Friday, December 16, 2005


Check out a feisty new dialogue at Blogging Heads.

In an Afterthought post, Bob Wright argues that the "democracy meme" will succeed in Iraq and elsewhere, but will do so because of information technology rather than war. This is an important aspect of the broader thesis in his amazing book, Nonzero.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

R.I.P. Eugene McCarthy & Richard Pryor

Two giants of American culture have left us today. Eugene McCarthy has died at the age of 89, and Richard Pryor at the age of 65 after a long battle with MS.

Digby, as he often does, has captured my thoughts exactly, this time with regard to Pryor:

He was right up front, saying it all clearly and without restraint. He wasn't being polite and pretending that race wasn't an issue. And it didn't matter. Nobody, not one person, in that audience was angry. In fact, not one person in that audience was anything but doubled over in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. He had our number, all of us, the whole flawed species.

See also Tony Pierce, Russell Shaw,, NPR.

There will no doubt be many thoughtful pieces on the life of Mr. McCarthy in the next few days, but unless you were alive and paying attention during his peak political years you won't really be able to appreciate the kind of hope that he engendered. He was the most un-politician-like politician that ever took to a campaign in this country, and his passing reminds us of how badly we need those kinds of candidates now.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Paramount SKG

Late breaking news that Viacom will buy Dreamworks SKG live action division. My sources say the deal is done.

LAT & WSJ confirm the deal.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sami Al Arian Acquitted

I've waited a day after the announcement that Sami Al Arian had been acquitted of 17 charges relating to support for terrorism in order to take in some of the reaction and reporting on the case. I first wrote about Arian in 2002 in a post for Horowitzwatch. If you have a moment, give it a read.

If you haven't caught up on the news in the last 24 hours, check out the New York Times, The Miami Herald, or The Chicago Tribune. See also: a helpful Q&A;, a list of the charges and verdicts, a brief timeline of events in the case, and some reactions to the verdicts, all from the St. Petersburg Times. For some Sami-in-his own-words, check out this page from the conservative civil liberties group FIRE.

If you take the time to read even a couple of the links above you will, unfortunately, be better informed than many of the bloggers who have so far weighed in on the verdicts.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me just emphasize my earlier sentiments as expressed on Horowitzwatch: I don't like this Sami Al Arian guy - at all. He is an extremist Palestinian nationalist whose rhetoric has often been overtly racist, and he has associated with a great many people who are certainly terrorists. Whatever genuinely charitable and positive endeavors he may have engaged in over the years, they do not impress me as balance to his repugnant politics.

Al Arian was tried in a high profile case that was seen as a test for the new government powers granted by the Patriot Act, and the complete failure of the prosecution to get even a single guilty verdict out of a 51-count indictment can only be seen as a disaster for the government.

If only the prosecutors could have stacked the jury with bloggers. Many had already independently determined that Sami Al Arian was guilty.

Dan Darling of Winds of Change calls the verdicts "disgraceful", and in a later comment claims that there was so much evidence that he must have been guilty. What Dan doesn't seem to realize is that most of the evidence presented by the government occurred before the 1995 passage of the law that made support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad a crime. The prosecution presented a purely circumstantial case that relied heavily on pre-1995 evidence.

In other words, if Al Arian had done the things after 1995 that he had done before 1995 he would have broken the law. But Al Arian appears to have changed his activities after the '95 law was passed. Dan Darling didn't take the time to research the facts before he declared the man guilty of terrorism. I'd call that, well, "disgraceful".

This dipshit, at a blog called Sister Toldjah, cites video of Al Arian at a 1991 Cleveland event where Sami Al Arian can be seen and heard saying:
Despite all difficulties, the Palestinian people have decided to continue: to continue to confront, to continue to resist, to continue to endure, to set an example for all people and Muslims around them. Thus is the way of struggle. Thus is the way of giving. Thus is the way of sacrifice. Thus is the way of jihad. Thus is the way of martyrdom. Thus is the way of blood, because this is the path to heaven.

This quote is proof enough for Sister Toldjah that Al Arian is guilty of terrorism. By this standard our prisons would be filled with Neo-Nazis, redneck racists, and quite a few Fag-Hating/abortion-doctor-targeting Fundamentalist Christians in no time, and there would be no room left for Jee-Hadies.

My favorite, by far, is a real piece of work named Debbie Schlussel. Debbie appears to be another Ann Coulter wannabe, accompanying her wingnut rants with photos which she clearly thinks present her as a glamorous and sexy Conservo-Babe of some sort. This is a phenomenon that deserves its own post, but we'll not digress today.

Debbie seems to think that Al Arian was so damn guilty that the only explanations for his acquittal must be prosecutorial incompetence and the possible presence of an "O.J.-style" jury. Stupid people who have somehow managed to become federal prosecutors, and too many Brown People on the jury - that's her take on it.


By the way, you can join Debbie's fan club! Here's my favorite part of her Yahoo! Club page:
To paraphrase "Wayne's World's" Wayne and Garth, if she were President, Debbie Schlussel would be Babe-raham Lincoln.

And what a talented writer Babe-Raham is! Check out this graph from her Al Arian post:
Krigsman and company threw in everything but the bathwater in this case, putting several jurors to sleep frequently during the case. She took five months to present her case, when it was strong and could have been presented in a much shorter time with less extraneous matter. The defense didn't even make a case. They didn't have to. Krigsman did it for them.

Threw in everything but the bathwater? WTF? And if this stuff just seems to get better to you all the time, check out Debbie's Homophobic Film Reviews!

David Horowitz's has weighed in today, too. Resident nutbag Joe Kaufman attended the trial, and in spite of the jury's verdict believes that Al Arian should be locked up anyway.
But is deportation for this man justice? If that were the case, Sami al-Arian would have been deported long ago. No, al-Arian should remain behind bars. Regardless of what the outcome of the trial was, he was guilty of being a leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist entity he co-founded.

Atta boy, Joe! Let's show 'em all what Real Democracy looks like!

OK, no more picking on the Short Bus Kids.

Here's the bottom line: The federal government, with the power of the Patriot Act, tried to convict a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for crimes which a jury seems to have decided amounted to guilt by association and protected free speech. In fact, the defense seems to have made no effort to tone down the extreme nature of Al Arian's political views, as this page from their website recounting closing statements indicates. Al Arian's attorney didn't even feel the need to present a defense, so confident was he that the government had failed to prove their case.

Sami Al Arian remains in jail while the feds decide whether or not to re-try him on the counts that were deadlocked, and he still faces charges related to immigration violations. I won't miss him if it turns out that he fucked up enough on the immigration front that the government can rightfully deport him, but for today, I'm happy that a US jury found the wisdom to uphold freedom of speech and association for everyone. The fact that Sami Al Arian's speech and associations were both political and unpopular makes this case an even more important test of our system.

If not deported, Sami Al Arian should be released so he can, I hope, go fuck himself.

See also: Atrios & TalkLeft, and Huff Post on the MSM's silence in the wake of the verdict.

UPDATE: The LAT says the Patriot Act can't make up for a weak case, while the Miami Herald calls the verdict a victory for the rule of law in an editorial. Mike Deeson reports that insiders say the the trial cost taxpayers 30 million dollars. Bob Wright discusses the positive impact (comment at 16:24) of demonstrating that a Muslim can still get a fair trial in the US.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Kaus Paradox

Bob Wright finds the heart of the paradox that is Mickey Kaus in a segment of the latest dialogue at Bloggingheads. Later in the segment linked above, Kaus notes the unique ability of blogs to cooperate in a more effective way than an open source site like Wikipedia. His example cites the work of JustOneMinute and firedoglake on the Plame leak story.

On the subject of Kausian paradox, The Mickster doesn't let us down over at Kausfiles as he continues to push the truly irresponsible idea that the Plame outing may not have "caused any damage". There's a hint of the Washington insider mind set to Kaus's position here that is not often a feature of his work. Maybe a few more years in LA will cure him of that, but in the meantime it should be enough to point out that ideally, we will never know what, if any, damage was done, since to do so would further hinder national security. And regardless of how many of the Kool Kids in DC knew about Plame's status there is a simple principle at issue here: should the White House be allowed to play politics with national security? Hopefully, not even Mickey Kaus is cynical enough to think that there is any wiggle room on that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

BadDude Reviews:

As any OG blogger will likely tell you, Kausfiles, the blog of journalist Mickey Kaus which began as an independent website before migrating to Slate, was the template from which all political blogging was built. Instapundit and Josh Marshall both cite Kausfiles as a model, and even those of us who discovered blogs through other sites couldn't help stumbling over Mickey's place and picking up a few pointers. I still consider Kaus to be the best in the business with regard to understanding and exploiting the original blog form.

Given Mickey's importance to the world of blogs, I thought it wise to take some time to look over his latest venture, a new twist on video blogging called

A New Format

Kaus teams up with Robert Wright, a previously non-blogging journalist and author, to present a variation on the talking heads punditry of cable television. In a split-screen presentation Kaus and Wright tackle a few pre-determined topics in each video post. Both cameras are set up so that it seems they are looking out at us, allowing us to watch the pundits react to each other as they speak. Apparently, they can't see each other while they record, so we are actually watching them have a phone conversation over the net. The visuals and interactions might be more lively if they could figure out a way to make it a full video conference. The technique would be similar to The Interrotron that Errol Morris developed to great effect for interviewing his subjects for documentary films.

They visual design of the site is a horror, though the practical layout is very simple and effective. They chose garish shades of magenta and green as backgrounds to divide the screen, giving the page the look of a cheap, online Christmas greeting card. The logo at the top is too small to make an impression, and appears to be a TV with feet - the intended meaning of which I've yet to figure out. Other sections are set in plain white boxes with no style at all.

Beyond the aesthetic failings of the page, however, the layout of the content is quite effective. A large center column contains the screen for the streaming video panel with all the necessary bandwidth and player selections. Directly below the video is a spot for hyperlinks to websites referenced in the discussion, and below that is a box for Kaus and Wright to post "Afterthoughts" - additional comments and links that occur to them after the original post has gone up.

A left side column lists the recent dialogues going back about two weeks. This appears to be the current extent of the archives, though I did test to see if older posts were still on the server and found that they were. Given that this is a blog-like site, I would hope that they intend to set up a proper archive that will allow for long-term linking to posts.

Below the recent dialogues section are boxes that allow you to subscribe to RSS feeds or to download podcast versions as either .wmv or .mp3 files. Both are essential for spreading the word, but they should also create some buttons that other bloggers could download and use for linkng, and they should also consider creating a blogroll of sorts - or perhaps one each for Kaus and Wright. They should not be afraid to embrace these trappings of regular blogs, and it would help viewers to know where they were coming from. Blogrolls can tell readers a lot about the blogger.

The right side column features the most interesting technical feature of the site. Each dialogue is subdivided into the different topics with direct links that allow you to jump, or perhaps more importantly, to link directly to sections within the post. This is an absolutely essential feature if they hope to get other bloggers linking to these posts. The only thing missing is an elapsed time clock in the video window which would allow a blogger to reference a specific comment within the section links by referring to the time at which the comment occurs.

Posts are also grouped by topic, so that you can easily find other comments on a given topic from all of the posts. This can be very helpful since Kaus and Wright will sometimes refer to previous discussions without going into detail on the comments they are referencing. It also makes up for the fact that you can't do a word search on a video post.

Taken together, these subdivisions and the provided links are the key to the technical viability of the form. I haven't had much exposure to Video Blogging, but this strikes me as a brilliant innovation. They should endeavor to push this idea as far as possible.

Who Are These Guys?

Though it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a Point/Counterpoint setup, it is actually far from it. Wright is indeed a partisan Democrat, but whatever Kaus may be he is not a partisan Republican. They really should put up more extensive bio pages for the readers who don't know blogs and who don't know of Wright's background. Currently, it requires too much clicking and reading of outside links to get a sense of who they are.

They should also have an "About The Site" page that tells us who is behind the gig. Is it a Slate venture? Are they paying for their own bandwidth? Do they have support from some foundation?

Kaus has an established "brand" in the blogging community, and he does not abandon it for the new format. He is, on balance, a liberal of some unique sort, yet refuses to be sucked in to any ideological constraints. He is pro-choice but anti-Roe, for example, and seems to get more pleasure from attacking liberals than from going after conservatives. Annoying as it may be to us partisan liberals, however, this lack of partisanship is the core of his brand and it has been very successful for him. What sustains his credibility, in my opinion, is the underlying sense that he distrusts and largely despises all politicians - a position with which I find it hard to disagree.

Robert Wright has not, as far as I know, had a previous blog presence. He does have another website called, the format and technology of which is obviously the source for the Bloggingheads site. I had already watched about half of the dialogues before my curiosity led me to click on the bio links where I discovered that he was the same Robert Wright who had written one of my favorite non-fiction books of recent years, The Moral Animal, an entertaining and accessible book on the subject of evolutionary psychology. Like Kaus, Wright has an extensive journalism background.

Wright is an egg-head, but a feisty one. He also has a strange sense of humor that makes him a good match for Kaus. The fact that two really smart guys with lots of serious things to say don't take themselves too seriously is one of the more endearing things about the dialogues. It's kind of like Wayne's World featuring think tank geeks.

I'm guessing that this new format will be as influential to the future of blogging as Kausfiles was four years ago, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that it is noted and copied in some form by a cable news outlet.

They are still tweaking the place, but it is already well worth the time to watch these blogging heads.

Disclosure: Mickey Kaus is a personal friend, though I often disagree with him on major issues, and he frequently annoys me as much as he annoys all the other partisan liberals out there. I have never met Wright, but am a huge fan of his work on evolutionary psychology. His site is well worth some of your time.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Seven Score and Two

After a week in which words have been so very important in American politics, it is perhaps "fitting and proper" that we remember what Abraham Lincoln did 142 years ago with 272 words:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

November 19, 1863

If you have never read Garry Wills' book, Lincoln at Gettysburg:The Words That Remade America, I urge you to get a copy and do so. Wills looks at the address from many angles, including the rhetorical style, the historical context of funeral oratory, the rural cemetery movement, and the psychological changes in the nation's identity in the months that followed. It is a fascinating read.

Listen to James Earl Jones read the address.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hastert's Kool-Aid

My pal, conservo blogger John Cole, seems to be one of the few to have tasted Speaker Hastert's Kool-Aid. While every sentient being, even Bill Schneider on CNN, seems to regard the "Murtha Vote" as a meaningless stunt, Cole seems to think that it truly exposes the hypocrisy of the House Dems.

John doesn't seem concerned that not one Repblican voted for the resolution that they put up, nor that the "Murtha" resolution was re-worded so as to change the meaning of what the decorated war hero was proposing. Rep. Murtha, to no one's surprise, voted "no" on the resolution.

Next time the Speaker passes the Dixie Cup of fluorescent liquid around, John, just say "no".

I believe that this move by the Republicans in the House will quickly be seen as a huge tactical mistake. Rep. Jean Schmidt's bat-shit-crazy speech, which was so appalling that her own fellow Republicans made her request that it be stricken from the record, was just the most obvious error of the session. Nobody in the media is buying it as anything but a stunt, and the Dems are now energized and united in the House the way that Harry "21" Reid's moment spurred the Senate Dems.

Watching this now almost complete Republican melt-down is becoming very entertaining.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan on the "Murtha Vote" says:
"It's a straw-man: as cheap and tawdry as the current GOP leadership. Let me add something more. How pathetic is the credibility of a commander-in-chief that while he is abroad, all hell breaks loose on the war he is allegedly waging? Bush has lost the country on this. It's not the media's fault, not the Democrats', not the military's. It's Bush's, and his sad excuse for a defense secretary. "

And on Rep. Jean Schmidt Sulli says:
"Every time you think these Republicans can sink no lower, even after their vile smears against Kerry's service last year, they keep going. They make me sick to my stomach."

Joe Gandelman:
"The irony: most Democratic lawmakers do NOT go as far as Murtha in calling for an immediate pullout. They are defending him in the face of GOP/White House rhetorical overkill."

Sgt. Stryker on Republican support for the military:
"All the talk about Republicans being big supporters of the military is bullshit. If there?s someone insulting a vet and calling him a coward, chances are it?s a Republican who?s never served. If there?s a choice between money for shit people really need or a sexy new weapon system built by a company that donates heavily to the Party, the company will profit."

Is It Angry Dick?

AP is reporting that Woodward's source was not Darth Cheney, but Jane Hamsher is calling bullshit.

I suppose we'll know soon enough, but if it ain't Cheney, then who's left? Sexy Man Fitzgerald knows, and that's all that really matters.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Go Away

AMERICAblog sums up my feelings about John Kerry:
"You lost against a moron. Go away."

Short Cuts

W's approval rating at 34%.

The Guardian writes about top UK blogs, including the grand daddy of them all, Brother Perry's Samizdata.

Marty Kaplan reports the death of journalism.

After John Edwards' recent WaPo article, perhaps it's time to start keeping an eye on his One America Blog.

With the bizarre goings-on in the TraitorGate affair, Jane Hamsher's firedoglake blog is a daily must-read. Also, catch The Next Hurrah on the Woodward leak.

Matt Welch reads LGF so you (praise jeebus) don't have to.

Kevin Drum deciphers the NYT and concludes that they think Woodward's early source on Plame was Cheney. Drum also thinks that Murtha's speech today may represent a major ground shift on Iraq. Crooks & Liars has the video of the speech.

Elton Beard sums up Jonah Goldberg's embarrassing debut on the LA Times Op Ed page.

Jimmy Capo is back publishing at The Rittenhouse Review!

Tbogg comments on OSM-Fest. James Wolcott also offers his unique take.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Get Kinky in LA

Kinky Friedman is holding a "Fun Raiser" tonight in LA at Lucy's El Adobe on Melrose Avenue across from Paramount Studios.

The latest Zogby poll shows that Kinky may have a better chance than the Dem challenger of unseating Republican Governor Rick Perry , so come on down and drop some coin into Kinky's boot!

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