, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.Well, I don't think it's a wonderful idea. First of all, I do not appreciate Mr. Bremer's eagerness to play Viceroy here as well as in Iraq, and I certainly do not appreciate his presumptuousness in speaking for"the American people." And I didn't invite anyone to come to Colorado to train at U.S. taxpayers' expense.
The wrestlers are the first Iraqis to be named to a future Olympic team, which will compete under the Iraqi flag provided the International Olympic Committee lifts the suspension imposed on Iraq last year after Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed.
L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, said the four-member Iraqi team has been"invited by the American people" to train at an Olympic facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"At this facility, the Iraqi wrestling team will have access to all the services and training techniques available to U.S. athletes as they prepare for the 2004 Olympic Games," Bremer said. He did not say when the team would leave or how long the training would last.
Which brings me to the second point: God only knows how much American taxpayer money is being wasted and thrown away in Iraq, even if you fully approved the Iraq invasion. But spending money on this kind of thing is typical of a certain kind of mentality: the kind that glories in"national identity" and the triumphs of"the people."
But here's a note: that kind of mentality used to be an attribute primarily of our enemies. Remember the"triumphs" of the Soviets and the East Germans at the Olympics? It's one thing to enjoy the triumphs of your country in competition, when they are brought to you by individuals who excel at what they do, which had been the tradition with U.S. victories in the past. But now we are beginning to adopt all the traits of those countries we used to despise. (I discussed this phenomenon from a slightly different, and broader, perspective, here.)
This entire spectacle is truly becoming despicable. And Mr. Bremer: you are not Viceroy of the Universe. And until you realize your limitations, why don't you simply keep your mouth shut? Thank you.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
Americans now seem automatically to turn to the government, and say:"Help us, please!" I think it is fair to say that this is not a development that would bring delight to the founding fathers, or to the other rebels of the Revolutionary Era, who distrusted government more than any other human institution.
Yet, today this is the common response:
Upset television viewers have filed more than 200,000 complaints about Janet Jackson's breast-baring performance at the Super Bowl, a record for the Federal Communication Commission, officials said on Friday.One might have thought that adults, including parents, had more than enough weapons at their disposal already: changing the channel, complaining to the network that carried the program, complaining to advertisers that sponsored the program, and even -- just imagine! -- simply talking with their children, and discussing what it might all mean. And in that way, parents could certainly communicate whatever they felt needed to be said about nudity, sex, and any other subject under the sun.
Gripes over the flash of Jackson's breast last Sunday easily eclipsed the FCC's previous record -- 80,000 complaints that came after television actress Nicole Richie used a curse word on the 2003 Billboard Music Awards, the agency said.
"The vast majority express outrage that this occurred during a family program, when many children were in the viewing audience," FCC consumer and information chief K. Dane Snowden said in a statement.
The furor was touched off when pop star Justin Timberlake tore off part of Jackson's black leather bustier while the two were singing a duet, exposing her right breast.
The halftime show was carried by Viacom unit CBS and staged by sister network MTV. It has intensified calls for the government to take a tougher stance on indecency.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell has vowed a thorough investigation of the incident, calling it a" classless, crass and deplorable stunt."
The Parents Television Council, a non-profit watchdog group, said it also has been receiving complaints at a record pace, more than 24,000 so far."We are getting them like crazy," said spokeswoman Katie Wright.
Once again, I have to point out (as I just did here) that this insanity is the direct result of the dangerous fiction of"public ownership" of the airwaves, the history and meaning of which I discussed at some length here. In that same post, I talked about how even certain people widely regarded as"libertarians" also now turn to the government for solutions to problems such as these. Business, and especially"big business," is not to be trusted -- but somehow Washington bureaucrats are supposed to be paragons of virtue. (I must point out that"big business" today is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the New Fascism, the domestic component of which I discussed in detail here. But if one had to choose which represents the greater evil, I don't think there is much question that government does -- simply because government maintains a monopoly on the legal use of force, by means of which it can make everyone else do its bidding, while wielding a panoply of fearsome weapons.)
If it demonstrates anything at all, surely history proves conclusively that it is politicians and government bureaucrats who, above all others, are subject to political pressures, cronyism, and corruption. But one would hardly know it from the eagerness with which even alleged proponents of limited government today appear to regard the government as the court of final appeal, and the place from which ultimate wisdom will flow.
One wonders exactly what world people are living in, or have been living in, for lo these many years.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
Robert L. Campbell
Steve Horwitz pointed to this recent article by David Deming as an example of an immediate and pressing threat to tenure for faculty members.
Obviously it is. Deming says that his tenure was “abrogated” by the dean of his college after he openly criticized the dean’s views on affirmative action for women.
What’s been happening to Deming goes in my Category 2 (arbitrary firings of tenured faculty). Deming hasn’t been fired yet, but the punishments that have already been meted out are secure indicators that this will happen, as soon as his dean can trump something else up. Besides, a dean who openly states that “submission to authority” is a requirement for continued employment in his college will not have a hard time trumping something up.
I wish Deming had told us more about the circumstances, though. Does the University of Oklahoma have a Faculty Manual? If we assume that it does—because most universities do—what does that manual say about the criteria on which a professor’s performance is to be evaluated? What are the grounds for dismissal of tenured faculty?
Some other things that Deming doesn’t mention: What kind of rating did he get on his post-tenure review (which took place less than a year ago)? What are the official criteria for post-tenure review at the University of Oklahoma? (Presumably they don’t include judgments about a professor’s letters to the editor.) Is there a grievance procedure at OU for performance evaluations that are done in violation of the Faculty Manual? If there is one, does it work? Or is it one of those dispirited affairs where a grievance panel of Faculty Senators, most of whom secretly hanker after administrative posts, sits and nods in agreement with administrators who testify in secret, and can’t be cross-examined?
Finally, we need to know whether administrators at OU are ever disciplined, should they choose to treat the Faculty Manual like toilet paper.
What has broken down just about completely at OU is administrative accountability. It would be interesting to know whether deans at OU are ever evaluated by the faculty in their colleges. Or whether their management skill is taken into consideration by anyone with the power to evaluate them, when they are hired, when they are reappointed, or when they are up for raises.
Unfortunately, administrative accountability looks to be in short supply nearly everywhere. Provosts are reluctant to remove deans from office, even when they are power-mad or manifestly incompetent; deans, in turn, are reluctant to remove department chairs, even when engage in corrupt practices or instigate factional conflict within the department. It seems that when academic managers this bad do get removed, it is always years too late, after damage has been inflicted that could take a generation to repair.
I wonder whether organizational psychologists or management researchers have surveyed deans and provosts on questions like the following: what pattern of conduct, from an administrator who reports to you, is patently unacceptable and constitutes grounds for immediate removal from administrative responsibilities? (For some reason, though, researchers in those specialties rarely study universities…)
All of this ought to bring us to a more basic question: what is tenure for? The standard justification is academic freedom. I’m happy to agree that academic freedom is a great thing. I agree, too, that universities would be pretty awful places and would do a lousy job of fulfilling their declared mission without it. But obviously if the tenure system were designed to protect academic freedom, every faculty member would be granted tenure, when he or she walked in the door. For surely Assistant Professors and Lecturers and Instructors are as much in need of academic freedom as anyone else on the faculty, yet Assistant Professors have six unprotected years to prove that they are worthy of tenure, and Lecturers and Instructors will never be eligible for it.
A venerable book chapter by Armen Alchian (1959) suggested that tenure protects senior faculty from arbitrary firing by bad managers. At one time tenure did that job pretty well, whatever you may think of its other consequences. Deming’s story, however, is just one of many that indicate how protections against bad management are being eroded. No one keeps numbers on bad managers at universities, but the percentage of university employees who are administrators has been rising. And the admittedly spotty evidence available to me suggests that either the average administrator is becoming a worse manager--or the really bad managers can wreak more destruction today than their predecessors could get away with.
Sooner or later, anyone who is concerned about the state of higher education needs to come up with ways to restrain the growth of administration, and to make the remaining administrators more accountable. Otherwise, we may end up having to forget about institutions of higher education fulfilling any mission at all, unless it is the care and feeding of administrators.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Capt. Nik Guran, who hails from a unit of the 101st Airborne Division stationed in Hatra, had been watching a DVD copy of the film when he suddenly realized"he was sitting at the location where director William Friedkin shot the opening sequence of his 1973 horror classic," reports New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill.
Friedkin was contacted by the military and tells us that the"Army hatched this idea to turn the whole area into a tourist attraction and call it 'The Exorcist Experience'." Floodlights have already been installed to illuminate the sun temples where Friedkin filmed the scene in which Father Merrin (played by Max von Sydow) confronts the statue of Bazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon that possesses head-turning Linda Blair. It is an archaeological site that harks back to the time of Hammurabi and King Nebuchadnezzar, and Friedkin welcomes private contributions to create the theme park, which is"officially backed by the Pentagon," admission priced at $2 or $5 with a kabob lunch.
Well, thank goodness private contributions are being solicited, because the thought of yet another tax-wasting Halliburton scandal sends shivers up my silver-screen scared spine.
But why stop there? The tourist possibilities in Iraq are endless!!! Tourists can see the Sunni Triangle, where US troops face daily murderous attacks. Or maybe tourists can travel to the south of Iraq to find the home of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who might lead the Shi'ites in a massive rebellion against U.S. forces. Or maybe tourists can actually go on a WMD-hunt, similar to the Easter-egg rolls and hunts that have traditionally taken place on the White House lawn. Oh wait: You actually have to have WMDs for"The WMD Experience," otherwise tourists might think they were deceived. At least"The Exorcist Experience" features 2,600 year-old temples that are easily located.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Now that President Bush, with all the enthusiasm of a dog going to the vet, has been yanked into naming a bipartisan commission to look into intelligence failures in Iraq, I'd like to see yet another commission established. This one would look into the real failure of intelligence - not the CIA, but America's political, social and intellectual leadership. It would be instructive to examine the yahoo mood that came over much of the nation once Bush decided to go to war. The decision - its urgency - seemed to come out of nowhere. Yet most of America fell into line, and in certain segments of the media, the Murdoch press above all, dissent was ridiculed. On Fox TV, France was a called a member of the"axis of weasels" and demonstrators in Davos, Switzerland, were disparaged as"knuckleheads." Colorful stuff, but wrong and craven. ... A consensus - based on false facts, outright lies and exaggerated fears - took over the nation. ... This was no mere failure of intelligence. This was a failure of character.
Read the whole essay.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Now comes word that Janet is being forced out of the Sunday night broadcast of the Grammy Awards, a"Tit for Tat" as the classy New York Post declares. And NBC has announced that it will not air a brief glimpse of an 80-year old woman's exposed breast in tonight's episode of"ER." I guess Must-See-TV just can't handle the pressure of yet another female breast in prime time.
Has this country lost its mind? Or is it just mass cultural hypocrisy that we're witnessing? Football games are routinely saturated with scantily-clad" cheerleaders" and with commercials that feature bestiality, butt-groping, promises of 4-hour erections from the drug Cialis, and Piper the Budweiser dog biting a guy's crotch; the NFL hires MTV to stage the half-time and knows what it's getting.
So now, kiddies, we all have to be punished because the sight of a breast is more outrageous than the daily body count in Iraq. (Then again, maybe Airbrushing is the New Rule of the Land with the American Taliban: Even the dead bodies coming home from Iraq are being transported in the euphemistically named"Transfer Tubes," so nobody gets too upset.)
(I see that Chris Sciabarra has already been here. I should have known. Well, here are some additional thoughts anyway. And it's not fair: since he's on the East Coast and I'm on the West Coast, he has a three-hour advantage. I want the FCC to look into that!)
Now we have this news:
Like something in a B-horror flick, Janet Jackson's radioactive right breast has morphed into the monster that's eating Hollywood.These developments are part of the larger phenomenon that I discussed in connection with CBS's cancellation of"The Reagans" miniseries: As I said in that earlier post:
In the past 24 hours:
-- Jackson's name was stricken from the official list of presenters for Sunday's Grammy Awards telecast on CBS. That's the same network that beamed us the Super Bowl game during which Jackson's breast made its broadcast TV debut in a stunt that duet partner Justin Timberlake called a"wardrobe malfunction." According to one source close to the production, CBS and the Recording Academy are waiting for her to graciously bow out; if she does not soon, they will uninvite her.
-- ABC announced it will initiate a five-second delay on its live telecast of the Academy Awards so it can censor any"wardrobe malfunctions" or Bono-esque"[expletive] brilliant" moments.
-- The NFL canceled this weekend's Pro Bowl halftime show starring Timberlake's fellow 'N Sync-er JC Chasez because it was afraid of his choice of songs --"Blowing Me Up (With Her Love)" -- and the accompanying choreography. Chasez has been replaced with"Hawaiian-themed entertainment."
-- NBC cut from tonight's"ER" episode a shot of an exposed breast of an 80-year-old woman receiving emergency care, even though the network says it thinks the shot is appropriate.
[John] LeBoutillier's perspective on this is overwrought in the extreme -- but if conservatives themselves choose to view the cancellation of an insignificant television program in this light, the rest of us would probably be well-advised to take them at their word. This"total victory" will likely only embolden them to try this kind of thing more and more often. And that could be very dangerous.I went on to talk about the instructive, and tragic, lessons to be gleaned from Rod Serling's fate in television -- how a superbly talented, original writer was condemned to transfer his talents to"The Twilight Zone," because his abilities were too disturbing and upsetting to the powers-that-be when applied to this world.
It is not that this is censorship. It isn't, since it is not the government doing this. However, as I pointed out a few days ago, the danger from these kinds of pressures is the genuine chilling effect that such pressures will have -- on views which are not in the"mainstream," which are provocative, or disturbing in any way at all to the powers-that-be. In other words, pressures such as these will tend to suffocate anything remotely original. What will remain is bland, utterly conventional, boring,"Father Knows Best" kind of programming -- a prospect which ought to disturb anyone over the age of ten. It certainly ought to disturb anyone who claims to be a grownup.
I should note that, at this point, the specter of censorship is now beginning to be seen -- when we have the FCC threatening punitive fines and even the possible revocation of station licenses, if network programmers do not conform their fare to what is deemed"appropriate" by some bureaucrat in Washington.
More and more, the message from television, and from our culture generally, is a simple and very clear one: adults need not apply.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
In his 18 page speech at Georgetown, CIA Director George Tenet talked about the Agency's role in collecting intelligence on Iraq.
He was, for one thing, the only prominent Dem I can remember who wasn't compulsively confessional, letting his every, teary emotion well up so we could share it, as if electoral politics was some kind of big early-70s group encounter session. Dean's reticence is reflective of one of the few admirable traits possessed by New England WASPs--a sense that a person's inner life is his own business, to be shared behind closed doors with one other person at most, not broadcast to the world.
Beyond that, he was a guy who would say what he thought, even when what he thought was stupid or impolitic. You have to--or at least I have to--like a presidential candidate who when asked"do you ever think to yourself, what would Jesus do?" answers, gruffly"No!"
Even when electoral politics called upon Dean to be calculating, he'd botch it in an endearingly ham-handed way, letting everybody know the calculated move he was about to undertake:"I'm heading down South where they expect you to talk about God, so I'm getting all geared up to talk about God."
And another thing--I liked his wife. Or at least I liked her attitude. She took a lot of crap for not standing by her man throughout his year-long idyll through every Goddamned Arby's in Iowa, shaking hands with complete strangers and acting like he was happy to see them. There's something to be said for the idea that you support your betrothed wholeheartedly in whatever they do, but when your lawful wedded husband decides to dress up like a Klingon and head off to the Trek convention, the rational response--Judy Dean's response--is,"have fun honey--I'll mind the home front while you're gone!"
None of this is to say that Howard Dean would have been a good president. Far from it. But as others have pointed out, for most people, politics is about cultural cues. I'm probably not immune to that dynamic. And politics rarely throws up anyone that appeals to me culturally. The choice is usually between some glad-handing B-school jackass and some other guy whose nickname has been"Senator" since he was in prep school. Well, where's the candidate for people of my ilk, who've spent our whole lives making fun of the brownnosing twerps who run for student government? The good doctor was a far cry from my kind of guy, but in this kind of crowd, he was as close as they come.
Just a few hours after I noted how the Democrats will start to dance and waffle on same-sex marriage, along comes John Kerry with some fancy footwork. From today's WSJ Best of the Web:
The New York Times reports that Kerry says he rejects the ruling:
In a statement on Wednesday night, Mr. Kerry clearly sought a middle ground. He said he believed in protecting the "fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples, from inheritance to health benefits," but added that he believed the answer was civil unions.
"I oppose gay marriage and disagree with the Massachusetts court's decision," he said.
To be sure, Kerry has tried to have it both ways on the issue of same-sex marriage, as Ed Gillespie, the Republican National Committee chairman, notes in the Times:
Mr. Gillespie . . . noted that Mr. Kerry voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages, a measure that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Kerry said at the time that while he opposed same-sex marriage, he was voting against the bill because "I believe that this debate is fundamentally ugly, and it is fundamentally political, and it is fundamentally flawed."
Put on your dancin' shoes folks.
A new low is this column by Mort Zuckerman who gets the problem wrong (again blaming Bush's tax cuts) but advocates virtually nothing as a solution. If someone out there could teach journalists even the most basic concepts in economics it would do the world a tremendous service and prevent me from screaming at just about every columnist I read who tries to write about markets.
2) The lifestyle Nazis at the Center for Science in the Public Interest want to ban the phrase"net carbs" from food labels. The argument from CSPI is that"a carb is a carb is a carb," and it's misleading to distinguish them.
Hidden agenda: This is a direct attack on the Atkins diet, which CSPI finds abominable. The only people to whom the"net carb" labeling is useful are Atkins dieters. The number reflects the total carbs in the foodstuff, minus those carbs that have no effect on insulin levels -- mainly sugar alcohols and fiber.
If anything,"net carbs" are a more specific form of labeling -- total carbs are still listed. You'd think that CSPI, an alleged consumer advocacy group, wouldn't have much problem with labels that give consumers more information, and that give certain consumers the exact information they're looking for -- namely, how a given item might affect blood sugar levels.
But not when more information might advance the agenda of that devil Atkins.
On certain days, it's just so deep that you need a shovel, or several. Mr. Rumsfeld speaks:
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and other Democrats on the committee reminded Rumsfeld that in September 2002 he said"we know" where weapons of mass destruction are stored in Iraq.Ah. Well, these things happen.
Explaining that remark, Rumsfeld told the panel that he was referring to suspected weapons sites, but he acknowledged that he had made it sound like he was talking about actual weapons.
The remark"probably turned out not to be what one would have preferred, in retrospect," he said.
Read the rest of the story, for all the various explanations as to what happened to Iraq's WMD. They went to some other country (just in case another war seems helpful, what with the election and all), they were destroyed, it was all a charade, everyone was fooled, including Saddam (and us, not coincidentally)...you know the drill.
Oh, and the last one in the story:
The findings of the Kay group, he added, so far have"not proven Saddam Hussein had what intelligence indicated he had and what we believed he had. But it also has not proven the opposite."In other words:"You can't prove God doesn't exist!"
I would offer a long explanation about the dangers of the arbitrary, and where the burden of proof properly lies. But I've already done that.
Besides, I'm not altogether sure he would understand it anyway.
Meanwhile, anyone got a deal on shovels? I have a feeling I'm going to need a lot of them in the next few months.