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Monday, February 28, 2005
President Bush Fires Andrew Sullivan From Blog
(Roiters) First it was Dan Rather, now it's one of America's top bloggers. Andrew Sullivan received his pink slip from the White House today for his chronic dissent with the Bush administration.
Karl Rove explained the decision in a press conference this morning. "We didn't expect him to toe the line on the gay marriage issue, and every conservative blogger has been putting us down for spending money like a bunch of drunken teenagers on Spring Break in Cancun with the parents' credit cards. But Sullivan's posts on the war and the torture allegations were over the top. He had to go for the sake of national security."
The popular radio show was guest-hosted last week while Rush went on a trip to visit Afghanistan. He called into the show three times to report on his adventure. Here are the transcripts from the official site:
She actually showed up to receive her Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress in a Leading Role in the atrocious Catwoman. The film also won Worst Picture, Director, and Screenplay. (The flick might have won a fifth if the Razzies had a Worst Costume category.) See other results here.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (annoying-but-free registration required) has the story. Mayor Laura Miller isn't enthusiastic, but she's giving the Angels a chance:
The mayor said Sliwa was charming and earnest, and despite her misgivings, she acknowledged that the city can't ban the group. Instead, Miller concurred with Police Chief David Kunkle's recommendation to see how the group performs before supporting it with radio equipment.
"If they walk around and there aren't any skirmishes, shootings or kidnappings and the things they've been involved with in other cities, maybe it will be fine and it will be low-key," Miller said. "But these aren't low-key folks, so we'll see what happens."
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
"Finally, let me reiterate a line that I borrowed from President Roosevelt for the Inaugural Speech. We learned in the 1980s that we had to be about bold, persistent experimentation. That is what I want to try to convince Congress and the country we ought to do. It means that we will try some things that will not work. And when we do, we have to have the courage to quit."
"The case for trade is not just monetary, but moral. Economic freedom creates habits of liberty. And habits of liberty create expectations of democracy."
George W. Bush (speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, November 19, 1999)
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, GWB quotes from Wikiquote. Johnson, Ford, Carter, GHWB, and Clinton quotes from websites for respective presidential libraries. Reagan quote from PBS "The American Experience" site.
Update: FYI, these are all the presidents of my lifetime (b. 11/05/1960).
Because There's Only So Many Presidential Pardons To Go Around
Hillary Clinton wants federal law to allow ex-felons to vote. A few states extend voting rights to ex-felons not currently serving probation; the "Not Everybody Is As Lucky As Marc Rich" bill would force all states to adopt this measure.
The organization's founder Curtis Sliwa is coming to Dallas this weekend (free registration required) to meet with city leaders about bringing their combination of street patrols and outreach to at-risk youth to Dallas.
But the reception is not the most enthusiastic. One official seems unclear of the concept of citizen-initiated-and-funded crime prevention programs:
Council member Gary Griffith, the Public Safety Committee's vice chairman, said an Angels presence in Dallas could cause more trouble than it's worth.
"It's probably not the best time for them to come to Dallas," Mr. Griffith said. "They're a very controversial group. All of our time, attention and resources need to be directed on what the chief is trying to do to fight crime."
Mayor Laura Miller seems to think that the group has the opposite effect on crime, but cites no evidence:
"The last thing we need is for them to come down and have our crime statistics go up," the mayor said earlier. "Everywhere they've gone, they've created more controversy than they've done to solve crime."
Satirist P.J. O'Rourke once accompanied the Guardian Angels on an outing and reported the experience in his book Parliament of Whores; that section of the book is available here. His assessment of the group is noteworthy:
The Guardian Angels are, like Batman, Miss Marple, and the Baker Street Irregulars, unarmed amateur fighters of crime. Such groups are ubiquitous in popular fiction but never exist in real life. Unarmed amateur crime fighting would be useless in a lawful society and suicidal in a lawless one. In America, however, we have managed to produce a combination of vandalized wealth and spoiled want, police legalism and ACLU firepower that makes something as fundamentally absurd as the Guardian Angels not only possible but a godsend.
Read the whole thing.
Update: This is Texas. If the Angels are coming to town, they gotta ditch the berets and get some cowboy hats :-)
"If somebody gave me $20 million I could go out and buy a bunch of orange shower curtains or sheets or whatever and hang them up on poles, but because my name isn't Christo, it wouldn't be perceived as art."
On his show today, Rush expressed his agreement with a definition of art stated in, of all sources, The DaVinci Code. He didn't recall the exact wording, but the book expressed the view that art necessarily represents things we find in nature. One may find this view odd, coming from a novel rooted in a Renaissance that produced portraits of fantastic creatures from Greco-Roman myth. But the stuff of myth, from centaurs to starships, incorporate the familiar stuff of the real world.
There is a subset of art that does not meet the above definition: shapes and forms that just look cool - in a word, ornamentation. Architecture is the prime example. The rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral and the spire of the Chrysler Tower do not reflect nature; they are aesthetically-pleasing (to most) works of fine craftmanship.
Under this definition, "The Gates" barely qualifies as art. It is purely ornamental, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But it's not great art. It's kitsch.
Click here to see an EIB Photshop of "The Gates." Don't know how long this'll be on Limbaugh's servers, so click today!
Update: Actually, Notre Dame's rose window is a combination of ornamental and representative art. This is the biggest image I could find of its interior; you can barely make out the various stained glass images. This exterior shot shows in good detail the supporting structure and the statuary in front of the window.
Still, the display seems just a little self-indulgent - okay, a lot self-indulgent - given the critical need for resources on the other side of the planet right about now.
It's hard not to wonder whether that $20 million couldn't be used in a manner that would be "rational, responsible, useful" - i.e., helping the hundreds of thousands around the Indian Ocean basin who have lost everything.
(Gee, nobody ever says this about the hundreds of millions spent on art by the National Endowment for the Arts.)
There is nothing new about this attitude. A November 2000 Neal Boortz column (via NewsMax) addresses this complaint in the "Vent" section of the Atlanta Constitution:
"Elton John spent $419,000 for flowers in a single year. I wonder how many folks that would feed in Hosea Williams' Feed the Hungry program?"
Among other remarks, Boortz explains where Elton's money went:
This loser implies that Elton John should have given that money to the Hosea Williams dinner. That would be a good way to feed people, I guess. The implication here is that Elton John didn't feed anyone by purchasing $419,000 in flowers.
Consider, for a moment, the number of people it took to deliver $419,000 worth of flowers for Elton John.
First you have the people who grew these flowers. In growing those flowers they utilized the services of people who manufacture and sell fertilizers, seed, farm equipment, irrigation equipment, and harvesting equipment. This farmer will probably employ quite a few people, who will be using their earnings to send their children to school, to buy groceries at the local market, to make mortgage or rent payments, etc.
Then you have the people involved in getting these flowers to distribution centers where they're stored until shipment to florist shops. Then the florist shops naturally have to make arrangements to have them shipped to the eventual customer – in this case, Elton John.
In this process you have those who manufactured the shipping equipment (which can include everything from trucks to airplanes) as well as the people who drive, fly and operate that equipment. You have warehouse employees and florist shop employees. Just how far do we go here? All of these companies and the people who work for them are earning money – Elton John's money – that they then use to feed their own families. And in so doing they support local businesses, which allows those other local businessmen to earn money to feed their families.
Artists bring jobs to those who supply and ship their raw materials (and everyone who does business with them), just as Elton John enriches florists and related industries. Charity is fine and good, but capitalism is a gift that keeps on giving.
Just think of how many Indonesians could feed, house, or vaccinate themselves if they had a few Christos boosting their economy.
A Comforting Thought. If you will be having a romantic Valentine's Day dinner tonight, you will be pleased to hear of a new study from the University of Oslo. It concludes that lobsters – along with most other invertebrates -- don't have the capacity to feel pain, even if submerged in boiling water. EIA prefers to sheathe them in protective ravioli, just in case.
The eight-day Yalta Conference that paved the way for the Communist enslavement of eastern Europe was concluded sixty years ago today. In this post Rand Simberg links to a National Review article on Yalta's legacy.
Erik Kyriacou, 24, of North Babylon, N.Y., had been charged with four federal counts, including trying to export technology to an "axis of evil" country, reported Long Island's Newsday.
Kyriacou was arrested in April after offering four Astroscope night-vision lenses for sale on eBay. In January 2004 he was contacted by an undercover customs agent posing as an international arms trader named "Akbar," who explained he wanted to deliver them to Iran.
After agreeing on an $8,000 sale price with the undercover agent, the NBC lensman shipped the banned material to an address in Vienna, Austria, Newsday said, sourcing court papers.
So where did he get the lenses?
The lenses were stolen from NBC, where Kyriacou worked as a news cameraman, according to prosecutors.
I have a question: when private firms such as NBC possess technology whose export to certain countries is banned, what sort of security precautions are supposed to be in place to ensure that the tech doesn't wind up in the wrong hands?
North Korean diplomats issued their protest to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, saying the film ridicules North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the Lidove Noviny daily said.
The film, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, uses a cast of puppets - including one of Kim - to poke fun at the US war on terror. The team of marionettes fights terrorism, reducing world capitals to rubble along the way, in their quest to keep Kim from destroying the world.
"It harms the image of our country," the newspaper quoted a North Korean diplomat as saying. "Such behavior is not part of our country's political culture. Therefore, we want the film to be banned."
The Czechs will not grant their request:
The Czech Foreign Ministry said the film would not be banned in the Czech Republic.
"We told them it's an unrealistic wish," ministry spokesman Vit Kolar was quoted as saying. "Obviously, it's absurd to demand that in a democratic country."
What gets my attention is that this film has been out for about four months, and there haven't been any news stories about North Korean official levying similar demands in other countries, including this one.
PoliticalCompass.org postures that economic issues are the sole determinant of left vs. right, and, more importantly, that social issues are the sole determinant of libertarian vs. authoritarian - as if socialism were not inherently authoritarian and that free markets were not inherently libertarian.
The graph looks superficially like that of the Political Compass. How similar is it? On this page it defines the two criteria it seeks to measure:
The Moral Order dimension defines your ideal view of the world. Achieving or preserving that ideal order is the goal of politics.
The Moral Rules dimension defines the rules you think are most appropriate to achieving your ideal moral order. Implementing these rules is the object of politics.
"Moral Rules" plots the continuum between independence and interdependence (links lead to detailed descriptions of each) - individual initiative versus collective initiative. Since "initiative" refers to resource allocation and how it should be organized, this parallels the economic issues axis of the Political Compass.
"Moral Order" represents the continuum between nonconformance and conformance. This parallels the authority-liberty axis of the Political Compass.
It's got the same problem as the Political Compass, with one difference: the liberal-versus-conservative conflict is defined in terms of order, not economics.
(The Moral Matrix explicitly acknowledges libertarian socialism. Perry de Havilland criticized the Political Compass for this political non sequitur - see here and here.)
The language of the Moral Matrix elaborates on the problems with both quizzes. The Political Compass treats socialism as being independent from authoritarianism. The Moral Matrix, using its definitions, treats the trend toward collectivism as being independent from the trend toward conformity - toward imposing through force one's ideal view of the world. Collectivism isn't just about means; it always accompanies utopian views of social order.
There are two tests. The short one asks two questions: whether all, most, some, or no humans are fundamentally good, and whether taking care of others should have greater, lesser, or equal priority (if done at all) to taking care of ourselves. Obviously, the first addresses "order" and the second addresses "rules." The first question assumes a false correlation between increasingly negative views toward the nature of humanity and increasing conformism; it doesn't take into account that perceived badness can be addressed by means other than force. The second equates charitability with forced redistribution.
Now let's fisk the stuffing out of look at the long test. Test question is in italicized boldface; commentary follows.:
About God. Belief/disbelief in God is not a political indicator. Thomas Jefferson and the Ayatollah Khomeni believed in God. Ayn Rand and Joseph Stalin didn't believe in God.
About ethnic groups. This refers to not ethnic rights but ethnic capabilities. How one views this topic is irrelevant to whether it should be a factor in government policy.
About cultures: If some cultures are better than others (which is true), that doesn't mean that government should be involved in all cultural conflict.
About countries: We are not citizens of the world. We don't owe blind obedience to anybody. The interests (needs) of citizens are one and the same with those of the state.
About lifestyles: None of the answers are right. Nobody can honestly say that most lifestyles are or are not acceptable, since nobody has a remote idea how many different lifestyles exist. "Lifestyle" is a broad term encompassing situations the government should and should not involve itself with. "Traditional" and "non-traditional" are terms that can be applied to both morally neutral and morally relevant lifestyles. And note this bias: two of the answers are "'Traditional' lifestyles should be encouraged" and "'Non-traditional' lifestyles are not acceptable" - there is no answer reflecting Political Correctness that condemns "tradition" and promotes (rather than being neutral towards) "non-tradition."
About men and women: Beleifs about gender roles do not necessarily influence beliefs about whether government should regulate them. Note that one of the answers is "Men have moral authority over women," but the gender-feminist belief that women are morally superior to men is not among the selections.
About Nature: This has three correct answers: it is "resource," "something we must actively protect," and "an asset we must manage carefully." These answers can reflect all but the extreme collectivist end of the "moral rules" spectrum. The wrong answer - that "we belong to Nature" - is a good predictor of envirofascism.
About success: Oh, please. The definition of "success" is mostly apolitical.
About education: There is no answer that takes private charity, or the combination of markets and charity, into account. There's the pure market answer ("best education they can afford") and the three statist answers about where "we" - meaning the collectivist-shepherded public - should be forced to focus our education resources.
About business: One can nit-pick over the meaning of "private," but in the proper context the first answer is right: business is a "private matter" in that the individual must set the individual's trade policy. The other answers reflect variations of collectivism; "we" should give extra goodies if businesses "are successful," or "put social responsibility ahead of profitability," or "serve society."
About domestic security (protection from crime): The first three answers are correct: "We should be ready to defend ourselves," "We can't completely rely on police to keep us safe," and "Security is everyone's concern." None of these is a political predictor. The fourth answer is a good political predictor; one who strives to make everyone equally secure believes that it's even possible - this is a hallmark of collectivism.
About health care: Once again, the only question that serves as a predictor is the one at the extreme collectivist end of the spectrum. As for "help[ing] those without health care," one who selects this answer doesn't necessarily believe that government should force taxpayers to provide the help - there is such a thing as private charity, after all.
About professional employment and advancement: Three of these answers are good political predictors. "We should first reward the best and hardest working" reflects true laissez-faire; buyers reward first those who meet their quality requirements most, and employers do likewise with regard to employees. The latter two cite slogans chanted by those who overestimate the cruelty of the workplace and seek nanny-state solutions for such. The second, "Work and discipline should pay off," is somewhat vague, since there is no qualifier with regard to work quality as in the first question.
About financial security: Good political predictors.
About charity: Good political predictors.
About the respect of the Law: The fourth one is the collectivist answer; only utopian idiots think crime can be eliminated. (Well, actually it can - if you eliminate all sentient life.) Moderate collectivists will select "reduce the causes of crime," although noncollectivists generally regard the first three answers as legitimate ingredients to crimefighting.
Problems with the Moral Matrix methodology should be evident in this "map" of the American political parties. There should be a lot more distance between the Libertarians and Greens. The collectivism of the Dems and even the Greens is understated. Since "order" is stated in terms of traditionalism oppressing nontraditionalism (failing to take the Political Correctness opposite into account), Green and Dem political conformism is understated.
NewsMax has the entire text here. I'm not feeling especially inspired to comment. But I do have some things to say about the response. Let's start with Harry Reid:
Too many of the president's economic policies have left Americans and American companies struggling. And after we worked so hard to eliminate the deficit, his policies have added trillions to the debt - in effect, a "birth tax" of $36,000 on every child that is born.
The top cause of the debt is domestic spending. Military cuts ain't gonna balance the budget. What domestic programs are you willing to cut, Mr. Reid?
This 21st century economy holds great promise for our people. But unless we give all Americans the skills they need to succeed, countries like India and China will take good-paying jobs that should be ours.
It's not a zero-sum game. Competition is how companies learn to be more productive and more profitable. American industry (yes, there's still lots of it) wouldn't be as efficient as it is now if Japanese firms hadn't been kicking our butts in the '80s. Competition teaches us how to do things better. Protection is the coward's way out.
From early childhood education to better elementary and high schools to making college more affordable to training workers so they can get better jobs, Democrats believe every American should have a world-class education and the skills they need in a world-wide economy.
So make education competitive. End the government monopoly. Protectionism is the coward's way out. Tell the NEA and AFT to take a flying leap.
Health-care costs have shot up double-digits year after year of the Bush administration and that's costing us jobs, costing us our competitiveness, and costing families their peace of mind. We need to make health care and prescription drugs affordable for all so that our families and our small businesses will no longer have to shoulder this dead weight.
And that's why we so strongly disagree with the president's plan to privatize Social Security...It's more like Social Security roulette. Democrats are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings. But that doesn't mean taking Social Security's guarantee and gambling with it. And that's coming from a senator who represents Las Vegas.
Social Security, like education, should be taken from those who have no incentive to run it properly to those who do - that is, to privatize it.
Do we believe that big corporations with powerful lobbyists should get special favors and that the wealthiest should get special tax breaks? Or do we believe we are all God's children and that each of us should get a fair shot and each of us deserves a say in our future?
You're on to something. Special tax breaks for corporations and all God's children!
Next, Nancy Pelosi:
We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force.
Can we can stay indefinitely and not be viewed as an occupying force, like we do in Western Germany and Okinawa?
We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq.
We end our presence by killing and apprehending the enemy until the Iraqi forces are strong and stable enough to stand up to them on their own. Can't put a timeline on that, any more than we could put a timeline on Guadalcanal.
And we did not hear one tonight.
How much detail do you want the President to spell out - for our enemies and the rest of the world to hear?
We must extend the hand of friendship to our neighbors in Latin America.
Her first assignment will be to cover the fake hostage story that has been widely discussed throughtout the blogosphere. Glenn Reynolds has a cornucopia of links - see also this post. Scrappleface is also on the case.
My earlier post needs clarification. First and foremost, it is an attempt by a layman to use common sense to figure out the minimal disclosure requirements for a media entity to function ethically. Actual industry requirements are stricter. , with perhaps mild variation from firm to firm, and taking into account other factors than potential journalistic conflict of interest (such as "stuff that might impinge on your time at the day job" conflict of interest).
This stems from my original post on the Maggie Gallagher affair. She got into trouble for failing to disclose something she wasn't contractually required to disclose. (The Armstrong Williams flap involves a different controversy: whether it is okay for government agencies to run paid media advertising promoting - or opposing - policy proposals.) She is accused of violating principle and not rule, so ultimately this requires a philosophical analysis.
At the end of the second post I stated that disclosure policy would depend on whether one is an opinion or news journalist, and whether one is a contractor or a staffer. "The Rules of Disclosure" indirectly hit on a third: whether the media company in question is advocacy-based.
(If I had been more orderly - as if I hadn't already taken my tendency toward thoroughness to excess - I would have run bullet points for the eight different combinations: opinion/contractor/non-advocacy, opinion/contractor/advocacy, etc.)
In that post I sought to put all three together into that basic (albeit incomplete, as stated in that post) set of "minimal disclosure requirements." Bringing the focus to both staff and contract journalists was intended to illustrate that the they had different sets of interest, and thus different sets of potential conflicts of interest, suggesting that each should be subject to different disclosure guidelines.
Two statements in the "Rules" post require a little self-fisking:
A staff journalist contracting to another media organization should disclose the contract to his/her employer. (Everybody in media knows this. Stated here for thoroughness.)
A professional journalist reminded me of something I already knew but was too sloppy to pick the right phraseology to express. "Disclosure" isn't the right word to describe such transactions. Staff journalists get permission to do gigs with other media firms.
Syndicated columnists (or radio talk show hosts) act as agents for themselves and not for media outlets that buy their syndication...
This is not true if the media outlet in advocacy-based. A newspaper op-ed page (for example) is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates; any given column is just one selection out of many of the section's points of view. That column appearing in Mother Jones is there to augment the magazine's philosophy. Thus, Mother Jones has a bigger stake than a newspaper has in the columnist's background.
Update: "Agent" may be the wrong word to describe the concept above. Some may feel it implies some sort of coordination between writer and publication that does not exist. Syndicated writers ultimately write for themselves. (No, I haven't gotten such a reply in email - this is a preemptive strike.) Advocacy and non-advocacy media have differing levels of interest in a syndicated writer's background, and thus may require differing levels of disclosure.
After all that thinking out loud about media disclosure requirements in my earlier post, it's time to put it all together in an orderly and relatively brief fashion. First I'll spell out the two reasons why this is a concern:
Credibility. News journalists must be convincingly objective with their reporting. Regarding advocacy-based media companies (such as Reason magazine or Trinity Broadcasting), articles (or broadcasts) must be consistently compatible with the company's advocacy.
Independence. A media company should not give the appearance that someone external to that company (such as government or some business entanglement) is determining media content.
From this we can draw several rules of thumb on whether journalists should disclose certain affiliations. This may not be complete, but it should hit most examples.
("Journalist" refers to both reporters and pundits, unless otherwise specified. "Staff journalist" means a regular employee, as opposed to a contractor. Media contracts include but are not limited to: syndicated columns, syndicated radio programs, guest columns, regular or guest hosting a TV show.)
A staff journalist contracting to another media organization should disclose the contract to his/her employer. (Everybody in media knows this. Stated here for thoroughness.)
A staff journalist who contracts or has contracted to the government should disclose the contract to his/her employer.
A staff journalist who contracts or has contracted to a private firm should disclose the contract to his/her employer only when and if that firm becomes the subject of media coverage. (Some may argue that producers and editors, due to their scope of authority, should disclose all private business contracts, or at least those with major firms.)
Syndicated columnists (or radio talk show hosts) act as agents for themselves and not for media outlets that buy their syndication, and thus have no moral obligation to disclose their public- and private-sector contracts.
A staff journalist with an advocacy-based press organization should disclose significant and relevant partisan affiliations. This is generally not necessary; advocacy media tend to find out about this sort of thing in advance - advocacy journalists generally get their gigs in this manner. Besides, journalists' partisan affiliations tend to be out in the open (not to mention Googlable). National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru isn't going to wake up one morning and find out that Jay Nordlinger is a closet Brookings scholar.