Archive for December, 2006
by Jay Stevens
Over at Left in the West, jhwrlgirl notes that the Department of the Interior stepped in over the Bison Range kerfluffle, and reversed the Fish and Wildlife’s decision to nix the handover of the refuge to the Confederated Salish Kootenai tribes.
jhwrlgirl’s got all the salient facts — and, IMHO, should either get her own blog already or should be bumped up to main contributor status over at LITW — but here’s a couple of things that stick out for me:
First, the Interior’s assigned an ombudsman to negotiate the takeover. Good news there; in a recent post I suggest the current Range manger — Steve Kallin — should be replaced. An ombudsman makes more sense. Why hire a new manager now in the last stages of the USFWS’ control over the Range?
jhwrlgirl’s also mentioned in the LITW post and in the comments at b’birds that the federal employees’ viewpoint can be found at peer.org. Apparently USFWS employees are worried that the CSKT takeover of the Bison Range augurs an impending movement towards privatizing control of our wildlife refuges, and that’s what jhwrlgirl suspects is driving USFWS reluctance in this case:
Personally, I think this was/is nothing more than a turf war, instigated by the Feds, and fed by the irrational fear of job loss.
I suspect she’s right, but she also dismisses this fear. Personally I wouldn’t put it over the Bush administration to use the Bison Range and our sympathies for Native American takeover of bison management to slip through a plan for the wholesale giveaway of our public lands.
That said, the Bison Range takeover should be considered now, for what it is, not what it might be. And right now, in this case, the Salish and Kootenai peoples should have the right to steward bison on their land. Period.
by Jay Stevens
Anybody notice this story in the New York Times: “GOP Senator in Spotlight After a Critical Iraq Speech”? I sure did. That’s a catchy headline, and I assumed some principled lawmaker stood up and spoke truth on the Senate floor.
Boy, was I wrong. Imagine my disappointment discovering that this is a rehash of December 7th remarks by Oregon’s Republican Gordon Smith. Back then I brushed it off as electioneering politics – after all, he’s up in 2008. Steve Benen only reinforced this gut reaction with a list of other newly anti-Iraq Republican Senators – all of whom are up for re-election, too.
Did the recent NYTimes article challenge that belief? Hell, no. The fact that this article is reporting on ancient news (by reporting cycle measurement) indicates it’s clearly trying to send a message. Some claim that it’s an attempt by the paper to untrack the attempts at a “surge” in Iraq. (Bless ‘em if it is.) Personally, I don’t think so. I think it’s another attempt by the DC punditocracy to drum up support for the mythic “independent center” that doesn’t actually exist.
I’m with Middle Earth Journal’s Ron on this one:
Recognizing two years before an election that a lost cause is lost doesn’t suddenly qualify you as a moderate. In addition to the war there are still all those other horrible votes. You either believed that we didn’t need habeas corpus and that oil company profits are more important than the saving the planet or you are a hopeless political hack.
Still it’s nice to see Republicans realizing the shift in the winds and reacting to the will of the electorate, isn’t it?
by Jay Stevens
I won’t go into the details of either piece here – you’ve already heard more than you need about blogs in a previous post – but I would like to publish the conclusion of BobcatJH’s post:
Thanks to the Internet, the very Americans Rago considers mediocre no longer have to settle for having the conventional wisdom as determined by a select few forced upon them. The days of a cliquish elite determining the direction and rules of our national discussion are over, though the Ragos of the world – in their inexperience, ignorance or both – haven’t yet realized it. Maybe they have, and their desperate attempts to marginalize a medium Rago’s editorial shows he has very little grasp upon are to be expected. But such arguments, ones that “[grieve] over the lost establishment” are, in Rago’s own words, “pointless, and kind of sad.” On that account, he’s right. Instead of treating the online community as a curiosity, its critics would be far better suited trying to understand why the blogosphere is so popular. Further, tracing its popularity to the so-called appeal of the mob and the appeal to the mediocre masses dismisses the root causes of its advent while also dismissing the value of millions of people. Democracy is only appealing to the ruling class when it allows them to retain power. When the ruled begin to realize that they have the power, the rulers feel threatened. And that, not the threat blogs pose to journalism, is the true kernel of Rago’s argument: He fears us. They fear us.
I agree. It’s this fear of bloggers that causes folks like Dennis Rehberg to say that something needs to be done about bloggers. And no wonder he feels that way. While getting a free pass from Montana’s media, he got drilled here and at other blogs for his involvement in the Carter County lobbyist scandal, his hypocrisy on the Estate Tax, and his war on religious freedom and free speech.
A simple Google of “rehberg estate tax” gets this as its second hit: “Rehberg supports war, but doesn’t want to help pay for it.” And a search for “rehberg carter county” reveals my post on the matter as the first return.
Too bad for Rehberg. Good for Montana voters.
by Jay Stevens
Imagine: you’re an American Muslim. You constantly hear cries from certain quarters that your religion naturally breeds violence — never mind that older Islamic societies were some of the most peaceful, learned and tolerant civilizations the world has seen — that you and your fellow worshippers are hell-bent on conquering the world and “destroying” the United States, democracy, and, one presumes, apple pie. In fact, too many people have suggested American Muslims should be put into detention camps, or, at the very least, isolated at airports and bus and train stations based on your religion.
Would you run for Congress? (I sure as h*ll wouldn’t. I would be living in Canada or New Zealand, thank you very much.)
Not only did Keith Ellison run for Congress, he won a seat. And he plans on swearing the oath of office on his religion’s most sacred book, the Koran.
You may remember the ensuing kerfluffle, when talk-show host Dennis Prager made a fuss about Ellison swearing his oath of office on a Koran. (And Prager’s at it again.) Or the narrow-minded remarks by Viriginia Representative Virgil Goode.
Again, if it were me, I’d have said something nasty back.
Not Keith Ellison. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Ellison sought unity, not divisiveness:
…diversity of our country is a great strength. It’s a good thing that we have people from all faiths and all cultures that come here. And we all support one Constitution, one Constitution that upholds our right to equal protection, one Constitution that guarantees us due process under the law, one Constitution which says that there is no religious test for elected office in America.
So the document that is the bedrock of our democracy expressly prohibits applying any religious test, and I think that diversity in our nation is a great thing and we should embrace it, not be afraid of it.
And so there’s nothing for [Virgil Goode] to be afraid of, and that what we should do is to tell our constituents that we should reach to each other, not be against each other, and we should find ways for common ground.
And the whole hubbub surrounding his religion, and his taking his office? Ellison thought it was a great opportunity for folks to revisit the Constitution.
I’ve heard it said that the Democratic Party needs to clearly define its ethos, so folks will understand what it’s about. Well, I think Ellison has just demonstrated the lefty ethos: tolerance, unity, the rule of law, and the prominence of the Constitution and the principles that founded this country.
by Jay Stevens
I can’t help it, I just love writing about blogs. Yeah, yeah, it’s a sign of self-obsession. But as I’ve said before, I’m genuinely curious about how to define the role of the new media. Anyhow, Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne has written perhaps the best yet analysis of blogs, their popularity, and their potential role in public discourse as part of a speech — “The Making of Democracy 2006” — he gave in November at Harvard University.
In it, Dionne argues that new and old media have a tremendous opportunity to work “together” — or more accurately, perhaps, “alongside” — and create a better media that serves voters and democracy. Basically, blogs and other nontraditional media fulfill a public need:
In my view, the new media forms are answering a great need that traditional journlism was not answering. Though as a consumer of blogs from left to right, I often get important and accurate information from their work, they do not exist primarily to inform. They exist to engage citizens in the obligations and magic of politics. They draw people into the fight. They have made millions of people feel that their voices will be heard somewhere and, when aggreghated together, can have a real influence on the outcome of policy debates and elections.
Dead on, a much better description of the role of blogs than Kos’ “cheerleading” function. While it’s true blogs do urge the “players” on — the activists, voters, politicians, and traditional journalists — it’s a bit more than that, isn’t it? It’s about inciting passion, interest, and involvement. Blogs get people involved. I know. I, myself, was an unparticipating and irascible critic before I took to blogging.
(In fact, the two biggest compliments I ever had about my blogging came from Jaime and her mother. Her mom called me an “instigator,” and recently Jaime praised me for getting others to get involved, not only in blogging but in every possible way. And I think that’s true. While it’s fun to spin and chat and argue, it’s more fun still to see a commenter start their own blog, to convince someone to volunteer, donate, run for office, or at least attend, debate, and participate in local government. Boo-rah! But I digress.)
The reason that the public strives for “passion,” according to Dionne, is because of the rise of the model of for-profit media:
One of the main effects of this change…was to transform newspapers from a “reader-focused, reader-driven business into an advertiser-focused, advertiser-driven business.” As Michael Schudson notes in his excellent history of American newspapers, “Most leading newspaper proprietors of the late 19th century were businessmen rather than political thinkers, managers more than essayists or activists.”
And in an effort to avoid offense — thus, hurting advertising sales — media refrains from printing stories or opinions that aggressively challenge the status quo, the establishment, or cultural and societal institutions. That is, the media naturally inclines towards power.
Not only that, but in the traditional media’s subservience to “objectivity,” often the truth is obscured by “traditional, just-the-facts-m’am journalism and its twist-your-self-into-a-pretzel effort to appear non-partisan or bi-partisan…” The result? The mythical center independent:
…journalists could not declare that they were Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, they often went out of their way, sometimes unconsciously and unintentally, to sell a variety of ideas that actually drove people away from politics. You couldn’t be partisan, so you said they were all crooks or liars. (Every once in a while, you even got the “they are all good men and women” stories.) You couldn’t be partisan, so you said there was no difference between or among the politcians – or, alternatively, that they were all too extreme.
(Interesting footnote here: I think it’s exactly this meme from journalists that helped Joe Lieberman in the midterm elections. By being rejected by his state’s fellow party-members, it was easy to play the role of the “principled indepenent” to the media. After all, if the party rejected him, then he must be honest! But he’s best known for his support of the Bush administration’s war and anti-terror policies, which less than a quarter of the US population supports. So…who was the centrist in the race, Lamont or Lieberman?)
Blogs, then, fulfill the public’s desire for argument, where facts and objectivity don’t serve truth — if truth is created in the maelstrom of the exchange of ideas.
…Michiko Kakutani got it absolutely right 12 years ago when she wrote: “Throughout our culture, the old notions of `truth’ and `knowledge’ are in danger of being replaced by the new ones of ‘opinion,’ ‘perception,’ and ‘credibility.'” She argued that “as reality comes to seem increasingly artificial, complex and manipulable, people tend to grow increasingly cynical, increasingly convinced of the authenticity of their own emotions and increasingly inclined to trust their ideological reflexes….” In such a situation there are no arguments in the sense of an engagement over ideas and evidence but simply a clash of assertions. In this climate, said Kakutani, “the democratic idea of consensus is futile.” We are witness to the creation of “a universe in which truths are replaced by opinions.”
According to this theory, the clash of blogs, talk radio, cable news, independent journalism, and tradtional media creates a running argument that produces more public involvement in politics, passion for ideas, and an ever-shifting, ever-changing sentiment that now and then truth has been spoken.
Now, there will be critics out there who claim that blogs are isolated, that all we do is yell at one another in our echo chambers…but the thing is that there are more than twenty million blogs in this country, and that number is steadily growing. That’s one hell of an isolated echo chamber, isn’t it? And that’s without saying that blogs — or other forms of new media — can’t fulfill any component of a democratic society without their older brethren, the professional media.
What we need, in other words, is to welcome the newly partisan and participatory outlets while finding ways to nurture and improve independent journalism. The two are very different forms. They need not be enemies, even though they should and will correct and criticize each other. If we see one as an alternative to the other, we will be wrong analytically, and we will miss a great opportunity. If we see them as complements to each other, we arrive closer to answering Christopher Lasch’s demand that democracy live up to its vocation of being the most educational form of government.
I actually think Montana has a wonderful synergy in its available media. Blogs are the howling muckrakers, critiquing, praising, and using corporate media sources; the Independent offers…well…independent and aggressive investigative reporting; the Lee papers give us moderation, old-school forms of objectivity. The local television news…well…they keep us up on high-school basketball.
by Jay Stevens
I’d like to announce here at 4&20 blackbirds that Time’s selection of you as the “Person of the Year” officially sucks. Nothing against you, of course. I think you’re swell. But honestly, what have you done lately to earn the title? I thought so.
Without further ado, I’d like to throw open the doors: who does deserve the award?
For a little inspiration, check out Reason’s list, generated by a bunch of folks who have opinions. The nominees can be broken down into the following categories:
Those whose suckiness influenced the world in 2006: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, George W. Bush, Kim Jong-il, Maf54, Sheikh Nasrallah, and the Suicide Bomber.
Those whose goodness influence the world in 2006: Grigori Perelman, Milton Friedman, James Webb, Norman Borlaug, Bloggers, Al Gore, and Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.
And the nominees suggested because, well, why not?: Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Nash, and the staff and editors of Time magazine (for their “gimmicky stunt”).
Among the celebrated is our very own Stan Jones! Why?
This Libertarian Party candidate for the Senate in Montana had been the poster child for the goofy fecklessness of third-party activism because his skin was literally blue from overuse of the quack therapy colloidal silver. Yet given his 10,324 votes–7,477 more than the gap between winning Democrat Jon Tester and losing Republican incumbent Conrad Burns–and given generally understood assumptions about the voting patterns of the libertarian-leaning, it is very likely that Jones’s presence in the race cost Burns his seat–and thus cost the Republicans control of the Senate. And, in classic third party tradition, hardly anyone noticed.
And lastly, we have one wise guy who actually supports the current “Person of the Year”:
Yes, I’m siding with Time. Someone has to do it, since the magazine is being criticized left and right by people who think it’s some sort of copout to honor a genuinely important story — the rising power of the user-driven Web — rather than doing the usual year-end celebrity bake-off. YouTube and Wikipedia are making more of a mark on this country than any petty politician, and I see nothing wrong with Time acknowledging that. Besides, one of the few things I hate more than the “Person of the Year” award itself is all the critics who act as though Time’s choice is somehow significant. You think you can make a better pick? Start a blog, list your own choices, and ignore Time entirely. You can do that now. That’s why you’re the Person of the Year.
by Jay Stevens
Great minds…sort of. Montana writer Walter Kirn mulled the big Santa lie in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, only he “solved” it in a bizarre manner: he staged a sleigh crash.
Read the article, it’s worth a chuckle. In any case, I’d say Kirn agreed with the basic premise of my Santa myth article: It’s all about the parents.
Some parents, I reflected as I worked, scratching the leather with a nail and bashing the bells with a hammer, did tell their children the truth at Christmastime. (The cool parents, we called them when I was growing up.) Their kids then disillusioned the rest of us: The North Pole is really Target. This made these kids seem cool as well — it gave them a swagger. But it gave me a stomachache. Their theory made sense, and there was evidence for it, but what did this say about my parents, I wondered? That they’d never matured and really believed in elves? Or that they understood the facts full well but deemed me incapable of handling them? Whatever my parents’ reasons for misinforming me, I concluded that it was wisest not to catch them at it. If I unwrapped a present and glimpsed a Target sticker that they’d forgotten to peel off, I’d pretend not to see it. Then, when they weren’t looking, I’d peel it off myself.
Ho frickin’ ho.
In the same issue, Peggy Orenstein has a great article on perpetrating the princess culture with her daughter, who’s ga-ga about everything pink and princessy. I admit in my own house, Ms. Marvelous has picked up a thing for clothes – especially pink and purple hues – that her brother has not. Fortunately, it hasn’t devolved into a full-on princess infatuation.
So what’s the big deal of playing princess, anyway?
“Playing princess is not the issue,” argues Lyn Mikel Brown, an author, with Sharon Lamb, of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes.” “The issue is 25,000 Princess products,” says Brown, a professor of education and human development at Colby College. “When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”
It’s hard to imagine that girls’ options could truly be shrinking when they dominate the honor roll and outnumber boys in college. Then again, have you taken a stroll through a children’s store lately? A year ago, when we shopped for “big girl” bedding at Pottery Barn Kids, we found the “girls” side awash in flowers, hearts and hula dancers; not a soccer player or sailboat in sight. Across the no-fly zone, the “boys” territory was all about sports, trains, planes and automobiles. Meanwhile, Baby GAP’s boys’ onesies were emblazoned with “Big Man on Campus” and the girls’ with “Social Butterfly”; guess whose matching shoes were decorated on the soles with hearts and whose sported a “No. 1” logo? And at Toys “R” Us, aisles of pink baby dolls, kitchens, shopping carts and princesses unfurl a safe distance from the “Star Wars” figures, GeoTrax and tool chests. The relentless resegregation of childhood appears to have sneaked up without any further discussion about sex roles, about what it now means to be a boy or to be a girl. Or maybe it has happened in lieu of such discussion because it’s easier this way.
I see this happening with my own children, both of them being swept up by weird, invisible forces into their respective consumer gender roles. I acknowledge that both Ms. Marvelous and Mr. Proud came equipped with innate personalities that may be associated with gender, but I’m not sure if color scheme has any play in that personality.
That’s the thing, princesses can mean – as Orenstein mentions – a symbol of power, self-assurance, and a legitimate feminine reaction to the “unisex” ideals of the second wave of American feminism of the 60s and 70s, in which the ideal was a woman striking out on her own:
Step out of line, and you end up solo or, worse, sailing crazily over a cliff to your doom. Alternatives like those might send you skittering right back to the castle. And I get that: the fact is, though I want my daughter to do and be whatever she wants as an adult, I still hope she’ll find her Prince Charming and have babies, just as I have. I don’t want her to be a fish without a bicycle; I want her to be a fish with another fish. Preferably, one who loves and respects her and also does the dishes and half the child care.
On the other hand the princess craze could be seen as another cultural sexualization of preteens by marketers. Like belly shirts, thongs for eight-year-olds, makeup for kids, the princess craze is a slippery slope. Check out Club Libby Lu:
Inside, the store was divided into several glittery “shopping zones” called “experiences”: Libby’s Laboratory, now called Sparkle Spa, where girls concoct their own cosmetics and bath products; Libby’s Room; Ear Piercing; Pooch Parlor (where divas in training can pamper stuffed poodles, pugs and Chihuahuas); and the Style Studio, offering “Libby Du” makeover choices, including ’Tween Idol, Rock Star, Pop Star and, of course, Priceless Princess. Each look includes hairstyle, makeup, nail polish and sparkly tattoos.
Why are we so concerned with creating little divas, little Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears?
Like the Santa myth, I don’t know how much of this is about the parent. I admit I want Ms. Marvelous to be a math whiz, play soccer, and kick *ss when she’s pushed around. But how harmful can playing princess be? In the end, I think it takes good role models and honest discussion. But man, it’s hard to compete with Disney.
by Jay Stevens
Al Qaeda is at it again, this time taking credit for Democratic success during the 2006 midterms. My first reaction was mirth. I mean…how ridiculous can you get? After all, one of the prime reasons Republicans lost this election was because they didn’t go after Osama bin Laden! The claim is, of course, patently ridiculous and should be considered for less time than it took for you to read this paragraph.
I’ve talked about this before, linking to a post by Steven Taylor that pretty much describes what al Qaeda statements like this are about: propaganda for al Qaeda sympathizers and wonders why anyone would take this stuff seriously:
Of course, part of the answer is grounded in blind partisan loyalty that sees the Republicans as somehow the sole keepers of defense and security and the Democrats as the party of appeasers and cowards. Such a dichotomy is quite incorrect, but it does infuse the thinking of many.The bottom line is that yes, there are policy differences between the two parties, but the choice not between victory and defeat.
It would help our public discourse (as well as the policy making process) if we were all mindful of that fact.
However, we need to get over such thinking if we are going to make real progress in terms of the appropriate response to terrorism.
Indeed. I’d go on, but I’ve pretty much covered it all in the previous post I wrote on this: rightie rhetoric is only dividing and fueling unhinged haters. You can bet pretty much whatever al Qaeda says is bullsh*t: shame on you for believing it, propagating it, and using it to batter your ideological opponents.
by Jay Stevens
One of the criticisms about getting the 110th Congress to negotiate drug prices with big pharmaceutical companies is that the reduced profit would translate into less research, which, in turn, means fewer new drugs.
Only a new government report today says that currently most of Big Pharm’s R&D money ain’t going to new drug research. It’s pretty much going into researching “knockoff” drugs:
The report blames the slowdown on a shortage of research scientists, the slow adaptation of expensive new technologies, and an industry-wide focus on profit. Out of the “new” medicines that companies have submitted for review, 68 percent are so-called “me-too drugs” – modified versions of existing drugs, which generate generous profits while carrying little risk of rejection.
But this is an industry driven, as one would expect, by profit, not a desire to find awesome new drugs to better the world. That’s for the good — we need the pharmaceutical industry. But some better and more stringent bargaining by Medicare wouldn’t harm things much, and if you channeled that money back into academic research — and possibly created a new government pipeline through the NIH for translating molecular discoveries into drugs — you could do quite a bit of good.
There you go. Not only would negotiating drug prices with Big Pharm save the taxpayers some money, it might also lead to more aggressive research and better medicines.
by Jay Stevens
Recently, I’ve railed against the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to bar handing control of the Bison Range over to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. In a previous post, I thought that something other than tribal member performance on the Range was at stake here.
And it looks like I was right.
In today’s Missoulian, two ranchers and volunteers for the Bison Range stepped up and not only denied tribal members were performing poorly, they claimed that tribal members did a better job of managing the herd during the yearly roundup:
“The only FWS response was to run the [bison] harder, getting them even more stressed and worn out,” [Paul] Bishop says. “The common method, once all the ‘easy’ animals had been chased in by riders, was to retire the horses and bring out a FWS Jeep. The driver would then chase the remaining stubborn bison, horn blaring, until they submitted.”[snip]
But when the tribes came on board, that changed, Bishop says.
“The tribes’ first roundup was a huge success, which was completed in two days with time to spare,” Bishops says.
“I know it sounds odd, but I believe the animals noticed a difference, too,” he says. “They were clearly much calmer and less stressed. The riders did a fantastic job of handling the animals with care and everyone else followed suit. The bison were processed through with a level of compassion and patience that was definitely lacking in the old FWS cowboy days.”
Bishop says his jaw dropped when [National Bison Range project manager Steve] Kallin glossed over the success of the roundup afterward.
“I am not sure why he won’t tell you this,” Bishop says he told the roundup staff after Kallin left, “but that was the best roundup in the last 10 years, maybe ever.”
Bishop, along with Bernard Hakes, also deny that the bison they’ve seen look neglected, as was claimed by Kallin.
Bishop claims that Kallin “created an environment of distrust, animosity, and misinformation” at the refuge, and called for Kallin to be replaced at the Range by someone who would facilitate the change of control to the Salish and Kootenai tribes.
So why are they stepping forward, anyway?
“I quite frankly don’t give a damn who runs the Bison Range, but if Fish and Wildlife is going to take it over for a reason, let’s let it be the truth,” Hakes says. “I could bitch about the tribes over other things and spend a couple of hours. But when it comes to the Bison Range, there’s been no neglect, and the proof is in the animal.”
It’s times like this that I love Montana.
Of course, I know that this is merely anecdotal evidence, but it seems to fit in with the rhetoric emanating from the FWS itself over the change of control of the Bison Range, that resistance to the change is more about career bureaucrats unwilling to relinquish control of their prized possession than it is about poor tribal performance.
In the end, Bishop’s suggestion that Kallin should be replaced is spot-on. The CSKT should have control of the Bison Range, period. If Kallin can’t administer the change, let’s get someone in there who can.
by Jay Stevens
For the two of you that don’t also follow Left in the West regularly, you must — must — check out this story on Dennis Rehberg’s communications director, Todd Shriber. Matt got the link from Joshua Micah Marshall’s nice overview of the kerfluffle, which links to NetwordWorld’s Paul McNamara, who linked Shriber to Dennis Rehberg’s office.
The shorter version: Shriber tried to hire hackers to change his college grades.
The longer version is well worth a long look and will give you a good laugh. Especially the pictures of squirrels.
But all kidding aside, is this the kind of guy Montana wants in the office of their Representative? Ultimately Rehberg is responsible for all the hiring decisions for his office, as well as for the behavior of his staffers. Does Rehberg really trust this guy? Or is the kind of staffer Rehberg likes?
Update: I’ll give credit where credit’s due — Rehberg canned Shriber:
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg’s communications director, Todd Shriber, was fired Thursday after verifying the accuracy of online reports that he tried to hire hackers to change his grade point average in the records of his alma mater, Texas Christian University, according to Rehberg chief of staff Erik Iverson.
“Todd’s a good person who made a real big mistake and he’s going to have to pay the price,” Iverson said.
Iverson said he told Rehberg immediately, and that Rehberg agreed Shriber should be fired.
As much as I disagree with Rehberg’s politics (and question his judgement and character), I admit the dude is good at avoiding sh*tstorms. Sideshow Scott and his dog and pony show should take note.
by Jay Stevens
Man…George Will’s anti-blog rant is worse than I thought. Based on what he’s written, I don’t even think he’s even read a blog.
You know, I don’t mind a serious critique of blogs written by someone who actually understands them. In the post previous about Moorcat blogging Dillon politics, I mentioned Nicholas Lehman, who wrote a scathing indictment of blogs and their uselessness – sure he missed the basic premise of the issue – but it was, at least, well considered.
Not so Will’s column. Take, for example, this tidbit:
Franklin’s extraordinary persona informed what he wrote but was not the subject of what he wrote. Paine was perhaps history’s most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves, for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but nothing demanding or especially admirable, either. They do it successfully because there is nothing singular about it, and each is the judge of his or her own success.
First, bloggers are “political extremists”…now they lack “revolutionary civic purpose”? Well mainstream DC-based pundits, which is it? Seriously, you can call bloggers all sorts of things – extremists, idiots, biased, amateurish – but just about the only thing you can’t claim about bloggers is that they lack “civic purpose.” I don’t have to explain that to my readers who, while they might disagree with my politics, must admit this blog has a definite civic purpose and whose very existence is revolutionary. After all, blogs did not exist ten years ago.
As for genius…well…if there’s 100 million blogs, there’s a pretty damn good change a handful are written by geniuses, even if genius is “scarce.”
Another gem from the Master:
There are, however, essentially no reins on the Web – few means of control and direction. That is good, but vitiates the idea that the Web’s chaos of entertainment, solipsism and occasional intellectual seriousness and civic engagement is anything like a polity (a “digital democracy”).
Actually, if Will had any knowledge of theory of the development of intelligence – and he would have, were he a regular reader of this blog and had clicked on this link about computer science guru Seymour Papert and the theory of “emergent behavior,” in which the Internet is considered a “self-organizing swarm composed of human beings” – he would have recognized, for example, in Kos, Armstrong, and Stoller’s network of activist bloggers and fundraising sites an organized “polity” working towards revolutionary change through the Internet.
Time’s bow to the amateurs who are, it strangely suggests, no longer obscure, and in the same game that Time is in, is refuted by a glance – which is all an adult will want – at YouTube’s most popular videos.
Yes, and I suppose we can judge the quality of journalism based on a quick glance at the World Weekly News.
It’s too bad George Will didn’t do more than cursory bit of research before writing his column. But then, Will is “serious.” You can tell because he wears bow ties and writes thesaurus-aided columns. Will must be right in whatever he thinks because a newspaper editor has selected him to write columns for the newspaper.
I’m not going to defend blogs’ intellectual prowess. For each of the well-written, interesting political blogs found here in the Montana blogosphere, there are a dozen “diaries” with little or no serious content. The thing is, you have to do some work to find the good ones. And the twenty-first century Franklins and Paines are already emerging.
In the end, it’s hard to feel too angry with George Will. He’s a dinosaur. He hasn’t been relevant since the 1980s, and certainly this column shows his narrowness of intellect and curiosity, two decided personality deficiencies that make a writer uninteresting and “unserious,” even if he is wearing a bowtie.
by Jay Stevens
Kudos to Moorcat who’s started a “city government series,” a series of posts written about his local government – in this case, Dillon, Montana.
That’s one of the things that blogs do really well – “hyperlocal” blogging, as the New Yorker’s Nicholas Lehman dismissively called it. The most reknowned of the hyperlocals is author of Barista of Bloomfield Ave, Debra Galant, who wrote a fascinating piece on local news blogging for PressThink:
When I try to explain Baristanet to someone who’s never heard of it before, I often say “it’s like your weekly small town newspaper meets the Daily Show.” We—and I say we because I work with two equal partners, Laura Eveleth and Liz George—write about many of the same small-town events that those birdcage liners do, but with a jaundiced eye….
Galant describes the types of reporting her blog does best, and it turns out it’s stuff that doesn’t make the news but everybody wants to know. Take, for example, this story about her new community pool:
One Friday afternoon, with not a cloud on the horizon, after I’d put in a full day of writing, I walked to the pool and was astonished to find it closed.There had been no thunder; I’d been writing the whole afternoon on my front porch, half a mile from the pool. The parking lot at the pool was empty, but one by one cars arrived. Moms and kids spilled out, their arms overflowing with towels and pool bags. We all stared forlornly at the chain-link fence and wondered why the pool was closed and where the lifeguards had gone.
Well, somebody said, they must have closed the pool for thunder and made everyone go home. The policy was 20 minutes. So if we kept waiting, the lifeguards would come back and re-open the pool. We waited 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, longer. No lifeguards, no pool manager.
People pulled out cell phones, called town hall, the mayor, members of the pool’s board of trustees. Nobody knew what was going on, and people were furious: me more than anyone. That’s the moment when I imagined writing about this for a local paper. It was exactly the kind of thing that was never covered in the local paper—it didn’t, after all, happen at a town council meeting or come from a press release—and it was exactly the kind of thing that everybody talked about.
When the manager finally did appear, hours later, he offered no excuses and no explanation. There’d been thunder. The pool was closed.
We found out the real story months later, after it was discovered that the pool manager had been embezzling money from the pool. It turns out that hot August afternoon, he’d heard some distant thunder and decided to close the pool and take his entire lifeguard staff out to the movies.
Galant’s blog is populated by the details and concerns of her neighborhood and town, the stories generated by tips from locals who send photos or updates on traffic slow-ups, fires, or anything that the neighborhood is curious about, but won’t find answers to in their local newspapers or television stations.
Some outsiders – like Lehman – find the detail trivial, but the stories are invariably about what the neighbors want to know, like the time the 6:18pm train from Penn Station was held up for five minutes (turns out they thought someone was on the tracks). Some poked fun at the blog for the story, but as one traingoer wrote in the comments:
when there’s cops on the tracks, you wanna know what’s up.Posted by: dana jennings | Mar 9, 2005 9:17:19 AM
Readbetween started doing some much-needed local Missoula blogging here at 4&20 blackbirds, and it’s something I think this site can benefit from. Unfortunately time is too tight for me to attend all, many, or even some of the local meetings…are there any Missoulians out there want to contribute their local perspective? Or just email in stories you think important?
by Jay Stevens
Remember the open thread I posted about Santa Claus? Whether Kim and I were going to bust the myth for Mr. Proud and Ms. Marvelous?
Well, the powers at the Missoula Independent asked me to write a longer piece on the search for Santa. So…it’s this week’s cover story: “The Santa Claus Conundrum.”
(This is not, by the way, a pic of either Mr. Proud or Ms. Marvelous. But it is funny as hell.)
Of course, the kids steal the show. And the Santa story grows. Just this morning Ms. Marvelous asked me why we don’t have a chimney for Santa to come down. Apparently my answer didn’t satisfy her (“we have radiant heating”), because she spent the morning building chimneys with her blocks.
Well, here we are yet again, facing the approach of another Christmas holiday. A holiday full of love, happiness, joy, celebration…and rank liberal hypocrisy. Just to give some of you an historical reminder, Christmas was founded by the psuedo-pagan Roman Emperor Constantine in roughly the year 336 A.D. The holiday was set up so that Christians had a day to honor the birth of Christ. The holiday was not set up to exchange gifts, to put up Christmas lights, to put up a tree. No, the only reason Christmas exists is for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Now, what does this have to do with liberals, you may ask? Simple. First, how many times here in Missoula have we heard from neolibs who insist that creationism is “absurd,” “stupid,” and “brainwashing”? How many neolib atheists have we heard from telling us “God is dead”? Yet once a year they put up their lights, furnish their houses with a tree, and lavish themselves and their friends with gifts…all to celebrate a holiday for a savior they say “doesn’t exist” and is “evil.” So, those of you neolibs who spend such a great deal of effort throughout the year telling our children that “Christianity is evil” and proudly displaying your atheism on your sleeve, stop and consider for a moment your profound hypocrisy in this matter. If you don’t believe in or practice Christianity, then you have no business celebrating Christmas. It is that simple.
Personally, I urge every one of you to go out and celebrate, or not celebrate, Christmas however you damn well please! Whether it’s the full deal with church and Christ and nativity scenes on your front lawn, or simply an afternoon meal at your local Chinese restaurant, go forth and have fun.
by Jay Stevens
Old friend and “free market” advocate, Pete Geddes, writes today in New West about climate change.
In the past, he and his FREE buddies have fought tooth and nail against instituting any meaningful reform in trying to reduce carbon emissions, once going so far as to say that trying to solve the problem would damage the economy and cost millions of lives, especially in the developing world.
Today Geddes trashes greens and environmental activists:
I find it interesting that green activists and their political allies uniformly favor dramatic and draconian action to avert climate change. Serious policy analysts are different; they generally favor less dramatic action applied over the long term. What explains this difference?
So, what are these “dramatic and draconian” actions Geddes writes about? Curious, I went over to Green Peace’s website for some radical solutions…but all I could find was this:
The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that hundreds of technologies are now available, at very low cost, to reduce climate damaging emissions, and that government policies need to remove the barriers to these technologies.
Implementing these solutions will enable people to usher in a new era of energy, one that will bring economic growth, new jobs, technological innovation and, most importantly environmental protection.
However, for green solutions to global warming to find a foothold in the market, governments and corporations need to shift away from polluting technology. In most industrial countries, conventional electricity is heavily subsidised, and the negative environmental impacts of its production are not reflected in the cost to end-users.
The time has come for us end our addiction to fossil fuels and other climate damaging technologies. Here you can discover how clean renewable energies, like wind, solar, bioenergy, hydroelectric, and other sources can combine to create a clean energy revolution….
Um…a call for an end to subsidizing the oil and gas industries? Lifting government barriers to the use of alternative technologies? Er…this sounds pretty reasonable to me, doesn’t it? And, I might add, would employ the free market to solve the problem.
So…who exactly is advocating “radical” proposals to stop climate change? Well, according to FREE chairman, John Baden, it’s people like this, an ignorant, but well-meaning movie going liberal friend. In other words, a straw man.
(Worse still, the friend had never heard of — *gasp* — MIT professor Richard Lindzen. You haven’t heard of Professor Lindzen? Shame on you! He’s the…well…only…“reputable” scientist who denies that human activity was a major component of the 20th-century spike in global temperatures…Except that he does admit human activity does cause CO2 emissions, and that a high level of CO2 would cause global warming. Oh, and Lindzen has received a fortune from the oil and gas industries.
So…on one side you have Professor Lindzen, and on the other you have the scientists of the Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil), Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academié des Sciences (France), Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany), Indian National Science Academy, Accademia dei Lincei (Italy), Science Council of Japan, Russian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society (United Kingdom), National Academy of Sciences (United States of America), Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Academy of Sciences (NAS), State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Institute of Physics (AIP), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).
The question shouldn’t be, “who’s Richard Lindzen?” but “why does Richard Lindzen get so much attention?”)
So on one hand, you have semi-fictitious movie goers suggesting NASA’s Jet Propulsion labs should solve climate change, and on the other you have “serious policy analysts,” who one must assume includes Pete Geddes himself. So what does the “serious policy analyst” propose to reduce carbon emissions?
Currently, the price of fossil fuels does not reflect their social costs. One solution is to place a “green tax” on our energy consumption, e.g., a $3 per gallon tax on gasoline. This gives consumers incentives to reduce consumption. Producers would have incentives to bring innovative and climate-friendly alternatives to market.
Another option is carbon emissions trading, with a cap on global CO2 emissions. Companies are then given emission credits, allowing them to emit a specific amount of CO2. Companies that emit beyond their allowances must buy credits from those who emit less. (This worked well for greatly reducing lead and SO2 in our air.) The European Union has implemented just such an approach.
First note that a $3-a-gallon tax is far more draconian than anything Greenpeace suggested.
Next, note that a tax affects the consumer first and foremost, and that both the tax and trading carbon emission credits are policy changes that don’t lead big corporations away from the feeding troughs of government subsidies.
Still, I find these suggestions eminently reasonable – though the tax is, of course, politically infeasible.
So why all the fuss from Geddes? You know…I have no idea. I’m glad he’s finally come around to calling for real action to combat climate change. Of course, I’d suggest he doesn’t even begin to mention all the different ways we can combat carbon emissions…from promoting local agriculture, to raising automobile and (especially) SUV mileage standards, from capping emissions, to investing in alternative energies. None of these things are “dramatic and draconian,” yet all of them would help slow climate change.
by Jay Stevens
It’s nice to see some bipartisanship on initiative reform. Yesterday state attorney general Mike McGrath (D) and secretary of state Brad Johnson (R) called for changes in the initiative law that would limit signature gathering to state residents, and forbids paying signature gatherers by the signature. (The sponsors of the bill are Sen. Carol Williams [D-Missoula] and Rep. Alan Olson [R-Roundup].)
We know why these proposals were made, don’t we? Pervasive fraud in the signature gathering for Howie Rich’s anti-government initiatives.
Guess who’s against the reform?
[Trevis Butcher] questioned requiring state residency for signature gatherers and prohibiting per-signature payments. Residency is established easily and the payment rule could be circumvented by paying more to people who collect many signatures than to those collecting relatively few, said Butcher, son of legislator Ed Butcher, R-Winifred.
It’s sort of ironic that T. Butcher is complaining that the new rules could still be exploited, isn’t it? I mean, he’s living proof of why the current rules…well…suck:
Eric Feaver, the president of the MEA-MFT union, which helped lead the campaign against the proposed limit on increases in most state spending, welcomed the legislation. The ballot-measure process needs an overhaul to help control “fraud and deceit,” Feaver said.Payment per signature becomes an incentive to collect signatures that may not be valid, Feaver said. Signature gathering by nonresidents is a problem because “when they leave, if you have questions as to how they collected signatures, you can’t find them,” he said.
Basically, the old rules allowed one person to organize a ballot initiative drive quickly and quietly. All you have to do is dump a lot of money into the project, truck in a bunch of professional signature gatherers and get to work.
The new rules would help ensure that a Montana ballot initiative involves Montanans. After all, changing the state’s constitution should be difficult.
I’ve heard rumors that Sideshow Scott and his assorted geeks, bearded ladies, and fire-eaters would likely obstruct initiative reform. Hopefully Johnson and Olson’s participation in the reform signals a willingness by Republicans to do the right thing.
by Jay Stevens
Is it me, or does this site pretty much admit that the Republican Party was actively and knowingly engaged in a campaign to bombard voters with robocalls and push polls?
What gets me is that the site brags of its ability to create “push polls” – which are, at best unethical, and often illegal.
Now you may have already forgotten the barrage of questionable polls and robo-calls Montana voters – and voters across the country – experienced this past election, but I certainly have not. And this site should quickly put to rest any doubt that the practice is exclusive to the Republican Party.
An enterprising muckraker might want to contact the company for a list of clients.
An enterprising muckraker might wish to ask those people who provided the company with recorded samples – Laura Bush, for example – their opinion on using push polls and robo-calls…
Remember, it’s only a short while before 2008 and the next round of illegal campaign tactics. Let’s prepare for them, this time.
by Jay Stevens
I’ve said it before, but one of the joys of having kids is readings hundreds of children’s books – although now I have to fight off Ms. Marvelous, who wants all the books to herself.
And one of my favorite authors is Peter Sís. The dude is a friggin’ genius.
Now my liking Sís could be an example of a book appealing more to adults rather than children. After all Ms. Marvelous and Mr. Proud both prefer inane Elmo and farm board books that have all the charm of a common housefly. (But then, houseflies do have charm if you look at them from a two-and-a-half-year-old perspective.) But I don’t think so in Sís’ case. In fact, when I asked Ms. Marvelous if she liked Sís’ work, she said she did. “I like the pictures,” she said.
Yes! The pictures!
What I like about Sís is the pictures, too. What I like is that Sís has an amazing ability to depict memory and imagination in simple, yet nuanced, illustrations!
Take, for example, Madlenka’s Dog. In it, a little girl named Madlenka – who isn’t allowed to have a dog in her family’s city apartment – wanders her block with an empty collar and leash, playing with her imaginary dog. During her walk, she runs into some of her neighbors – a multicultural gang of shop owners, musicians, and story-tellers – and greets each by saying, “do you like my dog?” The neighbors each have a flap to turn over – the painter over her easel, the Scotsman over his drum, etc – and under each flap is a brightly colored picture of the neighbor as a child with their childhood dog. And each answers, “Yes, I like your dog,” and describes the dog they had as a child.
In one series of illustrations, Sís depicts how we each carry our childhood memories around with us, colorful and warm and enclosed within our bodies, and how those memories influence us even as adults.
In Komodo!, a boy obsessed with dragons travels to Indonesia to see real, live dragons – Komodo dragons. The boy, disillusioned with the staged, for-tourist display of the dragon, slips off on his own into the jungle. (Not recommended, by the way. Komodo dragons eat people. Here’s a video of a Komodo dragon eating a live deer – not safe @ lunch.) As the boy walks through the jungle, he “sees” dragons everywhere – in the illustration, every bush and tree and green frond is shaped like a Komodo dragon. Just like in life, when you’re slightly spooked and looking really hard for something, you see it everywhere.
Here Sís manages to convey that feeling in a simple drawing.
And then there’s Dinosaur!, a simple, wordless board book that shows a boy getting into a bath with a dinosaur bath toy, and slowly his bathroom transforms into a prehistoric setting literally crawling with dinosaurs.Sís shows imagination transforming setting with a shift in perspective. Basically, the narrative eye slowly zooms out from picture to picture, so that the boy becomes smaller and smaller, his bath transformed from a tub into a small natural pool, until he’s nearly a speck dwarfed by an enormous brontosaurus and his dinosaur kin in a pullout page that’s twice as large as any other.
Ultimately, Peter Sís’ books are no so much about character, but about imagination and memory. The worlds he creates are elaborate and beautiful, but also hushed, almost silent. (Or completely silent, like in Dinosaur!) There’s a brilliant sort of emotional layering to each of his books that appeal to kids (if Ms. Marvelous is to be believed) and adults alike that is trying to convey something profound, yet oddly difficult to describe. It’s like being underwater. Or asleep.
(And check out Sís’ bio. Very impressive. What leaps out is that he won a MacArthur “genius” award – a nice $500,000 grant to do whatever the h*ll you want to – the penultimate artistic award for artists and writers.)