Friday, July 30

Krugman: TV "News"

"Under the headline 'Voters Want Specifics From Kerry,' The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about 'what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people. I have to face the fact that I will never be able to have health insurance, the way things are now. And these millionaires don't seem to address that.'

Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it?

Well, I've been reading 60 days' worth of transcripts from the places four out of five Americans cite as where they usually get their news: the major cable and broadcast TV networks. Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Mr. Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured. When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in it.

On the other hand, everyone knows that Teresa Heinz Kerry told someone to 'shove it,' though even there, the context was missing. Except for a brief reference on MSNBC, none of the transcripts I've read mention that the target of her ire works for Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who financed smear campaigns against the Clintons - including accusations of murder. (CNN did mention Mr. Scaife on its Web site, but described him only as a donor to 'conservative causes.') And viewers learned nothing about Mr. Scaife's long vendetta against Mrs. Heinz Kerry herself.

There are two issues here, trivialization and bias, but they're related.

Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.

Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. ('He is, above all, a moralist,' wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.) And the character issues that dominate today's reporting have historically had no bearing on leadership qualities. While planning D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower had a close, though possibly platonic, relationship with his female driver. Should that have barred him from the White House?

And since campaign coverage as celebrity profiling has no rules, it offers ample scope for biased reporting.

Notice the voter's reference to 'these millionaires.' A Columbia Journalism Review Web site called, says its analysis 'reveals a press prone to needlessly introduce Senators Kerry and Edwards and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as millionaires or billionaires, without similar labels for President Bush or Vice President Cheney.'

As the site points out, the Bush campaign has been 'hammering away with talking points casting Kerry as out of the mainstream because of his wealth, hoping to influence press coverage.' The campaign isn't claiming that Mr. Kerry's policies favor the rich - they manifestly don't, while Mr. Bush's manifestly do. Instead, we're supposed to dislike Mr. Kerry simply because he's wealthy (and not notice that his opponent is, too). Republicans, of all people, are practicing the politics of envy, and the media obediently go along.

In short, the triumph of the trivial is not a trivial matter. The failure of TV news to inform the public about the policy proposals of this year's presidential candidates is, in its own way, as serious a journalistic betrayal as the failure to raise questions about the rush to invade Iraq.

P.S.: Another story you may not see on TV: Jeb Bush insists that electronic voting machines are perfectly reliable, but The St. Petersburg Times says the Republican Party of Florida has sent out a flier urging supporters to use absentee ballots because the machines lack a paper trail and cannot 'verify your vote.'

P.P.S.: Three weeks ago, The New Republic reported that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistan to announce a major terrorist capture during the Democratic convention. Hours before Mr. Kerry's acceptance speech, Pakistan announced, several days after the fact, that it had apprehended an important Al Qaeda operative."

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Triumph of the Trivial

Saturday, July 24

Transforming Progressive Politics

Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

The Case for Academic Autonomy: Stanley Fish

In a key sentence in the final and climactic chapter of his book The Moment of Complexity (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Mark C. Taylor declares that "the university is not autonomous but is a thoroughly parasitic institution, which continually depends on the generosity of the host so many academics claim to reject." He continues: "The critical activities of the humanities, arts, and sciences are only possible if they are supported by the very economic interests their criticism so often calls into question." The standard rhetoric of the academy may be anti-market, but the "university and the people employed in it have always been thoroughly implicated in a market system."

As a description of the university's inevitable involvement with, and dependence on, the forces and investments of the larger society, this seems to me exactly right. But the prescriptive conclusion that Taylor draws from this description seems to me to be exactly wrong:

"Education is too important to remain confined within the walls where many people would like to keep it. Colleges and universities are not, and should not be, autonomous institutions devoted to the cultivation of useless knowledge."

Here, as elsewhere in the book, Taylor hesitates between two arguments. In one, the walls between the academy and the "real world" are becoming "permeable screens," with the effect of rendering "the university as we have known it for two hundred years ... a thing of the past."

In the other, the walls between the academy and society have never been anything but permeable; globalization and the Internet merely make what has always been the case perspicuous and impossible to ignore.

Either argument -- the one that begins, no longer is it possible to maintain the divide, or the one that begins, there never was a divide in the first place -- leads Taylor to the same conclusions: Let's stop pretending that we can operate in a splendid (but fictional) isolation from everything that enables us; let's accept the fact that we are in, and of, the market and "find new ways to turn market forces to [our] own advantage"; let's prepare "students for life and work changing at warp speed"; let's go beyond the kind of critical analysis that does little more than "promote organizations and institutions whose obsolescence is undeniable"; let's adapt to the real conditions of our existence and eschew "a politics that is merely academic," a politics that is "as sterile as theories that are not put into practice."

I have two objections to his conclusions, one practical and specific to the situation of the academy, the other theoretical and capable of being generalized.

If we are worried about obsolescence and the loss of relevance, the surest way to court both is to become so attuned to the interests and investments of other enterprises -- the market, global politics, the information revolution -- that we are finally indistinguishable from them. If there is nothing that sets us apart, if there is nothing distinctive about our task or the criteria for accomplishing it, if there is nothing that marks our work as ours and not everyone's, there will be no particular reason to support us by giving us a room (or a franchise) of our own. We will be exactly what Taylor suggests we are -- a wholly owned (and disposable) subsidiary of something larger than ourselves.

Distinctiveness is a prerequisite both of our survival and our flourishing. Without it we haven't got a prayer.

Someone like Taylor might reply that any distinctiveness we might claim would be illusory, for it would assume an autonomy that is contrary to the fact of a radical dependence ("the university is a thoroughly parasitic institution"). No autonomy, no distinctiveness, no independent project.

This is where my theoretical objection kicks in; for the argument, more than implicit in Taylor's pages and in the pages of many other theorists of our condition, makes what I would call the "system" or "network" mistake -- the mistake of thinking that because something is embedded in a network that sustains that thing and gives it both value and shape, it is incoherent to speak of its properties, or of the boundaries that separate and distinguish it from other nodal points in the network. Since identity is network-dependent, the reasoning goes, nothing can be spoken of and examined as if it were free standing and discrete.

The trouble with that reasoning is that it operates at a level of generality so high that you can't see the trees for the forest.

Yes, everything is finally interconnected and has a diacritical rather than a substantive existence (and is therefore, in some sense, not identical with itself), but it doesn't follow that there is nothing distinctive to say about it, any more than it would follow that because the heart and lungs and the spinal cord are what they are by virtue of the system of which they are components, they perform no isolable functions, display no special characteristics, obey no special laws, and cannot be studied in their own right.

No one would say that about the parts of the body; nor should it be said of the university which, despite the fact that its conditions of possibility are exterior to it, does have an internal reality to which one must be attentive if you would hope to make observations that are relevant and (perhaps) helpful.

Indeed, if you do not attend to the internal perspective of a practice, to what legal theorist Ernest Weinrib has called its "immanent rationality" (Yale Law Journal, May 1988), you will be in danger of missing what is most crucial to its performance and you will ask it to do things appropriately done within the precincts of other practices, or you will complain that it does badly or minimally what it should not be doing at all.

As Weinrib points out, if a practice is to have a "determinate content," is to be something rather than anything or everything, "a this and not a that," it must be centered on a matter "set apart from other matters"; otherwise it runs the risk of "falling back into the chaos of unintelligible indeterminacy," the risk of claiming to do everything and therefore doing nothing.

That is a risk more than courted by some of those who responded indignantly to John J. Mearsheimer's declaration (in Philosophy and Literature, April 1998) that the University of Chicago "is a remarkably amoral institution" that makes "little effort to provide [students] with moral guidance." By that Mearsheimer does not mean that the university is immoral and gives bad counsel or that individual faculty members lack strong moral views; rather he means that the university gives no counsel, and that it is the professional, and in some sense moral, obligation of faculty members to check their moral commitments at the door.

The professional obligation is moral because it holds faculty members to the particular morality of the institution, the morality that comes along with its immanent rationality, which is the rationality of truth seeking, to which one cannot be faithful if one does not "condemn cheating, academic fraud, and plagiarism," all actions "antithetical to the search for truth."

To be sure, that is not the whole of morality -- there are legions of moral issues left unaddressed -- but it is, or should be, the whole of academic morality.

Mearsheimer concedes that an academic morality, narrowly construed, does not meet all of the moral "demands of our society," but, he says, the university is not the institution equipped or authorized to meet those demands: "providing moral guidance is no longer in their job description. ... Religious institutions and families are expected to provide their members with explicit advice about moral virtue, but universities are not."

For the most part, those who take issue with Mearsheimer's statements fall into the everything-is-interconnected error. They reason that no human activity is without a moral dimension and add that this is particularly true of the activity of teaching. "I wonder," asks one such critic who responded to Mearsheimer's essay, "how we can expect our students to engage seriously and honestly in higher education itself if we studiously avoid all concern with moral education?"

And another interlocutor points out that in the humanities, at least, the concerns of moral education are the explicit content of key texts: "How does [Mersheimer] suppose anyone manages to teach Aristotle's Ethics, the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the works of Plato, Kant, and William James ... without engaging students in genuine inquiry about what is moral and ethical behavior, and on what kind of persons they should become?"

But the fact that moral concerns turn up in the texts students study doesn't mean that what the students are learning about is morality. They are learning about the ways in which poets, philosophers, and political theorists structure their inquiries and reflections. Those inquiries and reflections will often begin and end with moral questions, but what makes those authors worth studying is not the answers they happen to give to those questions -- you can find Plato and Melville compelling without either affirming or rejecting the morality they seem to be urging -- but the verbal, architectonic, or argumentative skills they display in the course of implementing the intention to write a poem, or a piece of philosophy, or a meditation on the nature of government.

The "genuine inquiry" in which students are (or should be) engaged is not an inquiry about what kind of person they should be but an inquiry about what kind of person Plato or Hobbes or Rawls or Milton thought they should be, and for what reasons, and with what poetic or philosophical force. The exam question is not, "If you were to find yourself in such and such a situation, what should you do?" The exam question is "If you were to find yourself in such a situation, what would Plato, Hobbes, Rawls, and Kant tell you to do and what are the different assumptions and investments that would generate their different recommendations?"

You can answer that question in a good academic fashion -- answer it, that is, as an academic question -- without coming down on the side of any morality whatsoever, and no instructor should penalize you because you stuck to the business at hand and declined the invitation -- often proffered, but always to be declined -- to make the educational experience everything in general and nothing in particular.

Of course, somewhere down the line the academic answer you once gave to an academic question may factor into the moral response you give to a situation; but down the line is a long distance away, and meanwhile both faculty members and students will do well to remember the point of the enterprise they are now a part of.

The fact that a determinate project may, in the course of its self-realization, make use of everything under the sun does not mean that it is everything under the sun. It is what it is, and if we forget what it is and try to expand its claims to infinity, it will lose its very shape and fall back into the chaos of unintelligible indeterminacy.

Tuesday, July 20

The Arabian Candidate

Paul Krugman proposes an eerie remake of "The Manchurian Candidate"

The Arabian Candidate

Michael Moore, Alas Todd Gitlin - openDemocracy

"André Gide, when asked in 1905 whom he considered the greatest French poet of the 19th century, is said to have replied: “Victor Hugo, hélas!”

Who is the most compelling, useful filmmaker of the 21st century (so far)? Michael Moore, alas–

But now a pause for a moment of conscience. Let intellect have its due. Moore cuts plenty of corners, so how good can that be? Compelling? Useful? Moore specializes in hodgepodge. He jokes his way past the rough edges. He’s neither journalist nor documentarian, for he doesn’t set out to discover what he doesn’t already know. To patronize Michael Moore by calling him useful is to give him a pass for shoddy work, sloppy insinuations, emotional blackmail and all–around demagoguery.

He’s an entertainer (when it suits him) whose brush is so broad, at times, as to coat all evidence and logic with bursts of sensational color. His chief method is the insinuating juxtaposition. Presto, proof by association. Fahrenheit 9/11, his election year release, is like a beer commercial. When you see the gorgeous women drinking the beer, the subterranean layer of your cortex is supposed to think: if I drink, I get. This deep layer is protected by the more deliberate thought: hey, it’s all in good fun. Bush–haters can say, I knew it! Moore can say, I don’t do proofs, I do provocations."

Michael Moore, Alas: "n "

Sunday, July 18

Labor Board Says Graduate Students at Private Universities Have No Right to Unionize

Once the Labor Board got its 5th member - a Republican - they reversed their decision. Surprise surprise. Now Grad students who voted to form a union at Penn, Tufts, Brown, NYU, and elsewhere will not be allowed to do so.

"Sheldon E. Steinbach, vice president and general counsel for the American Council on Education, a trade group that represents universities and other educational institutions, called the ruling "magnificent" but said he was not surprised by it because of the labor board's changed lineup. The N.Y.U. decision was itself a reversal of the board's decades-old position that graduate assistants should not be able to unionize. The previous decision in the N.Y.U. case overturned over 30 years of determinations by the National Labor Relations Board on whether graduate students who worked as teaching and research assistants were students or employees," Mr. Steinbach said. "And it threatened the traditional relationship between colleges and their graduate student assistants."

That "traditional relationship" - just to clarify for non-academic readers - involves paying grad students to teach many, if not most of the courses at prestigious universities (that cost over $30,000/yr to attend) while paying them 1/5 to 1/10 of what normal professors earn - a below-poverty level wage with no access to health care.

Grad students have never been particularly fond of unionizing - we have little in common with the Auto Workers Union - but it has proven to be the ONLY way to force universities to provide health care and a living wage. UC Berkeley - where I teach - has been unionized for a many years without proving detrimental to grad student education. But private schools are understandably worried - if grad students strike at Penn, Brown, or NYU, little susie's parents will be understandably upset --- more so when they discover, to their shock, that most of her incredibly expensive education is coming from grad students making a poverty-level wage.

No Right to Unionize

Frank Rich: Happy Talk News Covers a War

In the now legendary White House press conference of March 6, 2003, not a single reporter, electronic or print, asked a tough question about anything, including the president's repeated conflating of 9/11 with the impending war on Iraq (eight times in that appearance alone). To some critics on the left, this Stepford Wives performance indicated a press corps full of conservatives, but I doubt it. This lock-step spectacle was at least in part an exercise of the Burgundy principle of pandering: don't do anything that might make you less popular with your customers. In that same month, Frank N. Magid Associates, still a major player in the news consulting business, released a survey telling its clients that war protests came in dead last of all topics tested among 6,400 viewers nationwide. In other words, if you're covering the news based on what's happening as opposed to what your viewers like, you're taking a commerical risk. Given that the ownership of local stations, networks and cable news alike is now concentrated in far fewer hands than it was in the 1970's, such thinking quickly becomes orthodoxy in much of the American news business.

In the new documentary 'Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism,' Robert Greenwald unearths some juicy documentation of Fox News Channel's manipulations on behalf of its political agenda. But Fox isn't exactly pursuing a stealth strategy: anyone who can't figure out that it's in the tank with the Republican party must be brain dead. It's more insidious when some of its more fair-and-balanced competitors blow-dry the news not to serve an ideology but to tell the public what they think the public wants to hear. That's why the networks have been reluctant to show casualties in Iraq. That's why we rarely see on American TV the candid video Michael Moore unveils in 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' whether of the president or of the grievously wounded, sometimes embittered soldiers who've returned from his mission in Iraq.

The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: Happy Talk News Covers a War:

Friday, July 16

Bush's Not-So-Big Tent

Just as George W. Bush is on track to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs, he is now the first president since Hoover to fail to meet with the N.A.A.C.P. during his entire term in office... What is troubling is Mr. Bush's relationship with black Americans in general. He's very good at using blacks as political props. And the props are too often part of an exceedingly cynical production. Four years ago, on the first night of the Republican convention, a parade of blacks was hauled before the television cameras (and the nearly all-white audience in the convention hall) to sing, to dance, to preach and to praise a party that has been relentlessly hostile to the interests of blacks for half a century...

Among the most important props of that 2000 campaign were black children. Mr. Bush could be seen hugging them at endless photo-ops. He said a Bush administration would do great things for them. He promised to transform public education in America. He hijacked the trademarked slogan of the Children's Defense Fund, "Leave No Child Behind," and refashioned it for his own purposes. He pasted the new version, "No Child Left Behind," onto one of the signature initiatives of his presidency, a supposedly historic education reform act. The only problem is that, to date, the act has been underfunded by $26 billion. A lot of those kids the president hugged have been left behind.

And why not? They can't do much for him. Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" captured a telling presidential witticism. Mr. Bush, appearing before a well-heeled gathering in New York, says: "This is an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." It wasn't really his base. But the comment spoke volumes.

Mr. Bush said he was a different kind of Republican, but what black voters see are tax cuts for the very wealthy and underfunded public schools. What they see is an economy that sizzles for the haves and the have-mores, but a harrowing employment crisis for struggling blacks, especially black men. (When the Community Service Society looked at the proportion of the working-age population with jobs in New York City it found that nearly half of all black men between the ages of 16 and 64 were not working last year. That's a Depression-era statistic.)...

And now we know that Florida was gearing up for a reprise of the election shenanigans of 2000. It took a court order to get the state to release a list of 48,000 suspected felons that was to be used to purge people from the voting rolls. It turned out that the list contained thousands of names of black people, who tend to vote Democratic, and hardly any names of Hispanics, who in Florida tend to vote Republican.

Once their "mistake" was caught, the officials scrapped the list.
Bush's Not-So-Big Tent

Thursday, July 15

Scanning a Paperless Horizon

The New York Times > Technology >State of the Art: Scanning a Paperless Horizon

This is absolutely breathtaking. This may finally allow us to prepare course readers with images and distribute them as PDF files directly to students, bypassing billions of pounds of paper and the outrageous prices students are forced to pay.

Tuesday, July 13

40 Years Later, Civil Rights Makes Page One

Deep into a speech on journalism ethics in May, John S. Carroll, now the editor of The Los Angeles Times, told University of Oregon students about his days as editor of The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., where the running gag among newsroom staff members was that they should print the following 'clarification':
'It has come to the editor's attention that The Herald neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.'

When The Herald-Leader's enterprise editor, John Voskuhl, read Mr. Carroll's speech online a few days later, a light bulb went off in his head and he fired off an e-mail message to the paper's new editor asking for permission pick up the gauntlet. On July 4, readers of The Herald-Leader saw the results of the paper's inquiry: a front-page exposé, two sidebar articles and a full page of previously unpublished black-and-white photographs describing how the newspapers - The Herald in the morning and The Leader in the afternoon - virtually ignored the civil rights movement in Lexington. Throughout the late 1950's and early 1960's, protesters conducted peaceful weekly sit-ins at the city's racially segregated lunch counters, hotels and theaters. But under orders from their top executives, the newspaper investigation found, both The Herald and The Leader buried coverage of the protests, when they covered them at all.

The poor coverage was not the result of mistakes or oversights, The Herald-Leader concluded, but a conscious strategy by the papers' former managers 'to play down the movement' in the hopes that it would wither away. 'That stance was not unusual among newspapers across the South,' the article, written by Linda Blackford and Linda Minch, said. 'But from today's perspective, many experts agree that the decisions made at The Herald and The Leader hurt the civil rights movement at the time, irreparably damaged the historical record and caused the newspaper's readers to miss out on one of the most important stories of the 20th century.'

In the 1990's, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., published articles saying it had slanted coverage and published propaganda at the behest of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, which had been created to infiltrate and discredit civil rights groups. But few, if any, newspapers have taken critical looks at what was the less egregious, but more common, practice of simply disregarding civil rights protests in their hometowns, journalism experts said.

read the story here:

Monday, July 12


Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at Stanford, has an interesting reading of the recent rhetorical shift from terrorism to terror.

Morgan Stanley Settles Bias Case for $54 Million

In a last-minute, out-of-court settlement, Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay up to $54 million to settle claims that the investment bank blocked more than 300 female employees from promotions and bonuses in its institutional equities division, while rewarding lesser-performing men.

Sunday, July 11

On Movies and Elections

I thought Frank Rich's recent take summer movies and the election to be particularly welcome, given the shrillness of the coming campaign season: Spidey Crushes 'Fahrenheit' in 2004

Saturday, July 10

Thou Shalt...

This is a pretty old, but humorous excerpt from "Moore's Law: The immorality of the Ten Commandments" By Christopher Hitchens.

The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them. I am the lord thy god and thou shalt have no other ... no graven images ... no taking of my name in vain: surely these could have been compressed into a more general injunction to show respect. The ensuing order to set aside a holy day is scarcely a moral or ethical one, unless you assume that other days are somehow profane... Whereas a day of rest, as prefigured in the opening passages of Genesis, is no more than organized labor might have demanded, perhaps during the arduous days of unpaid pyramid erection.

So the first four commandments have almost nothing to do with moral conduct and cannot in any case be enforced by law unless the state forbids certain sorts of art all week, including religious and iconographic art—and all activity on the Sabbath (which the words of the fourth commandment do not actually require). The next instruction is to honor one's parents: a harmless enough idea, but again unenforceable in law and inapplicable to the many orphans that nature or god sees fit to create. That there should be no itemized utterance enjoining the protection of children seems odd, given that the commandments are addressed in the first instance to adults. But then, the same god frequently urged his followers to exterminate various forgotten enemy tribes down to the last infant, sparing only the virgins, so this may be a case where hand-tying or absolute prohibitions were best avoided.

There has never yet been any society, Confucian or Buddhist or Islamic, where the legal codes did not frown upon murder and theft. These offenses were certainly crimes in the Pharaonic Egypt from which the children of Israel had, if the story is to be believed, just escaped. So the middle-ranking commandments, of which the chief one has long been confusingly rendered "thou shalt not kill," leave us none the wiser as to whether the almighty considers warfare to be murder, or taxation and confiscation to be theft. Tautology hovers over the whole enterprise. In much the same way, few if any courts in any recorded society have approved the idea of perjury, so the idea that witnesses should tell the truth can scarcely have required a divine spark in order to take root. To how many of its original audience, I mean to say, can this have come with the force of revelation? Then it's a swift wrap-up with a condemnation of adultery (from which humans actually can refrain) and a prohibition upon covetousness (from which they cannot). To insist that people not annex their neighbor's cattle or wife "or anything that is his" might be reasonable, even if it does place the wife in the same category as the cattle, and presumably to that extent diminishes the offense of adultery. But to demand "don't even think about it" is absurd and totalitarian, and furthermore inhibiting to the Protestant spirit of entrepreneurship and competition.

One is presuming (is one not?) that this is the same god who actually created the audience he was addressing. This leaves us with the insoluble mystery of why he would have molded ("in his own image," yet) a covetous, murderous, disrespectful, lying, and adulterous species. Create them sick, and then command them to be well? What a mad despot this is, and how fortunate we are that he exists only in the minds of his worshippers. It's obviously too much to expect that a Bronze Age demagogue should have remembered to condemn drug abuse, drunken driving, or offenses against gender equality, or to demand prayer in the schools. Still, to have left rape and child abuse and genocide and slavery out of the account is to have been negligent to some degree, even by the lax standards of the time. I wonder what would happen if secularists were now to insist that the verses of the Bible that actually recommend enslavement, mutilation, stoning, and mass murder of civilians be incised on the walls of, say, public libraries? There are many more than 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and I live for the day when Americans are obliged to observe all of them, including the ox-goring and witch-burning ones. (Who is Judge Moore to pick and choose?) Too many editorialists have described the recent flap as a silly confrontation with exhibitionist fundamentalism, when the true problem is our failure to recognize that religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it.

The New Pamphleteers - The Public Sphere in the New Millenium

"We cannot expect today's political books to stand up to the weightier tomes of the 1950's and 60's, since the Establishment that sponsored the latter no longer exists. Our pamphleteers spend so much time debating each other's media prominence because both sides recognize that there is no national interest for which any one journalist can speak; when the war in Iraq ends, it will not be because a television anchor pronounced it a futile enterprise, as Walter Cronkite famously did during Vietnam. Right and left continue to debate the 2000 election because even the Supreme Court proved itself incapable of making an impartial decision. They accuse each other of treason because no ''wise men'' can be found with the ability to define the proper use of American power. Pamphleteering is what happens when no one -- editorial writers, university professors, publishing executives -- is doing much ''filtering.''

For all their ugliness of language and unpersuasive fury, then, the current crop of political pamphlets bears a striking resemblance to the increasingly democratic culture in which they flourish. If their authors are poorly versed in American history, so are the young executives talking about the election at the airport bar while waiting for their connecting flights. If these books treat their side as good and their opponents as evil, so do the sermons in our booming evangelical churches. The style is melodramatic, but that is also true of ''Troy.'' Our political culture cannot be immune from the rest of our culture. The model for political argument these days is not the Book-of-the-Month Club but"

Wolfe reviews a dozen of the most important new books, on the right and left, in The New York Times > The New Pamphleteers

Dean hits Nader where it hurts

"Howard Dean wasted little time getting to the point in a debate with third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Friday. After listening to Nader's standard posturing about how only he can save the Democratic Party and the nation from the 'corporate interests' that have consumed politics and government, the former Vermont governor struck hard: 'Ralph, I think you're being disingenuous about your candidacy this year.'

In his rapid-fire delivery, the onetime Democratic presidential front-runner rattled off all the ways he saw Nader as a hypocrite: Nearly half the signatures Nader gathered in a failed attempt to get on the Arizona ballot were from Republicans. A significant amount of his campaign kitty comes from Bush-Cheney donors. And, said Dean, 'you accepted the support of a right-wing, fanatic Republican group that is antigay in order to help you get on the ballot in Oregon' -- a reference to the Oregon Family Council, which produces a 'Christian Voter Guide' and campaigns against gay marriage.

'This is not going to help the progressive cause in America,' Dean continued. 'The thing that upsets me so much about this is, you have the right to ... get in bed with whoever you want to, but don't call the Democratic Party full of corporate interests. They have their problems, we all have ours, none of us are pure. And this campaign of yours is far from pure.'"

read the article here: | Dean hits Nader where it hurts:

Salon also covers the Strange alliance between Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Ralph Nader.

Tuesday, July 6

China set to surpass USA in Economic growth?

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article on what Ted Fishman believes will bethe Chinese Century.

Friday, July 2

Cosby has harsh words for black community

Cosby has harsh words for black community

Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community Thursday, telling a room full of activists that black children are running around not knowing how to read or write and 'going nowhere.' Cosby made headlines in May when he upbraided some poor blacks for their grammar and accused them of squandering opportunities the civil rights movement gave them. He shot back Thursday, saying his detractors were trying in vain to hide the black community's "dirty laundry."

"Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other n------ as they're walking up and down the street," Cosby said...'They think they're hip,' the entertainer said. 'They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere.'

'I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk,' Cosby said then. 'And then I heard the father talk ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.'

'For me there is a time ... when we have to turn the mirror around,' he said. 'Because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in.' Cosby lamented that the racial slurs once used by those who lynched blacks are now a favorite expression of black children. And he blamed parents. 'When you put on a record and that record is yelling `n----- this and n----- that' and you've got your little 6-year-old, 7-year-old sitting in the back seat of the car, those children hear that,' he said.

He also condemned black men who missed out on opportunities and are now angry about their lives.'You've got to stop beating up your women because you can't find a job, because you didn't want to get an education and now you're (earning) minimum wage,' Cosby said. 'You should have thought more of yourself when you were in high school, when you had an opportunity.'

Cosby appeared Thursday with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the education fund, who defended the entertainer's statements. 'Bill is saying let's fight the right fight, let's level the playing field,' Jackson said. 'Drunk people can't do that. Illiterate people can't do that.'

Cosby also said many young people are failing to honor the sacrifices made by those who struggled and died during the civil rights movement. 'Dogs, water hoses that tear the bark off trees, Emmett Till,' he said, naming the black youth who was tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, allegedly for whistling at a white woman. 'And you're going to tell me you're going to drop out of school? You're going to tell me you're going to steal from a store?'"

Moore's Public Service

Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore. There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11.

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job. For example, audiences are shocked by the now-famous seven minutes, when George Bush knew the nation was under attack but continued reading "My Pet Goat" with a group of children. Nobody had told them that the tales of Mr. Bush's decisiveness and bravery on that day were pure fiction.

Or consider the Bush family's ties to the Saudis. The film suggests that Mr. Bush and his good friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the ambassador known to the family as Bandar Bush, have tried to cover up the extent of Saudi involvement in terrorism. This may or may not be true. But what shocks people, I think, is the fact that nobody told them about this side of Mr. Bush's life.Mr. Bush's carefully constructed persona is that of an all-American regular guy — not like his suspiciously cosmopolitan opponent, with his patrician air. The news media have cheerfully gone along with the pretense. How many stories have you seen contrasting John Kerry's upper-crusty vacation on Nantucket with Mr. Bush's down-home time at the ranch?

But the reality, revealed by Mr. Moore, is that Mr. Bush has always lived in a bubble of privilege. And his family, far from consisting of regular folks with deep roots in the heartland, is deeply enmeshed, financially and personally, with foreign elites — with the Saudis in particular.Mr. Moore's greatest strength is a real empathy with working-class Americans that most journalists lack. Having stripped away Mr. Bush's common-man mask, he uses his film to make the case, in a way statistics never could, that Mr. Bush's policies favor a narrow elite at the expense of less fortunate Americans — sometimes, indeed, at the cost of their lives. In a nation where the affluent rarely serve in the military, Mr. Moore follows Marine recruiters as they trawl the malls of depressed communities, where enlistment is the only way for young men and women to escape poverty. He shows corporate executives at a lavish conference on Iraq, nibbling on canapés and exulting over the profit opportunities, then shows the terrible price paid by the soldiers creating those opportunities.

Paul Krugman, Professor of Econommics at Princeton Moore's Public Service