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12 August 2000

"It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it."
-- Eugene Debs, copped from Cluttered

I'm buried under a large collection of paying work and personal business, so I've been very bad about posting here. Sorry. In hopes of catching up a bit, I'll try to just post the links & pullquotes and leave out the extra commentary; you'll have to guess what I think, which I imagine isn't very hard anyway.

It'll probably be another long wait till my next post...

Wouldn't it be cool if web browsers searched the alternate text descriptions of images in addition to the visible copy when you searched a page? If a word was part of a graphic but also present in the ALT text (as it should be!), the browser could highlight that graphic as a search result.

This occurred to me as I was searching a Washington Post page for the word Opinion, aware that if it was only present in a graphic the search would come up empty.

Best summary of the Republican convention that I've seen:

  • The G.O.P.'s Age of Aquarius [NY Times]
    The true shadow convention in Philadelphia (as it will be at the Democratic Convention) was the one almost impossible for the media to penetrate -- the one put on by big money... Instead of providing wall-to-wall coverage of the official doings in the First Union Center, some enterprising cable network or Web site might have more aptly set up a hidden 24/7 camera in the lobby of the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel ... if only to keep track of the fat cats hoping to buy influence. // The efforts of ABC News's Brian Ross to infiltrate corporate festivities here -- which usually led to his and his cameraman's being body-blocked -- were more revealing than anything that happened on the convention floor.

    [On Cokie Roberts' interview with Lynne Cheney:] In tone and language, Mrs. Cheney ... conveyed that (a) her daughter is not openly gay; (b) to be gay is a frightful "thing"; and (c) Ms. Roberts was revealing a Cheney family secret. In fact, Mary Cheney, who is 31, has by many media accounts been openly gay for close to a decade... So it was preposterous to insinuate, as Lynne Cheney did, that Ms. Roberts had outed Mary Cheney. It was equally preposterous for Mrs. Cheney to claim that she would not be talking about her family in the campaign. She dragged her daughters into her speech introducing her husband to the convention just three days later, and throughout the week here wielded her heterosexual daughter's young child as a political prop.

    The real message is simply that Governor Bush had the iron-fist skills, the team and the imagination to persuade his party to convey that benign image, however synthetic some of it was. Everyone from pro-choice Republican women in pearls to Pat Robertson devotees to the most rabid Clinton-haters bit their tongues rather than frighten any of those few independents or Democrats watching.

Joseph Lieberman, the smart choice that I didn't expect Gore to make:

  • Interview with Sen. Joseph Lieberman [PBS/NewsHour]
    ...the fact that I'm Jewish, I hope, will become irrelevant. I hope that nobody either votes for me or against me because I'm Jewish. The fact that I'm orthodox, I understand, involves the questions because it's unusual - what will you do on the Sabbath, what will you not do - and those are fair questions. I'm happy to answer them as people ask them, but I hope that too will recede as we focus in on the policies...

    I love to be on this show because it gives me a chance for longer answers. ... I believe that our existence here is not an accident, but that God created the earth and humans who are on it, and that we, in turn, have a responsibility and gratitude to try to live a decent life and improve the world, to live according to the values that are part of all religions, in this case my religion.

    I think that in some sense the Republicans seem sort of sad to see President Clinton go. They don't... you know, they didn't have much real criticism to say about the Clinton-Gore record at their convention. The economy is so strong. We've had welfare reform, crime rates are dropping, all sorts of indicators suggest that life is better in the U.S. than it was eight years ago.

Reactions from Jews:

  • Expressions of Pride, Worries of Prejudice [Washington Post]
    Asked if they feared an antisemitic backlash, Dave Baum, 38, asked: "In the year 2000?"

    Howard Lavitt, 40, said: "There's always people who'll come out of the woodwork. Let 'em come out. Then we'll know who they are."
Here's one:
  • CNN TalkBack Live transcript, 7 August 2000 [CNN]
    David in Michigan says: "Gore's selection is an obvious ploy, along with Hillary Clinton's kissing up to the Jewish community to grab those votes. People are not ready for a Jewish vice president, at least I'll admit that. I wanted to see a woman as V.P. Gore just put a hole in his campaign vote."

What does it mean to be 'ready' for a Jewish vice president, anyway? What, will he suffer a breakdown if Gore and Lieberman are elected? Will he need a drink? Will he spend his weekends making ominous, knowing comments to his buddies? Will he plot against them? Define "not ready", please.

And this seems to fit in here somewhere:

  • Bush's 'Jesus Day' Is Called a First Amendment Violation [NY Times]
    Four months ago in Texas, Gov. George W. Bush signed a proclamation declaring June 10 to be Jesus Day, and urging all Texans to "follow Christ's example by performing good works in their communities and neighborhoods."

    As word of Texas's Jesus Day has spread through e-mail, Jewish newspapers and church-state separationists, the Republican presidential nominee has come under criticism for insensitivity to people of non-Christian faiths and a disregard for the First Amendment.

    "The assumption is that Christianity is the norm for America," said Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, "and that Jews and other minorities are here essentially as guests at the sufferance of our hosts, in a secondary position, which is an uncomfortable situation to be in."

Hey Mike: How does it make the Democrats a 'quota party' when the member-of-a-minority they chose is in fact the best-qualified of the lot? Should they have practiced affirmative action for a less-well-suited plain white man?

  • The Thinking Person's Choice by George Will [Washington Post]
    Of the six reportedly on Gore's short list of potential running mates, Lieberman is much the best choice, considering not just near-term politics but also long-term statecraft.

I've never liked (and can't respect) the practice of political party members where they will speak volumes about the slightest flaw in the other party's candidate and yet behave as though their own candidate is of the highest quality possible, perfect and above any reproach. If someone points out an inconvenient fact, it's nearly always ignored or pooh-poohed instead of acknowledged as true. At most it's compared to a disproportionate failing on the other side: "well, at least he never took money from serial killers like she did...". This leads me to mistrust political parties and their operatives; they're clearly more interested in dishonest advocacy than in dealing with plainly obvious realities.

One of my favorite Marx Brothers lines is from Duck Soup:

Mrs. Teasdale: "But I saw you with my own eyes!"
Chicolini: "Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

This is why I won't join any political party; according to the way they all behave when in the public eye, you're clearly expected to blind yourself to your own candidate's flaws to the bitter end while obsessively trumpeting the other candidate's every misstep, even if it's based on faulty information (Gore didn't actually claim to have personally invented the Internet, for example).

I have no interest in squandering whatever personal honor I have by aligning myself with either the liars in Bush's party or the liars in Gore's party. And I doubt any other, smaller party is immune to the practice, so: no party at all for me.

  • Truth Be Told by Richard Cohen [Washington Post]
    George W. Bush lies.

    He lies when he says his vow to "uphold the honor and dignity" of the presidency is not a reference to Bill Clinton, when the reference could not be otherwise.

    He lies when he asserts that two of the Army's 10 active divisions are so ill-prepared for combat that, if called, they would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir." The Army says Bush is flat-out wrong.

    Politicians know they can say, assert, suggest, imply and declare almost anything without fear of being called liars. Joseph McCarthy, not to mention Richard Nixon, built a career on this. // I am not suggesting that either Bush or Cheney is in the McCarthy-Nixon league. I am merely suggesting that they are getting away with rhetorical murder. [Bush's speech] was critiqued as if it were only a theatrical performance. We graded him for poise, for humor, for simplicity of language and for his message. We neglected truth. Some of what Bush said wasn't true.

    ...when Bush told the convention, "I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind," I had to chuckle. // Wasn't Bush the guy who would not say what he thought about the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina statehouse? Wasn't he the guy who would not criticize Kansas's decision to treat the teaching of evolution as purely optional, like having Burnt Sienna in your Crayola box?

In addition, it also seems to be standard practice to question the interests of someone who brings up inconvenient facts rather than address the facts themselves. For instance, this rebuttal to Bush's military-unreadiness claim probably doesn't carry a lot of weight with Republicans because it's written by two men who worked under Clinton. Oh well.

  • The U.S. Military: Still the Best by Far by William J. Perry and John M. Shalikashvili [Washington Post]
    President Bush authorized a reduction of 500,000, President Clinton an additional 250,000, leaving a force of 1,450,000. In both administrations, this reduction was executed gradually (about 3 percent a year) and with great care not to break the force.

    ...was the capability of the military forces reduced to the extent that they cannot adequately protect American national interests? Our answer to that question is an emphatic no.


  • Nader on 34 State Ballots [Washington Post]
    Green Party nominee Ralph Nader has submitted enough signatures to appear on 34 state ballots and hopes to be on the ballot in as many as 45 states this fall, campaign manager Theresa Amato said yesterday. In addition, the campaign has filed lawsuits challenging tough ballot access laws in North Carolina, Illinois, South Dakota and Oklahoma.

    While many candidates begin their advertising efforts with gauzy bio spots, Nader media consultant Bill Hillsman said the campaign chose to skip such an ad in order to capitalize on voter anger over two-party domination of the debates. "A lot of people already know what Ralph has done," Hillsman said. "People get viscerally angry when they find out what's going on with the debates."
  • Parody to the People by William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg [Slate]
    The [Nader] ad is, of course, a goof on the saccharine MasterCard commercials. But halfway through, the sendup ends and the self-parody begins. It's Ralph in an office stuffed with file boxes and manila file folders to the point of mania. The shot pokes gentle fun at Nader's ascetic zealotry. As with Ventura and Wellstone, Hillsman casts Nader as a nonconformist who can laugh at himself. By making mild fun of his own wonkery, Nader neutralizes his own stereotype as a nerdy fanatic and turns it into a political asset.

Debate skullduggery:

  • Petition: Let Third Party Candidates into the Presidential Debates [WorkingForChange]
    The [Commission on Presidential Debates] created rules that simply do not make sense. Most notably, the CPD mandates that candidates receive 15% support in national opinion polls in order to participate in debates. Yet, a candidate whose political party received just 5% support in the previous election qualifies for federal campaign funding.

Feiffer quits the weekly grind:

  • Power of the Pen -- Jules Feiffer interview [PBS/NewsHour]
    People used to say, "you must hate Nixon." I never hated Nixon. To hate somebody, there has to be some element of personal disappointment, some trust that's been misplaced. In Johnson's case it was very much so. In Nixon's case, I kind of adored Nixon because he was always Nixon, just as I adored Ronald Reagan. I mean, these guys were wonderful characters.

    When I used rage in the political cartoon, it was aimed at certain people for certain reasons and on certain issues. But now it seems that attitude has replaced politics or replaced sensibility and any kind of philosophy. It's "gotcha," and smugness, and "I'm cool and you're not," and "I know more than you do," and "I'm going to write with an attitude which will stop you from asking questions."

HA ha!

It's a poorly-kept secret that cassettes cost more to produce nowadays than CDs. So, why have CDs remained more expensive?

David Boies:

  • Download Interrupted [NY Times, seen on Scripting News]
    Q: Why represent Napster and risk that winning record of yours?
    A: We formed the firm because we want to do important litigation that matters. Is this important litigation? Of course. Does this litigation matter? Probably very few other cases matter as much. If we're not going to do it, who is? And it didn't hurt us in making the decision that every one of our children insisted on it.

    I was on an American Airlines flight from L.A. last week, really oversold, not a single free seat ... One guy sitting a few rows ahead keeps turning around and eyeballing me. He waves and says, "Hey, aren't you Napster's lawyer?" I tell him I am and he announces, "Napster's lawyer is on the plane!" Everyone in coach cheers. Right then I knew the record industry was in trouble.

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