Monday, October 31, 2005

Mistah Kurtz...He Dead.

(Updated 11/1/05)
Prolific Wa/Po media maven Howie Kurtz leads today with the obvious, in a column yclept: "Post Indictment: A Glut of Glee?" (Note: If you're not already an online Postie, you may have to register to get the skinny.) After citing some of the relentless media drumbeat about the Valerie Plame non-case last week, Kurtz muses:

... when Rove was not indicted in the CIA leak case Friday, it almost seemed like a victory for the White House. But it was clearly not a victory for the reporters and commentators who climbed far out on the limb of handicapping what a special prosecutor operating in secret might do.

Well, uh, yeah, you want fries with that?

More to the point, Kurtz observes:

What happened to the normal journalistic skepticism toward a single-minded special prosecutor, as was on display when Ken Starr was pursuing Bill Clinton?

The hostility directed at Patrick Fitzgerald when he was threatening reporters with jail seems to have faded now that his targets are senior aides to President Bush. Perhaps most important, are reporters, commentators, bloggers and partisans using the outing of Valerie Plame as a proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq? The vitriol directed at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whether deserved or not, seems motivated as much by her role in touting the administration's erroneous WMD claims as in her decision to be jailed, at least for a time, to protect Libby.

We're assuming these are rhetorical questions that depend on what the definition of "is" is. So far, though, so good. And it gets even better:

In short, the leak prosecution is shaping up as a test of media fairness and responsibility in a polarizing age when many people on the left and right think the news business is hopelessly biased.

But just as Kurtz is beginning to gain nonpartisan altitude, his engines stall:

More than two years after the Bush administration took the country to war based in part on inflated weapons claims that turned out to be wrong, the wounds still haven't healed. That's why liberal commentators such as Arianna Huffington proclaim the so-called Plamegate scandal "worse than Watergate": They're not just talking about the outing of the wife of a White House critic; they're charging the administration with a campaign of deception that, in this view, is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 Americans.

Kurtz lets this hang in there as he charts the yin and yang of the argument. But he's already tipped his hand by implicitly backing another press-generated myth that defies repeated attempts at correction: Bush Lied. He also alludes to "wounds" that "still haven't healed." Well, whose wounds might those be? The psychic wounds sustained by bitter, long-out-of-power Post-Marxists, perhaps?

But observe the primary slight-of-hand here: After correctly labeling her a "liberal," Kurtz never goes back and corrects Ariana's and the Huffington crowd's reckless anti-Bush charges. He lets them stand without comment--a standard lefty trick that magically transforms unchallenged and unsubstantiated opinions into universally accepted truths. He also positions this presumption of Republican dishonesty as the final word in this sub-thread, effectively placing it in the rebuttal position--the one a reader is likely to carry with him.

This same ruthlessly efficient rhetorical ploy has been trotted out for decades by Dems and their ideological fellow travelers in the media to create "virtual facts" where no actual facts exist. The result for a casual reader is a perceptual two dimensional universe which, like a grudge-match in professional wrestling, pits the angelic good guy (always a Democrat) vs. a brutish bad guy (always a Republican, and often, Chimpy BushMcHitler). Since the implied villainy is so "obvious," why take the trouble to back it up? After all, "everyone" knows.

Meanwhile, conservative points of view are ALWAYS qualified or rebutted, however weakly, as in this seemingly Bush-friendly column which has now been transformed into a weak hit-piece possessing the same logic articulated by those who figure that 9/11 was actually our fault.

But Kurtz' most glaring error in this graf is the dignity he accords media lightweight and relentless self-promoter Huffington. Kurtz citation ignores the obvious fact that, even on a good day, Huffington's critical apparatus and lack of gravitas fall somewhat short--if indeed this is possible--of the already light and airy standards set by breathless Buzz-Mistress and serial scare-quote abuser Tina Brown's souffled cerebellum. (Brown's blatherings are often planted in the Post's rapidly-declining Style section near Kurtz' higher-brow entertainments. But they seem somehow more in tune with the liberal zeitgeist when they abut Garry Trudeau's badly aging cartoon strip which has never gained escape velocity from the cannabis-addled pieties of 1968.

Well, excuse HazZzmat for interrupting this reverie, but EVERYBODY--Western governments and their intelligence apparatus (apparati?) alike, including the beloved Clintonistas and their cadre of media hit-guys--figured Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, right up to and directly after the War in Iraq got underway. Oh, sure, crack UN investigators never uncovered a smoking gun during their endless and unintentionally comical inspections, pre- and post-Clinton. But over the years, particularly during the Clinton admin, stories were constantly filed about how UN investigators were frustrated and delayed at this or that suspicious Iraqi facility while secret stuff was whisked out the back door. Small wonder they failed to find any in 2003-2003. Or at least that's pretty much what everyone on both sides of the aisle thought, something that Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer conveniently forget when it was convenient, not to mention the hapless John Kerry who apparently supported this point of view before he didn't.

But hey, let's get real and point out the obvious: the guy who's guilty of deception is Saddam himself! You heard that right. The clever Ba'athist rapscallion appears to have had everyone in the West bamboozled on this issue for over a decade. (Remind me never to play poker with this guy.) Saddam was apparently an equal-opportunity deceiver, and people on both sides of the aisle fell for his phony shell-game--a fact cleanly and conveniently forgotten by the Dems no matter how many times you present them with their own fulminations on the topic.

The abiding problem with the media today is not so much that they're reflexive leftists, which they are. (Calling them liberals is ruining what remains of a once perfectly good descriptive noun.) The real, untold scandal here is the abiding laziness of today's preening star journalists, Kurtz at times included. Rather than wearing out shoe leather today to track down the particulars of a story, more and more reporters rely on the Web and tools like the Nexis news database to source their tall tales, confirming collective wisdom (pun intended) with fellow journalists and trusted Dems at the usual DC and NYC watering holes they're known to frequent.

Unfortunately, if media source stories in Nexis begin life as unexamined but leftist-friendly myths--buttressed with scurrilous quotes from liberal icons like Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Ward Churchill--the unrecognized contagion will spread from the source to successive stories-in-progress that build on it. The MSM's herd mentality and reporters' inherent craving for peer acceptance and camaraderie serve to evade the T-cells of media skepticism that would normally launch an effective counterattack against obvious falsehoods or misleading information. As time goes by, each newly-infected story, in turn, will be filed back in the Nexis organism, providing freshly-diseased reportorial tissue for copycat stories that follow. As it stands, there is currently no known antidote to prevent these institutionalized and well-sourced lies of the left from morphing into universal, if bogus, truth. (Note, however, that skeptical MSM T-cells instantaneously regain their abilities to intercept and attack when exposed to direct quotes from W, Carl Rove, and Dick Cheney.)

Part of this reportorial laziness can be pinned on the cheapskate owners of the MSM who've been cutting down on staff and travel budgets, forcing those inkstained wretches still on payroll to rely increasingly on secondary sources. But because the food chain of info itself is generally based on leftwing bias, alternative viewpoints get no traction whatsoever in the traditional media outlets.

When Wonker first encountered George Orwell's allegorical classic 1984 in high school, he and his nerdy friends were comforted by the knowledge that only cynical Bolshies would engage in rigorously deceptive behavior in the process of information dissemination. But Western journos have taken Orwell's nightmare vision to the next level. To their reflexive, thoughtless, left-wing bias, they have added carelessness in sourcing their facts and an absolute disdain toward their eroding readership. Is it any wonder that this laziness and condescension is driving more and more of these readers into the more honest and stimulating environment of the blogosphere?

Kaus and Effect

Trick-or-treating gets off to a good start today as Slate's Mickey Kaus honors reporter and professional egotist Larry O'Donnell for Accuracy in Media:

Lawrence O'Donnell's reputation is intact: From two weeks ago ...

Prediction: at least three high level Bush Administration personnel indicted and possibly one or more very high level unindicted co-conspirators.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Weekend Wonker

Up to the eyeballs, as usual on weekends, with domestic tranquillity. We'll return with fresh fulminations and pumpkin bustin' perceptions on Monday, the Eve of All Hallows. Meanwhile, watch out for Freddy Krueger and the Washington Post, or you'll be having nightmares about Democratic victory dancing in 2006.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kilgore Was Here

Most Americans think that 2005 is not an election year, and in general, they're right. But not here in Virginia, where, in a Republican-dominated state, the off-year race for governor is surprisingly close. This is due, as is often the case these days, because a renegade Republican is also in the race as a "third party" type of candidate, eroding Jerry Kilgore's expected large lead over liberal Dem Tim Kaine. The Dems are whooping it up and already whipping up the punch for their victory celebration, which may be a bit premature. They are aided and abetted by the Washington Post and other hard-left media shills, which generally make it tough for any Republican running for office. But Power Line takes a broader view:
The race will be closely watched because there aren't many other ones to watch this year. Kilgore has consistently held a "lead" but it pretty consistently has been within the margin of error.

If Kaine wins, the Democrats will make much of it -- heck, they were overjoyed when they came close to winning a special congressional election in Ohio earlier this year. Any state-wide victory by a Democrat in the south is noteworthy. But remember that Kaine is the beneficiary of a break-away Republican third candidate. Moreover, this would not be pick-up for the Dems -- the current governor is a moderate Democrat. Kaine is making a race of it by presenting himself as a moderate in the same mold. So a Kaine victory would be good news for the Dems nationally only to the extent they are prepared to nominate candidates who can plausbily claim not be liberal.

Dem thought processes have atrophied over the years, however, because they prefer to denounce and smear rather than engage their competition. So this lesson would no doubt be lost upon them. BTW, Mark Warner, the current governor, indeed a "moderate" Democrat and a former high tech businessman, has lots of bucks and cuts a good figure. Since the Virginia governorship is limited to a single term, Warner could be a plausible non-Hillary presidential candidate in 2008 if the Dems decide to get smart and break with Soros-fueled smear-meisters like We won't hold our collective breath here at HazZzmat.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jacques in the Box

A little photoblogging featuring an attractive and highly intelligent mademoiselle, courtesy of the indespensible Instapundit:

C'est possible? Quel dommage.

Thin Man...

Blogging may be a bit light today and tomorrow morning, since Wonker might actually have to earn his salary for the rest of this week, a problem faced by nearly all in the blogosphere. But hang in there. Someone on Capitol Hill will do something soon to torque our screws the wrong way. Count on it. And we won't be able to resist.

Harriet Hello and Goodbye...

For better or worse, Bush Supremes nominee Harriet Miers has asked the President to withdraw her nomination and he has reluctantly complied. The alleged reason is a desire not to enter the realm of having to disclose confidential material, but the withdrawal is probably due to the fact that it was simply not working.

HazZzmat has been a bit confused about this whole issue all along. We generally trust W and saw no real empirical evidence to reject this nominee out of hand. On the other hand, true blue (or red) conservatives remember Bush I's inadvertent betrayal when, nominating Justice Souter to the bench as a stealth candidate who couldn't get Borked, he ended up appointing an ultra lib who has dogged the court ever since, backing and sometimes writing wretched decision after wretched decision.

Additionally, the conservatives really seem to be spoiling for a Senate fight this time, forcing the invocation of the "constitutional option" (we won't use the liberal term) to, presumably, humiliate the Democrats by forcing a Bork-like conservative judge through in spite of Dem objections. The Repubs should remember that their majority isn't absolute and the bipartisan "Gang of 14" could foil them at any time.

We ourselves are looking for a reliable strict constructionist, but it's not time for the Repubs to get cocky and force a fight. Sometimes if you long for something too much, you just might end up getting it.

This blog's main emphasis is on rescuing the culture (when we're not fulminating about something else), so you might wonder why the court stuff catches our attention. But remember, culture vultures--if the domination of our literary, cultural, and media organizations by hardcore leftists bothers you, simply recall how this has evolved over the last half-century: via the unelected, liberal-leaning Supreme Court, packed for years with creative leftist judges who are only to happy to legislate left and provide cover for their Democrat friends. The aggregate weight of this mass of disastrous rulings has resulted in the coddling of criminals, the eviction of religion from public discourse, and the most inscrutible and least scientifically defensible decision on the value of human life in the lifetime of this nation.

One way you can devastate a culture is by using the law as a tool for dismantling it. This has gone on too long and has been obviously destructive--something the conservatives are bound and determined to end, at least for a generation. We like this idea ourselves and support it. But with media propagandists working against this outcome 24/7, waving a red flag in front of them is probably not the way to win. Like it or not, largely due to the lies and negative propaganda of the left, the public as a whole straddles the fence on this issue. Getting cocky before you win is not the way to move the fence sitters to your side.

W understood this, which is undoubtedly why he tried to nominate a stealth candidate who, like Chief Justice Roberts, didn't have much baggage upon which the left could hang its bogus case. But Ms. Meirs proved to be a little too stealthy for the faithful with a long and bitter memory of the Souter disaster. Yes, it would be fun to stuff the 'Rats through the rim with a slam dunk. But don't count on automatic success, folks. These people didn't stay in power for nearly 60 straight years by not learning a thing or two.

The Republicans won an inning (presumably) with the Roberts home run. And it was fun. But it's not fun if you end up losing the game.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

So You Thought History Ended, Huh?

"The first phase in achieving 'cultural hegemony' over a nation is the undermining of all elements of traditional culture. Churches are thus transformed into ideology-driven political clubs, with the stress on 'social justice' and egalitarianism, with worship reduced to trivialized entertainment, and with age-old doctrinal and moral teachings 'modernized' or diminished to the point of irrelevancy. Genuine education is replaced by 'dumbed down' and 'politically correct' curricula, and standards are reduced dramatically. The mass media are fashioned into instruments for mass manipulation and for harassing and discrediting traditional institutions and their spokesmen. Morality, decency, and old virtues are ridiculed without respite. Tradition-minded clergymen are portrayed as hypocrites and virtuous men and women as prudish, stuffy, and unenlightened.

"Culture is no longer a buttress supporting the integrity of the national heritage and a vehicle for imparting that heritage to future generations, but becomes a means for 'destroying ideals and ... presenting the young not with heroic examples but with deliberately and aggressively degenerate ones,' as theologian Harold O.J. Brown writes. We see this in contemporary American life, in which the great historical symbols of our nation's past, including great presidents, soldiers, explorers, and thinkers, are shown to have been unforgivably flawed with 'racism' and 'sexism' and therefore basically evil. Their place has been taken by pro-Marxist charlatans, pseudo-intellectuals, rock stars, leftist movie celebrities, and the like. At another level, traditional Christian culture is condemned as repressive, 'Eurocentric,' and 'racist' and, thus, unworthy of our continued devotion. In its place, unalloyed primitivism in the guise of 'multiculturalism' is held as the new model.

"Marriage and family, the very building blocks of our society, are perpetually attacked and subverted. Marriage is portrayed as a plot by men to perpetuate an evil system of domination over women and children. The family is depicted as a dangerous institution epitomized by violence and exploitation. Patriarchally oriented families are, according to the Gramscians, the precursors of fascism, Nazism, and every organized form of racial persecution.
from Gramsci's Grand Plan
by Fr. James Thornton
, from The New American .

Oh, shades of Father Coughlin! Wasn't this all over after the Berlin wall came down? And pass the brie and chardonnay, won't you? That's the likely response of an awful lot of "educated" Americans these days. You won't hear it at The Weekly Standard, however, or at Front Page, former leftist star David Horowitz's conservative daily Web newspaper. But we know about them! (snicker, snicker)

How much we loved Professor Fukuyama's claim! Like the French in 1918, we were sure that our values had been, to borrow a word from the Catholic rite, transubstantiated, gone from dream to actuality when the Red flag came down from the Kremlin in December of 1991. However, a good question when reflecting on historical parallels is this: what happened next?

Of course, we know. The Germans came back 22 years later and knocked over the French army in 30 days, requiring five years of war and fifty million dead to restore order in Europe. The dead included French delusions of the end of history, one imagines.

Let me say that I am not convinced that cadres of Gramsci-ites are solely responsible for the disintegration of family and community, church and culture. A lot of that I ascribe to a perfectly normal decadence, one that occurs in every society, large or small, confronted by time, not by revolutionary cadres. However, I would also aver that, without fail, when the intellectual and political leadership of a society sees this normal breakdown of order, they are confronted by two choices: to exercise the power of their knowledge and that of political persuasion on behalf of restoring order; or to become agents of chaos by rationalizing and institutionalizing such decay as desirable.

It is clear that in the United States, a substantial majority of the intellectual leadership, at least in universities and in politics, has taken the latter choice. Further, it would not take long to create a geneology of intellectual life in the United States, one which would demonstrate that the current generation of intellectuals is heir, in thought and in deed, to a generation that generally preferred the solutions of the hard Left to those of freedom and free enterprise. And it would not be hard to demonstrate that this generation, confronted by the abject failure and collapse of the Soviet Union, and by the ineffectual tenure of Leftist economics and of Leftist politics in general, might seek another route toward the same goals.

Gramsci, a hugely influential figure on the Left for many decades, offered one route. And it will be often explored here in the future. It's worth doing because so much of what Gramsci offered as a means of undermining freedom and free enterprise has already happened in the United States and Europe, especially among the purveyors of intellectual wisdom and of cultural artifacts. Another commentator, the late Malachi Martin, who disguised a long career as a commentator on the Catholic Church as the author of numerous roman a clefs, suggested that Gramsci's entire program, including the subversion of the Jesuit order, and of the Church's mission itself, was implemented in the 1960's and 1970's at the Vatican. It's a thesis that can't be ignored, lest we end up like the French in 1940, watching the Germans do an end run around the Maginot Line of our delusions.


Tip to Merchants: Buyers Do Beware

". Literature now competes with an enormous array
of electronic media. While no single activity is
responsible for the decline of reading, the
cumulative presence and availability of these
alternatives have increasingly drawn Americans
away from reading.
. Non-readers watch more television than do
. In 1990, book buying constituted 5.7 percent of
total recreation spending, while spending on audio,
video, computers, and software was 6 percent. By
2002, electronic spending had soared to 24 percent,
while spending on books declined slightly to 5.6
. A 1999 study showed that the average American
child lives in a household with 2.9 televisions, 1.8
VCRs, 3.1 radios, 2.1 CD players, 1.4 video game
players, and 1 computer."

from Reading At Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America , 2004

In the 1980s, as General Motors' share of the domestic auto market went into a long decline, which has not stopped to this day (witness the recent bankruptcy of their old parts division Delphi), the initial reaction by GM management was to blame the buyers. "We make what they want. What's wrong with them?" We are sometimes told, usually by Democrat politicians, that a more appropriate reaction would have been to seek tariff protection against Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and other Japanese manufacturers. The obvious question, however, GM didn't ask for more than a decade: What's wrong with our product?

The common howl among social critics regarding the decline of readers for "serious" literature is that people are too busy playing electronic games, or watching soft porn on cable, to be bothered with the difficulties of holding several hundred bound pages of some author's imagination, a combination of both the old GM reaction and the advice of Democrats. The competition, in other words, is debasing civilization itself by distracting potential readers from more serious endeavors. Is this a reasonable point of view?

It's certainly an easy one. And easy is a key word in their criticism. It's easier to watch television. It's easier to play a familiar video game. It's easier to get the news from a Web site than to buy a newspaper and slog through its pages. But aren't we missing something?

Easy may be easily said, but is it ease, or satisfaction, which motivates people to turn to the "serious" book's competition? If, for example, serious trade fiction these days is almost entirely dominated by graduates of creative writing programs, its books exercises in literary theory instead of stories of a recognizable world, isn't it possible that potential readers might find such exercises tedious? And if they did, might they not look elsewhere?

Comes the accusation! readers must learn to like exercises in literary theory. They must go to cultural re-education camp (I hear there are some vacant ones in Russia). We got a lot of this in "serious" music for decades, as it declined into theoretical exercises of atonal serialism, and into audiences who refused to support it except as "curtain raisers" on the real thing, you know, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Handel, Mozart, etc., or Ellington, Basie, Monk, Parker, etc.. Funny thing, if you look at the "top 40" on the serious music concert circuit, you'll hardly find a piece that ticketholders (and patrons) are willing to support that isn't tonal and structured, i.e., music as it's generally been recognized since the Renaissanse. Sadly, that top 40 comprises a list of composers who are either dead, or who are held as being outside the "Modern" mainstream by critics.

Fact is that readers, like music listeners, don't like to be force-fed. As patrons of an art, we expect the creators, publishers, and performers to make a modest effort to meet some of our expectations as to what a given art is. And, funny thing, except in required performances at university, or in North Korea, audiences don't attend what they don't like or can't understand. Some call that Phillistine, but others call it the normal interaction of artist and audience, where the artist is a participant in a conversation, not a dictator.


In Need of Remedial Economics?

Nothing is quite so predictable as liberal/left responses to employment statistics. It's always a failure in political policy, not a matter of economics. For instance, in UC Berkeley's report on the declining number of women on university faculty, the last question to occur was the one should strike a serious analyst first. Why do an increasing number of female professors, like male undergraduates, find it unprofitable to be at university? Instead, Berkeley's queries are the usual litany, quoting from the report :

"• to analyze the salaries and the proportion of other university resources provided to women faculty;

• to work toward a faculty that reflects the diversity of the student body;

• to reconvene in about a year 'to share the specific initiatives we have undertaken to achieve these objectives;'

• to 'recognize that this challenge will require significant review of, and potentially significant change in, the procedures within each university, and within the scientific and engineering establishments as a whole.'"

In other words, it's a diversity issue, not one of profitability, monetary or otherwise, for women who might have worked at Berkeley or at any other university. As 55-60% of undergraduates in most universities are female, does this mean that 55-60% of the faculty should be women? And is the absence of that ratio why women are increasingly looking elsewhere for work? Or might it have something to do with a totally different economic issue?

For instance, the contracts that tenured full-timers in universities hold make it nearly impossible for universities to hire new faculty except as adjuncts. Why is that? The contracts of tenured full-time faculty restrict teaching hours, and uphold rates per-credit-hour-taught at double or triple what adjuncts can expect in a free market. Not surprisingly, university hiring is no different from anybody else's. If courses in Greek or introductory calculus can be taught by an adjunct for $3,000 per term, what sane personnel director would hire a full-timer at $60,000 + benefits a year? A consequence of this is that the male/female ratio of tenured faculty of thirty years ago has scarcely changed. To truly address male/female equity, in fact, both tenure and contracted employment of university professors would have to end, with adjuncts filling out the entire schedule.

Actually, at New York University, which is not untypical, this is close to being so now. At last reports, 90% of the faculty taught as adjuncts. It is likely that as full-timers retire at NYU, that ratio will approach 100%, with only the rare "star" professor awarded a contract. One result of that is that the UAW has organized adjuncts at NYU!

The only lesson that professors ought to learn is from basic economics, one that Mark Twain understood as he observed the astonishing decline in salary for riverboat pilots after the Civil War. He had been paid close to $20,000 a year, a perfectly fabulous sum in the late 1850s, when he was active as a riverboat pilot, because there was no competition. When shippers colluded with Congress to sponsor railroads parallelling the Mississippi, riverboat pilot salaries shrank to little more than those of freight handlers. Similarly, with the vast oversupply of professorial candidates, it should be no surprise that many would find the reduced status and wealth from university teaching sufficient cause to seek careers elsewhere.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Google Me This, Batman: The Radical Redefinition of Copyright Law

Well, Batman actually doesn't have anything to do with this post. What we're talking about here is the legal action heating up as a result of Google's bold attempt to digitize target libraries and make their searchable content available online for free. Sounds laudable. But hold on thar, Baba Looey! (Have we dated ourselves yet?) We've amassed a good bit of info on this, and will try to briefly summarize this interesting issue. (Warning: long slog ahead.) For starters, here's Google’s FAQ.

When first aired in December of 2004, the Google project seemed like a good idea, even to folks at the BBC. It also earned predictable plaudits from academia. Never having had to earn an honest dollar, many tenured profs wholly endorsed this information giveaway. Likewise, CNN/Money thought it was swell, and the New York Times chimed in with a fairly evenhanded article.

Context. The concept of Digital Libraries itself is already ancient in computer years. The taxpayers funded pilot projects that created these technologies over a decade ago, described here. One was the University of Virginia's ongoing Blake Archive, which provides beautiful scans of the poet's original hand illuminated manuscripts and pertinent literary and scientific scholarship. The Feds' idea was to make collections of ancient, rare, or difficult-to-access material available to all. But as with any good idea, someone is bound to take it too far--in this case, stretching digital libraries technologies to the point where they might endanger lit'ry Life as We Know It.

For instance, in the digital libraries of Google-World, give Google a bit of personal info and you might be able to discover a copy of the book you're looking at in a library nearby. But why the personal info? This question started nagging folks. By January 2005, the issue of Privacy Rights reared its head.

Now people are buzzing a bit. A librarian sniffs not only about privacy but about MONETIZATION!! Google might actually make money on this, which is shocking to this fellow, who cites NPR as a reliable source. ("Google could profit for its efforts. I'm shocked. Shocked!") For all this fellow’s grumping, he actually makes a couple of salient points, in that universities DO make money from unique collections, drawing famous scholars and students and increasing their research fame and therefore level of donation, so they can amortize the cost of the collections--and what will happen to this now? But on other stuff he’s typically out of touch. If you want to cut to the chase, just scroll down to his conclusion. Add the fear-factor of librarians to the civil libertarian squeamishness you just read about.

But wait, there's more! This piece comments on the issue of alleged collusion by the American Library Association (ALA) and the opposition of Europe (superpower hegemony concerns as usual) but also discusses the American Association of University Presses which is VERY concerned about copyright.

Did I say Europe? Did I say cultural hegemony? Chirac and his froggy chums got lathered up in April, fearing the McDonaldization of French kulcha, according to a Washington Post writer who seems completely ignorant of the issues involved--and relatively oblivious to the fact that this isn’t a Google story at all, but another chapter in the ongoing saga of Euro xenophobia and anti-Americanism. (If America ceased to exist, how would these clowns stay in power?) Anyhow, to concerns about information privacy, commercialization, and copyright infringement, we now add Gallic (and Germanic) fears of more American imperialism and cultural hegemony.

Even the SOUTH AFRICANS hate Google, or actually, us. You gotta love the last couple of paragraphs in this piece, which argues that Google's technology would really benefit poor people by making more info available--but we have to hate it anyway because it’s run by filthy AMERICAN swine who might make money helping the poor people!! As always, the reflexive left undercuts its own arguments by explaining why they’re stupid but why they believe in them anyway.

By, October 2005, Google has modified its position on the copyright issue for roughly a third time, and the company's views are articulated with great enthusiasm by a writer in the San Jose Mercury News. His story creatively interprets copyright law, parroting Google’s creative position. You'll find the link here, although you'll have to go through the usual, annoying registration process to get at it. The whole pitch is the same one that forced the original Napster out of the music-filching business—copyright is owned and controlled by the copyright holder, not someone else—someone else who can reinterpret the rules governing YOUR product. This writer's creative spin gained currency since his story, with and without the author's byline, has been run verbatim by the large number of newspapers across the country that increasingly buy (and never subject to scrutiny) these feeds so they don’t have to dispatch a paid staff reporter to Silicon Valley or elwewhere.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP, the commercial ones this time) begs to differ with this sunny assessment. In their counterattack—and lawsuit—they reveal some interesting info: Google wants to scan ALL the text of all the copyrighted books in the various libraries anyway. Google will choose what to excerpt and when, etc., and will OWN the digitized versions!! Of course, AAP has its own axe to grind, since they are concerned that Google will get any profits at all from their stuff. Nonetheless, this reveals a scanning system far less benign than folks have been reporting. The only irritating thing about the AAP's rational position is that it puts Wonker in the same camp as the organization's sanctimonious president, former US Rep and feminist hack Pat Schroeder.

Meanwhile, in this interesting and succinct critique, the nonprofit Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) specifically nails the point. Google is claiming they can pilfer copyrighted material under the doctrine of Fair Use combined with a clause that permits “beneficial use” of the material. ALPSP is claiming, correctly we think, that Google’s position pushes this language significantly beyond what was intended. Which gets us to—what was intended? It is clearly going to take a lawsuit to define this, and now, at least two (Authors Guild and AAP) are in play.

But leave it to a Gen Xer to justify the Google approach with a far left Napster-style defense with a bizarre logic all its own: ripping off copyrighted material is somehow protecting free speech. We include it here as an example of convoluted reasoning that riffs off the phenomenal definition of Fair Use that Google is employing to do an end run around copyright law as it has been traditionally interpreted. And by the way, tradition, aka, precedent, will be important in any eventual court case.

The Authors Guild weighed in in September with two new wrinkles: first, they regard the primary issue as PERMISSION. Google, in the Guild's position, has undertaken its activities without the author/copyright holder's permission. Sure, they offer to only excerpt books, and even then, only with permission. But then, they're still scanning and holding the (unpurchased) digital file without said permission--since it is books that the libraries themselves acquired that are being given to Google to digitize (and ultimately retain copies of) without reimbursing the authors or publishers in anyway. This might cause heretofore arrogant libraries to think twice about cooperating, and they're already starting to backpedal.

(BTW: the American Library Association is opposed to the Patriot Act insomuch as they may have to reveal the reading habits of an occasional patron to the US Government and/or law enforcement officials. However, they’re totally unconcerned about whether Google, via a cookie, gets similar information. Lefty double standards are always interesting. )

As we continue to sleuth the case, we encounter this USA/Today article, and it's a crucial one for any publisher, large, small, or even self, who wants to keep control of copyrighted, published material. To keep control of your own material, you have to OPT OUT of the Google plan. If you don’t make a peep, you’ll get digitized. (Can't you just hear Nomad in that old Star Trek classic: "Digitize all carbon units. Di-gi-tiiiiiize!) This is like the old book clubs’ “negative option” plans where, if you didn’t send their card back by x-date, you’d get the damn book and would then have to either keep it and pay for it (which they counted on), or send it back at your own expense.

Reporting from another point of view, this slightly tedious piece, which favors Google, contains legal detail focusing on Google's highly creative (and, they admit) untried interpretation of a portion of copyright law to endorse their methodology, but confirms the negative option detail. This, they correctly state, puts the onus of copyright protection on the publisher, not the “consumer,” which is essentially turning the history of American copyright law on its ear.

But leave it to an enterprising University of Michigan student who painstakingly extracted the entire Google legal agreement from a protected PDF and put it up via this site, where there are plenty of associated links. If you care to read the actual agreement—long but fairly easy to read, you’ll see soothing language that seems to respect everything. Particularly relevant is the elegant dance in Section 4, where the various clauses ultimately take copyright control from the owners and give it to Google and the librarians who will themselves determine what constitutes Fair Use (not worded that way, though, to fool you). Also, where Google has a pretty much unlimited right to re-sell this stuff without any remuneration to anyone except themselves, thus establishing a new revenue stream for themselves without compensating author or publisher.

Wonker's conclusion: at the very least, publishing companies should “opt out” of this arrangement to stop the Google juggernaut as at least two lawsuits wind their way through the system. By using an extremely liberal (both in the conventional and leftist senses) interpretation of copyright laws, Google will essentially strip copyright materials, in collusion with various libraries, to make everything or virtually everything public domain unless you opt out. This is not so different from the Napster/free speech/public's right-to-know interpretations that music companies have successfully fought against numerous times, establishing precedent, we think, in copyright law.

If I can't, say, make a bootleg copy of a U-2 disc, or download one of their songs and sell it or give it away to dozens or hundreds of my closest friends without winding up with a fine or jail time if I'm caught—well then, why can I do the same thing with a copyrighted WRITTEN work? Not logical. The original Napster was put out of business for giving copyrighted tunes away. Why is Google's high-handed approach to written material any different? Apple has made tons of money legally providing music downloads with simple and inexpensive technologies that satisfy listeners and music companies alike. What's the big issue with the written word? Amazon and Yahoo! already do a flavor of this, legally. Why is Google any different?

Ah, you say--assuming you've made it down this far--Wonker is a hypocrite. Where did he get all the links cited in this piece were it not for the freedom and ease with which you can obtain information for free on the web? Granted. But HazZzmat--indeed, all websites and blogs that respect ownership and precedent--observe the old traditions of copyright, including the use of short direct quotations (not huge ones), and accurate citations and credit, including hot links rather than pages of duplicated text. Public domain or non-copyrighted material is not at issue here. Mass copying and archiving of copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright owner no matter how much is actually reproduced--Google's apparent aim--is a different issue entirely, and Google's stated intentions, borne out in the U Mich contract language, would seem to constitute a clear challenge to the original intention of the doctrine of Fair Use.

I actually favor wider availability of hard to get stuff, copyrighted or not, if the proper protections for the author and copyright holders are dealt with in accordance with current legal precedent which gives them—not Google or anyone else—the right to final determination of how their material is used. I understand Google’s eagerness not to have to negotiate with every 5th rate poetaster who’s copyrighted something. But the fact is, that’s the way the current law works. Google's trying to get around it, and good, productive writers and publishers, who put a lot of effort into their products, are going to get ripped off if they succeed under the current arrangment.

A massive digital library system would indeed be a boon to all. But there will be nothing to put in tomorrow’s digital library system if today’s authors and publishers are systematically robbed and stop writing and producing material because they can no longer sustain a living at it. If copyright for the music industry is sacrosanct, Wonker fails to see the difference when it comes to the written word.

We seem in this country to be tilting slowly toward the Clintonista Baby Boomer ideal of situation ethics. It depends on what the definition of "is" is. In other words, if your definition of something--even if it's based on commonly accepted precedent or tradition--differs from mine, we'll use my definition. In an earlier generation, we might have called this "moving the goalposts." But today, this constant redefinition of constants is leading to a civil and cultural breakdown that may prove difficult to remedy.

We call on Google to cut the same kind of agreements that provide services to--and remunerate handsomely--companies like Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo! The service that Google proposes could be a wonderful thing. But only if it sustains a system that allows current and successive generations of "content providers" a fair opportunity to be remunerated for what they do so faithfully and so well.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

E's not dead. E's just resting.

Wonker doesn't intend to rest quite as hard as Monty Python's not-so-immortal parrot. But with all the literal gloom in DC this weekend, the Wonk is taking the weekend off and will be back with fresh, table-pounding screeds on Monday.

Friday, October 21, 2005

DeLaying the Flow of Texas Earle...

Washingtonians like Wonker regard the big and often phony political scandals that pop up in this town as so much background noise. But this stuff grows legs when it's promoted by lazy leftie reporters who'd rather collect hearsay in a bar than research a real story. In addition to the endless Valerie Plame speculation, the most riveting sleaze of the moment is Ronnie Earle's prosecutorial witch hunt in Texas--because it could slime the Bushies and maybe elect one or two Dems to the next Congress, at least in Ronnie's fantasies.

Earle, an open and notorious political hack, is peeved, as are all Texas Dems, that Tom DeLay, current US House of Reps Majority Leader-in-Suspension, managed to cause the downfall of Texas Democrats. DeLay and pals put together a team that de-engineered the left-bencher' expert incumbent-protecting gerrymandering--based on the 2000 census--helping to elect a larger Republican majority to Congress in 2004. Such heroics are unforgivable, however, since Dems are the Good Guys and Republicans are the Bad Guys as everyone knows. So Earle meticulously set up a scenario that's supposed to unfold like the bloody finale of Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy."

He managed to accomplish this by impaneling (and perhaps tampering with) enough grand juries that he finally got one to indict DeLay and his buds, which sort of reminds you how the Dems planned to win Florida in Y2K by counting the votes again and again until they got a majority. Anyhow, an Earle-y bonus of this shaky indictment was the necessity for now accused felon DeLay to head back to Texas for fingerprinting and the mandatory mugshot. Obviously, Earle and his pals cackled with glee, anticipating using this very public and embarrassing photo to damage Republican Congressional campaigns across the nation in 2006.

Citizen DeLay duly obliged his enemies and provided the obligatory incriminating mugshot:

'Nuff said.

UPDATE: Earle-y evidence is in. Other party hacks are disappointed:
Here it is, above, courtesy of Smoking Gun, and it's quite disappointing. No numbers, no height markers, no "Police Department" or any other identifiers to make it a mug shot. Maybe next time he's arrested we'll get a better one.
(From Milwaukee-based Dem political operative Bill Christofferson's Xoff Files with a hat tip to our fellow travelers at Lakeshore Laments.)
PS: Some Firefox and Mozilla users may not see the photo above, apparently a glitch in Blogger. Go to the recommended source links above to catch the photo--it's priceless.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Preference for Logic over Emotionalism

Everyone knows that the mere outward show of faith or belief is not at all a reliable predictor of behavior. Moreover, when selecting an individual for one of the highest and most critical offices in the land, mere indications of quality cannot substitute for proven experience. Alan Keyes

Alan Keyes, quoted here from an October 15th article on WND.COM, has a troubling quality for a man with political ambitions, and perhaps even more so for someone hoping for an audience in mass media. He clearly thinks before he expresses an opinion. One never has the sense of Mr. Keyes that he feels a particular thing, or that he's taken a poll to see whether or not a given opinion is tolerable by the public. During the 2000 Presidential debates, Mr. Keyes was clearly the smartest person on the platform, capable of thoughtful, incisive, and logical argument in a way that escaped other candidates. As such, he is one of the few critics of the President's nomination of Ms. Miers for Associate Justice who merits serious attention.

At issue is the President's careless invocation of the nominee's religious affiliation. Keyes, who has powerful religious convictions, dismisses this from the get-go, arguing both Constitutional and logical grounds.

The Constitution (Article VI) states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."...Whatever his personal inclinations, in his official capacity the president may properly take account of the words and actions that result from an individual's religious beliefs, but it is their quality, not the religious affiliation itself that constitutes the basis for his official judgment. For example, given the teachings of Buddha, an individual ought to show consideration for the life and worth of every individual. If she has done so, the president may properly consider her actions as an indication that she would show due respect for the rights and dignity of each person when adjudicating cases that arise under the Constitution. Her actions, not the religious beliefs that motivate them, are the proper constitutional basis for his deliberation.

The article should be required reading on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, and might well be read as part of the introduction to hearings on her nomination. If the President read it, he might reconsider his nomination or, at the very least, his rationale.


The Cultural Revolution: Instant Replay

Ever casually wonder why, statistically, there is no such thing as a conservative college professor. John Tierney has the answer:
I am in debt to liberal scholars across America. After I wrote about the leftward tilt on campus, they sent me treatises explaining that the shortage of conservatives on faculties is not a result of bias. Professors helpfully offered other theories why conservatives do not grace the halls of academe:

1 Conservatives do not value knowledge for its own sake.
2 Conservatives do not care about the social good.
3 Conservatives are too greedy to work for professors' wages.
4 Conservatives are too dumb to get tenure.

I've studied these theories as best I could (for a conservative), but somehow I can't shake the notion that there just might be some bias on campus.
Yep, there is. Wonker knows this to be true from personal experience, although other varieties of academic skulduggery also don't help in the selection process.

Tierney goes on:
Social scientists call it the false consensus effect: a group's conviction that its opinions are the norm. Liberals on campus have become so used to hearing their opinions reinforced that they have a hard time imagining there are intelligent people with different views, either on campus or in politics.
Yep, false consensus rules on college campuses today. Tierney gets into how and why this is, explaining how non-PC dissertation topics and the path to publication can get blackballed if they're not sufficiently left of center, aka, the norm.

It's accountability time, we think, on college campuses. And academia a really good place to begin carrying out HazZzmat's prime directive--de-funding the institutional left. Non-mainstream, collectivist wing-nuts have hung on so hard and for so long in their academic enclaves corrupting the minds of our kids because they have become adept at funding themselves with large quantities of taxpayer dollars whose disposition is rarely questioned. It's not difficult to fund what is really an unpopular and destructive movement if all you have to do is quietly have your friends in government insert a tap into the US and state treasuries for you. The academic and artistic left, aided by their friends in the left-wing media, would have disappeared long ago had we not been unknowingly providing them with limitless funding. But now we know. So why are we still funding them?

Maybe Mao had the right idea during his own "Cultural Revolution" when he sent the academics out to the rice paddies to do an honest day's work.

Where the Boys Are...

Well, for sure, they're increasingly either far from the top of their class if they're even in school at all, USAToday reports. And in college, the ladies are also shouldering the gents aside:

Cause for celebration — or for concern?

Before you answer, consider the perspective of Jim McCorkell, founder of Admission Possible, a St. Paul program to help low-income high school kids prepare for college. Last year, 30% of the students were boys. This fall, that has inched up to 34%, but only because "we actually did a little affirmative action," McCorkell says. "If we had a tie (between a male and a female applicant), we gave it to a boy."

As women march forward, more boys seem to be falling by the wayside, McCorkell says. Not only do national statistics forecast a continued decline in the percentage of males on college campuses, but the drops are seen in all races, income groups and fields of study, says policy analyst Thomas Mortenson, publisher of the influential Postsecondary Education Opportunity newsletter in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Since 1995, he has been tracking — and sounding the alarm about — the dwindling presence of men in colleges.

Why are we not surprised? America's education system seems, particularly in liberal urban areas, to be geared to favor girls over boys in a misguided attempt to redress an alleged historical grievance. Fact is, as an unbiased sociologist or psychologist will tell you (if you can find one), rambunctious boys actually need a little more attention than girls in school where boys' naturally restless natures allow them to be easily distracted. Girls are generally more inclined to pay attention in class and deport themselves with some decorum. (Although admittedly, there is increasing evidence that even this gender-based niceness is unraveling in inner city schools across the US.)

This perhaps surprising gender disparity actually gets worse in college where the percentage of males admitted vs. females is now dropping well below 50%, a ratio that's even worse when you count the number of males who are humanities majors.

Of course, as Larry Summers found out at Harvard, we're playing with fire by even hinting that something's amiss. But something is, and it gets continuously swept under the carpet with only occasional media surfacings like this one. Could it be that all the anti-male drivel we've endured from academia for the past quarter century is finally coming home to roost? Could these results be attributable at least in part to the relentless male-bashing prevalent on college campuses, promoted by doctrinaire feminists less interested in teaching Sylvia Plath's poetry than in using her as the poster girl for Male Awfulness and Gender Victimhood? Could it be that the media, with its endless glorification of the banal, is far more intent on promoting a female president in 2008 than it is in doing its job to foster a discussion of the issues?

It's probably all of the above and a whole lot more. The culture is, in the end, the milieu in which we live, and that culture has become increasingly curdled by our patriotic friends on the left who've taken control of our schools, courts, and cultural institutions with devastating effectiveness.

Bad results are what you get when a hard-left educational establishment, left unsupervised and resistant toward the thought of accountability, devotes far more energy and taxpayer dollars to social engineering than it does to doing its job--teaching kids to read, write, calculate, and comprehend. You can't spend decades rewriting textbooks to service a discredited ideology--while bashing a race or a gender mercilessly--without eventually causing some kind of drastically negative effect in the populace of designated bashees. (Luther may have an opinion on this as well.)

Meanwhile, a hat tip to Instapundit, where we found this useful story--which, however, comes to a sunnier conclusion in lefty-dominated USAToday than it does in HazZzmat.

Spending $100,000 to Save $1.16

Loveland, Ohio, City Manager Frederick Enderle's announcement , reported here in, but seen across the Web, that Deborah Combs was a flagrant offender sounded like one of the FBI's periodic announcements of the capture of a Public Enemy. Combs' crime? Unemployed since 2000, she hadn't filed a city tax return in Loveland, Ohio, presuming that, without any income, she wasn't required to file. It turns out that she owed $1.16. Estimates on the cost of her arrest, arraignment, and processing range to as high as $10,000. If she's convicted and spends four years in jail, which is possible, the total cost for collecting the $1.16 (plus $200 in late filing penalties) could exceed $100,000. There are few better illustrations of the arbitrary stupidity government is capable of. Sean Hannity, on his syndicated radio show, interviewed Ms. Combs on Tuesday of this week, and offered to pay her tax liability and her fines, as well as to offer additional help should Loveland's City Manager persist in his persecution of an unemployed citizen. In the same city, it is worth noting, as in all cities, a recent Supreme Court decision requires Loveland's hospitals to give free service to illegal immigrants, services that Ms. Combs, a U.S. citizen, unemployed for five years and in jail for failing to file a tax return on no income, cannot afford. Is something wrong here?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kaus With His Hands in the Times' Cookie Jar

A few righty blogs, like Power Line, have been following the Judith Miller/Valery Plame scandal stories with interest, noting that the ex-con journalist has now become the story herself. Mickey Kaus, blogging at Slate, notes that some elements of the media are starting to turn on Miller for several possible reasons, one of which is:

Treason: Miller wasn't just perceived as in cahoots with
neocons in foisting the war off onto the public. She was doing it from within the New York Times, which the Left correctly perceives as one of "its" institutions. As a traitor within the liberal camp, she has to be expelled and punished, in a way she wouldn't be punished if she'd been an equally mistaken and influential reporter for National Review. The host body rejects her.
Kaus has a few other plausible theories, some or all of which might be working concurrently at the increasingly disgraced New York Times. But the one we've quoted is interesting to us, as it touches upon one of the ways our favorite subject, the literary and academic world, has increasingly walled itself off by institutionalizing a reflexive and paranoid leftism that angrily rejects any individual other than a lockstep fellow traveler. In accord with the stealth Marxism espoused by Antonio Gramsci, the left, slowly and surely since roughtly 1935, has infiltrated and taken over many of our cultural institutions, turning them into propaganda mills for a mindlessly violent and throroughly discredited collectivist mentality.

Thus, Time magazine, for example, once quite conservative under the wing of the Luce family, is now solidly and predictably left. So, too, many of today's now-failing daily papers, including the NYT and the Washington Post. Add in the publishing industry, nearly all college English Departments (which now teach more theory than literature) and you begin to build a pretty grim picture that starts to explain why so many folks in this country reflexively revile the US, even when it tries to defend itself proactively, as it did after 9/11. All these institutions, and many more, most with a profound influence on our culture--and thus how Americans think of themselves and of their place in the world--now strive to undermine our much-envied national confidence and optimism, in order to turn us into just another doorless room with No Exit, as our friends in France have allowed their country to become.

Over the months and years, we'll return to this theme again in an effort to expose the extent to which the Gramscian mindset has taken over and pretty much ruined our literary and artistic culture. But we'll also explore ways in which we can begin to take it back.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting indeed to see if Miller--who was portrayed as someone akin to St. Joan just a couple of weeks ago--and her once stellar career end up wrecked on the shoals of a vengeful left as Mickey Kaus--himself not exactly a Republican--suggests.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Harold in Stockholm; or, The Hitchens Post

The scheiss continues to hit the fan as thoughtful jounalists opine on the latest ridiculous Nobel Prize for Lit, awarded to doctrinaire Brit Marxist Harold Pinter. Power Line cites an Opinion Journal op ed by Terry Teachout, whom Scott labels "the best practical critic in the country at large today." (Although Wonker admires Teachout, he would beg to differ.)

Scott also quotes at some length another WSJ op-ed (available only to subscribers), airing Christopher Hitchens' acid-etched point of view on the same topic. Intriguingly, Hitchens is an old-style leftist himself, so his distinctly unflattering observations carry considerable heft in this sphere:

Mr. Pinter's work, according to the clumsily-phrased Nobel citation, "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." Let us agree that his early plays -- he has not produced anything worth noticing since the 1960s -- do indeed show an uneasy relationship between the banal and the evil. But let me offer you a stave from a poem he wrote in January 2003, titled "God Bless America": "Here they go again,/The Yanks in their armored parade/Chanting their ballads of joy/As they gallop across the big world/Praising America's God."

This, and other verses like it, were awarded the Wilfred Owen prize by a group of English judges. When re-reading Owen on "the pity of war," I invariably find that it is difficult to do so without tears. When scanning Mr. Pinter on the same subject, I cannot get to the end without the temptation either to laugh out loud or to throw up. The sheer puerility of the stuff is precisely a combination of banality with evil: a preference for dictatorship larded with obscenity and fatuity. (And scrawled, I might add, by a man who helped found the International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic.) One has had more enlightenment, and been exposed to more wit, from the walls of public lavatories, such as those featured so morbidly in Pinter's early effort "The Caretaker."
'Nuff said. One aspires to write such stuff, but Brit writers who spend a good deal of time consuming adult beverages in the neighborhood pub seem to have a permanent lock on the high art forms of literary snarkiness.

Another Reason Why Cloning Is A Bad Idea

One of the easier markers of mass media-think for decades has been the way stories repeat from network to network, newspaper to newspaper, as if (heaven forefend) reporters lacked the imagination to check a story for themselves, or were clones.

Christopher Hitchens, a regular on the otherwise left-clonish Slate, has some serious thoughts on the subject in his esssay on coverage of Iraq's historical and contemporary divisions in Tribal Ignorance today, which is about the American mass media, not about Iraq! His accusation is not as brief as Zola's, but it may go further in effect: "One of the most boring and philistine habits of our media is the insistence on using partitionist and segregationist language that most journalists would scorn to employ if they were discussing a society they actually knew." Read the rest at the link.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Freedom and Poetry

It would probably shock members of the American Academy of Poets, but Iraqis coming home from exile are very pleased that Saddam is gone, and that poetry can speak again in classical Arabic.

On openDemocracy, you can read a discussion between Fadhil Assultani and Salah Niazi, two Iraqi poets exiled throughout the Saddamn hegemony.

Iraqi poets talk about the future


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Good News From Iraq?

Well, yes, they held a vote on the new constitution yesterday, and the country still exists this morning. You can bet this won't get a lot of coverage in the MSM after today. It doesn't fit in with the pre-written "story" of "another quagmire."

What we have instead is another victory for the Iraqi people and the Bushies and another defeat for the Gramscian leftists who will do anything to create Vietnam redux on the homefront at a time when we can least afford it, as we verge toward a slow motion but sloppy victory in that difficult part of the world.

A U.S. Marine put it best:

As Americans we want things done yesterday and have little patience for things not produced now. Patience is what is needed here and the coward left wing bed wetters won’t understand that. Iraq is where the US was 200 yrs ago. Will their constitution change? Yes of course as ours still changes to this day. Will there be continued fighting? Yes, there are plenty of scumbags here that need to be delt with as they recognize that their days are numbered now since they couldnt alter the elections. The fact that there wasn’t a major mass casualty of voters, SBVIED in polling centers or assassinations conducted that the foaming mouth reporters could get in the middle of just reinforces how far the Iraqi forces have come and how they are getting stronger than the scumbags. Reporter’s countrywide saturated the area days prior to the elections to hopefully catch the US forces failing. Well to damn bad it didn’t happen so pound sand! You be the judge on just how much coverage there is of the actual elections on the news tomorrow. My bet is that there won’t be much beside some BS doubters or what if this or what if that negative crap on. I know that if there were an unsuccessful election, it would have been nothing but “Breaking News” shots about how we failed. It’s a good day to be an American, stand tall America we helped a country get on its feet today.

Click here for the rest of this post. Obviously, soldiers of this generation have learned, perhaps from Vietnam Era commanders, that they should just get the job done and never listen to the media.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Knuckle Draggers, All

Yet another study has emerged, noting the overwhelming left-liberal bias in faculty hiring practices across the US. But some folks invariably draw the wrong conclusions, proving that the allegedly impaired intellects assuredly dwell on the left, not on the right. Check out the call and response here, and, if you're interested in the study, click here for a PDF. Hat tip to Moonbat Central.

Pinter Punt

You gotta give it to the Nobel people. They'll take any opportunity they can find to stick it to the US, most frequently in the guise of their long-ago discredited Prize for Literature. This year's honorific goes to, who else, longtime US foe and ardent leftist playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter, while he hasn't written anything of note for decades, regularly regurgitates anti-Yankee spew. Power Line provides you with a juicy quote of the latter and also duly notes the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mohammed El Baredei, the dude who could never imagine why the US would want to look for WMDs in Iraq.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Judy, Judy...

The Judith Miler/Valery Plame mystery grows weirder and weirder. For Washington political junkies who already have a jaundiced eye cocked for the lamestream media (LSM), check out the latest facts and well-labeled speculation at Pressthink.

Last Train Running

A belated farewell to America's greatest living playwright, August Wilson, who passed away earlier this month. His passing sadly, and effectively ends a century of great American playwrighting that included immortal works by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams , to name a couple of Wilson's equals. Gripped increasingly by reflexive leftism, American playwrights, particularly in the last quarter century, have littered the stage with gratuitious violence, nudity, and naked agitprop. Even worse, most of the atrocities masquerading as theater these days are merely the products of a workshop combine whereby the amateur playwright is "helped" toward production via the teaching and consensus of directors, teachers, and other hangers on who subsist primarily via the public dole.

Wilson's problem in gaining real traction on Broadway, the Promised Land for most playwrights, was the fact that he could actually write plays himself and didn't have need of the usual parasites who feed off an inferior playwright's corpus, so to speak. Wilson knew what he was doing, and chose to fend for himself, just like all Great Americans generally do.

Wilson was the George Bernard Shaw of our time. He was accused of being wordy, verbose. But like Shaw, with Wilson, you could sit and listen to his characters talk for hours. Real life from the wrong side of the tracks with a dash of Tabasco once in awhile. While his politics were predictably left of center, this wasn't what drove his plays. Rather, as is true with all great writers, his dramas were driven by character--something lost on the current generation of younger playwrights who write to please professors and obtain additional grants to pen more plays, lampooning Bush or the suburbs, that will never make it past their opening run.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Moonbat Redux

What Luther said. To help out our growing list of HazZzmat fans (one at last count), we're going to add Moonbat and Discover the Networks to our list of friendly links to the left. Speaking of the left, they're declaring the Culture Wars at an end, just as they've declared an end to other such conflicts--a sure sign that they're taking some hits.

FYI, keep in mind that our friends on the left have habitually employed, at least since the 1960s, the tactics first outlined by Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci developed a program for rotting a society from within by taking over its cultural and governmental institutions and using the resulting propaganda platforms to define deviancy down. They've done a pretty good job, we think. You can identify the current suspects on Discover the Networks. Meanwhile, count on us for informed commentary on similar topics.

BTW, Gramsci is well known to European leftists, but for some reason, is little mentioned or acknowledged by the American left--at least in public.

Radar On The Left

"The good news is that Al Gore has finally gotten around to condemning 'abhorrent, medieval behavior.' The bad news is that he means this at the expense of the United States..."

This was posted by Jacob Loksin on MoonbatCentral, the blog for the Center for Popular Culture's Discover The Networks site, a Web site that Hilary and friends have learned quickly to hate. Why? It shows the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy in vivid detail. And Horowitz uses Old Left tactics, naming names, presenting short paragraphs on given histories, as well as posting contact information should you wish to imbibe in Blogwar with a favorite target. Don't miss it. Chinese hackers haven't, and have damaged the site on several occasions, but it has been swiftly restored by Moonbat Central's squad of counter-hackers.


Beneath His Dignity

Derisive remarks about potential Associate Justice Miers by William Kristol and others remind me of debates over who actually wrote Shakespeare's plays and poetry. The gist of academic arguments about the "real" author of "Hamlet", "Julius Caesar" and other stuff is as follows:

How could a mere player be so wise as to do so well? Surely, the real Shakespeare must have been something other than a plebean thespian. He must have been a club fellow who'd gone to Oxford at the very least, and was a Prince, if not a Prince, a Duke, if not a Duke, an Earl, a pearl of courtly and approved wisdom. What chopined board-trodder could affect so much wisdom, wit, and art -- sheer art -- as is alleged to have been Shakespeare's? It must have been someone more qualified.

These arguments have been presented unsuccessfully since the invention of literary criticism in the 19th century. They are not new in any way, not in research, type and number of proofs, nor in their implausibility. The function of such theses hasn't changed either; it's akin to TV's situation comedies: employment for writers and actors who might otherwise have to schill for an advertising agency. Fact is, we're stuck with the actor as a writer who had time between learning his parts to write such lovely lines as "the quality of mercy is not strained," one that Mrs. Miers seems to have memorized.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Busting the AIC

Jim Pinkerton has posted an interesting column on "Tech Central Station" concerning the ongoing Republican battle with what he calls the "Arts-Intellectual Complex," (AIC), a clever update, we think, of Ike's broadside against the military-industrial complex many years ago. The column is a little diffuse, but contains some good stuff which is really at the core of why our still-evolving blog, HazZzMat was founded. Pinkerton bobs and weaves around the notions of memorials and their symbolism, eventually highlighting the recent victory won by patriotic 9/11 victim families against the blasphemous, Amerikkka-hating "museum" that leftists were planning to sneak onto the old WTC site.

Pinkerton only strikes a glancing blow at a core issue involved in the corruption of the media and the arts by the hard left--the clever way in which it acquires taxpayer funding to erode American traditions and culture--but he does readily identify the way it uses politics and regulations to cover its tracks:

Over all this time, the AIC was not only dominating the media, it was dominating the process. Heck, it was the process -- all those boards, commissions, and panels, most of them operating out of sight to the public, visible only to activists and lawyers.

Yup, The Process controlled everything. It was The Process that enabled the Maya Lins and the Piss Christers to do their thing and get their funding, because each individual cog in the funding machine could thus evade personal responsibility for the end result, if need be. "Hey," each cog could declare when cornered, "don't blame me -- blame the process!"

Taxpayer funding and endless "process"--two ways in which the hard, Gramscian left in this country works hand-in-hand to undermine America's way of life and undercut our status in the world. The exposure of the taxpayer-funded literary and artistic community in the United States will be one of HazZzmat's main themes, so tune us in from time to time as we describe what's been going on, ranging from NEA to CPB, from the Lawyers Guild to the ACLU, from art galleries to the corrupt university system. American taxpayers are paying billions of dollars a year to leftists dedicated to destroying the culture, undermining US world status, and indoctrinating our kids in universities that should be the great centers of learning that tuition-paying parents imagine them to be.

Stay tuned. Lots of "hazardous material" to come.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"Revenge of Chuckie" Scuttled

Well, will you get a load of the frenzied Bush-bashing fusillades from the right as W makes his unpredictable latest pick for the Soo-premes! George Will's elitist temper tantrum was as over-the-top as it was over-quoted. And here's TKS' snit. Add to all this the predictable fake "conservatives" from the left bloviating on various rightie blogs, and it looks like this nomination is already a rout.

But keep in mind several things, folks. The Constitution says nothing about a justice even having to possess a law degree let alone have years of service as a sitting judge. And George Will notwithstanding, it also says nothing about the position requiring a degree from Harvard or Yale. W has already learned from his father's two big mistakes--his broken "no new taxes" pledge and his blind appointment of the absolutely awful David Souter to the High Court. He won't have made the same mistake here.

Further, it'll be hard for the Dems to unload on Ms. Miers. She's already got the gender issue covered, and, as the President's counsel for many years, her paper trail in the White House, such as it is, is subject to Executive Privilege, which Bush will claim, scuttling the "Revenge of Chuckie" on the Senate floor even before it goes into production.

The culture wars are fought in sometimes un-obvious ways. This is one of them. Stay tuned.