Saturday, September 29, 2007


Did I hear you say
"My country right or wrong?"

-Midnight Oil My Country
I don’t know how to respond to these drooling thugs, db.

Patriotism. Psshhh. What is it? Is it believing America can do no wrong? Is it looking away when crimes are committed, when everything we stood against in Nuremburg becomes the stated policy of the leadership? Should we prosecute someone who burns a flag, or a war profiteer?
Mocking PatriotismThis is a comment from the blog Sadly, No! The context is irrelevant, the commenter could be any of a host of people. The content is what is at stake, because he brings up several points here that rarely are answered and shouldn't need to be. The concept of patriotism has been so maligned and mocked that today it has turned from a basic virtue into a basic vice: love of one's people, country, area, or even neighborhood is suspect.

Patriotism is difficult to define or understand for several reasons. The primary one is that it is such a subjective concept, it is how an individual loves or views their community or area. This can mean blind obedience, it can mean casual affection, it can mean a wide variety of attitudes. This ambiguity is reflected in the writings of various people about the subject. Diverse viewpoints produce diverse opinions and thoughts on the subject. Further, patriotism while typically referring to an attitude about one's nation, is not limited to that. It can be about one's home town, or state, or county, or denomination of a church.

At its most basic meaning, patriotism is an affection, loyalty, and respect for a group or area that one identifies with. Patriotism is what makes the football fan paint their face with team colors and the American hang out a flag. Patriotism prompts someone to defend their home state when it is maligned, or to wear a shirt that declares they love New York. The degree and zeal to which they hold to their object of affection varies, and this is where trouble and benefit can both arise.
“Love ceases to be a demon only when it ceases to be a god”
-Denis de Rougemont

Captain NaziAs I noted above, patriotism tends to be viewed with suspicion or at least condescension by many today. This attitude, while often overstated, stems from valid concern. Patriotism can go bad, and when it does, it becomes a great evil. It was excessive patriotism in an artificial racial construct that led to many of the evils of Nazi Germany. The belief in the Aryan superman more evolved than other humans is what prompted the attempted extermination of Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, and others that were viewed as damaging to human development. It is patriotism that can lead to wars, that can lead to racial hatreds, that can become a riot at a soccer (football) game.

The reason this happens is that instead of viewing one's object of affection with objective and understanding eyes - seeing the good and the bad, one can turn it into a god to be worshipped, an idol to bow to and burn sacrifices at. The nation or sports team or celebrity or ethnic background becomes an object of worship and all others are thereby diminished proportionally. It is one thing to love one's country and admire others, it is another to worship one's country with religious zeal and despise all others.

Such a person will not tolerate any statement of wrong about their nation, will not question any action it takes, and will always obey and support anything that nation does. This point of view forms its morality and understanding of justice based upon what the nation engages in rather than applying an objective standard to the nation's actions. Such a person will ignore the evils of a nation's past and see only the good in its present.

Blind allegiance to and worship of nation can and almost certainly will lead to evil, a danger nearly everyone is well aware of by this point in Western culture. This is taught regularly in popular media, schools, and politics, it is the dogma of our age that is often unquestioned. Mere statements of patriotism set off warning signals and dismay to the point where we have US citizen and CBS Nightly News anchor Katie Couric saying this a the National Press Club just a few days ago:
“The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable.
Why? Because identifying at all with one's country brings up the specter of statism and bigotry to some. That's how far as a people we've gotten. Yet there is another distortion that can result from your view of patriotism: that insufficient love and respect can be bad as well. My mom likes to point out that people never can seem to find a comfortable medium, we always swing from one extreme to another like a pendulum, shocked and dismayed at how far we've swung and hurtling too far the other direction.
"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself."
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
From the excesses of patriotism and state worship that turn the nation into a god - thus resulting in it becoming a demon - we've swung to the opposite extreme where we view our nation as a demon. This point of view tends to see only the bad in a nation and the good in others. In a confused attempt to avoid the excesses of worshiping state, we instead despise it, and consider every other nation - even ones that do and stand for things we would otherwise oppose - at least her equal. In the place of the objective standard of ethics and justice applied to the country, the subjective standard of "my nation must not be the greatest at anything" is applied evenly.

Such a viewpoint has dangers as much as extreme patriotism does. The first of which is that it most often is taken not out of a reasoned response to extremism or a deep personal concern over the dangers of taking patriotism too far, but a general tendency toward cynicism and bitterness born long before experience would generate it naturally. The attitude is that it is more enlightened, more wise and worldly, cosmopolitan to hold this viewpoint - only simple small town buffoons would hang a flag outside their door. This faux sophistication is clung to by many, particularly college age kids, because it gives a semblance of wisdom and understanding.

Yet, when one holds their country in contempt and dismissal, they tend to be ready to believe the worst and reject the best. In all events and histories, there is good and bad, and the distortions of accepting only one or the other are equally damaging to the truth and one's understanding of the world. World War 2 resulted in massive economic disruption, death, and horror while the world tried to stop the evils of fascism. There was bad along with the good of this effort - and one should know both, to be ready for another effort of this kind.

Thinking there was only unrelenting good and success in our WW2 efforts leads people to believe that unless every military effort fits this mythical pattern, it is a disaster, a failure, and at best misguided, if not wicked. Thinking that only evil results from war, seeing only the misery, death, disruption, and failures results in the idea that every war is wrong, every military effort a mistake, and every use of force is tyrannical and evil.

To refuse to see the good in one's country can lead one to support its disruption if not overthrow out of a sense of sophistication. Look at the black block anarchy riots that accompany most A.N.S.W.E.R.-staged protests. These are young people who believe that their nation is so wrong it should be torn down and replaced with ... well each has their own idea, but they almost inevitably end up being more socialist. Filled with images of Indian genocide and American slavery, and worse, they understand their country only in terms of failure, misery, evil, and destruction.

Because of this viewpoint of the country, because of a righteous dread of patriotism or even seeming to be patriotic, it is too easy to try to look at things "objectively" where to do so is to do the opposite. For example, when you look at a conflict between good and evil, to try to treat the evil as neutral is to at least in small part support it. There was a news report out of Afghanistan a few weeks ago on a US attack that killed a bunch of Taliban. The US military reported the event, and the news source treated the information with skepticism:
There were no independent accounts of how many people were killed or what happened. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.
Note the presumption here: the Taliban is at least as trustworthy as the US forces. By treating them as neutral, they're elevating the status and worth of the Taliban. Sure, they are brutal oppressive, murderous, and civilization-destroying extremists of a radical religion, but you can't treat the US as if it's trustworthy. Thus, the Taliban gets lifted up to be a valid source of information and the effort to treat all sides neutrally treats one side better than it is.

This is like hearing a report of a slave ship dumping slaves over the side to prevent capture, and not trusting the British Navy's report, hoping to get "independent confirmation" from the slave ship captain. Because we wouldn't want to take sides. So you end up supporting the enemy of what you claim to stand for, in the name of not being a patriot.

Russian McDonaldsPatriotism can t'ake another odd turn, however. Even someone with valid and real love for their country can find themselves in a troubled position. This is part of where the anti-American sentiment comes from in many parts of the world: a love of one's own country and ways of life. If you have a happy existence in Lyons or Kyoto or where have you with your own culture, then some guy puts up a McDonald's restaurant and all the kids are wearing American clothes, that's an affront to your love of your land and culture. It grates against your patriotism.

If your nation was once preeminent and now is just another country that has to watch America be richer and more powerful, that grates against your patriotism. If you want to do something but cannot because you haven't the strength - so America does it - that grates against your patriotism. It's a fact that at least some of the opposition to America comes not so much from anything innate in America as jealousy or protectiveness of one's way of life. Given that much of what American exports is shoddy and cheesy, I find it hard to disagree with that second objection: McDonald's and American Pie movies just aren't a benefit to anyone's culture.
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"
-Things Thomas Jefferson never said, volume 1
Pledge AllegianceThere are two kinds of patriotism or love of country dominant in America today. They seem to divide evenly along partisan lines, and the result is that both claim to be patriotic in their own way, and attack the other's patriotism.

The first is the old fashioned kind of patriotism: this is my nation and I live here, I love where I live, and I honor the great things my country has done. I hang a flag out front not only for special events, but because I'm proud to be an American. This patriotism loves the nation that exists, and both hopes and works for better.
Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism -- a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.
-Senator Fullbright
The second is the kind of patriotism that owes allegiance not to the nation but to a set of ideals that they admire. This patriotism loves not the nation as it is, but the nation as it would be if they could make it so. This is the kind of patriotism that delights in one's dream of how things could be and loves that rather than the actual way things are.

In a sense, this kind of patriotism echoes that sentiments of the founding fathers, who spoke enduringly of liberty and virtue, of the dreams of a nation who brought justice to all and a place where men could be free to live without tyrants and oppression. Their allegiance was to no sovereign (save God, most pointed out), and not to America, but to the ideals of liberty. The thing is, much of these statements and things that were written were so before the independence of America. Their loyalty had to be for a nation that did not yet exist... because it literally did not yet exist. Even after the war of Independence was over, the nation is not truly formed for decades and loyalties and admiration takes time and history to establish.

Indeed, the colonial soldiers and the rebels against the English crown called themselves patriots (and most said they loved the king and England, but were fighting for liberty, not against England). The problem with the first kind of patriotism is that it can too easily blind one to the faults of or lend one to the support of their nation when they ought to be more critical.

The problem with the second kind is that it is not patriotism for one's actual country at all, and the allegiance to ideals can lead one to see faults and threats to these ideals where none exist.

Both extremes ought to be avoided, and certainly there's room for someone to hold both positions - to both love their land and what it stands for, to work for a better country and to love the good in the country they now live in.

Ultimately all our affections should be first on truth, justice, liberty, virtue, and goodness. From that we can apply this love to what is around us and understand the world we see through that lens. It is not wrong to love one's people or neighborhood, or country, or planet, should we ever come to that. It's wrong to turn any of those into one's highest love, to elevate them to the status of an idol.

Christians, for instance, are urged to submit to lawful authorities, pay taxes, and heed their governors, while recognizing that they are not truly citizens of this world, but of the next. All people should take this position: your ultimate loyalty should be to right and wrong, to justice and truth, but that does not negate a lower loyalty and love for where you live and what you do. In Germany during WW2 or in the Confederate South, or in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom it was right to defend and be loyal to your nation. What is wrong is to never see any faults or flaws in that nation, to ignore any evils it does, or to blindly support and fight for that nation.

Sometimes, being a patriot means opposing what your nation is doing but never opposing your nation entirely. I'm a patriot of the United States but I oppose the legalized abortion and other evils in our society. That's not only my right but my duty, my responsibility as Locke pointed out. Every member of a country has not only the opportunity but the duty to oppose evil and fight for good in that country, even if that means opposing one's own government.

The problems arise when one's sense of patriotism is tied too closely to the present government rather than the nation. This can lead one to despise the nation when one party is in power and love it when another is. That's simply ignorant: the nation is the nation, regardless of the government; your love should be for the people, the place, and the ideals of the nation, not who happens to be president at the time. The deeds that a government does can very well be opposed to that nation and what it stands for - it's certainly happened in the past.

The line I started this essay out with is originally taken from a rather famous quote by Captain Stephen Decatur. In its entirety it reads:
"Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!"
In response to the shorter version, G.K. Chesterton famously quipped"'My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" The problem is that most people don't know the full quote and miss the point. Decatur was not saying he would defend everything his country did, nor that he was worshiping his nation. He was pointing out that he was an American, and whether America did right or wrong, he still owned it as his home. He always wished America to do right, but would not cease to be a citizen because of wrong the nation did. That's the essence of patriotism, to me.
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Friday, September 28, 2007


"The most obvious reaction for me would be to marvel at how the internet destroys borders and boundaries, and allows direct connections between like individuals halfway around the world."

Predator UAV
Usually when I post on "unmanned" I am referring to masculinity, but the original sense is about an item usually run by a human. The most familiar of these is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which is usually piloted by remote control - a sort of high tech RC airplane. The US military has been using these for decades for reconnaissance and most recently for attacks, by mounting a missile on the UAV. They have been remarkably successful and apparently are fairly easy to use. Plus, if one gets shot down, it's cheaper than a jet fighter and no pilot is killed or captured.

However, more than just the military uses these devices. At The Long Tail, Chris Anderson has been promoting the use of these for more than just finding and killing bad guys. He's been using the ones he owns to add to Goggle Earth maps, but suggests they have other uses such as scientific sensing and analysis of construction and larger projects. Farmers, for example, can look at their crops from overhead, someone designing a neighborhood can examine the layout, and Navy buildings can be examined for unfortunate symbolism. At the same time, he has some trepidation:
But the UAV-as-weapon concern is persistent, and many people have asked whether we, by making the technology available and easy to use, might be inadvertently be helping our enemies.

My usual response is that the technology is out there anyway, and by doing things in public we're just making it easier for authorities to know what's possible and who's working on it. Hezbollah already has UAVs, after all, and the technologies we use (which range from cellphones to Lego) are hardly export-controlled.

But all that came to a head today when I read the main UAV newsgroup, and saw that Amir Aalipour, an Iranian in Tehran, had posted some pictures of his swing-wing UAV (shown), proudly bedecked with the colors of the Iranian flag. He's been following the discussion in these forums for some time and now wanted to come forward with his own impressive work.

Part of me says "Bravo Amir! Excellent work on the airframe, and thanks for posting." And part of me says "Yikes. We're helping Iranians make UAVs draped in nationalistic colors. This isn't going to help us in our efforts to destigmitize drones."

Here's where it gets interesting. Among the comments which were thoughtful and informative was a response from the very Amir who built the patriotic UAV. And he's 17 years old, which is pretty impressive. I can barely make a model airplane:
Interesting post, Chris.
I'd probably feel the same conflict, but I know my decision would be to help the guy, and if it matters any, I'm Israeli.
UAV isn't nuclear technology. As you said yourself, it's widely available. If some military or para-military organization wants to use it for offensive purposes, it's hardly a problem for them to find the knowledge and build the technology.
On the other hand, helping someone who'd normally consider you their enemy just as you consider them, might help change their views. It doesn't guarantee that they'll refrain from calling America the Big Satan and Israel the Little Satan publicly, but it just might seed a little cognitive dissonance next time they do it. So I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt - i.e. that the person is just a geek, not a terrorist.

BTW, the writing (and speech) on his video is Farsi, not Arabic.
-by Elad

I don't see the Iranian flag as cause for concern. After all, you probably wouldn't be concerned if you saw a UAV decked in stars and stripes, right?
Control of information on an open internet is doomed to failure. We gain enormous advantages in western societies through collaboration, which is in turn enabled by free-flowing information. Let's hope that less democratic nations inadvertently let in some of that free-flowing information even if their original goal was just to copy UAVs.
-by Marcartan

You absolutely should continue to help. You yourself said he's probably just a geek too, and he should be treated that way. If he, through some miracle, is actually a terrorist, I don't bielieve that t's "on you" as you're just providing information he could obtain anywhere. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

If anything, the Arabic writing is probably saying "Hi mom!"
-by Josh

I'd say the posting from Amir to an American geek community, and not an Iranian, shows that he's an open minded person. This is the perfect example of the globalization the internet is making possible which we embrace in all other situations. We're not to fight terrorism or anything by excluding but rather including. Say hello to Amir... ask him what he's up to. Communication, two way like the internet allows, is the best way to understanding.

For an English speaking community to connect with a Farsi speaking talented geek is pretty niche. Isn't that kind of long tail?
-by Anders Emil

Chris - as an Iranian-American, I'm sort of astonished by this post. There are so many insulting assumptions here, it's hard to know where to start. First, whatever danger to the west may be emanating from Tehran, it's certainly not coming from an amateur UAV-builder! Or are you assuming that the Iranian government's military program (or the Revolutionary Guard's terrorist support) relies on scouring the web for UAV advice?

In fact, the guy is probably taking a significant risk building something that his own government might feel like confiscating because of its potential to undermine the secrecy with which they govern.

Second, the whole bit about the video looking jihadist is just ridiculous. Iranians are very proud of their country and their heritage (hence the flag), and, well, they like writing that they can read in their home videos, I guess. How DARE they not use English!?

The other commenters have been more measured (e.g., "I doubt there's anything to worry about"), but I'll go one better and say that you need a serious cultural reset. Speaking a different language and loving Iran (the country, not the regime - a distinction your typical US liberal like myself knows pretty well) doesn't make you an enemy or a terrorist.
-by Paul

Hi Too all.
Im Amir from iran and i Designed that airplan and created it.
First:Iam not a terorist.
second:I love my country , persian languege , our flag and dont get it to ant body
second: Im 17 years old and i now am going to Kharazmi fastival in tehran. for get a knolege race !
third: i love friendly.
thank for all.
Amir Aalipour
best regard

Hi to all.
Im amir again.
I am not in Tehran. Im in Ahwaz city that is in west and sout of iran.
I designed it and create it with very low tools. now i want to add the OS engine co and Futaba RC in my weblog to have some money to finish the autopilot for my UAV.
My UAV is personal use to give me better knowlege.
i like go to Univercity but univercity in iran is for reach people that can get best educations for that examing.
if any say to me a terrorist that is in very bad incorect. Im only a persian that i love our history.
our history Shown in 300 film or say better zoo (300) was a big lie.
Amir Aalipour
Best regards
-by Amir [sure, his English is poor, but my Farsi is utterly nonexistent, how's yours?]

And think of all the millions of kids who learned how to build stable ballistic rockets and calculate their trajectories, thanks to Orville Carlisle and G. Harry Stine's toys.

Some went multi-stage, and added payloads like cameras and sensors and relatime reporting on high-altitude conditions. Many others scaled up to LDRS (Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships) and beyond. I wonder whether I or Harry or anyone who's written how-to's on rocketry are responsbile for kids knowing how to place a payload (warhead) on target from a long distance?

In addenda: Harry and I never got into telling people how to mix fuel (though each of us experimented separately, years apart. And Harry was an engineer at White Sands in the aarly 1950s). It's obvious from Lucerne, LDRS, etc. that plenty of people figured that out on their own. beginning in the 1980s. After which cottage industries creating rocket propellant and motors sprang up.

To answer the question posed in my preceding post, I believe that clubs and commercial entities devoted to model rocketry and model aircraft and radio experimentation are "responsible" for getting more people involved in rocketry and UAV activities than would have been involved otherwise. (Blame part of this on Hugo Gernsback!)

And somehwere out there, someone is experimenting with the R/G (rocket glider) concept as a means of getting a UAV to altitude.

(Come to that ... a B/G [boost glider] configuration might work better to get a UAV with undeployed wings to altitude.)
-by Michael S. Banks
The interesting thing is that in my experience, at least based on internet reading, Iranian people aren't particularly Anti-American. Their rabid, extremist Muslim government is, but the people just don't have that tone for the most part. They seem educated, capable, thoughtful, and on the whole pretty well-balanced, especially compared to some others in the region. As I've noted in the past, Iran has an ancient history of religious tolerance, especially for Jews. It is only very recently that these problems have cropped up.

There's a duality, a paradox of sorts in Iran. Their government is repressive, anti-western, radical, and extreme. The people generally are pretty progressive, relaxed, and open to western ideas and advancement. If anything, that tells you how little liked the Shah was to replace him with these nuts - but remember, it was not a popular uprising that put the Ayatollah in power, it was a military coup. As dictatorships go, Iran really hasn't advanced to the full police state paranoid regime that most do.

That's why I don't care for the "bomb Tehran" and "invade Iran" comments people have made in the past. The people of Iran are often our friends and very rarely our enemies. Let's not make them so.

I just wish Amir could read his history a bit more; 300 was a bit exaggerated and cartoonish, but the historical events were exact and accurate.

Chris Anderson is engaged in the typical leftist paranoia about the government: will they shut me down and take all my computers for daring to talk to an Iranian?? This is absurd and without precedent or remotest logic; the US government won't even condemn the New York Times for printing hundreds of thousands of copies of detailed information on classified projects, let alone deal with some guy chatting about building model planes on the internet. It's the kind of goofy reaction people have when they dislike the government (because its Republican and not Democrat) rather than thinking through reasonably what is going on.

That said, it was an interesting dilemma, one not considered by many: what you say on the internet is read all around the world. Take a look at the flags at the top of my blog, that's the countries that I'm aware of have read my blog. They are from every continent on earth but Antarctica (I might have some from there, but it's not a country, so I don't get notified about the location). When I type up a detailed and accurate depiction of the Florida 2000 election, I do so on purpose knowing that people in Portugal can read it and learn the facts of the case rather than the rumors and idiot writings of Al Franken on the topic.

What we do on the internet is like a rock in a pond, those ripples eventually reach all parts - so keep that in mind. The concern that you might be doing something unethical or unwise should always be on our shoulders when we bear any burden of responsibility. And make no mistake we're all responsible for what we say and do, even on the internet.
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Some days it's tough to do this blog. I find lots of interesting stories out there, but few comments I can use. Another problem is that I don't like to write about what I've written before, so while something nifty will come up (another study shows that CO2 levels go up when heat rises, not the other way around, for instance), if I've already covered it I don't have much else to say, so why post on it? In any case, why would someone want to read what I've written about already in the past, scroll past.

I fear my posts on Iraq this kind of yawning, scrolling response, which would be too bad, because while I sometimes repeat, the topic is so critical I believe it is important to keep hammering the point home: it takes time, support the efforts, it's working.

I've tried some alternative stuff in the past, posting fiction I've written which was roundly ignored and scrolled past. Either it was awful stuff or people just don't care for reading fiction on blogs and move on.

Blogging is an interesting business, I enjoy it every day, but some days it something I approach with dread. If there's nothing to write about, what do I post? If I post little or nothing, people might not come back. I'm already limiting my daily exposure by tending to finish up by noon pacific time.

So I've got a question: are there any topics or things you wish I'd write about, things you wish I'd stop writing about, format changes you'd like to see? Are there essays you want to see, are there sites and comments I'm missing? I find political and entertainment stuff pretty easy, but it is hard sometimes to find other topics. I don't want to be a political blog, or even a popular culture blog. I'd like to cover almost anything if I can. But I'd appreciate the feed back. It's worth a try, S Weasel got people to start commenting more, maybe I can get some input from readers.


"Wasn't there a Seinfeld episode like this?"

Chelsea LOL
I went to Chicago once while I was in college with the Resident Assistant for our floor in the dorm. While there we went to a Cubs game (vs San Diego, they lost), and ate at Gino's East pizzaria. I wasn't terribly impressed with the Pizza, but it was pretty good (the best restaurant pizza I've ever eaten was at Mazzi's in Salem, now sadly closed). Gino's has signatures all over the dark walls of the place, everyone who visits seems to leave a note or scribble with a Sharpie© which is kind of a feature of the restaurant. A lot of restaurants have something like this, usually pictures of people who have come to visit and eat. The Italian restaurant in Do The Right Thing gives a good illustration of how this works.

Among the many places that have this practice is Osso Buco, a New York eatery that Rudolph Giuliani enjoys. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the former president, visited and ate there, and the delighted owner Nino Selimaj asked her for a picture to be taken of both of them, to be hung on the wall. Mr Selimaj is a former Albanian and he feels a debt of gratitude to President Clinton for the unilateral action taken during the 1990s without UN approval to stop the killing and unrest in the former Yugoslav republics.

President Clinton apparently does not reciprocate this admiration. He recently had a letter sent to Osso Buco, requesting that they remove Chelsea Clinton's picture from the wall.
In a September 18 letter to Osso Buco, an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, the ex-president demands the removal of the five-year-old photo of his daughter and Nino Selimaj, the eatery's owner. The picture, which is in Osso Buco's front window, is among scores of similar photos displayed throughout Selimaj's University Place establishment (as well as several other Manhattan restaurants he operates).
The link has both the picture and a scan of the letter in question. Over at Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Volokh looked at the case and offered his opinion on the legality and basis of this request. He noted that New York law protects private citizens and their images from being used for advertising, although Manhattan restaurants regularly put pictures of celebrities that have eaten there - and that the statute of limitations has long been passed for that law in any case. Professor Volokh concludes with these thoughts:
Setting aside the legal question, my sense is that failing to remove Chelsea's picture is pretty rude, and I hope the restaurant owner's customers admonish him to that effect. A restaurant owner should have more respect for the wishes of his patrons; he's gotten five years of free publicity out of Chelsea's visit, and it doesn't seem right to me for him to insist on getting more after Chelsea asks — for whatever reason — that he stop. Conversely, if the first request to the restaurant was the letter, rather than a polite request by Chelsea (I have no idea whether that's so, though Ann Althouse suggests that it might have been), that too sounds a bit rude. On the other hand, if a first request was politely rebuffed, I don't see anything improper about the letter; it seems like a pretty normal nastygram, and one that is reasonably warranted by the facts as they appear.
Commenters responded both at Volokh Conspiracy and Ann Althouse's blog:
Your analysis seems quite sound, but doesn't it assume that the request comes from Chelsea or her authorized representative? Chelsea may be a daughter but she is no longer a minor. Her father therefore lacks standing. In the absence of an indication that Chelsea has instructed her father's lawyer, which I do not find in the letter, isn't this a meaningless third-party request?
-by Bill Poser

Notice that the letter never says that the author is a lawyer, but rather a "counselor" to Bill Clinton. While the letter appears written to lead a reader to think that it is coming from a lawyer, it appears carefully crafted to avoid making that claim. He could be Bill's life counselor for all I know.
-by JohnO

If she posed for the photo w/ the restaurant owner, didn't she expect that he would display it?

Would it affect the analysis if, when she posed, the walls of the restaurant were festooned with framed photos of the owner with various celebrities dining at his place?
-by Anderson

As to the merits of the right of publicity claim, I don't think it's as strong as EV claimed in his quickie review.

Most importantly, under NY law, Sections 50 and 51 of the Civil Rights Law require that there be more than an incidental connection between the appropriation of a plaintiffs likeness and the main purpose of the work in order to maintain a claim for invasion of privacy. Thus, In D'Andrea v. RaflaDemetrious, the court held a hospital's use of a medical resident's picture in its recruiting brochure was not an invasion of his right of privacy as the use was incidental to the main purpose of the brochure, which was to provide information about the hospital's programs to prospective employees.

Thus, I'd think that if Osso Bucco's owner has a bunch of photos of himself with various people (as is often the case at restaurants) it might be hard to show that the use was anything other than incidental. It really seems like quite a stretch to claim that he's trying to make money primarily or mainly off of Chelsea's face. In any case, that's not present in the facts known now.

Next, on a technical level, the law can only be enforced personally by the individual who has the publicity right.
An heir, parent or other asignee can't exercise it.
So, "counselor" Band can't do so. Nor can Pres. Clinton. This is a minor point, but would likely get dismissal of the action in the first instance if Bill brought the suit.
-by Davide

If Chelsea objects and demands the photos removal, which I (hopefully) doubt, Nino should replace the photo with one of himself striking the same pose as in the photo alongside Chelsea's silhouwette, below which should be the attorney's letter and any written demand of Chelsea. The domineering nature of the Clinton's should be kept in the public's view.
-by slsmithsg
It is a misdemeanor to pose as a lawyer if you are not in New York state - and this letter is very strongly suggesting legal power when Mr Band is no such person. Mr Selmaj told the New York Post "We have Derek Jeter, we have Regis Philbin, we have Rudolph Giuliani, Danny Glover, Mariah Carey [and] Sopranos [castmates]" which makes the idea that somehow the young miss Clinton was unaware of the way her picture would be used somewhat unlikely.

I'm not sure why the Clintons want her picture taken down, but I have a suspicion. The Clintons are infamous for trying to control public exposure and information about them. They successfully shut down the press examination of Chelsea in her youth (something I applaud), an act the Bush presidency was unable to accomplish with his daughters. Hillary Clinton's letters and writings while at college were suppressed for decades, in contradiction to that college's policy. Is this another attempt to control publicity, to make sure only they and their press agents can make Miss Clinton's image available?

Those of us who are old enough remember the Clinton presidency and how the press and imagery was handled. This is the kind of scorched earth control that they tried to exercise constantly. This is why President Clinton threw a tantrum when someone dared ask him tough uncontrolled questions on Fox News. The concept of spin became immortalized by the 24-hour war room and rapid response team of the Clinton presidency. It was wearying and grating even to his biggest fans.

Or is this just a slight against an admitted Republican restaurant owner who has former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani as a fan? There's no indication (or mention in the letter) that Chelsea Clinton herself asked the photo to be removed, nor any suggestion of it from Mr Selmaj himself - he has stated that he'll remove the picture if she asks, but not until then. Did he refuse to send a donation via Hsu to the Clinton for President campaign?

There's another possibility, that this is a Thomas Becket event, where President Clinton suggested he'd rather not have his daughter's picture up there and some over zealous employee went to work. There's something about the Clintons that inspires almost insane loyalty - witness Sandy "pants stuffer" Berger, now foreign policy advisor of Senator Clinton's election campaign (if you can believe it).

There's no way any rational person can have missed the connection between having their picture taken with the owner and scores of other pictures taken with the owner on the walls. When Chelsea Clinton posed for the picture, she was authorizing its use in the restaurant. That's not exactly difficult to figure out, in the context and common use of such photos. Apparently the letter is on display in the window as well. Smart man, Mr Salmaj.
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Quote of the Day

"a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right"
-Thomas Paine
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Thursday, September 27, 2007


"I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant."
-Henry Louis Mencken

Slave Ship
I've not followed up on it yet, but the Florida 2000 essay I wrote is the first of a planned series of essays looking at various issues and events and trying to straighten out the misconceptions or confusion many have on them. That particular essay might be especially useful as apparently there's a cable movie in the works all about how Bush stole the election called Recount. Granted I don't have a copy of the script but given the people involved the outcome is fairly predictable.

Slavery is one of those issues where people have strong opinions but often weak factual and historical basis for them. Michael Medved, just off a controversial article about how the horrible treatment of Native Americans in the US was immoral and evil it wasn't actually Genocide now has another article. In it, he looks at myths about slavery and points out six major ones:

1: Slavery was not a uniquely American institution
2: The period in which slavery existed in the US was incredibly brief, and isolated.
3: Slavery was brutal but not genocidal - slaves were valuable
4: The US did not become a prosperous nation through slavery
5: The US deserves credit for its efforts to stop slavery
6: As Muhammad Ali pointed out: staying in Africa would have actually been worse for later generations of blacks.

Now, most of these are pretty controversial, but he does a good job of pointing out why they are true and important. For example, The United States was formed as an independent country in 1776, and by 1808, the importation of slaves was banned - that's just 32 years after the formation of the country. Even before the Civil War, most states had outlawed slavery, and by the end of the war, just 86 years after the country was founded, slavery was illegal everywhere. Since that time, the nation has existed 142 more years - far longer after than before that point.

As Medved points out, Jim Crow "separate but equal" laws and institutionalized discrimination caused damage 100 more years, but in terms of actual slavery, it was ended long ago and very soon after the nation was founded. By contrast, the nation we can most credit with the modern move to end slavery - England - had existed for thousands of years before outlawing the practice. This is not to slight England, they did far more than the US, sooner, to fight slavery. Even during a time when they could not spare ships for any task but fighting the French dictatorship, they were intercepting and freeing slave ships. It just makes a point about the USA and slavery that isn't considered often. The United States stood for liberty for all very swiftly in historical terms.

Now, the comments are many (over 200 at this point) and often heated, but not especially helpful. Most of them were reactionary, from Team Players who didn't even bother reading the article beyond a simple initial scan. For example, one of the first comments complains that Medved made "no mention of Jim Crow laws" when he plainly did. Sometimes it's disappointing to me because I find a great article but the commentary is terrible - that happens a lot on Town Hall, sadly.

Most of the people who attacked him did so with the assumption that he was somehow defending slavery or applauding it. Michael Medved's point was pretty simple, he made it in the opening lines:
Those who want to discredit the United States and to deny our role as history’s most powerful and pre-eminent force for freedom, goodness and human dignity invariably focus on America’s bloody past as a slave-holding nation. Along with the displacement and mistreatment of Native Americans, the enslavement of literally millions of Africans counts as one of our two founding crimes—and an obvious rebuttal to any claims that this Republic truly represents “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” According to America-bashers at home and abroad, open-minded students of our history ought to feel more guilt than pride, and strive for “reparations” or other restitution to overcome the nation’s uniquely cruel, racist and rapacious legacy.

Unfortunately, the current mania for exaggerating America’s culpability for the horrors of slavery bears no more connection to reality than the old, discredited tendency to deny that the U.S. bore any blame at all. No, it’s not true that the “peculiar institution” featured kind-hearted, paternalistic masters and happy, dancing field-hands, any more than it’s true that America displayed unparalleled barbarity or enjoyed disproportionate benefit from kidnapping and exploiting innocent Africans.
In a time when the focus of much teaching and history is on how evil and wrong the United States is, Medved's points in this and the previous article are a breath of fresh air. He's pointing out that while the US did evil in the past, it wasn't the evil that people accuse it of, and it was not unique. That we have to know, understand, and acknowledge it, then move on.

There's good in knowing the wrong of the past, but no good in using that as the only template for understanding something. We have to be willing to know the good and the bad, and from that to face the present and future wisely. We cannot do that if our heads are full of mythology about the past that demonizes the topic. And we cannot allow emotional issues to distort or distract us from rational truth, like the topic of slavery so easily does.
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"Maybe this group can get the flight 93 memorial changed too."

Tell me what you think this building looks like from above. Yeah, we all can see it, and so can the US Navy department, who this San Diego building belongs to. Built in 1967, this building predates satellite photography such as Google Earth makes readily available. The building is being modified because of its appearance now.

The question most people ask at this point is "how could they have built it like that in the first place, clearly they knew what the blueprints looked like, right?" To this I offer these comments from Ace of Spades HQ with some expert analysis:
any set of building plans would show an overall view.
Undoubtedly. Architects and engineers don't think in terms of "moral outrage" over stuff like this. Literally, we don't even see it. Our brains aren't wired for sensitivity to imaginary slights to others. We don't think that way. We think in terms of practicality and that design probably had something advantageous on that particular site. Maybe they were reusing a foundation from a prior building, trying to optimize some drainage, etc. Its that simple.
-by Purple Avenger

I once saw a tampon shaped artistic rendering of a skyscraper over at ann's place.

It does look like a swastika, but actually if you think about it, in terms of living space, and comfortable living. Those buildings offer a decent view to everyone residing in the building, without out containing the exterior spaces into a sort of prison courtyard filled with attractive landscaping.

It actually looks like every living space is a reather attractive place, and all of the exterior space appear more open and free, than in a contained courtyard.

It does look like a swastika, but it also looks like a pretty well designed batch of living quarters. Thats all I'm saying.
-by WickedPinto

I have sat through numerous artistic/architectural critiques. Obvious things like "hey thats a swastika" come out very quickly. THrus they are often defended just as quickly. The argument probably went like:

-Hey, that's looks like a swatika

-Yes, yes it does, I know it does. But it fits the site the best and people on the ground will never consider it

And that's about where it stops. Architects can be immensely stubborn. He drew the plan, he drew the elevation. They knew what it looked like, they thought it wouldn't be a problem, that's my take on it.
-by Dr Chopper

P.A. is right, the engineers don't see that stuff, You wouldn't believe the stuff I have drawn on plans. I know a girl that puts pig faces in every one of her drawings. I once drew "eat at Joe's" in the rip-rap of a outfall. The worst I have seen is a park in MO or someplace like that, the sidewalk is a phallus. That would only work on a set of plans with a lot of match lines.
-by VMaximus

This has been known for a good long time by people familiar with that area in san diego (and people who've just lived there along time). It finally gained 'nation wide notice' when Google Earth. Casuto, head of the ADL in San Diego, had a few meetings with them but never had a "Reverend Jacks-hmmm" type meeting but suggested they fix it when they got the money to fix it. Finally they had the money to fix it so they fixed it. Its no big deal here in SD and it barely amounts to a ping on the sonar.
-by Defector

I was looking at a Tokyo street map recently and noticed all the Buddhist shrines are marked with little swastikas. At least, that's what I found out after deciphering the map legend. My first thought was that it was kind of odd to mark all the ex-Nazis living in Tokyo on the map.
-by Trimegistus

Okay, it actually does look like a swastika... BFD. The real howlers are when people see swastikas that aren't really there, like seeing "Allah" in an icecream swirly logo.

Best non-swastikoid swastika I have seen was years, when ago the western Canadian province of Alberta decided to set up a rainy-day trust fund to hold all the oil revenue they had coming in (and do now again). They called it the Heritage Fund. Well, since the Government of Alberta tends to be an island of conservatism in a sea of moonbats in Canada, as soon as they saw the logo, derived from the letters HF and an outline of the shape of the province, the libs started squealing "It's a crypto-nazi swastika!". Yeah, its so f***ing crypto- that you have to have a crypto-mind to see it! Check it out, if you dare!
-by Sherlock
The swastika is a symbol that's been used by mankind all over the world for millennia. It has been a good luck charm, a fertility symbol and so on. Hindu, Buddhist, Native Americans, Africans, all around the planet this design has been used, because it's easy to make and looks interesting. The problem is the Nazis picked it for their symbol. If they'd picked a peace symbol that would give the same sort of gut reaction to most people.

There's nothing innately wrong with the design its self, the problem is what it represents causes needless and cruel dismay and offense among people who suffered so horribly under that evil regime. So I can see why they want to change the design (it's not a full swastika, the center is broken by a courtyard, but it's close enough).

Several different suggested solutions were offered, the cheapest of which was to paint the rooftops differently - something swabbies are good at, painting - so that it breaks up the imagery. Another suggested connecting the ends of the buildings with archways to preserve the air flow and light while making it look different from above. I don't know what they have in mind, but it is said to be a $600,000 project.

However, it's not fair to say that someone ought to have noticed this from the beginning. Consider the unfortunately named South Lake Union Trolley, aka SLUT in Seattle. When you work on this kind of thing often your mind has so compartmentalized things that you aren't paying attention to that kind of detail. It's evidence of the right/left brain divide, where you are working so much on one side of the issue you miss the symbolism on the other side.

Finally, commenter The EJS pointed out these links from YMNTD but I'll warn you ahead of time (which he did not) each of them plays an obnoxious linked, loud song. That said, they are worth looking at for they point out this image shows up in many places without offense or evil intent:

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"I don't know what country you are posting from but here, in America, the President doesn't get to pick to whom he gives interviews."

Juan Williams
As annoying as news outlets like CBS, the New York Times, and CNN can be at times, their bias and clearly slanted news efforts are echoed by National Public Radio's various news shows. What makes this more frustrating is that every taxpayer is helping fund this biased news reporting, an artifact back when radio started and the government decided they wanted to make sure quality programing was on the air.

National Public Radio (NPR) actually gets most of its funding from private and corporate donations and its various merchandising, but it still is given money from taxpayers to continue to broadcast. The fact that it is using that to broadcast material that annoys and even sometimes mocks a sizable portion of those forced supporters is a constant source of frustration.

Recently we got an example of the kind of goofy viewpoint NPR can exhibit. President Bush was going to have an interview on All Things Considered, NPR's nightly news magazine started in 1971, but its present format and style was shaped by producer Ken Meyers (who now does the Mars Hill Audio Journal which I highly recommend). Then they turned down the interview. Why?
[Juan] Williams said yesterday he was "stunned" by NPR's decision. "It makes no sense to me. President Bush has never given an interview in which he focused on race. . . . I was stunned by the decision to turn their backs on him and to turn their backs on me."

Ellen Weiss, NPR's vice president for news, said she "felt strongly" that "the White House shouldn't be selecting the person." She said NPR told Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, that "we're grateful for the opportunity to talk to the president but we wanted to determine who did the interview." When the White House said the offer could not be transferred to one of NPR's program hosts, Weiss took a pass.
So the interview showed up on Fox. At the Captain's Quarters, Cap'n Ed previously had posted the transcript of the interview and speculated why this decision was made:
NPR wanted one of its show hosts to do the interview, as they had when they insisted that Melissa Block interview Hillary Clinton rather than their health reporter. That makes sense in that context, as their health reporter probably lacks Block's experience at politics. However, it makes a lot less sense in this context. Block, who hosts All Things Considered, has written exactly zero books on any topic. Williams has written at least two books on race relations that have hit the best-seller lists, and has more expertise on the subject than Block or any of their hosts.
I think NPR wanted the interview to focus on and move in a specific sort of direction, but lost the opportunity to do so when the President was interviewed by Juan Williams instead. Instead of a focus on Katrina and attacking the president, the interview was instead informative and thoughtful. Commenters discussed the decision:
This doesn't have to do with bias. It has to do with NPR not acted as a PR machine for the White House.

The white house called and said they wanted to do an interview about race and we want Jaun Williams to conduct it.

Well, NPR said, we'd be happy to conduct that interview, but we'll decide who does the questioning.

The White House then said, no, only Williams. NPR passed.

It is kind of measuring contest, but I think it has less to do with bias than with Journalism integrity (go ahead, have some fun with that guys). The last thing journalism entity wants to be is a mouthpiece for an administration. Having the president call and say he wants to do an interview on a certain topic, conducted by a certain reporter comes a little too close to that. I think NPR maintaining control of who asks the questions is a reasonable stipulation that the White House did not a agree to.
-by Tom Shipley

It is hard to imagine the circumstances under which NPR could make itself more irrelevant than it already is. Their news coverage is disjointed, fragmented and massively interlaced with begging for funds and soft news, diaries and journals. For them to pass up an interview as unique as this one is unthinkable. They were handed a priceless gem and carelessly tossed it out to be picked up by a competitor.

NPR is publically funded, which means that can suck and survive. It doesn't mean, however, that they are required to suck.

At least with Fox the interview will be exposed to countless more people. That is good for GW as I think he came off well in it.
-by Immolate

So both NPR and Tom Shipley think Juan Williams is going to get bamboozled by a president they think is an idiot?

From NPR's bio of Mr. Williams:

"Juan Williams, one of America's leading journalists, is a senior correspondent"

"He is also the author of the nonfiction bestseller Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, the companion volume to the critically acclaimed television series. This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience appeared in February 2003."

"He has won an Emmy award for TV documentary writing and won widespread critical acclaim for a series of documentaries including "Politics - The New Black Power.""

Maybe this last part is why NPR didn't want him on the interview:
"Williams continues to be a contributing political analyst for the Fox News Channel and a regular panelist on Fox News Sunday."

Sacre' bleu! He actually also works for Fox.
-by rbj

Juan Williams also works for Fox News, therefore he cannot be trusted to interview President Bush "correctly".

This is what bigotry looks like.
-by Lindy

I cannot believe the depth of the ignorance of the comments above.

If the President wants to talk business, he talks to a business reporter. If he wants to talk poltics, he talks to a politcal reporter. If he wants to talk race relations, he talks to a reporter who has written books on race relations.

Maybe he wanted to talk to the smartest person NPR had to offer on this subject and he believes that is Juan Williams.
-by goldwater
I listen to neither NPR nor Fox, so in a sense I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I will instead address the tone of the above words. I voted for McGovern and Carter, and once was an avid NPR listener. I stopped listening to NPR years ago after getting tired of the sneering undertone of its commentaries. Remember the old bumper sticker: “VOTE REPUBLICAN. IT’S BETTER THAN THINKING.” That is NPR in a nutshell.

As a child I had a JFK poster on my bedroom door. Had the Democratic Party not strayed from the policies of HST or JFK I would have remained a Democrat Those of us who left the Democratic Party in the last 30 years did so after due reflection. We are not as stupid and uneducated as you believe.

It is also ironic that NPR turns down having a black journalist interview the President. It appears that diversity does not trump ideology and control. On the other hand, if the President turned down an interview by a black journalist, NPR would be one of the first to denounce such RACISM.
-by Un_Democrat

I imagine that those saying it is wrong for President Bush to pick his interviewer also take issue with Hillary calling all 5 networks offering to be on all of their Sunday programs on the same Sunday...this is unprecedented but she had a message she wanted to get out. Do you not believe that she also put limitations on what could be asked of her?...silly boyz!
-by RD

so then you must really be outraged that nearly all the democratic candidates refuse to appear on FOX news or even appear on the debates that fox news puts out. After all, since CNN, MSBC,PBS,NPR lean left of center we can be sure that they will only write puff peaces, whereas FOX since it has a conservative bent and would not act as lapdogs to the democrats,and would be the only ones asking the tough questions. Correct?

So those dems are a truly cowardly lot, eh? At least Bush asked someone, Williams who if you watch fox is the guy they always bring in as the counterpoint to the say Fred Barnes, and who usually making the argument counter to the administration.
-by jr565
President Bush has one political skill he excels at in a way I've not seen any other politician. Whether it is deliberate or not, he's a genius at(as a commenter put it) giving his opponents enough rope. Sometimes it doesn't work, but most of the time it does. In this case, he asked NPR to do an interview, then selected a respected black journalist and expert on race relations to do the interview. NPR refused to carry it because they couldn't get one of their main bingo callers to do it, and they come off as being unreasonable and Bush being reasonable. Unless you are inclined to despise the man by default, like NPR and it's biggest fans.

What was most telling in the comments is that Tom Shipley, the leftist who most strongly defended the NPR and considered Williams a poor choice because he works at Fox News (he also works at NPR, he's their in-house race relations expert), he must have given a friendly puff piece interview. Yet he admits later on "And no, I have not read the interview." This is a problem with the dialog on politics all too often - I almost said today but I am certain it's always been true. Decisions and positions are reached based on the players involved rather than the facts at hand. This is the Team Player problem again, which is rotting the heart out of any reasonable attempt at discussing topics. Shipley is for NPR and against the president, so he defends their decision without even bothering to find out what the interview was like. He even started out with a set of presumptions that were false: that NPR asked him for an interview when it was the other way around.

It's the same reason that leftists can't stand and even attack Juan Williams: he dares to not toe the party line every single time on race issues, and even worse, he has a show on Fox News! Why, he's clearly the enemy, without even needing to know what he has to say or why. Best to not listen at all, while you gather rocks to stone him. He's uppity, he won't stay on the ideological plantation.

I started this with a quote at the top I thought was unintentionally hilarious: the idea that powerful or major figures can't pick who they are interviewed by, implying that it is somehow unAmerican to say otherwise, or a violation of the 1st amendment's protection of the press.

Every major news figure can choose their interviewer, or simply refuse to be interviewed. NPR managed to get their own person for a Senator Clinton interview, and that's likely common at the organization, but that's rare in the business. If the news wants you bad enough, you get to call the shots, and a historically first interview with the President of the United States is one of those situations.

Captain Ed later asked a clear and excellent question in the comments: who at NPR would have been more qualified to conduct the interview? None of the left leaning people defending NPR's decision answered or apparently even read what he asked.

I have read the interview, and it was on target, polite but unyielding, asking the tough questions without being confrontational and combattive. In other words, it wasn't Rush Limbaugh and it wasn't Helen Thomas. It was respectful yet tough, which is how an interview with the president ought to be. It asked a broad range of questions, covering President Bush's absence from the Little Rock 50th anniversary celebration of Brown v. Board of Education, the White House staffing profile, the Jena Six, the White House response to Hurricane Katrina, immigration reform, the ethic background of the Supreme Court justice nominees, the rates of black on black murders as well as black dropout and poverty rates, and more.

In short, he asked the questions many black voters certainly have on their minds right now, with a manner and effort that clearly was the essence of journalistic integrity. The president did a pretty good job of answering most of them, he wiggled on a few, and I think Williams sent him home thinking about these topics in a way he'd not before. And honestly I think that's the main reason that NPR didn't care for the choice. Ego demanded one of their anchors do the interview, and politics demanded that someone who would attack the president and deny him a fair and polite voice do the job.

As a result, NPR lost a great journalistic opportunity, and if anything more blacks heard the interview than if it had been on NPR. Because let's be honest, All Things Considered is a white liberal upper class show, and Fox is not as intellectual and high brow. That means more people, of all ethic groups, will tend to pay attention to it (as the ratings prove) rather than another show on some obscure artist in SoHo New York and an interview with an avant garde musician.

In the end, NPR clings to life not because of a huge demand by listeners, but because it is publicly funded, because it has a constant lifeline of taxpayer dollars and can ignore the market. While the New York Times' stocks plunge below $20 a share and bleeds circulation, NPR can suffer with fewer listeners and still go on as if nothing needs to change. I don't think news ought to be produced based on the biases of the nation it is in, but I also don't think it ought to be produced with a distinct bias of its own while being paid for by tax dollars taken from people who don't care for it.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has lived on past the point of its usefulness and purpose. It's time to cut it loose and see if it can fly on its own. There's still a market for it out there, free of tax dollars.
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Quote of the Day

"The issue we see with Columbia is deeper than freedom of speech but rather the inconsistency with which university faculties choose to support it. If men like Richard Bulliet and Lee Bollinger, and women like Lisa Marie Anderson cared about freedom of speech, they might want to enable those who don't have it, rather than celebrate the men who have taken it away."
-Michael Rubin
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"Hollywood is not populated by artists, it is populated by narcissists."

Moore's Triumph
In an industry like the entertainment industry of the United States, you have an odd paradox. On the one hand, this is probably the most influential and richest institution in the history of the world: a song reaches all parts of the globe, a movie can create trends in almost every continent within months. A US television show can be discussed in Namibia, Japan, and France. On the other hand, the relevance and real impact of this industry is oddly minor for it's vast money and audience. When was the last time a movie changed your mind or even informed you?

Similarly, for being an industry that tries so hard to be on the cutting edge of fashion, culture, and technology, entertainment seems to be oddly behind the times and out of touch with its audience.

Andrew Breitbart at the LA Times online site has been discussing entertainment with David Ehrenstein. They looked at the coming crop of anti-war, anti-US movies coming out of Hollywood for the fall, and this time at whether Hollywood even matters any more. Breitbart points out the war effort supporting movies of the past then notes that: the 21st century, the notion of a pop cultural "war effort" is embarrassingly dated, and should nauseate the post-modern sensibilities of any self-respecting cineaste.

In fact, I'm perfectly happy with a war-time conveyor belt of mindless fare such as "Superbad" and "Knocked Up" -- or even the latest installment of "Die Hard." Who needs Rosie the Riveter when you've got Rosie O'Donnell ganging up with Barry Manilow to destroy the "dangerous and offensive" global threat of Elizabeth Hasselbeck?

Just don't try to sell me that Brian De Palma and George Clooney are making brave gestures when they churn out antiwar films and make self-congratulatory award show pronunciations. Just admit it: Your idols simply toe the company line, and get their jollies mocking bourgeois America's notions of "patriotism."
David Ehrenstein's response was a festival of red herrings and strawmen, but the commenters had some more interesting things to say:
In the Cold War years Hollywood was AWOL. Almost no filmmaker told American audiences that tens of millions perished in Marxist states from the 1920s to the 1960s. Was it ideology that prevented left-leaning artists from telling the story of Stalin's purges in the 1930s? the Soviet's brutality in Hungary in 1956? in Czech in 1968? the madness and murder in Mao's China in the 1960s? the damage done here by espionage? Why has there been no film about Alger Hiss? These incidents are all dramatic and would, it seems, make for compelling cinema.
-by Zchary Ash

David's point in questioning Hollywood's conduct of the "propaganda game" is a bit of a red herring. Yes, Hollywood's depiction of the nation's enemies changed as the conflicts in which we were engaged changed. But in both cases he cites, Hollywood was acting in support of the nation's own wartime interests. In both cases, Tinseltown's sympathies stand in stark contrast to its big-screen leanings today. One needn't advocate the overthrow of the Geneva Conventions to grasp that point. And given the mammoth commercial success of "24," Hollywood's disinclination to put similar material on the big screen is all the more glaring.
-by solidstate

With so much film revenue coming from foreign countries, Hollywood can hardly afford to make pro-American movies. Anti-Americanism sells abroad, and Hollywood is only too happy to oblige. And those movies feed the anti-Americanism. Moneywise, it's a perfect fit. In every other way, it's shameful.
-by Byron

Hollywood's only "duty" is to tell a good story. Politics is, of course, a backround noise that will influence any writer, but didactic writing shouldn't be what comes out. Good story stands alone. Good story allows the viewer to reach their own conclusion without being beaten over the head with what the storytellers want - most of Hollywood I'm lookin' at you. If Hollywood, even in it's lite fair, focused on telling a solid story, they'd find that it would conveniently also serve their bottom line. Wacky how that correlation works.
-by notsobystander
I find fault with the idea that anti-American makes money overseas as an argument to make anti-American movies. Pro-American can make money overseas too, it's a question of entertainment and quality. That argument is an excuse to vomit personal politics into your product, not a business decision. Movies like Transformers that are decidedly pro military from all reports do fine overseas, while movies like Syriana that are moonbat fantasies do poorly. Transformers wasn't anti-American, Syriana most decidedly was.

The fact that overseas markets will watch and like some movies that tank in America means that these expensive, ego-stroking projects can be made and not be a total loss, so Hollywood puts out more and more. They aren't doing so because the market demands it, they are doing so because they can get away with it and still make some money.

The fact that they'd do even better with well-written movies about the incredible events and stories being told every day and that have been told in the past but do not happen to be anti-American or don't attack President Bush doesn't matter: it's the principle of the thing, they have a position and an ideology and they've found out they can make it pay so they have an excuse for stockholders and can point to the money.

The thing is, almost nobody is being convinced by this tripe. It's a self indulgent exercise, but most of these movies are more like Jack Chick tracts than an entertaining or thought-provoking movie. The same people who put out Dukes of Hazzard and Balls of Fury are putting out movies they think are deep and significant, but have the same quality of thought put into them. In the end, they accomplish nothing of worth and history will look back at this period with puzzlement as they see movies like 300 make gigantic money and buzz while Hollywood rejected the themes of triumph, heroism, and liberty for "Bush sucks" agit-prop.
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"I see myself as a symbol of what people rail against when they say that civil liberties are eroded"
-Lynn Stewart

Lynn Stewart
Remember Lynn Stewart? She's the radical lawyer who has made a career of defending organized crime figures, anti-American extremists, and terrorists. Recently she was put in prison for being a courier for terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman, delivering orders to his terrorist group in America. In Stewart's defense, she claimed that she was in love with Rahman and didn't think she was doing anything wrong, that lawyers have to have total freedom in working with clients.

While she's appealing her case, the judge ruled that she could do so without being in prison (something another judge denied "Scooter" Libby, for example). While she's out doing this, she's found time to make some speeches. The Federal Review has details, apparently Stewart...
...will be speaking October 16 at Hofstra Law School’s “Legal Ethics: Lawyering on the Edge,” in Hempstead, New York.
Stewart will be speaking at Hofstra Law School�s 2007 Legal Ethics Conference, "Lawyering at the Edge: Unpopular Clients, Difficult Cases, Zealous Advocates." The conference is scheduled for October 14 to 16, 2007 in the Sidney R. Siben and Walter Siben Moot Courtroom (room 308) of Hofstra Law School.

According to the University's website, the conference will feature "dynamic speakers who will weigh in on controversial issues such as prosecutorial abuse, the challenges of representing prisoners at Guantanamo, and attacks on lawyers who represent unpopular clients and causes."

Given that she's been disbarred and found guilty of violating legal ethics, the only speech she should give is "don't do what I did" but that's not what she has planned. Michelle Malkin pointed out that Stanford University had considered her for a fellowship but then revoked the invitation. The Dean of law at the time explained it this way:
Ms. Stewart has expressed sympathy for and tacit endorsement of the use of directed violence to achieve social change.”
A reader told Mrs Malkin "Hey, if convicted Weather Underground bomber Bernadette (aka Bernadine) Dohrn is on the Northwestern Law School faculty, why not Lynne Stewart?" And commenters responded to her article:
I wish I could say I’m surprised.

Incidentally, the apple never falls far from the tree…her son has taken over the firm from Mom and is busy trying to bulldoze the First Amendment.
-by see-dubya

Stewart is a traitor yet she is to give a lecture on ethics. I would really love to know what these universities think the definition of treason is.
-by katieanne

A few more suggestions:
- Jayson Blair to teach journalism ethics.
- Sandy Berger to hold a symposium on document preservation.

Oh, and I think Mike Nifong’s available to teach Constitutional law.
-by BadIdeaGuy

Another day and yet another example of double standards from the “educational elitists” …

Columbia invites Ahmedinjad but rejects the Minutemen …

Seton Hall representative on H&C last night said that they refused to allow a scheduled speech and forum with Tom Delay because of his “conviction” that removed him from office … bogus as most of the charges have now been dropped, just as T.D. said they would be when he left office, and there have been no convictions on anything to this point in time …

Now, Hofstra invites a “convicted and disbarred” felon to speak on “ethics” to a bunch of future lawyers … gimme a break …

I guess Stewart will be at Seton Hall and Columbia next week …

I am so glad none of my kids had any desire to go to any of these Ivy League and so-called “respected” East Coast universities …

Times have changed and the “respected” amd “best” characterizations of these socialist agenda driven universities has long since been over …

My apologies to anyone on here that holds a degree from any of these places that I may have offended … I am talking about what has happened and the current climate there … not impugning the past record or your degree from one of these places …
-by DesertLover
Now, why do I say that Lynn Stewart is not going to advise young law students to avoid her mistakes? Well, she's still fighting her conviction, and when the verdict was announced she ran to a camera and said things like this:

"I would do it again -- it's the way a lawyer is supposed to behave"
"I know I committed no crime"
"I hope [this case] will be a wake-up call to all the citizens of this country and all the people who live here that you can't lock up the lawyers, you can't tell the lawyers how to do the job, you've got to let them operate."

She's not only unrepentant, she believes she was doing the right thing in helping her client spread terrorism. Among the things she carried to this man's followers were plans to blow up the Washington tunnel in New York city. It was the right thing to do. Lynn Stewart is a poster child for the self-important crusader, who believes they are always right and whatever they do is not only just but deeply important for the whole world. Someone who is profoundly certain of her significance and prominence.

Teaching students about ethics and being a lawyer with unpopular clients in a time of war or instability is a great idea - that's a conference that ought to be held. Having an actual traitor and convicted felon who violated attorney-client privilege, federal law, and lost her license to practice law teach kids about it is not.

The problem is that, as others pointed out, this is symptomatic of too many institutes of higher learning now. The inability to comprehend basic ethical guidelines and boundaries, the belief that one's innate moral compass supersedes that of the society around them, let alone any absolute basis for right and wrong. It is inevitable, not surprising that this happens when you start slouching into relativism.

It's stuff like this that helps solidify the image of the sleazy lawyer who'll do anything and believe they are above the law. It's a slap on the wrist like Stewart got that encourages her to go on and keeps the system from being repaired.
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"He probably was one of Olbermann's five viewers."

Peace Activist
A free society has to suffer under having people who are a bit radical and unhinged being given a voice. No one has to listen, but sometimes it's hard not to hear their crazed screaming and stomping about. Most of the time this serves only as a reminder that there are people who are truly extreme. Most rational people understand that this is a radical, someone who takes their ideals too passionately and lacks perspective and reason. Others simply don't care that much about the topic (be it environment, politics, religion, what have you) and just ignore them.

There is a point, however, that a society reaches where the freedom is being abused. Where the extreme viewpoints become damaging and troublesome. It's one thing to have a few hundred cranks with signs standing around yelling slogans. It is another entirely for them to have special places to meet and feed off each other's insanity and extremism until they are released screaming on the world. A few people mumbling about how Bush is an evil mastermind bent on enslaving the whole world to Coca Cola and Big Oil is colorful. Thousands of them screaming that he made 9/11 happen through a sinister conspiracy is troubling.

Then there are the people who see movies like the Canadian film where President Bush is assassinated, who read websites like Democrat Underground who call the administration every single name and implicate it with every evil deed conceivable in the last 40 years, and take it seriously.

Enter Carlos Hartmann, 41 year old from Michigan.
"He hates soldiers, and says that the army kills people, so it would be legitimate if he were also to kill someone . . . from the American military - or from its NATO allies," Gremmen said in a telephone interview.

When he failed to find a soldier at the Roosendaal train station, "he got such a crazy, disturbed idea that he killed a civilian," Gremmen said.
With a Spanish first name and German last name, you have to figure he was sort of confused to begin with. Hartmann says he's sorry now. Good for him, that doesn't bring back his victim named Thijs Geers. Thijs was simply waiting for a train, he wasn't even in the military.

At Ace of Spades Headquarters, Purple Avenger caught this story:
When you use hyperbolic bullshit as a political tool and insist its not hyperbole, there are going to be some percentage of weak minded idiots like this who really take that bulls**t seriously and act on it. Its very Newtonian and predictable. Action, reaction. Its the exact same thing as the abortion clinic bombers which the left always loves to point out.
And commenters talked it out:
We get pinned with our lunatics. Can't think of any reason why I'd want to let the Lefties off the hook.

Nice going, Lefties.
-by Spongeworthy

We get pegged by lunatics that aren't even ours.

See Fred Phelps and Tim McVeigh.
-by Techie

PA, you're not getting it. This boy is a victim. His honest heartache over BusHitler's illegal war for bloody oil and killing brown people finally drove him to attack some random Dutch guy out of pure moral outrage.

This is completely different from, say, Timothy McVeigh, who proves that all white Christians are terrorists.
-by Sinister Lunar Chiropteran

No surprise that this jackass didn't try this stunt at home. I don't know what rights the Dutch have vis-a-vis owning and carrying weapons, but I have to assume they aren't allowed to and thus this murderer knew he could do whatever he wanted and his personal safety wouldn't be an issue. I am happy to live in a gun-totin' state.
-by Ken

Since this happened in the oh-so-progressive Netherlands, Hartmann can expect to serve, what, 3-5 with good behavior?
-by zetetic

I'm sure this will be all over the media the next few days, and everyone will see what lunatics the left are...........oh wait......nevermind.
-by bmac
This is part of the reason (other than simply being opposed to murder as a political tool) that I always have opposed abortion clinic bombers and doctor killers. Granted, there have been very few, and none for like a decade, but the principle is the same. Not only are you obviously betraying your core principle: killing people is bad; but you are destabilizing society in the process. Each evil act that someone commits, each atrocity we're confronted with makes the next time seem less horrid, it tends to degrade a culture and it's expectations.

Just as it is irrational and unfair to label the entire anti-abortion movement or Christians (or even conservatives) with abortion bombers, it is unfair to label the entire anti-war left with this murderer. At the same time, we all have to realize that our rhetoric has consequences. When you preach and teach that abortion is murder and they have to be stopped at all costs and that the lives saved are worth any price, then the more unstable and radical might take that too far.

Like Christiaan Briggs before him, Hartmann took his message of peace and opposition to violence to someone and this time it was murder. And here's the thing: if the people who scream about how evil President Bush is believed even half of what they said, they'd be storming the White House with machine guns right now. They don't believe it, but some do... and take action.

When you scream and write and shout that Bush is evil, that the military is murderous, that the United States is a terrorist nation of empire building tyrants, that we should lynch and burn soldiers in effigy, then the more radical and unstable might take that too far. We have to be responsible in our rhetoric, to show due wisdom and consider the consequences and meaning of what we say.

On the internet, the words you type reach around the world to moms and farmers and businessmen and politicians and lawyers and children and criminals and the insane. Your words aren't guarded by being out of hearing or limited to the person you address them. They can be read and acted on by someone you never wanted to hear or read them. The internet age brings with it a greater burden of responsibility than any previous age of communication - and the print age had enough of a burden as it was.
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