Predatory Politics

Tuesday, October 03

“Maf54 — you in your boxers, too?” [Usonian / Flickr]

Is Mark Foley suddenly political dynamite for the family values party or a case of a liberal, cynical media exploiting America’s obsession with sex and its fear and dread and embarrassment of it too?

It’s a perfect blogstorm — or at least a category 3 hurricane — says former Clinton enabler George Stephanopoulos.

But is it just naughty emails or a coverup of biblical proportions? A tipping point after two weeks of solid bad news in George Bush’s White House or hypocrisy that only the vast left-wing blogosphere could spew?

The beltway is crazed over what the Republican leadership knew and when they knew it. We’ve been wondering today, though, why sex hijacks the public discourse in America; why our media waterboards us with it and why it’s so excessive and puritanical and dysfunctional all at once.

Steve Almond

Author, The Evil BB Chow and Other Stories,
My Life in Heavy Metal
, and Candyfreak, and co-author of Which Brings Me To You .

Susan Willis

Associate Professor of Literature, Duke University
Author, Portents of the Real: A Primer for Post-9/11 America

Bitch, Ph.D.

Anonymous blogger, Bitch, Ph.D.

Robert Thompson

Professor and Founding Director, Center for the Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University
Extra Credit Reading
Allen Bartlett, A Conservative’s negative opinion of the 109th Congress, Powder Blue Report, October 3, 2006: “This incident also shows the sheer hypocrisy of the GOP or anyone else moralizing to the electorate. Isn’t it funny how some of the biggest bible thumpers are always the ones prone to get caught in the act doing things they are always speaking out against.”

Today’s Lies, A rational, intelligent discussion Of Mark Foley the politician rather than simply as a Republican, Today’s Lies, October 2, 2006: “This has also been hard to write about because Mark Foley does not fit the stereotype the Democratic Party wants him to: the fire-breathing, right-wing theocrat with a wife and 7 kids, who is really a closeted homosexual. He is a bit more complicated than that.”

Tom Scharbach, A victim of sexual abuse responds to the Drudge Report’s take on Foley, PurpleScarf, October 2 2006: “I wasn’t going to comment on the Foley story — I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, and not unbiased — but Matt Drudge put me over the edge.”

John Dickerson, Democrats can go too far with the Foley scandal,, October 2 2006: “Foley was a Republican, and the Republican leadership knew something, so out with the lot of them.”

Andrew Sullivan, Andrew Sullivan’s utube re: Mark Foley, The Daily Dish, October 3 2006: “It had to happen: a dramatization of a Mark Foley IM message stream.”

Michelle Malkin, Malkin slams the Republican leadership over Foley coverup, Michelle Malkin, October 3 2006: “What I am hearing from some conservatives inclined to pooh-pooh Foley’s behavior and carry on about Barney Frank instead does not sit well with me. You can’t possibly read Foley’s communications with minors that have been disclosed…and dismiss them as merely “naughty e-mails.”

Timothy Noah, Transcripts of Foley’s IM conversations,, September 30 2006. [Viewer discretion advised when reading this post.]

Wiki Highlights: WA-08

We didn’t plan to cover Washington’s Senate race or the fight for the WA-08 Congressional district when we launched our 2006 Election Wiki. Back then, neither race was close enough to be considered a “toss-up,” so we turned our attention elsewhere.

Today, the Senate race in Washington still seems securely within the grasp of the Democrats; pollsters say Maria Cantwell (D) will hold the lead with 9:1 odds. But the WA-08 race recently tightened up. Now Incumbent Dave Reichert (R) has only a slight lead over Darcy Burner (D). Luckily, local contributors Zentalon and Emmettoconnell have us covered. They’ve added a WA-08 page and put up a beautiful map of the district along with a hefty selection of local blogs backing each candidate.

If there’s a hot race in your area that’s not on our list, follow Emmett and Zentalon’s lead. Just email greta radioopensource org and I’ll walk you through it.


Time for spring cleaning…in September [Joel52 / Flickr]

Sadly, not every show in “Warming Up” makes it onto the air. This doesn’t mean that the comment thread wasn’t lively or helpful or that there wasn’t an interesting germ of an idea there — clearly we were curious enough to write a post and put it out there for your comment. But part of opening up our production means letting you see how we sift through ideas.

And so without further ado, we’re sidelining three shows. Here’s why:

The Japanese Miracle, Again?: A number of you (e.g. Sidewalker and Cave_Blogem) gently questioned the premise of this idea, and that kind of echoed what we found in initial pre-interviews. Overall this seemed like a good essay topic, and it generated thoughtful comments, but we were unconvinced it would make a riveting hour of radio.

Regional War in the Mideast: Our Role?: We ended up covering Lebanon and Israel and the wider Middle East a lot this summer — and this particular show just didn’t end up seeming as interesting as some of the others we put on the air. At this point it’s also out of date.

Perpetual Refugees: Because we try to find new angles into subjects, we rarely do descriptive shows (e.g., this is what a Palestinian refugee camp is like); and we avoid rehashing debates (e.g., should Palestinians have the right of return?). What interested us most about this Palestinian show was the idea that the camps themselves might be political pawns for Middle Eastern countries. But pre-interviews pointed more to a description/debate, so we decided it wasn’t right for the air right now.

Here’s the good news: these posts and the comment threads will continue their online life — so you can continue the conversation as long as you’d like.

Elections ‘06: The Arizona 8th

Monday, October 02

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mexico-arizona border

The border between Arizona and Mexico [Ryan Bavetta / Flickr]

Arizona’s 8th Congressional District stretches north from the border to a bit of the southern Tucson suburbs, but a Democrat up in Tucson doesn’t necessarily want the same things as a Democrat down south. Tucson Democrats, explained Michael Marizco, author of Border Reporter, are more likely to volunteer to come south to supply water stations for border crossers; along the border, Democrats and Republicans both are more likely to have had their houses broken into as the same crossers emerge from the desert, desperate for food. In any case, Marizco believes, the closer you live to the border, the more likely you are to believe that the current policy of law enforcement isn’t working.

According to The Arizona Daily Star, Republican Randy Graf has made border security the centerpiece of his campaign, but trails Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, even among voters who say immigration is an important issue. The GOP has pulled advertising support from Graf’s campaign but can’t have given up completely; Graf has a local fundraiser scheduled with Karl Rove.

Marizco, no softy on border issues, believes the only solution is a guest worker program. How does the immigration debate change as you move toward the border, from up here in Boston down to Arizona, and from Tucson down to Douglas? What does a district that lives the border issue every day think about the national border postures of both parties?

Blake Morlock

Columnist, Tucson Citizen

Steve Lynn

Chairman, Arizona Indepdendent Redistricting Commission

David Stoddard

Twenty-Seven-Year Veteran, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Resident, Santa Cruz County, Arizona

John Ellinwood

Blogger, Sonoran Alliance

Daniel Patterson

Blogger, Daniel’s News and Views

Ted Prezelski

Blogger, Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion
Extra Credit Reading
Blake Morlock, GOP committee’s foray into CD8 like a bad hangover, Tucson Citizen, September 25, 2006: “Maybe you know this guy. He’s drunk, walks into your house late at night, breaks something, tries to put it back together but makes a bigger mess. Then he leaves loudly and knocks over a trash can, waking neighbors as he disappears into the night.
That’s how the National Republican Congressional Committee entered and then left the race to replace retiring Republican congressman Jim Kolbe.”

David Espo, GOP Drops Ariz. TV Ad Campaign, Washington Post, September 21, 2006

GOP Coming; Giffords Playing Huffman Dodgeball, Arizona 8th, September 26, 2006: “A recent GOP fundraiser where Click announced his “150%” support for Graf is another indicator that the party is coming together and making an effort to repair the damage inflicted during the primary.”

Jim Nintzel, High noon for immigration, Salon, October 2, 2006: “Democrats are poised to pick up a U.S. House seat in Arizona. Can Republican Randy Graf stop them by exploiting voters’ fears of illegal immigrants?”

AZ-8: GOP Wounds Healed?, Real Clear Politics, September 8, 2006: “Giffords, the Democrat, focused on Iraq and healthcare during the primary, but is now going to be in a contest where immigration dominates the political landscape.”

Marie Horrigan, Conservative Graf Scores Win Over Moderate in Arizona’s 8th,, September 13, 2006: “The race turned decidedly negative in recent weeks, with the National Republican Campaign Committee taking the unusual step of choosing sides in a primary race by launching ads supporting Huffman.”

Daniel Scarpinato, Demos find border a top issue in rural areas, Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2006: “Elsewhere, [Democrats] use words like compromise and comprehensive. In this neck of the woods, Democrats talk enforcement.”

Mickey Kaus, Frist Fence Fakeout?, Slate, September 25, 2006: “Has Sen. Frist given up on the border fence? It sure sounded that way on George Stephanopoulos’ This Week.”

Open Source in the Boardroom

Thursday, September 28

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That’s open source, the general ethos, not Open Source, the public radio show. Because it’s not just about techies in their pajamas anymore, creating Linux for the glory of it. It’s also about gold-mine prospecting, and international coding competitions, and even soda marketing. It’s one of the ways — one of the few ways — that smart companies can get ahead of the rest of the pack, says business writer William Taylor in his new manifesto Mavericks at Work.

Taylor argues that companies of all kinds are very quickly waking to the notion that their consumers are smarter than they are… and are finally treating them as such. But this isn’t the touchy-feely, Open Source version of open source cooperation, knowledge sharing, and democratized participation — at least not as an end in itself. This is about cut-throat capitalism and the bottom line. This is about harnessing the wisdom and expertise of “pro-ams” — “amateurs who work to professional standards” — to beat the crap out of the competition, and to get rich in the process. Needless to say, we’re eager to learn.

William Taylor

Author, Mavericks at Work
Founding Editor, Fast Company

Jack Hughes

Founder and Chairman, TopCoder

Rob McEwen

CEO and Chairman, U.S. Gold

Peter van Stolk

Founder and CEO, Jones Soda

Post-Game: Rhode Island Senate Race

Last night we got our first taste of the political dynamics of this year’s races. We were introduced to Rhode Island’s two centrist candidates who would both likely represent their state’s liberal-to-moderate voters, but who are too centrist for the political tastes of our blogger guests.

The similarities between Chafee and Whitehouse remind me of the oft-cited truism of elections past: both parties are so closely aligned that it’s hard to distinguish the political views of one from the other. Maybe this is less true generally this election season, with so much at stake, but still true in Rhode Island. My sense now is that Rhode Island’s blue-state, blue-collar demographics, and the spirit of the Independent Man, push everything towards the center.

We’d like to think of last night’s show as a model for our future election shows: smart local bloggers, good vox pop and blog-driven sound, input from the wiki, and a cracker-jack main guest who oozes local color and knowledge about the state.

We had a head start with Rhode Island; Greta and I are both unofficial Rhode Islanders who used to live there and are very familiar with the biggest little state in the union and all its lovely eccentricities. Now the task is to crank it up for the Arizona 8th, and Ohio, and all the other contested races we’ll be covering.

A ‘Little Old Rhody’ on Chafee

I think here in RI people are pretty unhappy with the status quo.

Janice Ewing, in a conversation with Open Source, September 26, 2006.

Janice Ewing is a self-proclaimed “Little Old Rhody” living on the East side of Providence. We found her through contacts on our 2006 Election

My main concern is the fact that while the Republicans control the Senate, we can’t change anything. My son served in Iraq. He returned 7 months ago and said he wouldn’t reinlist, but they redeploying him. So obviously the war is uppermost in my mind.

Janice Ewing, in a conversation with Open Source, September 26, 2006.

I think [Chafee]’s a fine gentleman. His father was a great governor and a pretty good Senator, but he’s a Republican. He got carried through on his father’s coattails, but he’s no John Chafee. I did vote for him the first go around, I didn’t think the Democrat was good enough. Whitehouse is. I was at a Whitehouse fundraiser and someone — I think it was Barbara Boxer? — said that Chafee votes with the Democrats 60% of the time. I want a candidate who will vote with the Democrats all the time.

Janice Ewing, in a conversation with Open Source,
September 26, 2006.

Rhode Island is a blue state, we’re usually the first into the Dem column in Presidential elections. We burned the Gaspee before the Revolutionary War even began. We’re going to follow in that tradition, we’re going to start the Revolution to take back our country now.

Janice Ewing, in a conversation with Open Source, September 26, 2006.

Post-game I. F. Stone: Back at you, Billmon

I followed Myra McPherson over to Harvard Square last night after our show, just to hear the Cambridge Forum version of the paean to I. F. Stone. And I heard a sad, old, mostly habitual celebration of a man and a world utterly departed — eerily and uncomfortably like what Billmon said he was hearing on Open Source. Agony! Maybe 30 or 40 denizens of the Peoples’ Republic of Cambridge looked pretty lost in the expanse of the First Church. Their memories of IFS seemed dim, and their questions rambled toward incoherence. I hadn’t read Billmon’s afterword at that point, but I heard a big click in my head that said: Next chapter, Chris. The god of your youth in journalism is secure in Olympus; his description of the hysterical fear of communism in the Cold War fits to a T what he’d surely see as concerted, transparently racist, foolish scaremongering today about Iran and “Islamo-fascism.” In the profoundest ways, nothing has changed. But then, in truth, everything has changed.

Tony Judt is right in his remarkable essay in the London Review of Books: what we used to count on as “Liberal America” –and I. F. Stone was for me the best of it — has been quietly suffocated and buried without notice. In his lifetime I. F. Stone was an exuberant hybrid of idealistic socialism, generous and only-half-secularized Jewish exceptionalism, and passionate Jeffersonianism where free press and political expression are concerned. In Stone’s country by 2006 — to our bitter loss — his mix of enthusiasms makes a slightly freakish museum piece. As has been noted on another blog, it’s not just I. F. Stone who’s gone; if he came back he’d find that his readers were gone, too, and most of the people who loved all the melodies in his medley.

So I walked out of the First Church last night saying to myself: bloggers and the new tech of Web expressionism are not enough. We need a new song. Then I read Billmon this morning. What’s the new song, Billmon?

Kentucky: A Melungeon from Covington

The view of Cincinnati from Kentucky

A view from Covington’s Devou Park, with Cincinnati only a bridge ride away. [vidiot / Flickr]

We’ve been reaching out to local bloggers as we profile toss-up races across the country René Thompson of Covington, Kentucky, lives in Kentucky’s fourth district, where Geoff Davis (R) and Ken Lucas (D) are in a tight race for the House. Thompson blogs at The View from the Sandbox under the home-spun tagline “political discourse from a mother’s point of view.”

We got an email from her this week, which you can read in full on our 2006 Election Wiki. She paints a picture of a long-standing family history in a place she calls “a social and geographic buffet.”

My mother’s family have lived in southeastern KY for longer than there’s been a Commonwealth. We are Melungeons. (Look that term up and learn something about Kentucky history.) My grandparents and aunts and uncle moved here to get away from the mines. (My grandfather had acquired black lung.) My mother had already moved out of the mountains after finishing school. We moved permanently to northern Kentucky after my father’s death in 1976 but during his time in the Navy, Mom and I lived with my grandparents in the 60’s. My mother and both my aunts taught in this area. Mom in Belleview, Aunt Jewell at Boone Co. High School and my Aunt Darlene just retired from 40 years teaching at Yealey Elementary in Florence.

My husband’s family has been in 4th District since they got off the boat from Ireland around 1805. They first lived in Bracken and then moved to Kenton.

Safe to say, we’re pretty grounded here.

René Thompson, in an email to Open Source

René told us to look it up, and we did. Melungeons are an ethnic group of the Southern Appalachians composed of early mixtures of black, white and American Indian. The group worked in the region’s coal mines, and a movement is now growing toward the definition of a unique Melungeon heritage.

The KY 4th is a social and geographic buffet. We stretch between urban and truly rural. Industrial to farming and coal. From a cultural point of view you have the families whose heritage stretches back to Germany, England and Scotland. These were the settlers who came by wagon and oxen out of the east and built the gateway to the western frontier.

You also have the families from southeastern Kentucky who moved up here in the late ’50s and early sixties when the mines played out. These were the hardworking families that worked in the plants like GE during the boom years in the ’70s and ’80s. For many years you just had to hear a last name and you knew where they hailed from. (Heck, give me the right last name and their mother’s maiden name and I could tell you what holler their family came out of in southeastern Kentucky.)

In the ’90s came the Delta folks who came from every corner and brought money and new ideas. While they worked in Boone Co. where the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport is, they lived in surrounding counties as well.

And within the last five years we have seen the influx of Hispanics from Mexico and Central/South America. They have worked in our construction and service areas and add a new flavor to the mix.

The 4th is odd in that while it’s part of Kentucky, it’s not treated like part of Kentucky. There are some from outside the area who see places like Kenton Co. and Campbell Co. as “the south side of Cincinnati.” I must admit that it doesn’t have the same feel as the other areas of the Commonwealth, but that said, those that live here are still proud to be Kentuckians.

Religiously, you have the urban Catholics (German and Irish) and then there’s every mix of Protestant under the sun. And then there’s me, my Mom, my son and Dr. Cohen, we are the Jewish contingent. (Explanation: one side of the family was Baptist, the other side was Methodist, my parents converted to Judaism and sent me to a Catholic school. I can do guilt in 4 languages.) My husband is a devout agnostic.

From a political standpoint, it’s pretty Republican around here. That said, the Democratic Party in the area has grown over the last 10-15 years. There’s an old saying by Mark Twain that when the end of the world comes he wanted to be in Cincinnati because everything hits it about 10 years later. The man sure knew what he was talking about and given our proximity we probably lag about the 7-8 year range. (Disco was big here in the ’80s. I rest my case.)

No one will ever mistake 4th District for San Francisco but over time liberals are finding a footing and with this administration making the mistakes it is, even the most conservative of our neighbors is becoming more moderate.

René Thompson in an email to Open Source

For more from René and KY 04, check the 2006 Election Wiki.

I.F. Stone Remembered

Monday, September 25

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I.F. Stone, Washington, 1988 [keithwj / Flickr]

I. F. Stone was the only genius I ever observed in the genius-proof genre of deadline journalism. He was also, as is often celebrated nowadays, a proto-blogger: he wrote with an absolutely one-off independent spirit and lived without a boss or a staff (but for his dreamy, gorgeous, and adoring wife Esther) on the $5-a-year subscriptions to his four-page newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly. He was a model for our time and for the ages, as is more and more universally granted.

But let’s get something straight. He was not one of us. Geniuses and gods are different from you and me. And the regular street-talking little guy we all called “Izzy” had touches of an exalted and prophetic acquaintance with divinity. And he knew it! He said to me more than once that he might have been editor of The New York Times — and knew he’d have been brilliant at it — but really preferred to stand alone, on the outside. He was a pariah by choice. He knew and adored the Hebrew prophets: Isaiah and Jeremiah were his favorite by-lines, and he was not beyond identifying with the range and vehemence of their voices.

Izzy Stone knew very, very confidently what the wider world is just coming to understand: that he was writing for all time. He was a mid-century leftist, yes, in the time of the Cold War, McCarthyism and the Civil Rights Movement, but he was self-consciously a humanist and a dissenter in a much longer tradition going back to Athens as well as the Bible. He was aiming in every Weekly, every book review, every profile, for the high pitch of other artists he admired: Andre Gide, Henry James, Mozart, Freud. And his friend Albert Einstein.

Stone’s short obituary tribute to Einstein in April, 1955, reprinted in The Best of I.F. Stone brings tears to my eyes for the penetrating humanity of Stone’s insight into a hero, but also for that ever-curious way in which everything a man writes reveals himself. Fifty years later, Stone on Einstein reveals much of the inner Izzy, and much of what I feel about him:

Professor Einstein would not have liked a stuffy tribute. My wife and I loved him. He was a charter subscriber to the Weekly, and often strained its primitive bookkeeping facilities by renewing when no renewal was due. We and our three children had the great pleasure on several occasions of having tea with him at his home. It was like going to tea with God, not the terrible old God of the Bible but the little child’s father-in-heaven, very kind, very wise and yet himself very much like a child, too…

If our dim understanding of his work has any validity, we thought of it as a lifelong search for a new and greater unity in physical phenomena, and the re-establishment of the possibility of law in the universe. A world world made up only of statistical probabilities offended his profoundest instincts: he was like Bach or Beethoven, striving for new harmonies, but with the tools of mathematics and physics…

The man who sought a new harmony in the heavens and in the atom also sought for order and justice in the relations of men. As the greatest intellectual in the world of our time, he fought fascism everywhere and feared the signs of it in our country. This was the spirit in which he advised American intellectuals to defy the Congressional inquisition and refuse to submit themselves to ideological interrogation. In that position he was interpreting the First Amendment as Jefferson would have done…

I.F. Stone on Albert Einstein, from The Best of I.F. Stone

Much as he said of Einstein, Stone too reigns in that immortal realm far beyond politics and physics and journalism — the warm human memory of transcendence.

Myra MacPherson

Author, All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone

Peter Osnos

Founder and Editor-at-Large, PublicAffairs Books

Josh Marshall

Blogger, Talking Points Memo and TPM Cafe.


Blogger, Whiskey Bar