Cause and Effect?
The following is part of the front page of the Los Angeles Times Online this morning.
Nothing clever to say here; I was just struck by the positioning.
Tricky Dickie Takes A Dive
Thirty-three years ago, on August 8th 1974, Richard Nixon went on TV to announce that he would resign from the Presidency at noon the next day. Watergate had maxxed out, and the evil one had been driven from power.
In these days when Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gonzales are chewing bits of the Constitution and spitting them out, it is good to remember that inspired journalism combined with an activist Congress can actually succeed in achieving regime change in Washington.
Missing In Action -- Vancouver East
There is a new magazine in Vancouver. It is called "Granville" and it purports to be focused on the idea of sustainability. That's fair enough and welcome.
However, while the magazine's premier issue includes a list of "sustainability" events happening across the city in the next few months, it completely fails to mention the two "Car-Free Festival" days we have on Commercial Drive this month and next. Wildly popular last year, these events specifically celebrate the sustainability of neighbourhoods, and how neighbourhoods can be vital places without automobiles and their desperate pollution.
Can it be that editors of "Granville" are unaware of these events (bad reporting)? Or perhaps they don't think of our festivals as being concerned with sustainability (lack of imagination)? Or, sad to say, has this new magazine fallen for that old westside habit (think "Vancouver" magazine) of thinking that nothing east of Main Street is of any value? That would be very sad.
The Imus Firing
Don Imus has now been fired by NBC and CBS and his show taken off the air because of some viciously racist statements he made last week. In an earlier post, I wondered whether the FCC would levy fines as they did in the "wardrobe malfunction" incident on TV. I still believe they should do that, in order to show that they are not hypocritical. However, I certainly do not believe Imus should have been fired.
What Imus and his sidekicks said was disgusting, racist and sexist. But I doubt they would have said any of those things if we had not developed a culture where black rappers make millions of dollars peddling "tunes" that viciously and brutally condemn women to a second class status. For a rapper, calling a woman a "ho" is far from the worst thing. Much worse violence, physical and mental, is praised in too many rappers' songs. How is it that it is OK in one case, but not for Don Imus?
Let me reiterate that the things Imus and his crew said were disgusting, racist and sexist. That is not in dispute. However, in a country where the right of free speech and the powers of market capitalism are so highly touted, the firing shows a lack of trust in both ideas.
As many many posts can attest, I hate censorship more than most things. There can NEVER be a reasonable determination of "good" versus "bad" in speech that is not coloured by one's own beliefs. Americans claim to support that idea of free speech -- and loudly proclaim their First Amendment --, but the millions of dollars of fines by the FCC for so-called "transgressions" of "standards" prove that that is in fact not so. Free speech is only "free" so long as the authorities say it is OK.
Most Americans also proclaim the virtues of the market capitalist system. If they truly DID believe this, then they would accept that the answer to the Imus's of the world would be simple -- switch off! However, the people making these censorship judgements refuse to accept that the millions of people who listen to these jerks every day have the right to listen. The people must be forced to abide by the censors' views regardless of what the market wants.
This whole affair is a sad business from beginning to end.
Breasts and Racism
Not that long ago, a television network was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl halftime show that allowed us all to glimpse, for one quarter of a second, a tiny part of Janet Jackson's nipple cover.
Radio legend Don Imus last week, on his widely heard morning radio show, called a group of mostly black female college athletes "nappy-headed hos". His excuse, apparently, is that he was just trying to be funny.
It will be interesting -- and I think informative -- to see the level of fine (assuming there will be even that) levied against this vicious racist sloganeering. Perhaps then we can judge the value the FCC puts against an extended conversation that included gross racism as compared to the momentary revealing on public television of a silver pastie.
I always enjoy the reporting of Jason Leopold. I have used him as a source for some items in the Plamegate Chronology. Sometimes, though, he does seem just a little too far ahead of the curve.
Like many following the story, I was excited by Jason's reporting last week that Rove has already been indicted and has been given time to straighten his affairs at the White House. This would have been the second major shoe dropping, needing now just a smoking gun in the VPs hands to bring Cheney down too. However, you will notice that I did not rush into print with a link to the story. Tim Grieve at Salon has an excellent run-down on why. We all hope that Jason is correct, but we all need a bit more proof than he seems to be able to share right now.
At the same time, Grieve's piece answers the charge that the blogosphere is simply reactive and unthinking. He shows that by our general reaction to Jason's story we are a well-regulated -- self-regulated -- bunch of folks. Good for us!
I have once again updated my Plamegate and Niger Forgery Chronology. The latest 170-page version is available on the left sidebar, dated April 17.
The latest filings in the Libby case have thrown up a few interesting nuggets, as did the Sunday Times reporting on Martino (although much was already known through Josh Marshall and Nur al-Cubicle). In addition, I have added an extensive bibliography in two forms (alphabetical by author, and chronological).
This week's revelations in court papers filed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald have prompted me to update my Plamegate and Niger Forgery Chronoloy.
The updated document can be downloaded from the link on the left sidebar. There are quite a few new and updated entries, marked in red.
I still have a whack of material to get through and so I anticipate another edition at the end of this coming week.
Tolerating the Intolerant
Malene Arpe of the Toronto Star has written a most marvelous piece about the intolerance shown by fanatics -- most recently by Muslims complaining about cartoons. She makes some wonderful points throughout, but I'll just quote her close:
"I work hard, as an atheist, at not being angered by the increasing inclusion of this, that or whatever god in areas of life that should be secular. I succeed because I tell myself it's none of my business what people believe, although every time they pray on Survivor or I hear another one-hit wonder thanking God for His direct hand in securing a People's Choice Award, I do feel the need to say a dirty word. Just to counteract.I happen to think religion is destructive, oppressive and overburdened by silly hats.
I also think the only reason Christianity has more adherents and respectability than, say, the Raelians or the Scientologists, is that the Christians came along first. Don't let that keep you from looking heavenwards. Do what you will in the comfort of your own home or place of worship and rest assured that when I visit I will behave politely, cover up whatever vile parts of my body offend your particular god, and refrain from eating ham sandwiches while you pray.
If being offended is such a necessity to your enjoyment of life or your sense of self, think about the censorship you implicitly advocate. Consider that you may not be the one who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned. Maybe it will be me. I guarantee you wouldn't like it."
Definitely couldn't have said it better myself.
A Waste Of Space
I have come to despise manned space exploration. It is wasteful and inefficient, and the same money spent could fund unimaginable portfolios of unmanned science missions. But back in the day, you know, when I was in my younger and middle teens, I was gung-ho for the Mercury and Gemini and Apollo programs -- and for the competing Russian programs, too.
But it was different then, too, because of the attitude of the astronauts and the bureaucrats who funded them. They recognized that there was danger, that danger was part of the exercise. They knew that if a few Brits and Portugese and Danes and Italians hadn't previously drowned in the Atlantic, then Columbus would never have made it. For the last generation or so, though, safety has been paramount. Safety as public relations, safety as politics. It has drowned out the science, and it has drowned NASA in billions of dollars of wasted effort.
We can compare the fates of Apollo I and the Challenger shuttle, which were destroyed on January 27th, 1967, and January 28th, 1986 respectively. In 1967 we were horrified to lose three brave men to the fire. But everyone got on with it. It was a tragedy, but Apollo II kept on rolling because everyone knew it was a dangerous business with some certainty of losses. In 1986, the loss of the shuttle scuttled the program for years, with billions more spent for investigations of the investigators of the investigation.
Between 1967 and 1986 we had changed, and our attachment to manned exploration changed too. Most people still seem to support it -- the non-military parts of the NASA budget could hardly survive without such support -- but with a catch: they want it to be as safe as sitting at home on the couch. And thus the wasted billions spent attempting to make manned space flight risk free. Billions that could have been better spent on missions like the extraordinarily successful Mars rovers.
With this attitude, it is no wonder that today's Challenger anniversary is celebrated on front pages and on TV specials, while yesterday's anniversary of the deaths of Virgil Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee went almost unnoticed.