Saturday, June 18, 2005


Nader, Please!

Brother Ralph shows that he is down wit da cause and represents like a mo-fo! Word!! (Hat-tip: New Leadership Blog)

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I'm Back

Not really gone, actually, but the posting was a bit sporadic over the last couple days as I was working on a big column over at the day job. Results to be seen tomorrow (Sunday). Anyway, look for some extra weekend posting -- including the quite belated, but hopefully anticipated review/analysis of Batman Begins!

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Thursday, June 16, 2005


Last Refuge of Scoundrels... total fealty to the USA PATRIOT Act.

Thus, this vote, demanding subpoena or judicial oversight before the FBI can seize bookstore or library records, is somewhat exquisite. I'm not necessarily a black-helicopter-distrusting-of-the-guvmint type. However, I'm quite glad that this occurred -- for two reasons: 1) As noted last weekend, granting expanded power under the Act to an agency that has been screwing up royally for years makes no sense on either civil libertarian or government-accountability grounds. That's why a few die-hard conservatives are beginning to grumble about the speed of which the Act is being debated. 2) The vote exposes the arrogance of the House leadership and reflects how it is becoming more a rubber-stamp committee for the administration rather than a group attuned to the legitimate concerns of its members. Consider these two passages:

"House Republican leadership aides said they plan to have the provision removed when a conference committee meets to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill."

"Last year, the House leadership barely staved off the amendment with a 210 to 210 tie, engineered by holding the vote open to pressure some Republicans to switch their votes."

Thus, it's pretty clear that, in successive years, there's a pretty clear majority in the House insistent on getting this language into law. But, successively, the leadership has chosen to -- or is planning to -- frustrate that majority (others can draw attention to the rhetoric of opposing the filibuster over in the Senate on their own time).

And then you have this wonderful quote from an anonymous House leadership aide, describing the collection of voting members: "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."

His various ethical problems aside, I'm sure Bob Ney, the House Administration Committee chairman -- who voted against the Patriot Act the first time around -- certainly appreciates being called a "crazy" by leadership staff.

Hard as it may be for even some members of the House GOP leadership to understand, there are evidently a few elected Republicans who actually believe in that "Leave Us Alone Coalition" stuff that Grover Norquist has exhorted for years.

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Black Steele In the Hour of Kos

I'm glad that Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele is apparently going to jump into the Senate race to succeed Paul Sarbanes (with any luck, his fortunes will be much better than the recent ones of his ex-brother-in-law).

Kos, however, uses the announcement to slam Republicans over, um, lynching:

"Republicans are excited that Steele is black, since that lynching business and related shenanigans make it hard for them to attract significant non-white support."

We won't go into the ancient history of real lynching and note that, when the practice was going on, it was predominantly in Southern states that overwhelmingly voted Democrat. Also, the filibusters that prevented Senate action on anti-lynching bills were, primarily, initiated by Southern Democratic senators. We could spend voluminous amount of time on that history, but we won't.

Instead, let's just consider the implications of Kos' statement: It is as important to get indignant over the failure of some Republicans to co-sponsor an essentially meaningless, feel-good bit of legislation (which was actually introduced by a Southern Republican) -- as it is to make a gratuitous reference to a black Republican's race rather than truly consider whether he would be a good candidate.

Glad we got that straightened out.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005


At Last!!!!

What more needs to be said?

One of the movie posters for Warner Bros. Batman Begins

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Roger That!

As promised, here's Roger Friedman's summary of the verdict and what the future holds for Michael.

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Black Or White

Hmmm, not sure if this is the best way to overcome the criticism that Live 8 is "too white."

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Remember The Time?

Even despite the not-guilty verdicts, the Michael Jackson trial and verdict still has a sense of tragedy about it -- tragedy in the classical sense. The roots of the tragedy could be seen on ABC's Nightline and MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olberman. It was footage of the young, Jackson 5-era, Michael Jackson leading his four brothers on "I Want You Back" and "The Love You Save." -- Here was a 12-year old vocal and physical wunderkind, a graceful, charming black kid from Gary, Indiana completely and totally in control of a musical moment. Remember the time?

Ten years later, he had a Number One album and two Number One singles. Yet, the amazing thing was, THAT album, Off The Wall, was only the appetizer to a main course, Thriller, would put Jackson in a place in musical fame that few outside Elvis or The Beatles could ever contemplate. Remember the time?

And now? We see a freak with whitened skin, stringy hair, ill -- a literal 98-pound weakling with back problems -- accused on more than one occasion of molesting children. We see a freak accompanied by a sister who seventeen months ago single-breastedly managed to give the FCC the perfect opportunity to start pushing its "indecency" doctrine. We see estranged parents who managed to produce an insanely talented child that, partly because of what everyone now knows was physical abuse on the part of Michael's father , Joe. Estranged parents producing strange kids? There are no surprises here.

A one-time superstar, despite his legal status, looks pathetic. The jurors admitted that he was probably a pedophile, even if not in this specific case. The innocence of Jackson's youth, seemingly evident in the old video footage, now seems like a mirage. And he may now have been the agent of the destruction of other young boys' innocence.

Tucker Carlson's new MSNBC effort, The Situation, was barely 10 minutes old when regular Jay Severin, uttered this idiocy: "I speak for America, when I say that this is 'O.J. Jackson.'" Oh, please. This is so far removed from O.J. that it is not in the same universe (with the obvious notable exception of this being another celebrity trial in Southern California). For one thing, the O.J. jury was racially-mixed (though majority black) and immediately pilloried for its quick verdict. The Jackson jury was all-white and have been praised almost universally for their careful reading of the testimony, the instructions from the judge and the weighing of the evidence.

In the hours before the verdict was read, while everyone in the office volunteered their guess as to what would happen, one colleague who hadn't showed much interest in the case noted that there were "eight mothers on the jury." I volunteered that the question was, "Would they look at Jackson and see a pervert who needed to be put away -- or look at the mother of the accused and see someone who was unbelievable?"

It's clear from all the post-verdict reportage and analysis what the anwer to that question was: The mother and her sons (the accused and his brother) were seen as something like grifters. As often happens in a classic tragedy, the protagonist is never exactly blameless, yet ends up suffering whatever fate destiny has to mete out.

There are others more "evil" and less worthy of sympathy. The jury chose to make that judgment with the accuser's family. Indeed, one shouldn't be surprised if, in the days ahead, that Macauley Culkin's testimony may have turned out to be somewhat critical. Not only did he pointedly reject the notion that Jackson had molested him, but he also sat there as another former child star who had to overcome a dysfunctional situation with his parents. Indeed, Culkin became an emancipated minor and sued his parents to keep them off his fortune. Culkin ended up as an archetypal figure somewhere between the image of the young, innocent, Michael Jackson and his young accuser. Culkin was a prodigy like Michael. Yet, like the accuser, he was also the son of parents with borderline criminal sensibilities.

And Culkin helped exonerate Jackson.

But, he still can't totally exonerate Jackson's reputation -- or this one single fact: A 40-something man who has been a public figure for more than three decades has still fallen further than hardly any can imagine. That earlier time now looks like it belonged to someone else.

Any loss of innocence is a tragedy -- and that is what has happened over the last many months that culminated in yet another Southern California courtroom.

Remember the time?

UPDATE: Welcome, AOL-ers!!! Thanks for coming by. Feel free to check out the other random stuff here on politics, comic books and goodness knows what else!!!

UPDATE: More of my Michael Jackson-related commentary can be found here, here, here, here and here!

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Two Quick Memos

Memo to CNN's Aaron Brown who stated Monday on his show Newsnight: "[Juror] Raymond Hultman said, 'I feel that Michael Jackson may have molested boys, but..." Aaron, Aaron, please don't let any sentence involving potential pedophelia end on the phrase, "boys but."

Memo to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough who said on Monday's Scarborough Country: "There is justice for those of us who are not celebrities -- and there is justice for celebrities." Um, Joe, you are a former U.S. Congressman who hosts a television show on an American cable network. Who is this "us who are not celebrities" of whom you speak?

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Three Headlines

At 1 A.M. Tuesday morning, these were the three Top Stories as listed by Reuters on My Yahoo:

Michael Jackson cleared after sensational trial - 2 hours ago
U.S. Senate apologizes for shame of lynchings - 2 hours ago
KKK suspect goes on trial for Mississippi murders - 7 hours ago

Random coincidence? Or something else?

I report, you decide.

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Monday, June 13, 2005



...the only thing that knocks this garbage out as an above-the-name headline is a verdict which announces that a man is not guilty of being a pervert. There's an odd irony there.

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Happy Blogoversary!!

To RAGGED THOTS friends Karol and (belatedly, by a week or so) Eric! May you both continue to inspire with your wit and diligence!

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Beat It

Yes. He did. 10 Counts. 10 Not Guilty. Contrary to what Missing Persons sang more than twenty years ago, "EVERYBODY walks in L.A."

At least every celebrity.

UPDATE: These celebrity trials tend to bore me, so I was happy to keep this a Michael-free blog. My gut reaction was that he was most likely going to get off (no pun intended), if only because that's what usually happens in L.A.-area celebrity trials (see above). However, any substantive reason I had for that sentiment most likely came from reading Fox News' Roger Friedman. While it was quite clear that Roger seemed pro-Michael from the beginning, his many columns on the subject had a real strong control of the facts and perceptive insights on the various legal team strategies. His confidence that Michael would walk was grounded in a meticulous analysis of the major testimony and cross-examination. His last pre-verdict column is here. Check back there for what will later undoubtedly be the definitive wrap-up with various predictions about what comes next as Jackson tries to salvage an almost-completely wrecked professional and personal life.

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Well, it had to happen sooner or later, but Matt Drudge has officially jumped the shark.

Why would you run this? To help Edward Klein sell more books? As if another "Hillary-sucks" book wouldn't have a built-in consituency? But, what's so insane about this particular leak is that -- assuming the idea is to hit Hillary politically -- it totally fails. If the charge is true, how on earth could one read the passage and not one help feeling sorry for the woman?

Hillary cannily turned her biggest liability -- that she was overly ambitious and wanted to create her own political career separate from Bill -- into a strength. The underlying subtext of her 2000 New York Senate run was that of a woman's redemptive oddyssey after having endured the humiliation of the Monica mess across the cable stations and in the front pages of every newspaper. She was the wronged wife who refused to just be a victim. Instead, she launched out on her own. This wasn't said explicitly, but the impression was made.

Now, Drudge wants to spread the Klein story that Hillary isn't just a victim of a philandering husband -- but that she endured a rape, stayed with the husband and raised her daughter. And this is supposed to be a political black mark against her?

In any sense, the story is repugnant -- particularly its complete lack of thought for the feelings of Chelsea Clinton. Yes, she's an adult now, but she's still a human being.

But, as a "political" attack, Drudge's giving this banner status is beyond stupid.

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Rewarding Further Bureaucratic Incompetence

One of the biggest moves on the elementary education front is to end what is called social promotion -- the tactic of promoting kids whose test scores and classroom work prove that they clearly don't belong in the next grade. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg successfully pushed to end the practice. Recent test scores may have proven him right.

Now, what happens at the federal level?

Let's just say, for instance, that there exists a federal agency
implicated in one of the most catastrophic intelligence and crime-prevention failures in history.

Further, just for arguments sake, that that same federal agency, nearly four years after the aforesaid catastrophic failures, still has yet to completely modernize its file management systems. Indeed, that agency was told to abandon the project costing some
$170 million.

So, what should happen to that federal agency? Should the head of the agency lose his job? Should there be more federal oversight? Should there be some sort of sanctions? Well, of course, not. This is the federal government, after all. It should get -- brand new

Which is one reason that even some
conservatives are also asking -- What the #%@!?

They are focusing more on the civil liberties issue, which can't be dismissed. But what happened to the basic idea of, uh, competence?

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