Posts from March 3, 2004

The war bloc

The war bloc

: Glenn Reynolds frets that Bush has a problem with his “war bloc.”

Glenn marks the shift of a supporter such as Andrew Sullivan to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

I’ll ascribe it to other causes. Call them fears.

First, there was the fear of Howard Dean. He was George Bush’s greatest ally. When Dean was the front-runner — hell, the shoe-in — it frightened a lot of us, particularly those of us who believe that the war on terrorism is job 1, those of us in the “war bloc.” When deciding on Dean v. Bush, many of us found ourselves considering surprising options (i.e., voting for Bush). But once Dean started fading, the Bush’s magnetic field faded fast.

Second, there was fear of the religious right. The real Bush is Ashcroftian and though those impulses were tamped down as Bush set about fighting a few wars and doing his job, as the election came nearer, they are re-emerging. Odd that he should feel the need to lean right again since he doesn’t have to fight for the nomination — and now that he has a real liberal running against him — he could have staked the center; but that’s not the real him. So we have the marriage amendment. We are reminded of the stem-cell policy. We see his bioethics panel noodling. We see his FCC threatening to clamp down on content. We see the NRA play Congress like a marionette show. Now when it came time to step into the voting booth, all those fears might well have scared the “war bloc” left about Bush more than about Howard Dean. But with Dean gone, those fears of the religious right rise again like a sauerkraut belch.

Third, his own supporters are frightened by his spending and big-government ways. They won’t drop him, but their grousing doesn’t help is karma.

Yes, I supported Bush on the war(s). I was in that “war bloc.” But most of these fears do haunt me about him. And with Kerry instead of Dean, we do at least have the chance of a more credible wartime leader. Emphasis on “chance.” Kerry still has not learned the electoral lesson of the defeat of Dean — that people do care about this war — and stepped forward to show he can lead the troops and protect the people.

Andrew Sullivan says it well:

He looks like a potential president. But it was deeply worrying in one respect. The war on terror was barely mentioned. This on a day of appalling carnage in Iraq. I fear this man simply doesn’t get it. No one should support him for the highest office in the land until he proves he understands our enemy; and demonstrates that he will get up every day in the Oval Office to see how he can take the fight to the Islamists. I don’t see that fire right now.

Now it’s time for Kerry to see that Bush is his opponent and to prove that he can be a better wartime president than Bush has been.

Sullivan also sums up the state of the race: “So far, with Kerry’s limitations and Bush’s pandering to the far right, it’s neck and neck.”

Stern

Stern
: Howard Stern said this morning that he is “a dead man walking” and that he will end up being pulled off the air.

Many readers here have made amply clear that they don’t like Stern. That’s fine: your choice. But that’s also irrelevant.

The issue isn’t Stern. The issue is government interference in, regulation of, and chill upon free speech.

There is no question that Stern is off Clear Channel and may be pulled off their air because of government pressure. Stern changed nothing. The government put pressure on.

That should scare every one of you.

And, no, I won’t shut up about this. It’s frightening. It’s important. It’s dangerous.

Previous posts here, here, here, here, here.

: UPDATE: I keep getting asked about Savage and Dr. Laura and so here’s what I just said in the comments:

The difference in the cases from the past is government pressure. Public pressure got rid of Savage and Dr. Laura; companies chose to drop them for business reasons.

Clear Channel admitted that Stern is doing NOTHING differently; instead, they dropped him a day before the head of the company was called to the woodshed in Washington and he offered up Stern as a peace offering to keep from being fined and regulated.

That move came from government pressure and it’s government pressure I abhor and fear.

I do believe in free speech and hate boycotts and think that if people actually want to listen to Savage and even Dr. Laura (she is obnoxious and offensive in the extreme) then that’s fine by me; I’ll change the channel. I don’t think people should try to STOP people from listening to what they want to hear; that is what free speech is all about, in the end. I’ve argued in years past against such tactics as advertiser pressure to stifle speech.

But I fear government pressure much more. That is dangerous — for who in government is to say what is and what is not acceptable and what recourse do the stifled have (if they so much as fine Stern, he’ll be knocked off without appeal)? That is unconstitutional.

So whether you like Stern or not — and clearly, many don’t and many do — you should pay careful heed to what the government is doing right now. It is chilling free speech. And that is always dangerous, whether it happens in Iran or in America.

Weblogs trashed (cont.)

Weblogs trashed (cont.)
: Gotta love Rick Bruner’s take on the poo-pooing of the Pew study that counts blogs:

Gotta love CNN’s spin: “Very few bloggers on Net.” The report in question, from Pew Research, concludes that two percent of U.S. Internet users kept online journals last year, but it goes on to say that more recent research from the last couple of months suggests that figure may have risen to seven percent. Based on Pew’s own estimates of how many Americans are now online (126 million adults, as of last December), that works out to 2.5 million to 8.8 million bloggers in this country.

To put that in perspective, while some 86 million U.S. homes have CNN on their cable dials, only some 3.6 million people were tuning in daily to see its live coverage of the Iraq invasion, and its top-viewed regular show, Larry King, attracts only one million viewers on average. Very few indeed.

It’s even better than that. Pew says that 11 percent read blogs. So that’s 14 million Americans. Beats the hell out of CNN.

My takes here and here.

“Public” editors

“Public” editors
: Mark Glaser asks ombudsmen — a self-referential lot if I’ve ever read one — about the web and weblogs. Their answers range from respectful (NPR) to clueless (Sacto Bee) to hostile (TorStar):

Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR: Blogs are here to stay. They are a new and somewhat untested form of journalism. They are also a positive expression of the rambunctiousness of American culture and democracy…a bit unwieldy…hard to contain…often an utterly genuine expression of political and cultural vigor and excitement. Old-line media need to figure out a way to report on them as often as they report on us.

Mike Needs, Akron Beacon-Journal: I have tried blogging and enjoyed the opportunity to lower the threshold for distribution of information about the media process. However, it really is a commitment of time — more so than I expected. Why? Because it constitutes publication and requires the same degree of accuracy and polish that we would give to regular print or online material. I loved the freedom to share my personal reactions to a multitude of topics. I hated being taken to task for posting something that was not completely developed.

Tony Marcano, Sacramento Bee: Blogs are like television news — they’re great for immediacy, and they may encourage some people to turn to other media for more in-depth information or different points of view. I think the reputation of blogs overall is hurt by the overabundance of self-referential, narcissistic sites that exist for little reason other than to draw attention to the blogger. Eventually, the free market will wean out most of those sites, but for now, many blogs still come off as an egocentric exercise.

Dan Okrent, NY Times: I’m not blogging, I’m doing something that’s kind of a crypto-blog. In the world of opinion, blogs are very effective and powerful. But so many of the things that I have to deal with (and I presume other people in similar positions at other papers have to deal with) require reporting, not just an opinion or a thought. If someone raises something on a blog, it might take me a week to respond to it, because of the reporting that has to be done. That kind of defeats the purpose of a blog, of the rapid conversation that comprises so much blogging.

Don Sellar, Toronto Star: I don’t take bloggers very seriously. Their tradecraft is sometimes weak, or lacking. But they’re part of the landscape, just as pamphleteers were in days of yore. I chuckle at the inchoate rage of The OmbudsGod at all things liberal, even when he takes a whack at something I wrote.

Blog for news: Iran on the attacks

Blog for news: Iran on the attacks
: Iran’s vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, blames the terrorist attacks in Iraq on al-Qaida.

He announced that on his weblog.

Terrorism is terrorism

Terrorism is terrorism
: Iraqi blogger Ali says the horrific attacks in Iraq finally make it clear that this violence is not — as many have tried to say — resistance and it was not — as some said there — a conspiracy by the evil occupiers.

It is terorism. Terrorism against civilians.

To us, it was more than clear that these were terrorist attacks made mainly by the remnants of Saddam