With and against

I listen to Pacifica radio. Why? Because I used to wonder what a conversation with the Mirror, Mirror version of myself would sound like, and this saves me the trouble of travelling to another dimension.

On the 1/30 broadcast, host Verna Avery Brown interviewed members of the band Chumbawamba, joking that they were in trouble for their dissenting beliefs (they think Bush is an idiot, etc) because: “you’re with us or against us.” It was an offhand reference to the president’s speech of 9/20/01. What did he say, exactly?

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

I’m curious – what is this “speaking truth to power” business I keep hearing about? Does it involve truth in some fashion?


TAP into something

I’ve been an editor or reporter at The Northwestern Chronicle, a conservative weekly newspaper, for going on four years now. When TAPPED tried to paint me as part of a movement responsible for “The Intellectual Decline of the Campus Right,” I got snippy.


We’d be willing to bet that the Patriot receives funding from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a little organization that subsidizes, with generosity a socialist would applaud, many of the conservative magazines on campuses around the country, which rarely have the readership or, thus, the advertising from local merchants to sustain publication on their own. (But thanks to ISI’s generosity, most of them print regularly and on glossy paper, while the lefty ones publish on recycled newsprint whenever they can scrape together the dough.) The ISI puts out little manuals for these Mini-Dineshes, and pays their way to conferences run by the Collegiate Network, where the kids hobnob with Fred Barnes, learn techniques for baiting the Black Students Association and so forth.

This broadside struck close to home for me – not because it was entirely true, but because the Collegiate Network’s website has a picture of me hobnobbing with Fred Barnes. I e-mailed TAPPED:

I’m the editor of The Northwestern Chronicle, a weekly conservative rag published on newsprint (5000 copies = $550). We get funding from the ISI – we also work like dogs for subscriptions, which make up 20% of our revenue this year, and send out letters to alumni to ask for donations. Your characterization of conservative publications, thus, struck me as laughable. NU’s leftist magazine, The Protest, gets funding from the student activity fee paid by every Northwestern student – we don’t ask our fellow students to subsidize us at all. I’m curious – in your moral universe, which method of securing funding is more fair?

For the last three years I’ve attended ISI’s conferences and met editors from similar papers around the country. The Patriot, yes, is seen as our movement’s flagship paper, and there are qualms to be taken with that. But apart from The Princeton Tory, the Kenyon Observer, and a few other mags, the vast majority of conservative papers are printed cheaply.

This might seem to you like a curious bone to pick. It wasn’t the only assertion you made. But to me, it encapsulates much of what has made TAPPED incrementally worse and worse over the past few months. You assume, with a blurb from one magazine and a memory from a book you “flipped through” as evidence, that conservative college students are a pack of well-funded plutocrats who publish dreck on the most environmentally-unfriendly paper possible. It’s an image that jives perfectly with your stereotypes of the right and jars dramatically with reality. Your post will probably attract more attention than anything written on the other end of the spectrum, but for its complete lack of truth or perspective, it makes you look ridiculous.

The thing is – with a modicum of googling and legwork, you probably COULD find a way to slam conservative college papers on substantive points. You decided instead to suppose what conservative papers MIGHT be like and posit it as proof of an “intellectual decline.”

How tedious.

missing the old, good TAPPED,
Dave Weigel

And, happily, they responded.


Bully for your for getting independent funding and eschewing the left-wing-campus teat. If you’re right, and most righty rags aren’t glossy and thick, then you’ve rebutted an aside. The broader point is that an enterprising conservative start-up can always go to ISI for money grants (as well as, in most cases, to the student activities fund. And the even broader point, the main point, really, is: Most of the many conservative student rags we’ve come across in our time follow the same blueprint as they did in D’Souza’s time, which wasn’t much of a blueprint then and isn’t much of one now. We purposely cited those “articles” for which the Patriot is supposedly adding to intellectual debate, and pointed out that they are, rather, insipid and silly.
That’s the substantive point you’re looking for. And if you think that calling for the bulldozing of a quad popular for protesting is serious argument instead of feel-good provocation for righties, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

In any case, good to count you as a reader.



Pro-Coulter, #2

I won’t buy it, I won’t read it, but I am very pleased that, 4.5 months before it hits the stands, Ann Coulter’s “Treason” is one of Amazon.com’s top 100-200 (changes by the day) purchases. Eric Alterman’s “What Liberal Media?”, released in one week, and with an opening chapter that uses Coulter’s existence as some sort of proof of the inherent rightism of the media, is ranked 8,860.

Despite a perma-link from Atrios and daily mentions on Alterman’s blog.

Despite Alterman’s status as a Nation columnist as that magazine registers its highest sales in years.

I’m channelling Nelson from “The Simpsons” right now.


More Lamott

I remember when I first saw the columnist’s name. She took part in a pseudo-roundtable on the 1998 election. Her contribution stuck out for me then because it was so … well … here it is.

Anne Lamott, author and Salon columnist

I’m so happy. I’m ecstatic. I’m hysterical. I’m so happy that piece of shit D’Amato lost that I ate a can of Campbell’s D’Amato soup to celebrate and now I’m eating all my child’s Halloween candy to further the exhilaration. … I just saw [Lauch Faircloth] give his concession speech: “I guess I let everybody down.” They’re going, “No. No. No.” And I’m going, “You did. You did. We hate you. We didn’t want you anymore. We saw through you.” … And I hear there was a huge turnout in Illinois of blacks. [Carol Moseley-Braun’s] losing right now, it’s like 29 percent … I’m not giving up on Moseley-Braun yet. There was a really huge turnout of the blacks. And Feingold is ahead right now.

[To son] Don’t take candy out of your mouth and give it to me if you don’t like it. That’s like what a Republican would do.

[To Salon] We’re discussing the difference between [parties]. Republicans take candy out of their mouths that they decide they didn’t want. That’s what they have to offer: candy they’ve already sucked on [and] decided they don’t want.

[To son] A Democrat would let his mother take anything she wanted from the candy bag. … The Democrats are us. Like Toys R Us: Democrats are us. Republicans suck. We should never be close to people that are Republicans because they don’t take care of the poor, or black people or Hispanic people and they are not pro-women’s rights.

[To Salon] That’s progressive. The Democrats have been eating shit this whole year. It’s been such a bad year to be a Democrat. I just feel like it’s been so great to have a good night, to have a few upsets. I’m just so happy. I think it’s going to change the whole course of the impeachment proceedings. It’s a real slap in the face to that prick Henry Hyde. Of course he got reelected. He’s the incumbent, so he got reelected. But it doesn’t really matter because his platform didn’t get embraced. It’s like people just said, “Stop. Bore us later. We don’t give a shit. We’re really, really concerned about real things.”

And they rehired her.


Little Miss Useless

Salon.com, they of the premium subscriptions, made a great do about the rehiring of columnist Anne Lamott last year. Who’s Anne Lamott? Exactly.

Lamott’s recent column Hard Rain, if you can read past the slightly terrifying author photo, is a rambling shipwreck of basement prose that illustrates how one woman – who is not at all atypical of the modern San Francisco Democrat – thinks.

[M]y friend, who is usually a crabby optimist like me, is terrorized [by the Republican government]. She’s not worried about Catastrophic War-Lite in the Middle East, she is trying to imagine the end of life as we now know it, under an endless, paranoid right-wing government.
She is talking about life in shelters, and caves.

Uh. Huh.

Like everyone I know, I stepped up my do-good efforts as the dread threatened to overwhelm — I spoke out against the war, went to demonstrations, sent money to environmental groups, signed petitions, went to visit old people in convalescent homes, flirted with old people on the street, read the Nation and Salon, sent more money to the ACLU, Doctors Without Borders, Clowns without Borders, Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance, the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance, to anyone who will help kids and poor people. And I planted bulbs, which is a form of prayer.

Note that apart from “visiting old people,” Lamott does nothing altruistic. She gives money to altruists. Surely some of that Nation-reading time could be spent tutoring a kid? My ex is a Republican, and she had the heart to work at an animal shelter AND tutor a high school student. When she wasn’t trying to put Anne Lammott in a cave, of course.

As the threats from Korea mounted, I rented the movie “Independence Day.” I wanted to see what it takes to mount an effective resistance against an alien takeover, because this is what the current administration feels like to me, a hostile alien government. And according to the movie, it turns out that we who oppose the war in Iraq have everything we already need. We have a great cause — world peace and freedom … Maybe goodness would prevail, maybe not, but as Molly Ivins wrote years ago, freedom fighters don’t always win, but they are always right.

You know who was right? The Khmer Rouge. My goodness, they were such freedom fighters. And so very right!

Then I heard at church that the Marin Interfaith Council was sponsoring a peace march on the solstice.

That’s just the best sentence ever.

Two thousand of us gathered, and we milled around together until night began to fall. Then we lit our candles and began to march, and talk and sing. I said I was hungry, and someone gave me a hard butterscotch candy. This is so biblical, I can hardly bear it. I couldn’t see the front of the line, it was so far away, and I couldn’t see the back. It looked like a Dylan concert.

Any of these are nominees for second place.

Seriously, I feel much better about my own intellect knowing that there’s an Anne Lamott.


The new Christopher Hitchens!

To little (OK, no) fanfare, The Nation has replaced columnist Christopher Hitchens with … wait for it … Naomi Klein.

Yes, the No Logo girl. That Naomi Klein.

How does her prose stack up against the Hitch’s? Let’s see!

What we are seeing is the emergence of a genuinely new New World Order, one far more Darwinian than the First, Second and Third World. The new divisions are between fortress continents and locked-out continents. For locked-out continents, even their cheap labor isn’t needed, and their countries are left to beg outside the gates for a half-decent price for wheat and bananas.

Interesting. The Nation has expanded its coverage from planet Earth to that shadowy dimension where the United States is run by vampires who survive on the blood of brown people.

And they still publish Eric Alterman. Forgive me if I read a left-wing magazine that keeps me awake.


Ah, there you go

Mark Steyn puts the anti-war protests in focus after suggesting how our overseas friends viewed them.

All over the TV, the news shows reported on the �peace� demonstrations �sweeping� America, though you couldn�t help noticing the cameras always stayed in tight, no wide shots, just close- ups � in some cases, because there were only six �peace� lovers present; in others, to avoid showing the vast numbers of nutters.
Thus, the main planks of the anti-war platform: it�s not all about oil, it�s also about Hitler, the Florida recount, dying for those devious Jews, and letting me show you my pubes. The much-invoked Gandhi managed to get through a demo without whipping his loincloth off, but then he had a goal he wanted to achieve.
So I couldn�t have been happier. After a weekend-long narcissistic freakshow, the pro-war numbers were bound to go up.

Hee, as Ellen Shapiro would say.


Counting lessons

Michelle Goldberg, stalwart of Salon.com’s anti-war beat, wrote an article (available if you watch a short ad) about how the hell one estimates crowd size. Interviewing a sociology professor:

McPhail says … eyeball estimates are usually wrong. The crowd-counting method he uses, he says, was devised by Berkeley journalism professor Herbert Jacobs in the 1960s during the Free Speech movement. Sproul Plaza, where the protests were held, was made of concrete poured in uniform sections. By measuring the sections, estimating the crowd density and counting how many sections were filled, Jacobs was able to come up with fairly reliable numbers. Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, says that the methodology is well known and well respected by scientists.

What about Jan. 18?

The counting formula divides the mall into eight panels and measures the square footage of each. For really huge protests, aerial photographs are necessary to determine how much space is occupied, but Saturday’s rally was small enough that McPhail and another professor, John McCarthy of Pennsylvania State, could easily walk through the gathering many times, noting its borders and its density.
A crowd of 500,000, he says, would have filled all eight panels, stretching from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, or from Third Street to 14th Street. Saturday’s protest, he says, filled only one and a quarter panel, and only a fraction of that was densely packed.

So how many people were in D.C.? About 55,000.

Sort of makes this look stupid. Oh, wait – it already was.