Posts from February 27, 2005

White House, editor

White House, editor

: Now this is funny. From Newsweek via Lost Remote:

When President Bush confronted President Putin about freedom of the press in Russian, Putin responded, “We didn’t criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS.”

Oh, I’m sure Bush was thinking, if only he could fire a few.

An editor-in-chief

An editor-in-chief

: Former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Henry Grunwald died this weekend. I respected Henry, because one had to. But I came up against him more than once.

He rejected my proposal for Entertainment Weekly because, in his view, one magazine could not possibly serve people who read and people who watch TV because people who watch TV do not read. Considering that everyone watches TV, he apparently did not see much of a future for reading.

Just as soon as I become TV critic of People, I gave a rave review to Concealed Enemies, a PBS miniseries about Whitaker Chambers vs. Alger Hiss. I’ve told this story before: I said that I liked the mini and also mentioned that it portrayed Chambers as a fat wimp. One of the old-timers at People said there’d be trouble to pay, for Chambers was Grunwald’s mentor. “Henry lived under Whittaker’s desk,” the old pro said. I shrugged. But sure enough, my review came back from the 34th floor with the scribblings of Jason McManus — then No. 2 to Henry — utterly rewriting my review. They turned it into a negative review, making incredible changes. I went to my boss, Pat Ryan, managing editor of People, and said I could not allow this to appear under my byline. Bless her, she stood by me. She sent an edit back up with all the worst of the distortions taken out. We waited by the phone. It rang and Pat said she was going to lose either her critic or her job; she was prepared for the latter. But Henry was out at some social event, so the deadline passeed and the review went in. Jason the next day said there’d be hell to pay. But Henry, to his credit, knew he had gone overboard and allowed his personal history to influence his editing. “He came as close as he ever will to apologizing,” Pat reported to me. That was the end of it. I kept my job and so did Pat.

When Henry retired, Jason took his place and he green-lighted EW. He still had no spine, wimping out when my magazine dared to give entertainment negative reviews just as his journalistic company was merging with an entertainment company.

Henry was a formidable, albeit short, presence. He used to hold occasional cocktail parties (those were the days, my friend) to get to know editorial staffers and I remember when one colleague at People was invited and had to borrow another colleagues shoes and socks.

Henry Grunwald was one of the last of the scary editors. The New York Times had its share, but they’re gone, too (a cup of coffee with the current editor sounds like fun). Ditto the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune and The New Yorker. Now big-time editors are as often scared as scary.

Egyptian bloggers

Egyptian bloggers

: I was curious what Egyptian bloggers were saying about Mubarek’s decision, under pressure, to allow multiple-candidate election. On an Egyptian blogring, I found Big Pharaoh, who says:

Now, I am not stupid nor am I living in la la land. Mubarak’s decision today came after immense pressure from the US and the current earthquakes (the purple revolution in Iraq and the Hariri revolution in Lebanon) that shook the region days ago. However, I credit US pressure as the number one reason. Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt scheduled for next week because of the arrest of Ayman Nour and Mubarak’s failure to “change”. Well, it seems that Bush turned out to be bloody serious about this democracy in the Middle East thing. It also seems that Bushie will in fact make it to the history books that my grandchildren will be reading at school 50 years from today. If Syria or Iran fell, Bush can rest assured that he will add his name to the Lincoln-Wilson-Roosevelt-Reagan quartet.

Well, what do I think about all this? I mentioned before that I didn’t want Egypt to rush to the ballot box. I wanted Mubarak to be pressured to open up the civil society of Egypt so that alternatives to his rule start to pop up. We simply do not know better and we needed time in order to see the alternatives and decide who is better.

Unless I am 100% sure that one of the candidates who will compete with Mubarak will be better than him, I’ll probably vote for Mubarak next October whom I believe will win because of the resources he has as the country’s sole authority.

The Egyptian paradox.

One Pissed Arab says:

Now Mubarak is simply under too much external pressure (the wet cat in his lap) from the United Bush of America to get his act together and fast, and there was no avoiding it. After all if Mubarak is really giving in to the demands of “his people” then he must have just replaced the batteries in his hearing aid. The public have been screaming for reform, and the opposition only grew recent ballz when they felt the external pressure.

So I am not digesting any of it because it looks like another scene in the same redicioulous play that we have all watched 4 times before, Mubarak gets to win this election too, and whoever succeeds George Bush, will be left to deal with it.

The Arabist Network says:

Now for the politics of it. People are interpreting this very differently on the ground here in Cairo. The official opposition seems to have embraced it unequivocally, often praising Mubarak in the process. The reaction from activists from movement such as Kefaya seem to be saying that a) it

The politics of immaturity

The politics of immaturity

: Oliver Willis goes beyond his one-line posts and tries to explain why he resorts to calling me and others “stupid” if we dare to disagree with him.

But what he really does is reveal the thinking of his camp — the Koses, Altermans, Olivers, and Deaniacs who think they have taken over the Democratic Party.

They operate on schoolyard rules:

: ‘If I don’t like your game, I’ll take my ball and go home.’ (See ‘one-man circle jerk.’ Clever product placement here.)

Or to promote them a few years, they operate on junior-high clique rules:

: ‘If you talk to them then you can’t be my friend.’

It’s all about trying to create an exclusive club. It’s all about exclusion.

They measure people on whether they (a) agree totally with them and (b) attack the other side with the same vitriol as they do and (c) dare to ever think of criticizing our side.

This is the politics of immaturity.

This is when Oliver most reveals himself:

“Jeff believes that there’s room for the two parties to work together. On what planet?”

On this planet, Oliver. If you don’t try to work with the other party, you won’t ever get any legislation passed: simple rule of civics class, simple lesson of life, basic lesson of the Clinton years (he co-opted their issues to become the master of his domain: no, not that domain, I mean the center).

And if you demonize the other party and, more important, anybody who ever agrees with any stance they have, then you will never — never — win an election. Oh, you’ll have a tight little clique — until it’s so tight it’s just one person in a room in a… well, I won’t say what that one person is doing.

Finally, if you keep thinking that the other party is the enemy, you lose sight of the real enemy, an enemy I have seen first-hand. We have met the enemy, Oliver, and it’s not us.

You see, Oliver, when I grew up in politics, we did fight our own party to make it better. Hell, we rioted in the streets of Chicago against our own party. I didn’t do that (couldn’t skip high school, you know), but I did demonstrate at a precocious age against the party’s president, Lyndon Johnson, and we knocked him out. The Democratic party has a proud history of struggle within to improve itself. If you give that up, then you act not like a politician but a propagandist, selling only the party line that comes from above. What did your precious Howard Dean do in the election but criticize the party and try to make it over and take it over (and, indeed, he took it over)? He can criticize the party and I can’t? Where’s the logic there, Oliver? Where’s the fairness? Where’s the democracy in the Democratic Party, then?

Here are some other Oliver moments: “This would be an ideal situation, if the goal of the Republican party wasn’t the elimination of the Democratic party.”

What, and it’s not your goal to eliminate the Republican Party? Besides, the way the Democrats are going right now, they’re doing a fine job of destroying themselves by losing elections — and I don’t just mean the White House — and alienating fellow Democrats like me and fence-sitting Republicans with your kind of venemous orthodoxy and insult.

And: “The reason Jeff raises such ire on the left is that he’s a reliable source for the right in getting a Democrat to bash Democrats. A similar dynamic exists with Mickey Kaus, The New Republic, and Joe Lieberman.”

Thanks, Oliver. I’d say that’s good company. I disagree with them on many issues, but I do respect them because they have a mature and sensible view of politics and responsibility and the nation.

And: “I will always believe that the legacy of the George W. Bush years is one in which he and his party decided to simply defecate on half of the populace.”

And what are you doing, Oliver? You’re not only pissing on Republicans, you’re pissing on Democrats you don’t like. You’re pissing on more than half of the country. In your game, you win. (But in the game that matters, you lose.)

And: “It is actually in large part the folks within the Democratic Party who think like Jeff who lost the last election for us.”

Uh, well, Dean couldn’t even win Iowa; he certainly couldn’t have won the presidency.

And: “Jarvis says he likes and would vote for Hillary Clinton. Does he know how much his new buddies hate her?”

Your point? These Republicans aren’t my “buddies,” Oliver. But they’re not my enemies just because we disagree. Neither are you, Oliver. You’re the one drawing that line.

Go ahead and read the whole thing yourself, for obviously, I’m just picking out the bits that amuse me. But there you see the thinking of the people who call anyone who disagrees with them “right-wing.” It’s quite revealing.

: MORE: Dan Weinberger says in reply: “And the bottom line is, your post would have resonated with many more Dems had you given similar advice to the Republicans.” And I reply: I’m not a Republican, so I’m not trying to give them advice and help them win. I already know I disagree with the Republicans. That’s why I’m a Democrat. That’s why I want to see the Democrats do better and actually win an election….

Disappearing America

Disappearing America

: Terry Teachout says that 11 years ago he read Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana about the obsolete of postwar America. He’s calling for an updated version, for among the thing he no longer uses are: