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Senility Watch: In an incoherent Nation column about the Florida ballot re-count and the New York Times, Gore Vidal tosses off this beaut of equivalence:

In the old Soviet Union, various Russian friends were often surprisingly well informed about the world despite the fact that their view of it was largely shaped by their New York Times, Pravda.
Whatever, freak!

12/8/2001 07:52:39 PM

What a Country!: Australia, the former penal colony, apparently has some dreadful “racial vilification commission,” which spends actual time and taxpayer money to make sure that columnists don’t insult groups of people. You may have heard of this recently, when some guy named Phillip Adams wrote the usual U.S.-as-terrorist column and was called in by the commission after somebody in Utah complained. It’s the whole speech-code irony deal, and I had really thought that it was an urban legend, but Tim Blair sets this (and a lot else) straight.

12/8/2001 05:50:46 PM

Frisco Claims Hippie Bin Johnny as one of its own: Literally incredible column about John Walker from San Francisco Chronicle Senior Writer Louis Freedberg, under the un-ironic headline “A Product of Bay Area Culture.” Freedberg examines all the ways that John Walker is actually a typical Bay Area kid … and then uses that as a way to celebrate San Francisco culture! Un-bloody-believable. In this scenario, Walker’s parents should be praised for their tolerance, the anti-American nuts should be proud of shouting lies to impressionable minds, and this whole little treason mess is nothing more than some damnably bad luck.
The Bay Area is also a place that encourages critical thinking about the U. S. role in the world.
Insert laugh track here. “Critical thinking”?
That may have played a part in his vulnerability to the Taliban's extreme propaganda.

Walker's misfortune is that his search for identity intersected precisely with the World Trade Center attacks, and the U.S. declaration of war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

With a slightly different turn of events, Walker might have become the idealistic doctor he once talked about, in order to help the poor in developing countries. Then we would have been celebrating his achievements, instead of wondering what went wrong.

Yes, and with a “slightly different turn of events,” Jim Jones could have become mayor of San Francisco, instead of a murdering hippie cultist. Here’s the conclusion:
Instead of labeling him a traitor, as we did to Aaron Burr, Tokyo Rose and Ezra Pound, President Bush should allow Walker's parents to fly him back to Fairfax, and let him get his life back on track. We'd want nothing less for our own children, who could easily have found themselves in a similar mess.
With these kind of senior writers, it’s a wonder why the Chronicle hasn’t become that “world-class paper” the Hearst boys and Phil Bronstein kept talking about. Good Lord, what swill. (Via Andrew Sullivan ... UPDATE: Steven Den Beste takes a swing, as do Charles Johnson and Moira Breen.)

12/8/2001 02:00:50 PM

Bunch of Good Stuff at Joanne Jacobs: She makes fun of a ridiculously pessimistic Times of London account of Mullah Omar’s capture, writes this memorable line
Today is the day to make false comparisons between voluntary questioning of Arab immigrants and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
and hits several other bullseyes.

12/8/2001 01:25:40 PM

Happy Birthday, Gnome!: Noam Chomsky turned 73 yesterday, according to most press reports (some have him at 72). In a fawning tribute, lefty media critic Norman Solomon trots out the usual canard about how the “the gatekeepers for big media in the United States don't want to hear what Noam Chomsky has to say -- and they'd prefer that we not hear him either.” Ooooh … a dissident is here! It’s a foolish column (Solomon suggests that we “can’t make an informed judgment” on the Gnomer unless we “read a couple of Chomsky’s books," for instance), but I thought it might be fun to run the Noam-is-shut-out-by-the-media thesis through the Dow Jones Interactive database of newspapers, magazines, teevee transcripts and newsletters around the globe. I compared the raw numbers of times these sources mentioned the name “Noam Chomsky” between Sept. 10 and today, and compared it to 30 other prominent commentators and personalities.

The results: Noam came in fifth overall, with 357 mentions. More than his nemesis Christopher Hitchens (257), more than world-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post (130), much more than the terrific journalist/historian Timothy Garton Ash (30). Thankfully, Dave Barry topped the list, with 560. A complete tally of my random Dow Jones search:

560 Dave Barry
484 Christiane Amanpour
465 Maureen Dowd
378 Susan Sontag
357 Noam Chomsky
338 Edward Said
318 Charles Krauthammer
313 Robert Fisk
255 Christopher Hitchens
219 Molly Ivins
208 Barbara Kingsolver
172 John Pilger
167 Andrew Sullivan
138 Robert Kaplan
134 William Kristol
130 Jim Hoagland
126 Arundhati Roy
107 William F. Buckley
101 Michael Kinsley
50 Glenn Reynolds
50 William Pfaff
41 William Shawcross
36 David Talbot
31 Matt Welch (it's a common name for high school athletes)
30 Timothy Garton Ash
29 David Rieff
27 Peter Beinart
24 Virginia Postrel
9 William Saletan

And Dow Jones generally doesn't measure much on the Internet, where Noam's words thrive.

12/7/2001 06:43:07 PM

No ‘Dirtbag’ Journalism for Ellen Goodman: She thinks it’s bad that Osama Bin Laden gets called “dirtbag” on Fox News. I must confess to extreme boredom when it comes to the post-Sept. 11 debate about journalism, but I thought this bit was interesting:
Tom Rosensteil at the Project for Excellence in Journalism has been holding media seminars asking loaded questions: “Are you a journalist first or an American first?” Not surprisingly, reporters reject the conflict or choice.
Perhaps they would have answered the question more directly if Rosensteil had offered the category “misunderstood victim” … sorry, that was mean.

12/7/2001 05:15:33 PM

Latest One from Eric ‘Cool Papa’ Neel: It’s a sports column for ESPN about the Rocky theme song, so naturally it has a perfect description of defending a dissertation:
A "diss" defense is a weird event. You spend three or four years, sometimes longer, researching and writing a book-length project that's supposed to be both definitive and groundbreaking, and then give it to four or five readers, who sit you down and ask you questions about it for a couple of hours. When it's over, you're a doctor.

In most cases, the defense itself is relatively painless -- if your project is too weak, the committee shouldn't let you schedule the meeting -- but the days and weeks and months leading up to it can be torture.

All your insecurity demons come out of the closet when you write a dissertation. Every sentence, every phrase, is a chance to become more convinced of your inadequacy. Somehow -- hypnosis, therapy, fear of disappointing your parents, a stout glass of wine at noon and another one at 5 o'clock every day -- you get it done. But that's all it is: done. It's not good, and it's not worth reading and it's nowhere near the project you hoped you'd have when you started. You can barely stand to look at it.

12/7/2001 05:13:34 PM

Aschroft-Love at the WSJ: This is an embarrassing editorial by the Wall Street Journal, exhibiting the worst kind of strawman-hunting and gleeful partisan bashing … not to mention an alarming display of weak-kneed love for he-man Congress-flouters:
Mr. Ashcroft started out on offense and never let up. We can't recall so complete a political rout since Ollie North ran circles around the Iran-Contra committee.
Ah, the good old days, when the “rule of law” was just a twinkle in Henry Hyde’s eye, and real men lied under oath. What garbage. (Via Brian Linse)

12/7/2001 02:23:48 PM

A Friendly Reminder About Ashcroft and the Democrats: The only reason John Ashcroft is Attorney General is that the Democratic Party did not have the cojones to challenge his nomination. Instead, messers Daschle, Kennedy and Jackson chose to turn their guns on Linda Chavez, for her sin of helping immigrants and violating technicalities. Ashcroft, who had a long record of unpleasant tendencies, sailed through without so much as a discussion of his views on the INS, a terrible organization that the Justice Department oversees. (As a senator, for example, Ashcroft voted to deny benefits to naturalized citizens.) More and more, it becomes difficult for me to understand what the Democrats stand for, besides abortion rights.

12/7/2001 12:40:03 PM

Strange New Column From Me: It’s about … well, something to do with George Harrison, media grief, Albertsons, deviance, cultural mobility … and how the cry of “dissent” is essentially an aesthetic reflex. Unfortunately, the headline makes it seem like I’m bashing my pal George, when that wasn’t the intent … especially now that I’ve heard he’s releasing a posthumous album with a ridiculous pun in the title.

12/7/2001 11:56:21 AM

Good News: The House yesterday passed “fast-track” authority -- by a single vote -- so that the president's free trade agreements will be subject to a simple yes-no vote in Congress. I’m biased, obviously, but this strikes me as the single most important non-war post-Sept. 11 development besides the Bush-Putin slashing of the nuclear weapons arsenal.

12/7/2001 12:31:17 AM

Server Hiccups: I was out all night at Papa Cristo’s in the "Byzantine-Latin" distrcit, and later to the wonderfully socialist Department of Water and Power Holiday Lights Festival in Griffith Park (twice, even) ... and came home to see that the server wasn't working. Sorry about that.

12/7/2001 12:19:31 AM

Bill James, on Professionalism and Journalism: For those of you who don’t know him, Bill James is a baseball analyst, statistical whiz, and author. He has a new book out called “The Historical Abstract.” When I casually asked all you Bill James fans out there to e-mail me, I received more than 20 responses (by far the most e-mail on a single topic since Sept. 11). I am sorry that I haven’t responded to half of you … it’s been a very frantic recent period for me.

Anyways, here’s a bit from his new book, contained (naturally) in his comment about Steve Carlton. Eric Neel mailed me this book, because he’s a sweetheart. He’s also a new father – welcome to Planet Earth, little Tess! Here’s the excerpt, edited to emphasize what interested me … the last sentence in particular is of mild interest:

I don’t know when the term “journalism” was thunk up, but I know when it gained currency. Growing up, I never heard of a “journalist.” Sportswriters in the early part of the twentieth century, like newspapermen in general, had few pretensions. They had a job to do, and they did it; they had masters to answer to, and they answered.

After World War II newspapermen were caught by the fever of professionalism which was then gripping the nation. Cops became police officers, nurses became health care professionals, garbage men became sanitation workers. Newspapermen were no longer content to be newspapermen; by the late 1960s they had become journalists. […]

Now, I don’t know where you stand on “professionalism,” but I think professionalism ranks with socialism, psychology, and twice-baked potatoes as the worst ideas of the twentieth century. Cops became police officers, but the crime rate soared. Professionalism in law has brought us the O.J. Simpson case in lieu of justice. Professionalism in education has given us teachers who know how to administer sophisticated evaluative instruments, but simply don’t have the time to deal with the kids who can’t read. […]

I over-simplified, of course; there are legitimate benefits to professionalism, as well as things which are sold as “professionalism” because that sounds better than “organized selfishness.” A lot of what was contemplated by professionalism has failed or been discarded; a lot of it has been written into the ground rules. The internet has undermined professionalism in journalism, which is a good thing.

12/6/2001 03:25:49 PM

An Italian Plagiarist Explains Himself: The Bill Gates biographer who helped himself to my wife’s article has been in touch. He apologized, and tacked on an attribution to her work, but…
He explained Italian newsrooms often "use other colleagues' stories" especially those about the Internet, and attribution is apparently not an Italian tradition. "It's very sad, but it goes like this." I was appalled but I heard from other journalists it's indeed the case. However, I told him I still think a guy who seems to be doing rather well in life (being Italian, an author, fully employed, living in the most gorgeous city where the food is divine... driving a Vespa or a cute Smart-mobile, who knows... ) shouldn't need to do that to a starving free-lancer.
I guess we shouldn’t impose our cultural traditions on Second World countries … Whoops!

12/6/2001 01:59:36 PM

Shame on you, John Ashcroft: Here’s what the Attorney General said today, about people who have criticized and/or worried about the way his post-Sept. 11 policies have affected civil and constitutional rights:
To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. … They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.
Bullshit. (Pardon my recent French … it’s hard to write nicely when your stomach is filled with poison milk.) It is perfectly fine for Ashcroft to point out those instances when Chicken-Little civil libertarians exaggerate and distort, and maybe it’s even permissible in those instances to observe that such talk is counter-productive, and perhaps gives ammunition to rococo anti-Americanism or whatever. But to say, in a prepared statement, that those who believe our Constitution requires eternal vigilance from an active & skeptical citizenry, are somehow only a shade better than traitors … this is a vile, vile slur, and is more divisive (coming, as it does, from a member of the Administration) than anything Anthony Lewis has written since Sept. 11. Where's Rudy Giuliani when you need him?

12/6/2001 01:43:14 PM

For L.A. Readers Only – Avoid this Grocery: Since we don’t have a newspaper covering my neighborhood, and a few local residents read this site, I would like to pass on the following tip: NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM KALINKA MARKET, OVER NEAR JERRY’S VIDEOS. THEY WILL POISON YOU AND MAKE YOU SAD. We bought a package of Ukrainian bread, asked how long it would last (since there was no date), and the Armenian proprietress said “three, four days,” … we brought it home, and it was bright green with mold inside. Forgot that we had bought milk there, and couldn’t figure out why I felt so nauseous & ill after eating cereal the last two days (I have never had food poisoning in my life, and never get sick). My wife sniffed the Kalinka milk – dated Dec. 10 – and nearly gagged. So don’t go there. Now, back to our regular programming of bashing John Ashcroft.

12/6/2001 01:23:00 PM

Clarification on the Note Below: I included Republicans and pro-war whateverists in the post below to illustrate that what we are going after here are bad ideas, not residents of a certain neighborhood on the political spectrum. Also, I understand those who feel frustrated that the Left as a whole is being tarred with a broad & inaccurate brush. If I had to guess, I would say the number of (to adapt Weisberg’s phrase) “prominent pundits” who have engaged in such tarring is roughly equivalent to the number of “prominent liberals” who have opposed the war. I could be wrong about that.

12/6/2001 10:15:07 AM

Are Lefty-Baiters Guilty of Inventing an Enemy?: That’s the gist of the Jacob Weisberg column already dispatched by Ken Layne, Andrew Sullivan, Steven Den Beste and several others who could be described as targets of Weisberg’s criticism. I’ll just add some snickety parsing:
If the point of these [Sontag Watch-style] anthologies is simply to call people out for saying foolish things, then I have no complaint other than the repetition.
I assume he means the "repetition" of the same names criticized in every publication, as opposed to repetition of style & content within the same publication. If that is indeed the case, let me add to the usual Sontag/Moore/Roy/Chomsky/Stone list the following people I have criticized in this space for “saying foolish things,” in rough chronological order: Center for Teaching Peace President Colman McCarthy, my colleague Geov Parrish (twice), journalism professor Robert Jensen (again and again), New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, popular weblogger Jorn Barger, seven different columnists on the L.A. Times op-ed pages (Robert Fisk, Marc Cooper, C. Cushing-Murray, Naomi Klein, Alexander Cockburn, Jonathan Schell and Howard Zinn), Arianna Huffington (for three straight lunatic columns), David Horowitz, Salon Editor David Talbot (twice), Pacifist Robin Morgan, Ralph Nader, Toni Morrison, Michael Kinsley, Baptist Pastor Fred Phelps, my friend Robert Scheer, Michael Hasty of the Hampshire Review, L.A. Weekly reporter Charles Rappleye, John Pilger (twice), Margo Kingston of the Sydney Morning Herald, Norah Vincent, Howard Zinn, the children at Indymedia.org (twice), San Francisco Chroncile columnist Stephanie Salter, the defeatists at Counterpunch.org, Jerry Falwell, Minister Kristine Holmgren, Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and Professor Joel Rogers, and last (but not least) American Islamic Institute President Sam Hamod. Note that the list doesn’t include the Administration, or the House of Saud, or Bobby Fischer, or other non-media types not relevant to this discussion. Foolishness, and foolishness on the anti-war Left, is not limited to Michael Moore and Barbara Kingsolver.

Weisberg continues:

But if, as I suspect, the suggestion is that these comments represent a significant body of anti-war opinion, I'm far from persuaded.
I would suggest Weisberg look at the above list and reflect how many of the authors have published anti-war columns in the L.A. Times alone. If they amount to a miniscule percentage of the population, they certainly don’t within the opinion-forming media. If you have convictions and strongly held opinions, and if your convictions and strongly held opinions are flouted daily in your local newspapers by writers who have influence, is it not your duty as an alert human being to engage them in debate?
[Oliver] Stone and Moore are well-known cranks, regarded with considerable distaste even on the left.
Michael Moore is “regarded with considerable distaste” on the left? I’m not sure that’s true; but I am sure it has nothing to do with Weisberg’s thesis, which seems to be that we’re picking on cranks. We’re challenging bogus ideas, Jacob, because we believe otherwise, and because the issues at hand strike us as being important.
Roy and Stockhausen aren't even American.
Neither is my wife! Nor was Alexis De Tocqueville! Neither is Vaclav Havel, or Nelson Mandela, or Keith Richards, or Tim Blair, or Bjorn Staerk, or that Bjork gal! Who the hell cares? What is it with you and David Talbot, all suddenly concerned with people’s nationalities when there is a lot of loud criticism in the room?
The sins of the others fall somewhere short of lending aid and comfort to the enemy.
Conveniently, few people have said so! The “sins” of Weisberg and Talbot can be said, if we are having a parlour game, to fall “somewhere short of lending TNT to the Unabomber.” Meanwhile, it is a matter of some interest that some on the anti-war Left are using the exact same arguments and language as the crudest of the Islamo-nutbag propagandists. And, in the case of the aforementioned Hamod, have actually advocated attacking the White House, intifada-style. It’s worth pointing out, no?
But Sontag's critics aren't much interested in finding out what she — or the other rogues in their gallery — actually think. To do so might undermine their enjoyable hunt for heretics.
Hey Jacob? With all due respect, fuck you. I’m a critic of what Sontag wrote in that first New Yorker – as are you – and I’m just as aware of what she said subsequently. I am not having some kind of “fun” discovering that a lot of my colleagues and fellow citizens are full of shit, and are persuading other people of their lies and rancid viewpoints. “Fun,” for me, is singing harmonies, or watching Kobe Bryant play basketball, or having a cocktail with friends, or strolling through Paris, or reading Thor Garcia, or driving through Tennessee, or watching a good rockshow, or walking up to the Griffith Observatory, or dancing with my wife, or seeing Troy Glaus hit a ball 480 feet to straightaway left. If I was writing about things that struck me as "fun," much of my day would be spent writing a book about all the new basketball statistics I've invented.

And to say that people like me are “hunt[ing] for heretics” would be a grevious insult ... if it weren’t so comical. Come now, is your opinion of your fellow humans so low?

But neither Hitchens nor anyone else can produce the name of a single prominent "liberal" — as opposed to a radical literary figure or European intellectual — who actually opposes military action against Osama Bin Laden.
Does Robin Morgan count? How about Alex Cock-burn? Noam Chomsky? Phil Donahue? OK, here’s your assignment: Spend one hour visiting Commondreams.org, AlterNet, and my own WorkingForChange.com. If you can’t find a non-“radical literary figure” liberal who has opposed the war, I will buy you a goat taco next time you come out here to visit Mickey Kaus or whatever.

The end of Weisberg’s column is a particularly offensive attempt to get inside the secret motivations of those of us with the bad manners to gang up on the goofy anti-war Left (“Their reasons vary,” he says, professorially). Here’s an alternative theory, Jacob: People dislike bullshit, regardless of the source, regardless of anybody’s politics. When the country gets bombed by madmen who want to kill all of us, that dislike of bullshit gets magnified several times over, and a whole bunch of silly people who are safely ignored most of the time suddenly feel the glare of 280 million very angry, very smart, very focused Americans. And one thing these newly attentive Americans are particularly weary of is the tired 1990s tactic of assigning malevolent hidden motivations to your demonized political opponents. Let’s look at just at one final example of this noxious concept in action:

A furious centrist like Michael Kelly seems to need a treasonous anti-war movement to stir his outrage and generate column inches.
If I had such omniscience, maybe I’d say something about how a cynical center-left journal-of-opinion columnist like Jacob Weisberg seems to need any excuse to knock people he doesn’t understand -- namely, people who are actually passionate about their views, weary of Beltway political-spectrum journalism, and impatient to gobble up as much truth as they can. But I don’t know a thing about Weisberg; just that this column sucks.

12/5/2001 11:36:08 PM

Tee-hee: A reader writes in to object about my characterization of the Sara Jane Olson photo from the other day:
Regarding the picture of Ms. Olson/Soliah/Whatever, I find your description of her as a two year old who lost her blanky very insulting. I've got three kids, none of whom, at age 2, ever looked so pouty and ridiculous as Olson.

12/5/2001 08:47:47 PM

My Libertarian Republicanism Unmasked!: This is one of those goofy and deeply flawed little online surveys to assess your position on the “economic spectrum” (left/right), and your approach to (I guess) state power (authoritarian/libertarian). According to this measure I am 2.13 somethings to the “right” on economics, and an impressive 5.90 dealywicks in favor of libertarianism. Oliver Willis, from whom I discovered this gimcrack, is a 1.25 lefty, and a frankly unimpressive 4.31 libertarian. If the multiple-choice questionnaire had the “what the hell are you talking about?” option, I’m sure we’d all score just about the same.

12/5/2001 08:42:52 PM

Prediction: The Left-Right Cease-Fire Will Soon Unravel: Iraq, Israel, military tribunals, civil liberties at home … the right path is just not nearly as clear as it was going into the war against Al Qaeda. I think all those polls showing 90% agreement on whatever will soon become a fond weird memory, as the Opinion Journal gets back to the business of hectoring liberals about pushing for gays in the military, while the Left calls bullshit on Ashcroft. If you were basing the war effort on maintaining 90% support (which you shouldn't do, obviously, but still), then you might want to focus on what we all can agree on ... such as demanding radical reform in Saudi Arabia. Anyways, this particular link takes you to Brian Linse going after Jonah Goldberg on tribunals.

12/5/2001 08:26:57 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen … Team Bleh!: Well, that’s how Tim Blair, an inveterate Australian, mispronounces his own name. Anyways, the Thunder From Down Under now has his very own warblog, which we were supposed to keep secret while his tech support worked on the design, but Blair’s cover was blown by the insatiable hyper-blogger. Nauseating collegiality aside, Tim is one of the best journalists I have ever met, and wrote maybe the sharpest post-Sept. 11 essay I have read (unluckily for the world, you won’t be able to read it until the essay-collection it’s featured in comes out … in Australia). He’s been “chief of staff” for Col Allan dailies, editor of various Time Warner properties, and a brutal correspondent for Tabloid.net. Bookmark this site.

12/5/2001 07:09:32 PM

Tally Sheet: Pessimists vs. Reality: Steven Den Beste compiles a comprehensive list of pessimistic predictions by anti-war advocates that turned out to be wildly off-base. Go read it. I disagree with Steven’s wicked suggestion that the naysayers have become “a reliable negative indicator of what to do next,” i.e., since they are against bombing Iraq, we should get busy with the B-52s. I am not convinced of that, nor has my worry lessened that perhaps millions of Afghans are starving in the snow as we speak. If you’re right 10 times in a row, that may be the best time of all to worry about being wrong. Even though the pessimists have spent considerable energy (and wasted some of ours) by giving rotten predictions based on bogus facts, one could argue that they have kept us continuously conscious of the horrors of war and the perils of past U.S. policies. I will worry the day we become cavalier about civilian casualties, and apologetic for bad domestic policy. Eternal vigilance, etc. That said, there are many anti-war folks who now have serious credibility problems, and have effectively removed themselves from the grown-ups' table.

12/5/2001 04:25:23 PM

The Funniest Column You’ll Read This Week: It’s about Hollywood parties gone bad, written by my pal & neighbor Catherine Seipp. I won’t give any of it away, except for her phrase “the perky-butt club.” My wife is cracking up right now in the next room, reading it. Imagine a nice new publication starring Seipp and some of our town's other good writers....

12/5/2001 03:40:07 PM

Virginia Postrel is Full of Good Stuff: Go check out her site. Of all the unexpected side-effects of starting this little blog, meeting Virginia was definitely a highlight. We tried to cook up a scheme whereby we could gather all the weirdos in a central location (Los Angeles, obviously, or Glenn Reynolds’ chicken ranch), fly over those precocious Norwegian boys, and talk about … well, what?

Ooh, that reminds me. I once did consulting for a dot-com boom-bust company called Thirsty.com, which had what I thought was a fab idea – find a bunch of weird & smart Internet kids, who have the best/most popular sites dealing with a variety of youth-oriented topics (Goth music, comic books, wrestling, Gwen Stefani, whatever), and hire ‘em all for a new generation “news service” of sorts aimed at that elusive Generation Y. A few elements of the plan were similar to the weird nonsense we were cooking up at the ill-fated Digital Entertainment Network, before the flame-out.

Anyways, I was intrigued by the idea of buying traffic (and the talent that produced it), as opposed to buying people, and hoping for the traffic. You could sell ads across the network, do whatever slight “professionalization,” or harmonization of approach (make each of the kids do regular e-mail newsletters, whatever). And you would fill your company with inventive entrepreneur types who would conceivably be eager to learn from each other.

Could you do something like that with warbloggers? Probably not. You certainly wouldn’t be able to (nor would you want to) rope them into the same office. Even if you had Reynolds (or Drudge, for that matter), traffic probably wouldn’t be enough to generate enough ad sales to pay salaries; dividing up the pie would be problematic. And creating some kind of overt commercial alliance between cantankerous individualists would probably bum out a lot of readers, in the way (I guess) that some purists weren’t thrilled that Suck became part of Plastic.

Still – if I were starting a publication today (and we were well on the way to assembling a new West Coast magazine team & idea before Sept. 11), I wouldn’t have to look far for talented, popular (and comparatively cheap) writers, who would have the added benefit of being incredibly Internet-savvy. Hey Jeff Jarvis! Aren’t you a New Media venture capitalist or something? Don’t I remember you opining recently about how the thing that “makes America great” is that “we create”? It will be interesting to see what kind of non-blogging media creation happens in the wake of Sept. 11.... In the meantime, busk away!

12/5/2001 02:24:02 PM

That Sara Jane Olson Picture I Was Talking About: As I was mentioning below, the L.A. Times had a remarkable photograph of ex-SLA terrorist Kathleen Soliah, now known as Sara Jane Olson, on the day her second attempt to withdraw her guilty plea was denied. Thanks to Lake Effects publisher Dan Hartung, here it is. L.A. Times tough-guy columnist Steve “Philadelphia” Lopez mocks Sara-Kathleen and her supporters pretty strongly today.

12/5/2001 12:56:28 PM

A Different Holy Land: Please don’t confuse that Holy Land Foundation whose assets George Bush froze today with the Holyland Bible Knowledge Society in Los Angeles. Our hometown Holyland runs the Holyland Exhibition, which contains Mideast artifacts obtained by the man whose life was the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Antonio Futterer was an Australian third-grade dropout who caught Gold Rush fever, found God as a young man, and moved to Oakland in the early 20th century, where, according to L.A. Times history-writer Cecilia Rasmussen,
Futterer developed and copyrighted what he called the "Eye-Ographic Bible," a sort of Cliffs Notes for the Old Testament. The simplified text includes maps, slides, pictures and intricate genealogical charts. What he called the Eye-Ographic chart covers almost an entire wall. The canvas chart is composed of lines, dots, numbers and names to take in the Biblical epic at a glance.
This project will sound very familiar to all you fans of one of my favorite books, The Timechart History of the World. Futterer made his way to boomtown L.A. in the 1920s, befriended people like psycho-religious genius Aimee Semple MacPherson and Henry Ford, and in 1926 launched his first expedition in search of the lost Ark of the Covenant. He wrote travel books about Palestine, opened a house museum in Silver Lake, worked with the movie companies, delivered the world’s longest sermon. The museum, which is directly across the street from ex-Tabloid editor Charles Hornberger, includes artifacts from all over the biblical lands, including “centuries-old furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, 5,000-year-old oil lamps, ivory and silver Mideastern jewelry, tapestries, and a 2,700-year-old sarcophagus,” according to Rasmussen. Tours, which are only conducted in groups, last two hours, and are skewed depending on which ancient religion you favor. The people there are very nice; I hope to take the tour before Christmas. I would estimate that 99.9% of all L.A. residents have never heard of the place.

12/4/2001 02:56:46 PM

How Sept. 11 Affected the Class War: Interesting Andrew Sullivan column about how the long-maligned working class has suddenly been appreciated since the Sept. 11 massacre. His observations about the Democratic Party turning it’s back culturally on a huge chunk of the working class it claims to represent mirrors three different columns I wrote during the 2000 presidential campaign. Sullivan’s take:
This division was only made worse by the collapse of those institutions which once gave life and meaning to working class America - the unions, the churches, and the old Democratic Party. In the last election, the Democrats became the party of some working class Americans, but more definitively of the New Labour crowd - upper and upper-middle class urbanites, the more embittered of the racial minorities, feminists, service industry millionaires and their prosperous, liberal employees. Not only did the working class get the shaft in some respects (although their standard of living picked up markedly at the end of the decade), they were also left with a feeling of cultural pointlessness. […] And not only did the troops of manual workers, cops, firefighters, servicemembers, government workers, coal-miners and oil extractors get the short straw in social prestige, they also were regularly derided - especially by the fashionable left - as bigots, sexists, xenophobes, homophobes, and on and on.
Of course, the Greens were even worse, culturally speaking.

12/4/2001 02:11:12 PM

Judge Tells ex-SLA Terrorist Olson She’s Guilty: Sept. 11 and the war have largely obscured a fascinating legal case here in Los Angeles. Sara Jane Olson, who was born Kathleen Soliah 54 years ago, had been on the lam for 25 years after her involvement with the Symbionese Liberation Army’s attempted bombing of an LAPD squad car. She was found living an earnest middle-class life in Minnesota two years ago, and was set to face a trial whose key witness would be Patty Hearst. A collection of brand-name Limousine Liberal legal and political talent rallied to her defense (I’ll poke around some day for the group letter they sent), arguing that the ‘60s were going on trial or something.

But before the show could begin, Olson pled guilty. Then, facing reporters, she claimed she was innocent, but knew she couldn’t get a fair trial after the Sept. 11 massacre. The judge, who was pissed off, called her back in a week later to ask her if she was guilty or not. She said she was, and reaffirmed her plea. A week after that, she reversed herself again, said she lied about being guilty because no jury could give her a fair trial. The judge called a hearing, which was held yesterday, and said he would put Olson on the witness stand to be cross-examined. She once again withdrew her plea.

And yet the really funny stuff is in the details. Olson lawyer J. Tony Serra, for instance, didn’t show up to the hearing yesterday, due to what he described as bad “karma.” Seems he missed his flight from Oakland … "Therefore, in a statring yesterday, due to what he described as bad “karma.” Seems he missed his flight from Oakland … "Therefore, in a state of mind of dank frustration, I went home and went back to bed.” Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler called Serra’s behavior "absurd, unprofessional and inexcusable." Olson tried to argue that Serra had bullied and coerced her into pleading guilty.

"Are you claiming that Mr. Serra is some sort of Svengali that could somehow overpower a very intelligent woman's free will?" Fidler asked, according to this recommended L.A. Times account. "I thought we were out of the Dark Ages."

Fidler was a fountain of great quotes:

I couldn't for a minute accept a guilty plea from a person who I believed was innocent. … I couldn't sleep. I intend to sleep well tonight. […]

I took that guilty plea essentially twice from Ms. Olson. … Were you lying to me then or are you lying to me now? She cannot have it both ways. […]

She pled guilty because she is guilty. … The facts show she is guilty. The motion is denied.

The best bit of all is the one thing you can’t see on the website – a large photo of Olson pouting, with her fists balled up on her chin. She looks all the world like a two-year-old who just lost her blanky.

12/4/2001 12:14:01 PM

Ken Layne Takes on Ted Rall: Try and guess who wins.

12/4/2001 11:27:34 AM

Who Deserves Sympathy – Yankee Talibans or Afghans?: Will Wilkinson, the handsome objectivish philosopher, has an interesting take on skinny Talibanista John Walker. I will spoil the ending, because it’s irresistible, but you should read the whole entry:
Those kids "educated" in Taliban madrassah, rocking back and forth chanting the Koran -- they should elicit our sympathy. Sympathy for lives permanently stunted by mandatory fanatical mysticism. They don't have many options, aren't aware of most of the options they do have, and have been educated to despise any option that might really make them better off.

But John Philip Walker Lindh, aka Abdul Hamid, a kid from Maryland and California, knew what he was doing when he read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and converted to Islam. He knew what he was doing when he moved to Yemen to study Arabic. He knew what he was doing when he joined a Pakistani madrassah. And he knew what he was doing when he joined the Taliban to become a jihadi. That's not a lifestyle choice we can approve of. And if he fucked himself up because it, that's not something we should feel sorry for.

12/3/2001 10:54:06 PM

Oooh, This is Rich…. As I sit here, NPR is covering yesterday’s D.C. version of the global capitalism march, treating the subject not unlike how National Geographic might cover the discovery of a brand new Amazon tribe. These interesting new creatures are mostly “middle-aged white guys in libertarian T-shirts,” it seems, and most were “forced to admit” (by the snickering reporter) that their protest was “unusual.” They then played some terrible protest song about how there’s “too many rules,” or something … dreadful stuff, but certainly no worse than those wretched weird-Al state-of-the-economy folk tunes they actively solicit on Marketplace….

12/3/2001 05:02:11 PM

Now They’ve Got Three Traitors: Boy, do I want to cover that treason trial. Give them the absolute best criminal defense lawyer in the land, put it on prime-time TV, and let’s roll. Few things will be as instructive as discovering the precise mental and moral hopscotch necessary to devolve from an American teenager into a young suicide cultist hell-bent on punishing the Great Satan. Let’s sear these jackasses’ names into our brain-capsules, and bring them out again 30 years from now, on the odd chance that they’d be seeking some kind of parole, or rehabilitation, or book deal.

12/3/2001 04:48:27 PM

Freaky Traitors Among Us? You Don’t Say?: Brian Linse is what I might call a robust liberal, or a classic Angeleno. He is also a bass player, and runs a great blog. This is what he says today about that Yankee Taliban fella:
Some of the juiced up anchor dudes and dudesses on the cable news channels seem shocked that there are American citizens fighting for the Taliban. Come on people, I mean have you seen the tape of this guy John Walker something or other? He looks like the mentally ill homeless men who live in the alleys in downtown LA! And in a country where some of our most popular movie stars are Scientologists, and wacko PETA geeks are more concerned about cows than terror victims, can we really be shocked that a few feeble minded assholes would pick up a rifle for Osama? I think not.

12/3/2001 03:59:26 PM

The Boy Who Cried Alert: Seems we have another vague home-front warning, perhaps dealing with religion or something. I must say that this one in particular fails to concern me, even though I’m hopping on a plane soon with enough jet fuel to go from California to France. I suspect that – especially on the West Coast – these bi-weekly warnings will soon be greeted with yawns. Then again, maybe the most important recipients of these messages are law enforcement personnel….

12/3/2001 03:51:44 PM

The Blog-for-Profit Model: Good Lord. Someone just mailed Glenn Reynolds a $500 check. That’s terrific; he deserves every one of those TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS he’s received these past months. I’m envious, of course, but as I explained to a reader yesterday, I think of this as busking, more than a subscription model. “Busking” is playing music in the street or subway for money, something I’ve done in more than a half-dozen countries (though never here). The best buskers totally remove the commercial tension from the transaction, and instead focus on crowd-gathering and performance, which is what people want to experience anyway. The other great thing about a busking tip-jar, vis-à-vis subscriptions, is that it obliges the recipient to do nothing. This will come in handy when I leave the country for a month. Then again, for $500, I might just spend some time in Internet cafes….

Another, more insider point about busking (a subject on which I once considered writing a book): The best buskers, such as the incredible Ise Severo (a guy who couldn’t sing, couldn’t play guitar, had no rhythm, and single-handedly made tens of thousands of Prague tourists and residents happy every year), develop ever-more precise methods of extracting money from you, even while never breaking the spell. Preferred methods include: lining the guitar case with just the right mix of currency before you play, co-opting a fan/friend/shill (either a pretty hippie girl or a friendly stoner guy) to pass the hat through the crowd at the proper intervals, or (if you have no shame) playing Beatles songs or “Losing My Religion” when the crowd thins down. States of America has just succeeded in bombing a country back out of the Stone Age. This deserves to be recognized as an achievement, even by those who want to hasten past the moment and resume their customary tasks (worrying about the spotty human rights record of the Northern Alliance is the latest thing). […]

No possible future government in Kabul can be worse than the Taliban, and no thinkable future government would allow the level of Al Qaeda gangsterism to recur. So the outcome is proportionate and congruent with international principles of self-defense.

This is the best news for a long time. It deserves to be said, also, that the feat was accomplished with no serious loss of civilian life, and with an almost pedantic policy of avoiding "collateral damage." The hypocritical advice of the Pakistani right wing (keep it short, don't bomb, don't bomb during Ramadan, beware of the winter, leave Kabul alone) was finally ignored as the insidious pro-Taliban propaganda that it actually was. Those ultraleftists and soft liberals who repeated the same stuff -- in presumable ignorance of its real source and intention -- could safely be ignored then and needn't be teased too much now. The rescue of the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 taught them nothing; they were for leaving Bosnia and Kosovo to the mercy of Milosevic; they had nothing to say about the lack of an international intervention in Rwanda. The American polity is now divided between those who can recognize a new situation when they see it, and those who cannot or will not. Via the recommended Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

12/2/2001 06:40:34 PM

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© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

f course…. (Via Jeff Jarvis, who calls Fischer a "scumsucking loon")

12/3/2001 11:17:36 AM

Taliban Bounty on Journalists’ Heads: Mullah Omar, apparently tired of his bad publicity, has announced a $50,000 reward for anyone who shoots a Western journalist. I look forward to the day he is slaughtered. (Via Amy Langfield)

12/3/2001 11:09:20 AM

Sharon Declares War: Well, here we go. … My first reaction is dread, as I envision more bloodbaths, an unraveling of the Arab-world propaganda momentum brought on by the U.S.’ swift dispatching of Al Qaeda, a new chasm in the pro-war movement at home, and a terrible new test for Bush. On the other hand, you could make the case that Sept. 11 has brought dozens of neglected wounds to the sudden attention of people who no longer have the tolerance to let them fester. U.S. support for the corrupt House of Saud is one such wound, as are Israeli settlements, as is the Palestinian Authority’s two-faced relationship with detestable murder groups like Hamas. It is possible, though I think not probable, that the coming carnage will hasten a viable two-state endgame.

12/3/2001 10:40:03 AM

Great Hitchens, Volume VII: In which he defends the Spanish for fearing military tribunals, announces that “I learn with complacency that I have been excommunicated from the left,” delivers a dry and damning dismissal of you-Noam-who, and sums up the current situation:
The United States of America has just succeeded in bombing a country back out of the Stone Age. This deserves to be recognized as an achievement, even by those who want to hasten past the moment and resume their customary tasks (worrying about the spotty human rights record of the Northern Alliance is the latest thing). […]

No possible future government in Kabul can be worse than the Taliban, and no thinkable future government would allow the level of Al Qaeda gangsterism to recur. So the outcome is proportionate and congruent with international principles of self-defense.

This is the best news for a long time. It deserves to be said, also, that the feat was accomplished with no serious loss of civilian life, and with an almost pedantic policy of avoiding "collateral damage." The hypocritical advice of the Pakistani right wing (keep it short, don't bomb, don't bomb during Ramadan, beware of the winter, leave Kabul alone) was finally ignored as the insidious pro-Taliban propaganda that it actually was. Those ultraleftists and soft liberals who repeated the same stuff -- in presumable ignorance of its real source and intention -- could safely be ignored then and needn't be teased too much now. The rescue of the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 taught them nothing; they were for leaving Bosnia and Kosovo to the mercy of Milosevic; they had nothing to say about the lack of an international intervention in Rwanda. The American polity is now divided between those who can recognize a new situation when they see it, and those who cannot or will not.

Via the recommended Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

12/2/2001 06:40:34 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

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